My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...
Amber Lin’s Letters at Christmas (Men of Fortune #1) was delightful in one word. This was my first book by her so I was pleasantly surprised. The story was fun with a friends-to-lovers theme that kept me entertained from the first page to the last. TBH, I probably wore this perpetual smile throughout while I was reading it.
Sidony has been waiting for letters for the last 3 years. Letters that were promised to her by someone she thought she loved. She has been heartbroken, disappointed... the tears have long since dried up, but the letters that Hale, her young friend, confidante and lover, promised before he left her for the sea, never arrived. She thinks he has forgotten her, and all that he said were lies.
Even though, at this point, she’s pissed at him, the news of his return to London doesn’t stop Sidony’s heart from beating like a drum. She doesn’t want to show that she cares but when it comes to Hale, she’s helpless. To double her misery (and embarrassment), when Hale finally arrives at her brother’s estate, she’s swinging helpless from a tree, stuck while trying to rescue that goddamned cat of hers, Poppet. And after such a long time, HE had to be the one to discover her that way, and not the way she initially... er, planned; all dressed up and graceful, staring out the window like she doesn’t have a care in the world.
Despite that less-than-perfect reunion (of sort), Sidony is still mad. She’s also extremely tizzy at being near Hale after so long a time. He has gotten stronger, rougher, without much resembling the young man who left her after she gave him her virginity.
She and Hale... ah, there’s an old history. First love turning into the first taste of passion.
Hale, the bastard son of a viscount, didn’t have much money or prospect in the world. Yet, meeting her brother George as youngsters in school probably changed their lives for the good. Being orphans and spending an awful amount of time on their estate, the three of them came together rather well. But at some point, it appeared that Sidony and Hale’s relationship were going to take a different turn. George found his best friend, while Sidony found the man she could love. Best of all, her affection was returned just as heartily.
But Hale wanted more. He needed to prove himself worthy of Sidony, from which formed this plan to join a ship. At first, this sounded like the best option. Though leaving Sidony made him miserable to the bone, he thought he’s doing it for them both. Hale’s ‘adventures’ hadn’t been something he can really talk about. Those were full of horrid reality that a seaman endures while at the sea. He has experienced things he has no intentions of divulging to anyone. Though Hale was promoted rather early as a captain, he couldn’t send one promised letter to Sidony, all because he was way too busy saving either his own or his crewmen’s lives from one trouble or the next.
But that doesn’t mean Hale never wrote anything to her. He just never had the opportunity to send those out. Before returning to England, he was scared to death that Sidony might have gotten married by now, or she’d be so mad that she’d turn away from him. Would’ve been the right punishment for him, seeing how he wasn’t able to keep his side of the commitment. But had she kept hers? Is she still waiting for him? And so, finding Sidony sill single gave Hale hope; hope that kept him alive in those dreary years. Maybe there’s still time for them and he can convince her that they were meant to be together. Always.
Oh boy, you must read this story only for the snippets of Hale’s letters that are featured at the beginning of each chapter. I wish those were his full missives and not snippets. The best scene of the story has to be when he gives them all to Sidony, his last bargain chip to win her back. Not that she didn’t want to be with him (there was no way these two could deny each-other for long) but that scene kinda sealed the deal for their future.
There was also a secondary romance between George and some widow from the next estate. I don’t know, their relationship seemed rather hazy, as if I was missing something there. I would’ve loved to know what kept disturbing George so much.
I never had any doubt that Hale and Sidony were just meant to be. Always appreciate when an author can put so much love and sweetness into a novella-length story without either making it feel rushed or overwhelming. Though a few more chapters would’ve been great, I’m still glad to have read it. 4 stars. Definitely going to check out the next in the series sometimes later.
“Letters at Christmas” is currently a freebie at some major retailers but I don’t think it’s a permanent freebie, so grab a copy while you can!
This ARC was provided to me by Entangled Scandalous via netgalley which didn’t influence my review and rating in any way.