The Last Chance Christmas Ball #HolidayDelight #Review

The Last Chance Christmas Ball #HolidayDelight #ReviewThe Last Chance Christmas Ball by Anne Gracie, Cara Elliott, Jo Beverley, Joanna Bourne, Mary Jo Putney, Nicola Cornick, Patricia Rice, Susan King

Genres: Historical Romance, Holiday Romance
Published by Kensington on September 29, 2015
Pages: 322
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
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four-half-stars      two-flames

This is a unique anthology for me in that the stories are all written by different authors, but they are all connected by time and place, a Christmas Ball in the Regency Period. Most of the stories parallel each other and some even weave in connected story lines. I look forward to these which are mostly new to me writers and look to offer delicious holiday historical romance. I’ll do a mini-review on each story separately.

Prologue by Jo Beverley

A nice little intro to Lady Holly and her companion, Clio as they work on the invitations for the ball discussing who is coming and Clio listening to Lady Holly reminiscing about the balls of the past and planning out her campaign to help some lonely ladies and gentlemen have a memorable, romantic Christmas. Definitely left me with a sense of anticipation.

My True Love Hath Heart by Joanna Bourne

four-stars  

Claire, a beautiful jewelry maker, is impersonating a maid at Holbourne. Nick, an agent of the crown and family favorite, has his own reasons for being there. Between the two, they assist in an elopement, exact a revenge, and maybe get a second chance at Christmas. Delightful and quick. First time with her writing and will be going back for more.

A Scottish Carol by Susan King

four-half-stars  

Henry Seton, a doctor and Viscount, war hero and now teacher, gets a little shock for his Scottish Yule-tide treat. Clary never understood why Henry left and now with the help of a scheming friend and a snow storm, she might have a reunion with the man she still loves. Adorable, heartwarming, and a lovely holiday read.

Christmas Larks by Patricia Rice

four-stars  

A battered and still tortured, Ivo returns from the war to what promises a cold, lonesome Christmas. Sarah has loved her childhood friend all her life, but knows he never saw her as anything beyond his friend. His return brings warring feelings. This one was a good story of what it is like for the men who are haunted by war and the folks back home who will struggle to understand. I did struggle to connect to either character though I thought the story engaging.

In the Bleak Mid-Winter by Mary Jo Putney

four-stars  

Oh, the feels! This was a lovely childhood friends to lovers tale. Kim came back from the war broken and has hidden away in the tower refusing to see family, friends, and particularly Roxie. He must take his useless, broken self away. Roxie has different plans and will use the Holbourne Christmas ball to achieve her ends. A most engaging Holiday read. I need more from this author.

Old Flames Dance by Cara Elliott

four-stars  

Young love was crushed under a parent’s expediency for Edward and Lily, but now they meet again. Dare they hope that this time it will happen for them. I felt for this pair and really wanted them to have their slice of Christmas happiness.

A Season for Marriage by Nicola Cornick

four-stars  

A reconciliation romance is a tough one, but this pair of sad and mixed up married lovers needed some Christmas cheer. Caro was very young and inexperienced and Piers only wanted a marriage of convenience. I was really rooting for this couple, but I didn’t closely engage with them as I needed more page time with this story. The author did a wonderful job of painting a truer picture of what couples struggled through in arranged marriages.

Miss Finch and the Angel by Jo Beverley

four-half-stars  

Oh my stars! Gabriel is a riot. What a splendid hero this author has created. Lord Gabriel is called to Holbourne to assist his godmother in giving some of her wallflower guests a nice Christmas. Instead he takes on the challenge of drawing out her companion from her drab little invisible world. A poignant story, but with a frolicking atmosphere.

Mistletoe Kisses by Anne Gracie

four-half-stars  

And to wrap up this book there just had to be an adorable heroine who is in desperate need of Christmas magic and cheer. Allie was a lovely heart and a giver and her outer and inner beauty do not go unnoticed by her unexpected guest, Lord Kelsey.

This was a sweet story with a little spice that left me sighing and smiling.

All in all, this was a delicious collection of stories. It was like a multi-faceted gem with the way each author brought something unique and special to make a sparkling whole. There was variety in the circumstances even while the connectedness between stories was clear and I enjoyed that. They are mostly sweet romances though a couple dip into the spices a little. I would definitely read more from each of these writers when I am in the mood for engaging Historical Romance.

My thanks to Kensington Group for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

HolidayDelight_edited-1

 

The anthology took place Christmas of 1815 on a lovely English estate in Northumberland. Christmas traditions was a huge theme, naturally. In the Regency Period, they did not have Christmas trees, Santa, Rudolf, Christmas lights, Black Friday, or Christmas movie marathons. But you know, they did have some pretty cool traditions, too: Yule Log, gathering the greenery and holly to decorate the house, mistletoe, candlelight church services at midnight, Christmas pudding, Wassailing at the gentries’ homes who fed you and boozed you up at each stop, parlor games like charades and snapdragon, the Christmas goose and all the trimmings, and then they didn’t stop celebrating. Oh no, there was Boxing Day with playacting and Twelfth Night dancing, cake and masquerades. Whew, those people knew how to party hearty and that’s just English traditions.

Victorian Christmas SceneWe had a few of our own family traditions and, oddly, we didn’t limit them to Sicilian customs though it was only two generations back that they were celebrating in Palermo instead of here. Nonno wanted his family to be American when he brought his family to America so American we became.

When I was a child, we would have my mom’s whole family over the closest Saturday to Christmas. We would have the big dinner of course, but my mom’s family are the quirky types so we didn’t give regular gifts. Nope! It was a White Elephant Exchange with the only rule being you couldn’t purchase your gift.

Just to give you an idea of the fun of reaching blindly into the largest storage box my mom had that we put all the presents in, here’s a sampling from when I was teen-ish: my uncle got frilly pink tights that he wore on his hands and did Rockette’s moves for the rest of the night, my aunt got a used deerlick (she loves salt so that actually worked out kind of well) which skeeved me out to see her actually lick it (deer germs, ew), my quiet laid-back dad got an opened thing of condoms that made him raise an eyebrow and tell my older cousin that he found her lost girl scout kit (she always joked that keeping condoms in her purse was living up to ‘always being prepared’ and incidentally she had never been a girl scout), and my gran got a Michael Jackson doll that she tried to Moonwalk across the dinner table. Me? I got a purple and black striped tie that I chose to wear to school with a fedora (hey, it was the 80’s).

So what about you? Would love to hear one of your family traditions from childhood or now.

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I was born and raised near Sacramento, CA. I have read since I was four years old and developed tastes that run the gamut of literature. I went away to college and have a degree in education, a certificate in family history research, and a certificate in social work. I worked for a non-profit agency with low income families for 20 years which included being responsible for the children’s library and promoting/teaching adult literacy. I have lived in Southeast Michigan for the last 18 years and I am currently a book addicted homemaker with a cat and husband who keep me grounded. Recently, I made it a challenge to review each book that I have read as a favor to author friends who said reviews are important. I have done reviews for Good Reads, Amazon, eBay, and Smashwords, but mostly at Goodreads and Amazon.
  • Oh that sounds like an amazing anthology! I’ve read half of them and half are on my need to try list so that’s perfect 🙂

    I really like the ones that use a common setting like that with them all kind of happening at the same time. Cherise Sinclair has done a couple anthologies like that where different authors do stories during a club theme night. So fun! Thanks for the heads up on this one.

    • It was yummy. I wanted to try it after seeing their books and names always on people’s favorites lists.

  • I love those family Christmas traditions. One of my favorite things about reading historical’s with Christmas settings, is seeing the traditions back then too and since I am a big history buff and love family history—it definitely is most unique to see them come to life in stories. I agree they knew how to party, I mean really…up all night celebrating. Sometimes makes my family celebrations seems tame and mild in comparison. Growing up we had some fun traditions. Christmas Eve we would (as we still do this) gather around the tree, my dad playing his guitar and singing songs, sharing Christmas stories and we always have a special dinner with parmesan steak and stuffed cheese potatoes and grasshopper pie for dessert. Christmas Day its mostly (after opening all the presents), play card games, watch movies, and even put a puzzle together. We do alot of things together in the weeks and days leading up to it too. But its so fun to just be with family and celebrate together. Great review….I can’t wait to read this one. Hoping my library will have it.

    • I think you will adore this one, Renee. It reminds me of a lot of the historicals you recommend.

      I want to come to your house for Christmas. That sounds fun.

  • I love anthologies, and this one looks great to add to my holiday list. I’m glad that you enjoyed all the stories here. Great review!

    • This was a nice holiday read. I think it is responsible for getting me in the holiday mood. 🙂

  • I would have loved to read it for the season

  • That sounds like a nice holiday collection. We didn’t really have any Christmas traditions except having family come over for dinner or we went over to my grandparents house for dinner. I always hated having to open my presents early and then leave them to get dressed and go to someone else’s house. So when Ken and I had a kid, we decided we would do the Christmas dinner the night before Christmas, open one gift that night and let her open the rest of her gifts Christmas morning. That way she could stay home and play with her toys and Christmas day was quiet.

    • It was a sweet collection and totally got me in the mood.

      I like how you guys learned from your childhood and adapted your own traditions to make it more fun and less hectic.

  • Debbie Haupt

    Great review Sophia Rose, it’s cool how the stories tie in together. I love getting together at my nephew’s for his annual Christmas Eve get together

    • Yes, that tie-in was the first time I’d read anything like this. Definitely want to try more like that.

      That’s neat that your nephew appreciates the importance of bringing your family together.

  • for anthology this actually looks decent, too bad I am totally over them 🙁

    • Yes, the anthos can be hit or miss depending on my mood. They were more connected than the usual anthos, but not enough to seem like one is reading a single novel in parts.

  • I’ve read a few anthologies like that were the stories are connected and I love that type of anthology and how the book feels like one big story that way. It sounds like there are some great stories in this anthology!

    That’s interesting to see how christmas traditions differed from then to now. Church at midnight on christmas is something that still happens here in the Netherlands, my grandma who is religious goes every year to it. It’s one of her christmas traditions.

    We often did a christmas presents with the whole family and instead of buying pressents for everyone else we came together two months before christmas and all our names went into a hat and everyone picked out a name and for that oerson you had to buy a present.
    It’s somethgin adults often do during Sinterklaas here, but we decided to do it during christmas. One year something went wrong and my sister ended up with two pressents and my grandma didn’t get anything.
    Often you had to hide the present in a creation from cardbox and such and often we made jokes/ references to something that happened that year. Like the one year my mom got a big cardbox sign that said belgium from her brother. Which was a joke about once when she had to go to the south of Netherlands for her work and she somehow missed the right lane and ended up in belgium. It was a fun way to celebrate christmas like that. Things changed and we eventually stopped the tradition and nowadays every christmas is different.

    • How lovely of you to share your Christmas traditions! We draw names once in a while, too. That can get fun. That is neat that there are still midnight church services especially since your grandma enjoys it.
      LOL! Your poor mom. I don’t usually get turned around like that, but once in a while, I’ve ended up in some interesting places when I took the wrong turn off. 🙂

      Yes, this was one of those anthologies that I could really sense the connections. It centered around the same place, but also three of these stories are siblings and a couple are neighbors so the people show up in each other’s stories. These authors must have been in near constant contact to pull it off.