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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
We 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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