Genre: Historical Romance Anthology/Regency
Publisher: Kensington, Sept. 29, 2015 (preorder available)
Source: Free for review from the publisher
Sexy Rating: 3 some kisses
Description from Amazon.com:
Christmas 1815. Upstairs and downstairs, Holbourne Hall is abuzz with preparations for a grand ball to celebrate the year’s most festive—and romantic—holiday. For at the top of each guest’s wish list is a last chance to find true love before the New Year… A chance meeting beneath the mistletoe, a stolen glance across the dance floor—amid the sumptuous delicacies, glittering decorations, and swell of the orchestra, every duchess and debutante, lord and lackey has a hopeful heart. There’s the headstrong heiress who must win back her beloved by midnight—or be wed to another….the spinster whose fateful choice to relinquish love may hold one more surprise for her…a widow yearning to glimpse her long-lost love for even one sweet, fleeting interlude …a charming rake who finds far more than he bargained for. And many other dazzling, romantic tales in this star-studded collection that will fill your heart and spice up your holidays…
We start off with Jo Beverly’s Prologue telling us that a Christmas house party is being planned by the Dowager Countess of Holbourne (known as Lady Holly) and her companion Clio Finch. We are privy to those who will be invited; Sarah Langsdale, Edward Stretton (Lady Holly’s son), Roxanne Heyward, Mary Gower and her father, Lord Gabriel Quinfroy, Allie Fenton, Clary Douglas. We also know of some trouble in Lady Holly’s own family with Kim Stratton, Caro and her husband Camden. Ms. Beverly sets the scene.
- My True Love Hath My Heart by Joanna Bourne
Nick Lafford is a younger son of a younger son. Enough in the ton to be invited to house parties. But that is not why he is here. He is here to see Claire who has infiltrated the party as an upstairs maid, she is really an accomplished jeweler. She seems to be a thief looking for jewels. She broke off an affair with Nick several months earlier and he does not know what she is up to but he will find out and perhaps help her or win her back or both.
There is romance, mystery and suspense in this short story by Ms. Bourne who is a master of those genres. There is an evil villain and a sweet innocent in need of protection. The addition of this side story was a bit of distraction since I really wanted more of Nick and Claire in this short story. I wished this story had been a full length book as so often happens to me when I read an accomplished author’s short story. Rating: 4.5-stars, Sexy rating: 4, Christmasy Feeling: 5
- A Scottish Carol by Susan King
Henry Seton and Clarinda Hay have a history but they were torn apart by the Napoleonic War and now in a blinding Christmas Eve blizzard are stranded together at Henry’s estate. Will they renew their once thwarted love affair?
I liked this short story of two souls who are destined to be together and who complement each other. Rating: 4-stars, Sexy Rating: 3, Christmasy Feeling: 5
- Christmas Larks by Patricia Rice
Ivo Whitney-Harris was wounded in the war. After 5 years, on his way home he is attacked by highwayman and suffers a serious head wound. Sarah Jane Langsdale, at 17 years old, watched her childhood friend, Ivo, become betrothed to another, breaking her heart. When she discovers him, ill and suffering, in a house destined to be an orphanage she attempts to nurse him back to health.
Another story of a reunion during the holiday season. I liked the plot but thought it was slim on holiday feeling. A cold abandoned house does not give off a warm Christmas vibe. Rating: 4, Sexy Rating: 3, Christmasy Feeling: 1
- In The Bleak Midwinter by Mary Jo Putney
Kim Stratton has been sequestering himself in the tower attached to the family home since he arrived home from the war all scared and broken. He has refused to see anyone except his loyal batman Jamie who has helped him recover. Before the war he had an understanding and was in love with neighbor Roxie. But now he has refused to see or speak with her for the past 6 months. Roxie is running out of patience and will see what she can do to end this nightmare.
War leaves its mark not only on the soldier but also on those left behind. This story is a tribute to those who serve and those who pick up the pieces. It is a lovely story but with little holiday feeling. It could have been any time of the year. Rating: 4.5, Sexy Rating: 5 not explicit, Christmasy feeling: 2
- Old Flames Dance by Cara Elliot
In this story we are treated to two romances. Brothers Kim and Edward and Lily and Roxie. Now Roxie loves Kim but Kim has been wounded in the war and has not allowed any family or his betrothed, Roxie, to see him. Edward asks Roxie if the two of them could announce their betrothal and have a marriage of convenience if Kim still refuses to see her. Meanwhile Lily, who once loved Edward and since has married twice and been widowed twice, comes to the Christmas ball. Yes you guessed it. She loves Edward and wants to marry him. How will this work out? Rating:4 ,Sexy rating: 3, Christmasy Feeling: 1
- A Season for Marriage by Nicola Cornick
Caroline Camden is married to Piers Camden for 6 months and they have been struggling. She loves him but he is afraid to love her because he saw his parents totally neglect everyone and everything because of their obsessive love for each other. Will the Christmas Ball bring them together?
Rating: 4, sexy rating: 4, Christmasy feeling: 1
- Miss Finch and the Angel by Jo Beverley
Lord Gabriel comes at the summons from his Godmother, Lady Holly. She wants him to dance with all the “Last Chance” single ladies at the ball so that other gentleman will want to do likewise. (Yeah, right, Lady Holly. We’re not falling for that ploy.) Gabriel falls for it but he seems intriqued by Clio Finch, so much so that there is a chance he will forget his mission from Lady Holly.
Gabriel is my favorite character in the entire book; Clio not so much. Clio’s character and background was not developed as well as Gabriel’s. However, this was a sweet story and proved that the Last chance Ball was working its magic. Rating: 4, Sexy rating: 2, Christmasy Feeling: 2
- Mistletoe Kisses by Anne Gracie
In this story a spinster is forced to leave her home to become a teacher but she is looking forward to one last Christmas alone in her childhood home. A raging snowstorm has caused an accident on the road and a gentleman and his sister are stranded at the only home until the storm passes. Will love bloom for John and Allie? This story has the most Christmasy feeling. Rating: 4.5, Sexy rating: 3, Christmasy feeling: 5+
Deet’s summary: I enjoyed each of these sweet stories. Only three had the feeling of the Christmas season but each story was full of romance and warmth. Lady Holly was a fairy godmother and matchmaker extrodinere and I found her no nonsense demeanor to be delightful. Each of the stories are related to the theme of the Christmas Ball as the last chance for spinsters to land a husband. The stories are short and will be a delightful addition to your holiday reading.