Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Regency Christmas Proposals

The Soldier's Christmas Miracle by Gayle Wilson
Wounded soldier Guy Wakefield has finally found the woman who saved his life. Isabella Stowe accepts his gratitude, but it will take more than a kiss under the mistletoe to convince this world-weary widow to accept his proposal….

Snowbound and Seduced by Amanda McCabe
Mary Bassington, Lady Derrington, longs to be the carefree woman she once was. But she gets more than she bargained for this Christmas when she's snowbound with old flame Dominick, Viscount Amesby, who reignites her passion for life—and love!

Christmas at Mulberry Hall by Carole Mortimer
Spending Christmas alone with his unconventional ward pushes the boundaries of propriety—and self-control—too far for Lord Gideon Grayson. So he takes delectably pure Amelia Ashford to Mulberry Hall—but that pesky mistletoe is still all around….

McCabe's story shines... a perfectly warm and cozy Christmas read!

Harlequin Historicals has released a collection of three Christmassy romances tucked together behind a beautiful cover which offers light, seasonal reading for a few cozy evenings by the fire.  Amanda McCabe and Carole Mortimer were familiar names to me, thanks to other Harlequin titles they've penned but Gayle Wilson was a new author for me and she had a nice contribution to this anthology.  These three stories are individual and not related to each other except sharing the Christmas season but I must confess that as a big fan of The Diamonds of Welbourne Manor, I was excited to see Ms. McCabe give one of the supporting characters a romance of her own.  And it was my favorite in this anthology!   Ms. Mortimer also gives a supporting character from her Notorious St. Claires series a Christmas love story too.  (Book connections are listed at the end of this post.)

Above, next to the cover pic, is the brief synopsis of each story from the back cover of the book and below is my mini-review along with my ratings for each story.  My anthology stories are individually rated as follows:  LOVED IT, ENJOYED IT, JUST OK, or DIDN'T LIKE IT. 

The Soldier's Christmas Miracle by Gayle Wilson - Guy Wakefield was injured and temporarily blinded at the front lines several years ago, but the woman who tended to his injuries and gave him hope and encouragement has haunted him ever since.  Years later, Guy learns that the woman was Isabella Stowe, wife of Captain William Stowe, so he travels to her home to express his gratitude.

Isabella is trying to make ends meet with the pension from her late husband's military service but Guy is quick to discover her financial difficulties and contrives a plan to discreetly help her out as a "thank you" for everything she did.  Isabella was quick to brush off his gratitude, after all she probably said the same words of encouragement to hundreds of other soldiers too.  But Guy doesn't give up so easily, especially since he finds her to be a strong and independent woman, and one he is attracted to.  Can he make Isabella see that all he really wants is to show her the same kindness in return, with maybe some Christmas love to go along with it?

ENJOYED IT.  Isabella was a bit too stubborn for my taste and Guy was a real sweetheart of a guy who had to do a lot of work to woo this woman.  I liked his attempts but got frustrated with Isabella.  He eventually wins her heart, but I wasn't quite satisfied with the ending since her pity for his on-again-off-again blindness seemed to propel the end of the story and, even then, Isabella was a trial to win over.  Guy just seemed too good for her.  Overall, I did enjoy it, although its Chistmassiness was minimal. 

Snowbound and Seduced by Amanda McCabe - At a summer party at Welbourne Manor, Mary Bassington discovers that her feelings for Dominick, Viscount Amesby have never truly gone away since he left her heartbroken several years ago.  Mary has since endured a loveless arranged marriage and, more recently, the death of her husband so her only solace is her young son.  Attempting to protect her heart from being broken again, she and Dominick part ways once more. 

Two years later, Mary is nursing another broken heart... the loss of her son.  To keep herself occupied she focuses all of her attention on finding a suitable match for her younger sister, Ginny.  But Ginny's in love with Dominick's cousin who doesn't have the means to support a wife or family.  Seeking Dominick's help in knocking some sense into these young lovers' heads becomes paramount until Ginny is discovered missing.  The discovery of a note reveals an elopement to Gretna Green so Dominick sets out to charge after them but not until Mary talks him in to letting her come too.  With her portmanteau packed, she climbs aboard for a journey that leads her to be snowbound and seduced.

LOVED IT.  Dominick still loves and desires Mary and we see that from their reunion in the first chapter.  But Dominick struggles with feelings of unworthiness and Mary is trying to protect her heart from being broken yet again.  So, cue the snowstorm as Mary and Dominick forget the rest of the world and indulge in their passion for one another for just one night.  But their journey isn't over and with Christmas day upon them, what better time for a love to reignite against the beautiful backdrop of the season?  No huge drama or hoops to jump through here... just a tender, romantic story and a perfectly warm and cozy Christmas read.  Curl up next to the fire with a cup of cocoa and enjoy this one!

Christmas at Mulberry Hall by Carole Mortimer - Lord Gideon Grayson stops to check in on his late brother's estate on his way to the St. Claire's family gathering for Christmas.  Upon arriving, Gray is shocked to find Steadley Manor in disrepair and Amelia, his brother's step-child and now Gray's ward, alone with only two old servants.  Angered to learn that the estate manager pocketed the funds sent to keep the manor running and fled, Gray begins to set things straight.  He also manages to drop the Grinch attitude for a few minutes and decides to bring Amelia to Mulberry Hall with him. 

Naturally, Gray is enticed by his delectable ward and Ameila finds her new rakishly handsome guardian irresistable, but Gray's stand-offish approach pushes Amelia away as Christmas festivities begin at Mulberry Hall. 

DIDN'T LIKE IT. I really struggled with this story so I'm just going to let it out... The absence of a consistent point of view resulted in reading a lot of the same details twice because scenes described by Amelia's thoughts would then be rehashed in the description of Gray's thoughts in the next paragraph.  All this was in addition to the reminders the author already gives us just in case you forgot what happened on the previous page and, frankly, it all became tiresome.  The author also got carried away using exclamation points and these weird things: "...!" and "...?"  Why not just end with a question mark or a period and be done?  And speaking of editing, or lack thereof, lets add to the list the many long sentences, often with no structure.  Several random fragments thrown together into run-ons do not tell a story any better than the instances where words were just plain missing:  "Gray's gaze narrowed he strode into the parlour, ..." (pg 229)  As for the actual meat of the story, I barely made it to chapter 5, then skimmed the rest.  There was nothing that made me care about Amelia or Gray nor was there even a hint of chemistry.  Their attraction was only physical which made their declarations of falling in love with each other the moment they met all the more laughable.  The only recommendation I can make for this story is to skip it altogether.  Honestly, I can't believe it even made it to print.

So, there you have it... three stories and three different ratings.  I'll be honest... I'm holding onto this book for the sole purpose of keeping McCabe's companion story to The Diamonds of Welbourne Manor anthology.  Snowbound and Seduced was definitely my favorite novella in Regency Christmas Proposals and rated best of the bunch. 

My overall rating for this anthology:  5 – I liked most of the book

Amanda McCabe's novella is connected to The Diamonds of Welbourne Manor anthology, which I highly recommend!

Carole Mortimer's novella is connected to The Notorious St. Claires quartet:  The Duke's Cinderella Bride, The Rake's Wicked Proposal, The Rogue's Disgraced Lady and Lady Arabella's Scandalous Marriage.  I have not read any of these titles.

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