The Duke’s Arms is an undistinguished little inn in the tiny village of Hopewell-on-Lyft. But one Christmas season sees both inn and village seething with adventure, intrigue, rabbits, and, above all, love as four couples find Yuletide happiness.
Publisher and Release Date: cJewel Books, October 2014
Time and Setting: England, 1817
Genre: Christmas themed Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 Stars
Review by Lady Blue
A Knight Before Christmas by Grace Burrowes
With her year of mourning at an end, Penelope Carrington must remarry in haste, or her portion of her late husband’s estate won’t be enough to dower her younger sisters. Shy, handsome man of business Sir Leviticus Sparrow longs to give Penelope a marriage proposal for Christmas—and his heart—but Sir Levi must first foil the other bachelors scheming to meet Penelope under the mistletoe in his place.
Leviticus would like nothing more than to marry Penelope, but an unscrupulous woman is trying to force him into an engagement. Being the honorable gent that he is, Leviticus must be sure that he is free, and has to find a way out of this entanglement. Time is running out, and if he is unable to propose, Penelope will be forced to marry someone else. This is a charming story of two people who belong together, and it contains all the warmth you’ve come to expect from Grace Burrowes.
In the Duke’s Arms by Carolyln Jewel
What’s a Duke to do when he’s made an awful impression on the love of his life?
The Duke of Oxthorpe lost his intensely guarded heart to Miss Edith Clay when Edith’s
rich cousin sought to attach the duke’s marital interest. So smitten is Oxthorpe with the former poor relation that he’s gone through intermediaries to sell Edith a property adjoining the ducal seat.
Edith doesn’t much care for the haughty duke, but as Christmas approaches, Oxthorpe reveals himself to be reserved rather than arrogant, considerate, and — blame the mistletoe!— an accomplished kisser. Will Edith hold Oxthorpe’s earlier behavior against him, or will she learn that the best holiday gifts can be the most unexpected?
Oxthorpe is such a reserved man, and I adore him. He’s trying his best to let Edith know that he loves her, but she is oblivious. Edith believe he’s courting her cousin, and never misses an opportunity to promote the match. Despite my continually wanting to tell Edith to open her eyes and see the love waiting for her, I adored this story.
Licensed to Wed by Miranda Neville
If Lord Carbury could learn to take no for an answer, his marriage proposal might earn him a yes!
Wyatt, Viscount Carbury is much too busy to court a bride, but when his childhood neighbor, Robina Weston, is left orphaned and penniless, Wyatt dutifully adds marrying Robina to his list of responsibilities. Wyatt is dismayed to learn that for Robina, poverty and pride are preferable to sharing life with an arrogant, infuriating man who always thinks he knows best.
When Wyatt and Robina must endure Christmas in the country together, antipathy turns to interest, and then to unexpected attraction. Will they fight their feelings, or yield to the surprising gifts the holidays offer?
Wyatt is a very precise sort of man. Every day, he makes a list of items to complete, dutifully crossing them off once accomplished. His latest list includes proposing to his childhood friend, Robina, who’s now impoverished. He feels duty bound to rescue her, and this is the best way to handle it. Surprisingly, he doesn’t find it so easy to do, so it remains each day on his new list. When he finally finds his courage, Robina is not impressed with his proposal skills, and refuses him because she has no desire to be a “duty.” This story is a hoot, and I enjoyed it greatly.
The Spy Beneath the Mistletoe by Shana Galen
Fledgling spy Pierce Moneypence seeks a highwayman and the key to Eliza’s heart.
When weapons designer Eliza Qwillen (Q) and clerk to the mysterious M, Pierce Moneypence, arrive in the English countryside, they’re unprepared for the dangers that await. The operatives are intent upon capturing the highwayman styling himself as the New Sherriff of Nottingham. Secret rendezvous, mistaken identities, and cat-and-mouse games challenge these fledgling agents, but rediscovering their passion for each other is the most rewarding mission of all.
Pierce and Eliza have worked together very well, and both are anxious to take their relationship to the next level. Although we don’t see this encounter, it appears that Eliza was left less than satisfied. Pierce wants to marry her, although when he confesses to Eliza that he doesn’t love her, she turns him down even though she loves him. Pierce is too honest to admit to an emotion that he doesn’t feel. He respects and cares for Eliza, but he believes love is something he may never feel. As he tries to get back into Eliza’s good graces, she leads him on a merry chase as they attempt to capture the highwayman who has been actively robbing people in the vicinity of the Duke’s Arms. Sometimes extraordinary circumstances can make you realize that love is right in front of you all along.
This is an excellent collection of stories by some of today’s top historical romance writers. The stories are enjoyable, fun, and sometimes a little heartbreaking, and the characters are well developed, which is often hard to do in a novella. I wholeheartedly recommend this Christmas read by a stellar lineup of talented authors.