In the first of these stories set in Regency England, an impoverished war widow returns a misdelivered parcel and attracts the interest of a well-to-do retired sailing master and his sister. In story two, a self-made man returns to Scotland to marry the woman he has corresponded with ever since he left as a boy, little knowing the letters were written by another. In story three, a man visits the estate of his relatives to comfort his lovely second cousin, who is unhappy that Christmas has been usurped by her sister’s nuptials.
Publisher and Release Date: Camel Press, September 2015
Time and Setting: Regency Era, England and Scotland
Genre: Historical Romance Anthology
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars
Review by Lady Blue
Carla Kelly has penned three heartwarming short stories which have the Christmas holiday as a backdrop to the romance. The title of the book is significant, as each story focuses heavily on giving and generosity. The romances are sweet (kisses only – definitely no Christmas spice here) yet effective.
The Lasting Gift
Mary Anne Poole has been widowed for seven years, having lost her soldier husband right after their marriage. Since then, she and her daughter have been barely scraping by, and now, she is about to lose her secretarial job on Christmas Eve. A package is delivered to her home in error, and she decides to return it to the sender who happens to be Thomas Jenkins, a sailing master. Thomas is itching to get back to the sea, as between journeys he is bored and restless. He is happy to entertain his unexpected visitor, and he soon is aware of the dire straits she’s in. Thomas has accumulated quite a bit of wealth over his career, and he is more than happy to help Mary Anne, who has caught his fancy. Rather than let false pride keep her from accepting aid, Mary Anne is grateful for Thomas’ help, and soon she finds herself falling for this kind and generous man. It’s tragic that he has signed up for another voyage that will take him away for at least a year. Or, will there be some Christmas magic?
This exceptionally short story was a delight to read. When impoverished, eighteen-year-old John McPherson was about to leave for America to try to make his fortune, Margaret Patterson played a cruel jest by saying she would write to him. Margaret had no intention of corresponding, so she coerced Sally Wilson (who is a genuine friend of John’s) to respond to his letters, signing Margaret’s name. Much correspondence and many years later, John has made his fortune and is returning home, throwing Margaret into a panic, until she learns he’s now a wealthy man. This story takes an unexpected and delightful turn, when we find that John is no one’s fool, and has suspected who his real correspondent has been all these years.
Lucy’s Bang-Up Christmas
Lucy’s life is in an uproar – she recently lost her beloved mother, her sister is getting married on Christmas Eve, the household is a shambles, and she is going to have to make her début in a few short months. Enter Miles Bledsoe – Lucy’s second cousin and lifelong friend – to lend his support. Miles’ humor and good sense help calm Lucy, and start her thinking about the real meaning of Christmas. Truth be told, over the last year, Miles has come to see Lucy in a new light, and hopes to court her. While Lucy is a little slower in coming to realize that she loves Miles in a whole new way, she grows up quite a bit as she learns to care and give and listen. This friends to lovers romance is slow building and satisfying while being interwoven with the true spirit of Christmas.
I enjoyed reading all three of these stories. They are unashamedly sentimental and romantic, and even occasionally tear inducing. Regency Christmas Gifts is full of holiday cheer, warmth and love.