Tag Archive | anthology

Dressed to Kiss (anthology) by Madeline Hunter, Caroline Linden, Myretta Roberts and Megan Frampton

dressed-to-kiss

Purchase Now from Amazon

True love never goes out of style…

Once renowned for creating the most envied gowns in London, Madame Follette’s dressmaking shop has fallen far out of fashion. The approaching coronation of King George IV offers a chance to reclaim former glory by supplying stunning new wardrobes to the most glittering society in Regency England. In the face of long-held secrets, looming scandals, and the potential ruin of their shop, the dressmakers of Follette’s are undaunted, not even by the most unexpected complication of all: true love.

add-to-goodreads-button

Publisher and Release Date: Caroline Linden, September 2016

Time and Setting: London, 1821
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Review Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Sara

The best romance anthologies are where the stories are linked around a common theme or a single moment. In Dressed to Kiss all four authors have set their stories in and around a dressmaking shop that has seen better days but has a second chance to succeed with the upcoming coronation of King George VI. The women (and one man) who work in the shop each have unique stories to tell and each author puts wonderful spin on love beating the odds.


Madeline Hunter opens the book with her story The Duke’s Dressmaker. Head seamstress of Madame Follette’s dress shop Selina Fontane has made a new life for herself in London after leaving her small village in disgrace years earlier. She allowed herself to fall in love with a visiting lord who promised marriage but left her with a ruined reputation. Now she is put in the very awkward position of designing the wardrobe for the young woman who married her erstwhile suitor. Fortunately the client has no idea of Selina’s history with her husband but her brother-in-law Lord Barrowmore recognizes Selina right away. Selina fears that Lord Barrowmore will cost her an important patron for the shop while Barrowmore fears that a spurned woman could be a problem for his brother’s new wife. The reunion of former adversaries quickly morphs from a tentative truce into an affair of the heart. Barrowmore finds himself attracted to Selina and realizes that his perceptions of her as a scheming title grabber might have been misplaced. Selina makes peace with her ruined courtship years before and her eyes are opened to just how handsome and noble Barrowmore really is.

I loved how the emotional connection between Selina and Rand, Lord Barrowmore grows throughout the story. Both characters are rational about their budding relationship and they keep in mind their strange connection and their differing places in society. Both are comfortable with each other and Selina understands that what Rand offers her is what is expected of a man in his position. Fortunately Rand is also a man who is willing to ignore those expectations to keep close the love that is important to him. 5 stars


Myretta Robens is a new-to-me author and her story The Colors of Love is a cute addition to the mix. Junior seamstress Delyth Owen has a slight problem. She can design some of the best and most innovative gowns produced by Madame Follette’s but her choice of color is completely inappropriate for London fashions. A scathing review by a fashion columnist puts her job in jeopardy and Delyth is scared her one chance to design real dresses rather than costume pieces has been ruined. When a very fashionable brother and sister enter the shop looking specifically for Delyth, she hopes that her prayers have been answered to land an important client who also appreciates her design sensibility. Little does she realize that Mr. Simon Merrithew, author of Aglaea’s Cabinet fashion column, has set up his sister to play an interested party only to learn if Delyth is completely what she seems or if she is praying on helpless clients to make a mockery of the ton and the fashionable elite.

Delyth is guileless and a very sweet heroine. It has always been her dream to design clothing and her openness and joy makes her the kind of character a reader wants to root and cheer for when she gets everything she deserves. Her relationship with Simon was sweet too in that she quickly shows Simon that his cynicism has tainted how he looks not only at colors or fashion but in how he lives his life. I wish that their characters had a bit more depth to them; however their romance is cute and fits nicely with all the other stories in the collection. 3 Stars


Megan Frampton has some fun bringing two awkward characters together in her story No Accounting for Love. Henry Dawkins has always been the bookkeeper at Madame Follette’s dress shop, working first for his mother and now for his sister Felicity. Painfully shy and uncomfortable in such an overly-feminine environment, Henry usually hides in his small office, content to work behind the scenes. He is forced out of his hidey-hole when the daughter of an old family acquaintance arrives in the store with her companion Katherine Grant. Henry knows the young woman has always had a crush on him and he’s tried to dissuade her interest as gently as possible; however he lets himself get caught up in her new schemes if only to get close to the witty Miss Grant. Katherine enjoys getting to know Mr. Dawkins but is afraid that a relationship with him could cost her her position as a respectable companion. Knowing that society might frown on any potential relationship keeps Henry and Katherine on guard, but true love manages to push through both of their defenses.

Henry and Katherine are perfectly adorkable together. He’s a big man, uncomfortable about his size as well as his middle class status. Katherine is always aware of her curvier figure and how it challenged her during her own seasons. At the beginning of the story both of them seem slightly uncomfortable in their own skins. By coming together they realize that what they’ve seen as shortcomings might be attractive in another person’s eyes. Just as in the first story, there is an undercurrent about how London society judges people by their class and how each level is expected to remain with their own. I appreciated that Henry and Katherine find a way to buck the rules to find real happiness with each other. 4 Stars


Caroline Linden finishes out the quartet in A Fashionable Affair by bringing things back to the operator of Madame Follette’s, Felicity Dawkins. She has been a part of her mother’s shop ever since she learned how to sew and it is her dream to see the struggling business find a renaissance through innovative design. In the year she’s been in charge, Felicity has hired the right seamstresses and managed to land a few highly regarded patrons in society. What she doesn’t know is during that same period Lord Carmarthen has been working to create a renaissance of his own on the street on which her shop is located that doesn’t involve Madame Follette’s staying open. His dream is to rebuild Vine Street in a modern style and bring in new merchants. He’s managed to buy out all the other shops on the street but Felicity refuses to sell unless he can find a location with as much prestige as what she’s giving up. Their battles over the shop and real estate in the city get their blood heated, but it’s the underlying attraction between them that keeps that fire burning. It’s a challenge to Felicity’s heart to know that the one man she’s ever wanted could cost her a legacy she’s also dreamed of for years.

Felicity and Evan, Lord Carmarthen, start off on the wrong foot with each other but there is a mutual respect for how they each see the future. Before meeting Felicity, all of Evan’s plans were just business and while he understood there was a personal cost to some people it never touched him. Knowing her, loving her and seeing the other side of things makes it all very personal. Felicity and Evan don’t shy away from their feelings and use them to make their union stronger even with the challenges of her business and his development plans. This story reminded me of the film You’ve Got Mail which has always been a favorite. It was a perfect way to close out the anthology knowing that the future was secure for Madame Follette’s.  5 Stars

Once Upon a Dream by Mary Balogh & Grace Burrowes

Once Upon a Drea

Purchase Now from Amazon.

In Another Dream by Mary Balogh, Miss Eleanor Thompson has found satisfaction as the director of a respected school for girls. The life of a dedicated educator offers many rewards and much meaning – but also more loneliness than Eleanor anticipated. She accepts an invitation from her sister, Christine, Duchess of Bewcastle, to attend a Bedwyn house party, never dreaming the summer curriculum might include stolen kisses and true love.

In The Duke of My Dreams by Grace Burrowes, banker’s daughter Anne Faraday is cast into the company of Elias, Duke of Sedgemere, at house party in the Lakes. Anne warms to the lonely man and conscientious father behind the title, and Elias becomes enthralled with the brilliant, burdened woman beneath Anne’s genteel facade. Liking turns to love under the Cumbrian summer moon, but family obligations, secrets, and a prodigal duck conspire to thwart the course of true love.

add-to-goodreads-button

Publisher and Release Date: Grace Burrowes Publishing, April 2016

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Regency England
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 5 stars

Review by Lady Wesley

Fair warning to our faithful readers: the following is a giddy fan-girl review.

Two of my favorite authors: Mary Balogh and Grace Burrowes. One of my favorite settings: country house parties. My favorite duke – the Duke of All Dukes: Wulfric Bedwyn, Duke of Bewcastle. No way was I not going to like these two stories.

I’m giving this book five stars, based upon how very much I enjoyed reading it. Some of my HR friends, whose opinions I respect, have been more critical, with one calling these two novellas “just reader-friendly, predictable, comfort romance reads.” Just?? After some of the stinkers that I have read lately, that sounds like exactly what I want.

Mary Balogh’s story takes us back Bedwyn World, a place that I came to love when reading her Slightly and Simply series. Our heroine, Miss Eleanor Thompson, played a secondary role in Slightly Dangerous, when her sister Christine married the top-lofty Duke of Bewcastle. She appeared again in Simply Perfect, when Claudia Martin married the Marquess of Attingsborough, and Eleanor took over Claudia’s role as headmistress of a girls’ school in Bath. (Although Eleanor is pushing forty, she was destined to marry well, as all of the teachers at Miss Martin’s school went on to marry aristocrats.) On her way to a summer house party at Bewcastle’s estate, she stops at an inn to wait out a sudden storm, and while enjoying a quiet cup of tea she is accosted by an overly precocious ten-year-old girl. Georgette Benning is traveling with her young brother and their father. Although it is slightly improper, Eleanor enjoys a lovely dinner with Mr. Benning, and the next morning the travelers go on their separate ways.

Eleanor is quite surprised, therefore, when the Benning family arrives the next day to join Bewcastle’s house party. It turns out that “Mr. Benning” is in fact the Michael Benning, Earl of Staunton, and Christine has invited him with the expectation that he is on the verge of proposing marriage to another guest, a proper young miss with a dragon of a mother. The children have other ideas, however, and their antics help bring Eleanor and Michael together. Interestingly, Wulfric also plays matchmaker and there is a lovely scene where he counsels Eleanor after she confesses her unhappiness with running a school: “Sometimes our dreams lead us in the wrong direction and it would be foolish to continue pursuing them out of sheer stubbornness or the fear of disappointing others. There are other dreams waiting to be dreamed — the right dreams, the ones that will lead to contentment.”

If you haven’t visited Bedwyn World before, this novella probably will not appeal to you. Characters from almost all of the previous books are mentioned, along with the many children they have brought into the world. The plot is not particularly inventive. Indeed, it is very reminiscent of Ms. Balogh’s 1991 story The Best Christmas Ever (recently republished in Christmas Gifts). Young Georgette is a bit too eloquent for a ten-year-old and there is a jarring scene where Michael asks Eleanor whether she is a virgin when it’s clear that even if she is she won’t be for long. But for me, the romance was lovely, and visiting with Wulfric and Christine and rolling down that infamous hill with the rest of the Bedwyns was a joy.

Purely by accident, Grace Burrowes’s story bears some resemblance to Mary Balogh’s. Both feature slightly older and quite independent heroines who fall in love with widowed fathers and in both stories, the children play pivotal roles in bringing the couple together. The respective fathers’ attitude toward their children is quite different, however. Michael Benning is devoted to his, and his prospective fiancee’s desire to send them away to school is his first clue that she may not be the one for him. I had the impression, however, that Ms. Burrowes’ hero, Elias, Duke of Sedgemere, did not dote on his three little boys in the same way. He loved them, of course, but did not quite know what to do with them and frequently found himself apologizing for their behavior when they were just being typical little boys.

At first, Anne Faraday does not seem like the woman to bring this family together. She is the commoner daughter of an immensely wealthy banker, dedicated to taking care of her father. Although she moves among the ton, the ladies really do not like her and the men simply want to marry her money. Elias likes her, however, and when they are thrown together during the house party, he finds himself falling in love with her. She works magic with his little boys and teaches Elias how to let loose and enjoy their company. When they are caught in a compromising situation, however, she adamantly refuses to marry him, for she has a secret that she believes prohibits her from ever marrying. Elias figures out what it is, but this reader did not, and I can’t think of any other historical romance heroine with this particular secret.

At times, it was hard to know whether Anne was falling in love or just in lust. I enjoy a little hotness in my historical romances, but I do think that the author got a bit carried away, what with Elias and Anne getting it on at every available moment and in places where they could easily be caught. I also found that the presence of the Duke of Hardcastle was superfluous to requirements. He is Elias’s best friend and determined to dodge the matchmaking mamas. Other than that, he doesn’t do much. There really wasn’t much time for Burrowes to write those long, heart-felt conversations between gentlemen that she is so good at. If, however, you have read her May I Have This Duke in the anthology Dancing in the Duke’s Arms, you already know that he is going to meet his match when Elias and Anne throw their own house party.

Giving a rating to an anthology can be tricky unless the reader’s opinion of each story is exactly the same. In this case, I give the Balogh story five-plus stars and the Burrowes a four. If, like me, you consider these ladies to be two of the very best historical romance authors publishing today, I am confident that you will enjoy Once Upon a Dream.

Christmas in Duke Street by Miranda Neville, Shana Galen, Carolyn Jewel & Grace Burrowes

Christmas in Duke Street

Purchase Now from Amazon

Christmas in London is a busy time at the little bookshop in Duke Street, for love, literature, and shopping. Four couples come and go and discover that happy ever after makes the perfect Christmas gift. A new anthology from the bestselling authors of Christmas in the Duke’s Arms and Dancing in the Duke’s Arms.
The Rake Who Loved Christmas by Miranda Neville Sir Devlyn Stratton wants to save his brother from an unprincipled adventuress, especially when he meets Oriel Sinclair and wants her for himself. Oriel won’t marry for convenience or become a rake’s mistress. But succumbing to Dev’s seduction is all too tempting.
A Seduction in Winter by Carolyn Jewel He’s an artist and a duke’s heir. She’s sheltered and scarred. Can he show her by Christmas that love can be theirs to share?
A Prince in her Stocking by Shana Galen Lady Cassandra has always done as she’s been told. Meek and malleable, she’s lived a life devoid of passion. When she meets a handsome man rumored to be an exiled prince, she sees one last chance at excitement. Little does she know, too much excitement can be dangerous.
The Appeal of Christmas by Grace Burrowes The best Christmas present is the one he didn’t realize he desperately needed.

add-to-goodreads-button

Publisher and Release Date: cJewel Books October 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Regency England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 Stars

Review by Natalie

Duke Street Books, nicknamed ‘On the Shelf’ by an unnamed rake armed with red paint, is a cozy little bookshop on Duke Street; it has become a gathering place for the bluestockings, as well as the novel lovers, of the ton. This Christmas the shop has become a center of activity for several of their loyal patrons.

This is the third installment of Duke anthologies from the pens of four of the most popular authors of historical romance, and Christmas in Duke Street contains four short stories. Each story stand on its own but they are also intertwined, the characters meeting at and returning to On the Shelf thoughout their stories. This is a lovely collection that will get you in the mood for Christmas, even if some stories in the collection do work better than others.

The Rake Who Loved Christmas. Sir Devlyn Stratton loves Christmas, even if it isn’t fashionable among the ton to do so. He enjoys finding the perfect gift for his family members, a small escape from the stresses of the round of visiting and of putting his family affairs in order. When Dev enters On the Shelf in the middle of his holiday shopping, looking for a little warmth from the freezing London weather, he strikes up a brief conversation with Oriel Sinclair – which leaves him wanting more until Oriel leaves with an older, unscrupulous gentleman. Is Oriel really a woman of ill-repute or is she just want Dev needs this Christmas? The relationship between Dev and Oriel uses intrigue and mistaken identity in a very Christmassy way, if that is possible, and I really enjoyed the story.

In A Seduction in Winter, Honora Baynard has spent years toiling away as her artist father’s assistant, hiding her scarred face and following the military career of the only man to ever show any kindness to her. When she learns that Leoline, Lord Wrathell, has returned from India, she hopes that he will be able to repair his relationship with his father, but she knows that it would be too much to hope that he would remember the young girl he once protected. However, when she runs into him at On the Shelf, she realizes that Leoline may have been thinking about her as often as she thought about him. This is possibly my favorite story from this anthology. Instead of a striking beauty, we have a heroine who is physically scarred and has been led to believe that this makes her unacceptable to society at large. This story is as much about Honora coming to the realization that she has more to offer to the world than her face as it is about the romance that develops between her and the handsome hero.

A Prince in Her Stocking: Prince Lucien of Glynaven has lost his kingdom and his fortune in a recent revolution. He has been living on the streets of London while painstakingly searching through the books in On the Shelf in hopes of finding hidden documents that prove his identity. Lady Cassandra has been living under the thumb of her elderly sister-in-law since the death of her husband. Her only solace has been visiting On the Shelf, living in her imagination instead of reality, until the day she meets Lucien. Suddenly her life takes on all the intrigue and adventure she has been craving. This is my least favorite of all the stories in the collection. While Lucien is supposed to be a dashing hero who has lost everything, he does not come off as very sympathetic and Lady Cassandra reminds me a little too much of a love-sick puppy. The two seem to be the least connected out of all our couples and as I finished reading the story, I couldn’t help but think that in six-months’ time, Prince Lucien would dump Lady Cassandra for one of the more statuesque ladies of the ton!

The last story in the collection is The Appeal of Christmas. Barrister Gervaise Stoneleigh has spent years ignoring Christmas, leaving his gift buying to his mentor’s daughter, Hazel. Meanwhile Hazel has spent years wondering if Gervaise might ever see her as something more than just a friend. When a friendly kiss under the mistletoe turns into something more, Hazel makes a request of Gervaise that could destroy their friendship. This story is the wild horse of the series and has a different flavor. I enjoyed it and wished that there had been more room for Grace Burrowes to explore the relationship between Gervaise and Hazel.

All in all Christmas in Duke Street is a warm, inviting read. It got me in a great mood for the holidays and made me wish for my own warm, cozy bookshop to hop into and find romance this season. All four of these talented writers deliver four strong, different reads in this enjoyable addition to the Duke anthologies.

Christmas Gifts (anthology) by Mary Balogh

christmas gifts

Purchase Now from Amazon

Christmas Gifts brings together three previously published and long out-of-print novellas, each on the theme of Christmas gifts that will last forever because the gift, in essence, is love. In The Best Christmas Ever, a boisterous house party is in progress and all the children when asked are eager to tell what they want for Christmas. But one man feels sad, for his young child has not spoken since her mother died and he does not know if the gifts he has bought her will be what she really wants. Unknown to him, her one fervent wish is for a new mother for Christmas, and when she sees one of the guests she knows who that will be. But the lady concerned has an unhappy history with the child’s father. In The Porcelain Madonna a gentleman becomes involved with helping an impoverished lady, who thinks of everyone’s happiness but her own. However, he has seen her gaze with longing at a porcelain madonna well beyond her means displayed in a shop window. In The Surprise Party a man and woman who are antagonistic to each other find themselves landed with the care over Christmas of children who are related to each of them. They quarrel over which of them should undertake the task. It is not a happy situation until the children teach them the true meaning of Christmas, and of love, and they discover that they can do it together.

add-to-goodreads-button

Publisher and Release Date: November 2015 by Class Ebook Editions Ltd.

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Regency England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Lady Wesley

Mary Balogh has sent us all an early Christmas gift this year, with this anthology of three classic novellas. (She has also published a similar anthology, Christmas Miracles.) Actually, as she enters her thirtieth year of writing historical romance, I tend to think that Mary Balogh’s mere presence in the world is a sort of gift. I have read about two-thirds of her books and have yet to encounter a stinker. It’s very exciting for those of us who prefer ebooks that she has been digitizing many of her out-of-print books.

The three novellas in this collection date back to the 1990s and have long been out-of-print. They are unashamedly sentimental and full of snow, children, sleigh rides, presents, and love. As Ms Balogh recently wrote on her blog:

We expect good things of the Christmas season. We expect peace and goodwill and the warmth and closeness of family celebrating together. We expect love and joy. We expect, in fact, all the elements we look for in a good romance. What better marriage can there be than that between Christmas and romance?

In this blog posting, Ms Balogh also noted something that other authors of Christmas stories should take to heart:

Perhaps the best thing I learned from the writing of those novellas was that the stories could be far more effective if Christmas was an essential element and the story happened as it did because it was Christmas and not just because by pure chance it occurred late in December.

This lesson, I think, is what makes Ms Balogh’s plethora of Christmas novellas so successful. Even readers with Scroogish tendencies (that would be me) can find themselves experiencing the joy of the season.

I haven’t said anything about the plots, as the book blurb above does a fine job of previewing each story. My favorite has to be The Best Christmas Ever, where a motherless girl picks as her new mother a lady completely unsuitable for her father. And then there’s The Surprise Party, where the needs of three orphaned children help two people overcome the bitterness they have felt toward one another for years. But then, I also liked The Porcelain Madonna, in which the Earl of Bah Humbug learns about the Christmas spirit from a penniless young woman. Oh, never mind, I can’t really pick a favorite. All three are sweet, sentimental, utterly delightful, and guaranteed to deliver the best that Christmas has to offer.

Christmas Gifts and Christmas Miracles are specially priced at US$ 1.99 during the month of December. So why not click on the links above and give yourself a gift.

What Happens Under the Mistletoe (anthology) by Sabrina Jeffries, Karen Hawkins, Candace Camp, Meredith Duran

what happens under the mistletoe

Purchase Now from Amazon

New York Times bestselling authors Sabrina Jeffries, Karen Hawkins, and Candace Camp, and USA TODAY bestselling author Meredith Duran come together for a sizzling historical romance holiday anthology.

Stunned by the heat of an unexpected kiss on a cold winter’s eve, two strangers from vastly different worlds turn hotheaded principles into burning passion in Sabrina Jeffries’ delightful yuletide story, The Heiress and the Hothead.

In the snowy Scottish countryside, Karen Hawkins’s rakish duke has an unforgettable holiday encounter in Twelve Kisses when the alluring lady he surprises under the mistletoe is not who he expected, but a long-lost love with a score to settle.

In By Any Other Name, Edinburgh is aglitter for Christmastime as Candace Camp sends a curious gentleman in hot pursuit of an intriguing lady in disguise—one who refuses to reveal her true identity, though she fears he has already stolen her heart with his kiss.

In Sweetest Regret, will the festive spirit of the season sweep Meredith Duran’s feisty heroine beneath the mistletoe—and back into the arms of the dashing rogue whose carelessness soiled her reputation and sent her into exile in London?

In this all-new story collection sparkling with sexy charm and heartwarming wit, four beloved bestselling authors reveal the mix-ups and make-ups, the missed chances and golden opportunities that come but once a year.

add-to-goodreads-button

Publisher and Release Date: Pocket Books November 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Regency Era, London and Scotland
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 Stars

Review by Sara

‘Tis the season for Romance anthologies showcasing the spirit and love of Christmastime. The collection of stories in What Happens Under the Mistletoe all bring that wonderful sense of the holiday to four very different couples who all find love in the most unusual ways.

My favorite story from the book is Candace Camp’s By Any Other Name. It has two romantic tropes that I love: Mistaken Identity and Heroines in Disguise. Miss Rylla Campbell is desperate for the safe return of her brother before the holidays begin. With no news of his whereabouts for days, she has taken the desperate step of seeking him out at the clubs of Edinburgh by disguising herself as a young man in order to gain entrance. Rylla’s first foray into a man’s world doesn’t go well when she’s pinned as an easy mark by the regular gamblers and drinks a little too much to keep a clear head. She is only saved when another gentleman in the club notices her distress and gets her away.

Mr. Gregory Rose is spending a fairly dull winter in Edinburgh visiting his cousin but is excited to learn that the young man he helped out of a jam at his club is actually a beautiful young woman. Without learning her name, Gregory begins seeking her out at society gatherings, using his cousin’s influence to get himsefl invited anywhere she might be. Finally cornering her during a social call, Gregory learns of her search for her brother and offers whatever assistance he can. Keeping Rylla out of trouble becomes his responsibility, but his pleasure comes from their budding relationship and getting to know his mystery woman.

Ms. Camp manages to put a lot of elements into this short without the story becoming overwhelmed with plot devices. Rylla’s disguise, the mystery of her brother’s disappearance, Gregory’s pursuit of Rylla; all have a quick pace but never sacrifice the development of the characters and their growing affection. Readers can feel how the relationship grows as Rylla learns to trust Gregory with her burdens and he protects her until they are resolved. This was the most entertaining story of the four and left me with the best feeling for the characters. 4 stars

Sabrina Jeffries captures the Christmas spirit and makes a small social commentary in her story, which revisits characters from her Sinful Suitors series. Miss Amanda Keane and her family are visiting England where her brother Jeremy has now settled with his new wife. Her trip has a dual purpose as she’s also out to learn more about the operations of British textile mills, hoping to bring some of their practices back home to her own mills in Pennsylvania. Arriving at her brother’s home she is completely surprised when a handsome young man walks right up to her under a sprig of mistletoe and gives her a kiss.

Lord Stephen Corry didn’t mean to kiss Amanda but mistook her for someone else. The accidental kiss might have been laughed off as a bit of Christmas mischief, but his fast attraction to the American is unwanted as she represents many of the things Stephen stands against. Working as a journalist, he has made it his crusade to expose the poor conditions workers face in the textile mills, including the risks children face from the large machines. Believing that Amanda is no better than the owners he’s met in England, Stephen challenges her to meet with workers at a local mill to hear their plight. Amanda, thinking that Stephen’s prejudice is against those in trade, agrees to let him write about her business to better illustrate that not all owners put profits over people.

The Heiress and the Hothead is a cute story of two individuals trying to prove themselves while working hard to make a difference in the world as they see it. Stephen and Amanda feel very deeply for the people of the factories and while Stephen has an emotional tie to the workers plight, Amanda is actually doing something to better their circumstances. I enjoyed seeing a strong and independent woman allowed to be herself and still find equality with her partner. As short stories tend to do, things move very quickly for the characters and some challenges to their relationship may have been glossed over but overall it was a great read. 4 stars

I wasn’t quite as taken with the stories offered by Karen Hawkins and Meredith Duran. Each one dealt with second-chance romances but it was hard to see any of the main characters truly in love with their partner either before or in their current circumstances. Ms. Duran’s story Sweetest Regret actually works best in that the main characters actually have some chemistry and worked towards solving the problems of their past. I felt there was a future for their romance that I didn’t quite get when I finished Ms. Hawkins’ story. Fortunately both of these authors are strong enough in their writing that even a less enjoyable story is satisfying and makes a reader take a moment to appreciate it all. 3 stars for each.

What Happens Under the Mistletoe has the lighter tone that I expect from Christmas stories. Fellow fans of this type of Historical Romance will find the collection a great treat to read while bundled up on a cold wintery night.

Regency Christmas Gifts (anthology) by Carla Kelly

regency christmas gifts
Purchase Now from Amazon

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.

add-to-goodreads-button

Publisher and Release Date: Camel Press, September 2015

RHR Classifications:
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?

Faithfully Yours
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.

VIRTUAL TOUR: The Last Chance Christmas Ball (anthology) – The Word Wenches

VTLastChanceXmasBall-MaryJoPutney

PURCHASE LINKS: Amazon * ~ * ~ * B&N * ~ * ~ * Google Play * ~ * ~ * iTunes * ~ * ~ * Kobo

Christmas 1815.

Upstairs and downstairs, Holbourne Abbey 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…

add-to-goodreads-button

EXCERPT: FROM A SEASON FOR MARRIAGE by Nicola Cornick

the last chance christmas ball“Perhaps there has been a mistake, my lady,” Pershore, her maid, said timidly as, empty-handed, they ascended the carriage steps.

“I don’t think so,” Caroline said. “Mr. Camden does not make mistakes.” But he had, she thought. He had made an enormous mistake when he had married her.

She could vividly remember the night it had happened. She had been nineteen and had already had two Seasons without attracting a suitor who met her exacting requirements. She had not lacked offers; there had been fourteen in all. None of them, however, could match Piers Camden, friend of her elder brother Edward, with whom she had been in love since she was old enough to understand what love meant.

That summer night she had been sitting on the steps of the family home, Holbourne Abbey, trying not to cry because she had overheard her father telling her mother in exasperated tones that if she did not accept one of her suitors soon, he would betroth her to Lord Drysdale with or without her agreement. There was a ball going on, a beautiful, exciting, summery occasion and she had never felt less beautiful, excited or summery in her life.

Piers had found her outside and asked if he could help her.

“No,” she had said tragically. “No one can help me.”

Piers had smiled then, that attractively rakish smile that always made her heart turn over, and had sat down on the step beside her. “Tell me,” he had said.

To her surprise she had told him everything: how Lord Drysdale was old—at least forty—and already a widower, and how he had hungry eyes and a wet mouth. How she knew she had to marry well, but that she would rather enter a convent than marry Lord Drysdale.

“Have you found a suitable convent?” Piers had asked.

“No,” Caroline had said. “There are no suitable convents in Northumberland.”

His eyes had gleamed with amusement. “That is probably for the best. I don’t think you have the temperament for the religious life.”

“But I had also thought I might take a governess post,” Caroline said eagerly.

“Another startlingly bad idea,” Piers had said. He had shifted a little beside her, running one hand through his thick, dark hair. “I am sure this is all a misunderstanding, Lady Caroline. Your parents, I am persuaded, would do nothing so Gothic as to marry you off if you were unwilling.”

“I heard them talking about it!” Caro burst out. “There is no mistake.” She had started to cry and Piers had proffered his handkerchief and then somehow—she was not at all sure how it had happened—her parents had rushed out onto the terrace accompanied by Lord Drysdale, who was furious, and various other guests, who were everything from shocked to curious, and everyone wanted to know what she was doing out there in the dark with Piers. She supposed it had looked rather scandalous because they were sitting close to one another and Piers had an arm about her and was wiping the tears from her eyes, but even so there had been no need for him to propose to save her reputation.

Her parents, naturally, had been delighted. Piers was young, only six or seven years older than Caro was herself, handsome, rich, and the heir to a barony. He was her brother’s friend. It was a perfect match.

Except that it was not.

It was a match born out of honor. Caro had felt hideously guilty. Piers had shown her kindness and she had repaid him by trapping him into marriage. When she had told him she did not wish him to feel obliged to wed her, he had told her that she should feel no guilt; theirs would be a good match. It all sounded dreadfully passionless and cold. When Caro had gone to her mother and tried to back out of the arrangement, Lady Holbourne had told her in the kindest but plainest terms that if she did so she would be ruined. So here she was six months later in a marriage of supposed convenience where the biggest inconvenience was that she was hopelessly in love with a husband who barely noticed her.

GIVEAWAY

a Rafflecopter giveaway

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Mary Jo Putney, Jo Beverley, Joanna Bourne, Patricia Rice, Nicola Cornick, Cara Elliott, Anne Gracie, Susan King are the ladies otherwise known as the Word Wenches. These eight authors have written a combined 231 novels and 74 novellas. They’ve won awards such as the RITAS, RT Lifetime Achievement award, RT Living Legend, and RT Reviewers Choice award. Several of them are regulars on the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists. Learn more at www.wordwenches.com.

Author Links: Website * ~ * ~ *  Facebook * ~ * ~ *  Twitter 

Dancing in the Duke’s Arms – A Regency Romance Anthology by Grace Burrowes, Shana Galen, Miranda Neville and Carolyn Jewel

dancing in the dukes arms

Purchase Now from Amazon.

Why Do Dukes Fall in Love?

Every summer the cream of society gathers at the Dukeries, named for the ducal estates concentrated in one small corner of Nottinghamshire. While the entertainments include parties, balls, and a famous boat race, the ducal hosts and their guests find heartbreak, love and happy endings.

Four heartwarming stories from four bestselling historical romance authors.

add-to-goodreads-button

Publisher and Release Date: cJewel Books, 26th June 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Regency England, Nottinghamshire
Genre: Historical Romance (Anthology)
Heat Rating: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Caz

As is common with anthologies, some stories in Dancing in the Duke’s Arms work better than others. My favourite of this set is Miranda Neville’s, The Duchess of Scandal in which an estranged couple find themselves back under the same roof due to a scheduling error. The very proper Duke of Linton proposed marriage to a young lady twelve years his junior, secure in the knowledge that no woman in her situation could possibly turn down such an offer. For the three weeks of their honeymoon, they were blissfully happy, but following their return to London, the rot sets in. Linton takes his responsibilities to his estates and in parliament very seriously, and his days are so full that he unintentionally neglects his eighteen year-old bride, and Althea’s only real company is her twin brother Nicholas. She ends up spending more time with her brother and his rather fast set and getting herself a name as a bit of a flirt. Annoyed at the gossip, and the fact that his wife always seems to be surrounded by crowds of young men, Linton seethes with annoyance and frustration, his admonitions and criticisms of her behaviour becoming more frequent. Things go from bad to worse and after six months, the Lintons agree to live separate lives.

I always like a good second-chance romance, and this, although only novella length, is a good one. The gentle reminders of what their life could have been like are poignant and well-written, as is the gradual reawakening of the couple’s feelings for each other. The greatest danger with the shorter format is that the romance will feel rushed, but it didn’t feel that way here and I thought it was a really lovely read. 4.5 stars

Grace Burrowes’ contribution, May I Have This Duke? does feel somewhat rushed, but I loved it because it was so damn funny and had me laughing on several occasions. The Duke of Hardcastle is put out when the governess to his six-year old nephew suddenly announces her intention of leaving his employ. Miss Ellen MacHugh needs to return to her family in the north of England, and is adamant that nothing will change her mind. He has no idea, of course, that she’s in love with him and doesn’t want to be around when he takes a wife, which is something he can’t put off for much longer.

Hardcastle is engaged to attend the Duke of Sedgemere’s house-party in the Dukeries (and yes, it’s a real place! The county of Nottinghamshire actually contains a large number of ducal estates, and was given the nickname in the nineteenth century), and as his nephew will be accompanying him, so will Ellen, and at the end of the party she will depart for her home.

Even though Hardcastle needs a wife, he doesn’t relish the prospect of being tricked into a compromising situation by a Machiavellian debutante and forced into marriage; and he also doesn’t like the idea of Ellen being pursued by the young bucks at the party. He suggests they provide cover for each other; by acting smitten with one another, she will preserve him from the scheming young ladies and he can protect her from the unwanted attentions of the men.

I admit that things do progress quite quickly and the ending is a bit too perfect, but I didn’t mind that, because the verbal exchanges between Ellen and Hardcastle are so often hilarious. Grace Burrowes has a very distinctive writing style which can seem quite formal – the characters often address each other by their full names, for example, or express themselves in a roundabout way – but here, that formality just adds to the humour and tenderness of Ellen and Hardcastle’s delightfully flirtatious banter. 4 stars

Carolyn Jewel’s An Unsuitable Duchess is the story of the very reserved and stern Duke of Stoke Teversault and the young woman whose sunny, outgoing nature and delight in the world around her shows her to be his complete opposite. The duke has been in love with Georgina for years, but missed his chance with her when she accepted a proposal from another man. Married quickly, she was happy with her husband, but he died a year after their marriage, and she has only just come out of mourning. Stoke is as attracted to her as he ever was, and she can’t forget his kindness to her after her husband died, yet she feels he disapproves of her and doesn’t really like her. It’s obvious that his dislike is nothing of the sort, and that he’s worried about both feeling and showing too much around her, yet he’s drawn to her vivacity and her amazing zest for life.

Georgina – or George, as her friends have nicknamed her – has no inkling of the true nature of Stoke’s feelings for her, but has no problem in identifying hers for him – she is astonished to discover that she desires him, this seemingly calculating, forbidding man who is not at all handsome by conventional standards and who disapproves of her for no reason she can discern.

Georgina is a lot of fun who knows she will never be a model of ladylike behaviour. She loved her husband and obviously had an enjoyable sex-life – she knows what’s what and can own up to what she wants. Stoke is the strong, silent type who doesn’t really know how to act towards the woman he loves and desires to distraction. They’re a mismatched pair, but the attraction between them is impossible to ignore, even though George realises that Stoke will probably break her heart. 3.5 stars

The least successful story of the four is Shana Galen’s Waiting for a Duke Like You, in which the gorgeous piece of male perfection that is Nathan, the Duke of Wyndover literally stumbles across a damsel in distress and has to save her from those who wish to do her harm. Shana Galen has written a number of action-packed romances but translating that to novella format hasn’t worked here, because both elements – the romance and the princess-in-peril plot – are too rushed and require too great a suspension of disbelief.

Princess Vivienne of Glynaven saw her family massacred and barely escaped her home with her life. She has travelled to England to seek the assistance of the king, but a group of assassins are on her tail and it won’t be long before they find her. Knowing that the Prince Regent is due to attend the ball at the Duke of Sedgemere’s house-party, she makes her way to his estate, only to collapse due to cold and hunger. She is found by Nathan, who met her briefly in Glenaven eight years previously and fell in love with her. He has never stopped loving her, but Vivienne never took much notice of him, having a dislike for men who are prettier than she is.

Um… yeah. That was such a daft reason for not liking someone that I just couldn’t buy it. On top of that, the romance never really gets off the ground and the entire thing is just too rushed for my taste. 3 stars

I enjoyed reading Dancing in the Duke’s Arms, even though the quality of the stories varies. But the great thing about an anthology like this is that if you don’t like one story, you can always jump to the next.

Ultimately, it’s worth buying for the Miranda Neville story alone, and the Grace Burrowes one is a nice bonus. The other two didn’t work quite so well for me, but this is still a fun collection and one that’s worth considering as a holiday read as each story can be read in an hour or so while you’re soaking up some sun!

Never Forget Me by Marguerite Kaye

never forget me
Purchase Now from Amazon

A KISS GOODBYE

1914

As war looms, genteel Flora yearns to be more than just an observer. She finds a revolutionary kindred spirit in soldier Geraint—but will their fragile love be crushed before it can start to bloom?

DEAREST SYLVIE

1916

Soldier Robbie cannot forget his one hedonistic night in Paris with beautiful waitress Sylvie. But as Europe burns, can these two star-crossed lovers ever be reunited?

FOREVER WITH ME

1918

Nurse Sheila is horrified to discover her new boss is the French surgeon she woke beside after Armistice Day! Fighting for their love will be the bravest thing she’s ever had to do….

Publisher and Release Date: Harlequin Historical, July 2014

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: First World War Scotland and France
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 5 stars

Review by Maggi

Marguerite Kaye drew me in completely with these three powerful stories of love in times of war. While I would have liked to have had a bit more action, that’s not what these stories are about. They are stories of loss but also stories of hope and new beginnings. The emotional scenes between the three couples are compelling and the love scenes are beautifully rendered and sizzle!

A KISS GOODBYE begins in Scotland with a Laird’s family dealing with the changes the First World War will bring. We are thrust into the disruption people suffer during wartime, where families and lives are torn apart never to be the same again. Even the wealthy and the privileged cannot avoid heartbreak and loss. The beautifully drawn lovers and the heartrending settings are very stirring. My one grumble is that I wanted to remain a little longer with Flora and Geraint. But that was due more to the quality of Ms Kaye’s engaging writing than anything else. I was quickly drawn into the second novella, DEAREST SLYVIE, so it’s a very small grumble. I quickly became engaged with the impossible love Sylvie and Robbie share, not knowing if he would survive the war.

FOREVER WITH ME, the third and final novella, wraps up the three stories and brings us full circle, while looking to the future where a new world awaits, especially for women.

There are so many delicious descriptions of character that it’s impossible to pick a favourite, but here’s one from the first novella:
“She didn’t walk across the room so much as float, though Geraint could see that her feet in their delicate little shoes were firmly planted on the antique rugs that covered the floor…”

– which leaves the reader in no doubt of the privileged life Flora leads, and allows a small glimpse into her character, as well as Geraint’s attraction to her.

These three interesting and interconnected WWI stories are filled with deep emotion, love, loss and tender romance. Never Forget Me is highly recommended.

FESTIVE ROMANCE: Christmas in the Duke’s Arms (anthology) by Grace Burrowes, Carolyn Jewel, Miranda Neville, and Shana Galen

christmas dukes arms

Purchase Now from Amazon

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.

add-to-goodreads-button

Publisher and Release Date: cJewel Books, October 2014

RHR Classifications:
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.