Tag Archive | Christmas

Dashing all the Way by Celeste Bradley, Eva Devon, Elizabeth Essex and Heather Snow

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A Rake for Christmas by Eva Devon

Lady Evangeline Pennyworth is done with being a wallflower and turns to London’s most notorious rake, demanding he teach her how to be desirable. After witnessing the love of his parents devolve into pain and anger, Anthony Basingstoke has vowed never to be swept away by passion, even if he finds himself taken by this wallflower in a way he’s never been before. Only a Christmas miracle will make true love a gift that will last forever.

Up on the Rooftops by Elizabeth Essex

Mischievous widow Caledonia Bowmont longs for London’s Christmas cheer, but a string of jewel thefts has brought the festive season to a standstill—and Society accuses the Scottish Wraith, Tobias McTavish. Toby is determined to clear his name and reclaim the life he’s built, so with Cally’s help, he heads up on the rooftops to trap the thief. Will they stop the high-carat crime, or find the hidden gem of lasting love instead?

The Very Debonair Lady Claire by Heather Snow

When Claire Barton’s twin is murdered, she takes his place in the War Department to flush out his killer. Her ruse works perfectly—until the man who once broke her heart becomes her new spymaster. The worst mistake of Andrew Sedgewick’s life was walking away from Claire that Christmas six years ago. Now that he’s found her again, he doesn’t intend to let her go—if they both survive this holiday season.

A Liar Under the Mistletoe by Celeste Bradley

Fearless Amie Jackham doesn’t attend balls to dance, she’s there for the thrill of robbing the lockboxes of the unscrupulous. With the notorious Vixen still at large, Liar’s Club spy Lord Elliot Hughes is taking the opportunity to clean out a few lockboxes for the good of Crown and Country—and leaving the Vixen’s trademark lacy handkerchief behind. Thief and spy can’t resist each other in this sexy, catch-me-if-you-can Liar’s Club holiday novella.

Publisher and Release Date: ERB Publishing, October 2017

Time and Setting: Regency England
Heat Level: 1.5
Genre: Historical Romance
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Jenny Q

I’m loving these Christmas anthologies because I get to try a bunch of new-to-me authors, and with my reading time growing scarcer, I can manage a novella at a time while getting in the holiday spirit!

Dashing All the Way features four extremely well written and satisfying Regency novellas. I will offer my thoughts on each story and then on the collection as a whole.

A Rake for Christmas: Two people feeling the lack of that “something more” in their lives find it in each other when they least expect it. The story could have spent more time exploring their backgrounds since their experiences have taken heavy tolls on them both, but they are both very likable leads, and this is a sweet and emotional love story that’s also and nice and Christmassy. (There are no sex scenes.)

Up on the Rooftops: Sparks fly between a bored widow and a reformed thief in this tale that features wonderful banter, a playful relationship, and possibly the hottest carriage sex I’ve ever read! It also features a dangerous mystery with lots of action and excitement. Though the climactic scene takes place during a masquerade ball, Christmas is only mentioned in passing with no depiction of traditions or holiday ambiance.

The Very Debonair Lady Claire: A grieving sister impersonates her twin brother and goes undercover in the Crown’s code-breaking office in an effort to discover who murdered him and why, but her plans threaten to blow up in her face when the new head of the intelligence department turns out to be none other than the man who broke her heart six years earlier. This is a smart and suspenseful espionage story featuring a sweet and sexy second-chance romance, and in a nice twist, the masquerade ball from the previous story serves as the backdrop for the climactic scenes. My favorite of the bunch for the characters and the love story, but again, very little by way of Christmas ambiance.

A Liar Under the Mistletoe: A thief desperately trying to support her family and a young spy for the notorious Liars Club target the same mark and realize they are a great danger to each other in spite of the sizzling attraction between them. This ended up being my least favorite of the bunch. There’s too much time spent on acquainting or re-aquainting the reader with numerous characters from previous books in the Liars Club series, and the hero and heroine hardly spend any time together as they are playing a game of cat-and-mouse, so their connection certainly seems more like lust at first sight rather than something more meaningful. But this one does feature a bit more Christmas than the previous two.

All four of these authors were new to me, and I was very impressed with the quality of the writing and their ability to spin a satisfying romantic tale in such a short space. A little more Christmas in a couple of them would have made the collection even better, but so far this is my favorite of this year’s Christmas romance collections.

 

Christmas in Kilts by Bronwen Evans, Terri Brisbin, Lecia Cornwall, Lavinia Kent and May McGoldrick

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‘Tis the season to fall in love! These five bestselling authors bring you great tiding of highlanders and romances this holiday season!

A HIGHLANDER’S HOPE by Terri Brisbin
A village harlot who would never dream she could have a different life meets a Highlander visitor for the holidays who brings with him an offer and hope!

A HIGHLAND CHRISTMAS WAGER by Lecia Cornwall
When a snowstorm forces a charming lass hiding a broken heart to take shelter in a castle with three fine Highland lairds just days before Christmas, there’s a game afoot—who will be the first to win a kiss and maybe her heart.

A SCOT FOR CHRISTMAS by Bronwen Evans
She’s ready to embrace her life and future as a spinster, he’s trying to have one last hurrah before he gives into his family’s wishes and proposes marriage to his neighbor, but fate has other ideas when the lady and the Scot meet at a holiday house party in the wilds of Scotland.

MISTLETOE by Lavinia Kent
What happens when a highlander finds himself stranded, maybe kidnapped, with an English lady around Christmas… maybe the mistletoe will help answer that question.

SWEET HOME HIGHLAND CHRISTMAS by May McGoldrick
A chance encounter between a ship’s captain and a desperate aunt trying to keep custody of her young niece leads to a little magic during the holidays.


Publisher and Release Date: Swerve, October 2017

Category: Historical Romance anthology
Time and Setting: Scotland, Various
Heat Level: 1.5
Reviewer Rating: 3 stars overall, but 4.5 stars for Sweet Home Highland Christmas.

Review by Jenny Q

I like Christmas anthologies because the novellas tend to focus solely on the holiday rather than it just being a backdrop or only figuring into a few scenes in a full-length novel. Plus it gives me a chance to try out authors that are new to me, as all of these are. And five Christmas historical romances set in Scotland? Yes, please! Here we have five different stories in locations ranging from the Highlands to the Lowlands, and from the 14th century to the 19th. I’m giving you a brief rundown of my thoughts on each story along with my thoughts on the collection as a whole.


A Highlander’s Hope by Terri Brisbin

DNFed. I don’t think a novella allows for enough time to have a satisfying arc for a heroine who is a courtesan. I just found the premise really unbelievable: An older soldier still grieving the death of his wife five years earlier, lonely, being pushed to remarry by his clan, suddenly decides that the perfect wife for him is the prostitute he visits once a year when he visits another clan? A prostitute who is still working? I just couldn’t buy it. Added to that was choppy writing and a complicated backstory dump with too many people to keep straight from previous books in this author’s series, and I just didn’t have any interest in continuing past the second chapter.

A Highland Christmas Wager by Lecia Cornwall

At first I worried this was going the way of the first with an extremely unlikable male lead, but it turned out there were three different men in this tale, snowed in with an unwed beauty from a powerful clan, all vying for her physical attentions and her hand in marriage, but only one of them wants her heart. Some over-the-top moments and a silly misunderstanding, but the romance is sweet.

A Scot for Christmas by Bronwen Evans

A compelling hero and heroine, a grieving widower and the woman who has always secretly loved him and happens to be the younger sister of his best friend, but the story is too short to allow love to blossom believably. I also find it unrealistic when a widower who has been grieving his wife for years and has vowed never to love again, falls in love in the blink of an eye and realizes he never really loved his first wife. And there was no Christmas in this tale.

Mistletoe by Lavinia Kent

A newly orphaned woman unwittingly becomes wrapped up in a plot to keep an angry brother away from his sister’s wedding and ends up trapped in a cabin with him during a snowstorm. He decides they will have to marry since they are spending a night in each other’s company, even though no one knows they’re together. They are complete strangers and decide after twenty-four hours, a handful of conversations, and some steamy sex that they are going to get married and live happily ever after. It’s really well-written, but again, I found it completely implausible.

Overall, I’m sorry to say I found this collection underwhelming, for a variety of reasons. In every novella, I felt like the love story had been sacrificed to make room for lengthy sex scenes. Don’t get me wrong, I like spicy romances, but I like a good story better. Insta-love abounds in each, the progression of feelings happening too quickly to be plausible, though in the case of the first three stories, at least the lovers knew each other before the story opened. Flimsy and sometimes fairly implausible circumstances drive each story’s conflict. And the Regency period is over-represented, featuring in three of the five stories. I had hoped for a little more variety.

So by now you may be wondering what I did like and how I can still recommend the collection! Despite my quibbles, (and aside from the first story), I found the characters to be well-drawn, the sex scenes tastefully steamy, and there are some tender romantic moments. And the bottom line is that they delivered on what they promised: Scotsmen, romance, and holiday ambiance. Not a bad way to spend a winter weekend, but aside from the last one, not my favorite Christmas tales either.

However…

In a bit of a departure, I’m reviewing the fifth and final story, May McGoldrick’s Sweet Home Highland Christmas, on its own because it is far and away the best of the bunch and a rather fine Christmas romance. An army engineer and a woman desperate to retain custody of her beloved niece – whom she’s raised since birth – are traveling across Scotland to the same estate for the holidays. Allowing time for the leads to get to know each other and fall in love, and with a delightfully precocious and wise-for-her-years child who conspires to bring them together, this author knows how to craft an oh-so-satisfying romantic novella. Features a swoon-worthy hero and a very festive Christmas gathering at the end too. I will definitely be reading more by May McGoldrick.

 

At the Christmas Wedding by Caroline Linden, Maya Rodale and Katharine Ashe

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Snowed in at a castle full of handsome lords, three young ladies are about to have the holiday of their lives…

Map of a Lady’s Heart by Caroline Linden

The road to happily-ever-after… With Kingstag Castle full of guests and the snow falling, Viola Cavendish has her hands full making sure the Christmas house party runs smoothly. The unexpected arrival of the Earl of Winterton and his nephew Lord Newton upends everything. Not only is Lord Newton flirting with the young ladies Viola is supposed to chaperone, Lord Winterton himself makes her pulse race.
Always takes some twists and turns Wesley Morane, Earl of Winterton, has come to Kingstag Castle in search of a valuable atlas, and he refuses to be deterred by the snow, the house party, his nephew, or even the most ridiculous play ever staged. But before long the only map he wants is one that shows him the way to Viola’s heart…

Hot Rogue on a Cold Night by Maya Rodale

Jilted by a duke: Lady Serena Cavendish was born and bred to be a duchess. Too bad, then, that the Duke of Frye mysteriously and suddenly ended their betrothal.
Seduced by a Rogue: Greyson Jones, an agent of the crown, is the only one who thinks being jilted has made Serena more alluring. When he lucks into an invitation to a Christmas house party at Kingstag Castle to cheer her up—and perhaps find her a husband—he seizes the opportunity to win her heart before they might be parted forever.
On the way to the altar: Their journey to happily ever after involves a ridiculous play, a lovesick swan, a mysterious gift and, of course, a kiss.

Snowy Night with a Duke by Katharine Ashe

The last time Lady Charlotte Ascot bumped into the Duke of Frye, she climbed a tree to avoid him. Sometimes it’s simply easier to run away than to face her feelings for him — overwhelmingly passionate feelings that no modest lady should have! Now, on her way to Kingstag Castle to celebrate the holidays with friends, Charlotte is trapped by a snowstorm at a tiny country inn with the duke of her steamiest dreams.
But Frye has a secret of his own, and Christmas is the ideal time to finally tell the woman he’s always wanted the whole unvarnished truth. Better yet, he’ll show her…

Publisher and Release Date: The Lady Authors, October 2017

Time and Setting: Regency England
Heat Level: 2
Genre: Historical Romance anthology
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars overall (4, 3 and 5 for the individual novellas)

Review by Em

I’ve enjoyed quite a few holiday themed stories in the latter half of 2017, so I picked up At the Christmas Wedding with high expectations. In this latest collaboration from Caroline Linden, Maya Rodale and Katharine Ashe, a group of friends and strangers find themselves snowbound at Kingstag Castle for a holiday house party. Thus, a group of handsome lords and lovely ladies are afforded ample opportunity to make mischief whilst spending their free time staging an elaborate (ridiculous) play. The novellas comprising At the Christmas Wedding take place concurrently, and feature the same cast of characters – but that’s where their similarities end. Each romance is delightfully charming in its own way – but only one stole my heart. Romantic, festive, short and sweet… this is the perfect pick-up during a lazy holiday afternoon.

Map of a Lady’s Heart by Caroline Linden (4 stars)

When the Duke and Duchess of Wessex are unexpectedly called away shortly before the start of their Christmas house party, responsibility falls to Viola Cavendish, the duchess’s secretary. Calm, unflappable Viola tries not to worry over the group of young people descending on the household, but with the duke and duchess away, the dowager duchess ill and unable to chaperone her three daughters and their guests, and an aunt who delights in all things naughty and wicked… well, Viola has doubts about her own abilities to manage the situation. She’s giving herself a mental pep talk when a pair of unexpected guests arrive. Wesley Morane, Earl of Winterton, accompanied by his nephew Lord Newton, has come to speak to the duke about a rare atlas he might have in his collection.

Wesley Morane is desperate to locate an atlas that formerly belonged to his father, and is convinced the duke is the new owner. He’s dismayed to learn the duke is away, but arriving in the midst of a house party – with guests of similar age to occupy the attentions of his bored, spoiled nephew – and an opportunity to peruse the duke’s library at his leisure, he’s not unhappy with the situation. He pays little heed to the ridiculous play being staged by the duke’s youngest sister, but nonetheless finds his search unexpectedly distracted by Viola.

Viola is irritated by the surprise arrival of the Earl of Winterton and his nephew, but unhesitatingly folds them into the assembled party. Unfortunately, however, Winterton is a handsome and distracting guest. She finds herself seeking him out when the group is assembled and caught out when he seems to return her interest. Following an early misunderstanding when Viola realizes Winterton inveigled an invitation to the house party under false pretenses, the two form a friendship of sorts. Viola is sympathetic to Winterton’s interest in the atlas, but unconvinced the duke will part with it.

As the house party continues apace, Viola and Wesley find reasons to be together. Viola, resistant to an affair with Wesley, inexorably finds herself drawn to him, and Wesley is similarly unable to resist her. Their longing for each other is intense and wonderful, and the passionate, clandestine love affair that follows is superbly done; I enjoyed every bit of it. Map of a Lady’s Heart is a sophisticated second chance love story, though I found the secondary plot – the bizarre and unfunny play (no matter how hard Ms. Linden tried to sell it) written by the duke’s youngest sister – distracting and unnecessary.

Hot Rogue on a Cold Night by Maya Rodale (3 stars)

Much like other novels by Ms. Rodale, I loved the idea of Hot Rogue on a Cold Night much more than the actual story. Greyson Jones, a close friend of the Duke of Frye, has long loved Lady Serena Cavendish, but her longstanding engagement to his friend meant he could never pursue her. When Frye inexplicably jilts Serena, Greyson adds further insult by insinuating, in public, that being jilted has finally made her interesting. When Mr. Jones shows up at Kingstag – without Frye -Serena tries hard to hide her dismay (and hurt), slighting Greyson and focusing her attentions on another, more eligible, gentleman in attendance.

Greyson – who is due to leave for India in a week’s time – regrets the words that hurt Serena and knows he will have to work fast to win her over. But he believes his life – as a diplomat destined to travel the world for Crown and country – will appeal to the much sheltered Serena. Clearly out of her depth as a house party hostess, curious about the world around her, Greyson sets out to show her all the amazing adventures she might miss in settling. The play, which was so irksome in the first novella, fortuitously places him in close proximity to Serena and chances to show her what a partnership between them might mean.

I liked all the elements that made up this story – including the ridiculous play – and Greyson, charming, suave, and supremely dry, is pure romance catnip. Unrequited love is a favorite trope of mine and he wears it well. Unfortunately, I wasn’t as fond of the seemingly fickle Serena. She’s insecure, slightly silly and only starting to learn what kind of woman she wants to be. I never could see what (beyond her beauty) Greyson saw in her, but since I’m not marrying her, I wish him all the best.

Snowy Night with a Duke by Katharine Ashe (5 stars)

Snowy Night With a Duke is the best and most romantic of the three novellas that comprise At the Christmas Wedding. I swooned, sighed and melted over this much too brief love story; if had to pick a favorite short story of 2017, this would be a frontrunner.

Charlotte Ascot, after a prolonged absence from England, is en route to Kingstag when her carriage gets trapped by a snowstorm and she’s forced to bide her time at a tiny country inn with other similarly stranded travelers. Charlotte has been (hiding) in America ever since a last painful encounter with the Duke of Frye wherein she climbed a tree in order to avoid him. The pain of her unrequited love and sadness over his betrothal – to her closest friend – was too much to bear. She’s determined to overcome her feelings for Frye… when, much to her surprise, she spots him in a battle of fisticuffs in the courtyard of the inn.

The Duke of Frye, masquerading as Mr. Horace Church, is enjoying a staged fight with good friend Lord Fortier when he spots Charlotte Ascot (whom he’s loved since childhood) standing on the threshold of the inn. Distracted, he misses his cue and takes a hard shot to the chin. Frye can’t believe his eyes; he thought Charlotte was still in America… but she’s here. When she approaches him in the stables (where he’s been tossed for fighting) to clean his wounds, and begins berating him for fighting, Frye isn’t quite sure how to handle her. Under the nomme de guerre Horace Church, he and Lord Fortier – who do the odd job on behalf of the Crown – are on the hunt for a con-man who takes advantage of elderly travelers. They think they have their man… but Frye can’t risk Charlotte revealing his identity and putting the investigation at risk.

Charlotte is undaunted by Frye’s vague responses to her questions, while he, thrilled that she is finally back in England, matches her quick wit and tough questions with his own delicious interrogation about where she’s been and why she hid from him. The conversation marks the start of a new slightly adversarial relationship between these star-crossed lovers.

The chemistry sparkles and snaps between Frye and Charlotte and fortunately for us, so does the passion. They finally stop fighting it and finally give in to the fantasy of loving each other that they’ve both nurtured in their secret hearts for years. But Frye is keeping one last secret from Charlotte and he’s determined to push her away.

Well folks, Frye is romantic, awesome, and sexy and Ms. Ashe gives him some of the best dialogue I’ve read this year. Charlotte, his similarly marvelous match, hears him out and then tells him how things are actually going to go. Yep, she sets him straight. It’s brilliant, they’re brilliant and if I have a complaint about Snowy Night With a Duke, it’s that I wish it were longer.

Scandal at the Christmas Ball by Marguerite Kaye and Bronwyn Scott

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One Christmas house party leads to two Regency love affairs! 

A Governess for Christmas by Marguerite Kaye 

At the glittering Brockmore house party, former army major Drummond MacIntosh meets governess in disgrace Joanna Forsythe, who’s desperate to clear her name. Both are eager to put their pasts behind them, but their scandalous affair will make for a very different future…

Dancing with the Duke’s Heir by Bronwyn Scott 

As heir to a dukedom, Vale Penrith does not want a wife, and certainly not one like Lady Viola Hawthorne. So why does London’s Shocking Beauty tempt him beyond reason? Dare he try and tame her, or is a Christmas seduction the best way to bring her to surrender?

Publisher and Release Date: Harlequin Historical, December 2017

Time and Setting: England, Christmas 1818
Heat Level: 2
Genre: Historical Romance
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars (4.5 and 3)

Review by Caz

Scandal at the Christmas Ball is the second collaboration between historical romance authors Marguerite Kaye and Bronwyn Scott, and, like their previous work, Scandal at the Midsummer Ball, takes place at the country estate of the Duke and Duchess of Brockmore, a widely liked, respected and highly influential couple who are regarded as powerbrokers within the ton and whose invitations are much sought after.

Among their guests this Yuletide are the duke’s nephew and heir, Vale Penrith, Lady Viola Hawthorne, a shockingly fast young woman who goes out of her way to do and say outrageous things, and a former officer of the Scots Guards, Drummond MacIntosh, whose army career ended somewhat ignominiously three years earlier, just after the Battle of Waterloo.


A Governess for Christmas by Marguerite Kaye (4.5 stars)

Ms. Kaye is one of the few authors of historical romance who regularly writes about untitled, non-aristocratic progatonists, and she continues that trend in this poignant, tender and sometimes heart-wrenching story about an ex-army officer and an ill-treated, down-on-her-luck governess who find each other one Christmas but who will face some difficult choices if they are ever to make a life together.

Drummond MacIntosh has lived a somewhat reclusive existence for the past three-and-a-half years owing to the huge scandal that attended his catastrophic fall from grace.  With his reputation in tatters, he has finally accepted that he needs help if he is ever going to claw his way back from ruin and carve out a new and useful existence.  No less a personage than the Duke of Wellington himself arranged Drummond’s invitation to the Brockmores’ Christmas house party, but as Drummond wryly notes, the Duke wouldn’t have done such a thing if it hadn’t been ultimately useful to himself; he needs a man of Drummond’s good sense, practicality and ability to lead men at his back and is presenting Drummond to Brockmore “for inspection” as it were.  The whole thing leaves a bitter taste in Drummond’s mouth; he doesn’t want to be beholden to Wellington (or to anyone) and certainly not on terms which attempt to brush years of exile under the carpet and blame Drummond for acting as his conscience dictated.

Drummond’s situation is mirrored by that of Miss Joanna Forsythe, a governess who has been invited to the party so she can meet a prospective employer.  Joanna had a comfortable position in the household of Lady Christina Robertson, but has been reduced to teaching at a ramshackle school in return for her bed and board, after she was wrongly accused of theft and dismissed without a character. Like Drummond, she has been invited to the Brockmores with a view to improving her situation, but also like him, the hoped for “improvement” falls short.  Joanna had hoped for an apology after her innocence was discovered and the real culprit owned up. But instead, her former employer wants to buy her off by the offer of an excellent new position and a sum of money.

Even before they know of the similarities of their respective situations, Drummond and Joanna are strongly drawn to each other and very soon find themselves exchanging confidences… and increasingly heated kisses.  I admit that the pair progresses to this stage rather quickly but Ms. Kaye creates such a strong emotional connection between them, and imbues their burgeoning relationship with such depth and longing that it’s possible to overlook its somewhat speedy beginning.  This story really brings home just how important it was for people who had to earn their living to maintain a spotless reputation – for without one there was little to no chance of their ever securing decent employment. And with Drummond on the verge of a prestigious appointment and a return from the cold, how can Joanna – and her tarnished reputation – stand in his way?

This is a beautifully wrought, heartfelt romance between two people in difficult circumstances.  I was completely gripped by Drummond’s story and applaud Ms. Kaye for the introduction of a character motivated by compassion whose actions were so misunderstood and reviled.  He’s not a character-type I’ve read in historical romance before, and I could be singing the author’s praises for that alone.  But added to a very well-crafted romance and a strong, determined heroine in the form of Joanna, A Governess for Christmas  makes my list of favourite seasonal reads.


Dancing with the Duke’s Heir by Bronwyn Scott (3 stars)

In this story, a rather proper gentleman finds himself reluctantly fascinated by the most unsuitable sort of woman he could ever have imagined would attract him.  Vale Penrith, heir to the Duke of Brockmore, has still not recovered from the deaths of his father and older brother some years ago, and continues to find his role as a ducal heir somewhat ill-fitting.  He really would prefer to be left to his own devices in the library, but knows he will have to do his bit and take part in the various activities planned for the duration of the party.  He is also aware that while the Brockmores’ Christmas parties don’t have the same match-making reputation as their summer affairs, his uncle has a prospective bride lined up for him – something else he doesn’t want anything to do with.

Lady Viola Hawthorne, daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Calton, is a determined, high-spirited woman whose deepest desire is to go to Vienna to study music.  “The Shocking Beauty” as she is known, has quite the scandalous reputation, all of it designed to put off any suitors so she can remain unwed and pursue her dreams of Vienna and a musical career.  She reckons that one final, massive scandal at the Brockmores’ party should do the trick once and for all and cause her parents to give up on their attempts to marry her off.  Hence her decision to climb a ladder to hang mistletoe from a chandelier in the hall while wearing no underwear; perched at the top, affording the crowd of young men below a glimpse of her ankles (and possibly other things besides) she manages to achieve her end just before the ladder wobbles and she falls – literally – into the arms of Vale Penrith, who is appalled and annoyed at such reckless, outrageous behaviour.

Viola likes what she sees, but Penrith, while gorgeous, is a stuffed shirt and not at all the sort of man she’d be interested in.  But when her friend, Lady Anne, tells Viola that her parents are trying to arrange a match with Penrith while she – Anne – is in love with someone else, Viola agrees to help her out by providing a distraction.  The problem is that she finds herself being distracted by Vale – who is not at all the cold fish she had first imagined – as much as he is distracted by her, and the more time they spend together, the more they discover about what lies behind their social masks and the more they are drawn together.

I have to say straight off that I really didn’t care for Viola in this story.  I admired her desire to forge her own path in her life, but her methods – which are, basically, to shock as many people as often as possible – are childish, and she behaves more like a mistress or courtesan than a duke’s daughter, drinking spirits, smoking and playing billiards with the men.  I’m sure not all young ladies at this time were as pure and virginal as fiction would have us believe, but Viola goes a little too far in the opposite direction for my taste.  Vale is much more likeable, but because I disliked the heroine, it was difficult to understand what he saw in her beyond the physical and I found it difficult to believe that two people possessed of such opposing personality types could forge a lasting relationship.

If you’re more tolerant of the spoiled and outrageous type of heroine than I am, this story might work better for you than it did for me.


Ultimately, Scandal at the Christmas Ball is something of an uneven read, but is worth it for the Kaye story alone.

With This Christmas Ring by Manda Collins

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Miss Merry Parks makes a deathbed promise to a schoolfriend that her infant daughter will be taken to her absent father. There’s only one problem—to find the baby’s father, she’ll have to consult his cousin, Viscount Wrotham, the man she jilted five years ago. The man she couldn’t forget.

Alex Ponsonby, Viscount Wrotham, is stunned to find Merry Parks—looking more lovely than ever–on his doorstep with an infant in her arms. His shock soon turns to dismay when he learns his own cousin William is the man who abandoned his wife and child. As head of the family he’s duty bound to see right is done. But he can’t let this opportunity pass. He’ll take Merry and the baby to his cousin, but he’ll woo her back in the process.

Merry agrees to travel with Alex and the baby to Wrotham Castle, where the entire Ponsonby family has gathered for Christmas, but her plans to see the baby settled then leave are ruined by a snowstorm. After five years apart, Alex and Merry will spend the week getting reacquainted. Perhaps it’s the spirit of the holiday, or the magic of the season, but there could be something else in the air this Yuletide…A Christmas Reunion.

Publisher and Release Date: Swerve, October 2017

Time and Setting: Regency England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Sara

With This Christmas Ring is a delightful holiday story full of second chances. A couple has the chance to clear up the misunderstandings that pulled them apart years before and in true Christmas fashion, a child’s birth brings everyone joy, love and the miracle of a happy ending.

Five years ago Miss Merry Parks and Alexander Ponsonby, Viscount Wrotham were engaged to marry. Their courtship had been a whirlwind affair but for each of them it was a perfect match. Merry saw Alex as a man who would love and appreciate his family before all others; Alex appreciated Merry’s intelligence and her kind heart. The only formalities left before they posted the bans were for Merry to meet the rest of the Ponsonby family, including Alex’s grandmother the dowager Viscountess. That fateful meeting between the young, insecure Merry and the formidable family matriarch changed everything and suddenly the engagement was off. Merry returned to her father’s home to serve as his secretary and try to heal her wounded heart. Her love for Alex never waned but her life soon became a routine of academic studies and supporting her friends whenever they needed her.

That need brings everything full circle when Merry’s best friend Charlotte dies giving birth to a baby girl. Before she passes, Charlotte reveals that she had been married in secret to Mr. William Ponsonby, cousin of Merry’s former betrothed. Merry swears to her friend that she will care for the baby and reunite the child with her father but Charlotte can’t tell her where William might be. Merry understands that to fulfil Charlotte’s dying wish she will have to reunite with Alex and hope that he will help her despite their uncomfortable parting years before.

Alexander Ponsonby has recently returned to England after spending a year in France in order to reconnect with his mother. The former Viscountess Wrotham had abandoned Alex when he was a young child to escape the abuse of his father; however in learning the truth, Alex also learns that his grandmother had played a part in pushing the young Viscountess to leave. Knowing that his grandmother is not above manipulating things to her liking, Alex has started considering the circumstances of his broken betrothal to Merry Parks. He never forgot the beautiful, smart young woman and has every intention of finding her and perhaps working out a way for them to be together again. His quest to reunite with Merry is over before it begins when she arrives at his town house with a baby in her arms and a story about his cousin’s secret marriage.

It seems too farfetched to believe his cousin William would marry and then never tell anyone but Merry has never been the type to lie. The Ponsonby family is gathered to celebrate Christmas at their home in Kent and Alex knows where he can find William to get the truth of the matter. Merry takes her role of the baby’s protector seriously and seems hesitant to leave her in anyone else’s care so Alex convinces her to travel with him to Kent to confront William and see that the baby is safe with her father. He also hopes that the journey will provide a chance for him to talk to Merry about her decision years before. If she’d reveal her reasons about why she left perhaps Alex can show her that their future will be happier if she can give their love a second chance.

Merry and Alex’s romance is the kind that is both simple and complex at once. Their love for each other is very clear but when they first were together there were challenges that neither one wanted to see. Merry was very sheltered in her father’s household and was perhaps not mature enough to see what it would take to be married to a peer like Alex. She needed to discover herself and find the inner confidence that could protect her from outside influences like the dowager Viscountess. Alex had lived through the pain of his mother’s abandonment but it had left a hole in his heart that Merry’s love might not have been enough to fill. In the five years of their separation he finds the courage to confront his mother about her choice and is mature enough to understand that a relationship is as much about giving as it is taking. Every moment he spends with Merry during the Christmas celebration he gives her his heart again in little ways; trusting her, protecting her and letting her take what she needs to feel safe enough to open her own heart again.

I enjoyed With this Christmas Ring, not only for Merry and Alex’s romance but also for another smaller second chance story that happens in the background. It’s a little different from Manda Collins’ usual style of romance with a hint of mystery, but it’s still very sweet and satisfying. For those who want to start their Christmas reading a little early or just love a story of people finding another chance to be together, this is a novella that I definitely recommend.

Mistletoe, Mischief, and the Marquis by Amelia Grey

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The Marquis of Wythebury, is expecting an ordinary Christmastide at Hurst—until he is set upon by a beautiful miss who takes him to task for not allowing his young nephews to play outside. In his mind, a five and seven year old needn’t get chilled in the snow; better to plop them in front of the fire with a book. Few people have ever been brave enough to challenge him over anything, much less the rearing of his wards. The cheeky Miss Prim has no such compunction. No matter how fetching he finds her, he can’t give in to his attraction…for she is the sister of his best friend.

Growing up the middle child of five rambunctious girls, Lillian Prim doesn’t understand why two young boys visiting Hurst don’t know how to play until she meets their dashing guardian. The Marquis of Wythebury is commanding and intensely serious-minded. To her surprise, she’s captivated by him. It’s all she can do not to give into her feminine fantasies about her kissing him. Lillian has no intention of falling in love with the Marquis, but she will create Christmastide mischief and teach the boys and the handsome Marquis how to play.

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Publisher and Release Date: St. Martin’s/Swerve, November 2016
Time and setting: Regency England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Vikki

Seth Wythebury, Marquis of Wythebury is looking forward to a relaxing time away from his responsibilities. While attending a house party at his friend’s estate with his two young nephews, he encounters Miss Lillian Prim, the sister-in-law of his host when she takes his nephews outside and is engaging in a snowball fight after he had left them quietly reading.

Miss Prim is determined to get the two little boys’ guardian to realize they are only five and seven years old and need to have outside pursuits. What she does not count on is developing feelings for the man.

Who will win in this tug of war? The free-spirited miss, or the serious-minded marquis? Will they find out that opposites really do attract?

Mistletoe, Mischief and the Marquis is a delightful seasonal tale of a man trying to do the best for those in his charge, and perhaps being just a bit over-protective. Ms. Grey has spun an enchanting romance with engaging characters. The novella is fast-paced and engaged my interest from the start and held it until the end.

Lillian Prim is an endearing character. She speaks her mind – even to the austere Marquis of Wythbury – when others would hold their tongue. I loved how she was constantly putting him in his place. Throughout much of this lovely story, Lillian is trying to show the marquis that little boys need to have fun. I loved how she goes about it.

Seth is very serious-minded. He does not know how to have fun and has no desire to learn, yet the annoying Miss Prim is determined to teach his nephews. I loved watching him war with himself over the feelings he has for her. Once he makes up his mind to win her heart, he does it in a big way. I absolutely loved the ending of this book!

Ms. Grey is a talented author, and she has penned an enchanting Christmas story that will warm your heart and put a smile on your face. The two little boys will steal your heart. I always love heartwarming tales involving children, and especially around the holidays. If you enjoy regency romances with a good sense of the time-period with delightful characters, then you will love Mistletoe, Mischief, and the Marquis.

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

Christmas in Duke Street

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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.

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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.

A Pirate for Christmas by Anna Campbell

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There’s a pirate in the house.

What is vicar’s daughter Bess Farrar to do when the dashing new earl, the man gossip paints as a ruthless pirate, kisses her the day they meet? Why, kiss him right back, of course! Now Lord Channing vows to claim the lovely firebrand, despite interfering villagers, a snowstorm, scandal, and a rascally donkey. The gallant naval captain’s first landlocked Christmas promises mayhem – and a lifetime of breathtaking passion

Pursued by the pirate…

Bess Farrar might be an innocent village miss, but she knows enough about the world to doubt Lord Channing’s motives when he kisses her the very day they meet. After all, local gossip insists that before this dashing rake became an earl, he sailed the Seven Seas as a ruthless pirate.

Bewitched by the vicar’s daughter…

Until he unexpectedly inherits a title, staunchly honorable Scotsman Rory Beaton has devoted his adventurous life to the Royal Navy. But he sets his course for tempestuous new waters when he meets lovely, sparkling Bess Farrar. Now this daring mariner will do whatever it takes to convince the spirited lassie to launch herself into his arms and set sail into the sunset.

A Christmas marked by mayhem.

Wooing his vivacious lady, the new Earl of Channing finds himself embroiled with matchmaking villagers, an eccentric vicar, mistaken identities, a snowstorm, scandal, and a rascally donkey. Life at sea was never this exciting. The gallant naval captain’s first landlocked Christmas promises hijinks, danger, and passion – and a breathtaking chance to win the love of a lifetime.

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Published by Anna Campbell, October 2015

RHR Classifications:
Place and time: Northumberland, 1822
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars

Review by Wendy

Rory Beaton, the new Earl of Channing, has returned to his estate to take up the reins after the demise of his older brother. Bess Farrar, the local vicar’s daughter and from necessity, the village ‘manager’, has written to him on numerous occasions – and been ignored, so she decides to march in and beard the lion in his den. Rory’s donkey, Daisy, is central to the Nativity celebrations, time is running short and Bess needs to obtain his agreement to borrow the animal. She is appalled at the unkempt condition of his home and he persuades her to take control of its cleaning and restoration. This will give the villagers much needed employment and earn Rory some brownie points as he also agrees to allow the villagers to hold their annual Christmas party there. But the Earl has an ulterior motive; if Bess is supervising he will be able to see her every day!

Rory is completely out of his depth, having no expectations of ever inheriting, as a result of his estrangement from his father and older brother after the breakdown of his parents’ marriage. He spent his younger years in Scotland and joined the Royal Navy at the age of eleven, so he did not ever reconcile with his male relatives. It was this latter fact that set in motion the rumour that Rory was a pirate. And as rumours tend to do, those took root and grew so that Rory has acquired a swashbuckling reputation, leading the villagers to be both intrigued and a little wary of him. But Bess is neither. She takes charge of his initiation into the the life and responsibilities of an earl, and helps guide him through some choppy waters, taking him straight into the hearts of the villagers on the way.

The couple are attracted to each other on sight, and as is her style, Anna Campbell creates a delicious, swoonworthy hero, and Bess is smitten by this handsome, but boyishly needy man. Rory can’t explain it to himself, but he knows almost immediately that Bess is the only lady who will fill the position of his Countess, and with the help of the matchmaking villagers, lays siege to Bess’s heart.

Ms. Campbell hits the ‘happy’ spot with this fluffy little Christmas novella with plenty of romance and no conflict other than the recalcitrant donkey who will only co-operate for the Nativity if sung to – which Rory does with gusto! In fact Daisy is quite a central character and it could be said that she plays Cupid for Captain Rory and bossy Bess! A Pirate for Christmas is a quick, entertaining read that will bring a smile to your face this festive season.

Christmas Gifts (anthology) by Mary Balogh

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.