Anthology Season

christmas anth I had planned to blog on something entirely different this week, but reading Katie’s blog last week made me think about one of my favorite times to read category books – the end of the year. As we roll into fall, I get so busy with work and then later with holidays that I don’t always have much time for outside reading beyond my review books. This is the time of year when my anthologies and category romances come out. Some are Christmas-themed, some not, but all are good for a short escape when things are very busy.

I have a big, hefty stack of paranormal series and 400+ page historicals waiting for the perfect winter afternoon, but for now I’m starting to hit the time of year when the perfect short story or category novel will definitely hit the spot. I’m planning to pick up some new anthologies and series books this fall, but I decided to pull out some of my favorites to reread, too.

Katie has covered category books well already and the comments are full of great reading ideas. So, for some more good shorter reads, I’d love to hear what your favorite novellas/short stories are. Here are a few of mine:

In From the Cold by Nora Roberts – I first read this not long after I discovered Rebellion. The couple from that novel(whom I really liked) make an appearance in this story and I also loved the Revolutionary War setting of this story. Perhaps it’s all those childhood Christmas trips to Williamsburg and Monticello, but this is a setting that really speaks to me. This story can be found in the Harlequin Historical Christmas Stories 1990.

Dancers in the Dark by Charlaine Harris – I liked the entire Night’s Edge anthology, but this story in particular haunted me. The heroine, Layla Rue LeMay is a dancer with a vampire for a partner – but there’s so much more to this story than just the set-up. I love the way Harris uses language in this story and manages to pack great emotion into a very short format. Good news – the anthology has been republished so it’s readily available now.

Bargain With the Wind by Sharon Shinn – I first read this story for review a couple of years ago; I found this story hauntingly beautiful then and it’s lost none of its magic for me. Though not a holiday story, this fantasy romance is a perfect escape read and it works for me whether I’m in the mood for fantasy or romance. The anthology it comes from is not the strongest, but this is still a beautiful story.

Upon a Midnight Clear by Amanda McCabe - While Carla Kelly is often the first author people mention when discussing Regency Christmas novellas, many other authors including Amanda McCabe, aithor of this story from Regency Christmas Magic deserves some notice, too. This holiday story focuses on two somewhat tortured characters whose love rescues each from a very lonely existence. It’s the kind of story that makes me smile and get teary all at once.

Let Nothing You Dismay by Carla Kelly – And yes, Carla Kelly’s Christmas stories do get a lot of attention around here. Having read some, I have to say I can see why. She excels at writing stories that are sweet without being treacly. They are very good, and this one is my personal favorite. I like most of her characters, but the couple in this story (from the Regency Christmas Wishes anthology) just seemed especially likeable and their romance is the sort that makes one smile and get teary all at once.

The First Kiss by Julia Quinn- This story comes from Lady Whistledown Strikes Back and like many of Julia Quinn’s works, features very likable people. I don’t usually go for the, “But I’m not good enough for you!” plots. However, this story of a penniless hero and the heiress he loves is very well-written and I just melt when I read it.

And those are a few of my favorites. I love anthologies, so I have many, many honorable mentions. Surely I’m not the only anthology lover out there – I’d love to hear which novellas have worked well for others.

– Lynn Spencer

18 thoughts on “Anthology Season

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  2. They aren’t Christmas stories, but my favorites are:

    Dragonswan by Sherrilyn Kenyon in TAPESTRY (also liked Into the Dreaming by Karen Marie Moning in this same book)

    The Groom That Wore Tulle by Lynn Kurland in LOVE CAME JUST IN TIME or originally in VEILS OF TIME (I remember laughing out loud during this one)

  3. @library addict Oh yes! I do like some of the Silhouette anthologies. I was in the UBS yesterday and just picked up one that I haven’t read yet.

    @Elaine S I think I may have to track down than anthology. Gayle Wilson is really a buried treasure!

  4. I have collected all of the wonderful Signet Regency Christmas anthologies as well as a large collection of others. However, my all time personal favourite anthology novella is My Darling Echo by Gayle Wilson. It was in Regency Brides in the UK and Bride by Arrangement in the USA. IMO, the perfect novella and had me desperately wanting a full length, fleshed out book. It’s just wonderful……

  5. I confess to totally ODing on Christmas anthologies at this time of year. I read them until I just can’t take another one. I also think that my tolerance for sappy and corny goes up – just for these books.

    I just got the new Carla Kelly Regency Christmas anthology today from Amazon, and I can practically hear it calling me from upstairs.

  6. I love Christmas stories, short or long. My favorite short story is by the late Edith Layton, called It’s a Wonderful Christmas from A Dreamspun Christmas anthology. Summary:

    “Charming young Lady Maude has everything she’s ever wanted: a husband she adores, children she treasures, good friends, good neighbors and a loving family. But the arrival of the glamorous lady who might have been her husband’s former love casts a sudden doubt and clouds her Christmas. In her despair she finds herself wishing she’d never been born – and then gets to see what would have happened to her world if that were really so!”

    And yes, it’s a take-off on It’s a Wonderful Life, and Ms. Layton duly acknowleged Frank Capra.

  7. I really don’t read many anthologies now, but there was a time, I ate them up like candy! Some were better than others. My favorites that come to mind are..
    Luring Lucy by Lori Foster from Hot and Bothered. Very sexy, and funny. IMO, when Foster is good, she is wonderful. Love this story. Another by Foster…Messing Around With Max. An early story in her writing career. Can’t remember the title of the anthology.
    White Out by Linda Howard from Strnager In The Night. Two strangers stranded in a cabin during a snow storm. Unbelievable…maybe, but good romantic fiction.
    Love’s Prisoner from Secrets Vol. 6…MaryJanice Davidson. My love of werewolves started with this story…even before I had read Bitten. Stuck in an elevator with a sexy werewolf. Wouldn’t want to actually do that, but the story is wonderful.
    Turning Up The Heat by Susan Donovan from Jingle Bell Rock. Funny, sexy story with a twist at the end. Hero is a repairman. That’s all I’m saying. :)

  8. Promises to Keep by Victoria Alexander is a contemporary Christmas story that is sweet and touching and not a bit maudlin. Katherine Bedford had a chance at happiness years ago and missed it. She is rich and successful, but lonely. One day, she asks a department store Santa for a second chance. I cried happy tears at the end.

    The Single Girl’s Guide to Christmas by Jennifer Ashley is another contemporary Christmas story where a young woman comes home for Christmas and meets someone she used to love. Turns out she still does. It’s funny and charming as can be.

    But the best Christmas short story ever is Make A Joyful Noise by Carla Kelly in A Regency Christmas Carol. I think it’s a perfect short story.

  9. Anthologies can be very hot-or-miss for me. It’s rare that I like all 3 or 4 novellas in a single anthology.

    I love the shorter length, but often feel I am not getting a “complete” story. However, when they work, they can really work.

    My all-time favorite novella is “Riley’s Baby” by Jennifer Greene from the Birds, Bees, and Babies anthology. I think Jennifer Greene is one of the best novella authors out there because, although I may to read more about the characters, I never feel as if I am not getting a whole story when I read one of hers.

    I also enjoy the JD Robb novellas, but there’s the advantage of being familiar with the characters. So they’re basically bonus stories in the ongoing adventures of Eve & Roarke (because, you know, two full length novels a year just isn’t enough – LOL).

    The annual Silhouette Summer Sizzlers anthologies in the early 90s had some nice novellas by authors like Linda Howard, Carole Buck, Kathleen Korbel, Nora Roberts, Marilyn Pappano, and Justine Davis.

    I love reading Regency anthologies. And Christmas anthologies, too.

  10. From Thanksgiving until New Year’s I tend to read almost all holiday romances — which means quite a few anthologies. One I re-read every year is A Very Merry Christmas, by Lori Foster, Janice Maynard, and Gemma Bruce. I enjoy all three stories, but the Maynard and Bruce are my favorites.

    Also in the holiday novella section, I loved Turning Up the Heat by Susan Donovan, and Nutcracker Sweet by Nancy Warren — both in the Jingle Bell Rock anthology. (Donovan’s story is exceptionally good.) I also really enjoyed Christmas Unplugged by Joy Nash, as part of the Santa, Honey anthology.

    For non-holiday novellas, I love The Matchmaker’s Mistake and Stray Hearts, both by Jane Sullivan (now Jane Graves). Both were part of Harlequin’s Duets line.

  11. A Waltz Among the Stars by Mary Balogh (big sigh, hand over the heart, stare at the ceiling and smile).

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