Gayle Wilson, Amanda McCabe and Carole Mortimer
November 2010, Regency Romance
Harlequin Historical, $5.99, 284 pages, Amazon ASIN 0373296150
Ah, Christmas anthology season. Give me some mistletoe, maybe the odd yule log, and Iím happy. Regency Christmas Proposals is a nice addition to the holiday subgenre. With two solidly good stories - and one guilty pleasure - itís just the sort of read I look forward to this time of year.
Regency Romance (Regency England)
The Soldier's Christmas Miracle by Gayle Wilson is a sweet tale about an army captainís widow, Isabella Stowe, and an injured officer, Guy Wakefield. Isabella comforted Guy years ago when he thought he might lose his sight and his life. Years later, he finds her to thank her, and quickly falls in love. But Isabella is not quite ready for a romance. There is a difference in their stations in life, and she cannot be sure that Guy isnít offering for her out of charity. Can an impulsive visit at Christmas time bring them together?
Of course it can, and quickly too, because this is a novella. I enjoyed both characters here; Wilson infuses them with a lot of personality and gives them a believable conflict. I particularly liked the somewhat prickly Isabella, who needs some convincing (and a little mistletoe) to believe that a relationship might work.
Grade: BRegency Romance (1820 England)
Snowbound and Seduced by Amanda McCabe is probably my favorite story of the anthology. Years ago, Mary Bassington fell in love with Dominick. He loved her too, but Maryís father convinced him that marrying her was a selfish act; he was young with few prospects. Mary went on to marry a rich but cold man, who gave her a son and fortune enough to support her family. Tragically, her son died of a fever. Now she serves as chaperone to a willful younger sister. Her path crosses with Dominickís when the younger sister decides to elope with Dominickís cousin. They set off at Christmastime to find the young lovers before their reputations suffer irreparable damage.
This is a really fun second chance at love story. And the bonus: Snowbound holiday sex in a barn. How could you go wrong? I liked both Dominick and Mary, and was happy to see them find love together.
Grade: B+Regency Romance (1817 England)
Christmas at Mulberry Hall by Carole Mortimer is the weak link in the chain. This old school (and I do mean old school) tale about a guardian and ward is like a trip in the way-back machine. Lord Gideon Grayson finally decides to live up to his responsibilities and visits an estate he inherited, only to find his comely ward, Amelia, living practically alone and fending for herself. He gamely fights his attraction to her various orbs, shapely curves, and bounteous breasts, takes her to a friendís estate for Christmas, and falls in love.
I never could quite decide whether this was so-bad-itís-good, or just bad. Everything about it is retro, from the language, to the flowery descriptions, to the attitudes of the hero and heroine. Do you miss Brandon from The Flame and the Flower? Well, then youíll like the storming, brooding, yelling-to-hide-his-rampant-lust Gideon. Most baffling to me is the punctuation. Mortimer definitely got a volume discount on exclamation points from the punctuation factory, because they are everywhere. She makes frequent use of a punctuation style Iíve only seen once - in a Cassie Edwards book I read over a decade ago. If someone can explain how we are supposed to interpret sentences that end like this...!, I would love to hear it. Is the speaker supposed to trail off and then shout? Nonetheless, these annoyances are slightly more tolerable in a short and campy Christmas story.
Overall, Regency Christmas Proposals is a treat for holiday fans. The Mortimer story unfairly weighs the others down - but even it is kind of fun in its own campy way.
-- Blythe Barnhill
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