I have something to admit. I am not a big fan of anthologies. But when Courtney Milan sent me The Heart of Christmas anthology that she, Mary Balogh and Nicola Cornick are all a part of, I decided to give it a read. The main reason is because I’ve been hearing great things about Courtney’s writing. I read her short story, His Wicked Gift, first and then the other two. And let me say that Courtney is a much welcomed author for the historical romance genre. Keep an eye on her because she is definitely going place.
Two out of the three stories were very enjoyable while one was not…
A Handful of Gold by Mary Balogh was my least favorite story in this anthology. We have the same old rehash of a plot with a gentleman rake who is bored in
Blanche is actually Miss Verity Ewing, a virginal young miss who pretends to be a worldly opera dancer in order to pay for the costly medicine for her sick sister. Verity’s mother and sister have no clue about her secret life and tells them some laughable excuse about being a hired companion for a eccentric lady who needs Verity mainly at night. When Julian meets her at the opera and takes her to dinner, he explains how he longs for company for the week and will pay her five hundred pounds. Verity accepts because the money will help her sister. And all of
Julian and Verity head off for their week long adventure and even though Verity is nervous about being ruined by Julian, she decides to welcome his advances because Julian should have wonderful skills in the bedroom because of his reputation. He kisses her and figures out that Verity’s lips are virgin ones and is insulted. How dare she lie to him! He’s been played the fool. Now Julian and Verity are together for the week and can’t act on their desire for one another because of Verity being so pure and innocent.
A Handful of Gold was a ridiculous little story. How many times have I read before about the acclaimed opera singer actually being some virginal and precious young miss who catches the eyes of the biggest rake in all of
Nicola Cornick’s The Season For Suitors was a cute and fun read about two people who are so right for one another but try to ignore their feelings because they think they want different things in life. Sebastian, Duke of Fleet is yet another
Soon Sebastian is under Clara’s spell but can’t give into his desire for her, mainly because he respects her too much and feels he’s not worthy because of something that happened in his past that still affects him. If Sebastian can forgive himself over the guilt he feels for this past deed, he’ll finally have the best holiday ever in the arms of the woman he has grown to love.
The Season for Suitors is a witty little tale with two lovely characters who can see how special each other is with their quirks and all. Both Sebastian and Clara are fun loving individuals and there are a few laughs withn the pages that makes for fun reading.
Courtney Milan’s His Wicked Gift was my favorite of the three. Courtney takes a Charles Dicken’s Christmas Carol and gives it a nice twist with a regency romance where a mysterious man finds love with a poor girl who runs her father’s lending library business.
Lavinia Spencer has cut corners and saved every penny of her hard earned money to give her father and younger brother a very special Christmas. Times are tough and Lavinia spends her days running her family’s business because her father can’t any longer due to an illness. She also looks forward to seeing a special subscriber on certain days. William Q. White makes Lavinia’s heart flutter. The way he speaks makes her tingle. There's something so very special about this man who uses long vowels when he talks. Instead of William using the smell of sandalwood to make Lavinia, giddy, all he has to do is to recite the alphabet to seduce her.
Unfortunately Lavinia’s younger brother James does something foolish that will ruin their whole holiday. Lavinia thinks everything is lost until Mister William Q. White comes to her aid. William has come into a bit of money and will give Lavinia what she needs if she gives him her body. William has gone through tough times and is barely making ends meet working in a counting house for a man who is a total scrooge. But he has been given ten pounds from the death of someone in his past who he felt owed him a great deal. And since William feels he has sacrificed so much, he wants one bright thing to get him through the harsh unforgiving winter and that is Lavinia.
Lavinia is shocked and scandalized but there is something special she finds in William whose ways of speech is an aphrodisiac. One thing leads to another and Williams gets what he wants. He feels immense guilt over being such a blackguard, as Lavinia first calls him, but Lavinia shows him that the holidays are all about forgiveness, hope and kindness. And because of this, she has given him a most special gift. *the gift of the magic hoo haa comes to mind here*
This Wicked Gift was very sexy and sweet. The physical side of William and Lavinia’s relationship happens a bit too fast, and Lavinia’s reaction to William’s “help” was a bit unbelievable, but overall I really did enjoy how these two clicked. Too bad the story was so short because I would have loved to read something meatier between the two. Courtney really knows how to keep a reader interested, because what could be better than making some steamy love among a room full of books?
This Dickens type tale by the much welcomed debut author Courtney Milan shows that love among the stacks makes for some naughty as well as romantic reading.
Two out of three isn’t a bad thing and I would say that The Heart of the Christmas anthology is nice for those who want to get in the mood for the holidays with their historical romance reading. (HQN)
Final Grade: B