What Happens Under the Mistletoe (Anthology)

How did Christmas sneak up so fast? I can’t believe it’s almost here. But now is the time for Christmas-themed books! If you’re a romance reader, here’s another anthology from four popular authors.

What Happens Under the Mistletoe Front Cover (Pocket Books/Simon and Schuster)

What Happens Under the Mistletoe Front Cover (Pocket Books)

THE PLOTS (by story):

“The Heiress and the Hothead” by Sabrina Jeffries: Jeremy Keane’s sister Amanda, an American mill owner, butts heads with Lord Stephen Corry, a radical newspaper writer fighting against bad mill conditions in London.

“Twelve Kisses to Midnight” by Karen Hawkins: A Scottish duke is stranded in a snowstorm with a widow who is also his former fiancé.

“By Any Other Name” by Candace Camp: A young lady gets more than she bargained for when she dresses as a boy to search gambling clubs for her missing brother.

“Sweetest Regret” by Meredith Duran: A couple separated by misunderstanding and meddling find their way back to each other.

MY TWO CENTS: I read this mainly for the Sabrina Jeffries story, which is connected to the “Sinful Suitors” series (Amanda’s brother Jeremy’s story, The Art of Sinning, is reviewed here). I have read Candace Camp’s “Mad Morelands” series, but that’s all. I haven’t read any Karen Hawkins or Meredith Duran before this, but I may be interested in checking out some of their books after reading this anthology.

I was a little disappointed that Amanda only got a novella instead of her own book, but the story was well developed even though it was short. I felt like Amanda and Stephen got a sufficient amount of time, and probably better (in my opinion) to not spend too much time talking about the plight of mills in a Christmas story anyway. My one real disappointment with this book was the love scene. Everyone knows I LOVE Sabrina Jeffries, but this may have been the most ill-timed sex scene in history. I get it, I just don’t think it worked. (To say any more would be to introduce spoilers, so I won’t.)

The couple in Karen Hawkins’s story were likable enough, and their story was able to move quickly because they already knew each other well. I was very drawn to the supporting characters, enough that I’ll probably be checking out her “Princes of “Oxenburg” series.

Candace Camp provided a sweet story. Her heroine is spunky, and the hero is protective yet unorthodox. You can tell from the start they were made for each other.

Maybe not quite as much as the couple in Meredith Duran’s story, though. That poor couple, Georgie and Lucas, also knew each other previously and should have been married for years. But their own self-esteem issues and some meddling made each think the other had abandoned them. Thrown together at a house party, they have to wend their way through a tangled mess to the truth. I may have rooted hardest for this couple, who clearly belong together.

BOTTOM LINE: Mistletoe plays a role in all four stories, which are long enough to be fairly well developed. I may be hooked enough to check out the other series books connected to these stories.

TEACUP RATING: Four out of five teacups.

ON SALE DATE: Available now in paperback and eformats.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Last Chance Christmas Ball (Anthology)

If Christmas seems far away, think again! It’s that time of year when Christmas romance stories start getting released. And anyone who reads romance probably knows of the Word Wenchesa group of romance authors who all blog together. This group of ladies (listed below) have written a very interesting anthology of separate Christmas stories that are all interconnected, which I’m sure was no easy feat. Some take place at the “Last Chance Christmas Ball,” so-called because a lot confirmed singles are in the mix. Some stories take place on the way to the ball, and some shortly after.

Last Chance Christmas Ball Front Cover (Kensington)

Last Chance Christmas Ball Front Cover (Kensington)

THE PLOTS (by story):

“My True Love Hath My Heart” by Joanna Bourne: A jeweler from Antwerp is masquerading as a maid to find a stolen jewel, with the unexpected help of her former lover…a nobleman who works for the foreign office.

“A Scottish Carol” by Susan King: A doctor finds out his prize pupil is his old flame in disguise, and they reconnect while snowed-in over the holiday.

“Christmas Larks” by Patricia Rice: An ill nobleman is cared for by his childhood friend, whom he doesn’t know has inherited his house. She doesn’t know how to tell him that his home will soon be an orphanage.

“In the Bleak Midwinter” by Mary Jo Putney: An injured soldier’s childhood sweetheart makes a last attempt to pull him out of seclusion.

“Old Flames Dance” by Cara Elliott: A couple previously kept apart by their families get a second chance at their romance when the widowed lady returns from India.

“A Season for Marriage” by Nicola Cornick: A couple who married after being caught in a “compromising” position (he was comforting her) attempt to put their marriage on the right track despite misunderstandings.

“Miss Finch and the Angel” by Jo Beverly: A flirtatious nobleman takes an interest in their hostess’s mousey companion, who has a checkered past.

“Mistletoe Kisses” by Anne Gracie: A young lady preparing to leave her home to its new owner enjoys one last Christmas before becoming a teacher at a girl’s seminary. She is joined by a brother and sister whose carriage is wrecked on the way to the ball.

MY TWO CENTS: These short romances are believable because most of the characters already knew each other pre-story. While the majority of the couples are becoming reacquainted, there are only a few “love at first sight” that proceed without too much relationship development. The stories are also pretty clean, with either no sex or very little description.

I’m familiar with a few of these authors, and a couple are even on my auto-buy list. I would not say these stories are my favorite of their work, but there is a certain joyfulness about them. Most of the characters feel that they’ve missed their chances at love with a particular person, or a happy family life, or a home. It’s nice to see wishes come true in a Christmasy way.

For most anthologies, I’d recommend reading the stories very gradually. In this book, however, the stories are all connected, so you’re better off reading them all together at one time. For example, the ball is thrown by the good-hearted Lady Holly, who is celebrating her 50th ball. She links all the characters together. The characters are mentioned in one another’s stories, and sometimes play a more major part. (For instance, three of the stories focus on three siblings as the main characters.)

BOTTOM LINE: If you’re in the mood for short Christmas romances, this is your book. If anthologies aren’t your thing and you like more relationship development than what you find in a short story, skip it.

TEACUP RATING: Three-and-a-half to four out of five teacups. Some stories are more enjoyable than others, but all are fairly uplifting in the Christmas theme.

ON SALE DATE: Available now in paperback and eformats.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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