A Sprinkling of Christmas Magic
Elizabeth Rolls, Bronwyn Scott, Margaret McPhee
Mass Market Paperback, 288 pages
Harlequin, October 22, 2013
Anthologies, Christmas Romance, Historical Fiction,, Holiday Romance, Social Justice
Snuggle up with these three Regency tales!
"Christmas Cinderella", by Elizabeth Rolls
Handsome country rector Alex Martindale dreams of kissing his spirited schoolmistress and never having to stop…. With some mistletoe, he may just get his wish!
"Finding Forever at Christmas", by Bronwyn Scott
At the Yule Ball, Catherine Emerson receives a proposal from the man she thought she wanted—but a kiss from his mysterious, darkly handsome brother unleashes a deeper desire….
"The Captain's Christmas Angel", by Margaret McPhee
Returning to England for Christmas, Sarah Ellison discovers a man adrift in the Atlantic Ocean. Nothing could have prepared her for the gorgeous Captain Daniel Alexander, or the secrets he keeps!
New Edition Published in October, 2014,
by Mills & Boon
This is a very nice, entertaining, and romantic collection of Christmas romance novellas, all taking place during the Regency period in England. I can credit the novels of Mary Balogh for my love of this period in English history, and especially love reading Regency romances during the Christmas season.
Although I did enjoy this collection, I was a bit disappointed because two of these stories did not really revolve around the Christmas season; in fact, the events depicted could have taken place at any time of year. Still, the stories were very well written, with very compelling characters and plots, so I don't think it would be fair of me to judge the book too harshly.
The first novella, "Christmas Cinderella", was supposedly based on the famous fairy tale, and it was, to a degree. However, I found it had much more in common with my favorite classic of all time, Jane Eyre. (Come to think of it, this classic novel might have itself been partly influenced by the story of Cinderella.)
The main female character, Hyppolita Woodrowe (known as "Polly"), is a former heiress who has lost her entire inheritance through a very unfortunate circumstance. She is dependent upon her aunt and her family, and, as in the novel Jane Eyre, they resent this, considering her to be now beneath them. Thus they treat her with contempt. Her aunt, the nasty Lady Eliot, reminds me of Mrs. Reed in Charlotte Bronte's great novel.
There are more similarities; Polly is determined to be independent, and actively seeks employment; Alex Martindale, the rector who falls in love with her, brings to mind St. John Rivers, a clergyman from the classic novel, although their personalities are vastly different. Also, Alex sets up Polly as a schoolmistress, just as St. John does for Jane.
I think it's because of these similarities that I love this story as much as I do! Rolls does have some original plot elements that make the story hers, however. Besides, the romance between Alex and Polly is very tender and sweet. He is completely drawn to her, and his ruminations regarding the propriety of his actions are very touching, as he's obviously very concerned about her reputation, and controls himself (with some effort) whenever he's around her. There's one more thing I found totally endearing, although unusual, about him. I won't say what this is, because it would be a major spoiler.
Of the three novellas included in this book, I found this first one to be most imbued with the true Christmas spirit. It's very much in evidence, not only in the romance between Alex and Polly, but also in Polly's dealings with her students and their families.
I did not like the second story, "Finding Forever At Christmas", as much as the first. That was because I felt it lacked some passion and drama. The plot develops gradually, as Catherine Emerson returns to her family and friends, after a five-year stay as a student in Paris. She has been looking forward to seeing her childhood friend Channing, on whom she's had a crush for years. As she reacquaints herself with him, his family, and her other friends, she also begins to feel inexplicably attracted to Finn, Channing's older brother.
The two brothers are very different; while Channing is extroverted and very charming, Finn is introverted and studious. He is also darkly mysterious....
I did like the way Finn wooed Catherine. I also liked that she was not a frivolous, materialistic girl, and, like Polly in the first story, had quite a streak of independence. However, their romance should have taken longer to develop, so I think this story would have been much better as a full-length novel, with greater prominence given to the Christmas season, as well.
The third and last story, "The Captain's Christmas Angel", was a very exciting one, with very realistically drawn characters, and I think it might be my favorite of the three, although this one didn't have much to do with Christmas, either. Still, it's a wonderfully evocative tale, with its suspense and references to pirates at sea.
Daniel Alexander, the captain in the story, meets the heroine, Sarah Ellison, as the latter is returning by ship to England with her niece, Imelda Bowden. The way they meet is highly dramatic, too -- she notices a man floating in the ocean, and immediately notifies the ship's first mate. Daniel is then rescued, thanks to Sarah.
I loved the romance between these two! Both have secrets from their pasts, and Sarah's are particularly painful. She has erected a wall to keep men at arm's length, which Daniel is determined to break down. How he does this is totally, and wonderfully, romantic....I fell in love with him myself! He's dashing, exciting, and yet, oh, so tender.....
I really liked Sarah, as well. At the beginning of the story, she's just as determined to keep her distance from Daniel as he is to get closer to her. She is a compassionate, sensitive woman who has suffered greatly, but is nevertheless courageously moving forward to start a new life.
I would definitely recommend this collection to lovers of romance, although it should be kept in mind that only the first story uses the Christmas theme effectively. Still, all three novellas make for some wonderfully cozy reading, especially for those who love to cuddle up by the fire!
Elizabeth lives in the Adelaide hills of South Australia, although she was born in England. She has a degree in Music Education, and taught music for several years, while her husband, a former nuclear physicist, finished his Ph.D.
Elizabeth had the writing bug from an early age, and wrote stories from the time she could read. Her first published Regency novel was The Unexpected Bride, released in 2004. She has published many other titles, such as His Lady Mistress (2004), A Compromised Lady (2007), and The Chivalrous Rake (2004). She also has a story included in another Christmas collection, Mistletoe Kisses (2006).
Bronwyn is the author of over 25 historical romances for Harlequin Books, and her area of specialty is the 1830s. Bronwyn enjoys setting her stories against the backdrop of interesting social and political events in or concerning Great Britain.
She is a full-time, tenured faculty member at a Northwest college. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, learning languages, and being with her family. Some of her published novels include The Earl's Forbidden Ward (2009), The Viscount Claims His Bride (2009), and Secret Life of a Scandalous Debutante (2011).