Genre: Anthologies (multiple authors)

Sunday Spotlight: The Cowboy Who Saved Christmas by Jodi Thomas, Sharla Lovelace and Scarlett Dunn

Posted October 25, 2020 by Holly in Features, Giveaways | 3 Comments

Sunday Spotlight is a feature we began in 2016. This year we’re spotlighting our favorite books, old and new. We’ll be raving about the books we love and being total fangirls. You’ve been warned. 🙂

An ex-soldier, has lost his way, and Emery, a woman running to find a new life, and five little rich girls just wanting to get home before Christmas.

When I started THE COWBOY WHO SAVED CHRISTMAS, I knew it would be a historical set in 1867, starting in a small inland port when Trapper Hawkins takes a job to haul freight. The pay is good, maybe enough to give him a start, but the cargo is five girls.

I’ve driven the roads from Jefferson, Texas to Dallas many times. But this time, in my mind, I was making the journey in a wagon with outlaws determined to kidnap my cargo, the little girls.

The story came alive in my mind and I laughed then cried, then fell in love with my characters. I learned to survive in the untamed land and fight off outlaws.

I drove as the story played out in my head. In three hours I’d covered a month by wagon while fighting storms and hunting for my supper every night.

By the time I stopped in Dallas and pulled into a hotel, my head was packed. It took me two months to write it all down and I think “Father Goose,” the story of one broken soldier and a runaway woman risking their lives to save five little girls may very well be my favorite short story ever.

Celebrate the holiday by making the journey across Texas with me this Christmas.

Jodi Thomas

Sunday Spotlight: The Cowboy Who Saved Christmas by Jodi Thomas, Sharla Lovelace and Scarlett DunnThe Cowboy Who Saved Christmas by Jodi Thomas, Sharla Lovelace, Scarlett Dunn
Publisher: Kensington
Publication Date: October 27, 2020
Genres: Westerns
Pages: 336
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In these Texas-set stories of romance and adventure, the Civil War is over, Christmas is coming—and it’s time for three rugged fighters to become lovers...

FATHER GOOSE by New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Jodi Thomas

Dispirited by war, when Trapper Morgan accepts a job hauling five little rich girls to Dallas, all he cares about is the money. He doesn’t expect they’ll awaken his spirit—or that their intriguing nursemaid, Carolina, will awaken his heart. And when danger strikes as Christmas Eve nears, he definitely doesn’t expect Carolina and the girls to risk their lives—for him . . .

THE MISTLETOE PROMISE by Sharla Lovelace

A catastrophic storm, an ailing herd, and a failing cattle ranch have left Texas rancher Josie Bancroft in danger of losing everything her father worked for. Still, she’d rather die than merge with her neighbor rancher Benjamin Mason, the man who broke her heart years ago, on Christmas Eve. As old sparks fly and secrets are revealed, however, Ben is determined to help Josie—and prove that this time around can be different. That the misunderstandings of Christmas past need not define their future...

CHRISTMAS ROAD by Scarlett Dunn

Yellow Fever has hit Clint Mitchum’s Texas hometown and taken his father and siblings, leaving Clint ever more cynical. Racing homeward to be by his mother’s side, Clint finds only a note from her, asking that he help her caregiver, a young woman named Amelia. Assuming his mother has passed, in his grief Clint ventures out to search for Amelia—and finds the best of gifts—just in time for Christmas...

Excerpt

The Cowboy Who Saved Christmas by Jodi Thomas, Sharla Lovelace, & Scarlett Dunn

Excerpt from “Father Goose” by Jodi Thomas

Trapper spent the morning preparing for his new job as if it was an assignment during the war. He studied maps, learned a bit about his employer, the girls’ father, Colonel Gunter Chapman. He’d been an officer in the Mexican–American War back in the 1840s.He was ruthless and came home with injuries. But that hadn’t stopped him from moving farther west from the protection of even the forts and starting a huge ranch.

Trapper had seen that kind of man many times in the war. A king on his land.

Trapper bought clothes for winter, a new hat and a warm coat from his winnings last night. He’d worn most of his clothes too long for them to be presentable. Now, when he got to Dallas, he’d be dressed more like a cowboy, a Westerner. And, if the raiders killed him along the way, he’d have a fine funeral outfit.

Walking toward the dock, he planned. He’d meet the little ladies, tell them the rules for the trip, and get underway. He decided he only needed three rules. One: Be ready to travel at sunup. Two: Stop at midday for thirty minutes to rest, take care of private needs, and drink water. Three: At sundown make camp. He’d cook a meal of whatever he shot along the way or use the supplies.

When Trapper had checked the wagon, he noticed the teamster hadn’t packed but two blankets, so he bought the girls each one. After all, they were little girls, and they’d need comfort.

He also added apples and canned peaches to his load.

Trapper was feeling hopeful about the journey. He’d bought two extra rifles and several boxes of bullets. He’d get these girls home safe and collect his five hundred dollars. Then he’d drive away in his new wagon with Midnight tied to the back.

A man who has a wagon, a horse, and enough money in his pocket to buy land was rich indeed. For the first time since the war he allowed himself to dream. He thought about something besides surviving one more day.

As he waited, he saw a small widow lady sitting on a bench near the dock. Trapper remembered the teamster had told him to hire a woman to travel with him, but surely he could handle five little girls.

There were so many women in black right after the war, it seemed like every woman dressed the same. Strange, he thought; the men wore blue and gray, but all the widows wore black. Mourning had no side, no color.

The paddleboat pulled up to yells and waves from the waiting crowd. As cargo began to roll off the side, passengers walked off the front in a thin line. It wasn’t long before he saw a tall woman in a light blue cape marching with five little girls behind her. She had to be the nurse traveling with his cargo. They all wore a uniform of sunny blue and white. They reminded him of a mother goose and her goslings. He guessed he was about to become the father goose.

Trapper had no doubt these were his charges. The first girl was tall, only a head shorter than the nurse. Her blond hair was tied back, as if she was trying to look older. The next two were shorter, with auburn hair. The younger and thinner of the pair wore an old wool cap and seemed to be crying. The fourth girl was probably about five and was round as a goose egg. The last one, and the smallest, seemed to be having trouble staying in line. She weaved back and forth as she kept jumping up and down as if she could see everything if she was two inches higher.

Trapper straightened and removed his wide-brimmed hat. There were several families meeting travelers, but he was the only man standing alone in front of a small covered wagon. Eventually, the nurse would find him.

The tall woman weaved her way around groups of people and the girls followed in a row. Well, all but the last one followed. The littlest one seemed to be having trouble keeping up.

Finally, the lady noticed him and headed his way. She stopped three feet from him and the girls lined up behind her. Except number five, who bumped into four and almost knocked two and three out of line.

“Are you the driver for Colonel Chapman’s girls?” The woman’s voice was cold and held no hint of a Southern accent.

“I am.” Trapper bowed slightly, not sure what to say or do. He decided to keep the poker game quiet. “I’m Trapper Hawkins, ma’am.”

“I understood there would be a nurse traveling with you to take care of the girls’ needs.”

He thought of saying he could handle them, but for the first time he wasn’t sure. Number five had lost her shoe and was starting to cry. The tall one, number one in the line, was glaring at him and the chubby one, number four, was laying her head on one shoulder, then the other, as if trying to see if he might look better from another angle.

“Mr. Hawkins, I’m sure you got the instructions. I assure you I will not be releasing my charges to you until you fulfill your part of the bargain. A woman to tend to their needs is essential.”

He thought of giving up. Letting the oh-so-proper lady take them back. They’d be safer on the boat, if the rumors were true. “If I don’t have a lady with me, you planning to turn around?”

“No. I’m going to file charges on you for breach of contract. Then I’ll notify the girls’ father and wait here until proper escort can be arranged. Colonel Chapman will not be happy if his exact orders are not followed.”

Trapper didn’t even know if there was a crime called breach of contract in Texas. They had too many murders, robbers, and cattle thieves to mess with a breach of anything.

The woman pushed out her chest and made her stand. “If the colonel doesn’t have his daughters home by Christmas, there will be hell to pay.”

Trapper had no idea what she was talking about. He was starting to look forward to the outlaws on the trail.

“I’m loaded and ready, ma’am. I’ll get them to Dallas.”

She opened her mouth to fill him in on all the facts when number five started limp-walking on one shoe and fell over her bag. Her foot went through the handle, so now she limped with one leg and dragged the bag with the other.

He just watched her. This last kid had the coordination of a day-old calf.

To no one’s surprise, the tiny girl started crying.

The chubby one, number four in line, started to help the littlest one up, but the nurse cleared her throat so loudly several people turned in her direction.

Number four looked like she might cry too, but she let go of number five.

The nurse said to him in her lecture voice, “We don’t baby our girls. Not even the littlest one. Understood? These girls are Texas princesses. Born in this wild state. They’ll grow up to be strong women, not crybabies.”

Trapper thought of pushing the nurse off the dock and seeing how strong she was, but he figured she’d file charges for that too.

Before anyone could move, a lady in black knelt down and lifted number five off the dock, freed her foot from the bag, and cradled the crying girl in her arms. “Come sit on the back of the wagon, child, and I’ll put your shoe back on. It’s far too cold a day to go without it.”

The nurse glared at the woman for a moment, then seemed to relax. “I see the traveling companion for the girls has finally arrived. She’ll be too soft on the girls and we’ll have our work cut out for us when they come back to school in February. However, it is good to see you picked a proper lady.”

As the widow tied the little girl’s shoe, the nurse stepped away to direct the luggage to be loaded into the wagon.

Trapper leaned toward the widow. “Lady, if you have the time, would you act like you’re traveling with me? Just till we get out of sight of that woman. I got to get these girls to Dallas and I’m not sure that nurse will let me do my job without a proper lady traveling with us.”

“I was going to Dallas also.” The widow’s voice was low, almost a whisper. “The stage doesn’t seem to be running this week. If you’ll let me ride along with you, I’ll play the part all the way.”

Trapper was shocked. “You would?”

She nodded. “I’d be safer with you and five girls than traveling alone. If you prove to be a not-so-honorable man, I have a weapon and will shoot you.”

He smiled. Her voice had a bit of the South in it and she could shoot. She had to be a born Texan. They understood each other. If he broke his word, she’d shoot him, no breach of contract needed.

“I’m Mrs. Adams.”

Trapper removed his hat. “I’m Trapper Hawkins. You’re doing me a great favor, ma’am.”

The nurse came back as men finished loading the wagon. “I’d like to introduce my little ladies before I leave them with you.”

She started with the oldest. “Catherine Claire, thirteen. Anna Jane, eleven. Elizabeth Rose, ten. Helen Wren five.” The nurse pointed to the smallest, still in the widow’s arms. “Sophia May is four. Colonel Chapman had three wives. All died in childbirth and none gave him a son. Poor man.”

Trapper studied them as the nurse gave instructions to Mrs. Adams and marched back to the boat. The tallest daughter, with her blond hair, would probably be from the first wife. Two and Three from a redheaded wife. And Four and Five from the third wife. He’d guess that wife had brown hair and big brown eyes.

Trapper turned to his charges. “Look, little ladies, I doubt I’ll straighten those names out in three weeks, so how about I call you in order by number?” He pointed to the tall blonde, first in line. “One.” Then the two auburn-haired girls. “Two and Three.” He smiled at the next and couldn’t help but laugh as she giggled, waiting for her number. “Four,” he said, touching her nose. The tiny one waited for her new name. “You’re Five. It’s a game we’ll play.” He glanced at the widow. “A secret game. Like code names.”

When he noticed the widow asked no questions, he added, “Only we have to call her Mrs. Adams. She deserves our respect. She lost her man in the war.”

All the girls nodded except Five. She was spinning around again like an unbalanced top.

Giveaway Alert

We’re giving one lucky winner their choice of one of our Sunday Spotlight books. Use the widget below to enter for one of this month’s features.

Bane’s Choice by Alyssa Day

Are you as excited for this release as we are? Let us know how excited you are and what other books you’re looking forward to this year!


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Review: Anthology – Santa Baby

Posted December 27, 2017 by Holly in Reviews | 3 Comments

Review: Anthology – Santa BabyReviewer: Holly
Santa, Baby by Jennifer Crusie, Carly Phillips, Lori Foster
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: October 31st 2006
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 328
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Get ready for a holiday season you'll never forget with three of today's most sensational writers who know what every woman wants for the holidays. You'll believe in Santa all over again with these seductive stories from: JENNIFER CRUSIEMayhem ensues under the mistletoe as a determined shopper grabs the very last hot toy action figure off the shelf, only to find herself plunged into the middle of a real-life spy game--in the arms of a sexy secret agent. . . LORI FOSTERTwo dedicated coworkers with a lot of secrets (and fantasies!) between them must plan a Christmas party side by side--and discover a love worth celebrating--in this steamy office romance. CARLY PHILLIPSA "mistletoe moment" begins when a no-nonsense lawyer intent on seducing her boss meets his twin instead--after giving him a scintillating kiss that leaves him begging for more. . .

*****As part of our 10 year anniversary celebration, we’ll be re-posting old reviews and posts that make us cringe, laugh or sigh all over again.*****

Holly: I love holiday anthologies. I would say 92% of my holiday reads come in the form of anthos.

This post was originally published January 6, 2009

I bought this anthology because the Jennifer Crusie was one I hadn’t read before and she’s one of my favorite authors. So I’m sure you can imagine my surprise when her entry turned out to be my least favorite of them all.

Hot Toy by JENNIFER CRUSIE

Mayhem ensues under the mistletoe as a determined shopper grabs the very last hot toy action figure off the shelf, only to find herself plunged into the middle of a real-life spy game—in the arms of a sexy secret agent. . .

Believe it or not my big issue with this story was the hero. Shocking, I know, since generally it’s the heroines I have trouble with. Trudy is out looking for a toy for her nephew when she runs into Nolan, a man she dated for awhile. A man she thought was different. A man she thought might be the one. Until their 4th date when he took a call, said he’d be back and just disappeared. His reasons for doing so seemed suspect in the beginning, and unfortunately were still suspect at the end – meaning I didn’t really buy his excuse.

Having said that, a less than stellar novel from Jenny Crusie is still better than some super stellar novels by other authors. I found the novella to have her trademark sass and humor and I really enjoyed Trudy and her sister. I even liked Nolan apart from his situation with Trudy.

Overall a fun, well-written story that probably needed a bit more depth to make it work a little better for me.

3.5 out of 5

Christmas Bonus by LORI FOSTER

Two dedicated coworkers with a lot of secrets (and fantasies!) between them must plan a Christmas party side by side—and discover a love worth celebrating—in this steamy office romance.

Lori Foster tends to be really hit or miss for me. I think I probably love 2 out of every 5 books of hers I read. This definitely falls into the “love” category. It was a sweet, cute story. Maggie and Eric have been attracted to each other for ages but age – and Maggie’s father, Eric’s boss – kept them separated. When they’re forced to work together planning a holiday party things quickly heat up.

The chemistry here really worked for me and the story – while short – really had some great emotional depth. I really enjoyed it.

4.0 out of 5

Naughty Under the Mistletoe by CARLY PHILLIPS

A “mistletoe moment” begins when a no-nonsense lawyer intent on seducing her boss meets his twin instead—after giving him a scintillating kiss that leaves him begging for more. . .

Carly Phillips, like Lori Foster, is an author that’s really hit or miss for me. Something about her writing style bugs me, though I’ve never been able to put my finger on just what. But, like Foster’s entry, this one really worked for me. Actually, this may be my favorite of the collection.

Something about Max and Toni really worked for me. Maybe it was her playing Elf and Max falling like a ton of bricks. Or maybe it was Max being super sexy and Toni falling for him like a ton of bricks. Either way, it as cute and I enjoyed it.

I did have an issue with the ending. I’m not really sure I buy them being head-over-heels in love after one night. I guess on a pure fantasy level it worked, but I definitely had to suspend disbelief. Otherwise it was great.

4.0 out of 5

Overall a cute collection of stories.

Total Grade: 4 out of 5

This book is available from St. Martin’s Press. You can buy it here.


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Retro-Review: Simple Gifts by Judith McNaught and Jude Deveraux.

Posted December 20, 2017 by Rowena in Reviews | 5 Comments

Retro-Review: Simple Gifts by Judith McNaught and Jude Deveraux.Reviewer: Rowena
Simple Gifts by Judith McNaught, Jude Deveraux
Publisher: Pocket Books
Publication Date: January 1st 1998
Pages: 320
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five-stars

In the snow-covered hills of Virginia, a young widow finds that miracles really do come in the least expected packages, in "Just Curious," praised as "one of Devereaux's best (Philadelphia Inquirer). "Change of Heart," set in modern-day Colorado, is the touching story of a clever twelve-year-old who plays matchmaker for his bighearted, impractical mother.

*****As part of our 10 year anniversary celebration, we’ll be re-posting old reviews and posts that make us cringe, laugh or sigh all over again.*****

Holly: Confession time…I used to absolutely adore JM and JD, but I can’t read their books anymore. All the drama and angst, I’m just not there. This anthology used to be a favorite, but I haven’t read it in years.

This post was originally published Dec 19, 2007

Every year, I read this book around this time. It’s like my Christmas is not the same if I haven’t done my yearly reread of this book and this year was no different. My book is starting to look worn out, I might be needing a new book soon…hehe, I love new books.

Anyway, on with the review.

Just Curious

Hero: MacAllister Taggert
Heroine: Karen Reed
Grade: 5/5

This was such a good holiday story.

I loved it right from the very beginning. When we meet Karen and learn of her husband’s death and how she can’t get over it and how she’s let herself go and to see her getting dicked around the office, getting roped into doing others work while they get the glory from it made me angry on her behalf but then Mac comes into her life and turns it right upside down. I loved that! I loved how their love story came to be, with Mac asking her to take a job “posing” as his girlfriend at his friend’s wedding and how he did everything just so that he can be with her because she could tell him and his brother apart, it was just the cutest story and a great thing to read around this time. Mac’s friends were great and his family was wonderful too. This story never ceases to bring a smile to my face and warmth to my heart. I loved how Karen thought the lowest of Mac and how he proved her wrong. I loved the first time these two made love, it was such a cute scene and then when they’re awakened on Christmas morning and the kids are in the room and they go down to Christmas morning where Karen is bombarded with gifts, gift she knows that Mac bought and not the others written on the tags. Just to see the lengths in which Mac went to, to snare Karen was just what this romantic loves to read about…I swear you will enjoy this story, a lot…or else something is wrong with you, JUST KIDDING!

Such a great read! Oh and I loved her little notes she’d leave around the office, Magnificently Jettisoned or some other, so frickin’ hiliarious!

Miracles by Judith McNaught.

Hero: Nicki DuVille
Heroine: Julianna Skeffington
Grade: 3/5

A lot of JM fans were disappointed in Nicki’s story because they felt that he deserved his very own full length novel and I wouldn’t have been mad if JM had decided to write that because I didn’t really enjoy this story..for Nicki. He’s trapped into marrying a girl that was pretty much trying to get ruined so that she wouldn’t have to marry anyone and so that she can live the life she’s always wanted to live. Of course, none of that happens because she has to marry Nicki and Nicki banishes her to one of his residents and she’s left all alone, her only recourse of expressing her feelings is through letters to her late grandmother. It is through these letters where everything comes out, the truth behind the night that Nicki “ruined” Julianna, her feelings about her mother, her feelings about Nicki and just every dang thing. This is one of those misunderstanding plots and I’m not really fond of those story lines especially because this was Nicki’s story. I wanted a better and just more for Nicki and I didn’t even like Nicki that much in this story. He was so hard and nothing like the Nicki that I knew and loved from the other books…it was just…okay. Oh and he didn’t even say I LOVE YOU JULIANNA, he only said, “I yearn too!” That is not at all the same thing, Ugh.

Change of Heart by Jude Deveraux

Hero: Frank Taggert
Heroine: Miranda Harcourt
Grade: 5/5

This was another fantastic and very romantic read. When I talk about this book to my sisters and my friends, the storyline sounds so cheesy and it kind of is but I don’t even care, I love this story so much! I loved that Randy was such a “real” woman, she wasn’t the thin heroine we’re used to reading and she loved reading romance novels and she was struggling to make ends meet. She sometimes cried at her circumstances but she never gave up because her son needed her and I just super duper loved that about Randy. I loved her son as well, Eli was such a great character and the wealth of love that he had in his little body for his Mother just warmed my insides. The lengths to which he went to make sure that his mother was taken care of before he pursued his own dreams was admirable for a young boy of 12. With his genius IQ and his friendship with millionaire, Frank Taggert, the little things that he would get into with his best friend had me laughing and sighing at the same time. They were just too cute, how they put the whole thing together with the help of Mike and Sam Taggert was just fantastic. I loved how it all came together and how Frank’s issues with Randy were real and how Randy reacted to all of it was just fantastic! This book brings out the romantic side in all of us and the ending was just soooooo great! This is such a cute read that I highly recommend everyone read it!

Double Exposure by Judith McNaught

Hero: Spence Addison
Heroine: Corey Foster
Grade: 4/5

This story was pure cheese. The prequel to JM’s Remember When showed the romance story between Diana’s step sister, Corey Foster and her childhood crush, Spencer Addison. We see how these two end up together and all that jazz. When I read RW, I was hecka in love with Spence, I thought he was a straight up stud, I still do and though I liked his story well enough, it wasn’t my favorite. I thought it was cute even though I couldn’t believe that Spence thought he could pull marrying Corey without her knowledge FOR REAL off. I mean, seriously…yes, he was desperate and yes he realized that he loved her and we all do stupid things when we’re in love with love being blind and all that but seriously, that was really stupid. I thought his niece and the chap she was marrying were a bit much but I loved seeing Diana and Corey’s Mom and the grandparents, the grandma was hilarious! That scene at the table when they’re telling the story of Spence standing up Corey and her being all heartbroken, I thought it was so cute. How they wanted Spence to know the truth and how he felt bad and then went on that crusade to win Corey back for real and forever was….cute. This story was cute and it still brings a smile to my face even after all these years of rereading it. What’s the holidays without some cheese, huh?

Overall, this book is a wonderful read. I read it without fail every year and every year I enjoy it all over again. I am not yet sick of these stories yet so that’s a good thing because I seriously love it…you guys should definitely read this book and it will be a great holiday gift for your Mom, Sisters, or whoever reads romance like us.

Read These Now!

five-stars


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Guest Review: Going Up! by Safyre Starr

Posted October 13, 2017 by Tracy in Reviews | 2 Comments

Guest Review: Going Up! by Safyre StarrReviewer: Tracy
Going Up! by Safyre Starr
Publisher: Purple Prose Press
Publication Date: June 15th 2017
Genres: Erotica
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two-stars

All Rachel wants to do is get to work on time. And coffee. She wants coffee. All Jamie wants to do is get out of this moving box quickly before his claustrophobia kicks in. Unfortunately for both of them, a stopped elevator traps them between floors in their office building. Will Rachel survive without caffeine? Will Jamie keep it together? Or will their enforced togetherness lead to a sensual encounter that neither of them expected?

Jamie and Rachel get stuck in an elevator together after an earthquake and that’s not good for either of them.  Rachel is a bear without her coffee (which she hasn’t had yet) and Jamie is claustrophobic.  If the building wasn’t so tall he’d have taken the stairs.

Rachel knows that James is the son of the founder of the law firm she works at and had recently been brought in as a full partner. He had worked at J.A.G. and though had never seen any combat he had still had a harrowing experience having to do with a bomber and had PTSD.  Rachel tries to soothe him in the elevator as much as possible and soon that comfort turns into the two are having an incredibly erotic experience together.

After they get out they talk and decide that they need closure because things were left unfinished. They decide to meet at a hotel to finish what they started. What this means for the future of their relationship – if there even is one – neither one knows.

This was a short, simple erotic story of lust in an elevator.  There wasn’t a whole lot of depth to it or the characters and I didn’t actually find it that erotic.  Once James and Rachel were in the hotel “finishing up” I found things awkward and stilted.  The story ended with them deciding to try to work things out but that was unsatisfying for me.  I guess it was good they didn’t fall instantly in love but I would have liked to have a least a little bit of romance involved.

The story was ok but not one I would recommend.

Rating: 2 out of 5

two-stars


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Guest Review: Christmas in Kilts by Terri Brisbin, Lecia Cornwall, Bronwen Evans, Lavinia Kent & May McGoldrick

Posted October 12, 2017 by Tracy in Reviews | 2 Comments

Guest Review: Christmas in Kilts by Terri Brisbin, Lecia Cornwall, Bronwen Evans, Lavinia Kent & May McGoldrickReviewer: Tracy
Christmas in Kilts by Bronwen Evans, Terri Brisbin, Lecia Cornwall, Lavinia Kent, May McGoldrick
Publisher: Swerve
Publication Date: October 3rd 2017
Format: eARC
Genres: Anthologies (multiple authors), Historical Romance
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four-stars

A HIGHLANDER'S HOPE by Terri Brisbin A village harlot who would never dream she could have a different life meets a Highlander visitor for the holidays who brings with him an offer and hope!

LEFTOVER MISTLETOE by Lavinia Kent What happens when a highlander finds himself stranded, maybe kidnapped, with an English lady around Christmas... maybe the mistletoe will help answer that question.

A SCOT FOR CHRISTMAS by Bronwen Evans She's ready to embrace her life and future as a spinster, he's trying to have one last hurrah before he gives into his family's wishes and proposes marriage to his neighbor, but fate has other ideas when the lady and the Scot meet at a holiday house party in the wilds of Scotland.

SWEET HOME HIGHLAND CHRISTMAS by May McGoldrick A chance encounter between a ship's captain and a desperate aunt trying to keep custody of her young niece leads to a little magic during the holidays.

A HIGHLAND CHRISTMAS WAGER by Lecia Cornwall When a snowstorm forces a charming lass hiding a broken heart to take shelter in a castle with three fine Highland lairds just days before Christmas, there’s a game afoot—who will be the first to win a kiss and maybe her heart.

A Highlander’s Hope by Terri Brisbin

Iain McKillop is a widower who, by my calculations, is in his mid-40’s.  He’s ready to marry again and his nephew thinks he can use him for some sort of clan alliance.  Iain knows that there’s really only one woman for him, and that’s Robena of the MacKendimen clan.

Robena is the village harlot.  While she doesn’t love what she does she has protection from people in the clan and they care about her.  The only person who ostracizes her is the Laird of the Clan – who’s not a nice man anyway.  Robena is excited when she hears that Iain is coming to visit for Christmas because she loves spending time with him.  He puts a genuine smile on her face and of course she loves that he pays for her exclusive services while he’s there.

Robena can tell right away that there’s something different with Iain but is shocked when he asks for her hand in marriage.  He wants a wife and a mother to his children.  She doesn’t think she’s good enough for him and besides, she can’t have children – how can she be the person that Iain needs in his life?

I have to say that I wasn’t a huge fan of this story when it started but Iain and Robena soon won me over.  Iain was such a giving man and he truly loved Robena – despite her profession.  He dealt with her past men in his own way but certainly wasn’t willing for her to be with anyone else ever again.  It was a sweet story in the end and I liked how Brisbin worked out the details of their future life together.

 

A Highland Christmas Wager by Lecia Cornwall

Meggie MacLeod is traveling home with her grandmother.  She is excited to be going home for Christmas after being gone for three months taking care of her grandmother after she’d broken her leg.  Unfortunately the weather is against them and they can’t make their halfway point before the blizzard begins.  Their travelling group takes refuge at the closest keep and that happens to be the home of the man who’d taken Meggie’s virginity eight years earlier. She’s definitely not happy about being there.

Magnus McVane is the Laird that had seduced and left Meggie all those years ago.  She’d thought herself in love with him after only 3 days but after he finally had sex with her, he left to go get married.  She was devastated.  Magnus isn’t home alone, however.  He has his dead wife’s brother, Charlie McKay – yet another Laird – there with him.  Magnus is hoping to get Charlie to marry his sister, Catriona, who they all think is a shrew.  Also visiting is Laird Hugh MacAuley who is there under unknown circumstances.  When Magnus sees Meggie he’s positive he can seduce her again and then he could probably marry her as she’s an heiress.  Charlie’s got his eye on her as well though, and they end up making a wager, dragging Hugh into their game.  Whoever gets Meggie to willingly kiss them first – a long kiss, not just a peck – gets a few prized possessions from each man, but also the right to talk to her father about her hand in marriage.

Hugh is at the keep as he’s been instructed by the elders of his clan to ask for Catriona’s hand in marriage – something he really doesn’t want to do.  The elders don’t think the man has a brain and though he is laird he truly has no power.  When he sees Meggie he is attracted to her immediately and rethinks his possible proposal to Catriona.  He’s a shy man, however, and bumbles along with Meggie despite her attention to him.

This was a lovely, romantic story.  I loved Hugh and his quiet, calm personality.  He was a breath of fresh air compared to the obnoxious Magnus and the over-excitable Charlie.  Hugh and Meggie were perfect for each other and the ending of the story put a smile on my face.

 

A Scot for Christmas by Bronwen Evans

Dougray is thinking about getting married to beget an heir but he plans on a marriage of convenience so that he won’t get attached to a wife.  His first wife died and he doesn’t want to have to live through that once again. His plan is to marry a neighbor’s daughter, Fiona Mackenzie, so that he can help her father financially. He made a promise to his dying father that he would help the Mackenzie, but the man would not accept his funds – even as a loan.  Marrying Fiona is the only way he can get the funds to him.

Dougray and his cousin, Angus, are having a hunting party around Christmas time.  A party that includes his friends and their paramours, with a couple other women of questionable virtue coming along as well.  When Dougray’s best friend’s younger sister arrives he’s horrified and tries to get her to leave at once.  She refuses, of course, and instead asks him something.  She is in her late 20’s and has come to terms with her spinsterhood.  She asks Dougray to sleep with her.  She’s been in love with him for years and plans on having the memory of their lovemaking to last the rest of her life.  Dougray refuses at first but then finally agrees as he can’t resister her. He doesn’t realize until later that Emma is in love with him.  Despite his growing feelings for Emma he’s determined to marry Fiona Mackenzie. He refuses to have a wife he cares about.

This was a good story, not one of my least favorites.  I guess it was just too predictable in my opinion. I knew that Dougray would sleep with Emma, of course, and he would fall in love with her and live happily ever after.  It was written in an entertaining way, and I liked the characters, but I just wasn’t a huge fan of A Scot for Christmas.

 

Leftover Mistletoe by Lavinia Kent

Emma Spencer is having a bad day – really, a bad life.  Her dear father had passed on and her cousin had taken the Earl’s title.  Unfortunately her cousin wasn’t a kind man and she was being sent to Scotland to live with her uncle who she didn’t even know.  Emma had marriage prospects as she was quite pretty. She believes her cousin is sending her away so she won’t ever marry.  Her financial portion would then stay in his hands forever.

She was travelling when her maid disappeared with her bag.  Her trunks were coming later and with the maid gone she was left with the clothes on her back, her reticule, and very little money.  She buys passage on a coach and the only other passenger is a snoring man who takes up way too much room.  At one point during their travels they stop.  Emma doesn’t know why and soon all is quiet.  When the man finally wakes up and goes to investigate he finds that there’s no coachman and the team of horses have been driven off as well.  He’s familiar with the land so he takes Emma to a cabin where they try to brave the storm that has begun.

Emma finds out he’s James Barran and he’s on his way to Edinburgh so that he can stop his sister from marrying his best friend.  He loves his best friend, but doesn’t want his sister marrying him.  He’s bound and determined to stop the wedding but his friend Robbie kept throwing up roadblocks to stop him.  One being the fact that Robbie paid the coachman to take the horses and now he and Emma are stranded.  They head to the cabin and while they’re there their attraction to each other grows and they start to fall in love.

Kent always writes such charming romances.  This was no different.  Yes, the couple fell in love quickly but it fit with their lives and circumstances of their confinement.  I thought James and Emma were perfect for each other and complimented each other well.   The humor in the story is another thing I liked about this story.  The banter between Emma and James was engaging and I found myself smiling a lot while reading.

 

Sweet Home Highlands by May McGoldrick

Captain Gregory Pennington is on his way home to his family for Christmas but is tasked by his brother with escorting four adults and a child to a neighboring estate near his home.  He’s in a pub and is anxious to be on his way when a small child starts up a conversation. She’s a funny little imp and mature beyond her 5 or 6 years.  It turns out that this is the child that he is to escort along with her aunt, Freya, and couple of servants.  The fourth person was to be Freya’s almost-fiancé but he doesn’t ever show up.

Freya is a young woman who has raised her niece almost from birth.  She was only 17 when her sister died a week after giving birth and she loves little Ella like her own.  Ella’s father was killed in the war and his family never wanted anything to do with Ella until recently.  Now Ella’s grandmother is demanding their appearance at her home so that she can make sure that Ella is financially well taken care of.  She also intimated that Freya wasn’t a proper guardian because she wasn’t married.  Because of this Freya had an understanding with the cousin that would inherit Freya’s father’s title and lands when he eventually passed.  Freya wasn’t looking forward to the marriage but was resigned to her fate in order to keep Ella with her.

Gregory is smitten with Freya the minute he sees her.  The minutes they spend together on the journey just make him like her more and more.  Freya starts to fall for Gregory as well but she knows that she must marry her cousin in order to appease Ella’s grandmother.

As I read more of McGoldrick’s books the more I become a fan.  This story was simply romantic on all levels.  It was the kind of story that will make you sigh with wonder at how sweet it is – but not sugary at all.  Just downright a lovely story.  This is kind of a prequel to a new series that McGoldrick is putting out and I personally can’t wait for it to release.

Gregory and Freya were wonderful in the story and little Ella – that child with a personality beyond her years – was enchanting.  I liked everything about this story and highly recommend it.

 

In the end I thought this was a very good historical anthology.  A lovely compliment of authors that brought a little Christmas cheer and romance to my life.

Rating: 4 out of 5

four-stars


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