on October 15, 2018
Genres: Historical Romance
Source: Advance Reader Copy, author
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Christmas magic is in the air... From the ballrooms of London, to abandoned Scottish castles, to the snowy streets of Gilded Age New York, four bestselling authors whip up some unforgettable romance...with a little help from some enchanted shortbread.
"Meet Me in Mayfair" by Tessa Dare
Louisa Ward needs a Christmas miracle. Unless she catches a wealthy husband at the ball tonight, the horrid, heartless Duke of Thorndale will evict her family from their beloved Mayfair home. But when her friend begs to switch dance cards, Louisa finds herself waltzing with the enemy: the horrid, heartless--and unexpectedly handsome--Thorndale himself. Now the duke's holding her future in his hands...and he's not letting go.
"The Duke of Christmas Present" by Sarah MacLean
Rich and ruthless, Eben, Duke of Allryd, has no time for holidays. Holidays are for whimsy and charm--the only two things his money cannot buy. Lady Jacqueline Mosby is full of both, even now, twelve years after she left to see the world. When Jacqueline returns for a single Christmas, Eben can't resist the woman he never stopped loving...or the future that had once been in reach. It will take a miracle to convince her to stay...but if ever there were a time for miracles, it's Christmas...
"Heiress Alone" by Sophie Jordan
When Annis Bannister's family leaves her behind in the rush to escape an impending snowstorm, she finds herself stranded in the Highlands, left to fend off brigands terrorizing the countryside, robbing homes locked up for winter. Her only hope falls on her neighbor, a surly hermit duke who unravels her with a look, then a kiss ... until she fears the danger to her heart outweighs the danger of brigands and snowstorms.
"Christmas in Central Park" by Joanna Shupe
Women all over America devour Mrs. Walker's weekly column for recipes and advice. No one knows Rose, the column's author, can't even boil water. When the paper's owner, Duke Havemeyer, insists she host a Christmas party, Rose must scramble to find a husband, an empty mansion, and a cook. But Duke is not a man easily fooled and she fears her perfect plan is failing--especially when Duke's attentions make her feel anything but professional. To save her career will she give up her chance at love?
Each story in this anthology is from a different time, with a Scottish shortbread recipe following the action. While no dates are given,Tessa Dare’s feels Regency, Sarah MacLean’s feels mid-1800s, Sophie Jordan’s is Victorian, and Joanna Shupe’s is around the turn of the century. I love this concept. I love the connection between each story, and I love how the shortbread recipe follows everyone. It’s an old book of Scottish Folklore, and it tastes absolutely awful in any time. (although the recipe is at the end, and it’s delicious, not at all awful, and I hope you read it and fall in love).
“Meet Me in Mayfair” by Tessa Dare 4.5 stars
This story kicks off the anthology, beginning in the Regency. Louisa’s sister is forcing some terrible shortbread on her, telling her it will make every man fall in love with her. This is important because she needs to secure a marriage proposal that night. The new duke of Thorndale is calling in old debts and that includes her father’s old (and forgiven) debt of their home. Thorndale is planning on selling their home out from under them at Christmastime. Circumstances align, and the duke falls for Louisa, but then he finds out she knew who he was the whole time, where he had no clue who she or her family were.
I enjoyed watching Louisa charm Thorndale and I loved watching him change. He wanted nothing more than to go back to the country, and she loved London. She shared her joy and wonder of the city with him, opening his eyes, and it was sweet and adorable.
“The Duke of Christmas Present” 5 stars
Eben is alone every Christmas. Every Christmas since that one. And while he doesn’t drink normally, on Christmas he gets rip-roaring drunk. But this Christmas, a ghost from Christmas Past visits him…except, she isn’t a ghost. And she’s no longer past. His Christmas Present can absolutely change all of his Christmas Futures (sorry, I’ll stop with the bad puns). Lady Jacqueline is back in his life, and she isn’t willing to let him drink his Christmases away anymore.
This story is told through a series of memories and present time, which I thought would bother me, but it didn’t. It’s so well-done and emotional. It’s evocative and heart-wrenching. Reminiscent of A Christmas Carol, you feel the longing, the lost love, the want. It’s delicious and heartbreaking all at once.
“Heiress Alone” by Sophie Jordan 5 stars
This was probably my favorite story in the bunch. In homage to Home Alone, Annis is forgotten and her large family leaves her stranded in Scotland during a snowstorm. Deciding that it’s not really that bad, she decides to hunker down with the library at their Scottish estate, and the two servants who have stayed behind. However, the nearest neighbor, a duke who hates her boisterous and obnoxious family, has come to take those servants to his castle. There are a band of thieves roaming the area breaking into every empty house they can. The two elderly servants could be harmed. But, he isn’t counting on seeing Annis again, let alone, seeing her home alone. He drags her with him to his castle and then we have two of my favorite tropes: forced proximity, and a Highlander Duke!
I loved this story so much. Annis was a treat. She was fiesty, enjoyable, and relatable. Her Scottish duke had to reassess his own biases over her and her loud family, and it was wonderful.
“Christmas in Central Park” 4 stars
Instead of a duke, this hero was Duke. His first name. This was hysterical. So Rose is an advice columnist, but seeing as she is young and unwed, her editor feels she should use a penname. Mrs. Walker is the reclusive society dame who is everything from Dear Abby to Martha Stewart. Until Duke Havermeyer comes in. His newspaper has just suffered a scandal, and he needs to earn back his board members’ trust. His brilliant idea is to have his most famous columnist host a dinner party at her home, showing off all the amazing tricks and tips she’s mentioned in her column. But…Rose has merely made up Mrs. Walker. She herself is the daughter of a maid. Well, she needs this job, so she enlists her friends to help secure a vacant house near Central Park where they can pretend to own the place. Everything goes to plan until Havermeyer sets his sights on Rose.
I enjoyed this one a lot. It was fun and funny, and oh my gosh the second-hand embarrassment is real, you guys! But I felt that the ending was rushed. Other than that, it fit so so perfectly, and the comments about the shortbread recipe made me laugh so hard.
This anthology is a gift in every form. From a Scottish shortbread cookie recipe that finds itself the center of each story, to the lush and vivid descriptions, all four of these stories were enjoyable and something I think I’ll read again, especially closer to Christmas.
***ARC courtesy of the author