AUTHOR: Esmerelda Bishop, Lanie Fuller, Jamie Hill, Ava Rose Johnson, Kelly Madden, Lyra Marlowe, Kim Rees, Emily Ryan-Davis, Fiona Shinn
PUBLISHER: Freya’s Bower
LENGTH: Anthology (roughly 48k)
A collection of nine short stories, all written by different authors, for feel-good moments about the holiday season.
A Love Rewritten by Esmerelda Bishop – A woman falls into her favorite romance novel and gets to replace the heroine she doesn’t really like. Pure wish fulfillment fantasy. The heroine is Mary Sue’d, the hero is interchangeable with almost any Highlander hero, and the prose is simplistic at best. Pass.
Mistletoe Magic by Lanie Fuller – A woman has a dream about her husband getting killed, only to have a chance to save him. There was so little detail on this one that I had an almost impossible time understanding the world development. Both characterizations suffer as a result, too. Pass.
High Maintenance by Jamie Hill – A woman breaks her leg on a skiing trip with her family, and gets charmed by the lodge’s maintenance man. There’s an attempt at making this heroine more 3-dimensional, but that falls short when this woman who seemed very intelligent to this point wonders if there’s such a thing as lust at first sight (when she seems to have no problem believing in love at first sight). The hero suffers the same fate. Still, more enjoyable than its predecessors.
Letting Go by Ava Rose Johnson – A woman believes her marriage is on the rocks after pushing away her husband after a miscarriage, but he uses the Christmas season to try and get her back. Maudlin melodrama. Pretty boring.
Upon a Midnight Clear by Kelly Madden – A woman gets a Yule tree for her village, only to encounter a fairy protecting the one that captivates her. One of the stories I liked more in this collection. Prose is more sophisticated than most, the idea sweet and self-contained. The hero has next to no characterization, but I still liked this one.
Solstice Night by Lyra Marlowe – A woman runs away from the lord who is determined to use her healer abilities against his enemies, and a bounty hunter seeks her out in a storm in order to take her back for the money he so desperately needs. My favorite story of the bunch, and the only author I sought out other work from. The story is sweet, the characters flawed and realistic, and the prose doesn’t suffer from the problems that plague others. A keeper for me.
A Winter’s Gift by Kim Rees – A woman returns home after yet another break-up to realize that she’s been in love with a lifelong friend the entire time. Unlikable characters and no sense of setting when the story requires it means this one was one of my least favorite. Pass.
Einmal nach a Modresnach by Emily Ryan-Davis – A woman is on holiday in
Sugar Baby by Fiona Shinn – A woman wonders if she’s consigned to a loveless life in her bakery when she meets the new man in town. Likable characters, but prose with tense switches and other errors makes it hard to take this one seriously.
On the whole, a very average collection. There are varying heat levels, but nothing I found truly hot, and while there’s very little offensive about the anthology, there’s very little to remember, too.
5/10 – Nothing truly outstanding, though a couple of the stories help counter some of the tense shifting and simplistic prose of the weaker contributions.
5/10 – For the large part, forgettable.
5/10 – It almost feels like most of the authors are striving for that normal woman feeling and missing the point by a mile.
5/10 – Some of them were a struggle to get through; only one author was worth the effort to look up other works.
4/10 – The format of the short stories works against most of these, especially since they vary so greatly in genre.