Harlequin Historical, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-29807-5
Historical Romance, 2014
Wish Upon a Snowflake comes with a sticker on the cover that says, “Hot Holiday Reads!” I’m not sure why these people are trying to convince me that there is some hot stuff in this anthology, because Linda Skye is the only one that tries to shove ample number of sex scenes at my face – figuratively speaking, of course – and the whole thing still feels like sitting on a pile of wet towels. If you want hot stuff, you may as well pour Tabasco sauce down your throat and follow that with some barbecue sauce – it’d work better than this one, which leans more towards your old-school Regency-era historical romance anthology.
Oh, and only Christine Merrill’s story is new. The other two stories were previously released in digital form under the Harlequin Historical Undone imprint.
Christine Merrill kicks off the show with The Christmas Duchess. Widow Generva Marsh’s not having a good time. Her daughter’s wedding is off – the bridegroom’s pregnant wife from Scotland showed up at the last minute to raise her objection – and the poor dear is now in her room crying her heart out. Generva also knows that her daughter is considered ruined after this aborted wedding, but she’d worry about that only after she’s calmed her daughter down. Generva is a practical woman, you see. But even she loses it when our hero Thomas Kanner, the Duke of Montford, shows up late, at her doorstep, with a wedding license for his nephew. The poor man wants to repair his relationship with his heir, you see, and he has no clue that the wedding is off until he meets the business end of Generva’s broom.
Thomas initially decides to marry Generva’s daughter to make amends. He’s in his late forties, had lost two wives to childbirth, and is now resigned to staying a bachelor for the rest of his life; he doesn’t find the idea of marrying Gwendolyn too unpalatable, and it’s the least he can do for the poor dear now that she is the subject of gossip, thanks to his nephew. This is before he realizes that he’d rather marry Generva. Fortunately, Gwendolyn has studied the art of being a romance heroine very closely – it’s basically true love or death for her – so the road to a happy ending may just be reached in time for Christmas.
Thomas is way too good to be true, but hey, this is a Christmas story, so what the heck. Oh, fine, I admit I find this very perfection of his pretty dreamy. Happy now? The Christmas Duchess certainly delivers a good amount of heartwarming moments, the main characters are sensible and romantic all at once, and the romance feels so right and sweet. Even the brats aren’t annoying. I like this one.
Linda Skye’s Russian Winter Nights is set in Russia, which only proves that idiocy knows no boundaries. Princess Ekaterina Romanova hates her life. She spends a while feeding chickens while wearing old clothes, which makes her believe that her heart is one with the unwashed poor masses and she’s all about the charity and love… at least until she gets tired of the whole thing and goes back to her palace where she’d spend her day pouting about her miserable life. I wish circumstances would force her to become a chicken farmer, so that I can laugh as she cries and wails that the life she claims to want is so hard.
At any rate, she meets and sleeps with the royal architect Andrey Kvasov, when she is not snapping at him like a spoiled little girl thwarted in her efforts to grab her favorite ding-dong. The annoying thing here is that she is being churlish for no reason – when Andrey wants sex, she hisses and snarls at him but drops her bloomers for him anyway. Maybe the author is trying to capture the essence of two dogs mating on the streets in her characters? At any rate, Miss Social Justice Warrior keeps at this until her boyfriend may be torn apart from her, and she then uses her rank and privilege to ensure that he continues to service her on demand. So much for doing it for the people – once she gets a boyfriend, it’s back to bouncy-bouncy games in the princess’s bedroom. I hope she remembers to command her peasants to continue feeding the chickens now that she has better things to do.
Elizabeth Rolls’s A Shocking Proposition sees Madeleine Kirby on the verge of being homeless. Poor Madeleine has run her family home at Haydon all this while, but now that her brother has passed on, her cousin is suing for ownership of the property. Given that she’s a woman, it seems unlikely that she’d be able to win the case in court, especially when the odious man probably has the judge properly bribed for the occasion. Her late grandfather’s will dictates that she marries before Twelfth Night to hold on to the property. How convenient that the man she had a crush on – she still does, actually – Lord Ashton, the fourth Duke of Thirlmere. He wants what she has, marrying him gets her what she wants, and as a plus, Ashton is a duke while her cousin is “merely” an earl. It’s a win-win situation for everyone!
Of course, there has to be some story after the happy ding-dong day, so Madeleine mopes and sighs over all kinds of tiny little things like how Ashton assumes that she’s not a virgin. Truly, life is bleak and hopeless when the husband doesn’t immediately understand everything about you. Men can be so selfish when they refuse to use their special telepathic powers to read a woman’s mind so that they will always know what to say and do to make the woman happy! The hyperbole and the histrionics over silly little things can be quite prominent in this one. Madeleine starts out pretty smart when the story begins, but by the last page, I feel that maybe she needs to grow up a bit more before she settles down with a guy. On top of that, this story reads like an uninspired tale pulled from the standard Regency historical playbook. All the usual tropes are here, presented in a manner that never feels fresh or interesting.
Anyway, only Christine Merrill’s story is really worth a second look in Wish Upon a Snowflake. Elizabeth Rolls’s story is well written, but it is much ado about nothing and, also, it feels like a tired rehash of overplayed tropes. Linda Skye’s story is… well, let’s just say there is no love lost between this Russia and me. Nobody will experience great harm if he or she reads this book, hence the average rating, but if you ask me, I still think Tabasco and barbecue sauces are the way to go if you want to get hot this Christmas.