Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-274723-5
Historical Romance (Reissue)
These days, I very rarely visit a physical bookstore. With the physical distance and the traffic, I’d have to spend at least four hours on the road just to go to one and then back home, and if I spend, say, two hours in the store itself (a generous underestimation, of course), that means basically half a day is gone just to go to a bookstore. Consequently, I buy nearly all my books online these days. But once a while I do get to go to one – usually because someone else is doing the driving, heh – and when I step into a bookstore, it can be a heady, intoxicating experience. I really miss taking my time to look at books on display, to buy books on impulse… so the last time that happened, I ended up buying A Christmas to Remember without looking too closely at the front or back cover. So yes, it’s my fault when I discover only when I open the book that the four stories here have all been published before.
Lisa Kleypas’s I Will actually first came out in 2001, in the anthology Wish List. I’d read that one before, so I’d just paste my review of this story from that review over here:
Prim and proper self-righteous prune-faced Caroline Hargreaves – only she’s not prune-faced, according to Ms Kleypas, only flat-chested and plain looking, which in romance novel-speak, makes Caroline a dead replica of a supermodel – is approached by rake Andrew, Lord Drake. Rake Drake here needs a fake girlfriend to make dying daddy happy. In return, Rake Drake will stop corrupting her younger brother and pay off brother buffoon’s debts. Caroline couldn’t say yes soon enough. If Rake Drake is smart, he’ll toss in a check to a charity and she’ll rip the clothes off her body before you can say “Martyrs, aye? DIE!”
Only, of course, Caroline will soon learn that the Rake Drake, who has no doubt led her brother to ruin and decadence, isn’t so bad after all. Her mother, too, will egg her on – go marry that rake and restore the family honor! (Wait a minute… oh forget it.) And best of all, her brother will also tell Caro to go for it. Never mind that Brother Dear here have seen Rake Drake in action and probably joined in the party, he wants the Rake Drake to quack his sister.
Caro says “I will!” and we all have a happy ending. The end.
Unfortunately, this anthology doesn’t end here, as Lorraine Heath’s Deck the Halls with Love is next. This one was from 2012, back when I was on my self-imposed ban on anything Avon, so I have no idea what happened in the books leading up to this one. This one, though, is a story that wraps up some loose ends, so it’s more of an epilogue than a short story in its own right.
Alistair Wakefield and Meredith Hargreaves, I believe, once had a thing. Or rather, she had a thing for him, and wanted him to kiss her in a garden during a party or something – I haven’t read the related books, remember, so I’m just trying to piece together the history from the details here. But he then told her that he would be proposing to some other woman, oh dear. But eventually, that other woman married some other guy in some other book, and Chetwyn decides when this story opens that he’d like to resume with Meredith from where they last left off. Alas, she wanted a kiss from another guy in another garden some time prior, they were caught by her father and her brothers, so now Meredith is to marry Lord Litton shortly after Christmas. What is with these people and kissing in the gardens anyway?
Meredith thinks Chetwyn is hot, hot, hot, but she is to be married to another bloke soon so not, not, not. But he puts the muah muah muah on her, she’s like OH GOD THAT’S SO HOT I AM IN LOVE WITH CHETTY NOW SO I CAN’T MARRY LITTY ANYMORE OH NOES, he’s like DON’T WORRY BABY, I’LL TAKE CARE OF IT, and she’s all YEAH NOW I CAN HAVE ALL THE SEX I WANT WITH MY TRUE LOVE, the end.
This one is well written, but ultimately, all the drama about scandals and what not turn out to be for nothing. As I’ve mentioned, he only has to touch her here and there to make her realize that he is her true love, so it’s not like there is any genuine suspense here.
Next up is a more recent story: Megan Frampton’s No Groom at the Inn, which had been published as a separate short title by Avon Impulse in 2015. This is easily the best story in this anthology, and my review of the story is a bit long, so I’d just direct you to that review itself. Go have a look, and then come back here.
You’re back? Alright, closing the anthology is Vivienne Lorret’s The Duke’s Christmas Wish. This one is pretty recent too, as it first showed up in the Avon Impulse anthology All I Want for Christmas Is a Duke back in 2015.
Northcliff Bromley, the Duke of Vale, is the studious type who believes that he has found the perfect marriage formula. Oh, sorry, the Marriage Formula. Ivy Sutherland is the hee-hee-hee, look at her, she’s so feisty and spunky type. When she attends the party he has thrown to introduce his Marriage Formula, she and her BFF get into all kinds of hee-hee-hee antics that he just has to fall in love with her. This is one of those stories which has the author being far more preoccupied with showing off how funny she thinks she is, so there is far more hee-hee-hee antics than genuine romantic moments. When North falls for Ivy, it’s because the author is convinced that nobody can resist a spunky heroine whose brain is untainted by discretion and subtlety.
Lisa Kleypas’s story is pretty dire, while those by Lorraine Heath and Vivienne Lorret will rank on the meh side. I’m tossing in an extra oogie because Megan Frampton’s story is good – far better than the other stories here – but then again, you can always get that story separately instead of buying the whole anthology.