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on December 12, 2012
REVIEWED BY LIZ

Ruthie Knox's A ROOM AT THE INN:

Julie is a homebody. She grew up in a wealthy family where she was simply ornamentation. She longed for something else, something more--a family, a sense of belonging, community. She found all of that and more in Potter Falls. I really like Julie. She's this tough, I-can-handle-it-myself kind of girl and she has a little bit of an ice princess exterior. But on the inside, she's not so pulled together and she's pretty vulnerable.

Carson is a world traveler. He isn't looking for home or community. He's looking to get away and has been since his mom died a few years ago. This time, Carson is home for a while to help his dad but they drive each other nuts so he goes to the town inn, which is a mansion that Julie owns. Julie wants to turn him away but he makes her an offer she can't refuse: free manual labor! Which, of course, sets them up to have plenty of encounters and chances for Sexy Time!!

The author writes the tension between them perfectly! There's the sexual tension, of course, and there's also this Carson-is-kind-of-a-jerk tension. I didn't even really like Carson until about halfway through the story! And then, I end up rooting for the damn guy!

This was the longest of the three novellas in the anthology. The characters in the story have a lot of hinted-at history so it works as a short story, but I would have enjoyed it just as much if it had been a full-length novel.

NOVELLA RATING: B+

Molly O'Keefe's ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS YOU:

This novella seemed really, really short. It's possible, though, that it only seemed that way because the story takes place over a day or two.

Maddy is about to graduate high school; Billy is her boyfriend who is 20 years old. Maddy grew up in a modest but loving home. Billy grew up virtually without parents since his were absent or drunk most of the time. There really isn't anything I can say about the story without giving everything away. Since reading it, I found out that this is a prequel to another of Molly O'Keefe's books. I'm glad to hear that because I was thinking that I missed the point of the story. I don't know if I'd say that Maddy and Billy have chemistry or not because I feel like I didn't get a good sense of them as a couple. What I can say is that I really liked Maddy and Billy as individual characters. I liked Maddy's devotion to Billy. Even though she's young, her emotions felt genuine. I mean, I didn't have the urge to think, "Yeah, but you're just a kid - what do you know about love?" Billy is great too. It sounded like he had such a crappy upbringing and for him to become a decent person is a miracle. I kept waiting for him to be a jerk to Maddy but he never was. He was just as devoted to her as she was to him.

The writing and the characters were certainly good enough for a full-length sequel; however, I don't care for books/stories about people so young. This was a little too close to a YA story and that's just not my cup of tea. I would recommend it to someone who enjoys YA characters and story lines but I don't think it really fit well in this anthology because of the younger characters and lack of romance.

NOVELLA RATING: C

Stefanie Sloane's ONE PERFECT CHRISTMAS:

This little historical novella was pretty great. A few of Stefanie Sloane's books have been on my TBR for a while now so I was thrilled that she had a story in here.

Just like in Ruthie Knox's novella, Stefanie Sloane gives our hero and heroine a fully fleshed out backstory and plenty of history together so I didn't feel like I was missing out on anything. Lucas is a titled Englishman and Julie is about to be an impoverished, unmarried woman. Lucas and Julie have been friends forever, nothing more. When Julie's fiancé elopes with another woman, Lucas helps her deal with it and get over it. But during that time, he also realizes that he might have more than just friendly feelings for her. Lucas needs to act fast because Julie has to find a husband sooner rather than later and she's about to meet one of her prospects at a dinner party.

This novella was a lot of fun. Julie is smart and witty back when being a smart and witty woman wasn't such a great thing. But she's also very sweet and kind. Lucas is a pretty great guy too, so this isn't one of those stories about opposites attracting. Julie and Lucas are perfect for each other, all they have to do is realize it! My only "negative" comment would be that it ended really abruptly. I really thought there'd be at least one more chapter. When you read this, you'll know what I mean, even if you don't agree. It didn't take away from liking the book; it just surprised me.

NOVELLA RATING: B+

BOTTOM LINE
I really enjoyed this anthology. Each story was unique and mostly complete. They all take place in or around Christmastime which ties them all together. I think I would recommend this book to anyone who wanted to get in the Christmas mood and/or someone who wanted to try out a new subgenre of romance or new author. Since this book has contemporary and historical stories that are all pretty brief, it would be an easy way to give these authors a shot.

OVERALL ANTHOLOGY RATING: B+ (4.5 stars)

Note: I received a review copy of this title courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley.
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on January 6, 2013
Ruthie Knox's story is poignant and well-written: a stay-at home girl finally snags the guy who's run from his hometown his entire adult life. The plot consists of Carson's return at his father's illness, and his efforts to help Julie remodel her B&B. Knox explores thoughtfully the dilemma of the girl who has waited and is always available at a guy's beck and call: "Maybe she thought he only looked like a territory-conquering slab of rough-and-tumble male charisma because he'd conquered her territory, tumbled her rough, and left her behind a long time ago. Now he just stopped by every so often to replant his flag."

The other two novellas in the collection are much inferior: O'Keefe's is OK, but forgettable (characters are a bit underdeveloped and the plot is truncated), while Sloane's writing detracts from the story and results in what seems to be unintended humor: "...the many strong and skilled muscles in his face seemingly intent upon her destruction." My rating is based on the strength of Knox's novella.
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on December 20, 2012
These are two really interesting characters with fantastic backstories. I was far more interested in the past than the present happenings. I wish this had been a full-blown book where we got to see Caron teach virginal Jules those dirty words she calls out in bed. I wanted so much to meet Carson's mother and see the relationship burgeon between her and Julia and the town. I wanted to see how Julia grew from the rich snob into the small town girl everyone loved. I wanted to see the difficult choices Carson had to make about his relationship with Julia and his parents. And then see Carson come back and try and clean everything up. Instead we just got to watch Carson come back and clean everything up.

Maybe one day Knox will write the prequel..
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Title: Room at the Inn
Author: Ruthie Knox
My Rating: A+
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Main Characters: Julie and Carson
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
Carson Vance couldn't wait to get out of Potter Falls, but now that he's back to spend Christmas with his ailing father, he must face all the people he left behind . . . like Julie Long, whose heart he broke once upon a time. Now the proprietor of the local inn, Julie is a successful, seductive, independent woman--everything that Carson's looking for. But despite several steamy encounters under the mistletoe, Julie refuses to believe in happily ever after. Now Carson must prove to Julie that he's back for good--and that he wants her in his life for all the holidays to come.

My Review:
A+ rating
Yes, this is a story that left me with tears in my eyes. It was such a GOOD story! Sixteen years....that's how long ago Carson left Potter Falls and the love of his life, Julie, there. He's been back for short visits, but never stays, even though every single time the chemistry and feelings between him and Julie are always explosive.

Julie came to visit Potter Falls when she was dating Carson in college. Having grown up in NYC with a family that was all about their things, she found a life and a home in Potter Falls, even though Carson refused to stay there and share it with her. For Carson, Potter Falls has always meant this crushing pressure on his chest. He feels like he's suffocating there and never stays. Julie stayed, adopted his parents, and saved his mother's life...in every way.

This story was so incredibly creative and wonderful. I couldn't figure out just what Carson's problem was, but when it's really revealed why he feels this crushing pressure in this town, my heart just broke for him. *gah* SUCH A GOOD STORY!! So heartfelt. So emotional. So absolutely PERFECT as a Christmas story. Truly, this story is simply wonderful!! It's definitely one I will read every single year. Read it...you won't regret it!!

***************************

Title: All I Want for Christmas is You
Author: Molly O'Keefe
My Rating: B+
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Main Characters: Billy and Maddy
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
Maddy Baumgarten and Billy Wilkins are spontaneous, in love, and prepared to elope the day after Christmas--that is, if Maddy's family doesn't throw a wrench in their plans. After all, Maddy's barely out of high school and Billy's a notorious bad boy. Maddy doesn't care about Billy's rough past--all she cares about is living in the here and now. But after Maddy's mother stops speaking to her in protest, and a Christmas Eve heart-to-heart with her father leaves her with butterflies, Maddy starts to get cold feet. She loves Billy, but is she taking this big step too soon?

My Review:
B+ rating
This is a novella which features the beginnings of Billy and Maddy's marriage. They are the couple in the upcoming novel, Crazy Thing Called Love, releasing in late January. But in this portion of the story, they are very young. Maddy is about to turn 18 and Billy is 20 and on the verge of heading into the NHL. They plan to get married on her 18th birthday which is the day after Christmas, but Maddy has doubts and so does her family.

They are so young in this and definitely act that way throughout the novella, but I loved having this little insight into their backstory. Back story is VERY important to know when you head into their current story (which I was lucky to also have an ARC of so that I could jump right into it when I finished this. HINT: It's an AMAZING book...my review won't be up until it's release date, but I gave a HUGE A+ to Crazy Thing Called Love. Seriously, that book is so good. You want to read this one to get you ready for that one.)

But back to this book...it's a novella when they are very young. It's very angsty, but also very sweet. The novella only covers 3 days, but these two have been together/friends/dating for 8 years. It's short, it's sweet, but it gives you just a taste of the tempestuous relationship between this volatile hero and emotional heroine.
**********************

ONE PERFECT CHRISTMAS by Stephanie Sloane

Story Overview:
After being jilted by her fiancé, Jane Merriweather turns to her dear childhood friend, the Honorable Lucas Cavanaugh, for support--and unlocks the smoldering desire simmering in the man's troubled heart. Frightened by his newfound feelings, Lucas flees to Scotland. But when the Christmas season brings them together again, one glance is all that's needed to reignite his yearning. If Lucas can convince Jane that his intentions are as pure as the falling snow, they'll turn a dreary December into a joyous Yuletide affair.

My Review:
I am not going to rate this novella, simply because I don't read or enjoy historical novels that often anymore. I did read this one and it was written really well. This just isn't a style of novel that's to my tastes.
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on November 26, 2012
I really enjoyed this anthology. Room at the Inn (Ruthie's my friend & critique partner, so I read this story pre-pub) is a plain old terrific story and fantastic romance read. It has one of my favorite backstories ever, which I will not tell you even though I don't think strictly speaking it would count as a spoiler. I love the weird shared experience that binds the hero and heroine together even while it pushes them apart. Also, Carson is an excellent grumpy hero (although I dread the day that I have to pick my favorite grumpy Knoxian hero, because there is some stiff, and I do mean stiff, competition). And the sex in this story, which feels really distinctive to this couple, and not at all generic romance-sex-y, is off-the-charts hot.

I bought the book for Ruthie's story, but I really enjoyed the other two stories, too. All I Want for Christmas Is You is a little bit dark in a way I totally loved. The characters were quite deep and believable. I didn't feel at all (as another reviewer said) that I wouldn't be able to believe an HEA for them--the heroine's doubts were believable and substantial without blowing away all hope for the couple. I found the story refreshingly *real,* and I looked forward to the future chapter in this couple's life.

One Perfect Christmas is an adorable historical bon-bon, and I had a lot of fun gobbling it up. It's much lighter than either of the other stories, which made it a nice way to end a holiday anthology. I didn't completely believe that the love triangle would have resolved itself with so little grief for all parties concerned (perhaps that is a spoiler--I'm never sure when it comes to romance novels and HEAs), but I was perfectly happy to suspend disbelief and just go with the flow. (And I loved the donkey.)

My only regret is that I had so little self-control that I read the whole thing before Thanksgiving and don't have it to look forward to for Christmas.
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on January 17, 2013
Reviewed by: Rachel
Book provided by: NetGalley
Review originally posted at Romancing the Book

ROOM AT THE INN: I've never read a book by Ruthie Knox. I have to admit to being a bit spellbound afterwards. Usually with shorter stories it's hard to evoke emotions within readers enough to make them want to either love your characters or murder them. I felt both! I hated how Carson seemed to treat Julie, but at the same time, I wanted them to be together so badly that I found myself white knuckling my kindle! Carson is a very deep and intriguing character and Julie is a very strong heroine. It was a lovely and short erotic romance that I found very appealing for a winter night sitting by the fire. Well done! (readers beware, graphic sex)

ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS YOU: Again, another author I have never read before. This story started out slow for me. I don't know why I felt that way, but I did some research after reading the novella and discovered it is actually a prequel for the authors newest release. The characters of Maddy and Billy were very, very young and at times immature. Maddy's mom was constantly trying to convince her that marrying Billy was a bad idea and the whole time my heart absolutely broke for how much Billy loved Maddy. Yet she seemed to doubt herself. Does she love him enough to give up her own dreams? Does she love him enough to follow him around? It is clear what the author is doing. She set the stage beautifully for the next story in which you can see her foreshadow that Maddy will eventually be bitter over Billy's success and having to give up her dreams for him. Overall, the writing was great, but the story bothered me a bit, only because it seemed that Billy loved Maddy more than she loved him.

ONE PERFECT CHRISTMAS: I've seen Stephanie Sloane's name for quite some time, but I'd never had the pleasure of reading any of her books. It is always a struggle when you read a novella because a lot of times authors struggle with character development. Especially when they only have six chapters to push forth a story. Stephanie Sloane did an impeccable job with this! I was immediately pulled into Lucas and Janes story! Childhood friends brought together for the holiday season. After one stolen kiss Lucas finally understands that all he's wanted has been in front of him for his whole life! Only, now he has competition! What a lovely sweet story! I found myself rooting for both characters and truly enjoyed the outcome! Well done!

All in all this anthology was the perfect treat for the Holidays! I loved it because the authors hit so many different genres. The plots were solid and I knew that each story was short making it really easy for me to read when I had the time. Anthologies are great too because they expose you to so many different authors. Because of this book I will definitely be checking out more works by these very talented gals!
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on January 3, 2013
3 1/2 stars for the entire book. Individual ratings below.

Room at the Inn
4 stars

In true Ruthie Knox form, I was not disappointed by this short novella.
The story revolves around old flames, Carson Vance, the guy who just couldn't wait to get out of Potter Falls and if he does visit, it's never for long. Then there's Julie Long, Carson's old college flame who he brought back home with him one year and she ends up never leaving. She falls in love with the small tight-knit community and after realizing Carson will never stay, they break up. Eventually she opens up B&B in the small town and joins just about every committee and town organization there is to join, making her one of the town's favorite residents.

Carson has to come back to tend to his ailing father, who has turned his old childhood home into an episode of Hoarders. Unable to sleep on the couch any longer, Carson is forced to seek a bed at the one place he never thought he'd stay, Julie's inn. Reluctantly Julie allows him to stay, and he helps her fix up the necessary repairs prior to the Christmas tourist rush. In the process, the pair begins to work through their past issues with a little help from some family and friends.

The story brought tears to my eyes. It is about what happens when all the dreams you thought you had end up not being what you really want at all. Sometimes it is the small accomplishments that are more fulfilling than the grandiose ones. And every now and then, you really can come home.

All I Want For Christmas Is You
2 ½ stars

This one was a tale about teenage love. How family will be there in the end, and that sometimes love does conquer all. The story was really quite short and felt incomplete in the end.

One Perfect Christmas
3 stars

This was a historical romance about Jane, a woman who needs to become betrothed in order to save her family. Lucas, the handsome boy next door has loved Jane for a long time, but doesn't think he is a worthy candidate for her husband. When Jane's seemingly perfect match comes a courting, Lucas believes all is lost. Sometimes it takes a little jealousy to ignite the flames of love.

A cute, quick read.
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on December 26, 2012
I received a copy of this book from NetGalley for an honest review. It is a collection of three short stories. Each one is charming in it's own way!

ROOM AT THE INN by Ruthie Knox
Carson Vance has only wanted one thing in his life to get away from Potter Falls. He has done this and create a life for his self that doesn't involve his hometown or the people in it. When his fathers failing health drags him back to his hometown all he can think about is getting away. He also has to face Julie the woman he left broken hearted. They grow close together again and he has to prove to Julie he does want to stick around. She just keeps waiting for him to leave again.

This is a cute short story. You can see the chemistry between the two and keep hoping they will work things out and be together. I had trouble believing Carson was ready to stay after he only wanted to get away. That did knock the story down a little IMO. The plot and such was very good and just the type to leave a smile on your face. My favorite part of this story was Carson's dad. I kept waiting to see what he would come up with next.

ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS YOU by Molly O'Keefe
Maddy and Billy want to be married the day after Christmas and they don't care what anyone says. Her parents are against it and try to talk her out of it. She is barely out of high school and he has a bad past. Everyone knows they will never make. Will all the talking, tears and silent treatments talk Maddy out of getting married or will she follow her heart?

I think this was my least favorite of the short stories. Why because even knowing it was a short story I needed more to be happy with it. Maddy is a strong character and in some ways she helps take care of Billy. I can totally see where her parents were coming from telling her to think and she was to young. Billy is such a sweet boy but I don't think he was grown up enough to know what he wanted. It is a very cute story but I think if you really got to see more about it it would be really good.

ONE PERFECT CHRISTMAS by Stephanie Sloane
Jane was jilted by her fiance and turns to her childhood friend Lucas. There she suffers rejection again because she scared Lucas because he began to feel things for her he wasn't used to. He flees to think things over. When the holidays bring them back together he realizes she is the one and he has to have her. Now he must convince her he truly cares for her.

I think this was my favorite it was so cute and charming. It is the perfect short read. You get the whole point and you are not left wanting or wandering about things. The characters are truly great and they stick with you. Favorite part is Jane's goat. It will have you laughing several times and you get the feeling it is part match maker.

If you want three light hearted stories you may want to check these out. Each one is good. I did prefer some over the others but that is the case with any collection of short stories if you have ever read any.
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on December 19, 2012
Room at the Inn: Of the three stories in this book, this was by far my favorite. The main characters Carson and Julie are in their 30's. They had fallen in love when they were in college and Carson brought Julie back to his home town of Potter Falls, which she automatically fell in love with. When his mother became ill, Julie donated one of her kidneys to her, and after that, decided to stay in Potter Falls, while as Carson just wanted to get away from there. As the years pass, Julie becomes the "town's sweetheart," involved in everything, and everyone just loves her. She and Carson would end up hooking up every time he came back home, which wasn't often, but then that stopped happening to. After the death of his mother, Carson returns home to check up on his ailing father. He ends up getting a room and Julie's Bed and Breakfast with the agreement that he would help her with repairs. Try as they may, they cannot deny their feeling for one another and things soon get hot and heavy again. Will Carson be able to face his feelings for Julie? When it comes down to the wire? Will he choose his job or love?

This was a great story. I loved the characters. Julie is just great all around. She has a charismatic personality, she's funny, and she would do anything for the people she loves. Carson is quite the hottie, and I really liked him also. The chemistry between the two is through the roof and there are some very steamy scenes. There is also a tremendous amount of humor and I enjoyed the banter between Julie and Carson. The story line was entertaining and progressed well. Overall, this was a delightful Christmas novella that was both funny, sexy, and romantic and I really enjoyed it.

All I Want for Christmas is You: This was the shortest of the three stories, being only several chapters. It was so short I really had a hard time getting into it. I would consider it an NA or mature YA story. The main characters are Maddy and Billy. These two childhood sweethearts want to get married on Maddy's 18th birthday and have to tell her parents. In the process she has to face her feelings, and is kind of wishy-washy about it, seeming really unsure about what she wants. I liked Billy, he seemed a lot more sure of himself and seemed like a really great guy. Basically the whole story revolved around whether or not Maddy would show up at the courthouse on the day they got married.

One Perfect Christmas: This short story was actually historical in nature, set in the 1800s. Jane Merriweather and Lucas Cavanaugh grew up together and were the best of childhood friends. After Jane's engagement ends abruptly, Lucas spends some time with her, comforting her, and finds his feelings for her are more than just friendship. One night after having too much too drink, Jane confesses her feeling for Lucas. Even though he feels the same way, the thought of settling down scares him to death so he just leaves for some months. When he finally does come back home, he finds that despite all his adventures, his feelings for Jane are still the same. Jane's family is desperate for her to find a husband. Her father has poorly managed their estate and they are basically broke, so they need her to "marry well," in order to save their home. Jane too has just arrived back after leaving because she was so embarrassed by what happened with Lucas. In the meanwhile, Lord Needles arrives on the scene, who is also interested in Jane, and he is quite the hottie, which makes Lucas really think about things. With the threat of her impending engagement, will he finally tell Jane how he feels, or risk losing her forever?

I enjoyed this story, it was short, but it was good, keeping my interest. The romance was good, and I enjoyed the characters, even Lord Needles, who helps Maddy realize what is important in life. There ending is quite steamy also. This was a short, steamy, historical Christmas romance and I did enjoy it.
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on December 11, 2012
Room at the Inn by Ruthie Knox - 4 stars

Carson couldn't wait to get away from his home town and left as soon as he was old enough. Apart from the occasional visit home he hasn't looked back since but now thanks to his father's ailing health it looks like he's going to be trapped in a longer visit. The only thing even slightly attractive about staying in town is spending time with his ex girlfriend Julie but Julie has had her heart broken by him one too many times and she isn't going to let him back in without a fight.

The main reason I wanted to read this anthology was for the story by Ruthie Knox, I've read and loved her work in the past so I had high hopes for her contribution and Room at the Inn didn't disappoint - it was my favourite story in the anthology. Carson has spent his whole life running from his feelings, he was so convinced that he would lose Julie one day that he ran out on her before things could get serious (now there's some typical man logic at work if ever I saw it!). Since then he has been so busy focusing on staying away from home that he's forgotten what is missing from his life. I found it quite amusing watching him go from desperately trying to escape to realising that Julie is all he has ever wanted and having to convince her that this time he means it. It would have been easy to feel sorry for Julie but after getting her heart broken she picked herself up, dusted herself off and got on with building a life for herself. She may not have had the man she loved in her life but she was determined to chase her other dreams and you have to admire her for that. Room at the Inn is a really sweet, and definitely sexy, story of two lovers who are reunited and given the opportunity to try again and I really enjoyed reading it.

All I Want for Christmas is You by Molly O'Keefe - 2.5 stars

Maddy and Billy are childhood sweethearts who are desperate to start their lives together. They come from very different backgrounds - Maddie is from a wealthy and happy home while Billy is a bad boy from the wrong side of town - but that has never changed the way they feel about each other. Now with Billy's sporting career about to take off they have plans to get married on Maddy's 18th birthday. Maddy is desperate for her parents approval to get married but what will they think when they find out about the couple's plans and will the wedding actually go ahead?

I'm going to be honest and admit that my personal experiences probably coloured my view of this story so that is probably one of the main reasons I didn't enjoy it. I could really relate to Maddy and Billy's plans to get married and live happily ever after, it was something I desperately wanted myself at that age so I didn't find it at all shocking that they wanted to marry so young. I really liked Billy, I admired him for the way he had coped with his poor upbringing and become so determined to make a success of himself. He worked hard to help his sisters and he obviously really cared about Maddy and would do anything for her. He was so sweet and I badly wanted him to get the happy ending he deserved. My main problem was with Maddy - I just didn't warm to her at all. She came across as very selfish and I never really felt that she loved Billy as much as he loved her. I actually got to the point where I didn't want them to marry because I didn't think she deserved someone as nice as him. Reading All I Want For Christmas actually left me feeling miserable which is the last thing I want from a romance - especially a Christmas one! I have since found out that this is a prequel for Molly O'Keefe's next novel Crazy Thing Called Love (due to be published early next year) so perhaps Billy and Maddy's story will reach a more satisfying conclusion in that book but unfortunately I'm not interested enough to want to carry on reading.

One Perfect Christmas by Stephanie Sloane - 3.5 stars

Jane and Lucas have been friends since they were children but it wasn't until recently that they both realised they had feelings for each other that go way beyond friendship. Lucas is frightened by the strength of his love and rather than admit how much he cares he chooses to bury his head in the sand. Until he is shocked by the sight of another man attempting to court Jane that is, then he decides it's all out war and he must make her realise that they belong together.

I have to admit I was quite surprised to find a regency romance as part of this anthology, I'd just assumed that all of the stories would be contemporary romances, but it made a nice change so I'm not complaining. One Perfect Christmas was a sweet and fun friends to lovers story that had me smiling the whole way through. Both main characters were likeable and made a cute couple but I have to give a major shout out to Reginald the matchmaking donkey who I adored. My one complaint would be the way Jane goes from virgin to sex goddess on their very first encounter. I'm all for a hot sex scene but it has to be believable and fit the characters and unfortunately that wasn't the case here. I still enjoyed the story overall though and will definitely check out more of Stephanie Sloane's books in the future.
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