- File Size: 1331 KB
- Print Length: 200 pages
- Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
- Publisher: Word Romance Writers (December 1, 2016)
- Publication Date: December 1, 2016
- Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B01MXQQQJM
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #905,259 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
Holiday Magic Kindle Edition
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Top customer reviews
Short stories are tricky to write, and this goes double for stories in the contemporary romance genre. In order for a love story to be convincing to readers, the relationship has to be given some time to brew, for the couple to become attracted to each other, face challenges, seem to be losing ground, and finally overcome their difficulties through surprising discoveries and personal growth. But time is exactly what a short story is… well, short of. With varying degrees of success, the five authors represented in this anthology attempt to deal with this problem in different ways.
"The Angel of the West Side," by Rose Anderson (writing as Madeline Archer), is a sweet love story featuring an especially sweet heroine. Since my personal tolerance for sweetness is pretty low, I have to confess I almost closed the book after only a few pages. But the tale's saving grace is the setting – a poor neighborhood in Chicago during the fifth winter of the Great Depression. The author doesn't paint this scene in sentimental pastels. Instead, she gives us a Dickensian picture of real poverty, near-starvation, and the ways its victims respond in their desperate attempts to survive. Readers who think being poor means having to cut back on Christmas shopping, fixing meals at home instead of eating out, and doing without luxuries like getting their hair and nails done at a beauty spa may think the conditions shown here are unbelievable… and they'll be wrong. It doesn't hurt, either, that Anderson/Archer has told her story in strong, very competent language.
"Her Magical Vienna Christmas," by Lynn Crain, is the most ambitious story in the anthology. It's a romance, a time-travel tale, science fiction (involving not only the time-travel feature but also history and cryptology, the science of secret codes), and a mystery. Sadly – and I mean this – it's in my opinion both the most interesting and the least successful of these stories. The romance seems superfluous, as it's so immediately predictable to the reader that it makes the characters look stupid for not seeing it themselves. The mystery is quickly solved without much trouble. And the science-fiction elements are difficult if not impossible to understand without gleaning explanations from other sources, which most readers, I fear, will not bother to undertake. All of these shortcomings are a result of crowding a complex plot, and complex characters, into too short a space. Moreover, the writing itself seems rushed. Although the setting, late nineteenth-century Vienna, reflects a solid knowledge on the author's part, even the characters native to that time reflect a kind of default twenty-first century sensibility, which makes them less than plausible. And although the story has apparently been carefully edited, word order and punctuation are such that many of the sentences require slow parsing over a couple of readings in order for the reader to make sense of them. However, I have to add this: the plot, the central character (Lizzie), and especially the science-fiction elements are basically fascinating, and there's not room in a short story to do any of them justice. It seems to me this is the skeleton of a tale that might be fleshed out into a really intriguing novel. I hope the writer thinks so too. It would take some time, but I think it would be worth the effort.
The third story, "To Kiss a Prince," by Gemma Juliana, is another time-travel romance, in this case not science-fiction but fantasy, as the time travel is accomplished by magic. It's a fairy-tale update of the Sleeping Beauty theme, with a few surprising twists and turns. Here the magical curse has been in effect for twenty-five years, only a year longer than the heroine's life, and the two main characters have undergone some changes: the handsome prince has only just found out that he is a prince, it's he who needs to be awakened by a kiss, and the princess is a young woman with a mind of her own – a beauty, yes, but far from sleeping. Their story is a bit of sparkling holiday fluff, charmingly told.
For a complete change of pace, the next story, by Cara Marsi, treats readers to "A Very Vegas Christmas." The central character is a busy and stressed-out event planner with, on one hand, the bride (and bride's mother) from hell demanding her attention, on the other hand the man she remembers from high school as a geeky guy she insulted (despite having a secret crush on him) when they were fourteen, and – on the third hand – a hot and hunky stranger whom she'd love to get to know better. A lot better. The setting for this one is the glittering, glimmering Strip, all decked out for the holidays.
With "Marion," by Jenny Twist, the anthology's editor saved the best for last. Set in the old British university city of Oxford, this is an unconventional romance, told in first person from a man's point of view. The narrator is a widowed university don who's still mourning the unexpected death of his wife, Marion, the love of his life. Past and present both grip his mind at intervals, as he remembers the beginnings of their love affair at the same time he's called upon to entertain his son, daughter-in-law, and young grandson, his visitors for the first Christmas he's had the heart to celebrate since Marion died. He does his best, staying as cheerful as he can… and then something surprising happens. There's magic involved (almost magic? Maybe magic?), as is often the case during this magical season. The author, writing in a sure and very readable style, handles this romance in an unexpected and entirely satisfying way.
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