- File Size: 2679 KB
- Print Length: 298 pages
- Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1519327404
- Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
- Publisher: Prairie Rose Publications (November 27, 2015)
- Publication Date: November 27, 2015
- Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B0182FEYU6
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #396,998 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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LIVIA J. WASHBURN--KISSING UNTIL CHRISTMAS (TWO STARS)
Miss Abby Demarest won my sympathy quickly with her rescue of the younger boy picked on by the town bullies (the hero's son, naturally), but the author kept so many secrets about the heroine (while I, the reader, spent a good long while in her head) that when the secrets came out I was irritated. Secrets like that only work when alluded to, at least, or if the story had been told entirely from Shawn Killian's perspective. This failure to disclose enough information had me aggravated by the end and quick to skim the rest of the story. The overuse of exclamation points drove me crazy.
There were sweet moments, tender realizations and recollections--in Abby's head--but darn her, she still kept serious secrets from the reader because those tender thoughts did *nothing* to stoke her guilt for ulterior motives. I almost felt badly for Shawn for falling for a woman like Abby (once her dirty laundry came out). If the author hadn't kept secrets from the reader (this still pisses me off), Abby's back-and-forth and trying to come to terms with her original purpose in showing up in Briar Hill and her changing feelings could have been wonderful.
Sensuality Level: mild to moderate
Violence: moderate + (murder), Old West-type gunfight
KATHLEEN RICE ADAMS--A LONG WAY FROM ST. LOUIS (TWO STARS)
Herein lies perhaps my greatest disappointment. I bought this anthology for ONE major reason: Kathleen Rice Adams. I've read almost all of her books of all lengths and have loved them. Raved about them. Recommended them to friends with similar reading tastes. I read this short and was left with a powerful distaste in my mouth. The story has a serious negative vibe: a couple fights all the time, never makes up (just has sex as if that's supposed to show they love each other), treats one another like crap, hurl hurtful (intentionally) accusations and insults, and never convinced me they'd fallen in love much less like for each other.
Yes, there were surprisingly tender moments. Beautiful phrasing. Glossing over memories that evoked tender emotion and recollection filled with a variety of sensations (like the memory of stolen touches)--all of which Ms. Adams typically does so very well. But as soon as Brendan shows her a bit of kindness, Elizabeth (Bets) rakes her hell-fiend claws down his face. By the end of the book, I hated them both (and that's really sad because the scenes between Bren and Boss showed what a great guy Brendan was, and his protectiveness for Bets quite displaced). The brevity with which Ms. Adams typically writes was too brief in this one. I read slowly, trying to savor, and I still could not understand why he somehow supposedly mocked Bets for building her the beautiful house (like her childhood reproduced in miniature). What?
I saw no resolution of his baggage (or hers). He needed to be recognized for how far he'd come, how much he'd distanced himself from the accident of his birth--and our heroine should've given him that gift. Instead, she grinds him further into the grit and sludge of the back alleys. Likewise he never did the hero's job of soothing her self-doubt, helping her to see the value in herself (though by the end, I hated Elizabeth and didn't care if she found love everlasting). That whole reason I read romance was simply missing. Ms. Adams can do better. Her other stories are phenomenal. I don't know why this one missed the mark so steeply.
Sensuality Level: PG-13 (body parts, erection, glossed-over sex on the page)
Language: PG-13 + (bastard, asses)
PATTI SHERRY-CREWS--STORE-BOUGHT ORNAMENTS (FOUR STARS)
Ms. Crews sucked me in immediately--a powerful, quiet beginning at Christmas supper where Caleb sees one woman only, a woman he obviously loves to distraction. We slowly see they're not alone at the table, and very slowly see the dynamics of this horribly dysfunctional family. As a reader, I learned a meager tidbit of info about the circumstances and story background at a time and that kept me reading. Pages in, we learn Caleb crossed the line and slept with his brother's wife. But it took pages/chapters to learn it had been only once and he'd left immediately. That part bugged me. The whole situation was hopeless, dark, sinister, desperate (as the beginning of romance novels and novellas so often are in order to contrast with the ending that shows the resolution [or should]). The author did a fine job making me feel for Caleb and Ella, despite the nasty taste of adultery in my mouth. The story did just as the author intended: I hated Wesley (the husband/brother). I felt heartsick for Virgil (the damaged youngest brother). I wept for the aging father. I was PISSED when Caleb rationalizes away rescuing his feeble father at the end. <b>Inexcusable</b>. [I'm trying very hard not to give too much away; I dislike spoilers.] When YOU reach the end of reading this novella, see if you felt the same--that Father deserved the same consideration that Ella and Virgil did.
I thought it very odd that Caleb had repressed so very much about his youth and past. In his own head, he slowly acknowledges buried past memories that change things completely and ultimately motivate Caleb to act in brave and bold new ways. Yes, the story ends with redemption (for everyone but Father), but there is so little resounding joy I felt cheated. The story began in such a wretchedly deep, dark place (and got worse as Caleb's memories surfaced) that the ending needed more. I nearly quit reading the anthology altogether at this point. What a downer! I read Christmas stories for the "feel good' factor, and after these 3 stories, such a purpose was utterly decimated.
Sensuality Level: mild to moderate (adultery, off the page)
Violence: moderate to severe (off-the-page but stark memories of violent abuse)
TANYA HANSON--HER HOLIDAY HUSBAND (THREE STARS)
It's not an uncommon story line for mail-order bride stories to have one or the other party duped by friends or family members who send away for a bride (or answer for a bride) without the person's permission. In this case, both Phoebe and Ronnie were both duped. Phoebe is an unwed mother of 4-year-old son Franklin, whose Navy father was apparently drowned at sea, leaving her in shame and with only extended family to care for her. Her sister Margot (whose own marriage is a sham) wrote to Ronnie (whose identical twin brother Tremmie had done the courting and offering marriage via mail). The two opening chapters are the lengthy realization for both Phoebe and Ronnie...and in such a short book, far too long. I found myself bored and anxious for the story to get a move on.
Both parties are keeping huge secrets (Ronnie is a commuted outlaw, after all), but figure it's not quite the right time to divulge the truth. They intend to wed right away, per the letters, especially since meeting and deciding they're as in love as their faux courtship through letters created. A bit of contrived complications later and the marriage ceremony comes to a screeching halt. The ending left much to be desired. A waiting period for one week? Why? Just because Frankie would have arrived? I shrugged and flipped to the next story. This one could have resonated with such power and leaving readers basking in warmth of a place found and new love and a sense of homecoming for both lead characters.
Sensuality Level: moderate (talk of Ronnie's erections x5)
Language: mild (due to creative faux "swears")
Violence: mild to moderate (fist fights)
JESSIE J ELLIOT--TIMELESS (2 STARS)
Of all the stories, this one seemed to have been written by a far less-experienced writer. While cleanly edited, it has a striking lower quality over the others in this set. Shame on Prairie Rose Press for not assisting Ms. Elliot in bringing the quality of her novella to near the others.
This novella has time-travel elements. Zero concern for when/if the "magic" reverses and Annie finds herself back where she began, and an incredibly fast acceptance that where she thinks she is (time-wise) is real. No lengthy "this is a dream" or "I must be mentally ill" that some time-travel stories include, and this was a gift. Some stretches of this too-long story seemed to go on and on without purpose or meaning. sometimes pages would pass with paragraphs that took up my entire kindle page and had no dialogue (made for tedious reading). Annie/Sarah (for she's landed in a body named Sarah Mills and in a full family with parents and siblings) doesn't dare ask the year, but she later knows she's in 1889 and says so in dialogue.
The "twist" of Drystan (the town doctor who Annie is sweet on) and Annie's romance and his already-on-the-way mail-order bride was fun. But I really wanted her to figure this out on her own (she has the letters). They were already separated due to weather. Her motivation for not reading the letters fell flat. Too many exclamation points, too much stilted dialogue, too many times when the family laughed together over stupid conversation. Ultimately this book (or perhaps the author's style) just isn't for me.
Sensuality Level: mild
MEG MIMS--HOLIDAY HOAX (4 STARS)
Widow Vera Sanders is in a mess. She works in a hotel for a boor of a man who lords over her and makes her miserable in many ways, including his lecherous advances. She has superb motivation for leaving her current circumstances and becoming a mail-order bride. Anywhere and anyone else will be better than working for Mr. Briggs. Vera accepts the proposal of a man in northwestern Nebraska, prepared to travel that far on a train without sleeper cars and work as mistress of his ranch (running household operations, managing servants, overseeing meals, etc.). Vera's course changes sharply when another mail-order bride coincidentally headed to the same one-horse town in Nebraska begs her to switch places. It becomes clear, quickly, that the other girl (Adele McIntyre) is T-R-O-U-B-L-E. I enjoyed the scenes in Adele's viewpoint. Vera arrives to meet her swapped groom, and initially thinks she's gotten the short end of the stick. I enjoyed watching that myth debunked.
Some of the best parts of the story were glossed over (we missed the wedding, the newlyweds adjusting to married life to a stranger, and the play between snotty Adele masquerading under Vera's name and newlywed Vera going by Adele's name) and are told later on that Cormac and his wife are happy together, enjoying marital intimacies (between the scenes), but he's still not "in the know" about the switch (I'm not giving anything away here; it's in the book description). We never see Vera feeling guilty or desperate about her choice to come clean to her husband until it's required; I wanted her to have more of a conscience than that. The good news is Adele's comeuppance is rewarding and the positive changes Vera has been able to make as Cormac Furgeson's new wife show her ownership of her new life and her choice. I had every confidence that Adele and Baxter (the other groom--definitely short end of the stick) deserve each other and Cormac and Vera will be very happy together.
Sensuality Level: mild (between the scenes and references are tame)
Language Level: mild
JACQUIE ROGERS--I HEARD THE BRIDES ON CHRISTMAS DAY (5 STARS)
Two brothers (Hec and Zeke). Two mail-order brides (Stella and Dinah). One fellow knows all about the coming "Christmas presents" and the other is clueless. Fun situational humor (but the chicken wasn't remotely part of it). Lots of man-against-nature angst. I felt chilled to the bone when reading this short as Ms. Rogers did an exceptional job making the weather almost like a character; vibrant, real, and the manifestation significant. Ms. Rogers has a way with dialogue and thoughts and giving characters historic western voices. Even the dog Fred played an important (rather than gratuitous) role.
I enjoyed watching the story unfold, the couples come to really know one another, the believable reasons why the ladies balked at marriage, and how the whole situation righted itself. A bit easily, but everyone was doing the right thing for the right reasons, and it ended with a lovely feel-good sort of resolution I enjoy most in a Christmas book. This novella left me wanting to read more of this author's work.
Sensuality Level: mild (kissing with heat but no blatant descriptions of arousal)
Violence: none (just man-against-nature kind of angst)
CHERYL PIERSON--A MARRIAGE OF CONVENIENCE (4 STARS)
Melanie duBois has justifiable reasons for leaving home in WV and fleeing to marry a man she's never met. He sent train tickets and a newspaper clipping and volume of poetry to see her west to Fort Smith, AK. She arrives to discover her would-be husband, Rocky Taylor is *not* expecting her, did *not* write the letters, and she's out of options. But even when faced with a mystery and a not-quite-unpleasant surprise, Rocky's a man filled with honor. He's been bring law and order to Indian Territory (and apparently Fort Smith) for years. He has a load of baggage with the name of an ex-wife emblazoned on the side and even as a Deputy Marshal, has seen his own failures (can't keep those varmints in jail, and he's taken a bullet or two). But one helpless woman on her own more than raises his protective instincts. Part of the mystery is solved quickly (who wrote the letters) but the big WHY remains unanswered until near the end of the story (but I figured it out and wasn't surprised).
Rocky and Melanie end up in a marriage of convenience (no surprise given the title) that neither one really wants to see that way (hence the rapid consummation of their vows). I did like the highly unusual way they end up actually married. Rocky remained a hero through-and-through, the whole story, and Melanie vacillated between strong (leaves home without looking back) and weak ("Oh, whatever will I do?"), but never so weak I wanted to slap her. A few things popped up that were not true to the era- for example, Rocky comes to her upstairs hotel door to carry her trunk down (never would have been deemed appropriate or decent) and the couple had no marriage license. No matter the preacher's good intentions, he could not have legally married them without it.
But this story, more than the others, allowed the characters to find the kind of "perfect match" in one another where what their partner brings and offers meets the unique needs (emotionally) of the other. The kind of healing of old baggage, soothing confidence, restoring a person to all that they could have been had the hard knocks in life not left them damaged.
Sensuality Level: PG-13 (lovemaking mostly off the page, nudity, but within marriage)
Language: PG (hell, God, bastard, etc.)
Violence: plenty off stage (murder, threatened rape, beating nigh unto death) and on stage: gunshot on the page took a man's life, fistfight, threatened murder of an infant, threatened rape
You will read nostalgia, humor, suspense, time-travel, a chicken,....a chicken?....and yes, a love story in each one. Take my word and grab this anthology to entertain you when you finally put your feet up for the night.
Well done, Prairie Rose.
Rising Star Reviews
The rest of the stories are good, too. We'll call this one four stars.
A Mail-Order Christmas Bride