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Mischief and Mistletoe Mass Market Paperback – October 1, 2013
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About the Author
Mary Jo Putney is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author who has written over 60 novels and novellas. A ten-time finalist for the Romance Writers of America RITA, she has won the honor twice and is on the RWA Honor Roll for bestselling authors. In 2013 she was awarded the RWA Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award. Though most of her books have been historical romance, she has also published contemporary romances, historical fantasy, and young adult paranormal historicals. She lives in Maryland with her nearest and dearest, both two and four footed. Visit her at maryjoputney.com
Joanna Bourne is the author of The Spymaster's Lady and My Lord and Spymaster, and the coauthor, with Mary Jo Putney, Jo Beverley, Patricia Rice, Nicola Cornick, Cara Elliott, Anne Gracie, and Susan King, of The Last Chance Christmas Ball. Together, these authors are the ladies otherwise known as the Word Wenches. They have written a combined 231 novels and 74 novellas. They’ve won awards such as the RITA Award, RT Career Achievement award, RT Living Legend, and RT Reviewers' Choice award. Several of them are regulars on the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists. Learn more at www.wordwenches.com.
The author of more than twenty romances, Patricia Rice was born in Newburgh, New York, and attended the University of Kentucky. She has two grown children, and lives with her husband of many years in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Jo Beverley is widely regarded as one of the most talented romance writers today. She is a four-time winner of Romance Writers of America's cherished RITA Award and one of only a handful of members in the RITA Hall of Fame. She has also recieved the Romantic Times Career Achievement Award. Born in England, she now lives with her husband and two sons in Victoria, British Columbia, just a ferry ride away from Seattle, WA.
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Putney--3 stars. I expected more from a headlining author. While the plot was interesting, there honestly wasn’t much of a story. This felt like a single scene in a 400 pg novel rather than a full story with an arc. The hero illogically leapt from reclusive and cold to friendly and chatty in a matter of a few pages. The heroine didn't do much in the story except listen to the hero reminisce. I never got a feel for either character. Everything felt flat, as though this were a rough brainstorm for a potential story rather than the final story.
Beverly--5 stars. This is written only from the heroine's perspective, which added a bit of mystery to the hero. The heroine's character was rich with depth. The writing style fit her personality, which was clever. The plot was funny and strewn with anticipation. My only complaint is that I never got a sense of the hero. His personality was flat, and he felt more like an on-scene extra than the hero. The final scene did give him personality, but by then, the game was won, so too little, too late.
Bourne—1.5 stars. This story felt like an excerpt of a longer work, and not in a good way. Instead of building intrigue at the beginning, the reader was tossed into total confusion as if reading a book from the middle onward. Parts of it felt a bit like the old Clue movie with Tim Curry, especially when they were gathered around the burned objects, moving one by one through the people in the inn to figure out their backstory in hopes to discover the culprit. There was little to no romance, the whole story focused on finding a mystery villain. There was no spark between the hero and heroine, and it wasn't even clear the hero was meant to be a romantic interest. No real sense of it being historical. There wasn't much of a plot to begin with, but the ending offered no resolution--the spy got away, and the hero was in the process of making arrangements for the chase but pauses to confess love for the heroine. End story.
Rice--5 stars. Given her story in The Last Chance Christmas Ball also included a head injury, I’m curious if this is a plot preference in her books. I didn't care much for her short story in TLCCB, but this one won me over. 5 stars for sure. The mistaken identity and reasons for a button-lipped heroine were comical and reasonable. The hero was interesting with a fully-fleshed out personality. The story line followed a traditional arc including the climactic crisis where we think the woman won't get her man. I love the way the heroine handles the moment of crisis, building more depth to her. The fact that the hero has to then win her over is even better. Beautifully done story arc. Would love for this to have been a full-length novel. My only complaint with the story was the hero never showed romantic interest in the heroine, rather he seemed only to want a glorified babysitter. His whole attraction was based on her interest and ability to care for children. I would have liked to see this as his initial interest in her, and then watch it blossom into love.
Cornick--5 stars. Immersive description. Love the plot. Well thought out with a rich backstory. Would make a great novel but well done as a short story. The hero’s character acted and spoke true to his character build from beginning to end, and the story revealed his development and maturity over time. I love the climactic conflict and how it fits the historical mores of the time. Too many authors sweep under the rug the reality of the time for the convenience of a HEA, not dealing with how it would have or could have really worked or not worked during the time period. This story handles that beautifully. Kudos to this author! My only complaint was the heroine’s inconsistency in why she resisted the hero. If it had just been better explained in her pov sections, that would have been great, but she oscillated in her reasons for resistance, sometimes knowing he was attracted to her, sometimes not knowing he was attracted her. Enough to cause whiplash. What could have been stronger established is that she did not trust him to be sincere in his attraction, maybe thinking him a rake in want of used goods, eager to use her and leave, or that even if he was interest she was too afraid of being burned twice she didn't care if he was sincere, something... anything… to make more sense of her resistance. As it was, her thoughts were inconsistent. She does explain to him her resistance in the end, but even her explanation doesn’t fit her own thoughts throughout the story. The heroine was my only contention with the tale.
Elliott--1 star. This story was a waste of pages. There was no plot, a wimpy and personality-less hero who may or may not have been English, and a butch and vulgar heroine who may or may not have been American. The majority of the story read like a Navy dictionary rather than a romance. So, let’s break down this mess: (a) The heroine had a foul mouth for the time period, cursing constantly at the hero. The words, of course, wouldn't be seen as curse words to today's standards, but her language was EXTREMELY foul for that time period. (b) The hero was a useless fop. (c) The descriptions were random and as useless as the hero. While there were random scene descriptions, nothing was described to create a visual. For instance, there would be a paragraph of info about the sea splashing, but no description of the boat, the hero or heroine, the scene itself, just some purple prose of the water, exaggerated in phrasing in an attempt to sound poetic without achieving immersive imagery. I couldn't visualize anything that was happening without having a navy term website in front of me, and even then, what was the point of knowing which rope or sail or whatever was being pulled? (d) The plot was nonexistent with a series of random events. It seemed like there was a rich backstory buried somewhere, but never was any of it explained to the reader or built into the story. (e) The heroine seemed only to be able to talk in sailor terms, which not only was annoying but alienated the hero from helping her even when she was asking him for help. Anyone of sense who realized he didn't understand boat terminology would have spoken in layman terms so he could help. I started skimming when all the heroine could do was shout curse words and navy terms. (f) The whole story felt like a foppish Englishman stuck on a boat with a gruff American navy sailor. Rename the heroine Sam instead of Sophie and the story would make more sense. (g) Never was a romance built. (h) After a series of one misadventure after another, enough to cause whiplash, the story ends abruptly. It had seemed there might be a plot somewhere but it never did become clear and became muddled with each page. As far as I could tell, there was no plot, just a series of high-seas shenanigans with a wimpy man and a butch woman. Just a story of gibberish. As one reviewer said, this was a complete waste of pages. Given the author's story in TLCCB was also a waste of pages, I’d HIGHLY recommend the “word wrenches” uninvite her future contributions. I will certainly be skipping all her stories in anthologies.
Gracie--5 stars. Wow. That's what I have to say about that. Wow. I actually forgot I was reading a short story I was so enthralled. Brilliant plot, writing, character development, the works. Hands down the best story in this anthology.
King--3 stars. The plot was good and would have earned a 4 or possibly a 5 star, but every time it turned to the heroine's pov, the narrative became muddled, and the ending was abrupt without a resolution. The hero's sections were great, though, and he was an appealing hero that I would have enjoyed spending more page time with in a longer book. The plot was also interesting with a rich backstory and history. Hero and plot are 5 stars, but the ending and heroine ruined the story for me, so 3 stars it is. The ending felt as though an entire chapter had been deleted. I have no idea if they had a HEA because it ended before anything at all was decided. With a bit of editing, this could have been a 5, but it was unfinished, especially during the heroine’s pov where her thoughts would jump so much from the present to the past to the present of other characters to the past of other characters, etc, that my head spun as to who was who and when was what.
General comment: There is nothing to mark section breaks in the Kindle version, which repeatedly caused confusion. Minor but annoying.
Mary Jo Putney, "She Stoops to Wenchdom." A naive young woman magically helps a traumatized veteran return to normal after asking him pushy questions one evening. Is it possible Ms. Putney wrote this before she became such a good writer? There is a lot of telling rather than showing in this story.
Jo Beverley, "Miss Brockhurst's Christmas." I did not like the heroine at all. For some reason she doesn't tell the hero she wants him when she should have. Instead, she finagles an invitation to Christmas at his house and goes after him even though he's almost engaged to another woman and she's there.
Joanna Bourne, "Intrigue and Mistletoe." There's a spy among people snowbound in an inn. If the ending was supposed to be a surprise, it wasn't.
Patricia Rice, "Wench in Wonderland." Arranged marriage, false pretenses, nice hero and heroine. One of the better ones in this collection, but it falls apart at the end.
Nicola Cornick, "On a Wicked Winter's Night." This is OK. Spurned suitor appears in the heroine's hiding place and woos her again.
Cara Elliott, "Weathering the Storm." Woman bargains with a man to sail his boat for passage. I'm sorry, stories about women acting like men don't do anything for me. I didn't finish it.
Ann Gracie, "The Mistletoe Bride." I liked this the most. A woman pretends to be another so she can marry the hero, and it all works out.
Susan King, "A Wilder Wench." A woman smuggler. Didn't finish this one either.
There were 2 or 3 stories that were quite nice, but in a book that was 325 pages long, and a host to 8 different authors, (so that averages to 40 pages per author approx.) I thought that in most cases it wasn't enough to allow the writers to tell their stories well.
I usually don't like books of short stories such as this, although I have purchased others in the past. Perhaps it's a great way for the publisher to introduce its writers to a larger audience and a chance for first-time readers to acquaint themselves with the writers, but I unfortunately felt that I had wasted both time and money.