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Book description

My Christmas in July reading continues with this 1998 anthology of Regency set Christmas stories.In Three Good Deeds by Barbara Metzger, three mischievous young boys must atone for breaking a church window just before the Bishops Christmas visit. They try to make things right in their community and bring together a long-estranged father and son who have ties to their mothers past. Instead of an animal companion, this story has three young boys. They reminded me of my cousin when he was younger, lovingly referred to as a Dennis the Menace type. The boys in this story mean well but their schemes dont always go according to plan. There is an animal companion who appears later in the story. I just loved her though she didnt have much to do. The story is rather heartwarming but I didnt quite buy the romance. I can see how Connor could fall in love with the boys and feel the need to help Sabrina but the rekindling of romance, beyond physical attraction, isnt fully fleshed out enough. Its almost an afterthought or a secondary plot. I liked the story a lot though.Felicitys Forefeit by Elisabeth Fairchild is about a down-on-his-luck Viscount, Bingham Kirby. He needs money to save his family and the estate and needs it soon! He tries to work out a solution while ice skating on a pond, where he runs into the vicars daughters and their cousin Felicity. Felicity is an American from Georgia, unlike any other woman Bingham has ever met. He feels drawn to her in some way but she can not be the solution to his problem. His father, whose memory lapses are becoming wider, keeps going on about a money tree. If only there were such a thing!This was my least favorite of all the stories. I found Felicity really annoying. Shes very bold for a southern lady and her written out accent drove me crazy. It would have been enough to show her drawl once or twice or just mention it without spelling it out. This romance is based largely on physical attraction. The characters barely know one other though they did share a life altering experience. I figured out the mystery just as the characters did. It was cleverly done and not something I would have thought of. However, it does make the ending a little too neat and perfect but this is a Christmas anthology so its OK. Second Chance by Allison Lane brings Mrs. Alice MacDougal to Blanchford, a family estate where she spent many happy Christmases as a child and as a teen, fell in love with Jeremy Caristoke and promised to marry him. Her life has not gone according to plan and now she is at Blanchford not as a guest, but as a governess for Jeremys young nieces and nephews. When Jeremy arrives and discovers the woman who jilted him all those years ago he is angry. A confrontation leads to unexpected results and a realization that he still has feelings for Alice. She seems to care for him still but is determined to push him away. What could she be hiding that is terrible enough to make her unfit to be his wife?What indeed? This story kept me reading long past when I needed to be asleep. I had to know what the secret was. When it was revealed, I was disappointed. I was expecting something more along the lines of what Jeremy was expecting. The real secret, though devastating, is a little less shocking. I liked how these two came together as mature adults and saw all the best qualities that attracted them to each other in the first place. They realize that neither is the same person they were when they were teens and they have been shaped by their experiences. As an American, I liked learning about Alices life and a bit about the history of the American frontier during the War of 1812. I really liked Jeremy. Hes so sweet, loving and kind - very different from the usual cynical rakish hero. Hes also a younger son, which allows him the freedom to be himself. Hes a wonderful uncle and all the children adore him. Alice is a little harder to like. Shes too hard on herself. I expect that in the same situation, most people would feel the same way. She also feels her past makes her unfit to grace any drawing room but I dont see why anyone need know what she did in America. No one would really want to know and asking would be a polite formality anyway. I was surprised that she and Jeremy had been able to slip away and be alone together before their initial engagement. I wasnt surprised at the consequences of that meeting. Those consequences and Alices secret make the story darker, yet more poignant, than the usual Christmas cheer story. I liked this one a lot. Its one of my favorites in the anthology.Another favorite is The Christmas Ornament by Carla Kelly. Sir Waldo Hannaford has a problem and he turns to his old friend, Lord Waverly for help. Sir Waldos youngest daughter, Willa, is ready for her debut in London. Sir Waldo and his wife are loving and concerned parents. Lady Waldo wants her baby girl close by and he doesnt think shell meet anyone she likes in London or anyone who will appreciate his beloved youngest daughter for her brains. Shes too smart for her own good. Lord Waverly has a son, James, an Oxford don, who is also too smart for his own good. The fond parents hatch a scheme to marry their brainy offspring to each other. Its a tough task when Jeremy is shy and awkward. First he thinks Willa couldnt possibly be an attractive woman- shes his late best friends baby sister! Then when he sees her, with her unruly mop of red curls, he finds she has grown up nicely indeed. Shes also intelligent and interested in his work- in short, the perfect wife for him. Now, he just has to figure out how to talk to her without bumbling and mumbling and making a fool of himself. When meddling relatives bring home more gentlemen for Willa, James fears he doesnt have a chance. This story is so cute!!! A shy, awkward hero (though not inexperienced) is something totally new and unexpected. He is NOT a Heyer-o and the plot is not ripped off from the usual canon of Regency plots. I loved Jeremy but Im not sure Id want to marry him. I suppose I would though if I lived back then because men who appreciated a womans intellect seem few and far between in the Regency novel world. I also loved Willa. Shes incredibly brilliant! I didnt understand half of what Jeremy was talking about or why on earth she wanted to study Geometry of all things. I think Willa must be based on Ada Lovelace. She also eschewed literature in favor of mathematics and the way Willa reads and corrects Jeremys research is much like the way Ada Lovelace made notes on Babbages engine. I could have done without the rivals but it made the story more interesting. I wondered whether she would initially choose comfort over love or if she would let love win the day or if Jeremy would miss his opportunity. This story doesnt have much to do with Christmas aside from the timeframe. In The Hounds of Heaven by Edith Layton, a new little of puppies born on the streets of London must make their own way in the world, while human character, Lord Thadeus Rose, proposes to Helena, who would make the perfect bride. However, Helena rejects Thadeus on the grounds he can not promise to be faithful to her forever. His parents have an open marriage and he doesnt really know or expect any different, but Helena dreams of true and everlasting devoted love. His pride wounded, Thadeus finds himself angry at everyone, drinking to excess and stumbling home drunk through an alley, where is struck from behind, robbed and left for another thug to finish him off. Hed be singing with the angels if it werent for a beast- a dog- who, for some reason, feels the need to protect him. Ever grateful to the beast, he names Titan (er actually make that Titania), he brings the mutt home with him. The dog shows Thadeus a very important lesson that may make his Christmas merry after all.This story is sweet and light. It reads a lot like a Barbara Metzger tale, with the dog as a major character. The message is heavy handed and I dont really buy the romance. Because Thadeus and Helena already have a history, we dont get to see them interact or find out why they love one another, aside from physical attraction. The surprise at the end was pretty funny and totally characteristic of rescue dogs from what Ive heard. Im a sucker for a good dog story so this one warmed my heart.Overall, a great anthology! These stories are all clean with mild sensuality, mention of a former kept woman, premarital pregnancy, opera dancer and open marriage.

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