Thursday, December 22, 2011

Book Review: A Regency Christmas VI (second review for The Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge)



This is my second review for
The Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge,
which runs from November 21, 2011
through January 6, 2012!

Please click on the link in my sidebar
for the rules, as well as
a complete list of participating bloggers.



Title: A Regency Christmas VI
Authors: Mary Balogh, Sandra Heath, Emily Hendrickson, Emma Lange, Sheila Walsh
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 352 pages
Publisher: Signet Books
Publication Date: November 1, 1994
Genres: Christmas Romance, Historical Romance, Regency Romance

Where To Buy: Amazon




This collection of Christmas romances is set in the England of Jane Austen, with all of the beautiful traditions of the time, all the holiday revelry typical of the period.  In spite of the beautiful cover, which depicts a festive holiday spirit, I have to say that this is an uneven collection, at best.

The crowning jewel of this anthology is "The Best Gift" by Mary Balogh, but then, she's my favorite romance writer, bar none!  Her work is always a delight to read!  So I will begin my review with this story, even though it's the third one listed in the book.

The story plot has obvious parallels to my favorite novel, Jane Eyre, but I still enjoyed it immensely!  The female protagonist, Jane Craggs, is a motherless teacher who has never known her father, having lived in a school for girls, located in the town of Bath, England, until the age of seventeen, when she became a teacher at the school.  She has the depressing prospect of yet another lonely Christmas there, when the unexpected occurs -- Warren Nash, the Viscount Buckley, needs a temporary governess for his niece over the Christmas holiday.  The wonderfully heartwarming events that ensue had me crying happy tears! 

Another reason this story is my very favorite is that, of the five, this one is most imbued with the Christmas spirit.  It gave me that warm, happy glow that should accompany this wonderful holiday!

MY RATING 



I would have to say that my next favorite story is "Christmas Magic", by Emma Lange, which is the very first one in the book. 

Lady Rebecca Trevor, mother of an adorable baby girl, Katie, is spending the Christmas holiday at the Palladian home of her friends, Lord and Lady Hargrove.  Several of their other friends have also been invited, among them someone Rebecca had fallen in love with in the past, while she was married to the much-older Lord Trevor, through an arrangement common enough at the time -- her brutal father needed the money, and wanted to get rid of her.  Now a widow, Rebecca realizes that she still loves Rob, the Earl of Bedford, although she had fled from him before, so as not to betray her marriage vows.  As the story develops, Rob comes to realize that he loves her desperately enough to abandon his playboy ways (in those days, playboys were known as "rakes").  Although this plot seems too predictable, this story is a very touching one, and also had me crying happy tears, as well as basking in that Christmas warmth!  


MY RATING:     



The next story, "Christmas Knight", by Emily Hendrickson, is a delightful one, and I like it quite a bit as well. 

The plot concerns a love potion, which I don't see as having much to do with Christmas.  However, this story is full of all the holiday traditions of the time, such as the Yule log, mistletoe, the decorating of all the rooms in the house with holly and other greenery, etc. 

The plot revolves around two teenage sisters, Alisandra and Joan Percy, who live secluded lives in the country, where their father, the Baron, insists on adhering to the old ways, even having them wear medieval garb at all times.  Their brother, Thomas, comes home from Oxford University for the holiday, bringing along two friends -- Maximilian Luttrell, whom the sisters have known all their lives, and Sir William Oldershaw.  Alisandra immediately sets her sights on William, and, with Joan's help, prepares a love potion in order to make him fall for her.  However, it's her childhood friend, Max, who drinks it, with comical, if unsettling results for Alisandra.  Meanwhile, William is less interested in Charlotte, the sisters' rather shallow, mean-spirited cousin, than in Joan...

This story is longer than the others; in fact, it's more of a novella.  I wish it had been expanded into a novel, with the holiday episode being the culmination of it.  I greatly enjoyed the characters and setting.  It would have been nice to get to know this family better!

MY RATING: 



The next story, "Dinner at Grillion's", by Sandra Heath, is the second one in the collection.   Although it's nice that justice was done in the end, I thought the plot was much too contrived. 

As the story opens, Guy Fitzallen, fourth Lord Lanham, is contemplating divorcing his estranged wife, American Fleur Barrymore.  His aunt, Patience Fitzallen, is his closest living relative, and adamantly opposes these plans, especially since she suspects her hired companion, Imogen, of plotting to separate Guy and his wife, so that she could have him for herself. 

What most bothered me about this story was the fact that Imogen confides all her nefarious deeds to her diary, which she carries everywhere with her.  This is just too obvious.  I would think that someone involved in this kind of thing would be more careful.  And, of course, later on in the story, the diary falls into Patience's hands, with all of its incriminating evidence....

As if this weren't enough, there are three pairs of perfectly-matched couples in this story, Guy and Fleur, Guy's aunt and Fleur's uncle, Gerard, as well as Fleur's maid, and Thomas, a footman at Grillion's, a famed London restaurant. 

All in all, I really couldn't enjoy this story much.

MY RATING:   



The very last story in the book, while well-plotted, had too much of a Gothic feel to it to be appropriate for Christmas.  "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" (I found this title too darkly ironic), by Sheila Walsh, deals with another arranged marriage.  Mercedes de Laroche, a beautiful, eighteen-year-old French aristocrat, is to be married to the forty-five-year-old, and sinister-looking, Lord Sheringham, to whom her father, the Vicomte de Laroche, owes a great deal of money.  

Poor Mercedes is terrified of Lord Sheringham, but, like a dutiful daughter, is prepared to go through with the marriage ceremony.  This despite the fact that a certain man has fallen hard for her -- Mr. Vyvian Tremaine, whom her friends, Charles and Beatrice Brampton, have invited to their country home for the Christmas holiday, along with the de Laroches and Lord Sheringham.  

it turns out that there are ghosts in the story, and one in particular is important to the plot.  Only Mercedes can see this ghost, however, so her sanity is in doubt at first.  Tremaine hotly defends her, and, in the end, Mercedes is proven right.

It's true that Dickens's A Christmas Carol set a precedent for having ghosts in Christmas stories, but this tale is much darker than that classic.  I would have enjoyed it more had it been set at a different time of year.

One more thing: what was the author thinking when she gave Mercedes's love interest a woman's name?  I've never heard of a man having the name of "Vyvian"!  True, it's spelled with one 'y', but still! 

MY RATING 


It's really too bad that only one story in this collection was good enough to merit five stars.  The quality fo the rest of the stories has brought the overall rating for the book down.  I think that, had all of the stories been penned by Mary Balogh, this would not have been the case.  Incidentally, "The Best Gift" also appears in another collection of Christmas romances, Under The Mistletoe, which is totally dedicated to Balogh stories.  I will have to start on that one as soon as I can.  I'm sure it will receive a five-star rating, hands down!


MY OVERALL RATING:   






4 comments:

  1. Sounds like some great stories!

    Megan @ Storybook Love Affair

    http://storybookloveaffair.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi, Megan!

    My absolute favorite is "The Best Gift"! For me, there's no one like Mary Balogh. Her stories and novels are ALWAYS extremely well-written, with very engaging characters and wonderful plots!!

    I would have enjoyed the ghost story more if it hadn't been so morbid. If you decide to buy this book , you'll see what I mean. As for "Dinner at Grillion's", it was just too, too contrived. Things were tied up much too neatly in the end, and the thing with the diary....

    I did love the other three stories in the book, though! But again, my very favorite was Balogh's! MARY BALOGH IS PURE MAGIC!!!

    Thanks for the comment!! : )

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi, Maria! Great review, as usual ;) Thanks for sharing!

    I agree with you on all your critique of Christmas-appropiate content here - love potion sounds more pagan, doesn't it?

    And carrying around the diary is too convenient. I'd probably have rated that one low as well.

    Ghost stories can be interesting - might be my own interest in the topic speaking, though - but still, it needs to be carefully handled and I'm not sure it worked right here. And I agree with you: Vyvian as a male name just doesn't fit! Actually, because I'm that much of a freak, I went and checked - it appears that Vivian is a male name as well, and was used (albeit sparingly) during the 19th century. But V-Y-vian doesn't exist. Viv-Y-an is solely female.

    And I'm showing yet again how nerdy I can get with books well written and researched, right? Aww, dang!

    Anyway, thanks for the review. Merry Christmas to you!

    Ron

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi, Ron!

    Gosh, thank you for another of your very interesting, very well-written comments! As I've said before, I always look forward to reading them!!

    I'm glad you agree about the love potion thing. Although all the Christmas traditions we modern people love do have pagan origins, love potions certainly have nothing whatsoever to do with Christmas! Besides, giving someone a love potion is considered black magic, because they're being forced to love whoever gaives them the potion. I did get the feeling that the author was most likely poking fun at this sort of thing, because it turns out, in the end, that the potion doesn't work as it was supposed to. However, I STILL don't think this type of thing is at all appropriate for a Christmas romance. It would have been much better for a Valentine's Day story!

    As for the ghost story, I really should have stated the reason I thought it was too dark. I didn't because I didn't want to put in too many spoilers, but I'll have to go back and include this reason, which is that there's a murder involved, and justice done for it, as well. As you can see, this is NOT at all appropriate for a Christmas romance story!

    You're so funny, calling yourself a "freak", and a "nerd"! But that 's precisely why I like being your friend! Lol. Thank you for doing all that research on the ridiculous name "Vyvian"! I really appreciate all the information!! This poor author really struck out, as far as I'm concerned!

    Thank you for such a GREAT comment! Merry Christmas to you and your family!!!!! : )

    ReplyDelete

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