Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Book Review: Regency Christmas Proposals, by Gayle Wilson, Amanda McCabe, Carole Mortimer ( Fourth review for the 2013 Christmas Spirit Challenge)

This is my fourth review for
The 2013 Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge,
whish is hosted by Michelle @
and runs from
November 22, 2013, to January 6, 2014!

To participate, just click on
the link above.

Regency Christmas Proposals
Gayle Wilson, Amanda McCabe, Carole Mortimer
Mass Market Paperback, 284 pages
Harlequin Books, November 1, 2010
Christmas Romance, Historical Romance

Book Synopsis:
"The Soldier's Christmas Miracle", by Gayle Wilson: Wounded soldier Guy Wakefield has finally found the woman who saved his life. Isabella Stowe accepts his gratitude, but it will take more than a kiss under the mistletoe to convince this world-weary widow to accept his proposal....

"Snowbound and Seduced", by Amanda McCabe:  Mary Bassington, Lady Derrington, longs to be the carefree woman she once was. But she gets more than she bargained for this Christmas when she's snowbound with old flame Dominick, Viscount Amesby, who reignites her passion for life—and love!

"Christmas at Mulberry Hall", by Carole Mortimer:  Spending Christmas alone with his unconventional ward pushes the boundaries of propriety—and self-control—too far for Lord Gideon Grayson. So he takes delectably pure Amelia Ashford to Mulberry Hall—but that pesky mistletoe is still all around....

My Review

This collection of Christmas romance stories, all set in the Regency period of English history, is definitely a nice one to have around when the snow is falling outside, and one is curled up by the fire, with a cup of hot chocolate or tea.  It's even nice when one has fled to the comfort of an air-conditioned room, while the December temperatures outside are in the 80s!  Whether you're sipping a hot drink, or a cool smoothie, these stories will be sure to transport you to another century, as well as another culture.

However, I must say that I didn't like all three stories equally.  I prefer the first two, and there are several reasons for this preference.  In the first story, "The Soldier's Christmas Miracle", we get solidly fleshed-out, very compelling characters, even within the confines of a short story.  The premise behind the plot -- that of a very grateful soldier -- is a good one, and is plausible, as well.  Guy Wakefield is a very sensitive man, one who is noble and kind, for he doesn't force himself on the woman he's grateful to -- the widowed Isabella Stowe.  Granted, he is pretty insistent in winning her affections, but remains a gentleman throughout.  It's Isabella who finally comes to her senses, and decides to accept his courtship.  The relationship does take some time to develop, reaching an important crisis point when Isabella believes that Guy once again needs her help.

I found this to be a very sweet, gentle story, one that gave me the warm, fuzzy feelings that a good romance usually leaves its readers with.  I certainly want to read more of Gayle Wilson's work!

The second story, "Snowbound and Seduced", was also great reading!  It had a very poignant, rather nostalgic tone throughout, as well, because it involved a relationship that should have gotten the participants to the altar, but didn't.  Years later, circumstances once again bring them together, and they join forces in order to stop a crazy elopement -- that of Lady Derrington's younger sister.  Once again, both of the main characters are well-developed, and very likable.  Dominick is a wonderful man, and the widowed Mary (Lady Derrington), although guilt-ridden because she's a very responsible person, also longs to throw caution to the winds, and give free rein to her passionate love for this man she should have married years before, but couldn't, due to certain circumstances.

The one thing I found slightly objectionable about this second story was that there was a little too much sex in it (although it wasn't overly graphic) for a Christmas story.  In spite of this, I greatly enjoyed reading about Dominick and Mary's relationship!  I also discovered a slight Jane Austen influence in the plot, which totally delighted me!

Unfortunately, I didn't like the third story, "Christmas at Mulberry Hall", quite as much as I did the other two.  For one thing, I just couldn't feel much interest in the characters, because I really couldn't like them much.  Their dialogues were rather stereotyped, and reminded me too much of those in Jane Eyre, although Ms. Mortimer is not as witty as Charlotte Bronte.  Still, Lord Grayson does come across as a Mr. Rochester clone, although he's not half as attractive, mysterious, or irresistibly masculine as that gentleman is.  As for his ward, Amelia Ashford, I liked her less than I did Grayson, and couldn't relate to her supposed plight.  She is at first a total ingénue, but then later practically throws herself at Grayson.  At one point, she even cries all over him, while he attempts to calm her down without getting to a 'point of no return', sexually speaking.  Amelia's behavior in this scene was totally inconsistent with the way she was initially presented. 

This story develops much too fast.  The characters are very antagonistic toward each other at the beginning, but in a matter of just a few days, they're madly declaring their love for each other.  This is totally illogical, given the circumstances in the story.  There's no time lapse, as in the other two stories. Everything takes place within the space of less than a week.  This is just not believable. 

This story is an example of the sort of plot that should really be allowed to develop within the longer novel format.  Wilson and McCabe were definitely able to accomplish their goal of uniting the lovers in their stories in spite of all obstacles, all within the confines of the short-story format.  For some reason, Mortimer is unable to do this, at least not in a believable manner.

This story also has a rather peculiar thing about it -- the author uses too many exclamation points, especially in the beginning.  This is a rare occurrence in professional stories, and I was very surprised to find it in this one.  Amateur story writers usually indulge in this type of thing much too often.  It's very annoying, and tends to take the reader right out of the story, too.  Mortimer really should have known better.

Much as I would love to give this collection a solid five stars, I find myself unable to do so, and it's completely due to that third story.  That's a shame, because the first two stories are certainly great examples of the romance storyteller's art.  The third story, though, simply wasn't all it should have been.  Had the author decided to expand it into a full-length novel, dropping most of the exclamation points along the way, I do feel it would have improved immeasurably.

Since the first two stories were, indeed, really good, I will give this book four stars.  I do recommend it, however, because the first two stories are really and truly worth reading.  I would go as far as to say that they're magical, because, as all lovers know, falling in love is truly a magical experience!  Therefore, curl up by the fire, or adjust your air conditioner, as the case may be, and settle down with this book.  Just don't get your hopes up too high about that third story!



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