Title: The Last Chance Christmas Ball
Authors: Jo Beverley, Joanna Bourne, Nicola Cornick, Cara Elliott, Anne Gracie, Susan King, Mary Jo Putney, Patricia Rice
Genre: Regency Romance
Contents: Eight novellas
Christmas 1815. Upstairs and downstairs, Holbourne Hall is abuzz with preparations for a grand ball to celebrate the year’s most festive—and romantic—holiday. For at the top of each guest’s wish list is a last chance to find true love before the New Year…
A chance meeting beneath the mistletoe, a stolen glance across the dance floor—amid the sumptuous delicacies, glittering decorations, and swell of the orchestra, every duchess and debutante, lord and lackey has a hopeful heart. There’s the headstrong heiress who must win back her beloved by midnight—or be wed to another….the spinster whose fateful choice to relinquish love may hold one more surprise for her…a widow yearning to glimpse her long-lost love for even one sweet, fleeting interlude …a charming rake who finds far more than he bargained for. And many other dazzling, romantic tales in this star-studded collection that will fill your heart and spice up your holidays…
Source: ARC from Kensington via NetGalley
This is a lovely slice of Regency Christmas romance from some of the best names in the genre – also known as the Word Wenches for their joint (informative and entertaining) blog. Settling into read this I knew I didn’t need to worry about inaccuracies or era-inappropriateness. Instead I got just what I expected – a wonderful collection of stories, some of which I will happily read again and again.
Jo Beverley’s Prologue introduces Lady Holly, Holbourne Hall and the mysterious Miss Finch, a rather colourless companion who is worried that she won’t be staying for long. It also introduces the Christmas ball itself and why it’s considered to be so special, as well as hinting a little at what lies ahead.
True Love Hath My Heart by Joanna Bourne kicks off the stories themselves in fine style, delving into life below stairs as well as mixing in a little undercover work and intrigue. I’m not the biggest fan of spy books, so I’ve never actually read any of Joanna Bourne’s books before, but after this one I’m tempted. I loved the characters, I loved the plot and everything about it was wonderful.
Susan King’s A Scottish Carol was a sweet tale though it didn’t really grab me compared to some of the others. A grumpy doctor, an intrepid young widow and an isolated, snowbound Scottish Christmas. It’s romantic and enjoyable, but not overly memorable.
A bit like Christmas Larks by Patricia Rice, which I can’t really remember much about at all.
However, Mary Jo Putney’s In the Bleak Midwinter was lovely. The determined love of a woman refusing to accept a wounded man’s insistence that she move on. I really liked Roxie and admired her refusal to give up on Kim, even when he’d clearly given up on himself.
Old Flames Dance by Cara Elliott was another enjoyable read, though I think it would have been better put before MJP’s, since it would have left Roxie and Edward’s relationship as more of a mystery. Instead we already know what happens there, so I just felt impatient. I also felt like Lucy’s meeting with Roxie didn’t match up too well with the version in the previous story. That aside it was good, though not my favourite.
Nicola Cornick’s A Season For Marriage is different from the others in that it depicts a troubled marriage. The problem is that I don’t think it had enough space here to really be resolved. Caro is well enough, if a little spoilt, but I didn’t like her husband and found his change in attitude far too swift to be believable.
Miss Finch and the Angel reminded me why I love Jo Beverley’s writing so much. I loved that this was primarily told from the hero’s POV. However, I do feel like his sudden attraction to Miss Finch seems to come out of nowhere and grow stronger without any real reason. Still, it’s lusciously told and made me feel as if I was right there in Holbourne Hall.
My favourite was saved for last with Mistletoe Kisses by one of my favourite historical authors, Anne Gracie. An impoverished spinster, a couple of stranded travellers and a big empty house over Christmas, it’s full of sweetness and a lovely romance that grows out of friendship and mutual enjoyment. There’s more than a hint of Cinderella to it all, but I loved how it didn’t just follow that old storyline. A real gem of a tale that left me smiling happily.
In all this is a lovely collection of Christmas cheer. I do wish the events in the first story had at least been referred to in some of the others, since they clearly caused something of an uproar, and I feel that was an opportunity missed. However, there’s a fairly decent overlap on a handful of the tales (even if the conversations and events don’t really match up in any of them) and I loved the connection of Lady Holly (how many godchildren does that woman have?) and the ball throughout all of them.
If you’re a fan of any of these authors, or Regency romance in general, and are looking for a nice slice of Christmas escapism, then you should enjoy this. There are some really lovely stories here and even the others are unobjectionable enough for a nice pleasant read. Treat yourself to some mistletoe cheer – even if it isn’t quite the season yet.
The Last Chance Christmas Ball is Out Now!
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