This anthology featuring stories by Eloisa James, Janna Macgregor, Christy Caldwell and Erica Ridley is fantastic.
The stories are all intertwined vignettes that feature couples just trying to muddle their way through the house party of the year – the Duke of Greystoke’s annual holiday revel. A house party that has the well-earned reputation of making the matches of the year between the unlikeliest of couples. A house party with well-earned accolades for scandal and daring assignations.
In Eloisa James’ A Mistletoe Kiss, Cressida is trying to reconcile herself to the fate that waits for her when her father dies. For years, she has manipulated events behind the scenes. She manages the household and plans the incomparable annual party, down to every minute detail of the guest list and the stunning ice sculpture. Her father doesn’t acknowledge her efforts, and constantly disparages her for her spinster status. When her father reveals that she is giving his heir the Scottish estate that she has been depending upon as her forever home, she loses all hope.
When Elias realizes that Cressida is the mastermind behind the revelry, he is incensed on her behalf. He is even more incensed when his best friend, and the heir to the dukedom, offers Cressida to him on a silver platter. She has the reputation of a retiring mouse, blending into the woodwork. Accommodating and subtle and inobtrusive. But the real Cressie is none of those things. The more they are drawn together, the more Elias appreciates the diamond that has glittered beneath the notice of society for years.
In Christy Caldwell’s Wishing Under the Mistletoe, an engagement long severed brings a once affianced couple into close proximity. Cyrus has long regretted the loss of Isabel. Isabel still mourns the way Cyrus buried himself in his obligations, to the exclusion of anything that was not adding to his coffers.
When Cyrus and Isabelle are tasked with arranging the annual Christmas play, long ignored resentment comes to the forefront. Isabelle needs this production to be successful. It will be the star in her crown so she can launch her own career. She can’t allow her former fiance to distract her with his solicitous behavior, and hot gaze and the silver streaks at his temples. The fire that has always been between them simmers to the surface, and a reckless embrace in the music room makes it obvious there is still something between them.
In Janna Macgregor’s Compromise Under the Mistletoe, an estranged marriage gets a chance at redemption. Caroline left her husband last year. She was tired of him ignoring her. She was tired of being the last person he thought of, of having no connection outside of the bedroom. She left him because he valued his prize cow more than he valued her.
Stephen doesn’t understand why his wife left him. He was doing everything he could to provide a safe and stable home for her. He gave her his undivided attention in the bedroom and gave her the space a woman needs to manage the household affairs. When they are thrown together at the annual revel and tasked with finding the perfect tree, they have nothing but disappointment and pain between them. They learn that the misunderstandings between them are because they both had assumptions about what a marriage should be and how they should behave toward one another. A serendipitous snowstorm reminds them why they fell in love, and gives them hope for the future.
In Erica Ridley’s Mischief and Mistletoe, Louisa struggles to maintain her social facade. She wants a family of her own, but is beyond weary of empty platitudes and hypocrisy. She is a dreamer and a poet. She wants a meaningful connection, not a typical society alliance.
Ewan is appears to be a brooding poet. But he will also be at the helm of the family business. Because of his lack of title and ready funds, women don’t seek him out. When Louisa approaches him, he is bewildered. He isn’t the usual object of pursuit for marriageable young women. And he has secrets that he can’t share. But he can help the woman who enchants and enthralls him pursue her dreams.
They are both defined by their duty to their families, but they let words and the opportunity to drop their shields with one another become both an escape and a home for their hearts.
Pick this wonderful anthology up if you need four perfect servings of steamy, decadent holiday cheer. Trust me — you can curl up with these pages!!!!