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ARC DNF Review: A Duke Worth Fighting For by Christina Britton

A Duke Worth Fighting For by Christina Britton

Publishing Date: August 24, 2021

Synopsis:

A fake relationship becomes the real thing in this Regency romance from the bestselling author Publishers Weekly calls “irresistible.”

To protect the dukedom from an incompetent and greedy cousin, Daniel Hayle, Duke of Carlisle, has promised to find a bride in London this season. But the idea of facing ballrooms and card parties is as intimidating as any battlefield in France, including the fight at Waterloo that left him terribly scarred. Perhaps a month on the Isle of Synne can provide him with the practice necessary to find a wife who can tolerate him enough to give him an heir.

Margery Kitteridge has been mourning her husband for four years, and while she’s not ready to consider marriage again, she does miss intimacy with a partner. When Daniel asks for help navigating Synne’s social scene, and they accidentally kiss, she realizes he’s the perfect person with whom to have an affair. As they begin to confide in one another, Daniel discovers that he’s unexpectedly connected to Margery’s late husband, and she will have to decide if she can let her old love go for the promise of a new one.

My Review:

Rating: 1 out of 5.

I was hopeful that the issues I had with this book would smooth out as the story progressed but alas, they did not. The very first thing that caught my attention was the map at the beginning. The Isle of Synne is…. rectangular. It looks like someone plopped the state of Oregon into the sea. I had some misgivings at that point but decided to press on.

The prose is… overwritten and very much telling (at length) rather than showing. There’s nothing obviously wrong with it but I just found it off-putting and felt like I was hacking my way through a thicket trying to find the story. The characters also didn’t have a lot of depth to them and seemed very superficial, as did the instant physical attraction between Margery and Daniel. All of their conversations were painfully awkward and seemed to take twice as long as necessary with all the apologies and repetition.

Eventually I couldn’t force myself through any more of the awkwardness and decided to move on to something more enjoyable. It’s possible that those who aren’t such sticklers as I for writing style will still enjoy this.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Forever (Grand Central Publishing) for providing an e-arc for review.

ARC DNF Review: The Marquess of Mischief by Anna St. Claire

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Publishing Date: December 21, 2021

Synopsis:

A chance at love could cost them their lives.

Welcome to book 2, Marquess of Mischief by
USA Today Bestselling author Anna St. Claire.

As a second son, Christopher Anglesey never planned to become the Marquess of Banbury. However, his brother’s death forced him to assume the title and its responsibilities. Still, he refuses to relinquish his dangerous job with the Crown or marry. His job requires he maintains a presence at most ton events. However, Christopher avoids the marriage-minded mommas and their vapid daughters.

On the heels of a successful first Season, a carriage accident on the way home from London leaves Lady Diana Lawrence blind. She resigns herself to a life without love or marriage and still attends ton gatherings only to please her mother—who still believes love will find her daughter. While attending a museum tour with her best friend, Diana overhears plans to kill the Prince Regent, placing her in the crosshairs of a killer.

Christopher’s assignment brings him to the museum, where he discovers a beautiful young woman desperate to escape and recognizes her as his sister’s best friend. She may be the one person who can help save the Prince Regent’s life. Sparks fly as he tries to protect her and find a killer.

Can they survive the danger that pursues them and gain a chance at love neither thought could happen?

My Review:

Rating: 1 out of 5.

I requested this because the premise sounded like something I would enjoy — I adore historical romance, especially when spies are involved — but unfortunately the writing style made it unenjoyable. For many people that wouldn’t be a problem, I know, but writing style is one of the most important characteristics of a story to me, and I cannot enjoy a story where I find the writing style to be grating.

In this case, the writing is a bit stilted and comes off sort of monotone, as all the sentences are roughly the same length. The story moves quickly, but at a remove as everything is told rather than shown. Too little time is also spent on any event, giving situations such as a lady being nearly ravished the same import as a quick conversation with a servant.

Also the characters are always guffawing and bellowing and hardly ever simply say anything, and Christopher’s driver is also named “Goforth” which strikes me as excessively silly.

My only real problems were with the writing style and not the plot, and while I found them insurmountable I’m sure plenty of readers would be able to look past them and enjoy the story.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Dragonblade Publishing for providing an e-arc for review.

ARC Review: Girls Before Earls by Anna Bennett

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Publishing Date: December 28, 2021

Synopsis:

WHAT A GIRL WANTS

To survive her difficult childhood, Miss Hazel Lively relied on two things:a tough outer shell and a love of books. Now, at the age of twenty-eight, she’s finally realized her life-long dream of opening a school for girls. She’s hoping that the wealthy families who flock to the shore for the summer will entrust their daughters to Bellehaven Academy―and help pay the way for less fortunate students. All Hazel must do is maintain a flawless reputation and raise a good deal of money. It’s a foolproof plan…till a sinfully handsome earl strides into her office.

WHAT AN EARL NEEDS

Gabriel Beckett, Earl of Bladenton, has had a monstrous headache since the day his teenaged niece became his ward. She’s been expelled from two London boarding schools and is doing her damnedest to scare off his potential fiancée. But Blade has a plan of his own―enroll his niece at Bellehaven Academy, where she’ll be out of town and out of his hair. He just needs to convince the buttoned-up headmistress with the soulful brown eyes to take on his niece.

LEAD TO AN IRRESISTIBLE DEAL

When Blade makes a generous offer to the school, it’s impossible for Hazel to refuse. But she has one non-negotiable condition: the earl must visit his niece every other week. Soon, Blade discovers there’s much more to Hazel than meticulous lesson plans. In moonlit seaside coves and candlelit ballrooms, their sparring leads to flirtation…and something altogether deeper. But the passion that flares between them poses a threat to Hazel’s school and Blade’s battered heart. They say a good thing can’t last forever, but true love? Well, it just might…

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This was a sweet romance between a bookish headmistress with some rather radical ideas and a rakish earl who has been hurt so badly in his past that he feels he’s too damaged to love and has just had a headstrong and trouble-making niece dropped into his care.

I loved the found-family aspect of it, with Hazel, who lost her parents at a young age and was raised by the headmistress of a finishing school, determined to provide both a place and a *home* for the girls in her care – both the wealthy ones and those who are poor foundlings like her. Her relationship with the girls deepens wonderfully over the course of the novel, and the scenes with the girls were some of my favorites. Kitty blossoms at the school and that was a joy to see, as well as Hazel’s gradual loosening up and coming out of her shell.

Which is not to say that I disliked Hazel and Blade’s relationship. I liked it very much – especially how he respected her and showed her many small kindnesses over the course of the story. I liked that their friendship and regard for one another wasn’t overshadowed by their physical attraction and chemistry.

I loved the setting of the novel as well, with the ocean and the sea air and the small quirky beach community offering a place for them all to heal. It wouldn’t have been the same story in London.

I will definitely be seeking out further books by Anna Bennett.

*Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for providing an e-arc for review.

Audiobook ARC Review: Once Upon a Duke by Erica Ridley

Once Upon a Duke (12 Dukes of Christmas, #1)

Audiobook Publishing Date: November 16, 2021

Synopsis:

Due to the terms of an estranged relative’s will, the Duke of Silkridge must revisit the cold, unforgiving mountains where he lost everything he once loved. As soon as he rights his family legacy, he’ll return to London where he belongs. He definitely won’t rekindle the forbidden spark crackling between him and the irresistible spitfire he’d left behind…

Noelle Pratchett is immune to charming rakehells like the arrogant duke. He stole her heart, stole her first kiss, and then stole away one night never to return. Now he’s back—and so are all the old feelings. Noelle knows he won’t stay. But how can she maintain her icy shields when every heated glance melts her to her core?

My Review:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I’ve read (and loved) several of the newer books in the 12 Dukes of Christmas series recently, so I jumped at the chance to review an audio version of the first, which I hadn’t yet read. As might be expected, I found it slightly lacking compared to later installments, but it was still very enjoyable.

The town of Cressmouth / Christmas is charming and the inhabitants varied and interesting. I find that one of Erica Ridley’s greatest strengths is creating well-rounded and interesting characters, whether they be the stars of the show or just bit players. With that said, Benjamin and Noelle were a bit less fleshed out than some of her more recent heroes and heroines, and that limited my enjoyment of the story somewhat as I was not able to be as invested in them or their love story.

The plot was good if a bit repetitive, and Benjamin’s reasons for being unable to love Noelle (or anyone) were a bit thin and he held onto them a bit too long. There were some really lovely moments however – like when Benjamin was caring for Tiny Tim – that redeemed him for me and made him more interesting.

The audiobook narration was good. The narrator wasn’t my favorite, and I wasn’t sure about her voice at first, but as the story progressed she grew on me. She did a good job with the different character voices and with portraying their emotions. Once I got used to her, it was a very enjoyable listening experience.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Orange Sky Audio for providing an audio arc for review.

ARC Review: A Winter’s Earl (A Regency Christmas Romance) by Annabelle Greene

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Publishing: November 9, 2021

Synopsis:

Come to me. I need you. It’s a matter of life-and-death.

Infamous poet Sherborne Clarke is a scholar, a lover—but not a father. When he finds a baby abandoned on the steps of his crumbling castle, he knows he must get her to London and an orphanage. It’s the perfect excuse to contact the one person he trusts…the man whose love he stills yearns for, and whose heart he broke years before.

Richard Ashbrook was groomed from birth to become the Earl of Portland, until Sherborne betrayed him, exposing his sexuality to the papers and forcing him into exile. But as much as he hates Sherborne, Richard has never managed to break their link or let his confusing sentiments concerning him subside. When he receives a missive implying that Sherborne’s life is at risk, he knows it is time to return home.  

Richard undergoes the perilous journey from Sicily only to find the other man untouched. Furious, he agrees to transport the baby to London—whatever gets him out of Sherborne’s life once and for all. But when a snowstorm leaves them stranded, they’re forced to confront the past—and deal with the love between them that’s all too present.

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I did not expect to like this as much as I did. I was swept up into the story from the very beginning and it never let me go. I felt very strongly for Richard and Sherborne and was kept enthralled as their love story drama unfolded. My favorite part is the way they rekindled their old romance in a way that let them grow and move beyond the angry, jealous passion of their youth and into a warmer, steadier love, as well as the way each new event only deepened their connection.

The writing was beautiful, too. The prose was easy to flow along with, with no awkward stumbling blocks, and the emotion was beautifully rendered. The sex scenes were necessary to the story and each furthered Richard and Sherborne’s emotional connection. The did not bother me as the more gratuitous scenes do in most romance.

The minor characters were endearing – though not as much as Richard and Sherborne, except perhaps for Parsley. I enjoyed reading about all of them and I thought the ending especially beautiful.

The plot was admittedly rather thin and some events a bit contrived (and it was hard sometimes to figure out who was speaking during dialogue — I can’t believe I’m going to say it, but it could have used a few more dialogue tags), but overall it was a lovely Christmas story that I can definitely see myself reading again.

I will definitely be seeking out more of Annabelle Greene’s books.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin – Carina Press for providing an e-arc for review.

ARC DNF Reviews: Never Fall for your Fiancee by Virginia Heath AND An Heiress’s Guide to Deception and Desire by Manda Collins

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Publishing November 9, 2021

Synopsis:

The first in a new historical rom-com series, a handsome earl hires a fake fiancée to keep his matchmaking mother at bay, but hilarity ensues when love threatens to complicate everything.

The last thing Hugh Standish, Earl of Fareham, ever wants is a wife. Unfortunately for him, his mother is determined to find him one, even from across the other side of the ocean. So, Hugh invents a fake fiancée to keep his mother’s matchmaking ways at bay. But when Hugh learns his interfering mother is on a ship bound for England, he realizes his complicated, convoluted but convenient ruse is about to implode. Until he collides with a beautiful woman, who might just be the miracle he needs.

Minerva Merriwell has had to struggle to support herself and her two younger sisters ever since their feckless father abandoned them. Work as a woodcut engraver is few and far between, and the Merriwell sisters are nearly penniless. So, when Hugh asks Minerva to pose as his fiancée while his mother is visiting, she knows that while the scheme sounds ludicrous, the offer is too good to pass up.

Once Minerva and her sisters arrive at Hugh’s estate, of course, nothing goes according to his meticulous plan. As hilarity and miscommunication ensue, while everyone tries to keep their tangled stories straight, Hugh and Minerva’s fake engagement starts to turn into a real romance. But can they trust each other, when their relationship started with a lie?

My Review

Rating: 1 out of 5.

I was drawn in by the cute cover and description but alas, this book is not for me. The characters are oh-so-flat, the dialogue is stilted and awkward, and the writing stumbles along with almost entirely telling. Also the hero and heroine’s connection is 100% ‘oh no she’s hot’ and ‘oh no he’s hot.’

Hugh has lied to his mother for literal years about a fake fiancee (who is battling consumption and then in mourning for her unexpectedly dead fictional father) and now has to produce a fiancee when his mother arrives. Or, y’know, tell her the truth? But I guess not. But miracle of miracles he immediately stumbles over a woman who clearly needs money and who also shares the name Minerva with his fictional fiancee. What are the chances?

DNF

*Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for providing an e-arc for review.


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Publishing November 16, 2021

Synopsis:

Former lovers become reluctant allies in this delightfully witty historical rom-com from the bestselling author of A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Mayhem—for fans of Evie Dunmore, Enola Holmes, and Netflix’s Bridgerton!

England, 1867 : As half of the writing duo behind England’s most infamous crime column, Miss Caroline Hardcastle has quite the scandalous reputation. It may have cost her a fiancé, but she would much rather bring attention to crimes against those ignored by society than worry about what the ton thinks of her.

After Caro’s dear friend is kidnapped, however, she has no choice but to work with Lord Valentine Thorn, the same man who broke her heart. Worse, when her actions put her father’s business at risk, a marriage of convenience may be her only solution . . . but can she trust Val to stand by her? Or will their past repeat itself?

Val–the new Viscount Wrackham–is in an untenable position: His father is demanding he find a respectable bride to secure the succession. Yet the only woman he’s ever loved, Miss Caroline Hardcastle, is notorious for behaving improperly. And she’s never forgiven him for his youthful transgressions, missteps made in the name of familial duty, but ones he still regrets to this day.

As they grow closer to unmasking the culprit, Val sees an opportunity to show Caro he’s a changed man. But can he convince her to give their love a second chance–before death does them part?

My Review:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

This book was…. boring. Which is unexpected for a mystery but there you go. I wasn’t interested in the characters, who all seemed rather shallow and prone to misunderstandings, or the plot, which was a bit thin, or the love story, which was annoying more than anything. If the characters would have just talked to each other there wouldn’t have been a plot I suppose. The writing was decent at least but failed to draw me in.

DNF

*Thanks to NetGalley and Forever (Grand Central Publishing) for providing an e-arc for review.

ARC Review: The Perks of Loving a Wallflower by Erica Ridley

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Publishing Oct 26, 2021

Synopsis:

Fans of Bridgerton will love this Regency romp in which a proper Society miss recruits a very improper lady grifter in a quest for vengeance, only to find love instead.

As a master of disguise, Thomasina Wynchester can be a polite young lady—or a bawdy old man. Anything to solve the case. Her latest assignment unveils a top-secret military cipher covering up an enigma that goes back centuries. But when Tommy’s beautiful new client turns out to be the highborn lady she’s secretly smitten with, more than her mission is at stake . . .

Bluestocking Miss Philippa York doesn’t believe in love. Her cold heart didn’t pitter-patter when she was betrothed to a duke, nor did it break when he married someone else. All Philippa desires is to rescue her priceless manuscript and decode its clues to unmask a villain. She hates that she needs a man’s help—so she’s delighted to discover the clever, charming baron at her side is in fact a woman. Her cold heart . . . did it just pitter-patter?

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The most important point is that I absolutely ADORED this book. I was hoping Erica Ridley would get an f/f (or perhaps more properly sapphic f/nb) regency romance right and she definitely did. I absolutely cannot wait for the next Wynchester novel.

This novel was a joy and a delight to read. Having the Wynchester siblings AND an sapphic f/nb romance in one book — and genderfluid/nonbinary representation, demisexual representation, AND realistic body size representation all in the same main couple! — was more than I had ever hoped to see in a traditionally published romance. I felt seen. More than that, I felt loved.

I have always loved Erica Ridley’s gift for creating well-rounded characters that jump off the page and then giving them sweet romances where they overcome their own prejudices and doubts in order to enter into a partnership together. I would choose the Wynchesters over the Bridgertons any day. Not only are they a diverse bunch, but they each possess unique skills that they use as a team to (only slightly illegally) bring justice to those not normally served it.

I especially loved how Elizabeth was brought to life in this book. She is still a side character, but she has some delightful lines. In fact, half of my favorite quotes involve Elizabeth. I hope we see her story soon.

As for our main couple, Tommy is genderfluid / nonbinary, possessed of minimal curves, and a master of disguise. Philippa is a bluestocking who doesn’t believe she can love, possessed of lush curves (that Tommy is very obviously physically attracted to), and is stifled by her parents ambition. They each own their story and leap off the page, with a love story and life lessons I loved to root for.

I listened to the Duke Heist audiobook to remind myself of the characters before reading this, and I’m so glad I did because Moira Quirk’s narration was superb. I have now preordered this book as an audiobook.

*Thanks to NetGalley, Erica Ridley, and Forever (Grand Central Publishing) for providing an e-arc for review.


Favorite Quotes

And… what was wrong with Philippa’s breathing? Was her bosom heaving? Was this a heaving bosom?


“Everyone extorts everyone else all the time, darling”
“Do they?” Philippa said doubtfully.
Her mother pursed her lips. “That’s what a society is. A group of people with agreed-upon methods of social extortion. ‘Do this, or suffer the consequences.’ We call it ‘proper comportment’ so that it sounds nice.


“Tiglet is a homing kitten,” Tommy reminded him. “If she sets him down, he’ll run back to Islington.”


“Graham is out gathering intelligence, and Elizabeth… is off shopping for rapiers.”


“We call those ‘words.’ Extremely adept practitioners can advance all the way to ‘conversation.’


“I guess everyone has a weakness,” Elizabeth said with a sigh. “Mine is uncontrollable bloodlust.”


“Huzzah,” said Elizabeth. “Contravene patriarchal coverture’ is exactly the sort of evening activity I was looking forward to. I’m going to need a bigger sword stick.”


“…but being splendid at something does not mean a body is obliged to do it.”


Any sign.” Elizabeth patted the handle of her sword stick. “Blink if you want mayhem.”
Philippa blinked in surprise.
“Perfect.” Elizabeth unsheathed her sword. “I’ll attack first.”


Philippa was not afraid to be Philippa. She wore more lace on her person than most people owned in their entire wardrobe. Philippa was the bluestockingest ringleader of the bluestockingest reading circle in existence. Philippa was proud to be Philippa.


“We are all saving the day,” Tommy said firmly. “The Wynchesters are a family of knights of various colors and genders who save the day together as a team.”


Tommy grinned. “Elizabeth has even woken herself up giggling maniacally.”
“Not maniacally,” Elizabeth said from across the table. “Giggling with cold calculation.”


This was truly the worst library Philippa had ever seen.

ARC Review: Intolerable by Darcy Burke

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Synopsis:

Every three years, like clockwork, Ruark Hannigan, Earl of Wexford loses his heart. Alas, he promised his father he wouldn’t marry until the age of thirty so that he’d be certain in his choice. When his best friend’s sister needs him to pose as a potential suitor to garner attention on the Marriage Mart, he’s the perfect candidate—if only he hadn’t kissed her in secret.

Lady Cassandra Westbrook can’t forget the incident between her and Wexford, and she’s having a devil of a time focusing on finding a husband. The fact that her father intimidates every gentleman has made her quest intolerable, and her two brothers who could help are proving completely worthless. But if she doesn’t settle on someone, her father will arrange an “acceptable” marriage by the end of the Season.

Finally, Cassandra has a chance at courtship, but, frustratingly, it’s not with the impulsive and irresistible Irishman her father detests and she desires. However, when Ruark sees the woman he passionately wants—despite his better judgment—swept into the arms of another man, the prospect of losing her becomes intolerable.

My Review:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

I… can’t believe I finished this. I liked the characters well enough, but I think most of my interest was from the first book in this series which I really liked. This one just felt… dull. The plot was incredibly thin and the conflict and angst were laughable. I feel like this one should have been a short story, not a full novel. There just wasn’t enough substance. Also some of the characters – like Cassandra’s father – had weird personality flip-flops. The writing was nowhere near the quality of the first in the series and I found myself reading around the words to get to the tidbits of story that were actually interesting. The final flaw, and what cemented the rating for me, was that once I turned the last page I could hardly remember the characters’ names or the plot.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Zealous Quill Press for providing an e-arc for review.

ARC Review: A Reckless Match by Kate Bateman (Ruthless Rivals #1)

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Synopsis:

The first in a new regency romance series about two feuding families and reunited childhood enemies whose hatred turns to love.

Maddie Montgomery’s family is in debt, and her hope rests on the rival Davies clan missing their yearly “pledge of goodwill,” ceding the land that separates their estates. With Maddie’s teenage nemesis, Gryffud “Gryff” Davies, Earl of Powys, away, hope is in reach.

But then, Gryff shows up and is stunned that the tomboy he once teased is now a woman. When Gryff and Maddie discover contraband on their land, they realize it can benefit both families. But they’ve also uncovered a dangerous plot, and they need to work together to get out alive. Soon, their hatred for each other starts to feel more like attraction.

Kate Bateman brings crackling banter, steamy romance, and a dash of adventure into the first book in the Ruthless Rivals series.

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I LOVED this. An enemies-to-lovers where they spent their entire childhoods antagonizing and teasing one another and eventually realize that their younger selves had actually been attracted to each other? Heck yeah. Not only that, but it’s clever and witty and extremely well-written.

Maddie was an opinionated, passionate, spitfire delight, and I loved how intelligent she was. Gryff was a perfect match for her, strong and steady and stubborn. I loved the familys’ long standing feud and can’t wait to read about Carys & Tristan and Harriet & Morgan. I forsee plenty of delightful banter and teasing and passion-disguised-as-hate-and-childhood-antagonism in this series and I am here for it.

I read a Kate Bateman book before and was disappointed in it (actually dnfed it) so I was hesitant to read this one, but OMG I loved it so much. Now I need to revisit the previous one. Maybe it was actually me. I will definitely be picking up Kate Bateman’s books in future.

*Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for providing an e-arc for review.

ARC Review: Kissing Under the Mistletoe by Suzanne Enoch, Amelia Grey, Anna Bennett

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Synopsis:

In GREAT SCOT by Suzanne Enoch, Jane Bansil knows she will never have a fairy-tale life. But even at three-and-thirty and well past marriageable age, though, she has to admit that the architect the MacTaggerts have hired could turn even a confirmed spinster’s head.

In CHRISTMAS AT DEWBERRY HOLLOW by Amelia Grey, Isabelle Reed has no plans to ever fall in love. Certainly not with Gate, a man who doesn’t live in Dewberry Hollow. She will fulfill her duty and help him keep his promise to have his ill grandfather back in London in time for Christmas dinner. The last thing Isabelle wants is for Gate to take her heart with him when he goes.

In MY MISTLETOE BEAU by Anna Bennett, Miss Eva Tiding is determined to cheer her widowed father with the perfect Christmas gift. Even if it means breaking into the home of the rakish earl who swindled Papa out of his pocket watch and pretending to date the earl for the Christmas season.

My Review:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This was an enjoyable anthology overall, though the three included novellas varied wildly in quality.

First up: Great Scot! by Suzanne Enoch – This was truly excellent. I was a bit confused at first because I didn’t recognize any of the characters and it seemed as if I should have — which made more sense once I realized this was actually part of a series. Oops. Once I accepted that, however, I had no issues. And it really didn’t seem to matter once the romance got going; the other characters faded into the background. As they should. The characters were lovely, the romance sweet and believable, and really it was just delightful. I’m rather shocked I haven’t read Suzanne Enoch’s work before and I’ll definitely be seeking it out in future. 5 stars

Next: Christmas at Dewberry Hollow by Amelia Grey – This was a severe disappointment compared to the other two novellas. The writing was definitely not of the same caliber, and I found myself having to read around the words and skimming just to get to the end. The story itself was lackluster though I did appreciate the characters. 2 stars

Finally: My Mistletoe Beau by Anna Bennett – I really enjoyed this one. It was a lovely fake relationship antagonistic relationship with two strong-willed people and plenty of sparks. Aside from a few questionable name choices — Frostbough? Rufflebum??? — it was great fun to read. I’ll be reading more by Anna Bennett for sure. 4.5 stars

So, like I said, a bit of a mixed bag, but there’s more than enough here to make reading this worthwhile, especially if you enjoy a wintry Christmas romance.

*Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for providing an e-arc for review.