A quartet of novellas all set at the same Christmas house party, the Duke of Greystoke’s infamous Revelry. But the Duke is ailing, and the future of the Revelry is in doubt.
A Mistletoe Kiss by Eloisa James
Oh wow, I hated Cressida’s father so much. And in fact her older sisters and her cousin Val, too, for allowing her to be so demeaned and exploited for so long. Elias at least recognised her for the treasure she was, but frankly it took him far too long.
There’s an inherent problem in a story like this with a limited time frame. The entire thing takes place over, I think, three days, and it progresses from Elias barely being aware of Cressida’s existence to both of them convinced they are passionately in love with each other… and I’m afraid I just don’t quite buy instalove at that speed. Three stars.
Wishing Under The Mistletoe by Christi Caldwell
This second-chance romance is much more my speed. The duke’s granddaughter Isabella was engaged to be married ten years ago to Cyrus, son of the head stableman (which did take quite a lot of suspension of disbelief, to be honest). Cyrus has been educated and is now an investment manager, looking after investments for various rich men, but he’s also become too buried in his work. Isabella calls off the engagement because she’s not prepared to come second to it. When they are reunited at the Revelry and forced to work together, it becomes clear that they’ve both grown up in the intervening years and are now ready to fall in love again.
I liked this one a lot and because of the history, it didn’t feel rushed despite the short length… though it really never did get explained just how a duke’s granddaughter was permitted to become engaged to a stablemaster’s son in the first place. I’ll give this one four stars.
Compromise Under The Mistletoe by Janna MacGregor
An estranged couple have to pretend to be happily married in another second-chance romance. Caroline walked out on her husband Stephen a year ago because she was tired of being less important to him than apparently everything, including his prize cow Betsey. She wants to open an art exhibition space for women in London, but to do it, she needs the money from her trust… and her uncle the Duke won’t release it unless she and her husband attend his Revelry… and appear to be happily married.
Stephen clearly has ulterior motives from the beginning; he wants his wife back. I don’t think we really got enough information on the background to how it all went wrong, and Stephen and Caroline definitely didn’t talk it out properly, but that’s a hazard of such a limited word count. A good story, though. Four stars.
Mischief & Mistletoe by Erica Ridley
Louisa Harcourt wants nothing more from life than peace and quiet to write her poetry, but her ambitious mother is having none of it. Louisa must find a titled husband at the Revelry… or her mother will select one for her and force a compromise. Heirs to a dukedom and a marquessate are in the mix, but it’s brooding poet Ewan, a plain Mister, who catches Louisa’s eye.
Interestingly, this was the one story in the bunch that didn’t feel rushed, and didn’t try to pack too much in. I really liked Ewan and how he appreciated Louisa: there was a significant issue because he was hiding something massive and as usual with men, he waited too long to come clean and got found out. He did follow up with a quite magnificent grovel, though, and I enjoyed the epilogue where we saw how their relationship worked in the real world. My favourite story of this collection: I’ll give it five stars.
This collection was one which got better as I went through the stories: the first one was in my opinion the weakest. Most of these authors do normally write full-length and this shorter format does them no favours as they are struggling to get a whole story told in the limited word count: Ridley I know does write novellas (check out her 12 Dukes of Christmas series) and I could really tell because her story felt like the most complete and not rushed. Overall a decent collection with some enjoyable reads. Four stars.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via NetGalley.