Mary Jo Putney: "Sunshine For Christmas."
A pleasant read. Impulsively, Lord Randolph Lennox decides to flee England to escape his painful memories. His whimsical plans include Italy and he finds himself in Naples at Christmas. Over a misunderstanding, Miss Elizabeth Walker gladly offers support to a bewildered Lord Lennox. Soon they are fast friends. Friends who discover they can escape life's loneliness together. Mary Jo Putney's SUNSHINE FOR CHRISTMAS is good, but it is the moments of painful tenderness that truly save the story.
Anita Mills: "The Last Wish."
Repeatedly I am amazed at Anita Mills' talent to insert her reader into her story's setting and in THE LAST WISH this adept author once again capitalizes on her extraordinary skill. Sir John Grey is dying; he waits for death while he reflects on his life. His money-grubbing heirs gather for his death; all, but one, are ready to pick over the remains of Sir Grey's prosperous life. What they don't foresee is the arrival of a gentle woman and a small child. An unlikely pair who will forever change their lives. A well-written story, even though some of the slang was a struggle.
Mary Balogh: "Playing House."
PLAYING HOUSE is simply a wonderful story. There is not a drop of sexual activity found among these Balogh's words, but with this author's skill who needs it? Stephen, The Marquess of Bedford returns to his childhood home, the estate of Bedford Hall. He returns, with his small daughter, to relive the happy memories of carefree youth. He will give his child her own joyous memories. Instead he finds his first love, Lilias Angove. How dare poverty-stricken Lilias interfere in his renewal of happiness? Balogh pulls at her reader's heart with this touching and beautifully written story. Well done!
Carla Kelly: "The Three Kings"
As always, Carla Kelly gives us an honest, gritty story that depicts men and women overcoming huge obstacles. The hero and heroine spend a terrible journey together during the war and strangely don't wind up together at the end. I mean, they do, but she isn't physically with him - she still has to travel back to him through dangerous territory, and this is a bit unsettling, especially when you have read of their previous journey. I think Kelly's honesty makes her stories very heart-wrenching, but I wish she would have had the hero and heroine in safe territory before ending the story.
Sheila Walsh: "The Christmas Star."
A CHRISTMAS STAR is definitely a story with a highly improbable plot. Russian Prince Andrei Zarcov beseeches Louise Beresford, a poor country girl, to befriend his childhood love. A lonely young woman who has just given birth to a child. Louise agrees, for Louise is bewitched by Prince Zarcov's fairytale good looks and smooth manners. Almost a Cinderella story.
These five stories are by some of the best known authors of this genre. This book has long been out-of-print.
SUNSHINE FOR CHRISTMAS - Mary Jo Putney. Lord Randolph is lonely and doesn't want to go to Christmas festivities with either friends or relatives. It has been raining for more than 30 days. He decides to go where there is sunshine at this time - Italy.
Unfortunately, when he arrives, it is raining in Naples too. Later, he gets involved in an Italian family tiff, through no fault of his own. A young spinster, Elizabeth Walker, saves Lord Randolph from the clutches of the unhappy family. When he finds that Elizabeth is between governess jobs, he hires her to be his guide.
THE LAST WISH - Anita Mills. Wealthy Uncle Jack is dying; it is the Christmas holidays. Gathered about are three cousins: George, Edwin and Drew. Of the three, Drew is the only solvent cousin; in fact, he is wealthier than his uncle. The other two are there for the money; each is afraid the other cousin will get the will changed just before Uncle Jack dies. Both of these cousins are seriously in debt due to their gambling.
The entire apple cart is overturned when Uncle Jack's granddaughter arrives. Jack and his son had a falling out and there was no communication between the men. Both of Rebecca Grey's parents are now dead and her Aunt Mia can no longer keep the child ... her employer insists.
PLAYING HOUSE - Mary Balogh. I absolutely loved this story. A deeply cynical and unhappy Marquess of Bedford has come back home after a 6 year absence. He has brought his young daughter, Dora; his wife is deceased (after abandoning her husband and their child for another man).
While bringing baskets of food for the poor, Lilias Angove and her young brother and younger sister meet Dora and have a great time. The Angove children invite Dora to go collecting boughs and mistletoe. Thus begins a lovely tale.
THE THREE KINGS - Carla Kelly. I had read this story before and enjoyed reading it again. It is about a young woman, Lady Sarah Comstock, who is trying to leave Salamanca, Spain for the Spanish border. Her brother James was recently killed in a local library archives while copying long-lost documents related to Christopher Columbus.
A friend puts Sarah in the hands of a Spanish general, Colonel Sotomayor, to get to the border. Spain is at war with France and the French have overrun the country. The trip is dangerous and Sotomayor is seriously wounded.
THE CHRISTMAS STAR - Sheila Walsh. Louise Beresford, a poor relation to a duke and duchess, has been taken into their household. Louise quickly becomes indispensable to the family and staff. The duke's youngest daughter, Amelia, is about to have her 18th birthday party during the Christmas holiday season.
Russian Prince Andrei Zarcov, visiting in the neighborhood, soon is invited to Lady Amelia Revel's party. The duchess and Amelia immediately try to spend as much time with the prince as possible.