This is the group effort by the Word Witches: Jo Beverly, Joanna Bourne, Nicola Cornick, Cara Elliott, Anne Gracie, Susan King, Mary Jo Putney, and Patricia Rice. It is 1815 and the Christmas season. Everyone is getting ready for a fancy Christmas dance.
Jo Beverley sets the scene for the stories that follow. Lady Holly, 70-years young, is having her 50th annual Christmas Ball. She mentions that the Ball has been the reason for many marriage matches and she hopes to help Miss Sarah Jane Langsdale and Miss Allie Fenton to find husbands this year. One thing that is noticeable is how well the stories fit together. However, I was surprised that by the 5th story, I was tired of the whole plotline. Overall score = G+.
MY TRUE LOVE HATH MY HEART (Joanna Bourne) -- 2 stars
This was so boring, I hate to waste the time to describe it. A female jeweler has been hired as a maid. She plans to ruin a man who tried to destroy her reputation (as a fine jeweler). A nobleman spy and she had a relationship and she turned him down (as to marriage, three months ago). They are now both at the party. A yawn.
A SCOTTISH CAROL (Susan King) -- VG
After working as a surgeon at Waterloo, Henry Sutton returned to Edinburgh and taught medicine at the university. He was supposed to escort his sister and her children to the Christmas Ball but the girls came down with chickenpox and Henry declined the invitation. When Clara Hay arrives at his home, she expects to go with Henry's sister to the ball. Henry once loved Clara; she married another. She is now a widow. One thing leads to another.
CHRISTMAS LARKS (Patricia Rice) -- VG
The story was interesting; the talking mice -- not so much. I don't really understand why Mrs. Rice has to add magic to her stories. Does she think her stories lack charm without that addition? After spending a year roaming the world, our injured war hero takes a severe strike to the head and is brought to his old home. However, he figures out that things are amiss. Sarah Jane Langsdale is taking care of Ivo (as she did when they were youngsters). When he finds out his home has been given to Sarah for an orphanage, he is stunned. However, the head injury gives Ivo a chance to ruminate about the past and his future.
IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER (Mary Jo Putney) -- VG
Kim Stretton has come back from the Peninsula in terrible shape. His batman works with him but Kim refuses to see any of his family. Kim and his batman have been in the ancient tower for 6 months and Kim is talking about moving away and finding a small place elsewhere. Roxanne and Kim were betrothed but now he refuses to speak to her. He wants her to marry his older brother. Roxie is not one to take such feeble advice. She plots to see Kim one last time.
OLD FLAMES DANCE (Cara Elliott) -- G+
Edward, Kim's older brother, suddenly sees someone he was in love with years ago, who has returned from India. Lily is twice widowed in India and has moved back to find a small cottage and live out her life. She hears that there is an imminent engagement to be announced at the ball, and she is devastated to hear it is between Roxanne and Edward. The value of this story is that it fleshes out all four characters.
A SEASON FOR MARRIAGE (Nicola Cornick) -- 2 stars
Although not expected at the house party, Caroline, the youngest Stretton, arrives, and rumors start immediately. She arrives separately from her husband (Piers Camden), who is a close friend to Edward, her oldest brother. This is a pitifully weak story; it needed more pages to flesh out the reason for Pier's concerns.
MISS FINCH AND THE ANGEL (Jo Beverly) -- 2 stars
This was a very unlikely story; many of the words were used to catch up with the various characters in their plotlines. Lord Gabriel takes note of Lady Holly's shadow (companion). I wasn't buying it.
MISTLETOE KISSES (Anne Gracie) -- 5 stars
Allie is spending her last Christmas in her home before her cousin (from Jamaica) comes to take over the property. Unexpected guests arrive when their carriage overturns in water. When the carriage is arighted, Lucinda's ball gown is ruined. Allie gives her dress (given by Lady Holly) to Lucinda and Allie stays home. John, Lucinda's brother travels to Allie's house to dance with her. A lovely story.