3 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful
jjares reviewed A Texas Christmas: One Wish: A Christmas Story / Naughty or Nice / The Christmas Bell / Away in the Manger on + 1980 more book reviews
Often, anthologies are short stories by different authors around one theme (i.e.: Christmas). Here, another theme was added all of the stories took place in and around Kasota Springs, Texas. Thus, the characters and stories were gently interwoven. I felt it added so much!
A CHRISTMAS WISH: Samuel Thompson is part of an unusual clan that doesnt like visitors, questions about their business or spending time in town (Kasota Springs, Texas).
Since the death of her parents, Maggie has run the general store on her own. Samuel and Maggie shared a special friendship during the one year Sam went to school. He feels that he needs to help Maggie because he's overheard men talking about robbing the store and molesting the young woman.
After Sam foils the attempt, he takes Maggie to his isolated home to avoid the ringleader who has vowed to kill them both.
Jodi Thomas entry was a serious disappointment! Thomas has such skill that she enchants the reader from the first page; however, I had some problems with the story:
1) While together, they decide to act as if they are married. (???)
2) The author tells us that both Maggie and Samuel are ostracized by the community. However, she doesnt explain why Maggie would be isolated, except to say she was bossy and controlling. In the story, she shows none of these behaviors.
3) Ive read almost all of Thomas books (Im still looking for 3) and she uses the rules far too often. Another reviewer said that she thought it was to create conflict between characters. I agree.
NAUGHTY OR NICE (DeWanna Pace): This is a lovely story about an outcast saloon-keeper, Anna Ross, who is coming back to Kasota Springs with a wagon-load of liquor.
The year 1877 had one of the most severe blizzards in Texas Panhandle history. Anna is struggling to get home, but finds a New England-bred tenderfoot lost in a drift: James Elliott the Third.
THE CHRISTMAS BELL (Linda Broday): Sloan Sullivan owns a ranch near the railroad and notices that the train is stalled due to snow drifts covering the tracks. He loads up supplies and food and takes it to the train riders.
There he finds trouble aplenty: one man has scarlet fever and an extremely-pregnant woman is on board. Tess Whitgrove, the bankers daughter, has been assigned the task of helping the passengers. Theres no love lost between Sullivan and Whitgrove. However, theres more work than she can do alone and Sullivan stays on the train.
To prove to the town that shes not just a poor little rich girl, Tess has traveled to bring the new church bell to the town in time for Christmas. If they remain on the tracks, the bell wont arrive in time.
There were 2 oddities about this story:
1) Of course, the pregnant lady has her baby on the train, during the blinding blizzard! During those days, pregnant women did not travel during the last 3 or 4 months. Half the mothers in America lost their lives during child-birth. It was important for a woman to be near the medical help she might need.
2) Why was Tess considered to be a poor little rich girl? In communities, family members of prominent citizens were treated with deference not condescension!
AWAY IN THE MANGER (Phyliss Miranda): This is my favorite because it really captured the magic of Christmas. The plot was very predictable, but charming.
Randall Humphrey is the towns blacksmith; hes just going through the motions of life. The towns major pain-in-the-pants has hired him to make sure her niece plus twins are brought to her as soon as they arrive.
Sensing Sarahs reluctance to stay with her aunt, Rand tells the aunt her relatives will come as soon as they are up from naps. By the time they are awake, the blizzard is at its worst. The 3 stay with Randall in his home.
Short and sweet holiday story. Maggie is cleaning up her store, preparing to close for the night, unaware that she is being watched. Outside are three outlaws, intent on robbing her and more. All of them are unaware of Sam's presence. He'd heard the men talking in the saloon and was ready to step in if necessary. While waiting, he remembers back to his childhood. He and Maggie were friends in first grade before her parents sent her away to school. He's never forgotten her and will do what he must to protect her. I loved seeing him take two of the three outlaws out, and felt his frustration when the third got away. That particular outlaw is bad news, and both Sam and the sheriff think that Maggie is in danger until he is caught. Sam insists on taking Maggie to his home for safekeeping.
I loved both Maggie and Sam. Both of them are outsiders in their town. Maggie is a combination of bossy and shy and has no friends. She works in her store, and that is her whole life. For years she has kept a journal, chronicling her hopes and dreams, though they have dwindled over the years. Now she has just one wish - to spend a day with a good and loving man. Sam is the strong, silent type. He is a private man who doesn't share much of himself with anyone, even the relations who live in the same canyon. Neither he nor Maggie has ever had a genuine relationship with anyone and have no idea how to go about it.
I enjoyed the development of the relationship between Sam and Maggie. Their childhood friendship made it easier for them to give in to their yearning for a connection. I laughed at the idea that they would pretend to be married for the time they were together, as that was surely tempting fate. It was sweet to see Sam's gentleness as he gave in to the urge to kiss Maggie. I loved Maggie's surprise at the feelings he aroused in her, and her willingness to explore them further. Each day they were together, the feelings between them grew stronger.
When danger comes knocking at the door, Sam must find a way to hold it off long enough for Maggie to get away. The confrontation is vicious and dangerous. Sam's life is spared only by the arrival of an unexpected ally. I ached for Maggie, who is left wondering first about his safety, then about whether there is a future for her with Sam. I loved that she knew him well enough to understand that anything more would have to come from him. The ending was sweet and romantic.
The secondary characters were not as well developed, but each had an essential place in the story. I liked the old lady, Nina, and her care for Sam and his son. She was quite the character, and I loved how she also took to Maggie, providing her with excellent advice. The sheriff rubbed me the wrong way from the beginning and proved my instincts right by the end. My favorite was Sam's little boy, Wes. He was an adorable child, and I could see that he was Sam's entire world. I loved how Wes and Maggie took to each other so quickly.
This was my first book by Jodi Thomas, but it won't be my last. She has a fantastic way with descriptions. From the blizzard to the description of Sam's home, it was incredibly easy to picture them as I read. I could feel Maggie's fear as she fled with Wes, and I felt each blow as Sam was beaten by the bad guys.