Thursday, December 31, 2015

Book Review: A Regency Christmas, by Anita Mills and 4 Other Writers (Fourth review for The 6th Annual Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge)

This is my fourth and last review for
The 2015 Christmas Spirit 
Reading Challenge, hosted by 
Michelle @ The Christmas Spirit!

A Regency Christmas 
(Signet Regency Christmas, Book 1)
Anita Mills, Patricia Rice, Mary Balogh, Gayle Buck, Edith Layton
Mass Market Paperback, 
347 pages
Signet, 1989
Christmas Romance, Historical Fiction, Holiday Romance

Book Synopsis:
Written by five artists of extraordinary talent, these very special, newly written stories celebrate the simple joys and traditions of Christmas -- with each heartwarming tale evoking its own unique style and flavor. — In Gayle L. Buck's "Old Acquaintances," the magic of Christmas is remembered in a story of love and longing, while in "A Gift of Fortune," Anita Mills writes of the snowbound reunion of two unlikely lovers. Both Edith Layton's "The Duke's Progress" and Mary Balogh's "The Star of Bethlehem" are moving stories of holiday sadness, hope and the renewal of spirit. And "The Kissing Bough" by Patricia Rice is a bittersweet tale of love and reconciliation.

These are stories to warm your heart with the romance, generosities, and joys of the season -- holiday tales that can be read and enjoyed year after year.

My Review 

The Regency period has always been my favorite when reading Christmas-themed romance novels. That's because this particular romance sub-genre was influenced by the novels of Jane Austen, and thus, are part of her literary legacy. Also, there's something very special about romance set in this time period; it's particularly heartwarming and cozy. Entire families are often involved, and I love that!

The five stories in this collection were written by renowned Regency romance authors, but for me, the story that truly shines is "The Star of Bethlehem", by the incomparable Mary Balogh. She is my favorite Regency romance writer, and I have enjoyed her stories and novels at other times during the year, as well. In fact, I will read anything that has her name on it!

This story is a little masterpiece, as it tells of a diamond ring known as 'The Star of Bethlehem', and how a small urchin comes into the lives of a duke and duchess during the Christmas season, totally transforming their marriage. The influence of Dickens is very obvious here, which makes me like this story even more! Like him, Balogh is great at using psychology in the depiction of her characters, which gives her stories more depth.

"A Gift of Fortune", by Anita Mills, is also a touching story. Three travelers -- a young widow, her daughter, and her aunt -- are stranded in a snowstorm when their coach overturns. They are aided by a lord with a dubious past, and a young woman with an even more dubious past. In the hands of this very talented writer, the story turns into a true example of the Christmas spirit.

I also loved "Old Acquaintances", by Gayle Buck. The characters come sharply alive, and there are plenty of touches of humor throughout the story, especially in the case of one very obnoxious woman who happens to land in the house of one of the main characters. Love wins out in the end, and all previous difficulties are smoothed out, just in time for Christmas.

"The Kissing Bough", by Patricia Rice, is another great story, one in which misunderstandings play a major part. It's also a very poignant one, due to the loss of a family member before the story opens. In fact, family dynamics also have a major role, but again, everything is satisfactorily resolved in the end, all difficulties overcome, and the lovers reunited.

My least favorite story was "The Duke's Progress", by Edith Layton. This really surprised me, as I have read other Layton stories in the past, and really liked them. In this particular tale, she takes much too long to get to the really important part of the narrative -- the love story, which is then much too rushed, and, indeed, even forced. 

Another element of this story I disliked was the depiction of an encounter between the male lead and his mistress. This took place before the actual love story, and I feel it was totally unnecessary. Besides, the scene depicted was much too vulgar and sordid. It really had no place within a Christmas story.

Had it not been for the Layton story, this anthology definitely would have deserved five stars, instead of four. It's unfortunate that this one story marred the whole impact of the book. Still, I do recommend this collection to Regency romance fans who, like me, enjoy reading such tales during this beautiful, joyful time of year! 

About the Authors

Anita Mills is a former History and English teacher, and turned to writing in the mid-1980s. Her historical novels and Regency short stories are considered among the best in their respective genres. The parents of four children, Anita and her husband Larry live near Plattsburgh, Missouri.

With several million books in print and New York Times and USA Today's bestseller lists under her belt, former CPA Patricia Rice writes emotionally-charged, contemporary and historical romances which have won numerous awards. She is married to her high school sweetheart and has two children. They live in Southern California.

Mary Balogh is the New York Times bestselling author of the acclaimed Slightly novels. She is also the author of the Simply series, her dazzling quartet of novels set at Miss Martin's School for Girls. A former teacher herself, she grew up in Wales and now lives in Canada with her husband. They have three children, three grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

Gayle Buck has freelanced for regional publications, worked for a radio station, and as a secretary. Until recently she was involved in PR for a major Texas university. Besides her Regencies, she has also written fantasy, romantic suspense, and inspirational romance. She lives in Bandera, Texas, with her husband and two sons.

Edith Layton (1938 - 2009) grew up in Queens, New York. She was a freelance writer for newspapers and magazines before publishing her first novel. She won numerous awards, including the 1984 Romantic Times Award for Best New Regency Author. She wrote a total of 30 novels and many short stories. She was married for over 35 years to Dr. Norbert Felber, with whom she had three children.

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