A Western Winter Wonderland is a new holiday anthology due out in October from Harlequin Historicals. It has everything I love in a holiday anthology. Quick, heartwarming reads that leave me with a warm satisfying afterglow.
Cheryl St. John headlines with Christmas Day Family. Marvel Henley is an old maid. As in 33. Positively ancient for a never-married woman in 1886. When her father took ill, Marvel cared for him. When money started running out, she took in borders - which is what she's been doing ever since her father passed. She has a comfortable life. A good life. And even turns down a marriage proposal from an old (as in, old enough to be her father) family friend. Life is going smoothly, and then the new town doctor shows up. Marvel agreed to board Seth Paxton as a temporary arrangement. She certainly wasn't counting on him bringing two small children and a dog with him.
What I really enjoyed about this story was that Marvel is a very capable heroine. She's got a comfortable life, and is content. She just doesn't realize her life could be even better - and that's where Seth comes in. But Marvel is unsure. Seth is very handsome, and younger than she is. What would he want with an old maid? This is classic St. John. If you've liked her stories in the past, this one is going to work for you.
Fallen Angel by Jenna Kernan finds single mother Abby March hunting for a Christmas tree with her son, Daniel. Unfortunately they unwittingly stumble across a wanted man facing off with bounty hunter, Ford Statler. Daniel ends up saving Ford's life, but Abby is accidentally shot. Ford takes her back to town, puts her up in a fancy hotel room and nurses her back to health. Conflict arises from his haunted past and her disastrous relationship with Daniel's father.
I love "cabin" stories, where the couple finds themselves sharing close quarters. This one is great, because Abby has preconceived notions about Ford, and he shatters them at every turn. I also loved the way this one ended, with Abby taking matters into her own hands.
One Magic Eve by Pam Crooks features a heroine with an unusual occupation. Sonja Kaplan trains carrier pigeons for the U.S. Army. Unfortunately she's single, secretive about her work, and has numerous soldiers calling on her at her isolated cabin. I mean, what are the good townsfolk supposed to think? Young Beau Lattimer rescues an injured pup in the woods, and decides to take him to Sonja's. She's good with birds, maybe she's good with dogs too! That's where Chet Lattimer finds his son, and when his boy makes a connection with the mysterious Sonja, Chet decides that maybe spending more time getting to know the woman might not be the worst thing in the world.
Chet's a respected man drawn to Sonja, but unsure what to think when he finds her keeping company with Indian braves and military men. Once he learns the truth, he finds himself even more attracted to her, and is grateful for the help she gives him with his son. He didn't know Beau existed until after his mother died, and Chet's been a bit out of sorts ever since.
All of these were quick, heartwarming reads - perfect holiday fare. These are sweet reads, with no s-e-x to speak of, which frankly is a good thing because it fits within the context of all the stories. It's the kind of book you can give your grandmother or your 12-year-old daughter and not worry about having lengthy discussions on "the smut you're reading" or the "birds-and-bees." Basically this bad boy is my very definition of a comfort read. Buy it now and save it for Christmas Eve. Final Grade = B+