Wednesday, December 18, 2013

TBR Challenge: Western Winter Wedding Bells anthology

Small town Christmas--Three big proposals
"Christmas in Red Willow" by Cheryl St. John
Chloe Hanley must save the town church. But only if she can convince reclusive carpenter Owen Reardon to help repair the broken heart of the community and open his own up again-- in time for Christmas
"The Sheriff's Housekeeper Bride" by Jenna Kernan
Running from her past and a crime she didn't commit, Eliza Flannery bumps into her future--all rugged six-foot sheriff of him Single father Trent Foerster mistakes her for his housekeeper, but there's no mistaking his desire for a mistletoe kiss from this mysterious miss....

"Wearing the Rancher's Ring" by Charlene Sands
Cooper Garnett is shot and left for dead near Double J Ranch when widow Rachel Bodine comes to his aid. Could his unexpected arrival be the best Christmas gift ever-- a second-chance family for Rachel and her little son?

Comment: This is the last challenge post of the year, but in 2014 there'll be more as I've signed up for another year. A post about this to come soon.
Anyway, this month the theme is holidays and obviously it's easier to jut pick something Christmas, being in the air all around and all that. I chose a book about Christmas exactly for that reason and it had the words in the title, otherwise it would be difficult as I don't have many of these laying around. I was convinced about this one because of Cheryl St John's name, an author Ive read and liked before, but overall I was curious to read the three stories in this anthology.

So, this being an anthology, it has different stories about a certain theme, this being marriage proposals on Christmas. I was curious to read them and most importantly, to see how each author would present a short story that could deliver everything a full length one does in a shorter amount of time.

Besides the marriage proposal at the end, these stories also had in common the little detail of their possibilities. I mean, for shorter stories having to be told with a certain amount of pages, they worked quite well and I was impressed by how the authors made an effort to write in a way to time go by so things didn't look as rushed as they were. But the three stories have potential to be bigger stories and I think all of them could be a full length book with no problems. Many authors write shorts in such a way it's difficult to see them bigger, but not these ones; these stories feel well structured and despite the rules they had to abide, they still managed to be a sort of special little Christmas' sweet.

As for the each story in particular...
"Christmas in Red Willow" by Cheryl St. John
This story was the weaker of the lot for me. I knew about the author so I expected something romantic, but I thin too much detail was paid to the surroundings instead of the romance and I thought they didn't have much chemistry. I was happy for Owen and Chloe but I wasn't eager to see them together because it looked like it wasn't the most important thing. Besides, this story is a version of the friends to lovers trope and I don't like it that much, probably my second least favorite trope in a romance, right after lover's reunited. I prefer my books to have the thrill of finding out that special person for the first time. Anyway, this story provided an interesting setting and it had its moments, but everything together felt rather too plain.

"The Sheriff's Housekeeper Bride" by Jenna Kernan
This one was my favorite, I love the situations where one of the protagonists aren't who they say and how part of the conflict comes from there. In this case, Eliza had reasons to hide her identity and the story developed with the expected situations in these cases, the not knowing about past conversations, the lack of particular skills, among other things. But the relationship between Eliza and the sheriff was funny to watch, I liked them together and the scenes with the sheriff's daughter were sweet. I also liked how Eliza had to struggle and had had troubled experiences in her past and she needed as much love as he sheriff and his daughter. I'm a sucker for stories with little children and couples that find in each other the love and acceptance they didn't had before. This story was spot on for these things and it made it my favorite.
I'll have a look at the author's other work too.

 "Wearing the Rancher's Ring" by Charlene Sands
In this story we have a very traditional theme in romances, the I don't deserve you but eventually I'll stay with you. Cooper lost his family and is looking for the man responsible. He is robbed though and later on rescued by Rachel.
Rachel is a widow left with a young son but after getting to know Cooper she starts having feelings for him. They have to overcome some obstacles, mostly emotional ones, and they get their HEA.
This is the most sensual story but still very sweet. I liked how the main couple didn't seem to care what the other thought at first but things changed. I agree with some readers it was a bit too fast and at times it looked like they just couldn't wait to be intimate, which didn't sit well with the tone of the story in my opinion. However, their reasons were exploited and reasonable enough for me. I thin they were two people waiting to be loved again and in the end the kid and the hope sealed the deal, although I think this is the story with more potential to be stronger.

Overall, I liked the three stories but each one made me feel interested for different reasons.I thin each author has done a good job, with space left to much improvement nevertheless.
On their own I don't know which grade to give, but as a set of stories featuring Christmas and hope and warm thoughts, this guarantees a few hours with a smile on your face, so... still, the bigger portion of my grade goes to story #2, very good indeed!
Grade: 7/10


  1. I haven't read this anthology with Cheryl St. John, Sonia. Friends to lovers works for me, so I think her story will be a good match for me, and the other two stories sound great too. So thanks for the review, I'm going to add it to my TBR. :P

    Another good Christmas anthology with St. John I can recommend is Snowflakes and Stetsons.

  2. Hello! I'll look for that anthology, thank you!
    About this one, I hope you like it better than me, St John's story I mean. Too bad it's a short, because despite the third being the one I felt having more possibilities to develop, all of them could be winners in full length!
    Kiss :)