Wednesday, December 16, 2015

TBR Challenge: A Western Winter Wonderland anthology

19th century. Three heartwarming stories full of holiday sparkle and romance!
Christmas Day Family by Cheryl St.John
Marvel Henley thought she was content until the new handsome doctor Seth Paxton and his adorable kids crashed into her life! Suddenly she began to yearn for things she had long stopped wishing for... Fallen Angel by Jenna Kernan
When Abby March is accidentally shot, she and her young boy are taken into a rugged stranger's care. Dark and mysterious, Ford Statler hides a softer side and offers much more than just a Christmas to remember...
One Magic Eve by Pam Crooks
Chet Latimer is attracted to Sonja Kaplan despite local gossip, and he finds himself asking Sonja for help with his motherless little boy. With Christmas on the horizon and magic in the air, their lives may just change...forever!  

Comment: Here we are the final TBR challenge post of the year and, as usual, for December we have a holiday read. It doesn't have to be about Christmas but is sure looks suitable. Again this year I picked an anthology that has been on my radar for quite a long time and I kept it on hold until this month purposely to this challenge.
Each story features a small plot centered around Christmas and the spirit of sharing and helping others. Even more important, there's love to happen as well.
Being the stories short stories obviously they have to follow some rules, namely in terms of limited time to set the pace and present a HEA. I found it interesting that all stories featured children. The problem is that, because there's not much time to develop the relationships, even in an historical context where some situations would be dealt with more politeness and behavioral rules than we have nowadays when it comes to said relationships, I felt not enough time was passing for things to be very credible. It's very difficult to fully believe that in such a short amount of time things happen with enough depth and solidity to make a relationship based on true love become real. I know it's complicated to juggle the need for limits with a believable love story development but some authors have done it! And without recurring to the lovers reunited trope, which I dislike. This doesn't happen here, all three couples fall in love after some time talking and there are sweet, cute scenes around the Christmas time but they really didn't work out completely for me.
Just a few words about each story...
Christmas Day Family by Cheryl St.John
This story focuses on Marvel, a spinster lady who took care of her father in his illness and now has a boarding house and recently turned down the offer of marriage by one of her father's friends. Marvel feels she doesn't have to settle just because of her age and she tells herself she likes her lonely life just fine. Things change when Seth Paxton, the new doctor, arrives in town with his children and starts living there until his own house is ready.
The relationship between them is cautious at first but then Marvel falls for his children and then for Seth himself. Marvel is suspicious of happiness after such a long time not living for herself but this cute story tells us it's never too late to be happy, to trust someone and to fulfill the dreams we might have. What I didn't like was how Marvel was seven years older than Seth. Personally, in real life nothing against it, but in romances I prefer when the opposite happens. It doesn't suit me much and often I can't put it aside. Apart from that, it was a sweet story.
Fallen Angel by Jenna Kernan
Abby is trying to get a Christmas tree with her son when a bounty hunter accidently shoots her while trying to hit a wanted man. Abby grew up in a sheltered life but everything changed when she believed the words of a man and left her family for him. he turned out to be a cad, only after her for her money, money that her parents never gave her anyway. She is now wary of men, especially Ford who takes up the task of caring for her until she's back on her feet. The close proximity of the hotel where they're staying makes the feelings between them hard to resist and the small boy really needs a father, but Abby wants to take care of her son and she gladly traded her good life to protect and love her son.
This story is sweet too, but the relationship between Ford and Abby happens too fast. It was more convincing how Ford and Abby's son bonded, actually. Ford is one of those "I don't deserve you" types and that gets so annoying, although believable. It was nice when things got solved and Ford realize it's better to love and cherish than to live in the past.
One Magic Eve by Pam Crooks
Here we meet Sonya, who works as the caretaker of pigeons for the army and the whole town believes her to be something she's not, receiving so many army men in her house and being unmarried. The man she was supposed to marry died in a an attack by an Indian but Sonya takes her job very seriously because the pigeons carrying messages help the army to protect people.
Chet Lattimer's son and a friend save a baby fox and ask Sonya for help but then the friend leaves Chet's son there and when he goes there to get him, we learn both Chet and Sonya are attracted to each other but the prejudice is keeping Chet away despite Sonya having developed stronger feelings for him and feeling very sad he doesn't try to understand her side. The best part was to see how Sonya, someone others misjudged, finally got the family she needed to love and loved them back. I think Chet was a bit too condescending but the HEA made up for that.
All in all, the three stories are warm tales of the redemption of Christmas and how we should let go of past issues and embrace happiness, a second chance at love or even a first attempt at being with people who could love and want you. I also liked how children had an important role in all the stories, for they were part of the reason the couples got closer and became a family at the end.
Many situations would have gained a lot with a bigger page count so certain issues could have been better developed, but in general, the goals were achieved.
I still think more could have been done, not any of them won me over completely, but all of them are slightly balanced, there isn't one, for instance, that's so much better or vice versa. They are nice, warm stories to read in this season and that's it, really.
Grade: 6/10 


  1. You had me looking up my old review. I knew I had read this and liked it - but the finer details (like how much I liked it) was lost to me since I read this back when it was first released. It didn't change my life but I remember getting sucked into how "cozy" the whole thing was. Just what I look for in a holiday read :)

  2. Hi!
    Yes, cozy they are. I just feel that sometimes these short stories are rushed for obvious reasons and then I think of all the ways they could have worked wonderfully as bigger