What Happens Under the Mistletoe is the new Christmas anthology featuring novellas by Sabrina Jeffries, Karen Hawkins, Candace Camp, and Meredith Duran. I’ve heard of all of these authors, but I’ve only read Candace Camp. Each book involves the magic of Christmas and mistletoe. As with all anthologies, some of the novellas are stronger (Sweetest Regret) than others (The Heiress and the Hothead).
1. The Heiress and the Hothead by Sabrina Jeffries: Amanda Keane is an American heiress in Regency England in order to figure out what makes English mills so successful. Lord Stephen Corry is a second son, who writes scathing articles about the state of mills. The two come together at Christmas and fall in love under the mistletoe.
This started out really good. I enjoyed Ms. Jeffries writing style and the characters were both extremely likable. Then, they found themselves in a mill that was burning down around them and instead of trying to figure out how to get out, they decide that it is the perfect place for them to have sex for the first time. What? You have no idea how much I rolled my eyes at this and at the things said to justify it. Ugh. I hate Danger Boner. What exactly is so arousing about the idea of being charbroiled to death that you just have to get down to some sexy times? The best part of this was that I was reading it with an episode of That 70’s Show on in the background. At the exact same time that they were paying more attention to the fire burning in their loins than the one burning down the mill, Red turned to Kitty and told her that “You’re never too old to burn up in a fire.” Oh, thank you, Red. That made the ending of this novella much more entertaining. 3.5 Stars
2. Twelve Kisses by Karen Hawkins: Marcus and Kenna were engaged once upon a time and they haven’t seen each other since. When they show up at the same Christmas masquerade, the sparks fly and they have to figure out if they can work things out or if they were better off as they were for the last 10 years.
I liked Twelve Kisses, but it is slow to start. I had the hardest time not just skipping it and going straight to the next story. Once I was able to get into it, I enjoyed Ms. Hawkins’s sense of humor, which is really what tipped it from DNF to an actual grade. I did want to kick myself for skipping Love Shack when it came on iTunes just before the characters found an actual love shack. There probably wasn’t any glitter on the ceiling or the mattress, but there did end up being a chalk line on the floor. Plus, Russian Royal Plot Moppets. Yep. There were Romanovs hanging out in Scotland. They weren’t necessary, but at times they were entertaining. 3.5 Stars
3. By Any Other Name by Candace Camp: In the days before Christmas, Rylla Campbell’s brother goes missing and she decides to search Edinburgh for him. On her first outing, she meets Gregory Rose. Gregory is immediately drawn to Rylla even though he doesn’t know who she is, so he goes searching for her. A case of mistaken identity later and the two quickly find themselves falling for each other.
Candace Camp is one of my guilty pleasure authors and I’ve been reading her books since my senior year of high school. Something about By Any Other Name seemed off to me and I don’t know why. I liked both Rylla and Gregory–him a little more than her, if I’m being honest. Part of my problem with it was the idea that Rylla could pass for a boy. I hate that trope. Thankfully, Gregory quickly found out the truth, if not her name. What annoyed me most was that she couldn’t trust him with her real name until he literally forced the issue. Once all the subterfuge was over, I enjoyed it much more. Rylla and Gregory had great chemistry and when they were together, they sparkled (maybe that’s where the Love Shack’s glitter was). 4 Stars
4. Sweetest Regret by Meredith Duran: Georgie Trent and Lucas Godwin fell in love in Munich two years earlier, but were torn apart thanks to the machinations of Georgie’s father and kept apart because of their own insecurities. Now, they’re bitter and want nothing to do with each other. Unfortunately, Georgie needs Lucas’s help in finding something that was stolen during a Christmas house party. Once they figure out the truth of what happened in Germany, there’s no stopping their happily ever after.
This was by far my favorite novella in this book and I will definitely be checking out more of Ms. Duran’s books in the future. Georgie and Lucas had amazing chemistry and you could tell (even before they understood exactly what went wrong the last time) that they truly cared for each other (even if those feelings only really existed in the past). Of all the novellas, this is the one that had the most realistic conflict because it was based on their own insecurities. Neither of them felt that they were worthy of the other and so they easily believed the lies Georgie’s father told. It was easier than believing in a love that was new and untested. 5 Stars
This was the best Christmas Anthology I’ve read so far this year. Even the weakest of the stories, The Heiress and the Hothead (awful title, by the way), was enjoyable enough to keep me reading. That isn’t an easy thing to do when it is such a short story. 4 Stars
What Happens Under the Mistletoe is currently available for Pre-Order and will be released on October 27th.