A Yuletide Kiss by Madeline Hunter, Sabrina Jeffries and Mary Jo Putney
This is a set of three novellas connected by the fact that they are all taking place at the same time, in an inn where a group of travellers become stranded by bad weather just before Christmas.
When We Finally Kiss Goodnight by Sabrina Jeffries
If you’ve read the Duke Dynasty series, you’ll be quite familiar with Konrad Juncker, the fake playwright employed by the Duke of Thornstock to cover for the fact that Thorn was the author of the popular plays. Flora, the heroine, also appeared briefly, and it was apparent that the pair of them had some history. Here we discover that there was a failed romance between them a decade ago; Flora was in Bath to find a suitable match, fell for Konrad, and then he left to go to London with Thorn and she ended up becoming a companion to an elderly viscountess.
The chemistry between the two is palpable, but there is an obstacle in that Konrad is currently in limbo, uncertain as to his future and whether he will be able to support a wife at all, much less keep a lady like Flora in good style.
I think this would make a decent amount of sense if you haven’t read the Duke Dynasty series, but if you have read and loved them like I have, this is a nice little addition. Five stars.
The Unexpected Gift by Madeline Hunter
Jenna Waverly is the owner of the White Rose Inn, and she very much did not want guests for Christmas, a time she closes the inn and gives herself a holiday, but she can’t turn away travellers stranded in a ice storm… and certainly she can’t refuse to help a seriously ill and injured man found in the snow close by. Lucas Avonwood is charmed by the beautiful innkeeper who carefully nurses him back to health, but he isn’t telling her everything - he’s searching for clues to the whereabouts of a devious thief and smuggler who may have been using the White Rose as a base.
Spoiler: the villain turns out to be Jenna’s brother, and while I liked the romance between Jenna and Lucas, I had a serious problem with Lucas undertaking to ‘fix’ everything without actually telling Jenna what was going on. He NEVER DID tell her, which meant they were starting their life together with a significant matter Lucas was concealing. While it’s an otherwise decent story, that left a nasty taste in my mouth and I’m knocking a star off for it. Four stars.
When Strangers Meet by Mary Jo Putney
The last person Kate Macleod expects to meet at the White Rose Inn is Daniel Faringdon, the man who married her to save her from an untenable situation in India seven years earlier, and then promptly disappears. To add insult to injury, he doesn’t appear to even recognise her at first! But since he’s here and apparently not dead, she’s going to have to convince him to help her get the marriage annulled… except Daniel seems to think that being married isn’t such a bad idea.
I liked this story a lot. Kate and Daniel are both strong, smart people who’ve overcome past difficulties and come to a place where they know who they are and what they want from life. Five stars.
Overall this is a very strong anthology, but there were a couple of puzzling discrepancies, mainly that the three stories had very different heat levels. The first is high heat, open door, the third has no sex scene at all, and the second is a sort of in-between, partially open door. To be honest it felt like they were in precisely the wrong order and should have escalated in heat level instead. Taking each story on its own merits and averaging, however, it comes out at 4.67, which I’ll average up to 5 stars.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via NetGalley.