Longing For A Cowboy Christmas - Anthology
A Fairy Tale Christmas by Leigh Greenwood
Set in 1880, spinster Nan is the owner of a nice farm in the Shenandoah Valley. Just a few days before Christmas, businessman Will Atkins and his daughter Clara wind up on her doorstep when Will falls sick and there’s nobody else available to take him in. On his way to leave Clara with her maternal grandparents because he’s unable to look after her, Nan could be the answer to this lonely pair’s prayers.
Two things struck me about this one; first of all, no cowboys? Which seems kind of odd in an anthology with a cowboy theme? Setting that one aside, this felt way more like a marriage of convenience story which could eventually turn into a love story than two people falling deeply in love in the space of a week, probably because it WAS just so very convenient for both of them to do so. Will securing his future in the valley without actually sharing his plans with Nan beforehand and asking for her input and opinion was just the icing on the don’t-like-this cake for me. Two stars.
Christmas In Paradise by Rosanne Bittner
Apparently this is something of an extended epilogue to another book by the author, so if you read that book and fell in love with the two main characters, you might absolutely love this. I hadn’t read it and didn’t feel like I really got to know Sage and Maggie here. What I did learn was that they’d been through a lot of Drama and Sage was a thoroughly decent sort of man, since Maggie had been not only married before but also violently gang-raped just before they met, and was carrying a child of that abuse which Sage vowed to raise as his own. Part-Cheyenne, it’s also nice to see a hero of color in a Western historical romance. I’ll give this one four stars.
A Christmas Wedding by Linda Broday
If you’ve read any of Linda Broday’s books about the people of Hope’s Crossing, a town of former outlaws trying to ‘go straight’, you’ll recognize Rebel, the former saloon girl who dreams of a respectable life, the two children she adopted after they were freed from an asylum, and Travis, the young outlaw who loves her. This charming novella follows Rebel and Travis being reunited at Christmastime and Rebel’s determined efforts to make a place for herself in the community of Hope’s Crossing. There’s lots of found-family sweetness, but readers familiar with Broday’s work should be aware she doesn’t shy away from the gritty realities of life in the Old West. The only thing which disappointed me here was that Travis’ release from jail was very much skimmed over in passing, after having been made much of it being a major problem for Rebel. Four stars.
A Love Letter to Santa by Margaret Brownley
An absolutely adorable tale set in 1886 in Haywire, Texas, this is the story of schoolmarm Holly who desperately wants to make sure all the town’s children have something to smile about on Christmas morning. Though she’s being courted by the richest man in town, it’s the new blacksmith Tom and his idiotic dog Winston who tug at her heartstrings. Full of delightful plot moppets and with the spirit of Christmas imbuing every page, this is sweeter than a candy cane. Five stars.
One Snowy Christmas Eve by Anna Schmidt
This is a second chance romance and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why Evie would even consider taking Colin back. He treated her like a possession when he asked her to marry him the first time around, completely disregarding her wishes and goals for her life, and now that she’s achieved her dream and become a doctor, he’s no better. He doesn’t even want her to treat him when he’s literally dying of pneumonia because ‘if the fellas back at the ranch found out he’d gone to see a female doctor, he’d never hear the end of it’. Riiight. Sounds like someone really secure in his masculinity, huh? A man who’d love and support his well-educated wife in her career? NOT. I wanted so much better for Evie, and honestly when she made the decision to accept Colin without even talking about how the future might look for them, I wanted to scream. Two stars.
Through The Storm by Amy Sandas
I have to admit I love Trapped Together In A Snowstorm as a trope, and this is done really well, with George and Lucy having just one brief encounter before they end up snowed in together at Lucy’s cabin. George chivalrously steps in when a creep is hassling Lucy - although she doesn’t need his help, and he recognises that - and then she actually saves his life when he’s lost in the blizzard. They get to spend enough time together to really fall for each other, and I absolutely believed in the romance between them. Five stars.
Overall, this was a collection which I found wildly variable in terms of quality. There were a couple of stories I really loved and a couple I might well have DNF’ed if they’d been full length rather than short novellas I could get through quickly. Of the authors I hadn’t read before, I’ll definitely be looking to check out more of Amy Sandas’ and Margaret Brownley’s work. As a whole, I’ll give the collection four stars.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.