The Last Chance Christmas Ball
Mary Jo Putney, Jo Beverley, Joanna Bourne, Patricia Rice, Nicola Cornick, Cara Elliott, Anne Gracie
Kensington (September 29, 2015)
Christmas 1815. Upstairs and downstairs, Holbourne Hall is abuzz with preparations for a grand ball to celebrate the year’s most festive—and romantic—holiday. For at the top of each guest’s wish list is a last chance to find true love before the New Year…
A chance meeting beneath the mistletoe, a stolen glance across the dance floor—amid the sumptuous delicacies, glittering decorations, and swell of the orchestra, every duchess and debutante, lord and lackey has a hopeful heart. There’s the headstrong heiress who must win back her beloved by midnight—or be wed to another….the spinster whose fateful choice to relinquish love may hold one more surprise for her…a widow yearning to glimpse her long-lost love for even one sweet, fleeting interlude …a charming rake who finds far more than he bargained for. And many other dazzling, romantic tales in this star-studded collection that will fill your heart and spice up your holidays…
On September 24, Morning Bites asked Does Your Reading Taste Change with the Seasons? Until this month, I would have answered, “no.” And then I read The Last Chance Christmas Ball and was reminded that about this time of year I do like a good Christmas Anthology. These have been fewer and farther between with the demise of the Traditional Regency. Annually, I re-read the best and, this year, am delighted to find a new entry.
The Last Chance Christmas Ball takes place (mostly) in Northumberland and consists (mostly) of reunion stories. Reunions are a natural fit for both a Christmas Ball and an anthology, where the task of developing relationships is shortened a bit, allowing for the romance to take center stage.
The book begins with Joanna Bourne’s “My True Love Hath My Heart,” definitely a reunion story between a spy and a jeweler (who happens to be at the ball disguised as a maid). This reunion is freighted with the class issues between nobleman and commoner. Bourne handles it all beautifully and continues the set up that Jo Beverley has provided in the prologue.
In general, this is a good, solid anthology with very few misses. Many of the stories caught my fancy including Susan King’s “A Scottish Carol,” which does not take place at the ball and provides us with a wonderful stranded-in-a-snowstorm scenario.
Mary Jo Putney’s “In the Bleak Midwinter,” is a reunion story that ties closely to the family holding the ball, as is Cara Elliott’s “Old Fames Dance” and Nicola Cornick’s “A Season for Marriage,” a story that revolves around a married couple. Jo Beverley wraps up the family stories with the other non-reunion story, successfully uniting a family connection and a mousy companion.
Anne Gracie’s “Mistletoe Kisses” is not a reunion story nor does it take place at the ball. But the ball is the why the hero and heroine meet and Gracie develops a believable new relationship within the confines of a novella.
All in all, this is a book that I would add to my Christmas run-up list.