A Yuletide Kiss is a linked anthology which means that each of the stories in this anthology are connected. The connecting device? A group of holiday travelers are trapped at an inn which has been closed down for the Christmas holiday because of inclement weather. While at the inn, acquaintances are rekindled, the holidays are celebrated, and romance is most definitely in the air.
As with all anthologies, I’ll be reviewing and rating each story individually and then averaging the scores together for my final rating. I also need to give some blanket trigger warnings that you need to be aware of… period appropriate sexism, period appropriate misogyny, prostitution, sexual auction, parental death, alcoholism, depression, PTSD, and possibly others that I missed. Let’s go, shall we?
When We Finally Kiss Goodnight by Sabrina Jeffries
Konrad Juncker has a secret. For the last several years he’s been the public face of the Duke of Thornstock’s plays. It’s been quite a successful endeavor. He’s been able to focus on things like his poetry and staging the elaborate comedic plays. But due to a change of circumstances that life is about to come to an end. And while he’s been able to save up a bit of a nest egg, it’s not enough to support a wife and family on. Flora Younger has been serving as a companion to an older widow for years. Too poor to have a full season, she had a mini-season in Bath years ago, and there she met the young playwright and poet, Konrad Juncker. She fell in love with him, and she thought he loved her…. but he abandoned her. And now that they’re stuck in an abandoned inn due to the weather, can they rekindle the flame that burned between them so long ago.
This is a fun second chance romance. The story was hinted at in a few books of Sabrina Jeffries' "Duke Dynasty" series, and there’s a lot of Easter eggs related to that series in this book. I will say, the experience of reading this story would be improved by reading that series and I’m not sure how people who haven’t read the series will take this story. I think they’ll be okay, but I can’t state this with certainty. That said, I really liked Konrad’s and Flora’s second chance romance. I loved that they had the chance to get to know each other and find connections. I believed the romance. There is a lovely open door sex scene in this that I really liked. I liked Konrad. I liked Flora. This was a fun novella.
The Unexpected Gift by Madeline Hunter
Innkeeper Jenna Waverly was looking forward to a quiet Christmas holiday. Unfortunately the weather has other plans. First, one of her employees finds an nearly frozen and ill man while out hunting for game, and then her empty inn is suddenly filled with travelers seeking shelter from a horrendous ice storm. But Jenna’s got even greater concerns. First, someone must care for a traveler who is sick and may even be contagious. Second, her brother, who co-owns the inn with her, has taken out a mortgage without her permission, leaving her scrambling to find funds to pay the loan. But as she cares for the ill Lucas Avonwood, she discovers that there is something greater than money… love.
This is a nice little novella with a hint of a mystery in it. In a weird way, there were almost too many conflicts in this novella. There’s a lot going on here and the pace is a weird combo of too fast and too slow. I did like Jenna and Lucas as characters and I found their internal narration well done. I loved that Jenna was both capable and compassionate and fully cognizant of the disparity that’s present in society at the time. Lucas’s plot seemed almost overly complex but they were resolved satisfactorily. I did believe the romance, but I was less impressed with the sex scenes. They straddled the line between open door and closed door and were almost too literary to my taste. In all, I did like this novella, but I felt it was the weakest of the selections.
When Strangers Meet by Mary Jo Putney
Years ago Kate Macleod met Daniel Faringdon. Well, that’s not quite accurate. When Kate was a teen in India, her uncle auctioned her off to the highest bidder after the deaths of her parents. But to give the auction the veneer of civility, Kate’s uncle insisted that the winner marry her, even going so far as to provide the vicar. Deep in his cups but determined to save this young woman, Daniel wins the auction but immediately sends her back home to her family in England. They definitely never consummated the marriage. Heck, they barely even had time to exchange names before they exchanged vows. Now, years later, they reconnect at a snowed in inn. Kate’s been trying to declare Daniel dead so she’s free to marry another. While Daniel has returned from India to claim his inheritance. He needs a wife and he finds that he already has one. Can Daniel convince Kate to give him a second chance?
This was my favorite story in this collection. I really loved the plot – previously married protagonists discover that they’re still married and decide to give it a go. I found Kate delightfully competent and awesome, and I really loved Daniel who seemed to celebrate his wife’s ability. Daniel was such a good doobie. I wanted to cuddle him to my chest and give him all the hugs. I loved that he acknowledged his failures and made strides to improve. I also loved that the book acknowledged that red hair was not considered fashionable or attractive at this time. There’s also an adorable cat in this book. So that’s a plus. My one complaint is that there isn’t any sex in this novella, but it fit with the theme that this story was trying to make… that passion isn’t a basis for a marriage. Ultimately I really loved this entry so it gets.
This was a really solid linked anthology series where it was very clear that the authors were communicating with each other about their plots. It was really well done.
So averaging everything together this anthology gets 4.67 stars. which I’ll round up to…
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I received an ARC of this book via NetGalley