The Duke of Greystoke is known far and wide for hosting the best Yuletide house party/grand soiree. It’s an honor just to be invited, but the Revelry (as it is known) has been the cause of not just delicious scandal but also some of the most prestigious wedding matches in the realm. Why, it’s known that the Duke has procured several special licenses for just such an opportunity.
So join us for this season of love and merriment with the magic of Christmastide.
As always, I will be reviewing each story individually and since this is a linked anthology I will discuss it as a whole at the end.
Let’s get to the Revelry!
A Mistletoe Kiss Eloisa James
As the youngest of her father’s children, Lady Cressida has long devoted her life to her father, the Duke of Greystoke, and putting on his famous Yuletide Revelry. In fact, it would be more honest to call it Lady Cressida’s Revelry, but with her father dying, Cressida is looking forward to either marrying or retiring to the Scottish Estate in her dowry. But when her father uses the estate to coerce his heir, Viscount Valentine Derham (Val), her dreams are shattered. Worse, he expects her to continue planning the Revelry for her cousin long after he’s gone. What is Cressida to do?
I didn’t love this first entry into the anthology. I found it weak and the romance was far and away the weakest of the lot. Instalove is expected in shorter stories like this, but it felt like this story had the worst case of it. First off, the hero is Elias, Lord Darcy de Royleston… the BFF of Val and also a neighbor of the Duke’s. The Duke in this story is a huge bully and very much the antagonist but he’s almost too over the top. But honestly, my biggest complaint is that I just didn’t buy the relationship between the two leads.
Wishing Under the Mistletoe Christi Caldwell
Granddaughter to the Duke of Greystoke, Isabelle had long ago given up her dream of marriage to a man of common means when he threw himself into his work to the detriment of everything else in his life – including her.. Now a talented playwright, Isabelle is called upon to stage the pantomimes and plays at what promises to be her grandfather’s final Revelry. She never expects to be paired up with Cyrus, her former fiancé and the man who broke her heart. Nor does she expect to discover that she still has feelings for him ten years on.
I liked this story of a second chance class-difference romance initially but then it swerved into two of my least favorite tropes that still make me gnash my teeth. It is made very clear in the beginning who is at fault for the relationship failing – Cyrus – and that Isabelle did everything to communicate with him and even talk with him to no avail. It wasn’t Isabelle’s fault. At all. Which is why I absolutely hated that she said that she was at fault for not communicating with Cyrus. It totally belied what we saw in the prologue. There’s also a public proposal which is something I hate with a passion. The story also requires a heapton of suspension of disbelief to expect that the eldest daughter of an Earl and granddaughter of a Duke would be allowed to marry the son of a stablemaster without so much as blink of an eye. Too much, in fact. In addition, Cyrus is the man of business for Val and the Viscount and future duke seems totally okay with his employee marrying his cousin. I really didn’t love this entry. But I liked it up until the very end.
Compromise Under the Mistletoe Janna MacGregor
Niece of the Duke of Greystoke, Caroline Whitmore has been abandoned all her life. First by her mother, then by her father, and finally by her husband. Unable to be ignored by her husband everywhere but in the bedroom, she flees to London and sets herself up as a patroness of the arts. But now, in order to get the remainder of her inheritance, she has to convince her dying uncle by the end of the Revelry that she and her husband, Stephen, have reconciled. The spark of attraction is still there. But is it enough to rekindle the flame of their relationship?
If this sounds familiar to the second story with a second chance romance caused by the woman leaving a man who abandoned her for his work, then you are not alone. The Duke of Greystoke is once again a bully for this story (in the previous story he was much more sanguine and kind). However unlike the first and second stories in this anthology, I liked this one. The conflict worked and the relationship felt real and the fake/dating becomes real worked. I liked the fact that attraction had never been their problem… communicating and actually having a relationship that was built on more than sex was. The conflicts worked. The story worked.
Mischief & Mistletoe Erica Ridley
On the verge of being put on the shelf, Louisa Harcourt must make an advantageous match by the end of the Revelry. But thanks to the scandal sheets calling her insipid and bland, this is a challenge. Especially since all Louisa wants to do is be a poet. She feels as though she’s found a kindred spirit in fellow poet, Mr. Ewan Reid, a friend of one of the men she’s supposed to be encouraging, Viscount Valentine Derham. Ewan seems to be the man of her dreams, but he’s harboring a terrible a secret. A secret which could shatter her to her very core.
This story has the most tenuous connection to the rest and I felt it would have been better had it been actually a romance between Val and Louisa… not Louisa and Ewan. First off, I really didn’t like the hero… it’s revealed very early on that he’s not actually a poet, but a scandalmonger and the very author of the scandal sheet which torpedoed her chances of a happy marriage. He’s a bully. Worse, he never comes clean to her until she accidentally reads his notebook after they’ve consummated their relationship. To his credit, he hadn’t promised her marriage. But still, he deceived her and was super dishonest with her. Worse still, I hated the ending of this. It felt way too rushed. And one of the main conflicts… their class-difference… was just waved away with flick of a hand. Additionally, we again get a public grovel and proposal… which is one of my most hated things ever.
Over all, I feel like this linked anthology collection was uneven. First off, the Duke… who appeared in each story varied wildly from story to story. He was a bully and horrid in James and MacGregor’s entries. Kindly but stern in Caldwell’s. And downright nice in Ridley’s (giving his blessing for the heroine to marry his heir). It felt like inconsistent characterization. Additionally, all three of the heroes are good friends of Val, the Duke’s heir. Yet none of them are mentioned in any of the other stories. Even events, locations, and characters appeared and disappeared as needed. It didn’t feel cohesive. Like there needed to be better communication between the authors or an overarching editor whose job was to make sure continuity existed. It is possible.
Additionally, I felt like the stories needed to be shifted around so that the two second chance romances weren’t right by each other. Additionally, only one story should have had a distant epilogue… since the two that did contradicted each other.
Honestly, I didn’t love this anthology. Two entries featured tropes I hate… which is a personal thing. But it also needed a better continuity editor, which is a less personal thing.
Averaging everything together this anthology gets… 2.5 stars. Which in the spirit of the season I’ll round up to:
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I received an ARC of this book via NetGalley