The Last Chance Christmas Ball by Putney, Beverley, Bourne, Rice, Cornick, Elliott, Gracie & King

the-last-chance-christmas-ball-by-Mary-Jo-Putney, et al.The Last Chance Christmas Ball by Mary Jo Putney, Jo Beverley, Joanna Bourne, Patricia Rice, Nicola Cornick, Cara Elliott, Anne Gracie, Susan King
Series: None
Genre: Historical Romance
Setting: Great Britain, 1815
Published by Kensington
Format: e-Arc (Release Date: Sep 29, 2015)
–I received a review copy of this book from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated here are entirely my own.
320 pages
Grade: C+
Synopsis: 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…

Initial impressions

  • The Last Chance Christmas Ball is a ball held every year for the last 50 years. Of course, this is just the name the bachelors who come give the ball, because Lady Holly is something of a matchmaker.
  • Most of the stories are second-chance romances where the main characters already know each other and for one reason or another separated. Many of the men were soldiers and fought Napoleon and the French. That war is now over.
  • As is often the case with an anthology I like some stories better than others.

The stories:

  • “My True Love Hath My Heart” by Joanna Bourne–C+
  • “A Scottish Carol” by Susan King–C
  • “Christmas Larks” by Patricia Rice–C+
  • “In the Bleak Midwinter” by Mary Jo Putney–B
  • “Flames Dance” by Cara Elliott–C
  • “A Season for Marriage” by Nicola Cornick–C
  • “Miss Finch and the Angel” by Jo Beverley–B
  • “Mistletoe Kisses” by Anne Gracie–B-

Cheers

  • As I state below I didn’t connect with most of the characters in these stories. However, a few of the stories had characters I like and remember:
    • Roxanne (Roxie) from Mary Jo Putney’s “In the Bleak Midwinter” is a memorable character. She’s self-confident, owns and runs her own property and a colorful character.
    • Lady Holly is a character in all the stories and the reason the Last Chance Christmas Ball happens. She’s an out-spoken old lady, has many godsons and goddaughters and is liked by all of them.
    • Clio Finch is Lady Holly’s companion. There’s mystery about her so that makes her interesting. Her story is “Miss Finch and the Angel” by Jo Beverley. The angel in the story is Lord Gabriel Quinfoy. He’s an interesting character and I like their story.

Jeers

  • Most of these stories just didn’t capture my attention. Perhaps because of the length of the stories I didn’t connect with most of the characters.
  • The ball takes place after Christmas and there really isn’t a lot about Christmas. In a few of the stories the characters gather holly and mistletoe to decorate houses and sometimes they sing some Christmas carols. However, I didn’t feel immersed in these stories as I want to when I read Christmas stories.
  • Also even though the characters are invited to the Ball many of them don’t actually get to the Ball or if they do that happens days after they meet and fall in love.

And a few thoughts . . .

  •  I chose this book because I usually enjoy short stories set at Christmas and I’ve read and enjoyed books by Jo Beverley, Anne Gracie, Mary Jo Putney and Joanna Bourne.
  • I don’t read very much romance these days so part of my reaction to these stories may very well be me not enjoying romances very much anymore. Others may enjoy these stories more than I did.

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Reading Challenges

  • 2015 Goodreads Challenge

Review: A Counterfeit Betrothal by Mary Balogh

A Counterfeit Betrothal
by Mary Balogh
Series: none
Genre: Historical Romance
Republished by Dell, 2013
Originally published by Signet, 1992
E-book, Purchased
About 280 pages
Grade: B+
Synopsis: Lady Sophia Bryant has no intention of marrying anytime soon. Her one desire is to reunite her parents, who have been estranged for fourteen years. Surely, if she happens to announce her betrothal—even a false one—they will be forced to see each other. Devilishly handsome Lord Francis Sutton seems perfect for such deceit, always agreeable to games of passion in which he has nothing to lose. The trap is set—if only Lady Sophia can keep her foolish heart from falling prey to her brilliant snares.

……………………………………………..

This is one of Mary Balogh’s Signet regency romances from over 20 years ago. They’re slowly being republished by Dell. That makes me very happy. 🙂 Over the years I’ve searched for her older out-of-print books in used bookstores and found a few. I’ve also bought a few on e-bay and other on-line stores. Ms. Balogh is one of my favorite writers and I especially love her older books. Though really I’ve liked most everything she writes.

Mary Balogh writes satisfying historical romances about interesting and flawed characters. The regencies aren’t necessarily part of a series, but often have characters which show up in another book. Sometimes the character who seems the most irredeemable in one book is the hero of another book.

This book is interesting because the main characters aren’t Lady Sophia and Lord Francis (the young couple in the story), but are instead Lady Sophia’s parents–the Earl and Countess of Clifton (Marcus and Olivia). Sophia has manufactured her betrothal to Francis to get her parents back together. She loves them both and they love her. She’s sure that if they are just together for a few weeks they will stay together.

Sophia is only 18 and Francis has a reputation as a rake so her parents aren’t happy when she says she and Francis are in love. Since Marcus and Olivia separated years ago Sophia’s father has been the parent  with her in London for her season. A house party at the Earl’s country estate is planned and Olivia arrives so she and Marcus can talk Sophia out of marriage with Lord Francis. Marcus and Olivia have lost faith in love:

…Marc had said in his letter that the young man was wild. That would mean that he was a daredevil, a gambler and drinker, a rake. A womanizer…

Sophia would end up with a lifetime of misery, an unfaithful rake for a husband.

Not that for Sophia. Please not that, she begged an unseen power silently. Please not that. Sophia was all she had. If she to live to see Sophia rejected and desperately unhappy, she would not be able to bear it.

Olivia is 36 and Marcus is 41. They parted 14 years ago after Marcus had a foolish, drunken sexual encounter when he went to the wedding of a friend. Olivia had stayed home with Sophia who was ill. His friends egged him on, calling him old, staid and married and he was immature and drunk enough to listen to them. He confessed what had happened to Olivia and she was horrified. They had had a love so perfect that they had never quarreled in five years of marriage. She decided their love was tainted and she would never trust him again.

She had written to tell him that after deep and careful reflection she had concluded that she could never again be his friend or his wife or lover after what had happened. It would always be there  to come between them.

Over the years and after Olivia sees Marcus again she realizes how immature and young she had been when they had been together. They had married young, they had been so much in love, but they had been immature and they hadn’t grown. They had lived such a perfect life together that when the first trouble came along they couldn’t face it or adapt. Marcus let his friends convince him to commit a stupid act. They each had to grow and mature, but by that time they had separated.

This is a good book about second chances and learning to forgive. I enjoyed this book a lot. It is part of a two volume book. I will review the other book–The Notorious Rake–in a week or so.

Update: I checked at the Mary Balogh site and she says she has the rites to many of her older books and is planning to release them (perhaps only as e-books). She is asking her readers to let her know which ones they want to read first. This is very exciting for her fans!