The title: The Heart of Christmas
The author: Mary Balogh, Nicola Cornick, Courtney Milan
Publication: Harlequin, 2009
Got it from: JL, Xmas 2010
Happy New Year, everyone! It feels like forever since I last reviewed a book (although my blog is saying it's only been a month and a half). This book is the answer to clue #3 from my year-end entry, the "Three ladies of Christmas." I have read all of these authors before - Nicola Cornick less so, although I have a couple of her books on my TBR pile and will hopefully make my way to them this year.
Overall I found this book to be a little too plagued with jaded rogues and saintly heroines to give it a high rating as a whole. With some exceptions.
Mary Balogh's story is "A Handful of Gold." It's a warm-and-fuzzy tale of a woman who becomes a dancer (back then, basically a prostitute) to pay for her sick sister's medical care. Enter the rakish earl, who wants to pay for her company over Christmas. In the end she wins him over by being sweet, innocent, and bringing Christmas cheer to all. And she can deliver babies. I felt a bit meh about this story. I'd probably give it a C.
Nicola Cornick's story is "The Season for Suitors." The blurb for this one sounded promising, with a young lady asking for advice from a rake about how to avoid rakes. However, I don't think the person writing the blurb actually read the story since this wasn't really about this and plus the heroine's last name on the back was incorrect. I was very disappointed that nothing ever came of that plot, which would have been amusing. The story seemed disjointed and I couldn't muster up much feeling for either the hero or the heroine. I kept checking to see how many more pages were left as I was reading. I'd give it a C-.
It's hard to believe that Courtney Milan was basically unknown when her story, "This Wicked Gift," was published. It's a prequel of sorts to Proof by Seduction (Gareth Carhart makes a cameo appearance!) It's by far my favourite of the three stories, and I actually rushed to read it first. My goodnesss can the woman write. I'm not usually much for descriptions, but one line in particular just transported me: "A wild wind whipped down the street, carrying with it the last few tired leaves from some faraway square and the earthy scent of winter mold." It gave me shivers. There is something so real about Milan's characters and settings, something lovely even in the ugliness of 19th century London. The story itself was intriguing, about a young woman who has to "repay" a man who helps settle her brother's debt. It sounds like a sordid premise, but the author managed to turn my expectations upside down and inside out. Even though the heroine was almost too kind and understanding to be believed, I really ended up caring about her. I'm giving this story a B+.
See you in 2013!