Nothing says Christmas to me like a Regency story set during the holidays. I used to wait eagerly every year for the annual collection of short stories to come out at Barnes & Noble or Borders, rush out to buy the book and then sit with a cup of tea and read the stories to get myself into the holiday mood. One year, after the arrival of Amazon on the scene, I tracked down every single anthology, going back for the years before I’d originally started collecting them. I took a side trip to Valentine’s Day anthologies and magic kittens (???).
If I ever write a Regency instead of science fiction romance or Ancient Egypt, it’ll be a Christmas story, probably with an inn, a coach-full of stranded passengers, an impoverished governess and a Duke (who waltzes)…
“The Best Gift,” by Mary Balogh, is my all time favorite. “The tale of a teacher who has never known family, Christmas or love – then finds all three when asked to chaperon one of her pupils over the holiday.” I reread this story even when it isn’t Christmas. The hero is a viscount, the heroine is a governess. He waltzes. They waltz. There’s a happily ever after for a little girl, as well as for the H/h.
“The Porcelain Madonna”, again by Ms. Balogh, is my second all time favorite and another tale I reread. The hero is an Earl, who has good reason to dislike Christmas. The heroine is an impoverished gentlewoman supporting an elderly grandfather and two equally infirm servants. There’s a little boy from the streets and his entire extended family…no waltzing, but a very satisfactory ending on several levels.
“The Best Husband Money Can Buy,” from Mary Jo Putney, is the last on this little list. “An unexpected legacy sweeps a governess to a grand estate – where an impoverished nobleman discovers a woman to be treasured.” (Could they write cover blurbs or what?) The hero is a viscount, there’s no waltzing (that I remember) but there is a midnight walk along the roof in a blizzard…and of course a very happy ending. I would have liked a sequel to this one…
But wait, you say, there are four book covers in the photo, so what’s the fourth story? Actually, it’s a western, “Merry” by Victoria Thompson. “A lonely, stone-broke cowboy faces a bleak Christmas until he offers to do odd jobs for a rancher’s young, beautiful widow…and finds himself drawn into a romance that proves what he had begun to doubt: that Christmas is, indeed, a season of joy.” No noblepersons, no waltzing (although there is square dancing)…I just like this one. I enjoy the characters, I like the lesson about how happy one can be with so little…of course the heroine respected her late husband but he wasn’t the love of her life (so our cowboy turns out to be that man – did you doubt it for a moment?)…just a sweet story.
Happy Holidays to you and yours! Stay cozy, waltz if you’re of a mind to do so, read some of your favorite books…and best wishes from my house to yours.