It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like...Love!
A man gives the gift of trust and receives a second chance at love in return. A woman helps to heal the wounded heart of a soldier. A couple finds that true love knows no distance. And a young widow learns that there can be two great loves in a lifetime. Love, romance and passion come together in this collection of four seasonal shorts.
This Time Next Year by Alison Kent
A Rare Gift by Jaci Burton
It's Not Christmas Without You by HelenKay Dimon
Mistletoe and Margaritas by Shannon Stacey
"This Time Next Year" tells the story of two people who have vastly different plans for their future. Dillon Craig is a doctor returned from Afghanistan and who is trying to heal from the inner wounds of losing so many to war wounds. He is "hiding" on the mountain where Brenna Keating's grandmother lives in the Carolinas. Brenna is a nurse who has long wanted to travel and work in medical clinics throughout the world and has already signed on for a year in a foreign setting. (Her parents were committed to the same kind of medical missions and so she comes by this naturally.) Yet as badly as Brenna wants to be with her grandmother for Christmas, she is stranded in a blizzard with Dr Dillon as her only refuge. This is a love story, right? So we won't be surprised that they were attracted to one another and then acted on that attraction. But the crisis that is always lurking in the background is Brenna's plan to go overseas and Dillon's determination to stay on his mountain and tend to the families there. What starts out to be your usual love story does not turn out that way. It's a great story and very touching as each of these people come to a greater understanding of themselves.
"A Rare Gift" by Jaci Burton tells the story of two people who have known each other for years but who are separated and essentially made unavailable to one another by the presence of the ex-wife--the former Mrs. Kent, Cassandra. The big problem is that Cassie is Calliope's sister and Calliope has long had a crush on her former brother-in-law. Wyatt is nearly struck dumb by Callie's mature self--he always saw her as a pimply-faced kid, and now he realizes that she is hot, hot, hot. Yet the spectre of her sister looms between them. This story seems to get worse, and then get better, and then gets worse again. It certainly kept me on the edge of my chair as I hoped that these two could find their way back to each other. Callie is sassy and doesn't seem willing to accept the eventualities of life and just let Wyatt go. No--she is going to do whatever she must, and it is Callie's "doing" that gives this story its verve and vitality and the sparkle that makes the love story live as it possibly would in real life.
"It's Not Christmas Without You" by HelenKay Dimon. There's an old saying, a rhetorical question of sorts that asks: "How are you going to keep them down on the farm after they see Times Square?" So it would appear with the hero, Austin, a botanist who works his family's tree farm, and Carrie, a girl who is wildly in love with Austin but whose dream job is at an art museum in Washington, D. C. that lifts up and celebrates women's artistry. No matter how much she has loved Austin in the past, no matter how many times they reconcile and then break apart, the museum job and her life in Washington, D. C. interferes. Now Austin is making one grand gesture, a final attempt to woo Carrie away from her grand experiment and get her to come home at last. She ain't goin' to do it, so there!! It's a story that begins and ends with their crisis, a story that highlights how people can genuinely love one another and yet their lives just don't seem to run in the same direction. I must admit that I wasn't sure that here was a solution for these two, and I don't think the ending was a well-done as it might have been. This author is so good--she writes from the heart with wit and sensitivity to real people and their difficulties and joys, and while I was happy with the ending, I felt that it came at me too quickly and the resolution to the problem was all of a sudden there. Probably just me. Anyway, I loved the story and was vastly entertained by it.
"Misteltoe and Margaritas" by Shannon Stacey. Claire and Justin are a couple that are bound together by their deep and abiding friendship. Each had been close to Claire's husband and Justin is very open (in his thoughts) that Claire would have been wooed by him rather than her husband if he had seen her first. Since Brendan was his best friend, he backed off, and supported the lovers through their wedding and brief marriage. Yet his heart was always Claire's and now that two years have passed since her hubby's death, Justin wants to bring Claire into a different kind of relationship with him. In some ways this is the most emotionally charged story of the four but it is a story of hope for the future. I found it very touching and am honest when I say that this, like the other Shannon Stacey stories I have read, connected with me on a very deep level.
Like a number of holiday stories I have read and review this year, this is a collection that will entertain and resonate with romance fiction lovers no matter what time of the year the reader may indulge. Yes, the setting is holiday in nature. But the sentiments, the situations, the real human circumstances and feelings are all pertinent to any time of the year. This anthology is worth the time and effort to read, and I hope you will avail yourselves of the entertainment. I give it a rating of 4.25 out of 5.
This collection was released by Carina Press in December, 2011.