Sunday, December 8, 2013

Review: A Christmas to Remember

Warning: the following is a phrase you’ll probably hear often from me over the next few weeks. I love Christmas and I love holiday themed anthologies. When I got a Netgalley email telling me I could read the short story collection A Christmas to Remember I immediately went on the site to download it. The collection features stories by Jill Shalvis, Kristen Ashley, Hope Ramsay, Molly Cannon, and Marilyn Pappano - a nice combo of familiar and new to me authors. Some of the stories thrilled me more than others but as a whole this anthology was immensely enjoyable.

Here’s the description of all the stories:
Curl up with this heartwarming Christmas collection!
Jill Shalvis, Dream a Little Dream: Melissa has kept every man at a safe distance-especially firefighter Ian, a sexy friend with sexy benefits. But Ian secretly longs for more. Luckily, 'tis the season for giving love a chance.
Kristen Ashley, Every Year: Holidays don't come easy for Shy and his brother, Landon. But with the magic of Christmas, along with a little help from Tabby and her family, the Cage brothers are about to get the gift of a lifetime.
Hope Ramsay, Silent Night: Down on her luck and evicted from her apartment, single mother Maryanne hopes to start over in Last Chance. When the snow begins to fall, it looks like her baby might literally spend Christmas Eve in a manger. And Maryanne might celebrate the holiday with a handsome stranger.
Molly Cannon, Have Yourself a Messy Little Christmas: Lincoln is a bachelor who's set in his ways-until a professional organizer dressed up as Mrs. Claus changes his life, one tip at a time.
Marilyn Pappano, A Family for Christmas: War widow Ilena doesn't mind spending Christmas alone. But when a new doctor blows into town with the winter wind, will she get her secret Christmas wish?
Anthologies can be a funny thing. Sometimes the best story is the first, the one by the author with the biggest name on the front, or sometimes one of the others sneaks up and grabs you – in a good way. In the case of this collection, Jill Shalvis’ short story, “Dream a Little Dream”, was great and really set the bar high for the following stories. I read a few Lucky Harbor books a couple of years ago and I’ve always wanted to read more. After reading this sweet, sexy, but heartfelt story set in the adorable small town, I plan on checking out at least a few more Lucky Harbor books in the new year. Plus, Shalvis wins the year by having a character who spells her name the same way I do. Trust me, this is a very rare thing. In my entire 26 years of living I have personally met only two people who spell it “Kaley” as well, not including the hot actress (but how cool would it be to meet Kaley Cuoco? :) )

The next two, Kristen Ashley’s story, “Every Year”, and Hope Ramsay’s, “Silent Night”, didn’t thrill me too much, unfortunately. Ashley’s needed just a bit more framing (when and how did the couple get together?) and…something…to make it work as a standalone. It had a lot of heart though, I’ll give her that. Ramsay’s was sweet and I did like the farmhouse aspect but it just wasn’t one that will really stick with me.

Molly Cannon’s story, “Have Yourself a Messy Little Christmas”, was so much fun. I found myself giggling out loud at some of the things Dinah said to provoke Lincoln. They were just the cutest oddball couple and I loved it. Plus, there was a super sweet surprise at the end for Dinah, not what you’d expect, that makes you fall in love with Lincoln just a little bit more.

Finally, “A Family for Christmas” by Marilyn Pappano really tugged on the heartstrings. I cannot imagine having to go through what Ilena did, losing a husband to the war before he could meet – or even know about – his son. Pappano should be commended for really making Ilena’s feelings come through the page and making me, the reader, understand how she can be feeling what she’s feeling. Plus, reading about Jared with little baby John was just too sweet.

I liked that Christmas played a large role in each of the stories. Sometimes it was about making a new family and new traditions, sometimes it was about finding your way back to your family. But family definitely played a huge part in all of the stories and I loved that. To me, Christmas means spending some quality time with your family, whether blood related or handpicked, while enjoying the festive spirit and so much good food. And two of the stories/author introductions referenced over stuffed stockings and placing each family member’s stocking where they would be seated on Christmas morning. My family does that too and it made me smile, knowing that others do the same thing.

Overall, A Christmas to Remember is a winner when it comes to holiday romance short story collections. It was cute, funny, sweet, heartfelt, and sometimes a little sexy. Maybe if you’re really good Santa will place it in your very own overstuffed stocking. Just don’t forget to put it on your list!

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