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Beanbag Love

I read. I write. I talk about reading and writing. That is when I'm not driving kids somewhere or teaching them. Married, educated, domesticated. I really enjoy the friends I've met through a variety of different message boards and venues regarding reading and authors. I try to take a positive view when I write reviews but sometimes I can't. Those times are few and far between, but they do exist. I'm mostly an old softy, though. I think so anyway.

Currently reading

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Susanna Clarke

A Christmas to Remember -- anthology

A Christmas to Remember - Molly Cannon, Hope Ramsay, Kristen Ashley, Marilyn Pappano

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Five Christmas stories by romance authors. I really wanted this for the Kristen Ashley story, but since I did receive it for the purposes of review I read them all. Following are my impressions:

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 . . . (all story descriptions are from blurb)

I've never read Jill Shalvis although she's on my short list of authors to try soon. I knew that this would be one of the better stories because it was from an established and popular series and, from what I've read in my friends' reviews of her work, she's very competent. I was not wrong. It's one of the better stories in the anthology. One plus was that it was not instalove or kismet, it was a couple who had gotten together previously and were trying to work through feelings for one another with the holidays (and some painful issues) in the background.

I had saved this story for last (I read the Ashley first) because I wanted to make sure I ended the book on a high note. Good call on my part, it turns out. I'll definitely be checking out this author sooner rather than later.

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 . . .

This is a poignant story of the first Christmas that Shy and his brother Landon spend with Tabby and the rest of the Allen family. It's the first Christmas in many years that they are part of a loving family and it's heartbreaking, funny and sweet. It's not the first story in the anthology, but I recommend starting here if you can.

Again, it's not instalove, we're checking in with a recently established couple and enjoying an event that was alluded to in their book. A nice way to do an anthology story, IMO.

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.

I started out liking this story and then it became tedious. Instalove with ups and downs within 24 hours ... it's just too much to overcome.

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. . .

Not quite instalove, which made it succeed a little better for me. The hero goes through quite a change during the story and that's nice to see. The heroine is hard to pin down, seems possibly a bit flaky, but all-in-all it kind of worked. I can't say it's sending me out to find Molly Cannon books, but it wasn't annoying like the Hope Ramsey piece.

The couple meet in this story which poses a problem in the overall arc. There simply isn't enough time for them to truly get to know one another and for the reader to get to know them together for a story this short to be satisfying.

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?

This one was poignant with the war widow angle. Always heart-wrenching. I liked the hero and the heroine, but as with the others where the couple had no history -- even though there was a little bit of time for these two to come together -- it feels incomplete and ultimately unsatisfying.

Sweet Christmas stories for anyone who's looking to get into the spirit of the season. I do recommend bookending the reading order with the Ashley and Shalvis, though. It's a better organizational scheme than what's in the book, IMO.