Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Review: A Christmas to Remember - Jill Shalvis, Kristen Ashley, Hope Ramsay, Molly Cannon & Marilyn Pappano*

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?

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas! Is anyone else excited? What better way to ease ourselves into the season with a wonderful collection of Christmas short stories?

I love little anthologies like this, I think they're great if you just need that quick fix of romance in the office or on the train. This Christmas collection is also a good way to get that little holiday spirit fix without being overwhelmed by all the tinsel and cheer.

The highlight of this collection for me is Shalvis' story Dream a Little Dream. Shalvis is a well known name in romance and I think that her story in this collection will not disappoint her Lucky Harbour fans. I surprisingly enjoyed the stereotypical alpha male pin-up hero, firefighter Ian, and the rescue element of the plot. What girl's heart doesn't do a little pitter-patter at the thought of being rescued by a hunky fireman? Despite the short space, Shalvis really delivers a sweet and enjoyable Christmas treat.

From the best to the worst... I really couldn't get behind Kristen Ashley's contribution to the collection, I didn't enjoy it at all. I didn't like the language, the plot, the characters or the constant nicknames - "my man" ever other sentence begins to grate after a short while. The information dump is always a difficult task for an author, especially in such a short space, and Ashely didn't handle this well I was confused over who was who within the first few pages. I think that Ashley tries too pack too much story and too many characters into a such a small space. From the short excerpt from her latest novel, I really don't think that this is an author for me.

Silent Night by Hope Ramsay is perhaps the most unbelievable of the collection. Silent Night is the perfect example of 'instalove' with the whole story taking place over 24 hours, which stretches believability for me somewhat. Nothing really seems to happen within Ramsay's story either and I found it to be a little bit too sweet and naive whilst trying to pack too big of an emotional punch. A good little story, with a nice Holiday touch, but this just wasn't for me.

Cannon's Have Yourself a Messy Little Christmas, is an enjoyable, fun little addition that is an entertaining and light read that doesn't try to include too much emotional baggage (what a relief). Cannon manages to introduce both her characters well and really gets you invested in their relationship and their inevitable happy ending. I definitely think that Cannon is an author I'll be checking out in the future.

A Family for Christmas is the final story and I think it combines all the good and bad elements from all the previous contributions. A little more poignant than the rest with new mother and war widow Ilena ready to risk her heart again, Pappano's is arguably the sweetest of the lot. Not quite instalove, but still a little underdeveloped for my tastes (but hey, how much can you do in a few pages?) the ending is sure to tug a few heartstrings.

The great think about anthologies and short story collections is that there is always a story to suit every reader's taste, although that does mean that they might not all be to your taste. The addition of Christmas memories from each of the authors is a great treat for fans and snippets from upcoming books are also included from each author - while this is a nice addition, part of me wishes that each story was a little longer and that these were left out and put on the author's website instead.

Overall I think this is a good little collection that is sure to please most readers, whilst the stories lean towards the sweet for me, and a few too many involve children and the insta-family, for a Christmas collection it's exactly what you want; sweet, cheerful and something to warm the cockles of your heart.

*ARC received from NetGalley in return for an honest review.

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