Christmas on Main Street
By JoAnn Ross, Susan Donovan,
LuAnn McLane, Alexis Morgan
Release Date: November 5, 2013
Christmas on Main Street is a holiday anthology, and, as the title suggests, the Christmas season in small-town America is the theme that links the four novellas included in the collection. Like the song “Home for the Holidays,” the stories range “from Atlantic to Pacific” with a stop inland, and each offers the cozy comfort of a small-town community, a love story with the requisite HEA, and Christmas settings to cheer the hearts of readers.
“Christmas in Shelter Bay” by JoAnn Ross
The wedding of Cole Douchett and Kelli Carpenter takes place in The Homecoming, the first book in Ross’s Shelter Bay series and the story of Cole’s brother Sax and Kara Conway. This novella is a prequel that gives fans of the series back story for characters for whom they have developed affection, and it can also serve as an introduction to the series for readers who have never visited Shelter Bay.
Cole, the eldest of the Douchett brothers and the sensible, responsible one, is on leave from the Marines and uncertain about the direction of his future. But he is certain about his desire to repair his friendship with Kelli Carpenter, the younger sister of his best friend. Cole is not sure what caused Kelli to explode last Christmas, but he’s confident he can regain his place in her good graces. Maybe he can also convince her that the dull school principal that she’s spending time with is not the man for her. Meanwhile, his father and grandfather have persuaded him that time alone at the family cabin is what he needs to get his head straight.
Kelli has been in love with Cole ever since she was old enough to notice boys. She has always believed that one day he would wake up and see that they are meant for one another. But when he showed her the ring he had bought for another woman last year, he shook her faith in their future. Now she is determined to get over her feelings for him. Maybe some time on her own will allow her to start that journey. When Cole’s grandmother offers the Douchett family cabin, Kelli jumps at the opportunity.
The whole town is invested in seeing Cole and Kelli find their way to an HEA, and a snowy Christmas in an isolated cabin may just be the perfect setting for that to happen.
“A Seaside Christmas” by Susan Donovan
Annie Parker runs a shop on Bayberry Island in which she sells mermaid memorabilia including her self-published erotic romance novels about mermaids and sea captains. Although Annie is affectionately tolerant of the island’s mermaid worshipers and makes good use of the legend of the sea captain whose ship was supernaturally saved by a beautiful mermaid, she puts no credence in the magical properties of the huge mermaid statue for which Bayberry Island is famous. Each season when the tourists arrive, Annie selects a lover from among the sexiest male visitors, making sure that he understands her no-man-past-Columbus-Day rule. Annie’s routine changes one stormy winter solstice when the ferry delivers a stranger to the island.
Nathaniel Ravelle has come to Bayberry Island from Los Angeles to do some preliminary work for the cable paranormal reality show, Truly Weird. For the past four years, he has served as a segment producer on the show, but this assignment on a mermaid statue who has been granting HEAs to true lovers since the nineteenth century may be one show too many for Nat, who doesn’t believe in lasting romantic love with or without supernatural aid. Ruing the day he left sunny California for icy Massachusetts, he begins to fight his way to the B&B where he has reservations, only to be distracted by the unusual wares in the window of Annie’s shop. The distraction is just enough to cause him to slip on the ice and fall unconscious at Annie’s door.
Whether it’s mermaid magic or just love’s magic, Annie and Nat are soon breaking all their rules and acting out fantasies that rival the activities of Annie’s characters. Christmas promises to be merrier than these two had even dreamed.
“Mistletoe on Main Street” by LuAnn McLane
Toy store owner Ava Whimsy has been Mrs. Claus in Cricket Creek, Kentucky’s annual Christmas parade for the past ten years, but this year the parade holds a big surprise for her. Santa is not tavern owner Jack Scully but his son Clint, who hasn’t been back to Cricket Creek since he left fifteen years ago. Not even a fake beard is enough to prevent the sight of her high school sweetheart from speeding up Ava’s heartbeat.
Clint has found nothing in California to compare with the beauty and warmth of the girl he left behind in Cricket Creek, and there’s nothing he’d like better than a second chance with Ava. But can she forgive him for leaving, especially when his dreams of playing major league baseball never progressed past the dream stage.
One kiss under the mistletoe is just the beginning of a reconnection that holds the promise of a lifetime of Christmases together.
“The Christmas Gift” by Alexis Morgan
Bridey Roke left her unfaithful, verbally abusive husband and her job as pastry chef at his family’s fancy restaurant to start a new life in Snowberry Creek, Washington, a few miles from Seattle. She has found contentment in the small town and in creating new pastries for the patrons of Something Brewing, her coffeeshop/bakery. A new man in town has become a regular at Something Brewing, and Bridey admits to herself that he certainly adds interest to the local scenery.
Seth Kyser is burned out from his high pressure, high profile life as a well-known wood sculptor. He has lost not only the joy he once found in creating his sculptures; he has lost the ability to envision the shape in the wood and free it. He bought a log cabin in Snowberry Creek, hoping that the slow pace of life in a small town where nobody knows who he is will restore his creative powers. Finding Bridey Roke is an unexpected gift, and Seth can only hope that offering to build the new cabinets she needs in the kitchen of Something Brewing will give them a chance to become much better acquainted.
This Christmas may just be the merriest Bridey and Seth have ever known, but only if they don’t let his secret identity and her ex-husband sound sour notes in the midst of the beautiful holiday music they are making together.
Three of these authors share Christmas in fictional small towns which will already be familiar to some readers. JoAnn Ross’s Shelter Bay story follows six novels, the fifth book in LuAnn McLane’s Cricket Creek series was released the same day as this anthology, and Alexis Morgan’s Snowberry Creek serves as the setting for one novel with two more in the series to follow in 2014. Only Susan Donovan’s Bayberry Island will be new to readers. (Her first Bayberry Island novel will be released December 3.) While familiarity will doubtless please fans of the series, a reader can enjoy all four novellas without having read the novels that precede them.
All four stories have the charm and warmth readers anticipate in Christmas romance fiction. They are all low on conflict and high on Christmas festivities and sweetness. Donovan’s story predictably is the sexiest of the four, but even it is has a relatively mild level of sensuality. The anthology is designed to be a quick, easy, feel-good holiday reading experience for those who like celebrating the season with Christmas romances. It satisfies on all those counts. I recommend it served with your beverage of choice and Christmas tree lights twinkling in the background.