How the Dukes Stole Christmas
A Holiday Romance Anthology
by Tessa Dare, Sarah MacLean, Sophie Jordan, and Joanna Shupe
Release Date: October 15, 2018
Reviewed by PJ
"Meet Me in Mayfair" by Tessa Dare
Louisa Ward needs a Christmas miracle. Unless she catches a wealthy husband at the ball tonight, the horrid, heartless Duke of Thorndale will evict her family from their beloved Mayfair home. But when her friend begs to switch dance cards, Louisa finds herself waltzing with the enemy: the horrid, heartless—and unexpectedly handsome—Thorndale himself. Now the duke's holding her future in his hands...and he's not letting go.
I read this first novella in the anthology just before bed and was gifted with sweet dreams all night. It's like being wrapped in a warm, Christmas hug while leisurely strolling through a beautiful snow globe. With Dare's trademark wit, humor, and sparkling dialogue, a smart-girl heroine determined to save her family home, and a reluctant Duke who turns out to be much different than expected, this heartwarming tale is one I'll happily re-visit again and again. "Meet Me in Mayfair" is a short novella, quickly read, but packed with so much story, heart, and beautiful characterization that I turned the final page with the deep-seated satisfaction typically reserved for a full-length novel.
"The Duke of Christmas Present" by Sarah MacLean
Rich and ruthless, Eben, Duke of Allryd, has no time for holidays. Holidays are for whimsy and charm—the only two things his money cannot buy. Lady Jacqueline Mosby is full of both, even now, twelve years after she left to see the world. When Jacqueline returns for a single Christmas, Eben can’t resist the woman he never stopped loving…or the future they'd once been promised. It will take a miracle to convince her to stay…but if ever there were a time for miracles, it’s Christmas…
MacLean takes readers on an emotional roller coaster with this tale of childhood sweethearts, separated for twelve years, who have a second chance to get things right. A series of flashbacks, interspersed among the characters' current-day scenes, reveal the events that have brought them to their reunion, with a few unexpected turns along the way. This one is a real heart-tugger. You may want to keep a tissue or two on hand.
"Heiress Alone" by Sophie Jordan
When Annis Bannister's family leaves her behind in the rush to escape an impending snowstorm, she finds herself stranded in the Highlands, left to fend off brigands terrorizing the countryside, robbing homes locked up for winter. Her only hope falls on her neighbor, a surly hermit duke who unravels her with a look, then a kiss ... until she fears the danger to her heart outweighs the danger of brigands and snowstorms.
Jordan brings the spice to this stranded by snow romance (one of my favorite tropes) set in the Scottish Highlands. This duke is in no hurry to marry and especially not to an Englishwoman with very different plans for her future. But a snow storm, matchmaking staff, and a fiery attraction can unravel plans, as our couple quickly learn. I really enjoyed this story and even though I'm not always a fan of insta-lust, I totally bought into it with these two. There's just something about a Highlander....
"Christmas in Central Park" by Joanna Shupe
Women all over America devour Mrs. Walker’s weekly column for recipes and advice. No one knows Rose, the column's author, can’t even boil water. When the paper’s owner, Duke Havemeyer, insists she host a Christmas party, Rose must scramble to find a husband, an empty mansion, and a cook. But Duke is not a man easily fooled and she fears her perfect plan is failing—especially when Duke’s attentions make her feel anything but professional. To save her career will she give up her chance at love?
I wanted to like this one more than I actually did. Shupe is a talented writer and I have enjoyed her full-length Gilded Age novels but this story just didn't work for me. I had problems with the set-up but, beyond that, I had a hard time buying into the relationship between the hero and heroine. Physical desire was certainly present but the emotional connection I was looking for wasn't there for me and while I liked and admired the heroine a lot, I had a number of issues with the hero. Still, one person's lemon is another's lemonade and while I had issues with this story, it may totally work for you.
Do you enjoy anthologies?
Have you read any of the authors included in How the Dukes Stole Christmas?
Each of the stories in this anthology features a family shortbread recipe that doesn't exactly turn out as expected. What's your go-to family cookie for the holidays?