The Brides of Christmas anthology

>> Friday, March 14, 2003

The last thing I've read is 2 of the 3 stories in an anthology titled The Brides of Christmas. The third story I already read months ago, when I first bought this book, because it's the 4th installment in Deborah Simmons' de Burgh series.

The first story is The Wise Virgin, by Jo Beverley. After reading Beverley's story in the In Praise of Younger Men anthology, I was especially interested in reading this.

It was a daring attempt to rescue Lady Nicolette de Montelan before her father finds out that she's pregnant with an enemy family's child, but it goes awry because Nicolette's cousin Joan has played the Blessed Virgin in the Christmas reenactment. After all, for Nicolette to do it would have been sacrilege!

Now, however, Lady Joan finds herself trapped in a cave on Christmas Eve with the great Edmund de Grave, the Golden Lion, and neither of them are pleased about it. He's annoyed that his plan has been spoiled and worried about his brother, now in enemy hands. She's disappointed that a distant hero has turned out to be the sort to get a lady with child outside of marriage. A mighty battle ensues, but one that ends up breaking ancient hatreds and bringing the true spirit of Christmas and love to everyone around.

This one was good, but very definitely not as good as the one in IPOYM. We had interesting characters and a pretty engaging story, but there was something about it that felt slightly off. Something about Joan and Edmund's interactions just didn't ring true to me, but that's as far as I can pinpoint my problems. Oh, and I felt the story would have been better if we'd had at least a little bit from Edmund's POV. My grade: B-


The second story was The Vagabond Knight, by Margaret Moore. This is an author I hadn't tried yet, but I have one of her books, Tempt Me With Kisses, in my TBR pile. After this story, I'll probably move it up and read it soon.

A lady's quiet Christmas is disrupted by an impertinent, boisterous knight who seeks shelter from a storm. Lady Katherine DuMonde thinks Sir Rafe Bracton is trouble the moment she sees him, but courtesy and duty command that she be a hospitable hostess. As for Rafe, he thinks the lady will enjoy his company, once she thaws. Rafe, however, has seriously underestimated Lady Katherine. She has long told herself she doesn't need any friendly companionship, or anything else a man might offer, especially one as noisy and overwhelming as the undeniably attractive Rafe. Drawn together by circumstances, the couple are forced to confront both their pasts and their future as they discover the most precious gift of all, love.
This one was a very, very sweet story, but of the good kind of sweet, not saccharine. I probably liked it because I just love heroes like Rafe, guys who hide the fact that their lives are tough and they are unhappy behind a façade of good humour. In some ways, Rafe reminded me of Teagan, from Justiss's My Lady's Pleasure.

I just wish this had been a full-length novel, not a novella. All my problems with it can be traced to length constraints. We wouldn't have had the door shut in our faces during the love scene and it wouldn't have been necessary to have the walking plot device that was Father Coll interfere in the story. It would have been much better if Rafe and Katherine had changed their attitude more naturally, not because of Father Coll's advice. Still, I really liked this story, and my grade for it is B+.


My grade for the whole anthology, including the Simmons story (which I graded C-), is B

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