"Dukes don't need people.
He loved his father, admired him, strove to live up to his legacy, but in this he knew his father had been wrong. Adam had a growing number of people he needed in his life, and he wouldn't change that. Not for all the world."
When I think of Christmas I think of my family. I have fond memories of my childhood holidays, like when my dad made sleigh tracks on the snow outside our home, but I also think of the traditions and memories that I have already begun with my two children. I honestly believe that Christmas is a magical time of year because hearts are softened and our focus is outward. It's a time for healing, fun, traditions, service, and family. I love that this collection covers just about all of that. Each story presents a wonderful part of the Christmas season and the hope and joy that seems to fill the air.
Warning: The "thoughts & feelings" section about Christmas at Falstone Castle contains spoilers about the Lancaster Family Romance Series. If you have not read up to Loving Lieutenant Lancaster I would skip paragraph two.
thoughts & feelings
At the beginning of December I set out to read all of the Christmas anthologies that I own. At that time I only had three. However, a trip to Deseret Book found me purchasing this anthology. I have been wanting to read this anthology for quite some time because it includes Christmas at Falstone Castle. Before the boxsets for the Lancaster Family and Jonquil Brothers were released, this anthology was the only way to read Christmas at Falstone Castle. Although I own the boxsets I found myself immediately putting this anthology in my basket. When I sat down to read I took a look at the authors included. Amazingly I own a novel or novella by every single one, I haven't read all of them though...they're in my TBR pile.
The first novella featured is none other than Christmas at Falstone Castle by Sarah M. Eden. I was a little tempted to skip this one since my personal deadline is nearing and I read it a few months ago, but my love for Persephone and Adam pushed me read it again. I love that this novella focuses on the Dowager Duchess of Kielder, Adam's mother, Harriet. In Seeking Persephone we are given a little insight into the relationship between her and Adam and why she was so often absent from his childhood. You may call me a sap, but I love that we get to see how their relationship has progressed and see them heal even more. Perhaps my favorite part of all is getting to see the relationship that Oliver and Adam have. I love that we get to see Adam teaching Oliver how to be a duke as well as the kind and affectionate relationship that they have. It is very obvious that Adam loves Oliver deeply and would do anything in his power to keep his young son safe.
The Heart of Christmas by Anita Stansfield is the second novella featured in this anthology. I really enjoyed this novella and how the setting/timeline was slightly different than the other novellas I have read this month. After a full month of reading almost nothing but Christmas novellas you get ready to leave the snowy month of December for any other type of weather. The Heart of Christmas begins in the early fall and ends on Christmas morning. I felt that Anita did a great job with the time lapsing and giving us peaks into the past. This novella is a story about healing after the loss of a family member. I loved that Anita let us see three members of the family and how they have coped with this loss for the past ten years. I love that they each handled the loss differently and felt that it rang true to how a real family could deal with such a loss.
I completely devoured the third novella, 'Tis the Season to be Daring by Esther Hatch, and read it in one sitting. You know when you're reading and come across a passage or scene and you know the book is going to be amazing? I had one of those moments about six pages into the story. I was so captivated and giggling so hard that I took a screen shot of almost the entire page, texted it to my sister, and told her she needed to read it. This is the first of Esther Hatch's books that I have read, although I just finished collecting the Proper Scandals books, and I absolutely LOVED it. I cannot wait to dive into more of her novels! I am definitely going to have to read them soon. I love the relationship between Lord Charles Hawthorne and Elizabeth Davenport. I love that they push and pull each other but in good ways. They genuinely enjoy being with one another and can laugh together. It almost becomes a sort of contest to see who can make the other smile first or the biggest. I also enjoyed seeing the relationships between Lord Hawthorne and his sister and brother-in-law. Although considered a bit careless and out of touch with the rules of society, they don't expect him to change and love him just as he is. They all enjoy being together and willingly join the fun that Lord Hawthorne brings wherever he goes.
The fourth and final novella is The Christmas Dress by Joanna Barker. This was my first time reading something by Joanna Barker, although I do own one of her books, and once again I read it in one sitting. I loved the simplicity of this story and how endearing each of the main characters was. I think Alice, the main man's sister, might have been my favorite character. She is very quiet but observant and has a heart of gold. I really enjoyed seeing the relationship between her and Jacob, her brother. I love that we get little hints of this relationship and how it has grown and is continuing to grow. I also secretly loved Miss Fowler. Her near obsession with trying to snag the attention of Jacob is blatantly obvious and gave me a few good giggles. I feel so bad that Alice gets stuck with her, several times, but seeing Jacob come up with excuses in order to avoid her is the best. Poor fellow.
Steam Level: clean, kissing
Trigger Warnings: loss of an immediate family member
Title: Christmas at Falstone Castle
Series: Lancaster Family Romance #5
Author: Sarah M. Eden
Title: The Heart of Christmas
Author: Anita Stansfield
Title: 'Tis the Season to Be Daring
Author: Ester Hatch
Title: The Christmas Dress Author: Joanna Barker