I’ve always loved the December holidays. Having lived in the southern hemisphere all my life, I love the rain that heralds the end of winter and the beginning of new life. Bursts of greenery and flashes of colour abound as nature blossoms from spring into summer. December is a beautiful month, and it reflects the feelings and emotions we hold dear as Christmas approaches: hope, cheer, love and generosity; the wish for peace and the desire to give to friends and family; reflections on a year past and plans for the future; joy and happiness. And, of course, from our northern neighbours come ancient stories snow, fairy tales and gifts, mulled wine and mistletoe with its promise of romance.
Reality, however, has a nasty way of dealing sideways blows to the best laid plans, ably abetted by office politics and family dramas. So, when the Grinch is threatening to lay low the Spirit of Christmas, I take refuge in a good book (as you do).
Some of the very best new books are released in time for Christmas, and The Last Chance Christmas Ball honours this publishing tradition. It’s a delightful collection of novellas by the Word Wenches, Anne Gracie, Mary Jo Putney, Joanna Bourne, Nicola Cornick, Jo Beverley, Susan King, Patricia Rice and Cara Elliot. The stories in most book collections are bound by theme, genre or period. Very few are put together around a single central event – and for good reason. It’s a challenge to the skills of the writers to co-ordinate well enough as a group to overlay stories without spoilers or boring repetition.
The Wenches have risen to the challenge in this collection of sweet Regency romances set in 1815 at Lady Holly’s Last Chance Christmas Ball, which she has hosted for the last fifty year to illuminate the charms of those ladies who might have been overlooked for whatever reason. The lives of the Stretton family, who host the ball on behalf of the Dowager, their grandmother, are weaved through every story. Naturally, most of the guests are friends and well-known to them and all have their reasons for looking for – or avoiding – love, from past scandals to broken hearts, unsupportive families and financial troubles. While the men scoff at its powers, the ladies hold out hope. After all if there is one season designed to empower love, it has to be Christmas. Every year, the glitter of Lady Holly’s ball weaves its magic for someone; this time, ten romances are born,rekindled or saved, ensuring that 1816 was a busy year for local vicars!
The ball is held on the 28th of December each year. The stories range from just beforehand as guests plan their travels and the family plan the festivities through Christmas Day to the ball itself and the beginning of the next school year.
Each story is delightful, charming, heartwarming and so utterly romantic that they renewed my faith in love, hope and romance all over again. The heroes are dashing, brave men with good hearts outwardly cloaked in a range of guises from permanent bachelor to embittered soldier, steadfast citizen and light-hearted rake. The heroines are pretty, spirited, generous and smart. After I had finally finished reading the book, I went back and read each story again, just to enjoy the moment when love conquered all with a kiss. If you are looking for just one book to lift your spirits in this last frantic week before Christmas 2015, I recommend you grab a copy of The Last Chance Christmas Ball.
The Last Chance Christmas Ball by Mary Jo Putney, Anne Gracie, Joanna Bourne, Nicola Cornick, Jo Beverley, Susan King, Patricia Rice and Cara Elliot (Kensington) is available in paperback and ebook. I purchased my own copy, inspired by my love for the individual works of the authors. If you are unfamiliar with the Word Wenches blog, and you love historical romance, you can sign up for updates here.