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Christmas 1815. Upstairs and downstairs, Holbourne Hall is abuzz with preparations for a grand ball to celebrate the year’s most festive—and romantic—holiday. For at the top of each guest’s wish list is a last chance to find true love before the New Year…
A chance meeting beneath the mistletoe, a stolen glance across the dance floor—amid the sumptuous delicacies, glittering decorations, and swell of the orchestra, every duchess and debutante, lord and lackey has a hopeful heart. There’s the headstrong heiress who must win back her beloved by midnight—or be wed to another….the spinster whose fateful choice to relinquish love may hold one more surprise for her…a widow yearning to glimpse her long-lost love for even one sweet, fleeting interlude …a charming rake who finds far more than he bargained for. And many other dazzling, romantic tales in this star-studded collection that will fill your heart and spice up your holidays…
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.
When they work well, I love shared anthologies where each author writes about the same event or time period from a different perspective. Unfortunately, The Last Chance Christmas Ball struggles with internal consistency, enough so that I found myself rolling my eyes on more than one occasion.
Individually, many of the stories are charming. Several of them are very good indeed, which is why I added the half-star. A few contain historical inaccuracies (a pet peeve of mine), but my biggest complaint is that although the stories all center around the same house party and ball, there are quite glaring inconsistencies between the tales. For instance, a jewel “theft” and elopement in Joanna Bourne’s excellent opening story go completely unmentioned by any of the other authors, as do all four of Bourne’s important characters — something that certainly would not occur in real life, given the events in question. Several more closely interrelated stories do refer to events that happen at the ball, showing that those writers communicated with each other at least occasionally — but the descriptions don’t match in minor and sometimes significant ways. Even two of the strongest stories in this volume — Kim & Roxie’s romance, and Edward and Lily’s tale (by Mary Jo Putney and Cara Elliot, respectively) — include a scene in the latter showing tension between Roxie and Edward that simply isn’t there in the former.
As a result, it was difficult for me to simply lose myself in the stories. Perhaps my standards are too high, but I’ve read other interrelated anthologies that coordinate their stories far better. (Both of the Lady Whistledown anthologies by Julia Quinn et al., for instance.) The number of authors included also means that some of the stories are too short for much development of character or relationship. (Several are second-chance romances, which solves that problem to some extent.)
Those issues aside, The Last Chance Christmas Ball is still worth reading for some of the individual tales, particularly if you’re already a fan of any of the authors. In addition to the three I mentioned by Bourne, Putney, and Elliot, I was charmed by Jo Beverly’s tale of a frumpy companion and the duke who finds her irresistible. If you can overlook the inconsistencies and take each story on its own merits, I think you’ll find more than a few to enjoy.
CHALLENGES: Historical Romance 2015; Popsugar #12: a book of short stories
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- Historical Romance Reading Challenge 2015
- PopSugar 2015 Reading challenge