The Last Chance Christmas Ball

December 4, 2015 Book Reviews 4 ★★★½

The Last Chance Christmas BallThe Last Chance Christmas Ball on Sept. 29, 2015
Pages: 320
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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


About Mary Jo Putney

Mary Jo Putney was born in Upstate New York and holds degrees in English Literature and Industrial Design from Syracuse University. She worked in the field of design until her first novel was published in 1987. Since then, she has written over forty books, mainly historical romances.

Ms. Putney’s novels are known for their emotional depth and for tackling unusal subjects for romance, including alcoholism, imprisonment, terminal illness, and domestic violence. Her books regularly feature on national bestseller lists. A ten-time finalist for the Romance Writers of America’s RITA award, Putney has won twice, for Dancing on the Wind and The Rake and the Reformer (later revised and expanded as The Rake. She is also the holder of several other awards, including the Romance Writers of America Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award.

Ms. Putney continues to write new stories for Kensington, but has reissued many of her backlist titles independently, including the Silk Trilogy and her bestselling Fallen Angels series.

She lives near Baltimore, Maryland.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Historical Romance Reading Challenge 2015
  • PopSugar 2015 Reading challenge

4 Responses to “The Last Chance Christmas Ball”

  1. Literary Feline

    It is too bad the stories weren’t more interconnected, but I am glad to hear that several of the stories are worth reading on their own. I have mixed feelings about anthologies made up of short stories in general. I haven’t heard of too many that are connected while being written by different authors. I imagine it would be a challenge.
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    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      It is a challenge, but there are a few anthologies that have done it really well. Both the Lady Whistledown anthologies come to mind (Julia Quinn et al.)