A Yuletide Kiss
A Yuletide Kiss features three interwoven stories about a group of travelers who find themselves stranded at a rural inn at Christmastime by an unexpected winter storm, and the romances that follow their forced proximity.
When We Finally Kiss Good Night by Sabrina Jeffries
Grade: B+ Sensuality: Warm
This is a second chance romance between an erstwhile playwright and a lady’s companion. Flora Younger met Konrad Juncker in Bath years earlier, but he vanished without any explanation after raising her hopes. When they come face-to-face for the first time in years, both still feel the spark, but each now has secrets from the other. If they are going to come to an understanding, they must both be willing to be honest.
An Unexpected Christmas Gift by Madeline Hunter
Grade: A- Sensuality: Warm
Jenna Waverly is the owner of the White Rose Inn, at which our protagonists have taken refuge. She plans on closing her establishment for the holidays, to give her and her staff some respite, but when the storm brings a host of guests to her door, she cannot turn them away to freeze. The most intriguing among these guests is a man who was found, clearly ill and unconscious, in the snow. Jenna tends to him, only to find that the intimacy that bond creates isn’t so easily set aside. Her patient, Lucas Avonwood, is on a mission to protect a lady’s honor, and as he becomes enchanted by the innkeeper, he can only hope that she isn’t involved in the scheme that he is investigating.
When Strangers Meet by Mary Jo Putney
Grade: B Sensuality: Kisses
This is the tale of Kate Mcleod, a woman from a prosperous family who finds herself face-to-face with the husband she barely knows. Kate and Daniel Faringdon were married almost at first sight years earlier, in dire circumstances and under duress. Unbeknownst to Daniel, the marriage was a legal one, and when he sees Kate again she tells him that they must seek an annulment, for another man wishes to marry her. Daniel asks that Kate allow him to get to know her while they are at the inn, and she agrees, for she does not love her would-be fiancé. The question is, will a few days be enough to decide to remain together for a lifetime?
I will say that there is definitely a bit of a cheesy atmosphere to Jeffries’ story, but I go for that sort of thing. I liked the conflict in Konrad about his future, and Flora is fun as well. They have good chemistry on the page and a lot of great scenes together. Jenna and Lucas’ story is probably my favorite; they have some of the best dialogue, and while Jenna is very softhearted despite her practicality, Lucas is pretty much willing to kill to protect her and will verbally eviscerate anyone who tries to pull one over on her. I liked both of their backstories a lot, and found their ending very satisfying. Kate and Daniel round out the group nicely. Daniel’s conflict is very well done and his fears all made a lot of sense and deepened his character. Kate’s indecision also tracks, and I liked her combination of strength and vulnerability.
These stories are well-written and go well together. One of the great risks of a collection in which all the stories takes place simultaneously is that the repeated scenes will get stale, but these are all cleverly told from new points of view and not hampered by too much repetition. The premise is also fun, but the reader must suspend their disbelief a tad. While Jenna and Lucas have no previous acquaintance, and their meeting and subsequent romance isn’t contrived, the other two couples do know each other, and have a history. This makes them getting stranded at an inn together, out of all of the snowy countryside in England, rather unlikely. For the Hunter story, it actually does make sense, because the protagonists are headed to the same party, but Kate and Daniel’s meeting has no such explanation.
All three tales are good reads, and I liked getting to know each character as an individual, even in the stories that focus elsewhere. The collection has good narrative cohesion and is probably one of the better anthologies I have read. I enjoyed the cottage-core, sweet Christmas vibes, and I would recommend A Yuletide Kiss.