The One That Got Away
When it comes to anthologies, it’s helpful to have realistic expectations. By that I mean, your goal in picking up the book is to find a few hours of pleasant entertainment and not a great deal more. If you have your expectations well in line and don’t anticipate too much, you’ll probably find The One That Got Away, an unusually expert anthology with three well above average stories and only one less so, to be a very good bet.
Things take a bit of a downturn with Eloisa James’s A Fool Again, the story of a now-widowed trophy wife currently infatuated with her late husband’s creepy parter. The rather shallow heroine fails to see that the young man she briefly eloped with years earlier is really the right guy for her. Instead, she loves her late husband’s partner because he’s handsome and doesn’t seem to want her. She doesn’t want her youthful amour even though he’s now rich after years in India largely because he does want her. Frankly, I never quite saw why either man wanted her. Grade: C
Not surprisingly, the talented Liz Carlyle keeps matters on a high note with Much Ado About Twelfth Night, a story featuring a stoic hero adjusting to the heavy family responsibilities he never thought he’d have to bear and a heroine far more interested in horses than marriage. Still, said hero and heroine once enjoyed a youthful infatuation – an infatuation so strong that not even a gaggle of relatives encouraging the wealthy young woman and the impoverished hero to wed or a series of painful misunderstandings can manage to destroy it. Funny, charming, and romantic, Carlyle’s novella is a delight. Grade: B+
Happily, things pick right back up again with Cathy Maxwell’s Nightingale. This time out the second chance theme centers around a jaded and wealthy man who’s spent his life acquiring wealth and proving to himself that he was indeed worthy of the young woman who spurned him long ago. Now saddled with the responsibility of her impoverished family and an irresponsible brother foolish enough to challenge the hero to a duel, heroine Jemma must swallow her pride and convince a man with many reasons to resent her to spare her brother’s life. The author does a good job of showing the reader why her characters acted as they did then and why this star-crossed and thoroughly likable couple are meant to be together now. Grade: B
Victoria Alexander starts things off nicely with The Trouble With Charlotte, an engaging story of a husband and wife reunited after several years. The widowed Charlotte long believed her husband died in battle and his sudden reappearance isn’t an altogether happy one – especially in light of the fact that the understandably reserved and cautious heroine had only just taken her first first tentative steps towards falling in love with another man. Ultimately, this story about youthful mistakes and lovers who get the rare chance years later to make it right achieves a pleasing balance of humor, charm, and emotion. Grade: B+
review by Sandy Coleman