In Christine Cameron's A Highland Christmas, we meet Scottish lassCassandra McIntyre, who is forced to marry English Baron Drake against her wishes - and his as well. All Drake wants is to get his hands on his family home, which has been bestowed upon his brother Cedric, marry Cassandra because he must, and then abandon her as soon as he is able to. When Cassandra overhears this, she is understandably upset. Unfortunately, this was one of the extremely rare occasions when anything Cassandra does makes any sense.
To call Cassandra spirited would be a mistake - shrewish and irritating would be more like it. She slaps Drake more than once, yells and screams at him every chance she gets, disobeys him left and right, fights off clans in order to prove herself, and generally behaves like a two-year-old - she wants what she wants when she wants it. Not even her "gift" of receiving other people's feelings through touch did anything but make the scene of their wedding night thoroughly confusing. Drake was little better - they get close, he rejects her; they kiss, he rejects her; they make love, he rejects her.... A grade of D-.
Jill Henry's Sara's Gift was a sweet, heartwarming story about love healing old wounds. Sara Mercer is a widow on her way to a job and, hopefully, a new life. She can't help herself, however, and makes a stop in Moose Creek to see the child she gave up for adoption four years earlier. Her stop is lengthened by a heavy snowstorm and, with the train passengers taking every available hotel room in town, she ends up staying in the same house as Mary, her daughter, and Mary's adoptive father, Sheriff Gabe Chapman.
The attraction between Sara and Gabe is palpable from the moment he helps her off the stranded train, and so is Sara's growing guilt at knowing she is deceiving both Gabe and his sister, who quickly enfold the lonely Sara into their family routine.
My main problem with the story is that we are told that neither Sara nor Gabe has ever loved like they do each other. Considering they were both married before and considering how little they really knew each other, this seemed a little too convenient and unrealistic, and so did Gabe's acceptance of the truth of Sara's identity. I don't see why Gabe and Sara couldn't have loved their spouses and also found joy and love with each other. Mary was a little too grown-up for a four-year old, but all in all, this was a reasonably enjoyable story. A grade of C+.
Tracy Sumner's When All Through the Night was a wonderful finish to this anthology. When we meet Katherine Peters, she is absolutely through with Tanner Barkley. The cad had apparently been using her for a big undercover story for the newspaper, and when the story appeared, Katherine was left beyond humiliation at discovering that her first and only lover had been merely using her. Of course, this is not really how things really happened....
These were two likable people. Katherine is determined not to have her heart stomped on again, but her feelings toward Tanner are justified, considering that she doesn't know all the details. Tanner's efforts to gain back the love of his life are endearing and I found myself rooting for him. A grade of B, and I understand that this is the sequel to Ms. Sumner's Carolina Rose, which I definitely intend to read.
Christmas Kisses was worth reading for Tracey Sumner's story. Her story, along with Jill Henry's, went a long way toward removing the bad taste left in my mouth after reading Christine Cameron's contribution. Spending quality time with Sumner's characters will surely warm the reader and bring a little Christmas spirit.