This book contains four short stories all of which I found delightful. The last one, 'The Three Kings', I had already read in another Christmas short story collection. It was the first story I read by Carla Kelly and started me looking for more. I love her writing style and her characters. Unfortunately her historical accuracy often has serious flaws, but she manages to create such a believable world that I can usually overlook this problem when I would find it horribly annoying with another writer.
'The Christmas Ornament' begins with two father's worrying about their children, Olivia and James, both perhaps rather too intelligent for their own good. The fathers decide to bring this pair together. James is twenty-eight, an academic and rather socially unsure, at least around Olivia. A sweet attempt at courtship ensues somewhat hindered by James' awkwardness and the appearance of a self-assured titled rival. The final decision is determined by two notes written by the two men. Five stars.
'Make a Joyful Noise' starts with Peter Chard's mother worrying about the annual choir competition, which their church always loses (for some reason, Carla Kelly often makes England out to be a Catholic country as she does in this story with the names of the churches; a small irritation). Peter is a widower with two small children. As he rides over his land, he often notices a young woman walking, but never approaches her. Then, one day in church he hears her sing. A promise to help his mother with the choir competition, chicken pox and the young woman's nasty in-laws add the flavouring. Five stars.
I particularly enjoy Carla Kelly's stories based on naval men. In 'An Object of Charity', Captain Michael Lynch has returned to dry land to await repairs to his ship after it receives major damage during a battle. He is at a loss what to do with himself as he has been a sailor for more than twenty years and is estranged from his family. The first night in port, he meets his first mate's niece and nephew who have journeyed from Scotland looking for their uncle. Captain Lynch has to tell them that their uncle is dead and so the story begins. Five stars.
I reviewed 'The Three Kings' in Regency Christmas II. I cut and paste what I said then as it still holds true. Lady Sarah Brill Comstock, having accompanied her scholar brother to Spain, is caught up in the Peninsular War. Spanish Colonel Luis Sotomayor helps her back to the British lines. A moving look at the effect of war on the civilian population. Five stars.