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Mischief and Mistletoe Paperback – 25 Sep 2012
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About the Author
Mary Jo Putney graduated from Syracuse University with degrees in eighteenth-century literature and industrial design. A New York Times bestselling author, she has won numerous awards for her writing, including two Romance Writers of America RITA Awards, four consecutive Golden Leaf awards for Best Historical Romance, and the Romantic Times Career Achievement Award for Historical Romance. She was the keynote speaker at the 2000 National Romance Writers of America Conference. Ms. Putney lives in Baltimore, Maryland. Visit her Web site at www.maryjoputney.com.
The author of more than twenty romances, Patricia Rice was born in Newburgh, New York, and attended the University of Kentucky. She has two grown children, and lives with her husband of many years in Charlotte, North Carolina.
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For those who want light romance, there is something here for you. What I look for is whether the romance or build-up to love can make my heart pound hard.
SHE STOOPS TO WENCHDOM BY MARY JO PUTNEY – 2.5 STARS.
After being ignored by the hero at a ball, the heroine takes a big risk to get to know him better later in the story, and luckily the risk pays off.
This story was good, but lacked the heart pounding love this author is capable of writing.
I love this author’s early work. Try “The Bargain” and “The Rake”. Heart-pounding 5 star reads.
MISS BROCKHURST'S CHRISTMAS CAMPAIGN" BY JO BEVERLEY - 2.5 STARS.
The heroine breaks off her engagement to someone else when she realises it is because she loves the hero. She decides to win him at Christmas and encounters some unexpected obstacles.
This story was well written, but I felt the romance and its build-up was cool. I didn’t sense any heat from the hero until the end, and I could not warm to the heroine in her pursuit of the hero.
"INTRIGUE AND MISTLETOE" BY JOANNA BOURNE – 5 STARS.
I loved this story. The heart-pounding factor for the romance was a 5 star experience. I have re-read this story several times now. Even though this couple knew and loved each other before and parted ways, the feelings previously felt were beautifully portrayed when the couple was thrown together again. I love the way the hero’s betrayal is dealt with in this story. The hero is truly romantic and the heroine earns the title “heroine”. Loved it. Even though the villain became transparent, that did not diminish the enjoyment of the “intrigue” in the title.
I have read this author’s novels titled: “The Forbidden Rose” and “The Spymaster’s Lady.” They are wonderful 5 star romances. I can’t WAIT to read more novels by this author.
"WENCH IN WONDERLAND" BY PATRICIA RICE - 4 STARS
Damaris, companion to her beloved cousin, Lady Alice, embarks on a diversionary journey (to aid Alice’s quest) only to be mistaken for Lady Alice at her journey’s end by the harried and honourable hero. Add in adorable children… and a household in desperate need of her… Does she confess her real identity, or enjoy the hero’s attentions that she believes she would otherwise not have the benefit of?
I really enjoyed this story because the writing was well done. I felt the tug of war Damaris engaged in with her conscience in order to help Lady Alice, and then later in deciding whether to correct the error regarding her identity. The dual points of view of the hero and heroine added to the warmth in the story. Ultimately, I admired Damaris for her decisions.
"ON A WICKED WINTER'S NIGHT" BY NICOLA CORNICK – 1 STAR
A woman of the nobility now living and working under an assumed name, once again encounters the hero, who loved her in the past.
I had difficulty engaging with the plot of this story. Also, the writing style was not for me. The first kiss, for example, was described after the event, in the past tense the next day. I would have preferred it be described as it was happening. But that’s just me. Others are sure to find this story moving, especially since the hero is so likeable.
"WEATHERING THE STORM" BY CARA ELLIOTT – 3 STARS.
A story of opposites attracting. A man of letters and a woman of action. Can they ever see eye to eye? He is light on his feet in a ballroom; she’ll step on his toes. Hard. He can talk his way out of any hair-raising situation, and she can pick a lock...
This was written without chapter divisions. It is literally in a short story format. What I liked about this story was that it was a getting-to-know-you story where the hero and heroine learn to like and admire each other through adversity and adventure, and they become friends who are very attracted to one another. No instantaneous, unrealistic declarations of love and lust. It’s the beginning of something beautiful. Quite refreshing!
"THE MISTLETOE BRIDE" BY ANNE GRACIE – 5 STARS.
This one had it all – romance, tension, love. The hero and heroine meet and he mistakes her for someone else. By the time she realises his mistake, they are married. Sounds crazy, but the author makes this work.
This story builds the relationship from strangers, to respect and admiration, attraction, to love. My heart beat frantically for this couple. This is the only story in the collection with a sex scene (within marriage) but it is not gratuitous. It carries an important element of the story along. And it is tastefully described. If your preference is to avoid sex-scenes, then skip this story. There are 7 other ‘clean’ ones to enjoy (although in my opinion this is in the top 2 stories of this collection).
"A WILDER WENCH" BY SUSAN KING – 3 STARS.
Kirsty is desperate to free her beloved relative wrongly accused of a crime, and Ned is the Sherriff with the power to help… or not.
I liked the time taken by the author to establish an attraction between the couple before Kirsty’s desperately wild actions on behalf of a loved one. Ned is level-headed throughout and I enjoyed reading about a man who tried to see beyond the wild behaviour of a woman to understand the motivation behind it. This is definitely a clean story, but I felt the couple was intimate on an emotional level.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Putney--3 stars. I expected more from a headlining author. While the plot was interesting, there honestly wasn’t much of a story. This felt like a single scene in a 400 pg novel rather than a full story with an arc. The hero illogically leapt from reclusive and cold to friendly and chatty in a matter of a few pages. The heroine didn't do much in the story except listen to the hero reminisce. I never got a feel for either character. Everything felt flat, as though this were a rough brainstorm for a potential story rather than the final story.
Beverly--5 stars. This is written only from the heroine's perspective, which added a bit of mystery to the hero. The heroine's character was rich with depth. The writing style fit her personality, which was clever. The plot was funny and strewn with anticipation. My only complaint is that I never got a sense of the hero. His personality was flat, and he felt more like an on-scene extra than the hero. The final scene did give him personality, but by then, the game was won, so too little, too late.
Bourne—1.5 stars. This story felt like an excerpt of a longer work, and not in a good way. Instead of building intrigue at the beginning, the reader was tossed into total confusion as if reading a book from the middle onward. Parts of it felt a bit like the old Clue movie with Tim Curry, especially when they were gathered around the burned objects, moving one by one through the people in the inn to figure out their backstory in hopes to discover the culprit. There was little to no romance, the whole story focused on finding a mystery villain. There was no spark between the hero and heroine, and it wasn't even clear the hero was meant to be a romantic interest. No real sense of it being historical. There wasn't much of a plot to begin with, but the ending offered no resolution--the spy got away, and the hero was in the process of making arrangements for the chase but pauses to confess love for the heroine. End story.
Rice--5 stars. Given her story in The Last Chance Christmas Ball also included a head injury, I’m curious if this is a plot preference in her books. I didn't care much for her short story in TLCCB, but this one won me over. 5 stars for sure. The mistaken identity and reasons for a button-lipped heroine were comical and reasonable. The hero was interesting with a fully-fleshed out personality. The story line followed a traditional arc including the climactic crisis where we think the woman won't get her man. I love the way the heroine handles the moment of crisis, building more depth to her. The fact that the hero has to then win her over is even better. Beautifully done story arc. Would love for this to have been a full-length novel. My only complaint with the story was the hero never showed romantic interest in the heroine, rather he seemed only to want a glorified babysitter. His whole attraction was based on her interest and ability to care for children. I would have liked to see this as his initial interest in her, and then watch it blossom into love.
Cornick--5 stars. Immersive description. Love the plot. Well thought out with a rich backstory. Would make a great novel but well done as a short story. The hero’s character acted and spoke true to his character build from beginning to end, and the story revealed his development and maturity over time. I love the climactic conflict and how it fits the historical mores of the time. Too many authors sweep under the rug the reality of the time for the convenience of a HEA, not dealing with how it would have or could have really worked or not worked during the time period. This story handles that beautifully. Kudos to this author! My only complaint was the heroine’s inconsistency in why she resisted the hero. If it had just been better explained in her pov sections, that would have been great, but she oscillated in her reasons for resistance, sometimes knowing he was attracted to her, sometimes not knowing he was attracted her. Enough to cause whiplash. What could have been stronger established is that she did not trust him to be sincere in his attraction, maybe thinking him a rake in want of used goods, eager to use her and leave, or that even if he was interest she was too afraid of being burned twice she didn't care if he was sincere, something... anything… to make more sense of her resistance. As it was, her thoughts were inconsistent. She does explain to him her resistance in the end, but even her explanation doesn’t fit her own thoughts throughout the story. The heroine was my only contention with the tale.
Elliott--1 star. This story was a waste of pages. There was no plot, a wimpy and personality-less hero who may or may not have been English, and a butch and vulgar heroine who may or may not have been American. The majority of the story read like a Navy dictionary rather than a romance. So, let’s break down this mess: (a) The heroine had a foul mouth for the time period, cursing constantly at the hero. The words, of course, wouldn't be seen as curse words to today's standards, but her language was EXTREMELY foul for that time period. (b) The hero was a useless fop. (c) The descriptions were random and as useless as the hero. While there were random scene descriptions, nothing was described to create a visual. For instance, there would be a paragraph of info about the sea splashing, but no description of the boat, the hero or heroine, the scene itself, just some purple prose of the water, exaggerated in phrasing in an attempt to sound poetic without achieving immersive imagery. I couldn't visualize anything that was happening without having a navy term website in front of me, and even then, what was the point of knowing which rope or sail or whatever was being pulled? (d) The plot was nonexistent with a series of random events. It seemed like there was a rich backstory buried somewhere, but never was any of it explained to the reader or built into the story. (e) The heroine seemed only to be able to talk in sailor terms, which not only was annoying but alienated the hero from helping her even when she was asking him for help. Anyone of sense who realized he didn't understand boat terminology would have spoken in layman terms so he could help. I started skimming when all the heroine could do was shout curse words and navy terms. (f) The whole story felt like a foppish Englishman stuck on a boat with a gruff American navy sailor. Rename the heroine Sam instead of Sophie and the story would make more sense. (g) Never was a romance built. (h) After a series of one misadventure after another, enough to cause whiplash, the story ends abruptly. It had seemed there might be a plot somewhere but it never did become clear and became muddled with each page. As far as I could tell, there was no plot, just a series of high-seas shenanigans with a wimpy man and a butch woman. Just a story of gibberish. As one reviewer said, this was a complete waste of pages. Given the author's story in TLCCB was also a waste of pages, I’d HIGHLY recommend the “word wrenches” uninvite her future contributions. I will certainly be skipping all her stories in anthologies.
Gracie--5 stars. Wow. That's what I have to say about that. Wow. I actually forgot I was reading a short story I was so enthralled. Brilliant plot, writing, character development, the works. Hands down the best story in this anthology.
King--3 stars. The plot was good and would have earned a 4 or possibly a 5 star, but every time it turned to the heroine's pov, the narrative became muddled, and the ending was abrupt without a resolution. The hero's sections were great, though, and he was an appealing hero that I would have enjoyed spending more page time with in a longer book. The plot was also interesting with a rich backstory and history. Hero and plot are 5 stars, but the ending and heroine ruined the story for me, so 3 stars it is. The ending felt as though an entire chapter had been deleted. I have no idea if they had a HEA because it ended before anything at all was decided. With a bit of editing, this could have been a 5, but it was unfinished, especially during the heroine’s pov where her thoughts would jump so much from the present to the past to the present of other characters to the past of other characters, etc, that my head spun as to who was who and when was what.
There were 2 or 3 stories that were quite nice, but in a book that was 325 pages long, and a host to 8 different authors, (so that averages to 40 pages per author approx.) I thought that in most cases it wasn't enough to allow the writers to tell their stories well.
I usually don't like books of short stories such as this, although I have purchased others in the past. Perhaps it's a great way for the publisher to introduce its writers to a larger audience and a chance for first-time readers to acquaint themselves with the writers, but I unfortunately felt that I had wasted both time and money.
Each of these short stories, written by well-known romance writers collectively known as the Word Wenches, is set during the Christmas season, although in some cases that fact is barely noted and irrelevant to the story. The stories mention, even if just in passing, a tavern or inn with "wench" in its name, such as the Willing Wench, the Silent Wench, and my favorite, the Wench and Haggis.
Collections of short stories are nearly always uneven, and I'd forgotten many of the stories from the beginning of the book by the time I reached the end. The authors all know their business, however, so all the stories were decent reads. Usually, I buy such a collection on the strength of the few names I recognize among the authors. And most of the time, I am disappointed in the stories I bought the book to read but I find gems by authors who were new to me. That was true with this collection.
My favorites were all in the latter half of the book: Patricia Rice's tale of a harried single father, Anne Gracie's story of a man hoping to wed a dying woman--any dying woman, and Susan King's wild Highland woman and serious Lowland man who share a love of Sir Walter Scott's literature. If I'd read a synopsis of the stories, I'd have been sure I wouldn't like them. The charm of the stories lies in the way they are told.
Most readers will find some stories to admire in the collection. And probably none of them will agree on which stories those are.