The Victorian Christmas Brides Collection – Review

victorianbridesby C.J. Chase, Susanne Dietze, Rita Gerlach, Kathleen L. Maher, Gabrielle Meyer, Carrie Fancett Pagels, Vanessa Riley, Lorna Seilstad, and Erica Vetsch

Paperback: 448 pages
Publisher: Barbour Books (September 1, 2018)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1683227190
ISBN-13: 978-1683227199

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Faced with the daily extremes of gluttony and want in the Victorian Era, nine women seek to create the perfect Christmas celebrations. But will expectations and pride cause them to overlook imperfect men who offer true love?

Paper Snowflake Christmas by Vanessa Riley
1837 Framlingham, England
How can widow Ophelia Hanover give her son a perfect Christmas when his guardian, the Earl of Litton, arrives early to take permeant custody of the boy?

One Golden Ring by C.J. Chase
1855 Devonshire, England
Wounded soldier Tristram Nowell returns home to indulge his mother’s wish for a family Christmas—and encounters Marianna Granville. Can he forgive the former heiress who jilted him years before?

Love Brick by Brick by Kathleen L. Maher
1857 Elmira, New York
SarahAnn Winnifred overcomes orphanhood apprenticing with pioneering doctors. Rufus Sedgwick, relocating his English estate, seeks help for his ailing Mum. Christmas reveals the secret wish of both hearts—for love.

The Sugarplum Ladies by Carrie Fancett Pagels
1867 Windsor, Ontario, Canada and Detroit, Michigan
When Canadian barrister Percy Gladstone finds his aristocratic British family unexpectedly descending upon him for Christmas, he turns to American social reformer Eugenie Mott and her fledgling catering crew for help.

Star of Wonder by Susanne Dietze
1875 County Durham, England
This Yuletide, Bennet Hett, Viscount Harwood, offers Lady Celeste Sidwell matrimony and the Star of Wonder diamond necklace, as their fathers arranged. When the diamond disappears, will they find a greater treasure?

Father Christmas by Lorna Seilstad
Chicago, Christmas 1880
Widowed harpist Beatrix Kent believes love can only come once in a lifetime, but this Christmas, carpenter Hugo Sherman hopes to pull on the musician’s heartstrings and prove her wrong.

The Perfect Christmas by Erica Vetsch
1880s London
Melisande Verity might be in over her head trying to create the perfect Christmas window display, but if she succeeds, will she finally attract the attention of her boss, Gray Garamond?

A Christmas Vow by Gabrielle Meyer
London, England, Christmas 1899
Lady Ashleigh Pendleton is hosting a houseful of guests for Christmas when railroad executive Christopher Campbell unexpectedly arrives from America with a mysterious agreement signed by their fathers before their birth.

The Holly and the Ivy by Rita Gerlach
1900. Small town along the Potomac near Washington DC
A glass ornament. Love letters tied in red Christmas ribbon. Lily Morningstar and British antiquities expert Andrew Stapleton are drawn into a family secret that binds their hearts together.


This is a collection of 9 stories of romance that take place at Christmas time during the Victorian era. Overall it was a very enjoyable read that I would recommend.  My favorite story from the collection was Paper Snowflake Christmas by Vanessa Riley.

 

One Golden Ring by C.J. Chase

Marianna Granville is the companion to Tristram Nowell’s aunt. Tristram is not happy to see Marianna again because he believes that she turned down his proposal years ago because she wanted to please her father and marry for money.  After the financial ruin and death of her father, Marianna and Tristram’s positions have now reversed but does their love remain after all these years?

This story reminds us that we should know all the facts in a situation and we shouldn’t hold on to grudges.

I liked the use of switching between time periods. It helped keep the novella moving along at a great pace.

I found some scenes in this story that reminded me of Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility.

 
Star of Wonder by Susanne Dietze

Lady Celeste Sidwell and Bennet Hett, Lord Harwood, are to have a marriage arranged by their fathers unless they are able to stop it. They both have work they want to continue before even considering marriage and they hardly know each other.  Will solving a mystery bring them closer together?

I liked the characters in this story.  There was some predictability in the plot but it was still an enjoyable read.

 
The Holly and the Ivy by Rita Gerlach

Lily Morningstar is an aspiring writer. Andrew Stapleton is an expert in antiquities. They have been anonymously writing to each other for a year. Now they want to work together to figure out who wrote some love letters that Lily found.

Lily seems more in love with having a Christmas wedding with holly, ivy, and candles, than with an actual marriage or husband. Their relationship also seems pretty superficial. Lily seems flaky and acts like a child.

I just couldn’t get into the story and didn’t feel invested in the characters.

 
Love Brick by Brick by Kathleen L. Maher

“It isn’t my home.  It’s just where I live.”

SarahAnn Winnifred is training to be a doctor and Rufus Sedgwick’s mother is her patient. The Sedwicks had to leave England for Elmira, New York and Rufus is rebuilding their English home there for his mother.

Misunderstandings and communication are major issues in this story. SarahAnn and Rufus almost lost a chance to be together because they misunderstood and didn’t communicate. They also both misjudged each other when they first met. Rufus also almost missed a relationship with his father because of a misunderstanding.

SarahAnn grew up in an orphanage and didn’t have a family. Once a week she returns to care for the orphans.

Some of my favorite scenes were with the orphans, especially the three brothers.

I like the connection that we are never orphans though God’s adoption.

 
A Christmas Vow by Gabrielle Meyer

During the first Christmas without her mother, Lady Ashleigh Arrington must play the perfect host even though she feels she lacks elegance refinement and sophistication.

Her hosting abilities are tested when Christopher Campbell returns from her past. Christopher is an American whose family was friends with her mother.  Eleven years earlier he liked to play tricks on her and set a fire, almost burning down the house.

In their youth, their mothers agreed to an arranged marriage for their children and to get out of it they must be engaged or married by that Christmas Eve.

I liked the childhood stories and wish there were more of them. I also would have liked this novella to be longer, then their falling in love wouldn’t have been so fast.

 
The Sugarplum Ladies by Carrie Fancett Pagels

Eugenie Mott is expected to marry Horace Ontevreden who is over 20 years her senior. Before a commitment is made, Eugenie’s father dies.

Percy Gladstone is a barrister whose family is unexpectedly visiting him for Christmas.

There were too many characters and too many things going on. It seemed like there were a ton of side characters briefly mentioned that may be from other side stories. (I confirmed this after reading the book)

I wasn’t really invested in any of the characters.

I did like that some of the story was based on real historical events.

 
Paper Snowflake Christmas by Vanessa Riley

Geoffrey Landson, Lord Litton, comes to collect his ward Joshua from his widow mother, Ophelia Hanover, right before Christmas

Before Ophelia married her husband, she shared a past with his cousin Geoffrey.  Geoffrey kissed Ophelia on a dare but she believed he never really loved her.  Now years later he is back to claim her son and his ward after her husband’s death.  Both must search their feelings from the past or lose a future together.

Geoffrey was always reckless and willing to be dared to do anything until his most recent dare almost costs him his life. Now he has vowed to turn that life around.

I found this story very interesting and I liked the characters.

I also thought how the paper stars were used at the end was cute.

 
Father Christmas by Lorna Seilstad

Hugh Sherman’s daughter is taking music lessons from the widow Beatrix Kent. As Beatrix’s feelings for Hugh grow, she must decide if she is willing to lose what she loves for him.

This story is about characters who hold on to anger from the past and blame others. It also is about deciding if people are worth more to you than things.

I don’t like when people suddenly compare their late spouse to their current love interest, and they always seem so negative about the late spouse.

I thought it was funny that Hugh seemed so intimidated by picking out a doll for his daughter Clara.

Overall this was a cute story.

 
The Perfect Christmas by Erica Vetsch

Melisande Verity is the department head for chocolates and confections. She is chosen to do the stores Christmas window display even though most believe a young woman can’t do it justice. As Melisande’s boss’s grandson, Gray Garamond oversees the work on the display.

Gray’s biggest concern is making a profit which he believes is more important than people.

There was a chasm between the two and Melisande felt she was putting on a false persona when she was in Gray’s world.

I had never heard the name Melisande and it wouldn’t roll off my tongue.  I would pause every time I got to her name until I changed her name to Melissa in my head.

I enjoyed this story but I wish they had a little more of a connection.

Of Rags and Riches Romance Collection: Nine Stories of Poverty and Opulence During the Gilded Age – Review

ragscover.jpgWritten by Michelle Griep, Susanne Dietze, Anne Love, Gabrielle Meyer, Natalie Monk, Jennifer Uhlarik, Erica Vetsch, Jaime Jo Wright, and Kathleen Y’Barbo

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Barbour Books (July 1, 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1683222636
  • ISBN-13: 978-1683222637

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Love Flourishes during America’s Gilded Age

Journey along in nine historical romances with those whose lives are transformed by the opulence, growth, and great changes taking place in America’s Gilded Age. Nine couples meet during these exhilarating times and work to build a future together through fighting for social reform, celebrating new opportunities for leisure activities, taking advantage of economic growth and new inventions, and more. Watch as these romances develop and legacies of faith and love are formed.


Union Pacific Princess by Jennifer Uhlarik

Young Dora, her uncle William and her cousin Becca, leave Boston to join Dora’s father at the railroad camp where he works after four years apart.

Gage is at the railroad camp trying to stay under the radar to gather information that will help his Indian friends.

When dynamite goes off, Gage injures himself protecting Dora and Becca and exposes himself to Dora’s father, the very person Gage was hiding from.

-A lot of times I feel like novellas leave me feeling like there is a lot missing or it ends abruptly. This one didn’t. It was fast passed but didn’t feel rushed and I liked how the author used the passing of time to move the story along.

-I like how the characters aren’t perfect, like when Gage realized he was still learning when he compared the treatment of his Indian friends with that of the slaves.

-This was one of my favorite novellas in the collection.

The Right Pitch by Susanne Dietze

Winnie loves playing baseball but fears that this will be her last time playing a charity game with the Liberty Belles before she has to give it up to marry.

Beck had his heart broken when he was younger and is afraid to risk it again.
Will risk or precaution win out?

-This was a cute story. There was a lot of baseball in it and if you don’t like baseball, you might not enjoy it was much.

A Gift in Secret by Kathleen Y’Barbo

Thomas Bolen dies, leaving a will that will change the life of this daughter as well as the Austin family that was wronged. Without revealing the stipulations of the will, Samuel Austin III must decide to keep Bolen Shipping and leave May Bolen penniless or marry her.

-I enjoyed this story but I think it would have served the plot better if it had been a longer novel. Not enough time passed for the characters to develop a real connection for each other.

-There were also things that felt unresolved like where they would live since May loves New York so much and Sam was at home on a boat. It would be a shame if he had to give that up completely.

For Richer or Poorer by Natalie Monk

Polish maid Ella is pretending to be of a higher class when dray driver Woody literally runs into her. Ella tries to hide her growing feelings for Woody due to her need to marry a wealthy man in order to bring her sickly family to America. Meanwhile, Woody is trying to establish an orphanage and hide from his past.

-The orphan storyline is something that is near and dear to my heart and I loved reading about them and their little personalities.

-I also liked when Woody translated for Ella while hiding at the church.

-Some of the scriptures quoted in the book were favorites of mine.

-I thought the ending was a little too neat but I still enjoyed the book and this was another favorite in the collection.

A House of Secrets by Michelle Griep

Amanda is determined to open a school for the poor to impress her father and the Ladies’ Aide Society. Her fiancé, Joseph, has plans of his own for the “haunted” house Amanda wants. Will keeping secrets tear Joseph and Amanda apart?

-I like books that have a mystery to them, although the readers were privy to the majority of the mysteries in this story.

-I also liked the message of waiting on those you trust and love, especially God.

Win, Place, or Show by Erica Vetsch

Beryl just wants to spend the summer taking riding lessons with her beloved horse Lacey and competing in the show at the Deep Haven Hunt Club. However, her parents have different plans for her that include marrying her off to Lord Springfield and selling Lacey.

Major Gard Kennedy is spending the summer teaching riding lessons and saving every penny so he can buy Arcturus as the perfect foundation Sire for his new stud farm.

When Gard falls for Beryl, will he risked everything he has worked so hard for?

-There was a lot in this story that was very predictable but I still liked it.

-The vast majority of the book focused on horses. Since I like horses, this was a positive for me but I think even those who don’t like horses as much as I do will enjoy it.

-Beryl’s parents both annoyed me. They were equally clueless as to their daughter’s obvious feelings and they had the wrong priorities. It was disappointing that Beryl even seemed to laugh about their priorities at the end. Stringing Lord Springfield along until after the business deal closed also felt wrong.

The Fisherman’s Nymph by Jaime Jo Wright

“Maybe you’re not the only one who is pushing through sorrow. Some, like you, turn to bitterness- And some make their penance by blaming themselves.”

Charles Farrington III hides his pain under the façade of a carefree, charming rouge. Abby never grieved properly after her mother’s death and she still blames other people for it. Can two grief-stricken souls help each other find peace?

Abby and her father host fishing retreats for the rich that Abby so despises and Charles and his friend Jonathan are their clients. Through Abby’s forced time with Charles, she must finally face her past.

-This book had a lot of descriptions and details about fishing which I am not a fan of, so this was a negative for me.

-This story also had a darker tone to it and I usually like to read books that are lighter and make me feel uplifted.

-And except for their shared grief and their “spark”, I didn’t see Abby and Charles as a potential couple.

-This wasn’t a bad story, it just wasn’t for me.

The Gardener’s Daughter by Anne Love

Magdalena “Maggie” Abbott loves to read and learn and she has a power with words. She spends her days working at the library and hiding the truth of her circumstances with others.

Wesley Graham was raised by his wealthy uncle and is expected to meet certain family expectations.

While spending the summer in their wealthy cottage home, Wesley meets Maggie at the nearby library and they begin an academic project together. Will Maggie’s secrets and Graham’s family obligations keep them apart?

-The pace seemed a little strange in this book. Some parts were drawn out and other parts seemed to move too quickly.

-My favorite part of the book was when they were working together at the library.

-I found it strange that Maggie thought she would hurt her father’s pride if she liked a wealthy man.

A Tale of Two Hearts by Gabrielle Meyer

After the death of Lucy Taylor’s father, she has to take on a job as a lady’s maid so she can help care for her family, especially her injured sister.

Eli Boyer dreams of racing and manufacturing cars one day and leaving his life as a footman behind. However, when he meets Lucy, he is coming to realize that his previous dreams may no longer be enough.

-As a fan of auto racing, I enjoyed reading about the early days of racing.

-I felt like I wanted to know more about Mr. Alexander and Mr. Walker’s past with Mrs. Walker that was briefly mentioned in the book.

I received an ARC but the opinions expressed here are 100% my own.

This collection of novellas had a number of great stories. I rated it a 4/5 overall and would recommend it.