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Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Midwinter Fantasy

"A Midwinter Fantasy" is a Dorchester Publishing Christmas Anthology to be published on October 15.  You get three books for the price of one.

The first story is "A Christmas Carroll" by Leanna Renee Hieber.
The prologue, for me, starts the story in some confusion.  We know the story is a historical romance because it is set at the end of 1888 and it is Christmas time.  My confusion comes in how the words in the prologue are trying to set the story.  My mind just can't seem to process the words into a picture in my mind.  This is part of Leanna's "Strangely Beautiful Series."  If you have read her other books in the series this may seem less confusing.  And would probably help you to better understand what is going on.
We meet Michael Carroll in Chapter 1.  We find his profession is that of a vicar.  He is part of a group called "The Guard".  It is not a military group but a group that watches over evil spirits (ghost hunters of old).  We then find out that he has loved the same woman for over twenty years.
Everyone that belongs to "The Guard" all have special gifts.  But as Michael shares his story, we find that the groups gifts have disappeared.  How will they function?  Their gifts are what also keep the group connected to each other.
I like that in Leanna's story our couple is older - not all couples need to be young.  The reader can easily put themselves into the couple's shoes.  How is Michael going to convince his lady-love, Rebecca, that they belong together?
Rebecca doesn't feel that she deserves Michael's love.  But it is Christmas time - a time for miracles.  And of course the story is set during the era of Dickens (big hint).
Michael scores hero points in my book because he visits the local orphanage infirmary.  He is considered "The Heart" of the group and we can see why.  He is also someone who does not hide his emotions.  You don't see many authors that give the male character these types of feelings.  It's refreshing!
I'm also impressed with the descriptions of the settings and clothes that the characters are wearing.  Leanna gives her readers a good idea of how it was to live in 1888.  She also shows the reader that you don't have to have a lot of sex in a story to see the romance between characters.
I give story one 4 stars.
The second story is "The Worth of a Sylph" by L.J. McDonald
This story is part of L.J.'s "Sylph Series".
The story starts out with us learning that Mace is a shape-shifter (a battle sylph).  We also learn he has a female master.  Her name is Lily and she is in her eighties.  Lily decides that it is time for Mace to find a new master.  Before she leaves their plane, she wants to make sure that Mace is taken care of.
In the story, we get a lot of information about Mace and a young boy named Jayden.  We also see that Sylphs need to draw energy - whether from humans or animals.  Mace sets out to try to find Jayden and as he travels we find out what Mace's life is really like.
I felt the story was running a little slow because of all the time it takes for Mace to look for Jayden.  We see all that Mace has had to endure but his love interest doesn't appear until chapter 5.  This is when we find out her name is Sally.
In an anthology stories tend to be short and the author has little time to tell their story.  In this case, and because I have not read the other books in the series, I felt that L.J. fell a little short.  The first four chapters went on a little too much about Mace and no hint of Sally.  Once you get to chapter 5, you see that the story picks up.
I did enjoy the way that L.J. describes things  and she gave us the perfect sort of hero.  Mace protects women and children and will do anything for them.  If I go back and read her other books in the "Sylth Series", this story may have been better for me.
I give this second book 3 1/2 stars.
The third story is "The Crystal Crib" by Helen Scott Taylor
Sonja is a travel professional that goes to meet Vidar.  Vidar owns a resort/theme park.
Sonja is a woman who hopes that her dreams will come true.  One of those dreams is to meet her father.  Vidar is a man who takes charge.  We can tell that Helen has given Vidar a strong, and very focused, personality.
Is Vidar the one who will make all Sonja's dreams come true?  We find that Vidar knows Sonja's father and is going to take her to meet him.  On the way to this meeting, Sonja sees things that just don't seem possible.  She also finds out that her father isn't exactly human.  And what other dreams does Sonja have?
What I love about Helen's story is that she mixes both paranormal and mythology together.  She does a great job at describing her characters.  The reader can just picture the look on Sonja's face as she looks around and sees what you or I will never see.
This is a love story with a twist.  As you read the first love scene, Helen has you both smiling and laughing.  The descriptions she uses makes the scene seem very clear in your mind.  Helen gives her readers a father/daughter moment as well as a good over evil moment.
I give story three 4 1/2 stars.
In my opinion, Dorchester Publishing saved the best for last.  Even though I have never read these authors before, I would, overall, recommend reading this book.

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