Christmas Revels is an anthology of five Christmas romances. Our first story, A Holiday Fling, is quite a departure from the norm for Mary Jo Putney in being a contemporary story. In this story, we have a British television actress trying to keep the tithe barn in her home village in the Cotswolds from becoming some rich man’s weekend getaway. She’s organized a mummer’s play to try and bring in money. She comes up with an idea of filming the production for video and DVD sales, and possible sale to BBC to generate more funds for the tithe barn. Naturally, she’s going to need the best cinematographer she can get for this project and the name that immediately comes to mind is Greg Marino. She had a brief fling with Greg years ago, but they’ve remained friends.
Greg can’t believe that Jenny Lyme has actually called him, and he does happen to have some time before his next project. Greg never forgot Jenny and always wondered what would have happened if their careers hadn’t pulled them to different areas of the globe. He decides to help her just for the chance to work with her again. Will they start another fling this time around?
The next story, The Christmas Cuckoo, brings us back to the Regency Period in England. Major Jack Howard was forced to cash in his commission when he inherited a title. As soon as he arrives, he is met by his great-aunt’s secretary, who has a whole list of things for him to do as commanded by his great-aunt. In an act of rebellion, he gets a coach going who knows where and ends up drunk in an Inn.
Meg Lambert is supposed to pick up her brother’s best friend, Captain Jack Howard, from the local Inn. She sees a man in uniform and he answers to Jack Howard. Jack accompanies her home in his inebriated state. The next morning, he decides to confess the truth. He is not the Jack Howard Meg was supposed to pick up. Meg’s family accepts Jack wholeheartedly and Jack delays his confession. Will Jack continue the charade, or will he eventually tell Meg the truth?
In Sunshine for Christmas, Lord Randolph Lennox decides he really doesn’t want to face another Christmas with his family. All his relatives are very happily married and Randolph is always the odd man out. On the spur of the moment, he decides he has had enough of rain and will travel to the continent for the holiday season. He books the first passage leaving England and departs for Italy. Of course, when he gets there, he learns it’s the rainy season. He decides to go for a walk from his hotel and ends up in an altercation with some Italian men. An English woman ends up saving him. It turns out she is a governess working in Italy. As she’s in between assignments right now, he hires her to show him Italy. As they spend more time together, they realize they are quite comfortable. What will happen when she starts her new job and they have to part?
Our next story in this anthology, The Christmas Tart, concerns a woman of the French gentility. Nicole Chambord was forced to flee France, along with her mother and father. After the death of her parents, Nicole supported herself as a seamstress. After being tossed out of her position with her savings stolen from her, Nicole has nowhere to go. She ends up being adopted by a stray cat. As the two of them are trying to find shelter for the night, she ends up being propositioned by two gentlemen. Nicole knows she will starve without money and they offer her enough.
When Sir Philip Selbourne says goodnight to his friends and goes to his bedroom, he finds quite a surprise. Lying in his bed is a woman, and a beautiful woman. Philip’s friends decided he was working too hard lately, and needed to relax, and what better way to relax than with a bought companion? Philip knows he will have to get married eventually, but has no desire to become leg shackled. There is something about French women he adores. The fact that his mother is French and he adores her could have something to do with that. He realizes there is no way he can take this woman in his bed and offers her a position as companion to his mother. As they spend time together, Philip realizes she is exactly the type of woman he would like to marry. On the way to Philip’s home, they have a carriage accident. You can imagine what happens when they end up spending the night with an old woman in her cottage.
The last story, The Black Beast of Belleterre, is my favorite in this anthology. This classic retelling of The Beauty and the Beast tale is the most heartwarming of the bunch. James, Lord Falconer, has always been ugly. After an accident when he was eight, he is scarred as well. His father sent him to an estate to grow up so he wouldn’t have to see him. What happens when he decides to save the beautiful Ariel from marriage to an old pox-ridden man by marrying her himself?
All five of the stories in this anthology are heartwarming tales of Christmas love, from the very first with a love revisited, to the very last, with the retelling of a classic fairy tale. Even though these are all short stories, the characterization and plots are all very well filled out and complete by themselves. I really enjoy Mary Jo Putney’s work, and this collection of short stories definitely has a place on my keeper shelf. I easily recommend Christmas Revels to all lovers of holiday romance.
Chere Gruver, December 2003