I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.
Holly and Hopeful Hearts
The Bluestocking Belles' 2016 Holiday Boxed Set
When the Duchess of Haverford sends out invitations to a Yuletide house party and a New Year’s Eve ball at her country estate, Hollystone Hall, those who respond know that Her Grace intends to raise money for her favorite cause and promote whatever marriages she can. Eight assorted heroes and heroines set out with their pocketbooks firmly clutched and hearts in protective custody. Or are they?
The Bluestocking Belles are proud to present eight never before published novellas centered on the Duchess of Haverford's ball. Her favorite cause is also one dear to the hearts of the Bluestocking Belles, women's education. 25% of all proceeds will be donated to the Malala Fund.
That clinches it! All stories must include a Masquerade Ball! The mystery, the costumes, the feelings of “I’ve met my future husband”…
All the stories in Holly and Hopeful Hearts take place at Hollystone Hall for the holidays. The future couples find themselves at this huge house party thrown together by the Duchess of Haverford. A fundraiser if you will, but one gets the sense that somehow she indirectly plays matchmaker. It was such a fun read. I loved getting to know all the characters.
Oh and the kittens that pop up in each story is a special treat….
A Suitable Husband, by Jude Knight~5 stars
The story takes place in between all the other stories. A scene occurs in between the start of each of the other novellas. It was a little confusing at first, but it gets easier and better as the box set continues.
So, I have to say that I loved this one. Even though the story was broken up in parts, I feel like it was the meat for the whole box set. Poor Cedrica handles all of the ups and downs occurring at Hollystone. Guest requests, full to the brim rooms, and best of all, the funny drama occurring in the kitchens between a hoity toity French Chef and a funny English cook. Gads, but that was fun to read. Especially, the dolphin molds part. Of course, the romance that blooms between Cedrica and the French Chef Marcel or “Mark”, is so cute. The ending to this one is worth the wait.
Valuing Vanessa, by Susana Ellis~4 stars
Valuing Vanessa is a sweet romance about an “on the shelf” bluestocking lady and her path to find professional and romantic validity. I love bluestockings and Vanessa’s work in an orphanage gives her the security of her values, but does not satisfy the feeling of wanting a caring family.
The interactions between Vanessa and George were cute and really, they were so obviously meant for each other. They did not even think twice about getting together. No strife there. But plenty of strife with George’s daughter Louise. She might have stolen the show in this novella, but in the end it did tie off neatly towards a Christmas time happily ever after.
A Kiss for Charity, by Sherry Ewing~5 stars
Okay, Nicholas’s story. We are introduced to him in Valuing Vanessa. Let me be clear: he is a sexy jerk. His assumption of Grace wanting to be his mistress was kind of funny though.
Grace: “I would not warm your bed if you were the last man on earth Nicolas Lacey,” she hissed.
Can you guess that she will eat those words?
Also, did I mention that he assumes much? Well, before she eats her words, he will insert his foot into his mouth. Another headstrong girl plays a part in this story as Grace’s younger sister. But also ends up bringing these two stubborn characters together.
Artemis, by Jessica Cale~5 stars
Oh my, was this a good one. Totally different than what I’m used to. Let’s just say it’s an unconventional romance story with a big secret. The POV is through Charlotte’s eyes only and for a reason. But, I’m not telling!
An Easter Egg if you will: The Earl of Summerton is related to Sally “Lady Virtue” from Jessica Cale’s Tyburn. I love finding family ties throughout an author’s work. It makes it so much more fun to read.
There is a Weasel that plays a common thread throughout the box set, who causes some mischief for the characters, especially The Earl of Summerton. Now, he’s just called Weasel because of the way he acts, but he provides some added drama to this story.
The Bluestocking and the Barbarian, by Jude Knight~5 stars
A story of miscommunication and forbidden love. Forbidden because James is of questionable birth and character. Rather unfair, but love does not listen. So Lady Sophia must listen to her heart and her sister if she is to have a happily ever after. I liked our barbarian, he was sweet, in love with Sophia, and misunderstood. So I was rooting for him and especially loved the scene before the masquerade where the kitten attacked the tassels on his boots.
Lady Sophia seems cursed in love, hence, her apprehension with James’ declaration of love. Her doubts and second guessing will eventually make her grow as a character.
Christmas Kisses, by Nicole Zoltack~4 stars
Secrets, secrets, and more secrets. The brooding hero Jasper does not trust the opposite sex and his interactions with Anna. His rudeness fans the flame for the undercurrent of attraction between those two.
My favorite part is when Anna’s mother recounts her own love story which causes the course of the story to alter a bit regarding Anna. It’s all about the right choices and both Anna and Jasper will learn lessons vital for them to have a happily ever after.
An Open Heart, by Caroline Warfield~4 stars
I liked that the hero and heroine were a little different from the usual Regency characters. They were both Jewish and the theme played well with the storyline. Of course, there are those who oppose, but the positives is what made this story stand out. The acceptance of their culture and the honoring of it by the Duchess of Haverford made me love her character even more.
Matchmaker matchmaker make me a match….
Well, okay, a traditional Jewish matchmaker didn’t play a huge role in the coming together of Esther and Adam, but the threat of one being used was still there. Adam was full of honor, for his country and his religion. Throughout the story the role of females in his religion will be tested and given a new definition as Esther enters matrimony with new rights. It was, overall, a tender love story.
Dashing Through the Snow, by Amy Rose Bennett~5 stars
I loved Kate. She’s one of those no nonsense heroines and a Bluestocking to boot! She can stand up for herself against the formidable Lady Stanton-a harpy of the first order and another character that causes annoyances throughout the box set.
However, Kate’s verbal sparring with Lord Stanton-the Stepson of Lady Stanton, is the most amusing. I mean, sexual tension anyone? Also, you gotta love those heroes with a heart surrounded by ice that only the heroine can break through. And that’s what Kate does, albeit without knowing. His kindness does shine through at the end and the romance is sweet.