Tuesday, December 22, 2009

An Enchanted Season by Nalini Singh, Maggie Shayne, Erin McCarthy, and Jean Johnson

An Enchanted Season (Berkley Sensation) An Enchanted Season by Nalini Singh

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
This is one of those short story collections that really surprised me, in a good way. I expected to only enjoy the Nalini Singh, but I liked or loved every story in the book. In fact, I might have liked three of them to the same degree as the Nalini Singh story. Gasp!!!! Don't tell anyone I said that!

I was really happy with the Erin McCarthy story. It's about friends who both want to be more, but are afraid to take the first step. And the great thing is it's love, not lust. They are a very cute couple, and you root for them to get together. It's good that the heroine's sister is more than willing to meddle on their behalf. The heroine comes from a witchy family, but is in denial about her powers. What happens to make her face her abilities is really funny. I'm not going to spoil you, but imagine what you might think about when your best friend (who you're in love and lust with) is above you on a ladder with his scrumptious rear in your face, and you have abilities. I'm sure you get the picture. There is also some zipper manipulation involved. That scene was a hoot, and it set the tone for this great story.

I've heard good things about Erin McCarthy, but I haven't taken the plunge. I'm not really into the sexy, modern romance stories, because most of them are fling, hookup stories. But this story was up my alley. It's about two friends who have a deep, intense love for each other that has lasted years. This story was HOT!!!! I mean, seriously. But it's traditional in the sense the they are in love and declare their love before they get naked. Not long after, there's a marriage proposal. How refreshing. I decided I might have to read some more of her books. I think my sister has some, so I might have to borrow them. I give this story 5 stars.

The Maggie Shayne story was pretty cute. It's about a man and a woman, who are the exact opposite in their feelings about Christmas. The heroine died, along with her family, for a few minutes, in a car crash, but her mother sent her back to earth because she was needed. She and her aunt who has multiple sclerosis (she takes custody of her niece), vow to celebrate Christmas with the vivacity that her mother always did. The heroine's a real believer in signs, and signs tell her to go back to her family's house, which has been abandoned for many years.

On the other side of this equation, is the hero, who hates Christmas, since his father died the day of Thanksgiving, leaving their family in a serious financial situation. He goes out of his way to avoid the holidays. He buys houses and fixes them up, and decides to squeeze in a viewing before the reluctantly going to his sister's house for Christmas. You can guess that the house he goes to look at is the heroine's family house. They end up getting snowed in, and the hero gets to realize the joy and meaning of Christmas with the infectiously sweet and joyful heroine. This was a pretty good story. I enjoyed it, so I'd give it 4 stars.

The Nalini Singh story is about Tamsin, the healer for the DarkRiver feline shapeshifter pack, and her mate, Nate. She comes home from training and is ready to continue her role as the healer for the pack. She wants to continue the healing process from the attack that left several pack members dead (including future alpha Lucas's mother, who was the healer, and his father) in all ways. She decides to encourage the pack to celebrate Christmas by inspiring them to decorate for Christmas.

The mating bond manifested itself very early between Tamsin and Nate, when she was fifteen, and Nate was twenty-five. Of course, they could not act on it at that age. Four years pass, and Nate has put a strangehold on the mating bond, leaving both of them with emotional deficits, and pent up sexual desire as a result. Tammy thinks that Nate does not want to be her mate, but the mating bond is not something that can be rejected. She decides to try to seduce him into making their mating real, but Nate resists her at every turn. He is afraid of staking his claim while she's so young. She had to step up to the plate as healer at seventeen, when their healer died during the attack by another shapeshifter pack. He fears she has not been able to enjoy her youth, and the demands of being his mate will be too much for her, because of what happened with his parents because his parents mated young.

I could understand what his issues were, but frankly, Nate worked on my nerves. He was being a macho butthead, and trying to make decisions for Tammy, instead of allowing them to work together and come together for their mutual benefit. I wanted to knock some sense into him. Of course, he comes around in the end, but not before I was ready to pull out my shovel to hit him with. I realize that Tammy was young at 19 (chronologically), but it was clear that she knew what she wanted...him, and she's very mature for her age. Everyone in the pack knows she's really to fully be his mate. He was being very hurtful inadvertently. Since she was in contact with his former love, that really rubbed things in for her. She felt like he didn't find her desirable as a woman, and couldn't love her. It was kind of hard and frustrating to read. I decided I was glad this was a short story, because I would have gotten really tired of this, had it been a full-length story. I had an issue with the epilogue too, wondering why they had to wait FIFTEEN years to have kids. Come on!!! Anyway, I would give this 4.5 stars (I took off 0.5 stars for the annoyance factor). It was a very good story, because Ms. Singh is a fantastic author, despite the frustrations that Nate caused me. Imagine how poor Tammy felt! It was nice to see the beginning of a favorite paranormal series, and to see Lucas and Dorian as young teenagers. Worth the read.

The last story was by a new to me author, Jean Johnson. I really liked this story. It was a different spin on the Christmas story with the three wisemen (except they were two women and one man), and an affianced couple who has been weighted down with financial worries and other cares, that they haven't had time to spend cherishing each other. They get snowed in at the couple's inn, along with three youths from town, who came to remind them in a not so nice way that they owe money for their mortgage, or they will lose their inn. It just occurred to me that they were probably the shepherds from the Christmas story. There was a dairy cow that was about to give birth (a metaphor for Christ's birth, I suppose). I didn't like that she had a male, which would end up being sold for veal (I have some issues with veal, so that was a downer for me).

This was a really meaningful story about love and how miracles really do occur. Not to get religious on anyone, but it had personal meaning for me. It reminded me that God knows all my needs, and he will meet then when they need meeting. He's watching over me. I shouldn't worry and lose my joy in the meantime. This sweet story brought tears to my eyes because of the deep meaning and the way that everyone came together to help each other, giving of themselves. I'm a sucker for those kinds of stories. What can I say? Although there was something about the narrative that was a little dry at times, I still found this story very good. I'd give it 4.5 stars.

And so, I'm offering this simple review, to kids from 17 to 92, and so it's been said, many times, many ways, this was a great story collection to celebrate a Merry Christmas, and I'm recommending it to you!

Overall rating: 4.5/5.0 stars.

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