I really enjoyed reading How the Dukes Stole Christmas, a short story collection of stories by Tessa Dare, Sarah MacLean, Sophie Jordan, and Joanna Shupe and I’m so grateful the authors gave me an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. I think reading How the Dukes Stole Christmas around Christmas would be such a great holiday treat in between parties you maybe don’t want to go to and cleaning the house AGAIN because you had to host one or more. I really enjoyed the stories in this collection, but I’m unsurprised to find that Tessa Dare and Sarah MacLean’s stood out the most to me as they are my favorite authors in general for a reason. However, you can read on to see my thoughts on each of the four!
Meet Me in Mayfair by Tessa Dare
Meet Me in Mayfair is a delightful read that has characters I really adored and the best line of social commentary:
“I don’t like to be praised in ways that deprecate the remainder of my sex. The world has countless jewel-worthy women. I’m not the only one.”
Louisa’s family is about to be thrown out of the home they’ve lived in for her entire life because the newly minted duke decided, without meeting them, that he was cashing in the debt they owed with interest immediately. Louisa views this ball she’s about to attend as essentially her family’s last home; she must secure a wealthy husband. Instead, she gets to the ball and her best friend informs her she’s got to cover for her because she’s sneaking off to Scotland to marry her father’s steward’s son. Scandalous. So, Louisa must dance Fiona’s promised dances and obviously, the new Duke was already on Fiona’s dance card. Hijinks ensue and I will spoil exactly none of them because this book is frankly too short for that.
What I loved about this novella is that Louisa and James have real conversations in the time they spend together and somehow this shortened hate to love trope still works. It’s really a testament to Dare’s writing that I’m not left desperate for more, but actually feel like it was a complete story. Also, it’s definitely perfect for the holiday season and has me excited for snow and Christmas.
The Duke of Christmas Present by Sarah MacLean
“You have a smart mouth.”
“Aren’t you lucky you are able to kiss it?”
Cue me swooning over Sarah MacLean’s words as per usual. This second chance novella involves secret passage ways, a persistent desire for a white Christmas, and a duke who was too busy building an empire that he neglected his reason for wanting it. Jack, Jacqueline, is a really fantastic heroine. She’s been traveling the world with her aunt since Christmas twelve years ago, but now she’s back in Eben’s kitchen like she never left. Eben is, unsurprisingly given the title and his name, essentially a Scrooge figure, but much kinder. He’s also desperately in love with Jack and really isn’t sure how to deal with her sudden reappearance. And you know how things go from here, of course.
MacLean wrote angst in this novella that about broke my heart. You could feel the heartbreak and the angst and it was so good. I liked the way the narrative had Eben narrating the present and Jack narrating the past. It made the transitions feel more natural somehow. I also liked that the flashbacks really showed us why they’re still in love with one another twelve years later. Also, I always love the side characters Sarah develops and this novella is no exception to that. My only negative is that the epilogue was such a tease! And also, if I don’t get a white Christmas, I’m going to be so resentful! Definitely a great holiday novella, which I would highly recommend.
Heiress Alone by Sophie Jordan
Heiress Alone had things I loved and a few scattered lines that really decreased my enjoyment. Specifically, I really enjoyed the plot, which involves our heroine, Annis, being left behind by her family, raiders, and the grumpy Scottish duke coming to rescue the two servant’s left behind and, well, guess she’ll have to come along as well. There were a few lines though that came across as a bit fat-shaming and I just really am not here for that. Additionally, for this to have been a hate to love sort of story, it really felt like the escalation from hate to physical attraction to “I love you” was a bit quick. That said, I did enjoy this one! Just, maybe not as much as the first two. (Also, yes, Tessa Dare’s was quick, but for some reason I got along better with that one than this one.)
Christmas in Central Park by Joanna Shupe
So, this story took me over a week to finish, which is actually why this review is being posted so late. I am really not a fan of the whole lying about who you are trope, unless there’s a good reason (which there was for about the first chapter), and I’m even less of fan of rich sanctimonious men who think they’re better than everyone secure in their moral superiority because they’ve never been faced with the same pressures as people without. And, of course, this story has both of those things. That said, if you like the trope, Joanna Shupe is always an incredible writer, I just could not get behind this story line at all. I wish you much better luck than me.
Thank you once again to the authors and I wish them tremendous success! I do feel like this collection is absolutely worth the money, for Sarah MacLean’s story alone if nothing else. And I adored how the shortbread recipe played a part in each of these stories (and thinking about how it got from Scotland to New York is pleasing).