A Christmas Bouquet
by Suzanne Barrett, Kate Holmes, and Vella Munn; contemporary (1999)
Zebra Bouquet, $3.99, ISBN 0-8217-6412-8


I am reading this book in-between getting to know the doctors better in the local hospital. And when this book succeeds in cheering me up considerably, it definitely has that special something in it. I believe it is mainly in the form of Kate Holmes' really delightful Merry And Her Gentleman. It also helps that the short length of the each story, for one, becomes the strength rather than weakness for the otherwise predictable stories. If these stories were any longer, I have this feeling I would be gritting my teeth in boredom. As it is, each story ends up a lovely short scene of two people falling in love. Short, romantic, and sweet - just right for any occasion, Christmas or no.

Suzanne Barrett's Amy's Gift isn't actually Christmas-like in nature. It's the usual Hungry poverty-stricken woman drives into nice rustic town with child, car breaks down, woman marries local rich bloke story, and it reads like the other 200 stories of the same vein out there too. But the boy Josh is cute and the hero Shay McHugh (err, yeah, McHugh, really) is a gem. Amy, our heroine, drives her rickety car into good old Riverton, takes up a job as a waitress, gets fired because she spends more time coddling Josh than tending to her customers, but hey, she marries the owner of the local shopping mart across the street. Amy is the usual cliched Can't Trust Men - Scums, All Of Them! heroine, but thanks to the length of this story (around 80 pages), Amy's Gift stops short of being annoying and ends up just fine.

Buckle up - Kate Holmes has served up a super-duper yummy triple scoop chocolate chip cookie ice cream of a delightful novella! Merry And Her Gentleman pits Merry Christmas Doe (you have to find out how she gets her name - hilarious!), good ditz and great spunky heroine with dazzling wit, against the local wealthy Scrooge named Geoffrey Winston Hanover III. She drives a Volkswagen, he a Mercedes. She spends four hours picking gifts for each one of her acquaintances and very large family and he spends an hour gritting his teeth and buy ties in mass numbers for his male acquaintances. When these two collide in last-moment Christmas shopping spree, honey, sparks doesn't just fly, they go kazoom into the sky like fireworks powered by nuclear fusion. And when Merry and her family of misfits and rebels turn their house into a Christmas display went overboard, that's it - Geoffrey is going to put an end to the mad antics of the loonies next door. But poor Geoffrey, once the poor man steps into that house, he can't get out. He doesn't even want to.

Christmas magic? Lots of it in this story. Great characters with fun repartee and great sexual chemistry? Double check. This story is one fine keeper indeed!

Vella Munn's Silver Christmas has the misfortune to come after MAHG - it lacks the charm of the latter. Shannon Hastings is trapped in an overzealous town committee who wants to reenact a full-fledged old-fashioned Pioneer Christmas, complete with old carriages and period costumes. They enlist hunky-dory Brad Reading, a history expert who'd rather dedicate his time to MUTT, a save-the-stray-doggies organization he founded. Brad sees Shannon and bingo-bongo their hearts go.

Any hero who loves doggies as much as Brad gets automatic (biased) points from me. But Shannon is again the usual wish-washy I can't love him! I just can't even though I can't really think up why I can't love him! heroine whose flimsy excuse to drive Brad away is "I have to think of my business... it's all I have *insert wimpy sob here*" Thankfully this story is short, stopping just at the brink of being a full-blown cliched-ridden story. Hence, Brad manages to pull the story into some semblance of decency without the heroine's annoying antics getting in the way.

So there you have it: two pleasant stories and one really great one. Not bad for my first Bouquet, and a plus is the fact that I don't see any of those pesky bad pennies (cowboys or undercover cops) around. I may just pick up another Bouquet or two in the future. In the meantime, A Christmas Bouquet is a pleasant, sweet, and enjoyable way to spend some quiet time with romance.

Rating: 78


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