Frontier Christmas
by Ana Leigh, Carolyn Davidson, and Kate Bridges; historical (2003)
Harlequin, $6.50, ISBN 0-373-83547-7


There is very little to say about this Christmas anthology other than it's just there, taking up space currently on my bookshelf. Ask me anything about the stories inside and without the book at hand, I won't be able to tell you much because I don't find the stories memorable. Still, the stories somewhat become better from first to last. Of course, "being a little less forgettable than the last story" is not much of a praise in the first place.

Ana Leigh starts off with The MacKenzies: Lily, another one of the huge Lily family series. Since the MacKenzies share at most two braincells among them, I'm quite relieved that this latest MacKenzie instalment is a novella. Lily MacKenzie, our Harvey Girl heroine, is called feitsy, intelligent, and strong by everyone in this story. From the first scene in the story where she needs help from sheriff Grady Delaney to how she charges into Grady's life and bosses him around because apparently she knows the best way to raise his three kids, Lily comes off like an annoying transplanted twenty-first century woman sprouting hackneyed child-rearing theories she gathered from watching too many episodes of Oprah in her trailer home.

The kids are predictably in need of a loving momma and they are making Lily believe that they are being badly raised by Grady so that she will meet their Daddy and be their Momma. I don't know about anyone else, but these kids are evil and must be sent to some bleak house sweatshop for the sake of humanity. Grady is the usual hero that believes he cannot love again after losing his wife. Lily is the typical heroine that wants to be independent only to find her true calling in home and hearth. Still, Lily will be a readable story despite its overuse of uninspired stereotypes and high degree of predictability if the author's prose isn't so clumsy. I practically wince when Lily is asked of her family and she rattles off a long sales pitch of the previous books in the author's MacKenzies series in response. Too cloyingly sweet at times, Lily suggests that things can only get better from here.

In Carolyn Davidson's A Time For Angels, Honoria "Honey" Bell Morris doesn't think much of the new town bank manager Zachary Bennett because she believes that he is fishing for her repay her father's bank loan using her other ample, er, assets. Later, when she and her sister Hope take in Zachary's grandfather during a snowstorm, he suspects Honey here of trying to use her assets to hook in a big fish, namely, his grandfather. This story is quite annoying because Zach obviously has issues but Honey is already making excuses for his behavior before he gets over himself. Apparently Honey is so emotionally needy that she'll take the first cute guy that looks at her, even if this guy thinks the worst of her. Ms Davidson adds in lots of too-sweet Christmas elements like believing in angels again and other sentimental moments. Honey is the typical homely heroine who is so wise in matters of making everyone happy and whose protests about her having self-respect is merely lip service. Hope and Granpa Bennett are the Sentimental Plot Device, and Zach is the rich and hot guy. There's nothing too original or exciting about this story either.

Kate Bridges' The Long Journey Home will probably work better with another hundred pages or so. Mountie hero Logan Sutcliffe returns to his wife Melodie after two years of going AWOL (it's a long story), only to realize that Melodie is going to marry someone else within the next few weeks. Logan loves his wife despite having spent only one night in her company, and he loves her in this story to the point of single-minded obsession. On the other hand, Melodie thinks that she is looking for someone whose job doesn't involve risks like Logan's and she isn't sure if she wants him back.

Ms Bridges probably has done the best she could under the length constraints, but The Long Journey Home is just too short to work. The resolution is too rushed and the characters aren't developed well enough for me to care about their relationship in the past. This story is the best of the three, but that isn't saying much, really.

In conclusion, Frontier Christmas is too dry and unsatisfying to qualify as anything more than a book that is just there taking up space like some dead weight. In the case of this book, I can safely say that there are many more better anthologies out there that will be better investments of one's time and money.

Rating: 50


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