A Regency Christmas Eve
by Nancy Butler, Diane Farr, Allison Lane, Edith Layton, and Barbara Metzger; Regency (2000)
Signet, $6.99, ISBN 0-451-20167-1

Christmas in here! Christmas here! Hmmph, if I didn't check the calender and realize it's the end of October, I'd be getting ready for my annual charcoal order by now. Call me cynical, but even the impending Christmas eggnogs of overdrive sentimentality can't make me overlook the fact that this anthology is better off named A Regency Cliché Fest.

The five - new - stories have a common theme: Deliverance from Poverty on Christmas Day. Oh, and maybe love can be thrown in there somewhere. There are also pathetic, sickly kiddies to nurse, waifish but "feitsy" tomboy heroine thief to clean up and snog, and lots of heroines in trouble. If such gourmet deja vu is your cup of tea, dig in. Stop reading and go give Signet your Christmas contribution now.

Barbara Metzger's Little Miracles is the saving grace as it isn't entirely a lukewarm gruel of clichés. Vicar Ewan Merriweather loves the very proper squire's daughter Alice Prescott. Alice's father, however, has plans to wed her to a very distant relative who's a Viscount. A debauched Viscount, but still, a Viscount nonetheless. Can Ewan stop the impending marriage? Can a pair of church mice matchmake them and restore their church into its former glory?

I would've enjoyed this story more if Ewan doesn't insist on thinking all the time Alice won't do this, Alice is too good for that, Alice will never... Oh boy, I hope Alice is up to the task of living up to this man's ideal of her.

Then comes The Marriage Stakes by Allison Lane. Hero stumbles upon intelligent-and-virtuous miss, takes in her and her half-sister, all the while contemplating marriage to those predictably boring, giggly debutantes. Will he realize his True Love is under his nose? I never did find out - the whole predictability of it got so painful after a few pages that I pass on the high blood pressure attack and skip right to Nancy Butler's Gift Of The Spoons.

GOTS has a nanny/healer/misunderstood witch theme Saved from Revilement and Prejudice after she heals the hero's sick son. He wouldn't love again, she is in love from get go, the son provide the Pampers moments, and again, I can't take any more of this deja vu and move right on after a few pages.

Diane Farr's The Reckless Miss Ripley (good lord) is a far cry from its inspiration for the bastardized title. Miss Ripley is innocent, innocent, innocent, innocent (the hero keeps telling me, that is). "Hoyden" Claudia Ripley has to go to Bath without a chaperon (how daring, oooh!) and hitches herself to a nobleman. Smart woman, I thought, until I am subjected to our intelligent hellion's remarkable displays of independence.


Finally, Edith Layton's The Christmas Thief. Hero rescues thief only to realize it's a 'she'. Heroine needs money - oh, not for her, the money, nonono, but it's for her wee starvin' sister... oh, judge her not for her attempt to overcome her poverty by any means other than marriage, disapproving matronly readers! - and hero takes her in, cleans her up, and she shows him the True Meaning of Christmas as well as choose the right gifts for his tiny lil' ward.

I like the idea of an impoverished gentleman who resorts to stealing his Christmas gifts, but other than that, the story is so predictable that after a while my stomach rebelled at the thought of continuing reading. Next one please.

Oops, there's no more next one. Goodness, I don't know whether to feel relieved that my ordeal is over or mad over my wasted $6.99. Mind you, the stories are well-written, but these authors really need a new way of recycling their plot repertoire without being too obvious.

Rating: 39

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