Recommended Read, Review

Anthology Review: Mistletoe Christmas (2021)

Heat Factor: It’s deeply satisfying and has well-paced burn-y bits

Character Chemistry: Oh my god, the chemistry in all four of these love stories almost killed me. Killed me dead.

Plot: The Revelry is a major social event at the Duke of Greystoke’s country estate. Anyone who is anyone, is there. During this event, four couples find their way to happily-ever-after while getting through social hurdles and failing marriages, and dashed dreams…sigh.

Overall: This has to be the absolute best anthology I’ve read to date based on how many times I cried, and laughed, and laugh/cried, and scared my children with my book feelings.

I mean, you can probably guess this is going to be north of alright based on the authors, but let me assure you—it’s the north star of alright. Here we have an incredibly cohesive anthology set during the early days of the Christmas season at the Duke of Greystoke’s event called The Revelry. 

First off is Eloisa James’ story “A Mistletoe Kiss.” We discover that The Revelry began with the dying Duke, but has become the success that it is because of the hard work and ingenuity of Lady Cressida—who has just learned that the Duke has given up her dowry so that the heir, the Viscount Derham, will continue the event for ten years after the Duke’s death. By losing her dowry, Lady Cressida will be stuck continuing in her role as well, whether she wants that or not. Elias is the heir’s good friend, so when Derham suggests Elias consider Cressie for his future wife, Elias takes the suggestion very seriously—but both Elias and Derham say some off-color things during the discussion, which is overheard by the dying Duke. The story unfolds with Elias discovering that Cressie is, in fact, a gifted creative and organizational goddess, and Cressie discovering what it feels like to be admired and appreciated—until the Duke messes everything up. SWOON.

Then we have The One Where Ingrid Cried Too Much, “Wishing Under the Mistletoe” by Christi Caldwell. Here we meet Cyrus Hill, who is managing the money of some of the wealthier noblemen in the highest social circles—but he’s alone because his childhood love breaks off their engagement after he fails to follow through on marrying her several years after they were supposed to. Isabelle is heartbroken but goes off to learn the art of theater with her friend under the mentorship of a talented playwright. Ten years later, the two are thrown together to put on a production for The Revelry. This is definitely a second-chance romance—they’re both still deeply in love but realize they didn’t really see each other as clearly as they thought they did in their younger years. Cried very hard, and not in a cute way. SIGH.

Which brings us to “Compromise Under the Mistletoe.” Janna MacGregor also likes to make me cry, which is why she writes about Lady Caroline and Lord Stephen, who were married and very successful in the bedroom but totally biffed it in every other area of their relationship. So Lady Caroline leaves and runs off to London for a whole year while Lord Stephen stays at home in the countryside. Caroline learns that if she wants to receive her inheritance, she has to prove to the dying Duke that her marriage is valid and that they are, in fact, in love. So she convinces Lord Stephen to go with her to The Revelry and act like they’re happy when in truth they are MISERABLE but mostly because they really do love each other and they just don’t know how to connect. This story just about wrecked me. The communication, people. It’s so deep and tender and real! Why did you do this to me? SOB.

The anthology closes with “Mischief and Mistletoe” by Erica Ridley, which was honestly pretty funny. I appreciated that, after all the crying. In this cute story we have Lady Louisa, whose reputation was tarnished by the gossip column in a newspaper. The Revelry is her last chance to secure a proposal and her mother is pushing really, really hard. She’s a bit ridiculous. Lady Louisa is immediately drawn to Ewan Reid, presumed poet, and is thrilled—because she’s secretly a poet, herself. Ewan, however, is in fact a gossip columnist for his grandfather’s paper, and uses his reputation as a poet in order to lurk around broodingly and write things down when he’s at social events. You can imagine where this is headed, and you’ll like every minute of it. I did cry with this one, too, unfortunately, because Lady Louisa ends up having a soul-swelling conversation with her mother, which ultimately did me in. Ah, well. SHAZAM.

Here’s what I loved most about this anthology besides the emotional roller coaster it put me on—I normally struggle with Christmas books because they’re often very syrupy and heavy on cliche. This book is nothing like that. The feeling you get when you close the pages is that relationships are hard, and they take work—but they’re worth it. And the holidays are a time where we get to bask in that work, and reflect on how we’re doing, and to try to love each other better. So for me, it was like the authors took what really, actually makes people feel good at Christmas and just broke it all down in four sweeping, beautiful romances that make your poor little heart just crack wide open, and I loved it. And you will, too, when you’re done crying.

I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.

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