I picked up this book primarily for the Christine Merrill short story. I read The Inconvenient Duchess and liked it. I had not read anything by the other two contributors, so this was an opportunity to discover new authors.
"Marriage at Morrow Creek" by Lisa Plumley (Western)
From the Back: The only thing Rose Tillson ever wanted was a life of travel beneath the Western stars -- and to marry secret sweetheart Will Gavigan! All Rose needs is a small dose of Hallow'en magic to make Will realize she's the girl of his dreams.
I did not finish this story. Western-set historicals are not something I usually read, but I figured a short story would be something I could handle. I couldn't get into the story. If the author writes contemporaries or set in other historical subgenres (Regency, Medieval, etc.), I would be interested in trying something else from her.
"Wedding at Warehaven" by Denise Lynn (Medieval)
From the Back: When Brigit of Warehaven casts a simple spell to reveal her true love's identity, she never expects to wed him that same night! But until the mischievous trickeries of All Hallow's Eve are over, Randall FitzHenry cannot truly claim his bride's heart.
I liked this story very much. The ways of society in those days -- when a king could order two strangers to wed regardless of their personal preferences -- worked well in a short story and made the relationship believable. Brigit and Randall are likable characters. Brigit is very mature and tries to do right by her people in her father's absence, and Randall respects that. Because of the loyalty between her and her people, Randall treads carefully in his dealings with both. Randall is a decent guy. He came to Warehaven, on the king's orders, to seize control of the keep and get to the bottom of the rumors that certain pagan practices have been reinstated. He's also a fair man. When Brigit's brothers-in-law refuse to tell him where the lord disappeared to, Randall locks them up in their chambers -- with their wives -- instead of tossing them in a cell. He's not interested in using violence, unless it becomes absolutely necessary, to get the answers he seeks. As he tells Brigit later, "I do not kill for the sake of killing. I do not murder innocent men."
"Master of Penlowen" by Christine Merrill (Regency)
From the Back: Arabella Scott cannot decide whether she's been saved or abducted when she is rescued from highwaymen by a darkly brooding stranger. In his eerily cold, dilapidated home, she has no choice but to trust her cavalry officer rescuer.
I really enjoyed this story. It was darker and creepier than the others. Lieutenant Richard Acherton, Arabella's rescuer, is obsessed with solving the mystery -- and finding the hidden treasure -- of Penlowen, his ancestral home. The quest has driven the Achertons to insanity and suicide, and Richard is determined that the curse ends with him -- he either solves it or dies trying, leaving no heir. He wants a home and a family, but without the treasure, he can't afford to support a wife and children. Even driven as he is, Richard hasn't failed to notice Arabella. He finds her to be quiet lovely and is impressed with the fact that she didn't swoon or go into hysterics when confronted by highwaymen. For her part, Arabella is a little afraid of Richard -- thinks he's mad as a hatter, except she can't deny what she experienced first-hand. Both of them are alone in the world, with little to look forward to -- Richard, genteel poverty; Arabella, a paid companion with no life of her own. Success will mean they can have a life of their own choosing -- Richard promises Arabella half of the treasure, if she will help him. And since this is a romance, you know they're going to end up together anyway.
Started: 22 October 2008
Finished: 1 November 2008
Disclaimer: I purchased this book.