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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

TBR Challenge for August

August's TBR Challenge is:
Now that it's been summer long enough to to need a break, read a book that reminds you of winter, or cooler weather.

First off, I have to say, I did not need this challenge. I wrote it back in July, when it was actually summer here. August has been cold and rainy all month. And no, I'm not exaggerating. It's currently 52 degrees here and raining off and on, just like it has been for the past 3 or 4 weeks.

But since I'm not prepared to do anything about the weather, I'll try to stop complaining about it. Instead, I'll complain about some of the stories.

For August's TBR Challenge, I read:

Angel Christmas anthology.

I fits the challenge because Christmas=winter, and one of the stories even involves a severe snow storm.

This has been in my TBR pile for.... a very long time. I bought it when I was collecting all of Carole Nelson Douglas's backlist, so at least 5 or 6 years.

The anthology has 5 stories, set in different time periods. The connecting factor is that they all have angels in them.

  • ****½ "Catch a Falling Angel" by Carole Nelson Douglas. Time travel romance.

    Since this story is the reason I bought the book, it's only fitting that it's my favorite. Adrian Ashworth, a Regency rake, is driving his phaeton with more recklessness than usual, crashes, and ends up in an exclusive club that turns out to be the anteroom to hell. There he's told that he's not quite bad enough to join in what appears to be non-stop gaming and wenching, but he can go back to earth, and if he can redeem, or rather un-redeem himself by Christmas, he'll be admitted. Otherwise, it'll be limbo, because he's certainly not good enough for heaven. He has 4 days.

    When he arrives back on earth, it's in the middle of a rock concert, and he's the star. This is one of those times when I'm glad I didn't read the back cover, because it was such a fun surprise. When he's asked via the Wishful Wings of Christmas Foundation to meet Natalie Parks, a young woman recently recovered from a car accident after years in the hospital, he sees her as his ticket back to hell.

    It was great fun watching him adjust to 20th century life, and to try to reconcile his plan to be evil with his growing affection for Natalie.

  • ** "Brush of Angel Wings" by Emma Merritt. Contemporary paranormal romance.

    Vince returns to his great-grandmother's home for Christmas, where he's hoping to reunite with his first love and his cousin James's widow, Hannah. James and Hannah's daughter Allie, meanwhile, has wished for a new father.

    It's a pretty standard Christmas story plot, with the addition of an antique wooden cowboy angel with a family legend attached. But even though it's only novella-length, it moves slowly. The backstory is doled out in big expository chunks, and the same information gets repeated several times, though oddly, it takes until near the end of the story to find out why both of them insist that Vince is responsible for James's death.

    Then there are Vince and Hannah. They both went back and forth between wanting to get back together and loathing each other switching roles without warning or motivation, until I really didn't care what they did.

    And then there was the ending, which was a ****spoiler****tacked-on excuse to force both Hannah and Vince to overcome their fear of motorcycles.****

  • **½ "The Trouble with Angelina" by Marilyn Campbell. Contemporary paranormal romance.

    Angel Chadick is a widowed mom; Sean O'Grady is owner of a construction company and the mayor of their small town. They're both busily trying to fill their loneliness with overwork. Sean's grandfather Seamus is the angel trying to get them together.

    This could have been a cute story--Seamus is mischievous and plays several pranks to force the two together, but that only works if you like the characters being set up.

    Angel is described as being accident-prone, but that's never really followed up on, other than to result in her having a big purple bump on her forehead during their first date. And she has 3 children: an older son and twins. I know I've said what I think about kids in romances, and this is no exception. The twins are basically nonentities, making me wonder why they took up space in the novella. The older son is adamantly opposed to his mother dating (gee, what an unusual idea!), but does an abrupt 180 after angel Seamus tells him Sean likes to go fishing and camping. Uh, yeah, I'll believe that.

    The biggest obstacle to enjoying this story, though, is that I didn't like the main characters. Angel flies off the handle and tells Sean off, thinks he's doing a horrible job as mayor; Sean yells at her that she doesn't know what she's talking about and criticizes her for complaining about the government without getting involved. But hey, they're both hot and single, so who cares if they dislike each other? Bah.

  • **** "Tin Angel" by Patricia Rice. Historical paranormal romance.

    Thank goodness I didn't stop after the first story, though I questioned my sanity in not doing so several times during the preceding two stories. Patricia Rice is a favorite, and I hadn't even realized she had a story in this anthology.

    Jeffrey, Viscount Darcourt, is despondent. Nowadays, we'd say he was burned out. He doesn't see the value in anything he does. Then an angel is sent to restore his spirit. I think. I'm a little fuzzy on the mechanism here, but she has something to do with a tin angel Christmas tree ornament. (Disclaimer: school started this week, and with it, 5:30 mornings--the story itself might be perfectly clear and I'm the one who's fuzzy.) He decides to call the angel "Mary."

    The story is sweet, as Mary sets about trying to shake Jeffrey out of his doldrums, and funny, as her efforts don't always turn out for the best, or the way she planned.

    And in another case of it being better to avoid the back cover, I couldn't figure out until almost the end who the heroine was. Mary, the obvious choice, was invisible to all but Jeffrey. I didn't think Patricia Rice would leave them like the couple in "
    Paradise Bossed". Then there was his brother's widow, and she was rather boring, not to mention the whole idea was kind of squicky. And I really didn't want him falling for the vamp his mother brought to the house for Christmas in a matchmaking attempt. The only other candidate was the vicar's daughter, who was abed with a fever and was dying because she'd lost the will to live after her fiancé died.

    Suffice it to say, it was resolved satisfactorily.

  • *** "Guarded by Angels" by Mary Balogh. Historical paranormal romance.

    This one's a reunion story. June and Elliott have been married for 5 years. They haven't seen each other for 4.75 years. On alternating years, they go to Elliott's family's home for Christmas, but this year, his grandmother has decided enough is enough and has invited them both, telling each the other would be elsewhere.

    On the way there, however, each of them is waylaid by a snowstorm. June is rescued by an older woman named Mary; Elliott by a young boy named Joss; both are taken to the same small cottage, where the snow forces them to spend the night.

    The woman and her grandson's love and good cheer is contagious, and soon the couple are relaxing and rekindling their love.

    My main complaint with the story is that it's not explained until near the end why June and Elliott separated, and their reconciliation left me... hehe... cold.

    The best part, though, was the fairly subtle portrayal of Joss--the angel who really enjoyed taking the form of a young boy.


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