By Lezlie Patterson
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
“Christmas on Main Street” by Joann Ross, Susan Donovan, LuAnn McLane, Alexis Morgan; SIGNET ($7.99, paperback)
Anthologies are a great way for romance readers to delve into the holidays and “Christmas on Main Street” is full of Christmas atmosphere.
With four stories crammed into a 416-page book, they sometimes seem incomplete or rushed, but the holiday feel help makes up for the deficiencies.
Most of these stories are tied to series, and presumably those who have been ensnared by those will better appreciate these novellas tied to familiar characters and locales.
But even those who have never read about Shelter Cove, Cricket Creek, Bayberry Island or Snowberry Creek will enjoy spending Christmas in these picturesque settings with romance mingling with holiday charm.
In Joann Ross’ “Christmas in Shelter Bay,” Kelli has been in love with Cole for years, even though he unwittingly (and unknowingly) broke her heart. It takes a bit of trickery from some helpful relatives to bring the two together.
In Donovan’s “A Seaside Christmas,” a skeptical Nathaniel learns about mermaid magic. Annie is perhaps a bit promiscuous than some may like, but she and Nathaniel make a happy couple.
In McLane’s “Mistletoe on Main Street,” Clint and Ava reignite a high school romance, despite the fact that Clint left Ava years earlier. He had his reasons, apparently, but they didn’t seem very substantial. Still, he’s a good guy in the present. This one had the most abrupt ending.
Morgan’s “The Christmas Gift” may be the best of the four. The mysterious Seth has secrets, but that doesn’t keep him from falling in love with Bridey. This story has more layers than the others, and reads (and ends) smoother.
HOW IT STACKS UP
Overall rating: 3 of 5 hearts. These are quick and fun holiday stories, with (mostly) touching romance and great atmosphere.
Hunk appeal: 10. They’re all pretty average heroes. Cole and Seth are the best of the bunch.
Steamy scene grade: XXXX, although there is a big range among the stories here. For example, in “A Seaside Christmas,” may be a bit too much.
Happily ever after: OK. Most are only OK because they seemed rather rushed, due to the short length. That was especially the case in “Mistletoe on Main Street.”
ALSO THIS WEEK
“The Witness,” by Nora Roberts (2012, paperback) 5 of 5 hearts. If you want a substantial, no-holiday theme book, you can’t go wrong with this one. This story has strong, compelling characters that are impossible to resist and who come to life the moment you meet them. The tragedy that is the focus of the plot happens in the opening scenes of the 488-page novel, and while there are no mysteries or secrets to keep the reader guessing, the strength of the characters and their interaction with each other is definitely strong enough to keep your interest beyond the final pages. This book captivates readers with the byplay and budding romance of the two very strong characters.