Joy to the World: A Regency Christmas Collection, by Carolyn Miller, Amanda Barratt, and Erica Vetsch—A Review

Joy to the World: A Regency Christmas Collection 2020Season’s greetings, gentle readers! It is once again time to immerse ourselves in the traditional comforts of the holiday season. And how better to do so than by getting cozy and settling in to read a lovely book about this special time of year. Joy to the World is an inspirational Christian anthology comprised of three very different Christmas stories with a golden thread of joy, hope, and faith woven through and binding them together.

“Heaven and Nature Sing” by Carolyn Miller invites readers to an elegant house party where young people have gathered to make merry during the snowy days leading up to Christmas. In attendance—as guests of their shared godmother—are Edith and George, former sweethearts torn apart by circumstances and misunderstandings. The traditions of the season remind them “of grace and forgiveness and the second chances God gives.” (1275) As they navigate the uncomfortable tension between them, will their faith in God and their love for each other be enough to help them overcome foolish pride?

“Far as the Curse is Found” by Amanda Barratt transports readers to dreary London in winter, following Dwight Inglewood, the Earl of Amberly, as he trudges through the remnants of his once-promising life. He bears the unsightly scars of severe wounds sustained at Waterloo and internally suffers from the loss of all those he’s ever loved. “The world was harsh, and in it he felt fragile. Life and the people he’d trusted had pierced him deeply. Isolation seemed the only remedy.” (3095) A twist of fate, or perhaps divine intervention, crosses his lonely path with that of a desperate unwed mother and her young child. Jenny Grey “knew the wounds the gazes of others could inflict.” (2234) Can two kindred souls with disparate backgrounds provide solace for each other in an often cruel world?

“Wonders of His Love” by Erica Vetsch welcomes readers to the country estate of the Haverly family, where Lady Priscilla resides with her young daughter and her deceased husband’s relations. The widow of the heir to a dukedom, she possessed a sweet temperament, was ever-dutiful and accommodated the whims of those around her. Yet “she had nowhere to go, no real place in society.” (3459) She feels destined to remain the placid, unseen woman who might have been a duchess, instead of merely the companion to one. Quite unexpectedly, Priscilla’s colorless world brightens just before Christmas when her mother-in-law, the dowager, hires a portrait artist to capture the likenesses of the new duke and duchess. A Scottish portraitist, “Hamish Sinclair spoke of vivid color and images tumbling in his head.” (3803) He travels the country, painting portraits of the gentry to earn his keep, all the while yearning to set his artistic passion free. In Priscilla, “he sensed a banked fire waiting for something to fuel it into a bright flame.” (4254) Both Priscilla and Hamish are reminded that “God cares about the humble. God sees them. No one remains unseen to Him.” (4329) Will their eyes be opened by faith as they realize what they’ve come to see in each other?

This Regency Christmas anthology is a pleasant way to savor the Christmas season, and I enjoyed each of the unique tales. While the continued—yet realistic—miscommunication between the hero and heroine frustrated me at times, “Heaven and Nature Sing” was a sweet, uplifting story about seeking second chances and relying on faith. “Far as the Curse is Found” was my favorite story in the collection. Although it begins with a dismal tone, the beautifully descriptive writing lifts readers through the darkness into the light. It is about two broken people struggling to keep moving forward while tortured by their pasts and their unrelenting social and emotional prisons. Ultimately, it is about discovering and accepting grace. And “Wonders of His Love” is a hopeful reminder that even the most humble of people are not unseen and unloved.

For those who seek a comforting escape from a sometimes dreary world, Joy to the World: A Regency Christmas Collection is a beacon of joyful light.

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

  • Joy to the World: A Regency Christmas Collection, by Carolyn Miller, Amanda Barratt, and Erica Vetsch
  • Kregel Publications (October 13, 2020)
  • Trade paperback, & eBook (336) pages
  • ISBN: 978-0825446696

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Disclosure of Material Connection: We received one review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest. We only review or recommend products we have read or used and believe will be a good match for our readers. Austenprose.com is an Amazon.com affiliate. We receive a modest remuneration when readers use our links and make a purchase. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Cover image courtesy of Kregel Publications © 2020; text Katie Jackson © 2020, Austenprose.com

The Virgin Who Ruined Lord Gray (The Swooning Virgins Society), by Anna Bradley—A Review

The Virgin Who Ruined Lord Gray by Anna Bradley 2020From the desk of Pam Mingle:

If you like your historical romance full of excitement, mystery, and intrigue, you’ve come to the right place. The Virgin Who Ruined Lord Gray, the first entry in Anna Bradley’s new series, The Swooning Virgins Society, features all three.

Tristan Stratford, Lord Gray, is bored with his new life as an earl. Formerly a Bow Street Runner, he never wished to live the aristocratic life. The death of his elder brother forced him into the role, and now his mother has plans for him. She wants him to take up the mantle of a peer and marry Lady Esther, a near neighbor in Oxfordshire.

One night in London, Tristan is gazing out the window of his study and sees the slight figure of a boy lying on the roof of Lord Everly’s pediment. So still is he, Tristan begins to believe the boy is dead. Finally, someone exits the front door, and the lad shimmies down a column and follows. Overcome with curiosity, Tristan does likewise.

Tristan isn’t following a boy, however, but a young woman named Sophia Monmouth. She’s trailing her quarry, one Peter Sharpe, who she suspects is guilty of a crime. There is a quick confrontation between Tristan and the “lad.” She bites and kicks him, but he doesn’t let go. Eventually Tristan knocks her hat off. He’s shocked to discover the woman beneath it. Quite a lovely one, with olive skin and enchanting green eyes. She’s “resoundingly feminine.” Continue reading

Gentleman Jim: A Tale of Romance and Revenge, by Mimi Matthews—A Review

Gentleman Jim by Mimi Matthews 2020From the desk of Sophia Rose:

With only one other experience reading Mimi Matthew’s work, I have still come to the conclusion that she has a gift for marrying the classical to vintage historical romance. I hadn’t gotten five chapters in before my head was full of Alexander Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo or Robert Lewis Stevenson’s Kidnapped. No retellings here, but an engaging story of struggle, heartache, and the triumph of love.

Gentleman Jim opens on a terrifying and tragic scene of a stable boy accused of theft from his best friend, the fiery-tempered local squire’s daughter. Nicholas has born trouble from his employer’s son, Frederick Burton-Smythe, who bullies him and from everyone else because he’s the illegitimate son of a tavern wench. But, to be thrashed and then hanged for stealing Maggie Honeywell’s jewels when it was Fred? Perhaps his love with Maggie would have come to nothing since their stations in life were so different, but now escape is his only option leaving Maggie free to marry the baronet’s son as her father always wanted.

Ten years later, Maggie has endured much as a result of her father’s death. His heartbreaking will that will legally force her to marry Fred if she wants to keep the beloved family lands and her inheritance and the further clause that made Fred her guardian and have veto power over any man she may marry to get said inheritance. It is no wonder her health broke and she is a shadow of her once vibrant self. The time allotted is nearly up and her father may win his way after all. Continue reading

The Gentleman and the Thief: Proper Romance Victorian, by Sarah M. Eden—A Review

The Gentleman and the Thief by Sarah M Eden 2020From the desk of Katie Patchell: 

Readers, beware: The Dread Penny Society is back in town. Their mission this time? Justice. In September 2019, acclaimed Regency author, Sarah M. Eden, published her first book in the “Dread Penny Society” series. Titled The Lady and the Highwayman, this novel is a tongue-in-cheek – albeit romantic – take on the classic highwayman legends. Her latest addition to the series, The Gentleman and the Thief, no longer features a dashing highwayman, yet these new heroes equally hide their true selves amongst the shadows.

“For the poor and infirm, the hopeless and voiceless, we do not relent. We do not forget. We are the Dread Penny Society.” (Location 1582) 

Hollis Darby: Gentleman, man about town, and member of a secret society. Now in his thirties, he is more than satisfied with his work as a writer of children’s fiction. He even finds fulfillment in his other passion — helping to give hope to those living on the streets in his city. What Hollis lacks is a partner in crime, or at least, his brand of it. When he meets the enchanting Miss Newport, he is dazzled by her confidence, music skills, and kindness. Above all, he feels as if they are kindred spirits. Little does he know just how similar they are.

As he slipped from view, Ana opened her violin case. It was the perfect excuse and the perfect pretense. She opened the small compartment where she stored her rosin and her polishing cloth. She tucked underneath them what she’d come to this musicale for and had, by a near miracle, managed to secure: a single silver bracelet. (Location 251)

Continue reading