Bygone Christmas Brides by Ginny Aiken, Carla Gade, Pamela Griffin, Tamela Hancock Murray, Jill Stengl and Gina Welborn
Published by Barbour Publishing Inc. September 01, 2017
Genre: Holiday, Romance, Christian
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Light a candle in the window and sit down to a slice of fruitcake as you delight in six 19th Century romances that welcome love at Christmastide. Many traditions held dear today have their roots in the British Isles and have been practiced for over a hundred years. In these six delightful historical stories, romance is nurtured amidst baking Scottish shortbread and English mince pies, burning the yule log, and hanging kissing boughs. But each couple is also plagued by worries of the day. As Christmastide draws to a close, will faith and love endure for future celebrations?
Each of these wonderful Christmas-time stories had lessons to learn and love to share as as well as fairly good plots and dialogue.
As a great Christmastime lover, I am always thrilled to read stories that are centered around my favorite holiday of the year. The celebrations, traditions, music and most importantly, the food are the kind only had/made once a year and I love every moment! Given this great love, I was so very pleased to be offered this book to read as I begin to think about what my plans will be for the upcoming holiday season. This review will be a little different than most I post as the type of book is of a different style than usual. Since it is 6 stories in one book this could potentially make for an extremely long review if I were to write on each as I like to do with all books. However, to save both your and my sanity I will offer my favorite or non-favorite parts of each story to give you a glimpse of the stories contained in this delightful holiday-themed read:
Lost and Found – Ginny Aiken
This story contained my favorite lesson learned – overcoming long-held fear and trusting God. Rhiannon has lived many years with her aunt after the death of her mother and younger brother. She is content with her life and hopes one day to marry and have children. But she has determined that she will NOT marry anyone who is connected with any type of underground mining. Watching so many in her home village mourn those killed in mine collapses, Rhiannon has decided she cannot risk that pain. Rhiannon’s father owns a coal mine and her childhood sweetheart Trefor is managing it for him as he recovers from influenza and gout. Although she is still attracted to Trefor, Rhiannon cannot allow her feelings to grow as she cannot handle the fear of Trefor being killed in the mine. But God has much to teach both Rhiannon and Trefor about trust and love and He will use both a mine collapse and carriage accident to bring them to a place of accepting that trust in Him in the only way to live life to the fullest. Ms. Aiken did well with this short story, showing her trademark sassiness in her female characters and witty sarcasm in her male characters. It was enjoyable to read and I look forward to her next works with enthusiasm.
Tis the Season – Carla Gade
This was a really nice story that would have also done well as a longer novel. I loved the quick dialogue and the characters were good enough I wished there was more space for Ms. Gade to delve deeper into their thoughts and emotions. Annaliese is the daughter of the Schooley’s Mountain Springs Resort summer doctor who also has a practice in New York City. She much prefers the Mountain area and hopes to convince her father to settle there one day soon. As she travels down the mountainside to take donations to a local church, the horses are spooked and almost send her and the wagon over the edge of the mountain road. Stephan Yost, the resort carpenter rushes to help Annaliese and manages to keep all of them safe and in one piece. There is instant attraction between the two but Stephan carries a secret from his past that keeps him from seeking anything but friendship from Annaliese. God will teach both Stephan and Annaliese about forgiveness and acceptance as they walk through the situations that come upon them and the secret that Stephan is finally brave enough to admit. I’ve not read Ms. Gade before but will perhaps look for other books she has written soon, this book was well done.
I Saw Three Ships – Pamela Griffin
This story was my absolute favorite out of all in this whole book. From the well-described scenery of the Scottish Highlands, to the wonderful Scottish brogue used by the characters and the snappy dialogue between the characters. I enjoyed the plot of the story as well – one in which the hero ran away from the heroine to hide a terrible secret. Malcolm left for University three years ago with no goodbye for Rachel, who had given him her heart and love. Angry and heartbroken that he would dismiss her so completely given their longstanding relationship, Rachel has determined to put him out of her mind and out of her heart forever. But her determination will be challenged when her father tells her Malcolm has requested that she become the needed companion to his mother who has been heartsick following her husband’s death. What could God and her father be thinking to urge her to go to Malcolm’s home? Malcolm hides a terrible secret in his heart and he knows its revelation will ensure Rachel hates him forever. But he still loves her and prays that he will have the courage to tell her and seek forgiveness so he can make her his wife. He will have to battle her anger, his brother and his inability to forgive himself if he is to have any hope of showing Rachel the depth of his love for her. Ms. Griffin uses her short story to show the importance of honesty and forgiveness – showing that living a lie or with great bitterness causes life to be miserable and lonely. Her writing is excellent as always and the sharp wit she like to include came out in the fiery arguments between Malcolm and Rachel. I am most hopeful she will have more writings out very soon.
Colleen of Erin – Tamela Hancock Murray
This would have to be my least favorite story, although it did contain an important lesson about giving generously. I did not particularly care for the characters in the story nor the story itself but I did like the concept that Ms. Murray was trying to teach. Finn is a shop owner who has worked hard in his life to earn enough to build a shop and keep it in the greatest state possible. He is a kind person who loves his work and serving his customers. However, he is very stingy with compliments he feels haven’t been earned and with giving to those who are without. Colleen Sullivan is the daughter of one of the wealthiest men in the country but has made it her mission in life to see to the needs of those less fortunate than herself. She is very involved in the local orphanage and often makes purchases from Finn’s store for needed clothing or a child’s birthday present. She admires Finn’s drive to do well in his store venture but cannot understand his lack of compassion and generosity. But as Finn spends more time with Colleen and sees how her life of encouragement leads those around her to work harder, share with others and take care of those around them, he will see that God is calling him to a life of giving too. And as an additional blessing, he also earns Colleen’s love. So while the plot of the story teaches a good lesson, my description of it is much easier to understand than the actual written story. The characters were meant to be both strong and smart but both came across as rather wimpy and non-confrontational. There was much that could have been done to improve them and perhaps Ms. Murray would have been able to do so if this had been a full length story rather than a short one. Having read other stories by Ms. Murray I know her writing is usually much better and I’m hoping this was just a “one-off” for her.
A Right Proper Christmas – Jill Stengl
This story was another good one with the lesson of following God’s will as its center. Ms. Stengl will use her heroine to show that love is not based on the size of the bank account one has or home one lives in, rather it is based on finding the one true love God has for you and trusting that He will care for you wherever He calls you. Charlotte has always believed that she will marry Clive (a terrible name in my opinion), oldest son of the richest man in town. Regardless of his arrogant and rude ways, Charlotte believes he will be kinder once he has someone to round out his rough edges. But God has better plans for her than she has previously dreamed. Dan Jackson is a former soldier from the Crimean War who is seeking a new life after leaving the army. He has become ill as he traveled in the sharp winter wind and snow and stumbles upon Charlotte’s father’s church as a place to get out of the cold and rest before continuing his journey. Finding shelter and a place to heal in rectory, Dan finds himself longing for the home life he sees while staying with the parson’s family. Dan has felt the call of the Lord to preach and as he recovers he shares this calling with the parson, seeking learning and wisdom that he knows is necessary before he can become a pastor. God will use Dan to show Charlotte that life is about more than having all the nicest things, its about sharing love between two people and taking God’s message of love to those who are lost. Ms. Stengl kept her story well paced with plenty of good dialogue and challenges to the reader’s faith. I’ve read other of her writings before and was pleased to see that she still writes very well, even when the story is shorter than her usual works.
Mercy Mild – Gina Welborn
This story was a bit odd and I never really got into the point of it. I believe that Ms. Welborn was attempting to teach that we can choose how we love and care for others; that our ways of caring are not solely based on how we were raised. And while I think this is an important lesson to learn, I was very disappointed in how Ms. Welborn went about conveying it. I felt like I was thrown into the story with it already halfway told and couldn’t quite catch up with everything before it ended. She did use some fairly good dialogue but it was so oddly placed that it made the story flow in a disjointed sort of way. The story tells of a small town sheriff who has brought 5 orphans to live with families in his town. Zeke is hoping to place the orphans with their families fairly quickly and move on to courting widowed Marianne if she is willing to accept his suit. This plan goes well until he is unable to find one of the girl’s family before Christmas. Needing a place for the little girl until he can locate their home, Zeke requests that Marianne take the child into her home. Marianne has never wanted children and is surprised by Zeke’s request. It isn’t that she dislikes them entirely but feels herself completely unqualified to care for a child given her abysmal upbringing under abusive parents. Her first husband Henry was the first person to value her and show her love, teaching Marianne that love is giving and encouraging and not withheld out of spite or anger. God will use the little girl and Zeke to show Marianne that she is capable of loving and caring for others if she will allow God to love them through her. So, yes, this story had very good lessons to learn but I was just so thrown off with the way it was laid out that I had a hard time connecting with the story. Perhaps, like Ms. Murray’s story above, this was just an unfortunately bad writing that is not a true reflection of Ms. Welborn’s abilities.
So while there were both good and not so good stories included in this collection, I did really enjoy reading this book. I’m looking forward to trying a couple of the recipes that were included at the end of each story and hope that they will be a fun addition to the upcoming Christmas season. I will be recommending this book to others as I think it will be a fun and enjoyable way to kick off the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year”.
I received this E-Book from Barbour Publishing, Inc. via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from either company for this review.