Author(s): Anne Stuart, Tina Leonard, Marion Lennox
Copyright: 2008 (Harlequin); pgs. 282
The stories in this anthology are connected by a main plot. The only author I’ve read before was Anne Stuart. The blurbs on the back are misleading, to say the least.
The overarching plot which connects the story is roughly this: Crooked Boston cop Connor O’Bannion tries to set up fellow police officer, James Fitzpatrick (Claus and Effect) as a fall guy. But Fitz goes on the run and Connor is due in Dallas to marry Molly Broadbent (Candy Canes and Crossfire), the woman he’s been dating for several years and he has now decided he needs to marry if he wants to advance on the force. At the rehearsal dinner, it appears that Molly’s maid of honor, Jean Norville (Caught at Christmas), may have overheard him make some threats. Figuring his cover is blown, Connor fails to show up at his own wedding. He goes to ground for a few days and eventually ends up in Australia at Christmas, hoping to get his hands on the diamonds his cousin, Vincent Devlin, has hidden.
As for the individual stories…
“Claus and Effect” (Anne Stuart)
Dr. Elois “Ellie” Pollard is preparing for her own wedding when James Fitzpatrick kidnaps her at gunpoint, dressed as Santa. Fitz hopes that Ellie can help him clear his name. He observed Ellie at the funeral for Vincent Devlin’s wife, Erica and had wondered if she might know something, anything, that can point the finger at O’Bannion. Unfortunately, Ellie only knew Erica through the woman’s brother, Joe Cartland (Candy Canes and Crossfire), whom she spent time with in a foster home in Australia. Since Ellie doesn’t know anything, Fitz’s only other hope is his first partner, long retired. He may have collected enough dirt on O’Bannion to prove him untrustworthy. But now that Fitz has dragged her into this, Ellie’s in danger, too, and Ellie refuses to leave a patient (Fitz was wounded).
This story was fast paced and the characters were likable. Ellie comes up with a clever way of getting passed a stakeout. Enjoyable read.
“Caught at Christmas” (Tina Leonard)
As stated above, Jean Norville overhears something at the wedding rehearsal. The best man, Connor’s crony, tries to take out Jean. She’s whisked away by Molly’s brother, Sam, to his secluded ranch. Sam’s a former Texas Ranger and he’s tasked with keeping an eye on Jean until Connor is nabbed. Jean isn’t thrilled by this. She rather be home in Boston, surrounded by her Christmas-loving family. Sam, feeling bad — and not knowing how long she’ll have to stay with him — allows Jean to decorate his home and even bake Christmas cookies. Sam himself isn’t much into the holiday and his parent’s bitter marriage has had a profound effect on both Sam and Molly’s views on relationships. Jean’s efforts and her stories about her family finally make him realize what he’s missing. But Jean’s barely there a day when the cops inform them that Connor has left the state, so Jean can go home. Sam elects to drive, wanting to spend time with Jean. And though Connor has gone into hiding, it doesn’t mean the coast is clear.
Of the three stories, I liked this one the best. And I loved Sam. This one isn’t as fast paced as the first, but I thought it moved pretty briskly and I thought the ending was just right — not too sugary.
“Candy Canes and Crossfire” (Marion Lennox)
After the non-wedding, Joe Cartland takes his dead sister’s children back to Australia. But Joe doesn’t know a whole lot about them, since Erica spent most of her time in the United States. Joe’s relieved when Molly arrives unexpectedly. The children — Charlie, Lily, and Zoe — are very fond of Molly and perk up when they see her. But Molly came to the secluded Devlin estate to get away and be alone after being stood up by a man who is not only crooked, but may also be responsible for the deaths of Vincent and Erica. However, she relents and whips them all into the Christmas spirit. But their quiet little holiday is short-lived. Connor is still on the loose.
This one was a bit slower and I didn’t warm up to either lead.
Overall, I enjoyed the book.
Started: 8 December 2008
Finished: 28 December 2008