This time out, I have the anthology A Texas Christmas (Zebra, received from publisher), with stories from Jodi Thomas, DeWanna Pace, Linda Broday and Phyliss Miranda, all set in and around the small Texas town of Kasota Springs. Thomas leads things off with "One Wish: A Christmas Story," with loner Sam Thompson coming to the rescue of Maggie Allison, just in the nick of time when her general store is being robbed the week before Christmas. Maggie and Sam were friends, a long, long time ago, but now they're practically strangers. When the ringleader of the outlaw gang escapes, the sheriff tells Maggie she needs somewhere safe to go until he's caught. Lucky for Maggie, Sam is heading out of town to his home hidden in the canyons. Over the years, Maggie has made a wish list for the sort of man she wanted to marry. This year, it's down to one requirement: one who will love her. If she's really lucky, she might get her wish. DeWanna Pace's "Naughty of Nice" is next, with James Elliott III gets himself into some trouble when a blizzard strands him in the open. Saloon keeper Anna Ross happens on him before he's too frozen, and together, they're forced to intrude on a holiday house party that Anna already turned down an invitation to attend, and Trey, as Anna's taken to calling him, decides to ferret out the secrets that keep her apart from most of the others at the party while trying to find a way to get himself closer to her. Broday's "The Christmas Bell" puts rancher Sloan Sullivan on a collision course with the perfect banker's daughter, Tess Whitgrove, when he sets out to aid travelers on the stranded train near his ranch. Tess is too far out of his social circle for Sully to think the things he's beginning to think, but he finds out she's not as far out of reach as he believes when they're stuck together on the snowbound train for days. Finally, "Away in the Manger" by Miranda has broody blacksmith Randall Humphrey stuck with some unwelcome houseguests when Sarah Callahan and her children get snowbound with him instead of getting to her snooty aunt's. I love Thomas's story, with Sam and Maggie's playful interactions. And Pace does a fantastic job with Trey making Anna see she is worthy of his affection and more. I didn't quite buy Sully's about-face in Broday's story, but Tess is terrific. And Sarah and her rambunctious children are just the thing to stop Rand's case of the grumpies. I loved, too, that all the stories tie into one another. If you're looking for a fabulous holiday collection, this is the perfect choice. I'm giving it four and a half of Cupid's five arrows. I can hardly wait for their Valentine's Day anthology!
Until next time, happy reading!