Christmas Wedding Wish by Julia Justiss
Allen Mansfell accompanies his younger brother to the Wellingford home for a few days before heading to his family home for the Christmas season. He's been badly disappointed in love and has decided that he will marry a woman who has few expectations of a grand passion - one who will be able to fulfill his needs for a family and help manage his estate. His time with the Wellingford family will introduce him to Merry. The oldest of the Wellingford family, she has helped bring the estate from the brink of ruin after their father's death. With an influx of money from her brother-in-law, Merry has been so involved in helping her family recover that she has had little time to find a love of her own. While she has received a few flattering offers, none of them stirred her heart. Allen Mansfell is stunningly handsome and one would think Merry would be flattered by his offer. He is stunned when Merry refuses. Only the intervention of his brother will make him realize that he is in love.
Ms. Justiss does a fabulous job with one of my favorite plots - the woman who recognizes her attraction but won't succumb to it just to save her from a life of spinsterhood. Merry and Allen make a wonderful couple, and the story moves along quickly.
The Rake's Secret Son by Annie Burrows
Harry Tillotson has little reason to be a strong believer in God. He is constantly fighting other boys who call his mother cruel names. He asks for a Christmas wish with little hope of fulfillment. When a man staggers into the garden of Nell Tillotson, she is stunned to recognize her husband, who was supposedly hung for spying by the French. As Carleton returns to lucidity, he is struck by the fact that his wife bore a son to the man with whom he believed she betrayed him. Only as he looks closely, does he come to the realization that his son is the spitting image of him as a youngster. With the help of the Harry, Nell will help convince others in the neighborhood that the Carleton has indeed returned from the dead and that his cousin is trying to kill him to retain the title.
This story by Ms. Burrows would have benefited from a longer format. The feelings of bitterness and hatred by many of the characters were too long held to be adequately resolved in such a short story which made this my least favorite in the anthology.
Blame It On The Mistletoe by Terri Brisbin
Iain MacLerie might once have cherished ideas of marriage. Now, he faces a life filled with pain from damage to one of his legs. The loss of his parents was a painful blow deepened by his injury in the same accident. Julia Fairchild has loved Iain MacLerie forever. Despite her sister's attempts to arrange a brilliant marriage for her, Julia desires nothing more than for Iain to return her love. When Iain saves her life, Julia has some hope that she can secure Iain's love. His stubborn refusal to admit his feelings for her, she resolves to follow her sister's plans. Both of them will find their resolve tested by the mistletoe balls which crop up all over the house.
I'm a sucker for a man who can't admit to himself that he's in love, and then makes excuses because he believes that better things await the woman he loves. Ms. Brisbin does a wonderful job of keeping the tension strong and of portraying the despair of a young woman who accepts that the man she loves doesn't return her feelings. This story was filled with emotion and is my favorite in this collection.