Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Pioneer Christmas Collection

A Pioneer Christmas Collection: 9 Stories of Finding Shelter and Love in a Wintry Frontier 

Paperback, ebook

September 1, 2015

by Kathleen Fuller  (Author), Vickie McDonough  (Author), Lauraine Snelling (Author), Margaret Brownley (Author), Marcia Gruver  (Author), Cynthia Hickey  (Author), Shannon McNear  (Author), Michelle Ule (Author), Anna Carrie Urquhart  (Author)

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Barbour Books 
  • ISBN-13: 978-1634090315

Journey along with American settlers who learn that despite where the trail takes them or how primitive their lodgings may be Christmas is all about the heart. Determined to honor Christ’s birth, these pioneers find a way to make Christmas happen in places like a cave, a tipi, and a dugout. Modern readers will enjoy a peek into life before commercialism took over the sacred day, distracting us from the true blessings of faith, hope, and love. Enjoy nine original novellas of Christmas romance as penned from many of today’s leading Christian authors, including Lauraine Snelling, Kathleen Fuller, and Vickie McDonough.

I love Christmas and Christmas stories! Throw in a whole bunch of top-notch historical authors and you've got a treat! This compilation of original and inspiring historical romance novella's will entertain you with their intriguing tales of pioneer life. Each story concludes with the new pioneers celebrating Christmas in unconventional dwellings.

`DEFENDING TRUTH' by Shannon McNear, sees Truth, a young woman in western North Carolina, alone and responsible for her younger siblings after her father had left them to fight the British. What will she do when she comes across a half-starved militia man loyal to the Crown?   This story was familliar -- as if I've read it before. I looked though, and don't see it in my history of reviews, so maybe I didn't. Despite it being familiar, it also was intriguing. I couldn't help but keep reading to see how it would all work out. Truth can't help but like the courageous Tory, but he's the enemy of all the Over-the-Mountain men. I had to admire Truth's pluck and Micah's perseverance. 4 stars. 

`THE CALLING' by Kathleen Fuller centers around a tavern in Unionville, Ohio, that also doubles as a stagecoach stop. Elijah Montgomery is pushed by his parents to travel and preach. Is he just being obedient to his folks or hearing the calling himself? What part might Milly, the lovely tavern girl who works for her father, have in helping Elijah to find his destiny?  This story also seems so familiar. I knew exactly what would happen when. And I double checked to make sure I didn't overlook this collection. I hadn't. I also couldn't find any indication these stories had been previously published. Milly is a sweet girl, obedient and loving to her father, her aunt, and the regulars and guests of the tavern. Elijah is a man told by his parents that he is called by God, but he wasn't willing to follow. Will he follow the call his parents think they hear? Will he hear the call himself?  A sweet romance, but not much interaction between hero/heroine. 3.5 stars. 

`A SILENT NIGHT' by Anna Urquhart illustrates the struggles of a mother and young child surviving on their own in the woodlands of Michigan Territory in 1830. Refusing a marriage of convenience that most women would have taken up leaves Lorna vulnerable and unprepared for winter. How can she possibly survive and will they get their Christmas miracle that 6 year old Afton is praying for?  I didn't remember this story, so it was a pleasant surprise. Lorna is mourning the loss of her husband and facing her first winter alone in an unfinished house in rural, unsettled Michigan. She has a hard lot of it, but fought to keep things going and hope alive.  Afton is praying for an impossible miracle. I wondered how God would answer that prayer. The answer caught me by surprise and was very sweet.. I've never read any of Ms. Urquhart's stories before, but I would definitely read one in the future. 4 stars.

'A PONY EXPRESS CHRISTMAS' by Margaret Brownley has the bloomer-clad Ellie-May Newman searching across the unforgiving Nebraska Territory for her missing brother who rode for the Pony Express. After saving a man, she informs him he'll be helping her on her quest.  Margaret Brownley is one of my favorite historical authors. I couldn't wait to read this story--and it was the main reason I wanted to read this collection. And it was totally worth the price of the book. I loved A PONY EXPRESS CHRISTMAS. It was fun, unexpected, and a bit of fresh air. I enjoyed the whole story, especially the romance, the sparks, and Andy's "artwork". Beautiful story. 5 stars. 

`A CHRISTMAS CASTLE' by Cynthia Hickey ambushes Annie Morgan with quite a few eye-popping revelations when she arrives at her ranch in Prescott, Arizona, to chase down her new husband who was supposed to meet her in town. Two winners so far. I've loved Ms. Hickey's cozy mysteries (I've read her first three) but not the historicals she's written until now. A CHRISTMAS CASTLE is a misnomer, for sure, but it was an adorable story, complete with Ms. Hickey's larger-than-life, fiesty heroines. I couldn't help but fall in love with Annie and Drake. A very good story that caught me by surprise. 5 stars. 

`THE COWBOY'S ANGEL' by Lauraine Snelling has a very pregnant woman and her son living on the Dakota Territory plains in 1875 waiting for her husband to return home after leaving weeks earlier to purchase supplies. With a baby coming, a 4 yr. old son, animals to care for, and snowstorms, Belle is in much need of a Christmas miracle from God's angels. What could have befallen her husband?  This story was unexpected.  Another blessing. I haven't read many (if any) of Ms. Snelling's books, but I greatly enjoyed THE COWBOY'S ANGEL. A real live Christmas miracle, answers to prayer, and blessings in abundance. Loved it. The characters were realistic. 5 stars. 

`A BADLANDS CHRISTMAS' by Marcia Gruver soon has Australian Jonathon Nancarrow journeying from sophisticated New York City along with his two daughters to the small town of Medora in the heart of the wilderness, still seeking peace and healing after the death of his wife. His eldest daughter Noela takes quite a while adjusting to the overwhelming differences, especially having to live in a house made of dirt and grass called a soddie! Will this little family survive a harsh Dakota winter here and can Noela find love in the wilderness?  This was a different sort of story. Noela's father has lost everything in a foolish move and now the only option for this former man of means is a dilapidated sod house in the Badlands. Noela has  her mind set on marrying a rich dandy, so she is not at all happy about Christmassing in the Badlands, but it's even worse when she learns  her father has moved there and sold all her personal items along with the house in New York City. Noela was very whiny and selfish about the whole thing, and I didn't understand why any man would be attracted to her.  It did end well though. 3 stars. 

`BUCKSKIN BRIDE' by Vickie McDonough takes us to Oklahoma Territory in 1889 to where Mattie and her two sisters Milly and Jess are living in a tipi, which unknowingly happens to be on handsome Irishman Conall Donegan's land. Their father hasn't returned and Mattie having been left in charge feels a huge responsibility to keep her sisters safe, fed, and sheltered. When Jess is hurt and they are all discovered, Mattie feels like everything is falling apart. Can things come together for Christmas?  Ms. McDonough is known for her trademark: strong, feisty heroines who are more at home in pants and hunting game, than wearing long dresses and bonnets and cooking over a stove. This story is no different. Except add a tee-pee, a tornado, and a broken leg to the mix. I didn't relate much to Mattie since a tomboy I am not, but it was a sweet tale. I think Conall will have an education learning how to hunt and survive off the land. I couldn't believe his stupidity when the tornado came. Very realistic to the Oklahoma setting. 4 stars.  

`THE GOLD RUSH CHRISTMAS' by Michelle Ule delivers an interesting and unique story with twins Samantha and Peter Harris travelling to Skagway, Alaska with good friend Miles. What sets out as a search for the twins' father ends up becoming so much more for all three of these `musketeers'. This takes place during the 1897 Gold Rush bringing many unsavoury characters to the region; however this story which is based on a true account ends with an extraordinary Christmas inspired conclusion.  This story was rather skim worthy. All the life was edited out of it and it read like a listing of events, not as come-to-life characters.  The story was unique and based on real events. The story was told rather than shown and so I didn't relate or enjoy. The writing itself was impeccable. 3 stars. 

Overall rating: 4.05

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