I originally picked this anthology up for two reasons. The first was that it was part of a three pack that was being sold at a great price and the second was that it included a story by Liz Carlyle. I have really enjoyed just about everything I have read by Carlyle and so I am trying now to get hold of whatever I can of hers. The fact that the anthology included a story by Eloisa James, who I really want to read one of these days, also helped. Other authors included in the anthology are Victoria Alexander and Cathy Maxwell.
The first entry was The Trouble with Charlotte by Victoria Alexander. The story opens with an epilogue in which we have Marcus, Earl of Pennington telling his mate Reggie a story about how he almost had his heart broken. The story that he tells is that involving Charlotte Robb, widow of Captain Hugh Robb. Charlotte and Hugh were married very young, and were very passionate and volatile together. After each accusing the other of cheating, Hugh storms off having purchased himself a commission in the Army. A year later he is dead. During her widowhood Charlotte let it be known that she was indeed a very merry widow, with numerous men friends, when in fact, whilst she had been very chaste (of course!). After 7 years of widowhood she is just getting to the point where she is thinking that maybe being married to Marcus wouldn't be terrible when her dead husband turns up on her doorstep. Having been terribly injured during a battle, he had suffered amnesia (of course!) and had been living a completely different life, where it is assumed that he had not been as chaste (of course!). Now that he is back, he wants to make amends to the ton and recommence his life with his wife who he now values more than life itself (of course!). Marcus finds himself in the middle of the two of them, helping them find out that they still loved each other desperately, and always had done (of course!). Whilst this story was rather uninspired I would like to find and read Marcus' story as I liked him as a character. Rating 3/5.
The first story that I read was Much Ado About Twelfth Night by Liz Carlyle, Edward, the new Marquess of Rythorn is trying to keep the walls from literally falling down around him after inheriting property but not much money from his dead brother. Long before becoming a Marquess he had proposed to the lovely Sophie, but she had turned him down flat, assuming that he had only asked her to marry him out of duty, not out of love and devotion. Sophie has come to ... with a plan of her own, and that is to convince him to sell her Twelfth Night, a champion racehorse. Throw into the mix, Edward's flirty cousin Oliver, and another racing family who are all trying to do the same, overheard conversations about bloodlines and breeding possibilities and misunderstandings abound. I actually quite enjoyed this story. Rating 4/5
Next up was Eloisa James' A Fool Again. Lady Genevieve Mulcaster had rather impetuously run off with Tobias Darby to Gretna Green only 3 hours of meeting him. Fortunately her father had caught up with him before they made it as far as the border, but not before she had been deflowered by Tobias (well, twice actually!). She was promptly married off to Lord Mulcaster, a much older skinflint who was less than generous with his generous young bride. This habit continues after his death, when the terms of his will revealed that his widow must marry one of his two business partners within two years of his death or forfeit her inheritance. One of the two is a doddery old man, the other is Mr Felton, handsome but aloof. Of course, there is no other choice than Mr Felton, until that is Tobias Darby reenters Genevieve's life! Can Tobias convince her that his place is with her, and can he convince Mr Felton to drop his claim to the lovely Genevieve. This was another good read with a nice use of a fair which enabled us to have a change of scenery from the usual ballrooms and grand houses usually associated with romances of this period.
The final story was Nightingale by Cathy Maxwell. We meet Dane Pendleton as he is updating his Last Will and Testament, for the next morning he is to fight to the death with Cris Carson, Lord Whiting, who happen to be the brother of the only woman he had ever loved, Jemma. The Carson family is down on it's luck and is fast losing hold of all it's possession. When Jemma comes to beg for Dane to swear off the duel, the inducement that she gives him is herself - not the first time she has been forced into this kind of situation to save her family from trouble! Dane's heart was broken when she agreed to marry another, and when Jemma confirms that it was her choice, but that she had done it for the good of her family, you know that he will forgive her eventually. I didn't mind Dane as a character but Jemma was amazingly slow in realising that her family constantly just used her to get whatever they wanted. She had even manipulated into this situation, but luckily all's well that ends well! Rating 3/5
Overall, I enjoyed the Carlyle and the James, didn't mind the Alexander, but didn't really like the Maxwell story. I don't recall having read many anthologies, and I must say that this hasn't inspired me to rush out and get more. I think I like the full story to have the drama develop and watch the romance gather pace!
Total rating 3.5/5