Book Review – A Christmas Ball (ARC)

A Christmas BallA Christmas Ball
Written by: Jennifer Ashley,
Emily Bryan & Alissa Johnson
Published by: Leisure Books
Date: September 29th, 2009
Pages: 336
Format: Mass Market Paperback
ISBN: 978-0843962505
(Available NOW!)

A Christmas Ball is a heart-warming anthology that offers you three romantic, historical love stories for the price of one; you can’t beat it!”

Jennifer, Emily & Alissa

The first story in A Christmas Ball is My Lady Below Stairs by Emily Bryan. Emily’s characters are refreshing and unique and the witty dialog between them is just what I’ve come to expect and I have always loved about Emily’s writing.
Jane Tate, the illegitimate daughter of nobility, is coerced into impersonating her legitimate half-sister to save the family from disgrace. It’s no surprise when Jane has the presence of mind and generosity of spirit go along with the plan to impersonate her sister for a short time and hopefully save the Somerville family’s name from disgrace. There is one tiny problem; Jane’s muscular beau Ian, doesn’t like the idea one bit! Tempers flare and adventures abound in this historical romance as Jane and Ian fight for their love and a future together.

The second story in this anthology is The Longest Night by Jennifer Ashley. I have never been a big fan of mixing paranormal elements into historical romances, but I’m sure that this story will still be a big hit with many readers.
Mary Cameron offers to chaperone the daughter of a deceased friend as a generous favor. While her charge is whirling with excitement and anticipation, Mary solemnly does her duty by the girl and accompanies her to a much talked about, Christmas Ball. Never far from her thoughts, the darkly handsome Valentin is the last person she expects to see again; yet here he is. Though some time has passed since their first, fiery encounter; sparks still fly between Mary and Valentin as they rekindle what they once had. Without giving too much away, I’ll just say that Valentin has some amazing talents and he has a very colourful heritage.

The third story in the anthology is Traditions by Alissa Johnson. Alissa’s story was truly delightful to read; Traditions is just what I was hoping for!
William Renwick, Earl of Casslebury and Miss Patience Byerly are perhaps the most incompatible couple you could ever hope to find. As the fates would have it, William doesn’t have any interest in the average-looking Patience unless she can get him closer to her best friend and heiress, Miss Caroline Meldrin. As time passes and William gets to know both women better, he finds himself attracted to Patience because of her honesty, her generous nature and her intelligent mind. The sometimes humorous and always witty dialogue creates a touching, deeply sensual and very unique love story that made me smile, laugh and blush.

You won’t be disappointed with this book; I promise! So go on out there and pick up a copy for yourself and maybe grab a few extra copies as stocking stuffers! I recommend this book for historical and paranormal romance fans!!

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦ (8 out of 10 Diamonds) – Thoroughly enjoyed it

Read more about A Christmas Ball.
Find out where to buy this book.

Author Websites:
Emily Bryan, Jennifer Ashley and Alissa Johnson

Publisher’s Website

A special thanks to Dorchester Publishing for sending me a copy of this anthology to review.

Copyright ©  Book Reviews By Bobbie — Bobbie Crawford-McCoy

3 Guest Authors & a 3-Book Giveaway (giveaway has ended)

A_Christmas_Ball_RELEASED  

Book Giveaway WINNERS:

Winner of a book from Alissa: Vicki

Winner of a backlist book from Emily: Linda B

And the Grand Prize winner of A CHRISTMAS BALL is: Quilt Lady

I am so pleased to be hosting Emily Bryan, Jennifer Ashley and Alissa Johnson as they celebrate the release of their anthology, A Christmas Ball. The official release date was last week, on September 29th, 2009.

These three lovely authors will be guest posting today with a Q & A, new excerpt from each of their stories and a 3-book giveaway. They have generously offered to giveaway 2 books from Emily or Alissa’s backlist AND a third lucky commenter will win a copy of A Christmas Ball !!!

Take it away ladies! 

Question and Answer (Q&A) with:

 Jennifer, Emily & Alissa

Where did you find your inspiration, for your part of the anthology?

Jennifer: My story, “The Longest Night,” involves two characters introduced in “Highlander Ever After,” a book in my historical/paranormal, Nvengaria series. I’d been wanting to write the story of Mary and Valentin (the “Highlander” hero’s sister and the sexy Nvengarian baron she nursed when he was shot), but I’ve been caught up in too many other books. I jumped at the chance to write their story in this anthology. So that was my “inspiration.” (More like, “Oh goody, I get to write about Mary and Valentin!”)

Emily: I decided to do a sort of Cinderella/Fish-out-of-water story and what’s more out of place at a fancy ball than a scullery maid in her well-born half-sister’s ball gown? I’m also a huge Oscar Wilde fan, so I wanted to make “My Lady Below Stairs” an ensemble piece, with several relationships on a collision course. I had great fun writing this story and hope you’ll love it!

Alissa: Well, I’ve never had entire story inspired by one person or one event, but I do take inspiration from people and places to create specific scenes (see question number 4.) And I did listen to Christmas music to get into the holiday spirit.

 

Who had the wonderful idea for this collaboration?

Alissa: Our fantastic editor Leah Hultenschmidt.

Jennifer: The idea came from our editor at Dorchester. She asked the three of us to participate, and then we worked with her on the details of the setting and so forth.

Emily: Since all our characters are attending the same grand ball, we had to agree on the hosts of the ball, the floor plan of the mansion, décor, etc with Leah as the final decider on the shared details. But I must say, Jennifer, Alissa and I have collaborated more on this blog tour than we did on our stories! Each of our novellas are independent of each other, except for setting.

 

How long did it take you to write your part of the story?

Jennifer: It’s all kind of a blur now, LOL! The story was due in March, and I think I started it at the end of January. But I was also working on another full-length book at the time. Probably about three or four weeks from first word to final, polished manuscript.

Emily: Whoa, Jenn! Smokin’! Mine took longer because I had a break in the middle of it to wrestle with colon cancer. (If your doctor says you need a screening, go! I had NO SYMPTOMS! Early detection has given me a very rosy prognosis, thank you God and my brilliant GP!) So my story took several months, in fits and starts.

Alissa: Longer than I expected. It was my first novella, and (silly me) I thought the shorter length would equal less time spent at the keyboard. I failed to factor in how challenging it would be to flesh out my characters in the space allotted. I have a whole new respect for those who write novellas on a regular basis.

 

Do you model your characters after real-life people?

Jennifer: I usually don’t. That said, some people might have a characteristic or mannerism of someone I’ve met, or be a combination of people I know. But characters take on a life of their own–even if I start with someone in mind, the end product if completely different. My characters are unique human beings to me.

Emily: No, I’ve never done a “the names have been changed to protect the innocent” thing. But I did pattern the little dog in SILK DREAMS (one of my Diana Groe books) after my geriatric pound puppy, Susie! I figure she’s not going to sue me if I got it wrong!

Alissa: I haven’t, really, though the scene in which Patience eats a whole slice of cake in one bite was inspired by a friend with a similar talent.

 

How many years have you been writing?

Jennifer: I’ve been writing since I was eight. I’ve been writing with an eye to publication since about 1994. I’ve been writing with a really serious “I’m going to to this for a living, dang it” purpose since 1999. I’ve been a published author since 2002.

Emily: I started in 2001 and have been published since 2006 (first as Diana Groe for more dramatic historicals set in the Dark Ages, then as Emily in 2008 for my light-hearted fare!) A CHRISTMAS BALL is my 7th published book.

Alissa: I’ve been writing for fun since I’ve been old enough to hold pen to paper, but it’s been less than five years since I began writing with the goal of being published.

 

Is there any hope for more stories to come out of those in the anthology?

Jennifer: For me, probably not. I already have three other books in this series, and I’ve moved on to new ones (The Madness of Lord Ian series; a new shape shifter series starting with Pride Mates in Feb.; and a new UF series as Allyson James called “Stormwalker” out in May 2010). So many stories to tell, so little time!

Emily: No, I thought readers might enjoy a stand alone story since A CHRISTMAS BALL is seasonal.

Alissa: There’s always hope. I’d enjoy writing a romance for Patience’s friend, Caroline Meldrin.

 

What book or books are you currently working on, now that The Christmas Ball is completed?

Jennifer: A bunch of stuff–Pride Mates, by Jennifer Ashley (Feb. 2010; I’m proofreading it now). Stormwalker, by Allyson James (May 2010 at Berkley; that’s being read by my editor now). Lady Isabella’s Scandalous marriage, by Jennifer Ashley (July 2010 at Berkley; ms. being finished by me now). “Shifter Made” by Jennifer Ashley, a short story (connected to Pride Mates) in the Mammoth Book of Irish Romance (I just got the edits on it). A novella to be out in Wedding Favors (anthology), by Allyson James with Berkley Heat in May 2010 (writing that now). Lots to do!

Emily: I just typed “the end” on STROKE OF GENIUS, which will be out in June 2010. So I’m in the limbo land of figuring out what’s next. It’s a little disconcerting since the story has been consuming me for a few months now. Letting go of one cast of characters and assembling the next is always a dicey time. Anything can happen. I just have to figure out what.

Alissa: The fourth book in my Providence Series, Destined to Last, is in the editing stage and due to be released in the spring. I’m working on the proposal for a new historical series as well.

 

What’s your favorite snack food when you’re writing a story?

Jennifer: Trader Joe’s chocolate chip merengue cookies. 30 calories a cookie. I’m trying to lose weight and I allow myself a couple of those a day. Other than that I don’t snack when I write. Bad habit, which is why I now need to lose weight! However, I do have a glass of iced tea by my side at all times. (I live in a hot climate, so I drink it year-round. Un-sweetened.)

Emily: I actually don’t eat while I write either. I do however consume huge quantities of Cherry Coke Zero. Unfortunately, I snack while I watch TV with the DH. I think carrying weight is an occupational hazard for writers so I reward myself each day by hitting the treadmill after I finish my page count. And I do mean reward. I need to move after sitting so long.

Alissa: Just about anything you put in front of me. I have a particular weakness for sweets.

 

Coffee, Tea or Hot Chocolate…what’s your favourite?

Jennifer: Tea. Because I’m trying to lose weight and lower my caffeine intake, I’m trying a lot of green and white teas. I’m in love right now with African Rooibos, which is an herbal tea. I’m having so much fun tea tasting!

Emily: Coffee! My DH gets up each morning and grinds the beans to make a fresh pot. The aroma really gets me going! Honestly, if coffee tasted as good as it smells, it would have to be a controlled substance!

Alissa: Coffee, I have to have. Hot chocolate, I love to have. Tea, I will have cold.

 

Have you ever wanted to travel back in time to the Regency era?

Jennifer: Yes, as long as I get to take antibiotics with me, and I could transport my bathroom with all its plumbing. I’d make a wussy time-traveler! But…yes, I’d love to see the beautiful buildings, wear the clothes, talk the talk, try the food and drink. I guess what I need is a TARDIS, so I could visit, but still have my modern conveniences with me.

Emily: No. While I love to read about it, I wouldn’t want to live in the early 19th century. I’m a classically trained soprano and sang professional opera. In the course of my stage work, I’ve worn corsets and bustles, panniers and stays. Ugh! Of course, Regency clothing was a little more comfortable, but those long column gowns restricted movement and didn’t lend themselves to much of a brisk walk. Sometimes, the sleeves were tight enough to keep women from lifting their arms above their heads. Then when you think about the restrictions on women’s lives, restrictive clothing seems a minor convenience. Legally, a woman was treated as if she was a child or a mentally challenged person. I love the freedoms I enjoy as a woman now.

Alissa: I’d like to visit, but I’m much too attached to things like microwaves, vaccines, and the right to vote to make it an extended stay.

 

Is there anything else that you would like to share with us?

Jennifer: I’ve really enjoyed teaming up with Emily and Alissa to bring out this fun book!

Emily: Back at you, Jenn. When Leah invited me to join you and Alissa on this project, I was thrilled.

Alissa: Just another thank you to readers for being here today!

 

ALL-NEW Excerpts from A Christmas Ball


A_Christmas_Ball

FROM  “The Longest Night” by Jennifer Ashley

Valentin glided to Mary and took her arm. She didn’t trust herself alone with him, but she didn’t have enough confidence in her skating ability to push from him as he skimmed her away from the others.

“You fell?” His breath hung in the air beside her ear. “Are you all right?”

“Fine, if slightly bruised. Both my pride and my backside.”

“Perhaps we should go inside, then.”

She did not trust herself alone inside with him, either. “No, no. I am of hearty Scottish stock, not a wilting weed. I will survive it.”

Mary thought she might not survive his warm body against her side, or the way his thigh brushed hers with every gliding step. She took a long breath, trying to cool herself with the frigid air.

Valentin held her easily as they skated on, his balance supporting hers. “What have you discovered from the duchess?”

His mission. Of course. “That her favorite English Christmas customs are those that might involve men losing their trousers.”

Valentin’s half-smile returned, and Mary decided she should stop joking. She would melt right through the ice if he kept smiling at her like that. “Jesting aside, she seems harmless. We have unpacked, and Duchess Mina has made plans to skate, light the Yule log, and carry a wassail bowl about to the neighbors. She likes the idea of kissing under the mistletoe, so she has ordered it hung everywhere. Beware of that when you enter the house.”

“Hmm.” Valentin’s brow furrowed, as though he were trying to decipher what sort of code Yule logs, mistletoe, and wassail might mean.

“The duchess has so far not pumped Julia about her father’s business, tried to pry English secrets out of her, or confessed a desire to overthrow the Nvengarian government,” Mary went on. “Either she is very careful, or she is innocent. I can not believe she’d know nothing of her husband’s involvement in insidious plots.”

“Grand Duke Alexander is never wrong.”

“Perhaps not, but I do not think the avenue is through the duchess.”

“Please, keep watching her.”

Mary sighed. “I’m not comfortable spying on my friends. I know you grew up in a country of mad political conspiracies, but I had a fairly normal childhood in a Scottish castle. That is, if you consider being the only girl among a pack of half-crazed Highland men normal. I only had to deal with feuds within my own family, and those weren’t secret.” She broke off under Valentin’s unnerving stare. “What is it?”

“Nothing,” he said in a low voice. “I like to watch your lips when you speak.”

 

FROM  “My Lady Below Stairs” by Emily Bryan

A scene in which Ian tries to convince Jane not to continue posing as her well-born half-sister Sybil.

Gripping the carriage rail, Ian Michael worked his way along the bouncing rig to the right side door, finding what toeholds he might, swinging by his arms alone when he couldn’t locate a resting place for his feet. Then just as they neared a corner, he pulled open the door and swung his body into the moving carriage, feet first.

Jane yelped, but he covered her mouth with his hand.

“Easy, girl. It’s only me,” he said with the same soothing tone he’d use for a spooked mare. “If ye cry out, Tom will stop the carriage and ‘Lady Sybil’ will be found in a compromising position with a mere stable hand.”

Her eyes widened in the soft carriage lamplight and then she bit his finger as hard as she could.

“Ow!”

She leaned forward and clamped her palm over his mouth. “Guess you don’t like being surprised either.” Jane withdrew her hand and crossed her arms. “Now, what are you doing here, Ian?”

“Trying to talk sense into ye while there’s still time to stop this foolishness.”

Her mouth set into a firm line. “You know I won’t listen.”

“Then I won’t talk.”

He pulled her across the narrow space onto his lap. She smelled of rose petals and her cheek was as soft as one beneath his palm.

Her eyes were enormous in the dim coach. “Ian, I—”

“Ye don’t need to talk either, love.”

 

FROM  “Traditions” by Alissa Johnson

A scene in which William and Patience discuss who will be responsible for taking William’s nephew and namesake, Will, to see his nanny.

William looked to Will. “Do you want me to take you?”

The boy shook his head. 

“It appears I cannot.” He smiled at Patience. “He wants you.”

“Oh . . . er . . .”

“Is something the matter?”

 “No. Yes. I’m not certain. I . . .” She eyed Will a little nervously. “I am fond of children, but to be honest,” she leaned toward William and whispered, “I’ve very little experience with them. I’ve never been responsible for one.”

“I see.” Was he going to have to take Will himself, after all? He sincerely hoped not.

“I imagine I’ve not much more experience than you.” He leaned toward her and whispered, “I avoid them whenever possible.”

“Will is your nephew.”

“Yes, but you’re a woman. Women are born with the instinct to . . .” He waved his hand about, searching for the right word. “To nurture. Or what have you.”

She rolled her eyes, but knelt down and smiled at Will.

“You are adorable . . . even though you’re messy.” Will grinned at her.

William grinned wider. “There you go.” He gave her a gentle but bolstering pat on the back. “Just scoop him up and take him down the hall.”

Patience straightened and took a step forward. Then a step back. “What if I should drop him?”

William shook his head. “You’ll not drop him. A firm grip is part of the womanly instinct.”

She sent him a withering look. “And I suppose men are born with a natural urge to toss them about like sacks of flour?”

“We’re a stupid lot.”

She laughed and offered Will her hand. “We’ll walk, if it’s all the same to you, Will.”

A Personal Message from the Authors

Jennifer Ashley:  I want to thank my readers for being so fantastic. I really have the best readers! When I meet them in person, they’re smart, nice, fun, and just…nice! I hope readers of my Nvengaria series enjoy Mary and Valentin’s story, and if readers haven’t tried that series, I hope you like the story too!

Emily Bryan:  I’ve been so blessed by the love and support I’ve received from my readers.When I was going through the cancer, you can’t imagine how much it meant to me to receive so many emails, notes of encouragement and promises of prayers. Thank you with all my heart! I know it’s early yet, but I’d love to wish my readers a very Merry Christmas (or Happy Hanukkah!). May you all receive the gift of love!

Alissa Johnson:  Thanks so much for joining us! Working with Jennifer Ashley and Emily Bryan has been an absolute pleasure for me, and I hope you’re having just as much fun.

 

Thanks so much for joining us and a great big thank you to Jennifer Ashley, Emily Bryan and Alissa Johnson for being our guests today! You ladies are welcome at Book Reviews By Bobbie, any time!  :)

Don’t forget to leave a comment, for your chance to win 1 of 3 books: 2 backlist titles from Emily Bryan or Alissa Johnson & 1 copy of A Christmas Ball!


Guest Author’s visit MOVED to Monday, October 5th 2009!!

12_Days_of_Christmas_Blog_Tour_Image 1

We were scheduled to have Emily Bryan, Jennifer Ashley and Alissa Johnson as our guest authors for today; due to unforseen circumstances, they were unable to forward the information that I needed to set up the guest post. 

I am very hopeful that the issues will be ironed-out and I also hope to have another opportunity to host these three, talented authors, very soon.

I apologize to everyone who was looking forward to the guest post and the book giveaway. I hope that you’ll stay tuned and I will let you know if we can re-schedule for a later date.

Don’t miss A Christmas Ball by Emily Bryan, Jennifer Ashley and Alissa Johnson!

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Coming Soon – Guest Authors & 2 Free Books!

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I am pleased and very excited to announce that Book Reviews By Bobbie will be hosting the authors of A Christmas Ball on:

 Monday, September 28th, 2009

A Christmas BallEmily Bryan, Jennifer Ashley and Alissa Johnson will be joining us for the day as they promote their upcoming anthology, A Christmas Ball.

They will be finishing up their 12 Days of A Christmas Ball Blog Tour, shortly after their stop here.

As a special surprise, 1 lucky commenter will win 2 books from Emily Bryan’s or Alissa Johnson’s backlist!!  That’s right 2 fantastic, FREE books, just for commenting! :)

So mark it on your calendar or write yourself a  reminder note; you don’t want to miss these incredibly talented, Guest Authors.