This week I changed my playlist to my Christmas setting. Most of the songs on the list I have heard countless times, but listening to them again always leaves me with a smile on my face, a lump in my throat, and a feeling that, to borrow a phrase from Dickens, I am honoring Christmas in my heart. Mary Balogh’s Christmas stories give me the same feeling. It is hardly surprising then that I started my Christmas celebration a little early this year by downloading Christmas Gifts and Christmas Miracles, two newly reissued collections of Balogh’s Christmas novellas. With these six stories and the four included in Balogh’s 2003 collection Under the Mistletoe, all ten of Balogh’s novellas from Signet Regency Christmas anthologies are now available.
Christmas Gifts includes “The Best Christmas Ever” (1991, A Regency Christmas III), “The Porcelain Madonna” (1992, A Regency Christmas IV), and “The Surprise Party” (1995, A Regency Christmas VII). All three have a poignant note, feature children, and end with unexpected gifts.
In the first story, Edwin Gwent, Viscount Radbrook, only son of the Earl and Countess of Crampton, is concerned because his five-year-old daughter Anna does not join her cousins in the family tradition of making a Christmas wish before the fire the night before Christmas Eve. Anna has not spoken since her mother accidentally drowned trying to retrieve Anna’s ball. That happened more than two years ago, and Anna, who lost her voice after screaming for two days, has lived in silence since then. However, she has other ways of making her preferences known, and she makes it clear she prefers Miss Emma Milford to the beautiful Miss Chadwick whom her father is considering as his next bride. Anna’s undeclared wish was for a new mama, “someone very quiet and ordinary. Someone who smells of roses. Someone with soft, slim hands.” But Emma shattered Lord Radbrook’s heart nine years ago when she allowed her parents to persuade her to reject the young viscount’s offer of marriage. Even his daughter’s inexplicable choice of Emma’s company is not enough to make Lord Radbrook risk his heart—and his pride—again, but Christmas can work magic in the hearts of small children and in the scarred hearts of adults as well.
[Balogh has a special place for Christmas and it reads well ...]