Book Review: Bells Will be Ringing

Bells Will Be RingingBells Will Be Ringing by Monica Tillery et al
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For me, the standout feature of this anthology was its sheer range. Bravely, the editors picked four stories which have nothing in common except Christmas... well, and sweet romantic storylines! The settings range from historic England to contemporary Hawaii and the mainland US.
I think my favourite story was 'His Hawaiian Christmas', for its charm and originality. In any other context, snow at Christmas would be a cliche, but in Hawaii it's magical and eye-opening. When laid-back-to-the-point-of-horizontal surfer-dude Kai takes uptight hotel manager Clara up a mountain to discover Hawaii's one and only chilly spot, he shows her there's more to him - and to the island paradise - than she's previously realised.
Another strong contender for favourite story was 'Merry's Wonderful Christmas Gift', an endearing historical romp with an English village setting, complete with oak trees and mistletoe. With a charmingly natural heroine and a hero as upright as the proverbial oak, this story left me thoroughly nostalgic for traditional village Christmases.
'Her Secret Santa' was another touching tale, putting a fresh seasonal twist on the old, old story of best friends who almost miss realising that the way they care for each other is so much more than just friendship. Candy developer Rebecca and lawyer Ben are a perfect match, but keeping each other at arm's length, until a secret Santa with an uncanny insight into her tastes forces her to open her eyes to her true feelings.
Last but by no means least, 'Gavin Fever' is a light and funny story, as Julia's friends and an unexpected snowstorm conspire to reunite her with the ex she ran from, and force her to consider whether she's really managed to put him back in the past.
All in all, there's something here for everyone, and although not all the stories were ones I would have picked to read as standalone books, every one was a sweet and satisfying read.

(NB: I read an Advance Review Copy of Bells Will be Ringing, which is due for release on 23 December, and is now available for pre-order.)

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