It isn’t often you find an anthology where all the stories get the same rating. But in this case, Kleypas, MacGregor and Quinn all shine.
Kleypas starts us off with Against the Odds, the story of Dr. Jake Linley from Someone To Watch Over Me. This is the weakest of the three stories, set in Regency England and using the standard plotline of unrequited love discovered when forced to spend time together. Dr. Linley has long loved Lydia Craven, but he never thought he could have her. Lydia, on the other hand, held a mild infatuation for Jake until she overheard him insult her and since then she has avoided him. Now, on the eve of her wedding to Lord Wray, fate (with a little help) intervenes. Lydia has chosen Wray with her head, not her heart, fearing she will never fall in love. Wray wants her dowry. There are no sparks between the two and Lydia’s mother, Sara, is concerned that her daughter is “settling”. She sets events in motion that forces Jake and Lydia to be alone. Love is on the way.
Jake is a different kind of hero, one minute charming and the next throwing out biting comments. I didn’t get a real feel for him, but enjoyed his banter with Lydia, who actually deserved some of his set downs. Lydia, too, is an uneven heroine. She is smart and bookish, yet yearns for romance. She seemed a tad immature, and it is the author’s skill at blending humor with lust that keeps the story from bogging down.
Next up is Kinley MacGregor’s delightful follow-up to Master of Desire with her presentation of Simon Ravenswood’s story. Midsummer’s Knight is a comedic and touching look at the vulnerable and the strong. Simon has been corresponding on behalf of his titled friend, Lord Stryder, with a young woman named Kenna MacRyan. He was in love with her, but she thought he was Stryder and over the course of the correspondence he never corrected her assumption. Then in a weak moment, he proposed. She came from Scotland to marry, only to discover the real Lord Stryder does not even know her name. How Simon and Kenna settle this issue is a true romantic episode, full of pathos, love, vulnerability and learning to trust each other. There was richness in this tale that begged for more space, but the tale is satisfactory, none the less.
Finally we are treated to classic Julia Quinn. Splendid character Ned Blydon is given his own love story here. And what a story it is. A Tale of Two Sisters explores Ned’s relationship with Lydia and Charlotte Thornton. Just eleven months apart in ages, there is a world of difference in their experience. As the eldest, Lydia has had a season and many beaus. The one to win her hand in marriage is Ned Blydon. Ned will gain her lands and Lydia will gain a husband. Unfortunately, their relationship is anything but romantic. Both assume it will be a “ton marriage” with no love, but neither is really satisfied. Yet here it is just three days before the big day. Ned meets her sister Charlotte and is enchanted. Although they had met before, they had never become acquainted. Now that he has a few minutes to talk with her, he finds they mesh. They think similar thoughts. They share many interests. They both have a witty sense of humor and oh, yes, they feel attraction.
There are classic Quinn antics woven into this tale and it is a delight to read. Ned is a rake and a charmer. Lydia starts as a shrew and changes before our eyes. Charlotte is a gem of the first water and a wonderfully loyal heroine.
Each account reads as a fine short story, with each one a little better than the last. As a whole, I highly recommend Where’s My Hero? - it’s a delight times three.