Meet Me under the Kissing Bough
Set in England in the early 1800s, this collection contains three romantic Christmas tales of about a hundred pages each. Each story involves members of the upper classes, which provides a perfect environment for fancy dresses, balls, and cozy winter scenes.
The first story, from which the title of the collection is taken, involves a widow who is ready to move on with her romantic life after grieving her late husband’s demise. While she grows increasingly close to a longtime friend the reality of his position in a lower class than hers becomes a stumbling point in their relationship. When family intervenes, she must decide whether to follow her own heart or class expectations. A gentle but dull tale, this one was my least favorite of the collection.
The second story, “Healing Hearts for the Holidays,” revolves around the lost love letters of two elder neighbors who have since devolved into feuding. Now their grown children are messing up all the bitterness by falling in love with one another. Sparkling characters and a story that carries the reader along with glee makes this tale the standout of the collection.
The final tale, “A Christmas Correspondence,” was inspired by Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. Lady Carolyn Morleigh shares some personality characteristics with Ebenezer Scrooge. Mainly, insufferable pride in her high-class origins, greed, and a rude, sarcastic manner. John Charleston is the hapless fellow who bears much of her ire, yet finds himself charmed by her beauty when she lets her guard down. Lady Caroline abuses everyone, much like Scrooge, and is shown the consequences of her actions likewise. If you can stomach the protagonist’s unlikeable character you may enjoy this story.
Christmas is a background feature of each of these stories, which may kindle holiday cheer should you decide to read them alongside a crackling fire when snow flurries outside.