Celia Bonaduce, & Rachael Miles
Publisher: Kensington Books
Publication Date: October 29, 2019
Number of Pages: 336
It’s Christmas Eve, 1859, and everyone who’s anyone is headed to the glorious St. Nicholas Hotel for the most talked about ball of the season. It’s the kind of Texas night where anything can happen—even love . . .
ONE NIGHT AT THE ST. NICHOLAS by
New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Jodi Thomas
To escape her stepmother’s plot to marry her off, Texas heiress Jacqueline Hartman spends Christmas Eve sharing a hideout with an accused bank robber. After a night in Nathaniel Ward’s arms, Jacqueline is certain she has met her match after all. But will his heartfelt promise of love lead to his demise at the hands of the law?
BIRDIE’S FLIGHT by Celia Bonaduce
Seamstress Birdie Flanagan gets the surprise of her life when she receives a beautiful gown—and a sudden invitation—for the ball of the season! Birdie creates a stir from the moment she arrives, capturing the eye of the dashing Captain Douglas Fairbanks. But will a secret from her past keep her from her long-awaited happily-ever-after?
SPIRIT OF TEXAS by Rachael Miles
When lovely spinster Eugenie Charpentier makes a trip across the Texas frontier with former Texas Ranger Asher Graham, she dreams of an adventure, and the rough-and-tumble cowboy is happy to oblige. But both Eugenie and the rugged lawman are keeping secrets. Can they find each other—and love—on the dance floor at the Christmas ball?
Clueless Gent’s Rating
As an anthology, A Texas Kind of Christmas is a heartwarming and enjoyable read. There are three separate stories, written by three separate authors, yet these stories definitely belong in the same book. Why? I’ll get to that.
This book is not as “Christmasy” as most books with Christmas in the title. Each story is set in 1859 during the weeks (or days) leading up to Christmas. All of these stories are all Texas! That, alone, is reason enough for me to enjoy the book, but wait! There’s more!
I don’t know if this is a unique concept, but it’s the very first time I’ve come across it (to the best of my recollection). In addition to all three of these stories taking place in 1859, they also all take place in Dallas. They each include a grand Christmas ball at the St. Nicholas Hotel, in the center of Dallas. Further, some of the characters appear in each story, but there is no further connection between the stories. I found that very interesting and enjoyable.
The St. Nicholas Hotel, which has a significant role in each story, actually existed at that time. Right after the third story, some Historical Notes are included that provide some factual information about the St. Nicholas Hotel and its owner, Mrs. Sarah Cockerell. Cockerell is one of those minor characters who appears in each of the stories.
One Night at the St. Nicholas
This story has enough good guys and bad guys to make everyone happy. Unlike the other two stories, this one takes place in a twenty-four hour period, on Christmas Eve. A Dallas rancher plans on using the Christmas Ball at the St. Nicholas Hotel to find his only child, Jacqueline, a husband. At the insistence of his new wife (the wicked stepmother), either Jacqueline will find a suitable husband or be thrown out of her father’s house.
For such a short story – about 100 pages – there is a surprisingly large cast. There are four protagonists, a couple of antagonists, and Jacqueline’s father seems to be somewhere in the middle. The main characters are appropriately flawed and come complete with their own backstories. There is a slight reveal near the end, but I pretty much saw it coming.
Clearly well written, this story moves along at a pretty steady pace, which quickens slightly as we near the climax. Considering the short time in which this story takes place, I consider the character arcs to be huge! This story ties with the second story as my favorite.
This story has three protagonists (four, if you count the sheriff). I think I liked Birdie, the main protagonist, the best among all the characters in this anthology. I found her to be very likable. She has a lot of things going against her, as any good protagonist does, but we really don’t find out why until the climax.
Taking place in the days leading up to Christmas, this story contained a good amount of suspense. Someone has been chasing Birdie across the United States, but we don’t know why. Birdie makes her way to Dallas, hoping to secure a position at the St. Nicholas Hotel, since it’s very busy preparing for the Christmas Ball. After getting hired on as an assistant to Miss Quigley, the head seamstress, Birdie meets Charlotte Rutherford. Charlotte and her father, a retired judge, are guests at the hotel.
Birdie and Charlotte form an unlikely friendship and alliance. I really liked the way author Celia Bonaduce created the bond between the two women. It forms slowly. Birdie is untrusting of anyone, and Charlotte is pretty much a spoiled girl who seems to use Birdie as her personal servant. But things change, and as they do, the character arcs may surprise you.
Like I said, this story has the most suspense, but it’s controlled by good pacing. The climax happens quickly, but those few pages are edge-of-your-seat good! There’s a huge reveal at the climax, and I’ll admit, I did not see that one coming.
Spirit of Texas
This story is very appropriately titled. Taking place in the few weeks leading up to Christmas, the main character – Miss Eugenie Charpentier – is on a mission. She has been dispatched from her life in England to bring her estranged mother, now an invalid, back from Texas, returning to their homeland.
Of all the characters in these stories, I would say that Eugenie has the deepest backstory. She has descended from aristocracy, and is used to a “good life,” but she has become fascinated with Texas after reading a book that her mother sent to her for publishing in England. Having reached middle-age (for that time), and after a personal heartache, she is now untrusting of all men, thinking that any man interested in a woman her age is really interested in her wealth.
Having finally reached Texas, she is taken on the last leg of her long journey by Asher Graham, a formidable character who knows pretty much everything about Texas. However, their journey will be anything but smooth. They encounter severe weather, including a tornado, but their difficulties help to form a bond between them.
Eugenie and Asher are the main characters, but Eugenie’s mother, Lilly, also has a pretty big part. Lilly is a guest at the St. Nicholas Hotel in Dallas. Although there is a Christmas Ball in this story, it doesn’t really have the prominence that it did in the other two stories. However, I was delighted to see that Birdie and Miss Quigley had cameos in this story. (Mrs. Cockerell, the hotel owner, appears in all three stories.)
During their trip to Dallas, in a carriage at the insistence of her mother, we learn quite a bit about Eugenie’s backstory. However, we are only allowed a glimpse into Asher’s backstory. (But there will be much more revealed after they arrive in Dallas.)
Both of these characters are likable, despite the secrets they keep. The character arcs are there and the pacing is okay. This story, however, was really missing a distinct antagonist. I suppose the nasty weather they encountered could be considered an antagonist, but the weather was short lived. The book that made Eugenie so intrigued with Texas becomes quasi-antagonistic. I know, I’m reaching here. Some may even consider Lilly an antagonist, but I didn’t.
In my opinion, this story sort of flirted with the limits of believable fiction. For example, there is a part where the author describes the literal sweetness of a kiss between Eugenie and Asher. I didn’t live during that time, obviously, but from everything I’ve learned, I don’t think good dental hygiene and fresh breath were things back then.
A Texas Kind of Christmas – In Summary
This book was a fun and easy read. The three stories are similar in length, each taking up about a third of the book. The copy I read was an “advance uncorrected proof,” so I made no comments about SPAG or continuity.
There’s a sizable amount of romance in each story. However, as an average guy, I still made it through all the stories, so I didn’t consider the romance aspect to be overwhelming.
There’s a lot of Texas in these stories. If you love Texas, or if you love romance, you’ll enjoy reading this book. I recommend it.