Naughty & Nice 3-Story Bundle (Room at the Inn, All I Want for Christmas Is You, and One Perfect Christmas)

Naughty & Nice: Three Holiday Treats - Ruthie Knox, Molly O'Keefe, Stefanie Sloane This Christmas anthology is a bit of a hodgepodge, including one contemporary short story, one prequel to a full-length novel, and one historical story. "Room at the Inn" by Ruthie Knox is just what I'd hope to find in a Christmas romance anthology, a cheerfully sentimental story but one that's far more lusty than sappy. A modern reimagining of "It's a Wonderful Life," it looks at what might have happened if George Bailey (here, Carson Vance) had managed to leave Bedford Falls, and leave the girl who loves him behind. Knox has some fun with the homage -- Julie may be unmarried and work part time at the library, but she's certainly no old maid -- but drops most of the expected plot trappings in favor of examining why someone might feel so strong a need to leave his home and family, and what might bring him back. The result feels fresh rather than cliched; I particularly liked what she did with Leo Potter, the expected villain of the piece. The weak link in the story is Carson; he's very handy with tools (heh) but I didn't quite see the qualities that kept Julie loving him for so many years of brief flings on his visits home. Still, this left me with a big smile on my face. "All I Want for Christmas is You" is a terrific beginning of a story. This new practice of including prologues in anthologies is aggravating -- but I have to admit, in this case it's successful, because I really want to find out what happened to these characters. It's a vivid vignette about two young childhood sweethearts on the verge of a life changing decision. Billy is from a poor and dysfunctional family but his hockey skills are a key to a better life, and he wants Maddy there with him. Maddy also has a chance to improve her life and be the first of her family to go to college, but she would rather marry Billy -- or would she?It was heartrending to read about these two, so young and naive and uncertain of everything except their love for each other. Along with the obvious issues facing them, disturbing undercurrents are only hinted at. Maddy is afraid of Billy's anger -- is he violent towards her? What was the "accident" that's briefly mentioned? A unresolved prequel with no novel following it is frustrating.After the contemporary stories, it was hard to switch gears for "One Perfect Christmas" by Stefanie Sloan, a Regency tale. It was a bland, basically plotless short story about two long time friends afraid to admit their feelings to each other. A donkey gets into the action, allowing for some "ass" jokes. I admit to strongly disliking cute historicals, so this might have more appeal for others than I saw in it.The book ends with excerpts from upcoming novels by the three authors, including one for [b:Crazy Thing Called Love|15798603|Crazy Thing Called Love|Molly O'Keefe||21521544], which gives an unsurprising but depressing follow-up to Billy and Maddy's relationship.This was really a mixed bag, but since it's quite reasonably priced, it's worth getting if you're interested in one or two of the authors.(reviewed from e-arc provided by netGalley)