Title: All Hearts Come Home for Christmas
Author: Eden, Stansfield, Hatch, Barker
Major Themes: Historical Fiction, Romance
Synopsis: Four novellas celebrating Christmas romances set in the Regency era.
Admittedly, if I had seen All Hearts Come Home for Christmas in a stack of books available to read, I would have likely skipped over it. And I probably would be skipping over it still, except for the little fact that one of the requirements of a reading challenge I’m doing this year is that I read a Christian fiction book with an author who has the same first name as me—and I tell you, folks, I haven’t met many people or authors with the name “Esther”! Since I’ve started paying attention, I think I’ve come up with four other authors who do share my name, but all four wrote nonfiction of some variety, so that wouldn’t count for this particular challenge. Cue the ever-helpful Christian Fiction readers group on Facebook coming to the rescue! Several linked me up to author Esther Hatch right away, and I was delighted to see that one of her books was available on NetGalley—so I downloaded it, and it was a really fun read!
I rolled my eyes quite a bit at the first story, Christmas at Falstone Castle by Sarah M. Eden. The romance bothered me some, even though the story itself intrigued me and kept me going when I wouldn’t have done so otherwise. I think the biggest thing I wondered about in this book was if a vicar would be treated as much on level with other people of high society as portrayed here. In several other books in this set, though, I’ve discovered something similar, with vicar’s children being treated just slightly below the aristocratic class—so perhaps my perceptions were wrong in that area. (Then I remembered that Jane Austin was the daughter of clergy, and she obviously knew—or at least knew enough to write well about—what it was like to be in high society circles.) This is a sweet story about reconciliation and second chances, and I ended up enjoying the read. The romance did wrap up rather too quickly in my opinion, though.
The second story, The Heart of Christmas by Anita Stansfield, was probably my favorite in this collection. I’m not sure what about it, exactly, touched my fancy, but perhaps it was the family secrets and learning to share the truth that I enjoyed. Or maybe it was the setting. I don’t know, but it was a fun story. The whole idea of a house falling apart and then being put together while the family is put together at the same time was just really delightful—predictable, but delightful.
The third story was my second favorite in the collection, ’Tis the Season to be Daring by Esther Hatch. I had quite a few hearty laughs over the characters in the first half of this story. Imagining this story playing out in real life (whether it really could have happened like that or not in that time period) was very fun. Yes, it was sappy, but I found it a delightful story overall.
The fourth story, The Christmas Dress by Joanna Barker wasn’t my favorite of the lot, but it had an intriguing premise and fit well with the time period described in the other books. It was a lovely tale of someone doing the best they could with what they had, and helping others along the way.
All Hearts Come Home for Christmas ended up being a light, fairly easy read, even for me who generally can’t stand pure romance books. Give me history or some other plot as well with the romance, and I’m a much happier camper, but for once I wasn’t too sad I ended up reading this. It’s definitely not something I’d pick up just any day—much more complex stories are my preferred genre—but as a break from heavier reading, or for something sweet and fun, I’d recommend this collection. It’s fluff, but fun fluff!
I requested a free review copy of this book, and this is my honest opinion of it.
WARNING: Christmas at Falstone Castle: Pregnancy mentioned in ch. 2, 8, and 11. “Merciful heavens” is used as an exclamation in ch. 2, and “thank the heavens” is used in ch. 3 and 12. There is touching between unmarried people in ch. 5, 6, 7, 9, 10 and 11, progressively getting a little more detailed as the story goes on. There are kisses between unmarried people in ch. 9, 10, 11, and 12. Someone talks about unfortunate medical failures in ch. 9.
The Heart of Christmas: A drunk is mentioned in ch. 3, as well as a woman who died right after having a child. There is lying in ch. 4. There’s a phrase I wasn’t totally comfortable with in ch. 6: “It was as if something or someone beyond their world—perhaps Becky’s mother indeed—had guided the child…”. And later in the chapter, “…as if an invisible hand is guiding me.” “Good heavens” is used in ch. 6. There is touching with an unmarried couple, and then a kiss, in ch. 6.
’Tis the Season to be Daring: There is quite a bit of language through this book. Ch. 1: “blasted” and “infernal”. “Heaven knew” is used in ch. 2, as well as “blast it all” and “where the devil”. “Thank goodness” in ch. 3. Someone lies in ch. 4, and “my goodness” is used there. “Sworn” is used in ch. 5, as well as “you devil” and “thank the heavens”. “Cursed” is used in ch. 6, as well as “hang”. There is touching between an unmarried couple, as well as thinking about what the other person felt like, in every chapter of the book (ch. 6, especially, mention’s a man’s eyes going where they shouldn’t, as well as more description than I’m comfortable with). There are kisses in ch. 5 and 6 (described quite a bit). Someone wants to humiliate her mother some in ch. 5. There’s a mention of someone approving of having a mistress in ch. 6.
The Christmas Dress: There are multiple words I don’t like in this book. In ch. 1, “blast” and “cursed” are used, as well as “drat”. In ch. 2, “heavens” is used. “Blessed” is used in ch. 3. There is lying in ch. 4, as well as “blast” being used. “Heavens” is used in ch. 5, as well as “blast”, and someone lies. “Heavens” is used again in ch. 6 and 7. There is lying in ch. 7, and the phrase “devil take it”, as well as “blast it all”. “Heavens” is used again in ch. 9, and “blast” in ch. 10. There is touching between an unmarried couple in ch. 6, 7, 8, 10 (also kissing here), and more kissing in the epilogue.
Reading Independently—Ages 15 and Above, Adults