Title: Making Spirits Bright
Author: Chautona Havig, April Hayman, Toni Shiloh, Cathe Swanson
Series: Christmas Lights Collection 2017
Major Themes: Christmas
Synopsis: Four authors have written lovely stories about women working through problems in their lives.
It’s fun, sometimes, to read a collection of stories by various authors. You often get a lot of good reading for one low price! I really enjoyed the Christmas Lights Collection last year, and enjoyed this one, as well. Three of last year’s four authors have returned, with brand-new novellas.
The first story in this collection is Merri’s Christmas Mission, by Chautona Havig. I had the privilege of reading it as she wrote it; she posted each chapter online so she could get help editing it. I eagerly looked forward to each day’s installment, anxious to find out what Merri and her children were up to now.
Merri was a single mother with three children, and had lost her job. Now, just before Christmas, her unemployment was about to run out—and she had to have lots of presents for her children for Christmas! Since one of her big deals in life was to make every Christmas amazing for the children, she now spent a lot of her time entering contests and giveaways, trying desperately to win gifts to give them. Entering a local contest brought her into contact with Barney, the administrator of the local mission, who just happened to need to hire someone to ask for donations. Merri was the perfect person for the job—but Barney found himself attracted to her in a way he had never been attracted to another woman. Should she trust him, or would he let her down the same way the fathers of each of her children had?
I loved the humor in this story! The chapter where the children grilled Barney about his intentions toward their mother was hilarious—but be warned, they used the word s*x several times. You’ll fall in love with this wonderful family as you read the story. I thoroughly enjoyed watching Merri learn what was most important in life.
Lead a Merry Dance, by April Hayman, comes next. This is a sequel to Trip the Light Fantastic, which she wrote for the Christmas Lights 2016 collection. Trip and Libby have now been married for about six months, and are off on their third try at a honeymoon! This time, they are going on a cruise in the Caribbean. Libby, frustrated that she never sees her husband, makes him leave his badge and cell phone at home, hoping that will remind him he’s off duty. Even though he is rarely home, however, she has become pregnant—but can’t figure out how to tell him. As they set off on the cruise, she runs into awkward situations because she knows something he doesn’t. Then, strange things start happening, and quickly Trip is wishing he had his badge. Will he, and the twins Sissy and Sassy, be able to figure out who is stealing valuables on the cruise ship before they land?
I really enjoyed this story. Trip is such a typical man, unable to think of two things at once, and Libby is so real, as well, with her struggles with that. It was interesting to watch the mystery unfold, although I could have done without knocking out a couple of people. The ending was very satisfactory!
A Sidelined Christmas, by Toni Shiloh, is the third story. I had never read anything by her before, and didn’t know what to expect. I’ll have to admit, I was a bit disappointed in this story. For a romance, it’s all right. Both Bebe and Jahleel learn to trust others again, and to give of themselves for others. On the other hand, I don’t believe it’s right for a divorced person to remarry, so I don’t believe Bebe should have been dating Jahleel.
The last book is Hope for the Holidays, by Cathe Swanson. This is a stand-alone sequel to Snow Angels, which was in last year’s collection. It also has characters from Baggage Claim. Having read those two books makes it more fun, but is not necessary.
In the opening scene, Carrie has just arrived from Kenya to work at the Unity Plenkiss Community Center. She wasn’t expecting to spend so much time with Micah, a local pastor, and she certainly was not expecting to discover that someone was stealing donations to the center. Her first couple of months in Chicago ended up being much more intense, in many ways, than she had expected.
I really enjoyed this story. The tidbits about the family in which Carrie was raised, a multi-racial family with a number of adopted children, were fascinating. It was fun to read more about the community center, too. I loved Carrie’s problems with pumpkin-everything, since she arrived in America in the fall! There were several subplots that made the book even more interesting, as well. One of them had to do with the search for a new pastor to take Micah’s place—how could they sort out the conmen from the ones who were truly men of God? And did Micah really want to move on, now that Carrie was in the picture? The solution to this problem will surprise you—I loved it!
One more thing I loved in this story was a quote from Chapter 16: “Yep, she was gossiping. As soon as she knew the whole story, she would go repent in the privacy of her office.“
I received a free ecopy of this book from the authors and chose to write a review.
WARNING: The only things I winced a little at were the kisses at the end of Sidelined for Christmas and Hope for the Holidays.
Reading Independently—Ages 15 and Above, Adults
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This review was written for the entire set of books. You can buy the individual books here: