I’m often leery of trying anthologies. Generally there’s one author I want to read, a few I’ll deal with and at least one I automatically skip. Or, behind door number two, there’s one story I’ll love, one or two that are readable and one that’s just awful. So, imagine my delight when three unknown to me authors manage to entertain me, make me laugh, make me nod my head in sympathy for their characters and leave me with a smile on my face when I’ve finished the book.
“A Change of Heart” By Farrah Rochon – Chandra and Derek had started their marriage passionately in love. Together for twenty years, they’d weathered good times and bad as Derek worked hard to build his business from scratch to local empire while Chandra stayed at home to raise their now two college age children. Can they find the love they once had underneath the current bitterness while a storm rages at the Colorado ski resort Chandra picked for what she’s sure is their last Christmas together?
“Can You Believe” by Stefanie Worth – Fallon and Naymond have just barely started their married life together but already stresses are tearing at the seams. While Fallon is supportive of her husband’s dream of a singing career, right now she’s buckling under the demands of being the only breadwinner in the family while Naymond competes on the weekly TV show “Chart Toppers” for a recording contract. On the way to meeting him for a getaway weekend, she runs into a semi-famous TV psychic who offers her a glimpse at what could be her future. Will it be a glimpse of what could be or what will be? And how will she and Naymond deal with what they find over the weekend?
“By New Year’s Day” by Phyllis Bourne Williams – Devon and Eva Masters are headed for a trip to New Hampshire away from their demanding children in Miami. Since his retirement a year ago, Devon has been disgusted by the way three of their four adult children seem to take advantage of his wife. It’s time they grew up and Eva cut the apron strings but he’s having trouble getting her to do that. In Eva’s mind, she’s just being a good mother. Will they be able to work out the different ways they see their children and find time for the couple they used to be?
All three are very nicely done stories of married couples dealing with the issues that have caused estrangement or drifting in their marriages. And this tackles with one of the main problems I generally have with anthologies and that is a believable HEA in so short a format. These stories were long enough that I felt I got a deep enough glimpse of each couple to get interested enough in them to cheer them on to happiness. The portrayals of each hero and heroine were balanced and incisive. I could see both sides of their issues and no one person was shown as the “bad” or at fault person in each marriage.
The issues causing the conflict were believable and important enough to cause the feelings of trouble without being insolvable. Two couples had been married for over 20 years and were dealing with long term things while one were basically newlyweds trying to overcome money, time and fame stresses. The fact that none of the marriages had progressed beyond the fixable stage also helped me believe in their HEA endings.
I like that all three stories end with the people still working on what they need to in order to overcome what divided them. Marriages are constant work and while I’d love to think that long term behavior changes can happen overnight, the image of these couples continuing to resolve the problems they’ve admitted to makes more sense. And I do get the feeling with all of them that they will continue to do whatever it takes to save the love they still feel for each other.
And so, brava ladies for a job well done. Each story garners a B from me and the collection as a whole is one I can recommend for people looking for a Christmas anthology by three fine authors.