Bertie Reviews MISTLETOE KISSES

Greetings, O Adoring Public! Welcome to the debut of Bertram St. James, Exquisite, in the guise of Critic. I shall now proceed to review the “Regency Christmas Anthology” entitled Mistletoe Kisses.

(First, an aside: why has my beautiful era been named for the eminently less-than-beautiful Prince George? I hereby suggest that we all begin calling it not “The Regency Period”, but “The Bertie Epoch.”)

The first story in Mistletoe Kisses is “A Soldier’s Tale,” by Milady Elizabeth Rolls. This is the touching tale of a young nobleman, who was very handsome and admired, and an officer to boot. (I love those uniforms! I would have bought myself a commission — nearly did, in fact — but it turns out if you do so, you may be sent off to fight, perhaps even getting blood on those lovely uniforms! “Not I,” quoth Bertie. And he didn’t.)

This debonair young officer unfortunately became injured, and lost his looks. What tragedy! I never understood why Hamlet was wailing on about having a dead father — happens to us all, don’t you know? — but when I learned that handsome young Dominic Alderley had lost an eye, become frightfully scarred, and even had his hand damaged, I cried tears of sympathy into my silk handkerchief.

Poor Alderley is filled with shame at his dreadful looks, and hides away in his rooms in London, seeing no one except his faithful man, and — well…certain, er…persons…of a sort… whom he, er…pays…for their…for their…scintillating company. (Pardon my red face.)

Luckily, the story ends happily. It turns out that Alderley is not ugly after all, but piratically dashing. Once he realizes this, all is well in the world, and I cried tears of happiness into my silk handkerchief.

Oh, yes. There is also a romance in the story, but it is obviously a subplot to the much more important saga of Alderley’s manly beauty. In fact, the true meaning of “A Soldier’s Tale” is revealed by the inclusion of a play of “Beauty and the Beast,” clearly showing that the core story here is of Alderley’s beauty, his transition to thinking he looks like a beast, and then his triumphant realization that he has beauty still.

The second story in Mistletoe Kisses is “A Winter Night’s Tale” by Milady Deborah Hale.

The heroine of this story is named Christabel. This put me in mind, of course, of that ghastly poem thing by Mr. Coleridge.
Never could figure out why anyone thought his verses worth reading! I ask you, who could be remotely impressed by a rhyme like:

“O weary lady, Geraldine,
I pray you, drink this cordial wine!
It is a wine of virtuous powers;
My mother made it of wild flowers.”

Even I could do better. That is, had I the leisure. However, being decorative takes so very much time! (As does my slavish devotion to the TeleVision Device. I do love the show “Heroes.” It has so many beautiful people in it. As, indeed, does “Lost.” But in the “Lost,” the beautiful people are so dirty!)

The most heart-warming moment in this tale is when the hero manages to circumvent propriety, and make the impoverished heroine a gift of an elegant ball gown, a lace bandeau for her hair, evening gloves, silk stockings, and fine kid slippers. True love at its purest! And, I might mention, if any of you wished to give me silk stockings for Christmas (or Chanukah, or the Winter Solstice, or indeed any other occasion), I would not think it at all improper.

The third story in Mistletoe Kisses is “A Twelfth Night Tale” by Milady Diane Gaston.

This story truly resonated with me. To begin with, the characters in it are all extremely careful about being clean and elegant! Indeed, in one scene, in which a — er — how shall I put this — a new life comes into the world…yes, that will do!
Anyway, in this particular scene, even amidst all the hubbub, the women are all calling for clean linen, and clean clothing. Such admirable attention paid to sartorial aesthetics! This is truly what elevates homo sapiens above the mere animal.

Speaking of the mere animal, there is a dreadful creature in this story, and she is called Lady Wansford. I shuddered each time she was mentioned as she is the exact replica in prose of my much-loathed and feared Aunt Gorgon. Oh, do beg your pardon, I mean my Aunt Gordon, of course. Frightful thing. Always after me to marry her repellent daughter Harriet. The very thought sends me into a paroxysm of hysterical laughter. (By the way, why doesn’t “laughter” rhyme with “daughter”? I will never understand such things.)

Sorry — where was I? Oh, yes. The dreaded daughter. The chit giggled. And slouched. And wore ruffles! “Not I,” quoth Bertie. And he didn’t.

The daughter in this story is just as repellant as my Aunt Gorgon’s daughter, and the mother every bit as bad. Luckily, our hero, the Earl of Bolting, is a handsome young lord, and very wealthy, and our heroine has much beauty and fashion sense herself, so all comes out right in the end, and the gorgons are sent packing (quite literally!)

I highly recommend Mistletoe Kisses. All the talk of greenery and Yule logs carried me back to my childhood, and brought an elegant tear to my eye. Oh, for mince pies and brandy! I must tell my hostess to find me some for Christmas.

If any of you delightful folk have read any of these stories too, do share your impressions of them! I await eagerly your reaction to this, my first foray as Critic.

Yours in clove-scented elegance,

Bertram St. James, Exquisite

About Elena Greene

Elena Greene grew up reading anything she could lay her hands on, including her mother's Georgette Heyer novels. She also enjoyed writing but decided to pursue a more practical career in software engineering. Fate intervened when she was sent on a three year international assignment to England, where she was inspired to start writing romances set in the Regency. Her books have won the National Readers' Choice Award, the Desert Rose Golden Quill and the Colorado Romance Writers' Award of Excellence. Her Super Regency, LADY DEARING'S MASQUERADE, won RT Book Club's award for Best Regency Romance of 2005 and made the Kindle Top 100 list in 2011. When not writing, Elena enjoys swimming, cooking, meditation, playing the piano, volunteer work and craft projects. She lives in upstate New York with her two daughters and more yarn, wire and beads than she would like to admit.
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