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Long ago, a poor servant girl created an exquisite wedding gown for her haughty mistress, who was to marry the man that the girl loved with all her heart. Though tempted to stop the marriage using her secret magical skills, she instead ensured the groom's happiness by enchanting the dress so that whoever possessed it would be blessed with true love.

But the spell went delightfully awry, working its magic for the servant girl instead of her mistress-and then the dress mysteriously vanished. Who knows where or when it may turn up next, for some blushing bride to claim as her very own?

Published: Penguin Group on Nov 1, 2005
ISBN: 9781101098738
List price: $7.99
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I really like the premise of this quartet of romantic novellas. The book's prologue written by Catherine Anderson was an intriguing beginning to the story, but it left me with many questions about the gown's creator and her one true love. I had hoped that those questions would be answered as the stories progress, but that was not to be the case.A Perfect Fit by Barbara Metzger – A Perfect Fit was very much a traditional Regency romance, probably in a similar vein as Georgette Heyer (though I admit that I have yet to read any of her books). The story had classic Regency plotting and lots of authentic words and phrases which gives the reader the feel of actually being in the Regency period. In addition, although it had some mild sexual tension, it was completely non-explicit, making it suitable for both younger and more sensitive romance readers. For a short story, I thought the characters were nicely developed. My only complaint would be that there were a few too many of them, and I found myself occasionally loosing track of who was who. Forde and Katie were both very likable, as were nearly all of the characters in the story, although I can't say that I found myself connecting on a deep emotional level with anyone. In my opinion, there were only a couple of exceptions in this otherwise “nice” cast, with one being Katie's daughter, Susannah, who I thought acted rather spoiled and ungracious, but she did mature a bit by the end. The other was Susannah's future mother-in-law who was a rather prim and snobbish member of the ton, but I believe was meant to be an extreme caricature, who added some mild comic relief. The romance was very sweet, but I felt that the ending was a bit rushed. Throughout most of the story, Forde and Katie were sizing each other up and dealing with wedding woes and eccentric relatives. I didn't really feel that it left enough time for them to believably fall in love. All of that happened in a few paragraphs at the end. Overall though, I found A Perfect Fit to be a pleasant, if predictable, read that was not a bad way to spend a few hours of my time. This novella was my first story by Barbara Metzger, but I found it enjoyable enough to leave me open to trying more of her works in the future. Rating: ***1/2Glad Rags by Connie Brockway – Glad Rags was a combination romantic comedy and reunion romance, both of which I usually enjoy, but the tale fell flat on both counts for me. I consider myself to have a pretty good sense of humor, but I thought this story was just rather silly. The author tries to build a case that Alex is a very attractive man and an honorable war hero, but I just couldn't get past the ridiculous notions of him being dressed in drag for more than half the narrative. Granted he had a decent reason, that of a lost bet, but it still came off as rather juvenile humor to me. I smiled in amusement maybe a couple of times, but the rest of the time, I was for the most part, doing a lot of eye rolling. Since Alex and Lucy had been separated for two years, in part due to Alex's service in the Crimean War, I thought there might at least be something for me grasp with their reunion, but I was sadly mistaken. I found the reasons for their separation to be mainly selfish and prideful and brought about by rather absurd miscommunications that could have been easily resolved with a simple heart-to-heart conversation. Once they do reunite, things move far too quickly, for the most part fueled by physical desire. In spite of their declaration of undying love, I never really felt any emotional connection between the two characters. I ended the story never feeling like their old issues were ever truly resolved. They just continued to argue and vie for control in the relationship for the whole novella, which did not leave me with the feeling that these two could have a lasting happily-ever-after. Considering that the anthology is about a wedding dress, I have to admit that I was also disappointed that this story did not even contain a wedding. Admittedly, having the guy wear the wedding dress was an interesting twist, but it just didn't work for me. In the end, I simply felt that the beautiful wedding gown that is supposed to be the centerpiece of these novellas deserved a much better story. This was my first read by Connie Brockway, and as I've heard some positive things about her writing, I will try to reserve judgment on her talents until I've read something else that will hopefully be better than this, in my opinion, woefully underdeveloped farce. Rating: **1/2Something Special by Casey Claybourne – I do hope readers will forgive my triteness, but I have to say that I found Something Special to truly be “something special.” It was a sweet romance that was very enjoyable to read. Unlike the first two novellas in this anthology, I actually found myself looking forward to picking it up again each time I had to put it down. I thought that the plot was very tight and the characters were very likable. I am not usually drawn to not-so-bright heroines, but Penny was a real sweetheart. It didn't take me long to realize that she was really a product of a lack of education rather than a lack of intelligence. Penny was very street-smart, and when anyone took the time to help her out, she was actually a quick study academically. I initially had a few misgivings about Josh leaving his daughter, Eliza, for such long stretches of time without parental involvement and with minimal female guidance, but he proved to be a very loving and caring father who had just been trying to build a successful business. Eliza was an adorable and precocious child who was simply too smart for her own good, and Seamus Macgorrie, their reluctant nanny, cook and housekeeper was good for some amusement with his dry wit and wisdom. I also liked the rather unique setting of historical Seattle, Washington. As I have said in some of my other reviews, love at first sight romances are not really my favorites, but lately I have a found a few authors who have made me rethink my position. Casey Claybourne has become one of them. She infused the narrative with just enough tender emotions to make the short time frame of the relationship development actually seem believable to me. It is a very rare novella on which I am able to bestow keeper status, but I am going to do exactly that with Something Special. This was my first read by Ms. Claybourne, and in fact, I had not even heard of her until reading this story. After such an enjoyable reading experience though, I will definitely be checking out her other works. Rating: ****1/2Beautiful Gifts by Catherine Anderson – Beautiful Gifts is yet another winning story from Catherine Anderson. It is the first novella I have read by her, but I thought it had enough substance to rival her full-length novels. I loved this story of two wounded people finding the healing and love they so richly deserved in each other's arms. Faith was a very admirable heroine. She was a city girl, born and bred, who I thought exhibited strength of character to leave her cold, cruel father in an attempt to make a new life for herself and her young daughter away from his influence. She was also a loving, caring mother who was willing to do anything to keep her daughter fed and protected. Patrick had not always been a very nice character in Keegan's Lady, the previous book in this series, where he first appeared, but his part in that story had ended on a high note, giving me the feeling that a happy ending was in the works for him. I thought that Ms. Anderson redeemed him very nicely by having him show a great deal of remorse for his past actions and in the process, demonstrated the true power of forgiveness. By the time this novella commences he has returned to being the kind, caring person that he was in his youth, and that I suspected still lurked beneath the surface even in his darker moments. The one and only thing that I thought might have made the story better would have been a slightly more detailed love scene for them. Normally, the subtle nature of the love scene would have been just fine with me, and it certainly was mild enough to be appropriate for younger and more sensitive readers. However, much had been made of Faith's first husband having insulted her skills as a lover, and she was greatly lacking confidence in that area. I think that a little more details in that scene, not just physically but emotionally as well, would have made it more believable to me that her confidence was being restored. Otherwise, this was a near-perfect sweet romance that definitely left me with a very satisfied feeling, another surprising short-story keeper. Beautiful Gifts is the second story in Catherine Anderson's Keegan/Paxton Families series (or Coulter Historical series as it is sometimes called). The first book is Keegan's Lady and all of the main characters in that story make an appearance in Beautiful Gifts, including Ace and Caitlin, the hero and heroine, as well as Joseph, Esa, and David Paxton. Joseph Paxton becomes the hero of book #3, Summer Breeze, and Ms. Anderson is hard at work on another book in the series which will possibly be released sometime next year. I am very much looking forward to continuing this heart-warming family western series. Rating: ****1/2Catherine Anderson wrapped up this quartet of novellas with a very tender epilogue of a modern lady who finds the magical wedding gown and in the process finds what one assumes will become the man of her dreams. It was such a lovely little mini-tale that I found myself wishing that there was more to their story, but it was still a nice ending to this anthology.read more
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Reviews

I really like the premise of this quartet of romantic novellas. The book's prologue written by Catherine Anderson was an intriguing beginning to the story, but it left me with many questions about the gown's creator and her one true love. I had hoped that those questions would be answered as the stories progress, but that was not to be the case.A Perfect Fit by Barbara Metzger – A Perfect Fit was very much a traditional Regency romance, probably in a similar vein as Georgette Heyer (though I admit that I have yet to read any of her books). The story had classic Regency plotting and lots of authentic words and phrases which gives the reader the feel of actually being in the Regency period. In addition, although it had some mild sexual tension, it was completely non-explicit, making it suitable for both younger and more sensitive romance readers. For a short story, I thought the characters were nicely developed. My only complaint would be that there were a few too many of them, and I found myself occasionally loosing track of who was who. Forde and Katie were both very likable, as were nearly all of the characters in the story, although I can't say that I found myself connecting on a deep emotional level with anyone. In my opinion, there were only a couple of exceptions in this otherwise “nice” cast, with one being Katie's daughter, Susannah, who I thought acted rather spoiled and ungracious, but she did mature a bit by the end. The other was Susannah's future mother-in-law who was a rather prim and snobbish member of the ton, but I believe was meant to be an extreme caricature, who added some mild comic relief. The romance was very sweet, but I felt that the ending was a bit rushed. Throughout most of the story, Forde and Katie were sizing each other up and dealing with wedding woes and eccentric relatives. I didn't really feel that it left enough time for them to believably fall in love. All of that happened in a few paragraphs at the end. Overall though, I found A Perfect Fit to be a pleasant, if predictable, read that was not a bad way to spend a few hours of my time. This novella was my first story by Barbara Metzger, but I found it enjoyable enough to leave me open to trying more of her works in the future. Rating: ***1/2Glad Rags by Connie Brockway – Glad Rags was a combination romantic comedy and reunion romance, both of which I usually enjoy, but the tale fell flat on both counts for me. I consider myself to have a pretty good sense of humor, but I thought this story was just rather silly. The author tries to build a case that Alex is a very attractive man and an honorable war hero, but I just couldn't get past the ridiculous notions of him being dressed in drag for more than half the narrative. Granted he had a decent reason, that of a lost bet, but it still came off as rather juvenile humor to me. I smiled in amusement maybe a couple of times, but the rest of the time, I was for the most part, doing a lot of eye rolling. Since Alex and Lucy had been separated for two years, in part due to Alex's service in the Crimean War, I thought there might at least be something for me grasp with their reunion, but I was sadly mistaken. I found the reasons for their separation to be mainly selfish and prideful and brought about by rather absurd miscommunications that could have been easily resolved with a simple heart-to-heart conversation. Once they do reunite, things move far too quickly, for the most part fueled by physical desire. In spite of their declaration of undying love, I never really felt any emotional connection between the two characters. I ended the story never feeling like their old issues were ever truly resolved. They just continued to argue and vie for control in the relationship for the whole novella, which did not leave me with the feeling that these two could have a lasting happily-ever-after. Considering that the anthology is about a wedding dress, I have to admit that I was also disappointed that this story did not even contain a wedding. Admittedly, having the guy wear the wedding dress was an interesting twist, but it just didn't work for me. In the end, I simply felt that the beautiful wedding gown that is supposed to be the centerpiece of these novellas deserved a much better story. This was my first read by Connie Brockway, and as I've heard some positive things about her writing, I will try to reserve judgment on her talents until I've read something else that will hopefully be better than this, in my opinion, woefully underdeveloped farce. Rating: **1/2Something Special by Casey Claybourne – I do hope readers will forgive my triteness, but I have to say that I found Something Special to truly be “something special.” It was a sweet romance that was very enjoyable to read. Unlike the first two novellas in this anthology, I actually found myself looking forward to picking it up again each time I had to put it down. I thought that the plot was very tight and the characters were very likable. I am not usually drawn to not-so-bright heroines, but Penny was a real sweetheart. It didn't take me long to realize that she was really a product of a lack of education rather than a lack of intelligence. Penny was very street-smart, and when anyone took the time to help her out, she was actually a quick study academically. I initially had a few misgivings about Josh leaving his daughter, Eliza, for such long stretches of time without parental involvement and with minimal female guidance, but he proved to be a very loving and caring father who had just been trying to build a successful business. Eliza was an adorable and precocious child who was simply too smart for her own good, and Seamus Macgorrie, their reluctant nanny, cook and housekeeper was good for some amusement with his dry wit and wisdom. I also liked the rather unique setting of historical Seattle, Washington. As I have said in some of my other reviews, love at first sight romances are not really my favorites, but lately I have a found a few authors who have made me rethink my position. Casey Claybourne has become one of them. She infused the narrative with just enough tender emotions to make the short time frame of the relationship development actually seem believable to me. It is a very rare novella on which I am able to bestow keeper status, but I am going to do exactly that with Something Special. This was my first read by Ms. Claybourne, and in fact, I had not even heard of her until reading this story. After such an enjoyable reading experience though, I will definitely be checking out her other works. Rating: ****1/2Beautiful Gifts by Catherine Anderson – Beautiful Gifts is yet another winning story from Catherine Anderson. It is the first novella I have read by her, but I thought it had enough substance to rival her full-length novels. I loved this story of two wounded people finding the healing and love they so richly deserved in each other's arms. Faith was a very admirable heroine. She was a city girl, born and bred, who I thought exhibited strength of character to leave her cold, cruel father in an attempt to make a new life for herself and her young daughter away from his influence. She was also a loving, caring mother who was willing to do anything to keep her daughter fed and protected. Patrick had not always been a very nice character in Keegan's Lady, the previous book in this series, where he first appeared, but his part in that story had ended on a high note, giving me the feeling that a happy ending was in the works for him. I thought that Ms. Anderson redeemed him very nicely by having him show a great deal of remorse for his past actions and in the process, demonstrated the true power of forgiveness. By the time this novella commences he has returned to being the kind, caring person that he was in his youth, and that I suspected still lurked beneath the surface even in his darker moments. The one and only thing that I thought might have made the story better would have been a slightly more detailed love scene for them. Normally, the subtle nature of the love scene would have been just fine with me, and it certainly was mild enough to be appropriate for younger and more sensitive readers. However, much had been made of Faith's first husband having insulted her skills as a lover, and she was greatly lacking confidence in that area. I think that a little more details in that scene, not just physically but emotionally as well, would have made it more believable to me that her confidence was being restored. Otherwise, this was a near-perfect sweet romance that definitely left me with a very satisfied feeling, another surprising short-story keeper. Beautiful Gifts is the second story in Catherine Anderson's Keegan/Paxton Families series (or Coulter Historical series as it is sometimes called). The first book is Keegan's Lady and all of the main characters in that story make an appearance in Beautiful Gifts, including Ace and Caitlin, the hero and heroine, as well as Joseph, Esa, and David Paxton. Joseph Paxton becomes the hero of book #3, Summer Breeze, and Ms. Anderson is hard at work on another book in the series which will possibly be released sometime next year. I am very much looking forward to continuing this heart-warming family western series. Rating: ****1/2Catherine Anderson wrapped up this quartet of novellas with a very tender epilogue of a modern lady who finds the magical wedding gown and in the process finds what one assumes will become the man of her dreams. It was such a lovely little mini-tale that I found myself wishing that there was more to their story, but it was still a nice ending to this anthology.
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