We asked our readers what story they would most like to see from four bestselling authors. They responded . . .
A handsome hero returns from war, battle-scarred and world-weary. But family duty calls and he must find a bride.
A young lady facing yet another season without a suitor never expects to find herself the object of his affections.
It Happened One Season
Four amazing talents
have come together to create one of the most unforgettable events of the year. The results are spectacular—each story is as unique as a lover’s first kiss.
It Happened One Season is an Anthology with the same four Avon Historical Romance authors that wrote It Happened One Night in 2008. In It Happened One Night, there was a common theme that the authors Stephanie Laurens, Mary Balogh, Jacquie D’Alessandro and Candice Hern created. Each author wrote a story about a proper young lady free from society’s constraints due to being stranded at a remote inn where she comes face to face with the one that ends up being her HEA (Happily Ever After). This time around, the publisher had readers suggest what themes they would most like to read. A winner was picked, and they had the above mentioned story lines as well as:
- The hero must find a bride because and produce a male heir.
The big difference with It Happened One Season, versus It Happened One Night is that there are several requirements in the story while the previous one was more open. So for me, reading one story after another, felt too much of the same story at first. Once I put aside repetitiveness, I enjoyed the next three stories more. They were focused on the hero and heroine rather than the circumstances and changed my opinion of the book. Since these four authors are all favorites of mine, I rarely have any criticism. I’m a huge fan of historical romance so I’m never one to have much of any issues with what I read since I love a variety despite having favorite themes (beauty and the beast, marriage of convenience, etc). After a bit of a slow start with the first story, the rest pulled it up.
First up was The Seduction of Sebastian Trantor by Stephanie Laurens. Our hero Sebastian Montgomery Trantor, is very well read and indulges in hieroglyphics, which I believe is decoding hidden words through codes. He resides in an Abbey healing both physically and emotionally from the war. Sebastian’s brother, Thomas, interrupts his serene life with a visit. Thomas and his wife have five children, all girls, so he tells Sebastian to marry so their cousin- a wastrel- won’t inherit. Thus, Sebastian goes and attends the Season. Sebastian hides out in the library at a ball and discovers the heroine, Tabitha Makepeace searching a desk. Tabitha has discovered that engaged girls are being blackmailed and she is determined to discover who the culprit is. Sebastian and Tabitha end up working together to solve the crime. Sebastian figures a fictional engagement to Tabitha would benefit them both. He wouldn’t have to attend any more balls and Tabitha could use his decoding skills to find who is blackmailing the ladies.
Tabitha feels she is a plain un-marriageable female on the shelf. Even though Sebastian lets her believe it’s a fictional engagement, he plans to convince her that it would solve both their issues if they enter a marriage of convenience. Stephanie Laurens story was one of the longest in the anthology. It was adventurous and fun to read about the sleuthing. Although the HEA does happen, and they declare their love for one another, it didn’t truly click with me- that spark that I usually can sense from the hero and heroine wasn’t quite there. Beautiful wording by this author, very poetic, but that feeling of ‘real and breathtaking’ when they came together just wasn’t there for me.
The second story is Only Love by Mary Balogh. Cleopatra Pritchard, Cleo, is a young widow that was married for five years and widowed for five years. Now 27, she believes that she will never marry again, as no one wants or wanted her. Cleo also thinks she’ll never have a lover. She was married to Colonel Aubrey Pritchard who was 23 years her senior. He didn’t want to court her, and wanted a biddable, plain lady to minister to his needs and not be a distraction to his men. Cleo felt so plain and overweight at that time of her life, she would have married anyone. Cleo has matured and gained confidence in the past decade, but her manner and behavior can still be awkward especially around men. Cleo has spent the last 4 Seasons with no suitors. Just as Cleo is about to give up and focus on her volunteering she meets Jack Gilchrist.
Cleo had met Jack once before when she was married as he was in the Colonel’s troop. Jack’s brother Matthew, informs Jack that he must find a wife and marry. Although Jack’s physical scars have healed, his emotional ones from the war have not. He hasn’t recovered from his aversion to being in the public and loathes others calling him a hero. He saw so much devastation in the war, that when he returned, stories about him and the adoration that society subjected him to had him re-living the war over and over. When Jack sees Cleo at the ball, he’s happy to see someone there he knows that isn’t a young marriage minded miss.
Cleo never forgot a kiss they shared some years back, the only passionate kiss that she’s experienced. Jack remembers it as well and never understood why he reacted to her that way at their one and only meeting. When together, Cleo’s shyness nearly disappears. Jack blurts out a proposal, because he thinks they would suit. Mary Balogh has a way with bringing different things, people, and events into the story that bring smiles and chuckles as well as sadness- almost tears. The relationship shows in the hero and heroine’s words and behavior. I thoroughly loved Cleo and Jack’s story! Even now, a couple weeks after reading, I still smile when I think about them. Another huge positive of each of these stories is being able to read an Epilogue that held a beautiful future for them. Especially so with Only Love.
Hope Springs Eternal by Jacquie D’Alessandro gives us the story of Miss Penelope Markham, who was involved in a scandal due to her art. Penelope is witty and often gets herself into trouble because of her carefree ways. As a gifted artist, she’s been dismissed from being an art teacher and returns home where she meets the hero for the first time. Alec Trentwell served in the war with Penelope’s twin brother, Edward. Penelope often wrote to Edward who shared his letters with Alec. Thus Alec felt he got to know Penelope – so much so that he feels responsible for her. Edward died in the war, but during his life he was Alec’s commanding officer and best friend. Alec feels guilty for Edward’s death, so he plans to tell Penelope what happened to her brother in the war and apologize. Alec then plans to spend his time secluded in the small cottage he purchased. Alec is suffering from flashbacks and nightmares about all he experienced in Waterloo and Penelope senses Alec’s emotional scars.
Alec enjoys Penelope’s company, so he puts off his original plan and conversation. Alec is enjoying his new life and is afraid he will lose Penelope if he tells her how Edward died. Alec is told to wed to provide a heir, and conveniently, he and Penelope are in love with each other. Despite that, he’s terrified he will lose her. This story by Jacquie D’Alessandro may at times bring you close to tears. It is a beautifully emotional novella. Jacquie is presently writing contemporary romances. I dearly miss her historical romances and hope she comes back to writing more of her wonderful historicals.
The last story, Fate Strikes a Bargain by Candice Hern, brings us Captain Nathaniel Beckwith and Philippa Reynolds. Again following the “being required to marry and have a heir” theme, Nat’s brother, Lord Dearne interferes with Nat’s matrimonial plans. Philippa and Nat meet when Nat discovers her hiding in an attempt to escape the crush of a ball. Nat finds Philippa refreshingly candid and tolerant of his dark mood. Philippa’s herself and her respect for his emotions leads them to having very open and frank communication. Philippa is empathic as she’s dealt with her physical disability all her life. Philippa was born with a severe limp. She tolerates her over-protective parents but doesn’t limit herself or let it hinder her enjoyment of as active a life as she can physically handle. But Philippa’s disability often causes a sort of social ostracism. Nat sees past that much in the same way she sees past his manners (or lack thereof). While they both feel like they don’t fit in with society, they realize that they fit together!
Nat can be harsh with his words, but not towards her, and Philippa is too eager for confrontation and very blunt! It was refreshing to see how they meshed. A bargain of marriage is made, though Philippa’s parents force some courting where they get to know each. During this time they begin healing together, and find so many strengths between and within them. Nat had loved the army, but grew increasingly melancholy as he realized that the fighting at Waterloo had left him traumatized with nightmares and flashbacks of the battle. This is very evident through the story and emotional to read. The author details the feelings that Nat and Philippa are experiencing nicely. As their relationship grows, the bargain is sweetened! And the epilogue is bittersweet! Well worth reading. It ends up that fate and love brings Nat and Philippa together after all.
When the book started I thought it would end up too similar, but they end up being so unique and special stories. I hope the authors do this again!
Overall Grade: B+