Why I read it: I'm a fan of all three of these authors so I snapped this one up soon after it was released. I didn't know what I was in the mood to read and felt unable to make a commitment to a full length novel so I turned to this - which had the advantage of being guaranteed to please as well as not requiring a lot of investment.
Why only 2/3? I haven't read the Sherry Thomas novella, A Dance in the Moonlight, yet - only because I have her recent novels on my TBR and this story is set after them, so I'm saving it.
One Starlit Night by Carolyn Jewel
What it's about: (from Goodreads) Ten years away from Doyle’s Grange isn’t quite long enough for Viscount Northword to forget Portia Temple, or their passionate adolescent affair. Portia, however, is about to marry another man. Northword tells himself it is wrong to interfere in her life at this late hour, but interfere he cannot help, with his words, his body, and the truths of his heart.
What worked for me (and what didn't): I enjoyed this story quite a bit. Portia and Northword have a painful history and both struggle with past hurts even while their passion is still clearly present. I did wonder why it took Northword so long to arrive at the solution but once he did, I was glad he persisted. I did feel a little distanced from the characters for some reason. Perhaps it was the result of feeling a little in the dark as the story unfolded. Portia and Northword's past relationship is revealed in brief glimpses through the course of the novella and I found myself wondering why where were apart, given they clearly felt so much for one another. I had some curiosity about Northword's (dead) wife and how he came to be married and Portia's erstwhile fiance but accept there wasn't room for those aspects of the story to be explored in this format.
I don't think there are that many books which explore the issue Jewel does here. I think she did so with sensitivity and, I felt, reality. Portia didn't feel there was any choice and the threat was very real.
What else? I think for this to have been an A read for me, it needed a scene showing the split between Northword and Portia ten years earlier. There was a lot of deep emotion but it seemed to me that a lot of it was off the page (that distance thing again).
Portia's sister-in-law was a witch. I think I was supposed to see her as so nice and pleasant that no-one could say no to her but she came across to me as a total horror and I disliked her right from the start. But then, I've never responded well to the passive-aggressive manipulator type.
What happened at Midnight by Courtney Milan
What it's about: (from Goodreads) Fleeing the consequences of her father’s embezzlement, Mary Chartley takes a position as a lady’s companion, only to find herself a virtual prisoner at Doyle’s Grange, her employer’s house. And then the nightmare truly begins: the man she loves, who also happens to be the man from whom her father stole, shows up at her door seeking recompense. And not merely in pound sterling…
What worked for me (and what didn't): I felt more connected to the characters in this story for some reason, even though really, there was the same parsing out of the backstory. I'm a contrary reader it seems.
I felt quite chilled by the behaviours of Sir Walter and felt sorry for Lady Patsworth. The way women can be treated when they are nothing more than property, what men can get away with in such circumstances; well it is just scary.
I liked how John thinks to himself that he is lying to Mary about his motivations when I think mostly he was lying to himself. I enjoyed the nuance.
I was a little bit confused at the end - for some reason I thought that Mary's father's actions would mean that she had no legal claim on the partnership and also, it involved maths.
The romance though, was lovely and I felt it was complete in the short format.
"Heavens," She said, "that was..."
Amazing? Extraordinary? Perfect?
"That," he said roughly, "was something we need to do again. Often. Quite often. Maybe soon."
She let out a little laugh.
"Maybe," he suggested, "in five minutes."
What else? I loved the important cameo of Portia from the first story in this one and the humorous nod by her and Northword to their stable interlude. It fit the story perfectly and made a wonderful link between the two novellas.