Christmas Brides

Suzanne Enoch, Alexandra Hawkins, Elizabeth Essex, and Valerie Bowman. St. Martin’s paperbacks, $7.99 mass market (384p) ISBN 978-1-250-06056-3

Harried holiday readers will appreciate these short, sweet, satisfying, and sexy Regency-era novellas. In Enoch’s “One Hot Scot,” boy meets girl in the Scottish Highlands, boy protects girl from would-be rapist, boy and girl marry the next day. In Hawkins’s sweet “Once Upon a Christmas Scandal,” a stranger appears at the Courtlands’ London home in time to celebrate Christmas and vie for Lady Ellen’s hand—and generous dowry. But that’s mere subterfuge for his real motives. Longest and most developed of the four is Essex’s “The Scandal Before Christmas.” Confirmed bachelor Ian Worth is ordered by his imperious father to marry within the week. His fierce charm transforms mousy Anne Lesley from bland to beautiful, even as familial hijinks ensue. Finally, what happens under the mistletoe in Bowman’s “It Happened Under the Mistletoe” is not nearly as interesting as what happens in the silver closet when two avowed marriage-evaders conspire to buck tradition. Fans of shorter romances will find these amply rewarding. (Oct.)