15 December 2015

A Lot of Christmas Magic!

A Stone Mountain Christmas, from Gilded Dragonfly Books
The stories in most anthologies are like people, some are good, some not so good, some middling. Occasionally, though, one breaks that routine.

I don't think there's a bad story in the bunch here. Now, of course these are Christmas stories, and if you don't like Christmas stories, or prefer action-adventure or serious social commentary, you may not share my opinion. However, the mix was just the right amount of sweet (but not too sugary) and spice. I'd say about half of the stories have romantic underpinnings, but they're also about real people, not the plastic mannequins that turn up in churn-'em-out romance books. A couple of the romances are peripheral to the actual storyline as well, so it's not the total focus of the story. Some are straight relationship stories, while in others a little fillip of magic adds the sparkle that makes the story special. The other stories are a nice mix of subjects: a woman getting used to her widowed father's new love (who's the complete opposite of her mother), a relationship story from the point of view of a lost dog, the story of a grandmother trying to cope with her emotionally and physically abused grandson, a newspaper editor who's about to throw in the towel until a young woman gives him a new angle on the classic story "A Gift of the Magi," an elderly man grief-stricken after the death of his wife, and even a mad, mad romp about a chicken superhero and her mouse assistant—which is not only plausible but funny.

One of the stories, "Christmas Rose," was familiar to me. This was adapted into an Atlanta Radio Theatre Company audio drama for their annual "Atlanta Christmas" show. I always have enjoyed the radio story, but I absolutely loved its source material, since we learn more about the protagonist and her friend, and about what led to her attitude at the beginning of the tale and what happened afterward.

If you love Christmas, this one comes highly recommended.

Christmas in My Heart #6 and #12, Joe Wheeler
Wheeler began these books many years ago by "rescuing" old Christmas stories from older magazines, sentimental pieces about orphans finding a home, couples finding each other, lost souls finding a home or God, poor people who are rich in spirit as compared to the wealthy with soulds of ice. Each of the volumes are illustrated with vintage etchings and woodcuts. The final story is always by Wheeler himself, usually a tale of a relationship gone sour and how it is redeemed by faith and love.

These days more modern stories and memoirs mix in with the vintage material. I confess I enjoy the vintage material more and wish the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" type stories had not intruded. It's possible Wheeler's mining in the last few issues has come up lacking. I recommend reading these for the marvelous old stories which illustrate not only the romance and feelings of the past, but the way people lived and believed. Favorites in volume #6 include "Small Things," about a tired doctor who says the wrong thing to his fiancee and then has cause to regret it and "Bid the Tapers Twinkle" about an elderly woman who lives for her children coming home for Christmas and has a big disappointment coming. Favorites in #12: "Van Valkenburg's Christmas Gift," the story of a longtime bachelor and a small orphan child and "Santa Claus is Kindness," the story of a young woman grown flippant in her teens, dismaying her longtime intended.

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