Book Review: The Kissing Ball

You are cordially invited to pour yourself a cheeky glass of something (I’m thinking a lovely warming amaretto), cosy up in your favourite chair by the fire and lose yourself in this charming collection of romantic short stories.

regency romance | contemporary romance | short stories


Rating: 4 out of 5.

back cover blurb

A collection of Regency short stories headlined by The Kissing Ball, a Christmas themed story that gives the book its title. 

Christmas, and an unexpected visitor at the Bransome St.Nicholas party. She claims to be the fiancée of the son of the house. But he knows nothing about it. This muddle has to be sorted out, or it’s not only Christmas that will be ruined. This story, along with three other Regencies and an added contemporary short, are in this collection. A gentleman retired from the East India Company is troubled by ghosts when he comes to move into his country home; a young woman finds a buyer for her father’s chemistry laboratory, but gets more than she bargained for; Sir Robert befriends a homely governess and her charge and conveys them to London, where his future is changed forever by a dog and a dimple. Then in present-day London, Ginny finds out her new next-door neighbor is not quite what she expected. These charming and cozy stories are perfect for curling up next to the fire.

 

Author - GL Robinson | Published by - Amazon on November 2020 | Pages - 227 (ebook)

I would like to thank Glynis for sending me an advance manuscript copy of The Kissing Ball in return for an honest review.


Before I dive in to my review I thought I’d share what I learned about the book’s title … what exactly is a kissing ball? Often confused with mistletoe, these small, medium, and large decorative bunches of holly and evergreen leaves hang from the ceiling (or wherever you install them) in voluptuous ball shapes. Christmas kissing balls are a vintage Christmas decoration (but one that’s apparently making a major comeback) accented with pine cones, berries, ribbon – anything festive, really.

Dating back to the middle ages, these decorations were hung over entryways as a beacon for blessings and good tidings to all that walked beneath them. But after being romanticised by Charles Dickens in two books, they became the online dating equivalent of their time: a symbol for single women to ‘find themselves beneath’ to capture the attentions (and kisses) of an eligible man.


my thoughts

The Kissing Ball is a collection of six short stories from the doyenne of Regency Romance, G.L. Robinson. Each self-contained romantic tale is like the deliciously moreish equivalent miniature of your favourite chocolate bar … the challenge is to limit yourself to one a day, and resist the temptation to binge.  The author also has a little surprise in store for her readers too … one of these short stories breaks away from her Regency roots, dipping a perfectly pedi’d toe into the contemporary romance field.

This is the first collection of short stories I’ve written a review for, and I’m anxious not to become a spoiler-brat, which I fear is actually even easier to do with short stories.  For this reason, I’m keeping my review brief … just enough to flirt a little with your romantic appetite.

Story one: The Kissing Ball

The captivating tale of Laura Wentworth, returning from India with her mother, following the death of her beloved, but slightly haphazard father to find the man she is betrothed to.  Her father and his best friend were so enamoured by the arrival of their first born children that they pledged them to each other, but whilst Laura knows all about the arrangement, her fiancé Michael Branson does not.  In fact, Michael has his heart set on another – the comely Amy Thomas.  And the very sight of the heart-stoppingly beautiful Laura as she paused beneath the kissing ball was enough to enrapture the handsome Viscount Quentin Stapleton.  Branson’s father won’t be swayed from the arrangement … but can the love of a good woman melt his hardened heart?

This was a very enjoyable opening story with a festive warmth that pours off the page. Laura’s upbringing in the far-flung lands of the British Empire has bestowed her with a self-confidence and independence that’s unencumbered by the prudish strictures of London society making her a thoroughly likeable leading lady.

Story two: Love & The Royal Society

Ianthe Fulton is a girl ahead of her time; highly educated at home by her scientist father, and well-schooled in languages and chemistry.  For years she attended lectures at The Royal Society with him, to broaden her eduction during an era when girls weren’t able to attend universities.  Sadly her father’s pursuit of science seems to have been the cause of his demise, so Ianthe attends one final lecture alone, to confront the inventor she believes caused her father’s death.  There’s only one empty seat in the house, the seat next to Ianthe, and it’s this seat that draws Lord Asheton into Ianthe’s orbit.  This chance encounter is fizzing with chemistry of its own, and the reader is treated to a thoroughly modern affair.

I really enjoyed this story.  Ianthe is a remarkable and hugely likeable character giving the story a girl-power kick that still remains appropriate to the era.  The author has clearly devoted a significant amount of time to researching the scientific strides and notary names of the period, encompassing just the right amount of detail into her story. 

Story three:  The Widow & The Gentleman

I’m still very much a newcomer to the Regency Romance genre, but I’ve come to understand they are characterised by young leading ladies.  Glynis had expressed to me that she hoped one day to write a book or a story with an older leading lady … and here it is!  What a triumph.  

Elisabeth Waring was widowed the day her romantic husband rode his hunter a bit too boldly at a tricky jump, after a little too much Madeira wine.  She’s now single-handedly raising their rambunctious 16-year-old son, whilst controlling the traditionally ‘male’ responsibilities of investments, finances, and estate management.  On the night of a dreadful storm, Fitzwilliam (Fitz) Brough turns up at her door having been abandoned by his London staff, running scared from ‘hants’; the local name for ghosts and spirits.  What follows is a gentle, tender romance that’s entirely becoming of Elisabeth’s elegant, wise nature.  By departing from the traditional younger leading lady, the author has removed the shackles associated with the insecurities and vanities of youth, allowing her to write a truly wonderful character, with a keen mind and a cheeky humour.  Fitz, with his penchant to tease and make others laugh, is a delicious match for Elisabeth.  This was a story I could quite easily have read more of.

Story four:  Sir Robert, The Dog, & The Dimple

I immediately loved the title of this story … and upon reading it, it became abundantly clear that the dimple was deserving of its place in the story’s title.  This dimple belongs to Miss Nicola Fellowes, governess to Irene Worthington, and owner of a rather ravishing smile. Nicola is accompanying Irene to London when an unplanned stop at a staging post places the ladies in the path of Sir Robert Heathsmith and the adorable, unreservedly bouncy spaniel, Molly. When the ladies’ plans are thrown into disarray, Sir Robert arranges for them to stay with his sister, although his intentions are part-chivalry and part-infatuation.  Humour and giggles abound in this story, as Sir Robert’s sister – the immediately likeable Lady Cynthia – lives in a chaotic household that revolves around the boundless energy of her four sons (two sets of twin boys, no less!). Sir Robert’s feelings are clear for his sister to see, but the arrival of Irene’s florid (and horrid) aunt threatens to stop their blossoming romance.

Story five:  Storming The Citadel

Veronica Moreton enjoys a warm and long-standing friendship with the beautiful Angela Whiting … and yet she seems to live in her friend’s shadow.  Meanwhile, Angela, a vision of loveliness, laments the seemingly endless string of men determined to propose marriage to her.  Angela is quick to jump to the conclusion that Lord Jeremy Montefort harbours similar intentions, but her head has been turned by the cherubic beauty of newcomer, (and intriguingly named) Endymion Carleton.   Lord Jeremy, however, favours intelligence as much as beauty, and his heart is firmly set on Veronica … if he can only disentangle himself from Angela’s father’s favour. 

Of an otherwise strong suite of the stories, this was the one I engaged with the least.  The characters didn’t pop out of the page with as much life and colour as those in the other stories … and there was a very curious episode involving an earache and a hot onion.

Story six:  New Beginnings

As I mentioned at the start of this review, the author is taking her first steps into the realms of contemporary romance with this story.  Her characters, Ginny Arthur and Paul Robertson, must both be in their early 50s, and they find themselves living next-door to each other when Paul returns to the UK after living in New York for forty years. They strike up an instant, easy friendship and whilst there’s no real indication of romance or flirtation, their given characters were both likeable and hold promise of blossoming into something more. 

This final story is pitched as a bit of a sample by the author, something she is keen to hear her reader’s feedback on.  Glynis is incredibly close to her readers and loves to listen to what they have to say, so when you do pick up your copy of The Kissing Ball, please do take the time to send your thoughts and comments to Glynis; I know it would mean so much to her.

I really enjoy Glynis’s penchant for casting an educated, intelligent, independently-minded leading lady in all her stories. I may be speaking out of turn here, but the more I’ve got to know Glynis over these past few months, the more I believe I’m seeing an element of her own character each time.  It’s something I’ve admired since I first started reading her books, that and her frequent injections of humour, and lavish scene-setting. The Kissing Ball is a great addition to Glynis’s growing range of books, and the perfect Christmas gift for the romantic booklover in your life … or a treat for yourself, of course!

 

The Kissing Ball by G.L. Robinson

You can buy The Kissing Ball in ebook and paperback format at AmazonUK and Amazon.com


author bio

GL Robinson was born and educated in the south of England, but has
lived for over forty years in the USA with her American husband. She
tried and failed to adopt an American accent, so people still call her The
English Lady! She is a retired French professor, and loves flowers in the garden, eating with friends and talking with her grandchildren. She has published two children’s travel books for ages 8-11 inspired by one of them.

She was inspired to start writing after the unexpected death of her dear sister in July 2018. They were educated in a convent boarding school and would giggle at historical Romances after lights-out under the covers. They were, and are, a life-long passion for them both. All her Regency Romances are dedicated to her sister.

For more information about the author, to listen to her read from her books, receive a free short story, or get sneak previews about upcoming books, please visit romancenovelsbyglrobinson.com

She loves to hear from her readers! Website | AmazonUK | GoodReads


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