This book contained three stories, which I'll talk about and rate individually. Altogether, the book earned a solid four stars, thanks to the wonderful "Cowboy Scrooge" story by Liz Ireland.
"Christmas Eve" by Millie Criswell -- 3.5 stars
Eve Barlow hated the Christmas holidays. Although she had been born on Christmas Eve, it seemed that bad things had to happen around that time. First, she lost her parents in a horrible train accident the day before Christmas ten years ago, and six years ago she had been left standing at the altar by her no-good-fiance on Christmas Eve. So Eve was content to keep to herself and not celebrate the Christmas holidays - until drifter Gabe Tyler showed up at her door, asking to rent one of her rooms while he was in town. Gabe too had faced his share of sorrow in life, and he drifted from town to town searching for his son, who had been disappeared with Gabe's faithless wife several years ago. An unlikely friendship forms between Gabe and Eve, a friendship that blossoms into romance as an unexpected Christmas gift finds its way on Eve's porch.
This story was moderately good. Eve was a bit silly when it came to the "Christmas curse," and I don't know why she saw her fiance leaving her at the altar as such a bad thing. I'm sure being left at the altar isn't much fun, but it's got to be better than marrying a real jerk and being stuck with him forever. This story seemed like it had too much crammed into it. I know it's a short story, so space is limited, but the author tried to shove way too much stuff into the story. Take out a few subplots, and maybe the story wouldn't seem so rushed. The ending, however, will leave a fuzzy feeling in your heart.
"Season of Bounty" by Mary McBride -- 3.5 stars
Matilda Favor ran a small mercantile in a small town and squirreled away every penny she earned. The town thought she was pretty batty, considering she consulted her dead husband's ghost, Charlie, on everything related to the business and her personal life. When Matilda does something without consulting Charlie, namely helping a ne'er-do-well named Will Cade who was attempting to steal an expensive hairbrush from her store, she tells Will he needs to help in her store to pay off his moral debt to her. Will is incredibly drawn to Matilda, but he thinks she is still married since she continually talks about Charlie (even though he's been dead for years). Will isn't who he seems to be, though. Although he's a gambler now, he was a doctor in the Civil War until personal tragedy caused him to give up his practice. Can these two lost souls help one another?
I really liked the premise of the story, but the story itself was somewhat a disappointment. The whole "consulting with Charlie's ghost" was just weird, I was beginning to wonder if Matilda really was crazy after all. Will Cade was a much more interesting character, despite Matilda constantly snipping at him and being generally rude. If Matilda had had some sense and manners, this story would be more enjoyable.
"Cowboy Scrooge" by Liz Ireland -- 5 stars!
Ivy Ryan headed for a small Texas town to be the mail-order bride of Josiah Murphy, fleeing from her past and convinced men are all jerks. Upon arriving in Otis, Texas, however, she learns that Josiah is dead, and the town is now thrusting the care of his three orphans into Ivy's less than capable hands. Ivy discovers that the three orphans, who are bratty beyond belief, have an uncle nearby and is determined to dump them off at his ranch. Once she meets Justin Murphy, though, Ivy knows that she has her work cut out for her. Justin shows no interest in the children, and although he does agree to take them, he insists that Ivy stay to take care of the children. Although each is wary of the other, soon they find romance blooming between them.
This story was, by far, the best in the book, and is worth the price of the book alone. The story was wonderful, with a great cast of characters and a surprising level of character development considering it was a short story. Liz Ireland really made the characters come alive, and the romance between Justin and Ivy was realistic and heart-warming. It was a wonderful story that made you laugh out loud and left you with that warm fuzzy feeling at the end. Out of the three stories, this is probably the only one I will read again.