Become immersed in four delightful stories set in Castle Menton during the 12 days of Christmas in the year 1195. These multitalented authors have written stand-alone novellas that blend perfectly, giving readers a complete picture of a medieval holiday season.

With the castle full of guests and food, there must be entertainment, and in "Two Turtledoves," Stobie Piel introduces us to a banished-knight-turned-minstrel whose voice is terrifyingly bad. But a woman who sees into his soul helps him find redemption and a wearer for the golden ring Eleanor of Aquitaine gave him.

Flora Speer proves that love is not only for the young in her story "A Partridge in a Pear Tree." The master of the castle returns home to find his wife confronting him with the proof that he has a mistress: two beautiful gold and ruby rings that he hid, she believes, because the second was for the other woman. Robert must find a way to woo and win his wife's love. It makes for a delightful and charming romance.

When King Henry casts his eye on Lady Eleanor, she is quickly sent to Menton Castle to wed an Irish nobleman, James of Gilcrain, being held hostage by the English. Sir James is not looking forward to the impending marriage any more than Lady Eleanor. How they manage to fall in love makes for one of the most delightful tales of the quartet in Constance O'Banyon's "Eleven Pipers Piping."

Brianna goes from scullery maid to lady in "Three French Hens," a Prince and the Pauper-style tale by Lynsay Sands. Brianna's striking resemblance to Lady Joan gives the noblewoman an idea to have Brianna take her place at Castle Menton so Lady Joan can avoid the men's wooing. What starts as a ruse ends in true love and the revealing of Brianna's true identity.

The Twelve Days of Christmas takes on a new life in these wonderful tales that will brighten anyone's holiday. SENSUAL (Dec., 400 pp., $5.99)

Reviewed by: 
Kathe Robin