The first story was How The Glitch Saved Christmas by Stacy Gail. The heroine is a Chicago cop in a future where most of the police force have undergone body modifications, making them somewhat cyborgy and giving them super strength, speed, built in google search, etc. The heroine is the only one on the force resisting the change. Before body mods became standard, she was the top detective. Since refusing to get them, she's been demoted and is treated as a pariah on the force.
The story opens when she's been called to a crime scene where someone broke into an apartment to deliver a Christmas tree and presents to the household's children. The detective in charge of the case is our hero, who has secretly loved the heroine for years, but whom the heroine finds annoying because he's replaced her as top detective since being the first on the force to get body mods.
The resolution of the whodunit aspect was a bit twee, but maybe that's my general dislike of Christmas spirit talking. The romance aspect was OK, but I thought the heroine went from thinking the hero was annoying to realising she was attracted to him a bit too quickly.
The second story was Galileo's Holiday by Sasha Summers. The heroine was a loner "tugger" (owner of a small ship which transports things) whose ship is destroyed by raiders on an icy moon. The hero comes to her rescue quickly, helping her hide from the raiders who blew up her ship. She goes with him to the nearby colony, where she learns all about holidays and celebration. And spends an awful lot of time angsting about how she's going to have to leave him to get on with her life because all she knows is how to be a loner tugger.
Aside from the fact that it's a romance and so we know they're going to live happily ever after, the hints about how she was going to reconcile with that were a bit heavy-handed. She spends a lot of time fixing electronics for the colony, since none of them can do it and she's good at it, thanks to years alone, making sure here own stuff worked. The colony's previous electronics guy died, but before he settled there, he also used to be a tugger. Golly!
That aside, she was pretty kick-arse at being a heroine, what with fixing everything and being brave and saving the day.
The third story was Winter Fusion by Anna Hackett. The heroine and the hero are negotiators for their respective planets, in charge of coming to a trade agreement. Before he goes off, the hero's boss instructs him to seduce the heroine to get a better deal, which he has no intention of doing, but no need to guess how that turns out.
During their negotiation, someone tries to kill them, facilitating them being trapped in a remote cabin for a while. The hero comes from a very utilitarian planet where they don't have families or holidays, so the heroine takes the opportunity to teach him about Yule and presents and, to a lesser extent, family.
My biggest source of annoyance was at how quickly the heroine recovers after finding out he'd been ordered to seduce her. Because she knew him so well after their few days together. It made me wonder, from a story-telling point of view, why bother introducing the plot point at all, when it didn't even add much tension?
One thing I liked about this collection generally, was that the heroines were all competent and skilled and didn't play the damsel in distress. If they needed saving, they saved the hero in turn at some point.
Overall this anthology wasn't quite my thing, mostly being a bit light on the science fictional world building. At times, particularly in Galileo's Holiday, it felt like I was reading a romance story that happened to have some sci-fi trappings, which isn't what I want out of my fiction. But if it's what you like, go for it. I recommend this anthology to romance fans with at least a passing interest in science fiction. If you're after hard science fiction, maybe give it a miss. It's definitely romance first, science fiction second.
3 / 5 stars