Wednesday, December 31, 2014

"a brush with love" by rachel hauck

A woman who bears horrific scars--both internal and external--finds unconditional love in Rachel Hauck's novella "A Brush with Love."

Ginger Winters is a gifted hairstylist with scars no one can see. The last thing she expects from the New Year is a new chance at love.

Overcoming a childhood tragedy, Ginger emerges from the pain and trauma with a gift for bringing out the beauty in others. From the top big city salons to traveling the world as personal stylist to a country music sensation, success was almost enough to make Ginger forget her she would never be one of the beautiful people.

Almost. Now that she's back home in Rosebud, Alabama, and running her own salon, the truth remains: Ginger is still that girl, forever on the outside looking in. But she needs her confidence this weekend. She's the acclaimed "beauty-maker" for the Alabama society wedding of the decade.

When high-school crush Tom Wells Jr. also returns to town and shows up at her shop looking for a haircut, Ginger's thinly veiled insecurities threaten to keep her locked away from love, Despite Tom's best efforts, Ginger can't forget how he disappeared on her twelve years ago and broke her heart. Can she ever trust him again?

When Tom challenges her to see her own beauty, Ginger must decide if she will remained chained to the past or move freely into a new, exciting future.

I absolutely loved Zondervan's first year of the Year of Weddings novellas, and I've been eager to continue with the entries in this second year. While the first entry this year, "Love at Mistletoe Inn," wasn't my cup of tea, "A Brush with Love" more than made up for it.

My favorite aspect of "A Brush with Love" is that, while it does feature a man-woman romance (and a sweet one at that), the main love story is between a scarred woman and the Savior who pursues her heart.

Tom Wells Jr. makes a great hero (who, in my mind, looked like Tom Welling), and the chemistry between him and Ginger was palpable. Yet he was more concerned about Ginger's spiritual state than winning her heart, and that made him even more attractive.

I also loved that there is some genuine meanness in the novella—people aren't always nice to one another, and some hold grudges, just as in real life. It's not a happy-go-lucky love story, but it is incredibly moving. 5 stars.

See what others are saying.
Buy the novella.
Read my reviews of the Year of Weddings (year 1) (year 2) novellas.
Read my reviews of Hauck's Once Upon a Prince (5 stars), Princess Ever After (5 stars), The Wedding Dress (4-1/2 stars), and "A March Bride" (4 stars). 

Rachel Hauck is an award-winning, bestselling author of critically acclaimed novels such as The Wedding Dress, Love Starts with Elle, and Once Upon A Prince.

She also penned the Songbird Novels with multi-platinum recording artist, Sara Evans. Booklist named their novel, Softly and Tenderly, one of 2011 Top Ten Inspirationals.

A graduate of Ohio State University with a degree in Journalism, Rachel worked in the corporate software world before planting her backside in an uncomfortable chair to write full-time in 2004.

She serves on the Executive Board for American Christian Fiction Writers and leads worship at their annual conference. She is a mentor and book therapist at My Book Therapy, and conference speaker.

Rachel lives in central Florida with her husband and pets, and writes from her two-story tower in an exceedingly more comfy chair. She is a huge Buckeyes football fan.

Find Rachel online: website, Facebook, Twitter

"Fire" up the romance in the new year with Rachel Hauck's newest book, A Brush with Love, by entering her Kindle Fire giveaway! And be sure to catch a sneak peek of the soon-to-be-released How to Catch a Prince!
 One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire
  • A Brush with Love by Rachel Hauck
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway only runs for a week, 12/30 – 1/5. Winner will be announced January 6th on Rachel's blog.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook free from Litfuse Publicity Group. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

"hidden in the stars" by robin caroll

Whether you prefer your romance to be historical, contemporary, or suspenseful, Abingdon's Quilts of Love series has something to offer. Hidden in the Stars fits nicely into the contemporary suspense category.

A quilt holds the secret to a killer still at large—and who his next victim will be.

Following an attack that killed her mother and stole her ability to speak, 21‑year‑old Sophia Montgomery has no choice but to accept her estranged grandmother’s offer to return to their family home. Although detective Julian Frazier is working hard on the case, Sophia unknowingly frustrates him because her inability to speak thwarts her eyewitness evidence. The fact that Julian is undeniably attracted to Sophia doesn’t help either, so Julian hides his feelings as concern for a trauma victim and focuses instead on finding the killer.

Little do they know, the clues to solving the case may be right in front of them, displayed in Sophia’s mother’s “special” quilt design. Who will realize the secret Sophia’s unwittingly been hiding in plain sight? When the truth comes to light, will Sophia find her voice again? Or will the murderer—still at large—silence her forever?

I had the opportunity to review Hidden in the Stars several months ago when it went on tour with a company I often work with. I passed on it, a move I regretted once the excellent reviews began rolling in. So when it popped up as an offering through Vine, I requested it immediately.

From the very first page, when Sophia wakes up battered and confused in the hospital, I was completely hooked. The mystery about Sophia's mother and the attack is unraveled at a good pace, and I absolutely flew through the pages.

Oftentimes in romances, especially short ones like this, the author spends so much time on the relationship between the hero and the heroine that everything else takes a backseat. Not so in Hidden in the Stars. The friendship between Sophia and Charlie, the woman who reads her lips when she cannot speak, is actually more developed than the romance, and I think it's one of the highlights of the novel.

Overall, Hidden in the Stars is a great suspense novel with a touch of romance. It also provides a glimpse into the ballet world that I found fascinating. I highly recommend it! 4-1/2 stars.

Buy the book.
Read my reviews of other Quilts of Love novels.

Robin Caroll is the author of 22 published novels. When she isn’t writing, Robin spends time with her husband of 20‑plus years, her three beautiful daughters and two handsome grandsons, and their character‑filled pets at home in Little Rock, Arkansas. She gives back to the writing community by serving as conference director for ACFW. Her books have been named finalists in such contests as the Carol Award, HOLT Medallion, Daphne du Maurier, RT Reviewer’s Choice Award, Bookseller’s Best, and Book of the Year.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this product free for review from through its Vine reviewer program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

top 10 book reviews of 2014

It's Top 10 time!!! While I don't have my Best Books of 2014 list finished yet (and I may not until well into January--we'll see how it goes!), I do have a Top 10 list for you today: Top 10 Book Reviews of 2014!

I thought it would be fun to take a look at which of my reviews were the most popular this year, so I turned to my friend Google Analytics. The results surprised me, to say the least! I actually reviewed nearly half of these books prior to 2014, I gave negative reviews to several, and none will show up on my Best of 2014 list. Four of these books either were recently made into movies or are connected to a TV show, so that probably accounts for the reviews' popularity.

10. Dreamtreaders by Wayne Thomas Batson (4 stars)
Is it terrible to admit that I have zero recollection of this book, even after rereading my review? (I do remember the cover, but I couldn't tell you the plot to save my life.) I gave it 4 stars, so I must have liked it at the time ...

9. Revolutionary by Krista McGee (5 stars)
This book is the final entry in McGee's excellent YA trilogy. I loved, loved, loved this series ... and I sincerely apologize to everyone who was confused by my review! You see, when I reread this review for the purpose of this post, I saw that I had called the book Luminary (the title of book two) instead of Revolutionary throughout the review! (Don't worry: I've fixed it now!)

8. Wish You Were Here by Beth K Vogt (5 stars)
I reviewed this book in 2012. It's a great book that tells the story of a runaway bride, but it's so much deeper than your typical romance. I still highly recommend it!

7. Mr. Miracle by Debbie Macomber (3 stars)
Honestly, 3 stars was probably a little generous for Mr. Miracle. Debbie Macomber's books tend to be hit or miss for me, and this one was definitely a miss. I hoped the film adaptation, which aired on Hallmark Channel this Christmas, would be better, but it really wasn't. I read somewhere that Rob Morrow's Harry (Mr. Miracle) came across as slightly drunk, and I would have to agree with that assessment. He didn't seem quite so naive or childish in the book, and I guess in this case I would recommend the book over the movie, but I don't highly recommend either one.

6. A Short Life Well Lived by Tom Sullivan (2 stars)
This book is the biggest surprise on the list. It's the oldest review represented here--from July of 2011--and it's a negative one. I do actually remember this book because I was so conflicted as I read it. I got it for review from a Christian publicity company, but the Christianity in this book doesn't look anything like what I believe to be true. (We're talking big things here, like the doctrine of salvation.) The theological issues are what caused me to give it a 2 star rating. Without those, it probably would have been a 3-1/2 star novel.

5. Love Finds You in Sugarcreek, Ohio by Serena Miller (4 stars)
Sugarcreek was made into a film that aired on Up TV last summer, and I was part of a tour promoting both the book and the film. I haven't actually seen the film yet, but I will soon, as it's now available for rent on Amazon, and I have some credits to spend!

4. Austenland by Shannon Hale (4 stars)
Austenland was made into a film starring Keri Russell and Jane Seymour last year, and the book and the film are very different, yet both are quite delightful! I read the book prior to the film's release, and while I didn't enjoy a few of the changes made for the film, I think that, overall, I do prefer the film to the book. Plus, it doesn't hurt that the charming JJ Field plays the "Darcy" character, Nobley.

3. Longing by Karen Kingsbury (I didn't give this a star rating--but I would probably give it 5 stars for the writing quality and 1 star for how much I enjoyed it.)
I wrote this review in 2011, and it's still getting lots of views. This is one of the most honest reviews I've ever written because I was so passionate about the subject--it's probably more of a reaction than a review. Even now, after rereading the review, I can feel my annoyance rising. And no, I still haven't finished Loving, the book that follows this one. I prefer to just pretend that things with Bailey Flanigan turned out how I wanted them to, rather than how Kingsbury wrote them.

2. Where Courage Calls by Janette Oke & Laurel Oke Logan (3 stars)
This book is basically a companion piece to Hallmark Channel's When Calls the Heart TV series. The only problem? Though some of the characters overlap, the plot and some of the character's personalities are vastly different. Taken on its own, Where Courage Calls is classic Janette Oke. It's just that I already knew the characters and plot from the TV show, and Where Courage Calls didn't feel like it meshed with the show. If you count yourself among the "Hearties," I'd recommend you either steer clear of this novel or pretend it's not at all connected to the show.

1. Seams Unlikely by Nancy Zieman (3 stars)
This one floored me. Seriously? I guess there are a lot of people who are curious about Sewing with Nancy's Zieman! I mean, I was ... that's why I requested this book for review!

Friday, December 26, 2014

"the secret of pembrooke park" by julie klassen

Intriguing mystery with a healthy dose of romance make The Secret of Pembrooke Park a novel that regency romance fans will embrace.

Abigail Foster is the practical daughter. She fears she will end up a spinster, especially as she has little dowry, and the one man she thought might marry her seems to have fallen for her younger, prettier sister. 

Facing financial ruin, Abigail and her father search for more affordable lodgings, until a strange solicitor arrives with an astounding offer: the use of a distant manor house abandoned for eighteen years. The Fosters journey to imposing Pembrooke Park and are startled to find it entombed as it was abruptly left: tea cups encrusted with dry tea, moth-eaten clothes in wardrobes, a doll's house left mid-play...

The handsome local curate welcomes them, but though he and his family seem acquainted with the manor's past, the only information they offer is a stern warning: Beware trespassers drawn by rumors that Pembrooke Park contains a secret room filled with treasure.

This catches Abigail's attention. Hoping to restore her family's finances--and her dowry--Abigail looks for this supposed treasure. But eerie sounds at night and footprints in the dust reveal she isn't the only one secretly searching the house.

Then Abigail begins receiving anonymous letters, containing clues about the hidden room and startling discoveries about the past. 

As old friends and new foes come calling at Pembrooke Park, secrets come to light. Will Abigail find the treasure and love she seeks...or very real danger?

For several years now, I've eagerly anticipated each of Julie Klassen's releases. I truly believe that no one writes better regency romance for the inspirational market than Klassen.

The Secret of Pembrooke Park is less focused on romance than I expected—it's mainly about Abigail's search for the truth regarding Pembrooke Park. The mystery is the driving force of the novel, and it's quite intriguing. Several of the revelations about Pembrooke Park took me completely by surprise, yet they made absolute sense.

The romance, while understated, is incredibly sweet. I especially liked that, rather than the typical love triangle where the heroine has to choose between the man who is obviously right for her and the man who is obviously wrong, Klassen gave Abigail two legitimate choices. While I was pulling for one man over the other, neither man was clearly better than the other—except that Abigail felt more strongly about one!

Now that I've finished reading this book, I see how the long setup enhanced the events in the last half of the book. As I was reading, however, I struggled to really engage with the story for the first 200 pages or so. (It clocks in at 456 pages, so it took me roughly half of the book to really get into it.) I'm very glad that I kept going, and my lack of interest in the beginning may have had nothing to do with the novel and more with the business of the season and my lack of concentration!

Overall, I greatly enjoyed The Secret of Pembrooke Park, and I'm sure regency lovers will, as well. 4 stars.

Buy the book.
Read an excerpt.
See my reviews of Klassen's The Dancing Master, The Tutor's Daughter, The Maid of Fairbourne Hall, and The Apothecary's Daughter.

Julie Klassen loves all things Jane—Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Julie worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full time. She is a three-time Christy Award winner and a 2010 Midwest Book Award winner for Genre Fiction. Julie and her husband have two sons and live in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota.

Learn more about Julie at

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free for review from Bethany House Publishers through its book reviewer program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

"the wishing season" by denise hunter

If you're looking for heart-tugging romance for Christmas or any other time of the year, The Wishing Season perfectly fits the bill.

Living side-by-side, a fledgling chef and a big-hearted contractor find a delicious attraction.

Trouble is, their chemistry could spoil their dreams.

Spirited PJ McKinley has the touch when it comes to food. Her dream of opening her own restaurant is just one building short of reality. So when a Chapel Springs resident offers her beloved ancestral home to the applicant with the best plan for the house, PJ believes it’s a contest she was meant to win.

Contractor Cole Evans is confident, professional, and swoon-worthy—but this former foster kid knows his life could have turned out very differently. When Cole discovers the contest, he believes his home for foster kids in transition has found its saving grace. All he has to do is convince the owner that an out-of-towner with a not-for-profit enterprise is good for the community.

But when the eccentric philanthropist sees PJ and Cole’s proposals, she makes an unexpected decision: the pair will share the house for a year to show what their ideas are made of. Now, with Cole and the foster kids upstairs and PJ and the restaurant below, day-to-day life has turned into out-and-out competition—with some seriously flirtatious hallway encounters on the side. Turns out in this competition, it’s not just the house on the line, it’s their hearts.

For several years now, Denise Hunter has been one of my must-read authors. Her main characters always have sizzling chemistry, and the stories never fail to entertain. I'm especially enjoying the Chapel Springs series, which revolves around the McKinley family.

Though I've read both of the previous novels and the novella in this series, I went into The Wishing Season without a clear picture of PJ--I just knew she was the baby of the family and was often treated as such. So it was fun to see her spread her wings and try to prove her competence as an adult and business owner.

PJ and Cole have great chemistry from the beginning, and I enjoyed watching their relationship grow and develop. I also became so invested that I wanted to smack Cole upside the head a few times!

I do wish that PJ would have seen more resolution in her relationship with her family, but I suppose the novel ending as it did made things more realistic. And I did greatly enjoy the way PJ and Cole's story ended. Again, realistic.

Also, The Wishing Season is a great set-up to the next Chapel Springs novel, which will focus on McKinley brother Ryan. I'm very anxious to read his story! 5 stars.

Note: Though this is the third novel in a series, it functions completely as a stand-alone novel. I would definitely recommend reading the other novels, though, as they're just so great!

Buy the book.
Read my reviews of the other Chapel Springs books: Barefoot Summer (5 stars), "A December Bride"  (4.5 stars), and Dancing with Fireflies (5 stars).

Denise Hunter is an internationally published best-selling author. Her books have won The Holt Medallion Award, The Reader's Choice Award, The Foreword Book of the Year Award, and was a RITA finalist. In 1996, inspired by the death of her grandfather, Denise began her first book, writing while her children napped. Two years later it was published, and she's been writing ever since. Her husband says he inspires all of her romantic stories, but Denise insists a good imagination helps, too. When Denise isn't writing, she's busy raising three heroes-in-the-making with her husband.

Learn more about Denise at

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through NetGalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Thursday, December 11, 2014

"the bachelor" by stephanie reed

If you're looking for Amish fiction that's different from the norm, check out Stephanie Reed's Plain City Peace series.

In this sequel to The Bargain, Betsie Troyer is back home in her Amish community where she knows she belongs, free from the confusing Englisher way of life. She and Charley Yoder have made promises to each other, and her life is back on track--until Gerald Sullivan shows up with his young daughter, asking for Betsie's help. He's on his way to find his estranged wife, and begs Betsie to take young Sheila in.

When she agrees, Betsie's carefully planned life is shaken up again. Sheila's newfound faith is troubling to Charley--and his attraction to another girl is beginning to be a problem. But how can Betsie confront him when she is still trying to confront her own feelings about Sheila's brother, Michael? Keeping the peace between the Amish man she's always loved, a twelve-year-old Englisher girl, and a draft-dodging hippie is more than she ever thought she'd have to deal with in her simple, orderly life. Still, Betsie is convinced she can keep things from falling apart completely.

Then during her best friend's wedding, tragedy strikes and her world is upended. She has to make a decision: does she love Charley or Michael . . . or is she craving a deeper love that only God can give?

The compelling second novel of the Plain City Peace series, The Bachelor deftly weaves together the strands of a solid, simpler time with the turmoil of an era of change, revealing the strengths of both in its powerful narrative.

When I finished reading The Bargain, book one in Stephanie Reed's Plain City Peace series, I couldn't wait to get my hands on The Bachelor. The Bachelor continues the story of Amish woman Betsie Troyer as she attempts to lead her family in the wake of her parents' departure to the English.

While The Bargain was fascinating due to Betsie's trying to survive with the Sullivans in the English world, The Bachelor takes place solely in the Amish community in Plain City, and I didn't find that setting to be as engaging. I do think that this book served a great purpose in getting Betsie to the point of making some major changes in her life, but the journey to those changes wasn't as engaging as the events in The Bargain. Part of the issue here was the absence of Michael through much of the novel. His relationship with Betsie was one of my favorite aspects of The Bargain, so while I understand his absence in The Bachelor, I still missed him.

I did greatly enjoy some of The Bachelor--Betsie's interactions with Sheila and Michael's letters were certainly highlights. And a twist near the end of the book sets up the third book, The Bride, to be quite interesting indeed. So while The Bachelor wasn't my favorite book, I'm eager to read The Bride, which is sure to include much more Michael! 3-1/2 stars.

See what others are saying.
Buy the book--on sale for $1.99 through the Dec. 14!
Read my reviews of Reed's The Bargain and Across the Wide River.

Stephanie Reed lives on the outskirts of Plain City, Ohio, site of a once-thriving Amish community. She gleans ideas for her novels from signs glimpsed along the byways of Ohio, as she did for her previous books, Across the Wide River and The Light Across the River. The Bachelor is the second book in the Plain City Peace series.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free for review from Kregel Publications. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

"swept away" by laura v. hilton & cindy loven

When her aging grandmother hires a random stranger to make repairs around the house, Sara Jane's life changes in ways she never imagined.

Sara Jane doesn't think she wants love. But her grandmother has other plans.

Sara Jane Morgan is trying to balance teaching with caring for her ailing, stubborn grandmother. When school lets out for the summer, the plans are for Grandma to teach Sara Jane to quilt as they finish up the Appalachian Ballad quilt Grandma started as a teenager. But things don't always go as planned.

Andrew Stevenson is hiding from his past—and his future. He works as a handyman to pay the bills, but his heart is as an artisan, designing homemade brooms. When Sara Jane's grandmother hires him to renovate her home, sparks fly between Drew and his new employer's granddaughter.

Still, it doesn't take Sara Jane long to see Drew isn't what he seems. Questions arise, and she starts researching him online. What she discovers could change her life—and her heart—forever.

Learn more about this book and the series at the Quilts of Love website.

Swept Away combines romance, faith, and family drama into a compelling novel. It's a quick read that immediately sweeps the reader into Sara Jane's world.

What I appreciated most about this novel was the very clear presentation of the gospel. Sometimes the faith element of a novel seems forced, yet here it was an integral part of the novel and completely fit into the story.

Drew is a fascinating hero who battles both self-esteem issues and his feelings for Sara Jane. I found it refreshing to read about a hero who struggles but remains likable. I also enjoyed Sara Jane, who discovers much about life and love through the course of the novel.

One thing I couldn't get past was Grandma. I understand that she was in the early stages of Alzheimer's and was going through some personality changes, but it sounds like she was never a very nice woman, and it was hard for me to feel sympathetic towards her. She did provide some great comic relief, but overall I didn't like her.

There are also a few things never explained fully (or fully enough for my liking), such as why Drew feels no woman would want him, why Sara Jane feels her parents' death is her fault, and Grandma's spiritual state. I often felt like I was missing something as I read—it was like the authors had created a back story for the characters that wasn't fully explained on paper.

Ultimately, I very much enjoyed Swept Away, but the aspects that bothered me keep me from giving it a hearty recommendation. 3 stars.

See what others are saying.
Buy the book.
Read my reviews of other Quilts of Love releases.

Laura V. Hilton is an award-winning author and a professional book reviewer. A stay-at-home mom and home school teacher, Laura lives with her family in Horseshoe Bend, Arkansas. Cindy Loven is active in the church and writes from her home in Conway, Arkansas, where she lives with her husband and their son.

Don’t miss the newest Quilts of Love book, Swept Away by Laura V. Hilton and Cindy Loven. November’s QOL release is a spark of romance and fun just in time for the holidays.

Enter to win a Kindle HDX, and RSVP for the “Merry Quilted” Quilts of Love Facebook party on December 9th. 
One winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire
  • Swept Away by Laura V. Hilton and Cindy Loven
  • Hidden in the Stars by Robin Caroll
  • Quilted by Christmas by Jodie Bailey
Enter today by clicking the button below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on December 9th. Winner will be announced during the "Merry Quilted" Christmas Facebook party on December 9th. RSVP today and connect with some of the Quilts of Love authors (Jodie Bailey, Laura V. Hilton, Cindy Loven, Cathy Elliott, and Gina Welborn) for a "merry" evening of book chat, Christmas traditions, prizes, and more!

RSVP today and spread the word—tell your friends about the giveaway via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on December 9th!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Litfuse Publicity Group. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Monday, December 8, 2014

"a november bride" by beth vogt

The final novella in Zondervan's Year of Weddings series ends the collection as it began—with an incredibly romantic story of two friends becoming something more.

Sadie McAllister is fastidious to a fault—but that serves her well as a personal chef to her clients in Denver. But her earliest attempt at managing romance was a bust when Erik Davis declined her invitation to the school's eighth grade Sadie Hawkins Dance.

Having celebrated the big 3-0 by ending a relationship, Sadie is tired of romantic relationships-by-text. The only man she knows willing to put down his iPhone and have face-to-face conversations with her is Erik. It's time to put a 21st-century twist on the Sadie Hawkins' tradition of a woman going after her man. He may not be the hero of her romantic dreams, but she can propose to Erik and achieve some sort of happily ever after with her best friend.

Erik is good at two things: his freelance job and maintaining casual, no-one-gets-hurt relationships with women. What is Sadie thinking, proposing to him? This is marriage-not a middle school dance. Erik decides to show Sadie what romance looks like when the man takes the lead. And while he's at it, he'll prove just how wrong they are for each other. But when he realizes he's fallen for her, can Erik convince Sadie his just-for-fun dates were the prelude to "'til death do us part"?

You know the phrase "you don't know what you've got till it's gone"? That could be Erik's motto in A November Bride. It's not until he's about to lose Sadie that he realizes that being her best friend isn't enough.

Erik and Sadie's story is incredibly sweet and romantic, and I enjoyed every minute I spent reading it. I also liked how author Beth Vogt included accountability in the story. I don't think I've ever before read a Christian romance that talked so openly about the importance of accountability in avoiding sexual temptation. It was included in a way that didn't come across as preachy and fit seamlessly into the novella.

A November Bride is a wonderful conclusion to the first Year of Weddings collection, and I eagerly anticipate reading the novellas in year two! 4-1/2 stars.

Buy the novella.
Read my review of Vogt's Wish You Were Here, and Catch a Falling Star.
Read my reviews of the other Year of Weddings novellas: December, JanuaryFebruary, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, and October. 

Beth K. Vogt believes God's best is often behind the doors marked "Never." She's the wife of a former Air Force family physician who said she'd never marry a doctor—or anyone in the military. She's a mom of four who said she'd never have kids. She's a former nonfiction writer and editor who said she'd never write fiction. Beth's novels include Wish You Were Here, Catch a Falling Star, and Somebody Like You

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook blogger program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising." 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

"love without end" by robin lee hatcher

Earlier this year, I read Robin Lee Hatcher's A Promise Kept, the story of a woman who retreats to an inherited mountain cabin following an unwanted divorce. While I absolutely loved the novel, I wondered what happened to some of the people whose stories didn't wrap up—specifically cowboy Chet Leonard. Fortunately, Hatcher didn't make me wait too long to find out, as Love Without End is all about Chet.

Love Without End || A King's Meadow Romance (Thomas Nelson, November 2014)

Chet and Kimberly have both failed when it comes to love. Will they risk their hearts to love again?

Chet Leonard's life was forever changed when his 17-year-old son died and then, soon after, his wife walked out on their family. Over two years later, all he wants to do is hold onto his horse ranch and raise his remaining sons to be honorable men.

Kimberly Welch, widowed mother of Tara, a rebellious 15-year-old, has reached the end of her finances and nearly the end of her rope. She and Tara come to King's Meadow to try to piece their lives back together again. Kimberly has no intention of becoming involved with the residents of this remote mountain community and certainly not with any man.

When octogenarian Anna McKenna returns to King's Meadow and to the Leonard ranch, she becomes an agent of change and healing for the two hurting families. With her help, Kimberly and Chet may discover that true love has no end.

I've reached an age where I really enjoy reading love stories that feature people who are older and have a bit more life under their belts. Love Without End perfectly fits the bill. It's a wonderful "second chance at love" story that grabs the reader from the opening pages and doesn't let go until the end.

Chet, who I loved in A Promise Kept, is a strong and compelling hero, and while Kimberly's constant second-guessing of their relationship gets a bit tiresome, it is understandable. Their romance is sweet, and I pulled for them throughout the novel.

The novel's surprise, though, is Anna McKenna's story, which is told in bits and pieces between chapters. Anna is basically a grandmother to Chet's boys, and the novel is made so much richer by including her backstory. This is a tactic Hatcher employed in A Promise Kept, as well, and it works equally well here.

Love Without End is not technically a sequel to A Promise Kept, and readers who did not read the latter will have no trouble jumping right into Love Without End. Those who did read A Promise Kept will appreciate the continuation of Chet's story and the return to King's Meadow. 4-1/2 stars.

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Buy the book.
Read my reviews of Hatcher's A Promise Kept, The Heart's Pursuit, and Beloved

Best-selling novelist Robin Lee Hatcher is known for her heart-warming and emotionally charged stories of faith, courage, and love. The winner of the Christy Award for Excellence in Christian Fiction, the RITA Award for Best Inspirational Romance, two RT Career Achievement Awards, and the RWA Lifetime Achievement Award, Robin is the author of over sixty novels.

Find Robin online: website, Facebook, Twitter

Fire up the romance this holiday with Robin Lee Hatcher's latest offering in the King's Meadow Romance series, Love Without EndFor two single parents with bruised hearts, it’ll take more than a little courage to get back on the horse when it comes to love.

Celebrate love rising from the ashes of tragedy with Robin by entering her Kindle Fire giveaway.
 One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire
  • Love Without End and the rest of the King's Meadow Romance series from Robin Lee Hatcher
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on December 14th. Winner will be announced December 15th on Robin's blog.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Litfuse Publicity Group. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Sunday, November 23, 2014

"christmas, actually" grand finale

The Christmas, Actually tour is wrapping up, but you still have time to enter for your chance to win some great items! On your way to the Rafflecopter at the bottom of the post, glance through the reviews, interviews, and other fun things that happened during this tour!

A themed tour through Prism Book Tours.

It's the MISTLETOE KISSES TOUR Grand Finale for
Christmas, Actually
By Anna Adams, Anna J. Stewart, and Melinda Curtis
Three Harlequin Heartwarming novellas, where a sweet kiss takes place under the mistletoe.

Did you miss any of the excerpts, guest post, or reviews on the tour?
Feel free to go back and check out all the stops now!

Launch - Intro to the Collection
Christmas, Actually--three holiday stories about three siblings living in Christmas Town, Maine, where tradition has it that a kiss on Christmas Eve in the town square gazebo will lead to wedding bells in the new year!

Christy's Cozy Corners - An Interview with Anna Adams
How was it decided that the story would take place in Christmas Town, Maine?
We were looking for a setting that spoke of the holidays, and I'd lived in Maine in a town that decorated the green for Christmas. I described it, and someone suggested Christmas Town as a name for our fictional village.

Coffee Books & Art - Excerpt
Snowflakes hit the windshield and splayed into star shapes while Bing Crosby crooned his dreams of a white Christmas. Sophie Palmer tried to sing along, but her mind was already racing up the icy interstate to Christmas Town, Maine, where the father of her unborn child now lived. 

The Book Lovers' Lounge - Christmas Town by Anna Adams
And I imagined my own broken hero, Jack Banning, watching from the sidewalk, there in the town, but watching from the boundaries because he doesn?t belong any more.

Getting Your Read On - Review
"Yeah, I really loved my time in Christmas Town with the Banning family.  Each story was unique and romantic.  I loved all the characters.  They were real and identifiable.  It is the perfect book to curl up with as the days get colder and we get closer to Christmas."

Colorimetry - The Power of a First Kiss by Anna Adams
He?s at her house, killing time because he can?t go home and face his brother?s happiness when another friend calls to offer him an investment opportunity. Mary is leaning against George, also listening on the phone, when finally, he admits to his feelings. He takes her in his arms for a kiss he clearly doesn?t want even as he desires nothing in the whole wide world more than the hometown love of his life. 

Southern Chelle - Review
"I don't think I've read anything by any of these authors before, but these novellas have me falling hard for their work! I used to receive the Harlequin Heartwarming books monthly, but I didn't have room for anymore paperback books in my house and had to give it up. I'm so glad they've continued these offerings!"

Kelly P's Blog - An Interview with Anna J. Stewart
5. What do you hope readers will take with them after reading your story?
There's nothing better than a happily ever after--that's why I write (and read) romance, but that's kind of the easy answer. I think at its core, the story is about learning how to be open with others, to tell them how you're really feeling about situations that are emotionally damaging them.  Dean, Callie and Eliza all have to do this at some point during the story and once they do, the happily ever after is possible.

My Love for Reading Keeps Growing - Excerpt
     "Is this a bad time?" The combination of sympathy and amusement shining in green eyes, along with the tamed Irish lilt, called to mind fields of clover dotting rolling hills. She'd spent many a night and more than a few days dreaming of traveling to the Emerald Isle. Now it seemed as if Ireland had come to her.
     Shoulder-length, golden-streaked hair brushed the worn leather of the bomber jacket he wore over snug jeans, the hint of a plain white T-shirt peeking from under the collar.

Dean Inspired PhotoThe Wonderings Of One Person - Dream Cast for The Christmas Wish
There are some actors who just 'hit' from the second I lay eyes on them. When looking for images of my Dean, I did not have to look much further than Chris Hemsworth.
Callie Inspired Photo
Casting my heroines has always been problematic for me. Typically, I use another medium for inspiration (I'm a doll collector), but when I saw this picture of Nina Dobrev (Vampire Diaries), I knew that was Callie.

"The Christmas Date: The instant I started reading this story, I knew I was going to love it. There's just something about those You've Got Mail-esque stories that I love. Nick and Gina are both so likeable, and their chemistry lept off the page. This was easily my favorite of the three stories!"

Bookworm Lisa - Review
     "Each of the authors did a great job in telling their story. I liked the descriptions and the characters.
     This book is a fun way to get into the holiday season and find a little clean Christmas romance."

fundinmental - My Top Ten Christmas Traditions by Anna J. Stewart
I LOVE Christmas time. Truly, from about Halloween on, I?m all about the tinsel, the trees and the music (why do they have to stop the Xmas carols on the 26th?!). For years now it's just been my mom and me during the holiday season, but we've got our traditions--and they start early--even before we carve the Thanksgiving turkey.

Beck Valley Books - An Interview with Malinda Curtis
What's your favorite aspect of the story?
One of my favorite aspects is Gina's parents. They've tried for years to do what they thought was right and it strained their character and their relationship. This year, they rejoin the pageant and the town's festivities in a very public way. It's a small part of the story, but a set of vignettes that I love.

Mel's Shelves - Review
"I loved seeing the siblings in each other's stories and enjoyed getting to know them. These stories are quick, easy reads which are perfect to get you in the mood for Christmas. I love that they're all clean so I can recommend it to everyone! Christmas Town was a fun place to visit!"

Painted Words - Review
"But what I truly loved about this book was that it didn't feel at all repetitive which can be a big hindrance to books like this especially if written by multiple authors. It was an absolutely beautiful story, one that I look forward to reading again next year at this time and it was the perfect way to start off the season." 

jellominisI Am A Reader - Melinda Curtis's Favorite Treat at Christmas Time (with recipe)
My mom is a fan of Jell-o salad.  At Christmas, she?d serve us a slice of Jello salad on a leaf of lettuce with a dollop of mayonnaise on top.  The first time Mr. Curtis had this dish, he happily took a big bite, expecting it to be whipped cream on top.  Kudos to him for keeping his disappointment to himself. 

Deal Sharing Aunt - Excerpt
In the wee hours of Christmas Eve morning, Gina stood at the edge of the town square and traced the deep, jagged scar that ran from her left temple to her jawline with the tip of a gloved finger, as if her touch could erase the past. The small ball of worry, the one that hadn't let her sleep last night, expanded like bread dough in her chest, pressing against her lungs.
I should have told him.

Wishful Endings - Excerpt (4-star review here)
Are you kidding? You're beautiful. Why would he do that?
You have to say that. You're standing in my kitchen. With me practically in your arms. Nevertheless, she hugged his words to her heart. No one had ever called her beautiful before.

JoJo's Corner - 10 Gifts Ideas for Your Teen/Young Adult Review
I'm a little bit anal about the holidays.  I have a basic list I work from that my kids will enjoy or find useful.  They're all in college now, but that doesn't mean they want a package of socks for Christmas.  Here's a list of 10 suggested gift giving categories for your teen/young adult...

Review: "Christmas, Actually is the perfect collection of stories to cuddle up and enjoy on a cold wintry night!"

"Three stories in one book, a great way to start the Christmas season off! Anna Adams takes you on three separate journeys in the life of Jack, Callie, and Gina as each tells their own story. The plot is good in each one."

What a fun story! The reader is taken on a journey through Christmas Town, Maine and we get to see snippets of what makes this town special through the eyes of three different characters.

Christmas, Actually
Christmas, Actually
by Anna Adams, Anna J. Stewart, & Melinda Curtis
Clean Contemporary Romance
Paperback & Ebook, 202 pages
November 1st 2014 by Harlequin Heartwarming

Discover the magic of Christmas Town, Maine!

Three lonely strangers come to Christmas Town, Maine, and find love with three Banning siblings in the town that celebrates the holidays by decorating its square with lights and ribbons and a holiday pageant on Christmas Eve. Tradition has it that a kiss beneath the mistletoe that night means marriage for the couple in the new year.

The Christmas Gift by Anna Adams:
Jack Banning promised to support the mother of his unborn child? But she doesn't need money, she only needs him.

The Christmas Wish by Anna J. Stewart:
Callie Banning's student has declared war on Christmas, so it's up to her to help the little girl--and her widowed father--believe again.

The Christmas Date by Melinda Curtis:
Gina Vernay is about to meet her online mystery date--and she's in for the surprise of a lifetime!

About the Authors

Photo 34
Anna Adams wrote her first romance in wet sand. The Atlantic Ocean washed it away, but Anna kept going. Her stories are of love, like the proverbial stone in a lake, making ripples that spread and contract and involve. From Iceland to Hawaii, and points in between, Anna and her own hero share with children and family and friends who've become family. All this living and loving gives Anna plenty of fodder for stories of love set in real life. Come along and live them with her!

Anna J. Stewart can't remember a time she didn't have a book in her hand or a story in her head and credits her mother never saying no to a book for turning her into a writer. Anna lives in Northern California with an overly attentive cat named Snickers and is happiest when setting her heroes and heroines on their road to happily ever after amidst family, fun and laughter.

Melinda Curtis
Melinda Curtis grew up on an isolated sheep ranch, where mountain lions had been seen and yet she roamed unaccompanied. Being a rather optimistic, clueless of danger, sort she took to playing "what if" games that led her to become an author. She spends days trying to figure out new ways to say "He made her heart pound." That might sound boring, but the challenge keeps her mentally ahead of her 3 kids and college sweetheart husband.

Tour-Wide Giveaway

- Gift Card Prize Pack: $20 Amazon gift card and ebook of Christmas, Actually (open internationally)
- US Prize Pack: Paperback of Christmas, Actually and three Christmas ornaments (US only)
- 3 ebooks of Christmas, Actually (open internationally)
Ends November 30th

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Prism Book Tours

Friday, November 21, 2014

"trading secrets" by melody carlson

Love it or loathe it, the Amish genre has been a mainstay of Christian fiction for several years. In Trading Secrets, Melody Carlson offers a different take on the genre.

The truth may set you free—but it might also land you in some uncomfortably hot water.

Over the years, Micah Knight has exchanged many letters—and many secrets—with her longtime Amish pen pal, Zach. But Micah's kept quiet on the biggest secret of all—the fact that despite her name, she's a girl.

Now Micah finally has the chance to meet her pen pal face-to-face. She wants nothing more than to experience life on Zach's Amish farm, but she's more than a little anxious. Will he be angry at her for deceiving him all these years? And will she risk losing his friendship to find something more?

Trading Secrets is a pretty unique entry in the YA scene, combining teen drama with the Amish lifestyle. Micah's trip to "Amishland" (as her best friend calls it) provides some humorous and touching moments, but I thought the book really took off upon Micah's return home. Zach's confusion about his own future as he contemplated leaving the Amish seemed especially realistic to me, and I appreciated that author Melody Carlson didn't romanticize the Amish life, but she didn't condemn it, either.

A few things did stretch credulity, such as the events surrounding Micah's arrival at the farm and Zach's education. I also wondered what parent would allow his daughter to board a bus and travel alone to stay with a male pen pal—even an Amish one.

Those criticisms aside, Trading Secrets is an enjoyable and clean YA novel, and I think many teen girls will really like it. 3 stars.

Buy the book.
Read my review of Carlson's Shattered.

Melody Carlson is the award-winning author of more than two hundred books, including the Dating Games series, the Life at Kingston High series, Double Take, A Simple Song, and My Amish Boyfriend. She has received a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award for her many books, including the Diary of a Teenage Girl series and Finding Alice. Melody and her husband live in Oregon. Learn more at

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Revell through the Revell Reads program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

"love at mistletoe inn" by cindy kirk

What if an impulsive decision you made as an eighteen-year-old came back to haunt you a decade later?

They've helped orchestrate the perfect day for countless couples. Now twelve new couples will find themselves in the wedding spotlight in the second Year of Weddings novella collection.

Sometimes the road to happiness is paved with youthful mistakes.

Hope Prentiss didn’t go to the Harmony High School senior prom. Instead, she and John Burke drove to Boise and got married. At eighteen. But when Hope panicked after saying “I do,” the mail-order preacher assured her he just wouldn’t send in the paperwork. No forms, no marriage, no problem. Right?

Well . . .

Now, ten years later, Hope discovers that her prom-night wedding counted—and, as fate would have it, the jilted John Burke has just ridden back into town. And he’s staying with her Aunt Verna at the inn where she and Hope host weddings. After spending some time with John and helping plan a Christmas wedding for a mystery couple, Hope begins to wonder if she really wants a divorce … or a real wedding of her own.

I absolutely love the concept behind Love at Mistletoe Inn. The "secretly still married" trope is one I definitely enjoy. However, while I flew through this novella and think it would make a fantastic movie, the "in print" Hope seemed far too wishy-washy to me, and some of her actions didn't make sense at all. I think this is because the reader is privy to her secret thoughts and emotions, so when her actions contradict what the reader knows about her, she comes off as a bit flaky or indecisive, and that cuts down on her likability. (This problem likely wouldn't exist in film, as Hope's likability would depend on how the actress portrayed her.)

My qualms about Hope as a heroine aside, I did really like this story. I especially enjoyed Hope's aunt and her very obvious scheming to reunite Hope and John. Also, General Hospital viewers of old will appreciate the names of the couple whose wedding Hope has to plan.

Love at Mistletoe Inn has a compelling plot and makes for an enjoyable hour of reading. Though it's not my favorite of the Year of Weddings novellas, it's still pretty good. (And, thanks to the preview at the end, I now cannot wait to get my hands on December's installment!) 3 stars.

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Buy the novella.

Cindy Kirk sold her first book in 1999 as a result of a contest win which garnered a critique of the entire manuscript. She’s been writing—and selling—ever since. Cindy has been a Booksellers’ Best Award Winner, a finalist for the National Readers’ Choice Awards and a Publishers Weekly best seller. Cindy has served on the Board of Directors of the Romance Writers of America (RWA) since 2007. In November 2014, she began serving as President of the 10,000+ member organization. She’s a frequent speaker at not only the national RWA conferences, but large regional writing conferences. She has also presented at smaller retreats and conferences across the country. She lives on an acreage in Nebraska with her high school sweetheart husband of too-many-years-to-count and their three “boys” (a shih tzu, a blue heeler and a dorkie). Their daughter lives close by with her wonderful husband and their two little girls.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook blogger program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."