Friday, December 23, 2016

Untangling Christmas by Becky Melby

Untangling Christmas by Becky Melby

If you join Becky Melby’s newsletter mailing list, you will receive the coolest Christmas short story for free. Quick! Click over!

Let’s begin with a summary:

Kelsey Lemmon is stuck at work on Christmas Eve with her boss—sort of—a Mr. Roman Sasse III. Yeah. And it’s a mess—the garden supply center. They get locked in, and they’ll have to make due until help arrives to let them out. Kelsey figures she’s fired, so she starts sharing her genuine opinion about how the Sasses could make the place better. Meanwhile, Roman has some ideas of how to make Christmas better. 

And now, my review:

What a fun short story!! Becky’s writing voice is such a hoot! I laughed aloud several times as I was reading. Her prose and pacing are perfect.

What’s more fun that watching a Christmas romance play out in your head while you read, as if you were watching a Hallmark movie? This story is delightful! It reads fast, but that’s the type of story you want during this rushed season, right? Becky painted a fun setting and great characters. I gobbled this story up like dark chocolate fudge on Christmas Day, or candy canes on Christmas Eve.

I’ve been a fan of Becky for some time, so I was happy to sign up for her newsletter for this Christmas freebie. If you like hip, snappy prose and wholesome contemporary romances, sign up. You’ll get this story, but you’ll also learn about her upcoming titles. I, for one, don’t want to miss them!

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A Royal Christmas Wedding by Rachel Hauck

Sometimes you need to read a fairy tale!

Let’s begin with the summary:

Avery Truitt aches for true love—the kind she once shared with Prince Colin. Can she dare to hope for happily ever after, or is a fairy-tale ending beyond reach?

College volleyball star Avery Truitt has not seen her former flame, Prince Colin of Brighton Kingdom, since he suddenly pushed her away five years ago. But now, the sadness of losing her father and the joy of her sister Susanna’s pregnancy have brought Avery back to Brighton just in time for Cathedral City’s enchanting Christmas season.

Avery knows she can’t avoid seeing Colin—now the Kingdom’s most eligible bachelor—whether or not her heart is ready to relive the pain. But seeing him again might bring her the closure she needs after all this time.

When Colin finds himself at the center of a centuries-old Brighton tradition, he must decide whether to follow the path laid out before him or follow his heart to the only woman for whom he would ring the Pembroke Chapel Bell.

Can Colin convince Avery to meet him at the chapel on Christmas morning—as tradition dictates—or will Avery run back to her St. Simons home and pursue a coaching career as planned?

In the fourth installment of the Royal Wedding Series, New York Times bestselling novelist, Rachel Hauck, weaves a charming story of holiday romance as two broken hearts seek the love they once knew.

And now, my review:

I’ve really enjoyed Rachel’s Royal Wedding Series. So, what a treat to revisit those characters and their kingdom with this title. Here, we get to return to Brighton, an English kingdom with some grand traditions. And we get to see what happened to Avery, whom we’d followed in an earlier book.

This is a Christmas novella, so it reads fast. I was hooked from the first page (or screen on my e-reader) and stayed engaged (ha!) the whole way through. Such a fun story! Rachel’s sense of humor, her distinctive prose, and her skilled storytelling are so enjoyable.

As I read, I could see this story as a Christmas TV movie. Lots of romance! One of the themes was becoming one’s own person. Learning to follow God first and then listen to others in our lives, even when those others were once authority figures. The hero must learn this. He’s noble before he does, but he’s stronger afterward.

It’s fun to be Rachel’s friend and catch her references to her own life. She often includes character names of people in her life in her books. Here, she included Prince Tony and Princess Rachel—a direct reference to herself and her husband. How fun is that?

As always, Rachel includes a supernatural element in her books. You’ll have to read to find out how God steps into the story. I loved this aspect. Rachel’s depictions of God—as creative and original as they are—show Him as merciful, loving, and powerful. No exception here as God guides the characters.

I highly recommend this novella! The story is more satisfying if you’ve read the earlier books in this series, but she sprinkles in enough backstory that you wouldn’t be lost if you began here.

[Earlier books in the series include: Once Upon a Prince, Princess Ever After, How to Catch a Prince]

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Book Review: Sleigh Bells Ring

Sleigh Bells Ring novella compilation
Sleigh Bells Ring by Sandra D. Bricker, Lynette Sowell, Barbara J. Scott, and Lenora Worth

Let's begin with the summary:

Santa Claus is coming to town, and so are the Tucker sisters.

Never mind a pony. The Tucker girls have inherited their father’s horse farm for Christmas. Make that . . . a run-down horse farm. It needs some serious TLC in order to make it sell-ready. Joanna knows that by recruiting her sisters and one handsome ranch hand they can fix up the place and even celebrate one last Christmas while they’re at it. However, to Isabella, returning to their home in Kentucky bluegrass country for Christmas seems like an impossible hurdle. Can her Chicago boyfriend make life merry and bright again?

One thing’s for sure—nothing is peace on earth for Sophia as a new beau brings up old wounds. And when the fate of the horse farm is put in jeopardy because Amy accidentally fraternizes with the enemy, tensions rise. But it’s not like the land developer stole Christmas . . . just her heart.

Can the Tucker sisters have themselves a merry little Christmas?

And now, my review:

This is a delightful Christmas novella collection, featuring four sisters during the Christmas season. One of the authors, my friend Sandie Bricker, recently passed away. But before she did, she asked if I'd be willing to read this collection for review. I really enjoy reading Christmas novella collections this time year, and I gladly accepted.

Sandie's book is first. We see the launch of the struggle to get all the sisters together for Christmas. They've just lost their father, but they had complicated relationships with him. Plus, they have their own lives now, so coming back to the house where he lived, and where they grew up, isn't something they are eager to do.

I liked the reunion romance aspect of this set, as well as the peaceful rural setting. There's something idyllic about breaking away from the big city and the hectic lifestyle to focus on family and Christmas and even revisit the past for a season. There's healing in that. Readers will relate to this.

I also liked that this was a compilation of contemporary stories. They're each novellas (about 20K words each), so they read quickly, which is helpful during this busy time of year.

Another bonus of reading compilations like this is getting to know knew-to-you authors. This set gives readers a taste of four different authors' writing voices and styles. Yet they blend together well. Pick up this compilation. You'll enjoy it! And you might even find another favorite author or two.

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Sheriffs of Savage Wells by Sarah M. Eden

The Sheriffs of Savage Wells by Sarah M. Eden

Let’s take a look at this historical Proper Romance title from Shadow Mountain Publishing.

First, the summary:

Paisley Bell knows the eccentric people of Savage Wells. From the absentminded shopkeeper who always thinks she's been robbed to the young man who has returned shell-shocked from the war, Paisley has compassion for them all. When the sheriff up and leaves town, Paisley steps up and assumes the responsibility, partly because she loves the work, but also because she needs the income to take care of her sick father. So when the town council decides that the position of sheriff should really go to a man, Paisley finds herself fighting to prove that she's the perfect candidate for the job, even though she wears a skirt.

Cade O'Brien is heartily sick of shooting people. In his many years as a lawman, Cade has seen his share of blood and violence. So when he answers an advertisement for a sheriff job in the sleepy town of Savage Wells, he believes he's found the peace and quiet he's always desired. But when he discovers that his biggest competition for the job is a woman, he begins to question his decisions.

Tension between the two begins to sizzle when both Cade and Paisley realize the attraction they have for each other, but when Paisley's former beau shows up in town, along with a band of bank robbers, the blossoming relationship between the two sheriffs is tested. They will have to work together to thwart the bank robbers and keep the town safe.

And now, my review:

What a fun story! The opening line, which the publisher used in the back cover copy, is hilarious: Sheriff Cade O’Brien was heartily sick of shooting people. I laughed aloud a few times with this story. The banter between the sheriff wannabes was delicious.

Our heroine is a very capable sheriff in a time when women weren’t taken seriously in that role. I rooted for her even as I wondered how the author would pull off this contest between potential sheriffs—one female who had already proven herself but gotten no recognition, and three men of various abilities. Reading this story, you feel the contrast between 1875 and 2016. So much has changed, and yet some things still haven’t. With this gender-related theme woven throughout, the story has universal and timeless appeal.

The author writes a convincing male POV. Cade came across as masculine and mysterious and respectable. Well done!

We have a “mystery box” throughout. Unfortunately, the book lost my interest about two-thirds of the way through and I never discovered the answer to the ongoing mystery. When I get a chance I hope to go back and learn the answer. I’ll leave it to you to read the book to see to what I’m referring. (To be fair, I have many books on my TBR pile and have to keep the novels moving quickly through the queue.)

I’ll be watching for more from this author. Her work is fun and her writing, strong.

If you’re looking for a lighthearted historical with insightful characterization and multiple layers in terms of plot and human nature, check out this enjoyable story.