Saturday, July 17, 2021

NEW COLLECTION: Finding Love In... Romantic Collection

Finding Love In... Romantic Collection

Hey friends! 

My publisher has grouped together four of the books from her Finding Love In imprint, including my Finding Love on Bainbridge Island, Washington, novel. That story won the 2019 Selah Award!

You can pick up the set for only $0.99 here.  

This collection includes four full-length novels, two by author and publisher Miralee Ferrell and one by Angela Ruth Strong, plus mine. 

Finding Love In... Romantic Collection

Finding Love in Sun Valley, Idaho by Angela Ruth Strong

Actress Emily Van Arsdale has returned to her Idaho hometown - with an entire film crew in tow! With its stunning scenery and reputation for hosting celebrities, Sun Valley is the perfect setting for Emily’s newest romantic comedy. 

Tracen Lake is happy to work as a stunt consultant for the movie but not as thrilled to deal with a bunch of high-maintenance Hollywood types. But Tracen is surprised to discover in Emily a down-to-earth Idaho girl who does all her own stunts and loves the outdoors. As filming wraps up and Emily heads off to her next gig, will she be able to leave Sun Valley and Tracen behind?

Finding Love in Last Chance, California by Miralee Ferrell

It's 1877 and Alexia Travers is alone in the world. Her father has died unexpectedly, leaving her burdened with a heavily mortgaged horse ranch. Marrying one of the town’s all-too-willing bachelors would offer an easy solution, but Alex has no interest in marriage.

Instead, she dons men’s clothing and rides the range, determined to make the ranch a success on her own. Help arrives when Justin Phillips, an acquaintance of her father’s, comes to Last Chance with his young son. Justin's and Alex’s combined effort to save the ranch quickly turns into a fierce competition between cowboy and tomboy.
But when disaster threatens Travers' Ranch, they must work together to save someone they both love. Can these two independent people learn to depend on God —and on each other?

Finding Love on Bainbridge Island, Washington by Annette M. Irby

Selah Award winner 2019!

Neither of them is ready for a relationship, but love may not give them an out. 

Jenna-Shea Brown considers herself a broken therapist. Years ago, she witnessed something that caused PTSD. She can’t let her boss or her patients know about her battle. Who would want to trust her to help them, when she can’t help herself? She’s finally able to find a fresh start in her family’s beach cabin, but the renovations aren’t complete. Her parents have hired her ex-boyfriend to finalize them, but his negligence led to her being in the wrong place at the wrong time all those years ago. 

Liam Barrett is trying to prove he’s nothing like his deadbeat dad. He’s working hard, yet still failing. Adrenaline and adventure offer him a diversion, but maybe he can’t escape his genes. He’d like to make things right with Shea, but he’s unsure if she’ll forgive him. Meanwhile, he’s challenged to forgive his father. He’s also worried about Shea and all these episodes she won’t explain. Now that they’re back in close proximity, he’s falling for her again. But can anything heal the past? 

Finding Love in Tombstone, Arizona by Miralee Ferrell

Love and second chances aren’t easy to come by in a town named Tombstone.

When Christy Grey receives an urgent summons to Tombstone, Arizona, she reluctantly leaves her new life in California. The trip goes from bad to worse when four masked men hold up Christy’s stage. She finally arrives in Tombstone to find her mother ill and her brother trapped in a life of gambling. Desperate for money to support her family, will Christy bow to pressure from the local saloon owners and return to the life she thought she’d given up for good?

Nevada King has problems of his own. He’s been dodging bullets for years and wants nothing more than to settle down and get married. But he’s on the run from outlaws bent on revenge, and the one woman who captures his interest recognizes him from the stagecoach holdup. Will Christy turn Nevada in to the authorities, or will the outlaws on his trail catch him first?

Finding Love In... Romantic Collection

Monday, June 21, 2021

Paint and Nectar by Ashley Clark


Paint and Nectar by Ashley Clark

Paint and Nectar is book two in the Heirloom Secrets series. Book one is called The Dress Shop on King Street.

Here’s the summary:

In 1929, a spark forms between Eliza, a talented watercolorist, and William, a charming young man with a secret that could ruin her career. Their families forbid their romance because of a long-standing feud over missing heirloom silver. Still, Eliza and William's passion grows despite the barriers, causing William to deeply regret the secret he's keeping . . . but setting things right will come at a cost.

In present-day Charleston, a mysterious benefactor gifts Lucy Legare an old house, along with all the secrets it holds--including enigmatic letters about an antique silver heirloom. Declan Pinckney, whom Lucy's been avoiding since their disastrous first date, is set on buying her house for his family's development company. As Lucy uncovers secrets about the house, its garden, and the silver, she becomes more determined than ever to preserve the historic Charleston property, not only for history's sake but also for her own.

And now, my review:

Oh, goodness! Following three timelines (the prologue included) is a feat. Generally timeslip novels have two timelines. Readers miss out, I think, when there are two many main characters to follow. We don’t get the advantage of a deep dive into any one character’s life/story/emotions. We stay at a surface level, which was a sacrifice that didn’t help me engage with this story or care about these characters. Thankfully the author/publisher (at least in the ARC) included dates at the opening of new scenes. But I felt like I needed a chart on hand. 

Perhaps if I’d read book one in this series, that would have helped me not feel so lost. (I have no idea how tied together they are.) Having given up trying to track everyone and every time frame, I broke my rule and read an online review about this book as I was formulating my own feedback. As a general practice, I avoid doing that because I like sharing my own opinions without being swayed. Here's what I found: another reviewer mentioned being confused by the characters and she said, in her opinion, the timeslip element didn’t quite work in this novel. Perhaps I wasn’t the only reader to feel that way. I also admit, this author is new to me, so I was unfamiliar with her voice. That fact doesn’t always keep me from connecting with a work, but perhaps that played a part here.

Though this book wasn’t for me, I wish the author and publisher all the best. 

I received a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, June 18, 2021

The Lacemaker by Laura Frantz

Let’s begin with the summary:

When colonial Williamsburg explodes like a powder keg on the eve of the American Revolution, Lady Elisabeth "Liberty" Lawson is abandoned by her fiancé and suspected of being a spy for the hated British. No one comes to her aid save the Patriot Noble Rynallt, a man with formidable enemies of his own. Liberty is left with a terrible choice. Will the Virginia belle turned lacemaker side with the radical revolutionaries, or stay true to her English roots? And at what cost?

And now, my review:

Sometimes reading historicals feels like embarking on a long, intensive journey. It’s immersive, or can be, because some of the terms, locations, and certainly the timelines are foreign to us. If you’ve hung out here at my blog very long, you’ve probably noticed I most often read and review contemporaries. A lot of my close writing buddies enjoy historicals, and they highly recommend this author, so I gave this book a try. Unfortunately, it didn’t grab me.

Even now, trying again to read it, I checked Amazon to see if this is book two or later in a series and perhaps that was why I wasn't connecting with these characters. From what I saw, there aren’t earlier books. I definitely felt at a disadvantage, like I was missing earlier character development. 

I liked the occupation of lace making. My great-grandmother was a tatter. Thankfully, she taught my older sister how to tat before she passed. The skill lives on. Very intricate work, and a fascinating choice for our heroine.

The political conflicts were also interesting, as this was a key historical season in American history.

Since I couldn’t get into the story, I’m going to move on with my TBR pile and let this one go. I wish the author and publisher all the best.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Is It Any Wonder by Courtney Walsh


Is It Any Wonder by Courtney Walsh

Courtney is an excellent writer! As you can see here at my blog, I've been on a kick lately, reading her work. This is book two in her Nantucket Love Story series.

Let’s begin with the summary:

Can a promise made as kids bring them back together as adults? In this Nantucket-set beach read, “master of the genre” (Midwest Book Review) Courtney Walsh delivers a sparkling inspirational romance about first love and second chances.

Twelve years ago, Cody Boggs and Louisa Chambers made a pact that no matter where their lives took them, they’d return to Nantucket Island’s Brant Point Lighthouse on July 30, their shared golden birthday, and continue their tradition of exchanging birthday wishes. But that was before a tragic accident upended both of their lives, irrevocably pulling them apart.

Their worlds collide just months before that particular day when Louisa’s fledgling event planning company is hired by the local Coast Guard station, where she discovers Cody has recently returned to the island as the second in command. As they plan a regatta fundraiser, hoping to promote positive PR in the community, neither can deny the fireworks each encounter ignites. But working together also brings up memories of the day Cody’s father died, revealing secrets that have Cody and Louisa questioning everything they thought they knew and felt about their families and each other.

And now, my review:

I really enjoyed book one of the Nantucket Love Story series, which is called If for Any Reason. See my review here. It’s no wonder (ha!) that Courtney is known as a “master of the genre.” She writes an excellent romance, book after book.

Our hero is quiet, but feels things deeply. He carries huge regrets. The heroine’s conflict intersects  because she carries the same regret. I loved that the hero is a Coastguardsman. He’s courageous and strong and noble as he faces the force that took his father.

I admired the heroine’s strength. She’s a competent business owner who knows her niche and pursues her dreams. But not without insecurities. She’s a people person, so she wants to see folks get along, especially her favorite folks—even if they’re all carrying the same burden from the past. Every character in the story is layered and flawed, and I rooted for most of them. The author kept me hooked the whole time, though this is a long book. So worth it.

I loved that this was a reunion romance—one of my favorite types. The hero and heroine share a birthdate and their golden birthday (the birthday that matches the day of the month they were born—the 30th) carries extra weight. I liked this original aspect. It was also very interesting to see two intuitive main characters (Myers-Briggs personality category). I haven't seen that element often enough. 

Courtney uses sarcasm and humor to keep things from getting to heavy. So well done.

One of the themes was how truth impacts lives—whether kept or shared. Truth can set you free, but it can also hurt. I felt for these characters.

Beaches are my favorite setting, so that aspect really appealed to me. The way Courtney wrote this story, I could see it playing out as a movie. It’s very cinematic. I could not only see the scenes unfolding, but they felt "big"—movie worthy. Courtney's A Match Made at Christmas, which came out last fall, is being made into a movie and I really hope her Nantucket books get the same opportunity. (Read my review for that Christmas novella here.)

(A side note: I noticed several similarities to my 2017 Friday Harbor novel, which I’m sure is a coincidence. There were multiple differences as well, of course.)

My TBR (to-be-read) pile is overflowing, but I could definitely read this novel again. Very enjoyable!

Highly recommended!

Monday, May 24, 2021

Just Look Up by Courtney Walsh

Just Look Up by Courtney Walsh

Let’s take a little trip back to 2017 for today’s review. I’m enjoying getting caught up with Courtney’s backlist. Just Look Up is book one in her Harbor Pointe series, set in Michigan.

Here’s the summary:

After tirelessly climbing the ranks of her Chicago-based interior design firm, Lane Kelley is about to land her dream promotion when devastating news about her brother draws her back home—a quaint tourist town full of memories she’d just as soon forget. With her cell phone and laptop always within reach, Lane aims to check on her brother while staying focused on work—something her eclectic family doesn’t understand.

Ryan Brooks never expected to settle down in Harbor Pointe, Michigan, but after his final tour of duty, it was the only place that felt like home. Now knee-deep in a renovation project that could boost tourism for the struggling town, he is thrilled to see Lane, the girl he secretly once loved, even if the circumstances of her homecoming aren’t ideal.

Their reunion gets off to a rocky start, however, when Ryan can’t find a trace of the girl he once knew in the woman she is today. As he slowly chips away at the walls Lane has built, secrets from his past collide with a terrible truth even he is reluctant to believe. Facing a crossroads that could define his future with Lane and jeopardize his relationship with the surrogate family he’s found in the Kelleys, Ryan hopes Lane can see that maybe what really matters has been right in front of her all along—if only she’d just look up.

And now, my review:

I love reunion romances, even more so when we learn that one of the two had a crush on the other person earlier in their lives. It’s like a built-in chemistry boost, especially if the object of affection had no idea.

Our heroine struggles with insecurities, and she has never felt she belonged, even with her family. When her family members favor forgiveness for the sake of unity, she’s left out. She’ll either have to choose forgiveness too or continue to be an outsider.

She feels most secure at work, where she hides from everything else. Some readers may relate. She also hides behind her phone, and I liked the double entendre of looking up from her phone as well as looking up toward God. Great themes.

We got to know Ryan a little, not nearly like we dove into Lane’s psyche. But I was glad. Given he was a war vet, his contribution to the story could have been violent or heavier. What we do learn of him is his nobility. He’s an excellent big brother, and he fits right into the community the heroine left behind. He knows how to accept grace, despite his rough childhood.

Because the heroine’s entire strength lies in her work, she lets it rule her. She doesn’t set boundaries. She works too many hours, never has downtime. But the beachy setting of Harbor Pointe interferes with that, along with her family and Ryan who can clearly see how unhealthy her compulsions are.

She rebuilt herself from her childhood years. This was relatable and made her respectable, even as we watched her struggle to change, to let go. I felt the story needed a little smoothing over, and the last quarter felt rushed. But generally, I enjoyed the novel. And I recommend it! Courtney has a way of inserting profound statements that are relatable and poignant like few authors I’ve read lately. I’m working my way through all her books!

Monday, May 17, 2021

If for Any Reason by Courtney Walsh


If for Any Reason by Courney Walsh

This is book one in the Nantucket Love Story series.

I am a Courtney Walsh fan. Love her writing style—profound insights without preaching plus great storytelling.

Let’s begin with the summary:

Emily Ackerman has traveled the world, her constant compass and companion a book of letters her mother left for her when she died. With no father in the picture, her mom’s advice has been her only true north. But when professional failure leads Emily back to Nantucket to renovate and sell the family cottage she inherited, she wonders if her mom left advice to cover this . . . especially when her grandmother arrives to “supervise.” And especially when her heart becomes entangled with Hollis McGuire, the boy next door–turned–baseball star who’s back on the island after a career-ending injury.

As sparks fly between her and Hollis, Emily is drawn to island life, even as she uncovers shocking secrets about the tragic accident that led to her mother’s death. With her world turned upside down, Emily must choose between allowing the voices from her past to guide her future or forging her own path forward.

And now, my review:

Our heroine grew up without her father, which has left a void in her life and a determination that any man who would abandon or avoid his family isn’t trustworthy. She hasn’t taken into account reasons a man might do that. This was a great conflict between the characters. Loved this tension as it unfolded, and I enjoyed the fatherhood theme throughout.

This is a reunion romance, which is one of my favorites. I saw some of the vignettes Courtney describes as movie scenes; they were so well written. Here’s an example from page 32:

As he strode toward them, Emily felt her shoulders straighten. It was almost as if he were moving in slow motion, as if her past were unraveling right in front of her. Her heart quickened. She hadn’t counted on this—on him.

The vision unspools in your mind, doesn’t it?

Security is another theme. The heroine protects herself with guards and always leaves herself an out. I think this will be relatable to readers who’ve ever felt unsure while visiting their hometown and facing down their pasts, especially those whose pasts are messy. Emily’s past is messy. She doesn’t feel she belongs—another relatable theme for readers.

Oh, the chemistry between these characters. I highlighted several places where Courtney paired their history and their conversational game that builds intimacy with their chemistry. These two will only let the other person in, even while Emily keeps Hollis at arm’s length. A great romantic tension, believable. Well crafted.

Our heroine is an actress, which was a fun career. She manifested the talent from childhood. I loved this aspect of her life. She’d been a child star, someone our hero could grow up crushing on. Yummy, right?

Though she has passed, Emily’s mother offers advice to her through letters. This was an interesting element as well. We tend to elevate the words of those who've passed, don't we? I don't blame her. This ingredient was well handled.

There are family secrets to discover in this well-woven novel. For all those reasons and more, I loved this book.

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Hooked on You by Kathleen Fuller

Hooked on You by Kathleen Fuller

New release!

Look at that gorgeous cover! A different take on the bookshop craze—a knitting/yarn shop!

Let’s begin with the summary:

She never wanted to come back. He never wants to leave. The town of Maple Falls has plans for them both.

Riley McAllister is living the dream in New York City . . . if the dream means being a struggling mixed-media artist, part-time food delivery driver, and having a carefully curated social media to hide all of the above. She refuses to admit defeat and move back to small-town Maple Falls, but when her grandmother breaks her leg sliding into third base during a softball game (she was safe, by the way), Riley reluctantly agrees to go home and help the woman who raised her—while secretly hoping she can convince Mimi to sell her house and yarn shop and move in with a good friend. Then Riley can return to her new life in NYC, on her own and for good.

But Mimi has her own plans, which include setting Riley up with local baseball star Hayden Price, who returned to Maple Falls after an injury ended his major league career. Now he works at his father’s hardware store, coaches the church softball team, and worries about the declining town. It’s not the life he dreamed of having.

With a little meddling and a lot of kindness from the town, Hayden and Riley find themselves unexpectedly falling for each other as they discover the true meaning of home.

Welcome to Maple Falls, where everyone knows your name and your business.

And now, my review:

Our heroine is an artist, which is an interesting career to read about. She’s struggling to achieve her dreams, and I think readers will relate with that. I enjoy story lines that include a character chasing their aspirations, working hard, sacrificing. She’s ashamed of the length of time it’s taking. Perhaps she’s looking for validation in the wrong area—again, relatable for readers.

Our hero hasn’t achieved his goals either. He coaches the elderly in their softball team, which brings him in close proximity to the heroine and her grandmother in a unique way. I liked that we shared time in his POV. He’s just as much a victim of Mimi’s meddling, but that adds to the fun. We get to spend time in Mimi’s POV. She’s eccentric and feisty. So many interesting characters.

The small-town atmosphere is a charming setting. I liked the originality of the artist's career and the yarn shop. 

Unfortunately, though, the book plodded along for me. I couldn’t get hooked into the story. To be fair, I read the ARC, but I found so many repeated words and phrases needing tightening. The story pacing stalled in redundancy, and I didn’t find rich layers. It’s possible those elements were addressed in the editing phases. As Kathleen was a new-to-me author and since I loved the cover, I had high hopes for this one. But I gave up at 15 percent. Perhaps the plot and setting felt too similar to other series that without an engaging hook, I couldn’t stay with it.

I have another of Kathleen’s book in my wish-list pile, and I look forward to checking out her work again. I received a complimentary copy of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.

I wish the author and publisher all the best.