Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Brush with Love by Rachel Hauck

A Brush with Love by Rachel Hauck

Here's the next novella in Zondervan's Year of Weddings series, and it's the first for 2015! In the author’s note, Rachel mentions having more material than a novella could hold. I believe it. Fantastic story! One of my favorite reads this year.

Let's begin with the summary: 

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 she would never be one of the beautiful people. She was always "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 remain chained to the past or move freely into a new, exciting future. 

And now, my review:  

Ginger has solid reasons for believing the lie she believes. She has literal scars and internal ones too. It’s the internal ones she needs to overcome. She wants to feel beautiful. She wants to be accepted.

Enter Tom—a former Marine who is now a pastor. He has always thought her beautiful, scars and all. He’s carried secrets about how they parted all those years ago. I loved his heart, his calling—to pronounce her beautiful. (In this story, beauty represented so much more than superficiality.) He’s also called to help her return to Jesus, leaving his own desires to woo her in the background. I liked how he represented God's heart for us.

Their adventures were fun to watch, couched in Rachel’s phenomenal descriptions and fun scenarios. I had plenty of laugh-out-loud moments.

Brushes were a symbol in this story. Ginger is renewing her salon with paint, which she brushes on. Plus, she works as a hairstylist and makeup artist to help people look beautiful. Still, she can’t do anything to brush over her own scars—so she wears long sleeves and scarves. I believe that whether readers have literal scars or internal ones, they’ll relate with this heroine and her struggle. Plus this call to believe the truth and leave behind the chains of the past is a profound beckoning. Rachel touches on the shame of our scars and demonstrates we're each called beyond the agreement with that shame into a place of freedom.

I loved that Alisha Powell (of IHOPKC) made an appearance, and I always appreciate Rachel’s unapologetic message of worship—that God delights in us and wants to fascinate us with His love.

Zondervan’s Year of Weddings series of novellas has been great in 2014. I’m thrilled they’re doing it again for 2015.

Highly recommended!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Update: Her Nerdy Cowboy by Annette M. Irby

Hey friends, it turns out Her Nerdy Cowboy is now available on Amazon. It's a short story in the sweet (meaning wholesome) inspirational romance genre. Early feedback from readers has been very positive, which is a thrill for writers. :)

Here's the cover, the link, and the blurb:

Her Nerdy Cowboy

Whoever heard of a bookish cowboy? When Logan McDaniel’s brother-in-law dies, he steps in to help his beloved sister run her ranch. But what does a city boy know of herding cattle?
Claire Langley loved her cousin. After he dies, she agrees to serve as a temporary nanny for two heartbroken children. Claire and Logan find they share a love of books, and Claire can’t resist the nerdy uncle who is great with children and who reads to her of pirate romance, but Claire’s ailing mother needs her in Seattle. Can she break away? And if she does, can there ever be a future for Logan and her?

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Cover Reveal: Her Nerdy Cowboy!

COVER REVEAL: Her Nerdy Cowboy 

Release date: January 1, 2015

Tag line: Two bookish heroes step in to help a new widowhe'll play cowboy; she'll be the nanny. They're falling for each other, but how can they be together if their separate lives wait for them back in Seattle?

Her Nerdy Cowboy
Hey everyone! I'm excited to share the cover of my next book with you. Do you recall a post earlier this year about a new book contract? That book, Her Nerdy Cowboy, comes out New Year’s Day. I’m so excited! It’s a short story, e-book, available for $1.00 or $0.99 download (depending on where you buy it). Contemporary, Christian romance. It’s a light, fun read I hope you'll enjoy.

Here's the blurb:

Whoever heard of a bookish cowboy? When Logan McDaniel’s brother-in-law dies, he steps in to help his beloved sister run her ranch. But what does a city boy know of herding cattle? Claire Langley loved her cousin. After he dies, she agrees to serve as a temporary nanny for two heartbroken children. Claire and Logan find they share a love of books, and Claire can’t resist the nerdy uncle who is great with children, and who reads to her of pirate romance. Claire’s ailing mother needs her in Seattle. Can she break away? And if she does, can there ever be a future for Logan and her?

You can pick up a copy for your e-reader on January 1st. :) And if you like it, please leave a review either at White Rose or Amazon, if you would. Thanks!

Either way, read on, friends!

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Wishing Season by Denise Hunter

The Wishing Season by Denise Hunter

I love revisiting Chapel Springs where the characters and setting are familiar. Isn't that a great cover? This book released this month, but though the cover and release date seem to indicate we have a Christmas read, you could read this one any time of year.

Let’s begin with the summary:

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.

And now, my review:

This story begins with a bang as our heroine conks the hero on the head thinking he’s breaking into her home.

The hero wants to help others. He’s trying to atone for his past, believing a lie he isn’t dependable or trustworthy. But readers will see the truth—he’s dependable, caring, likable. And lonely. Denise is great at writing believable male POV.

The heroine has something to prove to her family. They don’t give her credit for being a capable adult. Sure, she’s had some tough breaks, perhaps made some questionable decisions. But she graduated culinary school and is trying to live her dream. Sounds rather capable to me. And relatable for readers, I think. I liked how distinctive the heroine’s voice was. She over-speaks in the beginning, but tapers back before it can get annoying.

These two are in competition for a location to house their dreams. They each have a year to prove to the building’s owner that their individual projects are worthwhile. Trouble is, they’re falling for each other. And doubting themselves. Denise’s layering of both character and plot drew me deeper into the story.

I enjoyed watching the romance develop. These two have to share the same house—in a wholesome upstairs-downstairs sort of way. Fans of Denise know that you will not be disappointed as her characters’ love grows. She writes great tension and kissing scenes. We’re talking CBA here, so her books are wholesome, of course. But those kissing scenes might surprise you. And these two characters had a few of those scenes.

A great read!

Monday, December 1, 2014

A November Bride by Beth K. Vogt

A November Bride

I’ve read several of the books in Zondervan’s Year of Weddings series, and this title was one of my favorites among them. 

Let’s begin with the summary:

Sadie McAllister is fastidious to a fault—but that serves her well as a personal chef to her clients in Denver. Yet 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 marriagenot 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"?

And now, my review:

Reunion romances are fun to read. They make for great novellas because there has already been a history between the characters, which makes a relationship developing in the short span of a novella believable. These two have a history together—she once asked him to a dance, which he refused. He had his reasons. Now she’s cautious where he’s concerned, except in the role of friends.

Our heroine struggles with believing lies about her appearance. She had to wear an eye patch in elementary school, making her a target for teasing. At the same time, this heroine has a strong will and thinks for herself. When the hero tries to orchestrate the perfect first date with her, telling her how to greet him at the door, she agrees to a redo. Once ready to leave, during the second attempt she makes him wait then opens the door wearing a Japanese kimono. He’ll have to wait some more. Ha! I laughed aloud. In fact, there were several places where I laughed out loud. Here is a spunky heroine readers don’t want to throttle.

Our hero struggles with not wanting to fail in relationships. He feels he’s protecting Sadie (aptly named, given the connection the Sadie Hawkins’ dance) from getting hurt.  A noble choice. But he’s called to risk his heart… So, will he?

The mentor characters in this novel were strong and helped moved the story forward. I appreciate the streamlining a novella’s structure brings to a story. You move the romance from A to Z without a lot of detours, but that construction didn’t limit this author. She included a few twists to keep me flipping screens.

Very fun contemporary romance set in the fall. Enjoy! 

Highly recommended!