Saturday, October 23, 2021

Riverbend Gap by Denise Hunter

Riverbend Gap by Denise Hunter

I’ve long been a fan of Denise Hunter and her work! How exciting to find this first book in her new series. Isn't that a lovely cover?

Let’s begin with the summary:

She came in search of the family she’d always wanted—and found the kind of love she’d never dared imagine.

When Katelyn Loveland’s car veered off a winding Appalachian Mountain road, she thought she was done for. That is until Cooper Robinson, local sheriff’s deputy, came to her rescue. And though Katie narrowly escaped her brush with death, she still fell. Hard.

She wasn’t the only one. But soon Cooper learns that the woman he’s more attracted to than any he’s ever met is his brother’s new girlfriend—and therefore unquestionably off limits. Yet, despite their best efforts, Cooper and Katie can’t seem to avoid running into each other. Or ignore the undeniable chemistry between them.

As they grow closer, Katie shares secrets from her past and the real reason she moved to their small North Carolina town. She also wins over Cooper’s welcoming and bighearted family. But they don’t know that her feelings for Cooper keep growing—all while she’s dating his brother. Soon the stakes of their emotional connection become higher than either could have imagined.

Katie stands to lose the first family she’s ever had, and a scandal could doom Cooper’s campaign for sheriff. Suddenly they find themselves on the edge of another precipice—and they’re forced to make a decision that could change their lives forever.

And now, my review:

Denise is a master storyteller.

From the opening pages of this story, I was hooked by the peril and the main characters’ chemistry. Very compelling opening scene! We learn of the hero’s competence, career, and nobility right away. The heroine’s strength and courage help us root for her, caring for her immediately.

These two had great banter. He’s not a talker, but when he needs to save someone’s life, he rises and even cracks jokes, helping to calm the other person.

I loved that the hero was a sheriff’s deputy. His goal is to overcome his father’s sins, to shine in his own right, to redeem his family’s reputation. A lofty goal for someone in this fictional small town where everyone’s memories prevail almost as assuredly as their commitment to rumors and gossip.

Deputy Cooper Robinson came alive on the page. I loved his courage and will, his determination to help. He’s fiercely loyal to his family, especially wanting to see his brother Gavin thrive after a devastating loss. This element made me respect Cooper’s why-not in this romance.

Kate Loveland wants a family. She’s on a search for answers and longs for a chance to make amends. She’s also suffering from a loss and could use a support system to help her through. She finds that in this small town, with the Robinson family.

I loved the secondary characters, especially Cooper’s step-dad. His two cents method of letting his step-kids choose whether they wanted his input or not was clever.

Some themes include: discovering your own identity, beyond your family of origin; overcoming the past; loss of family members; overcoming addiction; chasing one's dreams; family devotion. 

This was one of my favorite reads this year. Very enjoyable. Compelling issues and relatable emotional conflicts, but not too heavy. I highlighted phrases in my e-reader as I went, and at some points my notes read simply: magic. Such great dialogue!

We also get to learn more about the Appalachian Trail through this novel. As a northerner who has only ever heard about it, I loved this element. I look forward to reading Gavin’s story at some point in this Riverbend Romance series.

Highly recommended!

Monday, October 11, 2021

Mistletoe Countess by Pepper Basham

Mistletoe Countess by Pepper Basham

Such an enjoyable Christmas read!

Here’s the summary:

Will the magic of Christmas bring these two newlyweds closer together, or will the ghosts of the past lead them into a destructive discovery from which not even a Dickens’s Christmas can save them?

Mistletoe is beautiful and dangerous, much like the woman from Lord Frederick’s Percy’s past, so when he turns over a new leaf and arranges to marry for his estate, instead of his heart, he never expects the wrong bride to be the right choice. Gracelynn Ferguson never expected to take her elder sister’s place as a Christmas bride, but when she’s thrust into the choice, she will trust in her faithful novels and overactive imagination to help her not only win Frederick’s heart but also to solve the murder mystery of Havensbrook Hall before the ghosts from Frederick’s past ruin her fairytale future.

And now, my review:

Pepper’s rich storytelling and strong prose immersed me into the story from the beginning. And that premise: the wrong bride is (somehow) the right choice! What a hook.

According to the hero, the heroine has "no reserve whatsoever." Ha! That’s enough to make him uncomfortable. She’s lively and unpredictable. He’s burdened by regrets and has allowed “the past to attach weights to the future.” Insightful lines like that pop up now and then like Christmas gifts to the reader.

The romantic thread is enjoyable, centered around books and fiction, and being the heroine or hero of your own story. The newlyweds' relationship must begin at the beginning, and it's fun watching their intimacy grow.

I appreciated how Pepper included symbolism throughout. Our heroine is very intelligent and strong. She’s courageous. Our hero carries the burdens of his role as a nobleman, but he’s kind, which draws her. She can see his heroic side, even if he can’t. She supports him in a beautiful way, and that thread felt like a takeaway for married readers.

One recurring thought moved me often as I read: I want to see this book made into a movie. The rich setting and prose, the characters, the romance—this story begs to be shown, played out.

I loved this novel! Highly recommended!