Monday, November 15, 2021

An Alleged Rogue by Sian Ann Bessey

An Alleged Rogue by Sian Ann Bessey

Isn’t that an intriguing cover?

Here’s the summary:

Lord Adam Dunsbourne is a tyrant. At least, that’s what everyone says. The tales are shocking: accounts of a man who gambled away the family fortune and keeps his younger sister, Emily, captive in their home at Dunsbourne Manor. So when Adam and his sister make an unexpected appearance at a dinner party, the scandalized whispers cannot be contained.

New to the town, Phoebe Hadford hears the condemning rumors and determines to do all she can to help the baron’s oppressed sister. Upon entering Dunsbourne Manor, however, she quickly discovers that all is not what she has been led to believe.

Adam, unsure of whether he can trust the intentions of his beautiful neighbor, is quickly drawn in by Phoebe’s genuine nature. But even as Adam and Phoebe’s connection deepens, a dangerous enemy from Adam’s past reemerges. For years, Adam has hunted for the man who betrayed him, not realizing he had only to wait. His foe has returned, and this time, he will threaten everything Adam cherishes most—including the woman he loves.

And now, my review:

I admit I was a little lost as this story opened, without a date. But my interest kicked in when I realized that both the hero and heroine have preconceptions about the other that are untrue. Of course, the plot throws them together, which means we got to watch them begin to unravel those falsehoods. I liked this aspect.

The hero runs an orchard, so we get to learn more about apple varieties. This was interesting as well. I’d rather focus on the relationships, and this apple preoccupation at times got in the way. We discover he’s likable and earnest, a noble nobleman.

The heroine is gracious socially. She takes the hero’s sister under her wing and eases her way into society. This made the sincere and kind heroine even more likable.

Admittedly, too, I read the ARC so these elements may have changed, but the plot occasionally meandered from a true course. There were a few places where I was no longer hooked into the story, and I ended up giving up about halfway through.

That said, I wish the author all the best. This is book three in the Georgian Gentlemen Series, but it seems to stand alone.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

A Cross-Country Christmas by Courtney Walsh


A Cross-Country Christmas

Courtney Walsh is one of my favorite authors right now! Love reading her work.

Let’s begin with the summary:

Lauren Richmond isn’t a fan of Christmas.

Which is why she rarely makes the trip home to the Midwest for the holidays. After all, she has plenty to keep her busy—namely, her duties as a set decorator on a TV sitcom.

But this December, Lauren’s brother and his wife are expecting a baby, so her brother arranges a ride home for her with his good friend, Will.

Unfortunately for Lauren, she’s been trying to forget college baseball coach and childhood crush Will Sinclair for more than ten years.

Now, thanks to her fear of flying, she’s stuck in a car with him from California to Illinois.

She’s circumspect and organized. He’s flirty and spontaneous.

She’s convinced that people don’t change. He’s trying to prove to her (and himself) that he has.

On this cross-country road trip, they’ll both discover that history doesn’t exactly repeat itself. . . but like any good Christmas carol, it does have a second verse.

And now, my review:

One of my favorite reads in 2020 was Courtney’s A Match Made at Christmas, which was a holiday novella. I loved it. (See my review for that novella here.) So, how thrilling to find this full-length novel set at Christmastime released by her this year.

This was one of my favorite reads of 2021! Courtney has a gift for writing wholesome romance. Rom-coms are an ideal medicine in our current world—a chance to escape and laugh and feel good. And this story delivers!

As a self-published novel, the story has some unusual elements, including a couple scenarios and a few unexpected words that readers of trad pubbed Christian fiction may not expect. But nothing vulgar or profane. There were also a few typos, but nothing worth worrying about.

The hero is hiding insecurity and a secret pain, while being noble. And though he can’t forgive himself for his past, he’s still trying to push forward and make a difference. He’s three-dimensional and readers will respect, sympathize with, and connect with him.

The heroine has the hero pegged. No doubt in her mind he is what he always was. That touches on a major theme in the story: people don’t change. Sounds rather cynical, huh? I liked her layers and her competence. She has her own regrets and a well-guarded heart.

I love a romance where one of the MCs attempts to reach through the other’s walls, via kindness and patience, even when it costs them something to try.

Their careers make us respect them. He’s a goofball interpersonally and a flirt, but deep down he’s strong, protective. A leader. A coach and mentor. Seeing those elements makes readers admire him. She’s reading him all wrong.

Her work in the arts as a set designer was interesting, original. She's been successful with more potential, even though she came from a broken home. She’s a Type A personality, and she zeros in on what she wants. We admire her for these strengths. He doesn’t understand her whole story.

One of the themes was that we’re all multifaceted. We each have strengths and weaknesses and hopes and regrets. It takes grace to see each other’s potential and grace to let our pasts go.

I loved their progress toward a relationship, toward forgiveness and love. They’re driving cross-country, but their journey is as internal as it is external. I connected with both the MCs, with their strengths and aspirations, and with their layered-in weaknesses and regrets. Great characterization, pacing, storytelling, and romance!

This book was sooo good, I may read it again this season. Brava, Courtney, thanks for a fantastic ride!

Highly recommended!

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Christmas in a Snowstorm by Lois Richer


Christmas in a Snowstorm

I love reading Christmas books in November and December. This Love Inspired Inspirational Romance released in December 2020. Christmas in a Snowstorm is book three in the Calhoun Cowboys series by Lois Richer.

Let’s begin with the summary:

Can they weather the holidays together?

Will love turn home for Christmas into home for good?

Returning home to his Montana family ranch, journalist Sam Calhoun volunteers to run the local Christmas festival. But as a snowstorm drives him closer to Joy Grainger—the single mom helping him with the project—the last thing he expects is for her children to decide he should be their new dad. Can Sam earn Joy’s trust in time to make all their Christmas wishes come true?

And now, my review:

What a setting! The author immerses readers into a delightful winter wonderland, right from the beginning. We have a blizzard, close to Christmas, and we might get snowed in. There’s something magical about this type of setting: quiet, peaceful (if you’re in a safe place), and hopefully, warm. Add a dash of romance and a strong faith thread, and we have the recipe for a feel-good holiday read.

I was hooked from the opening pages.

The hero feels out of place, like he doesn’t quite belong now that he’s back home. Readers will sympathize and perhaps relate with his longing for acceptance. I also liked that he had a secret we would learn later. The author does a great job of contrasting people's opinions and the truth of this character's nobility. We respect him, even before we learn of his past mysterious choice.

The heroine has a slew of dreams. Though I can relate to having a laundry list of aspirations, I couldn’t connect with her at the beginning of the story. She seemed two-dimensional. She had hopes, but no substance, no relatable mothering instinct in that opening scene. But I liked how driven she was, and I liked watching her receive help and provision right away.

I enjoyed the bakery at Christmas element. Yum. Overall, that sweet Christmas feeling came through.

Unfortunately, I found some grammatical issues in this published book. The story momentum sagged at one point, and I stopped reading in favor of the next book in my to-be-read pile.

Though this novel wasn’t for me, it’s definitely a Christmassy read for relaxing indoors on wintry nights.

I never felt lost even though I hadn’t read the earlier books in this series. Brava to the author! I wish the author and publisher all the best.