Saturday, January 22, 2022

Drift Away in A Heart Adrift

You will need chocolate  - and lots of it - as you read Laura Frantz’s A Heart Adrift. This is a beautiful story of loss, forgiveness, and love. The story follows Henri and Esmee as they get a second chance at love 10 years after they broke their engagement. Esmee is a chocolatier and makes delicious-sounding chocolates you will want to eat while reading this story. Henri is a sea captain that can’t seem to find his place on “land” despite being at a time where he is ready to leave the sea behind for good.

Having the courage to change, get through daunting moments, and forgive is essential for Henri and Esmee to have their second chance at love. Author Laura Frantz weaves a magnificent story showing how having the bravery to sit in the uncomfortable moments and have difficult conversations is essential for not having regrets in life and opens the door of opportunity for potentially a second chance at love.

The most powerful aspect of Ms. Frantz’s writing is that she doesn’t skip over the hard topics. She addresses them with truth, grace, and love. This story includes acknowledging slavery and indentured workers, which was a prevalent issue during this time. It could be so easy to skip over these painful realities and leave them out, but she fearlessly wades in and speaks into these truths that were happening during this period in our history.

I have learned so much about history, especially American history from her well researched and equally well-written stories. I am always blown away at the details and people woven into her stories with historical accuracy. It makes you want to learn and research more about specific people, topics and places from the time period she is writing about. A Heart Adrift is the perfect blend of engaging and educational. 

This story felt very much like Ms. Frantz getting back to her roots as a storyteller. She just has a way of challenging you to see and think about tough topics in new light. This book especially opened my eyes to seeing how losing someone can turn a person into an “idol” that you value before God because of the love they gave you while here on earth. There is a lot of “loss” in this book and some of the characters' storylines wrapped up too quickly at the end for you to feel like resolution happened. I don’t want to give anything away, but since this is not usually her style as a writer, I believe this might mean that some of the characters' storylines might continue in another book to see full closure of their characters' story and growth. At least I hope so!

I absolutely loved this book overall. However, I was sad that there was no epilogue included at the end. This is not a light read and you were only able to have small sliver of the “happy ending” that Esmee and Henri worked so hard to have happen for them.  The story would have felt more satisfying and complete to have a snapshot at what their life might have looked like in the future after making it through so much suffering and hardship. However, please don’t let this fact stop you from choosing to read this stunning story that weaves together history, faith, and love so smoothly. Just like one of Esmee’s chocolates. Remember, don’t forget the chocolate to make this story that much sweeter when you read it.

P.S. Laura Frantz is one of my best friend’s favorite authors. She graciously helped me formulate my thoughts around this book to make sure I provided the best review possible for all the Laura Frantz book lovers out there : ) 

~~ A Heart Adrift was provided to me by the author herself and Revell in return for my honest review. I received a complimentary copy of the book. All opinions expressed are my own, I was not required to write a positive review. All viewpoints expressed are my own.~~

Proposing Mischief Marries Adventure and Treasure

Author Regina Jennings' new book in her Joplin Chronicles series, Proposing Mischief, was so enjoyable I didn't want it to end.

The Kentworth cousins are back, and Maisie Kentworth is the heroine in book two. Readers meet her in Courting Misfortune, where she is loyal and honest. In Proposing Mischief, however, we discover another side of Maisie. Her family goes into protective mode after a brief relationship with the wrong man, so she finds herself stuck working on her parents' ranch all the while contemplating her actions. Feeling trapped on the farm, she explores a mine on the edge of her family's land belonging to Boone Bragg and discovers unfound treasure. 

Similarly, to Maisie, the hero in this story, Boone, is also feeling trapped by being thrust into a leadership role at his family's mine (Bragg Mine) while his parents are on vacation. He struggles to tactfully dissuade an associate who wants him to marry his daughter without offending him all while learning to run the mine well. 

Boone saw his "proposal" as a way to gain freedom. Maisie would gain independence and protection by being married to him and he would gain 'autonomy' to run the mine to the best of his ability and not have every single female within a 10-mile radius thrown at him in hopes of matrimony. Neither of them factored love into the equation. 

Maisie has so many qualities I appreciated: her gumption, honesty, and hard-working mindset. She was not one to sit idle and she didn't put on airs. She was just simply unapologetically herself and had such a likeable and refreshing persona. The perfect foil for Boone.  

In Maisie, Boone finds her to be "a diamond in the rough" and "the best treasure [he] found in the mine." (Jennings, 219). 

I really liked how Ms. Jennings developed Boone and Maisie's relationship beginning with friendship and gradually growing into love, respect, and a mutual attraction for each other. It's refreshing to read a book that focused on the more meaningful qualities that build a lasting relationship and did not just focus on the physical aspect of a healthy relationship, which seems so lacking in many books. If you want some good laughs and to feel like you are reading about a healthy romance and not a shallow one, then this is the book for you. 



~~ Proposing Mischief was provided to me by the author herself and Bethany House in return for my honest review. I received a complimentary copy of the book. All opinions expressed are my own, I was not required to write a positive review. All viewpoints expressed are my own.~~

Friday, January 7, 2022

Ringing in 2022 with 100th Post

Happy New Year BlondeClassic fans! This blog post will be a departure from my others. The first post in 2022! My blog is celebrating a major milestone - 100 posts! Even typing out the number 100 blows my mind. I'd never have guessed when I started my blog 7 years ago I'd still be blogging let alone reach 100 posts!

Let the thank you's start rolling in:

My parents and siblings for the encouragement with my writing. 

My best friend Jennifer Klotz. We are lifelong best friends. She is the person who helps me by spending countless hours editing my posts until they are just right. She also inspired the name for my blog (BlondeClassic) because I'm blonde and enjoy classic films and books. Thank you doesn't seem like enough. Your constant friendship, encouragement and support mean the world to me and I'm not sure I'd have gotten as far as I did without your unwavering support. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you. 

To all the incredibly gifted Christian fiction writers whose influencer teams I'm privileged to be a part of. Thank you for entrusting your books to me to read and review. Even after all these years, it's still a tremendous honor and one I don't take lightly. 

Lastly, thank you to each and everyone one of you that takes the time to read my blogs and comment. It means the world to me. 

Here's to 2022 and the many fantastic books we get to read! 

Happy reading!

Emilee

Friday, December 31, 2021

Unpacking Christmas: Thatcher Sisters Conclusion

 



Christmas may be over, but I'm still in the holiday mode with reading books set during this joyous season. I was so excited to dive into author Beth K Vogt's Unpacking Christmas: A Thatcher Sisters Novella

(Side note: If you haven/t read Ms. Vogt's Thatcher sisters series I can't recommend it enough. Also, you may need Kleenex. I cried a few times in each novel, including Unpacking Christmas.)

 
Being reunited with Payton, Jillian, and Johanna felt like coming home.  In Unpacking Christmas, Don and Heather, the parents of the Thatcher sister, take center stage. Throughout the series the parents are in all three novels, but only enough to get a sense they love their daughters and that they'd experienced a tragedy, yet remained intact as a family.  I liked the insight into the parents' backstory.  Heather's home life wasn't a stable one. Her father was always moving the family to the "next big thing," (Vogt, 126).  However, Don and Heather were determined to give their girls a stable life filled with cherished memories. 

While the Thatcher clan is looking forward to the Christmas season they find their world altered with their parents' news, their father's health crisis, and all of the sisters' own secrets - everything is a tangled tinsel mess! 

Ms.Vogt said it best on the back of the book blurb- "This Christmas - Johanna, Jillian, and Payton will laugh and cry together as they realize the true magic of Christmas isn't found in gifts or decorations, but the love of family."  Closing the book with a smile on my face and tears in my eyes, I had a deep refreshed sense of how true this is. I'm so grateful for Ms. Vogt's insights into the love and soul of a family. She really captured this idea in the whole Thatcher sister series, but the theme was especially present in Unpacking Christmas. 

Despite the fact that Don and Heather weren't Christians, I liked the fact they still had a loving marriage. "Promises didn't happen just in churches during wedding ceremonies. They continued again and again throughout the marriage as needed." (Vogt, 72). 

This might be capricious of me, but the two subtle references to Frank Capra's 1946 Christmas classic It's A Wonderful Life made me enjoy and appreciate Unpacking Christmas that much more. Watching this beloved film around Christmas every year is an annual tradition. (Incidentally, this year 2021 marks the 75th anniversary for this treasured film.) 

It's A Wonderful Life shows the impact of your one unique life and the relationships you have. The Thatcher sisters relationship has not always been the best and I love how this quote, "They'd found hard to find closeness with every Saturday morning book club where they drank coffee and talked about everything but books." (Vogt, 104) shows how they they are continuing to work on being in each others' lives and continuing to work on their relationships. 

Just like 2020, 2021 was not easy. We are all struggling with where and what is going on in the world. I love how this quote in the book reminds us that despite the struggles, to focus on what we are thankful for and that we are still here. 

"I'm just leaning into all the reasons I'm thankful. You're still here. The girls are happy and everyone is living their lives, even if there are are struggles. And isn't that what we want for our children?"
(Vogt, 133).

If you need a little love and joy put back into your heart before you walk into 2022, this is the story for you. You will laugh, cry, and be reminded of the many things you have to be grateful for. I pray you have a blessed closing to 2021. I look forward to sharing more book reviews and life with you in 2022. 

Blessings,
Emilee 



Thursday, November 18, 2021

Unwrap Some Christmas Charm


Just in time for the Christmas holidays bestselling author, Courtney Walsh, gifts readers with  A Cross-Country Christmas (October 26th) . The charming Hallmark-inspired plot and cute cover drew me in. (For the record, I unashamedly love binging Hallmark Christmas so I had an inkling I'd thoroughly enjoy A Cross Country Christmas.)

Sitcom set designer Lauren Richmond isn't a fan of flying or Christmas. Because of this she hasn't been home to see her family in 3 years.
 Older brother Spencer arranges for her to hitch a ride with his best friend Will Sinclair. The same Will she'd spent half of her childhood crushing on and "[who] looks like Chris Evans after the super soldier serum." (Walsh, 10). What she thought was a 3-day roundtrip driving across country from The Golden State to the Windy City ends up taking 7 lengthy days. During the week long trip both Lauren and Will learn about each other's pasts all the while developing a relationship in the present. 

Hero Will Sinclair needs to be added to my ever-growing list of book boyfriends. He was so sweet, a little flirty and had an unexpected complexity. This complexity is one of the main reasons this book was so enjoyable. I am at the point in my reading where I am looking for real and relatable characters. He was someone you believed you could find in real life. Not your typical trope male character which was so refreshing. 

Lauren was a character I both related to and resonated with. Like her, I'm a planner and not great at the fly-by-the-seat of- your -pants scenarios. Also, like Lauren I had an unrequited crush on a family friend. Ms. Walsh really captures all the feelings and emotions a young girl experiences when they have a first crush. I love when stories can reflect life experiences and cause readers to recall with laughter and joy their childhood. 

I anticipated A Cross Country Christmas to be a feel-good, light-hearted read and it was all of these things, but the twist at the end made it a more tender and heart-felt and a read that has stayed with me long after I closed the book.

 A Cross Country Christmas is sure to make it into the stockings of bookworms this holiday season and in my opinion to be unwrapped and read. 

~~ A Cross Country Christmas was provided to me by the author herself in return for my honest review. I received a complimentary copy of the book. All opinions expressed are my own, I was not required to write a positive review. All viewpoints expressed are my own.~~

A Deep Divide is Solid

I had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Woodhouse this summer. Let me tell you readers, Kim is a blast. So much fun! I felt like I'd known her for years. Her vivacious personality draws you in like a magnet. You're having a great time just being around her...that Kim's Chicks (nickname for fans of Ms. Woodhouse) is Ms. Woodhouse to a T!

I was so honored to be on her influencer team for this book and share it with you all. A Deep Divide is the first book in her new Secrets of the Canyon series. 



Heiress Emma Grace McMurray has been on the run "the past five years of her life had been living in a prison of her own making. Always running. Always looking over her shoulder." (Woodhouse,170). Working as a Harvey Girl she discovers a world of  "women of good  moral characters, manners, loyalty, and work ethic." (Woodhouse, 97).  Hoping for a fresh start she begins to carve out a life for herself at the new and popular El Tovar Hotel known for the majestic view of the Grand Canyon.

Ray Watkins works for his father's business but finds himself quite often balancing the practicing of the 5th commandment in the Bible and his conscience. Ray's father is all about promoting the Watkins name with the goal of it being internationally known.  He hopes to one day use his father's company to help others less fortunate. His path crosses with Emma Grace and he finds himself immediately drawn to her.  While Emma likes Ray she can't help but let her bias against wealthy men cause her to put up walls. She isn't quite sure what to make of Ray because "he wasn't at all like the other wealthy men she'd known. If she weren't careful, it would be far too easy to get caught up in all his talk of philanthropy. And his blue eyes." (Woodhouse, 184).   

Will Emma's past catch up with her? Will Ray and Emma be able to overcome it and discover a life together? 

Seeing the growth in Emma and how she comes to a saving faith and that faith actively changing her was one of my favorite parts of A Deep Divide. " The change that God had done in her was truly amazing...No longer did she feel weighted down." (Woodhouse 305-306).  It reminded me as a believer how God transforms our lives. 

Overall, I thought A Deep Divide was an intriguing story, however there were a few moments where I felt it lagged a bit while trying to create suspense and sometimes focused a little too much on developing theology, instead of building the mystery and suspense. This made it hard to fully connect and appreciate the story in its entirety because the momentum of the plot shifted

If you are looking for a slow build mystery and redemption story tied together, this is the book for you! 

~~A Deep Divide was provided to me by the author and Bethany House in return for my honest review. I received a complimentary copy of the book. All opinions expressed are my own, I was not required to write a positive review. All viewpoints expressed are my own.~~

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Christmas Comes Early with Under The Texas Mistletoe

 

Four months before Christmas, beloved author Karen Witemeyer gives her readers' an early Christmas gift with Under the Texas Mistletoe: A Trio of Christmas Historical Romance Novellas. 

I make no secret of the fact that I'm an ardent fan of Ms. Witemeyer's books. Last month, I had the honor and privilege to meet Karen in person at the Mississippi River Readers Retreat. What a thrill and delight for me as a reader!  Meeting Karen only deepened my appreciate and admiration for her. Her kind and gracious manner put me at ease straight away and made me feel as if I'd known her my entire life. Karen, meeting you will forever be a memory I hold dear in my heart. Thank you.

A Texas Christmas Carol is the first novella that begins this collection. Ms. Witemeyer gives subtle nods throughout to Dicken's Christmas Carol with a Texas twist.

Felicity Wiggins persistent determination to have Evan Beazer donate either money or time to the Christmas Basket Committee for needy families soon wins him over despite his best efforts. Evan soon finds himself seeing Felicity in a new light as he realizes that "Family was her lifeblood." (Witemeyer, 43) and she "was a woman worth waiting for." (Witemeyer, 41). 

One aspect of Ms. Witemeyer's writing that I appreciate are the gospel message and the nuggets of truth she manages to seamlessly sprinkle in all her stories. An example, I think of Felicity's explanation of Christmas when talking to Evan. "The Spirit of Christmas is about touching lives and letting them touch you in return. That's why Jesus left heaven, why he confined his infinite being into a finite flesh. To give us the best gift ever given-his presence. Immanuel. God with us...To leave your wallet behind and give what comes from the heart." (Witemeyer, 23).

How Ms. Witemeyer wove together both the gospel elements and the nods to the iconic Christmas Carol was so cleverly & beautifully entwined together to make a delightful and heartfelt read that you just did not want to put down. I might have lost a lot of sleep trying to finish this in one sitting because I just did not want to close the book. It will leave you contemplating the meaning of Christmas in the best way possible. 

The next novella included is  An Archer Family Christmas! (Previously only available as a digital download.) Who are the Archers? Well I'm glad you asked. After you finish A Texas Christmas Carol, but before you start this 2nd novella you'll want to acquaint yourself with the Archers through Short-Straw Bride, Stealing the Preacher and A Cowboy Unmatched. (Note: If you prefer a print version of stories you can find A Cowboy Unmatched in the A Match Made in Texas collection). 


  

I'd recommend running to the nearest bookstore or library to find these books. I'm only teasing about reading 3 novels before this novella. Although, I do highly recommend all of these books. You will not be disappointed. Because I've read all the books about the Archer clan this Christmas novella felt like coming home and being reunited with old friends you hadn't seen in a while. 
All of the Archer men and their wives' and children have reunited at the homestead of their youth to spend Christmas together. A plea for help puts Cassie Archer unexpectedly in the crosshairs of a dangerous man and it will take all of the Archers banning together to save Cassie. Will their Christmas end in disaster? 
This novella further completed/rounded out the Archer clan to this reader's satisfaction. Slight Spoiler Alert: I appreciated what I felt was a full circle moment. It was interesting to me how the Archer men were wary of any and all outsiders with the motto "Archer's protect their own" to now see the men are husbands and fathers however the same creed is even more ingrained in them because of their families.

If Ms. Witemeyer even needs any more story ideas I'd be interested in re-visiting the Archers and their brood. Perhaps she could do a series with the Archer children/cousins. 

A Gift of the Heart rounds out this compilation of sweet and delightful Christmas-themed novellas. 
This novella was previously published in A Christmas Heirloom and I already did an in-depth review about it here

Under the Texas Mistletoe is a joy and delight from beginning to end and not to be missed. I will want to be re-reading it again before Christmas for years to come. 

~~ Under the Texas Mistletoe was provided to me by the author and Bethany House in return for my honest review. I received a complimentary copy of the book. All opinions expressed are my own, I was not required to write a positive review. All viewpoints expressed are my own.~~