Sunday, October 18, 2020

The Kissing Tree is a Delight from Beginning to End

I was surprised (pun totally intended) and overjoyed to be asked by Karen Witemeyer to review her novella Inn for a Surprise part of  The Kissing Tree collection.

Confession: I may have fangirled when getting her e-mail request. E-mails from authors are like fan mail to least THIS reader. 

This novella introduces us to Phoebe Woodward an aspiring writer and resident of Oak Springs, Texas who dreams of building an inn catered as a romantic retreat for couples capitalizing on the grandeur and romance of the "Kissing Tree." Though she has never been in love, she often reads romance novels and finds inspiration for her stories in the carvings etched into the trunk of the legendary tree.

Barnabas Ackley has been tasked by Phoebe's father, Hollis Woodward, to aid her in the business planning and success of the inn. He is a pragmatic, no-nonsense man who only sees the commercial side and has difficulty incorporating the romantic aspect. Over time, Barnabas perceives Phoebe in a different light. "It also painted a clearer picture of Miss Phoebe Woodward. The inn wasn't just an unrealistic exercise in romanticism dreamt up by a naïve young woman who read too many novels. It was a preservation of the abiding love her parents had shared. Yet instead of hoarding the magic herself, she sought a way to share with others. Rather remarkable, that." (Witemeyer, 124).

Practicality (Barnabas) meets Passion (Phoebe). A battle of wits and clashing ideals ensues between them. He proposes a contest. They each decorate a room in the inn, offer to let couples stay at no charge and collect data through a series of questions as to which room they liked the best and why. The storyline made me think of a historical HGTV design show. Who will win?  (Find out after our next commercial break proudly brought to you by Woodward Land Development Company).

Karen excels at writing the best banter between characters. You just can't help but experience all the emotions: laughing, crying, and more while reading her books. Phoebe and Barnabas' love story is just so much fun and you don't want to miss it. To be honest, it was just what I needed to be reading right now. So thank you Karen for writing this fantastic read!

The notion that all of the love stories revolve around the Kissing Tree is so enchanting and unique. Each novella from the beginning to the end was a delight. To get the full effect and enjoyment of this collection of novellas; I recommend reading them in the order they are written. As a reader, you'll glean more insights and nuggets of ways the stories are woven together. While reading this compilation of stories, I found myself laughing out loud a lot and smiling constantly. The Kissing Tree is not to be missed! 

If you are looking for a light-hearted reading experience (Who doesn't right now? Here's looking at you COVID 19) where you get to escape and meet some wonderful characters you just can't help to root for, then this is the book for you! Grab some tissues, a cozy blanket, some hot tea and get ready for the much needed getaway you need right now. 

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

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Portrait of Loyalty is Picture Perfect


Portrait of Loyalty wraps up Roseanna M. White's Codebreaker series and what a poignant and touching conclusion! As a reader, completing a series is always bittersweet.
Spoiler Alert: You will need Kleenex for the last half of the book. 
Twenty- three year old Lilian 'Lily' Blackwell volunteers as a nurse at Charing Cross Hospital, but her real passion is photography. She uses her skills in re-touching and re-creating photographs for the intelligence division in Room 40. "She'd learned to capture motion-or its story, anyway-with her camera." (White, 39). 
Meeting Russian Zivon Marin at a dinner at her parents' home, she is surprised at her immediate interest and intrigue. She finds Zivon "an intriguing mass of  contradictions he was. The still and the active. The formal and the informal. The studied and the earnest." (White, 83). 
The friendship that flourishes between Zivon and Lily soon grows to love. Secrets and loyalties soon complicate their relationship. Can they overcome them, trust one another, and build a future together?

One quality I appreciated about Lily was how she viewed the world through her own lens. She saw beauty in God's creation and people. It reminded me to see the loveliness in this wonderful world God created for us. This seems especially important considering the circumstances we are facing in today's society. 

 You'll enjoy that some of the characters from Ms. White's previous series (Ladies of the Manor and Shadows Over England) appeared in Portrait of Loyalty.  It's always fun to be reunited with favorite characters from previous series...felt a little like it was old home week. Ms. White makes incorporating characters from her past series look so easy and seamless, but I'm sure it took a lot of effort and planning. 
If you loved WWI historical fiction, I highly recommend adding the Codebreaker series to the top of your TBR pile. The series can be read out of sequence, but I feel you'll get more appreciation and enjoyment if you read the series in order. Get ready to be swept away into meaningful stories and a beautiful recreation of another era!

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