Friday, December 31, 2021

Unpacking Christmas: Thatcher Sisters Conclusion

 

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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

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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

 This site contains affiliate links to products. I may receive teensy tiny commission for purchases made through these links. I only recommend books and products I love. Thank you so much for the support.


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.~~

Monday, August 30, 2021

A Man with a Past: The Saga Continues


Author Mary Connealy continues her fast-paced, plot-driven family saga in A Man with a Past book 2 in her brand new Brothers in Arms series. Oldest brother Falcon Hunt's story is told. Having suffered a severe head injury that caused him to have amnesia. He can't recall his past, his name or anything. The Hunt clan bands together to aid Falcon to try to regain his fragmented memories of who he is. Attempting to assist Flacon in remembering who he is is challenging because to the family Falcon is virtually a stranger to them. Biologically, Falcon like Kevin is family yet they know very little about him. Although this doesn't stop them from endeavoring to try through keen observations and patience. Ms. Connealy's theme of family first carries over seamlessly into the 2nd book.

Even though Falcon can't recall his past he feels a sense of rightness with his brothers and their siblings. ""Falcon found himself enjoying the way the family ate and talked and squabbled...Family, it was an interesting business. He found it suited him." (Connealy, 134-135).  

Falcon can't help, but be intrigued and captivated by Cheyenne Brewster. "He thought she was about the prettiest woman he'd ever seen." (Connealy, 62).  

Cheyenne for her part struggles with how much Falcon looks like her no-account, swindling, step-father Clovis Hunt who stole her inheritance and divided it up among her step-brother Wyatt and his two half brothers Falcon and Kevin.  

One trait I appreciate about Falcon was he was a man of honor. When he has flashbacks of a woman named Patsy not knowing if she's his wife or what relation she is to him he tells Cheyenne that..."from this day forward, I intend to be a better man than my pa, and that means nothing passing betwixt the two of us until I know for certain I am free." (Connealy, 138). I don't know of any trait more attractive in a character than honor! 

Cheyenne had several qualities I appreciated about her. She's a hard working on the ranch and can brand cattle faster than most men. She's feisty and headstrong at times and tends to charge ahead without always thinking. Clovis Hunt's will splitting the RHR into 3 sections puts her in a difficult spot. Everything she's even know is called into question. She still struggles at times with excepting the will, but rather than complain she prays. "She'd prayed about it. She really had. Prayed and prayed and prayed to accept what she could not change." (Connealy, 33.)  Cheyenne is the perfect foil for Falcon.

Will Falcon be able to piece together his past soon enough for he and Cheyenne to have a future together? 

The theme that resonated with me most was family first. Despite the fact the Hunt clan was unusual for all of the half siblings they still presented a united front helping one another when one of their own was attacked...doing everything they could to help solve the mystery. 

The style of Ms. Connealy's Brothers in Arms series is reminiscent of her Cimmaron Legacy series in  the fact that she presents a mystery in the first book and slowly unfolds it through the course of the series, which makes you want to continue diving into the series. Each book she drops more hints and clues, but we'll have to wait till book 3 to find out who is really after the Hunt clan. 

Ms. Connealy writes solid plot driven books, however, I do find myself wanting to be able to connect to the characters more in the books as sometimes they stay static as people without much character growth or change because of the strong focus on moving the plot forward with many points of view. 

Unique Observation: If you take the first book in the Brothers in Arms series(Braced for Love) and lay it cover up and then place A Man with a Past next to it you'll find it fits perfectly to reveal a picture of the three brothers once again enforcing the theme of family first. I thought this was so clever and unique marking on behalf of the publisher and author.


~~A Man with a Past 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.~~

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Five in Five

 All over social media I've been seeing people post 5 in 5 lists. Such as 5 books they recommend in 5 minutes. I thought I'd throw my hat in the ring. Instead of 5 favorite books I'd like to share 5 favorite quotes in no particular order  I hope my 5 in 5 quotes will put a smile on your face and make you want to pick up a book. Fair warning: some of my quotes may be a trifle long. Rather think of my 5 in 5 as being favorite parts of books and in their own right as book recommendations. I guess I've created my own version of 5 in 5.  Enjoy! 


"Love you! Girl, you're in the very core of my heart. I hold you there like a jewel. Didn't I promise you I'd never tell you a lie? Love you! I love you with all there is of me to love. Heart, soul, brain. Every fiber of body and spirit thrilling to the sweetness of you. There's nobody for me but you, Valancy." 

"You're a good actor, Barney," said Valancy with a wan little smile.

Barney looked at her.

"So you don't believe me-yet?"

"I- can't!"

"Oh- damn!." said Barney violently.

Valancy looked up startled. She'd never seen this Barney. Scowling! Eyes black with anger. Sneering lips. Dead-white face.

"You don't want to believe it,' said Barney in the silk-smooth voice of ultimate rage. "You're tired of me. You want to get out of it- free of me. You're ashamed of the Pills and the Liniment, just as she was. Your Stirling pride can't stomach them. It was all right as long as you thought you hadn't long to live. A good lark- you could put with me. But a lifetime with old Doc. Redfern's son is a different thing.  Oh, I understand- perfectly. I've been very dense- but I understand at last."

Valancy stood up. She stared into his furious face. Then- she suddenly laughed.

"You darling!" she said. "You do mean it! You do really love me! You wouldn't be so enraged if you didn't." 

Barney stared at her for a moment. Then he caught her in his arms with the little low laugh of the truimphant lover." (Montgomery, 214-215). The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery. 


"My dearest Emma," said he, "for dearest you will always be, whatever the event of this hour's conversation, my dearest, most beloved Emma- tell me at once. Say 'No" if it is to be said." She could really say nothing.  "You are silent," he cried, with great animation; "absolutely silent At present I ask no more."
Emma was almost ready to sink under the agitation of this moment. The dread of being awakened from the happiest dream was perhaps the most prominent feeling. "I cannot make speeches, Emma," he soon resumed, and in a tone of such sincere, decided, intelligible tenderness as was tolerably convincing.  "If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more. But you know what I am. You hear nothing but the truth from me. I have blamed you and lectured you, and you have borne it as no other woman in England  would have borne it. Bear with the truths I would tell you now, dearest Emma, as well as you have borne them. The manner perhaps, may have a little to recommend them. God knows, I have been a very indifferent lover. But you understand me. Yes, you see, you understand my feelings- and will return them if you can. At present, I ask only to hear- once to hear your voice. (Austen, 786) Emma by Jane Austen (Note: I own a compellation of Jane Austen's complete novels.)


"The Land Beneath Us" by Sarah Sundin
(Note: I realize this is only part of the cover, but I loved that the picture focused in on the heroine.)

His gorgeous gaze strengthened. "I don't want you only to keep my name. I want you to keep me."
"Keep you?"
"As your husband."  
Leah inhaled sharply and pushed back from the shelf. "Clay no. That's a bad idea."
"It's a great idea."
"No." Her head swung back and forth. "You have plans. College. Medical school." 
"I'd like to include you in those plans, if you're willing."
Her willingness has nothing to do with it. "We'd hold you back."
"I don't see how." His massive shoulders shrugged. "If anything you'd make it easier."
Leah rubbed at her temple. If only she could rub away his sense of obligation. "I know what you're doing. I know you feel sorry for me and you enjoy providing for me, but I'll be fine on my own. I will. The Lord is my provider. You don't have to do this anymore."
"But I want to. I-"
"No Clay. You once dreamed of becoming a physician and marrying a woman you loved, and you lost that dream. But you deserve to become a doctor. You deserve to marry a woman you love. I won't let you lose it again. Not out of- out of charity." She spat out the detested word.
"Charity? Is that what you think?"
Leah shoved the books back into the gap. "I'll see you at eleven."
"Leah!"
She shoved the cart up the aisle, then down the farthest aisle from Clay, her throat tight and her chin quivering. Why was he making this so difficult? Why couldn't he see this was for the best? Why did he have to be so honorable, so generous, so...charitable?
 "Thalia Karahalios Paxton!" Clay's voice boomed from the reading area.
What on earth? Leah dashed to the end of the aisle.
Clay stood on a table-on top of a table- legs astride and fists on hips.
She gripped the shelf for support. He looked so grand and noble, and yet adorably silly. What on earth was he doing?
He stretched his hands and a grin at her. "Thalia, my muse. Leah my wife,my-"
"Sir!" Mrs. Sheridan marched over. "Excuse me, but I'll have to ask you to quiet down and get off the table. This is a library."
"I do apologize ma'am." Clay turned his electrifying grin on the librarian. "But I'm not coming down until I'm finished proposing to my wife." (Sundin 344-346) The Land Beneath Us by Sarah Sundin. 


"I have a dream," he said slowly. "I persist in dreaming it, although it has often seemed to me it could never come true. I dream of a home with a hearth-fire in it, a cat and a dog, the footsteps of friends- and you!"
Anne wanted to speak but she could find no words. Happiness was breaking over her like a wave. It almost frightened her.
"I asked you a question over two years ago, Anne. If I ask you again today will you give me a different answer?" Still Anne could not speak. But she lifted her eyes, shining with all the love-rapture of countless generations and looked into his for a moment. He wanted no other answer. 

"There was nobody else- there could never be anybody else for me but you. I've loved you since the day you broke your slate over my head in school."
"I don't see how you could keep loving me when I was such a little fool," said Anne.
"Well I tried to stop," said Gilbert frankly, "not because I thought what you call yourself, but because I felt sure that there was no chance for me after Gardner came on the scene. But I couldn't - and I can't tell you either, what it's meant to me these two years to believe you were going to marry him. and be told every week by some busybody that your engagement was on the point of being announced. I believed it until one blessed day I was sitting up after the fever. I got a letter from Phil Gordon- Phil Blake rather- in which she told me there was really nothing between you and Roy and advised me to 'try again.' Well the doctor was amazed by my rapid recovery after that."
Anne laughed- then shivered.
"I can never forget that night. I thought you were dying, Gilbert. Oh I knew- I knew then- and I thought it was too late."
"But it wasn't, sweetheart. Oh, Anne, this makes up for everything doesn't it? Let's resolve to keep this day sacred to perfect beauty all our lives for the gift it's given us."
"It's the birthday of our happiness," said Anne softly. "I've always loved this garden of Hester Gray's and now it will be dearer then ever."
"But I'll have to ask you to wait a long time, Anne" said Gilbert sadly. "It will be three years before I'll finished medical course. And even then there won't be diamond sunbursts and marble halls."
Anne laughed.
"I don't want sunbursts and marble halls. I just want you. You see I'm quite as shameless as Phil about it. Sunbursts and marble halls may be very well, but there is more 'scope for the imagination' without them. And as for the waiting, that doesn't matter. We'll just be happy waiting and working for each other- and dreaming. Oh. dreams will be sweet now."
Gilbert drew her close to him and kissed her. Then they walked home together in the dusk, crowned king and queen in the bridal realm of love, along winding paths fringed with the sweetest flowers that ever bloomed, and over haunted meadows where winds of hope and memory blew. (Montgomery, 242-244) Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery. 





"Choosing a husband was much like choosing a good baguette. One looked for a strong outer shell, a tender interior, and most importantly, a tractability of dough to hold whatever shape the baker deemed appropriate.
Abigail needed a good baguette by the end of the week." (Witemeyer, 14). More Than Words Can Say by Karen Witemeyer. 

There you have it! I hoped you enjoyed this 5 in 5. These quotes capture the heart of every book, making them the perfect sneak peak into 5 books I've read over and over in my life. You won't be disappointed if you pick one up to read. And if you do, let me know! I'd love to know if you agree with my favorite quotes or if you find a favorite one of your own! 



Tuesday, June 1, 2021

The Heart's Charge: Double the Heroes Double the Romance

This site contains affiliate links to products. I may receive teensy tiny commission for purchases made through these links. I only recommend books and products I love. Thank you so much for the support.

Author Karen Witemeyer starts her second book in the Hanger's Horseman series ,The Heart's Charge, by hooking readers with an intriguing line. "When Mark Wallace left Gringolet two days ago to deliver a prize gelding to a wealthy rancher west of Llano, he never dreamed he'd be called upon to deliver a baby too." (Witemeyer, 9). Seriously, what a curiosity-inducing introduction!

Mark Wallace along with Jonah Brooks, half of Hanger's Horsemen take a detour to deliver the infant to a foundling home. What Mark doesn't expect to meet a woman from his past, Katherine 'Kate' Palmer. Kate was not just any woman from his past. She was once a woman he almost married. Seeing her brings back memories and has Mark wondering what his life would have been like had he married her. 
 Kate and Eliza Southerland run Harmony House Foundling Home.  While Mark is confronting his past, Jonah may have just found his future.

Kate Palmer. She might be one of my favorite heroines Ms. Witemeyer has ever written. I admired her fortitude and strength to forge her own path. She had found her calling in running the foundling home for orphans and forgotten children. She has a heart for helping others and the children adore her. "I knew what I was doing when I made my choice, and even now I wouldn't unmake it. Not when I can see how God used those years of loneliness for good...A strange thing happens when you find yourself on the outside of society. You start to see the world from a different perspective. Satan uses loneliness to isolate and depress. But God uses it to build compassion." (Witemeyer, 130). I realize I've just used a tremendously long quote, but I think it speaks to not only to Kate's character, but reminds us about how God can take circumstances and change them in ways we can't even fathom. Her perspective is one we can all aspire too.

The second-chance romance between Mark and Kate tugged at my heartstrings. "The miracle of finding each other after years apart and the hope of a second chance." (Witemeyer, 187).  

There are so many different aspects of this story to take in and appreciate. While The Heart's Charge was set in the late 1800's post- Civil War, I'm sad to say there was still animosity towards African Americans, however, I appreciated how the author strove to show that the relationship between Mark and Jonah was one of respect despite the cultural opposite. When Mark and Jonah hear about rumors of children being taken as Horseman, they feel honor bound to verify these claims are true. They are both honorable men. All throughout the investigation, Mark and Jonah communicate and work in tandem. I appreciated watching this culturally complicated, non-romantic relationship at work. 


Ms. Witemeyer skillfully balances dual love stories in The Heart's Chargegiving readers double the romance while managing to give both couples complete and satisfactory love stories. She gives each love affair equal attention and doesn't make you feel like you need to choose one or the other, but equally enjoy them both. 

One of the traits that I so appreciate about Ms. Witemeyer's novels is she whenever she writes about a character who is a different ethnicity or has an unusual physical feature that makes them stand out; she writes them in a way where you always see the character in a multifaceted way, just the way God made them. 

You can definitely read The Heart's Charge as a standalone, but I recommend reading At Love's Command first to get the full effect of the Hanger's Horseman series. 

With double the heroes and double the romance, The Heart's Charge is not to be missed. 



~~ 
The Heart's Charge 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, May 25, 2021

The Key to Love is a Feel-Good Romance with Depth

This site contains affiliate links to products. I may receive teensy tiny commission for purchases made through these links. I only recommend books and products I love. Thank you so much for the support.

 
The Key to Love is author Betsy St. Amant’s newest novel. After reading All’s Fair in Love and Cupcakes and Love Arrives in Pieces, I knew I had to read her latest release. Ms. St. Amant combines romance and food (is there anything better?) and as an amateur baker this combo tickles me pink!

Baking is in Abrielle “Bri” Duval’s genes.  Having lost both of her parents in a tragic accident, working at the bakery is Bri’s way of remaining close to her mother. She is vehemently determined to save the bakery. 

When online video about the ‘love lock’ wall next to the shop goes viral Bri sees this as an opportunity to help save the town bakeshop.

Jaded journalist Gerard Fortier has been tasked by his editor to do a feature article on the bakery, love lock wall, and “love angel” matchmaking, sisters, Mabel and Agnes who own the Puff Pastry. This feature on the bakery will open doors for him to move up in the reporting world and allow him to write about "things that matter."  

What he doesn’t expect is pretty, petite, baker Bri who loves baking petit fours as much as she loves romance. Gerard's nickname for Bri is 'Cupcake.' "Because it fit. Because she was na├»ve and sugary and sickeningly sweet- well, until she started verbally berating him, anyway. Then she turned spicy and savory and became much more appealing." (St. Amant, 122). 

I loved the whole quirky small-town vibe of The Key toLove. One of the aspects I appreciated about this tale was how Bri's perception of romance changes. She tended to idolize and put her parents love story on a pedestal so much so that in her mind if the romance was not identical her parents, then she did not want to give it the time of day. Over the course of the story, she discovers her parents’ marriage wasn’t perfect and she comes to realize everyone’s romance story is different. This is what makes every love affair unique and special. Both Bri and Gerard discover that love can change and surprise you all at the same time. The Key to Love was a feel-good romance with depth not to be missed. I cannot recommend reading this book highly enough to restore your faith in good storytelling and believable love stories. 

If you love romance combined with cuisine, Ms. Amant is an author to read. I was thrilled to find out October of this year she has another food adventure coming out called Tacos for Two that I will absolutely be adding this read to my TBR pile. 


(Coming October 2021)




Tuesday, May 4, 2021

The Nature of a Lady : A Journey to Living Your True Nature


In The Nature of a Lady, Roseanna M. White transports readers back to the Romantic Era; to a story that blends mistaken identity, intrigue, romance, and danger.

I have to confess, I was immediately mesmerized by this spectacular cover. It made me have high expectations about the story. Yes, I know I shouldn't judge a book by it's cover. However, with an author of Ms. White's caliber, I knew my expectations would be met... and exceeded. And they were!

Ecstatic for a taste of freedom, Lady Elizabeth "Libby" Sinclair is looking forward to her summer vacation on the Isles accompanied by her maid, Mabena Moon. She is hopeful that the time away will cool her brother's insistence that she marry his best friend, Lord Sheridan. 

I liked Libby. She is not your typical earl's daughter. She has a vivaciousness and exuberance for life. When she is in nature, it's where she feels she belongs. Her joy, curiosity, and excitement over nature gave me a deeper appreciation for God's creation. She feels more comfortable in nature than the upper echelons of society. 

I think that Libby is someone we can all relate to at times. She has moments where she feels she doesn't belong in the world and she doesn't always want to conform to the societal standards of the day. "I was planted in a garden in which I don't belong. And I don't know how to flourish there anymore, (White, 63) she explains. Acknowledging you can't flourish where you are is the first step to finding something new, and we see this unfold for Libby.

While on her summer holiday, Libby is mistaken for Elizabeth "Beth" Tremayne and so begins the tale of mistaken identity.

Mr. Oliver Tremayne, clergyman of Tresco and brother of Beth is on a mission to find his sister. Libby finds herself drawn to Oliver and wanting to help in his quest. Banding together, Oliver, Libby, and Mabena try to unravel the events and clues surrounding Beth's disappearance. Will they find her in time? 

As Libby and Oliver find themselves simultaneously united in their mission they also find themselves surprised by the most compelling reason: love.  From the moment that Libby and Oliver met on the page, I was drawn to their interactions because together than that a natural and easy chemistry that leaves you wanting more scenes between them. Case in point, "...he was a novice at such things. and while the words came naturally with her, he was also keenly aware of his own awkwardness. He didn't know how to court a lady. Frankly, he didn't want to court a lady. He just wanted to get to know her better, from the inside out....He wanted her here at his side, indefinitely." (White, 213-214). 

It's like he could see past what she was labeled, "a lady" and the societal standards that made her feel trapped - and instead saw her true nature. It was a beautiful reminder that the right people will bring out the best of you in a way that let's you grow and flourish. 

This is is one the many poignant reminders Ms. White weaves into the book. Which is why The Nature of a Lady is not to be missed. 

~~ The Nature of a Lady 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, April 6, 2021

Braced for Love Begins a New Family Saga


Mary Connealy's new Brothers in Arms series Braced for Love weaves a tale of family tree that'll make your head spin.
Kevin Hunt receives a life- altering telegram. He has inherited 1/3rd of a ranch in Wyoming and has not one, but two half brothers he didn't know about. His father (Clovis Hunt) was previously married before and after Kevin's mother. Talk about a shock to the system!
 With both of his parents now gone, Kevin chooses to travel to Wyoming along with his younger half siblings Molly and Andy (from his mother's 2nd marriage). Kevin find himself drawn to the kind schoolmarm Winona 'Win' Brewster. She is a family friend of Wyatt, one of his half-brothers and the best friend of Wyatt's sister Cheyenne. 

Not necessarily a criticism more like an observation. I've noticed that Ms. Connealy favors using nick names for her characters and I like that because it makes the characters more relatable and less formal. Although, I felt at times, she perhaps used her nickname for Winona a little too much. I would have preferred switching it up somewhat...meaning altering how much she was called Winona versus Win. I found it was a little distracting to the story if I'm being honest. 

One trait that I liked about Kevin from the start how protective he was of his family. He is kind, hardworking and level-headed. Even though he now owns 1/3rd of the Rolling Hills Ranch (RHR), he doesn't feel right about it about taking the land. His aspirations are simple. He wants to be allowed to farm a portion of the land, pay his half-brother for the land even though he owns it and build a log cabin for himself and his younger siblings. 

At the core of the Hunt men is family first. Despite the fact that Kevin is forced into a difficult situation, he's determined not to take advantage of the circumstances. This speaks volumes about his character. 
Will Kevin and his brothers figure out who is behind these attacks? Can they set aside their differences long enough to realize the blessings of family? 

Between the three Hunt brothers and the numerous half siblings, Ms. Connealy manages to keep their storylines separate, but also weaving them together so that the story flowed, but also kept you wondering what would happen next.

I would say that Ms. Connealy's stories are more plot driven then character driven. Because of this, sometimes it's hard as a reader reconcile a fast paced plot if you don't feel like the characters are changing as well. So if  you have been itching to read a fast paced mystery that keeps you guessing, this one is for you.


Braced for Love ends on a positive note leaving you excited for the future of the eclectic Hunt clan and also curious about the fate of the other two Hunt brothers.  

~~ Braced for Love 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, February 16, 2021

Courting Misfortune Marries Suspense and Fun


After meeting Miss Calista York in Intrigue a la Mode, I was delighted to find she gets her own story in Courting Misfortune. This is book 1 in Ms. Jennings new Joplin Chronicles series. 

Calista has been commissioned by her boss Mr. Robert Pinkerton with finding a missing girl. The clock is ticking. She has 30 days to complete her mission or else a fellow Pinkerton associate will be called in to complete said mission. If she successfully closes this case, then she will no longer be on probation with the agency, but a full-fledged agent. If she fails, then she loses this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Failure in Calista's mind means going back to Kansas City as a debutante. Failure is not an option. She feels called to be a Pinkerton agent.  

Adding to the stress of her operation, is her nosy, well-meaning extended family and the fact that she's developing feelings for Matthew Cook, a missionary in Joplin trying to make a difference and fight against the corruption in the town. 

Calista is trying to find her identity. She knows who she is in Christ, but she has a hard time reconciling the deceptive aspects of her vocation with what God's Word says. "She was weary. While she believed she was doing good, she wondered at the sacrifice." (Jennings, 99). 

Matthew Cook is trying to figure out Calista York. He can't decide if she needs saving or if she's a felon with her suspicious behavior. One lesson he learned from his grandfather is "the sweetest moments come from the most offensive fertilizer." (Jennings, 24) and he's bound and determined to help rid the Joplin of their exploitation. A trait that I really liked about Matthew was that he genuinely  tries to befriend people in the town and help them, but he is also concerned for their souls.  This confusion about which side of the law she is on leads to a lot of fun while they are getting to know each other. I also really liked how respectful and thoughtful his character was. Between the fun and chemistry built between Calista and Matthew, along with cheering for the success of the mission, this book is a must read. 

I really liked the humorous dynamics between Calista and her extended family. It reminded me of growing up with my cousins and the bonds you form. As family they can drive you nuts because they do know you so well ,but at the end of the day you love them because they are family.

When Matthew makes his intention knowns to Calista I may have audibly sighed. "I am not your responsibility she said with a smile on her face although her voice growled. "You're my something," he said. Her throat caught as he captured her gaze. She couldn't look away. She'd seen his fierceness directed at others, but this was different. It wasn't anger, it was resolve. He was making a resolution and it was about her...He was making a claim on her personally, and to her surprise Calista welcomed it." (Jennings, 169-170). 

If you were like me and really needed a enjoyable, lighthearted, and engaging story that you didn't feel like was trying to make a political point or preach at you when we are already getting that in everyday life in droves, then this is the book for you!

I liked how dramatic and mysterious the cover art on the front, spine and back of the book are. It really paints a picture and has you wanting to read and figure out what the heroine is up to. 

Get ready to laugh out loud & cheer for these two characters. It was just what my 2021 needed and I cannot recommend this delightful read enough. 


~~ Courting Misfortune 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.~~



Sunday, January 31, 2021

Dreams of Savannah Will Have You Dreaming of a Different Time

 

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Good-bye 2020 and Hello 2021!!! What better way to ring in the new year then with a brand-new book by Roseanna M. White's Dreams of Savannah. It's a standalone historical work of fiction. 

Cordelia "Delia" Owens is the middle daughter of the family. From the second Cordelia enters the story, I found myself instantly connecting with her because of her fanciful romantic daydreams. The first meeting of Phineas and Cordelia really sets the tone of their relationship. There is a strong bond of friendship, however romantic feelings are lingering on the surface for both Cordelia and Phineas. They are both amorously attracted to each other, but Phineas is convinced because of her family's standing in the community he has nothing to offer and on Cordelia's part, she may be a dreamer, but a true Southern Lady would never tell a gentleman how she feels about him unless he stated otherwise.

Their relationship get's put to the test when Phineas goes off to war and Cordelia stays behind and continues to get pressured to get married. Before Phin left he asked Cordelia to wait for him, and she promised "Forever", which gives him something to live for throughout the horrors of war, but also something for her to cling to as well. This is when the story really started to pick-up. The pacing of the first half of the book was a little too slow for my tastes, but it did pick-up as it went along and Ms. White really started to weave the story together.

This story does a good job of showing you the culture and beliefs that existed in that time that kept the south in a dark place in our history. The relationship between Phin and Luther (Luther, a free black man, whose wife was stolen and sold as a slave) was an important relationship for Phin and the man he becomes and what he stands for.

Throughout this story we see that there is a cost for standing up for what you believe in and that grace is an essential component to love. Will you allow someone to change and grow based on their life’s experiences? Including experiences you were not a part of and may not fully personally understand? 

This book takes on tough topics and really show's how important love is over money or status. But the most important lesson of all is that all lives matter. So while I will be honest is saying that I was hesitant to read a Civil War-era story right now, this story dealt with all these hard topics in a beautiful way that made you want to stick to finishing the story and the important message within. If you're looking for a light and fun read you may want to keep this on your TBR shelf a little while longer until you're ready to dive into more serious topics.  

Just like the cover really draws you in and makes you want to read the pages within the book, Ms. White did not disappoint with her story telling that is so impactful for this time.

~~ Dreams of Savannah 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.~~