Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Christmas Comes Early with Under The Texas Mistletoe

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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."
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!