Monday, February 27, 2023

Top 5 Favorite Romances...For Now

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My recipe for what qualifies as a favorite romance might differ from yours. For me, the characters must be complex, but likeable, the romance has to be swoon-worthy, but believable and I know it might be cliché, but I love a happy ending. I know, I know it's a tall order. There's something about getting caught up in a love story that makes the world seem a little brighter and a little happier.

My top 5 favorite tried and true romances are below:

1.) The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery

It's a no-brainer for me that Canadian author L.M. Montgomery would top my list. I've long been a fan of this author and her books, particularly the Anne and Emily series. The Blue Castle was written towards the end of Montgomery's writing career, is considered to be one her few "adult" works for fiction, and is also one of her few books not set on the author's beloved P.E.I.

Last week I read a quote that said, "Re-read your favorite books at different stages in your life. The plot never changes, but your perspective does." I first discovered The Blue Castle when I was 17 and have since read it 8 or 9 times. The Blue Castle has been one of those books I've read at various stages in my life and what I've come to appreciate over time is how the heroine Valancy is becoming who she was meant to be.

You can imagine how excited and gratified I was to find out that this book has a bit of a trend following online. I'm not the only reader who loves Valancy and Barney's story.

If you take a dive into the romance of The Blue Castle I'd love to hear your thoughts.

2.) The Princess by Lori Wick

I have to thank Miss Conway, my high school Algebra I teacher, for introducing me to author Lori Wick. Beyond the Picket Fence was the first book I read of hers and my early introduction into Christian fiction. Prior to that the only other Christian fiction author I'd read was Janette Oke.

In the late 90s, the Christian fiction genre was still fairly new, and I think what sets Lori Wick's books apart is she wrote both historical and contemporary.

The Princess is a modern-day arranged marriage between commoner Shelby Parker and widower Prince Nikolai Markham. Shelby worries if the prince will love her like he did his first wife. One aspect of the story, I appreciate is the way Ms. Wick intertwined so much of what would make a situation like this difficult. Both Shelby and Nikolai had quite a few obstacles to overcome.

On a recent re-read, I observed a difference in the style of how The Princess was written. Ms. Wick has the majority of the backstory told in the first couple of chapters. Nowadays, character backstory is sprinkle throughout a story like breadcrumbs. While this observation didn't detract from my enjoyment of this read, it's just a contrast to how books are written in the Christian fiction market today.

Nikolai and Shelby's love story is magical and you'll want to re-live it again and again.

3.) Short-Straw Bride 
by Karen Witemeyer

If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, I make no bones about being a massive fan of author Karen Witemeyer and ALL her books. Ms. Witemeyer burst onto the Christian fiction scene in 2010 and I've been happily devouring her books ever since.

Short-Straw Bride is THE BOOK that made me a die-hard fan of Karen's. It reminded me of 7 Brides for 7 Brothers (except there were only 4 brothers) following the Archer clan, orphans staking their claim on their land, keeping intruders out with shotguns, barbed-wire fences and animal traps. Now grown men, Travis, Jim, Crockett, and Neil Archer aren't quite sure what to make of the beautiful Meredith Hayes.

For me, Karen's books are like coming home. Her stories are always rock solid with complex characters, heart-melting romances, and the gospel message seamlessly woven in. Her books check all my boxes as a reader. I'd start with Short-Straw Bridebut you honestly can't go wrong with any of this author's books.

4.) True to You 
by Becky Wade Award-winning and contemporary Christian fiction author Becky Wade is known for creating characters and worlds you want to inhabit. Don't you just want to dive headfirst into this stunning cover? This is especially true in her Bradford sisters trilogy. True to You is book one in this series.

After a devastating heartbreak three years earlier, Nora Bradford finds burying herself in work and books much safer, John Lawton, a Navy Seal seeks Nora's help digging into the ancestry of his biological family because of an inherited diagnosis.

True to You has it all a great romance mixed with mystery and not to be missed!

5.) Emma by Jane Austen

I feel like it's "somewhat" of a requirement for any English major worth their salt to have a least one Jane Austen novel on their favorites list. While Pride and Prejudice holds a special place in my heart, I've always gravitated towards Emma.

Austen once said about the her character Emma, "I'm going to take a heroine whom no one, but myself will not like."

Published in 1815, Emma was the last work published prior to Austen's death in 1817. Jane Austen's remaining novels were published posthumously (Northeranger Abbey (1818), Persuasion (1818) and Lady Susan (1871).

Emma Woodhouse spends much of the novel trying to pair other people off she neglects the workings of her own heart and comes to realize she's been in love all this time.

My college English professors might disagree, but I feel like Emma is a regency era romantic comedy ahead of it's time.

How do you feel about Emma

I'm so curious which of my top five you've read! Which books would you add to the list?

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

A Match in the Making is Hilarious

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If you love laughing while you are reading then Jen Turano should be your go-to author. She brings her Gilded Age romances alive with her unique brand of humor and quirkiness.  A Match in the Making is the first book in her new Matchmaker series, and it already has me full of anticipation for where she'll take the series.

Gwendolyn Brinley accepts a summer position with Mrs. Parker believing it to be a paid companion. However, she soon discovers her employer upgraded her duties to "assistant matchmaker" during the summer Newport season. While trying to secure matches for two young ladies her employer is sponsoring, along with Mr. Walter Townsend, Gwendolyn's quiet Newport summer is anything, but quiet and dull. 

Widower Walter Townsend is "the most eligible bachelor of the season" and looking for a wife mainly for his three unruly children. Because he has no luck in keeping governesses he decides a wife is what he needs to reign in his brash brood. Hiring Mrs. Parker and her "assistant" Miss Gwendolyn Brinley. Walter can't help but find himself intrigued by the beautiful, but direct, Miss Brinley. Along with that he is equally impressed at the straightforward way in which she handles his uncontrollable children. 

Ms. Turano excels at banter between Gwendolyn and Walter that will have you laughing out loud, keep you on your toes with her clever dialogue, and leave you wishing you could be that witty in real life. As a reader, I'm always drawn to books that have clever repartee between the hero and heroine. A Match in the Making has this in spades, along with some good lessons in the story that I appreciated - and I think you will too. Also, there are so many funny moments with Walter's children that keep you laughing and remind you of the humor in every day life - and the humor that kids naturally bring! Disclaimer: Read the ending of the book anywhere you're comfortable laughing out loud - because you will be! A Match in the Making is hilarious and not to be missed because it will leave you with laugher and a smile on your face. 

Reading is adventure,

~~A Match in the Making was provided to me by the author herself and the publisher 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. ~

Saturday, February 11, 2023

The Rose and The Thistle: A Beautifully Crafted Historical Romance

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Christy-Award winning author Laura Frantz is known for her detailed and engrossing historical novels and The Rose and The Thistle is no exception. The author spends a good deal of the beginning of the novel setting up Blythe and Everard's separate stories before they meet. Because of this, the novel was  slower paced at first. I suspect one reason for the unhurried pace could have been the author's Scottish ancestor link and perhaps she wanted to make sure she got the historical facts correct as well as paid tribute to her heritage. 

The main storyline of the book revolves around the relationship between the two main characters, Blythe and Everard, as they navigate their feelings for each other amidst the complexities of their respective backgrounds and social standings. Fun fact, Blythe is the English Rose and Everard is the Scottish Thistle. 

Look out readers, because once they FINALLY meet it's well worth it. Author Laura Frantz excels at slow-burn chemistry and banter and humor between the hero and heroine.  The interactions between the two are romantic and swoon-worthy, however, I do wish they had more of these moments, if I am being honest. Her unique relationship with Everard's youngest brother is  really touching and sweet, and one of my favorite parts of the book. It is a beautiful aspect of how Everard and Blythe's relationship starts to blossom.  

Lady Blythe Hedley was a heroine I liked and admired. Despite the fact that she came from wealth, she wasn't interested in the newest fashions. I also liked that she was a godly woman of prayer and faith. Blythe and Everard's faith is central to their lives and the book explores the themes of religious devotion and the search for spiritual fulfillment in a way that is really well done. 

The characters face difficult choices between loyalty to their families, friends, and beliefs and the demands of their own hearts. Set in the midst of the Scottish Covenanter movement, the book highlights the cultural and political tensions between Scotland and England, as well as the conflict between the Scottish Royalists and Covenanters. 

Laura Frantz's writing style is beautifully descriptive and brings the 17th century Scottish setting to life. The attention to historical detail and the depth of research are evident throughout the book and make for a truly immersive reading experience. I personally found the ending a little rushed, but maybe I feel that way because I really wanted to experience more of their story. I would love to know what you think if you add this book to your TBR pile. 

Overall, The Rose and the Thistle is a must-read for anyone who enjoys historical fiction, romance, and beautifully crafted storytelling. The themes of love, cultural conflict, faith, loyalty, and forgiveness are expertly woven together to create a captivating and unforgettable story. Whether you're a fan of historical fiction or simply looking for a well-written love story, The Rose and the Thistle is the book for you.

~~The Rose and The Thistle was provided to me by the author herself and the publisher 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. ~~