Review: The Master of Strathburn

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: The Master of Strathburn
Author: Amy Rose Bennett
Publisher: Escape Publishing
Release Date: May 2017
Length: 260 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance

Robert Grant has returned home to Lochrose Castle in the Highlands to reconcile with his long-estranged father, the Earl of Strathburn. But there is a price on Robert’s head, and his avaricious younger half-brother, Simon, doesn’t want him reclaiming his birthright. And it’s not only Simon and the redcoats that threaten to destroy Robert’s plans after a flame-haired complication of the feminine kind enters the scene…

Jessie Munroe is forced to flee Lochrose Castle after the dissolute Simon Grant tries to coerce her into becoming his mistress. After a fateful encounter with a mysterious and handsome hunter, Robert, in a remote Highland glen, she throws her lot in with the stranger—even though she suspects he is a fugitive. She soon realizes that this man is dangerous in an entirely different way to Simon…

Despite their searing attraction, Robert and Jessie struggle to trust each other as they both seek a place to call home. The stakes are high and only one thing is certain: Simon Grant is in pursuit of them both…

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my review

Jessie Munroe has had a fall from nobility. For years her uncle ruthlessly whiled away the family fortune while her father tried to save it. Despite the delays, the day came when they were homeless. Her father has accepted a position at Lochrose Castle. Jessie takes a liking to the elderly Earl of Strathburn, although his wife and half-son, Simon, are not cut from the same cloth. They are snobbish and devious. The Earl pines for his long-lost son, Robert, who took part in the Jacobite uprising. With a price on his head, a near fatal injury, and his brother hounding the Dragoons to steal him away to the gaol, Robert was secreted away to a ship and never seen again. 

After a decade during which he is presumed dead, word makes it halfway ’round the world of the troubles of his father and the estate. Robert plots to return to have a clandestine meeting with his father. He is a different man now and is pained by the lives lost following him into battle. He regrets his hot-headed ways, but fears there is no redemption for a man like him. After all, he is a wanted man. The castle is filled with caring, helpful servants who understand the bounds of their duties and follow the Earl at all cost. It is how Robert escaped with his life, and it is why hiding out in the Highlands, awaiting the right moment, Jessie flees the castle to protect herself against the wretched and lecherous Simon Grant. He is an ugly, vengeful, borderline demented young man. He will not let Jessie, his Jezebel, get away. He hunts her to the ends of the earth, which is how she winds up with a foot injury traipsing to the Earl’s abandoned hunting lodge. Her plan is to get to the nearby coach station and travel to a relative’s home for safety.

The castle is filled with caring, helpful servants who understand the bounds of their duties and follow the Earl at all cost. It is how Robert escaped with his life, and it is why hiding out in the Highlands, awaiting the right moment, Jessie flees the castle to protect herself against the wretched and lecherous Simon Grant. He is an ugly, vengeful, borderline demented, young man. He will not let Jessie, his Jezebel, get away. He hunts her to the ends of the earth, which is how she winds up with a foot injury traipsing to the Earl’s abandoned hunting lodge. She plans to get to the nearby coach station and travel to a relative’s home for safety.

Her plan is quickly foiled when she awakens to a searing pain in her arm, and soon a strange man presiding over her. While transported here and there, she quickly gathers he is not quite who he says he is. To protect her virtue, she fictionalizes an engagement to Simon. Beautiful as a siren Jessie may be, but anything attached to Simon is tainted in Robert’s eyes. As Jessie helps Robert accomplish his task of reuniting, Robert promises to help her escape.

Once inside the castle, all bets are off. A series of unfortunate events occur, leading Robert and Jessie down an entirely different path while they both struggle with the unquestionable attraction to one another and their desire to protect each other.

Despite her moments of indecision and innocence, Jessie is a strong, determined young woman. She uses her quick wit and intelligence to get out of a scrape or two, and Robert’s warrior instinct vows to shield her. He has grown since that young man he was, and is a stark contrast to his villainous brother, Simon. He and his mother play large parts in moving the plot onward,  and it is utterly despicable. The gooseflesh will rise on your arms. I wanted to wrap Jessie up in bubble wrap and hide her away somewhere.

I loved the Earl. He is wise beyond his semi-senile appearance. The servants served as a supporting cast of characters and were an asset to the family name. Heart and loyalty abound within the walls of Lochrose Castle, and it was wonderful to see all of these individuals cheering Robert on from the sidelines.

I thought the ending would lead into another book, and I was disappointed that there was an epilogue, considering the events that had just transpired. In the writing world, it was the easy way out to slither out of truly unfolding that final event. I could have done without the epilogue entirely in exchange for a well-crafted chapter that brings all the pieces to a proper ending.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amy Rose Bennett has always wanted to be a writer for as long as she can remember. An avid reader with a particular love for historical romance, it seemed only natural to write stories in her favorite genre. She has a passion for creating emotion-packed—and sometimes a little racy—stories set in the Georgian and Regency periods. Of course, her strong-willed heroines and rakish heroes always find their happily ever after.

Find the author: GoodreadsWebsite | Facebook | Twitter 

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Audiobook Review: The Hiding Place

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: The Hiding Place
Author: Corrie ten Boom, John Sherill, Elizabeth Sherill Dunne
Publisher: Bantam Books
Release Date: October 1974
Length: 242 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Nonfiction, Autobiography, Christian

At one time Corrie ten Boom would have laughed at the idea that there would ever be a story to tell. For the first fifty years of her life nothing at all out of the ordinary had ever happened to her. She was an old-maid watchmaker living contentedly with her spinster sister and their elderly father in the tiny Dutch house over their shop. Their uneventful days, as regulated as their own watches, revolved around their abiding love for one another. However, with the Nazi invasion and occupation of Holland, a story did ensue.

Corrie ten Boom and her family became leaders in the Dutch Underground, hiding Jewish people in their home in a specially built room and aiding their escape from the Nazis. For their help, all but Corrie found death in a concentration camp. The Hiding Place is their story.

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

 

my review

The Narration

**Unabridged Audiobook

Narrated By: Bernadette Dunn
Publisher: christianaudio.com
Release Date: July 2009
Length: 9 hrs and 22 mins

The narration was beautiful. It was easy to follow and Dunn has a pleasing voice with a slightly husky tone.

Corrie ten Boom lives in Holland with her elderly father and spinster sister. Corrie herself is approaching 50, and all three of the ten Booms are watchmakers, working in the family store. They are kind and compassionate people with their lives steeped in their strong faith, which are the foundations of their life.

When the war breaks out, they soon find their Jewish friends in desperate need. The ten Booms do all in their power to assist them. They have a secret room in their house constructed to conceal a hiding space. They get connected with others out in the countryside to funnel Jews through and away from their oppression and imminent arrest. Soon the ten Boom’s storefront becomes Grand Central Station of the Underground in Holland. Not only do the ten Booms board and care for their friends, and soon complete strangers, they also find them safe passage, send messages on their behalf, obtain new identity papers for them, and set them up with ration books for when they are on their own in the future. Through their hard work and efforts smuggling Jews out of the country and Nazi occupation, the ten Booms save over 800 Jewish men, women, and children.

They stick their necks out, make their home a safe haven, and risk everything. Eventually, they are betrayed, and the ten Booms wind up in prison for a few months. She is separated from her father and her sister Betsy. Later she is transferred to the Vught Concentration Camp, and finally, lands in Ravensbruck Concentration Camp. She also falls quite ill during her imprisonment.

This is a recounting of Corrie’s of her days during the war. It is written decades afterward with the assistance of John and Elizabeth Sherrill. Corrie’s entrenchment in faith in the Lord is what she testifies her strength, deliverance, and life upon. It is a moving and heartfelt story. Despite the highly religious tones, it wasn’t preachy. However, I did listen to Corrie’s accounts with a grain of salt. While this is her first-hand accounting, it is 20 some-odd years later and written with the aid of two individuals not present at the time. Further, the logic of the book is that all of Corrie’s courage and bravery and strength are only gifts from God, which are later taken back and she is left without any strength of character. In times of great fear is when we falter and find it an insurmountable mountain to scrounge up strength, courage, or bravery. I don’t believe Corrie ever had hers “gifted” by God, but simply gave in to the natural depths of humanity.

A read everyone should share in, Corrie’s story of faith, forgiveness, humility, and loyalty are hallmarks the world is needing today.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Born: April 15, 1892 in Amsterdam
Died: April 15, 1983

Corrie ten Boom and her family were Christians who were active in social work in their home town of Haarlem, the Netherlands. During the Nazi occupation, they chose to act out their faith through peaceful resistance to the Nazis by active participation in the Dutch underground. They were hiding, feeding and transporting Jews and underground members hunted by the Gestapo out of the country. It is estimated they were able to save the lives of 800 Jews, in addition to protecting underground workers.

On Feb. 28, 1944, they were betrayed and Corrie and several relatives were arrested. The four Jews and two underground workers in the house at the time of the arrest were not located by the Nazis and were extricated by the underground 47 hours after they fled to the tiny hiding place (located in Corrie’s room).

The ten Boom family members were separated and transferred to concentration camps. Corrie was allowed to stay with her precious sister, Betsy. Corrie’s father (Casper), her sister (Betsy) and one grandchild (Kik) perished. Corrie was released in December of 1944.

These acts of heroism and sacrifice became the foundation for Corrie ten Boom’s global writing and speaking career which began after she was released.

Ten Boom has received numerous awards for her writing and speaking. Notably, she was honored by the State of Israel for her work in aid of the Jewish people by being invited to plant a tree in the famous Avenue of the Righteous Gentiles, at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, near Jerusalem. She was also knighted by the Queen of the Netherlands in recognition of her work during the war, and a museum in the Dutch city of Haarlem is dedicated to her and her family.

Find the author: GoodreadsWebsite 

Review: Hope at Christmas

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: Hope at Christmas
Author: Nancy Naigle
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: October 2017
Length: 342 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Contemporary, Romance

A recently divorced woman and her daughter look for a fresh start by moving to a small town that embraces them in ways that only fate and the magic of Christmas can explain.

Sydney Ragsdale is divorced, but her husband is still calling the shots. In an attempt to shake free from his hold, she and her daughter, Ray Anne, head for tiny Hopewell, NC to the only asset her ex has no control over – a decaying farmhouse that once belonged to her grandparents. She finds solace at The Book Bea, the bookstore she’d loved as a child during her summer stays.

Kevin MacAlea, Mac to his friends, is the local high school history teacher and baseball coach. Father of a twelve-year-old son, he’s Hopewell, North Carolina’s most sought-after bachelor. His young bride abandoned him and his son just before Christmas and has never come back. It has left his son bitter about Christmas which is hard for Mac who loves the magic of the season. He’s been the Santa here in Hopewell since the year Seth was born.

But when catastrophe forces The Book Bea to close before the end of the year, everyone in the small town is feeling the loss. While Sydney is already off-balance by the bad news, her ex-husband breaks a promise to their daughter that sends Ray Anne running away. As Sydney tries to figure out what her next steps are she discovers all of the answers are right here in Hopewell.

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

My Thoughts 

This is a sweet, clean holiday romance read. Reeling from her husband’s infidelity and request for a divorce, Sydney Ragsdale packs up what is left of her Atlanta life and takes her daughter to Hopewell, North Carolina. The old farmhouse where she spent her summers with her grandparents was never a vacation option on her husband’s list, and the inherited property has been ignored for years. Making the move means giving up a lot of luxuries and also facing the full force of her daughter’s anger.

RayAnne Ragsdale is the classic daddy’s girl and she is not happy with her parents splitting up. Moving to smalltown Hopewell means leaving her dad and his money and extravagant gifts behind. She wheedles every chance she can to just get her mother to go back home, not knowing the full ramifications of her parent’s separation.

Sydney does everything she can to protect her daughter while maintaining the meager funds she has until her new job starts in the new year. Meanwhile, she will spend the holidays alone in Hopewell once RayAnne goes with her dad on a ski trip, a newfound interest of his after years of never wanting to travel anywhere.

Upon her return, Sydney steps into The Book Bea, the local and longtime bookstore run by Bea. Sydney remembers Bea from her own childhood spent in The Book Bea where Sydney met and befriended Diane. On her first visit back, Bea reveals she could use some assistance in the store. Having nothing but time on her hands until her new job after the holidays, Sydney volunteers to help out. Being in the bookstore with Bea brings out so many of the good qualities in Sydney that I admired about her.

Bea is the little old lady in town that is adored by all. I found such strength and wisdom in Bea’s character, who found joy in finding just the right book for all of the readers who happened upon The Book Bea. While Bea is busy finding books, she is also astute in the language of love. While Sydney is looking for a soft place to land, Bea knows Kein MacAlea, known as Mac, is where Sydney needs to end up.

Mac is a divorced teacher and coach with his own teen boy, Seth, who has a hate relationship with Christmas. Residual side effects of his mother’s abandonment. What few in town know is Mac plays the local Santa every year and he has quite a knack for it.

Just as Sydney fell in love with Hopewell and its smalltown feel and community, so did I as a reader. Her childhood friend Diane is still in town, married with two kids, and their daughters bond as Sydney and Diane reconnect. RayAnne and Seth also find themselves to be two peas in a pod and their friendship was adorable to watch blossom. RayAnne’s anger and emotional yo-yo-ing from her dad lead her into some situations and Seth is the best of friends and doesn’t turn his back on her. It was a great testament to another strong friendship.

As Sydney and RayAnne settle into Hopewell and the holidays look, Mac and Seth continue to make them welcome in town. As Sydney and Mac spend more and more time together, she fights the doubts and staggers on the realization she is not ready for a new relationship. Seeing the great things in front of Sydney and her denying them was frustrating, especially lying to her daughter about not seeing Mac and Seth.

Sydney was a mix of a character. At times, I did not like her at all because she seemed she didn’t have a backbone when it came to her husband or her daughter’s whiny rants. It definitely gave credence to her last name because they both ragged on her more than she should have put up with considering how strong she really is.

There was some manufactured drama toward the end that allowed things to be tied up nice and neat and smooth. It kind of felt like a betrayal a reader after falling in love with the town and characters. I think the ending still could have happened without one particular event. The following chain of events and reactions didn’t seem genuine to the magnitude of what happened. It seemed like a disservice on behalf of all the characters involved, and that was disappointing.

Overall a great Christmas read I definitely recommend!

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

With a career spent on the cutting edge of technology in the banking industry, she never let go of her dream to write. Now she works full-time writing stories that are a calming blend of community, family, and the simple things in life. She writes the kind of stories she hopes will provide an escape from the hectic day-to-day in the make-believe worlds she creates.

Aside from writing she enjoys hunting for treasures in junk and antique shops, and getting crafty no matter what the medium from painting and digitizing embroidery designs, to weaving pine needle baskets.

A Virginia native, and spending most of her life in the Tidewater area, she now calls North Carolina home.

Find the author: GoodreadsWebsite | Facebook | Twitter 

Review: No Place Like You

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: No Place Like You
Author: Emma Douglas
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: December 2017
Length: 304 pages
Series?: Cloud Bay #3
Genre: Contemporary, Romance

Home–in the island village of Cloud Bay–is where the heart is. . .

Leah Santelli always knew that Zach Harper, son of a rock legend and her best friend’s brother, was painfully out of reach. Then, on the night of her eighteenth birthday, Leah shocked herself by asking for–and receiving–the gift she wanted: one night of passion with Zach before he left town to pursue his rock star dreams. Now, years later, Zach is back in Cloud Bay to record his first solo album. His return could also be Leah’s big chance to step up her own music career. But getting the producing credit she needs means spending long hours with Zach in the recording studio…and falling back into the habit of longing for him, for better or worse.

Zach used to believe that a man must put his past behind him. But coming back home for Cloud Bay’s famed music festival has allowed him to finally make amends with his family and, much to his surprise, reunite with Leah. He might have left her once but now it seems he can’t stay away. Trouble is, even though the heat between them burns hotter than ever, Leah has old wounds in need of healing before she can give Zach a real chance. Can he find a way to convince her that they can make more than just great music together–and that she’s the one that he wants for all time?

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my review

My Thoughts 

Zach Harper, son of the late Gery Harper and leader of the rock band Blacklight, is working hard to establish his own way in the world. After his band leader breaks the band up to “find himself,” Zach returns home to Lansing Island and Cloud Bay. With at least a year off, he plans to make his own music and launch a solo album. Returning home won’t be an easy landing after his six years away. Six years in which he ditched his sister and their musical career when his father fell ill, joined another band to continue moving his career forward, and being a no-show with no word at the family music festival, Cloud Fest, on the island the year before. Essentially, Zach has done everything he could to ignore his family and advance his own musical career.

While making amends with his sisters, Faith and Mina, and stepmother Lou, Zach also finds himself being a jerk to the Grey studio sound engineer, Leah. The girl-next-door type of girl, Leah grew up on the island living on the fringes of the Grey Harper family. Her father served as his sound engineer and she spent many days on at the Harper studio.  Now she is following in her own father’s footsteps while Zach is trying to make his name and his own way, no matter who he has to use or step over or leave out to make it happen.

Just like he did 10 years ago when he loved and left Leah on her 18th birthday. Not that she is holding a grudge – she knew he was leaving but she wanted her night with him anyway. Since then Leah Santelli has lived her own life. She married and later divorced, and she is happy with her life. Now she is trying to get her own music career as a producer off the ground. Zach’s return home and solo album is the perfect project to launch her own career.

First, Zach totally rebuffs the idea of Leah the unknown nobody making his album. Despite knowing him well and knowing his music well, Zach wants a big wig to produce his music. After being turned down by his dream producer and having another mangle his vision, he slinks back to Leah, who is doing some amazing work with one of Faith’s newfound female artists.

As their professional career flourishes, Leah and Zach find themselves in the conundrum of the personal creeping in. Once again, Leah proposes a liaison. This time, though, a friends with benefits relationship. She knows once the album is finished he’ll be leaving again, but she’ll spend her time with him while she can.

I loved Leah’s character. She is strong and spunky and has an equal measure of compassion for others and also herself. She has her own dreams that aren’t shadowed by a relationship. I didn’t like that Zach called most of the shots. He makes himself look like a huge jerk. While Leah is in charge of the studio, she is also doing her best work as a producer and has her sights set on a bigger project after Zach’ album.

With Cloud Fest, the music fest his father started decades ago, on the horizon for Lansing Island and Cloud Bay, Zach is betting on the secret slot to launch his new music and create some buzz and publicity. Suddenly, one of his father’s bandmates and father of his best friend, swoops in and steals the secret slot from under him. There is lots of drama revolving around those issues that throw Zach out of kilter. In some form of retribution, Zach is offered the producer of a lifetime.

Zach has continually put his desires for his career above his family and friends for years and years. He has everything at his fingertips, but can only pick one dream.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Emma Douglas has read like a wild thing since she was small. She discovered romance novels at an age that way probably way too young but she survived unscathed. When she realized you could make up stories as well as read them, she started taking notes about what the characters wandering through her head were telling her and then, eventually, books happened.

Before the books happened she did the usual things (was a band geek (and a geek generally), had crushes on rock stars and fictional characters, spent chunks of her summers on an island beach, got a degree in something sensible that doesn’t involve writing about kissing, became a black belt in internet procrastination, fell down the rabbit-hole of craft, traveled a bit, indulged her love of baked goods, got bossed around by cats, began a quest for the perfect margarita, and napped to recover from all of the above.

She still does most of that plus the writing thing from a tiny house which her feline overlords have kindly agreed to share with her.

Find the author: GoodreadsWebsite | Twitter 

Review: A Season of You

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: A Season of You
Author: Emma Douglas
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: October 2017
Length: 293 pages
Series?: Cloud Bay #2
Genre: Contemporary, Romance

It’s Christmastime in the quaint island town of Cloud Bay, where love is always in season…

Will Fraser has believed in love at first sight since the day he first laid eyes on Mina Harper five years ago. There was only one problem: She was happily married. Then, when Mina’s husband was killed by a drunk driver, Will figured she’d want nothing to do with a guy who owns a whiskey distillery. So he’s kept his feelings locked away, knowing that not even a Christmas miracle would be enough to melt Mina’s heart. . . Mina believes her days of true love are behind her. Since losing her husband she’s kept to herself, content to do her own painting and stay out of the limelight that comes with her famous family. But when, after a freak accident, Will comes to her rescue, Mina can’t quite get him out of her mind. As curiosity turns into a fling during Cloud Bay’s first Christmas Festival, she finds it harder to convince herself that her feelings for Will are just mistletoe-inspired. Could Mina be ready to lay the past to rest and finally admit that what she really wants for Christmas–and forever–is Will?

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

My Thoughts 

Ever since seeing Mina Harper waiting for the ferry five years ago, Will Fraser has believed in love at first sight. Will’s dreams with his dream girl were dashed when he discovered Mina was happily married. He set Mina out of his sights, but she was never far from mind. He continues to build his whiskey distillery business with his brother, Stefan, on Lansing Island. The Salt Devil is waiting for its first barrels to ready, and run a bar to ensure continual capital in the meantime.

Fast forward five years and Mina has experienced more loss than someone her age should. She lost her infamous and legendary rock star father to cancer, and shortly after she lost her beloved husband to a drunk driver. A drunk driver leaving Will and Stefan’s bar. While Will is responsible for all the accounting of the distillery and bar, those numbers just don’t add up in his favor. He’d never even stand a chance of getting more than a perfunctory greeting in passing from Mina Harper.

With winter weather settling in, Mina is cursing her bad fortune with a flat tire late one night. With a mishap and misstep, Mina goes down hard. With Will’s late nights, he notices the car pulled to the side of the road and then the sudden wild wielding of a flashlight slicing through the dark and takes himself out to investigate. He discovers Mina lying on the ground with a gash on her head. Bundling her and her lab Stewie into his rebuilt Mustang, he takes her to the hospital. Being discharged, Will is tasked with taking care of Mina throughout the night.

Lansing Island is home to the Harper family and her father’s Blacklight bandmates. They basically have their own compounds on the island, monitored by high tech security and everything. Her older brother Zach is off touring and her older sister Faith is still on the island and newly married. Lou, her father’s second wife and Lou’s mother, is the self-proclaimed mother to all three of the Harper kids.

Like Rapunzel in her tower, Mina hardens her heart and locks herself in her lighthouse when the storms of life are too much. Trying just to cope and survive the day to day, for the last few years Mina has been serving as the night shift for the island’s search and rescue operations. While it is an unpaid, voluntary position, Mina doesn’t need the money after her inheritance. She does it to serve a purpose and to chase away her own demons. She enjoys the solitude of the night, it keeps her from fighting her PTSD and sleeping at night, and she can take her dog Stewie. Every morning she returns to the lighthouse on the Harper compound and spends the morning hours using the fabulous light to paint by. She has an upcoming art show in LA that she is furiously working to finish paintings for. It is the first thing she will do on her own – out from her father’s famous name. She is set to send 30 ocean seascapes to the gallery, but that night with Will has her doing nothing but thinking of drawing his face, his hands. Him. It is a distraction she can’t afford right now, and a risk she can’t take.

When Mina’s boss tasks her with attending and aiding in the annual Christmas Festival, Mina is in weekly contact with the mayor, Angie, and Will. The mayor has set her sights on belittling the Harper family after her father starts dating Lou, Mina’s step-mom. While I feel there is much more to Angie’s anger, I enjoyed Mina and Angie’s own father setting her straight from her witchy words.

But mistlefoes change sides when the mistletoe is hung, and soon Will finds himself getting the opening he’s always been hoping for. Mina sets the boundaries that this relationship is only temporary. Will bets on Mina letting her self-imposed parameters fall away as the days and nights go on. Will understands Mina’s insecurities and also respects her feelings, doing everything he can to help her. In their time together, Mina learns there is so much more to Will than whiskey. Despite living on the island, he has a terrible fear of the water. But it’s not the water that destroys his relationship with Mina. The differences in their lives – Will working for everything he has, putting everything into The Salt Devil and Mina having everything at her fingertip’s courtesy of her daddy’s millions – rend a tear in the fabric of what they were building together.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Emma Douglas has read like a wild thing since she was small. She discovered romance novels at an age that way probably way too young but she survived unscathed. When she realized you could make up stories as well as read them, she started taking notes about what the characters wandering through her head were telling her and then, eventually, books happened.

Before the books happened she did the usual things (was a band geek (and a geek generally), had crushes on rock stars and fictional characters, spent chunks of her summers on an island beach, got a degree in something sensible that doesn’t involve writing about kissing, became a black belt in internet procrastination, fell down the rabbit-hole of craft, traveled a bit, indulged her love of baked goods, got bossed around by cats, began a quest for the perfect margarita, and napped to recover from all of the above.

She still does most of that plus the writing thing from a tiny house which her feline overlords have kindly agreed to share with her.

Find the author: GoodreadsWebsite | Twitter 

Review: Deck the Halls

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: Deck the Halls
Author: Donna Alward
Publisher: Swerve
Release Date: October 2017
Length: 128 pages
Series?: Darling, VT #3.5
Genre: Contemporary, Romance

In the last year, George’s life has drastically changed. The formerly homeless veteran now has a job he likes, a family in the residents of Darling, VT, and for the first time in years, a home. But while his present is good, he’s still haunted by the past, a past that appears shortly before Christmas when the older sister of his brother-in-arms hunts him down and finds him in Darling, working at the Ladybug Garden Center.

Amy’s looking for closure for her family after her brother’s death in the Middle East, but the serious man she finds working in Vermont doesn’t resemble the soldier she remembers from years before. This man is hardened and yet somehow fragile, too, and in her desire to find out what really happened to her brother, she learns more about George than she ever expected.

With a little Christmas magic and the whole town supporting them, can these two bruised hearts make a future together?

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

My Thoughts 

This installment in the Darling, VT series focuses on George. Homeless and a vagrant when helped by Aiden and Laurel, he has been working at The Ladybug Garden Center for a while now. With the help of his new friends and a compassionate town, he now has his own little apartment. Despite his good fortune, he still suffers from his past that landed him on the streets. Like many veterans today, George lost his best friend in combat. Returning home to face his friend’s family was impossible. He didn’t keep his friend safe, and he lost his life because of George. Instead, George returned home and followed a few different paths before landing on the streets.

Fifteen years later, the twin sister of George’s friend finds him at The Ladybug. Amy shows up just weeks before Christmas following her own disaster of a divorce. George isn’t ready to face Amy – or the nightmares she brings back. While Amy is looking for closure for herself and her family, George cannot go back to that dark place. The guilt and PTSD kept George from contacting Amy’s family all these years. Amy is not leaving town until she can get George to share her brother’s final days and minutes of his life.

I loved the Christmas setting! Amy is installed in a rented farmhouse for her visit, and she does her best to spruce it and make it ready for the holiday away from home. George is making holiday wreaths at the Garden Center. Together they go shopping and decorate George’s apartment for Christmas, including a little tree. The cheer and moments that reminded me of the season helped to alleviate some of the pain you felt for George and Amy and all they lost.

I applaud Donna Alward for writing about the reality that many veterans face when they return to the United States after serving a hard deployment. This is just a touch of what it is like to live with the horrors they have seen while serving their country. PTSD is the silent killer of 22 veterans per day who take their own lives. Coming home from war, a six-month deployment on a ship, or simply transitioning from a life in uniform to a life without one, can be difficult and the various state and federal systems set up to deal with this transition and life after military services are unable to meet the need. The challenges of adjustment and transition, post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injuries, and physical disabilities, all need to be addressed especially as these things result in barriers to education, employment, healthcare, and overall individual well-being. There are just too many gaps in the system and our veterans suffer.

With George and Amy having a shared past and connection, it was easy to see they would be drawn to one another. While there is no moving on from a veteran’s past, they are able to move forward with their lives. Amy found herself wanting to be part of George’s moving forward.

The running theme throughout the book is second chances, and the heartwarming love and friendship from Amy really made those second chances possible beyond what George already had.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

marti-corn-photography-donna-alward-h-r-1600While bestselling author Donna Alward was busy studying Austen, Eliot and Shakespeare, she was also losing herself in the breathtaking stories created by romance novelists like LaVyrle Spencer, Judith McNaught, and Nora Roberts. Several years after completing her degree she decided to write a romance of her own and it was true love! Five years and ten manuscripts later she sold her first book and launched a new career. While her heartwarming stories of love, hope, and homecoming have been translated into several languages, hit bestseller lists and won awards, her very favorite thing is when she hears from happy readers!

Donna lives on Canada’s east coast with her family which includes a husband, a couple of kids, a senior dog and two crazy cats. When she’s not writing she enjoys reading (of course!), knitting, gardening, cooking…and is a Masterpiece Theater addict.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Review: Chocolate Kisses and Love Filled Wishes

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: Chocolate Kisses and Love Filled Wishes
Author: Linda West
Publisher: Morning Mayan Publishing
Release Date: February 2016
Length: 178 pages
Series?: Love on Kissing Bridge Mountain #3
Genre: Contemporary, Romance

Summer and Brad are slated to get married but things go awry in Kissing Bridge! Brad’s younger sister, snowboarding champion, Kacey Anderson is forced to come home to heal from a bad accident. After being told she can no longer compete, she begins to train at home while still missing her beloved Olympic gold medalist boyfriend Brody Jenkins. Against doctor’s orders, she begins to regain her strength in the hopes of competing in the 2016 Olympics. When a young Climate Change activist enlists her help to bring awareness to the cause, Kacey begins to think that her future may be much different then she imagined.

Summer is forced back to LA to finish a modeling contract when the worst blizzard in decades hits their hometown. Unable to return, she can only suffer as she hears a fate worse than she can ever imagine is unfolding back home in Kissing Bridge Mountain.

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

My Thoughts 

The first thing I notice about a book after the cover is the synopsis on Goodreads/Amazon. Looking at the blurb for this book had a bunch of trash and unnecessary sentences that are not about the content of the book. Always a first clue that it most likely isn’t a well-developed book.

My thoughts were absolutely correct in that regard. The storyline is interesting – a young Olypmic hopeful suffering an injury, returning home. But there is no development of a true story here. Even the timeline of events is not believable. It is definitely something written as a novella instead of a novel. The story is rushed, there is no depth to the characters or events. Also, this book is marketed as a Christmas read, but there’s not really a Christmas background. There’s just snow. Snow does not equal Christmas.

The events of the book are pretty hokey, bordering on the unrealistic. I did like how the “save the earth” guy was found out and run off and the rescue scene at the end.

Additionally, the editors need to spend some quality time with this book. Both the developmental editor in helping get the storyline off the ground and the copy editor to proof for grammar, particularly for paragraphs, dialogues, and breaks within a chapter. It is difficult trying to figure out who is speaking what and when and then when there is a setting or time shift and there are no *** or line breaks to help readers determine the passage of time and new characters in the new scene. Readers’ brains shouldn’t hurt trying to figure out your book.

It was hard to determine who the MC was supposed to be because it keeps switching between Kacey and Summer. It seemed like two different book ideas (because again, undeveloped) mashed together into one piece of writing masquerading as a novel.

This is definitely not a romance read. I suppose it is better for young adults pining over a breakup because there wasn’t much more to the book besides that.