Twelfth Night: Christmas Story Mini Reviews

Yes, it is January. I happily just finished a Christmas story and will be watching all the Hallmark movies from this past Christmas season through the month. I have discovered some new Christmas novellas, some of which have their own blog posts already, over the past weeks. This post, though, is for the few stories I have read and not yet shared about. And since today is considered the “Twelfth Night” (before the feast of Epiphany), I thought it appropriate to share now!

(I don’t observe the 12 days of Christmas or Christmastide schedule, but I do think it’s a fun idea!)

Without further ado, here are the Christmas stories I have enjoyed this year with a few thoughts on each. (Titles link to Goodreads)

Bespoke: A Tiny Christmas Tale (Espoir Archives #1) by Amanda Dykes

This is one short story that I was caught up in… with such lyrical writing and intriguing characters, I was hooked from the first hint of a secret in the prologue. My favorite things about it were the music!, the growth exhibited by the main characters, and the era. I absolutely LOVED that the setting was so immersive… though a definite year is never noted, it is clearly a historical novel and felt timeless because it was never specific (though hinted).

Letters Home: A Christmas Short Story by Rachelle Rea Cobb

This is a sweet and poetic short story in letter form. If you have read the Steadfast Love series, it is a wonderful companion story OR a great prequel that sets up and shows a different perspective on some of the events in that trilogy. I do hope Rachelle has more bookish plans for these characters!

His Mistletoe Miracle (Sugar Creek #3) by Jenny B. Jones

A FUN and hilarious romantic novel that also balanced a meaningful message of growth and even the fallout of a traumatic experience. With plenty of snarky, laugh-out-loud moments, Will and Cordelia navigate their newfound pretend “relationship” through holiday traditions and family gatherings, all the while really getting to know each other and prodding each other toward greater purpose. I hope to catch up on the rest of the “Sugar Creek” stories soon!

The Christmas Heirloom: Four Holiday Novellas of Love Through the Generations

Legacy of Love by Kristi Ann Hunter

Delightful and a nice start to the series, I especially enjoyed seeing the characters learn their worth and find an unexpected connection in this story.

Gift of the Heart by Karen Witemeyer

Though this was a novella, I thought it a well fleshed-out story in a very believable timeline. With Karen’s usual humor and endearing characters, this story takes a hero who would consider himself unlikely and pairs him with a darling little girl and a strong woman who never expected a second chance at love.

A Shot at Love by Sarah Loudin Thomas

I laughed out loud more than once while reading this story. Fleeta’s penchant for outshooting the boys was hilarious and an outward show of her fortitude. I liked Hank as her match, a man who respected her and was equal to the challenge of showing her his care. I really liked the setting of 1950s Appalachia, too.

Because of You by Becky Wade

This novella ties in to Becky’s “Bradford Sisters Romance” series in setting. Besides the fun cameos of familiar characters, this story wonderfully concluded the collection with a friendship-to-romance plot that touched on the nostalgia of the season but focused more on the joy in serving. It also handled themes of grief in a very real and tangible way, having both Leo and Maddie come to terms with honoring the past and choosing joy and good things for the future. It ended with great possibility, not with everything worked out. and I liked that.

Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Christmas Cake Kisses by Lena Goldfinch

This short story is just as sweet as its title implies. I adore the cover and the Victorian setting, and I really liked the time spent with the characters. Arabella and Malcolm learn more about one another and grow closer, even through a misunderstanding. I could have read a whole novel about them!

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Review: The Message in a Bottle Romance Novella Collection

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Welcome! Today is all about a delightful novella collection from Barbour Publishing, The Message in a Bottle Romance Collection by authors Heather Day Gilbert, Amanda Dykes, Maureen Lang, Jocelyn Green, and Joanne Bischof. With five separate stories, this collection is tethered with a common theme of hope and an antique bronze bottle that travels around the globe and through the centuries, appearing in each story.

About the Book


Join the journey as one word etched in Latin on an ancient bronze bottle travels through the centuries to reach five young women who are struggling to maintain their faith in God and love. An Irish princess, a Scottish story weaver, a Post-Colonial nurse, a cotton mill worker, and a maid who nearly drowned each receive a message from the bottle just when they need their hope restored. But will the bottle also bring them each to a man whose love will endure?

Review

Each story has a unique setting and voice, but a common theme of hope can be found in them all. The Message in a Bottle Romance CollectionSometimes it’s a hope to survive, a hope for a second chance, a hope for love and belonging, or a hope that trusts in God for a better future.

The entire collection was delightful and encouraging. Each had a sweet romance, sometimes with a surprise or two thrown it. Each told a different story of family or culture, presenting its era and setting with bright clarity and detail. All of it was threaded with the theme of hope and connected with a seemingly small item, a brass bottle. I thought it was representative of the hope we do share — in faith and trust in God — that might seem small but has a mighty strength and endurance when tested.

Prologue 834 AD & The Distant Tide • 1170 Ireland • by Heather Day Gilbert

  • The origin story of the bottle is very well told and connects closely to the characters in Heather’s story.
  • I enjoyed the setting and conflict: a northern Irish kingdom during medieval times with threats from Vikings and Northmen. This is a period I’ve not read (or heard much about) in the Christian fiction genre. I do know that Heather has penned a Viking series I’m now interested in!
  • This story surprised me in a few ways – what I would have predicted about a certain character’s response and attitude was completely turned around in a very good way.

A Song in the Night • 1715 Scotland • by Amanda Dykes

  • A bit of a secret propels this story and adds dramatic suspense to the plot. The way the main characters are established allows them to “speak for themselves”, in a way, and reveal their hearts and pasts slowly.
  • I loved the simultaneous journies of this story, a physical one across borders and to a new destination (Scotland to England), a new experience for the characters, and an emotional one from brokenness to restoration.
  • Also, I was really impressed with the lyrical writing style of Amanda and the way she incorporated Scottish culture and language into the story. Yay for discovering new authors!

The Forgotten Hope • 1798 New York • by Maureen Lang

  • This story’s spot in the lineup of the collection provides contrast and a fresh perspective. The setting, post-Revolutionary America, is appropriately different and tenuous for a young lady aspiring to follow her father’s career path in doctoring.
  • This story had a coming-of-age, young adult feel to it.
  • The two main characters, Abigail and Cal, complement each other very well. At times, I thought Abigail was a little immature in her behavior, but after finishing the story I can see that Cal’s more serious demeanor was a good fit for her. They encourage each other to be compassionate toward others and hopeful of a life beyond the sorrow of their pasts.

A River Between Us • 1864 Georgia • by Jocelyn Green

  • Jocelyn has a style that is vivid and immersive emotionally and in a sensory way. I felt like I was there, experiencing the danger of a battlefield or the uncertainty of the future through Cora Mae’s eyes. I was rooting for Ethan, the hero of this story, who demonstrated integrity and honor on multiple occasions.
  • To me, this story is about learning to see the heart of people beyond outward appearances or seemingly opposite sides. In this case, it’s a very human look at both sides of the Civil War, how both sides sacrificed and experienced pain, and how the hope for peace can be a driving force in caring for others.

The Swelling Sea & Epilogue • 1890 California • by Joanne Bischof

  • What a setting! The Hotel del Coronado near San Diego, CA just at its beginning as a travel destination for the high class. I’ve added a new destination to my dream travel list.
  • Joanne has an exquisite way of presenting a story. Whether through a personality or physical trait, her characters often exhibit a unique characteristic which further challenges their journey and enlightens the reader to a new side of human nature. In this case, Rosie and Jonas separately face a part of their past that is holding them back. Theirs is a story of finding the freedom to seek joy, to hope for happiness.
  • Reading this novella would help you to fully experience what I mean, but I have to say I ADORED the way certain aspects of this story reminded me of the importance of an unabashed, childlike faith. And, how our imperfections might just be a tool to teach us that we are not alone, that other people are placed in our lives for help and encouragement.

I was a little sad to come to the end of the journey with this bottle, but I know it’s not the end of its encouraging message of hope. These stories are ones that resonate. I hope you have the opportunity to experience this little collection some time!

Find the book on Goodreads | Amazon

Thank you to the publisher for providing a review copy of this book. This is my honest review.