Review: "When I Come Home Again" by Jennifer Rodewald

I’m happy to be sharing a review today for Jennifer Rodewald’s new novel, When I Come Home Again, the first book in her new “Big Prairie” series!

About the Book

When a family crisis calls him back to Big Prairie, will Craig Erikson be able to work through past mistakes and the tragedy that had sent him searching for a new place to call home?

Brenna Blaum had been sure of three things in her life—her brother, her running, and her dad’s star receiver. But in a matter of a year’s time, everything she’d counted on fell apart, leaving her devastated. Seven years later, she’s stable again. She has a supportive boyfriend, fulfilling career, and close friends. She keeps her past heartache where it belongs—in her rearview mirror. Until the man who broke her heart finds his way back to Big Prairie.

Craig Erikson had it all—popularity, success, and the love of his high school coach’s daughter. But after a year of mistakes that ended in a tragic accident, he’d left Big Prairie—the place he’d thought to always call home—hoping that without his antagonizing presence, Brenna would be able to heal. Now his mother desperately needs him, as do two young boys in her care. Craig has little choice but to return for good.

Unsure that she can forgive him, Brenna does her best to avoid him. Irritated that she ignores him as if they’d never meant anything to each other, Craig becomes determined not to allow it.

Life in a small town forces their interaction, making them confront their unresolved issues and igniting emotions that have smoldered for seven years. As Craig and Brenna are pushed together, can they endure the hard places still littering their lives? If so, is it possible to find their way back to love and home again?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Insightful wisdom about grief: “You move forward, but you do not move on. You do not get over it. You do not just forget the people  you have loved because things have changed.”

-When I Come Home Again by Jennifer Rodewald

When I Come Home Again has all the charm of a small midwest town, much like its setting of “Big Prairie”, Nebraska. With a beloved cast of characters and homecoming theme, it also explores a VERY emotionally impactful romance balanced with slight humor. One thing I always enjoy about Jennifer Rodewald’s novels is that her stories have this resonance and complexity — and they aren’t afraid to deal with the “whys” and hard things in life, too.

This story has a unique POV voice that tells from 3rd person (as most novels) but functions sometimes as a 1st person narrative with direct thoughts and feelings of the hero and heroine. This allows for a more intimate view of their emotions and personalities, which works really well for the reader to understand the characters. It makes Brenna likable from the very beginning, and Craig someone to root for.

I didn’t expect the history of Brenna and Craig’s relationship to be so heartbreakingly bittersweet, but it is appropriately so and allows for some deep issues to be brought to light — thought provoking things for the reader, to. The emotional progression of both Brenna and Craig felt very real and authentic: a slow transition from pain to hope, the processing of grief and anger, and the way regrets can lead to bitterness or to repentance.

At the same time, this story is filled with the HOPE of second chances, the joy of friendships, and the opportunity for God to use seemingly insurmountable things for good and His glory. This masterful story is one I will revisit and see more layers and depth to, I’m sure. I’m looking forward to more Big Prairie stories from Jennifer!

Thank you to the author for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Review: “The Perfect Christmas” by Bell Renshaw

It’s been a bit since I read this little novella, but I never got around to sharing my review! TODAY is the day, ya’ll!

About the Book

Will the perfect Christmas be enough to convince Beau that a life with Ansley could be equally perfect?

Born and raised in Winter, Montana, Beau Bradley can’t imagine life anywhere else. During the holiday season his coffee shop, Mountain Grounds, is as busy as ever and now that his girlfriend is back in town, things finally seem to be lining up—until he gets a call that could change it all.

Ansley Strauss is back in Winter after a nine-month art intensive in Canada and she’s ready to celebrate the Christmas season in the tried and true Winter-style. There’s only one problem: her boyfriend lacks Christmas spirit. Her solution? Make this Christmas perfect to remind Beau just how special this time of year is.

Set on a course for ultimate Christmas joy, Ansley and Beau find that life doesn’t always work out the way they hope it will. Beau faces the reality that plans can’t account for everything and Ansley will have to come to the realization that no matter how perfect things are, it’s the imperfections in life that make it worth living.

It’s another Christmas in Winter, Montana where the coffee is always hot and the mistletoe beckons lovers to share a kiss.

Goodreads | Amazon

My review of the first “Winter” novella, One Christmas in Winter

Review

With The Perfect Christmas, readers return to the picturesque setting of “Winter”, Montana for another cute novella.

The story picks up after a time apart in a dating relationship between Beau and Ansley. While they have their share of communication problems (some of the plot problems centered on this issue), they try to resume a more understanding relationship in the midst of a busy holiday schedule.

The Christmas-y things in this story are the cutest! The Christmas tree picking, molasses cookie mamas, peppermint mocha lattes (the coffee! SO FUN), the cabin in the snow and more. All of them made this story an escape into a wonderland with two characters that have real-life problems and depth.

I really liked the little themes of this novella: finding a place/purpose/happiness, living life to the fullest every day, TAKING RISK and fighting for something of worth, being honest and sometimes spontaneous.

Thank you to the author for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Review + Blog Tour: “The Dating Charade” by Melissa Ferguson

On Tour with Prism Book Tours

About the Book

The Dating Charade by Melissa Ferguson

Contemporary Romance, Christian

Available in: paperback, audiobook & ebook, 336 Pages

Release date: 12/3/19 by Thomas Nelson

Just when you think you’ve met your match . . . the charade begins.

Cassie Everson is an expert at escaping bad first dates. And, after years of meeting, greeting, and running from the men who try to woo her, Cassie is almost ready to retire her hopes for a husband—and children—altogether.

But fate has other plans, and Cassie’s online dating profile catches the eye of firefighter Jett Bentley. In Jett’s memory, Cassie Everson is the unreachable girl-of-legend from their high school days. Nervously, he messages her, setting off a chain of events that forces a reluctant Cassie back into the dating game.

No one is more surprised than Cassie when her first date with Jett is a knockout. But when they both go home and find three children dropped in their laps—each—they independently decide to do the right and mature thing: hide the kids from each other while sorting it all out. What could go wrong?

Melissa Ferguson’s hilarious and warmhearted debut reminds us that love can come in very small packages—and that sometimes our best-laid plans aren’t nearly as rewarding and fun as the surprises that come our way.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

From laugh out loud moments to more emotional and serious layers, The Dating Charade has appeal far beyond its cute cover and promising synopsis. Fans of Melissa Tagg and Bethany Turner, take note! The plot reminded me of the classic “Yours, Mine, and Ours” (the Lucille Ball + Fonda version) in the very best way!

I am a fan of romantic comedies, whether in movie, TV, or book form. Rarely, though, am I spurred to laughing out loud while reading. With this novel, I had at minimum 5 instances where I snickered or laughed out loud. One time, I was hoping my coworkers wouldn’t think I was crazy! 😉 I love how Melissa Ferguson has taken the most mundane things and used them for humor in situations I could relate to. Her witty writing style made the pages fly by. In particular, I LOLed at certain scenes that involved a toddler and a gallon of milk, church nursery workers, screening content of children’s books, and the hero’s propensity to be “clumsy” when necessary.

In addition to the humor and fun characters (can Sunny be the hero of a novel someday, pretty please?), relevant issues and themes are an integral part of Cassie and Jett’s character journeys. From motivations, dreams, relationship expectations, to the sacrifice of parenting, all are part of the fabric of the story. These point to an important message of the priority of family and how love and happily-ever-afters might not end up how one plans. In fact, they might involve sleepless nights with a newborn, messy hair, and endless vats of macaroni and cheese.

With just one novel to her name (she has a novella I’m wanting to read!), Melissa Ferguson has found her way onto my must-read author list. I eagerly look forward to whatever she pens next!

Thank you to Prism Book Tours for the review copy. This is my honest review.

About the Author

Melissa Ferguson is an adjunct professor for Bible and religion at King University. She lives in the charming town of Bristol, Tennessee, with her husband, twin toddlers, and baby girl. She used to have hobbies like running and backpacking the Appalachian Trail outside her door. Now her hobbies include admiring the Appalachian Trail out her minivan window while singing “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” en route to the library.

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Review: “The Light Before Day” by Suzanne Woods Fisher

Happy Saturday! I’m featuring a review for a novel I read earlier this year” The Light Before Day by Suzanne Woods Fisher. While it is the third in a series, it read like a standalone — I didn’t feel like I was “missing” key information about any of the characters.

About the Book

After three years on a whaling voyage, Henry Macy returns to Nantucket to news that his grandmother has passed, bequeathing her vast fortune to him and his sister, Hitty. And it was truly vast. But Lillian Coffin was no fool. The inheritance comes with a steep cost, including when they should marry and whom–a Quaker in good standing, of course. But if they relinquish the inheritance, it all goes to Tristram Macy, their father’s thieving business partner

As Hitty and Henry seek a way to satisfy the will’s conditions, they’ll be faced with obstacles on every side–and it may be that Lillian Coffin will have the last word after all.

Bestselling author Suzanne Woods Fisher surprises and delights with this story of hope and renewal, love and redemption, arriving just when most needed. 

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

A new to me era/setting combo! I don’t think I’ve ever read about Nantucket, or a novel featuring the early settlers and Quakers of that region. That part was fascinating and a unique look at the history of that time, especially some of the social concerns and segregation divides prior to the Civil War. It has a unique storytelling perspective with a brother and sister’s point of view. I can’t recall a historical I’ve read with such a POV (contemporaries yes). I liked how their individual personalities were portrayed and how you see the influence of the same upbringing yet separate uniqueness coming out of it. I was entertained and intrigued by the possibilities within the story for each sibling’s love interest(s). I had predicted one thing near the beginning, but it turned out to be opposite in the end! I liked that surprise.

Things I didn’t like as much: abrupt ending. I thought a few things could’ve been wrapped up more neatly and one or two relationships could have been shown with a little more detail and resolve. I would have felt better about the HEA. And, I was slightly annoyed with the use of Thee as a pronoun. I know, I know, the people of the day spoke like that. But I am not used to hearing it and it seemed used overmuch.

I appreciated the perspective from ancestral journal entries (based on an actual historical figure) that alluded to themes in the current events and shed light on early settlement of Nantucket in the 16-1700s.

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

Review + Blog Tour: “There’s Something About Darcy” by Gabrielle Malcolm

As I’ve heard another blogger say, there is a WHOLE BOOK about Jane Austen’s Fitzwilliam Darcy now! *cue confetti* I am excited to be a part of the blog tour today, sharing my thoughts on this essay-like portrait of a classic character still relevant today.

About the Book

For some, Colin Firth emerging from a lake in that clinging wet shirt is one of the most iconic moments in television. But what is it about the two-hundred-year-old hero that we so ardently admire and love?

Dr Gabrielle Malcolm examines Jane Austen’s influences in creating Darcy’s potent mix of brooding Gothic hero, aristocratic elitist and romantic Regency man of action. She investigates how he paved the way for later characters like Heathcliff, Rochester and even Dracula, and what his impact has been on popular culture over the past two centuries. For twenty-first century readers the world over have their idea of the ‘perfect’ Darcy in mind when they read the novel, and will defend their choice passionately.

In this insightful and entertaining study, every variety of Darcy jostles for attention: vampire Darcy, digital Darcy, Mormon Darcy and gay Darcy. Who does it best and how did a clergyman’s daughter from Hampshire create such an enduring character?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Having been an avid fan of Austen’s film adaptations first then a reader of her timeless novels, I was eager to learn the commentary and perspective an entire book on Darcy would provide. There’s Something About Darcy adds interesting insight into Austen’s work and speaks of her influence in the literary world.

Part of this book reads like an essay on the characteristics and lasting impact of Darcy. The portions I like best are the ones denoting the history of Austen and the influences she used to compile such an impactful character, as well as the portions of her contemporaries and early works influenced by Pride & Prejudice.

A later portion of the book notes the modern works and derivatives of Pride & Prejudice, like the various adaptations (TV, film, & literature alike) and each of their merits and unique facets that interpret, add depth, or detract from Darcy and Austen’s original work. I liked this portion, as well, but some of the explanations of these contemporary works are a bit long and spoiler-y.

Overall, this is a unique analysis of Darcy and his role as hero in classic literature and beyond. While some of this work was a little tedious, I still enjoyed the insights and opinions Malcolm shared concerning history and interpretations of Austen.

Thank you to the pubilsher for the review copy. This is my honest review.

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Mini Review: “With This Pledge” by Tamera Alexander

I’m sharing a review today of a novel that will certainly be on my end-of-the-year favorites list! With This Pledge by Tamera Alexander is a fascinating look at the near-end of the Civil War. It is rooted in a true-life setting and characters, bringing a real-life romance to life with exquisite detail all in the midst of heartache and challenge.

About the Book

On the night of November 30, 1864, a brutal battle in Franklin, Tennessee, all but decimates the Confederacy and nearly kills Captain Roland Ward Jones. A decorated Mississippi sharpshooter, Jones has a vision on the battlefield and, despite the severity of his wounds, believes his life will be spared. But a life without his leg, he can’t abide. He compels Elizabeth “Lizzie” Clouston—governess to the McGavock family at the Carnton mansion—to intervene should the surgeon decide to amputate. True to her word, Lizzie speaks on his behalf and saves not only the captain’s leg but also his life.

When a fourteen-year-old soldier dies in Lizzie’s arms that night, the boy’s final words, whispered with urgency, demand that Lizzie deliver them to their intended recipient. But all she has is the boy’s first name. And, as she soon discovers, there’s no record of him ever having enlisted. How can she set out alone across a land so divided by war and hatred to honor her pledge? Even more, does she dare accept Captain Jones’s offer to accompany her? As he coalesces at Carnton, romance has blossomed between him and Lizzie—a woman already betrothed to a man she does not love.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

With This Pledge is exemplary historical fiction from the characterization, romance, and to the care of social and political issues of the time. One example is with the presence of abolitionist leanings in the south: this story considers both the north and south’s positions and issues beyond the central one of slavery, clearly showing how it all pointed back to the freedom of human beings. I appreciate the honest insights into the battle of Franklin, with necessary brutal realities that served a purpose, all bringing out the emotions of the characters and connecting with the reader. And the ROMANCE. I loved it. It was natural, emotional, and refreshingly not a will-they-won’t-they scenario (because of the truth of the story behind the book), but oh the journey was full of surprises, twists, and moments where I wondered just how it would wrap up. But wrap up well, it did! And with just the right balance of resolution and open-ended possibility. The epilogue, in particular, was touching and perfect.

I’m looking forward to more in this series by Tamera!

Thank you to the publisher for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Novella Review: “Like a Winter Snow” by Lindsay Harrel

It’s almost that time of year!!! Time for hot cocoa and all things peppermint, Hallmark movies and trimming the trees. I know it’s still October, but I’m excited to read alllll the Christmas stories this year — I’ve already read three! The one I read this week, Like a Winter Snow by Lindsay Harrel, is a charming novella that takes readers on a journey across the ocean to England. It releases on Tuesday (10/29), so add it to your TBR now!

About the Book

In this standalone holiday novella, return to the charming Cornish village readers fell in love with in The Secrets of Paper and Ink.

Women’s counselor Joy Beckman has always been a friend and helper to all. That’s why she’s given up everything to be with her parents as her mother suffers through Alzheimer’s. Joy may not have a thriving career or a love life at the moment, but she’s doing what she does best—taking care of others. And even though it’s difficult, she knows it’s where she is supposed to be.

But life throws a curveball when she has to leave her parents temporarily to travel to Cornwall, England, for the Christmas-time wedding of her best friend. While there, Joy helps Sophia tackle her last-minute to-do list, and in the process, finally meets a man who turns her head—and her heart. The only problem? He lives in snowy London, and her life is with her parents back in sunny Florida.

She tries to resist Oliver Lincoln’s charms, but it’s harder than it should be. With her heart torn in two, Joy is forced to choose between a life she knows she’s meant for and the one she didn’t see coming.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Like a Winter Snow takes readers to a picturesque Cornwall, England for Christmas AND a wedding! Readers of Harrel’s novel The Secrets of Paper and Ink will be delighted to revisit the characters and see the spotlight on Joy Beckman now, the bride’s best friend.

Amidst all the festivities both quaint and beautiful, a story of romance and surrender unfolds. I appreciate that Lindsay always balances romance with “women’s fiction” themes that are very realistic and often serious. For Joy, her newfound friendship quickly (and delightfully!) grows into more with the charming and good-hearted Oliver, but she thinks her burdens and responsibilities have to hold her back from a happily ever after. The female friendships Joy has in her life are a great encouragement to her. This, combined with Oliver’s own life-wisdom and some insightful parental advice, all help her see her life in a new light. I also liked that this central couple was slightly older than average (40s) for typical romance novels, adding a maturity and hopefulness to the whole story.

This novella has just the right amount of sparkle, humor, and poignancy for the season, and a sweet friendship-to-romance. I LOVE the cute cover and the scene it depicts. Also, I adore the setting (Let’s start a send Courtney to Cornwall campaign, too, ok?!) and the slight nods to classic movies and stories.

Thank you to the author for the review copy. This is my honest review.