Christmas Reads & Reviews (2020)

Welcome to an installment of little Christmas (romance) reviews for 2020! All three of these stories released this year. You can learn more about each book by visiting their Goodreads page (click on the title text).

A Match Made at Christmas by Courtney Walsh, a novella in her Nantucket Love Story series

A Match Made at Christmas combines all I’ve come to expect from a Courtney Walsh story: a charming setting, a chivalrous hero, a strong heroine, layers and depth to the characters, witty humor, and a wonderfully romantic pairing. It’s the perfect, magical Christmas novella to “escape” into this season!

The best-friends-to-more romance is one to root for between Hayes and Pru. After meeting Hayes in If For Any Reason, I was SO glad to hear he was getting a story of his own with this novella! He’s fun and charming, but there’s way more to his character than what is on the surface. I love that about Courtney’s character development, especially here where Hayes and Pru are safe and fully themselves in each other’s presence.

Like a Christmas Dream by Lindsay Harrel, second in her Port Willis novella series

Like a Christmas Dream is a darling Christmas novella (with an adorable cover)! Lindsay Harrel’s stories always have “girl squad” dynamics– this one explores the connection and reconciliation between sisters. The timeline is depicted in a realistic way, with just chemistry with the romance and the support of friendship established in the short format.

I really love the romance thread of the story and how Michael is accepting of Sarah in a way she hasn’t experienced with her family or her relationships. And, his profession of photography which is introduced to Sarah plays into a great metaphor for seeing the world as she learns more about herself and her trust in God.

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

The Little Christmas Shop on Nutcracker Lane by Jaimie Admans, a standalone Christmas novel

This charming little Christmas story is chock full of romance, Christmas traditions, and the magic of a British Christmas. It shows how the hope of the season is meant to be celebrated for more than just one day of the holiday.

The leading couple are absolutely adorable, genuine, and meant for each other. Disney’s-Flynn-Rider-lookalike-James has no clue how much he needs Nia to show him more than the appeal of the season, but to remind him of laughter, kindness, family, and joy of giving. Nia, in turn, learns a thing or two about confidence and trust. 🙂 They BOTH learn that wishes can come true.

Content note for my blog audience: this is a general fiction title. It has very few (I think I could count them on one hand) mild expletives.

Review: “Christmas in Three Quarter Time” by Rachel McMillan

Last week, author Rachel McMillan released a surprise Christmas novella: Christmas in Three Quarter Time! It’s no secret I have LOVED her previous two “Three Quarter Time” novellas set in Vienna. This one explores the city AND the Viennese countryside at the most wonderful time of year.

Christmas in Three Quarter Time cover
About the Book

“Felix Huber told me that the only thing wrong with my love story was that it was in the wrong time signature. That if I didn’t find the rhythm and meter aligning with the romance I deserved, I merely needed to allot a tempo change.”

Christmas in Three Quarter Time Cover

Freelance reporter Johanna Murphy declared war on charming Felix Huber the moment he stole an exclusive interview that cost her a vital promotion. Now, with time ticking to turn her temporary work visa into a permanent one, she needs a scoop that will capture the magic of Vienna at Christmas to entice international press syndication.

Inspired by the delicious lore of Vienna’s famed Sachertorte, she is determined to chase it before any rival reporter. But, the return of an unexpected and unwanted blast from her past drains her determination like a decaf espresso mélange. When Felix proposes they forge an unlikely alliance against this common enemy—for the span of Christmas only—Johanna has no choice but to follow him on a road trip across Austria culminating in the picture-perfect Tyrolean Alps where a buried hurt from Felix’s past is the secret ingredient to the bittersweet truth they find about the torte’s presence in his family history.

As Christmas approaches with the deadline of their temporary truce, Johanna learns to slow the world down and open her heart to a country, its traditions and the last man on earth she ever imagined under the mistletoe.

Amazon | Goodreads

Review

Christmas in Three Quarter Time is an enchanting escape to Vienna at Christmas! Traditions and torte, coffee and the countryside, Christmas markets and carvings all entwine two rival reporters as they navigate connection and explore romance. Rachel McMillan conveys the romance of the setting, too, as the Tyrol region and streets of Vienna find Johanna and Felix stepping in each other’s path toward the next byline.

The pacing of this story is perfection! The first few chapters see Johanna and Felix have a *moment* and near friendship, then time passes quickly as their relationship grows taut. The romance to come is more apparent as the story progresses toward Christmas. ❤ This almost-enemies-to-friends-and-romance spin is new for Rachel McMillan, a trope she applies well with plenty of verbal sparring (I’ve missed her dialog and banter like with Merinda Herringford and Jasper!).

While Christmas in Three Quarter Time has its sparkling moments and an idyllic setting, it is very much propelled by two unique and relatable characters. Johanna experiences personal growth, further lending to the depth of the story. The way she interacts with the world shifts because of her time with Felix. I LOVE how he sees her, calls her out on the emotional walls she’s built, then gives her the space to be herself. (And aren’t those the best kinds of friendships?!) The result is a maturity to the romance I appreciate. The warm fuzzies, Viennese traditions, bunny rescue, and Sachertorte baking are all present, but Johanna’s discovery, the theme of belonging, and the revealing of Felix’s heart are the most impactful.

Speaking of Felix, he is such a romantic. And a beta hero. I love how it’s not initially apparent because the story is in first person POV from Johanna’s perspective (or Murphy, as he always calls her). Instead, he comes off as confident until Johanna peeks behind the curtain and glimpses his vulnerability. *swoon* Now I need to go reread my favorite bunny, niece, and woodshed scenes!

I believe readers of this novella will end it with a new appreciation for family traditions, Austrian confections, European Christmas markets, and a wish to visit Vienna at Christmas. Fans of Rachel’s previous Viennese novellas will be happy to see tiny cameos familiar characters, too!

My thoughts on the previous novellas in this series: Love in Three Quarter Time | Rose in Three Quarter Time

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.

First Line Fridays # 30: “Mistletoe Menagerie” by Janine Rosche

It’s time for a new edition of First Line Fridays hosted by the Hoarding Books blog!

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It’s December, and for me, that means time to read alllll the Christmas stories! This little novella, Mistletoe Menagerie, from author Janine Rosche has an adorable cover (shoutout to designer Hillary Manton Lodge), and it promises a cute story inside! I’m excited to read it soon, and to follow it with Janine’s debut novel This Wandering Heart in 2020.

If you’d like to know more about this book, check out GOODREADS or visit Janine’s website HERE to get your free copy of Mistletoe Menagerie when you sign up for her newsletter!

Strings of iridescent lights had once filled Sage Matthews with holiday cheer. Now they formed a blurred tangle of webs, clutching at her as she ran down the city zoo’s main promenade.

Your turn! What’s your first line?

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.

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!

Mini Review ~ “A Holiday by Gaslight: A Victorian Christmas Novella” by Mimi Matthews

I’m happily sharing a review today of a Christmas novella I LOVED! After reading The Matrimonial Advertisement, I thought I would enjoy this little novella… and I was right!

About the book:

A Holiday by Gaslight cover
This cover!!! I love it.

A Dutiful Daughter

Sophie Appersett is quite willing to marry outside of her class to ensure the survival of her family. But the darkly handsome Mr. Edward Sharpe is no run of the mill London merchant. He’s grim and silent. A man of little emotion–or perhaps no emotion at all. After two months of courtship, she’s ready to put an end to things. After all, even a dutiful daughter has her limits.

A Taciturn Tradesman

Ned has come a long way since his days working as a draper’s assistant. He’s wealthy, ambitious, and eager to take a wife. But the courtship advice issued in The Gentlemen’s Book of Etiquette isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Though he’s followed it to the letter, Miss Appersett still doesn’t wish to see him again. Frustrated and hurt, he’s more than happy to oblige her.

A Christmas Courtship

Severing ties with her former beau isn’t as straightforward as Sophie envisioned. Her parents are outraged. And then there’s Charles Darwin, Prince Albert, and that dratted gaslight. What’s a girl to do except invite Mr. Sharpe to the annual Christmas party at Appersett House and give him one more chance to win her? But this time there’ll be no false formality. This time they’ll get to know each other for who they really are. 

Goodreads | Amazon

My thoughts: A delight of a novella! Mimi Matthews combines the opulent traditions of the era (Christmas trees! Mistletoe! Sleigh Rides! Country mansions with gaslight!) with two lead characters whose initial misperceptions set up a lovely romantic match with depth. With nods to one of my favorite classics, North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell, this story transcends classes and the bounds of familial expectations all through the discovery of two persons and their common values. I appreciate how Ned’s attraction to Sophie goes way beyond surface beauty (their intellects are a great match!), and how her journey through her family’s ups and downs makes her recognize the depth of his care, even if he doesn’t show it as easily.

There’s something about the propriety of the Victorian era that is, in itself, romantic. Combined with Ms. Matthew’s prose-like ability to paint a scene and refreshingly honest characters, we have a Christmas romance not-to-be-missed!

Content note: the romance content is squeaky-clean but there are just a few mild, era-appropriate expletives.

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

Review, Book Blitz + Giveaway: “The Christmas Book Shoppe” by Miranda Atchley

Welcome to the Book Blitz! I’m happy to share my thoughts today about The Christmas Book Shoppe, a lovely little Christmas novella, as well as an excerpt and the info for Miranda Atchley’s #GIVEAWAY! 

Review

The Christmas Book Shoppe is a sweet story of a small town, little joys, trust, and all things BOOKISH! From the quaint small town setting to the quirky cast of characters, this little novella offers a glimpse into the life of Trudy as she faces the sale of her book shop (and livelihood).

How does one react to such a drastic change? With a chocolate shake and British dramas, of course! Oh, and there’s Reed, who offers Trudy quiet encouragement and hints at a happily-ever-after.

One of my favorite parts of this novella was the setting. It’s in ARKANSAS, ya’ll! Not many stories are set in my state. While the town of Christmas is fictional, it’s not too far from me considering the Ozarks hills and proximity to Fayetteville. It was super fun to see places referenced that I know like the back of my hand (ahem, the Barnes & Noble in Fayetteville).

If you love bookstores, Christmas, or light Christmas novellas, this is a quick read you are sure to enjoy!

Thanks to the author for a review copy. This is my honest review.

About the Book

Keeping her book store might take a Christmas miracle… Trudy Gallagher is quite content with her simple life. For the past five years, she has lived and worked at The Christmas Book Shoppe, a new and used book store formerly owned and operated by her great-aunt. She loves nothing more than spending her days in the Victorian house filled with books, surrounded by her cat and loved ones. As Christmas, her favorite day of the year approaches, she begins the season with her usual verve and excitement.

Yet when her landlord threatens to sell The Christmas Book Shoppe, she is devastated. She cannot imagine life without the book store she calls home. As she struggles to create a plan to keep the book store open, it seems as if her whole word is turned upside down and her every attempt to save the store fails.

Can she find a way to keep the store she loves?

Order in the Kindle store for 99 cents | Add to Goodreads

About the Author

MIRANDA ATCHLEY has written several novels, both historical and contemporary, one of which was a finalist for an indie writing award. When she isn’t writing, Miranda loves getting lost in a good book and watching period dramas. She lives in a small town in Arkansas. Visit her blog and subscribe to her mailing list at:

arealwriterslife.blogspot.com

Connect with Miranda
Goodreads | Amazon | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest

Enjoy an excerpt from The Christmas Book Shoppe

As she placed the last ornament on the Christmas tree, Trudy Gallagher stood back and looked at her handiwork with a gratified smile. It was the Monday after Thanksgiving, and she had spent the majority of the day decorating The Christmas Book Shoppe for the holiday.Like every other year, she and her assistant Marge had placed the eight foot artificial Christmas tree before the front window in the foyer, and Trudy had happily wrapped it in lights and tinsel, placing book themed ornaments along the branches.

“A little early to be putting up a Christmas tree, don’t you think?” Mr. Scranton, a regular patron at the book store–and the town’s resident curmudgeon–asked when he came to donate yet another stack of used books.

“Well, Thanksgiving was last Thursday,” Trudy replied in the kindest tone she could muster. It was tradition at The Christmas Book Shoppe to decorate for the holidays the Monday after Thanksgiving. After all,they were The Christmas Book Shoppe,a store that carried a mix of new and used books and was housed in the historic district of a small town called Christmas, Arkansas–which was named for the town’s settler as opposed to the holiday, as most out of towners understandably believed. They had to embrace the spirit of Christmas, just like most other businesses in town did. Yet there was always someone who accused them of decorating too early. Trudy couldn’t help but wonder; what would Mr. Scranton say if he knew that she had decorated her apartment on November first?

Scoffing at her, Mr. Scranton turned and went on his way,his pace slow as his cane assisted him. Trudy could have sworn she’d heard him mutter “bah humbug” under his breath as he exited through the front door, his harsh tone clashing with the twinkling bell above the door. Though that could have simply been her imagination, which, given all the novels she read, was usually quite overactive.

Trudy shrugged as she placed the two heavy plastic bags full of moldy paperbacks on the desk and began to sort through them.

Really, who could blame her for embracing the Christmas spirit as fully as she did? After enduring long humid Arkansas summers that often started as early as April and boasted weeks of temperatures in the high nineties and low hundreds, it was a relief to have cooler weather. When the heat of summer was too much to bear, she often daydreamed about the Christmas season just to distract herself from the reality of living in such a humid climate.

But it wasn’t just the cold weather she enjoyed. She loved everything about Christmas. Watching classic Christmas movies, drinking hot cocoa while reading a light and cheery Christmas novella, and listening to Christmas songs all December were some of her favorite things. And there was just something about all the pretty decorations and lights that made the whole town of Christmas, Arkansas look like the inside of a snow globe…minus all the snow. It was simply a magical time of year.

“I’m glad you enjoy decorating the tree so much,” said Marge when Trudy made her way back to the front desk. With a deep sigh, she added, “Putting that tree up just wears me out.”

Looking up from the copy of Thoreau’s Walden she’d been inspecting, Trudy offered a smile and said, “Well, I’m happy to do it.”

With raised eyebrows, Marge shook her head. “I can certainly tell.”

Marge was a middle aged woman who had been working at The Christmas Book Shoppe for the last few years. While she was a good employee,she didn’t share Trudy’s excitement about literature and holidays and found her boss’s enthusiasm rather tiring. It was amazing that the two got along as well as they did.

Trudy once again smiled and then took the newly arrived books and began to shelve them. It was a little curious that Mr. Scranton had donated so much as of late. Counting what he’d brought in today, he’d donated a total of ten bags full of books in two weeks. Trudy wondered how many books he had in that old, somewhat off-putting house he lived in on the edge of town.

After Mr. Scranton’s donations were situated on the shelves, Trudy took to straightening the book cases, and in the process she found herself somewhat distracted, reading the synopsis scrawled on the back covers of titles that caught her attention. She often found herself similarly distracted while working here at the shop and realized that this was one reason why her to-be-read pile was growing entirely out of control.

When she found a particularly interesting novel set in the Edwardian era, she flipped open the cover and read the first few pages. Soon her mind was thousands of miles and a hundred years away, caught up in a world of lords and ladies.

“That a good book?”

With a gasp, she slammed the book shut. Looking up, she saw her friend, Reed Thornton. A roughish smile twisted his mouth, making him look more like Downton Abbey’s Tom Branson than ever.

“You scared me to death,” she said, taking a deep breath in an attempt to steady her heart rate. “And yes, it is a good book. I think I’ll keep it for myself.”

In his hands, she saw a stack of books, all bearing familiar titles. The Great Gatsby, Wuthering Heights, Persuasion. In Trudy’s world, it was unusual for most guys to even like reading. But for a guy to pass up science fiction and thrillers for classic romance? That was just unheard of.

“Looking for a good romance, are we?” she asked as they made their way back to the front desk.

He gave her the same exasperated expression he offered each time she made a wise crack about his reading habits. “It’s required reading for my classic lit class.”

Trudy smiled skeptically. She knew Reed had in fact enrolled in a classic lit class at the university after recently going back to college in order to earn a master’s degree in literature. Yet she also knew that Reed had always been a sucker for classic literature, just like her. They’d taken literature classes in high school together and their mutual love of the classics was one reason why they’d been such good friends for most of their lives.

“You know there isn’t any shame in guys reading romance novels, right?” With a snort she added, “I mean, look at Nicholas Sparks. His novels have been giving women false hopes for years now. And Fitzgerald was a guy, and he wrote The Great Gatsby.Besides, haven’t you already read that?”

“When we were seniors in high school,” he said with a half frown. “But that was a long time ago. I’ve read too many books since then to remember all I need to know about it for this class.”

“Well, it is a pretty good one to revisit,” she said as she rounded the corner of the front desk.

As she scanned the barcode on Persuasion, she cocked an eyebrow at Reed.

He sighed as he dug his wallet out of his back pocket. “It’s the only Austen I haven’t read yet.”

She chuckled as she placed the stack of books in a bag bearing the store’s emblem.

“Do you give all your customers this hard of a time?” he asked as he accepted the bag.

She simply laughed in reply.

“You know, I could just buy my books on Amazon. I’d get a lot less cheek if I did.”

“Yeah, but you’d pay a lot more. Plus, you wouldn’t get this sparkling customer service that brings in customers from miles around.”

Chuckling, he rolled his eyes, took his bag and left.

Giveaway

One winner will receive a Kindle download of The Christmas Book Shoppe. The giveaway begins December 4 and ends December 7. Open internationally to anyone who can receive a Kindle download via email. Must be 18 or older to participate.

Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway

Mini Review: Ordinary Snowflakes by Jennifer Rodewald

This mini review is of the best variety: the kind that, if I did a full-blown review, I would give away surprising plot points with my eager praise. So, you get fewer words and more time to wonder, yourself, about this little gem of a story. I’m talking about Jennifer Rodewald’s Christmas novella, Ordinary Snowflakes. Bonus: it’s set in “Rock Creek”, so fans of Reclaimed will see familiar faces!


About the book: Someone has noticed me. A secret admirer? A man with a good heart, who sees how much I actually need help, even though I never admit it? Maybe this is the beginning of a beautiful story—a romance full of hope and second chances and love.

Maybe…

A secret Santa gift left on Kale Brennan’s front porch opens up a fresh view of her ordinary life, and perhaps of God. Maybe she does matter. Maybe God sees her—as does a new-to-town music teacher who has her seven-year-old daughter gushing and her own knees buckling with his killer smile. But as Kale embraces new possibilities, a staple in her life—a man who is kind and steady, not to mention necessary for her injured daughter’s recovery—also snatches her attention in an unexpected way. Will the one pursuing her with his secret gift and kind gestures be the one her heart longs for in the end?

Goodreads | Amazon

My thoughts: In the space of a novella, Jennifer has managed to create engaging and relatable characters I wanted to root for and encourage. Solely told from the perspective of Kale, this story is both sweet and emotionally beautiful. It shows important growth and moments of Kale’s life as she realizes the purpose and beauty in ordinary things, like her life, daily choices, and the possible simplicity of true romance. To say very much about the delightfully surprising direction the romance takes would give away way too much, but I’ll just say I loved it!!! And, it uses one of my very favorite tropes. (hint: it’s NOT a love triangle, as you might think from the synopsis.) You’ll have to read it to find out what I mean!

And oh, I cannot forget to mention Sydney. That little girl steals EVERY scene she’s in with her spunk and determination. She’s wise beyond her years, in so many ways 😉 .

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

Review: “Enchanted: A Christmas Collection” by Melissa Tagg

As you regular blog readers might realize, any time Melissa Tagg releases a story, I HAVE to read it. As a wonderful treat the past 3 years, Melissa has released a Christmas novella series featuring a little family from (you guessed it) “Maple Valley”. This year the final story in the collection is out, One Enchanted Noël, AND the whole collection is available in a gorgeous paperback format! Today, I’ve compiled my past reviews plus my thoughts on this latest release.

Enchanted A Christmas Collection

A Collection of Heartwarming, Small-Town Holiday Romances 

One Enchanted Christmas

Goodreads | Amazon

Last December, author Maren Grant went on a magical date with her book’s cover model–Colin Renwycke. Fast forward one year. With a looming deadline, Maren is desperate to recapture her creative spark. Then she remembers Colin’s invitation to visit his family’s Iowa farm…

Drew Renwycke never planned to move home and take over the farm. But he’s spent too many years watching his siblings unravel–including Colin. When Maren lands on his doorstep, he realizes she may be the key to coaxing his brother home.

(originally published as a standalone in 2015)

One Enchanted Eve

Goodreads | Amazon

As a Denver Culinary Institute student, Colin Renwyke is out to embark on a new career as a pastry chef. But despite his skills in the kitchen, he’s a mess in the classroom and his ongoing disasters are proving too much for his prickly instructor. If he loses his spot at the school, he’s out of backup plans.

Culinary school instructor Rylan Jefferson has the chance to reclaim her dream of running her own bakery. But she only has until Christmas Eve to come up with the perfect recipe to impress an eccentric investor. She has no time for holiday parties or family plans . . . and especially not for her unruliest student baker.

But Colin has the one ingredient Rylan needs most–talent. Lots of it. And when he makes a proposal that just might solve both their problems, Rylan can’t say no.

(originally published as a standalone in 2016)

One Enchanted Noël

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When Seb Pierce agreed to work for his wealthy grandfather for one year–in return for an early draw on his inheritance–he never expected the agreement to land him in a quirky small town in Iowa at Christmas-time, renovating a dilapidated theater…and running into a woman he never thought he’d see again.

Although she’s finally settled in her hometown, Leigh Renwycke can’t shake the familiar restlessness that used to get her into trouble. When Seb Pierce waltzes into her world and begs for her help planning the theater’s holiday reopening, it might be enough to jumpstart a new career…and to prove once and for all that the new-and-improved Leigh is here to stay. Until old secrets and new sparks get in the way…

(brand new in 2017!)

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Review

One Enchanted Christmas by Melissa Tagg, mini reviewOne Enchanted Christmas

Melissa just makes me smile with her clever prose, the normalcy of her characters, and the laugh-out-loud situations her characters find themselves in. I literally laughed while reading this one!

Case in point: check out this line concerning the fashionable-yet-not-warm-for-snow attire of our main character, Maren. “But a girl didn’t meet a man who might be the love of her life dressed like an Eskimo”- chapter 1. That ought to make you smile!

Besides the heartwarming characters and storyline, one other unique element to this novella was the use of a “narrator”. The narrator set up the story and added a few little side commentary moments which were so clever! And, something new-to-me in fiction. This device allows the story to move faster and still flow, filling in necessary details without cheating on story, and revealing the true feelings of Drew and Maren like an all-knowing outside perspective.

If you’re looking for a quick, sweet, and touching read that’s perfect for the Christmas season, look no further One Enchanted Christmas! And did I mention it’s an independently-published endeavor by Melissa herself? Go support her spunk today.

One Enchanted Eveone-enchanted-eve

This novella proves there is always more to the story behind the seemingly antihero of the previous story, illustrating everyone has a journey and has trials. I love revisiting Maple Valley, especially the Renwyckes for Christmas. This is a must-read Christmas novella! The combo of drama, humor, and family is just perfect. And I can’t forget to mention the bonding that happens between Collin and Rylan over pastry and the flirting with recipe cards = swoon! In true “Tagg” style, this story is at once nostalgic and insightful, drawing out an emotional depth and realness from its characters, taking us home for Christmas and to blessings in unexpected little things.

One Enchanted NoelOne Enchanted Noël

Just when I think I couldn’t love Melissa Tagg’s storytelling more, she goes and does something surprising like this and writes two new, compelling lead characters – one of which is a COWBOY! A gentleman complete with a Texas drawl and plaid shirts, even if he does originally hale from California. I can’t see his name in print without pronouncing it in my head just like Leigh always calls him: Sebastian Parker Pierce III. He’s a catch! 🙂

And then there’s Leigh. The last of the Renwycke siblings to befriend. My heart just wants to hug her and tell her she is loved for who she IS and who she is daily choosing to BE. Thankfully, a host of family and a few friends, most notably Seb and his knowing care, encourage her along the way. She learns an important lesson of dreaming and reaching and trusting God to have insanely awesome plans for her life.

My movie-nerd self LOVED the fact that Sebastian is renovating a MOVIE THEATER!!! Speaking from personal experience in that setting, Melissa got her facts very straight except for one teeny, tiny detail that is totally forgivable for the sake of artistic license and the resulting cute scene 😉 . I could virtually hear the projectors whirring and smell the popcorn as I read.

One Enchanted Noël has the signature humor and pop culture I’ve come to expect from Melissa, set in the “enchanting” world of Maple Valley with its quirkiness. Among many other things, I LOVED getting to see the humor of Mayor Milt again and a “peek behind the curtain” of his attitude in one little scene. But at the heart of it all is a message of hope and dreams within grasp, of supporting family and embracing new beginnings.