Twelfth Night, edition 3: Christmas Story Mini Reviews

Happy Twelfth Night! It has become an informal annual tradition to share an edition of Christmas Story Mini Reviews here on the blog on January 5th, also known as Twelfth Night in the traditional Christmas days celebration. These are Christmas stories and ones with a Christmas/winter tone I read over the holiday season.

First edition of Christmas Story Mini Reviews | Second edition of Christmas Story Mini Reviews

Title links will take you to Goodreads for full book info.

You and Me by Becky Wade (novella, book 2.5 in the Misty River Romance series)

This is a fantastic little story with a friends-to-lovers romance! It checks all the boxes for a Christmas novella: banter, Christmassy activities, hot cocoa, and a sweet friendship at the center with a clever setup. I love and appreciate all the certainty of this romance: the decisiveness of the hero, the confident personality of the heroine, and the way everything unfolds realistically. Also, I loved the glimpses of Becky’s other characters from this series!

A Cross-Country Christmas by Courtney Walsh (novel)

ALL the stars and candy canes for this story! What a fun and funny adventure of a romance, with the emotional heart I expected from a Walsh tale. Highly recommended for second chance romance, romcom, and Christmas lovers alike!

Like A Silver Bell by Lindsay Harrel (Port Willis Romance novella #3)

This is a SWEET romance novella taking readers of Harrel’s past books back to the setting of Cornwall, England with a new couple and story of hope and trust. I particularly loved the steady way the hero supports the heroine throughout, being encouraging and patient when she needs a little space. The meaning behind the title is particularly cute, too.

Christmas Every Day by Beth Moran (novel)

This is a cute story. I loved so much about this: the heroine’s growth, the FRIENDSHIPS and their importance highlighted, the quirky village, the grumpy-and-broody cinnamon roll neighbor, the way Jenny learns to stand on her own feet and become the heroine in her own life, the hilarious antics of the children in the story, the secondary romance that happens within a friend group (and the baking that goes with it). I saw the setup of one of the main plot “surprises” a long time coming but was still hooked and pleased when it was all revealed. While its story takes place over a year’s time, it has several elements associated with Christmas, and it ends fittingly during that season (but it’s not *exactly* a Christmas story in the traditional sense).

This is my first book by Beth Moran, and I’m looking forward to reading more!

Silver Bells and Secrets by Laura Rollins (Twelfth Night novella #1)

This is a delightful Christmas novella! With an idyllic country house setting at Christmas, the hero and heroine take part in Christmassy events like a musicale, yule log hunt, and a romantic sleigh ride. The secret kept for much of the story as a major plot device worked well in this era and situation, making me eager for it to be revealed and the subsequent surprise of the story to impact the heroine. I was happy with the way it unfolded, because that’s usually not my favorite device.

Oh! And the hero is a somewhat socially awkward EARL! AKA a beta hero who’s more comfortable in a one-on-one conversation 🙂 🙂 loved him.

Once Upon a Wardrobe by Patti Callahan (novel)

Once Upon a Wardrobe, in a nutshell, is a love letter to stories and imagination. Through the eyes of Megs and her young brother, George, the reader experiences the magic of a transportive story while analyzing how real life influences story (as in C. S. Lewis’ authoring the world of Narnia), along with the inherent connections stories establish between humanity, history, and faith. This is a novel to savor and reread – one I know I will return to and gain fresh perspective and new joy from upon each reading.

Did you read any Christmas stories this year? Do you read them into January?

(CHRISTMAS) Book & Film Pairings, Edition 6

Welcome to another post where I pair books and films with similar themes or content! In fitting with the season, I am featuring Christmas-centric books and a movies today — two pairs of them, actually.

Snow Bride (2013), Hallmark Channel Original

A reporter’s quest for a scoop lands the heroine at a political dynasty’s Christmas gathering under false pretenses. Then, she and the hero strike up an agreement for a fake-dating relationship that complicates his family matters and her original intent tenfold. It has a lead couple with FANTASTIC on-screen chemistry, and one of the cutest first-kiss moments in Hallmark history.

His Mistletoe Miracle by Jenny B. Jones | Review

This novella features a couple in a fake-dating relationship at Christmas time in a small town. The hero and heroine’s families are very active in their lives, complicating family gatherings and allowing for some hilarious situations. The hero, too, has a background in journalism. I love how Jenny B. Jones incorporates humor and depth into the relationship dynamics.

The Nativity Story (2006), Theatrical Release

The Nativity Story is just that: a dramatic visual of the Biblical story of Mary, Joseph, their journey to Bethlehem, and the birth of Jesus. Exceptionally filmed and cast, I often enjoy rewatching this during the Christmas season.

A Night Like No Other by Kristin Vayden | Review

This novella follows a similar timeline and journey of Mary and Joseph through the time of Jesus’ birth. It allows the reader an intimate point-of-view of that time which gives Mary and Joseph a relatable voice and highlights the extraordinary plan of God to use mankind to bring His son into the world.

Have you seen either of these movies? Do you read Christmas stories this time of year? Do you have book recommendations similar to these? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Novella Review: “A Christmas in the Alps” by Melody Carlson

It’s never too early in the year for a Christmas story! Read on for my thoughts on the latest one by author Melody Carlson, A Christmas in the Alps.

About the Book

After a time of heartache and loss, Simone Winthrop discovers a tantalizing letter from her French great-grandmother, which seems to suggest that she is heir to a family treasure. Ever practical, Simone assumes the claim is baseless, but her best friend encourages her to find out for sure. Despite her deep-rooted fear of flying, Simone boards a jet to travel to Paris at Christmastime to uncover the truth.

During the long flight, Simone meets the charming Kyle Larsson, who’s on his way to France to become an apprentice clockmaker. Though they abruptly part ways, an unexpected rendezvous in the French Alps at Simone’s family’s clock factory may lead to the discovery of the family treasure . . . and so much more.

For anyone who is wearying of staying home, Melody Carlson invites you to spend Christmas with her in the beautiful French Alps this year. So pull on your mittens, tie your scarf tight, and prepare yourself for a magical mountain holiday.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

A Christmas in the Alps provides a story of family history and a search for treasure that leads to unexpected blessings and romance for the heroine, Simone. I enjoyed seeing the family drama play out, especially how generations can have an impact on the choices and heritage of the present.

With a sweet meet-cute and a friendship of happenstance, Simone and Kyle seem to be good for each other and complimentary in their pursuits. I like the way their friendship began with Simone’s fear of flying combining with his calm manner and advice. Though I do think their relationship was a little too insta-developed and lacked depth, even for the short page count of a novella.

I was expecting more sparkling details and looking forward to the Europe-at-Christmas setting a little more than this book fulfilled. It fell a little flat in the festivities, transportive quality, and depth of emotion I had hoped for.

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

First Line Fridays # 36: “The Mistletoe Countess” by Pepper Basham

It’s time for a new edition of First Line Fridays hosted by Carrie at Reading Is My Superpower!

WOW, it has been a long time since I’ve featured a beginning line for First Line Fridays! It’s never too early in the year to talk about Christmas, though, OR the fun kind of romance Pepper Basham writes, like The Mistletoe Countess. I have been excited about this novel for a long time! I “met” Freddie and Grace in an earlier version and I’m anxious to spend more time with them, their grand estate, a mystery, Grace’s sleuth antics, and guaranteed kisses.

EPIGRAPH & FIRST LINE:

Every fairy tale needed an appropriate castle.

Gracelynn Ferguson gripped the Model T’s window frame and leaned forward, breath caught in a suppressed gasp.

Your turn! What’s your first line?

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

Twelfth Night, edition 2: Christmas Story Mini Reviews

Happy Twelfth Night! Last year on January 5th, I shared the first edition of Christmas Story Mini Reviews. This year I’m finally getting around to sharing my thoughts on some of the Christmas stories I read in 2019!

Title links will take you to Goodreads for full book info.

Christmas at Whitefriars by Elizabeth Camden (novella)

A delightful Christmas novella all about fellowship and romance! I enjoyed the setting and charming history that went with it, and the awkwardly shy hero paired with the pleasant heroine who had to overcome a few things herself (loved how that was portrayed!).

The Royally Yours novella collection

It’s perfectly sweet collection of 4 Royal romances set in a quirky Christmas town! I want to visit Tinsel, too, and sample scones, stay in an inn, and visit the library. 🙂

One Royal Christmas by Melissa Tagg ~ It was royally adorable with a bookish king & a more-adventurous-than-she-realizes heroine. I especially liked the book note aspect 😉

The Reluctant Princess by Betsy St. Amant ~ Princess + celebrity charm, nostalgic traditions, sarcasm & things that define a person.

A Royal Wonderland by Liz Johnson ~ A Christmas decor competition, a reluctant prince, and a small town girl learning to overcome her regrets all make up this sweet story of the season with a SWOONY romance, apples and scones, and one well used ladder!

A Tinsel Holiday by Ashley Clark ~ The cutest “what if” a situation like the classic Roman Holiday were only the beginning? Her story plays on characters who have an established friendship and makes for a fantastic romance.

Christmas at the Circus by Joanne Bischof (short story)

A darling little short story that “catches up” with beloved characters and shows sweet Christmas moments in their lives. I especially liked the glimpses of Holland and the surprise for Ella!

Mistletoe Menagerie by Janine Rosche (novella)

This is a darling story with a surprising amount of depth and emotion. I laughed along with the characters, related to the pain and grief in their hearts, and rejoiced in their moments of friendship and the beginnings of romance. I might have a favorite new zoo animal, too: GIRAFFES!

I am looking forward to more from Janine Rosche’s pen in 2020!

Welcome to Wishing Bridge by Ruth Logan Herne

Though not 100% intended as a Christmas novel, it does take place over the Christmas season. I’m totally counting it!

I really enjoyed the audiobook of this story! I feel like I want to visit Wishing Bridge now. The cast of characters was vibrant (a broad cast, but it never felt too big), the narration was spot-on (I really like Erin!), and the endearing characters have real-life problems, emotions, and triumphs over the course of the story. I especially liked the themes of overcoming, sacrificial love, and hope. I am excited to revisit Wishing Bridge in the next book in the series!

Thank you to the publishers of Royally Yours and Christmas at the Circus for the review copies. These are my honest reviews.

Did you read any Christmas stories this year? Do you read them into January?

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!

20171006_010334.jpg

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?