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.

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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

Best of 2017

This annual blog post has become a favorite because I’m sharing MY favorite reads from the year!!!!! 2017 has been a wonderful reading year. I’ve added several new all-time favorite books to my “shelves”, met some amazing new authors both through their books and on social media, and been blown away by story multiple times. At latest count, I’ve read 58 books! Whew! Comparing genres, I’ve read quite a few more contemporary stories versus historical, and my list here is representative of that slant. Most of these books were published in 2017, but a few were new discoveries I can’t believe I waited this long to read!

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But first, some ground rules: in an effort to NOT be long-winded and wordy, I’m choosing to share 3 things that describe each of these stories along with a link to Goodreads and my review. (Click each title to visit Goodreads).

Historical

The Mark of the King by Jocelyn Green | Review

Poignant. Fleur-de-lys. Scars.

A Moonbow Night by Laura Frantz | Review

Immersive. Frontier. Growth.

Many Sparrows by Lori Benton | Review

Epic. Grace. History.

A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White | Review

Loyalty. Books. Romance.

High as the Heavens by Kate Breslin | Review

Spies. Secrets. Tenacity.

With Love, Wherever You Are by Dandi Daley Mackall | Review

Letters. Love. Sacrifice.

The White Feather Murders by Rachel McMillan | Review

Friends. Mysteries. Toronto.

Contemporary

Jane of Austin: A Novel of Sweet Tea and Sensibility by Hillary Manton Lodge | Review

Tea. Sisters. Colonel Brandon.

True to You by Becky Wade | Review

Bookish. Romance. Forgiveness.

Just the Way You Are by Pepper Basham | Review

Redemption. Fairytale. Chocolate.

Reclaimed by Jennifer Rodewald | Review

Grace. Country. Pickle.

The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck by Bethany Turner | Review

Honesty. The Sound of Music. Humor.

All This Time by Melissa Tagg | Review

Belonging. Security. Family.

Hometown Girl by Courtney Walsh | Review

Farmhouses. Siblings. Introverts.

Charming the Troublemaker by Pepper Basham | Review

Laughter. Trustworthiness. Closets.

Life After by Katie Ganshert | Review

Bittersweet. Peace. Letting go.

The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay | Review

Bubble gum. Connection. Growth.

The Esther Paradigm by Sarah Monzon | Review

Desert. Obedience. Strength.

Contemporary Action/Adventure (with romance, of course!)

Unblemished and Unraveling by Sara Ella | Book 1 Review | Book 2 Review

Disney. Twists. Enchanting.

Conspiracy of Silence and Crown of Souls by Ronie Kendig | Book 1 Review | Book 2 Review

Adventure. Dynamic. Heroes.

Blind Spot by Dani Pettrey | Review

Suspense. Puzzles. Action.

Rescue Me by Susan May Warren | Review

Tension. Reconciliation. Encouragement.

Novellas

The Message in a Bottle Collection Romance Collection by Heather Day Gilbert, Amanda Dykes, Maureen Lang, Jocelyn Green, and Joanne Bischof | Review

Hope. Strength. Nautical.

I’ll Be There by Susan May Warren | Review

Faith. Spark. Peace.

Right Where We Belong Collection by Deborah Raney, Melissa Tagg, and Courtney Walsh | Review

Quaint. Lighthearted. Happiness.

Then Came You by Becky Wade | Review

Epistolary. Patience. Family.

Christmas Stories

Ordinary Snowflakes by Jennifer Rodewald | Review

Hot cocoa. Friends. Familiarity.

 A Cliché Christmas by Nicole Deese | Review

Dimension. Unconditional. Gloves.

WHEW! That’s it! These favorites are ones I can highly recommend and gush about for days. Have you read any of these? What are your favorite books of 2017? If you have a favorites blog post, share your link in the comments!

Review: “A Cliché Christmas” by Nicole Deese


Though Christmas is already past, this is still the time of year to enjoy reading festive stories. One I just finished — and was quite blown away by — was A Cliché Christmas by Nicole Deese. I had the privilege of interviewing Nicole earlier this year, but I had not previously read a story of hers until now. That will be remedied in the near future. Before I made it half way through this story, I added the next 2 books in the “Love in Lenox” series to my virtual shelf! 2018 TBR, here I come!

About the Book

A Cliche ChristmasWriting happy endings is easy. Living one is the hard part.

Georgia Cole—known in Hollywood as the “Holiday Goddess”—has made a name for herself writing heartwarming screenplays chock-full of Christmas clichés, but she has yet to experience the true magic of the season. So, when her eccentric grandmother volunteers her to direct a pageant at Georgia’s hometown community theater, she is less than thrilled. To make matters worse, she’ll be working alongside Weston James, her childhood crush and the one man she has tried desperately to forget.

Now, facing memories of a lonely childhood and the humiliation of her last onstage performance, seven years earlier, Georgia is on the verge of a complete mistletoe meltdown. As Weston attempts to thaw the frozen walls around her heart, Georgia endeavors to let go of her fears and give love a second chance. If she does, will she finally believe that Christmas can be more than a cliché? 

Amazon | Goodreads

Review

Don’t let the title fool you. Yes, this book includes a few clichés, but it is unexpectedly deeper. It is a beautiful story of belonging with characters that have great dimension. And oh, the chemistry!!!! It reminds me of the spark-filled romance dynamic Kristen Heitzmann accomplishes, which is a top-notch compliment.

Weston and Georgia’s shared childhood memories and history work to strengthen their characters and solidify the constant pull between them. Add to that a building anticipation of something that the reader knows will test their newfound banter and friendship, and we have the makings of a sturdy story with a few surprises.

From laugh out loud moments, swoony interludes in the snow, to emotionally touching (especially when little Savannah is involved) and meaningful conversations, A Cliché Christmas is anything but commonplace and predictable. It is a story of forgiveness as much as it is of trusting the unconditional things in life; like the support of family, professed love, and the best unconditional gift given at Christmas: the love of a newborn Savior.

 

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day…..

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,

and wild and sweet

The words repeat

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people He favors!” Luke 2:14 HCSB

“God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him.” 1 John 4:9 HCSB

To my friends, family, blog readers, #bookbesties, and anyone who may see this message, MERRY CHRISTMAS! I am grateful for each and every one of you, for your encouragement and love.

As you ponder the wonders of this season, I want to share a little of my heart with you all.  That verse of “I Heard the Bells”? The peace it mentions can only by attained one way: through the provision of our Savior. As we wish each other merry days and peace, just remember the source of true peace offered to mankind. That source is a Savior whose humble birth we celebrate each December, but that should mark our days and our very lives with its grace and free gift of salvation.

My prayer for you in the coming year is that you would truly know peace by knowing Jesus.

Merry Christmas!

 

First Line Fridays #8 Special Christmas Edition: The Story of the Other Wise Man

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

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I have a little story behind my choice for this special Christmas edition of First Line Fridays….

I’m sharing the first line of The Story of the Other Wise Man by Henry van Dyke. This classic tale was referred to in a favorite TV movie of mine: “Signed, Sealed, Delivered for Christmas” as the story of the fourth wise man. When I was antique shopping earlier this year, I saw this little copy and realized it was the same story!!!! Though I haven’t read it through yet, I WILL before Christmas day comes. My little edition was printed in 1899! A little message is written in the front in pen “To Mama, from Bennie Bee. Christmas 1912”.

Preface:

Who seeks for heaven alone to save his soul,
May keep the path, but will not reach the goal;
While he who walks in love may wander far,
Yet God will bring him where the blessed are.

First Line:

The Sign in the Sky

In the days when Augustus Caesar was master of many kings and Herod reigned in Jerusalem, there lived in the city of Ecbatana, among the mountains of Persia, a certain man named Artaban, the Median.

What is your favorite classic Christmas story?

Your turn! Find the book closest to you and share your first line in the comments! The, head over to Hoarding Books for the linky and visit other FLF posts!

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.