Review: “First Impressions” by Debra White Smith

If you put “Jane Austen retelling” in a sentence, and you have my attention. Add the “inspirational” genre to that description, and I’m even more interested!

About the Book

First ImpressionsLawyer Eddi Boswick tries out for a production of Pride and Prejudice in her small Texas town. When she’s cast as the lead, Elizabeth Bennet, her romantic co-star is none other than the town’s most eligible–and arrogant–bachelor.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

First Impressions accomplishes what any good retelling does: a fresh take on the classic with its own unique elements and wonderful nods to the original text. In this case, the tropes are all present with a new setting, time period, and extra quirks to familiar typecast characters.

This story is likable overall, BUT, some situations and behaviors felt contrived because of the expected underlying storyline. I would have liked a little more emotional depth in a grab-your-heart and relate way. A large amount of the characters’ time is spent preparing and practicing for an actual play production of Pride and Prejudice. This made story-inception and personality parallels fun, but I feel like it dragged down the pace of the story.

It was refreshing how characters one might dislike/love from the classic are more fully fleshed out and challenging their own stereotypes with their behavior — especially “Aunt Maddy”. I loved her! And, I did enjoy seeing the personalities of “Elizabeth and Darcy” playing out in a modern day comedy.

Thank you to Bethany House Publishers for the review copy. This is my honest review.

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Series Review: “Grace Revealed” by Jennifer Rodewald

Isn’t it the greatest when you can binge-read a book series? When it’s a series by a favorite author like Jennifer Rodewald, though, it *could* mean a week+ of emotional rollercoaster experiences full of emotions and joys. My recent encounter with her “Grace Revealed” series was just that. With the recent opportunity to read the just-released book 3, Finding Evergreen, I am SO glad I had the time to read the previous 2 just before, Blue Columbine and Red Rose Bouquet.

These three stories are distinct and able to be read as stand-alones, though a few characters are connected, especially in the last two books.

About the Books

Blue ColumbineBlue Columbine

Best friends—maybe more—until addiction shatters everything.

Reeling from professional failure, Andrew Harris needs a fresh start. When he moves back to Colorado to join a Denver law firm, he runs into Jamie, his childhood sweetheart. She is still the kind and faithful girl he remembers—not to mention beautiful and still single. With her by his side, Andrew is confident he can overcome the demons that he tries to keep hidden.

Jamie Carson is thrown off balance when Andy resurfaces in her life. Though her faith in God has remained solid, even through her mother’s long illness and after her death, Jamie battles loneliness. Andy fills her days, whispering significance to her heart. But his rejection of the faith she thought they’d once shared, and his alarming drinking habit keep her heart from plunging into deep, murky waters. Or do they?

Andy pursues an intimacy Jamie knows she must guard against. But as the line between loyalty and love blurs, things get complicated—until a devastating blow breaks their relationship. For Jamie, one thing becomes clear: Andy needs a miracle, and she isn’t it.

Will Andrew allow the hand of grace to redeem his legacy of addiction, or will he and Jamie both remain casualties of heartbreak?

This Christian Fiction Book dives into first love and second chances, romance and redemption.

Goodreads | Amazon

Red Rose BouquetRed Rose Bouquet

The dark places in life have taught her this much—some things simply cannot be forgiven.

Cheryl Thompson learned over a decade ago to guard her shattered heart with a veil of cold indifference. Life since that day has been an endless cycle of detachment and loneliness, followed by superficial relationships. Break up, rinse, and repeat. Until something in her snaps. This life…she can’t do it anymore. She returns to her childhood home in the Colorado Rockies to help her nana, only to discover a man capable of thawing her iced-over emotions—a man she knows she doesn’t deserve, so she pushes him away. But he keeps coming back.

Brock Kelly lived high as King of the Slopes in the world of snowboard cross racing. Medals. Money. Fame. But after a visit to an orphanage in Mexico, he gave up his adrenaline-packed lifestyle to follow a calling from God he didn’t know he had—helping kids who’d been damaged emotionally. When his best friend’s baby sister returns to town, he recognizes the hollow look in her eyes and sees the pain beneath her icy armor. It seems God has issued new call on his life. One he is not prepared for.

Falling in love with a woman who keeps secrets is dangerous all on its own. But when Cheryl finally tells Brock what she’s never told anyone else…no wonder she is the way she is. It would take a miracle to heal that wound, and a love bigger than Brock had ever imagined to walk with her through the process.

Goodreads | Amazon

Finding EvergreenFinding Evergreen

He thought he’d found the thrill of his life; she, the romance she’d hadn’t dared to hope for. Falling in love had been easy. Being married? Totally different story.

Married within a year of meeting, Ethan and Brandi add a foster daughter to their newly established family. Their story is enchanting—inspiring. Except when the fairytale fails. The stresses of unmet expectations and wounds from their pasts knife into their marriage, severing what they believed would be forever.

Hope for a broken marriage. Healing for their wounded spirits. It would take both to find evergreen. Are they brave enough to try?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

This series doesn’t hold anything back: the messiness of life, the dark depths of pain, the imperfections of each character, or even the true joys and peace found in a merciful Savior. I have found this to be true of Jennifer Rodewald’s writing whether she’s penning a light rom-com, a layered YA dystopian series, or emotionally gripping character-driven fiction such as this “Grace Revealed” series.

Blue Columbine contains raw emotions, relatable characters, and an arc of transformation and redemption like none I’ve ever read. From the portrayal of close friendships to the fallout of addiction, heartbreaking choices, and healing, this story is eye-opening in its message of grace.

Red Rose Bouquet chronicles a journey of healing, forgiveness, and unconditional love found in an unlikely way. Cheryl’s character especially portrays the depths of hurt and self-doubt that can be redeemed through the relentless pursuit of a Savior. And, this wonderfully plays out through the tangible pursuit of Brock, his growing compassion and answer to a call to love being the story catalyst.

Finding Evergreen is a story of fierce love and holding on to hope. The journey through mistakes and brokenness Ethan and Brandi experience points to God as the true source of grace and love in any relationship. The extremes of emotion, vulnerabilities and baggage of Ethan, and well-intentioned penchant for perfectionism Brandi exhibits all make this story relatable even outside of a marital relationship. (But oh what chemistry they have on the page!) And Sonja, their foster daughter, adds another spunky dimension to the story that binds the three of them together in unexpected ways.

Through all three of these books, a CLEAR theme emerges, one that is a result of the redemptive, grace-filled moments (and romances) in each story: that of Christ’s love for His church. A selfless, sacrificial, and unconditional love that manifests in the moments of friendship, forgiveness, pursuit, and intimacy between each of the main characters. I highly recommend this series for fans of contemporary women’s fiction/romance and authors such as Katie Ganshert, Julie Lessman, and Courtney Walsh– just remember to read near a box of Kleenex!

Thank you to the author for the complimentary copy of Finding Evergreen. This is my honest review of that book and the series.

Mini Review: “As Easy As Riding a Bike” Novella by Bell Renshaw

Sometimes you just need to read a feel-good, charming book….. the latest novella from author Bell Renshaw is just that!!! As Easy As Riding A Bike is the first installment in the “Justin Harbor” novella series, and it introduces a quaint setting and a sweet cast of characters that promise more cute stories to come.

About the Book

Emma Holland is almost finished with the renovation of The Brown Bear Lodge nestled just off the Pacific Coast 101 Highway in picturesque Justin Harbor, Oregon. Being a business owner in a small town isn’t easy, but Emma’s got more than enough determination—not to mention an excellent eye for interior design. There’s only one problem. One of her first guests of the season is someone she hoped she’d never see again.AEARAB Book Cover

As a famous landscape photographer, Connor Pearson has traveled far and wide following his dreams at the cost of losing his first love. Now, back in Justin Harbor, Connor is looking for more than just a place to stay. He’s looking for himself.

As Emma and Connor rediscover their lost friendship and seek to find common ground in the present, Connor feels the tug of his small town roots. Is it possible that a man who’s traveled the world could find his home where his dreams began? Can Emma come to terms with the fact that self-reliance isn’t all it’s cracked up to be? Will their bonds from the past weather the storms of the present?

As Easy As Riding A Bike will introduce you to the salty air and calming waters of Justin Harbor, the first novella in a series featuring small town women business owners.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

As Easy As Riding A Bike is a sweet little romance filled with hope! Emma and Connor are equally endearing and likable. Their story is one of navigating surprises as old dreams resurface and manifest in ways each of them never expected to find again. My favorite aspect of the story has to do with Emma’s family — her mother in particular — and a few little ways her memory was honored by story’s end. This is a short, clean, and delightful read not to be missed!

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

Review: “The Heart Between Us” by Lindsay Harrel

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Happy book birthday today to author Lindsay Harrel for her new contemporary heart adventure-of-a-story, The Heart Between Us. This little story encompasses relationships, travel, romance, and a poignant story of siblings as they embark on a life-changing journey. I don’t think I’ve EVER been to so many countries and continents vicariously through just 1 story. 🗼

About the Book

HeartBetweenUs2

Megan Jacobs always wished for a different heart. Her entire childhood was spent in and out of hospitals, sitting on the sidelines while her twin sister Crystal played all the sports, got all the guys, and had all the fun. But even a heart transplant three years ago wasn’t enough to propel Megan’s life forward. She’s still working as a library aide in her small Minnesota hometown and living with her parents, dreaming of the adventure she plans to take “once she’s well enough.” Meanwhile, her sister is a successful architect with a handsome husband and the perfect life—or so Megan thinks.

When her heart donor’s parents give Megan their teenage daughter’s journal—complete with an unfulfilled bucket list—Megan connects with the girl she meets between the pages and is inspired to venture out and check off each item. Caleb—a friend from her years in and out of the hospital—reenters her life and pushes her to find the courage to take the leap and begin her journey. She’s thrown for a loop when Crystal offers to join her for reasons of her own, but she welcomes the company and the opportunity to mend their tenuous relationship.

As Megan and Crystal check items off the bucket list, Megan fights the fears that have been instilled in her after a lifetime of illness. She must choose between safety and adventure and learn to embrace the heart she’s been given so that she can finally share it with the people she loves most.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

I like surprises. The Heart Between Us surprised me in the best way! I expected a cute, fun story about Megan, maybe even a journey of self discovery, with emotional moments, of course. I did NOT expect all that and more as the viewpoints of BOTH Megan and Crystal switch off and tell a poignant story of sister-friendship, healing, and bravery all against a backdrop of continent-hopping and adventure.

The heart-journey of these sisters, both literal and figurative, explores the dynamics of relationships and the honesty required in true connections. This process also shows the beauty of letting go of fears and trusting that God’s control is constant, even amid misunderstandings and the sometimes-unfairness of circumstance.

I would be remiss not to mention the sweet romance born of friendship that Megan and Caleb share. It was perfectly timed in Megan’s life. I just loved the way Caleb was always a gentleman and so encouraging to Megan.

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

About the Author

Author PhotoLindsay Harrel is a lifelong book nerd who lives in Arizona with her young family and two golden retrievers in serious need of training. She’s held a variety of writing and editing jobs over the years, and now juggles stay-at-home mommyhood with writing novels. When she’s not writing or chasing after her children, Lindsay enjoys making a fool of herself at Zumba, curling up with anything by Jane Austen, and savoring sour candy one piece at a time. Connect with her at www.LindsayHarrel.com.

Review: “The Saturday Night Supper Club” by Carla Laureano

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Ya’ll know I love food. And books. And foodie fiction, which combines the culinary world and story SO WELL. The latest treat I have had the privilege of reading is the recent release from author Carla Laureano, aptly named The Saturday Night Supper Club.

About the Book

Denver chef Rachel Bishop has accomplished everything she’s dreamed and some things she never dared hope, like winning a James Beard award and heading up her own fine-dining restaurant.

The Saturday Night Supper Club cover

But when a targeted smear campaign causes her to be pushed out of the business by her partners, she vows to do whatever it takes to get her life back … even if that means joining forces with the man who inadvertently set the disaster in motion.

Essayist Alex Kanin never imagined his pointed editorial would go viral. Ironically, his attempt to highlight the pitfalls of online criticism has the opposite effect: it revives his own flagging career by destroying that of a perfect stranger. Plagued by guilt-fueled writer’s block, Alex vows to do whatever he can to repair the damage. He just doesn’t expect his interest in the beautiful chef to turn personal.

Alex agrees to help rebuild Rachel’s tarnished image by offering his connections and his home to host an exclusive pop-up dinner party targeted to Denver’s most influential citizens: the Saturday Night Supper Club. As they work together to make the project a success, Rachel begins to realize Alex is not the unfeeling opportunist she once thought he was, and that perhaps there’s life–and love–outside the pressure-cooker of her chosen career. But can she give up her lifelong goals without losing her identity as well?

Amazon | Goodreads

Review

The Saturday Night Supper Club impressed me in so many ways: from the vivid descriptions of place and tantalizing food, to the unique and relevant social media fallout angle as a story influence, and to the portrayal of a life journey filled with deep meaning and purpose. Perhaps the most prominent, though, is its complexity of characters and their respective interconnected relationships and backstories. These were revealed one morsel at a time, creating a character arc that is all the more meaningful because of the reader’s understanding by story’s end. This delightful complexity is what will make me proclaim Supper Club as a favorite and best-of-the-year read for many months to come!book quote

If you will allow me to use a food analogy, I will further describe its awesomeness: The foodie atmosphere and eclectic setting are the appetizer, laying the foundation. The character transformation is the main course with great substance. The resulting romance is the dessert, like a salted caramel truffle, ending with a sweet note but not without its “salty” contrasts of reality.

Most impressive to me is that you cannot typecast Alex or Rachel. They are layered so well— as you get deeper and deeper into the story you get equally deeper into who they are, why they make certain choices, and how they play off of and affect each other. There is a romantic aspect of this story, but it is almost distinct and separate from the personal growth of these characters and their friendship~relationship dynamic.

I just want more of this little story world, Alex’s and Rachel’s friends, and with the book 2 teaser at the end, I am up to my elbows in bliss because it’s about Melody and BAKING!

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

First Line Fridays #11: The Heart Between Us

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

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Because I’m in the mood to travel through story lately, this little #TBR novel seems like the perfect one to feature for today! Sisters, adventure, and literal heart connections combine in the upcoming release from Lindsay Harrel: The Heart Between Us.

The Heart Between Us book cover

Isn’t this cover adorable?!

First Line:

For the first time in her life, Megan Jacobs felt almost brave.

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!

First Line Fridays ❤ Valentine’s Day Edition: The Breath of Dawn

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

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Welcome to First Line Fridays special Valentine’s Day Edition!!!

This week is all about #romance, so I’m sharing some lines from an excellent contemporary romance/suspense book that doesn’t get enough attention here on the blog.

The Breath of Dawn by Kristen Heitzmann

It’s one of my VERY FAVORITE contemporary romances for so many reasons, most of them having to do with Morgan’s eccentricities. Hehehe. Plus, it is a unique twist on a common trope found in historical–but not so much in contemporary–stories, and that is another reason it is in a class its own. Without further ado, here are the first lines from the prologue and chapter 1, which give you all a tiny introduction to the state of both main characters.

The Breath of Dawn

First Lines:

Prologue

Seeing Morgan standing still as stone beside the freshly opened earth, Noelle St. Claire Spencer believed a man could shatter.

Chapter 1

Quinn liked the way mountains made her feel small –not unusual at five three, a hundred and five, but beneath the towering peaks, she felt miniscule, practically invisible, almost invisible enough.

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!