Review: “Just One Kiss” by Courtney Walsh

With author Courtney Walsh’s latest release, we return to the fictional town of Harbor Pointe for a story of second chances, family, and romance. Just One Kiss is the third book set in this quaint town and reads as a standalone, though you will delight over learning more about the straightforward and bright teenager, Jaden, who had an important role in book 2, Just Let Go.

About the Book

He broke her heart. Now, he’s back, and he’s determined to show her what they had isn’t over. . . and he can prove it with just one kiss.

Single mother Carly Collins likes predictability. However, when her son Jaden’s health is threatened, her neatly controlled world is tossed into a tailspin. Nothing is certain anymore, especially her feelings for Josh Dixon, Jaden’s father, her first love and the man responsible for shattering her heart sixteen years ago. 

When Josh Dixon walked out of Harbor Pointe, he left behind his only shot at a real family. Now a successful tech mogul, the town rebel has found a cause—ensure his son’s recovery and prove to Carly and Jaden that he’s not the same guy he was back then. 

Carly and Josh are forced to wade through messy emotions and questions that have gone unanswered for years, which would be easier if not for the pesky feelings, every bit as strong and impossible to ignore as they ever were. 

Will forgiveness win, giving Carly and Josh a second chance at love . . . or will the past prove too much to overcome?

A small town romance about first love second chances and how our most beautiful life might look nothing like we planned.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Courtney Walsh never fails to make me smile, swoon over the romance, and cry over the deeply emotional moments in her stories. Just One Kiss is further proof! I loved it!

Part rekindled love, part family drama, and part small town charming, this story has no qualms with facing the hard questions of life, likes the “whys” and the challenges of extending grace for second chances.

I have read several reviews of this book noting it is Courtney Walsh’s best yet. While I can’t pick a favorite of her books (I have really loved them all!), I can say that Walsh is at the top of her storytelling game with Just One Kiss. The way it balances serious themes with lighthearted moments, just the right amount of drama and romance, surprises that really deepen the story, and even details like *showing* the backstory of Carly and Josh through flashback scenes all impress me. The combination of hallmark-like moments (dress shop!) with weighty moments in hospital waiting rooms and the vulnerability of opening your heart (letting go of anger) and offering someone a second chance all work to make this an impactful story.

Just One Kiss is a book I will return to and love just as much upon rereading. There is a relatable humanity in all of the characters, through their flaws, dreams, and questions, that makes it memorable and unique. Its message of forgiveness and the simplicity of grace is desperately needed in our world.

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

Best of 2018: Contemporary Books

Welcome to my annual “best-of” celebration! I’m changing it up a bit and separating the categories of my yearly best-of lists over a few days. All of this is to celebrate their distinction and spend a few more days talking about all the wonderful entertainment of 2018.

Day 1. Best of 2018: Novellas

Day 2. Best of 2018: Historical Books

Day 3. Best of 2018: Contemporary Books

Day 4. Goodbye 2018 & Looking Ahead

Today is about CONTEMPORARY BOOKS, AKA the category with the most favorites. I read more contemporary stories this year… and there several on this list! Maybe that means I know what I like?! I think so. Like my historical list, most are from this year, but a few were released prior to 2018.

The rules: sometimes I have to make boundaries for myself when it comes to talking about books because we would all be here a long time if were able to ramble on. SO, I’m sticking to my format of last year and choosing to share 3 things that describe each of these stories along with a link to Goodreads and my review. In no particular order…

Best of 2018: Contemporary Books

Then There Was You by Kara Isaac | Review

Laughter. Living. Chemistry.

The Saturday Night Supper Club by Carla Laureano | Review

Culinary dream. Delightful complexity. Relationships.

Blue Columbine by Jennifer Rodewald | Review

Grace. Redemption. Raw emotions.

The Last Summer by Brandy Bruce | Review

Friendship. Dreams. True selflessness.

Thirst of Steel by Ronie Kendig | Review

Epic action. Brotherhood. Sacrifice.

No One Ever Asked by Katie Ganshert | Review

Empathy. Call to love. Relevant.

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Amy Matayo | Review

Power of words. Choices. Connection.

When You Look at Me by Pepper Basham | Review

Music. Trust. Home.

Things Left Unsaid by Courtney Walsh | Review

Forgiveness. Reconciliation. Homecoming.

Wait for Me by Susan May Warren | Review to come

Adventure. Love worth the risk. Timing.

A Sparkle of Silver by Liz Johnson | Review

Heritage. Romance. Worth.

Your turn! What were your favorite contemporary reads of 2018? Have you read any of these?

Review: “Things Left Unsaid” by Courtney Walsh

Today I’m EXTREMELY happy to share my review of Courtney Walsh’s recent women’s fiction indie release, Things Left Unsaid. While this might be a slightly new genre for Courtney, this story is as emotionally resonant as her contemporary romances.

Audiobook note: I switched back and forth between reading this and listening to the audiobook. I enjoyed the audio version and felt it was narrated with emotion and clarity. I’m a bit picky when it comes to audio narrators, so this was a pleasant thing!

About the Book

An emotional novel of family, friendship and forgiveness from Courtney Walsh, the New York Times bestselling author of Hometown Girl.

Lyndie St. James is thrilled that her best friend, Elle, is getting married but unprepared for the emotional storm of the wedding week and returning to her childhood summer home of Sweethaven. The idyllic cottage community harbors some of her best—and worst—memories. It’s not only the tragic death of her childhood friend Cassie that has haunted her for ten years, it’s the other secrets she’s buried that have kept her from moving on.

But Lyndie isn’t the only one with secrets.

Cassie’s mother, father and brother, still struggling with the loss, have been drifting further and further apart. And Elle herself, the last to see Cassie alive, carries an impossible burden of guilt. Now reunited, each of them has a choice: to reveal the truths of that night or continue to live in its shadow. That means embarking on a personal journey of the heart—to escape the darkness and all its regrets and to finally come to terms with the past and, especially, with each other.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

This story surprised me more than once. What I expected to be a story of friendship, summertime memories, and the way the past shapes identities became so much more with every new secret revealed and emotional layer pulled back. Courtney Walsh has penned (another) beautiful story of GRACE. Of how important it is to belong and be known, and to forgive… even if it’s about forgiving yourself.

I enjoyed how the pace of the story allowed for time to get to know the characters, especially Lyndie, in their current frames of mind before events pulled them all together in the same town. This timeline starts to paint a picture of the past and hints at the baggage each of them carries.

Courtney Walsh always manages to write relatable and even flawed characters, and Lyndie, Tucker, Elle, and Karen are all representative of the struggles we face. When you read this story, you WILL relate to at least one of them, whether their pain, grief, complacency, self-confidence struggles, or possibly the honesty, faith, and positive steps to growth call out to your heart.

I won’t give away any plot points or heart-wrenching secrets (you will have to discover them when you read this story) but I will say that this story deals with some sensitive issues. All of them have to do with the fallout of choices and mistakes, some of them long-buried or years in the making. Courtney Walsh’s straightforward style handles this sensitively and realistically which further proves her place on my must-read authors list! 

I went from laughing to crying and experiencing every emotion in between while reading! I highly recommend this book to women’s fiction fans or of authors like Katie Ganshert, Jennifer Rodewald, Amy Matayo, and Katherine Reay.

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

 

Contemporary Romance/Romantic Suspense INSPYs Finalists ~ 5 Mini Reviews

Bravo to ALL of the shortlisted “finalist” contenders in the 2018 INSPY awards! I was privileged to be a judge this year for the contemporary romance/romantic suspense category. All 5 of the titles are amazing stories I enjoyed reading — whether a reread or experiencing the stories for the first time.

 

Congratulations to Becky Wade and her novel, True to You, which won in this category for 2018! You can find the whole list of winners in 7 categories on the INSPYs website.

I’m including mini reviews of these excellent stories below– the reasons you should add them to your TBR if you haven’t already! (Click the book titles to visit their Goodreads pages.) Basically, I’m just happy I’m free to gush over the amazingness of this list now!

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True to You by Becky Wade

Nora is delightfully quirky and bookish. John is steadfast and does “Navy SEAL-type stuff”. Beneath the humor and heart of the story is an AMAZING journey of finding identity in Christ and trusting a greater plan than we can imagine. And oh, the EMOTIONS and family and romance of this story! It just makes me happy.

 

 

20180628_152246.jpgThen There Was You by Kara Isaac

I finished this with a grin on my face! Seriously one of the funniest books I’ve read! But oh, what an emotional journey that just punched me in the gut when I learned the past that shaped both Josh and Paige’s hearts. Healing, LIVING, grace. Music, drop bears, clumsiness and chemistry. Raw faith lived out by so many of the characters. A cultural experience, too! I want to visit Sydney now.

 

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Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge

Sisters. Friendship. HOPE. Dreams and how they shift or surprise. Quiet, steady, selfless love. The interconnnectedness of life and relationships. TEA. The influence of Austen’s story is obvious yet subtle, a perfect balance worked out by Hillary to give old circumstances and tropes fresh meaning and heart.

 

 

20180628_211854.jpgJust Look Up by Courtney Walsh

GRACE, choosing forgiveness, realizing the blessings in front of you. Accepting someone for who they are. Humor. Brooks’ unashamed pursuit of Lane. Lane’s growth and forgiveness. Embracing home. Cottages! Don’t get so caught up in minor details that you miss out on relationship opportunities — especially those with your family.

 

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A New Shade of Summer by Nicole Deese

An emotional, colorful drama. Everyone has baggage…. but wow, what you choose to do with it, how you react, cope, or deny it affects everyone around you.  I loved the art element. And the tiny house! Davis and Callie <3… they were each just what the other needed, to see the gift of a son and move beyond grief, to see the worth and joy of life and move beyond pain and feelings of worthlessness or abandonment.

 

Have you read any of these books? What are some of your favorite contemporary romances?

 

 

 

Review + Author Interview: “Just Let Go” by Courtney Walsh

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Today I’m ECSTATIC because I’m welcoming author Courtney Walsh to the blog with an interview and my review of her newest contemporary romance novel, Just Let Go, the second in her “Harbor Pointe” series.

About the Book
FB_IMG_1512955248786.jpgFor Quinn Collins, buying the flower shop in downtown Harbor Pointe fulfills a childhood dream, but also gives her the chance to stick it to her mom, who owned the store before skipping town twenty years ago and never looking back. Completing much-needed renovations, however, while also competing for a prestigious flower competition with her mother as the head judge, soon has Quinn in over her head. Not that she’dever ask for help.

Luckily, she may not need to. Quinn’s father and his meddling friends find the perfect solution in notorious Olympic skier Grady Benson, who had only planned on passing through the old-fashioned lakeside town. But when a heated confrontation leads to property damage,helping Quinn as a community-service sentence seems like the quickest way out—and the best way to avoid more negative press.

Quinn finds Grady reckless and entitled; he thinks she’s uptight and too regimented. Yet as the two begin to hammer and saw, Quinn sees glimpses of the vulnerability behind the bravado, and Grady learns from her passion and determination, qualities he seems to have lost along the way. But when a well-intentioned omission has devastating consequences, Grady finds himself cast out of town—and Quinn’s life—possibly forever. Forced to face the hurt holding her back, Quinn must finally let go or risk missing out on the adventure of a lifetime.

Find out more about Just Let Go from the publisher

About the Author

courtney8web-1

Courtney Walsh is a novelist, artist, theatre director, and playwright. Just Let Go will be her eighth inspirational romance novel. Her debut, A Sweethaven Summer, hit the New York Times and USA Today e-book bestseller lists and was a Carol Award finalist in the debut author category. A creative at heart, Courtney has also written two craft books and several full-length musicals. She lives in Illinois with her husband and three children.

Visit her online at any of the links below.

Courtney’s website | Twitter |Facebook

Pinterest |Instagram

Review

Balanced with humor and an endearing and well-meaning “community”, Just Let Go explores the vulnerability, pain, and joy that comes with risking your heart — whether it be for romance, reconciliation, or forgiveness that was never requested.

Just let go quote image 10Just Let Go is contemporary romance perfection! With a couple you just want to have breakfast with, a faith journey that is relevant and worth the work, a picturesque setting with lovable supporting characters, and an opposites-attract romance that progresses naturally with plenty of spark. It was one of those “just realize you’re perfect for each other and hug it out now” kind of situations. I loved Grady and Quinn’s chemistry any time they were in the same room, much to Quinn’s own annoyance at times. 😉

Courtney Walsh never fails to tell a deep and meaningful story, sometimes beyond what a reader expects. As the story unfolds, layers of personality, motives, and history are unveiled, making Grady and Quinn all the more relatable, raw, and people worth cheering on. Speaking of, worth plays a big part in this story, as does letting go of things you can’t control and fighting for what you can. And oh, when a certain person chooses to fight no matter the odds, I just wanted to high-five someone!

Finishing a novel like this makes me eager for more stories from Courtney because I know they will always be heartfelt and honest.

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

Interview with the Author

Welcome back to The Green Mockingbird! 

Since Quinn takes over a flower shop, I must ask. Do you have a favorite
flower?

I’m a little bit torn on this because I absolutely LOVE tulips—my wedding bouquet
was made of white tulips, but I think I have more memories tied to lilacs, which
are my mom’s favorite. Lilacs are so fragrant and we had a few bushes at the
back of our yard growing up, so I think those are the most nostalgic for me. (It
makes me wonder why I don’t have a lilac bush in my yard now! I might have to
remedy that!)

Grady is a serious skier. Have you ever been skiing?

I actually haven’t. I am more like Quinn—terrified of the unknown, especially
skiing. In the book, Quinn talks about a roller blading accident—that is
autobiographical and has forever ruined me for any downhill sport! I crashed SO
hard and so fast and in such an embarrassing way (my geometry teacher really
did drive by at that exact moment and he stuck me in the back of his truck with
my friends and drove me back to my car…OY!)

That was a funny moment in the story! So neat to know it was inspired by reality, even if a little embarrasing 🙂

Did you learn any interesting or quirky facts when researching your lead
characters’ occupations?

Well, I learned a LOT about Olympic skiing—the whole process is confusing, but
I am amazed by these Olympic athletes and what it takes to become the best in
their sports. I’m also amazed that they don’t let fear of hurting themselves hold
them back. I wanted to write a character like Grady because he is the exact
opposite of me (and Quinn!) He’s so fearless in so many ways, and that intrigues
me.

 

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Two Courtneys! I had the pleasure of meeting Courtney Walsh at an author event last April. She’s just as kind in person, ya’ll!

How do you balance writing with your family and theater endeavors?

 

When I am writing, I do a deep dive for several hours at a time. I don’t like to
leave the storyworld because I feel like I have a hard time finding it again, so it’s
honestly pretty difficult. We’ve been fortunate to be able to streamline a lot of
what I had to do when we first started our business and we’ve hired out so much
of the administrative tasks of our business. There are times (like during the last
two weeks before a show goes up) that I hardly write at all—it’s all about the
show. So it’s a bit of an ebb and flow kind of thing.

I also put everything away when my kids get home from school. They’re growing
up fast, and I don’t want to lock myself in my room when they’re home. I know
this lessens my productivity, but I think it’s important to prioritize my life

What is the message you hope readers take away from Just Let Go?

As you can probably guess, the book is about letting go—how you really can’t
move on until you let go of your past. If we let past mistakes or hurts pile on top
of each other and weigh us down, we’ll miss the fullness of what God has for us.
But in addition to that, it’s largely about learning to accept an apology you never
got.

How do you like your coffee? 😉

Well…my favorite coffee drink is a Decaf Coconut Mocha Macchiato from
Starbucks, but of late I have been on a detox from all sugar, white flour and
processed food. Thankfully this wonderful blogger (ahem…Courtney Clark…)
turned me on to these Califia Farms almond/coconut milk coffee creamers. They
are SO good!! So I’m enjoying my coffee again! 🙂

Hahah! I’m happy I could help! (the pecan caramel is still my favorite)

What is your favorite musical?

Oooh, this is a loaded question because I have SO many. As far as shows I’ve
seen or want to listen to, I would say Hamilton and Something Rotten are at the
very top of my list, but then I have all these other categories:

Favorite musical I’ve ever directed: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor
Dreamcoat

Favorite musical I was in: The Will Rogers Follies

Favorite classic musical: Guys and Dolls

Favorite musical to listen to that I have yet to see: Dear Evan Hansen
🙂 Don’t get me started!!

What is next for you story-wise?

A couple of things. I have another book, Things Left Unsaid, releasing in
October. I’ll be writing another Harbor Pointe novel that will release next summer,
and I’m currently working on one that won’t release until 2020. The hardest part
is that I don’t have enough time to write ALL the stories I have in my head…but
I’m going to try!! 🙂

 

Thank you, Courtney, for taking the time to chat and answer my questions. I could talk books and food with you all day!

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 13 New-to-Me Authors I Read in 2017

It’s another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by  The Broke and the Bookish

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

This week’s official Top Ten Tuesday topic is Top Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read In 2017I’m listing 13 instead, *just* because I can. And, because each of these authors deserve a spot on my list.

Some of these authors have been around a while and I just discovered/read them in 2017. And, some are delightfully new to the world of “official” inspirational fiction. After each author, you can visit my review for their book(s) and see what I have next to read from them on my actual shelves!

Top Ten Tuesday New to Me Authors

Top 13 New-to-Me Authors I Read in 2017

Mikal Dawn

Count Me In

Upcoming: Emerald City Romance book 2!

Bethany Turner

The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck

V. Joy Palmer

Love, Lace, and Minor Alterations

Jocelyn Green

The Mark of the King, novella in The Message in a Bottle Romance Collection

Upcoming: A Refuge Assured

Kate Breslin

High as the Heavens

Backlist TBR titles: Not By Sight

Courtney Walsh

Paper Hearts, Just Look Up, Hometown Girl, novella in Right Where We Belong compilation

Upcoming: Just Let Go

Krista Phillips

The Engagement Plot

Jennifer Rodewald

Reclaimed, Ordinary Snowflakes, The Uncloaked (review coming soon)

Currently reading: Tearing the Veil, then Charging the Darkness

Upcoming: The Cupcake Dilemma novella

Katie Ganshert

Life After

Upcoming: No One Ever Asked

Backlist TBR titles: Wishing on Willows, A Broken Kind of Beautiful

Becky Wade

Then Came You novella, True to You

Upcoming: Falling for You

Sara Ella

Unblemished, Unraveling

Upcoming: Unbreakable

Sarah Monzon

The Esther Paradigm

Backlist TBR titles: Finders Keepers, The Isaac Project

Nicole Deese

A Cliché Christmas

Backlist TBR titles (soon!): A Season to Love, A New Shade of Summer

 

Update: honorable mentions go to those authors I somehow missed! Karen Barnett, Meghan M. Gorecki, and Roseanna M. White.

 

That’s it for today! Did you participate in this week’s TTT? Do you see any of your favorite authors on this list? 

Review: “Hometown Girl” by Courtney Walsh

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With each new release from author Courtney Walsh, she establishes her spot on my must-read list by penning charming stories of family and love. Her lighthearted approach cushions deeper themes and elements of faith that speak encouragement to her readers. Her new contemporary romance release, Hometown Girl, is a fresh story with her familiar voice and heart. And, it’s her first full-length indie novel!!! I’m thrilled to be sharing my thoughts on it today!

Random side comment: I’m increasingly impressed with the courageous choices of indie-authors — especially ones who have seen success with traditional publishers and choose to simply share “story” outside of that medium. Bravo, Courtney!

About the BookNew York Times and USA Today bestselling author Courtney Walsh returns with a hopeful and emotional new book about seizing second chances, finding yourself, and forging your own path.

Hometown GirlBeth Whitaker isn’t supposed to be a small-town girl. She’s always dreamed of leaving Willow Grove, Illinois, for the big city, but she feels trapped, struggling to make up for a mistake that’s haunted her for years. Just when Beth is finally ready to break free, her sister impulsively buys a beloved but run-down farm on the outskirts of town, and she begs Beth to help with the restoration. Reluctantly, Beth agrees to help—and puts her own dreams on hold once again.

Drew Barlow hasn’t been back to Fairwind Farm since he was a boy, and he’s spent all these years trying to outrun the pain of a past he thought he buried long ago. When he learns that the owner has passed away, his heart knows it’s finally time to do the right thing. Returning to Willow Grove, Drew revisits the old farm, where he attempts to piece together his memories and the puzzle of the crime he witnessed so long ago.

Both on a journey to find peace, Beth and Drew are surprised when they begin to experience a restoration of their own. But when long-buried secrets break through the soil and the truth unfurls, will it threaten their budding relationship—and the very future of the farm?

Amazon | Goodreads

Review

Hometown Girl made me crave all things apple— apple cider donuts, in particular! And coffee with danishes. Oh, and it tells an enchanting story of second chances, romance, and getting comfortable with unexpected dreams with a colorful cast and hints of suspense. And a sheep!!!

I loved seeing the similarities and contrasts between the arcs of Beth and Drew. They were similar in seeking second chances and a belonging or sense of security. Along the way, Beth begins to find the blessing she can be to others by extending her love without conditions or strings. And, Drew starts to see how his past doesn’t have to define him, or weight him down any longer.

Drew is a realistically flawed hero. His strength and personality are often masked under a no-nonsense, quiet way, but it’s a delight to see how Beth draws him out (and prods him, when needed). And he reciprocates by providing a security that encourages her to admit her self-doubt. He’s perfectly chivalrous except for that one time when he admits he doesn’t want to be polite….. but let me tell you, that’s a very, VERY good thing. *swoon*

While Drew’s appearance on the page brings a gravity and thread of suspense to the story, Hometown Girl is very much Beth’s journey. Her personality drives the relationships of the story, especially that of her dynamic with her seemingly-opposite sister, Molly, whom she approaches with a need to be the sensible voice of reason in their new business venture. As the story builds, the complexity and heart of Beth shine through as her perspective shows a growth in overcoming her internal struggles.

Most of all, I loved the simple message of Hometown Girl. Being a resident of a cozy small town myself, I could understand Beth’s dreams and aspirations — and how they took an unexpected turn along the way. This book is a reassurance that having dreams and goals is a good thing. Yet, it’s OK for those dreams to change along the way and manifest in an unexpected source of happiness.

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

About the Author

courtney8web-1New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Courtney Walsh is a novelist, artist, theatre director, and playwright. Hometown Girl is her seventh novel. Her debut novel, A Sweethaven Summer, was a Carol Award finalist in the debut author category. She has written two additional books and a novella in the Sweethaven series, as well as three small-town romance novels: Paper Hearts, Change of Heart, and Just Look Up. She lives in Illinois, where she and her husband own a performing arts studio and youth theatre. They have three children. Visit her online at www.courtneywalshwrites.com.