Review: “Hometown Girl” by Courtney Walsh

20171011_121842.png

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.

Advertisements
Review: “Just Look Up” by Courtney Walsh

Review: “Just Look Up” by Courtney Walsh

A few weeks ago, I was privileged to host author Courtney Walsh for a book spotlight and interview all about her latest contemporary release, Just Look Up. After all the fun and wonderful comments I saw around the blogging community about this story, I decided I had to read it for myself! Everyone was right: this is a “keeper” of a romance that touches on a deep and VERY RELEVANT message for today.

About the Book

After tirelessly climbing the ranks of her Chicago-based interior design firm, Lane Kelley is about to land her dream promotion when devastating news about her brother draws her back home–a quaint tourist town full of memories she’d just as soon forget. With her cell phone and laptop always within reach, Lane aims to check on her brother while staying focused on work–something her eclectic family doesn’t understand.

Just Look Up

Ryan Brooks never expected to settle down in Harbor Pointe, Michigan, but after his final tour of duty, it was the only place that felt like home. Now knee-deep in a renovation project that could boost tourism for the struggling town, he is thrilled to see Lane, the girl he secretly once loved, even if the circumstances of her homecoming aren’t ideal.

Their reunion gets off to a rocky start, however, when Ryan can’t find a trace of the girl he once knew in the woman she is today. As he slowly chips away at the walls Lane has built, secrets from his past collide with a terrible truth even he is reluctant to believe. Facing a crossroads that could define his future with Lane and jeopardize his relationship with the surrogate family he’s found in the Kelleys, Ryan hopes Lane can see that maybe what really matters has been right in front of her all along–if only she’d just look up.

Review

Just Look Up is both emotionally touching and relevant, with Courtney’s balanced and lighthearted storytelling style. The themes in this story are serious but all presented in a personal and heart-to-heart manner. From the importance of noticing the blessings in front of you to recognizing the freedom in choosing forgiveness even when someone else doesn’t, this story is a beautiful example of the power of grace.

Lane’s character and her endless stress over little things show how even the best intentions (whether for achievement, career, or even family) can distract from important things right in front of you. Lane is blissfully unaware of her inherent worth, too, which made me just want to hug her. And take her out for coffee. (Thankfully she has Ryan Brooks for that). AKA Brooks to those close to him, he’s the perfect counterpart to her personality because he knows how to gently draw her out from behind her self-imposed fortress (with a lovely sense of humor!). He shows her that she is loved just as she is, by both him and her family.

The colorful secondary characters all have a hand in Lane and Brooks’ relationship or in prodding them to face reality at one time or another. They were a fun part the story… most of the time. I wanted to whomp a couple of them a time or two for hurting Lane or Brooks. Ha!

The thread of romance in this story is of the vest variety, the kind naturally born of friendship (and a years-old camaraderie). Brooks is relentless and unashamed in his pursuit of Lane, and I loved him for it. His subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) flirting was a way to break through Lane’s walls, but it was his protectiveness and genuine, selfless care for her that makes him endearing hero material. His journey is one of forgiveness and releasing bitterness, too, which mirrors Lane’s in some ways.

This is a story of family and home, of roots and forgiveness and the comfort found when someone accepts you for who you are — no strings or expectations attached. It is a gentle reminder that you have one shot in life with your family and people you encounter every day, so make the most of it. Embrace the quirks and differences. Bond over the similarities and joys. Choose to forgive. Recognize the blessings in front of you. Choose to love.

Thank you to Tyndale House Publishers and Netgalley for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Book Spotlight, Author Interview & GIVEAWAY: Just Look Up by Courtney Walsh

Today’s post is all about a new release from an author with THE COOLEST NAME ever – COURTNEY Walsh! (See what I did there? We Courtneys can be rare, so we have to stick together.) Courtney Walsh has published a new contemporary romance novel, Just Look Up, with Tyndale House Publishers. She has taken the time to chat with me today about this new story, AND has offered to give away a signed paperback copy of Just Look Up here on the blog! Woohoo!

About the Book

Just Look UpAfter tirelessly climbing the ranks of her Chicago-based interior design firm, Lane Kelley is about to land her dream promotion when devastating news about her brother draws her back home–a quaint tourist town full of memories she’d just as soon forget. With her cell phone and laptop always within reach, Lane aims to check on her brother while staying focused on work–something her eclectic family doesn’t understand.

Ryan Brooks never expected to settle down in Harbor Pointe, Michigan, but after his final tour of duty, it was the only place that felt like home. Now knee-deep in a renovation project that could boost tourism for the struggling town, he is thrilled to see Lane, the girl he secretly once loved, even if the circumstances of her homecoming aren’t ideal.

Their reunion gets off to a rocky start, however, when Ryan can’t find a trace of the girl he once knew in the woman she is today. As he slowly chips away at the walls Lane has built, secrets from his past collide with a terrible truth even he is reluctant to believe. Facing a crossroads that could define his future with Lane and jeopardize his relationship with the surrogate family he’s found in the Kelleys, Ryan hopes Lane can see that maybe what really matters has been right in front of her all along–if only she’d just look up.

Also, you can watch this adorable book trailer for Just Look Up starring Courtney Walsh AND her husband!

Interview with the Author

What inspired you to write Just Look Up?

It was on a trip to New York City after several years away from it. I can’t explain how much NYC means to me—I just LOVE it so much—so on our first day there, we were walking down the street, and I was completely enthralled. I was so excited to be back there, and I couldn’t stop looking at the buildings, the people, the city…but I quickly noticed everyone headed toward me was looking down. Eyes on their phones.

Inside, I was silently screaming, “Just Look Up! Don’t you see what you’re missing?!” Because when you see something every day, it becomes mundane. But to me, it was thrilling…and I started thinking about those three words—just look up—and wondering, what about my mundane life am I missing because I’ve got my eyes glued to the phone?

And that’s when I get the idea for this book…

What message or theme do you want to communicate to readers with this story?

It deals with the whole idea that we need to disconnect to reconnect. That we’re a device-addicted society and if we’d put down our phones every once in a while, we’d discover SO many things that we’re missing…but, honestly, at its core, to me, this story is about something more. It’s about the way we (especially as women) are constantly striving, trying to prove ourselves. It’s about how we don’t rest or stop or pause or take time for ourselves because we’re always taking care of everything and everyone else. It’s about the love of a God who offers grace so freely, never making us earn it or win him over, because that is a lesson I need to learn over and over and over…

What was most challenging about writing a story in this setting?

Honestly, the setting didn’t give me many problems. I write present day and this town I’ve created, Harbor Pointe, Michigan, is based off of many I’ve visited. What was challenging was reliving some of my own childhood pain. My main character grew up overweight and is bullied/teased for it, and much of what she goes through is real—not imagined. But putting yourself back to a place you’d rather forget is never exactly fun. My poor husband!

Which character was your favorite to write?

Brooks! My hero, Ryan Brooks, was so fun to write, especially since he’s not like my other heroes. He’s funny—not brooding. He teases Lane. He unapologetically pursues her, which makes her uncomfortable, so that was really fun to write!

He sounds like my kinda hero 😉

Just for fun: Do you have any hobbies? 

My husband and I own a performing arts studio and youth theatre, so I’d say theatre is sort of a hobby (even though it’s also our job.) I love it so much—and love working with so many awesome kids!

If you could live in any other time period in history, which would it be and why?

Gosh, my first thought was…the 1950’s, but I’m 98% sure poodle skirts would NOT be flattering on my hips…I think I’m too prissy to live in any era where there is no electricity or indoor plumbing! Maybe I was born at exactly the right time?! 🙂

What are you currently reading?

I just finished an Elin Hilderbrand novel and I’m getting ready to start True to You by Becky Wade and Life After by Katie Ganshert, both of which I cannot WAIT to read! 🙂

This was such fun! Thank you, Courtney, for taking the time to answer my questions! I look forward to reading Just Look Up!

>>>>>>UPDATE: I read JUST LOOK UP!

 

About the Author
courtney8web-1Courtney Walsh is the author of Paper Hearts, Change of Heart, and the Sweethaven series. Her debut novel, A Sweethaven Summer, was a New York Times and USA Today e-book bestseller and a Carol Award finalist in the debut author category. In addition, she has written two craft books and several full-length musicals. Courtney lives with her husband and three children in Illinois, where she is also an artist, theater director, and playwright. Visit her online at www.courtneywalshwrites.com.

 

 

Giveaway

Now, on to the giveaway fine print! Giveaway is for one (1) signed paperback, U.S addresses only, please. Giveaway is open 1 week until 7/20/17, 11:59 pm. CT.

To enter, comment with a valid email address. Let’s talk books! Have you read any of Courtney’s novels? What are you currently reading? Do you have a favorite reading routine?

Review: Right Where We Belong ~ Novella Collection

If you’re looking for something lighthearted, fun, and sweet to fill your reading time, look no further than the Right Where We Belong novella collection from authors Deborah Raney, Melissa Tagg, and Courtney Walsh. (Yay for another indie-published book!)

Right Where We BelongAbout the collection:

Whether in a quaint home bakery in Langhorne, Missouri, a cozy boho coffee shop in Maple Valley, Iowa, or a charming lakeside cottage in Sweethaven, Michigan,
love grows best in small towns just like this!

Dubbed as “3 small town contemporary novellas”, each of these standalone stories takes place in a fictional town you might recognize from an existing series by each author. While I haven’t read the main series from Deborah or Courtney, I was still enthralled with their respective communities. Melissa Tagg’s, though, I was over the moon to get through because Megan from the Walker Family series FINALLY gets some story time! *happy dance*

Each of these stories were distinct in plot and themes, but all were set in quaint little small towns where happiness is found in daily routine. I loved that. The romances in all of them were sweet and believable.

To start with, Deborah Raney’s novella features a heroine who bakes daily for a living. And she has a cat. I was all over that (because food is life). The meet-cute setup of that story turns out to be one of the funniest I’ve read in a while. And, the subsequent challenge of a long distance relationship is faced head-on by the characters while they weigh the costs of their dreams with the reality in front of them.

Melissa Tagg’s novella was, as expected, adorable, funny, and deep all at once. She always manages to speak to your emotional side until you are wrapped up in whatever conflict the characters’ hearts are in. In this case, a train ride, superglue, and a plethora of houseplants were involved. Oh, and a lesson of acceptance, purpose, and forgiveness.

I expected Courtney’s novella to be humorous and quaint. It was, and more. Leave it to her to spin the feuding “Hatfields and McCoys” into a modern “secret” love story of rivalry, heritage, and redemption. This concept allowed the story to introduce serious questions of reputation and prejudices, and just how much one is willing to believe — or forgive — concerning your neighbors. It wasn’t all seriousness, though, because there was a swoony romance (of the long-time acquaintance variety), a cute little coffee shop, meddling old ladies, and a town time capsule unveiled.

Find the collection on Amazon | Goodreads

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 Books on my Spring TBR

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

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

Today’s TTT topic is all about that growing, towering, To-Be-Read pile, shelf, island, or whatever shape it may be. Mine seems to be ever-increasing with new releases happening ALL THE TIME, lovely reviews from other book bloggers, and recommendations from friends. It’s a delightful problem.

These are the top 10 books on my Spring TBR. More like the top 10 books I’d like to read next. The first 5 will be conquered because they are review copies from generous authors or publishers (Ya’ll are awesome for keeping me in books! Thank you.).

Top 10 Books on my Spring TBR

(Book titles linked to Goodreads)

stf-jpeg-642x1024

Shoes to Fill by Lynne Gentry

Long Time Gone by Mary Connealy

Long Time Gone by Mary Connealy

The White Feather Murders by Rachel McMillan

The White Feather Murders by Rachel McMillan

With Love, Wherever You Are

With Love, Wherever You Are by Dandi Daley Mackall

second-impressions


Love at First LaughSecond Impressions
by Pepper Basham (and the rest of the Love at First
Laugh
novella collection)

Close To You

Close To You by Kara Isaac

To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Sweet Surrenders

Sweet Surrenders by Rachel Fallin

Edenbrooke

Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson

Sway by Amy Matayo

Sway by Amy Matayo

What is on your Spring TBR?

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Adorable Contemporary “Couple” Covers

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

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

This week is a FREEBIE topic because Jamie is taking a little bit of a break. Because this is the last day of February, I’m going to continue with the Valentine’s/romance theme with book covers that feature adorable covers. Besides getting your attention, these covers hint at the setting, personalities of the characters, and often important scenes in the story. In my search through the shelves, I found that very few historical novels depict couples on the cover, so I decided to limit this post to contemporary only.

In no particular order:

10 Adorable Contemporary “Couple” Covers

1. Like Never Before by Melissa Tagg

Like Never Before by Melissa Tagg

2. Falling Like Snowflakes by Denise Hunter

Falling Like Snowflakes by Denise Hunter ~ Reviewed on The Green Mockingbird

3. Dancing with Fireflies by Denise Hunter

_240_360_Book.1139.cover

4. Wrapped in Red by Meghan M. Gorecki

wrapped-in-red

5. You’re The One That I Want by Susan May Warren

You're the One that I Want

6. How a Star Falls by Amber Stokes

HowaStarFalls-new

7. Told You So by Kristen Heitzmann

27138578

8. Paper Hearts by Courtney Walsh

paper-hearts

9. Second Impressions by Pepper Basham (TBR)

second-impressions

10. Can’t Help Falling by Kara Isaac (TBR)

cant-help-falling

What are some of your favorite books covers? Did you have a Top Ten Tuesday post today? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Review: “Paper Hearts” by Courtney Walsh

screenshot_2017-02-12-22-58-50-1.png

What better way to celebrate the week of Valentine’s than with a little review of a book that’s romance-y and cute with genuineness and heart behind it (and on it)? I thought so. I’m talking about a book that’s been on my radar and TBR shelf for way too long: Paper Hearts by Courtney Walsh.

About the Book

Abigail Pressman would never have guessed that love notes penned on paper hearts by an anonymous couple could restore her belief in love. As a business owner in a quaint town at the base of the Rockies, she’s poured everything into dreams of expansion . . . and resisting the matchmaking efforts of the Valentine Volunteers, who gather in her store to continue Loves Park’s tradition of stamping mail with the city’s romantic postmark.

When Abigail is unwillingly drafted into the Volunteers, she encounters the paper hearts, a distraction that couldn’t come at a worse time. A hard-to-read doctor has become Abigail’s new landlord, and he’s threatening to end her lease to expand his practice.

As she fights a growing attraction to this handsome man crushing her dreams, Abigail is inspired to string the hearts in her store, sparking a citywide infatuation with the artsy trend. But when a new batch of hearts reaches the Volunteers, it appears something tragic has happened to the couple. Will uncovering their story confirm Abigail’s doubts about love, or could it rescue her dreams . . . and her heart?

Review

This book is adorable. When I first heard about it, it was aptly compared to You’ve Got Mail, so I picked up a copy. It totally reflects that relationship predicament and has a small element like the show Signed, Sealed, Delivered’s dead letter office (if you can imagine it as a mismatched group of lady matchmakers – the Valentine Volunteers). But it’s deeper than a light rom-com. It’s a story of forgiveness, dreams, and love.

Paper Hearts has all the ingredients for an ideal inspirational contemporary romance: a quaint setting, meddling neighbor types, an “are-we-professional-enemies-or-am-I-attracted-to-you” relationship, a single dad trying to reinvent himself, a young woman’s journey to settle into a new dream, a sweet and meaningful romance, and themes of unconditional love and forgiveness.

I appreciate the way Courtney builds the backstory of Abigail and Jacob (the new doctor/landlord) slowly. The reader sees both characters react to the present and in turn learns a little more about their pasts and major events influencing them. As I got to “know them” better, I was rooting for them to share their insecurities and secrets with one another because I knew they had much in common AND because I was dying to know the whole story behind a certain secret.

The real “paper heart” portion of the story happens a little ways in, but it is worth the wait. Like the endearing cast of characters and charming small town setting, the romantic tradition of the hearts will pull at your hear and remind you to never take your loved ones for granted.