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?

 

 

 

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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.

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 best 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