Series Review: “Blue Ridge Romance” by Denise Hunter

It’s always fun to binge-read a series, especially when it’s by an author I always enjoy. The “Blue Ridge Romance” series by Denise Hunter is one I worked through in the past couple weeks. It was a fictional getaway, of sorts, with its peach and honeysuckle moments in the middle of my winter season. I’m reviewing the series today! Each book can stand on its own, though it reads well as a series.

About the Books

Blue Ridge Sunrise

Former free spirit Zoe Collins swore she’d never again set foot in Copper Creek or speak to the man who broke her heart. But return she must when her beloved Granny dies, leaving the family legacy to Zoe—a peach orchard nestled at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

When Zoe returns home with her daughter and boyfriend Kyle, she finds that she’s the only person in town who doesn’t expect her to give up the life she’s established far away from Copper Creek. Everyone believes she was born to run the orchard, but how can she make it her home after so many years?

Cruz Huntley never quite got over his first love, Zoe Collins, the little sister of his best friend Brady. Not when she cheated on him during their “break,” not when she took off to parts unknown with good-for-nothing Kyle Jenkins, and not even now—five years later.

As life-changing decisions and a history with Cruz hang over Zoe’s head, tensions rise between her and Kyle. Even as she comes to terms with the shifting relationships in her life, Zoe still isn’t sure if she can remain in Copper Creek with her new responsibilities . . . and her first love.

Honeysuckle Dreams

After Brady Collins’ ex-wife dies, he receives devastating news—his nine-month-old son Sam isn’t his son at all. And Sam’s wealthy maternal grandparents want custody of the child. Brady knows he’s in for the fight of his life. But regardless of what any blood test says, Sam is his son, and Brady will go to any lengths to keep him.

Brady’s attorney tips him off that one major life change would virtually assure him of winning guardianship of baby Sam at the final hearing: an impending marriage. And his friend Hope is willing to step in as the loving and devoted fiance.

Local radio celebrity Hope Daniels has been driven by a solitary goal her entire life, and after a happy accident she’s finally offered her dream job. But if the truth comes out about her arrangement with Brady, she may miss the chance of a lifetime and stand in the way of a dear friend’s dreams.

As Brady and Hope make sacrifices to help each other in their times of need, they risk uncovering a truth neither of them expects to find.

On Magnolia Lane

Falling in love with Daisy was easy for Jack. But finding the courage to tell her becomes problematic when his secret feelings lead to even bigger complications.

After two years of counseling sessions with Daisy Pendleton, Pastor Jack McReady has earned a permanent spot in her life as a spiritual leader—and nothing more. Jack would never risk losing her trust by exposing the depths of his heart, but he’s hopelessly in love with her.

Daisy loves her southern small-town life and her job at her family-run flower shop, but she doesn’t have the thing she longs for most: someone to share it with. Her recent foray into online dating has been a disaster—until she meets TJ.

Jack could kill his friend Noah for using his initials and some indistinct photos to set up a profile on the dating app Daisy is using. But when he’s finally afforded the opportunity to show her a different side of himself, he’s sucked into the plan before he has time for second thoughts.

Online, Daisy shares some of her greatest fears with TJ, but in person, Jack and Daisy are spending more time together. When a devastating family secret surfaces, Daisy knows that only her trusted friend and counselor can bring her comfort. Jack wants nothing more than to be both men for Daisy, but revealing his secret will prove to be the ultimate test of Daisy’s grace.

My Reviews

The “Blue Ridge Romance” series is thoroughly entertaining. Through various tropes (reunion, marriage of convenience, and a You’ve Got Mail-esque setup), overarching themes of HOPE and grace tie together this group of characters and friends in a delightful southern setting. All 6 of the main characters play prominent roles in each story, so their dynamic is expected from the beginning.

What I enjoyed most about Blue Ridge Sunrise was its second-chance romance that had a foundation from the start of the story.

I really liked Cruz and found his character arc to be important and heartfelt, I liked the dynamic he had with Zoe, and all the emotions (and chemistry) that went with their reconnecting. In my opinion, Zoe wasn’t always likable, or at least she didn’t stir as much empathy as I hoped she would as the story progressed. I understand her viewpoint and the mistakes she made that cause her current circumstances, but I felt like some of her decisions, even toward the end of the story, were lacking the amount of wisdom her arc required (and therefore felt a little contrived). 

A section of chapters are devoted to a flashback that comes at a key moment in establishing the characters’ depth. This was a device that added layers to the story and explained the history in a way that memories or shorter explanations would not have described. It worked well!

Honeysuckle Dreams is a delightful romance that explores the ties of family, the necessity of hope, and the risk (and faith) it takes to love deeply. A marriage of convenience trope is one of my favorites — and hard to pull of in a contemporary setting. But Brady and Hope exceed any expectations I had, committing for selfless reasons and growing from friendship into a relationship that’s swoony and tenderly romantic.

A few threads of the story could have been predictable, but they worked out early or in a different way than I expected, which was a pleasant surprise. The themes of this novel encompassed love, faith, and even delved into the personal insecurities and anxiety of Brady and Hope that stemmed from their past. This made the story even more meaningful and impactful for its resonant message of truth and bravery, of speaking up and honestly sharing your heart. It’s my personal fav of the series!

On Magnolia Lane was probably the sweetest romance of the series because it involved unrequited love and a growth from friendship. When I heard this story would be a spin on a “You’ve Got Mail” situation, I was intrigued! Pastor Jack’s relationship with Daisy on a dating website is the setup for a deeper relationship and the story’s complications.

In this case, Jack is aware he’s deceiving Daisy. I normally wouldn’t buy in to this setup so readily, but the lovelorn Jack and his consideration in being as honest as possible, even while not revealing his identity yet, just works. When the truth comes to light, it is a very important moment of growth and lesson for both Jack and Daisy, bringing to light how the best intentions can still result in hurt if they are not grounded on complete truth. Another large part of this book involved some life-altering family secrets Daisy contends with. This discovery matched with Daisy and Jack’s evolving relationship to challenge Daisy to see beyond herself in new ways, requiring her grace and strength.

Thank you to BookLook Bloggers and the publisher for the review copy of book 3. This is my honest review.

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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)

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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

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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

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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!

Mini Review: “Just A Kiss” by Denise Hunter

This little mini review features the end of a series from author Denise Hunter: Just A Kiss (Summer Harbor #3). Over several books I’ve personally read, Denise has proven to deliver a realistic story and complex character development. This latest release further establishes her as a go-to author in the contemporary romance genre.

About the Book


Riley Callahan’s plans to reveal his secret feelings for his best friend are derailed when his life is drastically altered in Afghanistan.

just-a-kissWatching the love of his life fall for his brother was enough to send Riley straight to boot camp. But over a year later, he’s officially a marine, and Beau and Paige are no longer an item. When Riley’s tour in Afghanistan is up, he intends to confess his feelings to Paige and win his best friend’s heart once and for all.

But all that changes when an IED takes the life of a comrade and leaves Riley an amputee. Now he’s heading home, injured and troubled. His plans to win Paige are a distant dream. She deserves so much more than the man that’s left. All he can do now is put some healthy distance between them. But upon his return he discovers his family has arranged for him to stay with Paige.

Paige is a nurturer at heart and happy to take care of her best buddy. By all appearances Riley is adjusting miraculously well to his disability. But as the days pass, Paige begins to see that the smiles and laughter are just a mask for the pain he’s hiding. To make matters worse, her job is in serious jeopardy. The animal shelter that she’s poured her heart into has lost its funding, and she has three months to come up with the money needed to save it.

As the weeks wear on, Paige’s feelings for Riley begin to shift into uncharted territory. Why is she suddenly noticing his arm muscles and the way his lips curl at the corners? Will she be able to deny her feelings for another Callahan brother? And will Riley let his heart heal so he can let Paige in?

Review

We finally, FINALLY get Paige and Riley’s story in another fantastic contemporary romance and drama from Denise! She knows how to combine plenty of romantic tension against a backdrop of family. Also, real issues like doubt, self-worth, and grace are explored through a sweet story of friendship-turned-true-love.  Readers who have enjoyed the previous two books in the series, Falling Like Snowflakes and The Goodbye Bridehave anticipated this pairing for a while. It was good to finally see it on the page, AND to experience the story each of their perspectives. For Paige, that meant a sweet story of realizing her best friend is also the love of her life. And for Riley, realizing his hoped-for dream of Paige returning his long-secreted romantic feelings.

Thank you to Netgalley and the Nelson/Zondervan Fiction Guild for a complimentary review copy. This is my honest review.

Review: “The Goodbye Bride” by Denise Hunter

Review: “The Goodbye Bride” by Denise Hunter

Denise Hunter is a go-to author for a compelling contemporary romance. Her most recent release, The Goodbye Bride (second in her Summer Harbor series), delivers just as expected with likable characters, a refreshing setting, and a believable romance.

About the Book

She only remembers loving him. But he can’t forget the way she left.


Following a concussion, Lucy Lovett can’t remember the last seven months of her life. She doesn’t remember leaving her fiancé Zac Callahan weeks before their wedding or moving to Portland, Maine. And she sure doesn’t remember getting engaged to another man. All she remembers is loving Zac more than life itself.

It’s taken Zac months to move on after Lucy left him with no explanation. He’s thrown himself into his family’s farm and his restaurant business in Summer Harbor. Now Lucy’s back, vulnerable, homeless, and still in love with him. She needs his help putting the pieces together, but letting her back into his life is a risk—and the stakes are high. If he follows his heart he’ll win back the love of his life. But if her memory returns he’ll lose her all over again.

ReviewThe Goodbye BrideFrom the start, the perspective of Lucy proves to be quite interesting because of her memory gap. It’s as though the reader is just as eager to discover her motivations and recent history as she is. This contrasts with Zac and his initial emotional distance, though he always remains patient and considerate, even when his feelings are in jeopardy.

Seeing glimpses of Beau and Eden after book 1, Falling Like Snowflakes, was great. I’m glad their relationship is still close and progressing. *Random sidebar: I love it when authors include little updates on characters from a past story. Especially when we see them as actively as they are in this book. !!!!!*

Another story element which worked well were the flashbacks sprinkled in from both Lucy and Zac’s perspective. They showed the start of their romance in a timely way, along with how deeply they really cared for each other. And, these few flashbacks helped establish the foundation of their personalities.

My favorite part of this story was probably how it illustrated the hope of second chances. And, how a second chance for someone might be hidden on the most unexpected path. I appreciate the way Denise clearly depicted God as loving and orchestrating the lives of these characters. He took them on a path which made them grow and learn selflessness through their mistakes by faithfully bringing them through a seemingly less than ideal circumstance.

Thank you to Thomas Nelson Fiction Guild for a complimentary review copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Top {11} Most Anticipated Releases of 2016

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

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

This week’s topic is actually top 10 most anticipated releases for the first half of 2016…but since that was a bit challenging for me to do, I’m changing it up slightly. So we’re going with the whole year (because some of these don’t have release dates) and 11 titles.

Top {11} Most Anticipated Releases of 2016

Top [11] Most Anticipated Reads of 2016

In no particular order…..

1. Like Never Before by Melissa Tagg

After the cover alone inspired this novella,have to read this one.

2. The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder by Rachel McMillan

The prequel novella won me over! This one will be read soon.

3. The Goodbye Bride and 4. Just a Kiss by Denise Hunter

I’m anxiously awaiting these stories about the other 2 brothers after Falling Like Snowflakes.

5. The Cautious Maiden by Dawn Crandall

You probably know my love of Dawn’s Everstone Chronicles series already. This one is likely book 4!

6. Together at the Table by Hillary Manton Lodge

I need to know how Jules’ story will go. Like, yesterday. (Reviews for book 1 & book 2)

7. You’re the One that I Want by Susan May Warren

I’ll be sad to end the series, but I’m anxious for Owen’s story of redemption. (most recent in series, book 5, review here)

8. A Flight of Arrows by Lori Benton

Part of her Pathfinders series, whatever transpires, this will be epic.

9. Where Trains Collide by Amber Stokes

Hopefully releasing in 2016!!!??? Whenever it does, you can count on me to read it pronto. (related novella review here)

10. Told You Twice by Kristen Heitzmann

Not sure of a release date here, but after a fabulous series debut, I’m excited.

11. Under Scottish Stars by Carla Laureano

I know, I still need to read book 2 first, but this one sounds promising. (book 1 review here)

What about YOU? What 2016 releases are you anticipating?

Review: Falling Like Snowflakes by Denise Hunter

Confession: Christmas is my favorite holiday. We get to celebrate the gift of Jesus’ birth, spend extra time with family, and act like a kid when it comes to Christmas trees, stockings, and hot chocolate. I know it’s not quite fall yet, but thinking about Christmas coming in a few months already has me excited.

With that in mind, it was a delight for me to read a new book set during the Christmas season, even if the calendar says it’s a little early. Falling Like Snowflakes by Denise Hunter is a sweet contemporary romance with a little bit of suspense. It can definitely be read and enjoyed any time of the year, but if you really want to get into the Christmas mood, break out the *twinkle lights*, and drink hot chocolate by the fire, then this REALLY a book you should check out!

Book Summary: When the Christmas season finds Eden in Summer Harbor, Maine, she’s on the run from trouble. Romance is the last thing on her mind.

Riding in a bus in the thickly falling snow, Eden Davis wonders how it ever came to this-fleeing under cover of night with young Micah sleeping fitfully in the seat beside her. When a winter storm strands them in Summer Harbor, Maine, Eden wonders if what might have been the end could be a new beginning.

Beau Callahan is a habitual problem-solver. He’s recently left his job with the sheriff’s department to take over the family Christmas tree farm to save it from insolvency. But he’s flummoxed. During the busiest season of the year, he’s shorthanded. Then Eden shows up looking for work, and Beau believes he’s been rescued. Competent, smart, and beautiful, Eden’s also guarded and quiet. He soon figures out she comes with a boatload of secrets. But Beau can’t seem to help himself from falling for her.

As Christmas Eve approaches, Beau discovers he’ll do anything to keep Eden safe. But who’s going to protect his heart from a woman who can’t seem to trust again?

Isn't this a cute & festive cover? To see what the cover almost looked like, click on it for a link to Denise's Facebook post.

Isn’t this a cute & festive cover? To see what the cover almost looked like, click on it for a link to Denise’s Facebook post.

My thoughts:

With this story, Denise delivers what I have come to expect from her: a compelling contemporary plot, romance, and the spiritual growth of at least one character. This one has the added factor of suspense and a nostalgic setting. The romance and suspense are played out slowly, never rushed, revealing snippets of just why Eden is on the run a little at a time, as feelings between she and Beau grow out of his protectiveness.

More serious themes of overcoming are woven through these characters’ lives. Eden has major trust issues. But, her heart starts to give way because she’s experiencing what a true family should feel like. At the same time, the Callahan brothers are drawn together for the holiday, something they have avoided due to the connection to painful memories. Both Beau and Eden learn lessons in overcoming: fear overcome by love and grief overcome by joy in the present moment.

I particularly enjoyed this novel’s lighthearted moments with banter between Beau and Eden. The idyllic “winter wonderland” atmosphere was the perfect backdrop for their romance. And, isolated, cold winter nights were ideal for suspense and drama to unfold.

This book is the first in a new series, the “Summer Harbor” series, set in an ideal coastal Maine town. The series is going to follow the stories of the three  Callahan brothers. If you’re an avid Denise Hunter fan, you might have already “met” Beau Callahan in her recent release, Married ’til Monday. The next book in this series, The Goodbye Bride, is set to release March of next year! (It’s already on my TBR list 🙂 )

My thanks to the publisher, Thomas Nelson, and BookLook bloggers for the ebook copy in exchange for my honest review.

About the Author

Denise Hunter is the internationally published bestselling author of more than 20 books, including Dancing with Fireflies and The Convenient Groom. She has won The Holt Medallion Award, The Reader’s Choice Award, The Foreword Book of the Year Award, and is a RITA finalist. When Denise isn’t orchestrating love lives on the written page, she enjoys traveling with her family, drinking green tea, and playing drums. Denise makes her home in Indiana where she and her husband are raising three boys. You can learn more about Denise through her website DeniseHunterBooks.com or by visiting her Facebook page at facebook.com/authordenisehunter.