Twelfth Night, edition 2: Christmas Story Mini Reviews

Happy Twelfth Night! Last year on January 5th, I shared the first edition of Christmas Story Mini Reviews. This year I’m finally getting around to sharing my thoughts on some of the Christmas stories I read in 2019!

Title links will take you to Goodreads for full book info.

Christmas at Whitefriars by Elizabeth Camden (novella)

A delightful Christmas novella all about fellowship and romance! I enjoyed the setting and charming history that went with it, and the awkwardly shy hero paired with the pleasant heroine who had to overcome a few things herself (loved how that was portrayed!).

The Royally Yours novella collection

It’s perfectly sweet collection of 4 Royal romances set in a quirky Christmas town! I want to visit Tinsel, too, and sample scones, stay in an inn, and visit the library. 🙂

One Royal Christmas by Melissa Tagg ~ It was royally adorable with a bookish king & a more-adventurous-than-she-realizes heroine. I especially liked the book note aspect 😉

The Reluctant Princess by Betsy St. Amant ~ Princess + celebrity charm, nostalgic traditions, sarcasm & things that define a person.

A Royal Wonderland by Liz Johnson ~ A Christmas decor competition, a reluctant prince, and a small town girl learning to overcome her regrets all make up this sweet story of the season with a SWOONY romance, apples and scones, and one well used ladder!

A Tinsel Holiday by Ashley Clark ~ The cutest “what if” a situation like the classic Roman Holiday were only the beginning? Her story plays on characters who have an established friendship and makes for a fantastic romance.

Christmas at the Circus by Joanne Bischof (short story)

A darling little short story that “catches up” with beloved characters and shows sweet Christmas moments in their lives. I especially liked the glimpses of Holland and the surprise for Ella!

Mistletoe Menagerie by Janine Rosche (novella)

This is a darling story with a surprising amount of depth and emotion. I laughed along with the characters, related to the pain and grief in their hearts, and rejoiced in their moments of friendship and the beginnings of romance. I might have a favorite new zoo animal, too: GIRAFFES!

I am looking forward to more from Janine Rosche’s pen in 2020!

Welcome to Wishing Bridge by Ruth Logan Herne

Though not 100% intended as a Christmas novel, it does take place over the Christmas season. I’m totally counting it!

I really enjoyed the audiobook of this story! I feel like I want to visit Wishing Bridge now. The cast of characters was vibrant (a broad cast, but it never felt too big), the narration was spot-on (I really like Erin!), and the endearing characters have real-life problems, emotions, and triumphs over the course of the story. I especially liked the themes of overcoming, sacrificial love, and hope. I am excited to revisit Wishing Bridge in the next book in the series!

Thank you to the publishers of Royally Yours and Christmas at the Circus for the review copies. These are my honest reviews.

Did you read any Christmas stories this year? Do you read them into January?

Best of 2019: (Inspirational) Historical Fiction

Welcome to my annual “best-of” celebration! Like last year, I’m separating the categories of my yearly best-of lists over a few days. It’s going to take me a few days to talk about all the stories I loved in 2019!

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I have exceeded my reading goals for 2019 according to my Goodreads reading challenge! If you’d like to see all of my 5-star reads and extensive reviews, just check out my completed Goodreads challenge or browse my blog archives. Each day leading up to New Year’s Day you’ll get a new post about my 2019 favorites:

  1. Best of 2019: Novellas & Audiobooks
  2. Best of 2019: Contemporary Fiction
  3. Best of 2019: (General) Historical Fiction
  4. Best of 2019: (Inspirational) Historical Fiction
  5. Best of 2019: Film & TV
  6. Best of 2019: Happy New Year #OnTheBlog (reading challenge?)

The rules: because sometimes I need to keep things brief, I’m choosing to share 3 things that describe each of these stories along with a link to Goodreads and my review.

I read a lot more historical novels this year than I typically do! Narrowing down this list was a challenge — these are the best of the best!

Best of 2019: (Inspirational) Historical Fiction

A Bound Heart by Laura Frantz | Review

Fortitude. Faith. Fireflies.

Daughters of Northern Shores by Joanne Bischof | Review

Restored trust. Extending grace. Family.

Far Side of the Sea by Kate Breslin | Review

Adventure. Honor. Intrigue.

Murder in the City of Liberty by Rachel McMillan | Review

Friendship. Loyalty. Reggie’s “journal of independence”.

With This Pledge by Tamera Alexander | Review

True-life romance. Freedom. Integrity.

Finding Lady Enderly by Joanna Davidson Politano | Review

Identity. Classic literature. Worth.

Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patty Callahan | Review

Journey to faith. Intelligent friendship. Grief.

The Spice King by Elizabeth Camden | Review

Dreams. Smart romance. Truth.

Between Two Shores by Jocelyn Green | Review

Belonging. Courage. Forgiveness.

Lady of a Thousand Treasures by Sandra Byrd | Review

Subtle mystery. Romance. Value.

Review: “The Spice King” by Elizabeth Camden

One thing I always love about Elizabeth Camden’s novels are her intelligent heroines who illuminate aspects of women’s roles in society during the setting’s era. In her latest novel, The Spice King, a tenacious botanist is finding her place in 1900 Washington, DC. There happens to a hero to this story, too, as evidenced by the handsome cover….

About the Book

Gray Delacroix has dedicated his life to building his very successful global spice empire, but it has come at a cost. Resolved to salvage his family before it spirals out of control, he returns to his ancestral home to save his brother and sister before it’s too late.

As a junior botanist for the Smithsonian, Annabelle Larkin has been charged with the impossible task of gaining access to the notoriously private Delacroix plant collection. If she fails, she will be out of a job and the family farm in Kansas will go under. She has no idea that in gaining entrance to the Delacroix world, she will unwittingly step into a web of dangerous political intrigue far beyond her experience.

Unable to deny her attraction to the reclusive business tycoon, Annabelle will be forced to choose between her heart and loyalty to her country. Can Gray and Annabelle find a way through the storm of scandal without destroying the family Gray is fighting to save?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

The Spice King is an intelligent historical romance!
Things I loved about this novel:

  • the tenacious heroine! She’s capable and wonderfully feminine, yet she still proves her ability and right to work in an environment history traditionally viewed as a place for men. And she loves her sister so much!
  • a brooding and fiercely loyal hero, whose facade begins to melt when he sees the potential for a dream for companionship and family unrealized (both in a romantic way and the relationships restored with his siblings)
  • political intrigue and secrets! Historically accurate WASHINGTON and the White House!
  • themes truth, loyalty, patriotism, trust
  • I enjoyed learning new things about exotic spices & foods we take for granted today!
  • the friendship and rapport between Gray and Annabelle. It’s a dynamic and subtle relationship. He is attracted to her intelligence and she greatly respects him!
  • Gray’s relationship with his siblings! I’m excited about more to come… and hopefully some answers to the twists of the story.
  • THE SWOONY COVER. I’M IN LOVE. And the hero very much matches the cover, so extra points for matchy accuracy!
  • the romance-that’s-way-smart. The romance is central to the story, yes, but even more so is the simple mature friendship that develops between Gray and Annabelle. Camden doesn’t dwell on the physical dynamic between them, that’s done well and subtly just so the reader senses the attraction. The appeal in their romance is more about camaraderie, intelligence, a recognition that each compliments the other, and a mutual respect. This elevates the story to a higher level, I think!

I am excited for the rest of this “Hope and Glory” series! I know we will see more of Gray and Annabelle.

Thanks to Bethany House for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Favorite Jane Austen-Esque Romances

Happy Valentine’s Day!!!! What better way to celebrate the day than with a blog post all about classic love stories??? Today I’m tweaking a Top Ten Tuesday topic to fit JANE AUSTEN-like stories. Read on for more awesomeness.

top-ten-tuesday-ausen-esque-graphic

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

The official topic this week is “Top Ten Favorite Romance Tropes/Types”. I’m bending this a little for a list of favorite Jane Austen-Esque romances, whether they be inspired or adapted from Austen’s works or have similar elements as her well-loved classics.

10 Favorite Austen-Esque Romances

Influenced and inspired by Austen’s heroines

Dear Mr. KnightleyLizzy and Jane by Katherine Reay1. Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay

2. Lizzy & Jane by Katherine Reay

Both of these novels by Reay are influenced by Jane’s characters in general. And, they each pay homage to her stories (as well as other classics) in their own way. Dear Mr. Knightley features a fresh epistolary take on a romance and a coming-of-age story. Lizzy & Jane weaves a tale of sisters, their struggles, and a fitting chance at love (with some Persuasion-like moments <3).

Pride & Prejudice-like banter between heroine and hero

271385783. Told You So by Kristen Heitzmann

If ever there was a contemporary story to rival the tension, misconceptions, witty dialogue, and ardent love story of Elizabeth and Darcy, Told You So would be it. You need to meet Devin and Grace.

love-lace-and-minor-alterations-by-v-joy-palmer4. Love, Lace, and Minor Alterations by V. Joy Palmer

Similar in many ways to Pride & Prejudice, Love, Lace, and Minor Alterations is a light story with humor and wit fitting for its Austen similarities (and some sarcasm thrown in for good measure). The protagonists of this story contend with their own pride in several ways to overcome shortcomings and find happily-ever-after.

With Every Breath5. With Every Breath by Elizabeth Camden

The push-and-pull of rivalry and opposite personalities is brightly displayed in With Every Breath. And what a frustratingly fun historical romance/drama it is!

 

A “Regency Era” setting

_240_360_Book.1051.cover6. The Headmistress of Rosemere by Sarah E. Ladd

1816 England. Winter on the moors. Secrets. A spinster finding love. Inheritances, gambling debts, and a girls’ school. What more could you want in a novel?

the-tutors-daughter7. The Tutor’s Daughter by Julie Klassen

A bit of mystery and romance combine in this story set in Cornwall, England. (Random BBC Period Drama fangirl moment: for a location visual, watch “Poldark”!!!!!)

Like Northanger Abbey

The Covered Deep8. The Covered Deep by Brandy Vallance

Bianca is the Victorian Era equivalent of Catherine Morland. Combine her fascination with gothic literature and heros with her propensity for dramatics, and her learning journey paralells Austen’s heroine in many ways. And I think Paul’s gentlemanly, wise manner complements Bianca just as Henry Tilney does Catherine.

Like Emma

The Thorn Bearer9. The Thorn Bearer by Pepper D. Basham

I say this story is like Emma because the romance blooms from a strong foundation of friendship. The joy of it all is watching the characters grow and change for the better through the story, partially because of their friendship; much like Knightley encourages Emma to be a better version of herself. And the romance!! 🙂

Ensemble-like, influential cast

HesitantHeiress10. The Hesitant Heiress by Dawn Crandall

While there are many reasons to love Dawn Crandall’s historical romances, one reason I enjoyed The Hesitant Heiress was its cast of characters. The broad personalities featured are always interesting and influential to the story. I think having the lens of a singular POV (the heroine’s, Amaryllis) adds dramatic suspense to the story and slants the view of all of the characters in a way similar to Austen’s understanding interpretation of family, friends, and even “villain” personalities.

 

~bonus: 3 upcoming releases~

second-impressionsSecond Impressions by Pepper Basham, releasing March 2017

This novella promises to deliver a modern Austen-Esque story in setting (Bath, England), humor, and romance. It releases as part of a novella collection titled Love at First Laugh and in July as a standalone. I’m excited to see how Pepper tackles modern England (and just what a bonnet has to do with it all 🙂 )!

jane-of-austinJane of Austin: A Novel of Sweet Tea and Sensibility by Hillary Manton Lodge, releasing June 13th

This is a modern adaptation of Sense & Sensibility set in the south. I’m already in love with the artsy cover. AND Hillary is writing it, so I know there will be recipes (!!!!). I can’t wait!

 

the-austen-escapeThe Austen Escape by Katherine Reay, releasing November 2017

Reay’s literary-infused stories are always awesome (see above gushing). This one will be Austen and a best friends’ TRIP! Plus, the cover is adorable.

 

 

Your turn!!! Have you read any of these on my list? What are your favorite Jane Austen-Esque romances??? Or what are your favorite romance types???

 

Review: “With Every Breath” by Elizabeth Camden

When I read Into the Whirlwind by Elizabeth Camden last year, I immediately became a fan of her writing. I’ve since acquired (but not yet read) several of her books in my never-ending TBR stack. The latest from her, With Every Breath, has a strong heroine, a unique (and accurate) historical setting and subject, and a captivating storyline.

With Every BreathSummary: In the shadow of the nation’s capital, Kate Livingston holds a respectable position as a government statistician when she encounters a rival from her past, the insufferable Trevor McDonough. A Harvard-trained physician, Trevor never showed the tiniest flicker of interest in Kate, and she’s bewildered at the way he suddenly seeks her out. Surprising even herself, Kate agrees to Trevor’s entirely unexpected and risky proposal to work side-by-side with him in his quest to rid the world of tuberculosis, a contagious and deadly disease.

As Kate begins to unlock the mysteries of Trevor’s past, she realizes there is much more to him than she could have imagined. His hidden depths may fascinate her, but his most closely guarded secrets and a shadowy enemy lurking in the background carry a serious threat to their future.

When the truth of the past comes out, threatening to destroy everything they hold dear, how will Trevor and Kate ever overcome all that stands in their way?

The main characters, Trevor and Kate, are complex and realistic. Just below the surface, Trevor conceals a flood of emotions, though to Kate, it appears that he has a cold demeanor. This proves challenging as they work together and uncover their true feelings and fears: Trevor, afraid of being hurt or inflicting unnecessary pain; and Kate, fearing risk and the unknown.

It’s an interesting journey watching these characters change and grow as a result of their surroundings. Trevor is not your typical hero — in this case, that’s refreshing. He’s not bold, but quietly heroic and steadfast. Kate is strong and independent (but at the same time sweet), fitting for an era when an educated woman faced so many challenges. It is easy to identify with her character. The reader shares in her struggles to find happiness, purpose, and meaning.

Elizabeth shares an interesting and lesser-known bit of the history surrounding early treatment of tuberculosis in this story. Paired with suspense and dramatic events surrounding Trevor’s research, it gives this story a slight “medical drama” feel. This gives the story momentum and keeps the reader guessing.

In all, I really enjoyed this historical drama/romance. It emphasized how you can’t comprehend God’s plans or let mistakes from the past — or fear — steal the joy found only in Christ.

Connect with author Elizabeth Camden at her website or Facebook.

 Thank you to Bethany House Publishers for a complimentary copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: “Into the Whirlwind” by Elizabeth Camden

IntoTheWhirlwind“Sometimes it is the hardest things that make us great.”  This quote by a character in Elizabeth Camden’s Into the Whirlwind fittingly summarizes her novel. Set in the early 1870s in Chicago, Into the Whirlwind follows the story of a prestigious watchmaker’s daughter, Mollie Knox, who has inherited her father’s business, along with the responsibility of employing Civil War veterans who fought alongside her father. She faces many obstacles, including the historical Chicago fire, which challenges her business and brings two possible suitors into her life.

Into the Whirlwind was an exciting, fascinating read which captured my attention from the opening chapter.  Elizabeth Camden delightfully blended accurate historical facts with dramatic characters to paint a canvas of life as it was post-Civil wartime in Chicago. Her descriptions of the raging, turbulent fire were very realistic. The most dramatic events surrounding the fire reminded me of the burning of Atlanta in “Gone With the Wind”…. but the similarities end there.

The character Mollie must overcome the unexpected tragedy of the Chicago fire.  She does this with the help of two strong men – one, a long time “business-only” acquaintance Zack Kazmarek, and the other a caring, unexpected friend (who I’m not naming…you will have to read it for yourself!). Both men vie for her affections. I have to admit, sometimes I wanted to have a heart-to-heart with Mollie and tell her to open her eyes to see what was right in front of her. In the end, though, I think she made the right choice. I believe that the circumstances and challenges Mollie went through in the novel shaped her character and caused her to grow into a better person by the book’s end. God does the same thing in each of our lives – He uses trials and the people around us to mold our character and cause us to grow in faith and become more like Christ.

I have not read any of Elizabeth’s books prior to this one – but after this good read, I will definitely be keeping my eye out for her work!

Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed in this review are solely mine.