It’s been quiet lately in my little corner of the blogging
world, but it is NOT for lack of good books! I have been reading some great
stories and will be sharing more about them soon.
One novel I finished this week was the first in Susan May Warren’s new independently-published series: The “Montana Marshalls” series. Knox kicks off the family saga with a ‘gallop’ straight into action and drama with more stories to come.
He’s not looking for trouble…
Montana rancher Knox Marshall’s danger years are behind him. A former bull-rider, he now runs the Marshall family ranch, raising champion bucking bulls for the National Professional Bullrider’s Expo (NBR-X). Wealth and success are his, but life is stable, expected, and…ordinary. But he wants more from life…
But trouble is looking for her…
Kelsey Jones just wants a safe life, a family, a home. Onstage, the beautiful rising star of the Yankee Belles becomes the person she longs to be – vivacious and confident – burying the brokenness she carries from a violent assault. Becoming NBR-X’s next country act is key to outrunning her past and achieving the success and security she craves.
When trouble finds them both…
Knox and Kelsey’s paths collide when an explosion at an NBR-X event traps them in the rubble and leaves them reeling. Kelsey’s crippling nightmares return, but for Knox, an obsession to find the bomber is ignited.
What will it cost him to protect her?
When Kelsey’s past threatens Knox’s family, he’ll have to choose between saving the Marshall legacy or becoming the protector he’s always longed to be.
Equal parts family drama, modern western, and romantic suspense, the first installment in Susan’s new Marshall Family series, Knox, sets the bar and the excitement level high for the rest of the series to come!
Susan May Warren always manages
to perfectly balance story, character development, and strong themes all in a
fast-paced package. In this case, action, ranching, and life as a rising
country band combine with the steadiness of Knox and the strength of Kelsey;
likable and supportive (in a friendship and brotherhood way) secondary
characters; and themes of compassion and the steadfastness of God’s love.
I was thrilled to encounter cameos and mentions of some favorite characters from Susan’s previous series, some of which I know I still need to read! Also, the references to music, TV westerns, and pop culture (hello, Kevin Costner and Bodyguard) were wonderfully incorporated into the story and just plain fun.
Oh, and since Susan’s stories
are all wonderfully connected and layered, the next book is set up well. With the
way THIS ONE ENDS, I need Tate’s story NOW!
Thanks to Relz Author Support for the review
copy. This is my honest review.
You guys, Amy Matayo is releasing a new novel next month! And, it’s the very first one in a new series. This will be her first series. I’m super excited!
The Waves (Love in Chaos #1)
Dillon Hayes is twenty-eight and single, an unfortunate status her overbearing family is determined to fix. So when she’s stuck on a cruise ship for a seven-day reunion with the lot of them, she’s desperate for any escape she can find, even if it means partnering with a sketchy stranger for an off-the-beaten-path snorkeling excursion. After her mother’s last matchmaking attempt, Dillon is more than willing to trade all her good sense for a few hours of solace.
Liam Gamble is stuck in the middle of family vacation hell. The worst part: it’s not even his family. This will be the last time he ever accepts a free-vacation invitation from his best friend. At this point, he’d be willing to hand over his life savings to get off this crazy ship. So when he catches one of his friend’s cousins sneaking off board, he decides to join her, hijacking her private excursion and nearly blowing her cover. If she gets to leave, so does he.
But what starts off as a secret escape turns into a very real nightmare when their shady tour guide leaves them stranded on an uninhabited island with nothing but the clothes on their backs and no idea how to keep themselves alive.
As hours turn into days, and the weather proves as threatening as their need for food and water, Dillon and Liam must join forces and rely on each other if they have any hope of seeing their families again. Funny thing: sometimes in life, the end of the rope is when you discover everything you value has been in front of you all along.
First off, I hope ALL of you had a wonderful day celebrating Christmas and the joy of our Savior’s birth!!!
While in the midst of a wonderful day filled with family, on Christmas, a little notification popped up on my phone that a new Christmas short story was in the world, written by my friend Rachel. The story was Of Mozart and Magi: A Rose in Three Quarter Time Christmas Tale. If you’ve been around for a while, you probably recall my love for that novella. To say I was excited and DELIGHTED to have more Rose & Oliver & Vienna at CHRISTMAS would have been an understatement! Since then, Rachel has made the story available on Kindle. Now you
About the book: Rose McNeil and Oliver Thorne are really and truly married and living their happily ever after in the most beautiful city in the world. But that doesn’t mean they know what to get each other for Christmas. With a bit of O. Henry magic and, of course, the whipped cream opulence of Mozart, take a tiny peek into their whipped cream world of Mozart and Baroque architecture as they learn the best gifts are romantic experiences…. a novellette for readers who want a little peek into Rose and Oliver’s life together long after their marriage of convenience becomes one of romantic reality.
My thoughts: A tiny piece of Christmas perfection! Vienna, mismatched holiday socks, whipped cream, Shostafreakingkovich (you gotta read it to get this!!!!!!!!!) and the kinship of two people are featured in this story that takes a concept from an O. Henry classic and reveals more depths of these beloved characters. I want to spend Christmas with Oliver and Rose in Vienna… but they would probably be uncomfortable with my staring. Instead, I will reread this gem and sigh happily over their romance.
Welcome to the Book Blitz! I’m happy to share my thoughts today about The Christmas Book Shoppe, a lovely little Christmas novella, as well as an excerpt and the info for Miranda Atchley’s #GIVEAWAY!
The Christmas Book Shoppe is a sweet story of a small town, little joys, trust, and all things BOOKISH! From the quaint small town setting to the quirky cast of characters, this little novella offers a glimpse into the life of Trudy as she faces the sale of her book shop (and livelihood).
How does one react to such a drastic change? With a chocolate shake and British dramas, of course! Oh, and there’s Reed, who offers Trudy quiet encouragement and hints at a happily-ever-after.
One of my favorite parts of this novella was the setting. It’s in ARKANSAS, ya’ll! Not many stories are set in my state. While the town of Christmas is fictional, it’s not too far from me considering the Ozarks hills and proximity to Fayetteville. It was super fun to see places referenced that I know like the back of my hand (ahem, the Barnes & Noble in Fayetteville).
If you love bookstores, Christmas, or light Christmas novellas, this is a quick read you are sure to enjoy!
Thanks to the author for a review copy. This is my honest review.
About the Book
Keeping her book store might take a Christmas miracle… Trudy Gallagher is quite content with her simple life. For the past five years, she has lived and worked at The Christmas Book Shoppe, a new and used book store formerly owned and operated by her great-aunt. She loves nothing more than spending her days in the Victorian house filled with books, surrounded by her cat and loved ones. As Christmas, her favorite day of the year approaches, she begins the season with her usual verve and excitement.
Yet when her landlord threatens to sell The Christmas Book Shoppe, she is devastated. She cannot imagine life without the book store she calls home. As she struggles to create a plan to keep the book store open, it seems as if her whole word is turned upside down and her every attempt to save the store fails.
MIRANDA ATCHLEY has written several novels, both historical and contemporary, one of which was a finalist for an indie writing award. When she isn’t writing, Miranda loves getting lost in a good book and watching period dramas. She lives in a small town in Arkansas. Visit her blog and subscribe to her mailing list at:
As she placed the last ornament on the Christmas tree, Trudy Gallagher stood back and looked at her handiwork with a gratified smile. It was the Monday after Thanksgiving, and she had spent the majority of the day decorating The Christmas Book Shoppe for the holiday.Like every other year, she and her assistant Marge had placed the eight foot artificial Christmas tree before the front window in the foyer, and Trudy had happily wrapped it in lights and tinsel, placing book themed ornaments along the branches.
“A little early to be putting up a Christmas tree, don’t you think?” Mr. Scranton, a regular patron at the book store–and the town’s resident curmudgeon–asked when he came to donate yet another stack of used books.
“Well, Thanksgiving was last Thursday,” Trudy replied in the kindest tone she could muster. It was tradition at The Christmas Book Shoppe to decorate for the holidays the Monday after Thanksgiving. After all,they were The Christmas Book Shoppe,a store that carried a mix of new and used books and was housed in the historic district of a small town called Christmas, Arkansas–which was named for the town’s settler as opposed to the holiday, as most out of towners understandably believed. They had to embrace the spirit of Christmas, just like most other businesses in town did. Yet there was always someone who accused them of decorating too early. Trudy couldn’t help but wonder; what would Mr. Scranton say if he knew that she had decorated her apartment on November first?
Scoffing at her, Mr. Scranton turned and went on his way,his pace slow as his cane assisted him. Trudy could have sworn she’d heard him mutter “bah humbug” under his breath as he exited through the front door, his harsh tone clashing with the twinkling bell above the door. Though that could have simply been her imagination, which, given all the novels she read, was usually quite overactive.
Trudy shrugged as she placed the two heavy plastic bags full of moldy paperbacks on the desk and began to sort through them.
Really, who could blame her for embracing the Christmas spirit as fully as she did? After enduring long humid Arkansas summers that often started as early as April and boasted weeks of temperatures in the high nineties and low hundreds, it was a relief to have cooler weather. When the heat of summer was too much to bear, she often daydreamed about the Christmas season just to distract herself from the reality of living in such a humid climate.
But it wasn’t just the cold weather she enjoyed. She loved everything about Christmas. Watching classic Christmas movies, drinking hot cocoa while reading a light and cheery Christmas novella, and listening to Christmas songs all December were some of her favorite things. And there was just something about all the pretty decorations and lights that made the whole town of Christmas, Arkansas look like the inside of a snow globe…minus all the snow. It was simply a magical time of year.
“I’m glad you enjoy decorating the tree so much,” said Marge when Trudy made her way back to the front desk. With a deep sigh, she added, “Putting that tree up just wears me out.”
Looking up from the copy of Thoreau’s Walden she’d been inspecting, Trudy offered a smile and said, “Well, I’m happy to do it.”
With raised eyebrows, Marge shook her head. “I can certainly tell.”
Marge was a middle aged woman who had been working at The Christmas Book Shoppe for the last few years. While she was a good employee,she didn’t share Trudy’s excitement about literature and holidays and found her boss’s enthusiasm rather tiring. It was amazing that the two got along as well as they did.
Trudy once again smiled and then took the newly arrived books and began to shelve them. It was a little curious that Mr. Scranton had donated so much as of late. Counting what he’d brought in today, he’d donated a total of ten bags full of books in two weeks. Trudy wondered how many books he had in that old, somewhat off-putting house he lived in on the edge of town.
After Mr. Scranton’s donations were situated on the shelves, Trudy took to straightening the book cases, and in the process she found herself somewhat distracted, reading the synopsis scrawled on the back covers of titles that caught her attention. She often found herself similarly distracted while working here at the shop and realized that this was one reason why her to-be-read pile was growing entirely out of control.
When she found a particularly interesting novel set in the Edwardian era, she flipped open the cover and read the first few pages. Soon her mind was thousands of miles and a hundred years away, caught up in a world of lords and ladies.
“That a good book?”
With a gasp, she slammed the book shut. Looking up, she saw her friend, Reed Thornton. A roughish smile twisted his mouth, making him look more like Downton Abbey’s Tom Branson than ever.
“You scared me to death,” she said, taking a deep breath in an attempt to steady her heart rate. “And yes, it is a good book. I think I’ll keep it for myself.”
In his hands, she saw a stack of books, all bearing familiar titles. The Great Gatsby, Wuthering Heights, Persuasion. In Trudy’s world, it was unusual for most guys to even like reading. But for a guy to pass up science fiction and thrillers for classic romance? That was just unheard of.
“Looking for a good romance, are we?” she asked as they made their way back to the front desk.
He gave her the same exasperated expression he offered each time she made a wise crack about his reading habits. “It’s required reading for my classic lit class.”
Trudy smiled skeptically. She knew Reed had in fact enrolled in a classic lit class at the university after recently going back to college in order to earn a master’s degree in literature. Yet she also knew that Reed had always been a sucker for classic literature, just like her. They’d taken literature classes in high school together and their mutual love of the classics was one reason why they’d been such good friends for most of their lives.
“You know there isn’t any shame in guys reading romance novels, right?” With a snort she added, “I mean, look at Nicholas Sparks. His novels have been giving women false hopes for years now. And Fitzgerald was a guy, and he wrote The Great Gatsby.Besides, haven’t you already read that?”
“When we were seniors in high school,” he said with a half frown. “But that was a long time ago. I’ve read too many books since then to remember all I need to know about it for this class.”
“Well, it is a pretty good one to revisit,” she said as she rounded the corner of the front desk.
As she scanned the barcode on Persuasion, she cocked an eyebrow at Reed.
He sighed as he dug his wallet out of his back pocket. “It’s the only Austen I haven’t read yet.”
She chuckled as she placed the stack of books in a bag bearing the store’s emblem.
“Do you give all your customers this hard of a time?” he asked as he accepted the bag.
She simply laughed in reply.
“You know, I could just buy my books on Amazon. I’d get a lot less cheek if I did.”
“Yeah, but you’d pay a lot more. Plus, you wouldn’t get this sparkling customer service that brings in customers from miles around.”
Chuckling, he rolled his eyes, took his bag and left.
One winner will receive a Kindle download of The Christmas Book Shoppe. The giveaway begins December 4 and ends December 7. Open internationally to anyone who can receive a Kindle download via email. Must be 18 or older to participate.
Today I’m EXTREMELY happy to share my review of Courtney Walsh’s recent women’s fiction indie release, Things Left Unsaid. While this might be a slightly new genre for Courtney, this story is as emotionally resonant as her contemporary romances.
Audiobook note: I switched back and forth between reading this and listening to the audiobook. I enjoyed the audio version and felt it was narrated with emotion and clarity. I’m a bit picky when it comes to audio narrators, so this was a pleasant thing!
An emotional novel of family, friendship and forgiveness from Courtney Walsh, the New York Times bestselling author of Hometown Girl.
Lyndie St. James is thrilled that her best friend, Elle, is getting married but unprepared for the emotional storm of the wedding week and returning to her childhood summer home of Sweethaven. The idyllic cottage community harbors some of her best—and worst—memories. It’s not only the tragic death of her childhood friend Cassie that has haunted her for ten years, it’s the other secrets she’s buried that have kept her from moving on.
But Lyndie isn’t the only one with secrets.
Cassie’s mother, father and brother, still struggling with the loss, have been drifting further and further apart. And Elle herself, the last to see Cassie alive, carries an impossible burden of guilt. Now reunited, each of them has a choice: to reveal the truths of that night or continue to live in its shadow. That means embarking on a personal journey of the heart—to escape the darkness and all its regrets and to finally come to terms with the past and, especially, with each other.
This story surprised me more than once. What I expected to be a story of friendship, summertime memories, and the way the past shapes identities became so much more with every new secret revealed and emotional layer pulled back. Courtney Walsh has penned (another) beautiful story of GRACE. Of how important it is to belong and be known, and to forgive… even if it’s about forgiving yourself.
I enjoyed how the pace of the story allowed for time to get to know the characters, especially Lyndie, in their current frames of mind before events pulled them all together in the same town. This timeline starts to paint a picture of the past and hints at the baggage each of them carries.
Courtney Walsh always manages to write relatable and even flawed characters, and Lyndie, Tucker, Elle, and Karen are all representative of the struggles we face. When you read this story, you WILL relate to at least one of them, whether their pain, grief, complacency, self-confidence struggles, or possibly the honesty, faith, and positive steps to growth call out to your heart.
I won’t give away any plot points or heart-wrenching secrets (you will have to discover them when you read this story) but I will say that this story deals with some sensitive issues. All of them have to do with the fallout of choices and mistakes, some of them long-buried or years in the making. Courtney Walsh’s straightforward style handles this sensitively and realistically which further proves her place on my must-read authors list!
I went from laughing to crying and experiencing every emotion in between while reading! I highly recommend this book to women’s fiction fans or of authors like Katie Ganshert, Jennifer Rodewald, Amy Matayo, and Katherine Reay.
Thank you to the author for the advance copy of this book. This is my honest review.
Happy Monday!!!! Today I’m sharing a little review of a Victorian historical romance I devoured over the weekend. (MANY thanks to my author friend Rachel McMillan for always introducing me to lovely stories.) This one is for fans of Jane Eyre and the like, complete with a mansion in disrepair, horse rides on the beach, rainy nights, and mysteries surrounding the past of the hero and the present situation of the heroine.
About the Book:
She Wanted Sanctuary…
Helena Reynolds will do anything to escape her life in London, even if that means traveling to a remote cliffside estate on the North Devon coast and marrying a complete stranger. But Greyfriar’s Abbey isn’t the sort of refuge she imagined. And ex-army captain Justin Thornhill–though he may be tall, dark, and devastatingly handsome–is anything but a romantic hero.
He Needed Redemption…
Justin has spent the last two decades making his fortune, settling scores, and suffering a prolonged period of torture in an Indian prison. Now, he needs someone to smooth the way for him with the villagers. Someone to manage his household–and warm his bed on occasion. What he needs, in short, is a wife and a matrimonial advertisement seems the perfect way to acquire one.
Their marriage was meant to be a business arrangement and nothing more. A dispassionate union free from the entanglements of love and affection. But when Helena’s past threatens, will Justin’s burgeoning feelings for his new bride compel him to come to her rescue? Or will dark secrets of his own force him to let her go?
A wonderfully atmospheric Victorian tale, this story presents a complicated marriage of convenience situation with absolutely endearing characters. This book was recommended to me as a “redemption” of the Rochester archetype — wherein Justin Thornhill exhibits a burdened past yet a presently noble hero without the deceptions of Bronte’s character. Helena, the heroine, brings a complex mystery to the situation that unfolds slowly and shines a light on a real-life historical issue of the time. While Justin and Helena navigate the dictates of the era, they grapple with lessons of worth, forgiveness, and even the capacity to love — all while the romantic tension is PALPABLE and wonderfully maintained through the story. I enjoyed this story from Mimi, a new-to-me-author, and I look forward to reading more of her work in the future!
Content note: this is overall a clean read, especially concerning the romance element, but it does have (very) mild expletives throughout.
My own photo of an Alaskan summertime “burning sky” sunset — taken a couple years ago on a church trip. The sunset is super late at night, and the sky never gets completely dark!
Author Susan May Warren has done it again! She’s penned an epic novella series that released this summer, each installment just a month apart. The good news? Tomorrow is release day for book 3, so you can binge-read the whole romantic suspense series! Read on for my thoughts on each novella with full book descriptions at the end.
About the series…
When western Alaska erupts in a devastating fire, the elite firefighting crew of the Jude County Smokejumpers is called in to save the day. They’ll do anything to stop the fire, including fighting alongside a crew of local prisoners.
The last thing they expect is a jailbreak and when the prisoners disappear into the forest with one of their own, they’ll have to fight not only the fire, but for the freedom of their friends…during the Summer of the Burning Sky.
Light My Fire
An epic start to this series! I was pulled in to the action from the very beginning! With characters easy to like and root for, this is a story of drama and danger with a very personal message of rescue and help at its center. I loved seeing Stevie learn how forgiveness is possible and for both her and Tucker to know that together is a good thing, whether it be in the form of God on your side, backup close by, or even navigating life with another person.
The Heat Is On
Another installment of action and suspense in the wilderness! Picking up during the events of book 1, Susan May Warren cleverly overlaps the stories, offering more detail through point of view and telling a more complex story. Oh, the chemistry! In the middle of the drama a connection between Rio and Skye is so evident. And the darkness vs light, the God being ON YOUR SIDE theme is continued…. proving that HE can provide right where you are.
Some Like It Hot
This is my favorite of the series. 🙂 Some Like It Hot had a few twists out of nowhere, which made it all the more interesting to see how Riley and Larke would handle and respond to their circumstances as all the excitement unfolded. It wasn’t all action, though, as this story took possibly the deepest emotional turns and had both Riley and Larke coming to terms with what it means to be a hero, the risk it takes to love, and the way God abandons everything to bring us to Him. And Riley! Talk about a fun hero — he’s such a flirt on the outside but I loved seeing the way Larke brings out his protective and heroic side, especially when her own struggles and attraction complicate everything. The series is wonderfully and nicely wrapped up with this final novella, but I DO hope Susan has more in store for this team in the future!
Thank you to the author for the advanced copy of Some Like It Hot for review. This is my honest review.
Book 1: Light My Fire
Former bad-boy Tucker Newman has learned his lesson—as the temporary team leader of the Jude County Smokejumpers, he’s all about following the rules to keep his team safe. Especially when he has to partner with a group of local low-security prisoners to knock down the raging fire. But the prisoners are not who they seem, and when they stage a break, kidnapping one of his teammates, he’ll have to break every rule he knows to get her back.
US Marshal Stevie Mills knows that to get the job done, she must work alone. She simply can’t risk another person getting hurt because of her. When she discovers that a wanted fugitive accused of rape and murder has not only been set free to fight the fire—but is now on the lam with a hostage– the last thing she needs is a zealous smokejumper getting in the way of her pursuit.
Whether they like it or not, Tucker and Stevie must join forces if they hope to save lives, and in the meantime, they just might discover a new definition for the word teamwork, in book 1 of the Summer of the Burning Sky.
FBI Agent Rio Parker is tired of playing the bad guy, even if it is for a good reason. Undercover with a group of prisoners to babysit a federal informant, he can’t believe he’s been enlisted to fight a forest fire…or sucked into a prison break. Worse—a female smokejumper has been kidnapped. Now, he’ll have to protect her from a rapist, keep his informant from escaping, and stay out of the gunsights of the US Marshal hot on his trail.
Smokejumper Skye Doyle knew trouble was brewing when the group of prisoners joined the firefight. She never expected, however, to be kidnapped during their breakout. But can she trust a hardened felon to keep her safe? Except, Rio is not who he seems, and when his identity is uncovered, she must decide if she can trust a man who has been lying to her…
But staying alive on the run isn’t their only problem, they’ll have to learn to trust each other if they hope to survive in book 2 of the Summer of the Burning Sky.
Riley McCord is trouble, from his blue eyes to his renegade smile—a cover for the grief of losing his father three years ago in Afghanistan, a loss that is still top secret. Riley masks it all by living large—working hard and playing hard, and that includes romancing Larke Kingston, local wilderness medic. When he’s sidelined while working the forest fire, he’s determined to rejoin his team, but to do so, he’ll have to accompany Larke into the wilderness when she is dispatched to a medical emergency. What he doesn’t realize is that trouble is waiting for him in the woods…
Medic Larke Kingston lost the man she loved during her service in Afghanistan and she’s not interested in a troublemaker, so Riley’s no threat to her heart. Just a short-term distraction. Until, that is, a wilderness medical mission puts her face-to-face with an escaped prisoner. Suddenly she needs Riley more than she wants to admit.
Riley is shocked when the escapee claims to have answers about his father’s death. However, before he can uncover them, the fire turns and is bearing down on Larke’s ranch, and his team. Now, only Riley and Larke stand between the flames and destruction of everything they both love. But will the price of saving the ranch—and the team—be greater than they both can bear?
In book 3, the epic Summer of the Burning Sky series comes to a blazing, shocking finale.