Review: “Christmas at Gate 18” Novella by Amy Matayo

You might be saying to yourself “What? Courtney is already talking about Christmas and Christmas novellas???”. Yes. Yes, I am, because Christmas fun starts early and any time is a good time for an Amy Matayo story. This novella happens to be a non-typical Christmas story —- sure, it’s set during Christmas and has the requisite gift exchange, mistletoe, and talk of Christmas traditions, but conventional stops there. As a matter of fact, the gift exchange doesn’t even involve pretty wrappings. 😉

About the Book

Supermodel Rory Gray just wants to go home. After wrapping up a three-day high-fashion photo shoot overseas, she’s exhausted and ready for the holiday. A holiday that involves Hollywood parties, air-kissing the industry elite, and a whole lot of fakeness…but whatever. Once she gets through that torture, she’ll head to her beloved Seattle and the life of anonymity she misses so much. In less than twenty-four hours, she’ll be there. 

Christmas at Gate 18Colt Ross has spent the past six months detaching himself from the Hollywood world he grew up in, and home is the last place he wants to be. But he’s been called back by his overbearing father for reasons he can only imagine. Likely reasons that involve taking over the family corporation or fund raising among Hollywood elite—something Colt has no interest in being part of. Not that he has a choice; when you’re the son of an industry executive, rubbing elbows comes with the territory. In less than twenty-four hours he’ll be home. After all this time away, home no longer appeals to him. Especially not at Christmas. Leave it to his father to ruin a holiday. 

But when a late-season hurricane grounds both of their flights in the Dominican Republic, Rory and Colt find themselves stuck at the airport far longer than anticipated. As weather conditions worsen, they both begin to realize that this Christmas will be spent with strangers packed inside a single airport terminal—specifically at gate 18. 

Rory and Colt are faced with a choice: band together in their misery or make this Christmas one they will never forget. For two people who aren’t real fond of the holiday, this Christmas might turn out to be the best they’ve ever had. 

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

If you’re looking for Christmas carols and hot apple cider, keep going. This story is not your typical gather-round-the-nativity with family and friends occasion, but it IS about relationships and wanting to know people for who they are and celebrating in unconventional ways. This is not your typical Christmas time story in the BEST way.

FB_IMG_1508799477051.jpgChristmas at Gate 18 has all the elements I’ve come to expect (and appreciate) from an Amy Matayo story: riveting character development, sarcastic and snarky humor, breath-stealing kisses (when they finally happen), and unexpected situations or people. The humor, in particular, is an added bonus. I love how Amy includes hilariously normal things like “Duck, Duck, Goose” or soft drink “suicides” and the need for a toothbrush to set a lighter tone while dealing with serious underlying issues. This story challenges boundaries of all kinds, with the storyline, flirtatious content, and raw hearts of the characters (especially when it comes to preconceptions vs. seeing and appreciating the heart.)

It would be appropriate to say Amy Matayo flirts with traditional boundaries when it comes to mild innuendos and actual boy-girl flirting. While the interaction between Colt and Rory never breaches the boundaries of propriety (except for that one short stay in a questionable motel HA! Trust me, it’s hilarious and sweet at the same time.), it still might challenge the comfort levels of the reader (or, at least it did for me and my normal inspirational-fiction comfort zone).

But, I think this is Amy’s intent in more than one way. To challenge boundaries. To delve deeper into the hearts of the characters with all of their insecurities, bagggage, and derailed dreams. To see beyond the surface (as a rich guy and professional model metaphorically represent all things superficial) and into the heart of who a person is and choosing to care about them, to accept their flaws, making them a better person in turn. This nearly-secular niche between messed up and redeemed characters is Amy’s sweet spot. Christmas at Gate 18 is a must-read if you’re looking for a story that challenges convention and makes you appreciate your own treasured family traditions during the Christmas season.

Thank you to the author and Relz Author Support Services for the opportunity to review a copy of this book. This is my honest review.

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Review + Blog Tour & Giveaway: The Long Shadows of Summer by Robin E. Mason

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Welcome to my stop on the SLB tour for The Long Shadows of Summer by Robin E. Mason!

About the Book

the-long-shadows-of-summer_1_origSeries: Seasons
Genre:  
Historical
Publisher: Bird’s Nest Books
Publication date: August 31, 2017

​The southern town of Saisons lies at the crossroads between North and South, progressive and genteel antebellum life. Between East and West, between history and heritage, and new frontiers. Downton Abbey meets Gone With the Wind.

It’s 1912, in a world where slavery is dying and women’s rights are rising, and four young women who once shared a bond—and experienced a tragedy—question their own truths.

Mercedes has always been an avid reader and devours each new Sherlock Holmes mystery as soon as she gets her hands on them. When one of her friends comes to her, Mercedes vows to keep Simone’s secrets and uncover the truth.

But as Mercedes plays detective to her friends’ questions, she discovers something far more shocking—she herself is not who she thought she was.

Review

The picture of southern society and classes in 1912 is well presented and contrasted among the families and immersive setting of this story. Mercedes was a likable character, balancing the duties of her role as faithful housekeeper with that of her anchoring an unlikely class-transcending friend group. The mystery and interweaving childhoods of both society maidens and “downstairs” staff was an interesting plot, but I felt it could have been more suspensefully presented. Sometimes the plot would lose momentum because of the descriptive scenes and daily routine of Mercedes. There was a family mystery, though, that presented itself in the latter half of the story that had me rooting for Mercedes and happy to see her realize how she could use her life as an encouragement and catalyst for change in her own community.

Thank you to the author and SLB Tours for providing the review copy of this book. This is my honest review.

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​“I need your help, Mercedes.” Her long gloved fingers toyed with the watch.

“Does it still work?” She looked at me. “The watch. Does it work?”

“It does, yes.” A smile curved her lips as a memory crossed her face.

Monsieur Fontaine had visited Saisons House but rarely. He had business dealings with Monsieur Dubois, and they were never pleasant. The household staff, indeed the whole house seemed to hold a collective breath when the man was near.

All except us girls. We all found it quite intriguing. I was an avid reader, and most enamored of detective stories, and Scarlett and Simone liked me to tell what I had read. Our childish imaginations took fanciful flight, and we spun our own stories from the intrigues of the house. Pearl, of course, was bored with our game, preferring the more dainty activities, but she joined in as our damsel in distress.

We had a great many adventures, roaming the house and the property, and imagined secret passages and underground dungeons. That was quite impossible, living at the edge of the swamp as we did, but we neither knew nor cared.

Simone was at her leisure in the house, even in her papá’s study, unless he or her grand-père were in there. We thought ourselves great stealthy spies, hiding behind the dark blue velvet drapes. Many was the discussion we overhead, none of which we understood. But we took grown up words, and made up our own significance to them, weaving fantastic tales of murder and intrigue and high crimes.

On one such occasion, we were sprawled on the leather couches, mimicking what we had observed as the men smoked their cigars and pipes. We were tossing about the language they often spoke, mostly weather and crops and trading.

We heard angry voices in the hallway, and heavy footsteps coming toward the study.

One of the voices was Monsieur Fontaine.

Scarlett panicked, and I feared she would wet herself. Simone and Pearl both made themselves scarce, disappearing in the best spot behind the drapes in the corner. A large potted fern stood in front of them.

I drew Scarlett with me, hiding behind the drapes in the opposite corner behind the settee. Not as discreet, but we had no choice.

“I saw your girl in my house.” Monsieur Fontaine slammed his fist onto the desk. “And now my watch is missing. Mon père gave me that watch, and his pèrebefore him. And now it’s missing.”

“Adrién—” Simone’s père began.

“I demand you fetch your girl this minute.” Monsieur Fontaine cut him off. “I shall interrogate her and she will tell me where my watch is.”

“You will do no such thing.” Monsieur Dubois rarely lost his temper. But Monsieur Fontaine always brought out the worst in even the best man. “I shall ask my daughter if she knows of your watch. And if she does, then she will tell me where it is, and I, sir, shall discipline my daughter as I see fit. You will have nothing to do with her.”

Scarlett was shaking quite violently at this juncture, and I quietly drew my hand over her mouth. What had the man done to her, for her to be so frightened in his presence? I truly did not want to know; I feared what the answer might have been.

I held her close, stroking her hair with my hand. I could not whisper to ease her discomfort, as I feared even my whispers would carry, and our position would surely be discovered.

The men argued for some time, Monsieur Dubois standing his ground, and Monsieur Fontaine growing angrier by the second. I was sure, if I were to peek, his face would have been as red as a beet with steam spewing from his ears.

Presently, the horrid man left, and Monsieur Dubois sank into his chair with a loud sigh. He rummaged through his desk drawer and soon the smell of black cherry tobacco filled the room.

Simone was brilliant sometimes, and now was one of those moments. She took advantage of being in her father’s periphery, and crept her way along the wall behind the drapes. There were windows all along the northern wall, with a set of doors in the center.

She made her way to the doors and—she told us later—peered out to be sure her père was not looking, opened the doors and stood there as if she were just coming in from outside. We all took our cue from her, and chattered nervously, asking Monsieur Dubois of his day.

“Oh, Père.” She rushed to him, and hugged him tight. “I can see you’ve had an awful day. Can I pour you a brandy?”

Monsieur Dubois laughed at this, knowing she was imitating her mother’s gestures. He declined the brandy, but stood and spun her around, Simone’s feet swinging out. She giggled, and we all breathed a collective sigh of relief.

The watch was never recovered.

About the Author

“I’ve always had voices—er, stories in my head. I once said I should write them all down so someone could write them someday. I had no idea at the time that someone was me!”
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Ms. Mason has been writing since 1995, and began working in earnest on her debut novel, Tessa, in 2013.  Meanwhile, she cranked out a few dozen poems, made countless notes for story ideas, and earned her BFA in Interior Design.  Ms. Mason lived with depression for many years, and the inherent feelings of worthlessness and invisibility; she didn’t want to be who she was and struggled with her own identity for many years.  Her characters face many of these same demons.Ms. Mason writes stories of identity conflict. Her characters encounter situations that force the question, “Who am I really?” For all who have ever wondered who you are or why you’re here, her stories will touch you in a very real—maybe too real—and a very deep way. “I know, I write from experience.”

Ms. Mason has three novels previously published in the unsavory heritage series. Tessa, Clara Bess, and Cissy are available on Amazon, both for Kindle and in print. She also has several poems included in an anthology, Where Dreams and Visions Live (Anthologies of the Heart Book 1) by Mary Blowers, as well as a short story, Sarafina’s Light, also in an anthology, Blood Moon, compiled by Mary Blowers. She is currently working on The Tilting Leaves of Autumn, Book Two in her new series, Seasons. It releases in November, following The Long Shadows of Summer which releases in August. Books 3 and 4 in the series will be out in 2018.

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Mini Review: “Count Me In” by Mikal Dawn

Welcome to my mini review for Count Me In by Mikal Dawn, her writing debut AND the first book in the indie-released “Emerald City Romance” series. I anticipate that it’s the first of many wonderful stories to come from Mikal.

About the Book

Count Me INAllegra Spencer has been living a careful life. Her safe job as an accountant is bookended by going to church and the gym. Okay, sometimes the gym. Fine. She goes to church. And the coffee shop. She avoids risk at all cost, preferring to stay safe in her cozy condo. Until her accounting firm goes belly up and she’s out of a job. 

Tyler Hawk had a glorious career as a star NFL tight end. He retired on a high note and now lives a second dream of owning his own business and leading others on extreme outdoor adventures. But he needs help19
with his books—and his heart. When Allegra takes the job, sparks fly. 

It’s a case of safety zone versus danger zone, and in their minds, never the two shall meet.

 

Review

Count Me In is a rom-com with adventure and heart. It is delightfully funny and sweet. I loved the banter, attraction, and dynamic between Tyler and Allegra. The sense of humor in this novel is unique to its author (Mikal 🙂 ), complete with a vocabulary and obsession with caffeine that’s enchanting and candid. But it’s the heart-story underneath that whispers of fears and motives and dreams that truly makes Allegra and Tyler memorable. Their journey to love and “letting go” is full of humorous (and clumsy) moments, real-life adventures (I might want to go paragliding now), and real-world struggles as they finally come to terms with the joy God has in store for them on the most unexpected path.

For fans of: Melissa Tagg, Pepper Basham’s rom-coms, and Susan May Warren’s adrenaline-filled adventures.

 

Mini Review: I’ll Be There by Susan May Warren

Ok, you all who know my love for everything Susan May Warren won’t be surprised to see this little review! I could’t pass up sharing my brief thoughts on her latest indie novella, I’ll Be There, that brings together some of my favorite characters from different series. (Conner and Liza from the Montana Fire series + familiar faces from Deep Haven, including some of the Christiansens!)

I'll Be ThereAbout the book: From a USA Today bestselling and RITA-award winning author, a novel uniting two beloved series:

Smokejumper Conner Young can’t wait to marry the woman who’s stood by him for three years as he fought fires in the forests of the northwest. The only wound in the weekend is the lack of his best man–a brother whose murder is still unsolved. It’s unfinished business that haunts him, keeping him from truly moving on.

Liza Beaumont, long time Deep Haven artist is a survivor of a brutal grizzly attack. Struggling with nightmares, she’s not sure she’s ready to join Conner’s world. He’s a hero, yes, but his life is rife with danger and stress and frankly she’s not sure she has the courage to be the wife of a man who may not come home again.

When Liza’s wedding invitation unearths a witness in his brother’s murder, Conner’s hope of solving the case is reignited. Suddenly, it’s a choice between showing up to help Liza knit together their perfect day–or tracking down his brother’s killer. But when his investigation finds its way to Deep Haven, and Liza’s life is threatened, there may not be a wedding at all.

What happens when the smokejumpers from Montana Fire come to Deep Haven? Sparks, fire and hopefully…a happy ending.

This novella holds everything I love about a Susan May Warren story:

  • complex and emotionally dynamic characters
  • a fast-moving storyline
    • this time, lots of adrenaline-fueled action! I was pleasant surprised to find it such a page-turner.
  • deep faith threads and a message of grace
    • Susan’s not afraid to tackle big subjects in a short amount of time — in this case, fear and the subsequent peace that comes with trusting God
  • and last, but not least……. romance (with plenty of tasteful spark)
    • You might need a fire extinguisher for the kisses (fire puns, ha!)

Conner and Liza were my fave couple from the Montana Fire series. I’m so happy their journey was continued with sweet moments of coming home, new depths, and lessons in faith.