Mini Review: “Not By Sight” by Kate Breslin

I really like it when authors connect stories or characters in more than one standalone book. This allows for more depth of story and sometimes revisiting beloved characters even though books might not be a series. With the recent release of Kate Breslin’s Far Side of the Sea, I knew I wanted to read Not By Sight first because it introduces the Mabry family. Now you know what I’m reading next 🙂

Not By Sight

About the book: With Britain caught up in WWI, Jack Benningham, heir to the Earl of Stonebrooke, has declared himself a conscientious objector. Instead, he secretly works for the Crown by tracking down German spies on British soil, his wild reputation and society status serving as a foolproof cover.

Blinded by patriotism and concern for her brother on the front lines, wealthy suffragette Grace Mabry will do whatever it takes to assist her country’s cause. When she sneaks into a posh London masquerade ball to hand out white feathers of cowardice, she never imagines the chain of events she’ll set off when she hands a feather to Jack. 

And neither of them could anticipate the extent of the danger and betrayal that follows them–or the faith they’ll need to maintain hope.

Goodreads | Amazon

My thoughts: Not By Sight is a layered, enchanting WWI tale of intrigue and patriotism all wrapped up in a love story that touches on the importance of faith and the strength of the truth. I LOVED the Beauty & The Beast elements, which made the story somewhat of a retelling. Jack’s prickly nature and Grace’s fortitude make their growing (unlikely) friendship one that underscores the overarching sacrificial themes of the story. I also liked the role of the secondary characters in showing the importance of encouragement and friendship.

Mini Review: “A Bound Heart” by Laura Frantz

Reading a Laura Frantz book is always an experience, one to be savored with her lyrical prose, genuine characters, and heart-journey of a story. Her latest release, A Bound Heart, is as wonderful and poetic as I expected!

About the book: Though Magnus MacLeish and Lark MacDougall grew up on the same castle grounds, Magnus is now laird of the great house and the Isle of Kerrera. Lark is but the keeper of his bees and the woman he is hoping will provide a tincture that might help his ailing wife conceive and bear him an heir. But when his wife dies suddenly, Magnus and Lark find themselves caught up in a whirlwind of accusations, expelled from their beloved island, and sold as indentured servants across the Atlantic. Yet even when all hope seems dashed against the rocky coastline of the Virginia colony, it may be that in this New World the two of them could make a new beginning—together. 

Goodreads | Amazon

My thoughts: A Bound Heart is an intricately beautiful story of strength, faith, and romance, this sweeping tale stretches from the shores of Scotland to the wild risk and unknowns of Virginia (& beyond) during the height of the tobacco trade. Through it all, Lark and Magnus become increasingly beloved characters as they endeavor cling to their faith, navigate the changing world around them, and puzzle the inexplicable tie that binds them to one another. It was a joy to read this story and feel like a firsthand witness to the quiet strength of Magnus and the intelligent fortitude of Lark, experiencing all the ups and downs of their journeys, from the amusing antics of a wee child to a seafaring voyage full of danger to the wonder of fireflies.

Twelfth Night: Christmas Story Mini Reviews

Yes, it is January. I happily just finished a Christmas story and will be watching all the Hallmark movies from this past Christmas season through the month. I have discovered some new Christmas novellas, some of which have their own blog posts already, over the past weeks. This post, though, is for the few stories I have read and not yet shared about. And since today is considered the “Twelfth Night” (before the feast of Epiphany), I thought it appropriate to share now!

(I don’t observe the 12 days of Christmas or Christmastide schedule, but I do think it’s a fun idea!)

Without further ado, here are the Christmas stories I have enjoyed this year with a few thoughts on each. (Titles link to Goodreads)

Bespoke: A Tiny Christmas Tale (Espoir Archives #1) by Amanda Dykes

This is one short story that I was caught up in… with such lyrical writing and intriguing characters, I was hooked from the first hint of a secret in the prologue. My favorite things about it were the music!, the growth exhibited by the main characters, and the era. I absolutely LOVED that the setting was so immersive… though a definite year is never noted, it is clearly a historical novel and felt timeless because it was never specific (though hinted).

Letters Home: A Christmas Short Story by Rachelle Rea Cobb

This is a sweet and poetic short story in letter form. If you have read the Steadfast Love series, it is a wonderful companion story OR a great prequel that sets up and shows a different perspective on some of the events in that trilogy. I do hope Rachelle has more bookish plans for these characters!

His Mistletoe Miracle (Sugar Creek #3) by Jenny B. Jones

A FUN and hilarious romantic novel that also balanced a meaningful message of growth and even the fallout of a traumatic experience. With plenty of snarky, laugh-out-loud moments, Will and Cordelia navigate their newfound pretend “relationship” through holiday traditions and family gatherings, all the while really getting to know each other and prodding each other toward greater purpose. I hope to catch up on the rest of the “Sugar Creek” stories soon!

The Christmas Heirloom: Four Holiday Novellas of Love Through the Generations

Legacy of Love by Kristi Ann Hunter

Delightful and a nice start to the series, I especially enjoyed seeing the characters learn their worth and find an unexpected connection in this story.

Gift of the Heart by Karen Witemeyer

Though this was a novella, I thought it a well fleshed-out story in a very believable timeline. With Karen’s usual humor and endearing characters, this story takes a hero who would consider himself unlikely and pairs him with a darling little girl and a strong woman who never expected a second chance at love.

A Shot at Love by Sarah Loudin Thomas

I laughed out loud more than once while reading this story. Fleeta’s penchant for outshooting the boys was hilarious and an outward show of her fortitude. I liked Hank as her match, a man who respected her and was equal to the challenge of showing her his care. I really liked the setting of 1950s Appalachia, too.

Because of You by Becky Wade

This novella ties in to Becky’s “Bradford Sisters Romance” series in setting. Besides the fun cameos of familiar characters, this story wonderfully concluded the collection with a friendship-to-romance plot that touched on the nostalgia of the season but focused more on the joy in serving. It also handled themes of grief in a very real and tangible way, having both Leo and Maddie come to terms with honoring the past and choosing joy and good things for the future. It ended with great possibility, not with everything worked out. and I liked that.

Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Christmas Cake Kisses by Lena Goldfinch

This short story is just as sweet as its title implies. I adore the cover and the Victorian setting, and I really liked the time spent with the characters. Arabella and Malcolm learn more about one another and grow closer, even through a misunderstanding. I could have read a whole novel about them!

Mini Review: “Storm Front” by Susan May Warren

The “Montana Rescue” series by Susan May Warren has quickly become one of my favorite contemporary series, especially with the action, adventure, and suspense elements of the stories. The wilderness search-and-rescue elements of each story are fascinating and inspiring (even in a fictional context). I have just binge-read the last two books in the series! That’s something I don’t do very often… wait until the last few books of a series are out so I can read them back to back. It was fun! (Look for my review of the EPIC conclusion, Wait for Me, next week!)

About the book:

Storm Front Cover

A tornado has destroyed a small Minnesota community and among the missing are not only a group of students but PEAK Rescue team leader Chet King. Ty Remington will stop at nothing to rescue his mentor, not even when the girl he loved–and lost–walks back into his life. But Brette needs his help more than he knows, despite her stubborn determination to push him away. And when he gets a second chance, loving her just might cost him more than he can imagine.

A blogger for Vortex Storm Chasers, Brette Arnold didn’t expect her adventures to land her in the same place as Ty, the guy who she walked–no, ran–from over a year ago. She had her reasons–good ones. The kind that tell her that falling for him again would only lead to heartache. But Ty isn’t the kind of man to give up–not on the missing students, or on her.

Life and love hang in the balance in Susan May Warren’s breathless story of holding on to hope during a deadly summer of storms. 

My Thoughts:

I am always amazed with Susan May Warren’s storytelling ability. It’s a feat to pack such heart-pounding action and suspense sequences into 300+ pages along with a broad and complex cast of characters with a real heart-look at 2 or more characters (in this case, the main romance between Ty and Brette and a story that “catches up” with the couple from book 1. I was glad for this update because it’s a reminder that real relationships still have struggles after the “HEA” moments.). Oh, and the spiritual theme of HOPE is abundantly clear and a relevant message. What an emotional journey Ty and Brette take in this story! Ty is one of my favorite heroes of this series. 🙂

Mini Review: “A Heart Revealed” by Josi S. Kilpack

A Heart Revealed is the very first novel of Josi S. Kilpack’s that I have read, but it won’t be my last! I’m thankful that Rachel McMillan reccomended this novel to me as a historical story with a strong voice — one that I would like. (This makes another on my “read” list that Rachel got just right.)

About the book:
Amber Marie Sterlington, the Rage of the Season in Regency-era London, has her pick of men, and she knows what she wants most in a husband: a title and a fortune. Why would she ever marry for something as fickle as love? And why would she ever look twice at Thomas Richards, a third son of a country lord?

But when Amber’s social standing is threatened, the character of her future husband becomes far more important than his position. After a public humiliation, she finds herself exiled to Yorkshire. Alone except for her maid, Amber is faced with a future she never expected in a circumstance far below what she has known all her life. Humbled and lonely, Amber begins to wonder if isolation is for the best. Who could ever love her now?

My thoughts:

I love this book! With a wonderfully unique premise, Kilpack presents a heroine whose growth and change through the story is drastic but still believable. Even when Amber began as not-so-likable, I had empathy for her situation (and even her ignorance), especially as she appears through the hero’s eyes. The romance’s timeline is not what is considered “conventional” for the genre, either, but that is one reason I am impressed with this story even more. The theme of love is carried to a greater degree than just a romance between the hero and heroine and on to that of the acceptance, worth, and the resulting kindness of a person when they are truly loved and known for their character.

Mini Review: “The Matrimonial Advertisement” by Mimi Matthews

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:

The Matrimonial Advertisement.jpgShe 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?

 

My Thoughts:

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.

Mini Review: “As Easy As Riding a Bike” Novella by Bell Renshaw

Sometimes you just need to read a feel-good, charming book….. the latest novella from author Bell Renshaw is just that!!! As Easy As Riding A Bike is the first installment in the “Justin Harbor” novella series, and it introduces a quaint setting and a sweet cast of characters that promise more cute stories to come.

About the Book

Emma Holland is almost finished with the renovation of The Brown Bear Lodge nestled just off the Pacific Coast 101 Highway in picturesque Justin Harbor, Oregon. Being a business owner in a small town isn’t easy, but Emma’s got more than enough determination—not to mention an excellent eye for interior design. There’s only one problem. One of her first guests of the season is someone she hoped she’d never see again.AEARAB Book Cover

As a famous landscape photographer, Connor Pearson has traveled far and wide following his dreams at the cost of losing his first love. Now, back in Justin Harbor, Connor is looking for more than just a place to stay. He’s looking for himself.

As Emma and Connor rediscover their lost friendship and seek to find common ground in the present, Connor feels the tug of his small town roots. Is it possible that a man who’s traveled the world could find his home where his dreams began? Can Emma come to terms with the fact that self-reliance isn’t all it’s cracked up to be? Will their bonds from the past weather the storms of the present?

As Easy As Riding A Bike will introduce you to the salty air and calming waters of Justin Harbor, the first novella in a series featuring small town women business owners.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

As Easy As Riding A Bike is a sweet little romance filled with hope! Emma and Connor are equally endearing and likable. Their story is one of navigating surprises as old dreams resurface and manifest in ways each of them never expected to find again. My favorite aspect of the story has to do with Emma’s family — her mother in particular — and a few little ways her memory was honored by story’s end. This is a short, clean, and delightful read not to be missed!

Thank you to the author for the review copy. This is my honest review.