Welcome to another round of mini reviews! This is a variety post with several different genres represented, along with some Christmas stories! If you’re like me, you just might read Christmas novels and novellas into January (or any time!) because you want that seasonal wonder to last a little bit longer.
Per usual, please visit the Goodreads links in each title to learn more about each book!
False Pretense by Heather Day Gilbert (A Murder in the Mountains 4) | Buckneck, VA, present day | Mystery
This is a page-turning mystery with a great small town setting (Buckneck, VA). With a wide cast of many possible suspects and friendlies, I enjoyed this well-paced, slightly short (in a good way) hometown thriller with a likable protagonist and her clan. A slight supernatural/fantastical element cleverly gives a local legend traction in the story, with the reader wondering about its true nature until the very end.
The Even Odder Couple by Julia Christianson (Apple Valley Love Stories 4) | “Apple Valley”, OR | Rom-Com
This is a sweet contemporary friends-to-lovers/opposites attract romance with a little comedy! I adore Spencer as a beta hero, and I like the way he and Tess (grow to see and support each other deeply. The small town setting PLUS a summer camp make it stand out, and the small moments of the characters’ internal dialogue are hilarious. The plot loses a tiny bit of momentum toward the middle, in my opinion, but the ending holds a few surprises and is cute.
This is the first novel by Julie Christianson I’ve read, and I HAVE to blame her Instagram following for bringing it to my attention + hooking me with teasers. I’m always on the lookout for beta heroes in fiction, and Spencer did not disappoint!
A Texas Christmas Carol by Karen Witemeyer | 1895 London, TX | Historical Romance & Western Novella
Karen Witemeyer has the talent of writing fully-developed characters in a short format with a great balance of levity and emotions. I loved the way a classic tale (Dickens) influences a few details of the story and the concept of a miserly hero whose journey enlightens him to giving and grace. It’s always fun to read a historical-set Christmas story.
Like A Holiday Inn by Lindsay Harrel (Port Willis Romance 4) | “Port Willis”, Cornwall, England | Contemporary Romance Novella
Like A Holiday Inn returns to the quaint “Port Willis” in Cornwall, England for another of Harrel’s sweet Christmas stories. Since this is the 4th novella in the series, familiar readers will recognize the heroine and hero and their respective families (who delightfully show up in the story!).
Rebecca is a prickly, strong lady who learns a bit about what it means to be vulnerable, and really let go and trust in relationships (both romantically and with her fam). Benjamin is the perfect opposite to her personality with his charm, banter, and persistent way he pursues peeling back her layers. His backstory and depth prove to be important in making a connection with Rebecca.
All the charming Christmas things happen in the story, yet Harrel’s writing never makes them feel cliché. From new Christmas traditions, allll the holiday baking, a snowstorm or two, to a memorable power outage, Rebecca and Benjamin’s relationship grows and finds its stride at the Inn.
A Gift in December by Jenny Gladwell | London, England and Nybergsund, Norway | Contemporary Women’s Fiction/Romance
This is a wonderful story of self-discovery with the protagonist, Jane, learning a lot about herself, her mistakes, and the risks worth taking in life to find real love. A historical storyline is sprinkled throughout (mainly through a few letters), not the main focus but integral to Jane’s storyline, showing an act of bravery related to Norwegian events during WWII and the men and women who risked much for their freedom.
This story hit all the right notes of a European-set Christmas tale (although much of it takes place in November 🙂 ) with a press trip to the forests of Norway as a backdrop for Jenny’s new friendships during her rollercoaster of emotions post-breakup. The romance is something I called early on but it was a DELIGHT to see it unfold in a bit of a quiet way. I also like a point Jane’s supportive friend makes toward the end: it’s way more important to like someone than to just have a superficial attraction to them.
Note to my blog readers: this is a gen market book and contains a tiny bit of language + other content.
Thank you to the publishers for the review copies of False Pretense, A Texas Christmas Carol, and Like a Holiday Inn. The reviews express my honest opinions.