Contemporary Romance/Romantic Suspense INSPYs Finalists ~ 5 Mini Reviews

Bravo to ALL of the shortlisted “finalist” contenders in the 2018 INSPY awards! I was privileged to be a judge this year for the contemporary romance/romantic suspense category. All 5 of the titles are amazing stories I enjoyed reading — whether a reread or experiencing the stories for the first time.

 

Congratulations to Becky Wade and her novel, True to You, which won in this category for 2018! You can find the whole list of winners in 7 categories on the INSPYs website.

I’m including mini reviews of these excellent stories below– the reasons you should add them to your TBR if you haven’t already! (Click the book titles to visit their Goodreads pages.) Basically, I’m just happy I’m free to gush over the amazingness of this list now!

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True to You by Becky Wade

Nora is delightfully quirky and bookish. John is steadfast and does “Navy SEAL-type stuff”. Beneath the humor and heart of the story is an AMAZING journey of finding identity in Christ and trusting a greater plan than we can imagine. And oh, the EMOTIONS and family and romance of this story! It just makes me happy.

 

 

20180628_152246.jpgThen There Was You by Kara Isaac

I finished this with a grin on my face! Seriously one of the funniest books I’ve read! But oh, what an emotional journey that just punched me in the gut when I learned the past that shaped both Josh and Paige’s hearts. Healing, LIVING, grace. Music, drop bears, clumsiness and chemistry. Raw faith lived out by so many of the characters. A cultural experience, too! I want to visit Sydney now.

 

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Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge

Sisters. Friendship. HOPE. Dreams and how they shift or surprise. Quiet, steady, selfless love. The interconnnectedness of life and relationships. TEA. The influence of Austen’s story is obvious yet subtle, a perfect balance worked out by Hillary to give old circumstances and tropes fresh meaning and heart.

 

 

20180628_211854.jpgJust Look Up by Courtney Walsh

GRACE, choosing forgiveness, realizing the blessings in front of you. Accepting someone for who they are. Humor. Brooks’ unashamed pursuit of Lane. Lane’s growth and forgiveness. Embracing home. Cottages! Don’t get so caught up in minor details that you miss out on relationship opportunities — especially those with your family.

 

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A New Shade of Summer by Nicole Deese

An emotional, colorful drama. Everyone has baggage…. but wow, what you choose to do with it, how you react, cope, or deny it affects everyone around you.  I loved the art element. And the tiny house! Davis and Callie <3… they were each just what the other needed, to see the gift of a son and move beyond grief, to see the worth and joy of life and move beyond pain and feelings of worthlessness or abandonment.

 

Have you read any of these books? What are some of your favorite contemporary romances?

 

 

 

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Top Ten Tuesday: Top 13 New-to-Me Authors I Read in 2017

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

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

This week’s official Top Ten Tuesday topic is Top Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read In 2017I’m listing 13 instead, *just* because I can. And, because each of these authors deserve a spot on my list.

Some of these authors have been around a while and I just discovered/read them in 2017. And, some are delightfully new to the world of “official” inspirational fiction. After each author, you can visit my review for their book(s) and see what I have next to read from them on my actual shelves!

Top Ten Tuesday New to Me Authors

Top 13 New-to-Me Authors I Read in 2017

Mikal Dawn

Count Me In

Upcoming: Emerald City Romance book 2!

Bethany Turner

The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck

V. Joy Palmer

Love, Lace, and Minor Alterations

Jocelyn Green

The Mark of the King, novella in The Message in a Bottle Romance Collection

Upcoming: A Refuge Assured

Kate Breslin

High as the Heavens

Backlist TBR titles: Not By Sight

Courtney Walsh

Paper Hearts, Just Look Up, Hometown Girl, novella in Right Where We Belong compilation

Upcoming: Just Let Go

Krista Phillips

The Engagement Plot

Jennifer Rodewald

Reclaimed, Ordinary Snowflakes, The Uncloaked (review coming soon)

Currently reading: Tearing the Veil, then Charging the Darkness

Upcoming: The Cupcake Dilemma novella

Katie Ganshert

Life After

Upcoming: No One Ever Asked

Backlist TBR titles: Wishing on Willows, A Broken Kind of Beautiful

Becky Wade

Then Came You novella, True to You

Upcoming: Falling for You

Sara Ella

Unblemished, Unraveling

Upcoming: Unbreakable

Sarah Monzon

The Esther Paradigm

Backlist TBR titles: Finders Keepers, The Isaac Project

Nicole Deese

A Cliché Christmas

Backlist TBR titles (soon!): A Season to Love, A New Shade of Summer

 

Update: honorable mentions go to those authors I somehow missed! Karen Barnett, Meghan M. Gorecki, and Roseanna M. White.

 

That’s it for today! Did you participate in this week’s TTT? Do you see any of your favorite authors on this list? 

Review: “A Cliché Christmas” by Nicole Deese


Though Christmas is already past, this is still the time of year to enjoy reading festive stories. One I just finished — and was quite blown away by — was A Cliché Christmas by Nicole Deese. I had the privilege of interviewing Nicole earlier this year, but I had not previously read a story of hers until now. That will be remedied in the near future. Before I made it half way through this story, I added the next 2 books in the “Love in Lenox” series to my virtual shelf! 2018 TBR, here I come!

About the Book

A Cliche ChristmasWriting happy endings is easy. Living one is the hard part.

Georgia Cole—known in Hollywood as the “Holiday Goddess”—has made a name for herself writing heartwarming screenplays chock-full of Christmas clichés, but she has yet to experience the true magic of the season. So, when her eccentric grandmother volunteers her to direct a pageant at Georgia’s hometown community theater, she is less than thrilled. To make matters worse, she’ll be working alongside Weston James, her childhood crush and the one man she has tried desperately to forget.

Now, facing memories of a lonely childhood and the humiliation of her last onstage performance, seven years earlier, Georgia is on the verge of a complete mistletoe meltdown. As Weston attempts to thaw the frozen walls around her heart, Georgia endeavors to let go of her fears and give love a second chance. If she does, will she finally believe that Christmas can be more than a cliché? 

Amazon | Goodreads

Review

Don’t let the title fool you. Yes, this book includes a few clichés, but it is unexpectedly deeper. It is a beautiful story of belonging with characters that have great dimension. And oh, the chemistry!!!! It reminds me of the spark-filled romance dynamic Kristen Heitzmann accomplishes, which is a top-notch compliment.

Weston and Georgia’s shared childhood memories and history work to strengthen their characters and solidify the constant pull between them. Add to that a building anticipation of something that the reader knows will test their newfound banter and friendship, and we have the makings of a sturdy story with a few surprises.

From laugh out loud moments, swoony interludes in the snow, to emotionally touching (especially when little Savannah is involved) and meaningful conversations, A Cliché Christmas is anything but commonplace and predictable. It is a story of forgiveness as much as it is of trusting the unconditional things in life; like the support of family, professed love, and the best unconditional gift given at Christmas: the love of a newborn Savior.

 

Author Interview & GIVEAWAY: A New Shade of Summer by Nicole Deese

Happy Wednesday! Today I’m welcoming author Nicole Deese in celebration of her new release, A New Shade of Summer, complete with an interview and GIVEAWAY!!

About the Book

A New Shade of SummerAs an artist, Callie Quinn relies on inspiration to guide her wandering soul. This summer she accepts a short-term muralist job in her sister’s charming town to spend some much-needed time with her family. After meeting her nephew’s friend, Brandon, she’s eager to draw out his untapped artistic talents—however, it’s the boy’s straitlaced single father who could use a little color in his life.

Davis Carter may be the town’s favorite animal whisperer, but his experience is limited when it comes to understanding his preteen’s rebellious behavior. Desperate for a breakthrough, he follows the lead of a free spirit who claims to know the way into his son’s closed-off world. Soon, Davis isn’t the only one caught up in the hope of a new beginning.

Just as Callie considers trading her unattached existence for a life rich with promise and permanence, an unexpected visit from the past threatens to send her packing once again. Davis and Callie must learn to surrender their fears so they can find a love that will outlast the summer.

Amazon | Goodreads

Interview with the Author

First off, congratulations on your new release! A New Shade of Summer is moving its way up my own TBR with each new tidbit and happy review.

What inspired you to write A New Shade of Summer?

It was actually a who that inspired me–not a what this time around. I have a dear friend who has been in my life since my high school youth group days. She’s the most free-spirited, creative, artsy person I know and she is truly a joy to everyone around her. When I started to contemplate my hero, Davis Carter, (who is a secondary character in A Season To Love–book two) I knew he needed someone much like my friend to loosen him up a bit and to allow him to see the world, and relationships, in a different light. The connection of Callie Quinn to Davis Carter has been one of my favorites to write.

What message or theme do you want to communicate to readers with this story?

As I wrote this book, and particularly as I wrote in Callie’s point of view, I was struck time and time again by how the words spoken over us as children can have a significant impact on our identities. Even though Callie is a free-spirit who dances to her own drum beat, she’s lived under an umbrella of lies spoken over her by a trusted loved one. Part of her journey is to confront her current belief system and compare it to Truth. She craves freedom, yet her mind and spirit are bogged down by all the muck from her past. I can relate to this struggle because past lies are just so darn sneaky! It’s so important to examine our thoughts about ourselves and compare them to God’s thoughts about us. I promise you…. He will win that comparison game every time.

What was most challenging about writing a story set in Lenox? A New Shade of Summer is your third book in this setting.

I really enjoy writing in the small-town of Lenox, Oregon because it’s become such a familiar place to me, but I think that’s also the challenge. I never want the town to get soooo familiar to the reader that it becomes dull or boring. In A New Shade of Summer my characters discover a few new places to visit in order to keep Lenox feeling fresh and exciting (hopefully–Ha!).

Which character was your favorite to write?

Callie! Don’t get me wrong, I loved writing Davis, too, but Callie was such a fun new perspective for me to explore. I loved being on the page with her!

Just for fun:

Do you have any hobbies?

We recently adopted a six year-old girl from China (just two months ago!) so most of my free time is spent playing with dolls, having tea parties, and hanging up one pink outfit after another in a ridiculously full closet. After having two boys in our house for the last twelve years… this has been quite the change in our family! Haha. But I truly love having a daughter!

A new family member TOTALLY counts as a hobby 😉 ! Congratulations!

If you could live in any other time period in history, which would it be and why?

Um… I hope I don’t offend any historical buffs out there… but I was made for the here and now. I like my modern conveniences (i.e. toilet paper, hot tubs, take-n-bake pizza, Netflix…etc.) and I’m a big fan of yoga pants. I’m pretty sure I’d be thrown out on the streets if I were to show up during the Regency era sporting my yoga wear and messy bun.

What are you currently reading?

I’m just about to start Many Sparrows by Lori Benton. I’ve heard wonderful things about this book!

Thank you so much, Nicole, for spending some time here today!

About the AuthorNicole Deese

Nicole Deese is a full-time lover of humorous, heartfelt, and hope-filled fiction. She is the author of seven inspirational romances including the “Love in Lenox” novels, A Cliché Christmas and A Season to Love, and The Promise of Rayne. When she’s not writing, she can usually be found reading near a window while sipping a LaCroix. She lives in small-town Idaho with her handsome hubby, two sons, and one daughter.

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Giveaway

Now, on to the giveaway fine print! Giveaway is for one (1) copy of A New Shade of SummerU.S addresses only, please. Giveaway is open 1 week until 9/20/17, 11:59 pm. CT. Thank you to Nicole and Relz Author Support Services for the giveaway copy.

To enter, comment with a valid email address. Let’s talk books! Have you read any of Nicole’s novels? This series is set in a small town. Do you have a favorite small-town setting? What are you currently reading?