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!

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First Line Fridays # 20: “The Cost of Betrayal” Novella Collection

It’s time for a new edition of First Line Fridays hosted by the Hoarding Books blog!

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Happy weekend! Today’s First Line Friday feature is an almost-released (new as of next Tuesday) novella collection by three well-known authors: The Cost of Betrayal romantic suspense novella collection by Dee Henderson, Dani Pettrey, and Lynette Eason. This is a TBR title for me, one I think I will enjoy because I’m a fan of Dani and Lynette. I don’t think I’ve read anything be Dee just yet, but her books are highly read in the genre. Read on to see THREE first lines and share yours in the comments!

The Cost of Betrayal

First Lines:

Betrayal by Dee Henderson

Ann Falcon eased toward the front of the crowd.

Deadly Isle by Dani Pettrey

He waited, lurking against the buoy’s cold, rusty body, awaiting her.

Code of Ethics by Lynette Eason

“Get him to surgery, ASAP! OR number four.”

 

Your turn! Find the book closest to you and share your first line in the comments! Then, head over to Hoarding Books for the linky and visit other FLF posts!

Cover Fun: “Timeless Love” Novella Collection

Timeless Love Novella Collection

Today I get to talk about an upcoming novella collection I’m very excited about! It features 7 different novellas spanning from the Regency Era to a contemporary setting — not to mention 2 of my favorite authors: Pepper Basham and Dawn Crandall.

Timeless Love is available for preorder today (for $.99!) and releases June 19th. It will be available for a limited time in the collection, then each novella will be released on its own. Because of this setup, there are SEVEN gorgeous covers for each of the novellas!

Learn more about Pepper Basham’s novella on her blog.

Learn more about Dawn Crandall’s novella & enter a giveaway on her site.

Amazon Preorder | Goodreads

Regency Era
Give Me Thine Heart
by Andrea Boeshaar
1812: England

Early Victorian Era
The Freedom Journey
by Misty Beller
1833: Colorado

Civil War Era
The Heart of Home
by Stephenia H. McGee
A companion novel to In His Eyes
1865: Mississippi

The Gilded Age
Enchanting Nicholette
by Dawn Crandall
An Everstone Chronicles Novella
1893: Back Bay, Boston, Massachusetts

Western
Teach Me to Love
by Kari Trumbo
A Brothers of Belle Fourche Novella
1899: Belle Fourche, South Dakota

WWII Era
Facade
by Pepper Basham
1942: England

Contemporary
Bookishly Ever After
by Sarah Monzon
Current Day: Seattle, Washington

First Line Fridays # 12🍀: “The Distant Tide” (Special St. Patrick’s Day Edition)

It’s time for a new edition of First Line Fridays hosted by the Hoarding Books blog!20171006_010334.jpg

Welcome to the special St. Patrick’s Day edition of First Line Friday! In honor of all things Irish, we’re sharing lines from stories related to that culture and heritage. I’ve chosen the first line from The Distant Tide by Heather Day Gilbert, the first novella in The Message in a Bottle Romance Collection. The collection begins in medieval Ireland and traverses water and land to end in Industrial era California. I ❤ it!

Collection book cover

First Line:

Ciar’s Kingdom, Ireland

1170 AD

The skies were as unsettled as her own future. Swirling mountain breezes billowed through Britta’s narrow castle window, carrying with them the unmistakable tang of a storm.

Your turn! Find the book closest to you and share your first line in the comments! The, head over to Hoarding Books for the linky and visit other FLF posts!

Review: “Enchanted: A Christmas Collection” by Melissa Tagg

As you regular blog readers might realize, any time Melissa Tagg releases a story, I HAVE to read it. As a wonderful treat the past 3 years, Melissa has released a Christmas novella series featuring a little family from (you guessed it) “Maple Valley”. This year the final story in the collection is out, One Enchanted Noël, AND the whole collection is available in a gorgeous paperback format! Today, I’ve compiled my past reviews plus my thoughts on this latest release.

Enchanted A Christmas Collection

A Collection of Heartwarming, Small-Town Holiday Romances 

One Enchanted Christmas

Goodreads | Amazon

Last December, author Maren Grant went on a magical date with her book’s cover model–Colin Renwycke. Fast forward one year. With a looming deadline, Maren is desperate to recapture her creative spark. Then she remembers Colin’s invitation to visit his family’s Iowa farm…

Drew Renwycke never planned to move home and take over the farm. But he’s spent too many years watching his siblings unravel–including Colin. When Maren lands on his doorstep, he realizes she may be the key to coaxing his brother home.

(originally published as a standalone in 2015)

One Enchanted Eve

Goodreads | Amazon

As a Denver Culinary Institute student, Colin Renwyke is out to embark on a new career as a pastry chef. But despite his skills in the kitchen, he’s a mess in the classroom and his ongoing disasters are proving too much for his prickly instructor. If he loses his spot at the school, he’s out of backup plans.

Culinary school instructor Rylan Jefferson has the chance to reclaim her dream of running her own bakery. But she only has until Christmas Eve to come up with the perfect recipe to impress an eccentric investor. She has no time for holiday parties or family plans . . . and especially not for her unruliest student baker.

But Colin has the one ingredient Rylan needs most–talent. Lots of it. And when he makes a proposal that just might solve both their problems, Rylan can’t say no.

(originally published as a standalone in 2016)

One Enchanted Noël

Goodreads | Amazon

When Seb Pierce agreed to work for his wealthy grandfather for one year–in return for an early draw on his inheritance–he never expected the agreement to land him in a quirky small town in Iowa at Christmas-time, renovating a dilapidated theater…and running into a woman he never thought he’d see again.

Although she’s finally settled in her hometown, Leigh Renwycke can’t shake the familiar restlessness that used to get her into trouble. When Seb Pierce waltzes into her world and begs for her help planning the theater’s holiday reopening, it might be enough to jumpstart a new career…and to prove once and for all that the new-and-improved Leigh is here to stay. Until old secrets and new sparks get in the way…

(brand new in 2017!)

Find the collection edition on Goodreads | Amazon

Review

One Enchanted Christmas by Melissa Tagg, mini reviewOne Enchanted Christmas

Melissa just makes me smile with her clever prose, the normalcy of her characters, and the laugh-out-loud situations her characters find themselves in. I literally laughed while reading this one!

Case in point: check out this line concerning the fashionable-yet-not-warm-for-snow attire of our main character, Maren. “But a girl didn’t meet a man who might be the love of her life dressed like an Eskimo”- chapter 1. That ought to make you smile!

Besides the heartwarming characters and storyline, one other unique element to this novella was the use of a “narrator”. The narrator set up the story and added a few little side commentary moments which were so clever! And, something new-to-me in fiction. This device allows the story to move faster and still flow, filling in necessary details without cheating on story, and revealing the true feelings of Drew and Maren like an all-knowing outside perspective.

If you’re looking for a quick, sweet, and touching read that’s perfect for the Christmas season, look no further One Enchanted Christmas! And did I mention it’s an independently-published endeavor by Melissa herself? Go support her spunk today.

One Enchanted Eveone-enchanted-eve

This novella proves there is always more to the story behind the seemingly antihero of the previous story, illustrating everyone has a journey and has trials. I love revisiting Maple Valley, especially the Renwyckes for Christmas. This is a must-read Christmas novella! The combo of drama, humor, and family is just perfect. And I can’t forget to mention the bonding that happens between Collin and Rylan over pastry and the flirting with recipe cards = swoon! In true “Tagg” style, this story is at once nostalgic and insightful, drawing out an emotional depth and realness from its characters, taking us home for Christmas and to blessings in unexpected little things.

One Enchanted NoelOne Enchanted Noël

Just when I think I couldn’t love Melissa Tagg’s storytelling more, she goes and does something surprising like this and writes two new, compelling lead characters – one of which is a COWBOY! A gentleman complete with a Texas drawl and plaid shirts, even if he does originally hale from California. I can’t see his name in print without pronouncing it in my head just like Leigh always calls him: Sebastian Parker Pierce III. He’s a catch! 🙂

And then there’s Leigh. The last of the Renwycke siblings to befriend. My heart just wants to hug her and tell her she is loved for who she IS and who she is daily choosing to BE. Thankfully, a host of family and a few friends, most notably Seb and his knowing care, encourage her along the way. She learns an important lesson of dreaming and reaching and trusting God to have insanely awesome plans for her life.

My movie-nerd self LOVED the fact that Sebastian is renovating a MOVIE THEATER!!! Speaking from personal experience in that setting, Melissa got her facts very straight except for one teeny, tiny detail that is totally forgivable for the sake of artistic license and the resulting cute scene 😉 . I could virtually hear the projectors whirring and smell the popcorn as I read.

One Enchanted Noël has the signature humor and pop culture I’ve come to expect from Melissa, set in the “enchanting” world of Maple Valley with its quirkiness. Among many other things, I LOVED getting to see the humor of Mayor Milt again and a “peek behind the curtain” of his attitude in one little scene. But at the heart of it all is a message of hope and dreams within grasp, of supporting family and embracing new beginnings.

Review: Right Where We Belong ~ Novella Collection

If you’re looking for something lighthearted, fun, and sweet to fill your reading time, look no further than the Right Where We Belong novella collection from authors Deborah Raney, Melissa Tagg, and Courtney Walsh. (Yay for another indie-published book!)

Right Where We BelongAbout the collection:

Whether in a quaint home bakery in Langhorne, Missouri, a cozy boho coffee shop in Maple Valley, Iowa, or a charming lakeside cottage in Sweethaven, Michigan,
love grows best in small towns just like this!

Dubbed as “3 small town contemporary novellas”, each of these standalone stories takes place in a fictional town you might recognize from an existing series by each author. While I haven’t read the main series from Deborah or Courtney, I was still enthralled with their respective communities. Melissa Tagg’s, though, I was over the moon to get through because Megan from the Walker Family series FINALLY gets some story time! *happy dance*

Each of these stories were distinct in plot and themes, but all were set in quaint little small towns where happiness is found in daily routine. I loved that. The romances in all of them were sweet and believable.

To start with, Deborah Raney’s novella features a heroine who bakes daily for a living. And she has a cat. I was all over that (because food is life). The meet-cute setup of that story turns out to be one of the funniest I’ve read in a while. And, the subsequent challenge of a long distance relationship is faced head-on by the characters while they weigh the costs of their dreams with the reality in front of them.

Melissa Tagg’s novella was, as expected, adorable, funny, and deep all at once. She always manages to speak to your emotional side until you are wrapped up in whatever conflict the characters’ hearts are in. In this case, a train ride, superglue, and a plethora of houseplants were involved. Oh, and a lesson of acceptance, purpose, and forgiveness.

I expected Courtney’s novella to be humorous and quaint. It was, and more. Leave it to her to spin the feuding “Hatfields and McCoys” into a modern “secret” love story of rivalry, heritage, and redemption. This concept allowed the story to introduce serious questions of reputation and prejudices, and just how much one is willing to believe — or forgive — concerning your neighbors. It wasn’t all seriousness, though, because there was a swoony romance (of the long-time acquaintance variety), a cute little coffee shop, meddling old ladies, and a town time capsule unveiled.

Find the collection on Amazon | Goodreads

 

 

Review & Book Spotlight: “Second Impressions” by Pepper Basham from the Love at First Laugh Novella Collection

This little review features a wonderfully Austen-esque novella, a modern day rom-com set in Bath, England, amid matchmaking schemes, Regency attire, and a historical inn. Second Impressions by Pepper Basham is the first novella in the recently released “Love at First Laugh” collection, further detailed below.

About Second Impressions

Nora Simeon is a Jane Austen nut. After years of putting her dreams on hold, she’s given the opportunity to attend the Jane Austen Festival in Bath, England, but a brooding American businessman threatens to upend her once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Ethan Keller hate his uncle’s sordid penchant for matchmaking. With a string of failed attempts in Ethan’s past, the last thing he needs is another ‘opportunity’ in the person of Nora Simeon, but her country charm brings color to his structured life in the most unexpected ways.

As these two lonely hearts sort through misunderstandings, a conniving assistant, and a homicidal bonnet, will the heart of Jane Austen’s novels inspire their own romance or will their story end in unrequited love?

second-impressionsMy thoughts

Second Impressions is Jane Austen meets rom-com in a modern world. With all the wit and heart of an Austen story, Nora and Ethan are thrown together with a little bit of matchmaking and a lot of personality.

One thing I love about Pepper’s stories is that her characters have a deep sense of normalcy. It shines through in the little habits and comments, like the simplicity of a dream or talking over tea with hand gestures and a butter knife. This authenticity makes them all the more relatable and down-to-earth as you journey with them through a story.

The references and clever parallels to Austen characters will bring a smile to any Austenite’s face. The humor and comedic situations had me giggling more than once — especially where Ethan and Regency attire was concerned. Beneath the lighter side of the characters, though, is a story of heart. Of realizing dreams might just be in reach, of having the faith to believe in them.

Nora and Ethan will work their way into your heart in this little novella. If you’ve never read a Pepper Basham novel (why not!?), this is a perfect place to start to glimpse her style and storytelling. And, if you love all things Austen, this book will have you swooning and wanting to dance a cotillion!

For more behind-the-scenes on this novella and LOCATION photos from Bath, England, visit Pepper’s “Book Journeys” blog posts Bath, UK Part 1 and Bath, UK Part 2.

Thank you to the author/publisher for the complimentary review copy of this collection. This is my honest review.

About the collection

Love at First LaughDive into eight brand new contemporary Christian romantic comedies from some of your favorite inspirational authors.

From light-hearted romance to laugh-out-loud love, this set will put a smile on your face and keep you reading long into the night.

Second Impressions by award-winning author Pepper Basham
He likes streamline. She prefers embellishments. His forte is business. Hers is atmosphere. Will they realize each has what the other needs most to create the perfect romance with a touch of Jane Austin flair?

Mowed Over by USA Today bestselling author Christina Coryell
A tiny, chatty fairy artist with multicolored pastel hair. A burly, bearded landscaper who can’t get a word in edgewise. They have nothing in common, but is that enough to keep them apart?

An Informal Affair by award-winning author Heather Gray
She’s tired of waiting for happily-ever-after, so she takes matters into her own hands…with online dating. He has the worst bad-date streak ever. How will God show two people who are determined to do things their own way that He’s had a perfect plan all along?

A Heart Restored by Elizabeth Maddrey
She renovates old houses. Can he restore her heart?

Unleashing Love by Jessica R. Patch
She’s a dog walker who agrees to a full-time position caring for a puppy. In total shock, she’s handed a precious baby girl. He’s a construction mogul who’s taken his infant niece into temporary relative placement — keyword: temporary. Unless the sassy southern nanny can change his mind…and his heart.

A (nearly) Normal Nanny by Krista Phillips
Normal is highly overrated…

That’s When I Knew by award-winning author Laurie Tomlinson
When two childhood sweethearts find themselves thrown together on the road to a trade show that could save her career, past mistakes threaten to ruin her chances–and the possibility of rekindling a romance. Will the end of the summer find them apart once again?

A Time to Laugh by USA Today bestselling author Marion Ueckermann
When an unexpected inheritance and a lung disease diagnosis coincide, a missionary couple realizes God is telling them it’s time to retire. But sometimes retirement comes with strings attached. Will their life-long dream be a blessing or a curse?

Add to Goodreads | Amazon