Twelfth Night, edition 3: Christmas Story Mini Reviews

Happy Twelfth Night! It has become an informal annual tradition to share an edition of Christmas Story Mini Reviews here on the blog on January 5th, also known as Twelfth Night in the traditional Christmas days celebration. These are Christmas stories and ones with a Christmas/winter tone I read over the holiday season.

First edition of Christmas Story Mini Reviews | Second edition of Christmas Story Mini Reviews

Title links will take you to Goodreads for full book info.

You and Me by Becky Wade (novella, book 2.5 in the Misty River Romance series)

This is a fantastic little story with a friends-to-lovers romance! It checks all the boxes for a Christmas novella: banter, Christmassy activities, hot cocoa, and a sweet friendship at the center with a clever setup. I love and appreciate all the certainty of this romance: the decisiveness of the hero, the confident personality of the heroine, and the way everything unfolds realistically. Also, I loved the glimpses of Becky’s other characters from this series!

A Cross-Country Christmas by Courtney Walsh (novel)

ALL the stars and candy canes for this story! What a fun and funny adventure of a romance, with the emotional heart I expected from a Walsh tale. Highly recommended for second chance romance, romcom, and Christmas lovers alike!

Like A Silver Bell by Lindsay Harrel (Port Willis Romance novella #3)

This is a SWEET romance novella taking readers of Harrel’s past books back to the setting of Cornwall, England with a new couple and story of hope and trust. I particularly loved the steady way the hero supports the heroine throughout, being encouraging and patient when she needs a little space. The meaning behind the title is particularly cute, too.

Christmas Every Day by Beth Moran (novel)

This is a cute story. I loved so much about this: the heroine’s growth, the FRIENDSHIPS and their importance highlighted, the quirky village, the grumpy-and-broody cinnamon roll neighbor, the way Jenny learns to stand on her own feet and become the heroine in her own life, the hilarious antics of the children in the story, the secondary romance that happens within a friend group (and the baking that goes with it). I saw the setup of one of the main plot “surprises” a long time coming but was still hooked and pleased when it was all revealed. While its story takes place over a year’s time, it has several elements associated with Christmas, and it ends fittingly during that season (but it’s not *exactly* a Christmas story in the traditional sense).

This is my first book by Beth Moran, and I’m looking forward to reading more!

Silver Bells and Secrets by Laura Rollins (Twelfth Night novella #1)

This is a delightful Christmas novella! With an idyllic country house setting at Christmas, the hero and heroine take part in Christmassy events like a musicale, yule log hunt, and a romantic sleigh ride. The secret kept for much of the story as a major plot device worked well in this era and situation, making me eager for it to be revealed and the subsequent surprise of the story to impact the heroine. I was happy with the way it unfolded, because that’s usually not my favorite device.

Oh! And the hero is a somewhat socially awkward EARL! AKA a beta hero who’s more comfortable in a one-on-one conversation 🙂 🙂 loved him.

Once Upon a Wardrobe by Patti Callahan (novel)

Once Upon a Wardrobe, in a nutshell, is a love letter to stories and imagination. Through the eyes of Megs and her young brother, George, the reader experiences the magic of a transportive story while analyzing how real life influences story (as in C. S. Lewis’ authoring the world of Narnia), along with the inherent connections stories establish between humanity, history, and faith. This is a novel to savor and reread – one I know I will return to and gain fresh perspective and new joy from upon each reading.

Did you read any Christmas stories this year? Do you read them into January?

Christmas Reads & Reviews (2020)

Welcome to an installment of little Christmas (romance) reviews for 2020! All three of these stories released this year. You can learn more about each book by visiting their Goodreads page (click on the title text).

A Match Made at Christmas by Courtney Walsh, a novella in her Nantucket Love Story series

A Match Made at Christmas combines all I’ve come to expect from a Courtney Walsh story: a charming setting, a chivalrous hero, a strong heroine, layers and depth to the characters, witty humor, and a wonderfully romantic pairing. It’s the perfect, magical Christmas novella to “escape” into this season!

The best-friends-to-more romance is one to root for between Hayes and Pru. After meeting Hayes in If For Any Reason, I was SO glad to hear he was getting a story of his own with this novella! He’s fun and charming, but there’s way more to his character than what is on the surface. I love that about Courtney’s character development, especially here where Hayes and Pru are safe and fully themselves in each other’s presence.

Like a Christmas Dream by Lindsay Harrel, second in her Port Willis novella series

Like a Christmas Dream is a darling Christmas novella (with an adorable cover)! Lindsay Harrel’s stories always have “girl squad” dynamics– this one explores the connection and reconciliation between sisters. The timeline is depicted in a realistic way, with just chemistry with the romance and the support of friendship established in the short format.

I really love the romance thread of the story and how Michael is accepting of Sarah in a way she hasn’t experienced with her family or her relationships. And, his profession of photography which is introduced to Sarah plays into a great metaphor for seeing the world as she learns more about herself and her trust in God.

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

The Little Christmas Shop on Nutcracker Lane by Jaimie Admans, a standalone Christmas novel

This charming little Christmas story is chock full of romance, Christmas traditions, and the magic of a British Christmas. It shows how the hope of the season is meant to be celebrated for more than just one day of the holiday.

The leading couple are absolutely adorable, genuine, and meant for each other. Disney’s-Flynn-Rider-lookalike-James has no clue how much he needs Nia to show him more than the appeal of the season, but to remind him of laughter, kindness, family, and joy of giving. Nia, in turn, learns a thing or two about confidence and trust. 🙂 They BOTH learn that wishes can come true.

Content note for my blog audience: this is a general fiction title. It has very few (I think I could count them on one hand) mild expletives.

Mini Review: “The Reunion” by Amy Matayo

Today I’m sharing a little review of the last book in Amy Matayo’s “Love in Chaos” series. This fourth story, short enough to consider it a novella, revisits the family and couples we know from previous books.

The “Love in Chaos” series 1-3: The Waves | The Aftermath | The Last Shot

About the Book

It’s been quite the year for the Hayes/Gamble family, but now things are looking up. When you’ve survived a tornado, a concert shooting, and being stranded on a deserted island, what else can possibly go wrong? After all, isn’t that the rule—three strikes, and you’re out?

That should totally be the rule.

Dillon Hayes has dreamed of her wedding day since childhood. Now, after months of planning, the chapel is booked, the invitations are sent, and the dress is ready and waiting. In only a few days’ time, Dillon will become Mrs. Liam Gamble in front of God, Tennessee, and everyone she loves.

But when a rare blizzard dumps piles of snow on Nashville and the entire southern region three days before the wedding, all that planning goes up in, well…snow. Businesses close. Flights are grounded. Roads are nearly impassible. Even the chapel now has a gaping hole in the middle of the roof and a giant mound of white powder blocking the aisle.

Dillon can feel her dreams dying one by one…and there’s nothing she can do to stop it. A year filled with one mishap after another can wear a person down. But what Dillon soon discovers is this: the death of one dream isn’t necessarily the end.

Sometimes it can lead to an even better beginning.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

The Reunion wraps up these characters’ happily-ever-afters in an imperfect-yet-perfect way. While unexpected things happen (and will continue!), they don’t have to end there. Positive and happy and good can come of seemingly bad circumstances (like snowstorms and changes of venue). I think this is a timely reminder for this month especially.

I am delighted the world gets to revisit all 6 main characters of Amy Matayo’s series, along with their POVs and snarky humor, in this little novella. It’s a glimpse of their life-directions and it’s HOPEFUL. Plus it’s a chance to see just what formal wear Dillon makes Teddy wear at her wedding! 😉

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

Twelfth Night, edition 2: Christmas Story Mini Reviews

Happy Twelfth Night! Last year on January 5th, I shared the first edition of Christmas Story Mini Reviews. This year I’m finally getting around to sharing my thoughts on some of the Christmas stories I read in 2019!

Title links will take you to Goodreads for full book info.

Christmas at Whitefriars by Elizabeth Camden (novella)

A delightful Christmas novella all about fellowship and romance! I enjoyed the setting and charming history that went with it, and the awkwardly shy hero paired with the pleasant heroine who had to overcome a few things herself (loved how that was portrayed!).

The Royally Yours novella collection

It’s perfectly sweet collection of 4 Royal romances set in a quirky Christmas town! I want to visit Tinsel, too, and sample scones, stay in an inn, and visit the library. 🙂

One Royal Christmas by Melissa Tagg ~ It was royally adorable with a bookish king & a more-adventurous-than-she-realizes heroine. I especially liked the book note aspect 😉

The Reluctant Princess by Betsy St. Amant ~ Princess + celebrity charm, nostalgic traditions, sarcasm & things that define a person.

A Royal Wonderland by Liz Johnson ~ A Christmas decor competition, a reluctant prince, and a small town girl learning to overcome her regrets all make up this sweet story of the season with a SWOONY romance, apples and scones, and one well used ladder!

A Tinsel Holiday by Ashley Clark ~ The cutest “what if” a situation like the classic Roman Holiday were only the beginning? Her story plays on characters who have an established friendship and makes for a fantastic romance.

Christmas at the Circus by Joanne Bischof (short story)

A darling little short story that “catches up” with beloved characters and shows sweet Christmas moments in their lives. I especially liked the glimpses of Holland and the surprise for Ella!

Mistletoe Menagerie by Janine Rosche (novella)

This is a darling story with a surprising amount of depth and emotion. I laughed along with the characters, related to the pain and grief in their hearts, and rejoiced in their moments of friendship and the beginnings of romance. I might have a favorite new zoo animal, too: GIRAFFES!

I am looking forward to more from Janine Rosche’s pen in 2020!

Welcome to Wishing Bridge by Ruth Logan Herne

Though not 100% intended as a Christmas novel, it does take place over the Christmas season. I’m totally counting it!

I really enjoyed the audiobook of this story! I feel like I want to visit Wishing Bridge now. The cast of characters was vibrant (a broad cast, but it never felt too big), the narration was spot-on (I really like Erin!), and the endearing characters have real-life problems, emotions, and triumphs over the course of the story. I especially liked the themes of overcoming, sacrificial love, and hope. I am excited to revisit Wishing Bridge in the next book in the series!

Thank you to the publishers of Royally Yours and Christmas at the Circus for the review copies. These are my honest reviews.

Did you read any Christmas stories this year? Do you read them into January?

Novella Review: “Like a Winter Snow” by Lindsay Harrel

It’s almost that time of year!!! Time for hot cocoa and all things peppermint, Hallmark movies and trimming the trees. I know it’s still October, but I’m excited to read alllll the Christmas stories this year — I’ve already read three! The one I read this week, Like a Winter Snow by Lindsay Harrel, is a charming novella that takes readers on a journey across the ocean to England. It releases on Tuesday (10/29), so add it to your TBR now!

About the Book

In this standalone holiday novella, return to the charming Cornish village readers fell in love with in The Secrets of Paper and Ink.

Women’s counselor Joy Beckman has always been a friend and helper to all. That’s why she’s given up everything to be with her parents as her mother suffers through Alzheimer’s. Joy may not have a thriving career or a love life at the moment, but she’s doing what she does best—taking care of others. And even though it’s difficult, she knows it’s where she is supposed to be.

But life throws a curveball when she has to leave her parents temporarily to travel to Cornwall, England, for the Christmas-time wedding of her best friend. While there, Joy helps Sophia tackle her last-minute to-do list, and in the process, finally meets a man who turns her head—and her heart. The only problem? He lives in snowy London, and her life is with her parents back in sunny Florida.

She tries to resist Oliver Lincoln’s charms, but it’s harder than it should be. With her heart torn in two, Joy is forced to choose between a life she knows she’s meant for and the one she didn’t see coming.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Like a Winter Snow takes readers to a picturesque Cornwall, England for Christmas AND a wedding! Readers of Harrel’s novel The Secrets of Paper and Ink will be delighted to revisit the characters and see the spotlight on Joy Beckman now, the bride’s best friend.

Amidst all the festivities both quaint and beautiful, a story of romance and surrender unfolds. I appreciate that Lindsay always balances romance with “women’s fiction” themes that are very realistic and often serious. For Joy, her newfound friendship quickly (and delightfully!) grows into more with the charming and good-hearted Oliver, but she thinks her burdens and responsibilities have to hold her back from a happily ever after. The female friendships Joy has in her life are a great encouragement to her. This, combined with Oliver’s own life-wisdom and some insightful parental advice, all help her see her life in a new light. I also liked that this central couple was slightly older than average (40s) for typical romance novels, adding a maturity and hopefulness to the whole story.

This novella has just the right amount of sparkle, humor, and poignancy for the season, and a sweet friendship-to-romance. I LOVE the cute cover and the scene it depicts. Also, I adore the setting (Let’s start a send Courtney to Cornwall campaign, too, ok?!) and the slight nods to classic movies and stories.

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

Audiobook Review: “Something New” by Joanne Bischof

Newly released as a novella on its own, Something New by Joanne Bischof is a sweet story that historical romance fans will adore. In particular, fans of Bischof’s “Blackbird Mountain” series might recognize a character or two!

About the Book

After waiting four years for her best friend to return from sea, Wren Cromwell’s dream of building a life with Tate Kennedy has wilted during his unexpected absence. Then, just as suddenly as he departed the mountain of their childhood, he returns, bringing with him tales of Norway’s icy fjords and his time aboard ship on the North Sea. As spring unfurls around them, so unfolds a new hope in Wren’s heart, and a new chance at love on the horizon. But with Tate’s longing for exciting voyages still alive, will he vanish to the high seas again, or will this land he’s returned to, and Wren’s steadfast love, be enough to nurture his adventurous spirit?

From Christy and Carol Award-winning author, Joanne Bischof, comes a newly repackaged novella once featured in the historical compilation, Heirloom Brides.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

A beautiful novella! Joanne Bischof’s poetic prose-like style shines (once again!) in this short little story. Romantic in its simplicity, this story of Wren and Tate carries a bountiful message of hope, dreams longed for and realized, and the power of trust and restoration. I listened to the audio presentation of this story, and it was perfection! The Appalachian accents, the sweet moments of the story, all delivered with emotion and tenderness by the narrator, Jelyne Helms.

Many thanks to the author for the audiobook access. This is my honest review.

Novella Review & Author {Christmas} Interview: “One Christmas in Winter” by Bell Renshaw


One Christmas in Winter is the debut novella from author Bell Renshaw. If it is any indication of what her work will be like, I know I will LOVE it all! #Iwanttoreadallthebooks Today I have the privilege of sharing my thoughts on the story plus a Christmas interview with Bell!

About the Book

One Christmas in WinterReba Farwell is finally getting a chance to live out her dreams. Sent to Winter, Montana to direct filming for a crucial, on-location shoot, she knows the next two weeks will make or break her career. And she could definitely use a break. As if that isn’t enough, she’s got a secret that none of her crew knows. All she’s asking for is two weeks of small town, Christmas beauty and a little bit of on-camera sizzle.

Five years ago, Hoyt Bradley’s heart and future shattered in one fell swoop that landed him back in Winter. Thankfully, making lemonade—or his father’s famous lemon meringue pie— out of lemons is what he does best. Running Bentley’s Diner has filled the gaps left in the wake of his heartbreak, even if it hasn’t healed him completely. Not wanting to relive memories of his rocky start in the film industry, Hoyt does his best to steer clear of the dreaded film crew, but Winter has a way of bringing people together.

After one fateful delivery and a score of icy bad luck, Reba finds herself in a bind and at the mercy of what Winter can offer. Will she pull the film together in time to salvage her name as a director? Or will the sparks flying off-camera create more of a distraction than she knows how to handle?

Come visit Winter, Montana in this Christmas Novella where the Christmas lights are always on and the snow falls most frequently when loved ones share a kiss.

Amazon | Goodreads

 

Review

One Christmas in Winter is the perfect little Christmas story, full of small-town charm, Christmassy things like fuzzy sweaters, fun things like sledding, and a sweet romance. Saying this story is just like a Hallmark movie is very accurate and a high compliment— specifically, a Hallmark movie I hope it becomes one day because it has a fresh and realistic slant some of that network’s productions lack. With equal parts humor and romantic depth, it explores family relationships and a feeling of belonging most keen this time of year, whether it be belonging on a career path or a homey place with the people you love.

More little things I loved about this story:

  • fictitious setting of Winter, Montana as a vivid and idyllic backdrop
  • the “Christmas movie” production! Dear Hallmark, this would be perfect to turn into a movie because IT WOULD BE LOW BUDGET! JUST FILM YOUR OWN CREW!
  • secondary characters I LOVED! Troy, Beau, Ansley, Mama Bradley, Mariah, Lloyd, etc!
  • to be a novella, it was a fully developed and complex story
  • Beau’s coffee shop. I want to visit.
  • the fill-in takeout delivery guy 😉
  • the NEXT novella (12/2018) hinted at near the end!

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

Interview with the Author

Do you have any Christmas traditions?

One that I absolutely love is doing some Christmas baking with my family. I love giving gifts and sometimes a plate of sweets is the best (most tasty) gift for friends and neighbors.

Hot coffee, cocoa, or hot tea? With or without Christmas cookies?

I would have to say tea or coffee (I’ve been loving the Celestial Seasonings Christmas teas recently!) and definitely WITH Christmas cookies 😉

Favorite Christmas song?

I like a lot of Christmas songs so it’s hard to narrow it down to just one. But one of my top favorites is Come Thou Long Expected Jesus!

Tell us about the story setting of Winter, Montana.

It’s actually really neat because Winter is based (very loosely) on the town I grew up in. It’s embellished, of course, but it’s got a few things that my home town does. I think it’s one of my favorite parts of this book (aside from the romance of course) because of the people. They really are what make up the town. You’ll be seeing more of Timon, Fred, the ladies at the hospital, and especially more of Beau and Ansley in book 2, and I can’t wait to showcase even more parts of Winter as well.

What was most challenging about writing this story?

Movie production! I did some research and really wanted to get the feeling of what it would be like to shoot a movie in a small town, but that’s not easy to do. I follow Candace Cameron Bure on Instagram and watching some of her stories actually helped me write some of the scenes!

Which character was your favorite to write?

Mariah! I love Reba and Hoyt and they were so fun to write, but Mariah has a mind of her own and I so enjoyed writing her character. She’s got spunk and says it like it is. I think she’s a mix of a few friends of mine and the kind of friend Reba really needs in her life.

What are you currently reading?

I’m in the Christmas spirit so I’m reading Royal Christmas Wedding by Rachel Hauck! I just love her writing.

Thank you, Bell, for sharing a little behind-the-scenes and your Christmas favorites! Readers, you can learn more about Bell and how to connect with her via her website and other links below.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Pinterest

 

 

YOUR TURN! What are some of your Christmas traditions or seasonal favorites? Do you enjoy Christmas novellas this time of year?