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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Series Review: “Summer of the Burning Sky” by Susan May Warren

AK sunset

My own photo of an Alaskan summertime “burning sky” sunset — taken a couple years ago on a church trip. The sunset is super late at night, and the sky never gets completely dark!

Author Susan May Warren has done it again! She’s penned an epic novella series that released this summer, each installment just a month apart. The good news? Tomorrow is release day for book 3, so you can binge-read the whole romantic suspense series! Read on for my thoughts on each novella with full book descriptions at the end.

About the series…

When western Alaska erupts in a devastating fire, the elite firefighting crew of the Jude County Smokejumpers is called in to save the day. They’ll do anything to stop the fire, including fighting alongside a crew of local prisoners. 

The last thing they expect is a jailbreak and when the prisoners disappear into the forest with one of their own, they’ll have to fight not only the fire, but for the freedom of their friends…during the Summer of the Burning Sky. 

Review

Light My Fire

Light My FireAn epic start to this series! I was pulled in to the action from the very beginning! With characters easy to like and root for, this is a story of drama and danger with a very personal message of rescue and help at its center. I loved seeing Stevie learn how forgiveness is possible and for both her and Tucker to know that together is a good thing, whether it be in the form of God on your side, backup close by, or even navigating life with another person.

 

The Heat Is On

The Heat is OnAnother installment of action and suspense in the wilderness! Picking up during the events of book 1, Susan May Warren cleverly overlaps the stories, offering more detail through point of view and telling a more complex story. Oh, the chemistry! In the middle of the drama a connection between Rio and Skye is so evident. And the darkness vs light, the God being ON YOUR SIDE theme is continued…. proving that HE can provide right where you are.

Some Like It Hot

Some Like it HotThis is my favorite of the series. 🙂 Some Like It Hot had a few twists out of nowhere, which made it all the more interesting to see how Riley and Larke would handle and respond to their circumstances as all the excitement unfolded. It wasn’t all action, though, as this story took possibly the deepest emotional turns and had both Riley and Larke coming to terms with what it means to be a hero, the risk it takes to love, and the way God abandons everything to bring us to Him. And Riley! Talk about a fun hero — he’s such a flirt on the outside but I loved seeing the way Larke brings out his protective and heroic side, especially when her own struggles and attraction complicate everything. The series is wonderfully and nicely wrapped up with this final novella, but I DO hope Susan has more in store for this team in the future!

Thank you to the author for the advanced copy of Some Like It Hot for review. This is my honest review.

About the Book

Book 1: Light My Fire 

Former bad-boy Tucker Newman has learned his lesson—as the temporary team leader of the Jude County Smokejumpers, he’s all about following the rules to keep his team safe. Especially when he has to partner with a group of local low-security prisoners to knock down the raging fire. But the prisoners are not who they seem, and when they stage a break, kidnapping one of his teammates, he’ll have to break every rule he knows to get her back.

US Marshal Stevie Mills knows that to get the job done, she must work alone. She simply can’t risk another person getting hurt because of her. When she discovers that a wanted fugitive accused of rape and murder has not only been set free to fight the fire—but is now on the lam with a hostage– the last thing she needs is a zealous smokejumper getting in the way of her pursuit.

Whether they like it or not, Tucker and Stevie must join forces if they hope to save lives, and in the meantime, they just might discover a new definition for the word teamwork, in book 1 of the Summer of the Burning Sky.

Goodreads | Amazon

Book 2: The Heat is On

FBI Agent Rio Parker is tired of playing the bad guy, even if it is for a good reason. Undercover with a group of prisoners to babysit a federal informant, he can’t believe he’s been enlisted to fight a forest fire…or sucked into a prison break. Worse—a female smokejumper has been kidnapped. Now, he’ll have to protect her from a rapist, keep his informant from escaping, and stay out of the gunsights of the US Marshal hot on his trail.

Smokejumper Skye Doyle knew trouble was brewing when the group of prisoners joined the firefight. She never expected, however, to be kidnapped during their breakout. But can she trust a hardened felon to keep her safe? Except, Rio is not who he seems, and when his identity is uncovered, she must decide if she can trust a man who has been lying to her…

But staying alive on the run isn’t their only problem, they’ll have to learn to trust each other if they hope to survive in book 2 of the Summer of the Burning Sky.

Goodreads | Amazon

Book 3: Some Like It Hot 

Riley McCord is trouble, from his blue eyes to his renegade smile—a cover for the grief of losing his father three years ago in Afghanistan, a loss that is still top secret. Riley masks it all by living large—working hard and playing hard, and that includes romancing Larke Kingston, local wilderness medic. When he’s sidelined while working the forest fire, he’s determined to rejoin his team, but to do so, he’ll have to accompany Larke into the wilderness when she is dispatched to a medical emergency. What he doesn’t realize is that trouble is waiting for him in the woods…

Medic Larke Kingston lost the man she loved during her service in Afghanistan and she’s not interested in a troublemaker, so Riley’s no threat to her heart. Just a short-term distraction. Until, that is, a wilderness medical mission puts her face-to-face with an escaped prisoner. Suddenly she needs Riley more than she wants to admit.

Riley is shocked when the escapee claims to have answers about his father’s death. However, before he can uncover them, the fire turns and is bearing down on Larke’s ranch, and his team. Now, only Riley and Larke stand between the flames and destruction of everything they both love. But will the price of saving the ranch—and the team—be greater than they both can bear?

In book 3, the epic Summer of the Burning Sky series comes to a blazing, shocking finale.

Goodreads | Amazon