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?

Best of 2019: Novellas & Audiobooks

Welcome to my annual “best-of” celebration! Like last year, I’m separating the categories of my yearly best-of lists over a few days. It’s going to take me a few to talk about all the stories I loved in 2019!

I have exceeded my reading goals for 2019 according to my Goodreads reading challenge! That makes me happy. I have read SO MANY good books this year, which I will attribute to knowing how to better choose my genres and preferences, and even being “picky” when it comes to review-book choices. So, I have decided to limit my best-of lists this year to a max of 10 books. If you’d like to see all of my 5-star reads and extensive reviews, just check out my completed Goodreads challenge or browse my blog archives.
Each day leading up to New Year’s Day you’ll get a new post about my 2019 favorites:

  1. Best of 2019: Novellas & Audiobooks
  2. Best of 2019: Contemporary Fiction
  3. Best of 2019: (General) Historical Fiction
  4. Best of 2019: (Inspirational) Historical Fiction
  5. Best of 2019: Film & TV
  6. Best of 2019: Happy New Year #OnTheBlog

The rules: because sometimes I need to keep things brief, I’m choosing to share 3 things that describe each of these stories along with a link to Goodreads and my review.

Today’s post is all about Novellas + Audiobooks! The audios are all 5 star reads I’m considering “bonuses” on my lists because I listened to their fabulous audio productions AND loved the stories!

Best of 2019: Novellas & Audiobooks

From The Christmas Heirloom novella collection:

Because of You by Becky Wade | Review

Booknerd hero. Friendship. Serving

Gift of the Heart by Karen Witemeyer | Review

Second chances. Humor. Tender hearts.

The Royally Yours Novella Collection | Review to come!

Literary love notes. Small town charming traditions. Whimsy.

From the Finding Ever After novella collection:

Between Stairs and Stardust by Pepper Basham

Whimsical. Cinderella. Swimming.

Entanglements by Rachel McMillan

Hairpins. Chess. Music.


Something New by Joanne Bischof |Review

Dreams. Restoration. Hope.

The Curse of Misty Wayfair by Jaime Jo Wright | Review to come!

Identity. Forgiveness. Worth beyond the surface.

The Matrimonial Advertisement by Mimi Matthews (reread)| Review

Trust. Delicious accents. Capacity to love.

Wedded to War by Jocelyn Green | Review

Sacrifice. Healing. Purpose.

Welcome to Wishing Bridge by Ruth Logan Herne | Review

Hope. Sisterhood-friendship. Sacrifical love.

Review: “The Perfect Christmas” by Bell Renshaw

It’s been a bit since I read this little novella, but I never got around to sharing my review! TODAY is the day, ya’ll!

About the Book

Will the perfect Christmas be enough to convince Beau that a life with Ansley could be equally perfect?

Born and raised in Winter, Montana, Beau Bradley can’t imagine life anywhere else. During the holiday season his coffee shop, Mountain Grounds, is as busy as ever and now that his girlfriend is back in town, things finally seem to be lining up—until he gets a call that could change it all.

Ansley Strauss is back in Winter after a nine-month art intensive in Canada and she’s ready to celebrate the Christmas season in the tried and true Winter-style. There’s only one problem: her boyfriend lacks Christmas spirit. Her solution? Make this Christmas perfect to remind Beau just how special this time of year is.

Set on a course for ultimate Christmas joy, Ansley and Beau find that life doesn’t always work out the way they hope it will. Beau faces the reality that plans can’t account for everything and Ansley will have to come to the realization that no matter how perfect things are, it’s the imperfections in life that make it worth living.

It’s another Christmas in Winter, Montana where the coffee is always hot and the mistletoe beckons lovers to share a kiss.

Goodreads | Amazon

My review of the first “Winter” novella, One Christmas in Winter

Review

With The Perfect Christmas, readers return to the picturesque setting of “Winter”, Montana for another cute novella.

The story picks up after a time apart in a dating relationship between Beau and Ansley. While they have their share of communication problems (some of the plot problems centered on this issue), they try to resume a more understanding relationship in the midst of a busy holiday schedule.

The Christmas-y things in this story are the cutest! The Christmas tree picking, molasses cookie mamas, peppermint mocha lattes (the coffee! SO FUN), the cabin in the snow and more. All of them made this story an escape into a wonderland with two characters that have real-life problems and depth.

I really liked the little themes of this novella: finding a place/purpose/happiness, living life to the fullest every day, TAKING RISK and fighting for something of worth, being honest and sometimes spontaneous.

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

First Line Fridays # 30: "Mistletoe Menagerie" by Janine Rosche

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

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It’s December, and for me, that means time to read alllll the Christmas stories! This little novella, Mistletoe Menagerie, from author Janine Rosche has an adorable cover (shoutout to designer Hillary Manton Lodge), and it promises a cute story inside! I’m excited to read it soon, and to follow it with Janine’s debut novel This Wandering Heart in 2020.

If you’d like to know more about this book, check out GOODREADS or visit Janine’s website HERE to get your free copy of Mistletoe Menagerie when you sign up for her newsletter!

Strings of iridescent lights had once filled Sage Matthews with holiday cheer. Now they formed a blurred tangle of webs, clutching at her as she ran down the city zoo’s main promenade.

Your turn! What’s your first line?

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.

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!