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.

Recommended Reading: Series to Binge

In light of all the craziness happening in the world right now, you might find yourself with extra time to read that book or series you’ve had on your shelf for forever. If you’ve read all the books in your house (Go you! I commend you!), and you’re looking to discover more great stories, I have compiled a list of 11 series you can binge-read NOW!

In my reading opinion, nothing is better than getting to breeze through a series back to back with NO WAITING until the next book is released!

I’ve listed these in order of historical era and genre, with Goodreads links to the series and some links to my reviews. And, confession time, all of these have some element of romance 😉

Parish Orphans of Devon series by Mimi Matthews | Victorian Era England + abroad

Delightful and deep Victorian romances, each of these couples have unique appeal (brooding, bookish, assertive, sweet, and redeemed rogue in the mix). I will reread these forever. The audio versions are wonderful, too!

The Matrimonial Advertisement | A Modest Independence | A Convenient Fiction | The Winter Companion

Timber Ridge Reflections series by Tamera Alexander | Post-Civil War American West

I remember loving each of these historical romances for different reasons, the first one being the subject of photography in book From a Distance.

Price of Privilege series by Jessica Dotta | Mystery and Intrigue in Victorian England

My favorite EVER historical series — and I don’t say this lightly! All three books encompass one of the most transformative arcs of the heroine. The allegorical symbolism of redemption deeply embedded in this series blows me away every time I think about it.

Born of Persuasion | Series feature: Price of Privilege

The Everstone Chronicles series by Dawn Crandall | Gilded Age New England

Four novels + 1 novella all with unique 1st person point-of-view heroines. Plus the Adirondack and coastal settings are detailed and idyllic!

The Hesitant Heiress | The Bound Heart | The Captive Imposter | The Cautious Maiden

Herringford & Watts Mysteries by Rachel McMillan | Pre-WWI Toronto

Trouser-wearing lady detectives solve crime in Toronto on the cusp of world war with a colorful cast of secondary characters, and two (or three!) valiant love interests. Three full length novels, two novellas, and a short story offer pages of fun with these friends!

The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder | A Lesson in Love and Murder | The White Feather Murders

Penned in Time series by Pepper Basham | WWI England & America

From the front lines to English hospitals and the US treatment of German residents, this romance series explores many facets of the era. Most outstanding, though, it its stories of love and redemption. Book 2 is my favorite!

The Thorn Bearer | The Thorn Keeper | The Thorn Healer

Sunrise at Normandy series by Sarah Sundin | WWII & Battle of Normandy

This series shows how the Allied forces approached and carried out the Battle of Normandy, each by the sea, air, and land. Three estranged brothers find reconciliation and romance while serving in each branch during this pivotal battle. Oh, and each one references and reflects a Biblical story!

The Sea Before Us

Tox Files series by Ronie Kendig | Paramilitary Thrillers

This series needs a seatbelt warning! The prequel novella and three novels follow a covert team around the globe as they work to eliminate a threat and save the day. Besides the kick-butt heroines, the team camaraderie is fun! Oh, and the slight supernatural elements are super cool!

Conspiracy of Silence | Crown of Souls | Thirst of Steel

Two Blue Doors series by Hillary Manton Lodge | Family, Food, & Romance in the PNW

Basically love letters to food and romance, this series courts identity and family as well as a perfect romance between imperfect people. The included recipes will make your mouth water, as will the heritage threads and few “trips” abroad.

A Table by the Window | Reservations for Two | Together at the Table

Chesapeake Valor series by Dani Pettrey | Romantic Suspense

Investigator and law enforcement friends find love amidst the chaos of solving crimes and puzzles in the Chesapeake Bay area and beyond. Fast-paced and memorable, a thread of a story ties all four books together to culminate in a final gripping tale.

Cold Shot | Still Life | Blind Spot | Dead Drift

A Bradford Sisters Romance series by Becky Wade | Contemporary Romance

This series has it all: romance, sisters, family, romance, books, mystery, romance, humor, chocolate, and a hint of suspense. Reading it will make you fall in love with the characters! The epistolary prequel novella and the midpoint Christmas novella are fully-developed and sweet, too!

Falling for You | True to You | Falling for You | Sweet On You

Do you have any recommendations for series I should read ASAP?

Seriously, ya’ll. Stay safe and wash your hands.

Book Review & Blog Tour: “Promised” by Leah Garriott

Margaret Brinton keeps her promises, and the one she is most determined to keep is the promise to protect her heart.

Warwickshire, England, 1812

Fooled by love once before, Margaret vows never to be played the fool again. To keep her vow, she attends a notorious matchmaking party intent on securing the perfect marital match: a union of convenience to someone who could never affect her heart. She discovers a man who exceeds all her hopes in the handsome and obliging rake Mr. Northam.

There’s only one problem. His meddling cousin, Lord Williams, won’t leave Margaret alone. Condescending and high-handed, Lord Williams lectures and insults her. When she refuses to give heed to his counsel, he single-handedly ruins Margaret’s chances for making a good match—to his cousin or anyone else. With no reason to remain at the party, Margaret returns home to discover her father has promised her hand in marriage—to Lord Williams.

Under no condition will Margaret consent to marrying such an odious man. Yet as Lord Williams inserts himself into her everyday life, interrupting her family games and following her on morning walks, winning the good opinion of her siblings and proving himself intelligent and even kind, Margaret is forced to realize that Lord Williams is exactly the type of man she’d hoped to marry before she’d learned how much love hurt. When paths diverge and her time with Lord Williams ends, Margaret is faced with her ultimate choice: keep the promises that protect her or break free of them for one more chance at love. Either way, she fears her heart will lose.

Find Promised on: AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | BOOK DEPOSITORY | INDIEBOUND | AUDIBLE | GOODREADS | BOOKBUB

Review

Promised is a LOVELY escape to England with a swoony romance! This story has all the fun elements one can expect from a Regency story since Jane Austen set the standard. More than witty characters, though, and a search for a convenient love match, Promised features a sensible and intelligent romance whose main couple is matched in humor, intelligence, AND love.

This story is told in first person POV, a rare and tricky thing in the historical genre. Leah Garriott manages this well, though there were a few times I struggled to like the heroine, Margaret, or understand some of her reasoning. She does exhibit growth, though, and I like the way she finally makes some conscious decisions and chooses to extend forgiveness to a certain character in the end.

The colorful cast of characters, likened to an Austen cast (again), is a fun treat! I particularly liked Mr. Lundall and his humorous role — and the way he figures unexpectedly in showing Margaret a few things about herself. Margaret’s siblings, too, have a playful and sweet dynamic. The best relationship, though, is between Margaret and Lord Williams. Any time they share a scene together, the tension is palpable. From a love/hate stance to tentative respect to understanding, I enjoyed seeing their relationship grow.

The Regency era setting brings to light Margaret’s socially expected role in life versus the way she is trying to shield herself with her own choices. Through some subterfuge, connections over music, a “Pemberley” moment, and lovely banter with the hero, Margaret begins to find hope for her future, even if it is unexpected. I will look forward to whatever historical novel Leah writes next — and I hope we get a future glimpse of these characters again!

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

EARLY PRAISE:

“Promising Regency-set debut. Vivid period details and the hero’s grand romantic efforts will please fans of historical romance.”—Publishers Weekly

“Debut -author Garriott’s smooth prose and character-driven story will enthrall readers looking for sweet historicals with Austenesque plots.”—Library Journal

“Garriott’s impressive debut distinguishes itself with its expertly evoked Regency setting, a cast of realistically flawed yet eminently relatable characters, and a sweetly satisfying love story. Teen fans of Austen-era love stories will fall hard for this impeccably crafted romance.”—Booklist

“Promised is a sweet regency romance and one that I recommend to all of you romance fans, especially those of you that enjoy stories inspired by Jane Austen.”—The Book Diva’s Reads

“…a fun, entertaining, and perfect addition to the Proper Romance collection.”—The Readathon

“With an Austen-like focus on minute emotional detail and some amusing secondary characters, Garriott’s gentle novel promises a treat for Regency fans who like their characters well-bred, their interiors comfortable, and the romance no racier than the hero turning up in a wet shirt.”—Historical Novel Society

Though she earned degrees in math and statistics, Leah Garriott lives for a good love story. She’s resided in Hawaii and Italy, walked the countryside of England, and owns every mainstream movie version of Pride and Prejudice. She’s currently living her own happily ever after in Utah with her husband and three kids. Leah is represented by Sharon Pelletier at Dystel, Goderich, and Bourret.

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | INSTAGRAM | GOODREADS

ABOUT THE BLOG TOUR

Debut novelist Leah Garriott tours the blogosphere February 17 through March 15, 2020 to share her new historical romance, Promised. Forty popular book bloggers specializing in historical romance, inspirational fiction, and Austenesque fiction will feature guest blogs, interviews, exclusive excerpts, and book reviews of this acclaimed Regency romance novel.

2/17 My Jane Austen Book Club (Guest Blog) | Austenprose—A Jane Austen Blog (Review)

2/18 Katie’s Clean Book Collection (Review) | Wishful Endings (Interview)

2/19 RelzReviewz (Character Spotlight)

2/20 Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen (Spotlight)

2/21 The Lit Bitch (Excerpt)

2/22 The Debutante Ball (Interview)

2/23 Adventure. Romance. Suspense (Review)

2/24 A Bookish Way of Life (Review) | Austenesque Reviews (Guest Blog) | Half Agony, Half Hope (Review)

2/25 Frolic Media (Excerpt)

2/26 Heidi Reads (Guest Blog) | The Caffeinated Bibliophile (Interview)

2/27 Wishful Endings (Review)

2/28 Lu Reviews Books (Review)

2/29 KJ’s Book Nook (Review)

3/1  My Vices and Weaknesses (Excerpt)

3/2 Bringing Up Books (Review) | Christian Chick’s Thoughts (Review) | For Where Your Treasure Is (Interview)

3/3 Heidi Reads (Review) | So Little Time…So Much to Read (Excerpt)

3/4 Romance Junkies (Guest Blog) | Gwendalyn’s Books (Review)

3/5 Laura’s Reviews (Review)

3/6 Scuffed Slippers Wormy Books (Spotlight)

3/7 Fiction Aficionado (Review)

3/8 The Christian Fiction Girl (Review)

3/9 Austenesque Reviews (Review)

3/10 Bookfoolery (Review) | From Pemberley to Milton (Review)

3/11 Faithfully Bookish (Interview)

3/12 Impressions in Ink (Review)

3/13 Robin Loves Reading (Review) | The Green Mockingbird (Review)

3/14 Inkwell Inspirations (Review)

3/15 The Calico Critic (Excerpt) | Bookworm Nation (Guest Blog)

Review: “If For Any Reason” by Courtney Walsh

I’m sharing a review today of a book by one of my favorite must-read authors! This time, Courtney Walsh is kicking off her Nantucket Love Story series with If For Any Reason, a contemporary romance with slight threads of what I consider “women’s fiction”, exploring deep themes of belonging alongside a charming love story.

About the Book

Emily Ackerman has traveled the world, her constant compass and companion a book of letters her mother left for her when she died. With no father in the picture, her mom’s advice has been her only true north. But when professional failure leads Emily back to Nantucket to renovate and sell the family cottage she inherited, she wonders if her mom left advice to cover this . . . especially when her grandmother arrives to “supervise.” And especially when her heart becomes entangled with Hollis McGuire, the boy next door-turned-baseball star who’s back on the island after a career-ending injury.

As sparks fly between her and Hollis, Emily is drawn to island life, even as she uncovers shocking secrets about the tragic accident that led to her mother’s death. With her world turned upside down, Emily must choose between allowing the voices from her past to guide her future or forging her own path forward.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

If For Any Reason is a story of belonging and changing dreams told through a romance and friendship in the ideal setting of Nantucket. Themes of grace and honesty permeate the world Emily and Hollis find themselves in — literally and figuratively. As they deal with some hard things life has thrown at them, they must find the grace to work out their faith and relationship with God while a tentative connection grows between them.

Courtney Walsh excels at writing stories that blend one part women’s fiction with two parts romance and charm! She manages to include deep themes with endearing characters that stir empathy and thought in the heart of a reader. This story is another prime example, with the spark-laden friendship between Emily and Hollis developing naturally. And, Courtney takes a delicate situation and portrays it with compassion and grace, yet still depicts it appropriately with its consequences and fallout.

The romance between Hollis and Emily feels so realistic. They are simply captivated by each other, but it’s not a superficial connection — both characters are mature, both are intentional in their friendship, even if it scares them to be so vulnerable. I especially like one of the decisions Hollis makes (insert heart eyes HERE) at a moment when Emily needs space for clarity.

This review would not be complete without a paragraph devoted to Hollis’s daugther, Jolie, AKA JoJo. This girl steals every scene she’s in! She has so much spunk and acts exactly her age. I liked that she has a voice and an opinion that matters to the adults around her. It’s great to see a bright character like her add such pivotal value to a story.

One more thing I really enjoyed about this story was its inclusion of letters and a few short flashback scenes. These fill in some blanks of the deeper themes and relate things like grief, family, and the resounding impact of choices in a wonderful story device.

I’m looking forward to more stories in this series set on Nantucket, a place I have just added to my must-visit travel list!

Thanks to Tyndale for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Review: “Always You” by Jennifer Rodewald

Author Jennifer Rodewald’s new novel, Always You, is a part of “The Potter’s House” novel series by various authors. It’s a shorter novel at just under 200 pages, one that can be read over a couple of days (if your schedule is like my kind of crazy). It’s a contemporary romance not to be missed, especially if you like the friends-to-more trope!

About the Book

They made a pact of friendship. Love was not supposed to be part of the deal.

Lauren is desperate to escape the massive shadow of her father’s and sister’s political careers.

Matt is running from the biggest disappointment of his life.

After a messy meeting in a snowbound airport, they launch a new friendship, founded on a mutual love for the Lord and an agreement of respect. They find themselves working together at the Lake Shore Resort, thankful to have each other as they each carve out a fresh start. But as the winter season wears on, and through a few interesting predicaments, one begins to feel more, and the other…well. Maybe neither knows what they really want. Already wounded from the things they’ve left behind, Matt and Lauren wrestle with what comes next. Afraid to move forward. Not wanting to go back.

Each must face a dilemma that only the hand of the Potter can smooth into a hopeful, promising future. Can they surrender past hurts, as well as their future hopes and plans and trust the good intentions of the God they both love?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Always You by Jennifer Rodewald is a memorable contemporary romance that begins with one of the funniest meet cutes (ever!) and grows into a sweet friendship-to-more story.

With moments of wonder at the splendor of creation (hello Lake Tahoe setting!) and the ups and downs of a daily walk of faith, Matt and Lauren find deeper purpose in their lives and understanding with each other. I like how the friendship is developed so naturally, as is the reality of a daily surrender to God’s will. Both Matt and Lauren learn some hard lessons on their own through this new season, but find a sweet assurance in their relationship with refreshing honesty and humor.

This story is on the lighter side compared to some of Jennifer’s novels, yet just as impactful and skillfully written. I’m looking forward to more FUN with the Murphy brothers (hopefully Jackson!).

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

Review: “Veiled in Smoke” by Jocelyn Green

Today I’m featuring one of my favorite kinds of stories: one filled with true history! While the characters and plot are fiction, Veiled in Smoke by Jocelyn Green features so many accurate historical details of Chicago and life in the 1870s in the shadow of the Civil War. If you want to take a trip back in time, pick up this book…

About the Book

Meg and Sylvie Townsend manage the family bookshop and care for their father, Stephen, a veteran still suffering in mind and spirit from his time as a POW during the Civil War. But when the Great Fire sweeps through Chicago’s business district, they lose much more than just their store.

The sisters become separated from their father, and after Meg burns her hands in an attempt to save a family heirloom, they make a harrowing escape from the flames with the help of Chicago Tribune reporter Nate Pierce. Once the smoke clears away, they reunite with Stephen, only to learn soon after that their family friend not only died during the fire–he was murdered. Even more shocking, Stephen is charged with the crime and committed to the Cook County Insane Asylum.

Though homeless, injured, and suddenly unemployed, Meg must not only gather the pieces of her shattered life, but prove her father’s innocence before the asylum truly drives him mad.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Veiled in Smoke is a richly detailed story of sisters, family, love, and trust. Set during a fascinating time — featuring the Great Fire of Chicago in 1871 and the reconstruction period after the Civil War — it features a city and a family making sense of their lives in the aftermath of loss and destruction.

The many complexities of this novel are revealed at a steady pace along with the development and growth of characters. Meg, Sylvie, Nate, and Stephen share chapter points-of-view and convey the tension and emotions of events well – especially during the fire evacuation. From the dynamic of sisters to a love of literature, the trauma and aftermath of Andersonville prison, a couple new friendships and hints of romance, the way all of these elements work together is a feat in itself. This combined with a subtle mystery and suspense thread makes for a wonderful work of historical fiction.

A slight romantic element is there, too. While it is slowly explored from roots of friendship between the characters, it feels organic to the setting. Now I can talk about Nate! He is SUCH a likable gentleman. His character really shines a light on the theme of sharing everyday life with loved ones, with all its burdens and joys.

Author Jocelyn Green depicts history in a relatable way that always shines a light on unique or lesser-known aspects of the world. In a sense, this gives the past a voice, even in fiction. I’ve enjoyed each and every novel of hers I’ve read (3 to go!). Veiled in Smoke is just as enthralling and enjoyable. Its themes of second chances, trust in God’s unchanging nature, and the strength of love come to life along with the bustling city of Chicago as a backdrop. I am looking forward to the next book in this series — especially catching up with these characters and their bookstore!

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

Book Gush: “The Solid Grounds Coffee Co.” by Carla Laureano

Combine books + coffee + Carla Laureano and we have the recipe for a perfect story. The Solid Grounds Coffee Co. happens to be set in my second favorite state, AND ticks off all the boxes: a thread of redemption, amazing chemistry between the romantic leads, and food. I’m skipping the “review” byline and going straight to “book gush” today.

About the Book

Analyn Sanchez can handle the long hours and arrogant clients that come with her job as a crisis management associate at Denver’s largest publicity firm. The high-powered job, expensive condo, and designer wardrobe are all part of her plan to prove to her family that her life choices haven’t been in vain. But when she’s asked to cover up a client’s misdeeds with serious moral and legal ramifications, she can no longer sacrifice her conscience for her career . . . and the cost is no less than her job.

Ever since a devastating climbing accident in South America eight months ago, and a bad decision that dried up his sponsorships, professional rock climber Bryan Shaw has found himself at similar loose ends. When the opportunity to buy a coffee farm in Colombia arises, he jumps on it–only to discover his wandering ways have left him utterly unprepared to run a business.

When Bryan returns home and offers Ana a role in his company as a solution to both their problems, she’s desperate enough to consider working with the far-too-flippant and far-too-handsome climber, even though he’s the polar opposite of her type A nature. As they delve deeper into the business, however, she begins to suspect there’s much more to Bryan than she’s given him credit for . . . and that sometimes the best plans are the ones you never see coming.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

The Solid Grounds Coffee Co. uses many favorite tropes from contemporary romance and simultaneously presents an original story of romance, redemption, friendship, coffee, and honesty. From a friends-to-lovers trope, a foodie workplace romance, to a redeemed bad-boy hero (and a few more I won’t mention because I’ll save the story surprises for other readers), these seemingly familiar concepts translate to the page through Carla Laureano’s pen with fresh and robust (forgive the coffee pun) insights and relatable emotions.

This character-driven romance impresses with both its structure and maturity. Ana and Bryan approach their friendship sensibly even with undercurrents of attraction every time they are together. While many aspects of this story shine, the conversations between Ana and Bryan are some of the most sparkling elements, whether they are discussing marketing, food, their love for Colorado, or their secrets and personal mistakes. Their banter feels wonderfully realistic and comfortable, even when emotions are on the line.

I love how Ana and Bryan’s strengths and weaknesses compliment each other, and how they are so alike. Bryan brings out a lighter side of Ana that readers haven’t seen in the first two books. And in return, she encourages him and believes him capable of more than even he realizes. I also loved how Bryan readily recognizes Ana’s intelligence and fortitude, demonstrating in multiple situations his respect for her and her independence. Ana’s journey of seeing beyond her own expectations in many was is a beautiful thing to witness.

Which brings me to… Bryan. My new book boyfriend (I don’t bestow that title lightly.) He is constant, even when underestimating himself. He makes life-direction altering choices near the beginning and sticks with them. I love *heart eyes* that he is 100% himself all the time. And his sense of humor is spot on. There is a yoga sequence that’s… well, it’s hilarious and impressive. It had me googling yoga poses for reasons other than exercise 😉

What I appreciate the most about this novel is how the crux of the story isn’t a single silly or misconstrued problem, but as layered and complex as real life. Past hurts, expectations, facades, purpose, friendship, and risk are all factors for Ana and Bryan as they face their biggest challenges. Carla Laureano handles some sensitive subjects with both grace and a rawness that conveys just how serious life can be – and how happiness can be found in unexpected places and second chances.

Though this story can be read alone, it is much more appreciated as the last in the series. This friend group and their relationships are well developed over the course of all three novels. I smiled my way through the epilogue, even though I’m a little sad to see this culinary-centric series end. Good thing I can start again with book 1 and binge read them all now 😉

Thank you to the publisher, Tyndale, for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Extras!: Check out Carla Laureano’s website and blog for behind the scenes and some fantastic coffee recipes. Carla’s also a guest on the latest Story Nerds podcast, talking with Jessica Kate and Hannah Davis about workplace romances and more coffee fun!

See my thoughts on the previous books in the “Supper Club” series: The Saturday Night Supper Club | Brunch at Bittersweet Café