Mini Review: “Count Me In” by Mikal Dawn

Welcome to my mini review for Count Me In by Mikal Dawn, her writing debut AND the first book in the indie-released “Emerald City Romance” series. I anticipate that it’s the first of many wonderful stories to come from Mikal.

About the Book

Count Me INAllegra Spencer has been living a careful life. Her safe job as an accountant is bookended by going to church and the gym. Okay, sometimes the gym. Fine. She goes to church. And the coffee shop. She avoids risk at all cost, preferring to stay safe in her cozy condo. Until her accounting firm goes belly up and she’s out of a job. 

Tyler Hawk had a glorious career as a star NFL tight end. He retired on a high note and now lives a second dream of owning his own business and leading others on extreme outdoor adventures. But he needs help19
with his books—and his heart. When Allegra takes the job, sparks fly. 

It’s a case of safety zone versus danger zone, and in their minds, never the two shall meet.

 

Review

Count Me In is a rom-com with adventure and heart. It is delightfully funny and sweet. I loved the banter, attraction, and dynamic between Tyler and Allegra. The sense of humor in this novel is unique to its author (Mikal 🙂 ), complete with a vocabulary and obsession with caffeine that’s enchanting and candid. But it’s the heart-story underneath that whispers of fears and motives and dreams that truly makes Allegra and Tyler memorable. Their journey to love and “letting go” is full of humorous (and clumsy) moments, real-life adventures (I might want to go paragliding now), and real-world struggles as they finally come to terms with the joy God has in store for them on the most unexpected path.

For fans of: Melissa Tagg, Pepper Basham’s rom-coms, and Susan May Warren’s adrenaline-filled adventures.

 

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Review: “Long Time Gone” by Mary Connealy

Today’s blog post is all about author Mary Connealy’s recent western release from Bethany Hour Publishers, Long Time Gone, book # 2 in “The Cimmaron Legacy” series. In this story, Mary’s characteristic dry humor is coupled with family drama, plenty of western action, and a romance.

About the Book
The Boden clan thought their troubles were over with the death of a dangerous enemy. But with new evidence on Cole’s shooting, Justin can’t deny that the plot to take their ranch was bigger than one man. While the doctor and his distractingly pretty assistant help Cole, Justin has to uncover the trail of a decades-old secret as danger closes in.

Review

Long Time Gone by Mary ConnealyThe saga of the Bodens continues as they try to dispel threats to their livelihood and search out an informant among their ranch hands. While enough detail is included to make it stand on its own, I think a reader would enjoy this story more if it were read in sequence to know the background of the characters. The second son, Justin Boden, is the main character of this story. His attitude is understandably that of a middle child: out to prove himself to his family as a leader. This proves to be quite comical as he’s up against his older brother, Cole, in a few situations. He’s completely endearing because his tough exterior conceals a caring heart that just wants to take care of his family.

While the focus is on the Bodens and Justin much of the time, Angie Dupree, the love interest and the doctor’s “pretty assistant”, was another perspective shared throughout the book. I though her character and persona were important and the most dynamic emotionally. As she was revealed to have more “grit” than I first thought, I was cheering her on. Her journey is one of learning to find strength in independence while simultaneously realizing it’s a privilege to accept someone’s protection and care.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable western rom-com. The action-packed nature of Long Time Gone keeps the pages turning quickly as these characters learn important lessons of love and faith in the middle of the whirlwind drama. While most things are tidied up by the end, lingering questions as to the source of the family’s “threat” remain… which just means we’ll get to have more fun with the next book of the series!

Thank you to Bethany House Publishers for the complimentary review copy of this novel. This is my honest review.

Check out my review of book 1 in the series:

No Way Up

Cover Reveal: “Just the Way You Are” by Pepper Basham

Hey ya’ll! It’s time for another post! Today author Pepper Basham is revealing the cover of her upcoming independent contemporary romance: Just the Way You Are, book 1 in a new series titled “Pleasant Gap Romance”. It promises to be great fun (as always with Pepper), pairing a single mom from the Appalachians with an English actor. On a fun side note, Pepper has coined an awesome term for this blending of Appalachian and British culture: Britallachian!

Without further ado, here’s the cover!

just-the-way-you-are-by-pepper-basham

Isn’t it adorable?! I love the choice of colors for the text, AND the couple’s obvious happiness hints at the humor to be found in the pages.

And, if you’re interested in the story, here’s the back cover design:

just-the-way-you-are-by-pepper-basham-back-cover

 

You can learn more about this upcoming release by visiting the links below.

Add to Goodreads

Preorder from Amazon | Pepper’s Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Review & Author Interview: “Love, Lace, and Minor Alterations” by V. Joy Palmer

Review & Author Interview: “Love, Lace, and Minor Alterations” by V. Joy Palmer

This post is all about a recent release from author V. Joy Palmer and WhiteFire Publishing (yay for small-time publisher!): Love, Lace, and Minor Alterations. A contemporary rom-com with spunk and meaning, this story is one to be enjoyed for its sweetness and fun. I’m happy to have Joy joining us today to answer a few questions about her novel.

About the Book

Love, Lace, and Minor Alterations by V. Joy Palmer.jpgIsabel “Izze” Vez, bridal consultant extraordinaire, has been helping brides find The Dress for years. She loves nothing more than helping make wedding dreams come true…but sometimes the
happy endings grate on her. How many times can a girl discover someone else’s gown without dreaming of the day it’ll be her turn to wear one?

When James Miles Clayton walks into her life, he represents everything Izze can’t handle: change. He’s determined to bring the Ever After Bridal Boutique into the black…and to prove to Izze that she should give him a chance.

But if there’s anything Izze handles worse than change, it’s trust. She may have a few issues—fine, she knows she does. But will they keep getting in the way of any chance of her own Happily Ever After? She wants to trust God to give her those dreams of love and lace, but that’s going to require some…minor alterations.

Review

Izze’s snarky and sarcastic humor is hilarious. This book is laugh-out-loud funny — or at least it speaks to my sense of humor really well. While the humor is important and fun, sometimes I think it’s more of a shield for Izze’s character, brushing off a few issues she doesn’t want to deal with yet. Since we experience Izze’s (and occasionally Miles’s) first person perspective, sometimes there are little “asides” and explanations that add to the humor. For example, my favorite was when Izze tells on her grown cousin who chased her around with a snake just a few years ago. Or when she’s lamenting about the properness of her boss and her perfect bun.

Random comment: I liked the “behind the scenes” look at a  bridal shop through Izze’s career. If you like TV shows like Say Yes to the Dress or similar ones, you will enjoy this aspect!

The “denial factor” of the storyline is something Izze deals with on a deeper level, making the story have import and meaning behind the lighter moments. Her denial extends to her interest in Miles, her trust issues, and even her lack of confidence in her own abilities of “adulting”. Despite this flaw, she is instantly relatable and likable. Though frustrating at times, you want to cheer her on with pom-poms or claps or whatever form of celebration. Her arc teaches the bigger picture of this story: that God is the remedy for fear and doubt. Trusting Him is the way to real happiness. (And not the rainbows and perfect happily-ever-after kind, but reality with its joy and peace in the moment.)

Speaking of happily-ever-afters, Miles is ideally romantic and a fitting compliment to Izze. Steadfast where she is unsteady, sure when she is uncertain. Though not without his own flaws and pain, his character is an anchor to the story, even during the time he has his own lessons to contend with. His journey takes seeing beyond doubts to another level, learning selflessness and how to recognize other people’s pain instead of being blinded by his own hurt.

This story is stitched together with humor. The fabrics are deep hues of love and God’s provision, with scriptures and lessons weaved throughout. The finishing touch is a happily-ever-after that looks at lot like hope. I look forward to whatever story Joy crafts next!

Thank you to the author and WhiteFire publishing for providing the review copy. This is my honest review.

Interview with the Author

What inspired you to write Love, Lace, and Minor Alterations?

I’ve always been obsessed with weddings, and I was single and frustrated with the man who is now my husband when I first started writing and brainstorming. I started venting writing, and all of a sudden I just heard Izze in my head. The idea of a single woman in the wedding business who wanted to get married and was fed up with the leading man fascinated me. However, there were a lot of factors that lead to me writing this particular story, like amazing books by amazing authors and the fact that I had a hard time finding first person point of view books for twenty-somethings that sounded like real twenty- somethings.

What spiritual message or theme do you want to communicate to readers with this story?

I really, really just want God to touch your heart. That’s what makes me happiest. 🙂 But I really hope readers know all the way to the core of their souls that they can trust God. Life, fear, and drama can make it so hard for us to fully trust Him, but God has beautiful plans for us. We can trust Him with our dreams.

What was most challenging about writing this book?

It was probably when I introduced Miles’ perspective. I wanted to stay true to my own writer voice and the tone of the story, but I also wanted Miles to sound and respond like a real guy. I bugged my husband with a lot of guy questions. 😉

Which character was your favorite to write?

I really loved writing my main character, Izze! She is very similar to me, but Izze is a little more of a loose cannon. For instance, I don’t take off and refuse to talk when something makes me angry. I try to resolve the problem then and there – even if I don’t want to talk. But Izze doesn’t. She just reacts on impulse. While it was fun to write a character who reacts to everything (Especially in ways the very human side of me wants to react sometimes!), it was also really insightful.

Just for fun:

Do you have any hobbies?

Um, does reading count as a hobby? Or eating chocolate? I’m great at those things. 😉 When I’m not perfecting my résumé as a chocolate connoisseur, I’m trying to avoid cooking and thus burning our food, chasing after my one-year- old daughter, and arguing with two cats and a dog. I’m also a youth leader at my church, which I love! It means I get to drink lots of coffee and eat more chocolate. 😉

If you could live in any other time period in history, which would it be and why?

The Victorian Era! Some of my all-time favorite books are Lori Wick’s Kensington Chronicles, specifically, The Hawk and the Jewel and Wings of the Morning. I love that era. *happy sigh*

What are you currently reading?

I am tantalizingly close to finishing Ronie Kendig’s Conspiracy of Silence. Then I’ll be reading Unfolding by Jonathan Friesen, An Uncommon Courtship by Kristi Ann Hunter, Sandy Toes by Robin Jones Gunn, and I’m am super excited to read Happily Ever Ashton by Erynn Mangum!

About the Author

v-joy-palmer

Joy Palmer is an avid blogger and co-founder of Snack Time Devotions. She is a youth leader at her church, and loves acting crazy and drinking coffee with the teens. When Joy isn’t urging the elves that live in her computer to write, she’s hanging out with her husband, their adorable baby girl, and their two socially awkward cats.

 

WebsiteBlog | Facebook | Twitter  | Instagram | Goodreads

Snack Time Devotions Blog  | The Diamond Mine of Christian Fiction

Review: “Keep Holding On” by Melissa Tagg

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Today I’m reviewing a story, Keep Holding On, of which I’m a little late in sharing my enthusiasm. This latest installment in the “Walker Family” series from author Melissa Tagg further establishes her as one of my favorite go-to authors for contemporary romance that is both hilarious and real. She manages to write such depth to characters while maintaining an overall light feel to a story.

About the Book

keep-holding-onSwoon-worthy Romance. Small-town Charm. 
Best friends reunite in Tagg’s latest novel of second chances and enduring love.
Beckett Walker hasn’t stepped foot in Maple Valley in years. There’s no getting past the painful memories, and there’s every chance he’ll be arrested as soon as he shows his face. Which is exactly what happens when he finally returns. Suddenly his dream of adventure as a military lawyer comes skidding to a halt.

Horticulturist Kit Danby has spent too much time missing home and her childhood best friend–Beckett Walker. Now she might have a shot at reclaiming both. After years of living abroad, she returns to run her family’s apple orchard. She has one season to turn a profit and impress the father she barely knows. But she can’t do it alone.Add to Goodreads

It should be simple: Beckett needs community service hours. Kit needs a helping hand. But there’s more at stake than either of them planned. With a tangled past and futures that look nothing alike, they’ll have to find a way to weather the storms of the present… or risk losing everything.

Review

This is yet another quaint and perfect story from Melissa! It’s light and cute on the surface with depths of emotion and faith at its heart.

Fun bits: twinkle lights. Casablanca. Food comas. Baby goats (!). Apple cider. Oh, and a brooding male (with good reason and a long-carried burden) and his subsequent romance with Kit.

*minor demand side note: I need Megan to have her own story! Pretty please, Melissa?*

I’d say the main theme of the story is about finding purpose and a place of belonging, whether it’s a place of work, home, or family. And, about the constancy of God’s faithfulness and trustworthiness. Beckett and Kit are similar in this respect, both trying to prove themselves, in a way. A slight minor story line is worked in with a theme of giving — giving of yourself for others, realizing you might be the only person that can help someone else.

Fans of Melissa’s Christmas novella, One Enchanted Christmas, will be happy and pelased at the lovely cameos and “updates” on Drew Renwycke and Maren.

These characters go through quite the challenges! I loved reading Beckett’s journey, how he had to learn that both his heavenly and earth fathers kept holding on to him, loving him, wanting him “home”. Most striking was the interplay between Case (the dad) and Beckett; the healing, love, and relationship of those two from start to end. I highly recommend this novel to fans of contemporary fiction and I personally cannot wait to see what’s next for the Walker family!

My reviews of the previous books in the series:

From the Start

Like Never Before

 

Review: “The Thirteenth Chance” by Amy Matayo

Today’s review is of an upcoming release from Amy Matayo, The Thirteenth Chance (releasing Sept 27). I first thought it might be slightly out of my normal “comfort zone”. Because baseball . But from everything I’d heard around the blogosphere about Amy’s storytelling, I jumped at the chance to review it. (And I’m happy I did!) So first, a side note on baseball, then my review!

From first reading the synopsis, I knew baseball was central to the theme, and I’m not really a sports fan — I’m neutral. The good news? Reading this I discovered you don’t have to know anything beyond “3 strikes and you’re out”, and the fact that fastball and curveball pitches are completely different. That’s it. 🙂

About the Book

Baseball star Will Vandergriff knows any number of women who would happily pretend to be his girlfriend. In a last-ditch effort to restore his good standing with his team’s higher-ups, he enlists the help of his neurotic, goody-goody neighbor. The Thirteenth Chance.jpgSchoolteacher Olivia Pratt might be a bit quirky and a bit of a loner, but she’s a lot more inviting than she knows. Will hopes that bringing her to his next game might revamp his reckless reputation and help get his career back on track. The only problem? The plan works a little too well. Not only do the higher-ups love Olivia, but Will plays his best game yet. Suddenly his losing streak is a thing of the past, and Olivia is his new good-luck charm. Will feels anything but lucky.

After years of keeping the world at bay, Olivia Pratt is pulling off the ultimate performance—not only reluctantly posing as Will’s girlfriend but also insisting that she’s oblivious to his major-league appeal. But she can only lie to herself for so long. Being by Will’s side feels good. Really good. Maybe it’s finally time to make a pitch for everything she really wants—and to find out just how exhilarating love can be.

Review

Olivia has walls. Walls she thought were for her own good, to protect herself, but are instead keeping her distant from others. Her wariness and slight superstition related to the number “13” shows itself when she learns it’s Will’s number. When we finally learn the truth behind her “13” superstition, it sheds major light on her personal baggage and family story. Will is bold and different, not afraid to call out her quirks and dig deeper into her personality. While he can be brash and outspoken, Olivia can hold her own in a battle of words. This makes for some hilarious exchanges between the two, my personal favorites being when Perry the cat is involved. I think the two of them really compliment each other.

The story is told with alternating 1st person points-of-view. It’s a clever tool Amy uses to accomplish just the right tone of humor and directness. It gives us an inside look at the thoughts and emotions of Olivia and Will. At times, though, the narrative is as much about what is not being said or outright avoided in the character’s head as what is directly told. 14322299_884739008326894_660630574878250141_nAfter a couple of chapters of learning the tones of Olivia and Will, I could start to read between the lines and see what each was choosing not to focus on. (especially in a few key scenes near the end. what fun!)

This is a cute romantic comedy with life lessons each of the lead characters must face. Underneath the humor, spark, and banter of these two lies a deeper story of letting go, of risking self and heart to gain kinship and acceptance. Both of them learn, in different ways, that perceptions and initial judgments can be “off base” (pun intended by myself and Amy). They must decide if they will bravely let the past be the past and strive to be better in the future. If you enjoy romance, wit, or stories of crazy-cat-ladies paired up with impulsive, flirty sports fanatics, (or clean new adult in general), this is a story I’d definitely recommend trying out!

Thank you to Relz Author Support Services and the author/publisher for a complimentary review copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.

 

 

Review: “With This Ring?” Novella Collection

Sometimes you just need a lighter story with a happy ending. That’s just what I found with Bethany House’s recent novella collection With This Ring?: A Novella Collection of Proposals Gone Awry by authors Karen Witemeyer, Regina Jennings, Mary Connealy, and Melissa Jagears. And with these authors in the western romantic comedy genre, you’re pretty much guaranteed to finish reading with a contented smile and happy feeling.

About the BookWith This RingHumorous Historical Romance Novella
Collection Offers Love and Laughs

Four top historical romance novelists team up in this new collection to offer stories of love and romance with a twist of humor. In Karen Witemeyer’s “The Husband Maneuver,” Marietta Hawkins decides to grab the reins when the ranch foreman she loves seems to be leaving forever. Regina Jennings offers “Her Dearly Unintended,” where friends stranded by a rising river pretend to be newlyweds when a dangerous stranger arrives.

Mary Connealy’s “Runaway Bride” finds a Texas ranger getting more than he expected when he rescues a young woman fleeing a dangerous arranged marriage. And Melissa Jagears’ “Engaging the Competition” finds a young woman forced to assist the man she’s often sparred with after an accident leaves him helpless. Each tale is a fun blend of history and romance that will delight readers.

Review

The Husband Maneuver by Karen Witemeyer

This story was such fun! It’s been a while since I’ve ready anything by Karen, so this was a pleasant reminder of her humorous and skillful style. I liked that the main characters already had a history together. Daniel had his reason for not acting on his feelings for Etta, and once it was revealed, you would agree it was a very honorable reason! Which made me like him even more. This was one of my top 2 favorites in the collection!

Her Dearly Unintended by Regina Jennings

This was a western situation comedy with a bit of depth. Full of layers of legitimate, believable misunderstandings concerning both friendship and love, it told a coming-of-age (and maturity) story. With sass! I particularly liked the setting in the Missouri Ozarks because it is quite close to home for me!

Runaway Bride by Mary Connealy

This one is my other favorite from this collection. Hilarious at times, it has Mary’s signature humor (if you’re a fan of Connealy, I promise you’ll like it). I loved seeing familiar characters from the Trouble in TX and Kincaid Brides series, though new readers might be a little overwhelmed from 1 of the short passages introducing them! My favorite part was how John and Carrie’s relationship progressed. Their almost instant chemistry and subsequent fast-moving relationship was still believable. And, their mutual shyness-then-love story was so sweetly told by Mary. I only wish this one was a little longer because I could’ve read more about these crazy characters and their friends!

Engaging the Competition by Melissa Jagears

This was overall a cute story with an unexpected and pleasant take on the genre — especially with the reversal of roles for the male and female lead. She was the rancher and tough cowgirl and he was the studious school teacher. The hero has the unique impediment of extremely poor eyesight. I was anxious to see where Melissa would take that from the story setup. It proved to be an effective plot device that propelled the characters together and taught a lesson in “being enough”: your pride shouldn’t cause you to prove yourself to others if it, in turn, belittles them.

Thank you to Bethany House Publishers for providing a complimentary review copy in exchange for my honest review.