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.

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Review: “Told You So” by Kristen Heitzmann

Today I’m excited to share my review of Kristen Heitzmann‘s latest independent release, Told You So, the first in a new series. Having been a fan of Kristen for a while, I was super excited to read something new from her. To describe this story as unexpected hardly begins to communicate what Kristen has penned between the pages. While it’s classified as a rom-com/drama, it’s really so much more and much deeper than that.

27138578Book summary: From the minute Grace Evangeline throws her sweet tea in Devin Bressard’s face, their battle of wits and cross-purposes overtakes their lives. Sassy “angelic” Grace Evangeline will stop at nothing to see her romance novel produced for Broadway. Devin Bressard knows all about the commercial success of Ms. Evangeline’s “novels”—as far from his literary, nerve-striking plays as anything could be. Grace intends to pull his head out of the rarefied air long enough to make her point, even if it involves stalking him and infiltrating his friends and colleagues. It’s research, after all. Devin knows she’s trouble, but who would guess the spokesperson for strength and virtue would be a calamity vortex? He mounts a fierce resistance, but when he’s forced to work with Grace, his profession and sanity aren’t the only things at risk. Collapsing walls on both sides bring a detente that could shatter their bond—or resound through more lives than their own.

My thoughts: This book is like nothing I’ve ever come across. Granted, every story is unique in some way, even those taking cliche plots and tweaking them to suit…. but this is something else. Maybe it’s the premise, the characters, the dramatic and out-of-left-field plot twist, or just Kristen Heitzmann in every way. It’s the perfect combination of drama and humor, with vivid characters and a hint of suspense.

The witty and layered dialogue alone is worth note. While never mediocre, the conversations between characters can go from funny to personally revealing to reminiscent in a paragraph.

The story follows realistic characters and deals with raw — sometimes painful — honesty. It explores failings and mistakes with the beauty of forgiveness.

Both Grace and Devin escape into their own worlds of writing. When thrown together, their personalities and opposite approaches tear down emotional walls each has built. They are both reluctant to reveal hurts from the past because they are scared of vulnerability (and mistakenly rely on assumptions about each other). Grace and Devin really get under your skin and into your heart.

To comment any further on how the plot moves and delves into unexpected territory for all of the characters would spoil it further! I’m going to end simply by stating it explores the idea of sacrifice and the importance of mercy. It is a beautiful example of God’s plan and purpose  prevailing even amidst chaos and imperfection.

I do want to note the content of this novel is just outside of what you might expect in the CBA market. (Think maybe PG13). It does contain a few very mild slang terms, and some suggestive content is implied. Like Rissi explained, it always remains classy! I say bravo to Kristen for choosing to release it independently, because this story carries a message that needs to be heard as-is.

Review: “From the Start” by Melissa Tagg

Author Melissa Tagg is my new BFF, she just doesn’t know it yet. Humor, family, caffeine, and classic movies – that’s what we have in common :). Her stories combine characters whose personalities jump off the page and make you laugh out loud while at the same time traversing the ups and downs of their journeys.

Her latest book, the first in a new (woohoo!) series, is From the Start — a story of Kate Walker and Colton Greene as they unexpectedly find themselves in small-town Iowa after trying circumstances force them to take a step back from their normal lives."From the Start" by Melissa Tagg.

Here’s a plot summary: Kate Walker used to believe in true love and happily ever after. While her own love life may have left her brokenhearted, it hasn’t kept her from churning out made-for-TV romance movie screenplays…until a major career slump and a longing to do something meaningful send her running back to her hometown of Maple Valley.

Permanently sidelined by an injury, former NFL quarterback Colton Greene is temporarily hiding out in a friend’s hometown to avoid the media and the reminders of all he’s lost. Maple Valley seems like the perfect place to learn how to adjust to normal life. The only trouble is he’s never really done normal before.

While Kate plays things safe and Colton is all about big risks and grand gestures, they both get what it’s like to desperately need direction in life. An unexpected project gives them both a chance to jumpstart their new lives, but old wounds and new dreams are hard to ignore. Starting over wasn’t part of the plan, but could it be the best thing that’s ever happened to them?

 

Kate Walker is very easy to relate to. She is independent and cares enormously for her family, while still remaining afraid of failure in love and her career. When she meets Colton Greene, also needing a new direction in life, they discover together that moving forward in life might require letting go of their own plans and trusting God for their futures.

I absolutely LOVE the classic movie and old Hollywood references in this book! Also, the small-town setting is portrayed in a realistic yet picturesque way. Can we just take a road trip to Maple Valley already?!

Melissa knows how to pen comical situations! I did find myself laughing mildly at some of Kate and Colton’s antics. And what a first meeting scene for them! You’ll just have to read it to find out how hilarious it is! (Have I used too may exclamation points in this review already? I don’t think so!)

Really though, there is a serious thread and a real transformation these characters go through. God doesn’t plan the same way we plan our lives – or even our daily circumstances. I say “way to go” to Melissa for clearly listening to God’s direction as she penned this story. The lessons these characters learn were an encouraging reminder for me personally, that we don’t need to micromanage every aspect of our lives because God is in control.

It was really awesome to see Melissa’s personality – and even her personal writing journey (see her blog) – shine through in Kate’s character. I can’t wait to see what’s next for the Walker clan!

*There is a free ebook prequel to this series, Three Little Words, available now! Let me say, it is really cute and a sweet introduction to Maple Valley!*

Thanks a million to Bethany House for the complimentary review copy in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: “Fired Up” by Mary Connealy

If you know me well, you know that I love a variety of movie genres (and book, too. My favorite book genre is probably historical fiction). As long as I can remember, thanks to my parents, I have been watching westerns. I like everything from the old black & white TV westerns, John Wayne films, and more current westerns like Wyatt Earp and True Grit.

It should come as no surprise that I also enjoy written westerns, in book form. Recently I’ve discovered Mary Connealy, who authors adventurous westerns with romantic comedy elements. Seriously, I’ve laughed out loud on more than one occasion while reading her books. So far, I’ve read her Kincaid Brides series and the first two of her Trouble in Texas series.

"Fired Up" by Mary Connealy

Fired Up, her latest from the Trouble in Texas series, is a thrilling tale set in 1868 Texas shortly after the Civil War. It includes characters from the first book in the series, Swept Away. Dare Riker, the self-educated town doctor, contends with someone mysteriously trying to kill him while fighting his increasing attraction to widow Glynna Greer. Through a series of perilous attempts on his life, Glynna and his group of friends from the war must work together to protect Dare and thwart his unknown enemy. As a result, Dare and Glynna are drawn closer together due to various circumstances. They admit their growing attraction, much to the woe of Glynna’s mistrusting teenage son, Paul.

Fired Up completely held my attention, keeping me up flipping pages until the “wee hours” of the morning. I really liked how Mary picked up where Swept Away ended, diving in with the same central cast of characters. Equally including elements of drama, adventure, mystery, and romance, Mary tackled often difficult subjects such as forgiveness, domestic abuse, and the Civil War with care, empathy, and a great sense of humor. I thoroughly enjoyed watching Dare and Glynna’s characters grow and mature during the course of the novel. I can’t wait to see what Mary has in store next for this group of friends in Texas!

So, if you enjoy historical fiction or westerns, check out Mary Connealy’s Fired Up, recently released from Bethany House Publishers.

Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed in this review are solely mine.