Four Stars, Low Language, Low Romance, Low Violence, Moderate Religion

“Aren’t Books Pure Joy?”

A few years back I picked up a book entitled Dear Mr Knightley, for obvious Jane Austen reasons. I was delightfully surprised to find a more Daddly-Long-legs story. Possibly the best version I’ve read. I was instantly pulled into the story and loved the entire book. I recently came across another book, also by Katherine Reay, and picked it up without hesitation.

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“One of Madeline Cullen’s happiest childhood memories is of working with her Aunt Maddie in the quaint and cozy Printed Letter Bookshop. But by the time Madeline inherits the shop nearly twenty years later, family troubles and her own bitter losses have hardened Madeline’s heart toward her once-treasured aunt—and the now struggling bookshop left in her care.

While Madeline intends to sell the shop as quickly as possible, the Printed Letter’s two employees have other ideas. Reeling from a recent divorce, Janet finds sanctuary within the books and within the decadent window displays she creates. Claire, though quieter than the acerbic Janet, feels equally drawn to the daily rhythms of the shop and its loyal clientele, finding a renewed purpose within its walls.

When Madeline’s professional life falls apart, and a handsome gardener upends all her preconceived notions, she questions her plans and her heart. Has she been too quick to dismiss her aunt’s beloved shop? And even if she has, the women’s best combined efforts may be too little, too late.”

I’ll admit I had a harder time getting into this book. It took effort to remember which character was attached to which background and story as she jumped back and forth. It was not an “easy” read, the pacing was a little slow. It was however, beautifully worded, and deeply moving. I loved all the book references, and the lovely description of the small town and its quaint bookshop.

Five Stars, Josi S. Kilpack, Low Language, Low Religion, Low Romance, Low Violence

Just Friends

I’ve been richly blessed in my life to have some of the best people as friends. I’m twice blessed. When one of those friends expressed interest in me and I told him, “I think we should just be friends” (no joke, those cringe worthy words came out of my mouth) he allowed it, and even embraced it. It took me two more years of friendship to realize I couldn’t live without him, but I married him and have loved our love story ever since.

That’s probably why stories with a friends to lovers trope hold a special place in my heart. Especially ones that are done as well as Josi Kilpack‘s Daisies and Deovotion.

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Timothy Mayfield has nearly given up on his search for a wife. Then his Uncle Elliott presents to him a solution: participate in his “marriage campaign,” and upon approval of his choice for a wife, Timothy’s inheritance will be his.

Freed from the constraints of having to marry for money, Timothy is ready to marry for love instead. And he knows exactly what he wants in a wife. His friend, Maryann Morrington, an heiress in her own right, tells him outright that his expectations are ridiculous–no such woman exists. 

Miss Shaw appears to fulfill every single item on Timothy’s list. But when Timothy and Miss Shaw begin courting, Timothy realizes something profound. He’d rather spend his time with Maryann. Timothy must convince Maryann that she is the very woman he’d been looking for all along before it is too late.

This story pulled me right in sooner than some of her others have. I fell in love with Timothy and Maryann’s relationship right away.  Their honesty with each other made the novel refreshing and their relationship more meaningful. There were some beautifully written transitions in the development of their relationship.

I loved how Timothy’s character was written; I both loved him and wanted to shake him. Josi did a fantastic job of making his complete and utter lack of awareness believable and ridiculously adorable.  I liked him so well there were times I felt like the perspective was a little heavy on Maryann’s point of view. I’d turn to a new chapter and be slightly disappointed that we were still in Maryann’s head, and wishing for more from Timothy.

The focus on Maryann however allowed Josi to pull you more fully into Maryann’s emotions. The way Josi wrote Maryann’s emotions made them so real, in a way that allowed you to feel her hurt. Her unrequited love was written so well it was painful, and yet endearing.

There was only one thing that pulled me out of the story a few times. Maryann’s frequent lack and then need for a chaperone was a little confusing. I couldn’t figure out why she sometimes needed one and sometimes didn’t. However, it didn’t detract enough for me to not come away completely loving this book! I’m so excited to see what comes next in this series.

3 1/2 Stars, Low Romance, Low Violence, Moderate Language, Moderate Religion

Perspective

Confession for you all, I have always been more on the sensitive side I cry during movies, watching TV, and while reading books. Heavens, I’ve even cried watching facebook videos! Since having my first baby however, my hormones (lets just blame it on the hormones) have been out of control.

So Healed by Miranda Lotz may not have been the best choice, it is 100% a heart wrencher. I cried through more than half of it.

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“Stephanie knows God answers her prayers. Giving birth to her daughter after five miscarriages is proof of that. 

But when baby Abby is diagnosed with a rare form of epilepsy and treatments begin to spiral out of control, Stephanie is left to question why a God of miracles doesn’t guide her to heal Abby.

Stephanie’s husband, Jared, wants to try Mary’s Miracle–an organic CBD oil made from hemp–to treat Abby’s seizures, but Stephanie wants to know what God has planned for them.

As treatments dwindle and options run low, Stephanie must learn how to trust her instincts and follow her heart, finding a path forward for her daughter, and a path back to God for herself.”

The author did a beautiful job of reflecting all the pain hurt and struggle a family can go through when they find out hard news about their little angels. Miranda Lotz’s writing not only pulls on your heart strings, but gives you perspective. She did a very good job of making you feel and understand all the emotions.

I did struggle a little with the points of view it was written in, the chapters were labeled with the person’s name, but every now and then it seemed to switch to third person or even a completely different view.

Be aware of the sensitive nature of this book before you decide if it’s for you. Also a few other points: The book is very heavily religious as this family struggles in understanding why God would allow this, but it’s not preachy. There is heavier language than most books we read, so keep that in mind. Lastly, although there is no violence in the book its first chapter is pretty graphic in the telling of her delivery.

That all being said, this is a good book to turn to for perspective, for faith, and for a really good cry. –A.B.

Five Stars, Low Language, Low Religion, Low Romance, Low Violence, Sally Britton

Meet Cute

As much as I love having an audio book in the background while I work on my house, they don’t always have my full attention. Getting sick over Spring Break was a blessing in disguise. I finally had an excuse to ignore anything that needed to be worked on and lie in bed, and just read.

I’d been saving some of my more anticipated books for a time when I could dive into the book without my focus being split. One of those  was Sally Britton‘s Courting the Vicar’s Daughter.

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Harry Devon, son of a wealthy gentleman who cared more for money than his family, has returned to the family estate at last. Without direction, and lacking the knowledge necessary to run his estate, Harry is prepared to leave it to others to make the difficult decisions. Until he meets the vicar’s daughter. 

Augusta Ames, who much prefers the childhood nickname Daisy, is preparing to open a school for daughters of poor tenant farmers. In the habit of serving others, Daisy determines to help Harry find his path and place in their community. When he embraces her plan with enthusiasm, their friendship begins to blossom into something more. 

But the Devon legacy is regarded with suspicion, thanks to the greed and cruelty of Harry’s late father. When the neighborhood finds reason to turn on Harry, will Daisy trust her heart enough to love him still?

Sally Britton writes some of the cutest first meeting scenes, and this one was no exception. They pull you right in so you are immediately invested in the outcome of her main character’s relationships.

Many regency novels write about the life of wealthy gentlemen, balls, and glittering debutants. Which, if done well, take us away to a different time and place. We escape through our reading. But a great author can also get you to escape into a quite village with country dances and simple farmers, Sally Britton did just that in this novel. I loved the simplicity of life she conveyed in this novel, but it didn’t make it any less difficult or real.

She writes with such wit,  that though she expertly gets her characters to grapple with life, you don’t feel bogged down with the weight of it all. Underlying it all is a beautiful understanding of real love that pervades her novels. Harry’s story was a delightful end to this series.

 

 

 

4 1/2 stars, Low Language, Low Religion, Low Romance, Low Violence

Second Chance Love

I have a confession: when I hear a book is a Second Chance love story, I’m more inclined not to read it. Which is odd, my own love story (which I adore) is a second chance love story. However my particular story wasn’t accompanied by any betrayal or anger or wretched sadness that they usually entail. When we got our second chance, it was natural and easy, I’m very lucky. There is enough heartache and pain in the lives of those around me, sometimes I’m just not in the mood to read about it in the pages of a book; unless of course it’s as beautifully written as A Gaurded Heart by Heidi Kimball. 

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Three years after a shocking scandal destroyed her family and forced her into isolation, Eleanor Hayward finally has an opportunity to put her painful history and dashed hopes behind her. But reentering society is no simple task. In her cousin’s glittering ballroom, Eleanor is stunned when she comes face-to-face with the man who broke her heart those years before.

Edmund Fletcher thought he had laid the past to rest until he unexpectedly encounters the woman who so nearly became his wife. Soon to be engaged to another, Edmund knows he must let go of the complicated feelings he harbors for Eleanor. However, when the Hayward scandal resurfaces and the truth behind their parting is revealed, Eleanor and Edmund are left reeling. Tormented by thoughts of what could have been, they realize it is impossible to rewrite history. But is there a future in which they might both find happiness—and true love?

Heidi Kimball has delightfully entertaining descriptions. Emotions are hard to describe, but they’re even harder to show. Heidi Kimball does a great job of showing outwardly what her characters are feeling inwardly.

She gave her characters individual and unique struggles to grapple with, and her characters were engaging. I loved Marianne, even her side characters brought life to the novel.

Eleanor and Edmund’s love story, while difficult, was also beautiful, definitely worth the read.

Five Stars, Low Language, Low Religion, Low Romance, Low Violence, Uncategorized

It’s in the Past

Usually books about revenge are dark and heavy. Right from the beginning I knew Julie Daines‘ book From Ash and Stone was going to be unique. 41QUfAaBxzL

Lady Margaret Grey of Hartfell wants for nothing. The daughter of a knight, she has a loving family, wealth, and even a secret romance with the blacksmith’s son. But all that is torn from her one fateful night when her home is attacked and her family killed. She is left with nothing but bitterness, an unwavering mistrust of men, and a strange and mysterious curse that allows her to feel the thoughts of anyone who touches her.

Now, after six years away, Margaret is returning home for one reason: revenge. She hopes that by avenging her family’s deaths, she will somehow be freed from her curse. But it won’t be easy. The identities of the raiders are still unknown, she has little left to her name, and traveling alone in the Northumbrian hills during the border wars is dangerous. Matters are further complicated by handsome Angus Robson, a Scotsman whose charm threatens to distract her from her plans. But the raiders are closer than she knows, and Margaret soon realizes that what she believed to be a curse may be the key to finding those she seeks. One touch will reveal the truth . . .

Not only was the story delightfully unexpected, it had humor and a quick pace that flowed well.

I loved the depths she gave to her characters. She gave them insight that many surface characters are lacking. Margaret saw how each choice led her to where she was and how it affected not only her, but others as well. It was more a story of changing the futures and pulling down internal walls, then it was about changing the past. I truly loved it. –M.V.

Five Stars, KM Shea, Low Language, Low Religion, Low Romance, Low Violence, Melanie Cellier

A New Chapter

We are currently in the process of selling our house! We’re excited about this new chapter in our lives, but don’t necessarily relish the work that we have to wade through to get there. I’ve been elbow deep in mudding, painting and packing, making it really easy to pop in my head phones and get lost in a book. It doesn’t lend a lot of time for sitting at my computer. However, I’ve recently read three books I just had to take a quick break from house craziness to share with you. One is the first published work of a new author. The other two are old favorites, but new series’.

Two young adult authors I love recently launched new series’.

Technically K.M. Shea’s is a new series, The Fairy Tale Enchantress, but it ties into her Timeless Fairy Tales books telling the story of Angelique, finally! 🙂

Apprentice of Magic (The Fairy Tale Enchantress Book 1) by [Shea, K. M.]

Angelique hates her magic. Her war-like ability to control any weapon has earned her nothing but the fear and scorn of fellow students and instructors. 

Until Enchanter Evariste appears. The mysterious prodigy takes Angelique as his apprentice and shows her more kindness than she ever hoped to receive. 

But things are changing in the world. Dark things. Evil things. 
Once upon a time is about to become very real…

I loved the background she created for Angelique. Her emotions and her motivations were written so well I felt them with every turn of the page. I especially love how she handled the interactions between Angeliqe and Evariste, she set up the story so well I’m on the edge of my seat waiting for book two which doesn’t come out until April 12th!

Melanie Cellier is one of my top five favorite young adult authors and she recently started a completely new series. The Spoken Mage Series. Voice of Power and Voice of Command are both out now. Voice of Dominion come out April 20th.

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For those of you who liked some of the concepts of Red Queen but like me, were turned off by the violence or the love triangle, you will love this series! It has heart and adventure and back and forth politics, in a good way. All with the fantastic writing that I always find in Melanie Cellier’s books.

Now, onto a brand new author. A Beautiful Love: A Regency Fairy Tale Retelling is the first published work of Megan Walker, it comes out on Wednesday, and I’m giving you the heads up now, this in an author you want to keep tabs on.

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Preston Blake had it all—wealth, a picturesque estate, and a growing affection with his childhood best friend Caroline Avery—until an unfortunate accident leaves him badly scarred in more ways than one. Isolated by the cruel eyes of society, Preston’s only wish is to find where he now belongs.

Caroline Avery is recently out in society, and thanks to Preston Blake’s broken promises, finds herself being chased by a determined earl instead of courted by her best friend. When, after a year’s absence, Preston finally accepts an invitation to visit her family’s estate, Caroline is determined to feign indifference to his company.

But being back together proves more challenging than either friend conceived. Caroline longs to return to the past, but Preston cannot let go of his fears. How could they possibly have a future together?

Megan Walker took the tale of The Ugly Duckling that’s not often retold, and brought it to life. Her conversations are witty and engaging. Her characters had both hope and depth. She wrote with such emotion that I found myself siding with both Preston and Caroline. When she pulled in inner battles to the stories struggle it made the tale that much more beautiful. I’m definitely a fan.

I shouldn’t have been surprised considering the company she keeps. This story is part of the Forever After Retellings Series which already includes stories from Sally Britton whose writing I’ve adored for almost a year since her first release last May. (Harry’s book comes out next week and I’m am so excited!) Joanna Barker who is a new favorite, her second book comes out April 1st! Heidi Kimball whose writing I became acquainted with through the Regency House Party, and whose novel A Guarded Heart is currently sitting on my kindle waiting for the next round of painting to begin. Her contribution is the last in this series and releases in April. (Man my tbr list is going to be full of goodness).

These ladies including an author who made her debut with this series, Arlem Hawks, make up the Love Letter Press and will continue to be a beautiful force in the writing community.

Five Stars, Low Language, Low Religion, Low Romance, Low Violence, Uncategorized

No More Reading Rut

Do you ever get in a reading rut? You enjoy what you’re reading, but you aren’t really connecting to any stories or characters on a deeper level? This book, totally broke my reading rut. 41AwUCn-65L

William Barlow’s life has been forever altered: his estranged father is dead, and William has inherited the title of Viscount Farleigh. Along with the title comes a neglected estate, an enormous amount of gambling debt, and one astounding acquisition that will turn William’s world upside down . . .

It is her first London Season, and Lady Louisa Hargreaves could not be more pleased. She has attracted the attention of the Earl of Kerridge, and the two are on the cusp of an official betrothal. That is, until she learns of a generations-old family debt: her grandfather gambled her hand in marriage and lost, and now Louisa must pay the price. She will marry not the earl but a man she just met, who has taken her freedom in one fell swoop. Even as she struggles to understand the handsome and aloof man she is to wed, Louisa is irresistibly drawn to him—and he to her.

But she soon realizes he is harboring secrets, and as her wedding day approaches, she must discover what her future husband is hiding before she makes the gravest mistake of her life.

Karen Tuft‘s characters were not only delightful, but had depth. William’s moral goodness and his motives to help the people under his care contrasted well with his decision to enforce the debt. Louisa’s decision to honor the debt coming from a place of duty gave a well written contrast to her desire to be loved. I especially loved Louisa’s brothers, they added such a fun layer to the overall story line.

The author wrote with such emotions that you’re drawn into their world. The scenes were wonderfully written. The story is sweet and you just want to nestle into their world and stay till the very end. Which she handled beautifully. It was a skillfully written happily ever after ending. –M.V.

3 1/2 Stars, Low Language, Low Romance, Low Violence, Melanie Jacobson, Moderate Religion

Fairy Tale Life

Fairy Tale re-tellings seem to be a really popular trope right now. I’m not complaining, I’m just stating a fact. A fact I completely embrace. I love watching how each author uses the different elements of the story to create their own fairy tale. I especially love it when it’s not obvious how they’re going to eventually pull the whole story together.

Finding Jack by Melanie Jacobson is a contemporary reverse re-telling (seems like a tongue twister) of Rapunzel.

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When smart, practical Emily finds herself in the crosshairs of an Internet prankster, her orderly world goes topsy-turvy. Instead of getting mad at the handsome stranger behind the joke, she finds herself drawn to him. But Jack Dobson, though hilarious and thoughtful, has a lot of secrets. Despite her growing feelings for her new and unexpected long-distance friend, his biggest secret of all might be the one that breaks the spell they’ve been weaving around each other.

I’ve never read a reverse re-telling of rapunzel. It just doesn’t seem feasible that a man would be trapped in a tower. Melanie Jacobson did an cute flip, and it was so fun to try and figure out how he was “trapped.” I love that she used it as personal prison not a physical one imposed by anyone else.

Melanie Jacobson’s female characters can seem almost too similar. They’re all California determined and focused girls, but I love where she went with Emily and the changes she made.

Melanie Jacobson also has a thing for online relationships. I’ve read that’s how she met her husband, which is sweet, but I keep hoping for something different. The online connection in this one was unique enough to not pull me out of the story.

The banter between Emily and Jack was highly entertaining and I liked how their connection grew and how their characters eventually encouraged each other outside of themselves.

Five Stars, Four Stars, Heather B. Moore, Low Language, Low Religion, Low Romance, Low Violence, Nichole Van, Timeless Romance Anthologies

Learn to Fly

For some unlucky reason I keep picking up books that  I’ve read before, not realizing until the second or third page that I’ve already read it. I understand the purpose of re-releasing a book that was part of an anthology, or needs a new cover. Same book, different title or cover can make a difference in sales for an author. As a reader it can be a little disappointing to get all excited about a new book only to find out it’s not a new book.

On the other hand, I LOVE it when I find a novella or short story that I enjoyed has been rewritten as a full length novel. I love seeing new details and getting in deeper with characters I came to love the first time around.

I found that to be true in both Seeing Miss Heartstone by Nichole Van. Which was originally published as “An Invisible Heiress”, in the Spring in Hyde Park (Timeless Regency Collection Book 3).  As well as Let’s Begin Again by Heather B. Moore. Which was originally published as “Every Occasion” in the Valentine’s Day Collection (A Timeless Romance Anthology Book 19).

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Miss Belle Heartstone—heiress and savvy businesswoman—needs a husband. Immediately. As in, yesterday would not have been soon enough. Her mother’s attempts at matchmaking have been disastrous. So Belle decides to solve the problem her way—survey the market and purchase the best groom available. 

Colin Radcliffe, Marquess of Blake—debt-ridden and penniless—needs a large infusion of cash. Desperately. Preferably cash that does not come with a wife attached. It is no surprise, then, when he receives Miss Heartstone’s brazen proposal—her cash, his title, their marriage—that he politely declines. 

But before he leaves her, Blake suggests something truly radical: Maybe before finding a husband, Belle should find herself. 
His simple words send them both on an unexpected journey, spanning continents and years, entwining their lives in ways neither could have foreseen. Can two lonely souls move past societal expectations and forge a unique life together?

I absolutely adored this story when I read it the first time in Spring in Hyde Park. Nichole Van’s characters are always well written and fascinating to read; either in a novella or a novel. Seeing in more depth the transformation Belle takes just made me love her character even more.

This was also true with my favorite detail added to the longer novel. I loved getting to see more of Blake’s response to Belle’s identity. His response was not only true to character, but written so emotionally well that I felt his conflict for myself.

I was pulled in instantly the first time around, but not can’t imagine not having the beautiful details that were added to the full length novel. It’s a new favorite and fully deserving of the recent Whitney Award Finalist announcement.

Let's Begin Again (Pine Valley Book 7) by [Moore, Heather B.]

When Maurie Ledbetter moves back to her hometown to open her dream shop, she calls a local construction crew for help. Former teenage crush Grant Shelton shows up on her front porch, answering the call for the construction job. Seeing Grant again brings back Maurie’s memories of her troubled childhood, and she doesn’t know if spending time around Grant is the best way to move on. But when she discovers Grant has gone through difficulties of his own, Maurie realizes that he might be the key to her own healing.

I was excited about a new Pine Valley novel, and like I said, a little disappointed when I found out I’ve already read it. I remembered liking the story in the timeless anthology so I kept reading and I’m glad I did.

The story of Maurie and Grant was even better fleshed out. Heather Moore did a great job of balancing the drama of their past with the sweetness of their current relationship. The pain of they’d both experienced was written honestly and up front which gave a great depth to the overall story.

Novella’s are awesome to give you a little taste of the story, but nothing beats the story depth and character development you can get from a full length novel. Part of me wants to write the authors of some of my favorite novella’s and say, please do more with this, I love it!