Romancing the Holiday brings readers three novellas full of sizzle and heart. In We’ll Be Home for Christmas by HelenKay Dimon, Lila Payne shows up to take over her uncle’s resort and finds the man she had a three-night stand with a few months back … a man that gave her another name. Ask Her at Christmas by Christi Barth finds Caitlin McIntyre’s best friend asking her to marry him … except he’s practicing to ask someone else. Now she not only has to hide how she really feels about him but he asks her to help him plan the perfect proposal. A kiss shared by coworkers at last year’s Christmas party has caused tension at the office in Jaci Burton’s The Best Thing. Now Brody and Tori have to decide how they are going to move forward.
I love the idea of anthologies – a collection of bite-sized stories in one book – but I’m also a little leery of them. I’m usually afraid that they will be too short or the author won’t put the detail in them to give them enough depth. These three, though, are extremely satisfying. The characters are well-developed and engaging. Each story has its own feel, with the Christmas season being the theme that ties them together, and are emotion-packed.
Both We’ll Be Home for Christmas and The Best Thing are part of a series. I’ve read a story in each of the series, in fact I reviewed an earlier story in Dimon’s series here, but don’t worry if you haven’t. Theses stories can definitely be enjoyed on their own and will likely cause you to want to read more.
Spencer Thomas is a treat in Dimon’s We’ll Be Home for Christmas. He’s highly intelligent, with multiple degrees, but when it comes to women he is clueless. He has had bad role-models when it comes to women sticking it out. His own mother left, as well as the women in other significant relationships in his life. If I have any complaint about this story, it is that there wasn’t enough detail about those women. I think that because it is part of a series, Dimon glossed over some of the history. The story, though, is definitely enjoyable regardless – watching Spence bumble through his interactions with Lila and his realization of his feelings – and the ending is very sweet…. and readers are given plenty of sizzle along the way.
Ask Her at Christmas is touching. You will feel for both Caitlin and Kyle as they deal with the fall-out from his decision to propose to a woman as part of a business merger. It is probably hard for most people to understand, as the majority of us wouldn’t be in that situation, but Barth handles it with finesse. Some might find Monica, Kyle’s soon-to-be fiance, to be a little shallow and cartoonish, but she’s fun as the antagonist.
Burton also handles the conflict in her story, The Best Thing, with style. She aptly captures the problems inherent with an office romance and draws readers in very quickly. Brody, like Spence, is a bit of an idiot when it comes to relationships, but he also quickly realizes where his heart is leading him and it is charming to watch.
If you are looking for quick reads to get you in the mood for the season, Romancing the Holidays is a must. And you just might find yourself with a list of books to read into the new year.
Born to Be Wild is the second in Donna Kauffman’s The Three Musketeers series. Dara Colbourne spent her childhood trying to be included in the close friendship shared by Zach, Jarrett and her twin brother, Dane. All she got for her trouble was merciless teasing by Zach. Now, all grown up, Dara works for a foundation that grants wishes to seriously and terminally ill children. She hasn’t seen Zach in years, but now he’s been picked by a donor to head up a camping trip for some of her kids. Zach runs an adventure business, taking thrill-seekers to extreme locations – like skiing down an active volcano or swimming with sharks. Dara doesn’t think that he’s the right person for the job but Zach won’t let it go and gets her to agree to a trial run. If she finds his plan acceptable, she will ask the foundation board to approve him for the trip. But spending time together might show them both that the teasing from their childhood has grown into something much more adult.
I have to be honest – I had to read this story twice. The first time I only made it about half way before I put it down to read something else. And I can’t pinpoint exactly why. The writing is great, the characters are interesting, and the plot-line is intriguing. I think maybe I just couldn’t personally connect with the conflict in the story. Dara’s history means she has issues with the way Zach makes a living – her dad died in a small plane crash when she was in her teens and she lost her fiancé to a surfing accident while in college. She’s afraid of losing someone else in her life because of their need for an adrenaline rush. Even though Zach works very hard to minimize any risks involved on his trips, it doesn’t make it any easier for Dara. Zach loves what he does but he can understand why Dara might have trouble with the dangers involved. Once they finally give in to each other the pages fairly sizzle and the ending was wonderful. I’m happy that I finished the book – it was satisfying and the story is handled delightfully.
Born To Be Wild is a story about reconnecting with your past and with yourself. Dara & Zach’s journey is fulfilling and, if you have the same problem I did, just keep reading. It is worth your time.
***Although this is the second story in a series it can stand alone. The characters do make appearances in each of the stories, but not in any way that would be confusing. Please keep in mind that this is a reprint and the original was published in 1995 so there is some outdated technology. Overall though, the story does not show its age. I also reviewed the first story in the series, Surrender the Dark. For that review, please visit here. ***
Babycakes, the third book in Donna Kauffman’s Cupcake Club series, is a treat – full of warmth, humor and tenderness. Kit Bellamy lost everything when her greedy brother-in-law sold the family’s pie company. Mamie Sue’s Peanut Pies was created by her great-grandmother and had been run by the women in her family for generations. Now lost on what to do with her life, Kit takes a job working for Lani Dunne’s cupcakery in the small town of Sugarberry Island. Morgan Westlake has become guardian to his brother’s orphaned niece and moves with her to the island so she can be close to both of her grandmothers. There’s a definite spark between Kit and Morgan, but can she ever overlook the fact that his family’s law firm is the one that helped take her company away from her?
With this series, Kauffman has created a wonderful world that will make you plan a visit to the Georgia coast. The inhabitants of Sugarberry Island are always fantastic – caring, quirky, funny. . . they will tug at your heart, when they aren’t tickling your funny bone.
Morgan and Kit are great together. She has her hang-ups about his family but they are resolved in a satisfying manner. He, of course, is perfect – giving, sexy, intelligent, charming …. you name it. His dedication to his niece, Lilly, is compelling and Lilly herself is delightful. Watching the three of them find their way in their new lives and with each other is endearing, making this a not to be missed, feel-good read.
***Although it is part of a series, Babycakes can be read on it’s own. I’ve only read the first book, Sugar Rush, but I enjoyed it and was looking forward to this book. And I definitely plan to pick up Sweet Stuff as soon as possible.***
Growing up, Cheyenne Christensen didn’t have a real home. She lived like a nomad with her mother and sister, thanks to her mother’s less than honest lifestyle. But when Cheyenne was a teenager, her mother was diagnosed with cancer and the three found themselves staying for longer than normal in Whiskey Creek, putting down roots. Now, that same cancer is back and Cheyenne finds herself caring for her dying mother. She also has to deal with the fact that her best friend has expressed an interest in the man that Cheyenne has loved since high school. Add to that, she has some concerns that there was more to her childhood than her mother is telling her. And, since she is dying, if her mother doesn’t tell her now she may never know the truth. This is a lot for anyone to deal with … can she also handle an instant and uncontrollable attraction to the baddest of the infamous Amos brothers? Is this a mistake or exactly what she needs?
When Snow Falls is book three in the Whiskey Creek series, following When We Touch and When Lightning Strikes. Every time I read one of these stories I think that it is my favorite and that the next one won’t be as good … And each time I am wrong. I absolutely LOVED Dylan Amos. He reached off the pages of the book and burrowed into my heart. Dylan gave up so much and managed to not only survive but make a solid life for his brothers. He made some mistakes and he’s paying for them now, with how almost everyone looks down on him. But if only someone would take the time to look deeper they would find he is so much more. The care and support that he gives to Cheyenne, plus the dedication and sacrifices he made for his family, has made him my favorite … well, so far. With two more Whiskey Creek novels on the calendar for next year, who knows.
This is a standalone book, but I highly recommend that if you haven’t read one of Novak’s books, run right out and get one now. When We Touch is a free novella so you have no excuse. When Snow Falls is an amazing story of the bindings of family and love, and how who we are isn’t defined by those around us or by the expectations of others, but instead by who we are at our heart.
Karen Kingsbury’s The Bridge is a poignant story of misunderstandings, faith and love. For thirty years, Charlie and Donna Barton have owned The Bridge, a new and used bookstore in Franklin, Tennessee. They have made it a welcoming place for those who are seeking a connection or help through books, treating everyone who comes in the door as family. Now a flood has destroyed everything … Can Charlie find the strength to go on? Molly Allen and Ryan Kelly met as college students. Every day they visited The Bridge and found a home there together. But their friendship came to a sudden end seven years ago and they’ve not seen each other since. Can the devastation left behind by the flood be a miracle in disguise and bring them back together?
Kingsbury gives readers another compelling treasure, full of heartbreak and second chances. This is a fast read and a wonderful way to get into the holiday spirit. As the book progresses, you get the details of Molly and Ryan’s relationship, and you feel so bad for them – their budding relationship was so sweet and endearing. They were young and learning so much together, about themselves and growing up, only to have things change so drastically, so quickly. Usually I despair over a situation where a little communication could fix things, but Kingsbury delivered it so smoothly and satisfyingly that I embraced it whole heartedly. Charlie and Donna play back-up to Molly and Ryan, but their situation is just as touching. And their perseverance in the face of hardship is inspiring.
I recommend The Bridge to anyone looking for a reminder about the reasons for the holidays and the good things that can happen to anyone who reaches out to embrace the wonders of life.
Two years ago, Jane Clark was widowed by a fire. A fire that left her burned, with a lot of scarring and her confidence shattered. She’s now moved back to her small hometown of Lone Pine Lake with her two kids to be closer to her family while she gets back on her feet. Christian Nelson is a fire captain and close friend of her brother’s. They arrange for a tour of the station to help her children feel better about fires. There is an instant attraction between them but Chris is not one for commitment after seeing his parents’ trouble marriage and Jane has serious reservations about his job. Can the wonder of the holidays bring these two together?
Jane’s Gift is a delightful and moving story. Jane has been through so much and is understandably wary – not only of the dangers of Chris’s job but also of getting involved in someone that won’t stay, leaving her alone again. She’s tough, courageous and beautiful. Her issues regarding fires and being left are compelling. Chris is drawn to Jane and her kids, even thinking long-term for the first time in his life. He’s hard-working, dedicated and funny. His problems are also handled with care and understanding. Their relationship, though quick to develop, is sweetly delivered. Erickson makes the conflicts that arise between them easily relatable and I really liked the fact that she had the characters react with grace and understanding. It was discussed, resolved and they moved on – no grudge holding or making each other pay for any slights felt. And it had a feel-good ending that warms your heart.
If you are looking for an emotion-packed book, pick up Jane’s Gift. It’s the perfect complement to the holidays – a book full of love, laughter, and forgiveness.
Naughty & Nice is a steamy kick-off to the holiday season, with three romantic – and spicy – holiday novellas.
**In Room at the Inn, Ruthie Knox gives readers a story about lovers getting a second chance. Carson Vance left his small hometown of Potter Falls as soon as he could. He’s back now to help his dad and finds himself facing those he left behind. Julie Long discovered the home she was looking for when she came for a visit with Carson while in college. She now owns an inn and is an active member of the community. After years of Carson dropping in and quickly leaving, Julie has decided that she’s done waiting for him to decide that he loves her enough to stay. Will the holidays show Carson that there is more for him at home than he can find travelling the world?
**All I Want for Christmas is You is a prequel to Molly O’Keefe’s novel Crazy Thing Called Love, coming in Januray. Maddy Baumgarten and Billy Wilkins are planning to get married on her eighteenth birthday, the day after Christmas. Will they still go through with it in the face of her family’s disapproval?
**Stephanie Sloane’s historical romance, One Perfect Christmas, finds Jane Merriweather in need of a husband. Her family’s financial trouble led her to London and a broken engagement to a man who ran off to Gretna Greene with another woman. Afterward, in a moment of upset, she told her childhood friend, Lucas Cavanaugh, her true feelings for him … sending him running. Now he’s back for the holiday season, only to find Jane looking to another man for marriage. Can Lucas convince Jane that he’s the man for her after all?
This anthology is a delightful start to the holiday reading season, with enough sizzle to melt your frostbitten toes. If you are looking for a little something to heat up your winter days, this is it. All of the stories feature compelling characters with intriguing troubles to hold your attention. They are short which makes for the perfect break between your seasonal activities.
After a violent incident at work, divorce attorney Sydney Garfield has an emotional crisis and finds herself selling wedding dresses in a small-town boutique. She’s left her job, her apartment and her fiancé behind. Real estate hot shot, and ex-fiancé, Jack Kaiser follows Sydney to Smizer Mill hoping to discover exactly what happened to cause her to run. Both find themselves drawn to the town’s charm … but is it enough to bring Sydney & Jack back together again?
I loved Jack – he’s funny, gorgeous, thoughtful, rich, caring …. well, just down right perfect. He’s patient and sweet in his pursuit of Sydney and makes you wish you were in her shoes. Stenzel does a great job of giving Sydney believable issues while still making her an appealing character. She doesn’t get too overwhelmed or mired in her problems, keeping it fun and interesting. Readers are provided plenty of background so that her troubles are understandable. The resolution is satisfying; although as with many romance stories there is that moment where you just want the characters to tell each other how they feel. It’s fleeting though and fits well with the rest of the book.
The supporting cast is great and, as this is the first in the Second-Story Brides series, I have high hopes for a long and fruitful run. There are plenty of appealing characters for Stenzel to choose from and an opportunity to create more as the stories progress.
Wedding Dress for Sale is such a sweet story, with just enough humor and sass thrown in to keep it entertaining.
I was intrigued when I saw this description for The Unlikely Gift of Treasure Blume: “With her love of sweaters, goofy hair, and awkward manners—not to mention her family curse—Treasure Blume knows love is not in her future. That is, until she matches wits with Dennis Cameron, a divorced chef with a six-year-old daughter. Full of mischief, mayhem, and laugh-out-loud humor, this is an unlikely love story you’ll want to read over and over again!”
And I agree with it 100%. I absolutely loved this story and didn’t want it to end. She’s awkward, not very stylish or put together, and a little clumsy, but she has a huge heart, a generous nature and a positive attitude. Her “gift” is that pretty much everyone between the ages of 13 and 65 hates her on sight. But she knows that those with a good heart get over that initial reaction once they get to know her, which means that the people she becomes close to are valuable to have in her life.
Dennis has his own problems with a terminally ill mother, a young daughter and a chef career that has taken a severe left turn into the school cafeteria. He works hard, making sacrifices and giving of himself for his family and those he cares about. Including Treasure once he gets over his initial dislike. I thoroughly enjoyed watching their relationship change and blossom.
And I can’t forget the supporting cast. Treasure’s grandmother is a hoot and a half, as are the other members of Ruby’s Red Hot Chili Steppers (an over-65 performance dance team). The rest of her family has their own moments and the school kids are such a treat.
The Unlikely Gift of Treasure Blume is amazingly sweet, funny, quirky and fun. It is a must read for anyone that wants their funny bone tickled and their heartstrings plucked.