This is my first read by this author, but I like her style. She has a good voice and her characters are distinctive, not the cardboard historical roma...moreThis is my first read by this author, but I like her style. She has a good voice and her characters are distinctive, not the cardboard historical romance characters that can make books seem samey. I'll definitely read more of her books.
This was such an exciting free book deal on Amazon Kindle. I am an admitted huge fan of Anna Campbell, so I ran to get it when she said it was free in...moreThis was such an exciting free book deal on Amazon Kindle. I am an admitted huge fan of Anna Campbell, so I ran to get it when she said it was free in her newsletter. What a pleasant surprise that I enjoyed all the stories more or less equally. One caveat, if you don't care for very short romance stories at all, give this one a miss.
The premise was quite pleasing. This collection of stories revolve around the concept of a ball held by a particular doyenne of the ton known for throwing a Christmas ball where a particular couple finds their true love match. You would think the stories would be samey with this idea. In fact, quite the contrary. Each story had a different feel. In fact, you could go down the list and suggest themes for historical romance and this short collection more or less covers the gamut.
I liked the fact that an older heroine finds a second chance at love in Shana Galen's story. The inclusion of a Scarlet Pimpernel-type hero who rescued her and her son from the bloodthirsty French revolution and the fact that that same man has been in love with her for many years made this a delightfully romantic story. I didn't think I would enjoy having a heroine with grown sons as the main character, but it didn't bother me at all. I liked it, in fact.
Anna Campbell's story was the most passionate. I am not much of a fan of forbidden lovers, but she makes the desperate, illicit passion work in this story. Plus the hero is delightfully Scottish. The heroine is of the Cinderella variety, so you have to be in the mood for a downtrodden heroine. However, the romantic in me loves how the hero makes her long-cherished wish come true at the end.
Vanessa Kelly has a nice guy hero who is sorely lacking in historical romance. Thanks to her for that. While I love bad boy, dangerous heroes, I also love sweet, kind heroes and I like the idea that the hero can be that really adorable guy that always has a kind word for a wallflower and is a really good friend. This story hit my 'aww' button.
Readers who like friends to lovers stories will enjoy Kate Noble's offering. Our hero realizes that he took his next door neighbor and boon companion for granted when he returns to find her a diamond of the first water who has no time for him, despite her tomboy past. I liked the turnabout is fair play aspect of this story. It also reminded me of movies like Sabrina, where the hero realizes that his heroine has been there waiting for him all the time when he is about to lose her.
All in all, a very enjoyable, and quick read that this reader enjoyed when she collapsed exhausted on her bed on Christmas evening. I am so grateful that this was a free Christmas present on Amazon. Thumbs up!(less)
This is basically a compilation of scriptures distributed into bite-sized readings over the 31 days of December. Some are more directly focused on the...moreThis is basically a compilation of scriptures distributed into bite-sized readings over the 31 days of December. Some are more directly focused on the story of the Christ child, and others delve into his majesty and identity as the savior of all humanity and his fulfillment of the ancient prophecies that foretold of God's promise to reunite and redeem humanity through his Son. The scriptures featured are both Old and New Testament and show the unbreakable link between Mosaic Scriptures, and the work of the Prophets (looking forward to the awaited Messiah) and the New Testament, which focuses on the arrival of Jesus the Messiah. It worked very well as a devotional during the very busy month of December. It serves a dual purpose of reminding believers why Christmas has crucial spiritual importance and also as a reminder of our hope in Jesus. It's fairly no frills, but it serves its purpose and the scripture was food to this reader's spirit.
30 Scripture Readings for Christmas was a gem of a free read on Amazon. I could see me reading it again next year. It's great for readers who want to follow the scriptures through the Christmas story in December, but it could work any month, honestly. After all, the promised and fulfilled hope of Christmas can live everyday in our hearts.(less)
I was having a discussion with a church friend about whether it was valuable to enjoy Christmas on a spiritual level with all the commercialism and pa...moreI was having a discussion with a church friend about whether it was valuable to enjoy Christmas on a spiritual level with all the commercialism and pagan connections of the holiday. I love Christmas, and I have since I was a child. It isn't even about getting gifts for me. It's about the wonder of the season. As a believer of Jesus, I think there is pressure going both ways for you as far as Christmas. One one hand, you are encouraged to like the holiday season but give no relevance to Christmas or its origins. On the other hand, some Christians reject Christmas as a pagan holiday with no significance to the actual celebration of the coming of the Messiah as a human baby. It makes you feel kind of squeezed from both sides at times. Honestly, though, I will continue to be a Christmas freak until I leave this earth. So I appreciated when my friend loaned me this book to read about one of my favorite Christmas songs, "The Twelve Days of Christmas."
It's a short, easy read, since it's actually a children's book. Short but very meaningful for those who profess faith in Jesus, and even to those who wonder what Christians believe. The song dates back to a time in England where there was much religious persecution and people weren't allowed to express beliefs that didn't go along with the official state church. People used songs to teach about their faith in code (coincidentally, this was also done with Negro Spiritual sang in the field during the American slavery period to communicate about the Underground Railroad to escape to freedom). This code is spelled out in the song. I won't go into that because it would spoil the joy of reading the book, since each day is explained as far as its spiritual relevance. However, I will say that this song will now mean so much more to me now when I sing it.
Christmas is a joyful time, and it's also a tough time because of the stress associated with it. The rat race and the focus on buying presents and keeping up with the commercial cast of the holiday can steal some of that joy. However, I believe that there is simple pleasure in celebrating the holiday with songs such as this and in allowing the power of knowing that light broke into the world in the form of God as a baby who would grow up to suffer and die for the sins of everyone who ever lived, and many Christmas songs convey exactly that. It is wonderful to know that "The Twelve Days of Christmas" is also one of those songs.(less)
Just One Last Night is a very good and quick contemporary romance about an estranged married couple who have a very tragic event in their lives that c...moreJust One Last Night is a very good and quick contemporary romance about an estranged married couple who have a very tragic event in their lives that causes a rift in their marriage.
Without spoiling readers, I would say that what happens to this couple was very devastating, and it would take two very devoted people in love to overcome it. Melanie is already carrying baggage from her childhood, on top of their recent tragedy, and this acts as the icing on the cake for her belief that she is poison to love. What I loved about this book is that Forde is a man who loves his wife enough to fight for her, and he loves her in spite of the way she pushes him away. When he made those marriage vows, he took them seriously, and is more than willing to fight for his marriage. A devoted hero is Helen Brooks' stock in trade, and she does it very well. One of my favorite kinds of heroes is a devoted one who will surmount any obstacle to win the woman he loves.
I could understand Melanie's emotional wounds. I could even give her some slack for how she was pushing Forde away, although she was admittedly being irrational about her past and how it affected her self-image. I mean, that's very human to be less than level-headed when it comes to emotions and their impact on our lives.
I especially enjoyed the cozy days around Christmas that Melanie and Forde shared, their feline companion(s), and the unique way that this couple becomes reunited. I'd have to be honest and admit I'm not big on stories with estranged married couples. However, Brooks acquitted herself admirably with this book. The execution was well-done, and Just One Last Night was a very good book to read in the month of December to get me in the Christmas mood.
This was a really good book. I like how Helen Brooks takes two people who have no intention of getting romantically involved and shows them falling de...moreThis was a really good book. I like how Helen Brooks takes two people who have no intention of getting romantically involved and shows them falling deeply in love.
In the case of Willow, she is recovering from a very toxic marriage, married to a man who abused her mentally, undermining every inch of her confidence in herself. She does not intend to trust any man with her life ever again. On the other hand, Morgan has no problem with sexual involvement with savvy career women who don't want any more emotional entanglement than he does. However, when they meet, the mutual determination to keep things light and to be 'just friends' doesn't work very well. Because the more time they spend together, the more they realize that nothing less than everything will qualify when it comes to each other.
I'll be the first to tell you that I don't usually go for heroes like Morgan, guys who eschew emotional involvement and settle for empty sexual relationships. However, I couldn't help but like him. He was actually a very good guy underneath all the city sophistication. More than anything, he was used to trying to control his life and compartmentalize things. He had his slick city existence, and his quiet country life, and he kept them both separate. Before he knows it, the country life and time spent with Willow (who was not at all likely to go for a light sexual affair) is what he wants more than anything. And when the time comes, he's brave enough to tell her he loves her, even knowing her emotional wounds will make her run in the other direction.
Helen Brooks writes a very romantic story. The writing felt fresh and modern, with characters who seemed relevant today. Despite that, I didn't feel like they were unrelatable. I had plenty of time to see the love develop between them, and their happy ending felt right and genuine. Willow is very down to earth, and despite his image, so is Morgan where it counts. I liked that he was generous with himself in a relationship with Willow even though he knew there wasn't going to be the usual payoff.
A good story about friends turning into lovers. I'd recommend it to people who enjoy this theme.(less)
I wish I'd had time to read this during the past Christmas season, because it would be perfect to get a reader into the mood, and to reinforce the dee...moreI wish I'd had time to read this during the past Christmas season, because it would be perfect to get a reader into the mood, and to reinforce the deep meanings of this beloved holiday.
Mr. Kirch is on point with the meaning of A Christmas Carol in this novella, and he lovingly does homage to it, while he takes the story forward in time to a family that very much needs to be reminded about the importance of family and love.
For a while, I was quite worried. I cried bitter tears, but I kept hope alive in my heart that Marley would do his magic to help little Kathy, a young girl with two bickering parents who often forget she's around. Kathy, Marley, and Tobias make this story, while parents Dan and Beverly make for some frustrating moments. But one of the most important truths of Christmas holds true here, that love is a miracle. A light that can enter into the darkest abyss, and its miraculous ability to change a human heart will ultimately triumph over the most hopeless of situations.
I enjoyed this story very much, and I recommend it to readers who love A Christmas Carol, and readers who like modern gothics and horror that bring to mind the classics in these genres.
Thanks to Donald Allen Kirch for the opportunity to read Marley-The Other Christmas Carol.
Spending Christmas with three generations of the same family written by Carla Kelly was an enriching experience. Ms. Kelly explored the way that war a...moreSpending Christmas with three generations of the same family written by Carla Kelly was an enriching experience. Ms. Kelly explored the way that war affects families during wartimes. In the case of the Wilkie-Warton family, all three generations of the family have met during a war and married. I liked how Ms. Kelly took the very depressing concept of war and loss and used it as a backdrop to romances in development, and in a way that felt realistic and involved me emotionally. I especially appreciated how each story read differently, but was no less enthralling.
My thoughts on each story:
1812: A Christmas in Paradise: This story resonated personally with me because I lived in San Diego for six years, and it did feel a bit like being in paradise, although there were also some less desirable aspects about it. No, I wasn't shipwrecked there, a Scot in a strange land of perpetual warm weather, fish galore, and lots of Spanish/Mexican culture. But I think that I can identify with most of those things I listed. What I loved the most about this story was the earnest good-heartedness of the hero, Thomas. He is a Navy surgeon who genuinely cares about people. While human, that caring part of him motivated him to do the right thing and offer marriage to Laura Ortiz, who was truly in desperate straits. That marriage works out very well for them both, as they find true love. I admit one part made me cry like a baby. I'm sappy like that.
1855: O Christmas Tree : I don't have the pleasure of reading too many books set during the Crimean War, but this is one of them. That alone was one more advantage of this story. Added to this was the beautiful friends-to-lovers story between widowed Lilian, the daughter of Laura and Thomas from the first story, and an American Army Corps of Engineers officer, Trey Wharton. I loved how shy Trey was. He was constantly blushing, although he had a good sense of humor and a warm way about him. I wanted to give him a hug. I was glad that these two people found each other in a war-torn landscape where they saw too many bad things that weighed on their souls. I also like the unique way that they were able to bring and celebrate Christmas with the wounded soldiers and the Sisters who worked in the hospital. It had a bit of the "Gift of the Magi" by O Henry vibe to it. This one made me tear up as well. Yes, sap here!
1877: No Crib for a Bed: Ms. Kelly takes the reader and Captain Wilkie Wharton, Lilian's son to the Old West, where this Army surgeon sees the aftermath of the Indian Wars in a very personal way. He's asked to escort a regained Indian captive white woman back to her people in Iowa. Only Nora doesn't want to go, because she has to leave her children behind, since their father was Indian. His heart hurts for her, but he doesn't have a choice otherwise. Along with Wilkie is Frannie Coughlin, a cheerful teacher in Fort Laramie, who is also traveling back East. They find a companionship together that is problematic, considering that Wilkie has a fiancee' waiting for him back home. When Wilkie delivers a baby from a dying mother with Frannie's assistance, both realize there is no going back when that strong a bond forms between two people. Yes, again this one made me cry. I felt so bad for Nora. To think that they were forcibly separating her from her own children because they were half-Indian and she wasn't. I couldn't imagine the pain she was in. Also the newborn baby was so cute. Yes, my sap quotient goes up even more. The romance part was good too.
Overall Thoughts: Carla Kelly successfully writes a trio of books that are interconnected in an ingenious way, all around the theme of wartime, medicine and Christmas away from home. Each one touched me in different ways, and I just plain like and respect her characters. They are all grounded and realistic people in the best of ways. While I didn't finish this one before or during Christmas, but in fact, three days afterwards, I still love immersing myself in the Christmas spirit, and this book provides that feeling in spades, along with a great romance.
What a nice combination, Christmas theme and western historical stories. I would consider myself fans of all three writers in this volume, but my favo...moreWhat a nice combination, Christmas theme and western historical stories. I would consider myself fans of all three writers in this volume, but my favorite story was by Carol Finch, one of the three I've read the least books by. I admit that I enjoyed the contrast between the proper wealthy woman from back East and the mixed-heritage rough and tumble ex-Texas Ranger. I also liked the fact that they were able to see past apparently superficial divides between them to the good-hearted people beneath disparate exteriors. I felt the ending was a bit too abrupt, but I would give this one four stars for its feel good vibe and readability, and also having a great lead pair. Also brownie points for the hero's awesome dog named Dog!
The Jillian Hart story was good and I enjoyed it. It took me a while to get into it, and when I did, what the heroine does nearly killed the book for me. I really dislike when you have a character who supposedly falls in love with someone and then completely disses them because of what someone has said or what their bad reputation indicated. It didn't read true to me. I hurt for the hero in that case, and I found him a lot more sympathetic than the heroine. Hart writes very good heroes. Generally I like her heroines, but I didn't understand the heroine's reactions and motivations, so that spoiled the story for me with this one. I can only give it story three stars.
Cheryl St. John writes a compelling and heartwarming story for this volume. The main couple are stranded together in the heroine's father's well-equipped Pullman during a snow storm, along with two orphaned kids. To complicate matters, armed bandits are after a payload that the US Marshal hero is trying to protect. For a short story, this has a nice dose of western action that make this reader happy. Readers who enjoy survival stories will appreciate this. I also liked the 'don't judge a book by the cover' theme of this novel. The heroine comes from a rich family and she seems like she might be spoiled and unlikable, but she shows a generous, some resourcefulness that definitely helps in their situation, a good heart and a strong spirit from the beginning. I liked seeing her bond with the children, and I liked the way their romance unfolded. This one was also four stars, although I liked the Carol Finch story more.
Overall, a good Christmas short story historical romance collection with good western stories and good writing. It was actually a quick read once I was able to focus my attention on the stories.
I did the math and this comes out to be about a 3.8/5.0 star rating but it's Christmas, so I will round it up to four stars.(less)
The Twelve Nights of Christmas is the feel-good kind of romance that a reader can pull off the shelf when they want an easy read that will infuse them...moreThe Twelve Nights of Christmas is the feel-good kind of romance that a reader can pull off the shelf when they want an easy read that will infuse them with Christmas good vibrations. I endorse it with a four star rating.
Well, it's simple. The storyline is easy to follow, the characters are well-developed but surprisingly likeable, and it's a story about rekindled hope when things seem dark. Christmas to me is about hope and I love the idea that a short book can give me that feeling of Christmas with a good story.
What I liked:
Honestly, I liked that while I was prepared to dislike Zio as the hero, it didn't take too long before I realized that I did like him. In fact, I felt kind of sorry for him. He had a bad case of tunnel vision and living inside a box syndrome (enchained by his past). Because of a very rough event (actually quite horrid) as a child, he absolutely abhored Christmas. Now I am like Evie, I absolutely love the holiday, but I can understand how people can attach the day with memories of really bad events that took place around Christmas. I felt a lot of sympathy for him because of that. On top of his less-than-ideal childhood was the betrayal he faced at the hands of another person. That was sort of a case of bringing something on yourself because of the choices you made, but it was still pretty lousy to go through. But I really appreciated was how he showed some fortitude and rose to the occasion in that situation. Even though I didn't like a lot of things about his lifestyle, I feel that Sarah Morgan makes him surprisingly sympathetic. He had some hidden depths that I appreciated, and he was honestly a decent guy considering everything.
I loved Evie. Yes, she is a bit of the too good to be true heroine, but it works for this book. She had some self-esteem issues that would bother some readers, but I don't mind because I think that is true of many woman to be self-conscious about their looks and their appeal to men, especially when they were recently dumped. I think her spunk and her willingness to tell it like it is with Zio saved her from being too much of a Pollyanna. At the beginning, I had trouble understanding why she would have trusted what the sleazy lunkhead Carlos told her about staying in the penthouse. It was a bit of a contrived plot device, but the story get better from there. Most definitely, I have to say that her sweet nature was infectious. She's actually what I enjoyed the most about this book. I loved the scene at the party where she drinks too much champagne (her first experience with it), and charms everyone, including two grumpy Russian billionaires with her heretofore hidden prowess at languages and her stirring rendition of "The Twelve Days of Christmas." The scene where she takes Zio shopping to prepare for a very special event was hilarious and heartwarming. It sort of reminded me of the movie "The Gameplan" with The Rock, which turned out to be one of my favorites even though I generally avoid family movies like that (although sometimes I end up loving them very much). I guess you could say this is a less offensive version of Pretty Woman (I'm sorry, but I found that movie's storyline really offensive, but if you liked it, that's cool for you).
I should add that Evie had a lot more agency and power in this relationship that I am unfortunately used to seeing in some of the Harlequin Presents. She sort of starts out seemingly downtrodden, but it's more because of her particular goals than the fact that she has nothing to offer anyone. I think she could do anything she wanted, honestly. And she's not just eye candy. She's a very clever and deep woman, surprisingly perceptive and very emotionally healthy, considering. I enjoyed her relationship with her grandfather very much, how she values his opinion and genuinely loves him and wants him to be happy with her.
I think this is a good, quick Christmas read for fans of Harlequin Presents and other contemporary romance fans who don't mind some of the more obvious tropes. What I appreciate about Sarah Morgan is that she writes to her audience (without insulting our intelligence) and takes the familiar about this romance subgenre and gives a fresh, enjoyable story with fantastic dialogue and back and forth between her couples. I can't give it five stars because of the things I mentioned above, like some of the implausible aspects, and because I just don't care for womanizing billionaires, honestly. But it's a very respectable four stars, and I'd recommend this book.