This was a cute Christmas book. It seemed a little lighter than usual for Sara Craven, until the evil ex shows up and it gets real. And that woman wasThis was a cute Christmas book. It seemed a little lighter than usual for Sara Craven, until the evil ex shows up and it gets real. And that woman was wretched! I can't imagine how much Dominic regrets marrying her, except for his daughter. When it's just Phoebe, Dominic and Tara, this almost has a sweet feel, a family oriented holiday romance. It's nicely steamy in parts, but appropriate to the subject matter. Phoebe is perfectly likable, an orphan with a bit of a Cinderellaesque feel. Dominic is a hot dad who is on the intense side. And Tara seems troubled, missing the love of a mother. It works perfectly well for a reader looking for a holiday themed contemporary romance including children. Enough said....more
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 romaThis 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.
I'd better finally write my review for this before it disappears into my mind forever.
This was a surprise find on my library's trade shelves, and I grI'd better finally write my review for this before it disappears into my mind forever.
This was a surprise find on my library's trade shelves, and I grabbed it because it had stories by Lynne Graham and Carole Mortimer. To my surprise, my favorite story was by Marion Lennox, who I had not read before.
The Lynne Graham story is very much in the vein of her full-length romances. The heroine who is young and bubbly, and becomes an unwitting sex toy for the hero (granted he fell in love with her, but he treated her like a sex object). He dumps her because he thinks she spills the goods on his sex life to a tabloid, and it turns out she got pregnant. Now she's working as a landscaper on the estate of a business associate and Rocco sees her and is reminded that he's not over her, despite his contempt. This story rubbed me the wrong way. I felt the heroine allowed the hero to treat her with minimal respect. She didn't stand up for herself enough and was willing to go back to him because she loved him and because he was her baby's father. I think he owed her a lot more than she was willing to accept from him. I don't like that in a relationship when the hero doesn't respect the heroine as his equal. In my mind, I don't see Rocco treating Amber as an equal. Graham is a good writer even when she's not at her best. But this one just offended my sensibilities too much. I couldn't give it more than three stars.
Carole Mortimer's story is a bit ho-hum in the sense that it's almost drama free (I admit that I am a drama hound, so I missed it). It's a decent Christmas romance, and the hero was a nice guy. He palliated my senses after the first arrogant, and in my mind, sexist hero. He was more of an everyday kind of guy (although wealthy). Cally has the wrong idea about Noel, and she comes to realize that he's actually a good guy. Cally has some issues in her past that made her reluctant to trust, but I liked how Noel earns her trust by being a straightforward decent guy and showing his love for her and her daughter. The family interactions (since Noel's family descends on them en masse) were good and what you'd want in a Christmas story. This was more of a 3.5 star read.
Lastly, Marion Lennox was a pleasant surprise. There is something very fresh about this story. I admit I was really impressed with the fact that the hero is a wedding planner. And no, he's not gay. Yay to bursting stereotypes. Guy's cold and precise and a bit snooty, but it's clear that he has a heart underneath that he buried due to tragedy in his past. The heroine was also refreshing in that she was a very down to earth girl who likes her quiet, small town life and embraces family obligations. She's a widow who has dedicated her life to taking care of her son who was burned badly in the accident that killed her hubsand and is recovering slowly from that debilitating accident. I loved her bond with her family-in-law and that she happily embraces their eccentricities. Her son made me cry, I mean big time. I can't believe how mean people are to people with disabilities and physical differences, but I could see what a good man (and a potential family man in the making) Guy was in how he interacted with Henry. I just plain liked this story, maybe because it taps into my fascination with wedding planning and my love for kooky people who don't read the book as far as being trendy and fitting in. Lennox also touches on the phenomenon of celebrity, since Guy is a celebrity wedding planner. Although this couple falls in love over a short time period, I believe in their happy ending. I have to give this four stars.
Because the first two stories weren't as satisfying, I'd have to give this one 3.5 stars. ...more
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 deeI 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 aSpending 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 favoWhat 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....more
I'm not sure what to say about this book. I was somewhat disappointed. Some parts were a bit dry, and some parts very tantalizing. I wish the balanceI'm not sure what to say about this book. I was somewhat disappointed. Some parts were a bit dry, and some parts very tantalizing. I wish the balance was more in the latter direction. I have to say I loved the hero, Lucas. He was dreamy! He was a very tortured guy, who hadn't gotten a lot of breaks in his life. I wish that Ms. James had focused on that more. I felt like there was too much time focused on how snobby British society viewed him, and how that affected Lillian's view of Lucas way too much, instead of looking into his heart, and what her heart told him about it. I could understand why, since her mother had ran off with her lover, broken her father's heart, and disgraced her family. She had spent her life trying to be the epitome of a well-behaved lady, the epitome of English gentility. However, she was very unhappy with her life, twenty-five years old, and yearning to be loved. She was tired of being the perfect young lady, the model for others. She just wanted something real for herself. At times, she was almost unlikeable, coming off as being a complete snob at times. Lucas didn't deserve that from her at all. Granted, it took him some time to get back to her after she was ruined when he was caught kissing her hand on the balcony, but he had a good reason for it. She didn't even give him the benefit of the doubt.
I liked the bond and chemistry between Lucas and Lillian. It did seem like a fated, compelling love they shared. The brief love scene was pretty steamy. Definitely some good points for that!
I didn't quite get why the children of Lucas' deceased wife's sister were introduced, but then you didn't hear about them until near the end. I felt like they were more of a plot point than an organic part of the story. This was another area that could have been more developed instead of showing society functions as much as was done. I liked seeing the couple trying to work on their marriage, and interacting with the kids, and I wished there was more of this.
The adventurous climax was too quick and didn't make a lot of sense to me. I would have preferred seeing Lucas and Lillian work on their relationship to this.
All in all, this could have been a better read than it was. I liked Lucas a lot, and the little girls were cute. Lillian disappointed me in her snobbiness, despite my understanding of her issues. I wanted her to 'woman up' sooner than she did. I liked the Victorian setting, and the Christmas elements. But, I ended up feeling mostly let down by this book. Mistletoe Magic wasn't a bad book, but it could have been much better. It had a lot of potential. Sophia James' lovely way with words was evident, this just needed a more cohesive, focused narrative to shine like it had the potential to do....more
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 themThe 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.
Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor was a lovely little morsel to get me into the Christmas spirit (or at least more into it, since I've already started liChristmas Eve at Friday Harbor was a lovely little morsel to get me into the Christmas spirit (or at least more into it, since I've already started listening to Christmas music on the satellite radio--I'm a Christmas junkie. What can I say?). It was also a great introduction to Ms. Kleypas' new contemporary series. I am very happy with it, and eager to read about Mark's brothers finding their HEAs.
I really loved the heart-warming vibe of this story. I love books that show the incredible bond that can form between a man and a woman (or any group of people who become their own family), and encompass children, either through their own union, or that they have brought into their lives. This book was definitely one of those stories. I have never felt that family has to be limited to the traditional idea of a nuclear bond. Blood bonds are important, but are completely unnecessary in forming a family. This book has that message.
Mark has the magnetic charisma that Ms. Kleypas is so stellar at endowing her heroes with. He also has a little bit of the tortured hero to him, not much, but enough. His family life wasn't great, and after losing his sister, he has taken on the role as guardian to her daughter Holly, not sure if he's up for it, but determined to do his best. Somehow, along the way, his heart is changed from the man who barely does the family thing, to a father who would do anything for his daughter, even if she's only his niece. And his brother Sam also finds an incredible sense of purpose through helping to raise Holly.
What's interesting is the dynamic between Mark, Holly, and Maggie. Initially it seems as though Maggie will be the fairy godmother who comes and makes everything right with Mark and Holly. But it turns out that Mark and Holly do a lot of healing for Maggie, who is still trying to recover from losing her husband, and has sworn off marriage and having kids of her own, afraid and believing she has nothing left to give.
Lisa Kleypas is one of my favorite authors for a reason: She knows her stuff. When I read her books, I am getting a full experience. She puts the heart, a wonderful, exciting love story, the beautiful description, a great, engaging narrative, humor, and pathos all there for me to enjoy. She has a wonderful way with words, a skilled artist who paints a visually-arresting landscape with her prose. Her books never feel flat to me, they are as three-dimensional as if I was there in the scene. I have discovered this sudden urge to go to Washington and explore Friday Harbor, and hope that I will walk past Maggie's toy store, or Mark's coffee-roasting business. I want to look up Rainshadow Vineyard while I am in town. I don't know when I'll get to Washington, but I know I will definitely want to revisit Friday Harbor and its inhabitants again, and this book is short enough to pick up every year to get that lovely Christmas spirit infusion, and to stop by and visit with my new friends that I have made.
If you need a little pick-me-up, and a book to remind you why Christmas is more than just a hassle and a marketing gimmick, but a wonderful time of year to enjoy family and friends, and to remember the most important thing about the season, you will find that in Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor. Because this book shows the power of love to warm hearts and to make bonds where there was no hope for a sense of connection. The power of love to heal what is broken. If you don't believe me, just give this book a read. ...more
While I enjoyed reading this book, it didn't really set me on fire. However, it was a pretty good Christmas-themed romance. I sort of got the feelingWhile I enjoyed reading this book, it didn't really set me on fire. However, it was a pretty good Christmas-themed romance. I sort of got the feeling that I was marking time while I read it. I'm not sure why this was the case.
This book is set in England, and both the hero and heroine are British, but it didn't feel British to me. It was weird, because they talked about British things, such as the M6, London, Harrods, Boxing day, but it felt American to me. It's very weird, I guess.
What I liked about the book:
*The heroine was a trained-chef and caterer. I liked seeing her do her magic. *Callum was a pretty nice guy, although he admitted that he initially just felt lust for Miranda. He did come around very quickly, and I respected that he broke off his relationship with the woman he was going to marry for business when he realized he was lusting after Miranda. *Miranda had qualities I admire: hard-working, devoted to her family, resourceful, pragmatic. *I liked that both the hero and heroine were close to their families. *The idea of Miranda and Callum essentially being star-crossed in that Callum had Miranda's father arrested from embezzling money from him, which led to his suicide was an interesting direction. Callum initially re-connected with Miranda to make amends for his part in her father's suicide, although her father was culpable. *I liked the scenes of Christmas celebration in both their families.
What I was not happy with:
*I don't like how their relationship started with a hookup in the kitchen. There didn't seem like there was more between them but strong sexual attraction. I would have liked to see more of a connection before they got physical. Miranda essentially thought of their encounter as a one-night stand. That's not my personal preference when it comes to romance stories. *Miranda's brother and mother got on my nerves. They were way too dependent on Miranda. Her brother was constantly hitting her up for money, and instead of taking responsiblitiy for himself, he depended on her to bail him out when he got in trouble. Miranda's mother was running up bills she couldn't pay for, and relying on Callum's generosity. This just put more pressure on Miranda. I did like that Callum really was supportive to Miranda, and helped her to foster independence in her mother and brother. *Miranda called Callum a liar a few times, when he insisted that her father was guilty. It offended me because I think it's wrong to call someone a liar unless you know they are truly an untruthful person. Callum never gave off that vibe. She even persisted in this after they were emotionally involved. I could understand why she didn't want to believe badly of her father, but she was in love with Callum, and he had no reason to lie about it.
Ultimately, I never got deeply involved with this story. I like to be sucked into a book and forget about everything else. This book didn't do that for me. But there was not an issue with the writing, we just didn't form a love connection. However, if a reader wants a quick, well-written Christmas romance that has some modern, sophisticated elements, I think she would like this book....more
I ended up loving this book. It was so well-written and the emotions and the characters were real life and genunine. I just adored Hannah. I loved howI ended up loving this book. It was so well-written and the emotions and the characters were real life and genunine. I just adored Hannah. I loved how she was down-to-earth, a tomboy who was more into working on motorcycles than doing her nails, wearing dresses, and primping. She was tough and strong, but genuine. I could understand her pain of being betrayed by her sister and her ex-fiance', but it was also good that she was able to move on from it and live her life. I liked how she interacted with Joe's kids. She wasn't trying to insinuate into their life, or usurp their deceased mother's place.
Joe was great too. He loved Hannah for who she was, and he wasn't trying to change her. I loved how he wanted to do right by his kids and take care of them. He desired Hannah, but she was his friend too. He wanted her to be part of his life and his family. He didn't slight her for his kids, but he loved Hannah and showed that without it overriding his children's needs.
It was so heartbreaking when Hannah had her health scare, and how she tried to extricate herself from Joe's family so she wouldn't hurt them. How they came to her and made it very clear that she was part of their family and they loved her, and they would stick it out until the end brought tears to my eyes.
This is my second read by Sarah Mayberry. I liked the first book I read by her (She's Got it Bad), but I didn't like the subject matter, and it affected me in a negative way that affected my enjoyment. In contrast, this book was just what I needed to read. I love books about two souls who find each other, and fit into each other's life so well--their love makes their lives better, and they aren't trying to hurt each other, but manage to heal those wounds that they each have. Plus, I have a soft spot for heroes who are really good fathers. I definitely want to read more of Sarah Mayberry's books....more