I really enjoyed this book. I've never read this author, but I'd definitely read more by him. A great book for the Christmas season that sets a good mI really enjoyed this book. I've never read this author, but I'd definitely read more by him. A great book for the Christmas season that sets a good mood without being sappy. Some great insights about the romance publishing world.
"Heart of the Season" is the second book in the Loving Hearts series by a Goodreads friend of mine, full disclosure. I can honestly say that I enjoyed"Heart of the Season" is the second book in the Loving Hearts series by a Goodreads friend of mine, full disclosure. I can honestly say that I enjoyed this novella outside of being friends with the author. I can't say what I loved more, the hero, Zachary, an Afghanistan US Marine war vet or his dog, Akilah. Well honestly, their relationship is at the heart of this story. Julianna is clearly an animal lover, and she understands the power of the human animal bond. How having a pet can add so much to one's life and save one both physically and emotionally. That foundation of this story is a very strong one, and built on top of it is a believable romance. While this has somewhat of a happy for now feel, I do believe in the love between Zach and Jeannie. I think they are soulmates and they have a strong bond that is friendship, mutual respect, and a meeting of minds and hearts, on top of sexual attraction.
I love that Zachary is truly a very gentle man. While he's a soldier and a warrior, he's also a sensitive person. And it's okay for men to be sensitive. It's nice to be able to see that vulnerability in a hero without it seeming to compromise his masculinity. I could appreciate Jeannie even more that she respected the gentle man that Zach was. I loved how the narrative shows why Zach is the man he is due to his being raised by his grandmother, a sweet, caring woman who loved him deeply and raised him with strong values. Seeing male characters who have been raised by strong female figures depicted in a positive way doesn't get old.
I won't even lie. This book made me cry several times. I am so in love with both Akilah and Zach, and their deep friendship. I do have a weakness for beta heroes and Zach with his scars and his disability definitely snuck into my heart from practically the first page of my Kindle as I read it. Akilah is a precious furry baby. I wanted to give her a hug. The thought of what those poor dogs go through on the frontlines is heartbreaking.I can definitely see why the soldiers fall in love with them and want to bring them home. A relationship forged under those conditions will stand the test of time.
I haven't talked much about Jeannie. In a work, she was a great heroine. She's a principled, warm, caring young woman who is putting her principles to action. Going to work in an animal shelter in Afghanistan is not for the faint of heart, especially for a young woman who comes from a privileged environment. I like that she is a deep person and has the ability to look deep. Her love for animals and people is very obvious and made me loved her more.
This book even has some good action scenes on the frontline. They were well-written and it's obvious that Julianna did her research. Kudos to her for bringing a situation to light where people and animals could use some help.
While I personally am not a big fan of happy for now endings, I think this one works pretty well. I hope that we get to see more of Zach and Jeannie's developing relationship, and definitely more of Akilah.
This was a quick, involving read, and part of me wanted to rate it higher because of that and the fact that Jess reminds me favorably of Veronica MarsThis was a quick, involving read, and part of me wanted to rate it higher because of that and the fact that Jess reminds me favorably of Veronica Mars, but the mystery was a bit too simplistic and predictable. But overall, I like the idea of a teenage English girl sleuth very much, and I'd recommend it to YA mystery readers.
This was admittedly a slow read for me. But it's proof that some things are worth sticking in for and waiting on. At its heart, this is a moving storyThis was admittedly a slow read for me. But it's proof that some things are worth sticking in for and waiting on. At its heart, this is a moving story about a young boy who is coming to terms with his identity as an adoptee. He's asking the questions about his birth family, but that in no way invalidates his feelings or attachment to his adoptive family. On the surface, this is a mystery/adventure about a treasure hunt in a house that once belonged to a famous smuggler. Milo wanted a quiet Christmas with his family, but unexpected guests arrive and change the whole dynamic. But it turns out this is a pivotal event that will put to rest old secrets and reveal the answers to all the questions of the guests that come to stay in Greenglass House one snowy Christmas week.
While this moved slowly, and I found myself rereading several parts to make sure I understood what was happening, there is a strength to the narrative that made me want to soldier through. I found Milo adorable. He's Chinese by birth and ethnicity, and he's sick of that question of why he doesn't look like his white parents. He's a quiet and bookish kid with a big inner life, and he's ripe for an adventure. Milo meets a young girl who comes along with their cook, and they become partners in a Dungeons and Dragons-like game called "Odd Trails", which ties in very heavily with their quest for secrets about Greenglass House.
That mystery is extremely clever. Especially how the very house itself is full of clues about the mystery. I would enjoy staying at Greenglass House, and exploring its several floors that have stood the test of time, and gazing at the raging winter (I love winter) outside the beautiful stained glass windows. Any good mystery writer presents a group of suspects, and each one is interesting, with deep motives yet to be discovered.
The end was quite a lovely surprise. I hadn't suspected what we find out near the end, but it definitely makes sense, and there are seeds all along. That's the hallmark of a good mystery to my mind.
The author writes an afterword about her reasons for writing this novel, and that adds so much to the story. How this came out of her personal journey to adoption, along with other aspects of the genesis of writing this novel, in which an adoptee plays a major role.
I'm glad my library had this book, and for the recommendation from my friend Rane. While it took me a good while to read, it was definitely worth the reading. I'll look forward to reading other books by Ms. Milford....more
I wasn't feeling this book very much at first, but I really liked the end of the book. It was very sweet, and I'm always a sucker for a hero who's stoI wasn't feeling this book very much at first, but I really liked the end of the book. It was very sweet, and I'm always a sucker for a hero who's stone cold crazy about the heroine. There was a real 'aww' moment at the end. I think the plot was rather convoluted, but that's what makes Harlequin Presents books so addictive.
Jane is a caterer and a chef, and being a foodie, I'm all for that. I could have used more food descriptions. Gabe is a big businessman who makes his money buying up ailing corporations. Jane has something personal against him because of what happened between his wife and her husband. He made her life difficult in the aftermath and contributed to an already painful situation. But that doesn't stop her from being attracted to Gabe and falling in love with her.
One aspect of this Harlequin Presents that was different is that Gabe is actually a nice guy. He only appears ruthless in Jane's mind. He doesn't read that way in the story.
There is no big chemistry and tension in this book. It's more of a slow build and a sweet romance. But that's not a bad thing. I gave it an extra half star because the ending was so lovely.
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
Courtney Milan writes wonderfully. Her characters are three-dimensional and nuanced, more like real people than characters. I always feel like I wantCourtney Milan writes wonderfully. Her characters are three-dimensional and nuanced, more like real people than characters. I always feel like I want the romance to happen just as much as they do or in some circumstances more. My heart was with Grantham as he wooed Lydia, and I felt deeply for Lydia. Her terrible experience five years earlier would sour anyone on romance, and I could see why her barriers were erected so strongly. I liked that Milan did give them an opportunity to get to know each other and that they had many talks which helped them to get to know each other in the deep way they needed. Grantham is a bit of an odd duck. He's lacking in social graces in that he doesn't know how to measure or mince his words, but tells it like it is. His reasons for marrying initially are barebones pragmatism, but understandable given his situation. But he learned the hard way that he needed to deal in honesty no matter what the cost.
Somehow Milan managed to make a novella feel like a novel. By the end of the book, I did feel like an entire courtship had taken place and that these two people had plenty of reason to be committed to each other. I also liked that she includes some social consciousness such as the sad state of medicine in the late 1800s, especially in light of women's health and the angst of caring for an aging parent.
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