I'm a massive fan of Karen Witemeyer but I missed out on reading this book when it was published last summer as I was a little bit busy having a baby.I'm a massive fan of Karen Witemeyer but I missed out on reading this book when it was published last summer as I was a little bit busy having a baby. I've actually had a copy of Full Steam Ahead sitting on my shelf for a while, but I kept putting off reading it as the cover didn't really appeal to me. As other reviewers have commented, it looks a bit silly, especially with the heroine's expression. And I'm not going to lie, steam ships aren't my area of interest. But I'm glad that I pushed past these factors and read the book as it reminded me of why I love Karen's writing so much! This novel has a feisty, stubborn heroine who doesn't let traditional gender roles hold her back (although not in a way that's unrealistic for the time period); a beta hero who is passionate yet gentle, but has a turbulent past to overcome; quirky but lovable secondary characters; interesting historical details that don't feel info dumped; and plenty of action! I did get annoyed at Nicole at times for being too focused on saving her family's heirloom, even when it endangered her life, but I was also glad that she had that weakness that prevented her from being too perfect a heroine. Ultimately, I loved this book and think it's probably one of my favourite reads of 2015. I need to go look up her most recent release now. ...more
Emma Chambers has always longed for a home of her own, but she’s spent most of her adult life following her brother, Ryan, as he searches for work. EaEmma Chambers has always longed for a home of her own, but she’s spent most of her adult life following her brother, Ryan, as he searches for work. Each time Ryan takes on a new job, Emma hopes they’ll settle down for a while, long enough for her to feel secure. When the steamboat taking them to Detroit—on yet another job hunt—is set upon by pirates, Emma and Ryan find themselves forced to temporarily settle at Presque Isle while Ryan attempts to earn back the money the pirates stole from them. While Ryan is able to earn his living by chopping wood, Emma quickly discovers that the inhabitants of Presque Isle have no use for a single woman. None of them, that is, except Patrick Garraty, the lighthouse keeper.
Patrick doesn’t have long to grieve the untimely death of his wife, given that he has a lighthouse to keep and a toddler son to raise. He has no idea how he’s supposed to balance both these tasks when his work requires him to be away from his son every night, tending the light in the tower. When the travelling preacher introduces him to Emma, a woman in need of a home, he isn’t sure if he’s doing the right thing in marrying her. While his son desperately needs a mother, and Emma longs for security, Patrick worries that she’ll be just as unhappy as his first wife. Can any woman be happy with a man like him, with the secrets that his past holds? His first wife was disgusted when she learned of his prior life—will Emma react similarly? Should Patrick keep the truth from her, for the sake of their family?
Spending many a holiday along the coasts of Scotland, I have fond memories of the various lighthouses I visited as a child. I’m fairly certain that many of them were no longer in use (in fact, at least one had been turned into a tea room) but the occupation of the lightkeeper and the immense responsibility their position held has always intrigued me. The realities of the pressures that lightkeepers faced were revealed to me in all their fullness in Love Unexpected. As beautiful and fascinating as lighthouses may be, I didn’t envy Patrick’s job in the slightest. Having finished the book, I’m still unsure as to how he managed to tend the light, make repairs, fish, cook, and care for his son on so little sleep—even with Emma’s help! Lightkeeping is not a glamorous job, nor does it pay well. Patrick was definitely a refreshing change from the titled aristocrats in other romance novels I read this month.
I imagine that Emma’s position is not unlike that of many displaced Irish immigrants in this period. Many Irish children were left without a parent—or both—following the potato famine, or even the journey that took them away from their homeland. Emma and her brother want different things out of life, but she doesn’t have any option other than to keep following Ryan until she can find a husband. I’m sure that many readers can relate to Emma’s longing for a home, especially if—like her—you can barely remember what “home” feels like. That said, I’m not sure if I could be as brave as Emma. Even with the recommendation of a preacher, could you marry a man you’ve only met once?
Love Unexpected definitely falls into the “marriage of convenience” category of romance novels, which is a personal favourite. I really enjoyed the way that Emma and Patrick’s relationship developed. Given that their family lives at the lighthouse, a fair distance from the rest of Presque Isle, a large part of the book is focused purely on the interactions between Emma, Patrick and Patrick’s son, Josiah. We get to witness the hard work that goes into running a lighthouse, caring for a toddler and the mundane tasks of keeping a family in food and clean clothing. I appreciated that Emma wasn’t a natural when it came to cooking and housekeeping, and that she struggled to calm Josiah’s tantrums. I’ve read too many books that feature heroines who take to the task of keeping house perfectly, in spite of their previous lack of experience. Given the recent and very sudden loss of his mother, it seemed entirely realistic that Josiah pitched a fit whenever his dad set off in his boat and left him with Emma. Emma’s struggles to keep up with the day-to-day tasks of keeping house and looking after Josiah made her all the more a relatable character. I also appreciated that Patrick was not a stranger when it came to cooking and cleaning. I’d love to see more historical heroes who pitch in to help their women around the home!
I was initially cautious about the conflict in this story, given that it largely stemmed from secrets that Patrick was keeping from Emma, and gossip that was spread about the true nature of these secrets. I’m not a big fan of the Big Misunderstanding/Lack of Communication trope, mostly because I’m far more likely to discuss an issue as soon as it arises, rather than overreact and run away before it can be explained. Thankfully, Emma was a woman after my own heart, and did make an effort to sort out matters with her new husband. I don’t want to give too much away about the conflict in this novel, but I will say that it involves pirates! Who else loves a good pirate romance? I’m sure I’m not the only one.
With Patrick running his lighthouse, fishing and brooding over his dark past, and Emma learning the cook, washing mountains of laundry and chasing Josiah around, it did seem like our hero and heroine would never have time to fall in love. And I suppose that their situation probably represented a true marriage of convenience, where a man seeks a wife because he literally has no time to tend to his home and children. Do not fear—there is plenty of romance in this book! It takes a while to develop, but I loved the shy interactions between Emma and Patrick. Readers will soon learn just why Patrick is so hesitant with his new bride, and the truth will endear him to them all the more. There were some incredibly romantic scenes in the lighthouse that I absolutely adored. And since this is a novel about a married couple, the romance in this novel pertains to more than just kissing—but without being overly explicit. I always appreciate it when Christian novels hint at true happily wedded bliss. This isn’t something to be hidden away, folks!
Love Unexpected is a beautiful novel full of romance and redemption. Patrick and Emma are realistically flawed protagonists who are able to put aside past secrets and gossip to forge a future together. Since none of us enters a relationship without any lingering baggage, their story is a great reminder of the effort that is often required to make a marriage work.
I mainly picked up this collection since it included this story, which is part of the Virgin River series.Midnight Confessions by Robyn Carr ~ 4 stars
I mainly picked up this collection since it included this story, which is part of the Virgin River series. It could probably be read as a standalone, but I'm not sure how much non-VR fans would appreciate it? There were a few sections where someone summarised what had been going on with regulars in the town, which probably would have gone right over the heads of any newcomers to the series, or felt like a massive ton of info-dumping.
Given how many reviewers said that this was the weakest story in the collection, I found myself pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Sometimes novellas feel rushed as authors attempt to build a realistic relationship in less than a hundred pages, or to create a convincing HEA. Since this story takes place over the course of 24 hours, it was more like an introduction to Sunny and Drew's relationship. There were no marriage proposals or plans to stay together forever, but there was definitely hope offered to two people who were recovering from failed relationships. Personally, I really liked this approach.
It did feel like a little too much time was spent dwelling on the details of their past relationships, but otherwise I enjoyed getting to know Sunny and Drew, and I was definitely rooting for them to get together. The development of their relationship felt realistic given their pasts and the amount of time they'd known each other for, it was encouraging to see them setting aside their baggage and being hopeful about the possibility of a future together. Not too rushed or too short, this story was just right for their circumstances.
Midnight Surrender by Jean Brashear ~ 3 stars
Even if I only picked up this collection for Robyn Carr's story, it seemed silly not to read the others and try some new authors. This book is perfect for bath time--unless I'm particularly sleepy, I can read an entire novella in the bath!
That said, I struggled to get through this story. The characters just didn't appeal to me. The idea of a flirty, can't-be-tied-down independent woman falling for a good-guy definitely appealed to me, but Will ended up annoying me a lot more than I expected. I'm not a big fan of Alpha males, so I thought Will would be right up my alley, but he ended up being too pushy and judgemental for my liking. I actually found myself siding with Jordan, which I did not expect as she's my polar opposite.
The ending pushed this story up from a 2.5 to a 3 for me. For most of the book, Will bemoans the fact that Jordan is so lonely and she needs to join a big family like his in order to be happy, but he never shows any signs of compromising on his relationship expectations. From the minute he meets Jordan, he's demanding about what he wants from her, including talking about how she can't see other men because she'll be spending her time with him now on, what, the second or third time they run into each other? For a supposed good guy, he was way too forceful with Jordan. It's not until the end of the book that he realises he's been putting too much pressure on her and apologises, and then he sort of made his way back into my good graces.
Jordan was a more appealing character, surprisingly, but it takes a long time for her to admit that she's holding out on Will because she's scared of screwing up relationships like her parents did, and scared of letting him down. Like Will, she showed a lot more vulnerability and personality right at the end of the book.
There were definitely some fun moments with Jordan and Will's mutual friends, and some cute scenes where Will teaches Jordan some carpentry skills. For me, this story was just average. I wasn't rooting for the characters, primarily because the hero irritated me more than he endeared himself to me. If you like your heroes a bit more demanding and Alpha, he'll probably be perfect for you!
Midnight Assignment by Victoria Dahl ~ 3 stars
Having just finished this collection, I'm surprised that Carr was paired with these other two authors in the first place. Granted, her full-length novels usually have a couple of sex scenes in them, but in comparison to Dahl and Brashear, her addition to this collection was actually pretty sweet and could almost fall under the "clean" category.
The premise of this story is pretty standard--hero and heroine once kissed, years before, but couldn't be together, but they're thrown together for work and realise that the attraction is still there--but the storyline about the bank takeover and the various issues surrounding it made it a little more interesting. Elise and Noah come head to head over work issues, and are forced to spend more and more time together. Given that it's the holidays and they're both lonely, the inevitable happens and they end up falling into bed together, but still try to deny their feelings for each other.
I generally expect some sort of sex scene when I'm reading a mainstream romance--my cut-off is generally three sex scenes in a full-length novel, and one in a novella. This novella had three sex scenes, and honestly, I got a bit tired of it. I need more plot! I probably would have rated this book higher if it had a similar "steaminess" to Brashear or Carr's novellas.
Overall, the second-chance storyline was rather sweet, and the scenario was definitely different, but it seemed like there were too many sex scenes for such a short story.
This is the second novella collection I've picked up in 2014 because it contained one of Robyn Carr's novellas. I definitely preferred That Holiday Feeling to this one. I'm glad I got the chance to try out these new authors, even just to know that they're not really for me. For Virgin River fans, it's worth hunting this collection down for Drew and Sunny's story. I'm hoping we get to read more about them in later books in the series.
Although Carr's story gets a solid 4* rating from me, the collection as a whole is probably closer to a 3*....more
Several friends recommended this book to Simon and I when we were pregnant with Quinn, but I was skeptical based on the conflicting reviews I'd read.Several friends recommended this book to Simon and I when we were pregnant with Quinn, but I was skeptical based on the conflicting reviews I'd read. In the end, I didn't read it until Quinn was almost four months old. In fact, this is the first baby/parenting book I've read since he was born! And honestly, I'm kind of glad I didn't read anything during the first few months. I was already getting so many different opinions and snippets of "helpful advice" from everyone on the planet (parents, friends with children, our landlord, old ladies on the bus, random college students, etc) and it felt surprisingly liberating to enter parenthood without feeling like we had to do something a certain way, or that we were failing because our baby wasn't doing something by a certain age.
Quinn started teething at 3.5 months and I was thoroughly unprepared. Despite copious amounts of teething gel and a special teething dummy, I wad feeling stressed out and drained. Quinn has never been good at napping, and for the past two weeks, he's only ever napped on me, which means I can't actually do much while he naps. After two weeks of this, I was determined to get him into some sort of napping routine, where he slept in his own bed. He likes his bed at night, so this shouldn't be so hard, right? And since he wasn't napping, he was irritable and crying all the time, and often I found myself feeding him to get him to calm down, even if I knew he wasn't actually hungry. Cue more exhaustion, as mummy is burning far more calories than she's putting into her body. I've lost 7lbs in the last month, and that's on top of my baby weight. Something had to change.
In desperation, I finally found our copy of Baby Wise and speed-read it over the course of a few hours. Despite my initial scepticism, I was hopeful about the idea of getting Quinn into more of a feeding and sleeping routine. And while I will admit that there are some helpful nuggets of advice in this book, the general tone is very off-putting. Probably the most useful thing for me was the reminder to feed Quinn on each side at each feeding, even if it meant waking him up--I'd been so desperate for him to sleep that I frequently let him fall asleep at my breast after only a short feed, which then resulted in a short nap and irritable baby. Purposefully giving him longer feedings has resulted in him going longer between feeds and generally being happier, and one hour-long nap in his bed! Woop!
But Quinn just isn't a Baby Wise baby. BW says that demand-fed babies don't sleep through the night, especially if they co-sleep with their parents. Quinn was demand-fed for the first four months of his life, and we co-slept until he was six weeks old, and sometimes we still let him sleep in our bed if we're particularly tired or he's particularly upset. Quinn has slept through the night most nights since he was seven weeks old. He doesn't sleep quite as long as BW says he should at this stage (he usually does 7-9 hours a night, rather than 11-12) but he established his night-time sleeping routine all by himself. In fact, he can put himself to sleep at night without crying--contrary to the BW suggestion that we let him cry himself to sleep without checking him for the first 20 minutes. In short--we achieved the desired outcome of this book (a baby who sleeps through the night) in spite of (or maybe because of?) co-sleeping, demand feeding and not having any daytime routine.
Also, apparently babies should sleep, be fed, have some awake time, then sleep again. I've tried this with Quinn, but it's just not his natural routine. He wakes up, plays for a while, then feeds and goes back to sleep. Personally, I don't feel the need to change this.
If the Baby Wise routine works for you and your baby, go for it! I was hoping for some decent advice on getting Quinn to take more regular and longer day-time naps, but aside from making him cry it out, I didn't find anything useful in this book. There's some reasonable advice on breastfeeding and getting the most out of your baby's feeds, as well as guidance on how long they should go between feeds. Yesterday Quinn managed 2-3 hours between his feeds, but today he was irritable because of his teeth, so if we managed a whole 2 hours, I was happy! Sometimes it's not just a case of what suits your baby, but what suits your baby on a certain day.
Ultimately, I'd say take from this book what you can--and research their facts elsewhere. There's a lot of scaremongering in this book about co-sleeping, as well as some absolute statements about attachment parenting (e.g. if you demand-feed your baby and wear him in a sling, he'll never let you put him down). There seemed to be a lot of Baby Wise vs. Attachment Parenting comparisons in this book, so if you fall somewhere in between these two extremes, you mind find yourself in the same position as us. ...more
Note: I own the 4th edition which is updated and has an entirely different cover. I think the British edition differs slightly from the American one.
PNote: I own the 4th edition which is updated and has an entirely different cover. I think the British edition differs slightly from the American one.
People seem to either love or hate this book, but I think I'm somewhere in between. It's not the kind of book you sit down and read from start to finish, and there are some bits I skipped completely (the sections on having multiples, dealing with long-term illness and pregnancy, etc). For the most part, I found it useful as a reference book. It has details on what the baby is doing each week and month, and lists of symptoms and problems you might be having and how to deal with them, and answers relevant questions you might be having. I appreciated that it often dealt with both sides of the situation e.g. what to do if you're gaining a lot of weight early on, or if you aren't gaining any at all. It doesn't project any idea of "This is exactly how you should feel/act/look at this stage in your pregnancy", which I definitely appreciated.
The index is also fantastic, so you can look up a particular symptom of ailment and focus on that. For example, I'd heard that a lot of women experience backache later in their pregnancies, but I was getting really uncomfortable pains around 6-8 weeks, and I was worried as some people said this was a sign of miscarriage. But according to my book, it was probably just my uterus expanding, and it gave detailed instructions on what to do if the pain persisted, or was accompanied by other symptoms. I felt a whole lot more comfortable looking issues up in this book rather than frantically Googling them!
The chapters on labour were actually really helpful, and not frightening in the slightest (perhaps because I've been told hundreds of horror stories already!) and I appreciated that they discussed different forms of pain relief (as opposed to some books, which act like it's either an epidural or nothing) and the benefits of different labouring positions. It does discuss some worst-case scenarios, and what to expect if you do have to have an emergency C-section, etc, which I appreciated as I probably wouldn't have thought to research this given how low-risk my pregnancy has been so far.
This book does have a few pitfalls. First, it has a section on what to expect at each medical appointment each month, which doesn't actually line up with what happens in the NHS, even though my book was the British edition. In the UK, you don't see a midwife until you're around 10 weeks along, unless there's a pressing need. Some of the details they gave about what to expect at these appointments didn't match my experience, or what my NHS information lists (for example, no pelvic exams until late in the third trimester)--so beware of this, if you're British.
I ended up skipping most of the section about diet and exercise as it made me feel like the most unhealthy person on the planet, when I know that I'm not. Due to my IBS, there are some apparently "healthy" things that I just can't eat (too much wholemeal or raw vegetables) so I simply couldn't follow some of the suggestions. (Also, is there anyone who can attest that eating lots of wholemeal bread/rice/pasta and raw veg actually helps ease constipation? Most IBS literature suggests the absolute opposite of what this book states). I've found that a lot of the exercises suggested in pregnancy books are aimed at either a) women who drive everywhere and never exercise at all and need to up their game or b) have a serious exercise regime and go to the gym every day and need pregnancy-appropriate exercises. There's always a little bit tacked on to the end of every exercise chapter that says something like "Of course, cardio-vascular exercise is ideal in pregnancy" which always makes me sigh with relief since I walk everywhere that's less than 3 miles away from our house. If you have a crap diet and don't exercise at all, read this chapter. If you're into extreme dieting and exercise, it's probably going to be useful as well. But if you eat healthily and add exercise into your daily routine naturally, you can probably skip it.
This is more a personal annoyance, but in translating to the British edition, the majority of the measurements in this book are in metric and this was a bit confusing to me as I've always done my weight and height in stones/pounds and feet/inches--and I don't think I'm the only British person like this! Telling me that I'd gain so many kilos when I was pregnant or that my baby would weigh so many grams confused me as everyone I know who has had a baby recently has talked about their baby's weight in pounds and ounces. I kind of wished they'd used both imperial and metric measurements as I feel like a lot of British people alternate between them.
The sections on what the baby is doing each week are pretty brief, but you can always supplement these with addition information from a website like BabyCenter.com. I did wish there had been a picture for each week, rather than each month, but the book does list the size of the baby each week and what fruit it resembles most in size, which was a fun way to visualise it.
I've not completely finished this book, since I'm reading about each month as it arrives, but I worked through most of the other relevant chapters before the end of the year. For the most part, this book has been very useful. If it doesn't include enough information on a certain symptom or aspect of pregnancy I often look it up somewhere else, but it's a good base point for any worries and it stops me getting freaked out over something on the internet. Not everything is going to be relevant to every reader, and in some ways I'm glad that it covers all the bases because while I might be looking up every possible remedy for morning sickness, I can glance across the page and think, "Well, at least I don't have heartburn yet!" ...more
This book was a Christmas gift from my mother, who had just found out that Simon and I were expecting our first child. I think she picked this up in aThis book was a Christmas gift from my mother, who had just found out that Simon and I were expecting our first child. I think she picked this up in a book sale a while back and had been waiting for someone to have a baby so she could gift it to them. Split into short sections, this book is perfect for picking up when you have a spare moment (brushing teeth, waiting for something to load on the computer, etc) which means it's also probably perfect for new mums!
This book is riddled with a really random assortment of statistics, personal stories and extracts from historical/literary texts. Personally, I love statistics, so it was interesting learning about maternity leave in different countries or popular baby names in the nineteenth century. Some of the historical extracts were hilarious (particularly the letter written to The Times in the mid-1800s to complain about recently invented prams taking up space for pedestrians) and others made me eager to research the person or book more. There was one artist mentioned that I'm definitely going to investigate.
I wasn't so keen on some of the author's personal opinions on how you should approach different aspects of parenting or post-baby life, mainly because she wrote in a rather patronising, know-it-all tone. For example, she suggested that new mums shouldn't let their childless friends know how much their lives have changed and never moan about anything, in order to try to keep up friendships. While I'm never a fan of moaning for moaning's sake, I don't want to lie to my friends and cause them to think that I am absolutely up for going clubbing at 2am on a Tuesday night three weeks after the baby gets here ;) At least they made for some interesting discussions between me and my husband, but we won't be taking all of the author's suggestions to heart.
Some of this book is just filler. Random lists of facts that are only vaguely related to something to do with babies (e.g. you'll spend a lot of time looking at the moon while feeding your baby at night, so here's some facts about the moon) that just seemed to be put in the book to pad it out.
The author's interest in literature and history definitely appealed to me, and since I know I'll probably be going back to look up a few people or books here and there, I'm giving this book 3.5*. It was fun to pick up whenever I had a spare moment, even though there were definitely some sections that I skimmed or skipped. A cute gift for a new parent!...more
Silver Bells by Debbie Macomber I've only read a few of Macomber's books, and most of them have actually been Christmas stories. This one made me rememSilver Bells by Debbie Macomber I've only read a few of Macomber's books, and most of them have actually been Christmas stories. This one made me remember how much I enjoy her writing. It was a really sweet romance, fuelled by a matchmaking daughter, and I thoroughly enjoyed it...up until the ending. The novella skipped forward to an epilogue at a really odd moment, and I felt like there should have been at least one more chapter in the novella, perhaps a situation where the hero and heroine had the chance to tell each other how they felt. It felt like their romance was only just starting, to be honest. I didn't need a "I love you" declaration, given how little time they'd known each other for, but even admitting that they'd come to care for each other would have been better than nothing. Given the abrupt ending, I'm giving this novella 3.5*. I really would have rated it higher if it weren't for the weird transition to the epilogue.
The Perfect Holiday by Sherryl Woods Woods is another author who has come highly recommended, although the only book of hers that I've previously read (Stealing Home) didn't exactly blow me away. I liked the premise behind the hero and heroine meeting, with their Christmas plans being organised by Savannah's aunt before she died. Matchmaking beyond the grave! There were a lot of cute interactions with Savannah's daughter, and Trace was a really endearing character (although I wasn't a massive fan of the way he threw his money around. Can't we have more heroes with realistic incomes?) The ending to this story was a little abrupt, too, but not as bad as the first story. My biggest gripe is just that the hero and heroine were incredibly flirty right from the start (which probably wouldn't be my first reaction when a strange man turned up in my aunt's house) and they got physically involved a lot earlier in the story than felt believable (especially given that Savannah was recovering from a bad divorce and her daughter was hanging around). But otherwise, this was an incredibly sweet story, and I found myself wondering if Woods had written any other stories in this setting, because I'd love to revisit the Holiday Inn. 3.5*
Under the Christmas Tree by Robyn Carr I'm not going to lie, Carr's story was the main reason why I wanted to read this book! I'm slowly working my way through the Virgin River series, and I actually read this story out of order as I've yet to request #7 from the library. Thankfully, this is a story you can read without any prior knowledge of the series, given that only two of the main character from the series actually appear in the book. Despite this, this novella was typical Carr, from the setting to the large, sprawling families to the sweet romance between two entirely unexpected people. It's been a couple of months since I last read a Virgin River book, and this made me want to jump back into the series. I'm struggling to think of anything I really disliked about this novella, because Carr seemed to get the pacing just right and include enough detail and secondary characters to add some realism without overwhelming the reader. I think my only issue with this story was that the hero and heroine were discussing marriage after only a few weeks of being together, and I'm not entirely sure how believable this was. Then again, they were both in their early thirties and had experience behind them, so maybe their circumstances made it more understandable? Either way, this is definitely my favourite from this collection. 4.5*...more