I've read four Kristan Higgins novels so far this year, and I don't think I've rated any of them less than 4.5 out of 5. While this one was quite diffI've read four Kristan Higgins novels so far this year, and I don't think I've rated any of them less than 4.5 out of 5. While this one was quite different from her Blue Heron series, it still had Kristan's trademark humour, quirky family relationships and a heroine who continually finds herself in embarrassing moments.
Some people seem to have disliked the first-person perspective of this novel, particularly as it provides very little insight into the hero's thoughts and feelings. Personally, I thought of this book more of a chick-lit novel than a contemporary romance, and for that reason I didn't mind that the book was told entirely from Maggie's point of view. Although the romance between her and Malone is important, a large part of the story focuses on her personal journey--dealing with her perpetual singleness, her dependency on her sister and the local priest, figuring out her relationship with her mother, learning to take pride in her business, etc. Her relationship with Malone wasn't necessarily tacked on at the end, but he also wasn't the only source of her happiness. I don't read a lot of chick-lit any more, but I really enjoyed this book. However, if you're wanting a standard romance, this might not be for you.
Given that this is one of Kristan's earlier novels, I didn't have such high expectations as I do for her more recent books, and for a while I was convinced that I'd figured out two big twists in the story. As it turns out, I was completely and utterly wrong, so the red herrings in this book were fantastic! There was one thing that I suspected towards the end, but that was only after I ruled out all the other options. This book definitely wasn't predictable, and I fell into some of the same traps as Maggie with my suspicions.
I didn't completely and utterly love this book, and if I had to pin-point one thing that occasionally bugged me, it's probably that it didn't always seem entirely realistic for Maggie to end up in so many embarrassing situations. I think this is a common trope in Kristan's books, but in this one it felt a little overdone at times, especially with some of the blind dates or situations with the priest. It isn't a major flaw, however.
While some people have complained about Malone being too silent for much of the book, I don't think I minded this too much. I guess I kind of like the strong, silent type of hero, who waits patiently for the right moment to show how he cares for the heroine, rather than a pushy guy who won't shut up. Malone's quiet personality made certain situations and moments all the more special simply because I could see he was making a special effort for Maggie. If you want a pushy alpha male, he's definitely not the hero for you, but I came to appreciate Malone.
My library has the second book in this series, and it looks like I picked up the third book for 59p on Kindle a few months ago, so I'll definitely be looking forward to revisiting Gideon's Cove. While this book had a different style from Kristan's newer books, it was still fantastically written and of a very similar quality. Highly recommended! 4.5*...more
Carolyn Lapp knows that her chances of finding love are dwindling as she enters her thirties, but she can’t help but dream of finding a ma3.5 out of 5
Carolyn Lapp knows that her chances of finding love are dwindling as she enters her thirties, but she can’t help but dream of finding a man who will love her, faults and all. Abandoned by her boyfriend as a teenager, Carolyn found herself a single mother at the age of sixteen, and has devoted her life to raising her son and protecting him from the stigma of being born out of wedlock. Although Carolyn’s mother has always been supportive of her, her brother, Amos, is eager to marry her off to make her seem more respectable.
Although marrying for convenience isn’t what Carolyn imagined for her life, she finds herself tempted to settle for a comfortable situation when she befriends Saul, a widower with a sweet daughter. But just as Carolyn begins contemplating marriage to Saul, she meets Joshua Glick, a bachelor struggling to run his horse farm following his brother’s death. When Joshua hires Carolyn’s son, Ben, to work for him, they find themselves continually thrown together.
Joshua is far too busy with his farm to contemplate dating, but even he can’t deny that he enjoys spending time with Carolyn. But his mother is determined to match him up with someone she deems more suitable, and Carolyn is cautious about getting involved with someone who doesn’t know the truth about her past. How will Joshua react when he learns that Ben is her son, rather than her nephew? Will he also be held back by her past mistakes, or can they both look to the future and forge ahead together?
As I mentioned in my review of the first book in Amy Clipston’s Hearts of the Lancaster Grand Hotel series, I wasn’t sure if this new series would live up to Amy’s Kauffman Amish Bakery books, which were among the novels that got me hooked on Amish fiction in the first place. While A Hopeful Heart won me over in the end, A Mother’s Secret never really grabbed me or compelled me in the way that Amy’s other books have.
I will say that I liked the premise for this story, and the message that followed. While I’ve come across several Amish novels that focus on women who have had children out of wedlock, they’ve mostly focused on young adults or teenagers who quickly find a man who is willing to marry them and return them to a respectable position in the community. Carolyn’s situation is entirely different, and she’s borne the stigma of being a single mother for fifteen years. While some people have accepted her situation and think nothing of it, others can’t put the past behind them. Even in the English world, I’m sure that the way Carolyn is treated is very common. I thought that A Mother’s Secret contained a much-needed reminder that we cannot call ourselves Christians if we refuse to forgive people for their past mistakes, or continually remind them of how they have fallen short. Carolyn sought forgiveness in her baptism into the Amish church, a fact that is often forgotten by her brother.
Given the way she has been treated over the years, Carolyn has learned to let others make assumptions about her situation, which often results in people assuming that Ben is her brother or nephew, rather than her son. As a result of this, she lets Joshua believe that Ben is her nephew, and somehow he spends the majority of the book in denial of Ben’s true parentage. I wasn’t entirely sure how realistic this was—how likely is it that Ben never calls Carolyn “Mamm” in front of Joshua?—but it was necessary in order for a major conflict to occur. Ultimately, it made sense that Carolyn doesn’t automatically tell new people that she’s Ben’s mother, since she’s constantly trying to protect herself and her son from scorn and judgement. But after a while, the conflict with Joshua felt like it was far too drawn out, and I got kind of tired of waiting for Carolyn to tell Joshua the truth.
Joshua’s main conflict stems from his mother, Barbie, meddling in his life and wanting to match him up with the kind of woman she wants for a daughter-in-law. We already know Barbie from the first book in the series, so readers will be familiar with Barbie’s controlling ways and her dissatisfaction with her daughter-in-law, Hannah, who left the community to marry an Englisher. Barbie sometimes felt a little bit over-the-top and caricatured, but ultimately I realise that there are people who behave like her. My main issue with Barbie is the same one I have with Amos—at the end of the book, they both suddenly give up their pushiness as soon as they’re confronted, and admit to the errors of their ways. Given how stubborn both of them are for the entire book, it didn’t feel entirely realistic that they would have such a rapid change of heart.
I appreciated the chance to reconnect with Hannah and her daughters, who were the principal characters in A Hopeful Heart. Even if they didn’t feature prominently in the book, I’m intrigued to see where their stories go, and whether Hannah is able to reconnect with the daughter she left behind in the Amish community. Given that a lot of the characters in this book (Joshua, Barbie, Hannah and her daughters) were the main focus in A Hopeful Heart, I’m hesitant to recommend this as a standalone novel. I think it would be better appreciated by those who are already familiar with the characters.
Even if I didn’t find it as compelling as Amy’s previous books, I won’t deny that A Mother’s Secret is an easy read with an interesting storyline. I tried to put my finger on what it was that made this book not quite as engaging as Amy’s other stories, and ultimately I think my issues stem from the choppiness of the writing. Most of the scenes in this book are very short, some of them barely more than a couple of paragraphs. It was difficult for me to get truly sucked into the story and connect with a particular character because I would quickly be moved on to someone else. In places I also found the dialogue to be a little clunky and not always entirely realistic. While some characters (such as Carolyn’s mother and a friend at the hotel) give great advice to Carolyn, their manners of speaking made it sound more like they were regurgitating a speech than having a normal conversation.
Since I’m familiar with Amy Clipston’s earlier novels, it’s difficult for me not to compare them to A Mother’s Secret. Perhaps if this were my introduction to Amy’s writing, I would be less critical of it. As it is, I didn’t find this book as engaging as her previous books, but I didn’t dislike it either. A Mother’s Secret might not particularly stand out among the other Amish novels I’ve read recently, but it has an interesting premise and a sweet romance, as well as an important message about forgiveness.
I am absolutely loving this series, and I'm glad I only have to wait until September before the next book releases (and Jack is finally getting his owI am absolutely loving this series, and I'm glad I only have to wait until September before the next book releases (and Jack is finally getting his own story!)! Thankfully I still have a lot of Kristan's back-catalogue to work through while I wait.
Colleen isn't a character I became particularly attached to in the previous books, which made her story all the more enjoyable. I loved the premise of her being a matchmaker who was perpetually single, partially hung up on her high school sweetheart. Colleen was a fabulously flawed character--even if she loved to help everyone out with her matchmaking, she had her own ideals of how relationships should work, and it took her a long time to realise that sometimes people don't need to change in order to find happiness (like Polly and Bryce). My heart ached for her and the issues she had with her father, feeling like he'd abandoned the children from his first marriage, even if she did adore her half-sister. I particularly liked the details about her friendship with Savannah, her little sister, and the evolution of her relationship with her step-mother.
Lucas' backstory was also really interesting, and I became frustrated with how little Lucas' aunt respected him, just because he didn't come from a terribly respectable background. There were times when Lucas seemed a little selfish and stubborn, but like Colleen, he needed time to realise his mistakes and appreciate the good things that were already in his life. His relationship with his uncle and cousin were endearing, as were the little snippets we got with his sister and four nieces. Even if Lucas was a little too brooding at times for my taste, I loved his relationship with Colleen, and I was thankful that they were able to work things out, in spite of their past mistakes.
The Blue Heron series is starting to remind me a little of Robyn Carr's Virgin River, with the snippets of insight into the lives of the other characters in the town. Don't get me wrong, this story focuses entirely on Colleen and Bryce, but since Colleen works at the town bar and is friends with characters from previous books, we get to see how their lives are progressing. There are also fun cameos from minor characters who appeared previously, like the ridiculously young doctor at the hospital, and the quirky professor who taught at the same university as Tom. This continuity was a pleasant surprise.
I can't honestly think of anything I didn't like about this book. Like I said, it took a while for Colleen and Lucas to admit to their shortcomings, and until they did I found myself frustrated with them, but the culmination of those issues made this book even better. I think this is probably one of my favourite books of the year!
And as with the last book in the series, Amy Rubinate is a fantastic narrator. I highly recommend this audiobook!...more
Scott Grant moved to Thunder Point to get a new start for himself and his children, away from his interfering mother and mother-in-4.5 out of 5 stars.
Scott Grant moved to Thunder Point to get a new start for himself and his children, away from his interfering mother and mother-in-law. Raising his two small children on his own, following his wife’s sudden death, he hopes that opening a small doctor’s practice in the coastal town of Thunder Point will allow him to support his family, and spend more time with them. It quickly becomes apparent that he needs help keeping up with all the patients his practice serves, but given the remote location and low pay, Scott isn’t sure if he can attract another employee.
Peyton Lacoumette has been working as a physician’s assistant at a busy city practice for several years, but even the money and prestige can’t make up for the fact that she regrets becoming romantically involved with her boss. After her relationship crashed and burned quite dramatically, Peyton is determined to make a new start. Even if she doesn’t plan to stay in Thunder Point long-term, a stint at Scott’s clinic might provide the perfect respite to help her figure out where to go next.
It’s not until after Peyton has agreed to work with Scott that she learns that he’s a single father—exactly the kind of man she’d sworn to avoid, after her disastrous break-up with her boss. But Scott’s children are a far cry from the teenagers she’s been attempting to wrangle for the last few years, and she actually finds herself wanting to spend more time with his family, rather than go out of her way to avoid them.
Scott is determined not to get too involved with Peyton, since he’s certain that she’s going to move on to a better-paid job as soon as her three months in Thunder Point are over. Even so, neither of them can deny their attraction for each other. Would it be irresponsible to allow a relationship to develop when they know it’s not going to go anywhere?
Scott Grant arrived in Thunder Point several books ago, and I’ve been eagerly anticipating the instalment where he finally gets his own happy ending. I’m not sure what it is that particularly appealed to me about Scott, but I’m always a sucker for widowed fathers in romance novels, particularly when they’re Beta heroes. I enjoyed the chance to finally get inside Scott’s head and learn more about his character. His interactions with his children and patients certainly endeared him to me, especially his desire to help those in need, even if they couldn’t afford to repay him. Peyton is not the kind of heroine I would have automatically paired him up with, which made their romance all the more intriguing.
When it comes down to it, Peyton had a lot more character growth and conflict to overcome, in comparison to Scott. It takes a while for the full depth of her baggage to be revealed, and as pieces of her story trickle out, I really felt for her and understood her hesitance around Scott. She devoted years of her life to a single father whose children never warmed up to her, despite her many attempts to bond and show her love for them. The storyline of a woman coming out of a relationship that left her hurt, but still longing for marriage and a family, isn’t unusual, but Peyton’s situation certainly was. Especially given the pressure from her family to settle down, and her own fears that maybe’s she’s missed her chance and wasted too many years of her life on a man who didn’t really love her, Peyton is a character that I imagine a lot of women will be able to relate to.
Although Peyton and Scott spend some time dancing around their feelings for each other—partly due to Peyton’s fears of getting taken advantage of by another single father, and partly because of an amusing misunderstanding on Scott’s part—it’s worth the wait when their relationship finally gets off the ground. I’ve described their relationship as “sweet”, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t any passion or chemistry between them. In fact, it’s because of the strong chemistry that they find it hard to deny their feelings for each other, even if Peyton is only meant to stay in Thunder Point for a couple of months.
Most of the initial conflict in The Promise is internal, focusing in the issues that Scott and Peyton have to figure out in order to determine whether they have a future together. Peyton needs to let go of her past baggage and figure out what she really wants for her future, and Scott needs to push past his own stubborn insecurities and learn to communicate with the woman he cares about. Initially it didn’t seem like Scott had much to work through, but as the story’s final conflict reached its peak, I actually appreciated his stubbornness and the issues that evolved out of it. How often do you come across a romance novel featuring a Beta hero who lets his insecurities get the better of him? It was a refreshing surprise to read about a hero who wasn’t always confident and made silly mistakes based on his fears. Scott is certainly one of the most believable heroes I’ve come across recently.
I’m not usually a fan of romance novels where the hero and heroine spend a sizable chunk of the book apart from each other, but it worked well in The Promise. Scott and Peyton needed time apart from each other to understand the full depth of their issues, and figure out if they were worth fighting through. I also felt that I got a much deeper look into Peyton’s personality in the last quarter of the book, when she’s dragged away from Thunder Point by a conflict with her ex-boyfriend and his family. Peyton might seem tough and unapproachable to begin with, but this section of the novel showed her tender side. Even if she’s been hurt, Peyton can’t ignore someone in their time of need—but she also doesn’t let people walk all over her. Neither too tough nor too vulnerable, Peyton is a wonderfully relatable character.
I don’t have a lot of complaints about The Promise. Although the novel had a slow start, I was immediately intrigued by Scott and Peyton’s back-stories and conflicts, and the issues explored in the final quarter of this book were what made me fall in love with Scott and Peyton’s story. I also really enjoyed the time spent with Peyton’s family on their farm, and the interactions with the visitors to the doctor’s surgery. That said, the scenes featuring other characters in Thunder Point didn’t have quite the same appeal for me. The sub-plot about Rawley helping Carrie with her catering business was pretty sweet, but the brief visits we had with other reoccurring characters never really grabbed my attention. Unlike Virgin River, where I always appreciate the chance to see how other inhabitants of the town are getting along, I never long to check up on Sarah and Cooper, or Gina and Mac. The one character I did enjoy spending time with was Devon, who also worked at the clinic. The town of Thunder Point just hasn’t drawn me in the same way that Virgin River did, and it doesn’t have quite the same sense of a close-knit community. The setting is certainly interesting, but I’ve still yet to fall in love with it.
Although I still prefer Virgin River to Thunder Point, The Promise is definitely the best novel in Robyn Carr’s new series so far. Peyton and Scott are realistically flawed characters who you can’t help falling in love with, and readers will be rooting for them to overcome their conflicts and make a new life together.
Disclaimer: This is a mainstream novel and contains scenes of a sexual nature and some swearing.
Review title provided by Harlequin MIRA and Little Bird Publicity....more
I don't read a lot of novellas, but I had some money left on an Audible voucher and this entire series was incredibly cheap at the time, so I decidedI don't read a lot of novellas, but I had some money left on an Audible voucher and this entire series was incredibly cheap at the time, so I decided to pick up the first Year of Weddings book. I haven't read any of Denise Hunter's books before, but I've heard a lot of great things about her, so this was a nice introduction to her writing.
For such a short story (it barely made it over the two hour mark on my audiobook), the romance doesn't feel too rushed. The story was concise, but there was plenty of time for Seth and Layla to get to know each other, and the secondary characters all felt relatively fleshed out.
Since this book is set in December and Layla is helping Seth decorate his house for a holiday tour, this would be a really sweet Christmas read. There are fun scenes where they go ice-skating with Layla's family, hunting for the perfect tree and Seth even sets off on a wild-goose chase to find a sleigh to decorate his garden with.
Considering the premise--that Seth blurts out that he and Layla are engaged while they're attending her ex-boyfriend's wedding and they decide to keep up the ruse because Seth adds respectability to her new career--this story could have been incredibly contrived. But it's made clear that Seth and Layla knew each other long before the wedding, and that Seth might have even asked her out if his friend hadn't jumped in first. Their romance felt pretty believable, in spite of the crazy premise.
I did wish we'd got inside Seth's head a little more. All I felt that I knew about him was that he'd always had a crush on Layla, and he felt responsible for introducing her ex (his best friend) to Layla's cousin, who he then married instead of Layla. There are some vague details about his family being gone and him owning a hardware store, but otherwise I felt like I got to know Layla a lot better than Seth. Every single one of Layla's actions made sense given what I knew about her, but I couldn't say the same for Seth. He didn't have an awful lot to overcome to get his happy ending.
Speaking of happy endings, I know that we're told that Seth and Layla have known each other for years, but their plans at the end of the book felt a little too quick for me. I wanted them to spend more time getting to know each other outwith the ruse of their engagement, and their decision in the final chapter just seemed a bit too rushed.
I got the impression that this story followed on from another book, perhaps even another series, so maybe if I'd read that I would have understood Seth and Layla's backstory a little better, and not felt that the ending was too rushed.
I'll definitely be on the look out for more books from Denise Hunter, and I recommend this novella for those wanting a quick, sweet, Christmas romance and an introduction to a new author. 4*...more