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Ornamental Graces

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  159 ratings  ·  55 reviews
After his duplicitous girlfriend left, Dan Malone spent six months in a tailspin of despair and destruction: emotional, physical, and spiritual. Just when his life seems to be back on track, he meets Emily Kowalski, younger sister of his new best friend.

Emily’s the kind of girl he’d always dreamed of—sweet, smart, and sincere. But he’s made a mess of his life and ruined hi
Paperback, 366 pages
Published October 11th 2016 by Multa Verba Publishing
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Average rating 4.26  · 
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 ·  159 ratings  ·  55 reviews

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Jan 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Wow. I was not expecting any of the turns this book took. What I love about this book is that it had me feeling for the characters and thinking what would I do in a situation like this. Any book that makes me feel And think always has a place on my bookshelf. I mean, first of all, the ship was too adorable. Yes, a little frustrating at times, but that's what makes the parts when they're together even better. Like this moment, one of my favorites, "He hadn't just made up for the last time they'd ...more
Jun 10, 2019 rated it really liked it

When I received Ornamental Graces, I'll admit I was befuddled. Christmas in June? Not usually my standard, but I remained open minded, and I did indeed enjoy the story after all. Poor Dan. Virtuous and godly, yet thoroughly beaten in every way by a treacherous beautiful snake. He's got a long road ahead that is dark and full of pitfalls.
And, Emily, lonely, lost and low in self esteem. It's an uphill climb for her to reach the summit of self acceptance and actualization of self. The stor
Nov 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Carolyn Astfalk is a gifted writer who had me hooked from page one in Ornamental Graces. This is not just a good love story, but it is a great one! It is hard for me to believe that this is only Carolyn’s second novel! While her first book, Stay with Me was intriguing and is one of my favorite inspirational Christian love stories, this one was even better. Similar to Stay with Me, Ornamental Graces contains all the ingredients of a great story -- romance, suspense, action, and humor. However, th ...more
Theresa Linden
Oct 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I read an advanced copy of Ornamental Graces by Carolyn Astfalk and have been looking forward to sharing my review. This is a truly inspiring contemporary Christian romance. Dan Malone comes into the story with some baggage. Mistakes from his past and rejection from the woman he thought he loved has built a wall around his heart that blinds him to the possibility of a happy life. Then he meets Emily.

Smart, strong-willed and virtuous, Emily Kowalski is tired of waiting for life to happen to her.
Stephanie Landsem
Oct 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Carolyn Astfalk has once again written a beautiful story of two people falling in love. More than a romance, it's an exploration of two hearts as they try to figure out if they belong together. Strong characters, excellent secondary characters (something Carolyn excelled at in her debut novel, Stay with Me) and a twisty, turny plot that was far from predictable, Ornamental Graces is a great read that is lighthearted at times, but with great depth where it counts. ...more
Denise Spicer
Jan 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Dan Malone is working at a Christmas Tree lot when he meets Emily. She is there with her brother to get a tree. Dan is attracted to Emily but he is dealing with a lot of emotional baggage from a past relationship that was toxic and now he is afraid to love again. Emily and Dan begin a fragile, on-again off-again relationship for the next couple of years. Together they entrust their lives to God and develop a love that will last. This is a sweet little romance with lots of endearing characters (E ...more
Amanda Lauer
Oct 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Carolyn Astfalk has a talent for drawing you into her characters' worlds by her descriptive prose and view of everyday life, as messy as it can be. This story starts on one Christmas and follows two years in the lives of Emily and Dan as they try to get over past hurts to forge a relationship with each other. They certainly had their ups and downs and share of misunderstandings. They're in their late 20s but in my mind I was seeing them in their early 30s, especially Dan who seemed a lot wiser t ...more
Therese Heckenkamp
I loved this book! It’s a genuine, heartfelt inspirational romance. The title is very applicable and hints at a story both lovely and faith-filled.

The author has such a beautiful way with words and there’s a maturity to her writing that sets it apart—and above—from typical romances. I'm in awe of how she takes rather ordinary situations and weaves such intriguing, emotional scenes. There's never a dull page! I was highly absorbed and invested in the story and characters the entire time. The dia
Olivia Ard
As a Protestant woman who rarely reads straight-up romance, you probably wouldn't think Catholic love stories would be my thing. To be honest, I haven't read much Catholic fiction--or Christian fiction of any ilk, really--in several years. However, when Carolyn Astfalk asked if I'd like to read an advanced copy of Ornamental Graces, I jumped at the chance since I had enjoyed her previous novel, Stay With Me.

Ornamental Graces follows Dan Malone and Emily Kowalski over the course of two years. The
Susan Peek
Oct 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Carolyn Astfalk has done it again - crafted a fun, touching, thought-provoking Christian romance with plenty of holiday cheer!

Of all book genres, I have to confess that straight-out romance is one of my least favorites. But when the author, a fellow member of the Catholic Writers' Guild, offered me an Advance Review Copy, I couldn't pass it up. I had already read and enjoyed her debut novel, Stay With Me, so I knew Astfalk is an incredibly talented writer. Sure enough, Ornamental Graces sparkle
Oct 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the second novel by Carolyn Astfalk I've read, and although I liked the first one, I loved this one. I'll enumerate the reasons.
1. While this is a Catholic novel, it is subtly Catholic and stands strong, simply as a clean romance.
2. The writing is very good, well-crafted, each word doing its job, with no extraneous text. I found only one small error, the wrong form of a verb used, and perhaps it was intentional in the dialogue where it appeared.
3. The characters are endearing. I love Emi
Feb 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, ya
Another great book by Astfalk, and a clean read. Although fun to read in the Christmas season, the story takes place over a couple of years or so, including some fun summer chapters! Just a great, inspirational story with real characters who are true-to-life in their imperfections, guilt over their pasts, and worry that their past relationships will scar their future ones. Ornamental Graces provides hope for all people who have suffered wither from bad relationships or NO relationships!
Corinna Turner
Mar 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I don’t read a huge amount of romance and I enjoyed this way more than I was expecting to. In fact, I was blown away by how good it was. Dan and Emily have a long and difficult road to happiness and I kept looking at the progress bar and going, ‘what the? I’m only 20% through. What the? I’m only 50% through! How much more are they going to have to go through before they’re together!’ BUT I wasn’t looking at the progress bar in an ‘I’m bored, hurry up’ sense, just a wondering, in-sympathy-with-th ...more
Jun 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2019
Ornamental Graces is a compelling, character-driven romance. It spans two years as Dan and Emily go from meeting to begrudging friendship to love. Overall, I enjoyed their journey.

When Dan and Emily meet, he's recovering from a horrible breakup, and she's feeling restless and wondering if she'll ever find love. It's definitely not love at first sight, though Emily does feel "something" when she shakes Dan's hand. However, when Dan becomes friends with Emily's brother, the two find themselves thr
Vicki (MyArmchairAdventures)
Jun 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Thank you to @justreadtours for sending me a copy of Ornamental Graces. I wasn’t sure about a Christmas themed book in June and though the book opens with Emily and Dan meeting at his Christmas tree farm, the book spans several years.

This is the first book I’ve read categorized as Catholic fiction/romance and it was surprisingly well-written without feeling preachy. Emily and Dan are two flawed characters who have been burned by love in the past. Dan particularly struggles to trust again and com
Leslea Wahl
Oct 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: for-fun
What a wonderful Christian Romance. The story of Dan and Emily is about the journey these two must take in order to find a real, faith-based relationship. I loved how real this story is. This is Carolyn’s expertise – creating real characters with real issues. This story has plenty of sweet romantic moments, but it also has all the grit and problems of real life. Let’s face it, mistakes from the past can affect our future. It’s difficult to let go of the pain and the guilt from the poor decisions ...more
Virginia Pillars
Jan 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This story was well-written. The complex characters had to deal with new situations that popped up and kept me turning the pages. Their struggles were real and I could relate to them. I liked the way the author, Carolyn Astfalk, resolved the different problems encountered by Dan and Emily. It's more than a Christmas story, it's a story for any season. I also liked the faith exhibited by Dan and Emily. This story could be read by all ages from teens to grandmothers because of the clear message it ...more
Jan 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
My review: 4.5 stars for a compelling story that caused me to forget everything else for several hours in order to finish it. The two main characters, Dan and Emily, are so real and honestly drawn, I became attached to them right away and HAD to finish their story, even though I rarely read contemporary romance. Their pain is palpable, but the power of forgiveness is seen over and over, a great reminder to us all! The Pittsburgh setting is so detailed, it makes me want to visit! The supporting c ...more
So much more than a sweet holiday romance.
This charming tale is as delightful as it is humorous (I laughed out loud several times). But with that said, it's also a story rich with soul-stirring moments and inspiring growth. Astfalk knows how to invite a reader into her carefully crafted story world. She builds believable and likable characters right from the start--both main and secondary. Many times while reading I got lost in the true-to-life family dynamics--brothers, sisters, and children g
Angel Leya
Dan is damaged, the last woman he was with taking every last ounce of self-respect when she dumped him. So when bubbly Emily comes into his life, he's not sure how to take it.

Emily is trying to figure out where her life is going. She's moved out of her brother's place, but she's not really taking life by the horns. When Dan comes into her life, she's intrigued, but his hot and cold routine just confirms everything she fears about herself - that she's just not pretty enough, and no man with a bet
May 14, 2017 rated it did not like it
If you like a whole lot of drama and characters who are emotionally driven and extremely bad communicators, then this is the book for you. This book was definitely not for me. I had to skim my way through most of it. It’s books like these that make me avoid the contemporary romance genre. The plot drags on and on. Every patch of mud that can be concocted to drag these characters through is done as slowly and tortuously as possible. In the end, I couldn’t care less whether the hero and heroine go ...more
Ornamental Graces
: Carolyn Astfalk

This is a relatively clean contemporary romance. The author drags the characters through every bit of drama she can think of, before reaching resolution. It's very slow moving. The French touches were OK, but didn't do much for me. Plenty of religious references.

The narration was well done. The characters were well portrayed by Kieren Calland Metts.

I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.
Steven R. McEvoy
This was the second novel by Carolyn Astfalk that I have read this year, I have also read her short story in the collection, Secrets: Visible & Invisible 7 Amazing Stories. At the time of writing this review this book is ranked in the following categories:

Religious & Inspirational

Now as a middle-aged guy I do not normally read romances. Some of the other YA Books I have read have a romance element, but usually written around adventure or mystery. As far as I can recall of the thou
Nov 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020
This was a surprising book that covers 2 years’ worth of a relationship. It’s a very dense book, packed with lots of events and ups and downs. Honestly, I loved it. It was real and authentic to what relationships can really be like at times. I guess that was the surprising part, because I picked this ebook looking for a simple, gushy but clean romance and got so much more instead.

I loved how the author switched from the perspective of both Dan and Emily. It never felt forced to hear from either
Hallie Szott
Jun 10, 2019 marked it as reviewed
While recovering from a devastating breakup, Dan Malone meets Emily Kowalski. They could be perfect together, but is the timing right? Carolyn Astfalk’s Ornamental Graces then follows the pair over the next couple years with plenty of sweet, dramatic, frustrating maybe-they-will-maybe-they-won’t moments.

Now, I’m game to read a Christmas story any time of the year. I really love a good, fun holiday romance—and that’s exactly what I expected when I started Ornamental Graces. I quickly discovered t
Nov 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Ornamental Grace by Carolyn Astfalk

This book deals with the after effects of a failed pre-marital relationship. It is written with a strong Christian/Catholic perspective.

Dan is working through a horrible break-up after a very bad relationship. Throughout the relationship, the woman has used Dan financially and left him in extreme debt. He is working through the debt, had to re-start his business, and winds up opening a Christmas Tree lot as a jumpstart. During this time, he meets Emily as she c
May 29, 2019 rated it liked it
Review originally posted on:

*I received a free copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. A huge thank you to the author and publisher!*

As many of you probably already know, I love Christmas so much! So, when I received Ornamental Graces for review, I was quite excited. I’m a sucker for a Hallmark Christmas movie, and this book sounded just like one. While I ended up enjoying this one just as much as any Hallmark movie, it was so much more t
May 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A story of love and redemption, of facing hard circumstances and choosing to overcome them, and of discovering weaknesses and turning them into strengths, this novel has just a little bit of everything. There is romance, of course, but also mystery and suspense. The characters don’t seem too good to be true – they seem realistic. Both main characters have emotional baggage, and they spend a good amount of time dancing around each other, learning to trust each other, and coping with their own bag ...more
May 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
I almost never read romance, so when this book landed in my lap, I wasn't really expecting to enjoy it to any great degree. I was really surprised, as my star rating probably revealed already. Ormanental Graces hits all of the right emotional beats to make it pretty much impossible to put down, even for someone like me who doesn't even like the genre. I'll be honest, it's a little drama heavy, but the genuineness of the characters and their emotions help ground the moments that might otherwise s ...more
Feb 23, 2018 rated it it was ok
While this story is super detailed and unhurried, it’s almost to a fault. Extremely tedious and drawn out - I felt like I was reading someone’s daily journal that lasts for two years. While in parts it’s engaging and you finally feel like progress is being made, there’s more set backs. I’m not sure if the author is trying to add a genuine element by making their relationship develop over such a long period, it just got a bit much.

I’m assuming the intent is to write an inspiring Christian romance
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Young Adult Catho...: Chapters 20-33 4 3 Jan 21, 2019 09:35PM  
Young Adult Catho...: Chapters 1-5 4 9 Dec 18, 2018 01:18AM  
Catholic Fiction: Free Catholic Christmas Novel 12/12-15 2 11 Dec 12, 2018 05:29PM  
Catholic Readers: FREE Catholic Christmas Novel 1 7 Dec 12, 2018 09:30AM  
Christian Romance...: FREE Contemporary Inspirational Romance 1 4 Dec 29, 2016 08:04AM  
Fans of Christian...: FREE Contemporary Christian Romance 1 32 Dec 29, 2016 08:00AM  
Catholic Readers: *FREE* Contemporary Catholic Christmas Romance 1 16 Dec 29, 2016 07:56AM  

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Carolyn Astfalk lives in Hershey, Pennsylvania where the scent on the morning breeze carries either chocolate or manure depending on wind direction and atmospheric conditions.

A Pittsburgh native, Carolyn carries her Yinzer card with pride, having interned at Pittsburgh’s iconic TV and radio stations KDKA and WDVE. She is a graduate of Duquesne University, where she majored in Latin and Broadcast J

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