He can’t forget the kiss he shared with the best man.
But is he the best man for him?
His sister’s wedding isn’t the ideal place for Rafael Navarro to reconnect with the man he kissed in a moment of reckless abandon. But it’s impossible to avoid best man Étienne Galois! The gorgeous Haitian photographer hasn’t forgotten the intimate moment they shared, even if Rafi is the most maddening person he’s ever met. Can the two find common ground, proving opposites not only attract—they can become lovers for life?
Book 1: A Delicious Dilemma Book 2: The Best Man’s Problem Book 3: The Trouble with Exes
I am so happy the Familia Navarro is back! I felt an affinity with this family (especially Papi Enrique) since Sera introduced them in A Delicious Dilemma and I’d been impatiently waiting for Val’s siblings to have their own stories. And now, they’re here beginning with Rafi’s story in TheBest Man’s Problem.
Grab the moment because life is too short to waste any of it.”
I knew from the start that I would like this story because opposites attract is one of my favorite Romance tropes. And boy, are Rafi and Étienne opposites. Rafi is so controlled, super organized, and a lot uptight while Étienne is a little chaotic, seize-the-day kind of person. This is the main reason for all the pushing away that happens in the story. And the pull? It’s the physical attraction between them plus the similarity in their love of their respective families and fierce loyalty–Rafi to Val and Étienne to Philip.
I know my worth … I deserve to have someone love me with their whole chest.”
As always, Sera’s writing is lush. Her prose is lyrical and evocative. She makes me relate to the characters and feel for them. I may have related too much to Étienne because, during the point of high conflict, I wanted to kick Rafi’s stubborn ass. Oops!
Life has no loyalty to anyone, so you must live it without remorse.”
I love the diversity, the rich multicultural background, and the steam in Sera’s stories. The first two books in the series have been excellent. I can’t wait for Nati’s turn!
Middle Grade / Magical Realism / Fantasy
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Page Count: 290 pages
Publication Date: November 22, 2021
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“Age never matters; these things are about bravery and heart.”
Thirteen-year-old Condi Bloom’s dream is to learn to surf, but her laid-back beach town isn’t what it used to be. Big resort owners are taking over the cove. Worse, someone’s harassing the Beachlings, the mysterious old women living in the cliffs off Windy Hollow, a lonely tower of rock that people say is haunted. When a new surfer boy named Trustin shows up in town and invites Condi to a forbidden surfing spot, she’s swept into an extraordinary underwater adventure, where a surprising encounter with Koan, the Riddlemaster of the Sea, changes her life. Along with Trustin, his quirky twin and a mystical aquamarine surfboard, Condi learns the untold stories of the Beachlings, uncovering the timeless secrets of Windy Hollow.
Ebbing and flowing between reality and magic, times past and present, The Aquamarine Surfboard by Kellye Abernathy is a riveting beach tale about opening up to mystery, building community when and where you can — and discovering the ocean is filled with magic—the really BIG kind—the kind that changes the world.
Kellye Abernathy’s passions are writing and serving trauma survivors as a yoga teacher and practical life skills advocate. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Secondary English Education from the University of Kansas. Her home is in land-locked Plano, Texas—where she’s dreaming of her next trip to the sea!
Genre: Romantic Mystery Publisher: Ewephoric Publishing Date of Publication: March 20, 2018, Revised 2022
Number of Pages: 284
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PEOPLE DIE, BUT LEGENDS LIVE ON.
Manhattan antiquities appraiser Annalisse Drury dreams of a quiet life on the family farm among the sheep she loves, when her best friend is murdered. The police assume robbery is the motive because her friend’s expensive bracelet is missing. But the 500-year-old artifact is rumored to carry an ancient curse, one that unleashes evil upon any who dare wear the jewelry created for the Persian royal family—and Annalisse believes her friend is the latest victim.
Weeks later, Annalisse sees a necklace matching the stolen bracelet at a gallery opening. Convinced the necklace is part of the deadly collection, Annalisse begs the gallery’s owner to destroy the piece, but her pleas are ignored— despite the unnatural death that occurs during the opening. With two victims linked to the jewelry, Annalisse is certain she must act.
Desperate to keep the gallery owner safe, Annalisse reluctantly enlists the owner’s son to help—even though she’s afraid he’ll break her heart. Wealthy and devastatingly handsome, with a string of bereft women in his wake, Greek playboy Alec Zavos dismisses Annalisse’s concerns—until his parents are ripped from the Zavos family yacht during their ocean voyage near Crete.
Annalisse and Alec race across two oceans to save his mother, feared dead or kidnapped. As time lapses, the killer switches mode and closes in on the man who’s meant for Annalisse with the lifestyle she wants most.
But when it’s her turn as the hunted, will she choose to save Alec and his mother, or sacrifice everything to save herself?
Hold on for a heart-thumping adventure through exotic lands in this fast moving, romantic suspense mystery by Marlene M Bell.
Marlene M. Bell is an eclectic mystery writer, artist, photographer, and she raises sheep in beautiful East Texas with her husband, Gregg, three cats, and a flock of horned Dorset sheep.
The Annalisse series — mysteries with a touch of romance — has received numerous honors including the Independent Press Award for Best Mystery (Spent Identity) and FAPA (Florida Author’s President’s Gold Award) for two other installments, Stolen Obsession and Scattered Legacy. She also penned the first of her children’s picture books, Mia and Nattie: One Great Team! based on true events from the Bell’s ranch. The simple text and illustrations are a touching tribute of compassion and love between a little girl and her lamb.
2019 Wisdom-Faulkner Award finalist 2020 Adult Fiction winner Texas Author Project 2020 Sarton Award Finalist 2020 Eric Hoffer Award Short List
A drunken mother makes childhood ugly. Jane runs away at sixteen, determined to leave her fraught upbringing in the rearview. Vowing never to return, she hitchhikes to California, right on time for the Summer of Love. Seventeen years later, she looks good on paper: married, grad school, sober, but her carefully constructed life is crumbling. When Mama dies, Jane returns for the funeral, leaving her husband in the dark about her history. Seeing her childhood home and significant people from her youth catapults Jane back to the events that made her the woman she is. She faces down her past and the ghosts that shaped her family. A stunning discovery helps Jane see her problems through a new lens.
Family Saga / Women’s Fiction / Historical Fiction
May 2022 Pulpwood Queen Book Club Pick 2020 Shelf Unbound 2021 Notable 100 Best Indie Books 2020 Recommended by US Review of Books
In 1965 Chicago, thirteen-year-old Dani Marek declares she’s in love, and you best believe it. This is no crush, and for six blissful years she fills her hope chest with linens, dinnerware, and dreams of an idyllic future with John. When he is killed in action in Viet Nam, Dani’s world shatters. She launches a one-woman vendetta against the men she seeks out in Rush Street’s singles bars. Her goal: break as many hearts as she can. Dani’s ill-conceived vengeance leads her to a loveless marriage that ends in tragedy. At twenty-four, she’s left a widow with a baby, a small fortune, and a ghost—make that two. Set in the turbulent Sixties and Seventies, Just One Look explores one woman’s tumultuous journey through grief, denial, and letting go.
Family Saga / Women’s Fiction / Historical Fiction
The new release from Joanne Kukanza Easley, the multi-award-winning author of Sweet Jane and Just One Look
A saga spanning five decades, I’ll Be Seeing You, explores one woman’s life, with and without alcohol to numb the pain.
Young Lauren knows she doesn’t want to be a ranch wife in Palo Pinto County, Texas. After she’s discovered by a modeling scout at the 1940 Fort Worth Stock Show Parade, she moves to Manhattan to begin her glamourous career. A setback ends her dream, and she drifts into alcohol dependence and promiscuity. By twenty-four, she’s been widowed and divorced, and has developed a pattern of fleeing her problems with geographical cures. Lauren’s last escape lands her in Austin, where, after ten chaotic years, she achieves lasting sobriety and starts a successful business, but happiness eludes her.
Fast forward to 1985. With a history of burning bridges and never looking back, Lauren is stunned when Brett, her third husband, resurfaces, wanting to reconcile after thirty-three years. The losses and regrets of the past engulf her, and she seeks the counsel of Jane, a long-time friend from AA. In the end, the choice is Lauren’s. What will she decide?
Spanning nearly five decades, I’ll Be Seeing You tells the incredibly riveting story of Ruby/Lauren Eaton. In this genre crossover between women’s fiction and historical fiction, Ms. Easley takes Lauren back and forth between Texas and New York from 1938 to 1985 – working, loving, winning, losing, learning, failing, and altogether living a fascinating life uniquely her own.
For all that this book covers forty-seven years of Lauren’s life, it was actually a quick read because it was so engaging. I found myself transported to the time periods and settings skillfully described in the story. Having just visited Pearl Harbor before reading this, I connected best with the scenes depicting events during World War II. Those showed excellent research and came across as lived experiences.
One of the things I liked most about this story is the constancy of the element of friendship in Lauren’s life. From Clare to Milly to Harold to Alice to Helen and to Jane, Lauren always had some kind of support system. It’s especially important because of her estrangement from her family and her lack of success in love.
Another aspect of this book I really liked is how diverse the mix of characters is in terms of ethnicity, gender identity, and political affiliation. It seems reflective of society even in the past.
Lauren’s struggle to overcome alcoholism was quite an effective plotline. It would resonate with many readers looking for main characters who are flawed yet still trying to become the best version of themselves.
Huge thanks to Lone Star Lit for including me in the blog tour and to Ms. Easley for providing me a copy of the book to review.
A retired registered nurse with experience in both the cold, clinical operating room and the emotionally fraught world of psychiatric hospitals, Joanne lives on a small ranch in the Texas Hill Country, where she writes fiction about complicated, twentieth-century women.
Her multi-award-winning debut, Sweet Jane, was named the adult fiction winner at the Texas Author Project and shortlisted for the Sarton Award and Eric Hoffer Award, among others. Just One Look, Joanne’s second novel was a May 2022 Pulpwood Queen Book Club Pick. I’ll BeSeeing You, her third novel, features characters from Sweet Jane. Her prize-winning short stories and poetry have appeared in several anthologies.
A SHOT IN THE 80% DARK
Bean to Bar Mysteries, Book 4
Cozy Mystery / Culinary Mystery / Woman Sleuth
Publisher: Golden Tip Press
Date of Publication: July 15, 2022
Number of Pages: 285 pages
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Felicity Koerber’s bean to bar chocolate shop is thriving. Despite everything she’s been through with the murders she’s helped solve, Felicity is ready to take on new challenges. So when a local museum offers her a contract to create a chocolate replica of a gigantic sailing ship sculpture for a gala celebrating Galveston’s history, she jumps at the chance to combine chocolate-crafting with art.
The project is fun – right up until there’s not just one but two dead artists on the scene, and Felicity has to change gears back to detective. Logan, Felicity’s business partner and previous bodyguard, and Arlo, Felicity’s ex who is now the cop investigating the case, are split on which victim they think was actually the intended one. Felicity may have to take some chances, both emotionally and in luring out a killer, to determine the truth.
Can she find out how Galveston’s history relates to the murders, unmask a killer, and prepare 2,000 chocolate desserts for the gala all at the same time?
Amber Royer writes the Chocoverse comic telenovela-style foodie-inspired space opera series and the Bean to Bar Mysteries. She is also the author of Story Like a Journalist: a Workbook for Novelists, which boils down her writing knowledge into an actionable plan involving over 100 worksheets to build a comprehensive story plan for your novel. She also teaches creative writing and is an author coach.
Amber and her husband live in the DFW Area, where you can often find them hiking or taking landscape/architecture/wildlife photographs. If you are very nice to Amber, she might make you cupcakes. Chocolate cupcakes, of course! Amber blogs about creative writing technique and all things chocolate.
With its increasingly diverse and representative cast of characters, absolutely amazing competence porn, exciting and fascinating whodunit cases, mouthwatering food descriptions, and excellent sense of place, Amber Royer’s Bean to Bar Mysteries is quickly becoming my favorite cozy mystery series to read of late.
There’s a lot going on in A Shot in the 80% Dark, all of them good. Somehow, Ms. Royer is introducing the entire fifty thousand population of Galveston into her stories and she’s managing to make each of those characters distinct, memorable, real, and relatable. I especially admire her utilization of notoriously difficult side characters — pets and kids– to further the plot. Renoir, the museum’s cockatoo, is a scene-stealing star.
I am in awe of the displays of expertise and artistry in this series. From 3-D printing to Vietnamese coffee preparation, to SCUBA diving, and to sugar work using isomalt, I learn so many new things that I may be able to apply to practical use in the future. The author’s exhaustive research on various competencies and historical details leap off the pages of the book.
Naturally, I appreciate the procedural aspects of crime solving, but that is a basic requirement of the genre so I won’t dwell on that. What I really love to highlight is Ms. Royer’s deep knowledge of Galveston and how she completely transports the readers to the coastal resort city with her words. Traveling through books is never more true than in this story.
Life is too short to walk around waiting for relationships to solidify themselves.”
The only thing I’m not one hundred percent on board with is the love triangle between Felicity, Arlo, and Logan. It was handled well here and there seems to be forward progress so it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the book.
Huge thanks to Lone Star Lit for the opportunity to be in the tour and to Ms. Royer for providing me with a digital copy of the book to read and review.
This very handsome earl … Is the one man she cannot fall for…
War widow Lily Walsh has left her aristocratic family behind, but she can’t deny her younger sister’s request to come to London to meet her fiancé. Though not a love match, Lord Sherborne is kind, amusing, and ideal for her sister on paper. But as Lily gets to know him, she’s finding him alarmingly attractive! And the forbidden look in the earl’s eye shows the feeling is mutual …
Lara Temple writes strong and sensual Regency romances about complex individuals who give no quarter but do so with plenty of passion. She lives with her husband, two children, and one very fluffy dog and they are all very understanding about her taking over the kitchen table so she can look out over the garden as she writes and dreams up her Happy Ever Afters.
In what I consider her most sensual book to date, Lara Temple’s The Earl She Should Never Desire delivers everything this avid reader wants in a Romance–remarkably well-rounded characters, superlative dialogue, seemingly insurmountable obstacles, loads of longing and pining, and a slow-burn journey to happy-ever-after.
I have always admired Miss Temple’s mastery of the written language and she displays it magnificently once again here in the way she developed Lily and Marcus’s personalities and the manner in which she built up their mutual attraction. Whether attending a lecture or a society ball, they shared exquisite moments of communication that engaged both the intellect and the emotion. I found myself learning new facts at some points and crying about touching backstories in other parts. Above all, I found myself believing in the inevitability of their love and rooting for them the entire way.
Another talent in Lara Temple’s immense arsenal is her amazing ability to enliven her characters, even the secondary ones. Dom, Lord Wrexham, with his male beauty and sharp wit, is a standout and I want his story to be told next. Lily’s placid sister Annie, ebullient brother Piers, hateful mother Mabel, and indifferent father Robert round out an expertly-drawn dysfunctional family. And finally, Ombra, Marcus’s dog was so lovable, he makes me pine for one of my own.
A touching, enjoyable read. Five desirable stars.
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With her vision and his know-how, this thing just might work . . .
Leah Williams is back in the quaint town of Heritage, Michigan, and ready to try again to make her business a success. But blank slates are hard to come by, and a piece of her past is waiting for her there. Heir to the Heritage Fruits company, Jonathan Kensington is the guy who not only made Leah’s past difficult, but he also seems determined to complicate her present as well.
In order to avoid forcing a buyout of Leah’s building, Jon will have to strike a compromise. Can the two of them work together? Or will their troubled past set the tone for their future?
With its uplifting theme of second chances–in love and in faith–Since You’ve Been Gone is one inspiring read. While tackling deep issues of childhood scars and fear of being hurt, grieving the loss of loved ones, and trying to succeed in business, Ms. Faris still managed to achieve a tone of lightness and hope that made reading this third book in her Restoring Heritage series easy and comforting.
This is the first book by Tari Faris that I’ve read and I’m impressed with her ability to seamlessly weave two wonderfully sweet love stories in one novel. I especially appreciate the strong sense of family and community that shone throughout the book. All the charms of the small town setting were highlighted so well. The bit about Otis, the moving brass hippo, was particularly cute and heartwarming. I truly hope Heritage, Michigan exists because I want to go there for a visit.
Love is letting someone in and trusting them even though they have the potential to break your heart.”
Leah and Jon’s rocky romance is both endearing and frustrating. It’s sweetened by swoon-worthy gestures yet soured by all the misunderstandings. Jon’s courtship of Leah, who he loved since high school, is complicated by his struggles with his sister, his conflict with his uncle regarding the running of the business, and his own insecurities about his readiness to lead the company his father built. Leah’s fear of getting hurt warred with her desire to be loved for who she is, quirks and all. Past familial drama did a number on her and caused her to be wary of love. Thankfully, supportive siblings and friends helped bring the two together for their much-deserved happily ever after.
I love you and every broken piece about you and the fact you’re letting God heal that brokenness. And I hope you can grow to love every broken pieces about me.”
I liked Leah and Jon’s story but it was Madison and Colby’s romance that really captivated me. Of the two, the latter is more faith-centric. Damaged by abuse and finding affirmation in the wrong places, Madison took a self-destructive path in her youth. Her reluctant return to the town where she thought herself unwelcome and her rediscovery of her faith with the help of Colby and some unexpected new friends make a compelling story. The music she and Colby created was beautiful and profound. If it’s a real recorded song, I’ll buy it.
Thanks to Revell, Tari Faris, and Lone Star Lit for providing me a copy of Since You’ve Been Gone for this review. I enjoyed this book, especially its earworm of a title, and will seek out the first two in the series.
Tari Faris is the author of You Belong with Me and Until I Met You. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers and My Book Therapy, she is the projects manager for My Book Therapy, writes for learnhowtowriteanovel.com, and is a 2017 Genesis Award winner. She has an MDiv from Asbury Theological Seminary and lives in the Phoenix, Arizona, area with her husband and their three children. Although she lives in the Southwest now, she lived in a small town in Michigan for 25 years.
Publication Date: April 30th, 2021
Categories: Sexy Romance
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Hollywood actress Ginger Lynn Harding is broke, unemployed, and stuck in the glaring spotlight of a sex-tape scandal thanks to her lousy ex-boyfriend. Changing her coveted ginger-colored hair to brown, Ginger heads to small-town Magnolia, Texas, where she plans to hide out and wait tables at the Cupcake Diner and Dive.
As a Magnolia constable and possible candidate for mayor, Roland Karr prides himself on protecting the community. When he nabs a Lauren Bacall look-alike for speeding, Roland is surprised that he lets the sassy beauty off the hook, but he can’t help it. She looks like she could use a break.
As Ginger settles into life in Magnolia, she can’t stop thinking about the handsome and debonair cop, but can she risk losing her heart when she’s lost everything else?
With its double serving of swoony love stories, small-town quirks, adorable pets, and fascinating characters readers would want to get to know more, Gingerbread Kisses is an early holiday treat for Romance lovers everywhere. Its fun and light tone makes it an easy and enjoyable read and its steamy sexytimes live up to the series title of Hot In Magnolia. Funny, low-angst, and hot. Exactly how I like my Romance.
This is my first book by Minette Lauren, my first visit to Magnolia, and I’m happy to go back for more. I usually don’t seek out stories with actors and actresses as lead characters because I find so little in common with them, but Ms. Lauren made Ginger Lynn sympathetic to me and I give her kudos for that.
I admire Ginger’s determination to get back on her feet after her humiliating fall from grace, her willingness to work two jobs that she considered beneath her in the past, and her gradual warming up to the people of Magnolia. I understood her loss of confidence and cheered for her when she realized what’s important. I also liked the characterization of Roland as a by-the-book constable whose life is upended when Ginger came into town. I really like his patience with her and his respect for her wishes despite her sometimes hot-and-cold behavior. I especially like the ending where they both reached out to the other and decided to be together even to the point of giving up what’s familiar.
I have an equal appreciation for the second-chance romance between Lexi and Noah. I’m always soft for heroes who fall fast and fall hard for the object of his love and Noah ticks that box for me. There’s a “Seize the Day” quality to their getting together that is totally my jam.
Ms. Lauren’s vivid descriptions gave this book a great sense of place. I can picture in my head where the scene locations are as if they’re real. Magnolia seems to be a quintessential Texas small town with a higher proportion of hot men and women than most places in the state (or country). Herein lies my major cavil about this book–the lack of diversity. There’s not much indication of multiculturalism or unconventional lifestyles. Everyone seems to be fit, white, and straight. Not truly reflective of the society we live in today.
Overall, an engaging read and a book I’d recommend to the followers of this blog. It put me in a holiday spirit, inspiring me to bake gingerbread kiss cookies. I’m not sure if it’s Ginger’s grandma’s recipe, but it sure made the house smell like Christmas. Thanks to Ms. Lauren for the inspiration and for providing me with a complimentary copy to review through Lone Star Lit.
Minette Lauren is an award-winning author who loves animals and writes humorous romance in a small Texas town.
THREE WINNERS First place: Signed copies
of the Hot in Magnolia series books (prequel included) + $25 Amazon gift card Second place: Signed copies of all four books in the series Third place: Signed copy of Gingerbread Kisses
(Continental US residents only. Ends midnight, CDT, June 4, 2021)
Focused on a career in medicine and not on romance, Willa Duvall is thrown slightly off course during the summer of 1859 when she discovers a never-opened love letter in a crack of her old writing desk. Compelled to find the passionate soul who penned it and the person who never received it, she takes a job as a nurse at the seaside estate of Crestwicke Manor.
Everyone at Crestwicke has feelings—mostly negative ones—about the man who wrote the letter, but he seems to have disappeared. With plenty of enticing clues but few answers, Willa’s search becomes even more complicated when she misplaces the letter and it passes from person to person in the house, each finding a thrilling or disheartening message in its words.
Laced with mysteries large and small, this romantic Victorian-era tale of love lost, love deferred, and love found is sure to delight.
In this highly engrossing, totally original Christian historical romantic fiction, Ms. Politano mixes science and faith to show the power of words. Words both expressed and unspoken, written words, careless words, honest words all have the power to affect lives. They hurt feelings, break hearts, change events. They also heal, give hope, and express love in various forms.
… that’s what words do, when you choose ones with eternal impact. They are remembered, repeated, embraced. They burrow deep and remain, outliving short human lives and becoming a legacy.
The Love Note is a departure for me from my usual reads. Its prayer-filled content is a far cry from the steamy stories I myself write. Nevertheless, I find myself enjoying this tale of how a mysterious unsent love letter transforms the lives of everyone in Crestwicke Manor.
Written in multiple points of view (first-person for the heroine Willa, third-person for others), the story takes shape in intriguing, unpredictable, and surprising ways. The named characters are so well drawn and properly developed that the sheer number of them doesn’t confuse the reader. There’s a strong theme of feminism that’s assertive but not too aggressive to be controversial. And the romance is not confined to one couple. At least three more found love restored or newly-discovered.
Matched souls always find their way back to one another, for they seek refuge in the same place.
While I mostly enjoyed the story, I wish that humor was more consistently employed throughout the book. It was present in the beginning but was gone in the second half. As a romance writer, I want more focus on the romance between Willa and Gabe. There were lovely moments, but I always wish for more.
Thanks to Lone Star Literary Life and Revell Books for providing me with the review copy of this fantastic book.
Joanna Davidson Politano is the award-winning author of Lady Jayne Disappears and A Rumored Fortune. She loves tales that capture the colorful, exquisite details in ordinary lives and is eager to hear anyone’s story.
She lives with her husband and their two kids in a house in the woods near Lake Michigan. You can find her at www.jdpstories.com.
KAREN WITEMEYER, REGINA JENNINGS, AMANDA DYKES, and NICOLE DEESE
Genre: Christian / Romance / Anthology Publisher: Bethany House Date of Publication: October 13, 2020 Number of Pages: 400
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In this Texas-sized romance novella collection, courting couples, decades apart, leave a permanent mark of their love by carving their initials into the same oak’s bark.
Regina Jennings: “Broken Limbs, Mended Hearts” When a young man from her past returns and upends their small town with a new invention, schoolteacher Bella Eden is reminded of the heartbreak she suffered years ago under the old oak tree. When her job is on the line, can she trust the man who disrupted her life to help her fight for a brighter future?
Karen Witemeyer: “Inn for a Surprise” Determined to keep love alive for others, Phoebe Woodward builds an inn that caters to couples. When her father sends a property manager to help make it a success, she finds her whimsical vision thwarted by his stodgy practicality. Finding the right blend of romance and reality is a challenge, and her spinster heart may be in for a surprise.
Amanda Dykes: “From Roots to Sky” WWII airman Luke Hampstead found comfort in letters from the sister of a lost compatriot. When he visits Texas to thank her, he discovers her constructing a project with surprising ties to his letters . . . and that she herself is even more surprising. While a promising opportunity awaits him elsewhere, will what they’ve shared be enough to give their future flight?
Nicole Deese: “Heartwood” Abby Brookshire’s world is turned upside down when the historic tree she’s strived to preserve as the head groundskeeper at the Kissing Tree Inn is put in danger of removal. Making matters worse, the only way to protect its legacy is to partner with the man she’s been ignoring since he left town years ago. Will she have the courage to move on from the past and start a new beginning?
With its four delightful, heartwarming, and romantic novellas, The Kissing Tree is one of my favorite books of 2020. Easily in the Top 20 of the 160 titles I’ve read so far.
Four excellent stories of love spanning generations. Three historical, one contemporary. One special tree at the center of them all. Related storylines, seamless integration of elements from one story to the next, cohesive execution. Each time I finished a story, I’d say it was my favorite. In the end, I couldn’t pick one. I choose all four.
Broken Limbs, Mended Heart by Regina Jennings tells the story of how the stately live oak in Oak Springs, Texas became The Kissing Tree through Bella Eden and Adam Fisher. The pairing of schoolteacher and modern farmer is something I don’t read often and I’m long past the point of being able to relate to characters in their early 20s, but this sweet story appealed to me because Ms. Jennings created a lovely tale of young dreams being fulfilled and of a community coming together to welcome an innovation after initial skepticism.
Inn For a Surprise by Karen Witemeyer had me laughing with the rivalry between romantic innkeeper-wannabe Phoebe Woodward and practical self-made businessman Barnabas Ackerly. I love their conversations and the way their contest showed them how well they complement each other’s styles. Opposites do attract and with parental matchmaking at work, these two have their happily-ever-after. Barnabas’ nicknames for the inn are some of the highlights of this story. I also like the cameo of Bella and Adam from the first story to establish continuity.
Phoebe’s line really resonated with me: “I refuse to settle for anything other than soul-stirring, fully reciprocated love.”
From Roots to Sky by Amanda Dykes is both light and deep. I always have a soft spot for military romance and this story of pilot Luke Hampstead and Hannah Garland, the woman he’s been corresponding with, induced me to both laughter and tears. Hannah’s vibrant personality matched Luke’s quiet steadfastness perfectly. As in the previous story, I love it when the couple works together to achieve a common goal. This time, on building the cottage inspired by Danny’s letters and Luke’s drawings from Europe.
Heartwood by Nicole Deese gutted me. The only contemporary story of the collection, this second-chance romance between Abby Brookshire and Griffin Malone is the most relatable to me. Like Abby, I too lost my father to illness and that letter she wrote him had me bawling. While tears-inducing, this story managed to also have light moments and it ends the series on the right note. That of hope and strength in community and love.
This is one of my favorite quotes- “When things feel completely out of my control, my options become very simple: I can either tighten my grip and hang on no matter how much that hold might hurt myself or others, or I can open my fist and trust in a process much bigger than myself … and let go.”
The stories have an awesome sense of place. I actually looked up “Oak Springs, Texas” and “The Kissing Tree, Texas” on the internet with the intention of visiting them when it’s safe to travel once more. Alas, they’re only in the imagination of four talented authors.
Thanks to Lone Star Lit and Bethany House for giving me an early copy to review this wonderful book.
Regina Jennings is a graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University, with a degree in English and a minor in history. She’s the winner of the National Readers’ Choice Award, a two-time Golden Quill finalist, and a finalist for the Oklahoma Book of the Year Award. Regina has worked at the Mustang News and at First Baptist Church of Mustang, along with time at the Oklahoma National Stockyards and various livestock shows. She lives outside of Oklahoma City with her husband and four children.
Voted #1 Reader’s Favorite Christian Romance Author of 2019 by Family Fiction Magazine, bestselling author Karen Witemeyer offers warmhearted historical romance with a flair for humor, feisty heroines, and swoon-worthy Texas heroes. She makes her home in Abilene, Texas, with her husband and three children.
Amanda Dykes is a drinker of tea, dweller of redemption, and spinner of hope-filled tales who spends most days chasing wonder and words with her family. She’s a former English teacher and the author of Whose Waves These Are, a Booklist 2019 Top Ten Romance debut, as well as three novellas.
Nicole Deese’s eight humorous, heartfelt, and hope-filled novels include the 2017 Carol Award-winning A Season to Love. Her 2018 release, A New Shade of Summer, was a finalist in the RITA Awards, Carol Awards, and INSPY Awards. Both of these books are from her bestselling Love in Lenox series. When she’s not working on her next contemporary romance, she can usually be found reading one by a window overlooking the inspiring beauty of the Pacific Northwest. She lives in small-town Idaho with her happily-ever-after hubby, two rambunctious sons, and princess daughter with the heart of a warrior.
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