THE KISSING TREE Book Blog Tour Mini-Reviewapalooza – Review & Giveaway

THE KISSING TREE

Four Novellas Rooted in Timeless Love

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?

 

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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.

Website ║ Facebook

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.

Website ║ Karen’s Posse Reader Facebook Group 

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.

Website ║ Instagram

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.

Website ║ Facebook

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GIVEAWAY!  GIVEAWAY!  GIVEAWAY!

SIX WINNERS! Grand prize: print copy of The Kissing Tree plus custom, 18” x 3.5” wooden sign; five other winners: print copy of The Kissing Tree.
 
 October 20-30, 2020
(U.S. Only)

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CLICK TO VISIT THE LONE STAR LITERARY LIFE TOUR PAGE
FOR DIRECT LINKS TO EACH POST ON THIS TOUR, UPDATED DAILY.
Or, visit the blogs directly:

10/22/20

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Missus Gonzo

10/23/20

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10/23/20

Review

Book Fidelity

10/24/20

Review

Story Schmoozing Book Reviews

10/24/20

Review

Librariel Book Adventures

10/25/20

Review

StoreyBook Reviews

10/25/20

Review

That’s What She’s Reading

10/26/20

BONUS Promo

All the Ups and Downs

10/26/20

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The Adventures of a Travelers Wife

10/26/20

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Reading by Moonlight

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THE RETURN OF THE DISAPPEARING DUKE by Lara Temple – New Release Feature

THE RETURN OF THE DISAPPEARING DUKE

by

LARA TEMPLE

 

BLURB

A scarred mercenary … Or the Disappearing Duke of Greybourne?

Rafe has spent years running from his true identity. He’s a lone wolf, living far from aristocratic England and his violent father. Then unconventional Cleopatra Osbourne requests his protection as she crosses the Egyptian desert. In Cleo he discovers a fellow outcast—and a fierce desire! Cleo must return to London, and here lies Rafe’s dilemma—because following his heart means claiming the title he’s avoided for so long!

BUY HERE:

Amazon: http://mybook.to/RafeDuke
Amazon US paperback: https://bit.ly/RafeDuke1
Amazon UK: https://bit.ly/RafeDukeUK

 

ABOUT LARA 

Lara Temple

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.

Social Media links:
Facebook Author Page: www.facebook.com/LaraTempleAuthor
Facebook: www.facebook.com/LaraTemple1
Twitter: @laratemple1
Amazon author page: http://amzn.to/2mWin9R
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/LaraTemple
Website: www.laratemple.com

 

REVIEW

The Return of the Disappearing Duke is my new favorite among the Lara Temple books I’ve read so far.  This book gave me respite from my sadness upon a good friend’s much-too-early passing.

Ms. Temple’s signature lyricism is at full display in her vivid descriptions of the characters’ travels through exotic Egypt, their turbulent sea voyage, and eventful arrival in England. Her command of languages, whether English or Arabic, is masterful in both narration and dialogue. The unpredictable nuances of her characterization for both Rafe and Cleo make them easy to love and root for. The fluidity with which she tells their story is highly admirable.

What places this book over the top for me is the delightful humor that I’d only seen flashes of in Lara’s previous works but which is amped up here. The witty banter between Rafe and Cleo, Rafe’s nicknames for Cleo, her love for Shakespeare, his verbal exchanges with both friends and villains provided many smiles and grins from me if not actual bursts of laughter. 

I finished reading The Return of the Disappearing Duke feeling light and excited to share my love of it with Romance readers everywhere. 

ONCE A RAKE, ALWAYS A ROGUE by Catherine Stein – Release Day Review & Giveaway

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Happy Release Day to Catherine Stein’s Once a Rake, Always a Rogue, the third book from her Potions and Passions series.

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Once a Rake cover

He’s mended his ways.

Dr. Ernest Montford has left behind his rakish youth for a respectable life mixing medicinal potions and helping patients. So when his best friend’s sister is threatened with incarceration in an asylum, he rushes to help. But Lady Astrid Wembley isn’t keen to heed Monte’s medical advice. Worse, she’s part of his wild past: the mysterious girl he could never forget.

But the woman he can’t forget…

Astrid has fond memories of her long-ago passionate encounter on the beach. Unfortunately, the Monte who kissed her so thoroughly that day shows little resemblance to the stuffy, abstemious doctor with absurd health advice. Still, she has little choice but to put up with him until her sanity is proven and she can return to her life of scientific study.

Might be his undoing.

Dangerous potions and unethical experiments await Astrid if she fails, and only with Monte’s help can she expose the true horrors of the asylum and thwart the plans of the men controlling it. But the longer Astrid and Monte are together, the more their old passion sparks, and the more she longs to unleash the rogue that still lurks inside him.

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Buy links: 

Books2read      Amazon      Google Play      Kobo     Barnes and Noble     Indiebound

 

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A long silence passed between them before Lady Astrid sighed.

“Very well. I shall practice my social niceties. Lovely to see you, Dr. Montford. How are you this morning?”

Hungover and lustful.

“Very well, thank you.”

“What are those peculiar little cakes on your plate?”

Monte glanced down at the small round cakes. The cook had done a masterful job, making them perfect circles of a lovely dark-brown color. “Bran loaves. I eat them every morning. Your cook was kind enough to make a batch for me.”

“How curious. May I try one?”

“Certainly.” He sliced off a small bite and transferred it to her plate. “You would do well to eat them, yourself. They are most healthful.”

She chewed her bite slowly, and her nose wrinkled in distaste. “Ugh. It’s like eating paper.”

“The rich foods you’ve eaten of late have no doubt overstimulated your palate. I assure you, if you were to eat them every morning as I do, you would find them appetizing.”

“I doubt that.”

Monte sipped his tea. It was as strong as he’d hoped. “The bran loaves stimulate healthful digestion and do not overset the stomach. This allows both the body and mind to begin the day in a restive state. Unlike your cheese, which may well cause dyspepsia when ingested so early in the morning.”

Astrid’s brow furrowed, but her tone remained even, “I’m very fond of cheese.”

“I never eat cheese,” Monte explained. “Nor do I adulterate my tea with milk. It adds an unnecessary richness and dilutes the beneficial properties of the beverage.”

“How unpatriotic of you.”

Was she mocking him again?

“What do you eat, Dr. Montford? Other than your revolting little cakes, I mean.”

“Vegetables.”

She gave him a skeptical arch of her brow once more. “Vegetables.”

“Yes.”

There was a distinct lack of vegetables at the breakfast table this morning. Dinner had provided only a few withered specimens with most of the nutrition boiled out of them.

“Nothing else? You did eat some of the chicken last night, though you avoided the sauce.”

“Moderate portions of meat. Nuts and beans. But primarily vegetables.”

“No fruits?”

“Rarely.”

“That’s a pity. I love fruit. There’s nothing quite like biting into a perfectly ripe apple, don’t you think? It floods one’s mouth with that crisp, juicy taste. So sweet, with just the right tart bite.”

Monte swallowed a groan. Now he was fixated on her mouth again. He gulped his tea to prevent himself saying anything he would later regret.

Astrid hopped from her seat, forcing him to set down the cup and rise.

“It was interesting chatting with you in a civil manner, Dr. Montford,” she said. “I must go and prepare for our journey. Enjoy your tasteless breakfast.”

He nodded and watched her leave before resuming his seat and pouring himself another cup of tea. He wished it were a good, strong whisky.

“Cal, you bastard,” he muttered. “You haven’t just asked for a favor. You’ve asked me to do the impossible.”

 

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Catherine Stein

Award-winning author Catherine Stein believes that everyone deserves love and that Happily Ever After has the power to help, to heal, and to comfort. She writes sassy, sexy romance set during the Victorian and Edwardian eras and full of action, adventure, magic, and fantastic technologies.

Catherine lives in Michigan with her husband and three rambunctious girls. She loves steampunk and oxford commas, and can often be found dressed in clothing that was purchased at a Renaissance Festival, drinking copious amounts of tea.

Follow Catherine here: 

Facebook page        Facebook group        Twitter        Instagram        Pinterest               Bookbub        Goodreads        Amazon        Book + Main        Newsletter

 

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Catherine Stein’s books are auto-buys for me because they never fail to entertain and educate at the same time.  Her latest release Once a Rake, Always a Rogue brings an enhanced element of humor that, in addition to fascinating characters, fast-paced action, and expected competence porn, made reading it a delightful diversion. These days, when there’s still no antidote to the global medical crisis we’re facing, a potion comprised of those elements of great writing could be just what we need to get us through days and weeks of social distancing.

From their titillating first encounter, Astrid and Monte captivated my attention. Their witty and snappy banter incited hilarity which made me thankful I read it at home. Their expertise in their respective fields provided interesting information I didn’t expect to learn from a romance novel.  Both have likable, engaging personalities that make it easy to root for their happy ever after.

All that lightness doesn’t mean there is no depth to this book. On the contrary. Once a Rake, Always a Rogue touched on issues of female empowerment,  body positivity, interracial relationships, and patriarchy in a manner that is natural and integral to the story and not at all forced or preachy.

Funny, steamy, instructive, utterly enjoyable. Another five-star read.

5 stars

 

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AN EVERYDAY HERO by Laura Trentham – Blog Tour: Review and Giveaway

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AN EVERYDAY HERO

Book 2, Heart of a Hero Series

Laura Trentham

 

SYNOPSIS

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From award-winning author Laura Trentham comes An Everyday Hero, an emotionally layered novel about redemption, second chances and discovering that life is worth fighting for.

At thirty, Greer Hadley never expected to be forced home to Madison, Tennessee with her life and dreams of being a songwriter up in flames. To make matters worse, a series of bad decisions and even crappier luck lands her community service hours at a nonprofit organization that aids veterans and their families. Greer cannot fathom how she’s supposed to use music to help anyone deal with their trauma and loss when the one thing that brought her joy has failed her.

When Greer meets fifteen-year-old Ally Martinez, her plans to stay detached and do as little as possible get thrown away. New to town and dealing with the death of her father in action, she hides her emotions behind a mask of bitterness and sarcasm, but Greer is able to see past it and recognizes pieces of who she once was in Ally. The raw and obvious talent she possesses could take her to the top and Greer vows to make sure life’s negativities don’t derail Ally’s potential.

After Greer is assigned a veteran to help, she’s not surprised Emmett Lawson, the town’s golden boy, followed his family’s legacy. What leaves her shocked is the shell of a man who believes he doesn’t deserve anyone’s help. A breakthrough with Ally reminds Greer that no one is worth giving up on. So she shows up one day with his old guitar and meets Emmett’s rage head on with her stubbornness. When a situation with Ally becomes dire, the two of them must become a team to save her—and along the way, they might just save themselves too.

Buy it here:

Macmillan / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Books-A-Million / Indie Bound / Powell’s

REVIEW

An immensely enjoyable read, An Everyday Hero elicits both laughter and tears. Ms. Trentham’s development of the story and the characters can only be described as skillful. She achieved a balance between humor and angst that I found utterly delightful.

Despite all of Greer’s setbacks, she remains funny and caring. Once roused from his wallowing, Emmett turns out to be an adorable hero. I love that both started out as messed up but once they rekindled their friendship, they started to heal and support each other in finding their purpose. Their sparkling banter made their dialogues fun to read. Their chemistry is obvious from the beginning and it’s easy to follow how they transitioned from friends to lovers.

“An anchor weighs you down. Keeps you in one place. Why would you want to be with someone like that? You should be with someone who encourages you to fly.”

Ally’s story is heartbreaking and far too real among military kids. I appreciate the way Ms. Trentham incorporated music in getting her to open up to Greer. The most important of the secondary characters, Ally is edgy and sympathetic at the same time.

The author really captured the essence of a Southern small town from the sweet tea to the busybodies to the country music. I also really loved the roles family and friends played in assuring that the story concludes happily.

I found this book highly-entertaining and recommend it to readers of romance and women’s fiction.

Content advisory – battle scenes in a nightmare and retelling.

Heat level – low (kisses only)

4 Four-half-stars

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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LAURA TRENTHAM is an award-winning author of contemporary and historical romance. The Military Wife is her debut women’s fiction novel. A chemical engineer by training and a lover of books by nature, she lives in South Carolina.

GIVEAWAY

Macmillan is generously giving a paperback copy of An Everyday Hero to one of my lucky readers. All you have to do to qualify in a random draw is Like and Comment on this post and Follow this blog if you haven’t done so yet. I will announce the winner on Tuesday, February 11 at 12 noon Central time