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)
From the author of Once Upon a Sunset and The Key to Happily Ever After comes a heartwarming and moving novel following three Army wives—estranged friends—who must overcome their differences when one of them is desperate for help.
Regina Castro, Adelaide Wilson-Chang, and Sophie Walden usedto be best friends. As Army wives at Fort East, they bonded during their book club and soon became inseparable. But when an unimaginable betrayal happened amongst the group, the friendship abruptly ended, and they haven’t spoken since.
That’s why, eight years later, Regina and Sophie are shocked when they get a call for help from Adelaide. Adelaide’s husband is stationed abroad, and without any friends or family near her new home of Alexandria, Virginia, she has no one to help take care of her young daughter when she has to undergo emergency surgery. For the sake of an innocent child, Regina and Sophie reluctantly put their differences aside to help an old friend.
As the three women reunite, they must overcome past hurts and see if there’s any future for their friendship. Featuring Tif Marcelo’s signature “enchanting prose” (Amy E. Reichert, author of The Coincidence of Coconut Cake) and the books that brought them together in the first place, In a Book Club Far Away honors the immense power of female friendship and how love can defy time, distance, and all old wounds.
I always sound like a broken record when it comes to my reviews of Tif Marcelo’s books. It’s because I see myself in her characters. For one, there’s always a Filipina in her stories. And Filipino food, of course.
With this book in particular, I see myself in all three women–Regina, Adelaide, and Sophie. I’m a military spouse (Air Force, not Army) and a founding member of a book club initially comprised of military spouses. We set it up in a military city when our service members were all still active duty or working at the base/fort. Alongside discussions about our book of the month, we also talked about our experiences of military life. I relate closely with the strong friendship that developed among such like-minded people. Three years after I’ve left that city, I still belong to the book club and I remain great friends with many of the members. This is why this book resonated with me greatly.
However, one doesn’t have to be a military spouse to relate to this story of a fractured friendship and reconciliation. As long as you appreciate good storytelling, compelling diverse characters, great sense of place, intelligent conversations, and evocative real-life situations, you’ll enjoy this book too.
Tif Marcelo is a veteran US Army nurse and holds a BS in Nursing and a Master’s in public administration. She believes and writes about the strength of families, the endurance of friendship, heartfelt romances, and is inspired daily by her own military hero husband and four children. She hosts The Stories to Love Podcast, and is the USA Today bestselling author of In a Book Club Far Away, Once Upon a Sunset, The Key to Happily Ever After, and the Journey to the Heart series.
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. Keep in mind that I link these companies and their products because of their quality and not because of the commission I receive from your purchases. The decision is yours, and whether or not you decide to buy something is completely up to you.
Categories: Historical Fiction / Action Adventure / Western
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All the Cowboys Ain’t Gone is the rollicking adventure story of Lincoln Smith, a young Texan living at the beginning of the twentieth century, who thinks of himself as the last true cowboy. He longs for the days of the Old West, when men like his father, a famous Texas Ranger, lived by the chivalric code. Lincoln finds himself hopelessly out of time and place in the fast-changing United States of the new century. When he gets his heart broken by a sweetheart who doesn’t appreciate his anachronistic tendencies, he does what any sensible young romantic would do: he joins the French Foreign Legion.
On his way to an ancient and exotic country at the edge of the Sahara, Lincoln encounters a number of curious characters and strange adventures, from a desert hermit who can slow up time to a battle with a crocodile cult that worships the god of death. He meets them all with his own charming brand of courage and resourcefulness.
Utterly entertaining, All The Cowboys Ain’t Gone had me laughing out loud with the characters’ antics and catching my breath with the non-stop action from beginning to end. I can see this made into a movie in the same vein as Indiana Jones and The Mummy.
Having a twelve-year-old son, I found myself taking to Lincoln right away. The opening scenes with his mother admonishing him for his language and supervising his lessons really resonated with me. The great start hooked me into this book that’s in a genre I don’t normally read.
Mr. Jacobson certainly has a flair for storytelling that’s playful and engaging. While I thought the events that happen to Lincoln from Texas to New Hampshire, Florida to New York, France to Algeria, and finally to the fictional Mur highly improbable, I still found myself engrossed in his adventures and delighted with his narrow escapes. It’s a tall tale befitting its Texas origins and I had absolutely no problem with that.
I enjoyed meeting the new characters Lincoln encountered, especially Jake and Johnny, Amanda, the Three from Camarón Legionnaires named after Alexandre Dumas’s The Three Musketeers, and Omar. I even enjoyed the villains even though they’re campy and absolutely ridiculous. It’s all part of the charm of the book.
Lincoln is easy to root for. At times naïve, he nevertheless has a core of honor and loyalty which makes him perfect for the French Foreign Legion. By the end of the book, he has absolutely learned the lesson his mother taught him when he was a boy:
… though things aren’t the way you’d prefer, there are still going to be plenty of adventures; they’re just going to be different. You’re just going to have to use your imagination to find them.”
Thanks to Lone Star Lit and Blackstone Publishing for providing me with a copy of this absolute romp of a book to review.
Though John J. Jacobson didn’t join the French Foreign Legion after being jilted by a girlfriend, or over his displeasure of missing the last great cattle drive, he has, borrowing Churchill’s phrase, lived a rather variegated life. He was born in Nevada, grew up in the West, surfed big waves in Hawaii, circled the world thrice, survived the sixties and seventies, corporate America, and grad school. Among other degrees he has an MA in Renaissance literature from Claremont Graduate University.
Published by Skyhorse Publishing
Published: January 19th, 2021
Categories: Southern Fiction / Rural Fiction / Mystery
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The seemingly never-ending Cabinda War (1975—) has left multitudes dead in its wake and thousands of children homeless and orphaned.
Jackaleena N’denga, a young Angolan girl, has become the sole survivor of one specifically brutal village massacre carried out by a band of guerrilla boy-soldiers.
Jackaleena’s resilience leads her to an orphanage on the west coast of Africa, known as Benguela by the Sea, where she and other children are taken in and protected. Her brilliant mind and endless questions capture the heart of her mentor, Margaret, who ensures her that her survival thus far—especially being the survivor from her village—must mean she has big things ahead of her. When the opportunity arises, she must find her purpose.
Not without a plan, Jackaleena stows away on a mercy ship that has made its yearly visit to the orphanage and is now preparing to return to America. Her journey takes her across the ocean, into the arms of New York City’s customs officials, and finally into placement in a temporary foster home in Texas.
Enter Alfie Carter—a workaholic, small-town detective who is also battling memories of his past. His life is forever changed when he meets a young African girl looking for her higher purpose.
Alfie Carter is an affecting story of finding faith and of losing and rediscovering deeply-held beliefs. With its characters examining the state of their spiritual life, it’s a timely read for this holy season of Lent. It is also a tale of harrowing cruelty, extraordinary bravery, careless disregard for others, incredible kindness, and unbelievable acts of forgiveness..
Despite the singular name in the title, this book recounts the lives of two people in places thousands of miles apart–Jackaleena N’Denga in Angola and Alfie Carter in Texas.
Jackaleena’s remarkable story is tough to read in the beginning because of the gruesome massacre she witnessed and the extreme difficulties of her desperate run for survival. Things improved after she’s led to Benguela by the Sea where she learns a different way of living and is taught about another higher being to trust. This is also where she develops her search for her purpose in life.
Alfie’s situation is not as shocking but he has his own losses to contend with, particularly the death of his child. It lead him to distance himself from his wife and turn his back on the unfair God who wasn’t there for him at many points in his life. It was interesting that it was also death that caused him to reevaluate his thinking and return to his wife and to believe again.
Mr. Mayo’s writing shone in the Texas scenes, in Alfie’s musings, in his investigation of the case he was working on, and in the spirit and strength he imbued into Jackaleena’s character. His own faith leaped off the pages of the book through various characters like Margaret, Rufus, and Cotton.
God gives us all a chance to believe in Him and serve Him or not. He does not force you to go down that path … You can simply walk away. All of us are free to do what we want individually. There ain’t nobody a-draggin you to God … His yoke is easy and his burden is light.
The book has some flaws. Some scenes about Alfie’s early life could have been cut short or deleted altogether in favor of expanding the parts where he and his adopted daughter interacted. It was a curious choice to have Jackaleena’s story narrated in the third person and Alfie’s in the first when the book started and ended with Jackie telling her background to the judge. I preferred it in the reverse. Finally, the book requires suspension of disbelief in many instances in the story, especially with regard to the result of the case that Alfie was working on. That or, have extreme faith in the goodness of man.
Overall, it’s an involving story that has uplifting messages. Thanks to Lone Star Lit and Skyhorse Publishing for providing a free copy to review.
BJ Mayo was born in an oil field town in Texas. He spent the first few years of his life living in a company field camp twenty-five miles from the closest town. His career in the energy industry took him to various points in Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Louisiana, Bangladesh, Australia, and Angola West Africa. He and his wife were high school sweethearts and have been married for forty-six years with two grown children. They live on a working farm near San Angelo, Texas.
A Mixtape of Big ’80s Style, High School Angst, and a Classic Jane Austen Tale
It’s 1984 and after moving to Northenfield, Texas, with her family, Elyse Nebbit faces the challenge of finding her place in a new school, one dominated by social status and Friday night football. When Elyse’s effortlessly beautiful older sister Jayne starts dating golden boy Charlie Bingley, Elyse finds herself curious about Charlie’s popular and brooding best friend, Billy Fitz. Elyse’s body insecurities eventually complicate her relationship with Billy, leaving Jayne and Elyse’s exceedingly blunt friend, Lottie, to step in and help Elyse accept herself for who she is, pant size and all.
PRAISE FOR PUDGE AND PREJUDICE:
Written with wit and considerable insight into the highs and lows of first love, this coming-of-age twist on the Jane Austen classic had me laughing out loud, singing ‘80s lyrics in my head, and cheering on the brilliant, yet self-deprecating heroine. Pudge & Prejudice is a joy to read from beginning to end! —Lorie Langdon, author of Olivia Twist and the Disney Villains series
Allison Pittman will have readers laughing (and singing) on every page of this delightfully tenderhearted novel for all ages…[She] crafts a particularly savvy character who learns that beauty really is soul-deep…. —Julie Cantrell, New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of Perennials
I can’t remember the last time I loved a book as much as I love this one. It’s an instant classic I will return to time after time. —Bethany Turner, Award-Winning Author of The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck
Y’all must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and now this delightful Texas-located, ’80s-set adaptation of it. A.K. Pittman gave a unique spin to the beloved classic while staying true to its timeless themes. She managed to make Pudge & Prejudice relatable to this Gen-Xer who grew up over 8,000 miles away from where the book is located.
Like Elyse, I was in high school in the mid-’80s and a transferee from another place. Plenty of elements in the book, especially the music, evoked nostalgia. I was reminiscing the entire time I was reading it. The wit and fluidity of Ms. Pittman’s writing had me smiling and even misty-eyed at the end.
I was something to be overcome. Like, a stunt girlfriend. A dare to himself.
The use of first-person point-of-view to tell the story fits perfectly. I cannot imagine it told any other way. Being inside Elyse’s head gave me a deep sense of connection with her. The way she processed her feelings for Billy was really affecting. If Mr. Darcy hadn’t been one of my most favorite Book Boyfriends already, he’d be one after getting to know Billy Fitz in this book.
The characterizations are spot-on with some modifications to fit the revised setting and time period. Elyse’s prejudices against Billy were amplified by her own insecurities about her weight. Billy’s pride was reinforced by the adulation of the entire town because of his football prowess. All authentic additions to the story. Lottie’s belittling of Collin, however, may have been too much. It nearly renders her character unlikable. Jayne and Charlie are pretty close to the original. So are Caroline and Gage (Wickham). There’s a slight change in this version’s Lydia which I like.
Next to Bridget Jones’s Diary, Pudge & Prejudice is now on my Top Two favorite adaptations of Pride & Prejudice. Like the original, it is incredibly quotable. Here are some of my favorite lines from the book:
Somehow, since that first day of school–maybe since that first day of ever–I belonged to myself, and I was finding more than a few bits to embrace.
I don’t know when, exactly–when you started to mean more to me. My mind woke up in the middle of liking you.
Thanks to Lone Star Lit and Wander for giving me the opportunity to review this book. I highly recommend it for all fans of Jane Austen and of sweet romance.
Allison Pittman is an award-winning author of thirteen novels, including the Christy-nominated Sister Wife series and the critically acclaimed The Seamstress. An enthusiast for all of the writing world, Allison holds active leadership in her local American Christian Fiction Writers chapter, and she heads up a thriving critique group in the San Antonio area. When not writing, Allison teaches middle school English, working as a conduit to introduce her students to new, fresh literature. You can follow her around on Instagram or Twitter and keep up with her writing news on her Allison Pittman Author Facebook page. Here you’ll learn what’s going on with new books, next books, and day-to-day life with Allison and her husband, Mikey. You’ll also get a peek at Snax, the world’s worst dog.
From the award-winning author of Comfort Plans and Comfort Songs comes a story of two rising stars blitzed by social media. Lacy Cavanaugh and single-dad Rudy Delgardo live a hundred miles apart but meet in the worst possible way. Working at a weekly paper and creating social media for area businesses helps Lacy connect with locals who open her mind to a perspective beyond Instagram. In launching a food-and-wine festival to support Comfort’s new event center, she discovers surprising skills bubbling over, much like the food she’s attempting to cook.
Rudy, on the brink of his restaurant’s takeover, struggles to improve time management so he can create a better relationship with his daughter. Distracted by Lacy and her invitation to the festival, he’s tempted by her beauty, wit, and courage, but as a chef, he rarely gets to enjoy life outside the kitchen. Enemies, illness, and exes add unwelcome spice to the dish they’re concocting—one that will teeter with misunderstanding until the very end.
Will Lacy and Rudy embrace their second chances and discover the perfect seasonings of family, resilience, and grace to create a handwritten recipe of love that will stand the test of time?
Relevant and current, Comfort Foods is a feast of a read. Gobble it up in one sitting or savor for several days, you’ll end up satisfied either way.
When I saw the opportunity to review this book, I jumped at the chance. Food and romance are two of my favorite things. As I said when I requested it, foodie romance is my jam, pun fully intended.
Comfort Foods lives up to my expectations. Lacy and Rudy’s story, taking place in two locations (Comfort and Austin), is rich and filling. Lacy’s journey of self-discovery after her fall from grace is especially fascinating and touching. Her scenes with Frank Bachman, the publisher of the newspaper she works for, provide moments of both laughter and tears. In doing service for her sister and for others in the community, Lacy finds her worth beyond the superficial beauty and fashion she was previously famous for. Rudy’s grappling with too many pots on the stove–his restaurant Stella, his daughter Luna, and his attraction to Lacy–is realistic in today’s world and highly relatable. His bewilderment in his search for balance amid man-made obstacles is endearing and admirable.
But life is more than a shiny ball. It has edges, holes, and deep caves. Make a choice on where you feel most grounded.
Ms. Fish created fully-fleshed-out characters that are sympathetic and likable and oh-so-real with their all-too-human failings. I love that she included multicultural characters that’s reflective of the society at present. She spun a tale filled with humor, angst, insider knowledge of the restaurant and publishing businesses, and the weighty concern of human trafficking. The themes of found family and close-knit community are ones I often seek out and are entrenched in this book and in this series. And then, there’s the food. There’s enough to make a reader’s mouth water and head to the kitchen to recreate the dishes mentioned in the book.
Food is a necessary element of living, and there is real beauty in the process of preparing it and serving people who appreciate the effort.
I enjoyed the slow burn of Lacy and Rudy’s romance from their awkward first couple of meetings to cooking together, to the impromptu bridal photo shoot, and to their eventual happy ever after. I wish though that they have more scenes together and that they communicated more frequently, and collaborated on resolving their issues. Rudy’s declaration at the end seems too quick for a relationship that’s not fully developed because of so much distance.
Love is a recipe worth every effort.
As always, huge thanks to Kimberly Fish and to Lone Star Literary Life for the copy of the book to review.
Author Kimberly Fish resides in Longview, Texas, and enjoys writing contemporary fiction set in the Hill Country. During the seven years she lived in San Antonio, wandering in and around Comfort, Texas, provided endless space for her imagination to develop stories of women discovering their grit. She studied the small Texas town that had seemingly dug its heels into the limestone and refused modern development and thought that was fertile ground for stories about women remodeling their lives. It made a juxtaposition of place and purpose that was hard to ignore. Plus, anything that takes intentional effort has a much higher value than the things that come easily—Comfort personifies this, and the novels remind readers that anything worth having is worth the work.
Comfort Foods is the third full-length novel in the set, Fiction from the Texas Hill Country, and follows behind the award-winning novels Comfort Plans and Comfort Songs. A novella, Emeralds Mark the Spot, is available as a free eBook download to subscribers of the incredibly sporadic newsletter at kimberlyfish.com and is the original story from which all other Comfort novels grew.
ONCE UPON A MAIL ORDER BRIDE Outlaw Mail Order Brides, #4 by
Categories: Western / Historical Romance
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Date of Publication: November 24, 2020
Number of Pages: 352 pages
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Accused of crimes he didn’t commit, ex-preacher Ridge Steele is forced to give up everything he knew and make his home with outlaws. Desperate for someone to confide in, he strikes up correspondence with mail-order bride Adeline Jancy, finding in her the open heart he’s been searching for. Upon her arrival, Ridge discovers Addie only communicates through the written word, but he knows a little of what trauma can do to a person and vows to stand by her side.
Addie is eager to start a new life with the kind ex-preacher and the little boy she’s stolen away from her father―a zealot priest of a terrorized flock. As her small family settles into life at Hope’s Crossing, she even begins to find the voice, and confidence, she’d lost so long ago.
But danger is not far behind, and her father will not be denied. While Addie desperately fights the man who destroyed her childhood, a determined Ridge races to the rescue. The star-crossed lovers will need more than prayers to survive this final challenge…and find their way back to each other again.
PRAISE FOR ONCE UPON A MAIL ORDER BRIDE:
“An awesome culmination to a great western romance series!”
~ Fresh Fiction
“Broday concludes the Outlaw Mail Order Bride series with a sizzling finale that features a tantalizingly slow build to intimate trust that catapults into adrenaline packed ardor.” ~Booklist
What a thoroughly satisfying conclusion to an action-packed and love-filled series! I’ve read and reviewed all of the Outlaw Mail Order Brides books these past two years and I can honestly say I’m going to miss the extraordinary citizens of Hope’s Crossing.
Ms. Broday has created some amazing characters in these books. These outlaws and their mail-order brides are not your typical heroes and heroines in romance. They’re ex-convicts, fugitives, thieves. They have blood on their hands. Yet, readers can’t help but root for them to have a fresh start, find love, build a family, belong to a community. They’re fighters, survivors, exemplifying the best of the old West. Even as I say goodbye to Clay and Tally, Jack and Nora, Tait and Melanie, and Ridge and Addie, I have hope that I’ll see them — and characters just like them — in future books by Ms. Broday.
Life is 10 percent made up of what happens to you. Everything else is how well you cope with the events. Don’t waste time being bitter. A mistake is not a life sentence. We learn, we grow, and we move on—hopefully as better people.
I’ve been waiting for Ridge’s story since Saving The Mail Order Bride and Once Upon a Mail Order Bride did not disappoint. This preacher-turned-outlaw’s back story is as fascinating as any of the others before him. So is Adeline’s. Their story consists of breathtaking action and slow fall into love. They not only try to escape from bounty hunters and vindictive fathers, but also from natural disasters. Ms. Broday spent a good bit of time having Ridge and Addie adjust to each other, gain each other’s trust, and develop their attraction to make their growing love believable. I’m happy that there’s neither instalove nor excessive push-and-pull.
There were updates on previous couples and storylines were tied up neatly, including those of minor characters and new people introduced to the community. A few of them might not have been necessary and could have been cut to tighten the story even more. While I didn’t agree with some of Ridge and Addie’s decisions and wasn’t entirely convinced with the about-face of some of the characters, I still really enjoyed this series-ender and recommend these books and other titles in Linda Broday’s backlist to lovers of historical western romance.
Huge thanks to Lone Star Lit and Ms. Broday for providing me with copies of these books I’m proud to display in my personal library.
I’m a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of thirty historical western romance novels and short stories. I reside in the Texas Panhandle on land the American Indian and early cowboys once roamed, and at times if the breeze is just right, I can hear their voices whispering in the wind. Texas’s rich history is one reason I set all my stories here where cowboys still remain caretakers of the land. I’m inspired every day by their immense dedication and love for the wide-open spaces. I combine those men with the love of family in all my stories and hope to continue to give readers books that entertain and fulfill.
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.
Children’s Picture Book / American Historical Fiction / Elections and Voting Ages 4-7 Publisher: Albert Whitman and Company Date of Publication: September 1, 2020 Number of Pages: 32
Scroll down for the giveaway!
Callie knows there’s a presidential election coming up, and people will soon vote to decide the country’s leader.
Her class is having an election too, about an issue that affects them all–the class field trip. Should they choose the cookie factory or the wilderness park?
Join Callie as she campaigns for the wilderness park she loves and learns how people have organized, marched, and protested for the right to vote. And find out how a vote–even just one vote–can make a difference!
PRAISE FOR A VOTE IS A POWERFUL THING:
“Gets the job done.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“A galvanizing read for children interested in politics or parents who hope to instill such interests.” ―Publishers Weekly
Catherine Stier is the author of several awarding-winning children’s books. Her titles include If I Were President, If I Ran for President, If I Were a Park Ranger, and the A Dog’s Day chapter-book series. In grade school, Catherine ran a class campaign for student council with handmade signs, and, although she didn’t win, she found the process exciting! She went on to earn an MA in reading and literacy from the University of Texas at San Antonio and has conducted children’s literature research. She now resides with her husband in San Antonio and volunteers at a local wilderness park.