Of the 200 I read, here are my Top 20. They all received five stars from me on Goodreads:
When He Was Wicked by Julia Quinn The Scoundrel’s New Con by Catherine Stein Call Me Maybe by Cara Bastone Alpha Night by Nalini Singh Love Is A Rogue by Lenora Bell Love Hard by Nalini Singh Beauty Tempts the Beast by Lorraine Heath Sweetest in the Gale by Olivia Dade My Kind of Christmas by Robyn Carr A Delightful Little Book on Aging by Stephanie Raffelock The Return of the Disappearing Duke by Lara Temple Chasing Cassandra by Lisa Kleypas Archangel’s War by Nalini Singh An Everyday Hero by Laura Trentham Wanderlust by Lauren Blakely A Dark and Stormy Knight by Kerrigan Byrne Survivor in Death by J.D. Robb The Chocolate Temptation by Laura Florand Daring and the Duke by Sarah MacLean The Kissing Tree by Karen Witemeyer, Regina Jennings, Amanda Dykes, Nicole Deese
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.