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Dream a Little Dream–humorous, clean romance

Dream a Little Dream

by Melinda Curtis

After some mysteries and nonfiction, I knew needed to cleanse my reading palate and what better way to do it than with a light, clean, humorous romance by Melinda Curtis. It was a no-brainer to take a trip to Sunshine Valley where the board of the Widows Club is ready to decide on the couple they thought should be romantically linked and provide what they called “nudges.” The diverse group of friends are known for their meddling, and their antics and dialogue are the fun part of Dream a Little Dream.

Romance comes in the form of three-time world champion bull rider Jason whose friendship with Darcy goes way back and developed years ago into a romance. Darcy’s family has a history of falling on the wrong side of the law, but Darcy’s goal is to become a lawyer and leave her family’s reputation behind her as she moves out of town. Her long-time mentor Judge George Harper has other plans for Darcy, but when he dies, he leaves a mess of personal and professional issues for Darcy and his family to sort out. Meanwhile, Jason has been recuperating from a rodeo calamity and wants to restore his relationship with Darcy.

There are problems on all sides. Darcy doesn’t think she is capable of jumping into a judgeship and isn’t sure she can trust Jason. Jason needs to make decisions about what he really wants in the future and what his body can withstand. Both have loyal friends and some opposers in the town. Jason’s final effort to win Darcy comes down to the Widows Club Bachelor Auction for charity. I’m sure you can guess the outcome, but I enjoyed the journey. It was a fun and relaxing read, and I’m looking forward to my next visit to Sunshine Valley.

I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to Forever (Grand Central Publishing) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Romance

Notes: #3 in the Sunshine Valley Series, but is great as a standalone.

Publication: February 23, 2021—Forever (Grand Central Publishing)

Memorable Lines:

Pearl’s voice shook the way a person’s did when they were holding all the smashed inside parts together. It felt like Pearl was one tear shy of a complete collapse.

Darcy smiled at her stepsons. She smiled the way generations of Joneses had when threatened—like she held a royal flush. No one need know it was more like a pair of twos.

“Does he sit at home and watch sports? Don’t laugh. He’s a grown man. It’s not like he goes to bed right after dinner. And he’s too cranky to be bingeing movies every night on the Hallmark Channel.”

Flora’s Travelling Christmas Shop–spreading the Christmas spirit

Flora’s Travelling Christmas Shop

by Rebecca Raisin

When you are Festive Flora, you have your almost dream job of assistant-cashier at Deck the Halls Christmas Emporium, you are dating adventurous poet Luke, and you are living in your best friend Livvie’s spare room, what could possibly go wrong? Well, for Flora, everything—all at once!

Flora is accused by various boyfriends of being eccentric, and she is. She’s passionate about the Christmas spirit and wants everyone to feel the same way. She is also kind and generous with a tendency to speak and act before she thinks. Flora is never “good enough” according to her parents’ standards. She and Livvie, who also had a difficult home life, received love and support as children from Flora’s Nan. At her house they created wonderful Christmas memories.

Livvie decides that the solution to some of Flora’s problems is “a Christmas van, like a pop-up shop.” Thus Flora becomes a Van Lifer and heads to Lapland, “the home of Santa Claus,” to sell all things Christmasy with Hallmark movies being the blueprint for her future: a meet-cute with a good looking young man, conflict between the two, followed by romance and a “happy ever after.”

The story pretty much follows that pattern as she meets some nice, helpful people along the way, but also has to deal with a group of jealous “mean girls” who apparently never developed emotionally past high school. The love interest is Collom, the handsome manager of the Christmas market, a never smiling loner who is passionate about ecology, not Christmas. Flora takes on the task of turning Collom from a Grinch to a believer in the Christmas spirit. She has to complete this goal before the Christmas market closes down for the season and they all go their separate ways.

Flora’s Travelling Christmas Shop is told from Flora’s point of view with dialogue interspersed with Flora’s thoughts which she sometimes wonders if she has spoken aloud. Whoops! Author Rebecca Raisin succeeds with another romantic comedy, sure to have you turning the pages to see if Flora’s next zany idea will win Collom over—to love Christmas and maybe Flora too. Along the way she has some embarrassing moments that will keep you in stitches, ranging from stage fright to being a naked Britisher in a Finnish sauna.

I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to HarperCollins (HQ) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Romance, Women’s Fiction, General Fiction (Adult)

Notes: 1. This is the third in a series about Van Lifers, but stands completely alone from the first two.

2. Despite the Christmasy, festive atmosphere of this book, there is a surprising amount of foul language used casually throughout the book.

Publication: October 28, 2021—Harper Collins (HQ)

Memorable Lines:

It’s not just about holding down a job, it’s that my whole life keeps imploding at every turn. My parents think I’m on a desolate road to nowheresville.

“I probably sound unhinged, but what if we all lived as though our life were a Hallmark movie? What if we took chances, and said what we thought, and believed that true love would find a way, no matter what? What if we were honest about our feelings, knowing that it would all work out in the end? Then the world would be a better place!”

They give me those polite smiles that mange to convey they have absolutely no idea what I’ve said but they’ll tolerate me talking to them in halting Finnish because at least I’m giving it a go.

Aria’s Travelling Book Shop–trauma of grief

Aria’s Travelling Book Shop

by Rebecca Raisin

This second adventure of the Van Lifers features Aria, Rosie and Max who are the main characters in Aria’s Travelling Book Shop. We follow them to France for the summer where they meet up with new and old friends as is the way with these nomadic souls who travel from festival to festival earning their way as they go by holding pop-up specialty shops.

This story is told from Aria’s point of view. She lost the love of her life to cancer three years ago and is still struggling with grief, guilt, and an inability to move forward in her life. Her friend Rosie is always there to support her, but Rosie has a life surprise that complicates her ever-meticulous plans. Aria tries to re-establish a relationship with her husband’s family who estranged themselves from her after TJ’s death. She receives a journal written by TJ during his last months that reveal his hopes for her future. Jonathan is a successful writer who wants to be friends with the romance book loving Aria.

An interesting technique the author uses is to have Aria step outside herself, as if she were an onlooker announcing the events. For example, in italics we read “Hopeless romantic Aria vowed never to love again after loving her husband, TJ, but fate seems to have other ideas and keeps throwing mysterious Jonathan in her path. Is this a test of her commitment…” Using this approach, we get an up close view of Aria’s working through her issues in an almost humorous way.

In addition to personal matters, Rosie and Aria are confronted with a negative and unhappy “friend” who invites herself along. She is not a nice person, but Rosie and Aria try to understand and help her. Look for a surprise transformation for that character, and enjoy the very bookish nature of this novel.

I would like to extend my thanks to Edelweiss and to HarperCollins for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Romance, General Fiction (Adult)

Notes: #2 in The Travelling Shops series, but can be read as a standalone.

Publication: August 10, 2021—Harper Collins

Memorable Lines:

Promises that won’t be kept swirl in the air above like the glittery trail of a sparkler extinguished before the word is written. I smile sadly, wishing things didn’t have to end but knowing that they do.

“According to my translation app you just told him: You’re a wet chicken!” She bites down on her lip before laughter gets the better of her.

I duly sit and wait for Rosie as she hurries to make tea and serves me a slice of cake so large it has its own postcode.

Rosie’s Travelling Tea Shop–home and business in a van

Rosie’s Travelling Tea Shop

by Rebecca Raisin

Personal Note: Fall is bringing glorious temps in my area along with some hints of winter to come. Days are too short and dark is uncomfortably extended. It’s the perfect time to mix up my stringent standards of reading books, excepting book club tomes, in the order in which they were published. It’s also a good time to again acknowledge that I am fearfully behind in my reading queue, but I am gradually catching up, mainly because I am requesting about half the number of Advanced Reader Copies that I did when I lived in Mexico. What does my sudden free-spiritedness have to do with this review?

I just finished reading Rosie’s Travelling Tea Shop, a fun romance and the first in a series that focuses on some nomadic souls. I’m going to jump into the next one tomorrow, soon to be followed by the third, which has a Christmas theme—perfect!

My Review: It’s Rosie’s birthday and she just turned 32. Her husband Callum has a surprise for her, but it is not a pleasant one. As the sous chef at a famous London restaurant, she works long hours, has almost total independence in creative decisions, but gets no credit for her contributions to the restaurant’s fame.

Can she be successful personally and financially as a Van Lifer, someone who lives out of a van, travelling with no schedule, following fairs and special events or his or her personal whim? Does she have what it takes to strike out on her own, preparing and selling special teas and comfort food in her tiny kitchen at these events? Can she recover from Callum’s betrayal and find love with either sensitive Ollie whom she met on the Internet or with hunky nomadic Max who draws her outside her cocoon of contentment with adventures?

I obviously enjoyed this book. Rosie’s Travelling Tea Shop has romantic themes, but it also addresses the serious events that the main characters have experienced that make them the way they are. Rosie is a really nice person and all through the book I wanted only the best for her, although life doesn’t always work out that way. Rosie is a planner with OCD tendencies. She has not had much time for friendships so interacting with romance book loving, free-spirited, kind hearted Aria is a challenge. I can’t forget to mention Poppy, Rosie’s fuchsia pink van; Poppy is as important to Rosie and to the plot as any flesh and bones character! The next book in the series will focus on Aria and her Travelling Bookshop; I’m hoping for a very bookish romance with some adventure and fun thrown in as Rosie and Aria continue their Van Life travels.

I would like to extend my thanks to Edelweiss and to HarperCollins for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Romance, Women’s Fiction

Notes: 1. #1 in The Travelling Shops Series 2. When I posted my review on Amazon on 12/6/2021, the Kindle version of this book was on sale for $.99.

Publication: February 16, 2021—Harper Collins

Memorable Lines:

“The right person is out there, you just have to take the leap and find him. But first you need to figure out what makes you happy, and then have it in spades.”

“Anomaly is just another word for extraordinary, and who wants to be ordinary, anyway? To me you’re a shining light in a crowd of beige.”

And now I see with such life-altering clarity, that all those material things did the exact opposite of fulfilling me, they held me back, kept me in debt, kept me working to maintain a lifestyle that didn’t satisfy me at all.

A Royal Christmas Fairy Tale–traditions to fairy tale

A Royal Christmas Fairy Tale

by Karen Schaler

A Royal Christmas Fairy Tale is perfect for readers who enjoy a book infused with:

*the spirit of Christmas
*beautiful snowy backdrops
*Christmas traditions
*the importance of family
*magical, romantic possibilities
*a belief that wishes can come true
*a kinder, gentler way of interacting with others
*royalty who love and respect the citizens of their kingdom

The story centers on:
Alexander—handsome, widowed prince
Isabella—perceptive and generous queen
Anna—precocious princess, enthusiastic, but respectful
Blixen—charming Vizsla dog
Kaylie—investigative reporter

What happens if you are expecting a promotion, but discover at Christmas that the company is making cuts? You accept any job, even if it is a mystery assignment, if it might lead to greater things.

What do you do if your wife dies, and the paparazzi are ruthless in their hounding? You escape to the Caribbean.

With a little royal manipulation, the two are thrown together, with a comfort zone nowhere in sight.

My favorite character is the princess, mature in manners and understanding of the grownup world of royalty, but young in her enjoyment of life. My favorite scene is Kaylie’s arrival in Tolvania, unaware she will be working in a real castle inhabited by royalty. She is greeted by the princess, but thinks it is all pretend and plays along with what she thinks is an imaginary scenario. Confusing and embarrassing for Kaylie. Amusing for the reader.

Along the way I could tell that Kaylie had stepped over a boundary, a law actually. That decision was complicated by a mistake that I knew was coming and which added tension to several chapters as I waited for the issue to explode. If you want a true Christmasy, romantic escape, A Royal Christmas Fairy Tale was written just for you.

I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to HawkTale Publishing for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: General Fiction (Adult), Romance, Women’s Fiction

Notes: This standalone includes three recipes and two activities in a bonus section.

Publication: October 5, 2021—HawkTale Publishing

Memorable Lines:

She wondered, if she’d had an inspiring art teacher who had encouraged her, instead of telling her all the things she was doing wrong, maybe she would have liked art more.

Kaylie was once again impressed by how many of the royal family’s Christmas traditions included the entire village of Tolvania and focused on giving back and bringing people together.

“Christmas spirit is the heart and soul of Christmas because it celebrates family, faith, friends, community, hope, and love,” the queen said. “You can tell a lot about someone by the way they celebrate and honor Christmas.”

Christmas Island–romance in Norway

Christmas Island

by Natalie Normann

I am not moving to Norway. Ever. It’s too dark and too cold for me. I had a lot of reading fun coming to that conclusion, however, as I read Christmas Island, a romance that begins on a wet, cold, dark, rainy island in Norway. The snow and the need for many layers of heavy clothing would come later. The author, Natalie Normann, is highly qualified to be our atmospheric guide as she grew up in a shipping town on the west coast of Norway. When she writes about the many Christmas foods and traditions peculiar to Norway, she speaks from experience. Originally a Norwegian writer of historical romance, she has lived in Cardiff, Wales, since 2017, and Christmas Island is her second book written in English.

Holly Greene has an enforced four week leave of absence from her hospital job as a doctor resulting from a problem with a co-worker on the job. She is invited to Christmas on the island by her brother Jack as a way to help her survive this period. She meets Tor, mysterious and reclusive, who has rented a house on the island. The reasons both are there are revealed to the reader quite gradually. Holly lives in London and Tor in Oslo making a long-term relationship out of their holiday fling problematic to say the least. They are likable characters in need of healing. Will they find what they need in Norway? Within the island community? With each other?

Normann really helped me experience Norway. I felt like I was tasting the foods along with Holly. I understood her difficulties with the language. Once I raised my head from the pages almost expecting to see a wet snow drifting down. The backdrop she paints is important to the story and pervades the reader’s imagination.

I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to HarperCollins UK (One More Chapter) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Romance

Notes: 1. #2 in the Very Hygge Holiday Series, but could clearly be read as a standalone.
2. There are too many American and British swear words and vulgarisms for my taste. When I embark on a Christmas read, I look forward to sweet and clean. Although there is a fling, there are no graphic details. Language is the only obstacle for me with this Christmas read.
3. Recipes for three sweet Christmas treats are included.

Publication: November 30, 2020—HarperCollins UK (One More Chapter)

Memorable Lines:

“Fresh air is the Norwegian cure for everything. If you’re unwell, get some fresh air; if you can’t sleep, get some fresh air; if you’re feeling sad, get some fresh air. I think it comes from living too close to the sea and the mountains,” Tor said.

At the hospital gossip and rumours were part of the daily routine, and mostly it was friendly and amusing…until it wasn’t. But she didn’t want to dwell on that today.

Holly opened her mouth to answer, then got completely flustered and knew she was blushing like a whole crop of tomatoes.

A Cowgirl’s Secret–sacrificing for family

A Cowgirl’s Secret

by Melinda Curtis

I recently had a three book marathon with The Mountain Monroes, reading books #7, 8, and 9 which were all published in 2021. Today I finish up my reviews for them. I hope you enjoyed visiting Second Chance, Idaho, as much as I did. There are some more members of the Monroe clan that we have yet to meet; I am looking forward to 2022 and more clean love stories with an emphasis on family, making your way, and finding your place.

This heartwarming romance is full of complications—one of the legacies of Harlan Monroe, head of the wealthy Monroe family. Wanting his grandchildren to be independent, Harlan’s stipulations in his will ensured they would have to find their own way in the world, not relying on his money.

In A Cowgirl’s Secret, we meet more of the Monroes as they come to Second Chance at the beckoning of Shane Monroe who wants to influence their vote in a decision about the little town’s future. Bentley Monroe, reticent, but a mechanical genius and racing boat designer, arrives. Everyone is mystified by the magnetic attraction he holds for kids and animals. Cassie Diaz, recovering from being trampled by a rodeo bull, is certainly not immune to his spell as he caringly steps in when her health fails while she is responsible for two precious children whose father, Tanner, is out of town. It seems everyone has money issues, and the mysterious Tanner’s arrival just stirs the pot as he claims to be a Monroe.

Two more Monroes are introduced. One plays an important role and the other a minor one. Their identity should be kept secret until you read the book because therein lies a major plot twist. Meanwhile, if you are following this series, you will be happy to know that a lot of the Monroes who have been featured in previous books have a supporting role in this one.

The Mountain Monroes Series is a fun, clean, and relaxing tale spun out by author Melinda Curtis over a set of books that features each of the twelve cousins. I have looked forward to each one of them; Curtis intends for readers to be able to jump in anywhere and enjoy the story and characters. If you like second chance stories, then you won’t regret a visit to Second Chance, Idaho.

I would like to extend my thanks to Melinda Curtis for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Romance

Notes: #9 in The Mountain Monroes Series, but works quite well as a standalone.

Publication: September 28, 2021—Harlequin Heartwarming

Memorable Lines:

The ranch smacked of faded dreams and the faint whiff of desperation.

He tasted the bitterness of being cast aside, overlooked, ignored. That was the fate of the lone Monroe who considered every word before speaking, who didn’t tell jokes with any skill and was content to be part of the crowd rather than compete to be a leader of it.

But if voices were raised, feelings invariably got hurt no matter how much you loved someone.

Caught by the Cowboy Dad–is marriage a negotiation?

Caught by the Cowboy Dad

by Melinda Curtis

Dr. Bernadette Carlisle has her life together. She has a successful OB/GYN practice in Ketchum which she is trying to sell to become Second Chance’s doctor. She has one very small, teeny problem/blessing. She is pregnant by an ex-boyfriend who has ghosted her. Said ex is the oldest cousin in the Monroe clan and a financial wizard who has, unfortunately, lost his corporate position because his grandfather’s will stipulated the severing of business relationships of all of his children with their children. He has also lost his investment funds in a cousin’s risky project, and he has a teenage son from a first marriage with ambitions that include MIT premed as a seventeen year old.

For Bernadette, marriage must include love. For Wyatt, marriage is a negotiable business contract. As they embark on a road trip with Wyatt’s very studious, likable, nerdy son, they encounter one disaster after another and don’t get far down the road. They do have a chance to re-evaluate their priorities and meet some interesting people. Join Bernadette, Wyatt, and his son Devin in Melinda Curtis’ Caught by the Cowboy Dad as they make the trip of a lifetime in Idaho and end up following their dreams back home.

I would like to extend my thanks to Melinda Curtis for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Romance

Notes: I particularly liked this novel in The Mountain Monroes Series because, although the Monroe family situation provides a backdrop, most of the action occurs away from the town of Second Chance and the Monroe clan. That means fewer characters to keep up with and decide if they are going to be incidental or major. It allows for deeper character development and the introduction of some new, interesting characters. Caught by the Cowboy Dad, although #8 in the series, makes an excellent standalone.

Publication: June 1, 2021—Harlequin Heartwarming

Memorable Lines:

“Where I come from, life is about more than making money. It’s about passing on something important to folks and leaving something special to family….You don’t understand life….It’s about purpose. It’s about joy.”

“So instead of telling him how you felt, you hoped he’d guess.” Bernadette shook her head at Devin. “You’re more like your father than you think.”

“Love is giving. and being in love… Well, it makes you a better person, not in that you-complete-me kind of way, but as if you can make a risky reach for the stars because if you fail, you’ll still have that person at your side.”

The Littlest Cowgirls–new twins in Second Chance

The Littlest Cowgirls

by Melinda Curtis

Twins! Twins have an undeniable attraction for most readers, and there are a lot of them in Melinda Curtis’ The Mountain Monroes Series. In The Littlest Cowgirls, twins Ashley and Laurel have a sticky situation resulting from Laurel going on a date with famous actor and playboy Wyatt Halford—as a stand-in for her more reticent sister Ashley, an actress. Fast forward nine months when Wyatt is invited to attend a very pregnant Laurel’s wedding. Laurel has decided Wyatt needs to at least know of his paternity to twin daughters. Ashley, meanwhile, wants to change her image from “America’s Sweetheart” as a former child and teenage actress to that of a more serious and mature actress and producer. Life becomes complicated quickly for everyone in the story as they work through their personal pasts and how that will affect their futures.

You’ll need to read the book to find out if the sparks flying between Ashley and Wyatt can turn into a professional relationship, and if Wyatt wants to be part of his little girls’ lives. The members of the Monroe clan make a backdrop for the drama playing out in Second Chance, Idaho. Twelve-year old Gabby has big ears but has difficulty keeping a secret. Cousin Jonah has written the script about villain Mike Moody for a western whose origins come straight from the local mountains. There is lots of local color provided by adult and pint-sized cowboys and a few cowgirls as well.

I would like to extend my thanks to Melinda Curtis for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Romance

Notes: #7 in The Mountain Monroes Series. Although it could be read as a standalone, this one is a little harder to read independently because there are so many Monroes converging on Second Chance for the wedding. Although the author provides a chart for the relationships of the original family members, the family has grown through marriages and engagements to include many more people. An expanded chart or extra notes would have helped for this novel.

Publication: February 21, 2021—Harlequin Heartwarming

Memorable Lines:

“But thanks for bringing us all down to earth, Mother.” “As the worst-case scenario thinker in the family, I live to serve.” Mom made her exit with a dramatic flourish of her hand.

Wyatt could feel a double cross in his bones better than his coal-mining father could feel the earth tremble before a cave-in.

An inkling that one of these days, he’d look in the mirror and find a gray hair. And his indestructible self-image, the one he used as a shield against his father’s bitterness, would crack. Then his position on top of Hollywood would tilt and crumble.

Christmas Wishes–love crosses the Channel

Christmas Wishes

by Sue Moorcroft

Good personal character is something that is often taken for granted, but in moments of crisis it can rise to the forefront to shine. That is what happens to Nico Pettersson when he takes his eight-year old daughter Josie to her mother Lauren’s home for a planned visit only to discover an alcohol and drug mess. Lauren is in no condition for a visit or to take care of her two-year old Maria. This precious little one is not Nico’s child. In fact, her conception had resulted in divorce. As a single parent, Nico has his own set of problems, but can he leave his daughter’s sister in a filthy, hungry, and thirsty state?

Throughout Sue Moorcroft’s Christmas Wishes, Nico has many decisive moments of conscience. Meanwhile, he reconnects with Hannah, a childhood friend who is his former hockey teammate’s little sister. She is confronted with a break in her relationship with Albin, a cold, wealthy, supercilious boyfriend who controls her shop and her residence in Sweden. The setting bounces back and forth between Stockholm, Sweden, and Middledip, England, with Hannah and Nico having ties in both countries.

The setting is beautiful and Moorcroft has a talent for descriptions. Christmas is not just a backdrop, but an integral part of the story. The plot and relationships are complex. The ups and downs of romance weave through the story and provide a few surprises. A well-behaved Josie and cute-as-a-button Maria are a wonderful pair of children, and my heart went out to them in their respective situations. Hannah’s grandmother, Nan Heather, is a wise and delightful ninety year old who rounds out the cast beautifully. Christmas Wishes is a Christmas gift to readers who want a good storyline coupled with romance in a Christmas setting.

I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to HarperCollins (Avon Books) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: General Fiction (Adult), Romance, Women’s Fiction

Notes: 1. This book is part of the Middledip Series which seems to be loosely connected by a Middledip, England, setting and by an emphasis on seasons. My impression is that the books in this series do not need to be read in any particular order and that they make excellent standalones.
2. There is one place in the book where the description of a sexual encounter borders on too much detail for my taste, but it is not enough to make me wish I hadn’t read the book. Skim and move on!

Publication: October 29, 2020—HarperCollins (Avon)

Memorable Lines:

The butterflies that journeyed home with her fluttered wings of ice…

Anders rocked a mixed retro look with a Seventies mustache but a Sixties short-back-and-sides. His wide-lapelled suits teamed with busy floral ties were a fashion mystery.

Autumn seemed to have decided not to bother this year and winter had swept in as if from Narnia. Iron-hard frosts stripped the color from the landscape, bleak but beautiful…

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