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It Won’t Be Christmas Without You–white Christmas in England

It Won’t Be Christmas Without You

by Beth Reekles

It Won't Be Christmas Without YouCara and Eloise are twins in Beth Reekles’ It Won’t Be Christmas Without You. The author never tells if they are identical twins or not, but they are certainly different in personality. Cara is a workaholic, driven to earn an early promotion. She feels she has always had to work extra hard to achieve grades and jobs. Eloise is a teacher and success in school and in finding her first job comes easier for her. She, however, always feels lacking in the friendship department.

This year Eloise’s world is turned upside down as their parents announce that they will take a beach vacation on what is Eloise’s favorite holiday, Christmas. Cara decides she may opt out of their traditional celebration also in favor of working. The conflict in the book revolves around the tension between the siblings as they move closer to December 25. Both of the twins become involved in romantic relationships with likable young men. 

The chapters move along a timeline which is a countdown to Christmas. It was a quick read, but I never felt fully invested in the characters. I was more of an outsider looking in on the action. I enjoyed learning about some mentioned British foods: roasties, bacon sarnies, and the sweet treats of individual, packaged mince pies, Celebrations, and Roses.

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

Rating: 3/5

Category: General Fiction (A), Romance

Notes: Contains a lot of British Vulgarisms

Publication:   August 30, 2019—HarperCollins (One More Chapter)

Memorable Lines:

Wow. She’d actually done it. She’d gone for the blackmail card. Guilting her twin with her own broken heart.

But it did mean she was lacking in experience when it came to relationship problems. Like what to do when you think your boyfriend is lying to you. (Google wasn’t very helpful, when she asked it.)

The burn on the back of her forearm she’d got an hour ago was still red and angry, so she slapped a little Savlon on it. Salon would cure everything that a good cup of tea couldn’t, she was convinced.

Except Christmas.

Nothing could fix this Christmas.

The Empty Nesters–friends pulling together

The Empty Nesters

by Carolyn Brown

BrownCarolineEmptyNesters-27584-CV-FL-v1.inddHaving just finished a nonfiction book about the empty nest season of life, I enjoyed reading a fictional take on it. Carolyn Brown’s The Empty Nesters is a smiling, wipe a few tears kind of book. Four neighboring military families provide support for each other with retired and childless Tootsie and Smokey taking on a grandparenting role. The three other men are part of a team that frequently leaves for extended secret missions so the wives are left behind to raise their daughters.

Life is not always easy. We join their story with each of the four women at a different stage of the empty nest. A road trip in a mobile home to Tootsie’s old family home helps the women sort through various problems. The younger women have all just sent their daughters away to basic training. One mother is divorced and still has trust issues. Tootsie is recently widowed and still grieving, and the other two fear for their own family dynamics. Luke, Tootsie’s nephew, drives on the trip. He is handsome, single, rich but down to earth, and kind. These characters are people you would like to get to know from Diana who has decided love is not in the cards for her to Carmen who takes out her fury over a cheating, scumbag husband by splitting logs for hours.

You’ll enjoy the meetings of the Empty Nesters as they share with each other and support each other. Watching them work through calamities and successes makes you feel like you are a part of the group. We don’t get to know the daughters very well, but they reflect well on their mothers who worked hard to raise them right under difficult circumstances.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Montlake Romance for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating:  5/5

Category: General Fiction (A), Romance

Notes: Includes some mild swearing

Publication: August 20, 2019—Montlake Romance

Memorable Lines:

It might have seemed strange to someone else, but with all the recent events, his comment was a life preserver in the midst of an ocean—a simple  compliment to hang on to when the stormy waters of life were sweeping over her.

“When we get old, the biggest blessing in the world is simply to be needed”

Tootsie brought out a bottle of wine from her secret stash on the top shelf of her closet and piled sugar cookies high on a platter. Meetings weren’t held in the South, especially Texas, without food and something to drink, so it was only right that the first official meeting of the empty nesters should at least have something.

The Healing Jar–challenges that require patience

The Healing Jar

by Wanda E. Brunstetter 

The Healing JarExamples of difficult situations and decisions abound in Wanda E. Brunstetter’s The Healing Jar along with positive, Godly responses to those circumstances. Frequently the characters pray and then continue with their daily activities as they wait on God to answer their prayers by changing their circumstances or their hearts. Often He acts in surprising ways.

The main characters in these stories are all connected to the Amish Lapp family, and they all independently stumble on prayer jars hidden on the Lapp property. What remains a mystery to the young ladies, until a discovery in this book, is who accumulated Scriptures and heartfelt petitions to God on slips of paper in old canning jars.

The matriarch of the Lapp family is Mary Ruth. The other main character in The Healing Jar is her granddaughter Lenore Lapp who longs to be a wife and mother. The story of Sara, a granddaughter who was not raised Amish, continues in this book as she tries to discover the identity of her biological father. Michelle, who in an earlier book pretends to be Sara, finds happiness in her conversion to the Amish way but faces challenges when her husband wants to move away from her new family and friends.

I enjoyed this gentle book and recommend this trilogy to those who are interested in learning more about Amish life and customs and to readers looking for romance with a Christian focus. I do think this series should be read in its entirety and in sequence as it is very character based. Perhaps because of the way the series builds and the closure this book provides, it is my favorite of the three books.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Barbour Publishing (Shiloh Run Press) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Christian, Literary Fiction

Notes: #3 in the Prayer Jar Trilogy. I recommend it, but not as a standalone.

Publication:  August 1, 2019— Barbour Publishing (Shiloh Run Press)

Memorable Lines:

“We must learn to trust the Lord, even with things we don’t understand. As we go through troubled waters, it should strengthen, not weaken, our faith. And remember, dear one, prayer is not a business transaction. We don’t give something to get something in return.”

It was frustrating how a person could think they had worked through a situation, even felt peace about it, and then out of the blue, the pain of it all came right back to haunt them.

“It just goes to show that even when people make terrible mistakes, God can take a negative situation and turn it into something good.”

A Highlander Walks Into a Bar–romance in Highland, Georgia

A Highlander Walks Into a Bar

by Laura Trentham

A Highlander Walks Into a BarWhen your mom goes to Scotland and brings home a surprise, you don’t expect it to be a handsome Highlander…or that a younger version will follow. These two men, Gareth and Alasdair, along with Rose and Izzy (Isabel) are the main characters in A Highlander Walks Into a Bar by Laura Trentham. The setting is not Cairndow, home of the Blackmoor family, but Highland, Georgia, where Rose and Izzy try to keep their beloved Stonehaven, as well as the entire town of Highland, solvent through a Scottish festival every summer. The secrets the characters keep to themselves, even as their intimacy as couples grows, make for some uncomfortable and humorous situations. They all wonder, as does the reader, how there can ever be a positive outcome for the two couples given their respective responsibilities an ocean away from each other. There is resolution, of course, but the book ends with an epilogue that can obviously segue into another tale involving the same characters and a new one. Lots of potential fun lies in store for readers of this new series. 

I would like to extend my thanks to Carla (https://carlalovestoread.wordpress.com) and to St. Martin’s Paperbacks for gifting me with this book. I won this book in an online raffle after reading Carla’s review which you can enjoy yourself on her blog.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Romance

Notes: A Highlander Walks Into a Bar is a good, fun romance. If you don’t want the details of a hot and heavy passionate union, skip chapter 11. Omitting these details will not in any way hinder your enjoyment or understanding of this book.

Publication:   July 30, 2019—St. Martin’s Paperbacks

Memorable Lines:

More bagpipes joined in, and the march they played made her heart ache with an emotion she couldn’t categorize. Sometimes it was better to feel than to understand.

“Are you and Gareth in love?” The question popped out, and not for the first time Izzy wished she had a speedbump between her brain and her mouth.

“It is easier to tally who is right and wrong and hang onto your resentment and turn your back, because forgiveness and understanding are difficult. What you should tally are laughs and kisses and how many times you are made a better person because of your connection.”

The Printed Letter Bookshop–books as a pathway to healing

The Printed Letter Bookshop

by Katherine Reay

The Printed Letter BookshopThis fictional work opens with the rather stark and extremely well attended funeral of Maddie and shares the perspectives of her estranged, but much loved, niece Madeline and of Janet and Claire, two ladies who are employees and friends of Maddie. What follows takes us into the lives and families of all of these ladies. They struggle with work and relationships, but Maddie leaves each an encouraging letter listing books that will help them in their life journeys. Maddie has a reputation for matching up readers with just the right book. Life is a battle for each of these ladies, and there is some characteristic in one or more of them that readers can identify with.

Part of The Printed Letter Bookshop draws attention to Proverbs 31 in the Bible which describes a wise woman and provides a model for the characters in forming their aspirations. I followed the ups and downs of the characters with hopes for successful resolutions to their problems. Will Madeline continue on her intended path to become a successful law partner? Will the town’s beloved bookshop survive during an online economy and after some bad business decisions? Can Janet find restoration with her husband and children? Is there a way for Claire to be a good mom while meeting her own needs? The story builds at an adequate pace as we are introduced to the characters and storyline, but accelerates towards the end as things come to a head for each of the characters in solving their personal dilemmas. Although there is closure for each of the ladies, it is not a puffy pink, cotton candy kind of resolution. There are surprises, heartbreaks, and difficult situations along the way as they learn what is important, how to forgive, and the need to avoid jumping to conclusions based on appearances.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Thomas Nelson for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Romance, Women’s Fiction, Christian Fiction

Notes: I would LOVE to visit this bookstore!

Publication:  May 14 , 2019—Thomas Nelson

Memorable Lines:

You can miss your family so much you have to look down to see your chest rise and fall, to confirm that it hasn’t been cut open and you’re not bleeding out and you’re still breathing. Friends can’t hurt you like that, nor can they fill that fissure.

“I remember Aunt Maddie saying you could lose yourself in a book and, paradoxically, find yourself as well.”

I do remember that his resignation ignited my anger. Anger always comes first for me. Anger keeps embarrassment, humiliation, shame, all manner of painful emotions at bay—for a time. But it requires so much fuel. And while it burned hot that night, and for a couple weeks after, it soon flickered out. Shame replaced it, and shame doesn’t need much fuel to thrive. It can live on tiny nibbles for years, possibly a lifetime.

The Brides of the Big Valley: Three Romances from a Unique Pennsylvania Amish Community

The Brides of the Big Valley: Three Romances from a Unique Pennsylvania Amish Community

by Wanda E. Brunstetter, Jean B. Brunstetter and Richelle B. Brunstetter

The Brides of the Big ValleyThree different Brunstetter authors have combined to create three equally good short Amish romances all set in Big Valley located in Mifflin County. The Amish situation that is unique in this area is that in the 1840’s the congregation broke into three groups based on beliefs, customs, and later the colors on the tops of their horse drawn buggies.

Deanna’s Determination by Wanda E. Brunstetter tells the story of Deanna Speicher, a young Amish widow with a sweet little boy who has Down syndrome. She lives with her father and contributes to their support by creating quilted goods to sell at the local flea market. Her deceased husband’s best friend, Elmer, is the romantic interest in this story until tragedy strikes again. Will Deanna and Elmer’s love survive the new crisis?

In Rose Mary’s Resolve, by Jean B. Brunstetter, we are introduced to a family that was mentioned in the first story, the Rennos, who own a furniture company. With older sister Linda getting married, Rose Mary is learning the ins and outs of the show room so she can help in the family business. Romance is in the air as Tom Yoder courts Rose Mary, but problems arise as Tom thinks of going Englisch and pressures Rose Mary on all of their decisions. Meanwhile Kevin literally drops out of the sky as he crash lands in the Renno field and develops an interest in Rose Mary and the Amish way. Will Rose Mary stay true to God and her family customs?

Leila’s Longing by Richelle Brunstetter is the story of Leila Fisher, a shy young lady who was bullied at school when she was younger and now carries the emotional scars of those experiences. She is a gifted artist, creating sketches and making greeting cards and selling them. Will her new friends Aden and his sister Sue and her new employee Mollie be able to help her emerge from her reclusiveness? Will anyone ever want to court her?

The Brides of the Big Valley is comprised of three novellas, gentle stories combined to make an interesting tale for a calm afternoon’s reading. The characters are likable and the plots are not overly predictable. God and faith are an important part of these tales.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Barbour Publishing (Shiloh Run Press) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating:  4/5

Category: Christian Fiction, Romance

Publication:   June 1, 2019— Barbour Publishing (Shiloh Run Press)

Memorable Lines:

I bet Rose Mary would say anything is possible with the Lord’s help. But can He truly help me through my relationship with Dad, by repairing the bridge across the chasm that exists between us?

She’d been too trusting of others when she was young, which caused her to be suspicious of disloyalty. No matter how nice she was to others, she didn’t receive kindness in return. That was why it was easier for her to not even try.

When life gets at its worst or drags us down, reading God’s Word provides guidance on good living.”

Shadow Among Sheaves–sacrifices

Shadow Among Sheaves

by Naomi Stephens

Shadow Among SheavesThe Biblical story of Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth is known and quoted as an example of devotion. Upon the death of her husband and sons, Naomi encourages her daughter-in-laws to return to their home countries, but Ruth says: “Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee, for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.” (Ruth 1:16).

In Shadow Among the Sheaves author Naomi Stephens uses this story in a new setting. Nell (Lady Hawley) and her daughter-in-law Rene move from India back to England in the glory days of the British Empire. Rene, from the highest caste in India, has promised to take care of Nell, but because of discrimination against Indians, they are treated as outcasts and beggars. Stephens’ story follows the same general lines as the Biblical story but is fleshed out with a deeper plot and extensive character development. Using the complexities of the ethnic divide and the social and class norms in Britain at that time, Stephens weaves a riveting tale of love and conflict.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Barbour Publishing (Shiloh Run Press) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Christian, Romance

Notes: You do not have to be familiar with the Bible story of Ruth and Naomi to enjoy this book, but if you would like to read it, the book of Ruth is found in the Old Testament and is only four chapters long.

Publication:   April 1, 2019— Barbour Publishing (Shiloh Run Press)

Memorable Lines:

An aching belly, an empty room, skin pulled tight over hungry bones—all of these sacrifices were worth it, she knew, if it meant staying with Nell, if it meant her family would be her family forever. 

Thomas had never been a monster, exactly, though he had always been monstrously arrogant.

Music began tumbling across the now barren fields. The notes were thick and plucky, sticking to the window like hands pressed up against the glass.

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