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Tag: "Romance"

Review: Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas by Stephanie Barron

[ 4 ] December 9, 2014

twelve days of christmas book coverReviewed by Christen Krumm

Beautifully written, Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas follows beloved Jane Austen on holiday with family and friends. Travel along with Jane to The Vyne, the ancestral home of the wealthy Chute family in the twelfth book of Stephanie Barron’s Being a Jane Austen Mystery series. Jane is excited “to join the Christmas gaieties at one of the first houses in the neighborhood.” On the Feast of Saint Stephan (December 26, Christian day to commemorate Saint Stephen), Lieutenant John Gage arrives with the signed peace treaty that has ended the War of 1812. When Gage dies the following day, tragically falling from his horse, Jane instantly thinks there is fowl play involved—meaning the culprit will be one of the very guests she is staying with! It is a race against time as Jane gathers the clues to discover whodunit.

Stephanie Barron paints a book rich in detail about Regency England. I felt as if I was almost reading a book penned by Jane Austen herself. Barron did a superb job of capturing the voice of Austen! Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas read almost like a biography. While I do love reading a good biography, many times I feel like there is so much information on others surrounding the life of the one being written about. With Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas you get the deepness and richness of a biography, but without the over abundance of details.

I loved to hate Jane’s sister-in-law Mary. She reminded me of so many of Jane’s annoyingly cantankerous characters penned in her books. Mary is the character you wish you could reach into the pages and slap silly. She can always find something to complain about.

One of my favorite parts was when Jane, her mother, and sisters were ran off the road in the bitter cold and then saved by the heroic Mr. West. Such the romantic!

Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas is a fun treat—especially with the colder holiday months coming up. It is the perfect book to curl up with on a wet, dreary day. Don’t forget your hot cup of tea!

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Christen is a ravenous reader, wanna be author, Litfuse Nester, and slightly addicted to coffee. Lives in Arkansas with her husband and three mini people. Connect with her at her blog: or Twitter @ChristenKrumm.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Soho Crime. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain

[ 10 ] November 26, 2014

the silent sister book coverReviewed by Colleen Turner

When Riley MacPherson returns to her home town of New Bern, North Carolina after her father’s death she assumes it will only take a week or two to put her father’s affairs in order and sell her childhood home. However, as she meets with her father’s attorney for the reading of the will and begins the painful process of emptying his house, she discovers evidence and information that contradicts everything she believed about her family. At the center of the mysteries is the fact that her older sister, Lisa, whom Riley had always been told committed suicide when Riley was very young, might in fact be alive and living under a new identity. But this discovery brings up more questions than answers and as Riley sets out to unravel the mysteries surrounding her family she discovers the truth is something she could never have imagined.

Diane Chamberlain has become an author I search for whenever I go looking for an enjoyable book to read, one with complex characters and storylines unraveling to expose the mysteries hiding around every corner. The Silent Sister lives up to what I now expect from her excellent storytelling. I could not help but feel sorry for Riley as she continued to unravel the lies her life had been built on and protective of her as she had to deal with those around her using their knowledge of her family’s history for their own selfish reasons. Then there was her distant and angry brother, Danny, scarred from his own dealings with their family and his time serving in Iraq. For much of the novel it is hard to decide who is being honest with Riley and whom she can trust but once all the pieces fall into place I felt satisfied that Riley had learned the truth and would be able to move on with her life as it now stood.

Most of the novel is from Riley’s point of view but scattered throughout the middle is Lisa’s story, giving the reader a better understanding and justification for the events that took place. While I didn’t end up agreeing with all of Lisa’s actions by the last page I could understand her motives as well as the motives of her parents, giving a nice rounded feeling to the narrative. None of these characters are perfect and that is exactly what made them feel so real and relatable.

My only real issue with the story was the sporadic references to Riley’s recent breakup with her married boyfriend. I didn’t feel this had a place in the story and, while it doesn’t detract from it, it also doesn’t add any real depth or development to her character or her motivations. It just felt superfluous.

Diane Chamberlain is a prolific and much loved author and anyone who already enjoys her books will no doubt love this one as well. For those who haven’t discovered her yet this is a wonderful book to start with. Just be prepared to want to read all her other novels once you start!

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Colleen lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband, son, their dog Oliver and their fish Finn. When not working or taking care of her family she has her nose stuck in a book (and, let’s face it, often when she is working or taking care of her family as well). Nothing excites her more than discovering a new author to obsess over or a hidden jewel of a book to worship.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Macmillan. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Possible Women by Ida Baird

[ 3 ] November 12, 2014

possible women book coverReviewed by Lauren Cannavino

There are often works that are far ahead of their respective historical time periods and Possible Women is one such work. Originally written in 1950, Ida Baird’s portrayal of women, gender roles and even the portrayal of her male main character would have been offensive and out of line for that time. Baird’s three women in focus – Eva, Dinah and Lili – are strong, outspoken and at times crazy. These women become almost an obsession for Dr. Alex Gold who will find that his fate is tied to theirs. The tragic love that he has for two of the women will affect his life, thought processes and attitude forever. At a time where women were probably more suited to be seen and not heard, having three intense female leads captivate the book is impressive. It is also interesting how Gold seems to float along with the current that the women lay out for him. Their hold is evident even when they are gone.

The novel is set in Texas/Mexico during a time of confusion, change and hostility. These undercurrents run through the novel and hit within every main character. Possible Women was a bit hard to get into and it is hard at first to sort through the narration, distinguish the women and discover the connections. Once the story reaches the midway point, the tales begin to spin together and the book becomes a little bit easier to follow. Dr. Gold is quiet, observant, at times hysterical and melancholy. He over thinks and feels deeply and seemingly has a hard time moving beyond events and relationships that he comes in contact with. This is especially evident of his relationship and reaction to Dinah (Diana). When Dinah enters the text, the novel takes a turn and at this point the story becomes more engaging, tragic and Dr. Gold begins to develop more as a person rather than just a narrative voice.

The story is rough, violent, passionate and at times upsetting. Possible Women shows the reader the complexities of not only women, wives, husbands, lovers, children and mothers, but also how these relationships bleed into and stain life itself. There are searing events, painful discussions and agonizing observations that are laid out in a stark way and make it seems as if Dr. Gold is at times intruding on something he should not even be witnessing. At times, it seems that he is uncomfortable in his own skin which just adds another dimension to the strength and intensity of the women presented.

The book in places is wordy and confusing and there are described details and even people who do not seem to really fit into the story. In spite of this, Ida Baird writes strongly and eloquently and the story that emerges is different, poignant, emotional and at times, very uncomfortable. Possible Women is an interesting book for readers looking for a different perspective on people, relationships and human reactions.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Lauren Cannavino is a graduate student, freelance writer, wine lover, and avid reader. Random musings can be found over at

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Ida Baird. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Blog Tour: Becoming Bea by Leslie Gould

[ 2 ] November 11, 2014

becoming bea book coverPlease welcome Leslie Gould, author of Becoming Bea, who is touring the blogosphere with Litfuse Publicity!

Reviewed by Sarah McCubbin

In many ways, Becoming Bea is simply a coming-of-age story with an Amish twist. Having read some of the previous books by Leslie Gould in this series, I was interested to see where the story would go with this fourth book of The Courtships of Lancaster County. When Bea is introduced, she is an introverted, quiet, young lady who enjoys nothing better than perusing the local Amish used bookstore or visiting the book mobile for another volume of poetry. Not particularly interested in having an active social life, Bea’s days are often ordered about by her older sister Molly or the wishes of her mother. She is content to remain single and feels that getting married requires more effort than she wants to put forth. Feeling the need to break out of her mold, and earn her own way, she accepts a position with the Miller family helping them care for their triplets.

It is during this time that she begins to experience many life lessons that include caring for babies, running a household and how to treat those you care about. Bea begins to blossom as she gains confidence in her own ability to make decisions and thrive as an adult. In the midst of all these changes, she maintains a rather stand-offish and antagonizing relationship with Ben Rupp, a childhood friend to whom she is attracted. The question weighs heavily…will she and Ben find a way to be together or will another young man interrupt that possibility?

One of the things I enjoyed about Becoming Bea was the excellent character development and accurate portrayal of Amish life, as well as the amount of work involved in caring for many little children. Everything from the endless sleepless nights, overwhelming fatigue and never ending piles of laundry…it all felt so familiar. Each one of the main characters was well rounded–very human with flaws and foibles. Despite their weaknesses, a thread of forgiveness and second-chances bound their lives together. With strong themes that resonate with our humanness, people that enjoy Amish fiction, stories of redemption, and clean stories about love and family are likely to appreciate this novel.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Sarah McCubbin is a homeschooling and foster mom in NE Ohio where she resides with her husband and 7 children. In addition to reading great books, she enjoys gardening, traveling and blogging at Living Unboxed.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Bethany House Publishers. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Shore Leave Cafe Series by Abbie Williams

[ 1 ] November 10, 2014

shore leave cafe book coverReviewed by Amanda Schafer

Shore Leave Café is a family owned café in Landon, Minnesota that is run by the women of the family. We learn about Joelle in Summer at the Shore Leave Cafe, how she left her husband in Chicago months after finding him cheating on her with his secretary. Jo takes her three daughters to Flickertail Lake for the summer and finds peace and healing but she also finds passion. Joelle finds a passion with Blythe that she didn’t know still existed within herself. But when Jo’s ex-husband shows up at Shore Leave and challenges Bly they get physical and Bly ends up in jail. Not only jail, but sent back to Oklahoma where he is wanted for another crime. Before she knows what’s happened, Jo finds out that Bly has already left the state to turn himself in to the authorities in Oklahoma.

Immediately, Jo decides to go after him. She has to go and tell him she loves him and that she can’t live without him. In Second Chances we learn of his past and wait while he serves his time in the jail in Oklahoma. Jo comes back to Landon where she continues to impatiently wait for Bly’s return all while having to deal with her ex-husband and his constant comments of wanting to fix their marriage. Jo realizes she doesn’t want him back because she is deeply in love with Bly. Also facing Jo is the fact that during this summer of her own passion, her oldest daughter Camille has discovered a passion that got her pregnant and now the father of the baby wants nothing to do with her. The family rallies around Camille and supports her through her pregnancy.

notion of love book coverIn A Notion of Love, we back up many years to learn of Jillian’s history. Jillian is Joelle’s sister. She was once married but her husband died in a tragic accident. Left to raise their son by herself, Jilly throws herself into her life with her son and ignores all thoughts of men or remarriage. Until she realizes that Justin has been in her mind all these years. She never realized how much she loved him until now. During the same summer that Joelle is experiencing her own new-found passion, Jilly and Justin are rediscovering a love they never before acknowledged.

Winter at the White Oaks Lodge shifts gears a bit and shows us the blossoming love between Camille and Mathias as Camille struggles to be a single mother and give up her dreams of college. Camille digs into the family history in Landon after finding a picture in a trunk in the attic and it causes her to realize that she’s met Mathias in a former life. She can’t explain it, but she knows that she knows him from another time. They determine to go to Jalesville, Montana where some of the family still live and see if they can track down the rightful owner of the picture and learn more of their history.

wild flower book coverIn Wild Flower, when Camille dreams of a woman begging for help, they know they are on the right track to figure out this mystery of their past.  Camille and Mathias head out to Montana and instantly feel like they *know* the people there and truly connect with them. But still, they feel this sense of unrest because they can’t get to the bottom of the picture Camille found. Giving up and knowing they need to get home, they start out when Camille feels a Notion to veer from their path. She and Mathias find a hidden cave where they believe they’ve found answers when Mathias is bitten by a rattlesnake. Camille is able to get him to safety and saves his life…and a few months later they are married in Landon at Shore Leave.

Several years later, our story picks up with Tish, Camille’s younger sister. She is graduating law school and has been given the assignment of helping out a situation in Jalesville, Montana where land is being bought up and the landowners are fighting it. Unhappy to be sent out to the middle of nowhere, Tish figures she will just put in her time and move back to Chicago where she can get her fancy lawyer job and finally begin her successful career. However, there’s the little matter of Case Price. Case fell in love with Tish’s picture when Camille was there years ago and determined he was going to marry her. But Tish gave him the brush off at Camille’s wedding, and none to kindly. Knowing she was wrong and how much she must have hurt him, Tish tries to just put it behind her but when she sees Case again, she realizes she is attracted to him and wants to get to know him better. Finally allowing herself to admit the truth, Case and Tish fall fully in love with one another and Tish determines to stay in Jalesville with Case forever. But a dreadful barn fire might end it all for her.

Abbie Williams has written six great books in very quick order! They are easy-reading, women’s fiction full of hot passion and great storytelling. The books started out with a very large amount of sex scenes in the first two books and quickly began to fizzle after that. By the time I reached the sixth book, there was very little in the way of “sex scenes” but plenty of sexual tension. I’m not sure why she changed the format and I admit it was a bit disappointing. However, the storylines were great and I really can’t wait to see what happens with Tish and Case…hurry and finish the next book, Abbie!

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Amanda lives in Missouri with her engineering husband, two sons, and one daughter. In between homeschooling and keeping up with church activities she loves to read Christian Fiction, Women’s Fiction, and any Chick-Lit. She never goes anywhere without a book to read!

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Abbie Williams. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: My Last Kiss by Bethany Neal

[ 1 ] November 7, 2014

my last kiss book coverReviewed by Sarah Lelonek

Some books I really enjoy up until the end. Others are a giant let down and I chastise myself for speeding through the book to get to an ending that only disappoints. My Last Kiss by Bethany Neal falls into the latter category. The story starts off on a path that I have seen in many different books. A girl wakes up as a ghost and has no idea how she died. The girl must then “haunt” her friends and family in order to find out the truth so she can pass on. What was different in this book is that the main character, Cassidy, can actually communicate with one of the live characters. I was hoping that this book would end in a different manner than books like A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb or Between by Jessica Warman; instead, My Last Kiss ended just how I thought it would and offered no originality to the ghost genre.

Cassidy, a high school student, wakes up dead the day after her birthday party. While she can see her “other body,” Cassidy cannot touch it nor can she read the note that’s in her other body’s hand. Cassidy is left with no real memories of the past few weeks and no idea why she is dead. Soon after waking up as a ghost, Cassidy starts remembering a boy from her past who caused her to lie to her long-time boyfriend, Ethan. The story follows Cassidy as she learns about the web of lies she spun around herself, her friends, and Ethan.

I’m not going to lie. I did enjoy this book. I like young adult drama in the sense that I can look at it and realize the fickleness of it all. The characters were pretty well developed, however, there were entirely too many characters. Also, Cassidy’s family was downplayed significantly as the novel progressed, which I thought was odd. The premise of the book, what if your last kiss was with the wrong boy, had little to do with the actual plot. I thought there would be some element hanging on this elusive last kiss, but alas, it was just a gimmick to get people to read the book.

Like I said before, My Last Kiss is an enjoyable read up until the end. I felt like I was reading a less involved version of better young adult novels about ghosts. I also found the twist that Cassidy could be seen by one person close to her a letdown. Nothing interesting came from this ghost-human relationship. I think the novel was too concerned with petty lies, such as the popular Pretty Little Liars series, and forgot to show some originality. If you’re looking for a throwback read, this might be good for you. If you’re looking for substance within an after-life centered stand alone novel, I would suggest the books I mentioned earlier.

Rating: ★★½☆☆ 

Sarah Emily Lelonek has a BA in English Literature from Kent State University. She is currently enrolled at Tiffin University in their Master’s of Education program. She enjoys traveling and gaming while on breaks from working on her novel.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Macmillan. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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