The Christmas Cowboy Hero by Donna Grant

A Christmas Cowboy Hero (1)

The Christmas Cowboy Hero by Donna Grant

New York Times bestselling author Donna Grant returns to Texas, where a small-town legend just might find the greatest gift of all in The Christmas Cowboy Hero

’Tis the season for ex-Navy SEAL Clayton East to come home for the holidays—even if the mood at home is anything but festive. His father is ill. The East Ranch is in financial trouble. And now it’s on Clayton, the prodigal son, to make sure his family doesn’t lose everything.

Headstrong Abby Harper is like a mother to her younger brothers, who she’s helped raise since she was a teenager. Keeping them in line is no small task while she’s also working toward her college degree. And now that one of her brothers has been arrested for stealing cattle at the East Ranch, Abby is at her wits’ end. But there is a silver lining: Clayton East. He believes in second chances, and is willing to give one to her brother this Christmas. Letting beautiful Abby—and the inescapable longing in his heart—off the hook, however, is a whole ’nother story. Could it be that the woman of this local hero’s dreams has been back at home all along?

So when I started prepping my  review of this latest release from Donna Grant, I kept thinking it was a novella. Then I looked and realized this book is over 300 pages in length. So one of the big things I can say about this story is that it moves quickly and it’s definitely a story that sucks the reader in. When I started it, I felt like I was halfway through in no time at all. For me, I love stories that flow this well.

Our story starts out with Clayton East avoiding calls from his mother, back in Texas. Clayton is an ex-Navy SEAL and is working in South Africa, protecting animals from poachers. (Yeah, I was swooning in the first chapter). Then he finally takes the call from his mother, where he learns the East Ranch is in major trouble.

We then meet Abby Harper, where she’s running to the police station because her brother, Brice, has been arrested. The crime? Stealing cattle from the East Ranch. Abby is devastated since she’s been raising her brothers since she was 18. With a mother who ran out on them, Abby and her brothers only have each other. Clayton and Abby immediately have an attraction to each other. Clayton decides to extend a second-chance to Brice, by allowing him to work off his major debt to the ranch, instead of pressing charges against him.

While this is happening, Clayton and his family are also dealing with the realization that their CPA embezzled a significant amount of money from them. Abby works for a different CPA in town as an assistant and starts helping Clayton look through the financial records for the ranch.

“No, Abby Harper, I’m going to pay you what you should’ve been earning all this time. You’re worth it.”

This quote really stuck with me while reading. Several times in the story, Clayton lets Abby know that she’s worth it, and someone else’s loss is his gain. Abby’s brothers realize the sacrifices she’s made for them, even though Abby never mentions it, never complains. So to see Clayton see these things in her, and make her feel valued and appreciated, it was like Abby was able to blossom when she was around the East family. This was especially heartwarming to see because as the reader goes along, you realize how much Abby really has done for her family.

This story might be one of my favorite Christmas stories. You get all of the Christmas activity, but then we see forgiveness, fresh starts, love, and even suspense. This is a Christmas novel that any reader could enjoy because there is a little bit of something for everyone.

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With This Christmas Ring by Manda Collins

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With This Christmas Ring by Manda Collins

A wallflower determined to fulfill a dying promise, the rogue she jilted years ago, and an orphaned baby are all brought together amidst the magic of Christmas in this new novella from Manda Collins.

Miss Merry Parks makes a deathbed promise to a schoolfriend that her infant daughter will be taken to her absent father. There’s only one problem—to find the baby’s father, she’ll have to consult his cousin, Viscount Wrotham, the man she jilted five years ago. The man she couldn’t forget.

Alex Ponsonby, Viscount Wrotham, is stunned to find Merry Parks—looking more lovely than ever–on his doorstep with an infant in her arms. His shock soon turns to dismay when he learns his own cousin William is the man who abandoned his wife and child. As head of the family he’s duty bound to see right is done. But he can’t let this opportunity pass. He’ll take Merry and the baby to his cousin, but he’ll woo her back in the process.

Merry agrees to travel with Alex and the baby to Wrotham Castle, where the entire Ponsonby family has gathered for Christmas, but her plans to see the baby settled then leave are ruined by a snowstorm. After five years apart, Alex and Merry will spend the week getting reacquainted. Perhaps it’s the spirit of the holiday, or the magic of the season, but there could be something else in the air this Yuletide…A Christmas Reunion.

I’ve never read Manda Collins before. In all honesty, I don’t usually read historical romance either. Once in awhile I will, but it’s typically an author I’m familiar with and know that I already enjoy their writing. This book is opening my eyes to new horizons though.

This book is the definition of what a holiday romance should be. There’s love, second chances, snow, a sleigh ride, some family drama, Christmas. I have enjoyed other holiday books but a lot have felt forced or like it didn’t capture the magic of the season. This book captured that magic for me.

Merry’s friend, Charlotte, delivers a baby but dies after from complications. Merry’s final promise to her friend is to find the father of the baby and ensure she has a family to care for her. Unfortunately for Merry, she needs help from the very man she once was betrothed to, Alex Ponsonby.

A few of the things I really enjoyed about this book were both Merry and Alex’s characters. Even though they are both proper and appropriate to the time period, both are more than willing to stand up for what is right. Merry is nervous to have to turn to Alex for help, but she is selfless and does the right thing for the baby. Alex, who is still reeling from the hurt of Merry leaving him, puts aside his own resentment and vows to help Merry and the baby.

Another aspect I loved about this story is that while it’s definitely historical, there are moments of humor and a few twists. One twist is Alex’s Grandmother. She is a total witch. Then there is a slight touch of mystery with one of the holiday guests. It just the right amount of extra little elements to keep you interested but it didn’t overpower the actual fact that this is a holiday romance.

Historical Romance fans: this is the holiday romance for you. To be honest, I feel like the majority of readers could enjoy this book. It’s not overly heavy, the magic of Christmas remains throughout the story, and the great romance between Alex and Merry is the icing on the cake.

 

 

Christmas at Two Love Lane by Kieran Kramer

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Christmas at Two Love Lane by Kieran Kramer

The best gift of all is the one you share with someone else. . .

From the moment he strode through the iron gate and into the offices of Two Love Lane on a crisp December day, it was obvious that Deacon Banks was something different. He wasn’t a Charleston native, not with that adorable Yankee accent. And unlike the usual client at the elegant matchmaking agency, he had no interest in finding a woman to marry—just a few no-strings dates while he was in town.

Macy Frost takes her professional services very seriously—how could she not, when she’s rumored to be a direct descendant of Cupid? Tech entrepreneur Deacon says he’s just trying to make his social-climbing aunt happy by being seen out and about with a few prominent beauties, but Macy insists she can make her client fall in love…for real. And Deacon can’t help but think she might be right. As charming as the palmetto trees and magnificent harbor may be, it’s the beautiful, breath-of-fresh-air Macy who’s become Deacon’s favorite part of the scenery. But can the hopelessly romantic Southern belle stop trying to fix him up and just let Cupid do his work on her own heart?

Macy Frost might be a descendant of Cupid. But even if she’s not, she’s one heck of a matchmaker. And that skill is about to come in handy with Deacon, a newcomer who shows up unexpectedly.

The biggest component of this book that I found myself loving was how the story came to life. The descriptions were so vivid and I could easily see Macy and her cat, Oscar, walking to work. I could see her office, her home and it’s piazza. I could see Fran, Deacon, George, etc. This author does a wonderful job with the imagery. I would read this author again for that piece alone.

In complete fairness, Macy was a little hard for me to like. She sort of rode the line between society girl and a little slice of wild child, and because of this, some of her sweetness came off a little too proper to me. One scene that comes to my mind is that she has only known Deacon a day or two and she’s fantasizing about him making love to her. I was fine with that scene, but Macy isn’t that old, and the wording just felt a little awkward. With that said, I felt like a lot of her actions and words did make sense for her character. It just wasn’t a personal favorite of mine.

This story is told in two viewpoints, alternating between Macy and Deacon. I enjoyed Deacon’s chapters a lot more. I think he was a bit more honest, his tone seemed more realistic to me. Deacon isn’t interested in finding a soulmate. He needs Macy’s help to find a few dates to appease the aunt who cared for him growing up. Nothing more. But Macy is convinced that she can find the person he’s meant to be with. But what if that person is Macy?

The other nice aspect of this story is that you get a full-length book. Amazon has this listed as 346 pages, which is significantly longer than other holiday books I’ve come across. So I appreciated that the story wasn’t rushed and I got to really savor the story.

I think this book is perfect for anyone who loves holiday romance but also for someone looking for a lighter, cheerful read. The story comes to life and you feel like you’re in Charleston as you read along.

 

Holiday Spice by Samantha Chase

HolidaySpiceHoliday Spice by Samantha Chase

As soon as the mistletoe goes up, that’s when life gets really interesting

Darcy Shaughnessy has gotten used to her overbearing brothers chasing away any man she wants to date. But a chance meeting with a brooding – and deliciously handsome – artist is about to make this holiday season one to remember.

There’s only one thing Benjamin Tanner loves more than his woodcarving: solitude. Then he gets snowed in with Darcy in his cozy cabin in the woods, and their heated feelings begin to melt the icy barrier between them.

With Ben’s need for privacy and Darcy’s love of family and social life, will opposites still attract once the snow clears and the holiday festivities come to an end?

The Shaughnessy Brothers Series:
Made for Us (Book 1)
Love Walks In (Book 2)
Always My Girl (Book 3)
This Is Our Song (Book 4)
A Sky Full of Stars (Book 5)
Holiday Spice (Book 6)

This book has the perfect release date. Weird thing to notice, right? I haven’t ever felt like a book came at just the right time, but this book does.

A big reason for that is Darcy and Ben meet well before Christmas, in October. For me, this added some build up to the holiday season and made their story more than a holiday love story.

Darcy is the youngest in the Shaughnessy family and the only girl. I felt the author really captured Darcy’s personality perfectly. I say this because at times, I almost felt like she was a little bit bratty, but then I would be able to align with her on her brothers and dad not entirely understanding her. In past books in the Shaughnessy Brother Series, we always see everyone going overboard with Darcy and you can really understand how she feels sort of trapped because it’s like she can’t ever get on her own two feet.

Ben, on the other hand, has his own family issues to deal with. His parents died two weeks before Christmas, several years back. Since then, Ben doesn’t do the holidays. He doesn’t do family, he doesn’t do traveling. Ben’s preference is solitude, which puts him in direct contrast with Darcy, who is social all the time.

Darcy mentions several times that Ben is a man, not a frat boy. I can’t really pinpoint why, but I loved that the author chose to have Darcy make this distinction. Maybe it’s because as young women, so often we choose someone who might not be the best fit just because someone sort of fits with us. Seeing Darcy realize this is pivotal in a few ways. Throughout the story, we see Darcy trying desperately to make her own way, but not having any luck. With Ben, you can see Darcy’s eyes opening up to other possibilities. This includes her career.

This story seems a little bit deeper than some of the books in the series. Each sibling has truths they have to accept and learn from, but Darcy’s seemed a bit more intense. This was appreciated because Darcy and her story has been a bit of a buildup throughout the whole series. There is also a scene where Owen dishes out some advice to Darcy, and while it might not be easy to hear, it’s a truth that Darcy needs to learn.

This book is the last in the Shaughnessy Brothers Series and I loved the ending. This story summed up the entire series beautifully and I admit that I shed a few tears. The author has created this incredible world with the Shaughnessy family and while I’m sad to see it come to an end, the ending is one the Shaughnessy family would have loved themselves.

 

Christmas on Pointe by Samantha Chase

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Christmas on Pointe by Samantha Chase

It’s Christmastime again in Silver Bell Falls and the whole town is getting in the spirit to help ballet teacher Abby Foster achieve her dream of opening her own dance studio!

Dancing has been Abby’s dream for her entire life – but more than anything, she wanted that dream in her beloved hometown of Silver Bell Falls. Teaching ballet to children at the community center is fine, but she’ hoping for so much more – her own studio, her own business…not to mention maybe meeting Mr. Right and having a family of her own. For almost a year, she’s been picturing Dean Hayes in that role and if he wasn’t such a darn recluse, maybe she’d have a chance.

Solitude and Dean Hayes have always gone hand-in-hand. It wasn’t by choice, but because of circumstances beyond his control. And once again, things are out of his control when he finds himself being named permanent guardian for his five year old niece just in time for the holidays. Dean had always imagined that he’d have a family of his own someday, just not quite like this. With the support of his hometown friends, he knows he’s going to be okay. But it’s Abby’s help with his niece that’s making the biggest difference.

This isn’t the Christmas either of them has planned, but maybe it’s the chance for the most perfect one yet!

I wish Silver Bell Falls was a real place. After reading this book, I have fully embraced the idea of moving there and living with these happy and kind people. Why isn’t it a real place?

This book starts out with a sort of tragic beginning. Dean, our hero, has learned that his sister has passed away and now he will be the guardian of her daughter, Maya. Dean is quite solitary and is completely overwhelmed by this huge change in his life. But the friends he has in Silver Bell Falls won’t let him down, and immediately swoop in to help. That includes Abby.

Abby is one of my favorite characters. I feel like I say that a lot, but I just really loved her. One thing I loved about how her character is written is that while, as a ballet dancer, she is graceful and poised, she’s the same way in her everyday life. Some of Abby and Maya’s interactions are so sweet, but yet effortless.

One thing I really liked about Dean’s character is that he’s a man, and makes some of the mistakes that men make, but yet he was still very different from other characters I’ve read. Dean really had no disillusions about who he was, or what he wanted. As he and Abby become more serious, Dean is actually the one who is more forthcoming about what he wants and how he feels. I always find that to be a refreshing change.

If you’re looking for a fantastic holiday read, this would be it! The people we meet in Silver Bell Falls are kind and compassionate and Abby and Dean bring the holidays to life with their love story.

Mistletoe Between Friends/The Snowflake Inn by Samantha Chase

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Mistletoe Between Friends/The Snowflake Inn by Samantha Chase

Two gorgeous stories about the most romantic time of the year…

The holidays don’t have to be fraught with tension, as lifelong friends Lily Cavanaugh and Cameron Greene discover in Mistletoe Between Friends when they cook up a scheme to fool their family and friends.

The Snowflake Inn shows rivals Grace Brodie and Riley Walsh that Christmas is a time when dreams come true-even if you’ve given up on those dreams long ago.

I’m sure I’ve said this before I really love Halloween and Christmas stories. They always bring me great enjoyment and help me get more into the season. Samantha Chase doesn’t disappoint with this dual holiday story.

The first story, “Mistletoe Between Friends” lets us meet Lily and Cameron, who have been best friends for years. One of my favorite things about Samantha Chase is that she can keep her own formula that I always end up loving, but yet still change up the approach of the story. In this story, Lily and Cameron have both harbored feelings for each other, but neither has acted on it. I appreciated that approach, as opposed to the concept that one or the other just finally grew up and now the other person is really seeing them as attractive.

The second story follows Grace and Riley in “The Snowflake Inn”. Riley’s mom owns the Snowflake Inn and Grace works there. Riley has always had issues with the quaint bed & breakfast, especially since he grew up there and views it very differently than Grace does.

One thing I really admired about this story was that Riley has some different viewpoints on things, but he’s willing to move past them, and when he does, he just does it. He doesn’t boast about it. He handles it. I loved that he acted as a grown man. He didn’t just play games with Grace. And I really appreciated that even as he sees Grace pulling away, he steps up to the plate.

I also admired that we see that Grace has some past family trauma and Riley doesn’t just rush in with a band-aid for her. There are aspects that Riley simply can never understand and I appreciated that Samantha Chase wrote their story that way.

I loved this dual holiday book. In all fairness, I love pretty much anything that Samantha Chase writes, but I think she captures the magic of Christmas and love so elegantly in both stories.

Snowfall on Haven Point by RaeAnne Thayne

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Snowfall on Haven Point by RaeAnne Thayne

There’s no place like Haven Point for the holidays, where the snow conspires to bring two wary hearts together for a Christmas to remember 

It’s been two rough years since Andrea Montgomery lost her husband, and all she wants is for her children to enjoy their first Christmas in Haven Point. But then Andie’s friend asks a favor—to keep an eye on her brother, Sheriff Marshall Bailey, who’s recovering from a hit and run. Andie will do anything for Wyn, even park her own misgivings to check on her grouchy, wounded bear of a brother. 

Marshall hates feeling defenseless and resents the protective impulses that Andie brings out in him. But when a blizzard forces them together for the holidays, something in Marshall begins to thaw. Andie’s gentle nature is a salve, and her kids’ excitement for the holidays makes him forget why he never wanted a family. If only he and Andie can admit what they really want—each other—their Christmas wishes might come true after all.

I absolutely ADORE Christmas books. Halloween too. I just love seeing writers bring these special seasons to life with their words. With that said…I really didn’t love this book.

RaeAnne Thayne does an amazing job bring winter and Christmas to life. Which is why it makes it hard for me to dislike this book. I didn’t hate the book, but it really didn’t captivate me and I found myself somewhat forcing myself to return to it.

I definitely could see the town and characters coming to life as I read Andie and Marshall’s story. What was hard for me was the heaviness of the story. This is only my personal opinion, but I feel like holiday related books should be somewhat lighter. I know we all love a good Christmas miracle, but this book had so much heaviness within in, that I kept getting a bit torn in what direction I should be going.

For example, we see Andie’s history: this includes her husband, Jason, dying in the line of duty as a police officer and then later she is raped and attacked by her husband’s old partner, who is now in prison. Marshall, on the other hand, has just been in a hit and run accident and has a broken leg, and is certain that its an inside job. Then we learn Marshall has more in personal life than anyone in town even knows about.

These aspects didn’t necessarily bother me, but they made the book take on a lot of heaviness. The aspect of Marshall trying to solve his own hit and run case kept turning the story into more of a mystery. Then when the mystery is finally solved…it almost felt a bit rushed. Like it just didn’t make a lot of sense to me. My honest first thought was that the author sort of forgot about solving it and just needed to throw something in there quickly. That was how much it threw me off the way it was “solved”.

Overall, I did like the characters and the way the love between Andie and Marshall came to be. As a side note, there is no sex in this book. There is kissing and definite sexual tension. That didn’t bother me personally, but I know some prefer the steamier scenes so I want to be upfront that you won’t get those in this book.

If you are familiar with this author, I’m sure you would like this book. I would definitely be willing to read another book from this author. Her writing is fantastic and she was able to bring the story to life. I think it just became too many things swirling around and it actually took away from the rest of the good parts of the story.