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.

 

 

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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.

 

Second Chance Girl by Susan Mallery

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Second Chance Girl by Susan Mallery

From the #1 NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Susan Mallery, read the second irresistible installment in the Happily Inc series!

Mathias Mitchell’s easy smile hides a world of hurt. After the worst kind of family betrayal, he moves to Happily Inc., California—the wedding destination town supplies a steady stream of bridesmaids, perfect for his “no promises, no pain” lifestyle. Yet he can’t stop watching for his beautiful, elusive neighbor on the animal preserve behind their homes.

Gamekeeper Carol Lund knows she’s not special enough to attract an alpha male like Mathias, so his offer to help her adopt a herd for her lonely giraffe is surprising—and his determined seduction, even more so. But just as she finally welcomes him into her bed, his careless actions crush her heart. Will she give him a second chance to prove she’ll always come first in his heart?

Don’t miss You Say It First, the first book in the Happily Inc series. 

I’ve been a fan of Susan Mallery for awhile now and I admit freely that I miss the character’s from her Fool’s Gold series. Well, if you also feel that way, then the wedding destination town of Happily Inc is for you.

The biggest thing I enjoyed about this book, and the author itself, is that for the most part, things are kept light. Yes, there are some conflicts but for the most part, I always feel like this author keeps me pulled into this fantastical small town. Are some pieces a little unrealistic? Yes, but I also think that makes it fun. I mean, who wouldn’t love a pub called “The Board Room” where you play board games while having drinks? I know I would love that.

Another thing that was different about this book was the fact that we have almost simultaneous love stories happening. We have Carol and Mathias, but then we also have Violet and Ulrich. I enjoyed getting a little more story in this book. I haven’t read every Susan Mallery book but I don’t feel like I’ve seen her have two love stories in one. So I enjoyed that aspect.

With that said, there were a few things I did struggle with. This is only the second book in the series and there were a lot of characters floating around. By the time I got to the 30% mark, I had met almost thirteen different people in this town. Combined with the fact that you have two love stories happening, it was a bit much at times. There was almost a point where you’d miss someone, and then be trying to figure out where you met them before. It wasn’t a crisis to me, but I will say it made the book not flow as well for me because I kept trying to keep track of everyone.

If you are already a fan of Susan Mallery, and in particular, if you were a fan of her Fool’s Gold series, you will love Happily Inc. We even get a couple tiny mentions of Fool’s Gold in this book. This book is light and I always enjoy a trip to one of the author’s fantastical small town worlds.

Perfectly Undone by Jamie Raintree

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Perfectly Undone by Jamie Raintree

A stirring debut rife with intoxicating family secrets and dazzling insights into our most basic desires, Perfectly Undone offers an intimate, uncensored exploration of forgiveness and fidelity, in all its forms, as a young doctor struggles with her sister’s death—and the role she played in it—while her own picture-perfect relationship and promising career unravel around her.

Yes is such a little word…

Dr. Dylan Michels has worked hard for a perfect life, so when her longtime boyfriend, Cooper, gets down on one knee, it should be the most perfect moment of all. Then why does she say no?

For too many years, Dylan’s been living for her sister, who never got the chance to grow up. But her attempt to be the perfect daughter, perfect partner and perfect doctor hasn’t been enough to silence the haunting guilt Dylan feels over her sister’s death—and the role no one knows she played in it.

Now Dylan must face her past if she and Cooper stand a chance at a the courage to define her own happiness before her life becomes perfectly undone?

Set among the breezy days of a sultry Portland summer, Perfectly Undone is a deeply moving novel of family secrets, forgiveness and finding yourself in the most surprising of places.

Sometimes you have to lose your way to find yourself

As I start my review, I still can’t believe this book is from a debut author. This book has vivid imagery, but the author is skilled enough to know when to pull back and when to push the reader. The story is beautiful, painful, and yet manages to ride the line between the two.

Our story starts with Dylan and her boyfriend, Cooper. Both are successful doctors, and Cooper and Dylan have been together for nine years. Cooper is ready for the next steps but Dylan is just sort of existing. She isn’t unhappy, she isn’t happy. She isn’t really anything. Personally, Dylan’s character worked for me. I understood her immediately and I feel like a lot of other women will too.

Normally, books with the main character having some mysterious secret really irk me. Mainly because when the secret comes out, it’s never as big as the story built it up to be. With this story, however, Dylan’s secret regarding her sister’s death seems less about the secret as the story goes on and more about forgiveness, of others and oneself. I appreciated this because it made the secrets more dynamic and more about moving on and how we heal versus being about a big confession and then the characters just automatically feel better.

This book was truly wonderful. It made me think, it made me cry, and this author definitely made me open my heart while reading this book. The way ideas and feelings are presented caused me to open my eyes a bit and really see things from a different perspective. I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone who wants real characters with real life problems, and anyone who believes in the power of forgiveness and love.

 

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.

 

The Ghostwriter by Alessandra Torre

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The Ghostwriter by Alessanda Torre

From New York Times Bestseller Alessandra Torre…

I have three months to write the last book of my life. Three months to confess the details of that day, and how it changed everything for me.

My name is Helena Ross. I’ve written fifteen romance novels, ten of which have become international bestsellers. But this one isn’t a romance, no Happily Ever After in place. This novel holds only the truth, which I have run away from for four years. The truth, which I have hidden from the police, from my loved ones, from the world.

This final book?

It’s my confession.

I just finished this story and I am speechless. I want to say everything and nothing. This story is unlike anything I’ve read before and yet I loved every page. This book is haunting and healing all at the same time.

Helena Ross is, putting it nicely, quirky. When I read her character, I kept thinking of that phrase “zoom out”, because Helena would get so caught up in the details, the little nitpicking of being “right”, that she would miss what was actually happening. She has rules for everything and everyone. As a reader, you find yourself wondering if she might have some type of mental illness or if she’s just a misunderstood genius.

This book isn’t a romance, and it’s not a mystery either. I feel like I would classify it as nonfiction. I don’t even feel like that’s a worthy category either, for a book that pulled out so much emotion from me, and from our characters. Part of me wants to say this story starts out, very briefly, with a happily ever after in the past, and then the story reveals the real truth behind that “love” story.

Helena Ross has terminal cancer and only three months to live. She’s trying to get out her last book, her truth, before she dies. But for someone who normally takes a year to write a book, she needs help. Enter in her ghostwriter.

One factor I enjoyed was that Helena and her ghostwriter actually work together, much to Helena’s disappointment. I appreciated that the author took their partnership that direction because I think when I hear the term “ghostwriter”, I just think of someone else doing the work while someone else is fine being the face of the work. So to see this as a collaboration was unique and I enjoyed it.

Helena’s story goes from her rigidity to watching her progress through her illness to watching her heart open up. The way the author shared these extremely personal and intimate moments in Helena’s life was flawless. I aligned with Helena intensely and while she could be harsh, she also was strong in her convictions. Of course, her character makes mistakes but you realize those are part of her personality.

I loved this book. This is the kind of story that you order in paperback and highlight your heart out because there are so many scenes that will resonate with you. I can confidently say this book is one I will remember and it goes down as one of the best stories I have ever had the honor of reading.

 

 

 

Wicked Deeds by Heather Graham

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Wicked Deeds by Heather Graham

Eager to start their life together, historian Vickie Preston and Special Agent Griffin Pryce take a detour en route to their new home in Virginia and stop for a visit in Baltimore. But their romantic weekend is interrupted when a popular author is found dead in the basement of an Edgar Allan Poe–themed restaurant. Because of the mysterious circumstances surrounding the corpse, the FBI’s Krewe of Hunters paranormal team is invited to investigate. As more bizarre deaths occur, Vickie and Griffin are drawn into a case that has disturbing echoes of Poe’s great works, bringing the horrors of his fiction to life.

The restaurant is headquarters to scholars and fans, and any of them could be a merciless killer. Except there’s also something reaching out from beyond the grave. The late, great Edgar Allan Poe himself is appearing to Vickie in dreams and visions with cryptic information about the murders. Unless they can uncover whose twisted mind is orchestrating the dramatic re-creations, Vickie and Griffin’s future as a couple might never begin…

This book is definitely unique from other Krewe of Hunters books from Heather Graham. First, this is third book where Vickie and Griffin are present as the main couple. I really enjoy their characters and appreciate getting to spend more time with them. The other thing that is different with this story is that I laughed several times during this story. From the synopsis, we know that Edgar Allan Poe makes an appearance in this book and his character is really quick-witted and sharp (as one would expect).

One scene stands out to me and it’s Vickie and Poe in her car and she calls him a name; for one second, she’s horrified and I laughed really hard. It only gets better as the story went on. The reason this really stood out to me that this book still has the trademark history and suspense that readers expect from Heather Graham. The slices of humor added another level to an already great story.

Another factor that stands out in this story is that we get to see Vickie and Griffin’s relationship grow deeper, but we also see Vickie’s skills in the paranormal strengthen. She hasn’t entered the academy yet but she’s just getting ready to start in this story. If you’ve read “Dying Breath” and “Dark Rites”, then you’ll get to see Vickie grow and develop and that’s something I always enjoy in characters. You could still read this story as a standalone, but my honest thoughts are that you’ll enjoy this story a lot more if you’ve read “Dying Breath” first.

The ending of this story is a flurry of activity and I had a lot of respect for the author spinning the ending for the reader. The ending is dramatic but it’s also a little different from other Krewe of Hunter books, and again, I appreciated how this author can add slight touches to make the story different, and still stay true to the series and what readers have come to know and love.

If you enjoy reading books about the paranormal, mysteries, or Heather Graham in general, you will love this book. It’s incredible to see this author who has been writing for years and years still be able to switch it up and give readers a story like never before.