My Rapid Review – Once Upon A Laugh: Eight Novellas With Laughter And Happily-Ever-After

My RAPID Review - Once Upon a Laugh

Today I’m sharing not just one, but eight rapid reviews! That’s because reviewing this collection as a whole would simply not do justice to the wonderful stories contained within its pages.

Since I’ll be rapidly reviewing each these novellas individually, I’m going to start off by sharing the overview description for the collection. Then I’ll work my way through each book in the order they are presented in the collection.

about-the-book-2

Ready for a book collection you can’t put down?

Eight brand new contemporary Christian romantic comedies are here to keep you company. Some of your favorite inspirational authors have come together in this collection of all-new novellas.

From light-hearted romance to laugh-out-loud love, this set will put a smile on your face and keep you reading long into the night.


Jane by the Book

Jane by the Book

by Pepper Basham

She lives by the plans. He talks to imaginary characters. Can they team up to solve a family mystery?

Four years ago, Jane Warwick escaped the shame and heartbreak of being jilted at the altar by becoming a housekeeper at the secluded Inn at Simeon Ridge. Predictable and quiet, the inn helps Jane find a place to heal and celebrates her strengths, where she is promoted to head housekeeper. But an unexpected visit to Bath, England, upsets Jane’s plans and sends her out of her comfort zone, directly into the harrowing path of historical detective author, Titus Stewart.

The only plans Titus sticks to are family holidays and the ones that send him careening into his story worlds, but when an uptight and nervous innkeeper stumbles into his life – and his latest novel – nonfiction begins to take on a much more interesting gleam.

As the unlikely pair delve into the mystery behind a one-hundred-and-fifty-year-old letter, will they both uncover a romance that stands the test of time?

My Thoughts

Titus is definitely one of my favorite heroes of this year. His personality is so fun to read and the way he treats Jane just melts my heart. Watching the two of them get to know each other while working to solve the mystery of Jane’s ancestor was both heartwarming and hilarious.  This fun story features unique characters you won’t soon forget.

Jane by the Book is fully readable as a stand-alone novella, but the couple from Pepper Basham’s Second Impressions do play a major part in this story and reading Jane by the Book before reading Second Impressions will result in certain spoilers. So I would recommend reading Second Impressions before reading Jane by the Book.

Favorite Quotes:

Maybe he could walk close enough to see her face and her book as he disembarked. Or he’d just look like the good-natured stalker he was.

Real life is filled with enough sad endings. I stick to the happy ones when I have the chance to read.

Someday you’re going to look back on your life and wish you’d taken a chance. The only way to become braver is to step out into what you fear.

You are significant. God doesn’t make mistakes, and He’s been working on your story much longer than you have.

If God can use a talking donkey and a group of disgruntled fishermen, I think he can inspire an author with the right heart and abilities to create a story that will touch people’s lives.

(Note to Pepper Basham should you happen to stop by:  I am going to print this last one and post it near my computer. Thank you!)


Crossed Out

by Christina Coryell

Ruth Erickson always spends her morning break doing the crossword puzzle. Tate Darrow just messed it up. What’s that old saying about love and war?

Ruth Erickson is good at crossword puzzles. Stupid good at crossword puzzles. It might even be her thing, if that weren’t a sad thing to claim as a thing. She would probably say her thing was taking care of her daughter, Emily, a spunky nine-year-old with a dog fascination. Maybe being a waitress. but she was mainly good at that in order to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads.

In light of that knowledge about crosswords, it’s perfectly understandable why she freaked out when Tate Carrow started writing on her crossword puzzle at the cafe. Who does that? Besides, she didn’t know at the time that he’d taken a sabbatical from his job as a photojournalist to visit his ailing father. Certainly didn’t know that his sudden inheritance of a dilapidated mountain cabin and a moody dog had him out of sorts.

Love is definitely in the air. Puppy love – between Emily and the dog. Romantic love between Ruth and Tate would be infinitely more puzzling. And yet . . .

My Thoughts

My first introduction to the delightful writing of Christina Coryell was the first book in her Beards and Belles series, Mowed Over. It was so different and fun to read that I immediately knew I wanted to read more by this author. When I realized Crossed Out featured the hero’s sister from Mowed Over, I was very eager to see how the author brought together the single mom’s love story. And Christina didn’t disappoint. Ruth and Tate are both deep characters that will tug at your heartstrings and make you root for their healing as much as their romance.

Favorite Quotes:

Kids at yard sales were nearly impossible to corral. Grandmas watching kids at yard sales were like wild mustangs, throwing caution and quarters to the wind.

Sometimes it’s only after you have the answer that you can look back and see the clues clearly.


if-she-daresIf She Dares

by Mikal Dawn

He’s a board game champion, but can he win her heart?

Lia Walker burned the bridges—and her boss’s tie—when she quit her job at a car dealership to go work for the chancellor of a prestigious university. But when she arrives only to find out she can’t start her job, she’s burning with only one question: how will she pay her rent?

Garrison McGarville returned from working in Europe a champion—of a Ticket to Ride board game tournament. But his latest job—informing a distressed beauty she doesn’t actually have a job yet—has him feeling more like a loser.

When Garrison comes up with what he hopes is a game-winning move, will Lia dare to accept?

My Thoughts

I think the description says a lot about why I laughed so hard while reading this story. With a heroine who sets fire to her boss’s tie and a hero whose claim to fame is winning a board game tournament, how could things possibly be boring? From the very first page I was engaged with these characters and I enjoyed every moment of watching their relationship develop.

Favorite Quotes:

She couldn’t talk when it came to books piled on her coffee table. And end table. And bedside table. And kitchen table. After all, tables were just a different version of a shelf, right?

She stared at him.

He stared back.

Silence.

‘No.’ He couldn’t be implying what she thought he was trying to imply. No. Stinkin’. Way.

He grinned, looking like a dark-haired Dennis the Menace.

‘I quit.’

 


Definitely

by Heather Gray

Dating isn’t on her to-do list. Dating a pastor? Definitely not.

Annie Flamingo is a widow, mother of a precocious nine-year-old, and the owner of Pink Flamingo Graphic Design. Her life is busy 24/7. She has no time for a relationship, let alone a relationship that comes with a ready-made set of expectations and responsibilities. No way, no how.

Paul Larkin took a nontraditional path to the pastorate, but he’s there now. As pastor of Trinity Community Church, he takes his job seriously. People expect him to be steady and strong, a man of composure. Being a pastor doesn’t stop him from being a man, though, and this man sees a woman he’d like to get to know better.

Can two people who want such different things be right for each other? God’s the only one who’s going to be able to sort out this mixed-up mess.

My Thoughts

Oh, this heroine and I could definitely be friends … minus the coffee thing. I don’t do coffee. But in so many other ways she and I can relate. I may not be a widow (thank you, Lord) and have never dated a pastor, but I have definitely been in a position where I basically made God drag me kicking and screaming down the path He wanted me to follow. LOL Thank you, Lord, for your infinite patience and love. If you’ve ever pulled a Jonah, this is a story you’ll relate to as well. Plus it’s just plain funny to watch it all go down.

Favorite Quotes:

She’d watched him preach dozens of sermons, and she’d never once seen the expression currently on his face. It was like befuddlement had collided with bemusement, and together they’d decided to have a knock-down-drag-out brawl with bewilderment.

Annie did what any normal, healthy, intelligent adult woman would do in the same situation.

She packed up her daughter and fled. From her pastor. Not from evil. She was still fairly convinced he wasn’t evil.

Every person should have people who loved him or her enough to give an open-armed welcome on a moment’s notice.

 


Under the Honey MoonUnder the Honey Moon

by Jessica R. Patch

A honeymoon cottage reunites a pair of childhood friends. Can it offer them a future filled with happily-ever-after?

When B&B owner Juliet Miller’s childhood crush shows up on her doorstep, she thinks he’s come to honor a pact and pop the question. But he’s already engaged and offers her a bargain she can’t turn down. Bowie Nichols has always seen Juliet as a friend until shifting feelings has him second guessing whether or not he’s marrying the right woman.

My Thoughts

She may share a name with the infamous Shakespearean character, but she has no interest in living out her own tragedy–she insists the famous play is not a romance. Juliet has built her business around newly married couples and made it her mission to help them experience a little bit of fairytale bliss. Trouble is, she can’t seem to find any romance of her own. Well, that’s not true, exactly. Things just aren’t going exactly the way she expected. To say the least. Still, this heroine manages to show God’s true love and grace in circumstances that would make many of us turn into Grumpy of the seven dwarves. Seeing her get her happily ever after? That’s enough to make any reader’s day.

Favorite Quotes:

She did a little line dancing along the side of the road and twirled in the moonlight as she edged up Honey Hill.

“I’m fine. It’s not like I haven’t fallen off roofs before.” He paused. “I’ve actually fallen off a lot of them.” His eyes widened as if he’d had some kind of revelation. “I’d be a terrible Santa.”

“I don’t think broken marriages should diminish the beauty and amazement of marriage itself. I have to believe that even in those painful break-ups, there is wonder and beauty to find–in God.”

 


A Wildly Wonderful WeddingA (wildly) Wonderful Wedding

by Krista Phillips

They may be the worst maid of honor and best man in the history of weddings…

Five years ago, Drake and Danielle had a whirlwind summer romance—but on the day they were going to elope, Drake got cold feet and took the coward’s way out. Now a successful business owner, Drake is more than a little concerned when his best friend announces his upcoming nuptials—to the woman he’s only dated a little over a month.

Danielle is shocked when her best friend announces she’s getting married—in two months—to her boyfriend of a while whoppin’ month. And then she meets the best man. Drake? Her friend is marrying the best friend of her ex-fiancé? She has to do something to help her friend see that this hasty wedding is a mistake. But she can’t do it alone.

Will Drake and Danielle be able to work together to stop this crazy, wild wedding, or will they lose their hearts again in the process?

My Thoughts

While whirlwind romances can make for entertaining stories, I often find them irritatingly implausible. This is why I love A (wildly) Wonderful Wedding. It turns the whirlwind romance premise on its head without denying its real-world plausibility–and ramifications. So, as the reader, I got to have my cake and eat it, too.

P.S. The SUV bit was my favorite part. Too funny.

Favorite Quotes:

Drake’s mouth went dry as Danni opened the door–a flirty tilt to her lips, eyes dancing with welcome, wearing a dress a man would have to be dead not to appreciate.

There. At least she no longer looked like a dead woman walking. The ponytail was staying though–although she fixed it so it was more a messy-on-purpose look instead of a messy-because-I-am-a-slob look.

But she was no longer that girl.

She was a woman–and she knew the life-changing, world-shaking, unconditional love of her true Savior now.

She no longer needed someone to rescue her. God had already done that.


Save the Last Word

by Betsy St. Amant Haddox

When conventional meets creative, who will get the last word?

Free-spirited Zoe Armand has never been conventional. From her multitude of odd-jobs to her bad luck in romance, Zoe blazes her own trail–despite the disapproval of her reputation-obsessed parents.

Straight-laced Ben Marshall is back in Memory, Kansas to pack up his Nonny’s apartment after she’d moved into a nursing home. It’s the perfect opportunity to work on his real passion–his secret blog–and avoid his father’s pressure to commit to VP in the family business.

When Zoe is hired to paint a mural in the nursing home, she’s excited for the excuse to hang out with her former neighbor, Ms. Marshall. When she runs into Ben, she discovers her childhood crush never went away. She’s determined to prove herself to her parents and earn Ben’s affection–but a comedy of errors, a secret identity, and a desire to have the last word threatens to keep them apart.

Ben must choose between the chance to win his freedom from his father and protect the heart of the woman who equally fascinates and bewilders him. Will Zoe and Ben find a way around the obstacles blocking true love? Or will Ben’s brief stay in Memory be the last word for them both?

My Thoughts

It’s always fun to see childhood friends grow into something more. Add in a quirky unique heroine with a big heart, a hero with good intentions but steamroller methods, and interfering relatives? You have a perfect recipe for an entertaining story that will keep you turning the pages.

Favorite Quotes:

Ben shut the door behind Zoe. These were the kind of experiences his readers would assume were fiction. But he couldn’t have invented Zoe if he tried.

“Hey, I didn’t beg,” Zoe kicked one foot out of the shadows and into the swatch of moonlight. “I just asked. Repeatedly.”


The Long GameThe Long Game

by Laurie Tomlinson

Whoever said all is fair in love and war never dealt with small-town football…

When the arts budget gets cut to make room for a new football coach, small-town choir teacher Annie Jacobs has one long-shot chance to save the spring musical: kicking a field goal on national television. But she swore off sports—and the spotlight—forever when her last attempt resulted in social annihilation. And the new football coach is the golden boy she pined for in high school, who was there to witness it all.

Hometown hero Ryan Collins has returned to Lake Greencliff to restore the football program to its former glory, the opportunity for redemption after his first coaching tenure ended in disappointment. When he finds out his second chance came at a cost, he agrees to help prepare Annie for the contest. But he doesn’t count on falling for the fascinating woman who fell off the map after high school, or how much she helps him in return.

When the past threatens to repeat itself, crippling old fears resurface. With their jobs and their students’ futures in the balance, can the show–and their budding romance–go on?

My Thoughts

Two kind-hearted people stuck between a rock and a hard place, overcoming increasing odds and old wounds together? Swoon. Plus, I loved seeing Annie’s faith tested and grown as she waited to see how God would provide. The tension just keeps ratcheting up in this story until you’re on the edge of your seat cheering for these two.

Favorite Quotes:

God didn’t create talent like that to be wasted on fear.

High Shool Annie would have assumed that the next thing after gorgeous, untouchable Ryan Collins squeezed her hand would entail waking up in a pile of her own drool.

Let’s Chat! Which of these stories most intrigues you? Have you read anything by these authors before? 

TWEETABLE:

Heartwarming, hilarious, surprising, and engaging to the last word, this novella collection is one not to be missed!

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