My Review: The Thorn Bearer

This review was originally published almost 3 years ago, but some things are worth repeating. In light of Pepper Basham’s upcoming historical romance release, My Heart Belongs in the Blue Ridge – Laurel’s Dream, I thought it timely to recall her first historical romance (the one that made me an instant fan).

Thorn Bearer Review Image

I discovered The Thorn Bearer by Pepper Basham via an Instagram post by RachaelReadsFiction. I followed the link to her blog where she was so enthusiastic about The Thorn Bearer and its upcoming sequel, The Thorn Keeper, that I was compelled to add The Thorn Bearer to my TBR list.

The Story

English born, American raised, nurse Ashleigh has plans to return to her home country and serve in a hospital treating wounded soldiers in war ravaged England. Already harboring a soul-crushing secret, she suffers personal loss and heartbreaking betrayal before setting off across the Atlantic on the doomed Lusitania.

Much to her consternation, she is joined on this journey by her best friend, Sam Miller, who is traveling to England to reunite with his fiancé, Ashleigh’s sister.  “As they travel across the Atlantic, neither is prepared for the life-altering and heart-breaking journey of their friendship.”

When Ashleigh’s secret is thrown into the light, she is forced to deal with the aftermath and struggles to find her hope in God.

The Experience

Most of you will be familiar with the famous poem about God carrying us through our darkest times. As the reader, I could truly see this happening for Ashleigh. The spiritual aspect of this novel is completely organic and seamlessly woven into the story. Wonderfully written, this book has an almost poetic feel to it. The characters are so rich and the setting so real you’ll question whether you’ve actually lived through these significant events in history.

Having said that, I do feel compelled to issue one warning:  If you have a history of abuse, please be aware this book may contain triggers for you.

Whether you’re looking for a true love story, a strong character arc, a page-turning plot, a taste of history, spiritual encouragement, or a sensory feast, The Thorn Bearer has what you’re looking for.  I highly recommend this book!

I give this book 5 out of 5 stars!

As if reading a fantastic book isn’t awesome enough, I was blessed to win an Advance Reading Copy of the upcoming sequel, The Thorn Keeper!

Materials Note:  I purchased my own copy of this book, for my own reading pleasure.

Updated:

Read my review of Book 2, HERE!

Read my review of Book 3, HERE!

My Review – When You Look At Me

My Review - When You Lookt At Me

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An unexpected mother-to-be
A romance-leery composer
And a forgotten melody from the past that holds the keys to their futures

When Julia Jenkins’ great aunt dies and leaves her a Victorian mansion with decades of secrets, Julia never expects to unearth a World War 2 espionage mystery. Struggling with her own past since an assault left her pregnant, her future as a solo parent leaves her dreams uncertain. The inheritance from her great aunt gives Julia the ability to take a step back into her future, but also sends her into the discovery of a love story she’d never anticipated. As she goes through her aunt’s treasured possessions, Julia uncovers some oddly written piano music with a musical code she can’t decipher on her own. Not to worry, introverted Englishman and composer, Henry Wright, is thrust on the scene by a pair of homespun matchmakers who know the ‘right’ man for Julia’s wounded heart.

Henry arrives in Pleasant Gap with the task of composing the soundtrack for his best mate’s newest film. The Jenkins’ family’s southern welcome and gregarious personalities set his reticent nature on edge, but he’s inexplicably drawn to his gentle and music-loving hostess, Julia. Uncertain how to build a friendship with the wounded woman, and rather hopeless in communicating well through words, the bond of music becomes a bridge between her uncertainty and his awkwardness.

But her broken past and his families’ expectations build a wall much greater than the cultures that separate them. As they work together to solve a musical mystery from the grave, will an unlikely romance from the past inspire their hearts to trust in a God who’s written the perfect melody for their lives?

Amazon

Book Quote - When You Look at Me - Searching for Love

Why This Book:

I have been a fan of Pepper Basham’s writing since I read her debut novel, The Thornbearer and have read every book she has written since then.

Opening Lines:

Julia Jenkins was a glass-half-full person.

Well, most of the time.

First Impressions:

The character of Julia immediately intrigued me (although I have to disagree with her assessment of baths & pregnancy – I couldn’t have survived my pregnancies without those long soaks!) and I wanted to know more about her. I wanted to know how she’d gotten into her situation and how she was going to handle it now that she was there.

Main Characters:

Julia Jenkins –  As I mentioned, Julia intrigued me at the start and she continued to hold my interest throughout the book. This is a woman with a quiet strength. The type of person you might not notice when you first enter a room, but whose strength and courage will astound you in times of trial. Most importantly, her faith is a thing of incredible beauty.

Henry Wright – Oh how I love the chuckle Pepper gave me by giving Julia a “Mr. Wright.” Name aside, however, the character of Henry had to grow on me a bit. It wasn’t that I initially disliked him — I liked him right away — but he is so unique and his introversion is expressed in such an unusual manner that it did take some getting used to. In the end, my heart was completely won over by this one-of-a-kind, heart-meltingly loyal, and inspiringly selfless man.

Book Quote - When You Look at Me - Liked her more

Amelia Dawn aka Aunt Millie – Julia’s recently deceased aunt is a source of mystery. A recluse in her old age, Amelia’s life before settling near Pleasant Gap is mostly unknown, despite Julia’s close relationship with her in recent years. Throughout the novel, Julia and Henry attempt to uncover Amelia’s secrets and I have to tell you, what they find is worth the search.

Eisley Jenkins – Heroine of the first book in this series, Eisley is one of Julia’s sisters and longtime girlfriend of Wes Harrison (see below).  Her role is important, but not large in this book, although she does get a couple scenes as the Point of View character. (For anyone not familiar with that term, it means the scene is written as if the reader is in her head, hearing her thoughts, seeing what she sees, etc.)

Wes Harrison –  Hero of the first book in this series, Wes is back in this book as the longtime boyfriend of Eisley and best friend of Henry. As with Eisley, his role is important, but not large in this book.

Nate Jenkins – Father of Julia Jenkins, he is naturally protective of his daughter – even more so given her recent experiences – and he provokes some very entertaining and also very touching scenes in this novel. Fair warning:  one of his scenes had me wiping moisture from my eyes and swallowing a lump in my throat. While not perfect, in many ways, he’s what dads should be.

Book Quote - When You Look at Me - Pregnant

 

Emotional Engagement & Pacing of the Story:

As I stated above, I was immediately engaged by the character Julia and eventually loved the character of Henry. The story maintained a comfortable tension throughout, with the expected increase of intensity growing toward the climax, so of course, I kept reading.

Not only were the hero and heroine of this book engaging, but the secondary characters were equally so. Pepper has done an excellent job developing the Jenkins family and I am looking forward to reading more stories featuring them. Henry’s family was refreshingly dysfunctional and I loved the surprising and compassionate way in which Pepper portrayed them. This book made me laugh out loud, shake my head, and wipe away pesky tears.

Book Quote - When You Look at Me - Bad Idea

Elements I especially liked/disliked:

I’ll begin by stating that this story captured first my interest and then my heart. However,  I admit to not being as big of a fan of the big duet scene between the two main characters which I have read other reviewers rave about. To be clear: I didn’t dislike the scene. I just didn’t love it. I think my lack of enthusiasm can be attributed to my general lack of passion for the lingo of music. While I love listening to it, I am neither a player nor a student of that particular art. Therefore, I think some of the subtler nuances of that side of the story – the various musical vocabulary and phrasing sprinkled throughout the story – may have escaped me. Nonetheless, I never felt that I was in any way lost or confused about what was going on.

Furthermore, there were many, many other things to delight me in this story. I completely related to many of the experiences Julia had in regards to her pregnancy, and, in some ways, I could relate to Henry’s need for moments of solitude. The love which grows between the two main characters is something I couldn’t help but feel in a very real way. The unexpected twists Pepper created in this story kept me very happy as a reader, and as always, her literary gift with words was a music all its own.

Book Quote - When You Look at Me - Bravery

Theme:

God is our source of purpose, courage, and healing.

Ending:

Wonderful and full of small twists you didn’t see coming. This ending is sure to leave you grinning.

Overall Rating:

5 out of 5 stars

Amazon

Let’s chat!

Have you read any of the books in the Pleasant Gap series? What do you think it means to be courageous?

TWEETABLES:

“This story captured first my interest and then my heart.” Read the #BookReview!  @Pepper Basham @KathleenDenly https://bit.ly/2QVNPU2

“This book made me laugh out loud, shake my head, and wipe away pesky tears.”  Read the #BookReview! @Pepper Basham @KathleenDenly https://bit.ly/2QVNPU2

Psst! Feel free to borrow any of the photos above for sharing on social media and remember to tag me @KathleenDenly !


Note: I received a free copy of this book from the author, but was NOT required to write a positive review. You may read my full disclosure of materials HERE.

My Review – An Hour Unspent

My Review - An Hour Unspent

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Once London’s top thief, Barclay Pearce has turned his back on his life of crime and now uses his skills for a nation at war. But not until he rescues a clockmaker’s daughter from a mugging does he begin to wonder what his future might hold.

Evelina Manning has constantly fought for independence but she certainly never meant for it to inspire her fiancé to end the engagement and enlist in the army. When the intriguing man who saved her returns to the Manning residence to study clockwork repair with her father, she can’t help being interested. But she soon learns that nothing with Barclay Pearce is as simple as it seems.

As 1915 England plunges ever deeper into war, the work of an ingenious clockmaker may give England an unbeatable military edge—and Germany realizes it as well. Evelina’s father soon finds his whole family in danger—and it may just take a reformed thief to steal the time they need to escape it.

Amazon

Why This Book:

I have been a fan of Roseanna M. White’s Shadows Over England series since I read book one, A Name Unknown.

Opening Line (from Chapter 1):

May 11, 1915
Poplar, London, England

Barclay Pearce shouldered his way through the mob, invisible.

First Impressions:

Having gotten to know Barclay through the previous two books in the series, it didn’t take much to snag my attention with this opening, but that isn’t to say it wouldn’t have caught my attention otherwise. Well-written and intriguing, I immediately wanted to know more about where Barclay was and what he was doing. The backdrop of espionage, social unrest, and racial tensions in war-time England only added to the page-turning urge.

Main Characters:

Barclay Pearce –  Head of a group – or as they call themselves, “family” – of former street thieves turned government spies, Barclay serves as a sort of father figure/ elder brother figure to the other members of the “family.” He is loyal, intelligent, kind, and, of course, handsome. Fully worthy of his role as the lead in this story, Barclay isn’t without his faults. Which, of course, is why I loved him.

Mr. V – A mysterious man, Mr. V has served as the family’s contact with the government throughout the series. It is wonderful to get to know a tiny bit more about him in this book than in the previous two.

Cecil Manning – Something of a genius and a clockmaker (and toy maker, and inventor), Cecil is head of the Manning family although his relationship with his wife leaves that somewhat debatable. Beloved by his daughter and sought by his country’s government, Cecil is a character I loved rooting for.

Evelina Manning –  Cecil’s daughter, Evelina is highly intelligent in her own right and nothing if not passionate. Her burning desire to change the wrong in the world around her makes her an easy character to love, despite some rather questionable behavior at one point in the book that made me want to shake her just a bit and give her a good-old-fashioned talking to.

Judith Manning – Cecil’s wife and Evelina’s mother, Judith is a complicated woman and not someone you immediately want to invite over to tea. That said, I enjoyed her role in this story – especially regarding the surprises.

Emotional Engagement & Pacing of the Story:

As I said, this book had me from page one and the tension ratcheted up seamlessly from there. At no point did I want to put the book down and more than once I experienced a strong emotional reaction to something a character said, did, or experienced. (See the character descriptions for just a teeny hint of that.)

Elements I especially liked/disliked:

As with the first two books, this story is set against the backdrop of World War I and I thoroughly enjoyed the additional true historical elements Roseanna was able to organically incorporate into this story.  I truly felt as though I’d been there, experiencing the thrill and fear along with the characters.

I honestly can’t think of a single thing I disliked about this novel.

Theme:

I think, even more than the previous two books, this novel really focused on what it means to be a family. It also presents the question of how far we are willing or even should go for love.

Other issues touched on include racism, prejudice, and identity.

Ending:

Thoroughly satisfying and just the right length to wrap up all those little details fans of the series could hope for.

Overall Rating:

5 out of 5 stars

Amazon

Let’s chat!

Have you read any of the books in this series? What do you think it means to be a family?

TWEETABLES:

How far would you go for love? #BookReview

Psst! Feel free to borrow any of the photos above for sharing on social media and remember to tag me @KathleenDenly !


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Read my Disclosure of Materials HERE.

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About the Author

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Roseanna M. White is a bestselling, Christy Award nominated author who has long claimed that words are the air she breathes. When not writing fiction, she’s homeschooling her two kids, editing, designing book covers, and pretending her house will clean itself. Roseanna is the author of a slew of historical novels that span several continents and thousands of years. Spies and war and mayhem always seem to find their way into her books…to offset her real life, which is blessedly ordinary. You can learn more about her and her stories at www.RoseannaMWhite.com.

Guest Post from Roseanna

Last year, as I finished up the writing of An Hour Unspent, my great-grandmother passed away at the age of 103. As I sat at her funeral service and listened to the heartfelt memorial raised up to her by her kids and grandkids, I realized anew that this woman had been a matriarch in the truest sense of the word. She’d taught my family for generations how to love the Lord and each other, how to serve the Lord and each other, and how to trust the Lord and each other. Grandma Seward was, in so many ways, the one who instilled in me my idea of what family really is.

That idea—that it’s those knit together by love more than blood, and that faith is the strongest foundation—is what I built my unusual family of thieves upon in the Shadows Over England series. And strange as it is to liken my twenty-something reformed-thief hero to my 103-year-old-grandmother, Barclay Pearce is very much to his family what Maxine Seward was to mine.

The founder. The caregiver. The leader.

I knew as I began the series that I would write about Barclay in book three, and as I got to know him better throughout the series, I grew so excited to share his story! This is a man who led his family first into and then out of a life a crime, always for the right reasons—so he could provide for the children under his care. All he ever wanted to do was give them what he himself had lost. To show them love. To prove to them that they were worth any sacrifice.

It was truly a blessing for me to get to write the story in which Barclay found someone to come alongside him, to appreciate and learn to understand him. To finally share what started him down this path. I loved the idea that only a reformed thief could steal the time another family needed to overcome their own trials.

There are many historical items in the book that were such fun to explore—watchmaking of the era, the suffrage movement in England, technological advancements of the war—but at the heart, this isn’t a story about any of those.

It’s a story about how far people should go for love. I hope you enjoy Barclay’s story as much as I did!

 

Blog Stops

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Blossoms and Blessings , November 7

Maureen’s Musings , November 8

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Book by BookNovember 8

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Have A Wonderful Day , November 9

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KarenSueHadley , November 10

Tell Tale Book ReviewsNovember 10

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Bibliophile ReviewsNovember 10

Book Bites, Bee Stings, & Butterfly KissesNovember 11

Inklings and Notions , November 11

Two Points of InterestNovember 11

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A Baker’s PerspectiveNovember 11

Henry HappensNovember 12

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Debbie’s Dusty DeliberationsNovember 12

Giveaway

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To celebrate her tour, Roseanna is giving away a grand prize of a signed book, a London mug, and a 48-pack Twinings tea sampler!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the image below to enter.

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My Review – Enchanting Nicholette

My Review - Enchanting Nicholette

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Title: Enchanting Nicholette
Series: The Everstone Chronicles #5
Author: Dawn Crandall
Publisher: Whitaker House
Release Date: October 9, 2018
Genre: Historical Romance

In this captivating novella by Dawn Crandall, Nicholette Everstone is already a widow at the age of twenty-two: her husband was murdered on their wedding day. She has just returned to Boston after two years of mourning in Europe. Although her husband was loving, the marriage was an arranged one, and Nicholette would like to wed again–this time for love…and to someone safe.

As she acclimates to life in Back Bay again, Nicholette meets someone she can’t help but fall for. But when she learns of the danger and sacrifices Cal Hawthorne takes on for the safety of others, will her heart be strong enough to keep her fears of “what if” at bay?

Amazon

Why This Book:

I purchased this novella as part of the Timeless Love novella collection because it contained other stories written by authors I knew and enjoyed. This is the first work I have read by this author. (Only after reading the entire collection did I learn of the book tour for Enchanting Nicholette.)

Opening Line (from Chapter 1):

Boston, Massachusetts
Saturday, June 3, 1893

“I suppose you have a new wardrobe ordered from Paris?”

First Impressions:

I had only a fleeting moment of confusion in the first page or two of this novella. I felt a bit like I was playing catch up from a previous book and I had a tiny bit of trouble wrapping my brain around who the heroine was. However, by about the 4th page I had fully settled in. By the second scene I was hooked.

Main Characters:

Nicholette Everstone –  The widowed heroine whose marriage was arranged at such an early age she never even considered another man and consequently is quite at a loss when she finds herself widowed and, for the first time, having to navigate the 1893 singles’ social scene. How in the world is one meant to flirt?

Silvie Boutilier – William Everstone’s stepsister and a young woman quite adept at flirtation and more than eager to help Nicholette along to her next marriage.

William Everstone – Nicholette’s kind and loving deceased husband.

Cal Hawthorne–  Nicholette’s distant cousin via her marriage to William. He’s a man who knows what he wants and isn’t afraid to go after it, but still puts the needs of others first.

Mabel Hawthorne – Cal’s younger sister and an impulsive, curious young woman with a good heart.

Book Quote Image - Enchanting Nicholette - Goal to Court You

Emotional Engagement & Pacing of the Story:

The hero won my heart with the line, “I would have requested an introduction, but I didn’t think it prudent, considering you were spoken for … and my whole goal in being introduced would have been to court you.” Yes! It is so refreshing to have a man plainly state his interest in such a confident manner. From this point on I was rooting for Cal and Nicholette to figure things out and make it work. I never got bored or tempted to skim. There were certainly enough twists and turns in there to keep things fun and interesting.

Elements I especially liked/disliked:

On the upside, Nicholette and Cal were characters I cared about and rooted for. The story was fun without being fluff, and deep without being depressing. My second favorite scene involves a hidden entrance, but I will say no more. 😉

On the downside, there were a high number of named characters to keep track of for such a short story. I suspect this is because the novella fits into a larger series and I would most likely have already been introduced to many, if not all, of these characters had I previously read any of the books in The Everstone Chronicles.

Theme:

Trusting our future, and those whom we love, in God’s hands.

The consequences of gossip.

Ending:

I have to say that the final scene in this novella must be my favorite. There is such a wonderful and endearing dialogue within it that my romantic heart turned all to mush and I laughed and grinned and sighed with joy.

Overall Rating:

4 out of 5 stars

Amazon

Let’s chat!

Have you read anything written by Dawn Crandall? What do you think of heroes who don’t hold back their emotions?

TWEETABLES:

Yes! It is so refreshing to have a man plainly state his interest in such a confident manner. #BookReview #ChristFic 

Psst! Feel free to borrow any of the photos above for sharing on social media and remember to tag me @KathleenDenly !


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Read my Disclosure of Materials HERE.

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Welcome to the Blog Tour & Giveaway for Enchanting Nicholette by Dawn Crandall, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours.


About the Author

Dawn Crandall

Dawn Crandall‘s debut Gilded Age Victorian romance, “The Hesitant Heiress,” was a 2015 ACFW Carol award finalist in the debut category and received the 2015 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, the 2015 Write Touch Reader’s Choice Award and the 2015 Romancing the Novel Reader’s Choice Award. Her follow-up novel, “The Bound Heart,” received the 2016 Laurel Award from Clash of the Titles. Dawn earned a BA in Christian Education from Taylor University. She’s been balancing books and babies lately as her two sons were both born as the four books of her Everstone Chronicles series were being released from Whitaker House from 2014 to 2016. Dawn lives with her husband and two young sons on a hobby farm in her hometown in northeast Indiana.

CONNECT WITH DAWN CRANDALL: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram


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TOUR GIVEAWAY

(1) Winner will win:

  • A print copy of Enchanting Nicholette
  • A library card zipper bag
  • Two pairs of Jane Austen socks
  • Two hand poured candles
  • A historically accurate soap from Austen’s time
  • A Jane Austen set of playing cards
  • A set of Jane Austen notecards
  • 6 magnets with Jane Austen quotes

(US Mailing Addresses Only)

Enter via the Rafflecopter giveaway below. Giveaway will begin at midnight October 29, 2018 and lasts through 11:59pm November 12, 2018. Void where prohibited by law. US addresses only. Winners will be notified within a week of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen.

Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.

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Follow along at JustRead for a full list of stops!

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Don’t forget to pick up your copy of Enchanting Nicholette!

LINKS: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository | BAM! | Christian Book

My Rapid Review – Holding the Fort

My RAPID Review - Holding the Fort

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Louisa Bell never wanted to be a dance-hall singer, but dire circumstances force her hand. With a little help from her brother in the cavalry, she’s able to make ends meet, but lately he’s run afoul of his commanding officer, so she undertakes a visit to straighten him out.

Major Daniel Adams has his hands full at Fort Reno. He can barely control his rowdy troops, much less his two adolescent daughters. If Daniel doesn’t find someone respectable to guide his children, his mother-in-law insists she’ll take them.

When Louisa arrives with some reading materials, she’s mistaken for the governess who never appeared. Major Adams is skeptical. She bears little resemblance to his idea of a governess–they’re not supposed to be so blamed pretty–but he’s left without recourse. His mother-in-law must be satisfied, which leaves him turning a blind eye to his unconventional governess’s methods. Louisa’s never faced so important a performance. Can she keep her act together long enough?

My Thoughts

Louisa Bell is tough, determined, creative, and resourceful. She is also loyal, loving, and incredibly vulnerable as a young woman with no family beyond her younger brother, Bradley Willis. Yet, she doesn’t hesitate to put her own future on the line to come to his aid. She didn’t intend to deceive anyone, but in the end, decides going along with the mistaken identity is in everyone’s best interests. As the reader, it is easy to understand how she winds up in the mess she finds herself in, and your heart is torn with hers regarding how to extricate herself with the least amount of damage.

Major Adams is an equally likable character as a widower concerned with the proper upbringing of his daughters yet not wanting to be separated from them. He is continuously harassed and second-guessed by his mother-in-law. And to top it all off, he doesn’t know what to make of the unusual governess who is far too attractive for his own good.

There are several moments of hilarity brought about by the bungled acts of deception, the antics of children, and the foolishness of pride. There are heartwarming scenes of chess games between the two main characters, bonding moments with the daughters, and loyalty between the heroine and her brother. Then there are the heartbreaking, heartstopping moments brought about by the dangers–both expected and unexpected– which originate from a variety of sources.

With well-developed characters, a plot line that grabs your heart and keeps you turning pages, humor that perfectly balances the heavier events, and descriptions that make you feel you’ve been there, Holding the Fort is yet another fantastic example of why I am such a huge a fan of Regina Jennings’s books.

Available: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Christianbooks

BONUS! It’s recently been released on Audible!!!

Additional Reading:  If you’ve already enjoyed Holding the Fort, you’ll also enjoy seeing Louisa’s brother, Private Bradley Willis, meet his match in Bound and Determined – available both individually and as part of the Hearts Entwined novella collection. (Pssst: the collection is great!!!) Also, the second full book in the Fort Reno series, The Lieutenant’s Bargain, is currently availabe for pre-order and scheduled to release December 4th.

Let’s Chat! Which of Regina’s books have you most enjoyed? 

TWEETABLE:

Yet another example of why I am such a huge fan of Regina Jennings’s books! #BookReview @ReginaJennings @KathleenDenly https://bit.ly/2wGJprA

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.

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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!

My Rapid Review – The Reluctant Groom

My RAPID Review - The Reluctant Groom

about-the-book-2

When everything goes wrong, can two friends discover true love?

When Ray O’Brien’s world is turned upside down, Katie Fairchild wants to help, but the personal cost is high. Neither desires a marriage of convenience, but when Katie blurts the first thing that comes to her mind Ray can’t dismiss her offer of marriage. It would solve all his problems except for one thing—they aren’t in love.

Can these two friends team up for the greater good and perhaps find love along the way, or are their expectations impossible?

My Thoughts

This book took me by surprise in a very good way. I didn’t realize I had certain expectations of the plot until I started reading and had my expectations thrown out the window. I can’t tell you how difficult it is to find a refreshing take on the usual marriage of convenience story, but Kimberly Rose Johnson has done it. The characters in this story and their motivations and choices felt so refreshingly unique and real. It was like they could be my neighbor or my friend.

There was one particular part which I absolutely loved. Without giving too much detail away, I will say that big plans were made, but they didn’t turn out as expected and what made that so fantastic is that they didn’t go melodramatically wrong. Things just sort of played out in a very true-to-life, relationships-are-messy sort of way.

I am delighted by the unique perspective this author has demonstrated in this story and look forward to reading more novels by her.

Absolutely a FIVE-STAR book! 🙂

Let’s Chat! Which book have you read recently that took you by surprise?

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Looking for a refreshing take on a marriage of convenience? Look no further! #BookReview