My Review – Love Held Captive

My Review - Love Held Captive


After the War Between the States, a Confederate officer longs to heal the heart of a beautiful woman—but first he’ll have to right the wrongs that were done to her.

Major Ethan Kelly has never been able to absolve himself of the guilt he feels for raiding a woman’s home shortly before he was taken prisoner during the Civil War. He is struggling to get through each day until he once again crosses paths with Lizbeth Barclay—the very woman he is trying to forget.

Life after the war is not much different for former Captain Devin Monroe until he meets Julianne VanFleet. He knows she is the woman he’s been waiting for, but he struggles to come to terms with the sacrifices she made to survive the war.

When Ethan and Devin discover that their former colonel, Adam Bushnell, is responsible for both Lizbeth’s and Julianne’s pain, they call on their former fellow soldiers to hunt him down. As the men band together to earn the trust of the women they love, Lizbeth and Julianne seek the justice they deserve in a country longing to heal.

Why This Book:

My first attempt at a historical fiction novel was set in early nineteenth century Texas, so the setting of this novel immediately caught my attention.  Then the premise of a man falling for the woman whose home he previously raided absolutely hooked me. Guess that’s why they call it a “hook.” 😉

Opening Line (from Chapter 1):

The Menger Hotel San Antonio, Texas
Thursday, October 31, 1867

She never should have had her back to the door.

First Impressions:

Above I shared the first line from the first Chapter because I felt it stood stronger as a stand alone sentence than the first sentence of the prologue. However, the prologue takes us through Ethan Kelly’s raid of Lizbeth Barclay’s home. For me, this prologue was the ultimate test of the author’s skill – to make us understand and care for a man raiding the home of an innocent, vulnerable, and clearly traumatized starving young woman. Fail here and I may despise the hero, leaving me no reason to continue reading. (Who wants to read a romance where an innocent woman falls for an evil man and that is the happily ever after?) Well, I am thrilled to report that Shelley Shephard Gray navigated this minefield with success and finesse. By the end of the prologue I may have questions about Ethan’s choices, but I don’t despise him and I want to see him succeed. So I keep reading.

Quote Image - Love Held Captive - Door


Captain/Major Ethan Kelly – Son of a wealthy family, he has trouble adjusting to normal life after the war.


Lizbeth Barclay – Lost everything in the war – her home, her family, her sense of safety & self worth. Her dreams. When her path reunites with that of Ethan Kelly’s she isn’t living. She’s still just surviving.

Captain Devin Monroe –  A loyal friend, and the choosiest man I’ve ever read about, no woman has ever caught his fancy. Till he meets Julianne Van Fleet.

Julianne Van Fleet – Though she never approached the battle field, nor had her home raided, the war has left her with scars nonetheless. Hers just aren’t the visible kind.

Colonel Daniel Bushnell – (Yes, I know the description names him “Adam Bushnell”, but I assure you, in the novel his name is Daniel.) A twisted man with his own agenda, the power of his military rank went to his head and he isn’t ready to let the power go.

Quote Image - Love Held Captive - Spark

Emotional Engagement & Pacing of the Story:

The stories behind these characters is emotionally powerful and as a reader I became immediately invested in seeing them succeed in finding healing and happiness. The story had me firmly in its grip all the way through to the end. I didn’t want to put it down and I didn’t want to say goodbye when it was over.

Elements I especially liked/disliked:

The unique premise of this book is what hooked me and the author didn’t disappoint in her execution. Not only did this author present unique situations, but she provided fresh feeling characters to experience them.

Quote Image - Love Held Captive - Truth Ally


Recovering from tragedy and making sense of it in the context of God’s goodness.

The difficulty of discerning right and wrong in tragic circumstances.

Forgiveness of self and others.


Without giving too much away, I will say that I loved the twists the author took on her way to this novel’s conclusion. It’s very tempting to say more, but I don’t want to give anything away. Just trust me, you won’t be disappointed by the ending of this novel.

Overall Rating:

5 out of 5 stars

Did I mention Love Held Captive releases TOMORROW? 

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

(none of the links in this review are affiliate links)

Let’s chat!

Which part of this novel most appeals to you?

Have you ever encountered a hero you couldn’t stand? Did you finish that book? What makes you despise a hero?

If you’ve read this novel:  This author handles matters thoroughly dipped in gray – no black or white here – how do you think she did?


He raided her home. Can he earn her trust and win her heart?

Will their past destroy their future?

He won’t let his power go. How many will pay the price?

Rising from tragedy, they must fight for their future.

I didn’t want to put it down, nor say goodbye when it was over. 

This story had me firmly in its grip all the way through the end. 

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

My Review – All of You

My Review - All of You - Monzon


All of You is a dual-timeline romance.

Maryland, Present Day

Jacquelyn Rogers can rebuild anything…except the shambles of her past. A restorer of vintage planes, she’s worked hard to earn the reputation of being one of the guys. The last thing she needs is a former Navy pilot fighting his own inner demons stepping in to defend her from dangers she thought she’d outrun long ago. Some battles must be fought alone.

After a freak accident severs Lieutenant Michael “Finch” Carrington’s dreams, as well as two limbs, he’s left with nothing but a fragile faith and a duty-bound promise to watch out for his friend’s baby sister. A promise she insists is as unnecessary as it is unappreciated. But when she turns the tables and begins to weld together the broken parts of his life, it may be his heart that is in need of protection.

England, 1944

With the world at war yet again, Alice Galloway rejects her father’s traditional expectations and offers her piloting expertise to the Air Transport Auxiliary. She may be a woman in a man’s world, but when she overhears key intelligence, she must find the strength to transcend boundaries and her own fears. Or countless people may die.

Sometimes the past reaches forward to bring hope to the future.

Why This Book:

As I mentioned in a previous post, I had the pleasure of meeting Sandra Barela in June at the SoCal Christian Writers Conference where she invited me to join her Celebrate Lit Team. When I saw the opportunity to join a Celebrate Lit tour for Sarah Monzon’s latest book, All of You, I was immediately excited because I had previously read and enjoyed Monzon’s award-winning debut novel, The Isaac Project. Signing on to this tour was a no-brainer.

Opening Line:

Present Day, 100 Miles off the Coast of Virginia

Lieutenant Michael “Finch” Carrington pulled up the zipper of his green flight suit and stared at the mass on the opposite rack.

First Impressions:

As a dual-timeline novel, this book felt as though it had two first chapters – one for each timeline. Starting with the contemporary timeline was a clever move by Monzon since that scene held the most drama. Beyond that, she did an excellent job putting the reader on a naval ship and showing us what it meant to “Finch” to be there. In a very tangible way, it shows the readers exactly what is at stake and leaves us wanting to know what happens next. Monzon’s second chapter, which reads as the first chapter for her historical timeline, has more dialogue and less action, but does a good job introducing us to another main character, Alice Galloway, and getting us settled in the realities of her world. In fact, one of my favorite quotes is from the second chapter:

She peered down the harbor line looking for any evidence that reality wasn’t a nightmare. That the tension-charged air she’d breathed on the voyage and the hushed whisperings of U-boat threats were due to her falling down a rabbit’s hole like the Alice in Lewis Carrol’s storybook.


Lieutenant Michael “Finch” Carrington –  A young man who’s grown up knowing exactly where he belongs and what he wants from life . . . until a freak accident forever separates him from everything he wanted and expected. He’s forced to reexamine not only his life’s goals, but his very identity. Anyone who has ever grappled with identifying their purpose in life, or faced unexpected tragedy and struggled to make sense of it, will easily relate to this character.

Jacquelyn “Jack” Rodgers – A confident airplane mechanic who specializes in restoring old planes. Capable of caring for herself, her depressed father, and her older brothers, Jack’s not afraid of much . . . except her abusive ex-boyfriend Mitch Stavros. Wanting to believe she can handle anything, Jack fights her fear and resists the assistance Michael and her family try to offer her.

All of You - Shoe Image Quote

Henry Caldwell – A well-liked, confident newspaper reporter with his own agenda, he is attracted to Alice (and she to him) from the start. He won’t take no for an answer when he asks if he may show her around town. His actions following this show him to be good and noble, but he is often away and an unplanned encounter with Alice threatens to destroy their budding relationship.

Emotional Engagement & Pacing of the Story:

While both timelines have their share of action to propel the reader forward, it’s really the character development that kept me reading – especially as regards the contemporary timeline. The author did an excellent job of giving me enough answers to keep me from feeling frustrated while still leaving me with enough questions that I didn’t want to put the book down.

Elements I especially liked/disliked:

I especially enjoyed the fully-developed characters and watching them grow and change in this book. Michael and Alice were both characters enduring or exploring roles in life which I have not read about before (rehabilitating amputee & WWII female pilot), and I always enjoy uniqueness such as that.

As much as I enjoyed this novel, I must be candid in saying that the scene in the forest between Alice and Henry (and to a lesser extent the events immediately leading up to it) made me cringe a bit. I just didn’t buy it. For two reasons: 1) WWII is definitely not my area of historical expertise and I don’t read a ton of fiction set in WWII, but this particular sequence seemed just a tad beyond my sense of plausibility. That said, sometimes reality defies belief, and I would love to learn there is a historical basis for the events described. 2) I just didn’t buy the way Alice and Henry reacted in this scene and the way it all unfolded between them from that point.


For both timelines, there is an overarching theme of self-discovery and finding ones’ purpose in life.


As I mentioned above, the WWII timeline lost a little of its shine for me near the end. Those concluding events and reactions just felt a bit too contrived. I also felt Henry and Alice needed more time than they got after that forest scene. However, it was by no means a terrible ending, and I was very pleased with Jack and Michael’s conclusion and how it played out.

Overall Rating:

3 out of 5 stars

BONUS Mini Review:

Although the books in Monzon’s Carrington Family Series can be read as stand alone books, I prefer to read a series in order whenever possible. Therefore, I made a point to read Monzon’s Finders Keepers before reading All of You, and boy am I glad! Finders Keepers was a fun and fast-paced read with some seriously swoon-worthy moments and true heart! I highly recommend it!  (P.S. If you’ve read it, am I the only one who mentally cast Chris Hemsworth as Trent?)

What do you think of dual timeline romance novels? Can you relate to these characters’ struggles to identify their life’s purpose and/or make sense of tragedy?


Relatable characters make sense of tragedy and find their purpose. #BookReview

Character development that keeps you reading. #BookReview

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

All of you FB banner copy

About the Author

bio photo(1)

Sarah Monzon is a Navy chaplain’s wife and a stay at home mom to the two cutest littles in the world. Playing pretend all day with them isn’t enough, she spends the evenings after their heads hit the pillow to create her own imaginary characters. When she isn’t in the world of make believe, she can be found in the pine forests of western Washington taking care of her family, fostering friendships, and enjoying all the adventures each day brings.

Her debut novel, The Isaac Project, skyrocketed to Amazon bestseller status while her Sophomore book, Finders Keepers, won the 2017 Selah award for contemporary romance.

Guest Post from Sarah Monzon

I’m so excited to be here today and getting this opportunity to hang out with y’all in this virtual world. If you are anything like me, you devour books faster than my son drinks orange juice (and he really loves orange juice!). Because of that, it is sometimes hard to come across a book with a unique premise or a message that you haven’t seen incorporated a thousand times before. As a writer, I always try to bring something fresh to the table.

In the first book of the Carrington Family Series, Finders Keepers, neither of my characters were Christians. What? No Christians in a Christian fiction novel? Most Christian fiction books usually have at least one or both main characters a Christians. Don’t worry, they both found their way to Jesus. With All of You, however, I wanted to take yet an even different approach.

I’ve ready lots of books where the main character is angry or upset with God for such-and-such thing that happened in his/her life (I’ve even written a character like that), but I hadn’t really read a story about a character that, no matter what life threw at him/her, he/she was going to trust in God no matter what. As a life-long Christian, this is a message I can identify with. The “If not, He is still good” resonation that is sometimes harder to hold on to in the midst of pain and struggles.

So, as with all my books, I hope the freshness of the story and the realness of my characters will inspire and uplift you as you travel along with them on their journey.

God Bless.

Blog Stops

September 12: A Baker’s Perspective

September 12: Quiet Quilter

September 13: Books, Books, and More Books

September 13: Jeanette’s Thoughts

September 14: Cordially Barbara

September 14: Smiling Book Reviews

September 15: Avid Reader Book Reviews

September 15: Carpe Diem

September 16: Inklings and notions

September 16: Christian Bookaholic

September 17: Christian Chick’s Thoughts

September 17: Artistic Nobody

September 18: Bookworm Mama

September 18: Remembrancy

September 19: Back Porch Reads

September 19: Kat’s Corner Books

September 20: Just Jo’Anne

September 20: Margaret Kazmierczak

September 21: The Power of Words

September 21: Mary Hake

September 22: 100 Pages per Hour

September 22: Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations

September 23: Zerina Blossom’s Books

September 23: Simple Harvest Reads (spotlight)

September 24: Blossoms and Blessings

September 24: Moments Dipped in Ink

September 25: Kathleen Denly

September 25: His Grace is Sufficient


amazon gift card 25

To celebrate her tour, Sarah is giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card!! Click below to enter. Be sure to comment on this post before you enter to claim 9 extra entries!


My Review – Under the Blackberry Moon

My Review - Under the Blackberry Moon


Just a few days after she gives birth alone in the Northwoods, a recently widowed young Chippewa woman stumbles into a nearby lumber camp in search of refuge and sustenance. Come summer, the camp owner sends Skypilot, his most trusted friend, to accompany Moon Song and her baby on the long and treacherous journey back to her people. But when tragedy strikes off the shore of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula wilderness, Moon Song and Skypilot must depend on each other for survival. With every step they take into the forbidding woods, they are drawn closer together, until the tough questions must be asked. Will she leave her culture to enter his? Will he leave his world to enter hers? Or will they walk away from a love that seems too complicated to last?

With evocative descriptions of a breathtaking landscape, Under a Blackberry Moon will sweep readers into a wild realm where beauty masks danger and only the truly courageous survive, even as the sweet love story along the way tightly grips their hearts.

Why This Book:

I read the first book in Serena B. Miller’s Michigan Northwoods series, The Measure of Katie Calloway, three years ago and it’s one of those books that has always stayed with me. I couldn’t tell you why that one stands out among the dozens (possibly hundreds) I’ve read in the last few years, but it does. And I knew immediately that I wanted to read the next book to see what became of Skypilot, Moon Song and her little boy. It just took me far too long to get around to it.

Opening Line(s):

Bay City, Michigan
May 15, 1868

“Whose squaw are you, girl?”

The hand gripping her upper arm belonged to a man with bad teeth and foul breath.

First Impressions:

As you can see, I couldn’t resist sharing the second line above and it just gets better from there. The novel starts off with a confrontation that had me engaged from the very beginning. Perhaps this was partly due to the fact that I remembered Moon Song from the first book and cared about what happened to her, but I believe any reader would be immediately grabbed by the predicament Moon Song finds herself in in the first scene.

Under the Blackberry Moon Quote Image 2


Moon Song – A young Chippewa widow and mother of Ayasha with more determination, strength, intelligence and sheer willpower to survive than anyone could possibly ask for. Without going into the implausible, this woman embodies my idea of a true life Super Woman. Not without her faults, her courage, loyalty, honesty, and love make her a character you can’t help but admire.

Skypilot – A man out of his depth, he is nonetheless determined to act as Moon Song’s protector until she reaches her people. It’s just too bad for him she doesn’t need one. What’s more, she winds up protecting him most of the time and it’s a sign of how well-suited they are for each other that he handles it so well.

Isabella – The wife of Colonel James Hatchette and mother of infant Archibald. She meets Moon Song and Skypilot on a steamship. There lives intertwine in a surprising way which I won’t reveal, but her personal journey will take you from laughter, to fury, to the verge of tears.

Under the Blackberry Moon Quote Image

Emotional Engagement & Pacing of the Story:

If you’ve read my character descriptions, you’ve undoubtedly picked up on my emotional connection to the characters in this story. Unique from any other story which I can remember reading, this book will take you on an emotional journey you’re not likely to forget any time soon. It’s vivid setting descriptions will have you feeling as though you’re right there with the characters, experiencing every uplifting, heart-rending,  grit-testing moment. I would describe the pacing of this story as a strong and steady urgency to discover what happens next.

Under the Blackberry Moon Quote Image 3

Elements I especially liked/disliked:

I don’t read many books with native american heroes or heroines. They just aren’t usually my cup of tea, but this book is one of the exceptions. I actually really liked that Moon Song came from a different cultural world than the typical historical heroine. Seeing that time and place through her eyes made the entire experience unique.


Under the Blackberry Moon explores the question of what to do when your life plans go completely awry, how to seek God’s will above your own, and what it means to share the gospel of Christ without masking over another culture. Grief and loss and how different people handle those things in their own way is also a topic addressed in this story.


This story didn’t hurry to tie everything up in a nice neat bow. It took its time getting there and I truly appreciated that. Just when I thought I was nearing the end, the author threw in something unexpected that delayed the story’s conclusion in a way that felt natural and satisfying, not at all frustrating. Much like a good chocolate you want to savor, this story takes the time to follow the twists and turns life naturally throws at people. So that when the story finally did conclude, you felt you were able to enjoy every moment and closed the book with a sigh of contentment.

(none of the links in this review are affiliate links)

Overall Rating:

5 out of 5 stars

What’s the last romance novel you read with a native american as one of the main characters? Have you read any of Serena B. Miller’s other novels?


Seeing 1868 Michigan through the eyes of a young Chippewa widow makes this a unique read. – Click to Tweet!

I closed this book with a sigh of contentment. #bookreview @Kathleen Denly – Click to Tweet!

Any reader will be immediately grabbed by the opening scene of this novel. – Click to Tweet!


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

My Review – A Name Unknown

My Review - A Name Unknown


Edwardian Romance and History Gains a Twist of Suspense

Rosemary Gresham has no family beyond the band of former urchins that helped her survive as a girl in the mean streets of London. Grown now, they concentrate on stealing high-value items and have learned how to blend into upper-class society. But when Rosemary must determine whether a certain wealthy gentleman is loyal to Britain or to Germany, she is in for the challenge of a lifetime. How does one steal a family’s history, their very name?

Peter Holstein, given his family’s German blood, writes his popular series of adventure novels under a pen name. With European politics boiling and his own neighbors suspicious of him, Peter debates whether it might be best to change his name for good. When Rosemary shows up at his door pretending to be a historian and offering to help him trace his family history, his question might be answered.

But as the two work together and Rosemary sees his gracious reaction to his neighbors’ scornful attacks, she wonders if her assignment is going down the wrong path. Is it too late to help him prove that he’s more than his name?

Why This Book:

Having previously read and enjoyed Roseanna M. White‘s Ladies of the Manor series, I felt confident that I would enjoy this A Name Unknown as well.  Added to my confidence in the author was the uniqueness of a heroine who is a thief and a hero who writes novels. Such a unique combination promised an interesting read.

Opening Line:

May 1914

Rosemary Gresham may have been a thief, but she was a thief who preferred to work in broad daylight.

First Impressions:

This novel pulled me in the from the very first line. The first scene throws the reader immediately into danger and the first chapter adeptly sets up the rest of the novel. We immediately understand what is at stake and are given strong reasons to care about the heroine and root for her despite her profession. The second chapter introduces the hero and we immediately connect with him and his plight as well. The fact that the hero and heroine are secretly (at least on her part) at cross purposes, yet you want to root for them both, makes for quite a compelling start.

Book Quotes - A Name Unknown - silence cloaks monsters


Rosemary Gresham is a deservedly complex heroine, with a well-developed backstory that supports who she is and why she makes the choices she does. She cares for her “family” to a point of self-sacrifice and it’s this very love which causes her such internal conflict as she begins to grow and change throughout the story.

Peter Holstein is a quieter style of hero. In fact, he and the heroine do a significant amount of communicating through hand-written notes because his stress-aggravated stutter makes speech difficult for him. It could be annoying reading stuttered dialogue throughout an entire book, so when I first realized he had a stutter I was on guard. However, I am happy to report that his stutter in no way detracts from the story, and in fact is handled so well, it becomes a positive quality in this character which highlights his positive virtues. Peter is a noble yet human hero you can admire, sympathize with, and root for.

Emotional Engagement & Pacing of the Story:

From the first scene, this novel held my attention and I never wanted to put it down. While it didn’t make me laugh out loud or cry, I cared strongly for the characters and wanted to see things work out for them in the end.

Book Quotes - A Name Unknown - fiction is truth

Elements I especially liked/disliked:

I especially enjoyed seeing street life in 1914 London through Rosemary’s eyes. Her views on social injustices struck similar chords in my mind and heart and made me root for her all the more.

Peter’s unique position as a man with both German ancestry & royal friendships during a time of impending war provided a very interesting perspective on the events leading up to the first World War. Though I am unsure if it was a conscious intention of the author, I did note that several of the issues he faced were eerily similar to certain things going on in the United States currently or which have occurred here in the past. It provided solid food for thought.


This ending came as a surprise to me – or at least, the way everything happened was surprising. The author managed to throw in some twists that I did not see coming, yet they still made complete sense in hindsight. That is certainly my favorite type of ending, but extremely difficult to pull off. If you ever read this, well done, Ms. White. Well done.

(none of the links in this review are affiliate links)

Overall Rating:

5 out of 5 stars (I honestly can’t think of a single thing I would change about this novel.)

Have you read A Name Unknown? Share your thoughts!

What other novels have you enjoyed which featured a hero and heroine at cross purposes?


5 STARS for this compelling Christian romance with history & suspense! – Click to Tweet!

Treasure was never where one sought it. #ANameUnknown – Click to Tweet!

#BookReview- An Edwardian female thief, an author hiding his identity, & impending world war! – Click to Tweet!

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

Rave Review! – Turtles in the Road

Turtles in the Road

You know that feeling when you finish a book and you just can’t wait to tell someone about it? That’s how I felt when I finished Turtles in the Road by Rhonda Rhea and Kaley Rhea.

Typically, I wait several days to write my reviews so that I’ve had time to process and thoroughly consider my reading experience. I will make notes about the characters and all the various sections I usually include in my regular reviews. Then I schedule the review to come out whenever I can fit it into my blogging calendar.

I haven’t the patience for that today. I just want to be a fangirl for a moment and tell you about this hilarious book I just read! And I want to tell you now. Not in two months when I have an empty Monday.

Seriously. I cannot remember the last book that made me laugh this loud, this often.

I started off reading this book in my usual spot:  in bed beside my sleeping husband. However, that didn’t last long. Within minutes I was shaking the entire bed with the full-body laughter I was desperately trying to contain. You guys, I was smashing a hand over my mouth and it was still escaping in very unflattering snorts. There were tears trickling down my cheeks.

I cannot tell you how much I LOVE LOVE LOVE this book!

Turtles in the Road Quote Image

This heroine is bizarre… and I LOVE IT!  Without giving too much away, one of my favorite scenes involves sports equipment, a turtle, and revenge in the woods. That one had me bent in half, holding my stomach, and swiping the tears away so I could keep reading. And it was just the beginning. The entire book was like the best romantic comedy movie you have ever seen.


Turtles in the Road Quote Image - Turtle Soup

Oh how these two authors must have died laughing as they wrote this novel, because I about died reading it.

You might wonder if the comedy prevented the romance from developing in a believable way, but rest assured it did not. There are legit reasons for these two people to have fallen in love with each other (unlike another book I am currently suffering through and may not finish) and there is a reasonable amount of time allotted for their feelings to grow. This love story has true heart.

In addition to a legit love story, the characters have plausible relationships with God that don’t get in the way of the story, but enhance it. And you never feel preached to. Ever.

I will admit that I noticed the authors break a few writing “rules” and there’s probably even one or two typos I didn’t notice, but you know what? I only noticed them because I was in “edit mode” with my own manuscript at the time and thus extra sensitive to those things. Their rule breaking totally works for me. I could not care less that they do things differently. Because it works.

I will also admit that I almost passed on this book strictly because of the cover. It just isn’t my cup of tea and told me almost nothing about the book… or so I thought. In hindsight I can see how it sorta fits. That said, I am still not a big fan of the cover.


The cover is not the story and the story is SO worth reading! Especially if you’ve been having a tough time lately and just need a good laugh. This is THE book for you! Trust me.

How much do I love this book? I sincerely cannot remember the last time I read any book more than once which was not assigned to me for a class. I am just not a re-reader. There are too many books out there – too many waiting in my TBR pile – to read something twice, regardless of how well written it is. Yet I am seriously contemplating reading this book a second time. Next week. Because it was that enjoyable. And I could do with some more laughs right now.

The link below is NOT an affiliate link. I do not know these authors. I did not even get a free copy for review. I bought it myself. I do not benefit from you buying or reading this book in any way. I only decided to give this book a try because a fellow blogger had raved about it. So trust me on this one. If you love contemporary, clean romantic comedy, you will love this book.

BUY IT! BORROW IT! READ IT! Today! You can thank me later. 🙂

Amazon | Barnes and Noble

My Review – Love at First Laugh

My Review - Love at First Laugh


Dive into eight brand new contemporary Christian romantic comedies from some of your favorite inspirational authors.

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.

Second Impressions by award-winning author Pepper Basham
He likes streamline. She prefers embellishments. His forte is business. Hers is atmosphere. Will they realize each has what the other needs most to create the perfect romance with a touch of Jane Austin flair?

Mowed Over by USA Today bestselling author Christina Coryell
A tiny, chatty fairy artist with multicolored pastel hair. A burly, bearded landscaper who can’t get a word in edgewise. They have nothing in common, but is that enough to keep them apart?

An Informal Affair by award-winning author Heather Gray
She’s tired of waiting for happily-ever-after, so she takes matters into her own hands…with online dating. He has the worst bad-date streak ever. How will God show two people who are determined to do things their own way that He’s had a perfect plan all along?

A Heart Restored by Elizabeth Maddrey
She renovates old houses. Can he restore her heart?

Unleashing Love by Jessica R. Patch
She’s a dog walker who agrees to a full-time position caring for a puppy. In total shock, she’s handed a precious baby girl. He’s a construction mogul who’s taken his infant niece into temporary relative placement — keyword: temporary. Unless the sassy southern nanny can change his mind…and his heart.

A (nearly) Normal Nanny by Krista Phillips
Normal is highly overrated…

That’s When I Knew by award-winning author Laurie Tomlinson
When two childhood sweethearts find themselves thrown together on the road to a trade show that could save her career, past mistakes threaten to ruin her chances—and the possibility of rekindling a romance. Will the end of the summer find them apart once again?

A Time to Laugh by USA Today bestselling author Marion Ueckermann
When an unexpected inheritance and a lung disease diagnosis coincide, a missionary couple realizes God is telling them it’s time to retire. But sometimes retirement comes with strings attached. Will their life-long dream be a blessing or a curse?

Why This Book:

Well there were several reasons, actually:

  1. I enjoy novellas.
  2. Pepper Basham is one of the included authors.
  3. Romantic Comedy may be my favorite kind of anything – book, movie, song, ice cream.  (Is there a romantic comedy ice cream? Because if there is, I’d probably love it.)

Opening Line(s):

Second Impressions:  Birthdays were not her happy place.

Mowed Over:  With the magnifying glass dangling from the contraption atop her head, Willow Sharpe barely touched the tip of her toothpick into the black ink and made one more slight adjustment to the book that measured only an inch in height.

An Informal Affair:  Lia Promise stared at eh man across the table from her. 

A Heart Restored:  “You did what?”

Unleashing Love:  Just once Emma Kate Lambert wanted to be the center of the sandwich and not the crust. 

A (nearly) Normal Nanny:  “… eighteen-one-thousand, nineteen-one-thousand, twenty-one-thousand! Ready or not, here I come!”

That’s when I knew:  Bless her heart.

A Time to Laugh:  Arms still extended on the Vortex Spin Bike’s handles, Elizabeth Dunham sat back down on the narrow seat.

First Impressions:

Since the first novella in the Love at First Laugh collection was Pepper’s, I’ll use her beginning for my “first impression.” Now you know I’m a major Pepper Basham fan, but I have to admit, I just wasn’t feeling it at the start of Second Impressions. Knowing Pepper, though, I kept reading and eventually I warmed to the story.

Love At First Laugh - Intelligence Quote Image


The characters in these stories ran the gamut from a popular fairy artist to a retired missionary. Yet they each held their own when it came to keeping my attention and engaging my heart. Although you can’t typically flesh out any character in a novella to the same depth that you can in a full-length novel, these characters came across as three-dimensional and real.

Love At First Laugh - Overthinking Quote

Emotional Engagement & Pacing of the Story:

Some of the novellas were page turners while others kept me reading at a steady pace, but none of them bored me. There were some I related to more than others, but I was rooting for each and every relationship to succeed.

Elements I especially liked/disliked:

My favorite novella in this collection would have to be Mowed Over by Christina Coryell, because I felt her characters were the most unique. Perhaps it’s because I have a crafty side and three active young boys at home so I could relate to her angst over her little fairy village being threatened by the big nasty mower. Whatever it the reason, Mowed Over is the story that made me smile the most.

However, I have to add that I enjoyed the surprise of the final novella in the collection being very different from the rest. I’m not sure you can call it a romance in the classic sense (the couple is already married and very much in love at the start of the story and that never changes), but the story very much reflects true love in action both through the couple themselves and through their relationship with God.



I was very satisfied with each of the endings in this collection. Some I enjoyed more than others, but that’s inevitable.

(none of the links in this review are affiliate links)

Overall Rating:

I always have a difficult time reviewing novella collections because it’s like reviewing a box of chocolates. They’re usually all pretty good. Some are amazing. Some are just okay. In the end, you just wanted chocolate and chocolate is what you got. So you’re happy.

I would say the same could be said about this collection (although I’m having trouble thinking of any of them as “just okay”).  I would definitely read more work by any of these authors.

4 out of 5 stars

What do you think of including a non-romance in a romantic comedy collection?


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My Review – A Twist of Faith


Will a wager against her future steal her chance at true love?

Dr. Adelina Roseland has worked ten years in research as an accent reduction specialist to attain her dream job. But a secret wager to transform Appalachian cattle farmer Reese Mitchell into corporate material challenges Adelina in ways she never expected, threatening her new position.

For one, Adelina didn’t plan for the faith and friction of Reese, or the unexpected influence of his chaotic family. Now, drawn into a culture she’d tried to forget, Adelina finds the warmth of family, the hope of faith, and the joy of love melting away the deep wounds of her past.

But when Reese discovers that he’s a pawn in her climb up the academic ladder, will he forgive Adelina’s deceit or will their miscommunication end in two broken lives?

Why This Book:

As with my last review, this choice was all about the author. If you have been following my blog you know that I absolutely adore Pepper’s Penned in Time historical romance series. So when I heard she was releasing a contemporary romance, I knew I had to give A Twist of Faith a chance.

Opening Line:

PHD was not supposed to smell like this.

First Impressions:

Above is the actual first line of Pepper’s novel. However, the book opens with a quote from Pygmalion, Act 1:

“Remember that you are a human being with a soul and the divine gift of articulate speech:  that your native language is the language of Shakespear and Milton and The Bible; and don’t sit there crooning like a bilious pigeon.”

In fact, each of the chapters in this novel begins with a Pygmalion quote. The quotes appropriately set the stage for what is to come and add a unique element of fun and familiarity to the reading.

The first paragraph continues from the first line to describe the contrast between her perceived prestigious new title – Ph.D. – and her less-than-prestigious new surroundings – namely farmland aromas.  Living not so far from farmlands myself I could instantly smell the particular odors Pepper is referring to and it made me chuckle when she concluded her second paragraph with “Country charm it was.”


Adelina Roseland – (First, can I just say how much I love this name in a contemporary romance?) She is less than happy to have returned to her home region of the Appalachians. Her entire focus has been to educate and work her way out of this area and into the big city, but life has thrown her a detour she couldn’t avoid. She’s determined to make it the briefest detour possible until the unexpected warmth and acceptance of the people in her new home force her to reconsider not only her career and life goals, but the very lens through which she has always viewed life and God. She is a well-developed character with layers and depth. She isn’t perfect, but I was definitely in her corner and sympathetic to her flaws.

Reese Mitchell – Loaded with baggage of his own, widower Reese must find his way around and through his emotional scars to follow the incredible pull of his attraction to Adelina. Adding to the complexity is his love and concern for his two young children who are growing attached to the new lady in their lives. This is no two-sided hero, but a richly written man you’ll cheer on through the end.

Rounding out the cast are:  Adelina’s colleague, Dr. Alex Murdock, and Reese’s family, which includes his spunky widowed mother, a few meddling sisters, a big brother battling cancer, and a young niece. None of these characters fall flat and each has their own personality, strengths, and struggles which add to the story.

Emotional Engagement & Pacing of the Story:

This isn’t an edge-of-your-seat page turner, but it does keep you reading. There is a gentle but persistent tug to the story which makes you want to know what happens next without making you feel breathless. Though there is some predictability to the plot given its Pygmalion references and the fact that it is a romance, there is nothing boring or disappointing about it. Instead, those elements are received with a sense of enjoyable familiarity. Like cuddling up in your favorite blanket.

Although I struggled to really like Adelina in the very beginning, by the end of the first chapter I was emotionally engaged with the characters and I wanted to see how the story played out. I laughed out loud. I held my breath. My heart ached for them. I grin that silly grin of a romantic ending well earned.

Elements I especially liked/disliked:

I quite enjoyed the Pygmalion quotes along the way. It made for a unique reading experience.

I also enjoyed how unintentionally poor word choices and believable emotional reactions played out in the story with real impact.

Additionally, I appreciated how Pepper showed that grief is not a linear path but one that ebbs and flows and sometimes surprises us with how it pops back into our lives even after we think it has passed.


Don’t judge a book by its cover could be part of the theme, but I think it goes deeper than that. I think the true theme for this book deals with judging an entire group of people based on an experience with one or two of them.

The book also deals with the parent-child bond, as well as the struggle of forgiveness and how the granting or withholding of it affects a person’s life.

Finally, there is an ongoing consideration of what true love really looks like, as well as whether and how dreams can change.


I was very pleased with how the twists near the end brought things full circle and even pushed the characters to overcome final emotional hurdles. There is a heart-warming depth and truth to the love the two main characters develop in the end. Nothing shallow in this story.

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Overall Rating:

4 out of 5 stars

What do you think of Pepper’s contemporary romance? Do you have a preference between historical or contemporary romance in general?


A talented historical author conquers contemporary romance with depth and humor. – Click to Tweet!

Don’t miss Pepper Basham’s Pygmalion in the Appalachians. – Click to Tweet!

Like cuddling up with a favorite blanket, this romance will warm your heart. – Click to Tweet!

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