Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Meeting Her Match (The Matchmakers #3) by Jen Turano

Meeting Her Match (The Matchmakers #3)
By Jen Turano
Published by Bethany House
Publication Date: July 16, 2024
Description from the publisher:
Miss Camilla Pierpont, a renowned matchmaker and influential member of the New York Four Hundred, has vowed never to marry after suffering a devastating heartbreak during her debut years ago. However, when she is nearly abducted along the Hudson River, she finds herself rescued by an annoyingly outspoken, albeit fascinating, gentleman who challenges her in a manner she wasn't expecting.
After learning that Camilla Pierpont has enjoyed success with taking wayward young ladies in hand, Mr. Owen Chesterfield travels to the Hudson River Valley determined to convince Camilla to sponsor his sister, who is in desperate need of social rehabilitation.
Knowing her life is in danger, Camilla agrees to Owen's proposition and travels with him to West Virginia, finding herself charmed by the less-than-formal attitude of his small hometown, as well as by Owen himself. But danger waits in the shadows, disrupting what she knows would be the most spectacular match she's ever made--her own.

About the Author: 
Named one of the funniest voices in inspirational romance by Booklist, Jen Turano is a USA Today bestselling author, known for penning quirky historical romances set in the Gilded Age. Her books have earned Publishers Weekly and Booklist starred reviews, top picks from Romantic Times, and praise from Library Journal. She's been a finalist twice for the RT Reviewers' Choice Awards and had two of her books listed in the top 100 romances of the past decade from Booklist. She and her family live outside of Denver, Colorado. Readers can find her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and at Photo Credit: © Emilie Haney, EAH Creative
Facebook | nstagram | Website

My Review:
Jen Turano's latest book has all the hallmarks of her writing that fans love: charming characters (including several eccentric ones), hiliarious happenings, entertaininlgy digressive dialogue, and, of course, a lovely romance (or two...or three...or...I lost count in this one! There were a lot!) There are so many funny moments and this book is guaranteed to keep readers giggling. My one quibble is that I wish we'd seen Owen and Camilla together more--there were so many side characters that they took up a lot of page time...and while I can't pinpoint any scenes that I'd get rid of, Camilla and Owen were just so cute together that more of them together would have been nice.

4 stars.

I read an ARC provided by the author. All opinions are my own. 

Thursday, June 27, 2024

Into the Starlight by Amanda Cabot

Into the Starlight (Secrets of Sweetwater Crossing #3)
By Amanda Cabot
Published by Revell
Publication Date: July 16, 2024

Description from the publisher:
After more than a year in Europe, Joanna Vaughn returns to Sweetwater Crossing, her dreams of becoming a concert pianist shattered. As if that weren't enough, her husband, whom she married after a whirlwind courtship, has died. The only thing sustaining her on the journey back to Texas was the thought of her childhood home. But to Joanna's dismay, she's changed so much that the place she once loved no longer feels like home.
After his fiancée married his partner and both blamed him for a patient's death, Dr. Burke Finley believes it's time for a change. A quick trip with his almost-aunt Della Samuels to Sweetwater Crossing turns into an extended stay to discover what happened to his uncle and her would-be husband. But the beautiful and musical Joanna makes it more than bearable.
As the two join forces to help Della, there is no denying the attraction felt on both sides. But ghosts from the past are coming to call--and threatening to destroy any chance at happily-ever-after.

My review:
Having highly enjoyed the other two books in this series, I was eager to read Joanna's story. and see how some questions for the earlier book (especially what happened to Clive) would be answered. I liked both Joanna and her leading man, Burke--and it was fun to have a sweet side romance with Burke's "aunt" Della and the minister. I liked how Joanna and Burke were friends, working together to solve problems and answer questions, and that blossomed into love. I thought the resolution of the book came a little too easily--there was some pretty grus3ome stuff that happened and that they found out and they just seemed to move on from it really easily; things just wrapped up a little quickly for my liking.
Overall, I do recommend this for those whole like smart protagonists and a dash of mystery with their romance.
4 stars.
I read a DRC provided by the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, March 21, 2024

These Tangled Threads by Sarah Loudin Thomas

hese Tangled Threads
By Sarah Loudin Thomas
Published by Bethany House
Publication Date: April 2, 2024

Description from the Publisher:
Set in the shadow of Biltmore Estate, a poignant tale of friendship, restoration, and second chances.
Seven years ago, a hidden betrayal scattered three young friends living in the shadow of the great Vanderbilt mansion. Now, when Biltmore Industries master weaver Lorna Blankenship is commissioned to create an original design for Cornelia Vanderbilt's 1924 wedding, she panics knowing she doesn't have the creativity needed. But there's an elusive artisan in the Blue Ridge Mountains who could save her--if only she knew where to begin.
To track down the mysterious weaver, Lorna sees no other way than to seek out the relationships she abandoned in shame. As she pulls at each tangled thread from her past, Lorna is forced to confront the wounds and regrets of life long ago. She'll have to risk the job that shapes her identity, as well as the hope of friendship--and love--restored.

My Review:
This book took me a bit longer to get into then the auThor's other books--having THREE different times periods (particularly ones that were so close in time, only separated by a few years, rather than decades) threw me off a bit initially. I was also a bit wary with the characters--Arthur, I loved from the start, but both Lorna and Gentry had me on my guard and I wasn't sure if I liked them or not! I think both women were realistic characters and their behaviors were consistent with their life experiences, so they were well-written (definitely realistically flawed), just not always 100% likable! I did enjoy seeing their growth in the book and how things played out for both of them as well as for sweet Arthur.
The setting--both the time period and the location--drew me in right from the start. Having never heard of Biltmore before (I spent the first half of my life in upstate NY and the second half "out west" and I can count the number of times I've been south of the Mason Dixon line on one hand--and none of those trips took me within 100 miles of Biltmore), I was really fascinated by the whole concept of the estate and the work that done there in various industries. It was just really interesting to me and in some ways, that might even have overshadowed the characters a bit for me! I also loved the details of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Thomas is just so good at her settings, bringing places I've never been to life with such skill! (After reading one of her books, I always want to plan a vacation to go see the places she describes for myself, and that was definitely the case again with this book!) I also know absolutely nothing about weaving but was totally drawn in by the descriptions of that as well.
All in all, another wonderful novel by a talented author! 4 stars.
I read a DRC provided by the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

If the Boot Fits (Texas Ever After #2) by Karen Witemeyer

If the Boot Fits (Texas Ever After #2)
By Karen Witemeyer
Published by Bethany House
Publication Date: March 12, 2024

Description from the Publisher
One fateful night will change their destinies forever. . . .
Convinced that his stepmother and half brothers have been wrongfully evicted by cattle king Eli Dearing, Asher Ellis uses the cover of an extravagant ball to break into the Three Cedars' ranch house to search for proof. On the verge of discovery, he flees, but a boy's cry compels him to make a daring rescue.
Spunky and independent Samantha Dearing balks when she learns the ball her father is hosting is nothing more than a matrimonial ambush. Taking a break from unwanted suitors, Samantha spots a thief fleeing her home. When the stranger ends up saving her brother's life, she hides the only clue to his identity left behind--his boot--and resolves to find him herself.
When Samantha encounters the older brother of a student she tutors, all thoughts of the bootless mystery man vanish. Asher values family above wealth, a rare trait that opens her heart. Afraid she will discover his past misconduct, Asher tries to keep his distance, but when a series of suspicious accidents befall her, he vows to protect her, even though saving her life could mean losing her love.

My Review:
Oh, man, there's just so much to like about this book! Where to even start?!
Genre--I sometimes find I like the idea of fairy tale retellings better than the execution, but I love this one. There were some really cool nods to the original story along with awesome twists and changes (like a male Cinderella character losing his boot and the stepmother being an absolute sweetheart) that really fleshed out a great story and fixed some of the stupider moments of the original. For example, I've always found it rather ridiculous that Prince Charming supposedly danced with Cinderella long enough to fall in love with her but had to rely on a shoe to find her. Did he not get a look at her FACE? Could he not provide some sort of a description?) So, I loved the fact that our leading lady really didn't get a look at her mystery man's face and relying on the boot to ID him made a lot more sense. I can't say too much without giving away a really great scene, but I also love how the boot was incorporated at the end! It was so much fun to read that scene!
Characters--they are awesome! I loved reading about Asher and Samantha, both with concerns about their families and their futures as well asking questions about their pasts and regrets about things they didn't realize sooner. I also really liked seeing their growing feelings for each other--they were pretty fast but also felt legitimate to me. Their family members--from a misunderstood father to adorable little brothers to a wise aunt to a loving stepmother--also stole my heart.
Plot--there was a lot going, with someone trying to kill Samantha, her finding out a lot about her deceased mother's past, Asher trying to keep her safe, etc. So it was a bit of a whirlwind but I enjoyed the whole thing. I kept sneaking back to this one to get in a few more pages!
Setting--Texas might not be at the top of the list for likely locations for a fairy tale, but I really liked the western setting and all the details of ranch life.
Tone--there's a lot of serious stuff going on, but there was a great balance of lighthearted moments, too. I loved the messages of faith throughout the story.
So, obviously, I'm a big fan of this book! It was a lot of fun to read and I've gotta snag the audio version as soon as I can to give it a listen as well!
5 stars and one of my picks for the best of 2024.

I read a DRC provided by the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Friday, February 16, 2024

My Phony Valentine (Holidays with Hart #1) by Courtney Walsh

My Phony Valentine (Holidays with Hart #1)
By Courtney Walsh
Published by Sweethaven Press

Description from the publisher:
A chance meeting. A hunky hockey player. A fake romance. Hardly an ordinary day in the life of Poppy Hart.
My days usually consist of agonizing over my failing restaurant, worrying about my mountain of debt and nursing my broken heart.
Everything changes when I bump into a man in the coffee shop and claim him as my new boyfriend. To my absolute horror, he turns out to be hockey’s most renowned bad boy, Dallas Burke. To my absolute delight, he goes along with my story.
When his no-nonsense manager and meddling grandmother jump in the picture, they see a win-win solution for my failing restaurant and Dallas’s less-than-stellar reputation.
A full-fledged fake romance complete with contract negotiations, pretend dates and phony PDA.
But as I get to know the real Dallas Burke, who is not the man the press says he is, it becomes clear that if this isn’t real. . . someone better tell it to my heart.

My Review
I absolutely devoured this book! I LOVED it! Just everything about it drew me in. I loved Poppy and Dallas, and Dallas' grandma is a hoot. I just loved how Poppy and Dallas really came to care about each other, to be friends who supported each other and how that developed into more. There were so many lines that just had me laughing out loud. It was just such a pleasure to read this book. My only (really tiny because I liked the rest of it so much I didn't even care) quibble would be that the conflict with one of his teammates that is such a big deal for Dallas at the beginning of the book just kinda falls away with no real explanation. While something like that might have bothered me a lot in another situation, I really did love the book so much that it was easier not to be bothered by that. Again, this was just tons of fun and I loved it. An easy five stars from me.

5 stars.

Sunday, January 28, 2024

While the City Sleeps (The Women of Midtown #1) by Elizabeth Camden

While the City Sleeps (The Women of Midtown #1) 
By Elizabeth Camden 
Published by Bethany House 
Publication Date: February 13, 2024 

Description from the publisher: 
Katherine Schneider's workaday life as a dentist in 1913 New York is upended when a patient reveals details of a deadly plot while under the influence of laughing gas. As she is plunged into danger, she seeks help from the dashing Lieutenant Jonathan Birch, a police officer she has long admired from afar. 
Jonathan has harbored powerful feelings toward Katherine for years but never acted on them, knowing his dark history is something she could never abide. Now, with her safety on the line, he works alongside her through the nights as they unravel the criminal conspiracy that threatens her. And throughout it all, Jonathan fears what will happen should Katherine ever learn his deepest secrets. 
Join award-winning author Elizabeth Camden for a sweeping and romantic adventure of dangerous secrets and wounded hearts fighting to overcome the darkness while the rest of the city sleeps. 

My review: 
Although I'm very much a character-driven reader, I think the plot stole the show for me in this book! I was really drawn in by the mystery/supense and trying to figure out who is out to silence Katherine as well as cause destruction around NYC. Following along with the clues and theories and policework just really hooked me, as did so many interesting historical details (like about dentistry in the early 1900s and the all-female Martha Washington hotel). I did also like the characters, although there were also times I found both of them to be a bit irritating--likely because they were so realistic and sometimes did things that drove me up a wall! (I think their actions totally fit with their characters, so that's not a criticism of the writing; it's just a comment about how they weren't these practically perfect people who always did everything right.) I was glad to see things work out for them in the end. 
4 stars. 
 I read a DRC from NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Embers in the London Sky by Sarah Sundin

Embers in the London Sky
By Sarah Sundin
Published by Revell
Publication Date: February 6, 2024

Description from the Publisher:
As the German army invades the Netherlands in 1940, Aleida van der Zee Martens escapes to London to wait out the Occupation. Separated from her three-year-old son, Theo, in the process, the young widow desperately searches for her little boy even as she works for an agency responsible for evacuating children to the countryside. 
 When German bombs set London ablaze, BBC radio correspondent Hugh Collingwood reports on the Blitz, eager to boost morale while walking the fine line between truth and censorship. But the Germans are not the only ones Londoners have to fear as a series of murders flame up amid the ashes. 
The deaths hit close to home for Hugh, and Aleida needs his help to locate her missing son. As they work together, they grow closer and closer, both to each other and the answers they seek. But with bombs falling and continued killings, they may be running out of time. 

My Review:
World War II is such a fascinating era, and I can't get enough of learning about different experiences during the war, so I was hooked by seeing a mother, a refugee herself, looking for her son while helping to encourage parents in London to evacuate their children to the country for their safety alongside a BBC radio correspondent. Those aspects of history were so interesting--and then the characers themselves were wonderful. I loved how Aleida was determined to find her son and used her organizational skills to try to find him. Hugh was really endearing, with his asthma and his feeling of constantly disappointing his parents as he tries to do what he loves making him so realistic. Their romance was sweet, albeit subtle. While some of the plotlines (there are four murders in the book), the writing is never graphic. All in all, an interesting mystery, a sweet romance between lovable characters, and awesome historical details made this a terrific book! 

 4.5 stars. 

I read a DRC provided by the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Monday, January 8, 2024

Devoted Hearts series by Sally Britton

 I mentioned in a previous post that I'd been catching up on my to-read list...well, during December, I read/listened to the entire Devoted Hearts series by Sally Britton and loved each story! I won't give a review of each book, but I will say I'm not a binger, and yet, I binged this series. I actually started with the seventh book because I was looking through my un-read Kindle books for Christmas stories, and it's a Christmas novella. Well, I enjoyed that so much that I looked at the Libby app to see which books in the series my library might own as audiobooks (the fastest way for me to get through books) and was delighted to see that all of them were available (well, I had to put them on hold but they were all eventually available for me). Luckily for me, I didn't have to wait too long for them to come in and I got busy listening to them. I absolutely tore through these books because I enjoyed them so much!

Here are the books:

Prequel: Martha's Patience
Book 1: The Social Tutor
Book 2:The Gentleman Physician
Book 3: His Bluestocking Bride
Book 4: The Earl and His Lady
Book 5:Miss Devon's Choice
Book 6: Courting the Vicar's Daughter
Book 7: Penny's Yuletide Wish

The narrator was terrific for each book that I listened to, and I loved the characters. You don't have to read them in order, but it does add some depth to see what happened in previous books. 

Five stars for the series! All clean reads and just so much fun to read!