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.