Book Review: Carolina Breeze

Carolina Breeze – Denise Hunter – Bluebell Inn Romance #2 – Thomas Nelson – Published 19 May 2020

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Synopsis

Rising Hollywood star Mia Emerson is looking for a safe place to land in the wake of a public breakup and scandal, and she finds it in the lake town of Bluebell, North Carolina—the location of her canceled honeymoon. She wants nothing more than to hide and wait for the tabloids to die down.

Soon after her arrival at the Bluebell Inn, Mia meets Levi Bennett, who runs the inn along with his two younger sisters. Drawn to one another from the start, Mia trusts Levi to keep her location from the press, and Levi confides in Mia about the financial state of the inn—a secret he’s been keeping from his sisters.

When Mia and Levi discover an old journal that hints at a rare diamond necklace hidden in the inn, they set off on a treasure hunt to find the long-lost heirloom. What they don’t expect to surface are feelings they thought were safely locked away. Mia and Levi must decide if falling in love again is too big a risk—or if it will uncover a treasure of its own instead.

My thoughts

Carolina Breeze is another utterly charming book by Denise Hunter. This is the second book in the Bluebird Inn series and I think it is one of my all time favourites of Denise Hunter’s series. Delightful, heartfelt, very romantic, and with just a touch of historical mystery.

Carolina Breeze continues the story of the Bennett siblings. Levi and his two sisters, Molly (who featured in book 1) and Grace are bringing to life their late parents’ dream to restore their home into an inn. But it hasn’t been easy. Their latest guest has the whole inn booked for a honeymoon. But it doesn’t take the three siblings long to discovery Mia Emerson is a Hollywood star and she is hiding out at the Bluebird Inn after her marriage fell through and a colleague dragged her into a scandal that threatens her career. As Levi works to provide Mia with everything she could need during her stay, he is drawn to her hurt and vulnerability. Together, Mia and Levi challenge themselves to find Mia’s ancestor’s long lost diamond necklace, rumoured to be hidden at the Inn. But Levi has so many worries, he’s not sure he can take on more responsibility and Mia’s life is set to catch up with her.

I love the Bennett family. Love how they argue and annoy each other, but also how they are there for each other despite all that. While we got to know Levi a little in Molly’s story, it was very much through her eyes, so it was great to see him through another lens in Carolina Breeze. He is trying so hard to keep the inn afloat and protect his sisters, even if that’s the last thing they want. I thought he might keel over due to a heart attack or something in the novel, he is so stressed. Mia is wonderful for him. She helps him to relax, to enjoy the moments and gives him other things to think about. Levi is equally good for Mia, giving her security and someone to really listen to her.

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Book Review: On A Coastal Breeze

On A Coastal Breeze – Suzanne Woods Fisher – Three Sisters Island #2 – Revell – Published 5 May 2020

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Synopsis

Everything happens for a reason, Maddie Grayson believes. But her motto gets sorely tested when the new minister parachutes into town and offers her a chance to change what happens next.

My thoughts

On A Coastal Breeze returns readers to the Three Sisters Island and the Grayson family. This second book in the series picks up where book one left off and continues the story with a new romance.

Cam and Seth are a couple, but waiting to plan their wedding and tell Cooper the truth about his parentage while Cam buries herself in the writing of grants to fund a power source for the island. Paul, the father of the three girls is unsure he has made the right decision in becoming a camp owner. Blaine has returned home from her first semesters of culinary school, but she is carrying a dark secret. And Maddie has started her own family counselling practice. But just as she gets her first clients, the island is graced with their new pastor and he is no less than the boy who tormented her right the way through kindergarten until she last saw him after senior prom. She is surprised to see him and the way the townspeople rally around him. Maybe he’s changed, but Maddie is sure they share too much history to kindle a friendship or explore what she might have felt for him before he broke her heart.

I loved that this book, this series, while featuring each of the Grayson sisters, really continues the whole family’s story. Maddie is the feature sister of this novel, as is her relationship with Rick, the new pastor. But it’s clear, that despite the way we left Cam and Seth in book one, that they don’t get an automatic happily ever after.

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Book Review: Stay With Me

Stay With Me – Becky Wade – A Misty River Romance #1 – Bethany House Publishers – Published 5 May 2020

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Synopsis

When acclaimed Bible study author Genevieve Woodward receives an anonymous letter referencing her parents’ past, she returns to her hometown in the Blue Ridge Mountains to chase down her family’s secret. However, it’s Genevieve’s own secret that catches up to her when Sam Turner, owner of a historic farm, uncovers the source of shame she’s worked so hard to hide.

Sam has embraced his sorrow, his isolation, and his identity as an outsider. He’s spent years carving out both career success and peace of mind. The last thing he wants is to rent the cottage on his property to a woman whose struggles stir his worst failure back to life. Yet can he bear to turn her away right when she needs him most?

My thoughts

Stay With Me is the first book in a new series by Becky Wade. As always, Becky Wade captures flawed characters in relatable situations and combines that with powerful messages of family, love and faith.

Genevieve is a popular and very successful bible study writer and speaker. But after an accident last year and a stressful schedule and deadlines, she found herself turning to prescription pain medication. When, after setting off for her parents’ house, she wakes to find herself in an empty guest cottage being regarded by the owner with some concern, she decides she finally has to kick her habit and get clean. She asks Sam, owner of the cottage, if she can rent the cottage from him as a place to hide while going through withdrawal and recovery. Sam has his own reasons for wanting to stay far away from the confusing woman he found asleep in his guest house, but he also feels a strong responsibility to help her.

I loved that this book considers a very serious topic of drug addiction. As Genevieve struggles to both admit she has a problem and faces the battle of overcoming her addiction, the very real possibility of how easy it is to fall into a prescription drug problem and the very serious fallouts are considered. But, more than that, the motivations behind Gen’s addiction are also regarded, both with understanding and grace. As a bible study presenter, Gen feels conflict over her addiction, her role as a speaker and her desire to keep everything under wraps.

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Book Review: The Joy of Falling

The Joy of Falling – Lindsay Harrel – Thomas Nelson -Published 14 April 2020

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Synopsis

It has been fifteen months since Eva and Angela lost their thrill-seeking husbands in a scuba diving accident. Both women are trying to navigate their way through the grief, but neither one is making much progress. Angela is barely making ends meet, angry at her husband for leaving her to raise three children on her own. Meanwhile, Eva is stuck, unable to move forward after losing the love of her life and her source of inspiration.

But then Eva gets a life-changing phone call. Before Brent and Wes died, they had signed up for a race of a lifetime—an ultra-marathon in beautiful New Zealand. Eva begs Angela to run the race with her in their husbands’ place, and Angela finally agrees, hoping to finally understand her husband’s choices.

Training is exhausting, and the race is even more demanding. Their journey grows more complicated by the presence of two men—Marc is Brent’s best friend who is running the race with Eva and Angela, and Simon King is a writer who is covering their inspiring story. With every step, Eva and Angela must ask themselves questions that they haven’t had the courage to ask before. As the women literally put one foot in front of the other, they wonder: Is it possible to find their way forward in hope?

My thoughts

In the Joy of Falling, Lindsay Harrel has penned a beautiful story about the many faces of grief and about the journey of continuing to move forward and find joy again in life and relationships. This is equally a story about family as it is about individual growth. It is also a romance story, with two romances. At all times, it remains heartwarming and considerate.

Eva and Angela don’t have much in comment except that they both lost their husbands, brothers, in a scuba diving accident. Now, fifteen months on, Eva still has no creative drive or any desire to return to her work as a florist. She spends her time volunteering at the Heart Center and trying to honour her husband’s memory. Angela has three children and two jobs, so she has no time to mourn the husband she lost, nor much energy to confront the feelings of anger and abandonment she feels about his death. When Eva receives a phone call about an ultra-marathon the two brothers were going to complete with their best-friend, Eva convinces Angela to complete the marathon with her.

Set against the breathtaking backdrop of New Zealand and paced with the training Eva and Angela must complete, this is an easy book to fall into and enjoy. For all its beauty, it’s not hard to pick up on the grief, anger and range of emotions the characters are dealing with as they face the loss of husband, son, father and best-friend. Alongside Eva and Angela are their mother-in-law, Angela’s children and Marc, the brothers’ best friend who joins Eva and Angela in entering the marathon. Each form an important piece of the story. Each are feeling different emotions as they process (or ignore) their grief. This book is honest and doesn’t shy away from the very real emotions the characters are facing. Nor does it prevent this being a happy and heartwarming story.

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Book Review: Before I Called You Mine

Before I Called You Mine – Nicole Deese – Bethany House Publishers – Published 31 March 2020

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Synopsis

Lauren Bailey may be a romantic at heart, but after a decade of matchmaking schemes gone wrong, there’s only one match she’s committed to now–the one that will make her a mother. Lauren is a dedicated first grade teacher in Idaho, and her love for children has led her to the path of international adoption. To satisfy her adoption agency’s requirements, she gladly agreed to remain single for the foreseeable future; however, just as her long wait comes to an end, Lauren is blindsided by a complication she never saw coming: Joshua Avery.

Joshua may be a substitute teacher by day, but Lauren finds his passion for creating educational technology as fascinating as his antics in the classroom. Though she does her best to downplay the undeniable connection between them, his relentless pursuit of her heart puts her commitment to stay unattached to the test and causes her once-firm conviction to waver.

With an impossible decision looming, Lauren might very well find herself choosing between the two deepest desires of her heart . . . even if saying yes to one means letting go of the other.

My thoughts

What a heartwarming story about international adoption and God’s timing. Before I Called You Mine will delight and entrance Christian romance readers. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable book that is at times uplifting as it is bittersweet.

Lauren longs to be a mother. She has been waiting for her international adoption application to go through for over a year. She has closed the door on dating and marriage, knowing she must remain single for her adoption options to be finalised. But just when a possible adoption match finally appears, she meets Joshua – a substitute teacher at her school, a tech whiz and son of the man who started her teaching career. He is funny, kind and she can’t help but be drawn to him. But if she follows her heart with Joshua, she will loose her chance to adopt a child who needs her.

This book it utterly beautiful. It is bittersweet. Just when one of Lauren’s greatest desires seems set to come true the other is taken from her. There is no right answer and we readers are easily drawn into Lauren’s dilemma.

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Book Review: The Happy Camper

The Happy Camper – Melody Carlson – Revell – Published 3 March 2020

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Synopsis

Home is the place to heal, right? At least, that’s what Dillon Michaels is hoping as she leaves her disappointing career and nonstarter love life behind to help her grieving and aging grandfather on his small Oregon farm. The only problem? Her eccentric mother beat her there and has taken over Dillon’s old room. After a few nights sleeping on a sagging sofa, Dillon is ready to give up, until she receives an unlikely gift–her grandfather’s run-down vintage camp trailer, which she quickly resolves to restore with the help of Jordan Atwood, the handsome owner of the local hardware store.

But just when things are finally beginning to run smoothly, Dillon’s noncommittal ex-boyfriend shows up with roses . . . and a ring.

My thoughts

This is the second book I have read by Melody Carlson and I have now decided that her writing style is just not for me. As such, this review – as always – is an honest breakdown of my response to the book, but I realise that many people who do enjoy Carlson’s writing won’t find fault with the same issues I did. If this sort of thing is your style, then I am sure will enjoy what is a simple story of coming home, and falling in love.

Dillon leaves her boyfriend and her job on the same day. She is tired of hanging around waiting for Brandon to make her his number one priority and tired of catering to the whims of her boss. A phone call from her mother inspires her to return home to her grandfather’s farm. She doesn’t expect her eccentric mother to be there, and is a little upset when she is relegated to the lumpy couch. When her grandfather gives Dillon a run-down vintage camper trailer, Dillon puts her efforts into restoring it, and quite enjoys visiting the local hardware store to see the handsome, maybe-available owner, Jordan. When her boyfriend arrives in town begging for her to give him another chance, Dillon will have to choose between her old life and her new one.

The Happy Campers is a sweet and simple story. I enjoyed the parts where Dillon throws herself into renovating her camper van. She enjoys discovering new techniques, quite a bit of retail therapy and putting the finishing touches on her new home. Everything comes easy to her and for her (except maybe backing the van itself), so this part of the story doesn’t present any complications for the story.

I also really liked Dillon’s grandfather. He is a hard worker, very kind and understanding to both Dillon and her mother and has plenty of wisdom and all the right answers to share. Dillon is lucky to have his support.

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Book Review: A Girl’s Guide to the Outback

A Girl’s Guide to the Outback – Jessica Kate – Thomas Nelson – Published 28 January 2020

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Synopsis

Samuel Payton is a passionate youth pastor in Virginia, but beneath the surface, Sam’s still recovering from a failed business. His coworker—start-up expert Kimberly Foster—is brilliant, fearless, and capable, but her mother’s rejection from a young age till now has left her defensive and longing for a family. Two people have never been more at odds—or more attracted to one another. And every day at work, the sparks are flying.

When Kimberly’s ambitious plans for Sam’s ministry butt up against his risk-averse nature, Sam decides that obligations to family trump his work for the church. He quits the ministry and flies home to Australia to help his family save their struggling farm—much to Kimberly’s chagrin. As Kimberly’s grand plans flounder, she is forced to face the truth: that no one can replace Sam. To what lengths will she go to get him back?

My thoughts

Full of Aussie slangs and humour, this delightful book will have you laughing and crying as the characters wade their way through major life decisions and romantic entanglements (and a whole heap of cow muck).

Kimberley does everything she can to keep Wildfire, a youth drop-in Center, surviving. She even has big plans for expansion, if she could just get founder and youth pastor Sam on board. But instead, they constantly butt heads. When Sam up and leaves the program after rejecting her expansion plan she has no choice but to follow him to his family dairy farm in rural Australia in the hopes of winning him back. While in Australia, Kim falls in love with Sam’s tenacious sister and the family history that is wrapped up in the farm – everything she’s never had. But as she and Sam form a tenuous truce to start working together, the sparks start to fly as each reveals a hidden side of themselves. But can their relationship last if their plans fall apart?

While I enjoyed the story of youth ministry start ups, big dreams and a dairy farm to save, it was the characters that I really fell in love with. Kim is so outwardly strong and confident. But I could relate to the quivering, hurt mess she is inside. She has never felt like she belonged, never felt like she was worth anything, constantly striving to be good enough for her demanding mother. And Sam, through his blinded fear, has contributed to that. Sam, for his part, has been burnt from past failures and from misplaced criticism. His fear drives him, leaving him constantly at odds with Kim’s ambitious plans. While their new plans succeed and fail, it is the mending of the heart that drives this story. Kim and Sam start, not quite as enemies, but with plenty of shared hurt and past inflicted wounds. As they work together on Sam’s family’s farm – and Kim doesn’t hold back, jumping straight into the messy work- they share more of themselves and learn to really listen to each other. Their growing relationship is slow to start and certainly doesn’t jump from enemies to attraction. But once that spark does creep in, whoa boy, talk about chemistry.

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Book Review: If For Any Reason

If For Any Reason – Courtney Walsh – Tyndale House Publishers – Published 3 February 2020

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Synopsis

Emily Ackerman has traveled the world, her constant compass and companion a book of letters her mother left for her when she died. With no father in the picture, her mom’s advice has been her only true north. But when professional failure leads Emily back to Nantucket to renovate and sell the family cottage she inherited, she wonders if her mom left advice to cover this . . . especially when her grandmother arrives to “supervise.” And especially when her heart becomes entangled with Hollis McGuire, the boy next door-turned-baseball star who’s back on the island after a career-ending injury.

As sparks fly between her and Hollis, Emily is drawn to island life, even as she uncovers shocking secrets about the tragic accident that led to her mother’s death. With her world turned upside down, Emily must choose between allowing the voices from her past to guide her future or forging her own path forward.

My thoughts

If For Any Reason is a charming summer read about second chances, connecting with your purpose in life and looking beyond the mistakes of your past. It’s a story about family and belonging. It’s easy to read with relatable characters and Courtney Walsh’s fantastic writing style. If For Any Reason is perfect fans of Christian contemporary romance.

Emily is returning to Nantucket Island. It holds good and bad memories- fun summers spent in the community theatre program and the year an accident took her mother away for ever. Now, after travelling aimlessly and an opportunity to direct her own play that ended in disaster, Emily has no choice but to return and claim the beach house her grandfather left her. She plans to do it up and sell it as quickly as possible, but she didn’t count on running into boy-next-door Hollis, who is now all grown up, or his charming daughter who inspires Emily to revive her love of theatre. As the summer warms up, Emily will have the chance to uncover the truth about her mother’s death, but it might change things forever.

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Book Review: The Solid Grounds Coffee Company

The Solid Grounds Coffee Company – Carla Laureano – Supper Club #3 – Tyndale – Published 4 February 2020

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Synopsis

Analyn Sanchez can handle the long hours and arrogant clients that come with her job as a crisis management associate at Denver’s largest publicity firm. The high-powered job, expensive condo, and designer wardrobe are all part of her plan to prove to her family that her life choices haven’t been in vain. But when she’s asked to cover up a client’s misdeeds with serious moral and legal ramifications, she can no longer sacrifice her conscience for her career . . . and the cost is no less than her job.

Ever since a devastating climbing accident in South America eight months ago, and a bad decision that dried up his sponsorships, professional rock climber Bryan Shaw has found himself at similar loose ends. When the opportunity to buy a coffee farm in Colombia arises, he jumps on it–only to discover his wandering ways have left him utterly unprepared to run a business.

When Bryan returns home and offers Ana a role in his company as a solution to both their problems, she’s desperate enough to consider working with the far-too-flippant and far-too-handsome climber, even though he’s the polar opposite of her type A nature. As they delve deeper into the business, however, she begins to suspect there’s much more to Bryan than she’s given him credit for . . . and that sometimes the best plans are the ones you never see coming.

My thoughts

The Solid Grounds Coffee Company is such a delightful novel. I adored books one and two in this series and I was so keen to read this one I pushed it to the top of my rather large reading pile. And I’m so glad I did. I seriously love this series and I fell in love with Ana, Bryan, their coffee company venture and their romance. This book has everything I need – good food, great friendship, passionate kisses, faith and so much heart. I highly recommend this book and highly recommend the entire Supper Club series.

Ana is a publicist. It’s a high-style life, where keeping up appearances is a 24/7 occupation. But when a client asks her to cross moral and legal grounds and Ana refuses, she is asked to take a four month break from work. Bryan is a changed man. After a personal disaster and professional accident he left the world of rock climbing and purchased a coffee bean farm in Columbia. But his plans for creating a coffee roasting company could do with the guidance of a marketing guru. Ana and Bryan join forces, but they each vow to ignore the the physical attraction they’ve been dancing around for years.

This is a powerful story of second chances and learning from past mistakes. Bryan is very open about his past lifestyle and how he has now moved away from that. But he knows there are consequences and a long journey ahead of making different choices. Ana is only just starting to realise her life choices may not be want she actually wants, and she, too, has a past she’s kept very well hidden from the world. Ana and Bryan have far more in common than they realised and watching their friendship grow and mature, even as they fight the sparks of attraction, was so much fun.

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Book Review: The Dating Charade

The Dating Charade – Melissa Ferguson – Thomas Nelson – Published 3 December 2019

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Synopsis

Cassie Everson is an expert at escaping bad first dates. And, after years of meeting, greeting, and running from the men who try to woo her, Cassie is almost ready to retire her hopes for a husband—and children—altogether.

But fate has other plans, and Cassie’s online dating profile catches the eye of firefighter Jett Bentley. In Jett’s memory, Cassie Everson is the unreachable girl-of-legend from their high school days. Nervously, he messages her, setting off a chain of events that forces a reluctant Cassie back into the dating game.

No one is more surprised than Cassie when her first date with Jett is a knockout. But when they both go home and find three children dropped in their laps—each—they independently decide to do the right and mature thing: hide the kids from each other while sorting it all out. What could go wrong?

My thoughts

The Dating Charade is a delightful surprise of a novel. It’s quirky, funny and delivers a whole heap of enjoyment. It is both light hearted and yet touches on some serious topics, from child neglect to the importance of families. My only criticism is that I wanted more of Cassie and Jett. I wouldn’t mind a whole extra book to fill in the time between the last chapter and the epilogue, just because it’s so lovely to hang out with them and their families. If you love humorous romance novels, The Dating Charade is for you.

Cassie has almost given up on love and her dream of a family. She’s an expert at escaping from terrible dates. When firefighter Jett Bentley sees Cassie’s online profile, he is intrigued. She seems different from the girl he knew—and crushed on—in high school. No one is more surprised than Cassie when the date goes well. But when one of the girls from Cassie’s work at Girls Haven, a refuge for young girls, needs a safe place to stay, Cassie doesn’t hesitate to take in the teenager and her two younger sisters. And when Jett’s sister arrives and unceremoniously leaves him with her three small children, he knows he must do the right thing and look after them, even if he has no idea what to do with babies and toddlers. Uncertain of their future, Jett and Cassie hide their new young charges from each other, while trying to learn to balance, work, life, and dating with a new family.

I really enjoyed The Dating Charade. Far more than I expected, actually. The deception isn’t quite as bad as what is hinted at in the official summary. When Jett and Cassie first meet and start dating, neither has a family. Yet just a few dates in, through various circumstances, both must become the carers of three children. It’s totally understandable that neither feels comfortable disclosing their uncertain futures with the other and they don’t deliberately hide them from each other (until Cassie has an incident with a cat, a Christmas tree and a certain young lady calling the fire department.)

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