Christmas at Maplemont Manor by Julie Manthey

Christmas at Maplemont Manor is exactly where I want to be every Christmas! Set in a small town, Maplemont Manor is host and donor to many holiday festivities in the town of Maplemont. When its new heir moves to town, he instantly becomes the most eligible bachelor in town. Good thing that bakery owner, Noelle Kringle, doesn’t like or want to be one of his admirers. But this is a holiday romance so, of course, sparks fly when the two of them together and readers will broadly smile as the romance begins to blossom.

Yes, Maplemont Manor is a bit predictable but the characters are wonderful, the story quite magical and the setting is perfection. What more do we really want from a holiday story if not magic?

Thank you to #Netgalley, the #IBPA and #JulieManthey for my copy of #ChristmasatMaplemontManor

Thankfully in Love: A Thanksgiving Anthology

What a delight to find a book that features my favorite holiday: Thanksgiving! Not just one but FOUR short stories that center around Thanksgiving, families and love. Lest you think this is only for Americans, one of the stories takes place over the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday!

Written by four well known and well loved authors, each of the stories described below accentuate family, love and gratitude which we all need in abundance in this crazy Covid year!

No Place Like Home by Anna J Stewart is very family centric with a whole lot of romance thrown in for good measure

Second Chance by Kayla Perrin is about, yep, second chances at love. This one, with its wonderful repartee, was my favorite of the four

Dog Gone Holiday by Melinda Curtis tells the story of a couple who is struggling during the holiday but find hope in one another.

Love Guides the Way by Cari Lynn Webb is your typical romance about two people brought together but who doubt the sincerity of one another.

While the anthology started out strong, the last story was not a favorite of mine. However, that is likely due to the fact that I’m not a big romance fan. I like them light and sweet and only during the holidays. Never-the-less, as a whole, I absolutely recommend Thankfully in Love to start off your holiday season with a grategul, thankful heart.

Thanks to each of the authors mentioned above, @Netgalley for my copy of this warm and entertaining book.





Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Cafe by Jessica Redland

Starry Skies Over the Chocolate Pot Cafe is a reprinting and updated version of Christmas at The Chocolate Pot Cafe. The author added additional material to the middle and end of the original story giving the updated version a more all around, year through theme while still emphasizing the holidays.

I absolutely adored the book, enjoy Redland’s writing very much and the characters and story plot were perfect especially for this time of year. I have not read the other books in the Whitsborough Bay series and this worked fine as a stand alone. However, I fully intend to back track and read the first six in the series now. Enjoy!

Twelve Weeks Til Christmas: The Christmas Table by Donna VanLiere

WHOO HOO – it’s that time of year! It’s time to celebrate the holidays with my annual Twelve Weeks ‘Til Christmas reading countdown. Each week I will highlight a new holiday themed book that I think you might enjoy reading during the festive season.

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The Christmas Table by Donna VanLiere is one of many in a long line of Christmas themed books she has written over the years. I’ve read a few here and there not realizing that it was, more or less, a series. It is, however, one of those series that features a different person in each book so that you can read them as a stand alone feature. Some of the characters will be familiar if you have read her other books and some are newly introduced. Regardless, it is an endearing story featuring a dual timeline, the 1970s and 2012, a kitchen table and recipes that have been lovingly  written for someone’s daughter. How the two timeline’s merge and the importance of the table is beautifully told and intertwined. I loved the story, thought it was wonderfully and carefully written and enjoyed the recipes at the end of the tale.

I was not forewarned that VanLiere’s books are Christian based and I think it is important to know this. There are many people who celebrate the holidays, Christmas, or who are religious but do not believe the same way as others. In this particular book it wasn’t so overt that I felt uncomfortable, but I do wish these types of books were marked accordingly. That said, I did like the book and do recommend it for your holiday reading.

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press and Netgalley for my copy of #TheChristmasTable.

A Heartfelt Christmas Promise @nancynaigle

Rating: 5 out of 5.

It’s beginning to look a lot like…. Too soon!?! There is a cold snap in the air today in the midwest and it has been the perfect time to cozy up with a warm cup of coffee and read; Nancy Naigle’s newest holiday tale was the perfect choice! Happy Pub Day to A Heartfelt Christmas Promise!

I absolutely adore holiday stories and read them throughout the year. There are some that are strictly “holiday themed” but so many others are really wonderful feel-good books that make you happy just reading them. A Heartfelt Christmas Promise, while absolutely revolving around the holidays – it begins with Thanksgiving and goes through Christmas – is, at its roots, a beautiful love story and I LOVED this story!

READ AN EXCERPT HERE

Vanessa is the consummate over achieving business woman who excels at all that she sets her mind to accomplish. She hasn’t made time for friends or romance and rarely has time for family. When a new project in Paris comes up at work, she is positive she will be sent to Paris for the holidays. Her boss, unfortunately has other plans. Vanessa is sent to a small mountain town that makes fruitcake to shut down the company in order to put in a warehouse. Yes, I know this sounds like so many Hallmark Movies and I thought it was going to exactly like that. I was WRONG! I won’t divulge how it is different but, please, believe me when I say that it is. Vanessa is not your sappy woman who gets all emotional upon arrival; she sees a solution and she goes about accomplishing her goals – goals that will benefit everyone. Of course there is a snafu – it wouldn’t be a holiday story without one – but in the end it all works out! Sniffle Sniffle…. yeah, I cried.

There are so many things to love (!) about A Heartfelt Christmas Promise. First and foremost, Vanessa is intelligent and never makes excuses for being a strong, independent woman nor does she shy away from being a caring one! Second, this book includes so many age groups from Buck and Anna who are older, to Vanessa who is younger, to Misty who is a teen. Each of these people were depicted as able, smart, capable adults. It is so rare to read books that don’t make older adults or teens out to be stereotypical and this was very appreciated! Third, there are horses and puppies. Oh, hello!? Naigle did such a great job at depicting the Percheron horses that I swear I could hear their thundering hoofbeats going down my cobblestone street!!

Beautiful, aren’t they?

We have llamas pulling our sleigh here in my hometown so I cannot complain but can you imagine these beauties pulling Santa!? WOW! The horses play an integral part of the story and add so much character to the overall book!

What more can I say!? I LOVED A Heartfelt Christmas Promise! Whether you are an early reader of holiday books or just thinking about later, this one definitely should be on to-read list for the holidays!

Thanks to #Netgalley, #nancynaigle and #StMartinsGriffin for my copy of this marvelous book!

Counting Down to Christmas #ChristmasInVermont #ChristmasAngels #PostcardsatChristmas

Last year I started reviewing holiday books in October. This year, it appears, I nearly missed the holidays completely. No worries, I’ll start the catch-up right now!

I love holiday books. It’s one of the few times of the year that I read romances or cozies. There’s just something about sitting by the fire that makes these genres more appealing to me. These three books, Christmas In Vermont, Christmas Angels and Postcards at Christmas, all were marvelous reads for the season.

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I love stories about chances, serendipity, synchronicity – call it what you will – the idea that two people are meant to be together and that fate will make it happen. It’s naive, I know, but it’s wonderful to imagine. Christmas in Vermont is all about second chances and fate.

When Emma goes into a pawn shop on Christmas Eve to sell the bracelet that her ex gave her, she discovers an engraved watch that she once gave to Fletcher, the “one who got away.” Sentimentally, Emma purchases the watch for old time’s sake. Her friend decides it is a sign that the two, Emma and Fletcher, are meant to be together and she arranges it so that the two of them are at the same place in Vermont at the same time. Of course there a moments of rekindled love, mishaps and miscommunication but in the end will their old feelings be enough to carry this couple into a future together? Well, you have to read Christmas in Vermont to find out! And you will want to read this gem this holiday season! Anita Hughes is a master story-teller in this genre and weaves a marvelous tale here. Definitely all the stars from me!

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Color me a sucker for Hallmark holiday movies and Nancy Naigle’s book, Christmas Angels was like reading the script for just that! It ticked every box for me: Restoration of an Inn – check. Romantic man to help with the restoration – check. Small town pitching in – check. Christmas! Check Check Check.  I loved it all!

Liz has very fond memories of her grandparent’s inn and always wanted to own an one just like it. Each night she pores over real estate listings hoping to find something just like theirs when one night she sees an ad for what appears to be their very inn for auction. Putting in a bid, sight unseen, Liz wins the inn. However, upon arrival, she discovers she should have seen the place before bidding. Not to have her enthusiasm dampened, she finds Matt to help her rebuild/restore the inn to its former glory. What she doesn’t realize is that Matt also put in a bid on the inn. Will these two rivals find harmony and love at the inn? Will the small town people welcome her into their fold? Welllll, it IS a Christmas love story but it is also one that you will enjoy reading from start to finish, knowing there is a happy ending

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Did I save my favorite for last!? They ALL were my favorite! But Postcards at Christmas was written a bit differently so I saved it for last.

Postcards at Christmas is a sequel to another book by Clark, one I have not read but definitely intend to. It is more of a novella and can be easily read in one very quick sitting. However, with all of that said, there is a lot of drama in this little story! Cara and Simeon are planning a wedding when Simeon has a very debilitating bike accident. How or even, will they put their lives back together is the crux of this story. It is beautifully written, warm, tragic and wonderful. If you only read one story between and Christmas, make it this one. You will be glad you did.

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Thanks for reading about these heartwarming holiday stories. I’ll be back with MORE reviews for my favorite seasonal stories. In the meantime, have yourself a merry little holiday and BE SAFE!

Thanks to @StMartinsPress, #Netgalley and the authors, @NancyNaigle @anitahughes and @imogenclark for allowing me the opportunity read, treasure and review these books.

Two Weeks ‘Til Christmas!!

When I started the Twelve Weeks ‘Til Christmas countdown ten weeks ago, it actually seemed as though the holidays were so far away. Now, we are down to TWO weeks, 14 days, until the big celebration. Today, since it’s a Top Whatever Tuesday, I thought I would recap some of my favorite holiday books of 2018.

First and foremost, my very favorite holiday book this year was A Treasury of African-American Christmas Stories. You can read my review HERE. If you haven’t read this compilation yet, I highly encourage you to give it a try. The stories within are some of the best I’ve ever read – as in – ever!

Obviously, over the past few months I’ve read a LOT of holiday books so that I could do this countdown. Some were typical, a few never made it to the blog and one or two I couldn’t even bring myself to finish. The ones shown below, however, definitely were the highlight of the season.

The favorite among you, my blog readers, was Mutts and Mistletoe and I have to admit it was a favorite of mine as well. The story was adorable but the dogs absolutely stole the show! I also just found out that the author, Natalie Cox, has another “mutt” based holiday book, Not Just For Christmas, so I definitely have to find and read that one too!

I previously had read The Fairy in the Kettle and fell in love with writing and the incredible artwork. I was thrilled to discover that there was a Christmas follow-up story: The Fairy in the Kettle’s Christmas Wish. If you have any younger kids in your life, I highly recommend this book above all others. It’s beautifully written and the storyline is marvelous!

I was super excited to discover some new authors through their holiday work, one of whom is Sue Moorcroft. Her writing style is just great and exactly the type of writing that I love to read. I’ve already ordered more of her books and next week will have a review of one of her previous holiday tales.

In the historical genre, I fell head over heels in love with two of the writers in The Christmas Heirloom. The story of a brooch that is passed down from mother to daughter for centuries absolutely stole my heart! And, I think it is safe to say that after three years and three books, Rebecca Boxall’s holiday reads will be on my Must-Read list and I hope they will be on yours as well. I read Christmas on the Coast in January of this year and followed up with her newest, The Christmas Forest, a few weeks ago.

However, aside from the African-American stories, my favorite book this holiday season was Moonlight on the Thames by Lauren Westwood. I simply adored the characters in the story, the setting, but mostly, how they overcame their past to find love once again. I truly enjoy reading about the healing powers of love and the joy of this season.

I hope, if you haven’t read these yet, that you will give at least one or two of them a try. I know you will enjoy them as much as I did.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS! 

The Christmas Heirloom

Over the past few weeks we have been preparing @TheWisteriaHouse for the holidays. There are a lot of rooms and many trees to decorate but it’s worth it when all is finished and the house is glowing. One of my favorite parts of decorating, especially the trees, is looking back through all of the past treasures from years gone by. I have inherited antique and vintage ornaments that have been passed down from generation to generation.

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There also are all of the newer additions that bring back memories of Christmas past. It was while I was reminiscing that I came across The Christmas Heirloom, four short novellas based on a Luckenbooth brooch that has been passed down from mother to daughter through the centuries. It was the perfect holiday read!

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Briefly, there are four complete novellas centered around the heirloom brooch. In the first, Legacy of Love, we are at the beginning of the brooch’s story. Sarah is a companion to a dowager Countess who is dying. It is Sarah’s wish to bring her as much happiness as possible during her final days. Sarah’s story, as she entertains others on the piano and with her very frank talk, is endearing. As she falls for the dowager’s grandson, it would appear that there is no hope of a “happily ever after” ending: a son of a nobleman with a mere companion, but the dowager has other ideas and it is her wish that the two of them find love and happiness together. Her final Christmas gift is bestowing her well-loved Luckenbooth to Sarah. The story is as beautiful as it is uplifting and I enjoyed it tremendously.

The second story, Gift of the Heart, takes us to Texas where Sarah’s granddaughter, Ruth, has moved to start over after the death of her husband. All that Sarah wishes for is a good life for her daughter. It’s just after the Civil War and there are many poor, out of work people throughout the south but Sarah has found a job in a resort town as a cook at a café. It is there that she fortuitously meets the resort’s owner, a recluse who rarely goes out due to a crippling injury. However, this pair bonds over their love for Ruth’s daughter and soon that bond turns to love. This is a heartwarming tale of romance and hope and one that I’m sure will delight readers who love romance, faith and hope, especially during the holidays.

As we move to the third story, A Shot at Love, I began to feel a slight shift in the narrative. Because each story is written by different authors, it is only natural that the stories reflect those author’s unique writing styles. Fleeta, an unusual name for a rather unusual woman, was orphaned at a young age. Told repeatedly that her mother died of a “broken heart” after Fleeta’s father was killed, Fleeta has no use for love or romance preferring, instead, to spend her days hunting and shooting and occasionally doing wood carvings. When she meets Hank, a fellow gun enthusiast, her thoughts begin to shift. Could she actually fall in love with Hank? This was a very well written story and I easily empathized with these West Virginia characters. I am, however, extremely anti-gun and hunting and the story revolves primarily around both. Despite that, the story was written well enough that I did enjoy following the brooch’s tale down to Fleeta, a woman so clearly not a jewelry type gal.

The final story was one that I, personally, didn’t care for. It is now contemporary times and the brooch was “lost” in the attic until it was discovered by Maddy, a young woman who is gathering items for a garage sale where the proceeds will be used for the family in need whom she is helping. Her partner in the holiday shopping is the widow of Maddy’s best friend and the man she has been secretly in love with for years. Their story is a beautiful one and, of course, they find love in the end. There were multiple reasons that I didn’t connect with this last story. I’m an historian and the fact that the heirloom meant so little to Maddy’s mother, who was quite flippant about it, made me cringe. We had followed the brooch from mother to daughter for years and here was a woman who didn’t care at all. It broke my heart. Also, each of these stories are faith based. It’s been years since I’ve read what is now considered “Christian Lit,” but at one time it was the only type of literature that I did read. The first three stories had faith and hope at the core of their story lines. This message was beautifully incorporated into the story and was a reflection of these women’s lives. By the fourth, however, it became the focal point of the story and was not just about faith but was based on the doctrine of this particular writer. Faith is nearly universal, regardless of your religious ideological beliefs. Doctrine is not. It is specific, not just to Christianity, but to unique beliefs within that Christian faith. Had I not been so involved with the brooch and its story, I would have skipped this last story completely.

Overall, the first three stories are worth purchasing and reading the book. They were incredibly well written and utterly enchanting. If it had just been these stories, I would have given the book a 5 star rating and I still highly recommend the book.

Thank you to #Netgalley and #BethanyHousePublishers for my copy of this beautiful Christmas tale.

 

The Christmas Forest #RebeccaBoxall

SIX WEEKS UNTIL CHRISTMAS!!

The countdown continues with the Twelve Books of Christmas started in October. We now are down to SIX, just SIX, weeks until the big day!!  I absolutely love all of the terrific holiday books that are out there this year and I hope you are too! Last year, which really was the first year that I actually read a lot of holiday books, I came across author Rebecca Boxall. I fell in love with her 2017 book, Christmas on the Coast, and immediately had to go back and read her previous year’s offerings, Christmas at the Vicarage and Home for Winter. All of these were well told, beautiful stories set during the holidays but heartwarming tales for all year. This year, Boxall is back with her newest novella, The Christmas Forest.

Enid lives in a charming coastal town next door to her sister, Bess, in matching “Christmas” cottages where they have lived, side by side, since their parent’s tragic death. Enid has Asperger’s Syndrome which interferes with a person’s ability to “socialize” in a neuro-typical manner but, otherwise, they generally are quite brilliant and nearly always talented in some fashion or another. Through a holiday card exchange, Enid has met Fred who lives in Australia. Fred also has recently lost her mother, for whom he was the sole care-giver as she battled Multiple Sclerosis. Through writing and talking on the phone, the two have formed a bond that they believe is ready for the next step – Enid travelling to Australia to meet Fred in person. However, it is extremely difficult for someone with Asperger’s to trust – people, airplanes, strangers in general – and it is even more difficult for them to be “trapped” in a plane. But Enid believes that she is ready – until everything goes to hell in a hand-basket at the airport! Will these two ever be able to overcome the obstacles to be together?

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I admit that I loved the story from start to finish and, because it is a novella, that only took an afternoon! While the writing itself is not as taut as with her previous novels, I found the characters to more than make up for that. Perhaps it is because I am part of a  family that has lived with MS and other auto-immune diseases and have a son with Asperger’s, I totally and completely related to Enid and a young boy, Dan, as well as Fred, who cared for his mother. They charmed me with their humor, had me crying with their set-backs and made me grin like a Cheshire cat in the end. And that is exactly what a good cozy novel is supposed to do! I loved this story and I hope will too!

I was thrilled to receive an advanced copy of The Christmas Forest from #Netgalley, especially since I have been anxiously waiting for this book since last Christmas! Thanks also to #RebeccaBoxall and @AmazonPublishingUK !

SEVEN WEEKS ‘TIL CHRISTMAS!

While it seems so far away, when you are counting down the weeks by reading holiday books, you suddenly realize that there are more holiday books on the bookshelf than there are weeks left to read them! YIKES!! Perhaps a book a day would help alleviate the panic attacks. 🙂

cover148567-mediumThis appears to be the week for “café” books. If holiday stories aren’t set in cafes, then they are set in bookstores. Regardless of the setting, however, The Christmas Café at Seashell Cove is a delightful, humorous holiday tale. Seashell Cove is a series by Karen Clarke that features a different resident in each book, although past and future featured characters all make at least a cameo appearance in the current storyline.

Tilly is a free spirit who loves to work wherever her heart leads. Currently she is doing interior design work but she refuses to take it too seriously or even call it a “job.” She likes getting paid to do what she loves without the strings of a “business” attached. This Christmas, however, her friends and the café owners, are putting a great deal of pressure on her to turn the new addition to the café into something spectacular, each wanting to use the grand opening holiday celebration as a very special occasion to reveal big surprises. In addition, there is a new man in town with a young son who may, or may not, hire Tilly to redecorate his new home. The man, Seth, unfortunately comes with a very overbearing mother who has ideas of her own.

There are all of the usual holiday read must-haves: a bit of intrigue, encouraging friends, a colorful character or two and, most importantly, romance with missed cues and crossed signals that can keep the reading enjoyable and interesting. The folks of Seashell Cove always are a delight to catch up with and Tilly’s character is one of the best and most interesting to date.

If you are a fan of cozy books – mystery or romance – and like a good holiday tale that is not too over-the-top Christmassy, then The Christmas Café at Seashell Cove is a must read for you. Once you’ve read this one, I encourage you to catch up with the other folks from Seashell Cove. You will be glad that you did.

Much appreciation to #Netgalley, @Bookouture, and the author, @KarenClarke123 for my copy of this humorous tale!