The Holiday Gift by RaeAnne Thayne

  • holiday-giftTitle:  The Holiday Gift
  • Series:  The Cowboys of Cold Creek
  • Author:  RaeAnne Thayne
  • Pages:  224
  • Genre:  Contemporary Romance; Christmas
  • Published:  November 2016 – Harlequin
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

Description:  With two kids and an active life, widow Faith Dustin only wants peace and quiet for Christmas. But her snowy Pine Gulch ranch is nothing but chaotic. All that keeps Faith going is her helpful neighbor, cowboy Chase Brannon. He’s always been “good ol’ Chase,” her faithful friend. Until he kisses her under the mistletoe… 

Years ago Chase blew his chance with the woman he’s loved since childhood. Now he’s determined to step out of the friend zone…and into the role of husband. But the scared and stubborn Faith won’t let herself fall. With Christmas just days away, Chase will need all the magic of the season—and the help of her two matchmaking children—to unwrap a second chance at love.  (publisher)

My take: The Holiday Gift is the third of the Nichols sisters’ books within the Cowboys of Cold Creek series. It can stand alone but I think you’d enjoy it a bit more if you read the previous two books ( The Christmas Ranch and A Cold Creek Christmas Story).

I love a good Christmas romance and this one didn’t disappoint – even despite Faith’s frustrating denial of her true feelings for Chase. But I trusted RaeAnne Thayne to bring her characters to a HEA and she didn’t let me down. The Idaho mountain ranch setting as described by Thayne is wonderfully inviting. It was fun to read about all the happenings at The Christmas Ranch and with Faith’s sisters.

The Holiday Gift is a lovely story and a satisfying completion to the Nichols sisters’ trilogy. Recommended to fans of the author, novels about families, and a nice Christmas romance.

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A Lowcountry Christmas by Mary Alice Monroe

  • a-lowcountry-christmas-tandem-litTitle:  A Lowcountry Christmas
  • Series:  Lowcountry Summer #5
  • Author:  Mary Alice Monroe
  • Genre:  Fiction; Christmas
  • Pages:  384
  • Published:  October 2016 – Gallery Books
  • Source:  Publisher; Tandem Literary

Description:  As far as ten-year-old Miller McClellan is concerned, it’s the worst Christmas ever. His father’s shrimp boat is docked, his mother is working two jobs, and with finances strained, Miller is told they can’t afford the dog he desperately wants. “Your brother’s return from war is our family’s gift,” his parents tell him. But when Taylor returns with PTSD, family tensions darken the holidays.

Heartbreak and financial stress threaten to destroy the spirit of the season until the miraculous gift of a service dog leads Taylor, his family, and their community on a healing journey to discover the true meaning of Christmas.  (publisher)

My take:  A Lowcountry Christmas is the first of Mary Alice Monroe’s books I’ve read. I thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend it to anyone looking for a special Christmas book to read this year. It’s the fifth book in a series but I can say, not having read the previous books, it can stand alone.

The McClellan family has welcomed home their son, a veteran with PTSD, and are all getting used to a new normal. On top of that, finances are strained which adds tension to the relationships between parents and children, spouses, and siblings. I loved how Monroe took her characters through their challenges and brought them to a satisfying result: mainly the true meaning of Christmas and what matters most.

A Lowcountry Christmas is truly lovely and I can see it becoming an annual read for me. I can think of a few people on my gift list who will love it. Highly recommended!


About the author:

Known for her intimate portrayals of women’s lives, Mary Alice Monroe is the New York Times bestselling author of more than a dozen novels, including The Summer Girls, The Summer Wind, The Summer’s  End, Last Light Over Carolina, Time is a River, Sweetgrass, Skyward, The Beach House, Beach House Memories, Swimming Lessons, The Four Seasons, and The Book Club. Her books have received numerous awards, including the 2008 South Carolina Center for the Book Award for Writing, the 2014 South Carolina Award for Literary Excellence, the 2015 SW Florida Author of Distinction Award, the RT Lifetime Achievement Award, and the International Book Award for Green Fiction.

An active conservationist, Monroe draws themes for her novels from nature and the parallels with human nature, thus drawing attention to various endangered species and the human connection to the natural world. Mary Alice is involved with several environmental groups and is on the board of the South Carolina Aquarium, the Leatherback Trust, and Charleston Volunteers for Literacy. She lives in the lowcountry of South Carolina. Visit her at MaryAliceMonroe.com and at Facebook.com/MaryAliceMonroe.

The 24 Days of Christmas by Linda Lael Miller

  • the-24-days-of-christmasTitle:  The 24 Days of Christmas
  • Author:  Linda Lael Miller
  • Genre:  Contemporary Romance; Christmas
  • Published:  November 2016 – Lyrical Shine
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

Description:  A matchbox advent calendar first brought Frank Rayner and Addie Hutton together. But that was years ago. Since then Addie has written herself out of her father’s will, gotten herself blacklisted as a reporter, and had her husband leave her for a younger woman. The only good decision she seems to have made is to move back home, even if Frank now owns that home and is renting the apartment over the garage to her. Not that she thinks there’s anything there. There’s no reason to get wrapped up in the holiday cheer. Because Christmas miracles are for the movies. Real life is about unexpected families—and the magic of true love—and could there be a happy ending after all?  (publisher)

My take:  This sweet story is a re-release of a novella previously included in  No Place Like Home and Jingle All The WayI hadn’t read either anthology so it was new to me.

The 24 days of Christmas was a quick read. It’s a second chance story about not giving up on your dreams – even dreams you didn’t know you had.

I think a novella is perfect for reading during the busy holiday season when you want to escape for a few minutes and don’t want to read anything heavy.  I’m a fan of Linda Lael Miller and got exactly what I expected from this story – a nice, romantic holiday tale that was light on drama and just the perfect amount of sweetness.

Mistletoe Cottage by Debbie Mason

  • Mistletoe Cottage (11:3 review)Title:  Mistletoe Cottage
  • Series:  Harmony Harbor #1
  • Author:  Debbie Mason
  • Genre:  Contemporary Romance
  • Pages:  352
  • Published:  October 2016 – Forever
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  Sophie DiRossi loved growing up in Harmony Harbor. But after fleeing in disgrace many years ago, it is the last place she wants to be. Left homeless by a fire, she’s forced to go back to the small coastal town that harbors a million secrets, including her own. Sophie sees this secret reflected every day in her daughter’s blue eyes-and she must keep it hidden from the only man she has ever loved.

Sophie’s return is a shock for everyone . . . especially Liam Gallagher. The firefighter had some serious feelings for Sophie-and seeing her again sparks a desire so fierce it takes his breath away. Now Liam will do whatever it takes to show Sophie that they deserve a second chance at love, even if everything they’ve concealed threatens to keep them apart. In this special town at this special time of the year, Sophie and Liam can only hope for a little holiday magic . . .  (publisher)

My take:  When Sophie returns home to Harmony Harbor she brings her daughter Mia with her. No one knew about Mia until now so everyone has something to say – it’s a small town. Sophie worries what will happen if Mia’s father and his powerful family find out they’re related to her. Will Sophie lose her?

Fortunately for Sophie her luck starts to change when she is hired to manage Greystone Manor, the local inn which is not doing well. She and Mia can live there rent free as she begins her dream job. On day one she meets her former crush Liam Gallagher. His family owns the Greystone but he works as a firefighter. The Inn also employs some interesting characters and there may be a spirit or two hanging around. Really, this novel has a lot going on!

The book title comes from the raffle of a cottage (Mistletoe Cottage) on the Inn’s grounds. It’s decorated for Christmas and will hopefully raise enough money to keep the Inn afloat. The Gallagher matriarch Colleen has died and many of her heirs want to sell the place to a developer so Sophie really needs the raffle to be a huge success.

Mistletoe Cottage is the first in Debbie Mason’s new Harmony Harbor series.  We meet many characters who I’m sure will appear prominently in future books. I enjoyed it and recommend it to fans of the author and contemporary, small town romance – this one with a Christmas theme.

Christmas in Paris by Anita Hughes

  • christmas-in-parisTitle:  Christmas in Paris
  • Author:  Anita Hughes
  • Pages:  288
  • Genre:  Romance; Christmas
  • Published:  October 2016 – St. Martin’s Griffin
  • Source:  Publisher

My take: Christmas in Paris is the story of two people, Isabel and Alec, whose weddings to other people were recently called off. They end up in neighboring suites at the Paris hotel where their respective honeymoons had been scheduled and meet in a humorous scene on their balconies.

Each is nursing a broken heart but they can console each other by seeing the sites of Paris together. The city is a major part of the novel from the famous tourist stops to cafes to high-end boutiques.

After having her palm read at a holiday bazaar, Isabel is convinced she will meet a French aristocrat and become engaged soon after. Alec is certain he’ll never allow himself to fall in love again but he’s willing to help Isabel enjoy her time in Paris. Little by little he discovers he could love again and it might be sooner than he thought possible.

This novel seemed like a fairy tale. There were beautiful ball gowns and fabulous events and places. And not everyone was the way they appeared. In reality, I couldn’t believe someone as smart and sophisticated as Isabel would go all in on a palm reading! I needed to suspend belief in order to enjoy the story. That was key because once I did that the pages almost turned themselves. In the end, the two will learn a lesson about honesty and love they both knew all along.

Christmas in Paris is a fluffy snow-dusting of a novel. If things like Paris, fashion, food, upscale lifestyles and Romance are your catnip you’ll love this book. I liked it and think fans of Anita Hughes and light, romantic novels will as well.


About the Author:

anita-hughes_credit-sheri-geoffreys-newANITA HUGHES is the author of Monarch Beach, Market Street, Lake Como, French Coast, Rome in Love, Island in the Sea, and Santorini Sunsets. She attended UC Berkeley’s Masters in Creative Writing Program, and lives in Dana Point, California, where she is at work on her next novel. For more information visit anitahughesbooks.com.

 

Praise:

“Christmas. Paris. Star-crossed lovers. Yup, it’s the perfect holiday read!” —Debbie Macomber, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Dashing Through the Snow

“Gorgeously festive and evocative, this is a compelling story filled with characters you truly care about. I adored it.” —Melissa Hill, USA Today bestselling author of The Charm Bracelet


Purchase links:

Twelve Days of Christmas by Debbie Macomber

  • twelve days of christmas (10:4)Title:  Twelve Days of Christmas
  • Author:  Debbie Macomber
  • Genre:  Contemporary Romance; Christmas
  • Pages:  304
  • Published:  October 2016 – Ballantine Books
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

My take:  When Julia Padden meets her across-the-hall neighbor Cain Maddox she’s shocked by his rudeness. It’s the Christmas season after all. The naturally bubbly and upbeat Julia is just not used to such treatment. He’s her polar opposite. Never one to back down from a challenge, and on the advice of her best friend, she decides to “kill him” with kindness.

Julia also has a project that is tied into a social media job interview that is down to between her and one other applicant. She must create a blog for a couple of weeks. The person who has the most hits and followers will get the job. So she decides to blog about her kindness project. This has far-reaching repercussions and some unexpected results.

Twelve Days of Christmas is quintessential Debbie Macomber. There’s a bit of conflict, romance, drama, humor and sweetness. I enjoyed it and think her fans will as well.

The Last Chance Christmas Ball

  • the last chance Christmas ball (9:29)Title:  The Last Chance Christmas Ball
  • Authors:  Mary Jo Putney, Jo Beverley, Joanna Bourne, Patricia Rice, Anne Gracie, Susan King, Cara Elliott, Nicola Cornick
  • Genre:  Christmas Anthology
  • Pages:  320
  • Published:  September 2015 – Kensington
  • Source:  Publisher/NetGalley

Description:  Christmas 1815. Upstairs and downstairs, Holbourne Hall is abuzz with preparations for a grand ball to celebrate the year’s most festive—and romantic—holiday. For at the top of each guest’s wish list is a last chance to find true love before the New Year…

A chance meeting beneath the mistletoe, a stolen glance across the dance floor—amid the sumptuous delicacies, glittering decorations, and swell of the orchestra, every duchess and debutante, lord and lackey has a hopeful heart. There’s the headstrong heiress who must win back her beloved by midnight—or be wed to another….the spinster whose fateful choice to relinquish love may hold one more surprise for her…a widow yearning to glimpse her long-lost love for even one sweet, fleeting interlude …a charming rake who finds far more than he bargained for. And many other dazzling, romantic tales in this star-studded collection that will fill your heart and spice up your holidays…

My take:  In my opinion this is the perfect kind of book to read during the busy holiday season – especially if you enjoy historical romances and anthologies. I enjoyed each story (although some more than others). The nice thing about an anthology is that it gives me a chance to sample authors I haven’t read before. That was the case for almost every author in this book.

I liked the premise of celebrating the 50th Christmas Ball hosted by the Dowager Countess of Holbourne Hall. She’s invited many of her godchildren who seem to be in need of a match (even though they don’t think so). I especially enjoyed the stories involving the Dowager’s grandchildren.

If you’re looking for a book to cozy up to the fire with this month I’d suggest you grab a copy of The Last Chance Christmas Ball. I’m glad I had a chance to read it.