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.

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Bittersweet Creek by Sally Kilpatrick

  • bittersweet creek (10:27-Kensington)Title:  Bittersweet Creek
  • Author:  Sally Kilpatrick
  • Genre:  Women’s Fiction
  • Pages:  320
  • Published:  October 2015 – Kensington
  • Source:  Publisher/NetGalley

My take:  When Romy Satterfield comes home driving a silver Porsche with her boyfriend in the passenger seat she runs a red light and runs over her husband, Julian. She’s back in town to get divorce papers signed and to spend a few weeks helping her dad on the family farm. But things don’t go as planned. Past relationships are revisited, secrets are revealed, and new possibilities are considered.

Sally Kilpatrick’s characters are completely believable and well-formed. As a reader it was easy to have an emotional reaction to the central characters. For me, I’ve found that’s not always the case. I think this was because of the alternating first person POV of Romy and Julian. That was perfect for the story.

I’m not sure what I expected when I began reading Bittersweet Creek but what I got was a thoroughly enjoyable novel that was difficult to put down. There are several Shakespeare references throughout and, as in many Shakespeare plays, it is filled with good and evil, comedy and drama, love and conflict. I enjoyed it all and recommend it to fans of Sally Kilpatrick and women’s fiction. I’m so glad I had a chance to read Bittersweet Creek and look forward to reading more from the author.

Nantucket by Nan Rossiter (plus a US Giveaway)

  • Nantucket (8:25)Title:  Nantucket
  • Author:  Nan Rossiter
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  August 25, 2015 – Kensington
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  Over twenty-five years ago, Liam Tate and Acadia McCormick Knox fell in love. It was summer on Nantucket, and eighteen-year-old Liam knew that wealthy, college-bound Cadie was way out of league for a local boy who restored boats for a living. Yet the two became inseparable, seizing every chance to slip away in Liam’s runabout to secluded spots, far from the world that was trying to keep them apart. 

After Cadie returned home to New York and discovered she was pregnant, her parents crushed any hope of communicating with the boy she’d left behind. Unanswered letters and calls couldn’t change Liam’s heart, but over the years he’s settled into a simple, solitary life in his rambling beachfront house. Now he’s learned that Cadie is returning to Nantucket for the opening of her son’s art show. Over a weekend of revelations and poignant memories, Cadie and Liam have an opportunity to confront the difference time can make, the truths that never alter, and the bittersweet second chances that arrive just in time to steer a heart back home… (publisher)

My take: Nantucket is the story of Liam and Cadie. We learn about their history in chapters that alternate between 1989 and the present. Usually when this technique is used in a novel I prefer one time period over the other but Nan Rossiter did it flawlessly and I was engrossed in both.

I loved Liam’s willingness to open himself to Cadie and her family when it would have been so much easier to keep living his closed-off life. Cadie risked a lot by coming back to Nantucket but she knew she had to do it. I was also charmed by the children in the novel. They added so much to the emotional tone of many scenes.

Of course, I loved the Nantucket setting. The passages describing Liam’s job of building and repairing boats were interesting and, at the same time, helpful in the understanding of Liam himself.

Nantucket is an emotional and romantic story of love, forgiveness, trust and second chances. I really liked it and recommend it to fans of Nan Rossiter and women’s fiction.


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Nantucket (8:25)


Second Chances by Stacy Finz

  • second chances (Apr14)Title:  Second Chances
  • Series:  Nugget Romance series #3
  • Author:  Stacy Finz
  • Genre:  Contemporary Romance
  • Published:  April 14, 2015 – Kensington
  • Source:  Publisher

My take:  Harlee Roberts makes quite an entrance in Nugget, CA. Her Mini Cooper, pulling a U-Haul trailer, slides off the mountain road leading to her family’s cabin. Luckily, Colin Burke, Harlee’s new neighbor, sees it happen and is able to rescue her and her things.

Harlee is looking to get her life back on track after losing her newspaper job in San Francisco. She also wants to devote time to her start-up online company. The mountain cabin near the small town of Nugget seems the perfect place to get her bearings going forward.

Colin is quickly becoming famous for the amazing furniture he makes as well as his custom home carpentry. There’s a bit of mystery about him that Harlee would like to know but she will patiently wait for him to share. That mystery has affected Colin’s life in negative ways. Harlee tries to help him deal with some issues without knowing his entire story. How the truth will affect these two who seem destined for one another soon becomes apparent.

Second Chances is the third book in the Nugget series though it can be read as a stand alone. I enjoyed the Harlee/Colin story as well as seeing familiar characters from previous books. I look forward to seeing how a few subplots progress in the next book. There’s a preview of book 4 at the end. Recommended to fans of small town romance.

Hearth Stone by Lois Greiman

  • Hearth Stone (Feb24)Title:  Hearth Stone
  • Author:  Lois Greiman
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  February 24, 2015 – Kensington
  • Source:  Publisher

My take:  Hearth Stone is the story of a young woman whose life takes a turn in a new direction, much to her distress. Sydney was raised in privilege by a rigid father, a cold grandmother, and several nannies. When an injury changes everything she’s forced to rethink her future. She sets off on a journey to finding new meaning in her life. What she doesn’t expect is to find that her old life was based on lies.

Sydney arrives in South Dakota at her newly purchased ranch. She immediately starts to rehab the barn and house and then finds an injured horse that most would put out of its misery. She insists on trying to save it – much like the ranch is saving her.

Helping her with the work on the ranch and the injured horse is Hunter. He’s a mysterious man but she soon realizes he’s one of the good guys. Another person who shows up one day to work is Vura and her young daughter Lily. Vura is a talented carpenter with secrets of her own. Hunter, Vura and Lily are all instrumental in Sydney finding her true calling.

I had a bit of trouble with the way Sydney spoke at first. Her conversation seemed so affected but it became clear that it was a coping mechanism when speaking to Hunter (and a couple of other minor characters). As they got to know each other she loosened up.

Overall I enjoyed this novel and recommend it to fans of Contemporary/Women’s Fiction.  It’s an uplifting story and I look forward to reading more from Lois Greiman.

Makin’ Miracles by Lin Stepp

  • Makin' Miracles (Dec30)Title:  Makin’ Miracles
  • Author:   Lin Stepp
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction; Christian
  • Published:  December 30, 2014 – Kensington
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  Zola Devon has always been a little different. Half Tahitian, with long black hair and dark eyes, she’s especially distinctive in the mountain town of Gatlinburg. She even stocks her gift shop, Nature’s Corner, with items that reflect her island heritage and tantalize tourists. But it’s her spot-on intuition that truly sets Zola apart. When she gets a hunch about a person, she’s almost always right. And when the surly photographer who owns the gallery next door starts meddling in her business, she can only hope that, for once, her instincts are wrong.

The one thing Spencer Jackson loves more than his camera is the majestic scenery of the Smoky Mountains. Reeling from his painful past, he’s settled in a cabin in the woods to train his lens on the breathtaking landscape. A woman as uniquely beguiling as Zola could only throw his simple, uncomplicated days into chaos–and force him to lay bare his darkest secrets. But as their lives become unavoidably intertwined, they both may discover the beauty of the truth, and the joy of the unexpected.  (publisher)

My brief take:  This is the second of Lin Stepp’s novels I’ve had a chance to read. I love the Smoky Mountain setting, the characters who seem so genuine, and her themes of people learning to forgive, trust, and love. Pertinent bible references are woven into the story in a relevant and natural way.

I had issues with Spencer. He seemed almost immature in his attitude toward his problems with his family and his willingness to let go of the past. It made him moody and rather annoying. I couldn’t understand why Zola kept seeing him. But she did. I really liked Zola. She had such a wonderful outlook on life and a great sense of who she was. She looked for and found the goodness in people. It was easy to understand why Spencer would be attracted to her.

Makin’ Miracles is a story of drama, mystery, romance and family dynamics. I enjoyed the pace and was satisfied with how Stepp wrapped things up. Recommended to fans of Christian Contemporary Fiction.

The Divorce Diet by Ellen Hawley

  • The Divorce Diet (Dec30)Title:  The Divorce Diet
  • Author:  Ellen Hawley
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  December 30, 2014 – Kensington
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  Abigail is sure the only thing standing between her and happiness is the weight she gained along with her beloved new baby. Until she instantly loses 170 pounds of husband.

When Thad declares that “this whole marriage thing” is no longer working, a shell-shocked Abigail takes her infant daughter, Rosie, and moves back to her parents’ house. Floundering, she turns to an imaginary guru and best friend, the author of her new weight-loss book. But surviving heartache, finding a job, and staying sane as a suddenly single new mom isn’t easy, especially on a diet–sorry, life journey.

Make an inventory of your skills, Abigail’s guru instructs. Abigail loves cooking and preparing food–real food, not the fatless, joyless dishes her diet prescribes, or the instant-frozen-artificially flavored fare she finds in her mother’s kitchen. So far, following everyone else’s rules has led to being broke, lonely, and facing a lifetime of poached eggs, faux mayonnaise, and jobs in chain restaurants. What might happen if Abigail followed her own recipe for a good life instead?…

Bitingly funny, wise, and insightful, Ellen Hawley’s fresh new novel is an ode to food and self-discovery for any woman who’s ever walked away from a relationship–or a diet–to find what true satisfaction is all about.  (publisher)

My brief take:  When Abigail takes her baby and moves back home with her parents (after her husband tells her it’s him, not her) she’s already started a diet to lose the pregnancy weight. She soon finds herself on a journey of discovery by having internal conversations with her diet guru – the author of the self-improvement (diet) book.

Abigail reconnects with her roots and realizes how superficial she’d become because of her relationships and marriage. Little by little, she gains compassion and empathy for the people in her life.

I found this novel best read in small bites – a few chapters at a time. There were times when I wanted to give Abigail a shake and say “get over yourself”. I think that’s due to the first person narrative. That issue aside, I enjoyed the novel – and there are recipes at the end 🙂