#Blogmas The Giving Heart by Toni Blake

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The Giving Heart by Toni Blake. Lila Sloan travels to remote Summer Island to house sit for her sister Meg. All is well, until she hears this bull dozer on the property with a driver intended on knocking down the trees on it. Enter in, Beck Grainger and the immediate thoughts Sloan has, that Meg will never forgive her if she allows the trees to be knocked down. Were the plans to cut down the trees a secret? Nope, been in the works for months. Beck however, doesn’t like being at odds with his friend Meg’s sister-especially since he finds her so appealing.

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The Giving Heart was on its way to being a five star read for me. Sure, the premise of the book is a little ridiculous as you’re reading it. I had to remind myself a few times that the beef that Lila really tries to perpetuate with Beck is all over some trees. I for one, completely get sad when I see a bunch of trees knocked down-but I don’t think I could stand in front of a crew of construction workers and they’d just halt their work! That part aside though, there was something about this book that had me sucked in. It had been a while since I’d read something that had me hanging on every word, and I found that experience with this book. This is the second book in the Summer Island trilogy so I am assuming the side characters in this book were in the previous book, but I think a lot of my interest in the story lay with the side characters, Dahlia and Suzanne. Dahlia is an older character who epitomized confidence and comfort in her own skin. Suzanne went through a tough divorce and has guarded herself against relationships since. Apparently, Beck has had a thing for her and she’s constantly turned him down..until now. Perfect timing right, with Meg in the picture?

This book becomes this weird love triangle involving two people who are also attempting to be friends. At the same time though, it is also obvious that Suzanne has had plenty of space and opportunity to have made Beck hers. Lila is only in town for a while though, so we see Beck have to make that decision-he could totally play it safe and choose Suzanne who is there, will be there, and is finally willing to give him a chance, or he can follow his heart and go after Lila.

The book strangely felt like a mixture of enemies to lovers and friends to lovers; the enemies part felt one sided. Lila really tries to hate Beck due to the tree cutting situation and I think as a way of denying her attraction to him. He is never a jerk to her though so it’s hard to maintain that front.

This book gave me the wintry feels I was looking for, which I appreciated. I feel like a lot of the 2019 *Christmas Romances* have suffered a bit of false advertisement, but this one definitely delivered. What kept this from being a five star read was the random addition at the end of the book I wasn’t expecting and just didn’t work for me. It is a personal preference. It may work for some readers, but for me, when the characters have only known each other for 300ish pages, it just doesn’t jazz well with me. You guessed it, the proposal. 

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#Blogmas A Coldwater Christmas by Delores Fossen

My Post (5)

A Coldwater Christmas by Delores Fossen is book four in Fossen’s Coldwater Texas series. I read last year’s holiday romance in this series and had every intention on backtracking through the series in 2019, but failed to do so. *cringe* In my attempt at holding myself accountable however, I will make it a priority in 2020.

What this books is about: Recently separated from her husband Janna, returns to her hometown of Coldwater, Texas to speak to her previous ex-husband and first love Kace about the fact that his father and her mother are engaged. This is sour subject being that Kace and his brother’s cannot stand their father due to him walking out on the family and the boys ending up in some really crappy foster care situations. Twist to the story? Janna has recently left her jerk of a husband Dominick and he is out to drain her bank accounts.

A Coldwater Christmas is hilarious! I adore Delores Fossen’s sense of humor, it truly shines through in this story with roaming Texas longhorns throughout the town streets, flying pink penis’s with smiley faces on them and vibrators sent in the mail. As I read the book it felt like a solid five star read. I was convinced I was going to love it..

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My issues with the book lie with a few things at the end of the book and the second chance romance between Janna and Kace.  When reading a second chance romance, I tend to pick sides. You read from a specific character’s perspective (in this case, Kase’s) and it’s usually the character who has blasted in from the past who I feel like has to earn my trust and help me feel that the connection is genuine (in this case Janna!). I didn’t feel a connection between Janna and Kace, especially with the way the ending happened. I felt like if the road we took was the road we were going to take, I should’ve felt more than just these two old lovers have linked back up and are again having amazing sex. The way the book ended felt like a let down because I was loving the book so much in the beginning and middle half.

I have also been pondering on, if a romance is a Christmas romance, how much of the Christmas aspect do I need? The mention of Christmas in this one is very brief, so if that is something you need more of in your books..just throwing it out there, you don’t get much!

xx.

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#Blogmas Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses by Jenny Hale

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Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses by Jenny Hale should absolutely be on your holiday tbr. This is the romance between single Mom, nurse Abbey who is trying to hold it all together and Nick. Nick is a millionaire, divorcee, who is hosting family Christmas at his place this year and is suggested to hire Abbey to come decorate and get things nice and festive for everyone.

Jenny Hale does an amazing job at creating and capturing conflict. Nick, who has always wanted to make his father proud, was handed down his dad’s business. He’s very business minded and his dedication to work and not wanting a family is a big reason behind his failed marriage. He wants none of that business again which obviously causes some issues as feelings between he and Abbey begin to grow.

It’s like these feelings are there, but can only go so far because Abbey knows Nick’s stance on certain things. She tries really hard to guard herself and her son but it eventually gets way too hard to.

I loved this book so much and can totally understand why Hallmark wanted to adapt it into a film. It is sweet and cozy. It is a reminder to slow down and that there are more important things out there than working all the time. Don’t miss out on those moments you won’t get to experience again.

Obviously, I highly recommend checking it out. It’s amazing.

xx

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#Blogtober Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe by Heather Webber

 

Blogtober“As she struggled against me, suddenly all I could think of was my mother and how she’d shown me that living a life in fear was no way to live at all. It was a choice.”

Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe. Nestled in the mountain shadows of Alabama lies the little town of Wicklow. It is here that Anna Kate has returned to bury her beloved Granny Zee, owner of the Blackbird Café.

It was supposed to be a quick trip to close the café and settle her grandmother’s estate, but despite her best intentions to avoid forming ties or even getting to know her father’s side of the family, Anna Kate finds herself inexplicably drawn to the quirky Southern town her mother ran away from so many years ago, and the mysterious blackbird pie everybody can’t stop talking about.

As the truth about her past slowly becomes clear, Anna Kate will need to decide if this lone blackbird will finally be able to take her broken wings and fly.

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This was the perfect book to kick off my September reading. I have been reading quite a few books which follow the same plot line of this story, and have thoroughly enjoyed them all.*woman returns home and inherits xxx* usually a bed and breakfast, but in Anna Kate, our heroine of this novel’s case, a cafe.

“Once upon a time there was a family of Celtic women with healing hands and giving hearts, who knew the value of the art and used its abundance to heal, to soothe, to comfort. Doing so filled their sounds with peace and happiness. Those women held a secret.”

The cafe and specifically the blackbird pie is a staple in the small town of Wicklow, Alabama. Anna Kate never really spent any time in Wicklow, Alabama growing up but when she returns, I don’t think she quite grasped how important her family cafe meant to the community. The magical realism in the story kicks in early in the book when we get glimpses of her grandmother’s storytelling and throughout the book when we get scenes with Anna Kate and the blackbirds. I love what the birds symbolize and how much the importance of love and the magic of love are honed in, in the book.

Grief. This book really touches on how a tragic accident. One moment in time. One incident. How it can affect everyone who has now experienced a loss. We see how grief affects who you become. We see how grief affects relationships and a lot of this book in its own magical way, is a good look at healing.

There is a lot going on in this story, and the story itself is set in a small Alabama town which I felt was a character itself. I love when setting plays a huge part in the story and Wicklow definitely did. You truly get the small town vibe: everybody knows everybody’s business, when there is trouble someone is coming by to help and the southern charm is irresistible.

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Overall, I loved it. I already know it is a story I will be recommending for a very long time. I rated it 5/5 stars. Add this one to your autumn tbr if it’s not on there already.

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#Blogtober Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths

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So, why not pass the hours with some story-telling? The perfect thing for a late October evening?

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Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths is an ode to the long ago written gothic horror novels. Maybe it’s the numerous book titles woven into the story, or the many references to characters that emit this vibe as you make your way through, that you’re reading a very subtle, spooky murder mystery. At one point I thought I was reading a ghost story, but in the fashion of  many gothic writers before her, Elly Griffiths ‘ghosts’ have an explanation.

In Stranger Diaries, our heroine Clare, is a high school teacher English at Talgarth High. The building which houses the school was once the home to writer of a very popular Victorian ghost story, The Stranger, author RM Holland. Within the first few chapters of the book, a co-worker of Clare’s is found murdered in her home. This kicks off the story really. As the police begin their investigation, Clare flips through her journals to remind herself of specific events they have asked her to remember, when she notices someone else’s handwritings in them.

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I think what I love so much about this book is how it captures the importance of reading and writing. I kept a list of the titles mentioned in the story and what I think Elly Griffiths did a great job of was, if she was mentioning a title, it added some kind of value to the story. I didn’t feel like she was throwing titles in there just for the hell of it. It really made sense to the way the story was flowing at the time.

Different perspectives. At first I didn’t think I’d like getting the different perspectives. Initially, I rolled my eyes because I didn’t want to relive scenes all over again. As the story progressed though, I realized the importance behind doing this. We get the perspective of Clare, her daughter Georgie and the Sargent Detective, Harbinder. Having these different perspectives, at one point was about to drive me mad! I felt like you couldn’t trust anyone.

I will admit, I thought I knew The Whodunnit and was shocked when I learned who it was, so if you’re in the mood for a haunted school a murder mystery, crossing over ghosts and the love of gothic novels..I can’t recommend this book enough!

If you decide to give it a read, please let me know what you think of it.

Happy Reading friends. we will chat again soon.

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Only Him (One & Only #2) by Melanie Harlow

Only Him

by Melanie Harlow

book #2 in the One and Only trilogy

Goodreads Rating: 4.15 Stars

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Plot:

Sometimes your first love deserves a second chance.

He was my first crush, my first kiss, my first everything.
But I’m not a lovesick teenager anymore, and I’d never let that cocky troublemaker break my heart again.
So when he shows up out of the blue asking me to have dinner with him “for old time’s sake,” I say I will. After all, it’s been twelve years, and I’m stronger and smarter than I was back then.
Except…he still does something to me. He’s got those eyes that make me weak, those hands that drive me wild, and a body I can’t resist—especially once I see the tattoos. It doesn’t take long for our trip down memory lane to go from sweet to sizzling.
We’re just as good together as we were back then—better, even—and I’m willing to give the only man I’ve ever loved another chance.
But he’s got to tell me the truth.

* * *

All I wanted was to see her again. Tell her I’m sorry. Make her smile.
Okay, that’s a lie. I wanted to do more than that—a lot more. But I know she’s better off without me, and I promised myself I’d behave.
Except I’ve never been much good at keeping promises…or my hands to myself when I’m around her.
I can make her laugh, I can make her cry, I can make her body surrender to mine in ways that neither of us could have imagined back then. I can—and I do—love her more than she’ll ever know.
But I can’t tell her the real reason why I’m here.
And I can’t stay.

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My Thoughts:

Per usual, I read this trilogy completely out of order but if you were considering reading it, just putting this into the universe: that is totally fine, each book can be read as a standalone.

Only Him was such an emotional second chance romance following Dallas and Maren. There is something about rekindling flames with your first love type stories that I yearn for. It’s like this slight hold on innocence, but now we’re adults and it’s interesting to see if we love each other the same now that we have time and life experiences on our side. With Maren you instantly get the sense that she needs some sort of closure with her and Dallas’s situation.  Same with him, which is basically how the story kicks off. Dallas has some medical issues and makes the decision to go see her after all these years to apologize for how things ended.

I think what’s going to stick with me most about this story is Dallas. He has some family drama. He was the screw up kid, always compared to his older brother who got the good grades, stayed out of trouble. Dallas was always in trouble, dropped out of college and does tattoos for a living. The author really wrote the growth of Dallas as a character well. We see him choosing to be miserable and he gets called out on it. We see how things aren’t always what they appear. We see Dallas and his brother work towards mending their relationship, and Mister Perfect Big Brother shares with Dallas a situation that humbled him.  It really opened the conversation on, as a man, being okay with being vulnerable.

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The relationship between Dallas and Maren kicks off kind of fast, I mean the two already have so much love for each other, so I didn’t mind. They definitely make up for lost time, but Dallas’s medical issue is a big part of the conflict and he takes the opportunity for Maren to be there for him, away from her. You have two people who obviously love each other, yet it’s so complicated.

Minus the medical issues and family drama, this book felt like a love letter to first loves we don’t get closure on. I think everyone remembers their first love, but if you found yourself in a situation like Maren’s, it makes total sense how, regardless of how much Time has passed, that you’d still be fixated on them.  I thought Melanie Harlow captured that so well.

If you are already a fan of Melanie Harlow’s I think this back list title is definitely a must read. I have chatted with a few friends who admitted this was their least favorite book in the trilogy..and I will say, book three remains my favorite, but Only Him is still very good. Very sexy, and very emotional, but so worth it.

xo.

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Well Met by Jen Deluca

“I met Jake at a frat party when I was nineteen. We were drunk, we…you know.” I shrugged. “We were just together after that. He never asked me out; I never accepted.”

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Our heroine in Well Met by Jen Dulca is Emily who is fresh out of a breakup with her ex boyfriend Jake. Jake and Emily met at a party when they were 19 and their relationship just sort of happened after that. While together, Jake convinced Emily to quit college where she was pursuing an English Degree, to work two jobs and help provide for him as he pursued his law degree. Jake gets his degree and offered a job..and dumps Emily.

Then Emily’s older sister and niece are in a bad car accident which brings her to Willow Creek, Maryland. She moves in with her sister to help with normal day to day things. Em’s niece really wants to participate in the town’s Renaissance Faire but has to have an adult sign up with her, so Emily steps up, signing up to be a tavern wench. Enter Simon. These two can’t stand each other, basically immediately. But then the two get into character and Emily realizes he’s kind of hot. Eventually for both Emily and Simon, feelings begin to change.

“April was right. I hadn’t been on this side of the grounds much at all. Except for the first day of Faire. The hand fasting. That day had been the beginning of everything between Simon and me. The first time he’d kissed me, even though it was staged. The first time I’d felt his hand around mine and felt safe. Protected. Like he was the one I was meant to be with. It had all been fake emotion brought on by being in character and fancy words spoken while our hands had been bound together with a golden chord. But it had been real, and more importantly, it had led to something real.”

I’m sure you’ve seen this book somewhere as it is all over the place at the moment. Well Met is very original. It brings something fresh to the lineup of 2019 romance releases with the Renaissance Faire theme. What I liked most about this book was the premise and the plot. I liked that Emily stepped up and was there for her sister and niece during a period of their lives when they are trying to get things back to normal. This also allowed Emily and her sister to work on their sisterly relationship that they never really got to have due to their age difference.

I liked the hate to Love relationship between Emily and Simon. The faire is a very big deal to Simon who we learn gradually, makes the faire a priority in honor of his deceased brother, who the faire was once upon a time, a big deal to. Simon is also an English teacher so he knows what he is talking about. He doesn’t think Emily takes things seriously and also thinks her and this guy Mitch are a thing. Mitch and Simon grew up together but were complete opposites: Mitch was the big, buff, popular guy and Simon was the nerd living in his brother’s shadow. The walls between Emily and Simon slowly come down once they give each other a chance and actually communicate. I enjoyed the pacing. It was a while before things start to shift between the two and I liked that it wasn’t rushed.

My only issue with Well Met, was that for a large part of the book it felt that Emily continuously resorted to her “I’m not good enough,” internal struggle so much, and we weren’t seeing any action on her part to grow from it, move on from it, or do something about it. I will admit, I cried at the end, but even with the beautiful ending, I was left to feel..does Simon making this vow to show her everyday how important she is, have to be what she needs to feel important? Emily is super smart, she holds her own with the literature talk with Simon. She steps up to help her sister and niece get back on their feet. She helps the Queen with the bookstore/cafe idea and is the no brainer person to run the store when the Queen needs to take off for a while..like there are so many arrows pointing to Emily being a pretty bad ass woman. I wish we would have seen more of her recognizing her self-worth on her own.

To not end off on a bad note though, Well Met is worth the read. Read it because it is going to be different than the 2019 releases we have had thus far. I really think the faire setting brings something totally different to the genre and it’s exciting. Deluca’s writing I am rooting for. There were no complaints there and I am excited to see what else she has in store for us.

For my rating, make sure we are friends on Goodreads. You can follow me, here.

Let me know if you have already read Well Met, what your thoughts about it are and if not, is it something you plan to pick up. We will chat again soon. Until then, take care of yourselves.

xo.

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