Friday, October 19, 2018

Review: How the Dukes Stole Christmas


How the Dukes Stole Christmas
A Holiday Romance Anthology
by Tessa Dare, Sarah MacLean, Sophie Jordan, and Joanna Shupe
Self-Published
Release Date: October 15, 2018
Reviewed by PJ








"Meet Me in Mayfair" by Tessa Dare

Louisa Ward needs a Christmas miracle. Unless she catches a wealthy husband at the ball tonight, the horrid, heartless Duke of Thorndale will evict her family from their beloved Mayfair home. But when her friend begs to switch dance cards, Louisa finds herself waltzing with the enemy: the horrid, heartless—and unexpectedly handsome—Thorndale himself. Now the duke's holding her future in his hands...and he's not letting go.

I read this first novella in the anthology just before bed and was gifted with sweet dreams all night. It's like being wrapped in a warm, Christmas hug while leisurely strolling through a beautiful snow globe. With Dare's trademark wit, humor, and sparkling dialogue, a smart-girl heroine determined to save her family home, and a reluctant Duke who turns out to be much different than expected, this heartwarming tale is one I'll happily re-visit again and again. "Meet Me in Mayfair" is a short novella, quickly read, but packed with so much story, heart, and beautiful characterization that I turned the final page with the deep-seated satisfaction typically reserved for a full-length novel. 


 "The Duke of Christmas Present" by Sarah MacLean

Rich and ruthless, Eben, Duke of Allryd, has no time for holidays. Holidays are for whimsy and charm—the only two things his money cannot buy. Lady Jacqueline Mosby is full of both, even now, twelve years after she left to see the world. When Jacqueline returns for a single Christmas, Eben can’t resist the woman he never stopped loving…or the future they'd once been promised. It will take a miracle to convince her to stay…but if ever there were a time for miracles, it’s Christmas…

MacLean takes readers on an emotional roller coaster with this tale of childhood sweethearts, separated for twelve years, who have a second chance to get things right. A series of flashbacks, interspersed among the characters' current-day scenes, reveal the events that have brought them to their reunion, with a few unexpected turns along the way. This one is a real heart-tugger. You may want to keep a tissue or two on hand. 


"Heiress Alone" by Sophie Jordan 

When Annis Bannister's family leaves her behind in the rush to escape an impending snowstorm, she finds herself stranded in the Highlands, left to fend off brigands terrorizing the countryside, robbing homes locked up for winter. Her only hope falls on her neighbor, a surly hermit duke who unravels her with a look, then a kiss ... until she fears the danger to her heart outweighs the danger of brigands and snowstorms.

Jordan brings the spice to this stranded by snow romance (one of my favorite tropes) set in the Scottish Highlands. This duke is in no hurry to marry and especially not to an Englishwoman with very different plans for her future. But a snow storm, matchmaking staff, and a fiery attraction can unravel plans, as our couple quickly learn. I really enjoyed this story and even though I'm not always a fan of insta-lust, I totally bought into it with these two. There's just something about a Highlander....  


"Christmas in Central Park" by Joanna Shupe

Women all over America devour Mrs. Walker’s weekly column for recipes and advice. No one knows Rose, the column's author, can’t even boil water. When the paper’s owner, Duke Havemeyer, insists she host a Christmas party, Rose must scramble to find a husband, an empty mansion, and a cook. But Duke is not a man easily fooled and she fears her perfect plan is failing—especially when Duke’s attentions make her feel anything but professional. To save her career will she give up her chance at love?

I wanted to like this one more than I actually did. Shupe is a talented writer and I have enjoyed her full-length Gilded Age novels but this story just didn't work for me. I had problems with the set-up but, beyond that, I had a hard time buying into the relationship between the hero and heroine. Physical desire was certainly present but the emotional connection I was looking for wasn't there for me and while I liked and admired the heroine a lot, I had a number of issues with the hero. Still, one person's lemon is another's lemonade and while I had issues with this story, it may totally work for you. 


Do you enjoy anthologies?

Have you read any of the authors included in How the Dukes Stole Christmas?

Each of the stories in this anthology features a family shortbread recipe that doesn't exactly turn out as expected. What's your go-to family cookie for the holidays?




Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Winners - - Melinda Curtis






The randomly chosen winners from  

The Rancher's Redemption Review/Q&A post are:

Laurie G

girlygirlhoosier52

Patricia B

Pamela Devereux

Congratulations!

Please send me an email with your choice of a Kindle copy of 

Marrying the Wedding Crasher or Fool for Love.

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com








Today's Special - - Wait Until Dark by Kat Martin

Wait Until Dark
Maximum Security - Novella
By Kat Martin
Publisher: HQN
Release Date: November 1, 2018




P.I. Jonah Wolfe knows trouble when he sees it. So when April Vale storms into his office at Maximum Security, all his warning signs flash red. April’s been accused of murder, except she has no memory of how she woke up in her coworker’s bed--drenched in his blood--shot with her gun.  As the campaign manager for the mayor, April’s job is on the line.  Even worse, her life may be on the line if she doesn’t figure out who’s trying to frame her.


The clock is ticking and the pair must find the killer... before April winds up dead.








Maximum Security
The New Series

WAIT UNTIL DARK is a digital novella that introduces my new Maximum Security series, set around a private security company in Dallas, Texas.  The story gives you a sneak peak at the private detectives, bail enforcement agents, and bodyguards who work at The Max. 

If you read BEYOND DANGER, Beau Reese’s story, you might recall meeting Chase Garrett, the owner of Maximum Security, where female detective, Cassidy Jones, was employed.   The first full-length novel in the series, Chase’s story, THE CONSPIRACY, will be out January 22 of next year--just in time for Valentine’s Day!

In WAIT UNTIL DARK, Jonah Wolfe, a private investigator, has a knack for spotting trouble. When April Vale storms into his office, all his warning signs flash neon red. April’s been accused of murder--but has no memory of how she awoke in her coworker’s bed, drenched in his blood, the deadly bullet fired from April’s own gun.  April must convince Jonah to help her prove her innocence and the clock is ticking.  The real killer is out there--and if they don’t find him before it’s too late, April may be his next victim.

I hope you enjoy WAIT UNTIL DARK and that you’ll watch for Chase Garrett and Harper Winston in THE CONSPIRACY.  

Warmest wishes for the upcoming holiday season, 
Kat





Monday, October 15, 2018

Review - - Malcolm & Isabel (Pennyroyal Today)


Malcolm & Isabel (Pennyroyal Today)
by Julie Anne Long
Self-Published 
Release Date: October 15, 2018
Reviewed by PJ





In Pennyroyal Green, the past is very much alive...but the present has a power—and a magic—all its own.

Isabel Redmond never anticipated that the echoes of a legendary love will reverberate through her own life. Or that answers she's long sought might be between the pages of Olivia Eversea's diary.

Until she goes in search of her roots...and meets her tall, dark destiny under a famous pair of entwined trees.

One look into Isabel's heart-stopping blue eyes and town doctor Malcolm Coburn knows 1) getting involved will be risky; and 2) their chemistry will be scorching. But as they retrace Olivia and Lyon's footsteps in Pennyroyal Green, a tender, fiery intimacy emerges...and old wounds are laid bare. Will two people who guard their hearts as fiercely as their freedom repeat the mistakes of a pair of long-ago lovers...or will they let love alter the course of their lives?


My thoughts:

Three years ago, Julie Anne Long brought her Pennyroyal Green historical romance series to an end with the long-awaited story of Olivia Eversea and Lyon Redmond in The Legend of Lyon Redmond, my favorite book of 2015 (read my Top Dish review). Turning that final page in their story was bittersweet as, with it, came a final farewell to the families I had come to know over the course of several books...or so I thought. When I began reading the (extended-length) epilogue, I realized Ms. Long had a surprise up her sleeve: an American woman, descended from Lyon and Olivia, on a three-month holiday in present-day Pennyroyal Green. What would she discover while exploring her newly-revealed family roots? Would a happy ending of her own be in the forecast or would she return to America with a broken heart? All the answers are revealed in Long's newly released novella: Malcolm & Isabel: Pennyroyal Today. For those readers who have not read The Legend of Lyon Redmond, you should know that Malcolm & Isabel begins exactly where Isabel and Malcolm's journey ended in the epilogue. I strongly encourage readers to begin with the epilogue then pick up the story to it's conclusion in the novella. 

This story pushed every single one of my happy buttons. At 145 pages (not including the previous epilogue), it's longer than most novellas but short enough to be an easy one-day read, though, if you're like me, you'll want to take your time and savor each perfectly placed word. Julie Anne Long is brilliant at evoking emotion while bringing stories and characters to vivid life through the imagery created by her beautiful mastery of words. For example, there's this passage from early on in Malcolm and Isabel's relationship:

He'd forgotten what this kind of newness was like. Thrilling, yes. But it wasn't entirely comfortable. Maybe this was how the earth feels when spring comes upon it. A little raw and uncertain. Buds pushing up and roots reaching down are bound to hurt a little. 

Or this one...

They lay in silence for a time. If he'd been asked to define "peace," he might have said, "lying in the dark next to Isabel Redmond."

Or one more...

The air against her skin simply felt different when he was near. 

Did I mention how romantic this story is? It touched me in all the right ways, with laughter, tears, and Long's beautiful, breath-stealing language. I enjoyed the snippets of Olivia and Lyon's life after marriage that readers are treated to through the pages of Olivia's diary. While this is most definitely Isabel and Malcolm's story (and oh, how I loved these two), the interwoven glimpses of Olivia and Lyon brought an additional layer of pleasure to this longtime fan. And speaking of pleasure, let's hear it for Sir Clive Dunkirk, the crusty, aging rock star, and apparent distant relative of Isabel's, who steals every single scene he's in. By the end of the story, I wanted to download every song his band had recorded. I also wanted to stock my jewelry box with Isabel's uniquely crafted earring designs. It's a good thing both the band and the earrings are fictional or Julie Anne Long and her exquisitely detailed descriptions would be a huge drain on my bank account! 

When I first read the epilogue in The Legend of Lyon Redmond, I immediately wrote to the author, begging for Isabel and Malcolm's story. When I finished this novella, I did the same. But, this time, I begged for more contemporary Pennyroyal Green tales. Long has populated this sleepy little town with a plethora of intriguing characters: from doctors, to pub owners, to charming, rapscallion musicians and self-aware actresses, to dishy vicars, to self-important aristocracy, and more. Some are descended from familiar historical Pennyroyal Green characters, others not, but all are deserving of happy endings of their own and I'm hopeful Ms. Long will agree.  


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Do you enjoy revisiting beloved characters after their HEA?

Isabel inherited Olivia's diary and Lyon's timepiece and cherished both. Which of your possessions would you like a future descendant to cherish? 

Malcolm and Isabel each have a tattoo that reveals something important about them. Do you have any tattoos? What would yours say about you? 


Because I loved both of these stories so much, I'm giving a Kindle copy of The Legend of Lyon Redmond and Malcolm & Isabel to one person who leaves a comment before 11:00 PM, October 16.  

Friday, October 12, 2018

Review / Q&A / Giveaway - The Rancher's Redemption by Melinda Curtis


The Rancher's Redemption
By Melinda Curtis
Return of the Blackwell Brothers
Publisher: Harlequin Heartwarming
Release Date: October 1, 2018
Reviewed by PJ






The last time Ben saw Rachel Thompson was when her best friend left him at the altar. Now Rachel’s suing the Blackwells over river water rights. Rachel’s a triple threat—rancher, fellow attorney and single mom—and Ben’s plan to win in court hits a snag when mutual attraction blooms. If he divulges a long-held secret, will his family forgive him? Will Rachel?






My thoughts:

I'm sure many of us wouldn't mind having a do-over for something in our past. In The Rancher's Redemption, that's exactly what Ben Blackwell gets when he finally returns to Montana: a chance to make right a past decision that benefited his family but has his childhood friend, Rachel Thompson on the verge of losing everything. When Rachel's best friend jilted Ben at the altar to run off with the rich grandfather who had raised Ben and his brothers following their parents' deaths, Ben headed for New York City and a successful legal career, vowing never to return. The only thing that's brought him back is Rachel's lawsuit. Rachel's life hasn't been a bed of roses either. She's battling her lazy drunk of an ex-husband over custody of their little girl and struggling to run her family's ranch while keeping her mother and grandmother from spending them further into debt, all while trying to keep her small law practice from going belly up. But she's smart, she's determined, and she's not going to give up until she beats the Blackwells and wins back the water rights she desperately needs. 

I really enjoyed this story and especially the chemistry and banter between Rachel and Ben. I enjoyed the slow rekindling of their friendship, even though they were on opposing sides of the legal battle, and the unwanted - and unexpected - desire that caught them both off-guard. Rachel is a feisty underdog and I was in her corner from the get-go while Ben took me a bit longer to warm up to. He's become a legal shark during his years in NYC and has layers of honor and vulnerability that have been buried beneath the teachings of his grandfather and the pain of betrayal. He's just beginning to question who he is and what values he embraces when he returns to Montana and I appreciated the author allowing those realizations to play out gradually over the course of the book. Spending time with Rachel and her daughter (he's so adorable with the baby!), as well as with his brothers leads him to reevaluate many things about himself. Redemption is within reach but in order to receive it he'll have to do something that just may cost him everything, including a chance to be with the woman and child he's come to love.  

This is the third book in this series but can be read as a standalone. I didn't feel at all lost or confused by reading this one first though I was intrigued enough about the Blackwell family after reading The Rancher's Redemption to immediately go in search of the first two books in the series. And I am eager to see what happens next! If you enjoy a friends to enemies to lovers trope that plays out amidst feuds, betrayal, and second chances, with plenty of heart at its core, I recommend you give this story a try. 

The other books in the series are: The Rancher's Twins by Carol Ross, The Rancher's Rescue by Cari Lynn Webb, The Rancher's Fake Fiancee by Amy Vastine (11/1/18), and The Rancher's Homecoming by Anna J. Stewart (12/1/18). 


~~~~~~~~~~


Q&A with Melinda Curtis


Welcome to The Romance Dish, Melinda!

The Rancher’s Redemption is the third book in the multi-author Return of the Blackwell Brothers series from Harlequin Heartwarming. Is this the first time you’ve participated in a multi-author series? How does it differ from writing the entire series yourself?

I’m a veteran of the multi-author series. I’ve done them for the Harlequin Superromance line, as well as with other indie authors, most notably the long-running Heartwarming Christmas Town series (a clean romance series written by Harlequin Heartwarming authors but independently published). I enjoy creating connected stories with other authors because I get an internal peek into their writing process (I’m a writing craft nerd), and they come up with businesses or family dynamics that I might not have.
I have several of my own series. I’m really good about plotting out a series arc and keeping track of character names. Other authors are really good about creating series bibles. I’m not (perhaps I should have mentioned I LOVE it when another author creates a series bible, town map, and timeline – lol). I also enjoy taking a character from irredeemable in a series to redeemable in their own book. In multiple author series, your character might get borrowed… Okay, let’s just say it: stolen. For example, in The Rancher’s Redemption, I wrote the hero’s fianc√©e Zoe having jilted him, and I gave her some heart and a backstory, although she isn’t the heroine. As we planned the next iteration of Blackwells, one of the authors called “dibs!” Yes, this happens more than you know!

To say the Blackwell family is dysfunctional would be an understatement. What would you like readers to understand about these men and Ben in particular?

I love family dynamics, perhaps because my family is large and extended and blended. One thing I’ve learned is you must have the hard conversations to keep the family together. The Blackwell men don’t talk to each other as much as they should, and this led to them drifting apart. In Ben’s case, no one explained to him why they let him stand at the altar and wait for his bride when all his brothers knew Zoe had left earlier—eloping with their grandfather!

What was your favorite scene to write in this book? What was the most difficult?

My favorite scene to write was the kiss in the pasture when Rachel and Ben are out riding. Ben leans from his horse to kiss her—of course, it’s not going to go well! (I love writing scenes where something isn’t insta-magical.)  And then to follow it up when their feet are on the ground with him taking charge and showing her there is chemistry. That was such fun!

How many more books are planned for the series?

We have another set of five books planned in the series. Big E, the family patriarch, has secrets, which are so much fun to uncover and reveal.

Ben and Rachel would probably both like to go back in time and give their younger selves advice. What advice would you give your younger self?

Not to take every life event or rite of passage so seriously. The pressure I put myself under when I was younger kept the zit-cleanser manufacturers in the money. I’m much more laid back now.

Thank you, Melinda! Would you like to ask our readers a question today?

There’s a lot in a name and writers name people, places and animals all the time. I recently realized I’d named babies “Poppy” in two different series.  If you had a big black horse, like the one Ben rides, what would you name it?

Four people who leave a comment before 11:00 PM October 13, will each receive their choice of a digital copy of Marrying the Wedding Crasher (sweet) or Fool for Love (sexy).

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Review - - Crossing Hope




Crossing Hope
By Kimberly Kincaid
Publisher: Kimberly Kincaid Romance
Release Date: October 15, 2018
Reviewed by PJ
 




Marley Rallston would rather be anywhere other than too-small-for-a-map-dot Millhaven, Virginia. But thanks to a heap of debt, what was supposed to be a quick trip to fulfill her mother’s dying wish has turned into an extended stay with the family she never knew she had and the father who never wanted her. To top it off, now she’s being forced to do community service with the town’s biggest bad boy, when all she wants to do is make enough cash to get out of Dodge? Life can’t get much worse. 

The only thing Greyson Whittaker cares about is his family’s farm. He’ll do anything to keep Whittaker Hollow in the black, including live up to his rough, tough reputation by running the place by himself, no matter the cost. Mandatory community service with the daughter of their biggest rival is the last thing he wants or needs. But the more time Greyson and Marley spend together, the hotter their attraction burns, and the more the unlikely pair begins to realize that forbidden fruit just might taste the sweetest…





My thoughts:


I've been eagerly anticipating this story since I turned the final page of book three, Crossing Promises, last March and I'm delighted to say it fulfilled my every expectation. 

Marley Rallston is as prickly as a hedgehog carrying a chip on her shoulder the size of Mt. Rushmore. She's not interested in warm and fuzzy family reunions or letting her newly-discovered brothers and sisters-in-law chip away at the shell around her heart though that's exactly what they continue to do. She's certainly not interested in several weeks of enforced community service with her family's biggest rival, town bad boy Greyson Whittaker, yet that's exactly what's happened. Greyson should have known those unpaid parking tickets would come back to haunt him. He didn't mean to blow them off; he's just so busy running the family farm and dealing with his mean-as-a-rattlesnake father that they slipped his mind. Now he's stuck doing community service at a run-down animal shelter with the little sister of his biggest rivals and at a time when the farm needs all his attention. All he knows about Marley is that she's a Cross. Those gorgeous blue eyes don't lie. All Marley knows about Greyson is his reputation around town and the repeated warnings from her brothers that he's no good. Will Marley and Greyson be the ones to end the feud between their families or will giving in to the attraction pulsing between them blow their tiny town sky high? 




There's nothing like cleaning out kennels and playing with puppies to get people to lower their shields and expose their true selves. I love how Kincaid gradually unveils the true character of both Marley and Greyson. Marley is a relatively new character to the series that readers are still getting to know so her evolution in this fourth book seems organic, a natural process of revealing herself as relationships grow. Greyson, on the other hand, has been a thorn in the sides of the Cross brothers throughout the series. I thought I knew exactly who he was. Wow, was I ever wrong. I love how Kincaid slowly unveils his strengths, his vulnerabilities, and the heart of the man hiding beneath the attitude. And I love these two together. They have incredible chemistry, they challenge one another, they heal one another, and I have no doubt they will have an incredible life together. 

I'm so sad to say goodbye to this family but I sure have enjoyed getting to know them throughout this series. Kincaid has brought them to life along with their beautiful Shenandoah Valley farms. Her descriptions are so vivid that were I driving through their area of Virginia one summer Saturday I would fully expect to stumble upon the Cross family farm stand, selling the best produce in the area and manned by the whole family...including their former rival and now brother-in-law, Greyson Whittaker. Happy endings all around for these characters I've come to love. 







Pre-order your copy today!



Kimberly Kincaid writes contemporary romance that splits the difference between sexy and sweet. When she’s not sitting cross-legged in an ancient desk chair known as “The Pleather Bomber”, she can be found practicing obscene amounts of yoga, whipping up anything from enchiladas to √©clairs in her kitchen, or curled up with her nose in a book. Kimberly is a USA Today best-selling author and a 2015 RWA RITA® finalist who lives (and writes!) by the mantra that food is love. Kimberly resides in Virginia with her wildly patient husband and their three daughters.


Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Review - - The Sheriff's Little Matchmaker


The Sheriff's Little Matchmaker
By Carrie Nichols
Publisher: Entangled Bliss
Release Date: October 8, 2018
Reviewed by PJ



When teacher Sasha Honeycutt kisses a handsome cowboy in a bar on a dare, she never expects to see him again. To her surprise, though, he walks through the door of her classroom for a parent-teacher conference. Sheriff Remy Fontenot might be sexy as sin, but Sasha has no interest in falling for another police officer. Rose Creek, Texas is her fresh start after being “that poor widow.” Only, Remy’s precocious daughter has big plans for the two of them…
After their stolen kiss, Remy knows there's a sexy woman hiding under that school marm charm. When fate—aka his seven-year-old—keeps putting her in his path, he decides to take it as a sign. His daughter needs a mom, and the intriguing, beautiful Sasha is perfect for the role. Not to mention their chemistry is off the charts. Unfortunately, he's set his sights on the one woman in town who has no interest in falling for another man with a badge.

My thoughts:

Carrie Nichols launches her Rose Creek,Texas series with The Sheriff's Little Matchmaker, another heartwarming, subtly sexy, and all around fun contemporary romance. I was pulled into this story from the first page and it kept my interest engaged until the end. The three main characters - because Remy's daughter, Evie is a very important character - are all likable, relatable people I'd enjoy knowing in real life although being friends with Remy could cause a few issues. First, there's that whole tall, dark, and muscular vibe he has going. Then there's his charm, his kind heart, his "come to me" smile, and that oh-so-sexy Cajun growl that wraps itself around you every time he opens his mouth. Is it hot in here? It feels hot in here. Seriously, I'd probably be living in a state of perpetual drool. Sasha is a sweetheart (who can more than hold her own against potential Remy poachers) and they're such a great couple that I'd try to control it but still...what can I say? He's just that yummy. 

If you enjoy small-town, character-driven romance with plenty of humor and heart, give Carrie Nichols a go. She creates characters with layers and stories with satisfying emotional depth while infusing enough humor to keep them light rather than angsty. Remy and Sasha have sexual chemistry that sizzles but actual physical intimacy is off-page so if that's your preference, this is a good book for you. Having said that, however, I enjoy physical, on-page, love scenes and the lack of them in this book didn't hamper my enjoyment of the story or my buy-in of Sasha and Remy's desire for one another one bit. Remy's daughter, Evie is a 7-year-old whirlwind who steals just about every scene she's in. I adored her and the ways she attempts to engineer her dad's love life once she meets her new teacher, Miz (Sasha) Honeycutt. Nichols also introduces readers to an intriguing cast of secondary characters I hope we'll be seeing more of in future books. Remy's brother, Ethan is on my list of hopefuls for a story of his own, along with struggling rancher Annie Metcalf. I'm already looking forward to my next visit!


~~~~~~~~~~


Do you enjoy a romance hero with an accent? If you do, what's your favorite? (I swear, every time Remy lapsed into Cajun French or called Sasha "Cher" I just about melted.)



Monday, October 8, 2018

Winner - - Montana Dreams Review







The randomly chosen winner of a

signed copy of Montana Cherries is:

Lil

Congratulations!

Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com


Tour Review - - Mistletoe Miracles


Mistletoe Miracles
By Jodi Thomas
Publisher: HQN
Release Date: September 25, 2018
Reviewed by PJ





A small-town Texas Christmas story, where hearts are lost, love is found, and family always brings you back home.
Griffin Holloway is desperate: the Maverick Ranch has been in his family for generations, but lately, it’s a money pit. He’d sooner marry one of his horses than sell the ranch. Marriage, though, could be a solution. If he can woo a wealthy bride, he might save the ranch—just in time for Christmas.
Jaxon O’Grady likes his solitude just fine, thank you very much. But when a car accident brings the unexpected to his door, he realizes just how much one person can need another.
Crossroads is the perfect place for Jamie Johnson: avoiding nosy questions about why she’s single, she’s happy to keep to her lakeside home. So she’s baffled when she gets the strangest Christmas present of all, in the form of a Mr. Johnson, asleep on her sofa. Who is he, and why does everyone think he’s her husband?
In this uplifting novel, three unlikely couples discover just what Crossroads, Texas, can offer: romance, belonging, and plenty of Christmas spirit.

My thoughts:

Jodi Thomas brings readers plenty of love, romance, laughter, and feel-good holiday spirit in this new contemporary romance novel set within her popular Ransom Canyon world. In the book, Thomas guides three separate couples on their journey to love with stories that seamlessly intertwine throughout. 

I knew right from the start that I was going to love Griffin Holloway. He's hard-working, self-deprecating, a little rough around the edges, cared for his parents before their deaths, raised his younger brothers, and is full of honor and kindness. He's also clueless when it comes to women which is how he ends up throwing himself on the mercy of the town's eccentric spinster sisters to find him a rich bride. Not that he plans to take her money. He wants to borrow against it and pay her back when the ranch is doing well again. He's not a gold digger, after all. He just needs a little help. Sunlan Krown is everything Griffin isn't. She's rich, refined, highly educated, well-traveled, and comes from Texas ranching royalty. But, like Griffin, she needs a convenient spouse without all the pesky emotions. Griffin checks all her boxes. Sunlan checks all of his. But Griffin hadn't counted on how Sunlan would make him feel and nothing could have prepared Sunlan for Griffin, his brothers, and the feeling of family that she's never known. Watching these two people who thought they could keep their convenient marriage free from emotion, desire, and love gradually move from strangers to friends to much, much more was an absolute delight. This is such a feel-good story but also filled with plenty of laughs. Thomas's humor is on point here, especially in the scenes with Griffin's brothers. I adored them all.

Who can turn their back on a man wounded in body and spirit who goes off to an isolated cabin in the woods to lick his wounds? Or a wounded pup who slowly brings him back to life? Not this reader! Jaxon O'Grady is one of the good guys but a tragedy has him questioning everything about himself and his life choices. Mallory Mayweather is a woman running for her life, desperate to escape the abusive boyfriend who beat her within an inch of her life. Mallory's dog trusts the man who nursed him back to health. Can Mallory trust him as well? If anyone deserves a happy ending it's these two. Thomas uses a gentle hand with Mallory and Jaxon, two characters both struggling to recover from pain and trauma in their lives. I appreciated the fact that she took her time with their relationship as there was individual healing that needed to occur before a happy ending could be possible. And I also appreciated how the ex-boyfriend was dealt with!

Captain Wyatt Johnson yearns for a home and family, two things he's been unable to find during his military career. Crossroads teacher, Jamie Johnson took care of that little detail in her own life by creating a fictitious husband to ward off the advances of creeps like one of the male teachers at her school. On leave and exhausted from his most recent mission, Wyatt falls asleep and wrecks his car near Crossroads. The helpful sheriff who finds him staggering down the road notices his name tag, figures he's Jamie's husband come home to surprise her, and takes him to her house where he tucks him into bed. You can imagine the surprise when Jamie comes home from a school trip to discover her "husband" has come home! Now the whole town is overflowing with happiness for the reunited couple. They're strangers sharing a home but if they come clean the whole town will know Jamie has been lying to them. Maybe there's another solution. After all, Wyatt is only on leave for a few weeks. They could pretend to be husband and wife, couldn't they? Who would know? 

"Stranded with a stranger" is another of my favorite tropes and Jamie and Wyatt's story is so much fun. I loved watching the two of them gradually become acquainted, then attracted, then emotionally attached as the dreams they've each secretly hoped for slowly begin to be realized. But their "marriage" has a time limit as Wyatt must return to his dangerous, top-secret life, leaving Jamie behind. Or, will a mistletoe miracle turn a pretend husband into a real one?

I enthusiastically recommend Mistletoe Miracles for a hopeful, heartwarming reading experience, not only at Christmas but any time of the year. And don't worry if you haven't read any of the previous books in Thomas's Ransom Canyon series. The stories in this book stand on their own. 


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Jodi Thomas’ TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:
Monday, September 24th: Books & Spoons
Tuesday, September 25th: Stranded in Chaos
Wednesday, September 26th: @_ebl_inc_
Thursday, September 27th: omg.kacie.reads and @omg.kacie.reads
Monday, October 1st: Moonlight Rendezvous
Tuesday, October 2nd: Thoughts on This ‘n That
Wednesday, October 3rd: A Night’s Dream of Books
Thursday, October 4th: @remarkablylisa
Monday, October 8th: The Romance Dish
Tuesday, October 9th: What is That Book About – excerpt
Thursday, October 11th: Written Love Reviews
Monday, October 15th: Cheryl’s Book Nook – review and excerpt
Wednesday, October 17th: A Holland Reads – excerpt
Monday, October 22nd: Evermore Books
Wednesday, October 24th: From the TBR Pile
Thursday, October 25th: Books & Bindings
Friday, October 26th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers