Monday, December 5, 2016

Monday Book Reviews: Two More Must-Read Christmas Stories!


A Kiss Under the Christmas Lights
By Peggy Jaeger
Published December 2016 by The Wild Rose Press

About the Book:
With Christmas just a few weeks away, Gia San Valentino, the baby in her large, loud, and loving Italian family, yearns for a life and home of her own with a husband and bambini she can love and spoil. The single scene doesn’t interest her, and the men her well-meaning family introduce her to aren’t exactly the happily-ever-after kind. 
Tim Santini believes he’s finally found the woman for him, but Gia will take some convincing she’s that girl. A misunderstanding has her thinking he’s something he’s not.
Can a kiss stolen under the Christmas lights persuade her to spend the rest of her life with him?
My Take:

I absolutely adore Peggy Jaeger's Valentine novella about Chloe San Valentino and her large, meddling Italian family, so when I found out there was a Christmas story about Chloe's younger sister Gia, I snatched up a Kindle version to sweeten my holiday season. (Read my review of 3 Wishes, a Candy Hearts novella HERE.)

Gia San Valentino is the baby of the family, a good Italian girl in her early twenties still living at home with her overprotective family. In the lead up to the holidays she's crazy busy with studying for her CPA exams while helping care for her elderly grandmother and helping out with her family's booth at the annual church Christmas festival.

Her well meaning family has set her up with numerous dates, but none of them make her heart stop like the new soon-to-be-ordained priest at her local church. She's more than convinced she's going to go to hell for having such carnal thoughts about a man of the cloth, and that's before he even kisses her. After? She can't think straight, let alone care. One kiss will never be enough.

This over-the-top New York Italian family makes for such fun reading, especially having grown up in Northern New Jersey with so many Soprano-like neighbors. Jaeger nails lots of the little details that make you both cringe and laugh out loud, and despite the fact that I figured out the story's "twist" well before Gia did, it only added to the fun to watch her emotional turmoil.

For a different sort of Christmas story that will definitely make you smile, grab a copy of this fun, fast read. You won't be disappointed! Grab it on AMAZON today.




Better to Give, by K.K.Weil
Published November 2016 by The Wild Rose Press

About the Book:
For most people, the holidays are a time of warmth, happiness and celebration. But to Jenna Samuels, they mean only one thing. Mounting debt. A single mother, Jenna struggles to make ends meet and to her, it’s a season of excess and distress.

James Garrison is in over his head, too. His ex-wife said he wasn’t equipped to take care of his twins, and now that he’s got joint custody, he fears she was right. They’re wild, spoiled, and always fighting. When they knock Jenna’s daughter into the “Gifting Tree,”—a part of their town’s charity collection—the parents are immediately attracted to each other. But James has had his fill of cold women and Jenna won’t make the mistake of falling for another man who disappears when life gets too heavy.

As their paths cross, James and Jenna must decide whether first impressions are accurate, or if sometimes, people are not what you assume at all.
My Take:

After reading and reviewing several older Christmas romances, I thought I'd buy a few brand new ones. This was my first purchase and I was not disappointed.

Told all in first person POV, the chapters alternate between the two main characters. Where some he said/she said narratives give us the same scenes in different views, the author here does a great job of showing us how both characters feel during each scene, keeping the plot moving along quickly through the month of December as the holidays heat up.

Jenna is a single mom of one little girl, with a baby-daddy who left before Nora was born and parents who disowned her for choosing to drop out of college at 19 and keep the baby. She's been going it alone for so long she's not quite sure how to let someone else in, using a wall of sarcasm to keep men away.

James is a recently divorced dad of rambunctious twins. He had to sue his bitter ex-wife for a formal joint custody arrangement in order to spend time with his kids. He doesn't want to waste his few nights a week laying down the law and as a result they act like brats. When a stranger (Jenna) calls him on it, his eyes open to the possibility that he's approaching his parenting responsibilities the wrong way. He also opens to the possibility that not all women are bitter manipulators like his ex.

An innocent dinner with all their kids leads to sparks, and things progress quickly. This is a fast, fun read (albeit too short) where both characters learn and grow as they fall in love. The HEA on Christmas night ties a bow on this sweet holiday story and left a lingering smile on my face.

Grab your copy and your holiday smile for only $2.99 on AMAZON.


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Writing Wednesday: Hello Holidaze!

I should be used to it by now. I never get anything "real" done or accomplished between Thanksgiving and New Years - the HOLIDAYS take over.

Not to suggest that's a totally bad thing.

This will be my first Christmas season in 22 years that I have a full-time job with an actual boss and desk job and whatnot. Because as much as being mommy is a full-time-all-the-time job, and writing, editing, etc. are jobs where I'm responsible only to myself, now I have to plan my holidays around conference calls and meetings and deadlines. You know, like most people.

How? I spent over an hour on what had to be one of the most useless conference calls I've been required to attend, and my thoughts kept drifting to the half-decorated tree in my living room and the wrapped ornaments waiting in their containers... luckily I got up at 5 a.m. on Saturday and finished off the Christmas card list before I finished the whole pot of coffee. (there was still a cup left. half a cup.)

And I have cookies to bake for my son and his fellow Air Force cadets, to drop off for the annual cookie wrap party I don't have time to attend. Which reminds me I need to take the butter out of the freezer if it's ever going to thaw. Maybe by the time I get home from the holiday event my neighbor is dragging me to invited me to join her for tonight...

Take a deep breath. You. Me. Everyone.

The Holidays are not about doing it all or squeezing everything in to an already packed schedule. The Holidays are about reconnecting with friends and family, (the point of those holiday cards) and enjoying the little things about the season that only happen this time of the year. The carols on the radio. The smell of pine in the home. Unwrapping the decorations and ornaments that each hold special meanings to your family, and sharing those stories with each other for the umpteenth time as you unwrap each one.

My mother's favorite holiday was Christmas, and she always found new ways to show her love of the season with an excess of gifts, silly or needed, new decorations and ornaments (but never getting rid of the old ones, either) and parties to make sure everyone was included in the laughter and good cheer. Now that she's gone, the holidays haven't been as bright, but I'm starting to see the sparkle again. You won't see it unless you slow down and look. You won't hear the jingle unless you stop and listen. I think that's what I need to focus on, not that she's not here to enjoy it with me, but that the magic is still all around us if we take the time to find it.

If it means you don't find time to write, so be it. Take a break and return in January with a renewed sense of purpose. If it means you're inspired to write - go for it. As long as you make time to absorb the magic of the season around you.



Monday, November 28, 2016

Monday Book Reviews: The Holidays are Coming...

In the spirit of getting ready for the Christmas season, I devoured a few Christmas themed books this Thanksgiving weekend (as well as a few others) and offer two Christmas tale reviews here, but also a few general thoughts:

ONE. A good cover is really important for a Christmas story. Readers looking for a warm holiday story are even more swayed than usual by the promise on the cover, even if the blurb is less than stellar. (Or maybe that's just me.)

TWO. A good Christmas story should stand on its own and not leave a reader hanging. It's Christmas. I want my HEA more than ever during the stress leading up to holiday week.

THREE. A fun title can suck a reader right in, especially when the cover isn't Christmas-y enough. Yes, I usually dislike gimmicky book titles, but Christmas seems to be the exception to many rules.

Now, on to my reviews for the week (yes, I added an extra since I skipped last week. Enjoy.)

 Must Love Mistletoe, by Christie Ridgway
Published 2011

About the Book:
Bailey Sullivan can't stand Christmas, even though her family's business is a store specializing in the perfect holiday. But now her hometown's chief supplier of rooftop Rudolphs and treetop angels is in danger of going under--and it's up to Bailey to save the shop.

She has it all planned: She'll arrive on December 1 and be gone by Christmas. Plus there's always spiked eggnog to ease the pain. But "Humbug" Bailey's not the only one home for the holidays. Finn Jacobson, legendary local bad boy turned Secret Service agent and Bailey's long-lost high-school boyfriend, is once again the boy next door. Only this time he's all grown up, and the sparks are flying faster and hotter than ever!

Bailey believes in true love about as much as she believes in Santa Claus. But as the holiday draws closer, she's starting to think about one thing she'd like to find under the tree...
MY TAKE:

As I said in my intro, so many sins are forgiveable in a Christmas story. This book is a fast read and rather sweet, even though we get too many points of view, endless flashbacks and what seems like a bit of a rushed ending... and the blurb really doesn't let us know what all to expect. But I loved the title, which doesn't go with the blurb now that I read it. Right. I bought this because of the power of the title alone. Crazy, right? That's what Christmas does to people.

Bailey has trust issues stemming from her father's careless abandonment of their family. She watched her mother fall apart when her heart was broken and vowed to never love again. Finn, the bad boy next store was her first love but when things got serious she ran away from the relationship before he could break her heart, in the process hurting them both anyway. The story begins when she's forced to come home to care for her mother at the same time Finn is forced to return to care for his sick grandmother. Sparks - and misunderstandings - fly fast and furious, with both characters flashing back in time to their hot and heavy high school romance. 

The dual storyline not mentioned in the blurb is between Bailey's mom Tracy and her second husband Dan, whose separation provides the catalyst for Bailey's return to her hometown. We get chapters in each of their POVs as well, which show us the misunderstandings that arise from lack of honest communication in a marriage (mixed with a hefty dose of mid-life crisis.) Another good storyline, but it kind of felt stitched together to make the story long enough to be a standalone instead of a novella.

Will Bailey and Finn find a way through their walls? Will Tracy and Dan throw away a great marriage based on empty-nest syndrome and a few grey hairs? Will all the storylines wrap up neatly with a bow in the December 1st-through-Christmas timeline? Yes, it all wraps up but I won't tell you how. If you're looking for a holiday read that's mostly sweet and filled with family angst, and you don't mind multiple POVs and flashbacks, try this novel. The paperback has a cuter cover, but the Kindle cover is catchy enough. The title is great even if the blurb doesn't tell you the whole story.

Grab a copy on AMAZON.

Unexpected Gifts (Castle Mountain Lodge Book 1), by Elena Aitken
Published 2011

About the Book:
Christmas represents everything Andi Williams is supposed to have, and doesn't. Running away to a remote mountain lodge in the Canadian Rockies, sounds like the perfect way to escape, until a mix-up finds her sharing a villa with sexy, rough around the edges, Colin Hartford.

Colin's determination to enjoy the holiday he’s missed for the last five years, sweeps Andi into a season of joy that she’s not sure she’s ready for. Can Andi open herself up to everything the holidays have to offer... including love?
MY TAKE:

I actually love this cover, and really like the blurb, even though after reading the book I'd write a different blurb. And probably choose a different title as this one is not descriptive or catchy in the least. Colin is not a rough-around-the-edges kind of guy. He's sweet, sophisticated, successful, thoughtful... all around yummy. And "remote mountain lodge" is a poor description of the purposefully rustic over-the-top resort complex just a few hours drive from the city.

If you suspend disbelief for a few of the plot points - including the crucial one where a guy who can afford a 3-bedroom villa at this expensive resort is a nice enough to offer to share it with a perfect stranger - and just go with it, this is a fun, fast read that will leave you smiling through most of it. A sweet story with just a little steam, this was a nice holiday story with wonderful descriptions of the snowy Canadian mountains and little special touches a resort can conjure to make holidays away from home pretty magical. Having spent many Christmases working at my family's Vermont inn, I enjoyed all those little touches the author added.

This is the first in a multi-book series about this particular resort, and is currently free on Kindle (or was when I wrote this.) Grab your copy on AMAZON today for a holiday smile.




P.S. If you're an author with a holiday book you'd like me to feature or review, feel free to contact me.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Announcing a New Newsletter!


You may - or may not - have noticed the new banner in the left column, and the sign-up widget right below it. Yep, I've finally given in and joined the newsletter bandwagon!

Not only is this a really great group of authors, but with a group like this there's going to be a great selection of bi-monthly news and information. "Something for everyone," you could say, straight into your inbox every other month beginning in December.

And if you sign up now to subscribe, your name will be entered into a raffle to win one of 3 great giftcards to be awarded at the end of December.

Each issue will bring news of book sales, new releases, and giveaways, as well as special promotions and events. Like I said, something for everyone. So don't wait - sign up today to be entered to win and to receive our first issue in December!



Wild Roses & Romance...
Stay in the know!