Reading Fanatic Reviews

All Holiday

Josie by Beth Gildersleeve

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Info Dumps and Distance

This is the first book that I have read by this author. I had some issues with it. Even though the book is of decent length, the author chose to do several information dumps in the beginning, both on the hero’s side and on the heroine’s side. One of the heroine’s actually happened while she and the hero were in the midst of their initial conversation in the book! It just seemed odd to have her thinking about her troubled romantic past in great detail while she is supposedly sitting and chatting with the hero, who happens to be her brother’s boss. I didn’t like the blackmail aspect of the story. After their marriage of convenience, they didn’t spend enough time together for it to truly feel like a romance. How can the relationship change and grow if they aren’t together? And, no, the texts don’t cut it. I know that work and distance were supposed to be at the crux of their conflict, but to me, the hero and the heroine have to be together more to make it a romance. So, I find myself a little disappointed in this book.

Coming Home to Glendale Hall by Victoria Walters

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Coming Home to Glendale Hall*

Story of Forgiveness, Family, Hope and Community

This is a complex story about multiple generations and multiple secrets that require multiple plot lines. As I often see in contemporary British literature, the story was slow to unwind. But if you understand this and just go along with it, you might just feel yourself pulled into the complex web of the story like I did. I kept this book off to the side near my computer, and when my computer slowed to a crawl at certain websites, I would just pull this book out and keep reading. I sometimes found that when the site came in, I wanted to continue reading anyway. I often did and even stayed up later than I should have on certain nights so that I could read more.

I thought that the book was perhaps not as cohesive in structure as it could have been. It could have been tighter. I had recently read a similar multi-generation book that had a very controlled structure, and I did like that better.

The book is told solely from their perspective of a daughter who is coming home after ten years away. There were problems at that time that caused her to essentially run away from her family, which I will let you discover for yourself, but her grandmother is dying, so her father asks her to come back for her grandma’s last Christmas. So she and her young daughter return to the family home in Scotland. I don’t want to give too much away, but there are plot lines that have to do with just about everyone in the story: the main hero and heroine of the romance (of course) as well as a side romance, the dissolution of a long-standing relationship, the bringing together of a community that seems to be in its own death throes, and the revelation of several secrets that have a significant impact on several of the relationships. The author definitely put these characters into some tricky circumstances, but she made the characters seem very realistic and relatable. Most of the characters are inherently good people who might have made bad decisions in the past but are trying during the holiday season to make amends and make things right. I think stories of hope, forgiveness, family, and community are perfect for holiday stories, as these themes are such essential elements for the Christmas season itself. If you would enjoy meandering contemporary British literature as I do and heartfelt family stories that are complex and feel so genuine, you may very well enjoy this book.

The Christmas Project Planner by Kathi Lipp

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The Christmas Project Planner*

Facing Christmas Overwhelm? Get This Planner

I am definitely a person who enjoys the holidays. I love that time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. When I think back on the first Thanksgiving meal that I prepared myself for my husband and me, I remember how stressful it was to try to pull together the perfect meal while working and without much help. Over the years I developed a plan (and ditched the husband) with particular timing for certain things, and it did make it so much easier. Even if I would still collapse into a heap at the end of the big days. This book is aimed at helping you tame the overwhelm that the Christmas season can be so that you can create the holiday that will mean the most for you, your family, and your friends. This is a book that is quite enjoyable to read as well as act upon. The author comes across as very caring and understanding. She knows exactly where you’re at with all of the holiday hubbub and sincerely wants to help you create a special day or season while still maintaining your sanity.

The book has 21 projects. Even the author admits she doesn’t do all of them every year. But these projects are the things that you would typically do during the holiday season anyway, like trying to sort out which recipes you might use for the big days and figuring out your Christmas cards. But what I really appreciated was her guiding principles for the Christmas season (and which you do see echoed throughout the rest of the book): Namely, this should be about creating the holiday that you and others in your life want, and you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help. Just because you are the parent or the head of the household doesn’t mean it all has to be your responsibility for the big days. The author states quite firmly that you shouldn’t just do “holiday” things because they are expected; you should do them because you want to, and they will bring you and others the joy that is meant to be a part of the season. I just love that.

The projects are pretty straightforward, and she also has mini essays that go along with each project as well, where she continually urges you to do what is best for you and your family and to ask for help. Just because you have a tradition doesn’t mean you have to follow it if thinking about or doing it doesn’t bring you happiness. If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed by the holidays and need kind advice, as well as practical plans, this book may be your ticket for a better holiday season.

Give Me a Christmas by Zoe Ann Wood

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Give Me a Christmas*

Too Much Emphasis on Heroine’s Side Story

WARNING: Some spoilers

I am not quite sure what I think about this book. I liked the hero and the heroine as characters. But the romantic story felt disjointed and rushed to me, almost as if it were two or more different stories that weren’t quite interwoven as well as they should have been. This is a second-chance-at-romance book. I didn’t feel like the romantic aspect was given enough time to grow and evolve in a natural fashion. I also had a hard time buying the heroine’s choice at about the two-thirds mark; she had worked so hard to have Christmas away from her toxic parents, why wouldn’t she try to convince Finn to stay on in Switzerland rather than them both go back because he had a plane to catch? Given all that we had learned about her family dynamic, I found it to be a surprising and nonsensical choice. and she didn’t even discuss options with Finn. Then, of course, once they were back Stateside, the story shifted to being more about the parents than the romance. The story just did not gel for me.

A Royal Christmas Wish by Lizzie Shane

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A Royal Christmas Wish*

A Surprisingly Lovely Fairy Tale Romance

If you are one who enjoys those Christmas TV romances that involve fake royalty but are just delightfully sweet, this book from an imprint that puts out those kinds of movies may very well pull you away from the TV and into a book. I found this novel to be that kind of sweet and charming. You do have to accept, especially at the beginning, that there is perhaps a little more melodrama in this story compared to more realistic Christmas romances. This has a strong Cinderella fairy tale vibe all over it, yet it also does speak to some of the concepts that are buzzwords these days in the self-help field, like confidence and empowerment.

The heroine, who sometimes calls herself Just Jenny, is a klutzy, directionless, but good-hearted young woman who has issues with valuing herself. A chance, head-on crash into a man in a park while walking a dog changes her life forever. In their first conversations at that meeting, she reveals much about herself, and he is intrigued by her candor and other qualities. She finds out later that he is a prince of a small European nation. Then things get even more fairytale-like when a fairy godmother of sorts grants her one wish that will expire at the end of the holiday season. Just Jenny becomes a princess.

So will these two stay married beyond the wish’s allotted time? It was interesting to watch Jenny transform into a princess, to watch her confidence and self-awareness blossom. It is certainly not a perfect or easy transformation. Dom, the hero, is perfectly swoon-worthy. He sees Jenny’s value far earlier than she does. He not only transforms her life; she has an effect on him and his outlook as well. They are both better versions of themselves because of the other. It is all very sweet and magical. So long as you’re able to suspend disbelief about something so fantastical, you may find yourself as charmed by this sweet little tale as I was.

The Cornish Village School: Christmas Wishes by Kitty Wilson

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The Cornish Village School: Christmas Wishes*

Delightful English Christmas Romance

What a charming and well-done Christmas romance! This is the fourth book of the series, but the first book that I have read by this author. It’s a delight to find a writer who knows how to compose both very funny scenes and extremely poignant ones. That’s all too rare to find an author who does both well, unfortunately. The first scene, when we discover what is in octogenarian Ethel’s basement, had me laughing out loud. The scene near the end—where Granny Annie helps Dan, the hero, put his life into perspective in the way that only a loving relative with long experience in life can—definitely brought the feels. If only we were all so blessed to have someone like her in our lives. I really enjoyed the dialogue in this book, and the book had a lot of dialogue. I particularly liked the conversations between Dan and Alice. They were so humorous at the beginning but became so much more complex and character revealing as the novel went on. Let’s just say that both Alice and Dan have issues to be resolved if they are to become a couple, moving beyond their obvious friendship. They do have a chemistry that comes off the page. They are definitely a romance couple you can root for. I enjoyed the other community members in the story. I usually associate good, quirky, and believable characters with cozy mysteries, so it is lovely to see that in a small-town romance. If you’re looking for a good and immersive Christmas romance read, this one may do the trick.

Twelve Dates of Christmas by M. T. Knights

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Twelve Dates of Christmas*

Second Chance During the Holiday Season

I have been reading quite a few Christmas romances lately because, as soon as the weather gets colder, I like to dig into holiday books! Unfortunately, so many have fallen shy of the mark of the types that I like. I want a Christmas romance to actually reflect the holiday season. Surprisingly, quite a few don’t integrate Christmas well enough into the storyline to make it feel like a true holiday romance. I also don’t really like ones that are too heavy. They can be a little serious if needed, but that Christmas spirit should lift a slightly serious story into something that is heartwarming. And yes, I do like a holiday romance that tugs just a little (or more) at the heartstrings.

Luckily, this book filled all of my requirements for what a good Christmas romance should be. It is written in the alternating perspectives of the hero and heroine, Derick and Ivy, who are six months into their trial separation. We first meet Ivy as she is scrambling to start her morning after waking up too late after not setting her alarms. On top of getting the kids to school, her best friend calls in a panic because the party planning firm in charge of the big town holiday events, starting with that night’s Christmas tree lighting and parade, has quit at the last moment. She desperately wants Ivy’s help to pull it off. Ivy is a party planner who wasn’t chosen by the city to organize the events. The author did an excellent job writing this initial scene, showing how frantic Ivy was and how she was struggling to keep it together on all fronts. I also loved the breakfast meeting scene, as the author slowly doled out bits of information that let us in on some of the reasons why Ivy and Derick had separated.

The main impetus for the plot is that Ivy’s estranged husband wants a second chance. He proposes to use the time before Christmas Eve to show her that he’s changed and that they can start again. I thought the author did a good job showing how the couple had problems in the past; it seemed believable and realistic. Both have grown and changed during their separation so that they could both better appreciate each other and bring more to their marriage—if only they can forgive the past and find their way back to each other. The way the children were written was excellent as well. Mallory in particular, the oldest, definitely acted realistically–both in her reactions and taking on more responsibility with her younger siblings—for a child in such a difficult situation with her parent’s marriage.

This book definitely brought the holiday romance feels with such nuanced, believable, and decent people at its heart. I particularly enjoyed the setup for all that this small town did during the Christmas holidays. Ten years ago, I lived in just such a small town that kicked off its Christmas season with a tree lighting and lighted truck parade, quite similar to what happened in this book. If you’re looking for an enjoyable holiday romance, this one fills the bill.

An Unforgettable Christmas by Ginny Baird

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An Unforgettable Christmas*

It’s a Not So Wonderful Life . . . Unless You’re Willing to Change

This is a sweet and sometimes poignant Christmas tale that feels in parts like a spin on both A Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life. The hero, Sam, is a near Scrooge-like businessman who demands as much from his employees as he does from himself, not taking into account that they have lives and families outside of work. A freak accident where he hits his head hard on icy ground gives him retrograde amnesia; at first, he can only remember fragments of his childhood. Angie, the heroine, is surprised at the new way her boss is acting. She had always suspected that somewhere buried deep inside was a decent, caring man; the accident rendered him more compassionate, kind, and even funny at times. Because Sam is estranged from his only living relative, Angie agrees to let him live in her home while he recovers and hopefully gets his memory back. Sam finds Angie’s home, which holds four generations of her Cuban and Puerto Rican family, to be a haven of belonging as he recuperates.

I absolutely adored all the characters in this story, especially Angie’s son and grandmother. I loved the sense of family provided by the interactions between the four generations; I do enjoy romances where a strong family element is a part of the story, and in this book, this is incorporated on several levels. All the characters were very well written. Sam definitely grapples with his memories and his sense of self as he recovers. That’s where the twist on It’s a Wonderful Life comes in. As Sam’s life is slowly revealed to him, unlike George Bailey, he doesn’t like the man he gradually learns about. Which Sam will he end up being if he recovers from the amnesia: the new Sam, the old Sam, or perhaps a blend of the two? And we can’t forget the romance, of course. The new Sam seems to fall for Angie pretty quickly; maybe old Sam had a crush he hadn’t acknowledged. Aside from this rather quick attraction, the rest of the romance is a slow build as the other elements of the story interweave and sometimes take precedence. All in all, I thought this was a charming, heartfelt Christmas romance.

The Christmas House by Elizabeth Bromke

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The Christmas House*

Odd Story; Didn’t Work For Me

I found this to be a very strange book that I couldn’t quite wrap my head around. I usually enjoy second-chance romances and romances where the couple is middle aged, as I don’t think that people north of thirty are given enough romance plot lines. I was at first intrigued by the heroine and the constrained life that she chose to lead. But it actually became a bit tiresome. I also liked the tease of the texts from years ago showing the budding relationship between the couple before that relationship fractured. The story seemed to focus more on the heroine pulling herself together rather than on the romance. But the way the author had her do so wasn’t really compelling reading. It felt like slice-of-life stuff rather than heightened drama like we hope for in novels. Honestly, it didn’t feel like there was much of a point to the whole thing. I thought the hero abandoned the relationship initially for poor reasons; who would want to get back with someone who just leaves when the going gets tough? The story does end up where a romance is supposed to, but I didn’t quite buy the ride as I didn’t get a sense of the couple taking proper advantage of their second chance to learn more about each other and come to a deeper appreciation of their relationship. The couple didn’t really have a lot of screen time. So this story just didn’t work for me. There are lots of Christmas novels out there; if you love the genre as I do, I suggest that you find a better one.

Christmas Inn Love by Kelly Collins

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Christmas Inn Love*

Sweet Christmas Romance

This is one of those sweet holiday romances that is just such a pleasure to read if you enjoy the genre. There are no big, bad villains in this story, just decent people whose grand visions of life are at cross-purposes. The heroine, Celia, runs a quaint inn in a small Colorado town. She and her son Jackson barely scrape by some months, but she is committed to her business and their town. Rob McKenna returns to the area after his mother’s death. Now a real estate developer, he plans to make some of his mother’s property, the part that abuts Celia’s land, into a full-fledged resort. Celia is dead set against this, as she believes it will be bad for her business and the town. They had known each other in high school, but Celia’s boyfriend had been Rob’s tormentor, so they were never close. As this story unwinds, the two adults get closer, partially because of Celia’s son Jackson and Rob’s dog. Will rob continue with his plans as he and Celia get more involved, knowing that she is opposed to them? Will both Celia and Jackson be able to trust anyone again after being abandoned by Jackson, Sr.?

There are so many things I liked about this book. It has gentle humor, which I always like in a romance. I like that the author didn’t make a villain out of the teenager in the book. Jackson’s a good, thoughtful kid, and I love his relationship with his mother. Celia and Jackson have had hard roads to travel, struggling at times to survive and always with that specter of abandonment as an issue. Rob is a good hero. I liked how he felt protective of Celia even before they very much involved. Chemistry existed between them from the start, but this is a slow-burn romance. The theme of Christmas was interwoven well into the story. Part of what Celia liked about her small town was its special little celebrations for Christmas. If you enjoy gentle Christmas romances that have a deep grounding in family, you will most likely enjoy this novel.



The asterisks (*) by the book title denote the source of the book copy.

One star = I received it as a free advance/review copy or directly from the author.

Two stars = I borrowed it through my Kindle Unlimited subscription.

Three stars = I purchased the book outright (sometimes for free).

The Amazon book links on this site are affiliate links, which means I make a tiny percentage if you choose to buy a book linked from this site.

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