Reading Fanatic Reviews

Contemporary Romance

Coming Home for Christmas by RaeAnne Thayne

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Coming Home for Christmas*

Not an Easy Holiday Read, But a Good One

I am new to this author, and of course, am new to this series. So I feel like I wasn’t quite prepared for all this book would be. The cover of it looks like any inviting and lovely Christmas romance. I thought the blurb was a little confusing, as I couldn’t quite figure out the timeline and some of what the author was hinting at. Let me just disabuse you of one notion to start with. If you’re expecting a light and fluffy Hallmark-style Christmas romance, this is not it. I know for me, sometimes, I want to read that light and frothy holiday romance. But if you are in the mood for a holiday romance that tackles more difficult subjects, like severe postpartum depression and traumatic brain injury, this book definitely delivers a compelling story with all the feels.

I will have to say that I had a hard time liking the hero and heroine at the start before I knew their full story. I couldn’t imagine a mother willingly leaving her family, as Luke suggested rather angrily several times. I also didn’t like that Luke at first was unwilling to engage with Elizabeth more than he had to. Even his sister was surprised that he didn’t try to find out the “why” and other details on their trip back to Idaho. I probably would have had more sympathy for Luke if I were familiar with the series. But once the couple got back to Haven Point, and the full story began to unfurl, it was amazing and I’m glad I stuck with it. Elizabeth has been through so much. And the children, my goodness! This story is about so much, including the themes of forgiveness of both self and other and the meaning of family and all that entails. There are definitely moments that will have you breaking out the tissues.

Lavender & Mistletoe by Donna Kauffman

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Lavender & Mistletoe*

Short Look at the “Science” of Love

This, to me, seems a little short for the story that it wanted to tell. I am new to this author, and I believe this is a series. I haven’t, obviously, read any of the other books in it, and I wonder if the heroine, Avery, would have made more sense to me if I had read previous books. I don’t know, though. I’m definitely a fan of an intelligent heroine, but Avery seemed to the extreme, and therefore, not quite believable. Is it actually possible to earn two PhDs by such an early age? I did like that the hero and the heroine were both brainiacs, though. In that way, they seemed well suited. Hiding beneath the brainy exterior, the heroine was actually a kind and considerate person, as shown by the way she treated the goat and her good friend, Chey. I found her scientific approach to love to be amusing, especially contrasting with the way it actually played out for her. As I said above, I thought this felt too short, so both character and plot couldn’t really be explored as much as the characters and the story warranted. All in all, I still found it a charming romance.

Snowflakes at the Little Christmas Tree Farm

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Snowflakes at the Little Christmas Tree Farm*

All About the Trees and Romance in Scotland

What a charming and sweet little Christmas romance! The heroine, Leah, after seeing and hearing the evidence of her boyfriend boss’s betrayal, drunkenly buys a Christmas tree farm in Scotland sight unseen. In the cold light of day, she determines that she probably did so because her father always wished to return to his Scottish roots, and her mom loved Christmas. So even though it leaves her with just two thousand pounds in her bank account, she does in fact buy the farm and heads to Scotland. Unfortunately, it is not what she thinks. It is quite run down and in need of much repair, and of course, she has no idea how to run a Christmas tree farm. Luckily, helpful neighbor Noel, who is a pumpkin farmer, is willing to help her out.

I appreciated that this was not one of those instalove or instalust kind of books. When the couple first meets, he is not sure of her true intentions, and he truly loves the farm and wants it to prosper. When he realizes they are on the same page, things start to get more interesting as he helps her out. Their chemistry is slow burn but palpable. As contemporary British romantic and mystery literature often happens to be, this story has a meandering pace and is very character-driven, not plot-driven so much. There’s no heavy action going on here, just realistic interactions between characters. If you know and accept all, the story is fine. But if you are used to faster-paced stories, you might be disappointed. However, I did find it to be a sweet and charming romance. As a bonus, you get to learn a little about Christmas trees and tree farming as well!

Sweet on You by Katana Collins

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Sweet on You*

More Than Romance

I have read several books by this author, and I have enjoyed some of her books but not others. So, I wasn’t sure what I was going to get with this one. I’m happy to say that I really enjoyed this book. It is definitely about a lot more than the romance, but I don’t want to give it away. Let’s just say the hero has some growing up to do, and the novel has an excellent story arc about that. I enjoyed the interactions between the hero and heroine as they were first trying to sort themselves out in the beginning, as there were some misunderstandings between them. Things shifted as the hero’s story arc became almost bigger than the romance. I feel like the story was a little out of balance in that regard for a romance. But the hero’s arc will definitely tug at your heartstrings. I found this to be a sweet and lovely romance that actually held a few surprises. If you like contemporary romance like that, you might enjoy this book.

The Billionaire’s Christmas Wish by Susanne Ash

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The Billionaire's Christmas Wish*

Low-Angst Sweet Holiday Read

If you enjoy sweet, small-town Christmas romance, this book has all those lovely, light moments that are typical of that sub-subgenre. I liked that the hero and heroine are genuinely good and decent people; you want them to find their HEA. It’s always a pleasure to read about people whom you would actually like to know, not bad boys or rakes—depending on your preferred genre. The two main characters have suffered in their past romantic relationships, and both have trust issues. In an unusual move for a romance, we seem to learn more and understand the hero’s perspective than the heroine’s. While we see both their viewpoints, we usually see his first and so learn about his take on what happened before we understand hers. This is extended to their backstories. I felt like we knew more about him than her, both in the beginning and as the story progressed. This isn’t really a problem; it is just unusual for a romance, as they tend to be woman-centered. I loved Miss Dorrie, who is definitely a catalyst for much that happens between the couple. This is a relatively low angst story, and I did feel like it needed a little more conflict, though it is a pleasant read as it is. If sweet holiday romance is your thing, this lovely novella could cheer up a dreary fall weekend.

Coming Home by Judith Keim

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Coming Home*

Tale of Adversity, Strength, and Family

I’ll admit that the reason I picked this book at my favorite book review site is that it took place in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. I am from southern Oregon myself, and I am always irresistibly drawn to any book that takes place in my state. I haven’t read any books by Judith Keim before, even the first book in the series, and I’m delighted to have found her—and it. I will have to go back and read that first book because I am now curious about it! I absolutely loved this story. Right away, the heroine is confronted with so much on several fronts—death, money problems, a bad breakup, recalcitrant employees, etc.—but she approaches her difficulties with a strong backbone, conviction, and resilience. There are quite a few characters in this book, but the author manages to introduce them and interweave them into the story in such a way that it does not feel confusing or off-putting. Much happens in this story, and the author has such an immersive way of writing that I just felt swept away with the story and didn’t want to put it down. Luckily, I had a spare weekend afternoon so was able to indulge. The teaser for book three at the end makes me very much anticipate the next book of the series.

The Other Side of Yes by Mikayla Ryan

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The Other Side of Yes*

Hero Totally Off-Putting

I am usually a reader who enjoys a second-chance-at-romance book. But I just could not get into this book because I thought the hero was pretty awful. He abandoned his pregnant girlfriend so he could see the world, letting her raise their son while she struggled through a pastry school and life after that. The author states that he did send money and came for occasional visits, but that last part was contradicted in the book several times when it was noted that the mother hadn’t seen the father since the child had been born. How could he have spent time with his son and not see the mother? Usually in these kinds of stories, the hero is at least a little contrite or want to make amends; he is typically introspective at least a little, which allows him to understand the mistakes he has made and appreciate the impact he has inadvertently had on other people (namely his child and the mother of his child). This one wasn’t any of that. When they meet again, he’s a smirking, joking jerk who frankly isn’t good enough to lick her boots. He just aggravated the heck out of me.

The Favored Wife by Amy Pennza

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The Favored Wife*

Will She Ever Be Free?

What a gripping story! I’ll admit that I don’t usually read serious fiction most of the time. Generally, I prefer light and fluffy historical romance. But something about this book when I saw it at a book review site caught my eye. The author did a fantastic job of showing the intricacies of a polygamous religious marriage. We see it all through the eyes of the youngest wife, somewhat ironically called “the favored wife” in the title. She has grown up within this religious sect so knows nothing else. When she gets a job in the outside world to help support the family (because she hasn’t been able to have children), she is definitely a naïve person, not even knowing what we consider to be common cultural references. Her world had been her “husband” Thomas, his other wives, and the children. The author paints a pretty harsh picture of dominance and submission and not just between the husband and the wives but within the sister-wife hierarchy. It is a brutal world that the heroine lives in. I don’t want to give too much away, but the megalomaniacal tendencies of the husband are seen through to a nasty conclusion that forces a separation between the heroine and the world that she has known. This is an emotionally charged read and not an easy one. The characters are well drawn, and we are shown this world in vivid detail through the character’s eyes. The plot is not at a breakneck pace. Rather, things seem to go along somewhat normally, but then bigger events happen. It kept me wondering what would happen next. This is a well-written book, but if you have any triggers about spousal abuse, it would be better if you skipped it.

Bewitching You by Katana Collins

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Free with Kindle Unlimited

Bewitching You*

Not What I’d Hoped

I was looking forward to a fun and sweet little Halloween romance, but unfortunately, this wasn’t quite it. First, I was turned off by the profanity in the book as well as some crude descriptions. I just don’t like books to have profanity. It’s one of my big dislikes and can sometimes set a bad tone for the entire book. I didn’t quite buy the relationship between the hero and heroine. They had a strange love-hate relationship that got sexual way too fast. If you don’t mind very steamy reads with little plot and some profanity, you might like this book.

Wrapped Up in Christmas by Janice Lynn

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Wrapped Up in Christmas*

Normally, I Love Wounded Hero Stories…

This book had all of the elements of a holiday tale that I would typically like: quirky small town, a busybody group of well-meaning older ladies, a wounded hero, and plenty of Christmas spirit. However, the book never really gelled for me. I didn’t get any sense of chemistry between the hero and the heroine, which is crucial for a romance of course. The heroine is a sweetheart, giving so much to her community at Christmas time because it truly matters to her. She’s also in the midst of opening up her aunt’s old home as a bed-and-breakfast. The hero is just passing through, though he came specifically to this small town because he wanted to thank the woman who made his Quilt of Valor (which is an actual organization) that did help him as he went through recovery after being injured in the military. But he ends up getting caught up in the heroine’s world because of a misunderstanding, but he decides to stay and pay back the woman who’d helped him through difficult times.

I am normally a sucker for wounded hero romance, but it just didn’t ring right for me in this particular book. Theoretically, the couple was fighting their attraction during the bulk of the book, but that didn’t seem realistic to me at all because I couldn’t really sense that attraction. Their interactions felt pretty low key because of all the other stuff that was going on in the book, like the renovations, trying to get Bodie in the Christmas spirit, and dealing with the Butterflies (that group of older women mentioned above). I liked the characters, but it just didn’t come together. On the plus side, it does have a quilting pattern from the Quilts of Valor Foundation and a yummy-sounding cinnamon swirl bread recipe.


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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