– Denise Hunter –
A Riverbend Romance #1
Published 19 October 2021
I so enjoy reading Denise Hunter’s books. I know once I pick one up, I’ll just disappear into the world and characters she has crafted and I know that I will love every word. And that’s exactly what I got in Riverbend Gap. This book is the first in a new series (yay) that follows a family (yay, yay) living in a small rural town along the Appalachian Trail (more yay). Honestly, between the amazing romance, stunning scenery so beautifully described, the drama and tension and the great writing, I just loved this book.
Katelyn Loveland has a new job, new last name, new boyfriend and a new house. Moving to Riverbend Gap was her new start. But she’s also determined to get some closure from her past. The first step is scattering the ashes of her beloved younger brother. Then, she needs to find her biological mother and learn why she and her brother spent most of their lives in foster care. Not part of the plan was avoiding a deer and almost plunging to her death over the side of a mountain on the way to meet her new boyfriend’s family. When Cooper Robinson, Deputy Sheriff, comes to her rescue, she is relieved and grateful. The tense moments they share forge a deep connection. The only problem is that he is the brother of her new boyfriend. As circumstances through Cooper and Katelyn together again, it’s hard to ignore the deepening feelings between them.
– Carla Laureano –
Tyndale House Publishers
Published 3 August 2021
I always enjoy the work of Carla Laureano. I adored her The Supper Club series (food – yum!) and now she has created another fantastic Christian contemporary romance. Provenance is set in a small (very cold) Colorado town. The snow storms and mountainous setting are the perfect backdrop to this story about discovering your past and falling in love.
When Kendall Green learns that she is the beneficiary of a grandmother she never knew, only desperation for some cash to keep her interior design business and home in California afloat, prompts her to respond. She’s not sure she wants anything from the grandmother who let her grow up in foster care, moving from home to home and when Kendall learns that her inheritance are 5 historic Victorian homes, she is half devastated and half delighted. She is ready to sell to the highest bidder when the young mayor of the town, delightfully handsome Gabriel Brandt, asks her to consider another option to help save the town’s history and community from circling developers. Staying gives Kendall the chance to learn the truth about her mother, her grandmother and the reason she was abandoned when she was a child, but it also means growing closer to Gabriel, and with her life in California, Kendall’s not sure that’s a risk she should take.
Love and the Silver Lining – Tammy L. Gray – State of Grace #2 – Bethany House Publishers – Published 3 August 2021
Darcy Malone’s dreams of mission work are dashed on her eve of fulfilling them: The Guatemalan school she was to teach at has closed. Devastated because she’s already quit her job and given up her apartment, she also loses the perfect escape from the aftermath of her parents’ divorce. Stuck in her worst-case scenario, Darcy takes an unexpected offer to move in with Bryson Katsaros’s little sister, despite the years of distrust that’s grown between her and Bryson, the lead singer in her best friend Cameron’s band. As she meets those close to him, Darcy realizes that Bryson is more than she believed.
Struck with the need to find a purpose, Darcy jumps at the chance to care for and train a group of dogs, with the aim of finding each a home before their bereaved owner returns them to animal control. But it’s Darcy herself who will encounter a surprising rescue in the form of unexpected love, forgiveness, and the power of letting go.
Love and the Silver Lining is the extremely enjoyable second book in the State of Grace series. I adored this book – even more than the first book. While they form part of a series and there are character and setting cross overs, you can read both books as standalones.
I think this was exactly the book I needed. It was light and heartwarming and so addictive. I really struggled to put it down to return to work and sleep. It was funny and heartbreaking and had so much story that made it just a delight to read.
The Heart’s Charge – Karen Witemeyer – Hanger’s Horsemen #2 – Bethany House Publishers – Published 1 June 2021
Members of Hanger’s Horsemen, Mark Wallace and Jonah Brooks arrive in Llano County, Texas, to deliver a steed, never expecting they’d deliver a baby as well. Left with an infant to care for, they head to a nearby foundling home, where Mark encounters the woman he’d nearly married a decade ago.
After failing at love, Katherine Palmer dedicated her life to caring for children, teaming up with Eliza Southerland to start Harmony House. From mixed ancestry, illegitimate, and female, Eliza understands the pain of not fitting society’s mold. Yet those are the very attributes that lead her to minister to outcast children. The taciturn Jonah intrigues her with his courage and kindness, but there are secrets behind his eyes–ghosts from wars past and others still being waged.
However, when a handful of urchin children from the area go missing, a pair of Horsemen are exactly what the women need. Working together to find the children, will these two couples find love as well?
It is impossible to resist Karen Witemeyer’s writing. Once again she absorbed me into this story of adventure, romance, strong female characters and the men of integrity who love them.
The Heart’s Charge provides us two stories in one. We readers first met the Hanger’s Horsemen in the first book in the series and in this second book we join up with two members of the group, Mark and Jonah. Together, Mark and Jonah stumble upon a pregnant woman in labour. They, reluctantly, assist in the birth and find themselves responsible for the care of the young infant. This then leads them to Harmony House, a place where children of any race or background can find a home. A surprise awaits them both. Mark finds the woman he once wanted to marry and who broke his heart. Jonah finds a strong and resilient Eliza who might just be the one woman who can work her way past his tough exterior.
Hooked On You – Kathleen Fuller – Maple Falls #1 – Thomas Nelson – Published 11 May 2021
Riley McAllister left the small Arkansas town of Maple Falls after graduating high school, hoping to make it big in New York as a mixed media artist. She’s still pursuing her dream when her grandmother begs her to come home and help her manage the store while she recovers from a broken leg she got after sliding into third base during a church softball game (she was safe, by the way). Riley agrees, planning to convince her grandmother to sell the old shop and retire so Riley can get back to the big city. New York is where she belongs, not some hick town that doesn’t even have a decent coffee shop.
Hayden Price’s life hasn’t turned out as he expected either. He still works in the hardware store his family has owned for several generations after his chance to make it out of Maple Falls ended when he blew out his pitching arm during a minor league game. Stuck with debt from college and a broken engagement, he decides to make the best of things when he comes back to Maple Falls and puts together the town’s first church softball team–with him as coach, of course.
Riley and Hayden went to high school together but ran in totally different circles. In fact, it’s safe to say they hated each other. Will that change when the softball team unexpectedly brings them together? Or will the pain and disappointment of their past failures keep them from discovering love in Maple Falls?
Hooked on You has all the makings of a great romance novel – returning to one’s hometown to help rejuvenate a family business, a burnt out sports star finding a new direction for his life, a small town setting and a quirky group of old friends who like to meddle. Sadly, I wasn’t able to connect with the main characters in the way that I wanted and the writing and dialogue was a bit stilted, leaving me unsatisfied with the plot. A light and easy read, but not one of my favourites of the genre.
Hayden has returned home to Maple Falls to help run his father’s hardware business. After finally making it to the Majors in baseball, he blew out his shoulder on his first pitch. Riley has returned to Maple Falls after her grandmother is injured during a softball game. Riley is just counting down the days until she can return to New York and finding her place as a mixed media artist, but being ‘home’ and getting to know Hayden again makes her reassess her life goals.
A sweet book, it was the lack of depth to the characters and their background stories that made this an okay book for me, rather than one I adored. Not a lot happens in the story and I found it hard to believe in Riley and Hayden’s connection. The prose and dialogue is a little stilted, and I’m not sure how realistic Hayden’s voice was at times. The drama introduced at the end was overly dramatic and just added to my overall disinterest in the story.
Let It Be Me – Becky Wade – A Misty River Romance #2 – Bethany House Publishers – Published 4 May 2021
Having graduated college at 18, Sebastian Grant has continued to leverage his intelligence and determination to become a pediatric heart surgeon. The more accolades he receives, the more he’s driven to pursue. Then he meets high school math teacher Leah Montgomery, and his fast-spinning world comes to a sudden stop.
Solving advanced math equations by the age of five, Leah has always wanted to pursue a PhD in mathematics. She willingly put that dream on hold to raise her brother. Now that he is of age, she’s set on avoiding any obstacles to her goal–including romance.
When Leah receives surprising news in the process of taking a test for tracking her ancestry, she asks Sebastian to help her comb through aged hospital records to learn more. Soon his presence isn’t so easily ignored. But when Sebastian learns his best friend also has feelings for Leah, he begins to question his resolve to win her. Attaining their deepest desires may require more sacrifices than they ever imagined.
Let It Be Me is another heartwarming contemporary, Christian romance from Becky Wade. Like her previous book, Let It Be Me features one of the Miracle Five, five teens who had been miraculously saved after a building collapsed on them during an earthquake. Now adults, we follow them as they sort through their past hurts and journey on the road to love. This time it’s Sebastian’s turn.
Sebastian is a gifted surgeon. After the events of the earthquake, he turned his life around. Drawn into the Coleman family, he didn’t let being a foster kid define him. They saved him and offered what he most wanted – to belong. That’s way he would do anything for his best friend and closest person he has to family, Ben Coleman. When Sebastian meets and is instantly drawn to Leah Montgomery, he knows he has to get to know her better. The one problem is that it’s the same Leah Ben has been crushing on for two years. Sebastian does the right thing and withdraws but when Leah asks for his help to untangle a mystery involving DNA and hospital logistics, they spend more time together and Sebastian finds it increasingly difficult to stay honourable to his best friend.
I think this book has one of the few love triangles I’ve truly enjoyed. Maybe that’s because all along Leah has no feelings but those of friendship for Ben and it’s so clear that she and Sebastian are perfect for each other. Everyone is respectful of the other and mindful not to hurt anyone’s feelings. There is an intense connection between Sebastian and Leah but there are many obstacle in the path, firstly Ben and Sebastian’s duty of friendship but also Leah’s desire to remain single and Sebastian’s own habit of not getting to close to people.
All That Really Matters – Nicole Deese – Bethany House Publishers – Published 6 April 2021
Molly McKenzie’s bright personality and on-trend fashion and beauty advice have earned her an impressive social media following, as well as a big paycheck each month. When her manager-turned-boyfriend says she has an audition to appear as a host on a makeover show that nominates underprivileged youth, her dream of further fame seems to be coming true. There’s just one catch: she has little experience interacting with people in need.
When her manager-boyfriend convinces her to partner with a local organization, she begins volunteering with a summer youth program. The program’s director, Silas Whittaker, challenges her at every turn, but she swiftly grows more attached to the kids–and him–every day.
As Molly experiences an acceptance unlike anything she’s known, she wrestles with the lies she’s been believing about herself for years. She thought she knew what mattered most in life, but maybe she’s had it wrong this whole time, and there’s more to being truly seen than what she’s built her entire life on.
All That Really Matters has to be one of the best books I’ve read in ages. It was exactly what I needed, totally addictive – I literally couldn’t put it down – and just so good!!! I really must go back and ensure I have read all of Nicole Deere’s books because she is fast becoming one of my favourite authors.
All That Really Matters is an uplifting story that had be smiling right from the start. It is a book with so much heart. It is a wonderful romance and the relationship that builds between the two main character is genuine and caring and full of trust and patience, which is so lovely. Be still be beating heart. I loved, loved, loved this book.
Molly Mackenzie is an Influencer. She has built a very successful career and successful business for herself. When her manager suggests taking on a good cause to help boost her followers she asks her brother to pass her the name of something suitable. She doesn’t expect what she finds at the The Bridge Youth Home. The first surprise is Silas – young, good looking, very formal and unimpressed with her interview. She doesn’t expect to get turned away. Molly is also surprised by how her quick glimpse of The Bridge intrigues her. When her determination finally impresses Silas, Molly is surprised by how quickly she comes to care for the program and the special young people it helps.
Bookshop By The Sea – Denise Hunter – Thomas Nelson – Published 13 April 2021
After her mother was bedridden and her father bailed on the family, Sophie became a second mother to her twin brother, Seth, and younger sister, Jenna. Sophie supported her siblings through their college years, putting aside her own dream of opening a book shop in Piper’s Cove—the quaint North Carolina beach town they frequented as children.
But now it’s finally time for Sophie to follow her own pursuits. Seth just got a new job, the family house is sold, and Jenna is set to marry her college beau in Piper’s Cove. But the destination wedding reunites Sophie with best man Aiden Maddox, her high school sweetheart who left her without a backward glance to run an extreme sporting business in Florida.
Much to Sophie’s chagrin, seeing Aiden again resurrects familiar feelings—which she promptly tries to bury in the tumult of the day. As soon as the wedding crowd fades, Sophie turns her focus back to establishing her beloved bookstore.
But then an advancing hurricane strands Aiden in Piper’s Cove and with the hotels booked to capacity he asks Sophie to put him up until the storm passes. As the two ride out the weather, old feelings rise to the surface. But can Sophie trust Aiden to stick around? And does daredevil Aiden have the courage to risk his heart?
Once again Denise Hunter has penned a delicious contemporary romance novel that I just devoured. Honestly, I read it so quickly I think I need to go back and read it again, at least a few times over.
Bookshop By The Sea is a charming second-chance romance. Sophie and Aiden are our main characters. High-school sweethearts, they thought their future was set, but when Sophie’s mother fell ill and her father abandoned the family, Sophie had to step up and become the glue to hold everything together. At the same time, Aiden was offered a chance to start his own company and he too left Sophie. Now, years later, Sophie and Aiden are reunited at Sophie’s younger sister’s wedding. Sophie just wants to get through the event and move on but Aiden wants to use the opportunity to ask for Sophie’s forgiveness. Of course, we readers know that Sophie and Aiden are not over yet.
Once Sophie and Aiden make it through the wedding they think their awkward reunion is over but a storm bearing down on the area has other ideas. They are forced to hole up together in a guest house – cue the swooning. It offers readers all the time they need to enjoy the softening of Sophie’s heart and Aiden realising that everything he walked away for was not worth losing the woman he loves.
Is It Any Wonder – Courtney Walsh – Nantucket Love Story #2 – Published 6 April 2021
Twelve years ago, Cody Boggs and Louisa Chambers made a pact that no matter where their lives took them, they’d return to Nantucket Island’s Brant Point Lighthouse on July 30, their shared golden birthday, and continue their tradition of exchanging birthday wishes. But that was before a tragic accident upended both of their lives, irrevocably pulling them apart.
Their worlds collide just months before that particular day when Louisa’s fledgling event planning company is hired by the local Coast Guard station, where she discovers Cody has recently returned to the island as the second in command. As they plan a regatta fundraiser, hoping to promote positive PR in the community, neither can deny the fireworks each encounter ignites. But working together also brings up memories of the day Cody’s father died, revealing secrets that have Cody and Louisa questioning everything they thought they knew and felt about their families and each other.
I do so love a romantic novel set by the sea. It provides an instant feeling of summer and holidays, no matter the season or actual timing of the novel. And I’m feeling a lot of people could use a portal to a seaside vacation right now.
I love Courtney Walsh’s writing style and ability to bring characters to life on the page. In Is It Any Wonder, our main characters are Louisa and Cody. Childhood best friends, separated by a tragedy that tore them and their families apart in their teen years. Now, as they near their 30th birthday, Louisa lives full time on Nantucket and has started her own concierge business. Cody has just reluctantly returned to Nantucket, stationed at the Coast Guard base. When a kayak trip goes wrong, Louisa finds herself in need of rescue and is shocked to come face to face with Cody. They are forced to face their past, forced to work together and both have to decide if the lingering feelings they carry for the other is worth wading though the burden of the guilt and grief they carry.
Is It Any Wonder is another great romantic novel from Courtney Walsh. Family, grief, hurts from the past, best friends, secrets, a bit of amateur sleuthing and a gorgeous seaside setting – what more could you want?
‘Til I Want No More – Robin W. Pearson – Tyndale House Publishers – Published 2 February 2021
If Maxine could put her finger on the moment when her life went into a tailspin, she would point back twenty years to the day her daddy died. She tells herself he’s the only person who ever really knew and loved her, and if he hadn’t left her behind, her future would’ve taken a different path. No absentee mother, no stepfather, no rebellious ripping and running during her teenage years. And no JD, who gave her wandering young heart a home, at least for a time.
But that’s over and done with. All grown-up now, Maxine’s heart and ring finger belong to Theodore Charles, the man she’ll pledge to love, honor, and obey in front of God and everybody. At least that’s what she’s telling anybody who will listen. The only folks buying it are the dog and the readers of her column, however. Her best friend and family aren’t having it–not even Celeste, the double bass-playing thirteen-year-old the community of Mount Laurel, North Carolina, believes is Maxine’s adopted sister. And apparently, neither is the newly returned JD, who seems intent on toppling Maxine’s reconstructed life. As her wedding day marches ever closer, Maxine confronts what it means to be really known and loved by examining what’s buried in her own heart and exposing truth that has never seen the light of day.
’Til I Want No More is a story to settle in with and enjoy. This is perfect for readers who like a slow read, a story that develops with care and love over time. As we learn more about these characters, especially our main character, Maxine, we learn that the secrets she is keeping run far deeper than first expected. As these secrets are slowly and agonisingly revealed, I was glued to the pages to learn how she would handle the unveiling of the things she had worked so hard to keep hidden.
Maxine is getting married and the countdown to her big day is ever present in this book. Maxine is also a writer and her columns are included in the book, giving the reader a deeper insight into her turmoil. She carries hurt from her childhood, the death of her father and her mother leaving her in her grandparents’ care while she left to deal with her own grief. She carries hurt from her older childhood, being reunited with her mother and her new stepfather. She carries hurt from her teen years, a failed romance and a baby that she handed over to her mother and stepfather to raise. All this pain simmers below the surface, recently brought to light thanks to her engagement and dreams that are preventing her from sleeping.