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Saturday, December 31, 2011

HOLLY LANE by Toni Blake

Destiny Series
Toni Blake
ISBN 978-0062024602
November 2011
Contemporary Romance

This book falls in place after the first three, and is set around Christmas time. Destiny Falls, Ohio, is your typical small town, where everyone knows everyone and their business. Sue Ann Simpkins has grown up here, fell in love here and had the perfect marriage. However, all that changed when her husband left her for another woman. Still reeling from the aftershock, she's desperate to regroup, so she heads out to a secluded cabin on nearby Bear Lake. That's when she is surprised by her husband's best friend, Adam Becker, who also shows up at the same cabin after a small mix-up at the front desk. Then a snow storm keeps them bound up together in the cabin. She wasn't looking for a relationship, so after things get a little heated and a lot passionate with sexy Adam, she tells him so.

Adam also tries his best to get Sue Ann out of his head, but running into her all over town doesn't help. And then his best friend puts him in an awkward position with Sue Ann. However, the insane, wild attraction they have for one another has them both trying to avoid crossing paths. As Adam falls in love with Sue Ann, she keeps him at arms length, but at a price - she's miserable. How can she trust anyone again after such a betrayal by her high school sweetheart turned husband? Adam isn't like Jeff, she knows, but it doesn't stop her from keeping him at arm's length as insecurities keep her emotionally detached. But this Christmas, the gift of a second chance at love may be just the kind of present both of them need.

Most Christmas "themed" books have little to do with Christmas, or have one scene, but HOLLY LANE starts the day after Thanksgiving and goes straight through to Christmas, with all the shopping, holiday cheer, Christmas traditions that most towns go through. Combine that with an emotional roller coaster for the heroine, and the angst of thwarted love for the hero, and you have yourself a great holiday read. Adam is super sexy, and reading about him in the first books has built him up a little for his own story. Sue Ann is the one who had "everything" and the one women envied, so it was good to see all the stages she had to go through to get to her happy ending. Sexually charged love scenes, in great Toni Blake style, combined with the hope for new beginnings with old friends will enchant readers and makes a great addition to the Destiny Series.

Reviewed by: Jennifer Jones

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Four Midwestern Sisters' Christmas Book

My favorite holiday book takes me back to my childhood. I was raised on a farm in Iowa, so is it a surprise that my favorite holiday book is the “Four Midwestern Sisters’ Christmas Book?” The authors of this book are 4 sisters who also spent some of their childhood years at “the farm” which consisted of an old house on acres of wooded land far outside the city limits of Columbus, Ohio.

The book starts off with a chapter entitled “Remembering Snow,” and it is my favorite. Growing up, sledding parties were a favorite activity for 4-H clubs, church youth groups and, also for young children living on a farm. The authors loved this particular time of their childhood because they spent it building snow forts, making snow angels and sliding down “suicide hill,” “Suicide hills,” had to be a widespread phenomenon among children living in the country, because I had one and I am positive my sled would have be taken away had my parents known about it and my intense fascination for it.

Holiday traditions are the theme of this novel. Mouth-watering recipes, homemade holiday decorations and gift ideas will evoke nostalgic Christmas memories. The authors nail the importance of holiday baking by stating, “: Christmas cookies are food for the heart, the memory, and the spirit. Let there be no conversation about thighs and cholesterol!” Love this!

This book was published by Viking and released in 1991. I got my copy from Amazon.com and I will read it every year!

Charlene McConnell

Monday, December 26, 2011

Favorite Christmas Read

Mary Balogh
Signet 2006
ISBN-10: 0451219791
ISBN-13: 978-0451219794
Historical Romance

When I think of favorite Christmas reads, I think of Mary Balogh.

She has had a long writing career beginning in the 1980s continuing through today where she has continually made the bestseller lists with her Regency historical novels. It’s the Christmas novels and novellas written for the now defunct Signet Regency line that make my favorite Christmas reads list. Balogh has a particular genius writing novellas—perfect little gems that sparkle with excellent writing, deep emotional intensity, the real meaning of Christmas, and sensuality. Gathered together in UNDER THE MISTLETOE are five of these wondrous gifts, four from the various Signet Regency Christmas anthologies, and one new story written for this volume. I dare any reader not to be touched, not to tear up and/or smile happily at each perfect story’s end. Historical romance fans won’t find any other book that will set the Christmas mood than this collection of Mary Balogh novellas:

In “A Family Christmas,” Elizabeth and Edwin have a second chance at happiness at making their arranged marriage of an aristocrat and a wealthy merchant a real marriage if only they seize the chance at the family Christmas celebration.”

When a costly much beloved-jewel, “The Star of Bethlehem,” disappears, it takes a child chimney sweep to bring love and joy to Lord and Lady Lisle’s marriage.

Teacher Jane Craggs receives “The Best Gift” when she is invited to spend Christmas with one of her students at Viscount Buckley’s estate—to have the Christmas of her dreams and to make this a special Christmas for him and his newly-arrived young daughter.

In “Playing House,” Lilias is about to become a governess having fallen on bad times and to be separated from her much younger brother and sister, but when she seeks out her former love the Marquess of Bedford and asks him to help her give them a Christmas to remember, the magic of the holiday works its magic on Bedford’s and his young daughter’s hearts.

There’s “No Room At The Inn” when several people are stranded at a less-than ideal place for the Christmas holiday. Mary Balogh shows how you can have a wonderful awe inspiring story without the usual Regency holiday trappings and create a most magical, wonder-filled story.

UNDER THE MISTLETOE is destined to become a holiday classic…it’s available as a mass-market paperback as well as Kindle download at amazon.com.

Reviewed by Deb Hosey

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


TIDINGS OF GREAT JOY by Sandra Brown is the story of architect Ria Lavender and Mayor-Elect Taylor Mackensie, two people that meet and fall into lust over shrimps at a Christmas Eve buffet table. Their night of passion results in an unexpected pregnancy. For Ria there is no question that she will not bear an illegitimate child. Being illegitimate herself, it's a foregone conclusion for her that Taylor will have to step up and join in the responsibility of bringing a child into the world.

When confronted by Ria, the Mayor-Elect initially attempts to play the "whose the father" game, but deep down he knows that his passionate one night affair has produced a baby. Both agree that the thing to do is marry for the baby's sake and part after the birth. The thing is, once these two set up house together they discover the passion has not died and there is a possibility to build on something more. But, there are doubts and obstacles that blur the process. Taylor has the reputation of being the sophisticated,handsome, political play-boy, and there is a woman he's stepped away from that is not pleased at being shoved aside. He has to convince Ria that he's worth staying with and can provided all that she requires in a relationship. Meanwhile, Ria is battling career concerns and doubts over every providing her child with a loving two-parent home.

TIDINGS OF GREAT JOY is filled with the type of story-line traditional romance readers love. It has plenty of very heated sex, emotional angst and two secondary characters that are schemingly annoying. Initially published by Loveswept in 1987, it has since been reprinted in hardcover and has become my holiday favorite.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

My Favorite Holiday Book

All She Wants For Christmas
Jaci Burton
Carina Press
ISBN: 9781426890871 (Single) and 9781426890826 (Collection)
December 2010

This book was released as a part of a Holiday Collection from Carina Press "Naughty and Nice" which featured 3 other authors in the Nice section. This was the first time I had read a holiday themed romance and while reading the collection this automatically became my favorite and one I would read every holiday.

The story is about Riley Jensen, a country music singer, who is forced to go back to her hometown to film a biography. Riley left her hometown in Missouri when she caught the love of her life Ethan Kent and her best friend Amanda in bed together. Ethan made a huge mistake which cost him Riley and after ten years he has never stopped loving her. Ethan has had to hear the hurt filled songs from Riley with everyone in their small hometown knowing who she was singing about and to make matters worse his daughter is her biggest fan. When these two see each other again the chemistry that brought them together in the first place is back in full force. Ethan thought that if she had stayed in their small town she would have never became a huge star, which is why he stopped looking for. Will Riley get past the anger and hurt and let Ethan into her heart or will Ethan still be afraid that he doesn't have anything to offer Riley that is just as good as what she has in Nashville?

I read this book in just a few hours, I couldn't put it down. The book was so popular that Jaci made it into a series with the second book of the series having been released this holiday titled "A Rare Gift" which I also read in just a few hours. If you want a great story to sit by the fire or just sit in bed and read I would definitely recommend this book. I cannot wait for the next book in the series. Have a great holiday!

Reviewed by: Tasha
Rating: 4 1/2

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My Favorite Holiday Book

Robyn Carr
ISBN: 0778328961
January 2010
Contemporary Romance

This is one of my absolute favorite holiday books by the increasingly popular Robyn Carr. While it is certainly fine as a stand alone novel, if you are a fan of her Virgin River series (like me!) this book is the perfect holiday antidote if you want information about Jack and Melinda, Paige and Preacher, and all the interesting people who populate Virgin River.

The story is actually military themed and tells about Marcie, a young widow who has just buried her beloved husband after he has lingered for over a year in a vegetative state, unaware that he is home, or that his family cares for him as he lies in a convalescent home. When Bobby dies, Marcie is determined to find the Marine who saved his life, Ian Buchanan. Her search brings her to Virgin River, at Christmastime, to a backwoods cabin, to a man who does not want to be found. Ian has given up on a normal life and is consumed by his regrets from the war.

This is the love story of how Marcie pulls him out of his shell and in the process finds her own peace and redemption. I absolutely loved this book, the detail, and the story it told, in the wonderful style we have come to expect from Robyn Carr. If you only read one book this holiday season and come across this amazing novel, pick it up. I guarantee you will not be disappointed. For those of you familiar with Virgin River this will be one more terrifc chapter in that community's story. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by: Jeri Neal
Rating: 4 1/2

Friday, December 09, 2011

My Favorite Holiday Read

Linda Howard
Shilouette Christmas Story (1987)
ISBN: 0-373-15147-0

It is true...good things DO come in small packages. BLUEBIRD WINTER is a timeless story, one which I pull out every couple of years to read. This superbly written short story gives readers a glimpse of what it means to have faith, determination, and belief in the miracle of life and love.

Kathleen Fields is eight months pregnant and unexpectedly goes into labor during a severe Oklahoma snowstorm. With her labor progressing, pain increasing and no power, Kathleen makes a terrifying decision.

Derek Taliferro is heading home from celebrating the holidays with his mother and her husband. Knowing he should have left the previous day, Derek prepares to endure a long dangerous ride, in the snowstorm, back home, to Dallas. Before he makes it home, he will make an unexpected delivery.

BLUEBIRD WINTER is truly a heartwarming read that I hope you have had the chance to read or will read.


Monday, December 05, 2011


One of my favorite holiday novels is, "THE CHRISTMAS PRESENT", by Tracy Wolff. Vivian Wentworth is a divorce attorney working at the local women's shelter, helping the residents escape abusive marriages. The law firm she works for needed to take on more pro bono case, so Vivian is assigned a murder case. Vivian is not sure why she was handed this case, she is not a defense attorney and she knows almost nothing about criminal law, except what she learned in school. Vivian planned on meeting with the client, Diego Sanchez, but she is running a little late, and the meeting is not in the best part of town.

Rafael Cardoza hearing Vivian scream, saves her from a gang of teens. He doesn't believe that she is the right attorney to defend Diego, he believes Diego is innocent of killing his pregnant girlfriend. He can't help admire Vivian's determination to do right by Diego. Frustration mounts as someone is trying to stop their investigation. The attraction between Rafael and Vivian grows, but he knows Vivian is not for him, she comes from a wealthy background. There is no way Rafael will get involve with someone from a rich family again. Maybe he can just play awhile, but Vivan is not willing to let him get away. Can Rafael forget his past, and learn to trust again?

In THE CHRISTMAS PRESENT, Ms. Wolff combines a legal thriller with romance. Can two people from opposite sides of town learn to love, and have faith in each other? I enjoyed the dynamics between the two main characters, while Vivian comes from a wealthy family, she is left pretty much on her own. The only thing her parents are interested in is their social standing. Rafael comes from a large family where everyone knows everyone's business, and family celebrations are a way to have family time. The novel deals with death and grief, and what I liked best is that it is not a traditional Christmas story.

ISBN # 00373716079
December 2009
Category Romance

Reviewed by Gloria

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Christmas Read

If you like Kate Kingsbury, like I do, here is a new one of hers that has never before been published. HERALD OF DEATH is a special Pennyfoot Hotel Mystery that will leave you shocked in horror at what the human mind can act upon. Thankfully, it is just between the pages of this great holiday read that will have you vacillating between disbelief and holiday cheer. The perfect book to grab, snuggle up next to the fireplace, and get lost in.

A Special Pennyfoot Hotel Mystery
Kate Kingsbury
Berkley Prime Crime
November 2011
ISBN: 978-0-425-24335-0
Rating: 4
Reviewed by: Kathy Fisher-Asbery