SINGLE AND READY TO JINGLE by Piper Rayne

December 2, 2022


From the publisher:

The girl who loves Christmas falls for the Grinch—it’s a Christmas miracle.

What started as a dumpster fire of a blind date turns into a deal.

In truth, it probably didn’t help that I showed up dressed like an elf but that’s a story for another time. Our start was rocky at best which is why it’s so frustrating that I can’t stop thinking about his sexy British accent. Or the way his chest and arms fill out his suit. Or his perfect hair with that single streak of grey at the front.

Santa likes lists and so do I, so here’s all the reasons why Andrew and I aren’t right for each other:

He’s my brother’s best friend
He’s the biggest grump I’ve ever met.
He hates Christmas.

That last one is big for a girl like me who thinks that the entire month of December should be a national holiday. So, when he calls for my help in planning his firm’s holiday party, I can’t pass up the opportunity to grow my small business. Bonus, we make a deal, and he agrees to attend three holiday events with me so I can make him fall in love with Christmas. As if I’d pass up an opportunity to make a Grinch’s heart grow three times its size.

It isn’t long until I discover Andrew has a very real reason to hate Christmas and I start to see him in a different light. That’s when the Christmas miracle begins.

https://amzn.to/3gIEEbQ


I love Piper Rayne books and this was a really fun read. The meet-cute is Christmas-appropriate; Andrew and Kenzie met on a dating app and arranged to have dinner together. To Andrew’s horror, the crazy woman in the elf costume, replete with bells on her elf shoes, is his date. Kenzie is an events planner, and her previous engagement ran late. She had the option of going home to change and being super late or showing up in her costume. She picked the latter.

Things get even more complicated very quickly when they realize that Kenzie is Andrew’s best friend’s little sister, who he calls Mac. short for MacKenzie. Kenzie’s brother and Andrew met in law school, but Kenzie’s never met him before. Andrew is pretty sure his buddy isn’t going to be thrilled that he is dating his kid sister, but since he is anti-Christmas (for good reason, it turns out) there is no way he is going to date the elf once this dinner is over.

Andrew is up for partner in his law firm, and the competition is one ass-kissing lawyer. When the senior partner’s trophy wife can’t find a party planner to meet her standards for the firm’s Christmas party, Andrew recommends Kenzie. It’s short notice and the woman is a bit nutso, but Kenzie agrees to do it but only if she can take Andrew on three holiday-themed outings. She is determined to get the Scrooge out of him.

Enemies to lovers is always a fun device, and Piper Rayne are masters at it. This book has it all – it’s laugh out loud funny, heartwrenching on occasion, has some real heat in the bedroom, brings the holiday cheer, and of course, the requisite happy ending. I loved it.

11/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

SINGLE AND READY TO JINGLE by Piper Rayne.  Piper Rayne Inc. (November 13, 2022). ISBN: 979-8887140902. 250p.

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CHRISTMAS IN SILVER SPRINGS by Brenda Novak 

November 18, 2022

Silver Springs, Book 6

From the publisher:

Come home to Silver Springs for the holidays, where broken hearts learn to love again…together.

So much for forever. When Harper Devlin’s rock star husband ditches her on his way to the top, she takes her two daughters to her sister’s place in Silver Springs for the holidays, hoping family can heal her broken heart. But comfort comes in unexpected places when she crosses paths with local Tobias Richardson.

The moment Tobias spots Harper, he recognizes a sadness he knows all too well. After spending thirteen years in prison paying for his regretful past, Tobias is ready to make amends, and maybe helping Harper is the way to do it. But offering her a shoulder to cry on ignites a powerful attraction and a desire neither saw coming.

Fearing her reaction, Tobias doesn’t reveal his checkered past. He’s falling hard, and if Harper finds out, he’ll lose her for good, especially because her famous ex is now trying to win her back. Secrets have a way of coming out, but maybe this Christmas will bring Tobias the forgiveness—and the love—he deserves.

https://amzn.to/3gcjse2

I love Brenda Novak and I love this series, and somehow I missed this book! I’ve read the first five, and number eight, but somehow skipped six, seven, & nine but will catch up quickly. I searched my Kindle for Christmas books and was shocked to find this one. Not sure why, I have so many books on there that it’s easy for some to slip through the cracks. I’m working on getting more organized but it’s definitely a process. But hey, if I haven’t read it, it’s new to me and I’m always happy to find a new book to love!

This was an interesting premise. Tobias is a recently released felon, so not your typical hero by any means. And he was guilty, so no easy way out of that. When he meets Harper, he falls pretty hard, but is afraid he will lose her if she finds out about his felonious past. When her ex comes to town to try and win her back, everything is exposed.

These are interesting characters with great back stories and real problems. I love how they come together and even with all the hurdles thrust in their way, they still manage to find their happily ever after. This was a lovely, warm, wonderful Christmas romance and I loved it. Now I’m on the hunt for books 7 & 9, and luckily for me, they are both Christmas romances!

Silver Springs series in order:

  1. Finding Our Forever
  2. No One But You
  3. Until You Loved Me
  4. Right Where We Belong
  5. Unforgettable You
  6. Christmas in Silver Springs
  7. A California Christmas
  8. When I Found You
  9. Keep Me Warm at Christmas

11/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

CHRISTMAS IN SILVER SPRINGS by Brenda Novak. MIRA; Original edition (October 29, 2019). ISBN:‎ 978-0778308126. 432p.

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ALASKA FOR CHRISTMAS by Jennifer Snow 

November 4, 2022

A Wild Coast Novel, Book 2

From the publisher:

Can a hometown Christmas bring together these two polar opposites?

After traveling to all corners of the globe, Isla Wakefield has returned home to celebrate Christmas with her adoptive family. The gorgeous Alaskan wilderness is the perfect place to recharge before moving on to her next adventure—whatever that may be. Too bad that being home means once more butting heads with Chief Petty Officer Aaron Segura, Port Serenity’s resident buzzkill.

Isla’s fearless spirit has always infuriated Aaron—but fascinated him, too. Having lost his sister years ago, he’s never understood how some people can live so recklessly. But after a terrifying ice-climbing accident leaves Isla with amnesia, she and Aaron both see each other in a brand-new light. Forgetting the pain of her past makes Isla fearless in a completely different way. She’s not afraid to show Aaron exactly how she feels, yet he can’t help but wonder…will this temporary change of mind lead to a permanent change of heart?

Bonus Novella

In Love in the Forecast, meteorologist Monica Mallard signs up for Port Serenity’s annual navigation contest as a distraction from recent heartbreak. But when she’s paired with silver fox Captain Keith Beaumont, Monica finds the second chance she never could have predicted.

https://amzn.to/3Uf0C4p

Amnesia! I don’t think I’ve read a book that uses amnesia in years and years, if ever. I seem to recall more TV/movies that use it. I certainly find it fascinating, especially the different degrees. Isla has muscle memory that helps with some physical stuff, but she has no memories of people, her family, anyone really. So when Aaron rescues her after a bad fall, she doesn’t know who he is or that she finds him incredibly boring – now she just thinks he’s very good-looking and brave. Unfortunately, she also doesn’t remember the pilot who drove the helicopter to her rescue, despite having gone out with him for a few months. He wants her back and his best friend/co-worker is seriously in the way, causing even more strife.

Aaron always found Isla incredibly wild, and cannot understand how or why she is such a dare devil. His sister died in an accident, and his parents haven’t recovered. In fact, they moved to Florida from Alaska and are heavily involved in grief groups. It’s their way of coping, but Aaron feels abandoned. They haven’t celebrated Christmas since his sister’s death, but as he spends time with Isla and they grow closer, he can’t help but give in to her Christmas spirit. They’ve always had an attraction to one another, but have been at odds since they were children. Now that Isla is so unguarded, they are falling in love and Aaron is afraid that once her memory comes back, she will be furious and leave him.

I love books set in Alaska, maybe because I live in south Florida and it’s different in every possible way. I grew up in New York so I’ve experienced winter and snow and ice, but not to the levels of Alaska for sure. And I’ve never missed winter, not one day of it. My husband thinks its hilarious that visiting Alaska is on my bucket list as (everyone who knows me) knows that I am always cold; when it drops below 70, I pull out the Uggs! I have a collection of fingerless gloves that I wear at work where I have no control over the air conditioning, and I have more boots and scarves than probably any Floridian would dream of. But I don’t want to go during winter – summer would be more than cold enough for me so it remains on my bucket list!

This was a good romance with enough suspense – will she get her memory back? will she be pissed at Aaron? to keep the pages turning, making this a one night read for me. A little heat, a lot of sweet, and Christmas fun all combine perfectly in this terrific story. Now I have to go find the first book in this series, Sweet Home Alaska; luckily, my library has it! And just an aside; is the author’s last name really Snow???

11/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

ALASKA FOR CHRISTMAS by Jennifer Snow. HQN; Original edition (October 25, 2022). ISBN:‎  978-1335448637. 368p.

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Spotlight Review: A VERY MERRY BROMANCE by Lyssa Kay Adams

November 1, 2022

Bromance Book Club, Book 5

From the publisher:

‘Tis the season for a Bromance Book Club matchmaking mission! This time, they’re pulling out the mistletoe for everyone’s favorite country music star, Colton, and his second chance at love.

Country music’s golden boy Colton Wheeler felt the most perfect harmony when he was with Gretchen Winthrop. But for her, it was a love him and leave him situation. A year later, Colton is struggling to push his music forward in a new direction. If it weren’t about to be the most magical time of year and the support of the Bromance Book Club, he’d be wallowing in self-pity. 

It’s hard for immigration attorney Gretchen not to feel a little Scrooge-ish about the excess of Christmas when her clients are scrambling to afford their rent. So when her estranged, wealthy family reaches out with an offer that will allow her to better serve the community, she’s unable to say no. She just needs to convince Colton to be the new face of her family’s whiskey brand. No big deal…
 
Colton agrees to consider Gretchen’s offer in exchange for three dates before Christmas. With the help of the Bromance Book Club, Colton throws himself into the task of proving to her there’s a spark between them. But Gretchen and Colton will both need to overcome the ghosts of Christmas past to build a future together.

“The romance-loving men that give the series its name are a reliable joy, and fans will be especially pleased by all the cameos from past heroes. The result is cute, funny, and heartfelt.”Publishers Weekly

https://amzn.to/3NtKSs3

I love this series, and this was a terrific addition – hopefully, not the last! The books do not have to be read in order, and I think this one would stand alone just fine, but they are all so good, I highly recommend reading them all.

This is the story of a happy-go-lucky country music star and the poor-little-rich-girl he falls for. Colton and Gretchen met at a wedding, which led to a one-night-stand – at least for Gretchen. Colton has been after her for a year since that morning when she just took off and ignored him after that. But when her family’s whiskey company wants to hire Colton as a celebrity brand ambassador, Gretchen is asked to try and corral him. She doesn’t work in the family business; instead, she owns a nonprofit immigration law center, where she works her butt off for families who are being deported, with or without their children, and cannot afford to pay her.

Gretchen is a grump, and it takes a while for her backstory to unfurl so we can understand why she is the way she is. Colton doesn’t mind waiting, but he has no interest in helping the whiskey company unless she is part of the deal. Things get complicated with Gretchen’s family – this is a dysfunctional family on the surface, and it is much, much worse underneath the facade.

Having Colton & Gretchen get together seems like such a long shot, and just when they finally are happy, more family drama is injected into the relationship, setting off an explosion that seems insurmountable. Yet this is a romance, so a happy ending is guaranteed. I loved spending time with these characters, and I loved the Christmas storyline here, especially all the Dickens references. There are a lot of laughs here, some steamy scenes, and lots of angst, too, making this an unputdownable book. I loved it.

A VERY MERRY BROMANCE by Lyssa Kay Adams. Berkley (November 1, 2022). ISBN: 978-0593332795. 368p.

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MERRY CHRISTMAS COWBOY by Maisey Yates 

October 28, 2022

Four Corners Ranch, Book 2

From the publisher:

As the snow falls on Four Corners Ranch, all this untamed cowboy wants for Christmas is the family he’s never had…

Cowboy Wolf Garrett is delighted his brother is happily married—really, he is. But time can never heal Wolf’s own wounds, so being surrounded by such marital joy is a bit…much. A trip to his extended family’s ranch in Copper Ridge seems the ideal change of scenery. Until he meets local innkeeper Violet Donnelly and realizes he’s exchanged one form of torture for another—trying, and spectacularly failing, to resist their instant, wildly hot chemistry.

Violet knew Wolf was trouble the moment he walked into her inn. But it’s a whole new level of trouble when she discovers that their secret nights have left her pregnant! Especially when she has six feet of gorgeous, furious cowboy demanding that she come home with him for the holidays and marry him. Wolf has lost more than she could ever imagine, but Violet believes in the power of love to heal, and she’ll do anything to give their future family a chance. Wolf has already given her so many firsts—dare she hope he’s about to become her first Christmas miracle too?

“Fans of Robyn Carr and RaeAnne Thayne will enjoy [Yates’s] small-town romance.”—Booklist

https://amzn.to/3g8oY0P

Wolf has been through a lot – too much, really, for the cowboy to handle. The Garett’s have what Wolf considers a curse on their property. Women don’t stay. His mother left when he was 6 years old, and his half-brothers’ mothers left as well. His father is not much of a parent, either. When Wolf was in high school, he fell hard for a girl, but she died – another woman leaving him. So it is understandable that he fears any type of intimacy. He’s a charming, good-looking man in a dangerous sort of way, so one-night stands come easy for him and suit him just fine. Until he meets Violet.

Violet runs the inn in the small town where Wolf’s cousins live. He’s visiting to help them with their ranch for a couple of weeks. Their chemistry is off the charts, but Wolf makes it clear from the outset that this can only be a fling and he has no intention of anything more. Of course, the best of intentions can go awry. Violet falls hard and ends up begging him to stay, but as much as he enjoys her company, he knows he will get hurt when she leaves him, as all women do, so he returns home.

A few months later, Violet finds out she’s pregnant and goes to tell him. Wolf’s reaction is to take her home with him for the holidays and try and convince her to marry him. He is a traditionalist at heart, and he refuses to think that a child of his would grow up without both parents.Violet’s mother also left, which is something they bond over, but she isn’t sure about marrying Wolf. He has so much to work through, but she is hopeful that she will get some kind of Christmas miracle – and she does.

Violet and Wolf eventually find their happy ending, and I was so happy that they did. He was a difficult character, so hurt and lost and afraid of love, but Violet was the best thing that ever happened to him, and he figures that out soon enough. This was a very emotional read that really pulled me in and was impossible to put down. I loved it.

10/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

MERRY CHRISTMAS COWBOY by Maisey Yates. HQN; Original edition (October 25, 2022). ISBN:‎  978-1335600950. 384p.

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Spotlight Review: THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT by Debbie Macomber

October 25, 2022

From the publisher:

Two lifelong friends decide to trade places the week before Christmas and end up finding love along the way in this delightful novel from the queen of holiday stories, #1 New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber.

Peter Armstrong and Hank Colfax are best friends, but their lives couldn’t be more different. Peter, the local pastor who is dedicated to his community, spending time visiting the flock, attending meetings, and, with the holiday season approaching, preparing for the Christmas service and live nativity. As a bartender, Hank serves a much different customer base at his family-owned tavern, including a handful of lonely regulars and the local biker gang. 

When Peter scoffs that Hank has it easy compared to him, the two decide to switch jobs until Christmas Eve. To their surprise, the responsibilities of a bartender and a pastor are similar, but taking on the other’s work is more difficult than either Peter or Hank expected. As the two begin to see each other in a new light—and each discovers a new love to cherish—their lives are forever changed.

In The Christmas Spirit, Debbie Macomber celebrates the true meaning of the holidays and the inclusive community spirit that binds us all.

“Bestseller and Hallmark Channel stalwart Macomber (Dear Santa) does it again with a candy cane–sweet holiday romance about two friends who swap lives for a week before Christmas. . . . An eclectic supporting cast—including cadres of strippers and bikers—and a comically disastrous climactic Christmas Eve church service make the narrative shine bright. It’s exactly what readers want from a Macomber holiday outing.”—Publishers Weekly

“This light, sweet Christmas novel is perfect for someone looking for a chaste love story with a happy ending.”—Booklist

https://amzn.to/3z9UBhm

Every year I read Macomber’s Christmas novel, but they run hot and cold for me. This was not one of my favorites. A pastor and a bar owner/bartender are best friends and each thinks the other’s job is easy. They switch jobs for several days leading up to Christmas and find out the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

I found this book to be preachy and too religious for me, a nice Jewish girl who loves holiday romances with an emphasis on romance and the magic of the holiday season. The romances here – there are two – are not very engaging, and this book, with apologies to Marie Kondo, just didn’t spark joy for me. If you like the more religious side of Christmas, this may be your perfect book. It’s a sweet, Christian romance with a bit of humor. It’s a quick read at only 240 pages, and while I did finish it, I wasn’t terribly captivated. I’m curious to see if Hallmark turns this one into a movie.

THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT by Debbie Macomber. Ballantine Books (October 18, 2022). ISBN: 978-0593500101. 240p.

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SNOWED IN FOR CHRISTMAS by Sarah Morgan 

October 21, 2022

From the publisher:

What happens if the only Christmas celebration you want to attend is one you haven’t been invited to? USA Today bestselling author Sarah Morgan delights with this hilarious and heartwarming Christmas cracker of a novel!

A family gathering

This Christmas the Miller siblings have one goal—to avoid their well-meaning family’s endless stream of prying questions. Ross, Alice and Clemmie have secrets that they don’t intend to share, and they are relying on each other to deflect attention.

An uninvited guest

Lucy Clarke is facing a Christmas alone and the prospect of losing her job. Unless she can win a major piece of business from Ross Miller, the season promises to be anything but festive. She’ll just deliver her proposal to his family home and then leave. After all, she wouldn’t want to intrude on the Miller family’s perfect Christmas.

A Christmas to remember

When Lucy appears on the Miller family’s snow-covered Highland doorstep, she’s mistaken for Ross’s girlfriend. By the time the confusion is cleared up, they’re snowed in—she can’t leave, even if she wants to! But does she want to? As secrets spill out like presents from an overstuffed stocking and the chemistry between her and Ross ignites, this is going to be either Lucy’s worst Christmas ever or the best mistake of her life.

“Morgan is a masterful storyteller…. For fans of Jojo Moyes, Taylor Jenkins Reid, and Stacey Ballis. —Booklist 

“Mallery’s second installment in this heartwarming and humorous holiday romance series (following The Christmas Wedding Guest) brings readers back to Wishing Tree, WA.  Hand to readers who enjoy romances featuring tight-knit small-town communities with heartfelt holiday traditions and friend groups that are more like found families.”—Library Journal

https://amzn.to/3g8oY0P

Lucy works hard at her job; she loves her boss and her co-workers, but the company is in trouble and she wants to help. She decides to put together a presentation for a hugely successful sportswear company. When she has to go to Scotland to film some reindeer for another account, Lucy decides she’ll gift wrap her presentation and drop it off at the owner’s nearby home. But when she gets to the house, the people there seem to recognize her, and they invite her in. Turns out Ross, the business owner’s sisters, tell his parents that he has a girlfriend, Lucy, to take some of the pressure off one of the sister’s who brought home a boyfriend. But when Ross gets there and doesn’t recognize her, there is a lot of explaining to do.

In her haste to escape, Lucy slips on the ice and badly hurts her ankle. Ross’s sister is a doctor, and he drives them both to the hospital. Upon returning home, the Miller’s invite Lucy to stay and recuperate. She demurs but the snowstorm has cancelled her train and the bridge to leave the Miller home is now impassable.

There are several storylines happening here but Lucy and Ross are at the center of it all. Lucy is all alone in the world; her parents died when she was a young child, and her grandmother raised her, but she passed away two Christmases ago. The Miller family embrace her and make her feel a part of their family, and Lucy loves that feeling. But Ross is annoyed that she brought her presentation to his home instead of to his office, where she became good friends with Ross’s assistant since he was never available.

Lucy is drawn to Ross but isn’t sure how he feels, but soon enough he makes his feelings known. Meanwhile his sister is having trouble with her boyfriend, his youngest sister announces she is planning on having a baby via artificial insemination and raising it on her own, and the whole family is in turmoil. But this is a holiday romance, and Christmas miracles occur right on these pages as everyone gets their happily ever after.

I loved spending time with these characters. Being snowed in was the best thing to happen to Lucy for sure, but the whole family manages to find love and work out their differences. This was such a heartwarming, beautiful story but with enough laughs to keep it light and entertaining. Gift this book to someone you love, and they’ll thank you.

10/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

SNOWED IN FOR CHRISTMAS by Sarah Morgan. HQN; Original edition (September 20, 2022). ISBN:‎  978-1335449962. 384p.

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HOME SWEET CHRISTMAS by Susan Mallery 

October 21, 2022

Wishing Tree, Book 2

From the publisher:

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery comes a witty and heartfelt story of two friends who unexpectedly find the person-and the place in which-they belong this Christmas.

With twinkling humor and heartfelt Christmas spirit, two friends find love in a town called Wishing Tree…

Until Camryn Neff can return to her “real” life in Chicago, she’s in Wishing Tree to care for her twin sisters. She’s not looking for forever love, not here. But handsome hotelier Jake Crane is a temptation she can’t resist, so she suggests they pair up for the season. No golden rings, no broken hearts. At his side, she sees her hometown through Christmas-colored eyes. The cheer is cheerier, the joy more joyful. She thought she had put her future on hold…but maybe her real life was here all along, waiting for her to come home.

New in town, River Best is charmed by Wishing Tree’s homespun traditions and warmhearted people. When she’s crowned Snow Queen, she’s honored but wary. Dylan Tucker, her king, seems like the stuff of sugarplum dreams, but she can’t shake the feeling that he’s hiding something big. As they perform their “royal” duties—tasting cookies, lighting trees—Dylan’s good humor and melty kisses draw her to the brink of love. But she can’t let herself fall until she uncovers his secret, even if her lack of faith means losing him forever.

“Mallery’s second book set in Wishing Tree (after The Christmas Wedding Guest, 2021) is just as charming, with two gentle romance story lines and a reminder that family ties can bind a little too tightly, but it’s still family. The perfect holiday confection for fans of Jill Shalvis and Sarah Morgan.”—Booklist 

“Mallery’s second installment in this heartwarming and humorous holiday romance series (following The Christmas Wedding Guest) brings readers back to Wishing Tree, WA.  Hand to readers who enjoy romances featuring tight-knit small-town communities with heartfelt holiday traditions and friend groups that are more like found families.”—Library Journal

https://amzn.to/3CNPTGW

This is my new favorite holiday series, even though there are only two (and a half – the first book was a novella) out so far. Mallery is just a great storyteller, and I love this small town that is all about Christmas. I don’t know if there are such places in the real world, but the romance novel world abounds with them.

This is a two-fer romance; Camryn and Jake, who are the primary characters, and River and Dylan, the secondary romance. They are all friends, which adds to the fun.

Jake’s family owns the lavish resort in town and while he loves his mother dearly, her interference in his life has reached new bounds. She interviews Camryn as a possible bride for her son, and Camryn is none too pleased. She decides that Jake should probably know about this, and even though they are not especially close, they’ve known one another since their school days. Jake and Camryn have chemistry that practically leaps off the page, but so do River and Dylan.

River is fairly new to town but has been embraced by this small circle of friends and is loving that. When they stuff the ballot box she gets elected Snow Queen for the holiday festivities, along with Dylan, her “king”. Dylan and Jake have been best friends since they were kids, and Jake’s mom practically raised him since his parents just weren’t involved or interested.

The two couples are thrown together repeatedly and it is so much fun watching their relationships heat up. There are some definite hurdles to get through, but in the end, love wins out. And Christmas, of course. I’m just sorry I have to wait until next year for the next installment.

10/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

HOME SWEET CHRISTMAS by Susan Mallery. HQN; Original edition (October 4, 2022). ISBN:‎  978-1335449986. 400p.

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A MATCH MADE AT CHRISTMAS by Patricia Davids 

October 14, 2022

The Matchmakers of Harts Haven, Book 2

From the publisher:

Christmas comes to a small Amish community—and brings new beginnings with it.

Karl Graber is too busy struggling with his hardware store and two young daughters to indulge local matchmaker Rose Yoder’s schemes. After his wife’s death, the thought of loving and perhaps losing another woman holds no appeal. So while he’s relieved to learn he’s not on Rose’s list of potential husbands for new schoolteacher Sophie Eicher, he’s also surprised. Despite himself, Karl can’t help wondering what Rose thinks he lacks—and why outspoken, attractive Sophie has so little interest in marriage.

After surviving breast cancer, Sophie is hoping to make a fresh start in Harts Haven. Perhaps the handsome widower next door would make a good match for her sister, but Sophie won’t burden any man with her uncertain future. But when Karl offers to help her to create a “living nativity” Christmas program for the schoolchildren, she gratefully agrees.

It’ll take a bold plan and help from Karl’s children to make this chaotic Christmas play a success. And as friendships deepen, hearts open and hopes are rekindled, two unlikely people may discover the healing gift of love.

https://amzn.to/3U79ycJ

I haven’t read an Amish romance for a while, and honestly, two or three a year is plenty for me. I like reading about people living in different cultures, and the Amish surely fall into that group. They are always interesting and so far from my world that I usually learn something new.

Sophie is a breast cancer survivor – for now. The disease took her grandmother and her mother, so she doesn’t feel like she has much time left. On the other hand, she went through chemo and a mastectomy but refuses to listen when her doctor tries to explain her prognosis. And her fiance dumped her when she got sick. When her aunt Rose tells her about a teaching job in the small town where she lives, Sophie sees it as a chance to start over in a place where no one knows her medical or romantic history. Her sister moves with her, and they stay at their aunt’s inn until they can find a place of their own.

That opportunity comes up pretty quickly. Karl Graber just lost his tenant in the apartment attached to his home and it’s right across the street from the schoolhouse. He could use the money the rental brings in, so is happy to hear that he may have a new tenant. Karl is a young widower with two daughters he is raising alone now. The older one works in his hardware store with him, but the younger one misses school for sure. There is a bit of humor with her three little lambs that keep escaping their pen and following her, yes, to school, where havoc ensues.

Rose considers herself the town matchmaker, and she keeps throwing women at Karl but he isn’t over losing his wife to cancer. Karl and Sophie do not have an auspicious first meeting, to say the least. He thinks she is a busybody and she thinks him rude and cold. Both feel much better after Rose decrees that they are not meant for one another – except despite their bad beginning, there is definitely an attraction there.

Sophie thinks her sister would be good for Karl, but she seems interested in someone else. Sophie doesn’t want to get married because her body is disfigured, but more importantly because she thinks she will die in the next year or so like the other women in her family. So even though she is attracted to Karl, she feels her sister would make him a better wife.

Sophie loves teaching and is excited to meet her new pupils. But she quickly finds out that Christmas is a big deal in this school; every year, the children put on some sort of Christmas pageant, and even though it is just a matter of weeks until the holiday, they are expecting Sophie to do the same.

This is a slow-building romance and even though it seems hopeless at times, a happy ending is guaranteed. If you are looking for a gentle, inspirational romance this holiday season, this is a good one.

10/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

A MATCH MADE AT CHRISTMAS by Patricia Davids. HQN; Original edition (October 4, 2022). ISBN:‎  978-1335453471. 352p.

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CHRISTMAS IN BLUE DOG VALLEY by Annie England Noblin

September 23, 2022

From the publisher:

For anyone who ever loved All Creatures Great and Small, Annie England Noblin’s newest novel—about a big city vet transplanted to a small Wisconsin town—is pure delight as we meet aging alpacas, stump-tailed cats, goats in tutus, a vagabond border collie named Kevin, and the people who think they own them. And through it all, Goldie McKenzie, DVM, navigating the small town of Blue Dog, Wisconsin.

Welcome to Blue Dog Valley. Home of the Fighting Elk. Population 3,411. 

When Goldie McKenzie, DVM, vet to the L.A. pet stars, arrives from Los Angeles to Blue Dog Valley she realizes three things.

  1. Never agree to upend your life when you’re hungover
  2. Pot-belly pigs are not true farm animals
  3. She’s going to need a warmer coat

At first Goldie is nothing more than a fish out of water, with few clients and few friends. But after a less than pleasant encounter with a man whose dog is suffering from a possibly fatal case of bloat, she’s finally earning the trust and goodwill from her fellow Blue Dog Valley citizens. Her clientele grows to include the many farm animals in the town, including a horse named Large Marge, a cape-wearing therapy alpaca, and a yardful of sweater-wearing goats. Add in Kevin, the “worst sheepdog in Blue Dog Valley,” and a Sphinx cat named Airport, and Goldie is having the best time a vet can have. . . aside from the annoying attractive town grump, Cohen, who seems intent on making sure she always feels like an outsider.

With her newfound goodwill, Goldie comes up with an idea to reinvigorate the once flourishing Blue Dog Valley: a Christmas carnival. A petting zoo, pictures with Santa, a baking contest, what more could they want? After only some brief resistance from Cohen and his father, they begin the great plan to reinvigorate Blue Dog Valley.

Will Christmas be enough to salvage this dying town—and be enough to bring Goldie closer to a certain grumpy man?

https://amzn.to/3U79ycJ

This was my first Christmas book of 2022 and there are lots more to come – most holiday romances come out in September and October. I found it interesting (and sort of odd) that the two main characters have what I think of as Jewish names; Goldie was the mom in Fiddler on the Roof, and Cohen, while in this case a first name, is generally a Jewish last name. Or maybe that’s just me and no one else notices or cares. What matters is that I liked them both and wanted them to find their happily ever after.

Goldie and her long standing boyfriend have ended their relationship; she couldn’t take the cheating anymore and he just wasn’t worth it. But he owns the veterinary clinic where Goldie works, and now that their relationship has ended, so has her job. One of her online vet friends owns a clinic in a small town in Wisconsin, and he mentions to Goldie that he wants to retire and is going to be selling the clinic. Thinking this is just the opportunity she needs, they arrange for her to take over the clinic for a few months, through the end of the year, and if she likes it, she will buy it. If not, she’ll head back to Los Angeles and he’ll find another buyer.

Goldie moves to this small town in Wisconsin, and things are not off to a great start. There is an abandoned cat going round and round on the baggage carousel, and since no one else is left in the airport, she decides she better rescue the cat. Her ride is a grumpy but good-looking man, Cohen, who cannot believe this beautiful California girl is moving to his small Midwestern town. She doesn’t even have a coat!

When she gets to the cabin behind the vet clinic that she’s supposed to live in, she finds her friend, the retiring vet, has already left for Florida and her vet tech is not too thrilled to meet her. On the other hand, she has been adopted by Kevin, a very large sheepdog. People are not as friendly as one would assume, at least until she stops by Ruby’s diner. Ruby is welcoming and makes the best cinnamon rolls Goldie’s ever had.

Eventually, Goldie’s skill as a vet shines through and the people in this small town start to trust her with their animals. Plus she heard about how they used to have this Christmas Carnival but stopped when the highway was rerouted past the small town. She suggests they do it again and try and raise some much-needed funds for the town. Soon everyone is on board and Cohen is even coming around. Their attraction is there, but they’ve been butting heads and Goldie isn’t sure they will ever get past their bumpy start. Cohen obviously has some baggage, as does Goldie, and it takes a while before Goldie can get past his defenses.

The official holiday season has begun – the Christmas decorations are out, alongside the Halloween ones already. This book was a sweet, enemies-to-lovers, small-town Christmas romance and I just loved it – the animals were a fun bonus for me. If you’re not quite ready for the holidays, this is a terrific book to get you started!

9/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

CHRISTMAS IN BLUE DOG VALLEY by Annie England Noblin. Avon (September 20, 2022). ISBN:‎  978-0063040199. 384p.

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