THE CHRISTMAS DARE by Lori Wilde

October 27, 2019

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Twilight Texas, Book 10

From the publisher:

A jilted-at-the-altar bride reunites with her high school sweetheart in Lori Wilde’s sensational new Twilight, Texas Christmas novel.

Kelsey James always played by the rules and look where it got her—dumped and half-drunk in a poofy white dress, her Christmas wedding ruined. Then her best friend talks her into going on her “honeymoon” anyway, daring her to a “Christmas of Yes.”  It’s about time she lets loose a little, so Kelsey agrees to say “yes” to fun, to romance, and to adventure! And adventure leads her right smack into the arms of sexy Noah MacGregor.

Noah’s never one to say no to a risk—from leading his NBA team to victory to making Christmas cookies in Twilight, he’s up to the challenge! But a lot has gone on since they were teenagers, and he knows he has to take his time to make Kelsey dare to believe that what they feel is more than just the holiday magic that’s in the air . . .

 


I enjoy the Twilight, Texas series and this year’s Christmas entry is a good one. Kelsey is basically a psychologically abused daughter. She grew up with a mother that constantly belittles her, “gaslights” her, and in general, keeps her self esteem lower than a hole in the ground. The mom here reminded me a bit of my stepmother, in a slightly more exaggerated way (sorry, Helena, if you’re reading this, but it’s true.) So when Kelsey gets dumped on her wedding day when her fiance runs off with his best man, she is ready for a change.

Luckily, she has a best friend, Tasha, who is there to help her pick up the broken pieces and put them back together in a stronger, more independent way. Phase one of the process involves cashing in the honeymoon plans and taking Kelsey to Twilight, where she is reunited with her high school sweetheart, her first love, the one who got away.

This whole series is based on the first love is your one true love subgenre and Wilde does a good job with it. Personally, though, I had a hard time with Kelsey. She is a real dichotomy of controlled, strong campaign manager and weak, ineffectual woman. She wallows in self-pity, not because she was left at the altar, but because of her mother. Noah, her first love, understands her though. Their history is bumpy, to say the least, but he is on board in helping her gain control of her life. Finally.

These damaged characters make for a good story, and this was a one night read for me. The Christmas magic happens in Twilight, and I bought it.

10/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE CHRISTMAS DARE by Lori Wilde. Avon (October 22, 2019). ISBN 978-0062468314. 400p.

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FINDING CHRISTMAS by Karen Schaler

October 19, 2019

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From the publisher:

From the writer of the Netflix sensation, A Christmas Prince, and Christmas Camp, the Hallmark movie and novel, comes a heartwarming new Christmas story, Finding Christmas, showing how sometimes the detour in your journey is the path to true love.

With all the glittering decorations, twinkling lights, snow angels, gingerbread men and mistletoe, Christmas is Emmie’s first love.

This year, she can’t wait to share her favorite Christmas traditions with her boyfriend, Grant. She thinks he’s “the one.” So when Grant’s hectic work schedule has him more “Bah Humbug” than “Ho, Ho, Ho,” Emmie creates a holiday-themed scavenger hunt to help him find his Christmas spirit. At the end of the journey, Grant will arrive at the charming town of Christmas Point where she’s planned a romantic weekend filled with holiday activities.

But Emmie’s plan backfires when a mix-up has the wrong guy following her clues! Sam, a best-selling mystery writer, thinks Emmie’s clever Christmas riddles are from his agent, who is trying to help him get over his epic writer’s block.

When he arrives at Christmas Point and finds the stunned Emmie, he immediately feels she’s someone special, but she can’t see beyond the fact that the wrong guy has shown up. Inspired by the small, charming town, Sam decides to stay and convinces Emmie to join him in a little holiday fun while she waits for Grant.

When Grant finally shows up, Emmie is disappointed to discover he’s not enjoying the activities she planned and can’t help wonder if he’s really the one for her. She also can’t get Sam out of her mind and all the great times they had together. With Christmas coming fast, Emmie will need the magic of the season to help steer her in the direction of true love…


I enjoyed the Netflix movie, “A Christmas Prince,” mostly because it felt new and more modern than the typical Hallmark channel Christmas romance movies. I haven’t seen “Christmas Camp” because I have been very turned off by how crappy the Hallmark movies have been this past year. It feels like since they started pushing a new movie every week, the quality, which let’s face it, was never great, has gotten even worse. I just couldn’t watch them anymore. But if I find the Christmas Camp movie, I’ll give it a try. Probably. Maybe. Who knows.

This book. I started reading it and put it down. A couple of times. The first five chapters or so are basically descriptions of Christmas decorations and I got bored. Fast. But I persevered because I kept hearing about this book (good publicity department!) Once the scavenger hunt kicked in, the story started progressing. It was entirely predictable, a generic Christmas romance, which I dont mind at all. I stuck it out for the happily ever after. Mostly because of what’s been going on in the news this week. I really, really needed a break, an entertaining read that required little to no thinking whatsoever. This book worked beautifully for my escape from reality, if only for one night.

I loved the meta touches – Emmie and her friend talk about watching “A Christmas Prince” and “Christmas Camp.” Cute, and it worked. Sam and Emmie were mostly developed characters, Grant nothing but a caricature of the overworked, ambitious lawyer.

If you, too, want a fast, easy read to escape your reality, give this book a try. There is no sex, and barely any kissing either, so suitable for a Hallmark movie. Which I’m guessing is where it’s headed.

10/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

FINDING CHRISTMAS by Karen Schaler. William Morrow Paperbacks (October 15, 2019). ISBN 978-0062883711. 384p.

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DACHSHUND THROUGH THE SNOW by David Rosenfelt

October 10, 2019

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An Andy Carpenter Mystery, Book 20

In my recollection, there has never been a bad book featuring Andy Carpenter and his assorted team of assistants. This novel is certainly not an exception to the rule. It does, however, go a step further and delivers a story that connects in every which way, and if not his best, is certainly among David Rosenfelt’s top novels.

The basic idea is the same; Andy has inherited a large sum of money and really does not want to work. He is married to Laurie, his true love, they have a son, and of course two dogs that he walks while he thinks. He then is faced with a case to prove someone is not guilty of the murder of which they have been accused.

The present volume is released in time for Christmas, and the holiday spirit permeates the book. Laurie has developed the custom of filling the wishes of children that are undoubtedly poor. A pet store near the Carpenter’s home normally puts up a Christmas tree and allows children to place their wishes on it, instead of having ornaments. Laurie takes the wishes and gets the children what they wished for, delivering it confidentially.

One of the lists is from a boy named Danny, who would like a coat for his mother, a sweater for his dachshund, and to bring home his father, who has suddenly disappeared. The first two wishes are easy to fulfill when the answer to the third one becomes suddenly apparent. Danny’s father is arrested for murder.

The crime is 14 years old and never solved, but the DNA of the possible killer was located on the dead girl’s body and around the scene.  Noah, Danny’s father, has no criminal record so that his DNA, which was that found, has never been identified. Unfortunately, Noah’s brother sends a sample of his DNA to a website that matches DNA with possible groups, and of course, Noah is identified and arrested.

Andy has to take the case because it was part of Danny’s wishes. While the normal banter between Andy and others takes place, the handling of the case in court is a lesson in the scientific handling of DNA as evidence in police work. This sequence does take the novel to an area that is beyond the norm in Rosenfelt’s work. A very well done novel.

10/19 Paul Lane

DACHSHUND THROUGH THE SNOW by David Rosenfelt. Minotaur Books (October 1, 2019). ISBN 978-1250237682. 352p.

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

February 14, 2018

thank you, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library

 

 

 

 

 


THE PERFECT MATCH by Kristan Higgins

November 15, 2017

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Blue Heron Series, Book 2

So I just realized I have read a book in this series, the fifth book, in fact, last year and never got around to reading any more until I was prompted to by my work daughter, Caitlin. I read the first book, this is the second in the series and apparently, I read the fifth book last year. Just when I thought I was reading a series in order!

This book put me in mind of another book I recently read and will be reviewing in early December when it comes out, Roomies by Christina Lauren. Both center around a fraudulent marriage to gain an immigrant the cherished green card.

Honor Holland has been best friends with Brogan since elementary school. At one point they decided to have sex and do so on occasion over the years. When Honor has her annual pelvic exam, the doctor mentions she might want to start thinking about having children. She’s 35 years old and her best childbearing years are behind her, so she decides to propose to Brogan. She has fancied herself in love with him for years, so why not. Of course, he says no and she is humiliated. To make matters worse, her best friend immediately moves in on Brogan and the next thing Holland knows, they are telling her they are in love, Holland sees red and it’s a real wine tossing, punch throwing, cat fight.

Holland’s grandmother tries to set her up with a penpal’s grandson from England who has been living in the area and needs a green card. Tom is intrigued to meet the hellion he saw rolling around the bar floor, but despite his good looks and dreamy accent, Tom acts like a real jerk. But then they meet up again, and Honor decides he is possibly marriage material.

Tom needs to stay in America for his ex-fiancee’s son. After she died, and his father took off, Charlie has been living with his grandparents who are not happy about it. They use Tom as a babysitter when they’ve had enough, which works for Tom. He fell in love with the kid the first time he met him. Honor is touched by their relationship, and after a wild night of sex, she agrees to marry him.

Of course Honor falls in love with Tom, fighting it all the way. And he with her. But they are both so damaged from their past relationships that it doesn’t look like either one of them will be able to move to where they need to be. Meanwhile, this book is laugh out loud funny, sweetly emotional and all in all, a terrific read. I loved it.

11/17  Stacy Alesi AKA the BookBitch™

THE PERFECT MATCH by Kristan Higgins. HQN Books (October 29, 2013). ISBN 978-0373778195. 448p.

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THE CHRISTMAS COWBOY HERO by Donna Grant

November 3, 2017

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Heart of Texas #1

Clayton East is an ex-Navy SEAL who doesn’t want to go home. He lost his brother years earlier and doesn’t like living on the family ranch without him. But his father is having some serious health issues, and it looks like their accountant has made off with the family fortune. His family is in trouble and Clayton has to go home and help his parents, he’s all they have left. And it’s Christmas time.

Then a big chunk of their cattle herd goes missing, along with their $100,000 bull. The sheriff manages to catch one of the perpetrators, a teenage boy named Brice Harper. Turns out Brice and his younger brother Caleb have a legal guardian, their sister Abby. After their mother walked out on the family, Abby was determined to do right by her brothers and she’s been more mother than sister to them. When she gets called about Brice, she is just heartsick.

Clayton is at the jail and she offers to pay him back for the missing cattle if he won’t press charges. But Abby has been living paycheck to paycheck, working for a CPA and taking night classes when she can. When she realizes that she’ll owe Clayton over $250,000, she is beside herself.

Clayton thinks she is beautiful, and he realizes that sometimes you have to give people a second chance. He makes Brice an offer; he can come to the ranch every day after school and every weekend and work off his debt. Clayton is hoping that he will earn Brice’s trust and find his missing cattle as well. Meanwhile, he is falling for Abby and she for him.

The Harpers start spending more and more time at the ranch, and Abby not only falls in love with Clayton but also with his parents, and they love her and her brothers. Clayton and Abby have to get past dangerous cattle rustlers, crooked accountants, have a few close calls, and finally find their Christmas miracle.

I loved this book. I felt like I really got to know these characters, was rooting for their relationship to work out, and there was a bit of heat. I’m looking forward to the next book in the series.

11/17  Stacy Alesi AKA the BookBitch™

THE CHRISTMAS COWBOY HERO by Donna Grant. St. Martin’s Paperbacks (October 31, 2017). ISBN 978-1250165428. 320p.

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CHASING CHRISTMAS EVE by Jill Shalvis

October 11, 2017

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Heartbreaker Bay, Book 4

Colbie Albright is a bestselling author of a dystopian young adult series of books that are being turned into movies, but she writes under a pseudonym. When her publisher asks for a fourth book in the trilogy* to coincide with the movie premier, Colbie finds herself with a severe case of writers block. She decides to hop on a plane to somewhere warm and try and find her muse again.

(*No, that doesn’t add up but isn’t all that unusual! In real life, see Adriana Trigiani’s Big Stone Gap trilogy, I think there are at least 4 books, maybe 5?)

Colbie ends up in San Francisco, asks the cab driver to surprise her and she ends up visiting this famous fountain. Unfortunately, she ends up in the fountain when a large dog takes off and knocks her over. The dog’s walker, Spencer Baldwin, feels terrible and that is your meet-cute. He convinces her to come with him and provides her with laundry service, a place to stay, himself as a San Francisco tour guide and eventually, her lover.

Colbie isn’t exactly forthcoming about who she is and Spence assumes she is a struggling writer working on her first novel. Spence isn’t forthcoming about who he is either; he’s a tech millionaire workaholic with a history of bad romances. But there is such a strong attraction between them that they keep getting together, finding they have more and more in common. But Colbie has to get home by Christmas, and the fact she’s leaving let’s Spence feel comfortable with the short-term relationship. Until they both realize they want more…

If you are looking for a Christmas romance, this really isn’t it. The holiday aspects seem somewhat of an afterthought, but it is a fast, fun read. I thoroughly enjoy this series.

10/17  Stacy Alesi AKA the BookBitch™

CHASING CHRISTMAS EVE by Jill Shalvis. Avon (September 26, 2017). ISBN 978-0062697219. 272p.

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CHRISTMAS AT TWO LOVE LANE by Kieran Kramer

October 6, 2017

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Macy Frost believes she is a direct descendant of Cupid, so it’s only natural that she started a matchmaking business with her two best friends.  But things don’t always go as planned as Macy learns after meeting Deacon Banks.

Deacon has moved to Charleston for a month to help his aunt, a retired TV big shot, settle in to her new town. Being from New York has some advantages here, for one thing Macy is enchanted with his accent, and he with hers. But his aunt wants him to meet someone and settle down, so he persuades Macy to set him up on some dates with the proviso that he is only in town for a fling and nothing more. That way he’ll make his aunt happy seeing him date, and he’ll be honest with the women he’s meeting.

Except Macy falls for Deacon, and he for her. Deacon persuades all the women she sets him up with to help him pursue Macy, and Macy finds herself more and more entrenched in a relationship with a client, a definite business no-no.

This is a fun read with a slightly steamy scene or two and I enjoyed it. I don’t know if I never noticed before but it seems to me that there are more and more holiday books every year, and that means I’ll have lots to pick from to get me through the holidays! This was a charming holiday story, and I really enjoyed it.

10/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

CHRISTMAS AT TWO LOVE LANE by Kieran Kramer. St. Martin’s Paperbacks (October 3, 2017). ISBN 978-1250111043.  352p.

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WINTER SOLSTICE by Elin Hilderbrand

October 5, 2017

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Just when you thought the Winter Street trilogy was over, Hilderbrand writes another last episode, turning this into a Christmas series, I guess, instead of a trilogy. Either way, I was happy!

I don’t want to give too much away, so here is what the publisher offers:

Raise one last glass with the Quinn Family at the Winter Street Inn.

It’s been too long since the entire Quinn family has been able to celebrate the holidays under the same roof, but that’s about to change. With Bart back safe and sound from Afghanistan, the Quinns are preparing for a holiday more joyous than any they’ve experienced in years. And Bart’s safe return isn’t the family’s only good news: Kevin is enjoying married life with Isabelle; Patrick is getting back on his feet after paying his debt to society; Ava thinks she’s finally found the love of her life; and Kelly is thrilled to see his family reunited at last. But it just wouldn’t be a Quinn family gathering if things went smoothly. A celebration of everything we love–and some of the things we endure–about the holidays, WINTER SOLSTICE is Elin Hilderbrand at her festive best.

This is a wonderful holiday series, and if you have the time, I recommend you give yourself a gift this holiday season and read all of them, in order. But you can certainly give this one a go on its own, but it probably won’t have you bawling. Well, maybe it will.

Hilderbrand says that this is her most autobiographical family story. She is not referring to the plot lines or all the details, but to the family structure, the guilt working mom’s have to contend with, and of course, life on Nantucket.

10/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

WINTER SOLSTICE by Elin Hilderbrand. Little, Brown and Company (October 3, 2017). ISBN 978-0316435451. 304p.

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MERRY AND BRIGHT by Debbie Macomber

October 4, 2017

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Yay! Debbie’s back with another terrific Christmas book. After her last super Christiany (is that a word? Spell check doesn’t think so) Any Dream Will Do, a standalone novel, I was a little nervous thinking that maybe that was the direction she was going to be going in all her books. But it wasn’t. The Macomber I love is back and she remains my favorite author of Christmas stories.

This book was a direct ripoff of “You’ve Got Mail,” one of my favorite movies ever (which in itself was a remake of “The Shop Around the Corner”) and believe me, I am not complaining about that. In fact, Macomber even mentions it, poking a bit of fun at herself and I loved that moment.

Merry Knight is a hard-working temp filling in for someone on leave for a year. Her time at the company is up on Dec. 23, and she’s been socking away the money so she can go back to college and finish up. She lives at home with her parents and her brother, who has some challenges and she has enormous patience with all of them.

Her boss, Jaysen, is a bit of a jerk. He is the type who reads the rule book and lives by the rules. No eating at your desk. No holiday decorations. And so on. She has a nameplate on her desk that says “Mary” and the HR department is not inclined to correct it as she is only a temp, so Jaysen thinks that is her name.

For an early birthday gift, Merry’s parents and her brother buy her a subscription to an online dating service. It’s really not something that she wants, but her brother and mother are so excited about it that she doesn’t have the heart to tell them. They set up an account for her, using her dog’s picture instead of her own.

Jaysen’s best friend is getting married. He met his fiancée on an online dating site, so Jaysen decides to check it out. He is drawn to the dog account and uses a picture of his old dog as well. “Jay” signs on and he and Merry start chatting online and they both are infatuated rather quickly. But when they arrange to meet, Merry sees who “Jay” really is and takes off, leaving him frustrated and both of them upset.

Meanwhile, Jaysen realizes he’s been acting like a jerk at work and starts trying harder to be more pleasant. He soon finds himself attracted to “Mary” and well, you can see where this is going. Let’s just say they find their happily ever after, but not before there are more roadblocks to overcome.

I suspect this will become another Hallmark Chrismas movie. Just a hunch though, we cut the cord and don’t have cable or the Hallmark channel anymore…which I would gladly pay for if Hallmark would get with the times and offer their channels to us cord cutters! But I digress.

Another fun Christmas story from the Queen of Christmas. Loved it!

10/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

MERRY AND BRIGHT by Debbie Macomber. Ballantine Books (October 3, 2017). ISBN 978-0399181221.  272p.

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