Spotlight Review: ONCE UPON A DECEMBER by Amy E. Reichert

October 11, 2022

From the publisher:

A one-of-a-kind Christmas market offers holiday magic in this new romance from the author of The Kindred Spirits Supper Club.

With a name like Astra Noel Snow, holiday spirit isn’t just a seasonal specialty—it’s a way of life. But after a stinging divorce, Astra’s yearly trip to the Milwaukee Christmas market takes on a whole new meaning. She’s ready to eat, drink, and be merry, especially with the handsome stranger who saves the best kringle for her at his family bakery.

For Jack Clausen, the Julemarked with its snowy lights and charming shops stays the same, while the world outside the joyful street changes, magically leaping from one December to the next every four weeks. He’s never minded living this charmed existence until Astra shows him the life he’s been missing outside of the festive red brick alley.

After a swoon-worthy series of dates, some Yuletide magic, and the unexpected glow of new love, Astra and Jack must decide whether this relationship can weather all seasons, or if what they’re feeling is as ephemeral as marshmallows in a mug of hot cocoa.

“An absolutely perfect holiday hug.”–New York Times bestselling author Christina Lauren

“Reichert’s cozy romance is a nice blend of a sweet love story and Christmas magic.”–Library Journal

https://amzn.to/3RQSEg2

Reichert doesn’t put out a lot of books, but I’ve read most of them and loved them all. This one was a bit different for her; this is a Christmas romance with some magical realism that always works around the holidays.

Jack Clausen lives in the Julemarked, a traveling Christmas market that is somewhat other worldly. The market arrives every December 1, and disappears on Christmas eve. It is in an alley, an offshoot of an existing Christmas market, but one of the reasons it’s magical has to do with the fact that people don’t remember anything specific about it, and don’t even notice when it disappears. Jack, along with his brothers, is a baker and they work in the Kringle shop. When Astra and her friends come in, there is a definite attraction between Jack and Astra. She gives him a hat; he gives her a tiny Christmas gnome that he hand carves. They meet up every year or two, and slowly she starts forming some memories.

When they meet, Astra has been through a rough divorce with a controlling husband who almost cost her her friendships. Now that she has her best friends back, Astra is so much happier. She and Jack get to know one another as the market appears every so often – Jack has all his memories of their meetings, but it is a much slower process for Astra. Only those who could live in the Julemarked are able to remember, but Jack makes it clear that he won’t leave, so it is up to Astra to figure out whether or not they have a future.

This is a charming, sweet love story with more than a touch of magical realism, but if you can’t accept magic at Christmas, when can you? This book is sure to put you in the holiday mood (and I’m off to Trader Joe’s to see what kind of Kringles they have now!) I loved this book.

Bonus: Reichert provided this fabulous holiday playlist. Scan the QR code to play it on Apple Music or recreate it on your own.

10/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

ONCE UPON A DECEMBER by Amy E. Reichert. Berkley (October 4, 2022). ISBN:  978-0593197790. 336p.

Kindle

Audible

 


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.

Kindle

Audible

 

 


Spotlight Review: COOKOUT CARNAGE by Kelly Kay & Evie Alexander

July 12, 2022

Evie and Kelly’s Holiday Disasters, Book 2

From the publisher:

Two friends-to-lovers romantic comedies for the Fourth of July

One Fourth of July, two couples, complete carnage. These hot and hilarious stories are the perfect romcom recipe.

Off with a Bang – by Evie Alexander: Posh Brit Tristan has fallen for his American work colleague over Zoom. When she invites him to spend the Fourth of July with her and her family, he leaps at the chance to meet face to face. Maybe they can be more than just friends?

Sherilyn is in big trouble. She’s in love with someone she’s never met, and he’s just accepted an invitation she was sure he’d turn down. Tristan might think he’s about to meet a cute girl and her cookie-cutter family, but she’s Sherrie-Lynne, not Sherilyn. And when he discovers her family are lawless rednecks, he’s going to run a country mile.

Now, Sherilyn has to produce a fake family and put on a show bigger than her small town’s Fourth of July celebrations. Can she pull it off, or will she end up driving both Tristan and her family away forever?

Up in Smoke – by Kelly Kay: Cute farm boy Jonathan is about to get married to the wrong person. He’s clinging to an ideal of love, but his bride-to-be seems more interested in his best man, and wants to eat his pet. Jonathan’s heart has always belonged to his friend Juliet, but she left town years ago.

Now, the day before his nuptials, Juliet’s back and Jonathan’s had an epiphany. Can he get the right girl and find real happiness? Or is everything about to go up in smoke, including his pet pig?

Evie and Kelly’s Holiday Disasters are a series of hot and hilarious romantic comedies with interconnected characters, focusing on one holiday and one trope at a time. No cheating, no cliff-hangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after (HEA).

https://amzn.to/3uegJV7

Novellas are not usually my favorite, but Cupid Calamity, the first book in the series, was so much fun I couldn’t resist this new one set around the 4th of July.

These novellas were a bit longer than the ones in the first book, but just as fast a read – and they are both laugh out loud funny! These stories are connected via a text chain among a group of people who were stranded in an airport one night. They proceeded to drink themselves silly and formed a lasting friendship, despite the fact that they live all over the world, from Scotland to the UK to the U.S. In these stories, Kentucky and Chicago are the settings.

In my review copy, the first story was “Up in Smoke.” Jonathan is engaged to be married, but why I could not tell you. He literally has no feelings for his fiancé, they haven’t even slept together, mostly because she is busy sleeping around the small Kentucky town where they live. Her contemptuous attitude towards Jonathan just confused me even more. So that night he met all those friends? One of them called his ex, Juliet, and then he called her after that, confessing he still is in love with her. She still loves him, but somehow he’s blocked her number so he never gets any of the many texts she sends over the months between Valentine’s Day and the 4th of July. She moves back to their Kentucky hometown just in time to stop the wedding. But the bride isn’t getting the message, turning this into a farce that is so over the top I’m surprised it hasn’t been made into a movie yet. Lots of laughs here amid my confusion, but the happy ending was guaranteed and it delivered.

The second story, “Off With a Bang” was my favorite, if I had to pick one. This story centers around another of the friends from the airport, Tristan. He is from the UK but is working for a US company. One of his team members in the Chicago office is Sherilyn, and they form a long distance friendship. They talk, Zoom, and text daily. Tristan decides to ask for a transfer to the Chicago office. He has fallen in love long distance, but is afraid he isn’t good enough for Sherilyn. Tristan has an interesting back story that we don’t learn about until nearly the end.

Meanwhile Sherilyn has also fallen for Tristan, but thinks she isn’t good enough for him. She is from a small Kentucky backwater town, and she had the unfortunate experience of bringing a boyfriend home once, where he humiliated her about her family. When Jonathan invites Tristan to his wedding, it turns out he lives about half an hour from Sherilyn, so Tristan decides to surprise Sherilyn in her hometown for the 4th of July, a couple of days before the wedding. She had talked about the holiday and her family’s participation and invited him to come by any time he was in the area. She never really expected him to show up, and when he does, she is mortified and half the town agrees to help her hide her real family from Tristan. Of course that doesn’t work out very well, but Tristan and Sherilyn still manage to find their happy ending.

I felt more emotionally invested in Sherilyn & Tristan’s story, but both stories were really funny and sweet and sexy, all the good stuff. Highly recommend!

7/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

COOKOUT CARNAGE by Kelly Kay & Evie Alexander. Emlin Press (June 13, 2022) ISBN: 978-1914473111. 330p.

Kindle


CUPID CALAMITY by Kelly Kay & Evie Alexander

February 4, 2022

Evie and Kelly’s Holiday Disasters, Book 1

From the publisher:

Valentine’s day romantic comedy at its finest!

One cupid, two calamities, four uproarious lovers. Insta-love meets insta-disaster in these laugh-out-loud Valentine’s day novellas.

Animal Attraction by Evie Alexander: Overworked, underpaid, and perpetually single, Laurie is stuck in a rut. A birthday on Valentine’s day is bad enough, but when her insensitive colleagues drag her to a secret Safari dining experience, her day hits rock bottom – she’s terrified of animals. Workaholic Ben has just swapped the States for Somerset. He’s on track to fulfil a childhood dream, and the only date he wants on Valentine’s day is a business one. But when his fantasy woman approaches with an offer he can’t refuse, his priorities start to change. Laurie and Ben have an instant connection and their chemistry is wild. Unfortunately so are the animals. When the menagerie goes into meltdown they’re thrown into a Darwinian Hunger Games, fighting for their lives as well as love. Can Businessman Ben unleash his inner Tarzan and save Laurie? Or has this survival of the fittest reached the point of no return?

Stupid Cupid by Kelly Kay: Resourceful Sabrina always puts others’ needs first. She never thought she’d be abandoning a blind date to run off with a stranger. But now she’s got the chance to face her demons and choose happiness – even if it’s just for one night. Charmer Patrick can make any situation work in his favor. But snark and humor won’t be enough to win Sabrina’s heart. He’s got to dig deep, open up, and take on fate as well as New York City. Armed with a fire extinguisher, a cobbler’s hammer, and an EpiPen, can Patrick and Sabrina survive the worst-best date of their lives and find true love? Or will they lose each other as well as the plot?

Evie and Kelly’s Holiday Disasters are a series of hot and hilarious romantic comedies with interconnected characters, focusing on one holiday and one trope at a time. No cheating, no cliff-hangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after (HEA).

https://amzn.to/3L1GjUj

I don’t usually love novellas, but this was such a fun read! Plus there are two novellas, so twice the fun, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Because these are so short, there is not a whole lot of character development or back story, but it doesn’t seem to matter. I was immediately drawn in to both of these stories. They are both set on Valentine’s Day, one a blind date gone sideways, the other a disastrous dinner with friends. I don’t want to give anything away, so bear with me.

The disastrous dinner is set in a restaurant that has wild animals roaming around, including chimpanzees, a talking bird, and an elephant. It is a bit over the top, but the meet-cute is heroic, and the romance is fun.

The blind date goes sideways when Patrick and Sabrina lay eyes on each other. They are each at this restaurant to meet someone else, blind dates, but their attraction is instantaneous and strong. Their rejected dates are not happy about the situation, to say the least. Patrick and Sabrina take off and encounter one problem after another, making this the date from hell that brings them impossibly close in one night.

This is the first book of a series set around holidays. This is the light, frothy, fun read I wanted for Valentine’s Day. It made me laugh out loud several times, which is always a plus. Even though it is two novellas, it is still a very short book (less than 200 pages) and a very easy read. Enjoy!

2/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

CUPID CALAMITY by Kelly Kay & Evie Alexander. Emlin Press (January 10, 2022). ISBN: 978-1914473098. 172p.

Kindle

 


A ROYAL CHRISTMAS FAIRY TALE by Karen Schaler

December 20, 2021

From the publisher:

From the three-time Emmy Award-winning writer of Netflix sensation A Christmas Prince and Hallmark’s Christmas Camp, comes this heartwarming, feel-good Christmas romance about the power of believing in yourself to find your happily ever after…

A charming Christmas village, a storybook castle, a royal ball, and a gorgeous prince are the last things New York City reporter Kaylie Karlyle expects to find on her holiday freelance assignment to Europe. But when the family she’s interviewing turns out to be the royal family of Tolvania, Kaylie has a meltdown when the quirky queen wants her to write a Christmas fairy tale for the spunky, young princess. Kaylie must battle the princess’s father, who doesn’t trust the media, and her own insecurities about writing anything beyond the news.

To spark inspiration for the fairy tale, the queen recruits the prickly Prince Alexander to show Kaylie the family’s most spectacular royal holiday traditions. And sparks definitely fly when the only thing Kaylie and the prince agree on is that they’re both more “bah humbug” than “ho, ho, ho.”

But somewhere between sleigh rides and snow angels, merrymaking and mistletoe, upside-down Christmas trees, and a legendary Christmas crown, Kaylie and the prince open their hearts to Christmas and start believing in themselves and each other. It’s a real-life fairy tale in the making until Kaylie discovers a secret about a royal Christmas heirloom that jeopardizes everyone’s happily ever after. Can the magic of the season save this holiday happy ending?

A “sweet Christmas charmer…” – Publishers Weekly

https://amzn.to/3J0KYF5

Schaler has created a career out of writing these “royal” Christmas romances since the first one was a Netflix movie, “A Christmas Prince.” I liked the movie (more than anything on the Hallmark Channel) and I’ve enjoyed the books as well. She’s also written some movies for the Hallmark and Lifetime Channels. Scripts have to move a lot faster than books, so those skills really work in creating fast paced romance novels like this one.

Kaylie is an investigative reporter who dreams of going national. When the station where she works cuts her job, her boss is kind enough to recommend her for a rather unique, temporary position. All she knows is that she will be doing something about the royal family of Tolvania, a small European (fictional) country. Since she has nothing else to do, she jumps on it. And does a little more jumping once she gets there.

The “meet-cute” happens when Kaylie gets off the plane and sees a car waiting. It’s snowing and windy and she can’t really see much so she opens the door and jumps in – right onto the lap of a very good looking man who is not happy with her. She gets out and finds her ride, but when she gets to the castle she realizes he is the Prince and she is in trouble.

Prince Alexander is a widower with a precocious young daughter, Princess Anna. But it was his mother, the Queen, who hired Kaylie so he really can’t fire her. They have had a lot of bad press since he lost his wife, and they’ve banned reporters from anything royal so he is shocked his mother hired this tenacious, career driven journalist. But eventually Kaylie convinces him she is not there to report on his family. The Queen has hired her to learn about the Christmas traditions and write the young princess a fairy tale about them. Kaylie is shocked to learn this; she has never written any kind of fiction, much less a fairy tale. But the Queen does not take no for an answer, and Kaylie is embedded with the family.

I don’t want to give anything away so suffice it to say there is a happy ending. There are a whole lot of interesting and unique Christmas traditions, so it was a fun holiday read for sure. I hope the movie captures them all.

12/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

A ROYAL CHRISTMAS FAIRY TALE by Karen Schaler. HawkTale Publishing (October 5, 2021). ISBN: 978-1734766141. 356 pages.

Kindle

Audible

 

 

 

 


HIS FOR THE HOLIDAYS by Samantha Chase

December 17, 2021

From the publisher:

What better way to unwind from the stress of a family Thanksgiving, than escaping with an armload of Christmas cookies?

Hannah Christy was eager to head home and devour her treats in solitude, while doing some prep work for the promotion she was vying for. Those plans came to a screeching halt… along with the elevator…. trapping her inside with her sexy neighbor.

After being trapped with his match-making family over Thanksgiving, getting stuck in an elevator was a welcome reprieve for Gage Lawson.

If it was up to him, he would gladly stay stranded well into the new year. Especially since his neighbor has a whole treasure trove of ideas on how to pass the time. The best Christmas cookies he’s ever tasted. Delicious spiced wine. Fun getting-to-know-you games. It’s the most holiday merriment he’s had in a long while.

Somewhere in the midst of it all, Gage comes up with the perfect plan. A fake romance to help make both their family get-togethers more jolly! To his surprise, Hannah agrees to be his for the holidays. Yet with the mistletoe in full bloom, and her on his arm, Gage soon realizes their little Christmas show isn’t enough. He wants her for real… and forever.

Roast the chestnuts and hang the stockings, Gage has a plan! With the help of the 55 and over residents, magical flurries, and a never-ending supply of hot cocoa with extra marshmallows, he’s determined to show Hannah that Christmas is the most wonderful time of year to fall in love.

https://amzn.to/3q8bOSQ

A delicious new holiday romance!

I’ve read a few books by Chase and enjoyed them all, but I have issues with their covers. I really hate them, this one included. It just looks like an old, cheesy romance from the 80’s or something. Reading advance review copies on a Kindle often eliminates the cover image so I don’t see it until I go to post the review. For this author, I have learned to just ignore the cover and enjoy the book – and I did!

These characters had interesting backgrounds, and we get to know them fairly well for such a short book. Chase does a really good job with building her characters, and I especially liked Hannah. She is a strong woman, dedicated to her career, but not without some issues. Her career is in commercial interior design, but the rest of her family are in the medical profession – her parents and both sisters. She often feels like a failure around them.

We don’t know quite as much about Gage, at least not at first. I’m still not clear on what he does for a living, but who cares. He dresses nice, he’s employed, and he’s good to his family. He is the youngest and the only boy, and his sisters and mom are all on the hunt for a wife for him, to the point where he is considering not going home for Christmas. Their matchmaking is stressing him out.

Gage and Hannah are neighbors who don’t really know each other at all. Until they get stuck in the elevator together, for hours. By the time they get out, they are on very friendly terms. Hannah had suggested a way for Gage to avoid the matchmaking this Christmas by getting one of his female friends to fake date him. He isn’t comfortable lying to his family, but he likes Hannah so he asks her to do it.

At first she says no but circumstances change and she heads out to the small town where his mom lives with Gage. And shockingly, has a fantastic time. She loves his mom and his sisters and all his nieces and nephews and she is falling in love with Gage, too. But she knows this relationship has an expiration date. It looks like she is going to be moving out of state for work, so she doesn’t want to get too involved. But the heart wants what the heart wants.

There are hurdles to Hannah and Gage reaching their happily ever after, but it is so much fun getting there. I am definitely stealing the idea of a hot cocoa tasting (like a wine tasting but with cocoa! And I would love the recipe for the hot cocoa cookies!) I also really liked how their relationship was depicted. We know they are having sex, but it is not explicit and is mostly out of sight of the reader so it actually felt more real to me, if that makes sense? This was a charming, sweet romance just perfect for the holidays, and I loved it.

12/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

HIS FOR THE HOLIDAYS by Samantha Chase.  Independently published (December 14, 2021). ISBN: 979-8784305725. 234 pages.

Kindle

Audible

 

 

 

 


A HOLLY JOLLY DIWALI by Sonya Lalli

December 6, 2021

From the publisher:

One type-A data analyst discovers her free-spirited side on an impulsive journey from bustling Mumbai to the gorgeous beaches of Goa and finds love waiting for her on Christmas morning.

Twenty-nine-year-old Niki Randhawa has always made practical decisions. Despite her love for music and art, she became an analyst for the stability. She’s always stuck close to home, in case her family needed her. And she’s always dated guys that seem good on paper, rather than the ones who give her butterflies. When she’s laid off, Niki realizes that practical hasn’t exactly paid off for her. So for the first time ever, she throws caution to the wind and books a last-minute flight for her friend Diya’s wedding.

Niki arrives in India just in time to celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights, where she meets London musician Sameer Mukherji. Maybe it’s the splendor of Mumbai or the magic of the holiday season, but Niki is immediately drawn to Sam. At the wedding, the champagne flows and their flirtatious banter makes it clear that the attraction is mutual.

When Niki and Sam join Diya, her husband and their friends on a group honeymoon, their connection grows deeper. Free-spirited Sam helps Niki get in touch with her passionate and creative side, and with her Indian roots. When she gets a new job offer back home, Niki must decide what she wants out of the next chapter of her life—to cling to the straight and narrow like always, or to take a leap of faith and live the kind of bold life the old Niki never would have dreamed of.

https://amzn.to/3poEDdu

Nikki has always been the good daughter. Her older sister, Jasmine, is a bit of a rebel, and Nikki has never wanted to upset her parents like her sister does. So when her parents offer to do a little matchmaking for her, she agrees. The young Indian doctor is a nephew of a friend, is good looking and successful, so they decide to meet for lunch.

But a few minutes before they are to meet, Nikki gets laid off from her tech job. They go out for lunch and get very drunk, and the good doctor invites her back to his apartment. Thinking he’s kidding, she declines and goes home. Then she decides to attend her college roommate’s wedding in India – two days before she has to leave. Nikki is not the impulsive, spontaneous type, so this is completely out of character for her. But she decides the time is now. Her parents were born in Punjab, and while the wedding is in Mumbai, she can stay in India for a few weeks and meet her relatives for the first time.

The wedding is more than just a one day affair; there are a week’s worth of events leading up to it, and the bride has invited all her wedding party to join her and her new husband on their honeymoon in Goa, a beach resort area. At her first event, Nikki encounters a racist old auntie who upsets her. leading her to meet another auntie, a kind and good person. She wants to set up Nikki with her son, but she declines. Then at the event, she can’t help but notice the gorgeous bass player in the band, and he appears to notice her as well. Turns out Sam is the kind auntie’s son.

Sam and Nikki start spending time together at the wedding events, and she is invited to Goa to stay in his family’s apartment there. His mother will be there as well, so she decides to put off visiting her relatives in Punjab for a few days.

As Sam and Nikki grow closer, they both start to realize that this is way more than a holiday fling. But Sam lives in London, and she lives in Seattle. There are other hurdles as well; besides Nikki’s job loss, Sam is struggling with his career as well. When she offers to move to London to be with him, he tells her he isn’t sure he is going back but doesn’t offer any alternative. Convinced that whatever they were building towards is now over, Nikki goes on to Punjab and meets her family for the first time. When she returns home, she is determined to get over Sam.

Set during the Diwali holiday around Christmas, the holiday cheer is a part of the story. I knew as little about Diwali as Nikki does, so it was fun learning about this important holiday. Sam and Nikki seem to be over, but this is a romance so a holiday miracle is expected and occurs. This was an interesting and fast moving story, and a good read. This holiday romance is filled with charm, pathos, love, and laughter. Enjoy!

12/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

A HOLLY JOLLY DIWALI by Sonya Lalli. Berkley (October 5, 2021). ISBN: 978-0593100950. 336 pages.

Kindle

Audible

 

 

 

 


THE CHRISTMAS WEDDING GUEST by Susan Mallery

December 4, 2021

Wishing Tree, Book 1

From the publisher:

Susan Mallery, author of the Fool’s Gold romances, cheerfully invites you to Wishing Tree, where Christmas comes to life…

The Somerville sisters believe in love, but they’ve lost faith it will happen for them. Reggie hasn’t been home since the end of the world’s shortest engagement. When her parents decide to renew their vows, she buffs up her twinkle to help with the Christmas wedding. Unexpectedly, Toby, her first love, is back too, and the spark between them shines as brightly as ever. In the spirit of the season, will they let go of past hurts and greet the New Year together?

Done waiting for the one, Dena is pregnant and on her own—on purpose. But then a gorgeous, sad-eyed songwriter checks in to a room at her inn. Micah, unable to write since he lost his wife, finds inspiration in Dena’s determination to be a mom. One snowflake-speckled kiss and he’s a goner. But Dena is afraid to believe that a rock star could fall for a cookie-cutter small-town girl like her.

As the Christmas wedding draws closer, these two sisters just might unwrap the most treasured gift of all—love.

Don’t miss The Summer Getaway by Susan Mallery where one woman discovers the beauty in chaos in a poignant and heartwarming story about the threads that hold family together.

https://amzn.to/3daap8o

Susan Mallery has a new series and I am thrilled! This one is all Christmas, all the time, and that’s pretty wonderful, too. Set in the small town of Wishing Tree, a town that should exist if it doesn’t.

Dena and Reggie are sisters, and they are close even though Reggie moved an hour away. Dena has given up on love and decided she wants a family anyway. She gets pregnant through in vitro, and of course then she meets Micah Ruiz, a famous singer who’s best friend lives in town. He’s staying at Dena’s B&B, trying to get inspiration to write music again. There is a strong attraction there, but they don’t rush into anything. When Micah has to return to LaLaLand, Dena is sure she’s lost him.

Reggie is in town to help their parents prepare for a big wedding – their own. They never had a wedding, and her mom decided it was time to have the wedding she always wanted. She hasn’t been back in town since her infamous engagement; engaged one day, dumped the next. Literally. But she is surprised to see her old high school boyfriend is also back in town with his little boy. They start seeing each other everywhere (small town!) and decide to try again.

This is an emotional read, and a really good one. There are two romances going on, and everyone gets their happy ending. These are sweet romances, just perfect for the holidays and I highly recommend!

12/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE CHRISTMAS WEDDING GUEST by Susan Mallery. HQN; Original edition (September 28, 2021). ISBN: 978-1335522450. 432 pages.

Kindle

Audible

Hardcover

 

 

 

 


SECOND CHANCE CHRISTMAS by Lori Wilde

December 3, 2021

A Twilight, Texas Novel: Book 15*

From the publisher:

New York Times bestselling author Lori Wilde returns to Twilight, Texas, with a love story filled with the magic of the season, about a couple who discover an abandoned baby on Christmas Eve-Eve.

It’s Christmastime in Twilight, TX. The lights are twinkling, carols are being sung, and the cookies are baking. And this year, best friends Joel and Jana discover a shocking surprise: as they are organizing the living Nativity, they find a sweet little baby in the manger with a note saying the mother will return…soon.

Jana tucks the infant into her arms, and she and Joel make the impulsive decision to take the baby home. Jana is spontaneous, Joel is a planner, but they agree that it’s better to care for this precious bundle for the holidays, in hopes that the mother really will come back by New Year’s.

As the days pass, the pair begins to fall in love with the child and they’re also forced to face facts: their relationship goes far deeper than friendship. As the spirit of Christmas—and the magic of Twilight, TX—takes over, this unlikely couple must open up to the feelings they’ve been hiding from each other all along. 

https://amzn.to/3G2fcFh

Anytime I can return to Twilight, Texas, I do, and this was a wonderful Christmas story! The nativity scene at the church that featured live animals, suddenly becomes a living nativity when a teen mom puts her newborn baby in the manger. She sees this couple nearby, and is hopeful they will take the baby. She leaves a note saying she will return soon, and just as she hopes, they find the baby. A baby in a manger at Christmas – you gotta love it!

Jana has been working for Joel for a while, and really likes him. He’s a great boss so as much as she would like to pursue something more, she’s afraid to mess up her job. Little does she know that Joel is having the same thoughts and doubts. But they’ve both volunteered to put the animals away at night, so they do find the baby. They get the pastor involved, and as Twilight is a very small town, soon everyone is weighing in.

Jana wants to keep the baby until the mom comes back. Growing up in foster homes, she doesn’t want that life for this sweet child. She also has other secrets about her past, but she’s not sharing. Joel understands how she feels and offers to help. They decide the best way is for Jana to move into Joel’s guest room so they both can care for the baby. Of course, half the people in town want to help, too.

Eventually, Jana and Joel realize they can no longer fight their attraction and their relationship progresses to a new level of intimacy. This is a beautiful story with all the Christmas feels. This series is mostly Christmas books, and Wilde really excels at them. I loved it.

*NOTE: Amazon says this is book 13; Goodreads says this is book 12; Lori Wilde says this is book 15!

12/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

SECOND CHANCE CHRISTMAS by Lori Wilde. Avon (October 26, 2021). ISBN: 978-0062953230. 400 pages.

Kindle

Audible

Hardcover

 

 

 

 


A REAL COWBOY FOR THE HOLIDAYS by Stephanie Rowe

November 16, 2021

Wyoming Rebels, Book 9

From the publisher:

A single mom returns to her family’s Wyoming Christmas tree farm for the holidays and runs into an injured cowboy from her past who just might be the Christmas miracle her little boy needs. A wonderful holiday romance that will melt your heart.

After a shattering divorce, Emma Rollins returns to Wyoming, hoping for a Christmas miracle for her son. When she accidentally runs into a truck driven by the cowboy who was her teenage partner-in-crime, Emma quickly discovers that he might be just the miracle she needs. Or did she already miss her chance with the rebel who used to make her laugh so long ago?

Sidelined from smokejumping with a devastating injury, Quintin Stockton is struggling to deal with the fact his career might be over. But when a family situation drags the former cowboy home for Christmas, he finds himself haunted by the shadows he’s never been able to escape.

When the woman he once called Nerd Girl needs his help hauling Christmas trees at her family farm, it’s the distraction Quintin needs. She makes him laugh, which he hasn’t done in a long, long time. But as the loner cowboy spends more time with Emma and her brave little boy, suddenly he has a chance for the Christmas love he didn’t even know he wanted.

Can Christmas magic bring love to two hearts that were once closed forever?


I wasn’t sure if I would be lost with this book as it is the 9th book of the series, and I haven’t read any of them. So while I knew I was missing information, it didn’t seem to matter all that much. This book can easily be read as a standalone, and I loved it.

Quintin is one of nine siblings in the Stockton family, and they have all had a horrible childhood. Instead of falling into where the badness could have lead them, Chase, the oldest, made sure they all ended up on the straight and narrow. Quintin is a smokejumper, one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. But on his last jump, he is severely injured, shattering his leg. Several operations later, he is still not healing all that well, at least not well enough to go back to his job – the only thing that sustains him. Without smokejumping, Quintin is depressed and unhappy, to say the least. But when Chase asks him to come home for Christmas, he shows up, planning on being there just for the day. Until Emma literally runs into his truck.

They were good friends in high school as Quintin worked at her family’s Christmas tree farm. Seeing her family was one of the good things in his young life, so he is happy to see Emma again. And when he finds out her father had been hurt and is having a hard time running the place, he offers to help out.

Emma has her own unhappiness. Her son was born with a birth defect, and as soon as it showed up on the ultrasound, her husband was out. They have a financial arrangement which precludes Emma from having any kind of relationship again, or from telling anyone about the arrangement. So as much as she is enjoying Quintin’s company, she can’t risk her son’s health and she refuses to take help from anyone.

But Quintin is falling in love, something he never thought would happen to him. He is especially drawn to her son, and to kids in general, like the rest of his family. They all have foster kids and adopted kids and just do whatever they can to help any child in need. While Quintin can tell Emma feels the same way, he doesn’t understand why she won’t let him help, so he figures out a way to do so.

This is a heartwarming holiday romance with characters that I just fell in love with – yes, it’s a bit of a fairytale, but isn’t Christmas the perfect time for that?

11/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

A REAL COWBOY FOR THE HOLIDAYS by Stephanie Rowe. Authenticity Playground, LLC (November 16, 2021). ASIN: B097CK7JW6. 282 pages.