Review: Christmas in London by Anita Hughes

Anita Hughes writes for the reader who wants to escape. No matter if you’re reading Hughes’ beach vacation novels or her holiday books, you’ll remove yourself from reality, suspend your disbelief, and enjoy a ride through luxury. 

In Christmas in London, baker Louisa gets whisked away to London by television show producer Noah. She and her cinnamon rolls are needed for filming a Christmas special with a handsome, charming, world-famous chef and cookbook writer. 

When I read Hughes, I just latch on to the main character and forget my real life. In London, I got to wake up to the smell of coffee and pastry, buy fancy new clothes, take walks with the cutie pie producer, take cooking classes with the famous chef (and hang out in a mansion with him), and live the tv star life for a week… not to mention get a happily ever after (and watch a new friend get one too).

Not a bad way to spend 288 pages.  

-calliope 

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Review: The Proving by Beverly Lewis

I really adore Amish fiction. Beverly Lewis is a pro at delivering believable plot lines, excellent writing, and characters so real that I start mimicking their facial expressions when reading dialogue. 

Mandy is a capable girl who left her Amish community because she was emotionally hurt. I was so glad Mandy ended up with a reason to return to her home – even if it wasn’t her first choice to do so. Though she had some family struggles and some uncertainty with the community and faith she grew up with, Mandy’s sister helped her see the truth about herself and her true home. 

I love all things B&B-related, so I was in my element with Amish baking on the inn’s farm table, sheets drying on the line, and guests who came for respite and left refreshed.  Getting to know the guests is always fun, and the carriage rides aren’t bad either. 

I read The Proving after a slew of September mediocrity, and I was very relieved to be able to effortlessly enjoy the inn, the sisterhood, and the faith of Mandy and her family.  
-calliope

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Review: Completely by Ruthie Knox

After a few weeks of mediocre romances, I was so happy to read the first few pages of COMPLETELY. I knew by the end of the first chapter that I would come to know the main characters as if they were real people. I don’t know how some other authors can describe what a character is wearing and it seems all irrelevant and extraneous, and then Ruthie Knox describes someone’s clothing in a way that paints a picture in my mind and makes me know the character better. Whatever that particular facet of writing talent is, I’m grateful. I really was about to go on a romance hiatus until COMPLETELY came my way. 

So besides the draw of a good romance, COMPLETELY enamored me with complex family dynamics, the intricacies of mountain climbing, and the turmoil of people trying to decide if they’re suppose to continue on their current path or not. Most of the book was about mountain climbing. I learned a ton. But between the lines I also learned that the best figurative mountains to climb are the ones that are the most difficult. 

COMPLETELY has some steamy scenes and a whole lot of fun dates in New York City. It was a bit of a departure from the fluff romances I usually read, and I need to remember to go back and read Knox’s New York books #1&2. 

-calliope

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Review: Merry and Bright by Debbie Macomber 

If you’ve read Debbie Macomber before, consider MERRY AND BRIGHT a typical Macomber Christmas read: sweet, clean, family oriented, and pretty predictable. I happen to like predictable stories, and this one had all the comforts you’d expect from a loving family at Christmastime. 

Merry is a kind, compassionate, maybe overly sensitive homebody who would help a stranger in a New York minute — and more than once, she did. 

Jay is a good guy overwhelmed with work, and taking out his frustrations on his fellow man (and woman). When Jay starts spending more time with Merry and his friend Cooper, his eyes are opened to how his values don’t match up to his behavior. 

So, in between the parts where the characters are getting to know each other and themselves, there’s a little bit of morality teaching – mostly about being compassionate. Sometimes it took me out of the story a little, but it was a nice reminder that kindness doesn’t cost me anything, and that it might mean the world to sometime on the receiving end.  

-calliope

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Review: Second Chance Girl by Susan Mallery

Life carries on for the artistic and moody Mitchell brothers.  This story centers on Mathias, who has repressed his creative side for practicality. Until he stumbles upon an unlikely muse – his neighbor Carol’s giraffe. Or maybe it’s his neighbor Carol. 😉

Second Chance Girl is filled with the family dynamics of the Mitchell family as they try to avoid their famous but angry father, and the sweet family dynamics of Carol and her sister Violet. There’s a worthy cause, British humor by a Duke, sparkly buttons, a few art shows, some broken glass, and some broken hearts. For the soft-hearted, there are two well-deserved and well-written romances, a charitable event, and a very cute puppy.  

Happily, Inc is no Fool’s Gold, but it’s still a nice place to visit. 

-calliope

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Review: The Summer That Made Us by Robyn Carr

This reminded me of Beaches. Yep, the movie. The plot wasn’t the same, but it just had that same kind of feel. 

Sister and cousins all return to a beach house one summer to share memories from their childhood summers, and to spend time with Megan who has cancer. 

The beginning of the book pretty much focuses on Megan and her needs. Then we hear about Charley and her current life problems as they relate to her childhood problems… but Megan kind of fades away in the background. I was like Hey! Don’t forget about that Megan character! 

Sadly, it happened again when we are introduced to Krista, the ex con. Megan is barely mentioned, and Krista totally overshadows the Charley character. I had just gotten invested in Megan and Charley… and they were dropped like a hot potato. 

Carr’s Virgin River series illustrated how to have a developed protagonist as well as an ensemble cast. I was hoping for the same in The Summer That Made Us. Had the character development been more balanced, and had the characters not been such stereotypes, this novel would have an extra star!

I enjoyed the somewhat predictable plot, I appreciated the well-written dialogue, and I was impressed that Robyn Carr still comes up with fresh ideas for new novels. This one just wasn’t for me. 

-calliope

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Review: March of Crime by Jess Lourey

I really really love this series of mystery novels set in small town Minnesota. I’ve waited patiently (and by patiently I mean stalking NetGalley and Amazon and the author’s website) for each new release. And I’ve enjoyed every delicious moment of librarian sleuthing, senior citizen joking, boyfriend avoiding, festival attending, and the good guys overall trying to keep out of trouble while helping find the bad guys. 

But this one failed me. Lourey wrote this installment just a little too much on the other side of lewd and bawdy. I’ve gotten to know the main character over the years, and she wouldn’t forget underwear, much less deliberately go without it. I didn’t like the contrived sensuousness at all. 

The mystery was a little macabre for me as well. I just want to go back to the earlier books and enjoy a decent cozy mystery without wincing and scrinching my nose. 

Maybe my tastes are tame compared to yours. Maybe you like when things get a little crazy and you were disappointed with earlier books, waiting for more crazy to happen. If so, read March of Crime, and you’ve got your wish. 

-calliope

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