Review: A Christmas by the Sea by Melody Carlson

While I love Melody Carlson’s ability to create fresh plots with believable yet quirky characters, this particular novella required me to suspend my disbelief just a little too much.

Christmas in Maine is cozy – and it was fun to see Wendy and her son set up their little home and become part of the town. But the romance seemed contrived and totally out of character for a worrier like Wendy. And it happened way too fast! A couple of weeks might be enough time for a young single person to let their guard down and fall in love with someone they’re spending 24/7 with… but Wendy didn’t spend all that much time getting to know Caleb, and I thought she’d be a little less trusting due to her nature and just the fact that she’s a mom.

I’ve enjoyed other Carlson books in the past – Christmassy ones too. You can find the link to those reviews below.

-calliope

Buy A CHRISTMAS BY THE SEA

Read Calliope’s reviews of more Melody Carlson books (loved some of these!)

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Review: Minding the Light by Suzanne Woods Fisher

I’m so glad I found this Nantucket Legacy series. Fisher has converted me into a historical-Quaker-fiction fan — and I think I was eased into it because I already loved Fisher’s Amish stories.

Minding the Light certainly reflects the hardships in a burgeoning yet still isolated Nantucket community. It also demonstrates the hypocrisy of religion when what we practice doesn’t align with what we preach. Most significantly, it illustrates the many kinds of love we are able to share when push comes to shove.

Despite some tragic plot lines, I really enjoyed the Captain’s story. From his time on the boat to his trust in Abraham to his growing love for his children, the Captain was what we should all strive to be – dignified, respectable, caring, and open to hearing what others think of us.

This novel wasn’t all seriousness and morality lessons, though. There were Patience’s smirks, the children’s fun personalities, some love stories, a maverick business partner, and quite a caricature of a mother in law!

I was entertained, learned more about the Quakers, and enjoyed the oceanfront setting as I await my own vacation to the shore.

-calliope

Buy MINDING THE LIGHT

Review: The Promise of a Letter by Kathleen Fuller

Leanna is one of my favorite protagonists! She doesn’t apologize for being different (and that’s something, when you’re not a naturally domestic kind of gal, but you *are* Amish), and she doesn’t resent being different, either. Leanna uses her talents to work in a mechanical shop, and she loves it! But author Fuller doesn’t stop there; she fleshes out the full character of Leanna – a loving sibling, a fun caregiver, and a fiercely loyal friend. 

And then we meet Roman. He’s Amish too, sort of. And he is also a mechanic, sort of. He’s on a journey of self-discovery, self-acceptance, and reconciliation with his brother. 

Fuller does a great job illustrating modern Amish life, touching on family dynamics, spirituality, unconventional career choices, education, and romance. I appreciate that Fuller wrote a strong, feminine character that performed a “man’s” job,  without making Leanna into a stereotype or a mascot for feminist politics. And I am pleased that there was a happily ever after for more than one couple. 

-calliope 

Buy THE PROMISE OF A LETTER

Review: Any Dream Will Do by Debbie MacomberĀ 

Sometimes predictable is just the thing you need, especially when it’s painted with the brush of faith and hope. Macomber is an expert in helping her characters gain faith in humanity and hope for themselves – even when it seems impossible. 

Any Dream Will Do is the motto of Shay’s new friend — the one who will help Shay save herself from the pit of despair she needs to step out of. But Shay hasn’t believed in dreams in so long, that’s a tough order to fill. 

I enjoyed this quick read centered around redemption and loving others. I’m not sure the story was quite realistic – there were some hokey parts where I suspended my disbelief – but it certainly was hopeful. And although only a small part of the book focused on romance, Macomber wrote a lovely happily ever after. 

-calliope

Buy ANY DREAM WILL DO

Review: Under a Summer Sky by Melody Carlson

This is a cute summer read set in Savannah, where we find art teacher Nicole house-sitting for a family friend and working at an art gallery. Nicole thought she’d have a quiet summer with plenty of time to paint, but instead finds herself overwhelmed with a difficult co-worker, childhood friends-turned-handsome-men, and a teenager who just needs a little love and direction. 

I loved all the references to art and architecture, the Savannah sunsets, and the diplomatic way Nicole finessed her way through a few unexpected situations. As usual for her novels, Carlson includes a little bit of God to illustrate his presence, but doesn’t use the novel to preach or proselytize. And as usual for my favorite summer reads, this one ends in a happily ever after. 

-Calliope 

Buy UNDER A SUMMER SKY

Review: Christmas Roses by Amanda Cabot

This month I’m making a nice dent in the “Christmas” folder on my kindle… and although I probably bought Christmas Roses years ago, I’ve just gotten to it this week. I’m glad I did! 

This is a Christmas story set in the 1800s. Celia is a young widow, raising her infant alone, and running a boardinghouse out west for a living. Though life isn’t easy for anyone living in the copper mining town, Celia struggles to deal with her baby’s health issues, the stress of staying financially stable, and the affections of too many men who just aren’t right for her. 

Enter Mark, a wandering carpenter looking for a lost relative. 

I loved how Mark’s presence changed everything in subtle ways, and how the Reverend compared Mark’s compassion for people and fear of the unknown to that of Mary’s husband Joseph in the story of the Nativity. 

Though slightly predictable, I also enjoyed the ending that demonstrated the importance of communication, attentiveness, and honesty. This is a quiet, traditional story that highlights the best in people, and the endless possibilities when you reach out in love. 

Celia had a very merry Christmas, as did so many of the characters, which is even better than a regular happily ever after.  

-calliope

Buy CHRISTMAS ROSES (only $3.99 today!)

Review: Two Christmas novellas- Forever Christmas & My True Love Gave to Me by Christine Lynxwiler

November means Christmas reading, so I hunkered down the past couple nights with two novellas in my Kindle’s “Christmas” folder. 

These charming and heartfelt stories felt like full-length novels in that the characters were many and varied, the plots had time to twist and meander a bit, and the main characters were wonderfully developed. 

In Forever Christmas, Kristianna tries to live out her own authentic life, fighting through family pressures and a stressful romantic past. I loved that Kristianna’s best friends never wavered in their love and loyalty to her. I enjoyed Kristianna’s fun dates, her surprise gifts, and the relationships she had with the quirky townspeople. Although saving her town of Jingle Bells from corporate intrusion was top of mind, Kristianna eventually got the message that working together for a solution is more effective than cutting off your nose to spite your face. 

In My True Love Gave to Me, loving wife and mom of two Penny has had it up to here with her newly-unemployed husband’s moping. But when he finally does something to snap out of it, she’s not truly on board with that either. The plan? A family RV trip. The reaction? Horror, as you might guess. However, in the spirit of a good Christmas story, the lessons are in the journey. Lynxwiler gives us an entertaining road trip where relationships are strengthened, trust is built, and true love abounds. 

Both novellas have a Christian perspective, with a mentions of “God’s plan” and positively describing other characters as Christian. They both have a happily ever after, too. 

You’ll be glad to know my Kindle’s Christmas folder is full of myriad holiday novels. These were only the tip of the iceberg! 

-calliope 

Buy MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME
Buy FOREVER CHRISTMAS