Review: The All You Can Dream Buffet by Barbara O’Neal

20140309-221901.jpg As a blogger with a handful of blogger friends, I adored reading this fun and quirky novel about four women who blog. They become friends, and then much more than friends – emotional supporters, caretakers, heirs, protégés, mentors.

I took special interest in the romantic relationships the women had. One lost her spouse in a tragedy and was lost as to how to relate to her surviving daughter. Another suffered a break-up with a longtime boyfriend – I never thought she’d get over him! But Barbara O’Neal surprised me and put together a perfect, authentic goodbye. What strength Ruby had! A third woman tried to make inroads in her bad marriage, but her husband just sabotaged every effort. After some wishy-washy-ness and some unexpected magic, it all works out for Ginny, much to the chagrin of her arrogant husband.

O’Neal wrote characters I admire. All four of them had flaws, but they each took their dealt hand and played the game with honesty, vulnerability, and heart. Most importantly they stayed true to themselves, stood up for themselves, and made themselves paths for personal and professional success.

I’m not much one for magic, but the wonders of The All You Can Dream Buffet touched my soul and gave me a hankering for something, oh, lavender maybe.

–Calliope

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Review: By Proxy by Katy Regnery

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This charming romance novel revolves around Jenny, a small town Montana girl from a close-knit family, and Sam, a work-hard-play-hard corporate guy who lives in Chicago but has Montana family ties.

Jenny and Sam agree to help their loved ones get married from afar by standing in for them by proxy. While they wait for their courtroom appointment, they have a few days to get to know each other. I’ll let you read for yourself how THAT goes. There’s quite a bit of personal growth, family loyalty, snowy fun, and new love in there … and a happily ever after, too.

The first few chapters were a little awkward to read. But the awkward writing mimicked the discomfort of Sam and Jenny as they felt each other out and determined how their feelings were going to play out. The writing became smoother and more natural as Jenny and Sam became more comfortable with each other.

I indeed sighed at Sam’s romantic moments, clenched my fists with Jenny when she was frustrated, and felt my shoulders tense when another guy tried to make a move on Jenny. Katy Regnery sparked more interest with snippets of Swedish… little phrases that I am going to practice so I can use them when the right moment presents itself. And I had fun strolling with the loving couple, talking Glogg and enjoying the Christmassy atmosphere.

I totally loved that By Proxy didn’t try to be flashy or dramatic, but it still made me laugh and cry. Real tears, people! I felt for these characters. And I’m all in for the next book in this Heart of Montana series.

–Calliope

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