Review: The Christmas Sisters by Sarah Morgan

Christmas! And sisters! And Scotland! Could there be a better combo? I don’t think so. Ok actually there could be – if Morgan added in some cutie pie kiddos and an awesome set of grandparents and the perfect love interests for the sisters. Which she did. Sigh.

I really liked all the references to New York, Washington state, and then the European locations outside of Scotland. I felt like I was traveling from the comfort of my sofa. And the other thing I so enjoyed was Jason’s admission that being a stay at home parent is not all bon-bons and soap operas. Even though his realization and apology was a teensy bit out of character and not 100% realistic, it was gratifying to read it all the same.

Morgan did a fantastic job individualizing the three sisters, giving them different perspectives on the same childhood tragedy they all suffered, and writing a believable and heartwarming resolution. Love and forgiveness are powerful, especially when you have the support of those around you.

Morgan also added in comic relief in little Ruby, Martha the chicken, and Eric. Beautifully done!

-calliope

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Review: Christmas at Evergreen Inn by Donna Alward

   

What a well-written Christmas novella! I enjoyed this story even more than my last few Christmas reads, because the characters’ behaviors were consistent, the dialogue was realistic, and the tension was so real I felt my own shoulders tightening up. Alward impressed me with a tightly written plot and just the right balance of sweet versus strong. Most importantly, Evergreen Inn was Christmassy. The hot chocolate, tree ornaments, and snowstorms helped Todd heal Lainey’s broken heart, and certainly warmed mine. 

-calliope

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Review: The Swiss Affair by Emylia Hall

20140403-223359.jpg I have such a list of books to read and review that sometimes I gingerly open a book expecting – but hoping not – that it will be drudgery. And so it was with The Swiss Affair. I had prolonged it so many weeks that I created false bias in my mind: probably historical fiction, I know nothing about Switzerland, there better not be spousal cheating going on, etc, etc, etc.

I was in for the surprise of my life. The Swiss Affair is so many things, wrapped up in beautiful language, distinct and varying characters, and set upon wintery white Lausanne, Switzerland.

While reading, I felt like I WAS Hadley, young British innocent. I was brought back to my university days, with eyes wide and bright, seeing more in people than may have truly been there…. A time and place where anything was possible, adventure abounded, and I lived for luxuriating in every moment.

“There’s a phrase in French, you know … Il faut profiter. It means ‘make the most of it’ … But it’s more than that. It’s about… luxuriating in a moment.”

So there’s the coming of age bit.

Then, the affair. The forbidden romance. The love story. It’s not perfect, but I love it all the more because it isn’t. And really there are three affairs – Hadley’s, Hadley’s friend Kristina’s, and the love affair with Lausanne – all worthwhile, and all bittersweet.

And there’s a murder mystery woven in The Swiss Affair. Lucky for Hadley she befriends a former detective novelist who wants to help her solve it. It’s well done with a few twists and turns, but nothing you can’t guess if you put your mind to it.

There’s skiing. There’s cognac and whiskey and beer. Hugs. Friends. And lots of snow. Walks amongst snowflakes — alone or together or in a large party. Wonder. Awe. And sadness. Guilty, heart-wrenching, lonely sadness.

I don’t remember reading anything that comes close to the well-roundedness of The Swiss Affair. It’s romance, tragedy, mystery, drama, chick lit, new adult, adventure, and literary fiction all rolled into one. It’s dark and it’s bright. And it’s dark again. And even though I’d always tell you I prefer a happily ever after, I appreciate that this ending isn’t. This ending is teary for the reader but full of new beginnings for Hadley and Henri.

–Calliope

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Review: The Holiday Survival Guide by Jane O’Reilly

20131228-082612.jpg New Release!

This sexy novella tells the story of London tabloid writer Erica and the survival trip she signed up for in the dead of winter. Her survival guide is Nathan, whose wife she publicly, and in low tabloid style, busted for cheating.

The story was equal parts scary snow survival and steamy sex. Erica and Nathan had great chemistry and creativity. The well-written sex scenes were integrated perfectly into the plot, the dialogue was smart and natural, the characters were likable and well-developed.

I totally enjoyed this winter romp, which came with a bit of commitment and a happy ending. I’d read it again, and I recommend it even to readers who don’t usually read novellas. This is one of very few that uses its 60 pages so wonderfully!

A note to American readers: This HOLIDAY refers to vacation, not Christmas!

-Calliope

Released January 1, 2014.
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Review: Married for Christmas by Noelle Adams

20131211-235749.jpg Married for Christmas is Christmassy and sweet … The characters are young and quirky … I enjoyed it as a cute, unique novella. But the dialogue is uneven – natural in some places, out of place in others. And as sweet and charming as the story was, the whole time I was reading, I felt like I was watching an awkward, nerdy first date.

Jessica and Daniel marry out of convenience – or so they tell each other. They have quite a few misunderstandings and silent sulks because of their insecurities. Any feelings they have for each other are slowly and painfully revealed until they are finally honest with themselves and each other. A happily-ever-after on Christmas Day endeared me to the book, and yes I did sigh dreamily. ๐Ÿ™‚

I enjoyed the Christmas aspect of the story, which was emotional and uplifting. I also thought the secret fears of a young couple were written very realistically. My favorite part of the book was the honesty Jessica persisted with, no matter the potential rejection or hurt. Her honesty was the catalyst for her marriage to move forward – what a gift!

This is a good read for someone in a new relationship.

-Calliope

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Review: The Mountain Between Us by Cindy Meyers

20131108-161406.jpgA snowy Christmas romance! The Mountain Between Us is set in Colorado, in a tiny town where everyone leans on each other. The dynamics among the residents of Eureka remind me of those in Robyn Carr’s Virgin River — a focus on family, with woodsy, macho men who protect strong and emotional women.

Cindy Meyers gives us DJ and Olivia, a former couple who may or may not get back together; and Maggie and Jameso, a newish couple who have some real obstacles to overcome. Throw in a few spinsters, a con artist, a teenager and a local diner, and you have yourself a town.

I liked how Meyers gave the characters strength and integrity. They were likable and sweet. They held each other up during snowstorms and swindles. They lent each other an ear and a shoulder to cry on. I also liked the dual romance… and the inclusion of extended family. I felt like I could depend on these people. I trusted them.

The only thing that disappointed me about this book was the rambling writing. Some chapters took way too long to say what they needed to say. A good 10% of the verbiage should have been cut to tighten up the writing. Because of the long-windedness (especially in the first half), I found myself skipping over entire paragraphs, itching to get to the action! Nevertheless, the writing is excellent and the dialogue flowed naturally.

The Mountain Between Us is a warm Christmas romance, replete with snowstorms, love, and a strong sense of family. Read it beside your Christmas tree with a cup of hot cocoa, and you might even hear the jingle bells.

–Calliope

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