My 2013 Contemporary Christmas recommends [part 2]

ACFC KG‘A Cowboy for Christmas’ by Katherine Garbera

STORY: Annie Prudhomme never expected to be back in Marietta, MT and her family is fond of reminding her that she left them and the town behind in search of better things. A humiliating divorce that cost her everything she’d gained has driven her back home and her family isn’t about to welcome her back into the fold. She’s in town to rebuild the old home that she inherited and to move on once again.

Carson Scott never forgot Annie or the way she left. Now that she’s back in town he’s realizing that the old flame still burns hot but he can’t risk his heart the way he did last time now that he has his son to think about it. Being trapped together during a December snowstorm gives them a chance to rekindle their romance but is Annie back for good or is she just looking for a cowboy for Christmas?

REVIEW: The next two books as well as this one, you’ll notice, are written by three different authors, but are a part of Montana Born series and is a Copper Mountain Christmas story.

This started off as a bittersweet story, but the more I read and got to know Annie and Carson, the more I liked them.

These two had a lot of history between them before Annie up and married someone else leaving her home town. It’s fifteen years later and she is back in town to pick up the pieces of her life and try to rebuild it, and the house that she inherited.

Again, if you’re a sucker for second chance at romance, you’ll love this one, but seriously, the story is well-written and plotted with some great characters and dialogue, so it will appeal to all romance lovers.

There’s not a better time to read it then holiday time. It’s short, sweet and just perfect fare for young and old.

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HFC MMcC‘Home for Christmas’ by Melissa McClone

STORY: Ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon…the smells of Christmas. The smells of home.

Rachel Murphy longs for home and family. Since childhood, she’s dreamed of owning her own pastry shop, but after being burned by a celebrity chef and losing her new bakery in Arizona, Rachel’s spending the holidays with her brother in Montana. To keep her dream alive, she’s creating custom gingerbread houses and selling them around town. All she needs is a bigger kitchen…and to stay away from her brother’s handsome boss.

Former venture capitalist Nate Vaughn has embraced his inner cowboy and now runs a successful dude ranch where Rachel’s brother works. Nate’s commercial kitchen is perfect for Rachel’s baking needs, and seeing the cute blonde’s business acumen, Nate knows she’d be the perfect partner for a new venture. When he makes her an offer she can’t refuse, he discovers he’s interested in more than her gingerbread.

While Nate could make her dreams come true, Rachel’s heart, as well as her head, tells her mixing business with anything else could be a recipe for disaster. Should she return to Arizona, and leave Nate and her new eager-for-more customers behind? Or can Nate convince her that, here with him in the mountains of Montana, she’s already home? For Christmas…forever.

REVIEW: If there ever was a book to make you want to build your own gingerbread house, this is it! No joke.  I really built one, the only one ever, and it was just too much fun. If you don’t believe me, just go check my pictures of it on my Facebook page. It came out really good.

This story is a part of Copper Mountain Christmas stories and Montana Born series, but I embraced Rachel and Nate’s story as a stand alone.

If you like stories of family reunions, new friendships turning into deeper connection, than look no further. This is a well-written, very realistic and compelling little story that will have you dreaming of home and hearth, crackling fireplace and white Christmas.

I’m really looking forward to reading more of Melissa McClone’s Montana Born stories and I hope you give this one a go.

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‘Christmas At Copper Mountain’ by Jane Porter 

STORY: Since the loss of her family in a plane crash, Harley Diekerhoff has led a quiet life and keeps to herself. Taking the temporary job at the Copper Mountain Ranch as widower Brock Sheenan’s housekeeper seems perfect for her. But her calm cocoon is invaded with the arrival of Brock’s pre-teen twins, Mack and Molly who’ve never experienced a proper Christmas and before she knows it, Harley’s determined to make their holiday perfect.

Annoyed at first by Harley’s interference, Brock is secretly pleased she’s changed Mack and Molly’s world. It doesn’t hurt that he finds Harley incredibly attractive, fierce, smart and passionate. It’s also an added bonus that she’s not afraid to challenge him and get his blood heated! But when sparks fly and the attractions sizzles between them, Harley’s not so sure she can handle something permanent with this dark, taciturn cowboy who doesn’t know how to let her in. But Brock is determined to hold on to her and praying for a Christmas miracle…

REVIEW: Here is another Montana Born Book and one more Copper Mountain Christmas story, and out of all three that I read, this one almost broke my heart.

The main characters were different in their personalities, but had so much in common when it came to their pasts.

As stories of broken hearts that need mending go, this one will give you much hope as Brock, a quiet rancher and a single father gets to know his new housekeeper Harley, a woman running away from memories steeped in much pain.

If this was a movie, and I’m so hopping someone at Hallmark reads it, it would be a tear-jerker with an uplifting message of second chances and miracles realized.

If you like your stories with strong, complex and interesting characters who fight their inner demons and insecurities to in the end triumph over them, then you have to read this story.

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CILH JS‘Christmas in Lucky Harbor’ by Jill Shalvis 

[Simply Irresistible/The Sweetest Thing/Two Bonus Short Stories]

STORY: Simply Irresistible (Lucky Harbor #1) 
After losing her boyfriend and her job, Maddie leaves L.A. to claim her inheritance-a ramshackle inn nestled in the little town of Lucky Harbor, Washington. She sees the potential for a new home and a new career-if she can give the inn the makeover it needs. Enter Jax, a tall, handsome contractor who knows exactly what Maddie needs…

The Sweetest Thing (Lucky Harbor #2) 
Helping her sister set up the family inn is just the thing to make Tara forget her ex-husband and focus on her new life. Until she meets a sexy, green-eyed sailor determined to keep her hot, bothered, and in his bed. When her ex reappears, Tara must confront her past and decide what she really wants.

Kissing Santa Claus (Lucky Harbor #2.5)
NASCAR driver Logan Perrish returns to Lucky Harbor, Washington, with love in his heart and a ring in his pocket. But can Sandy Jansen forget the past and give him a second chance? Or will Logan be spending another Christmas alone?

Under the Mistletoe (Lucky Harbor #6.5) 
There’s no place like home for the holidays. And the Lucky Harbor Bed & Breakfast is bursting with festive lights and good cheer. But for Mia, Christmas is turning out to be anything other than merry and bright. Her recent break-up with her boyfriend Nick has made her return bittersweet. But then a surprise arrives, when Nick follows her to town bearing gifts – and asking for forgiveness.

REVIEW: In ‘Christmas in Lucky Harbor’ you have a compilation of the first two full books in Jill Shalvis’s `Lucky Harbor’ series. `Simply Irresistible’ is the first book and is Maddie’s story, and `The Sweetest Thing’ tells Tara’s story. You also have two short novellas, ‘Kissing Santa Claus’ which is Logan and Sandy’s story and ‘Under the Mistletoe’, Mia and Nick’s story which I reviewed last year.

In book one we’re introduced to Maddie, Tara and Chloe who are three daughters of Phoebe Treager. To make this just a bit different, the girls all have different fathers, you know, sort of like that old ‘Bonanza’ show in which the three boys shared the same father, but all three had different mothers who passed away and were left in care of their father.

In the case of these girls, they all had vastly different upbringing and it shows in their personalities as their mother affectionately dubbed them The Mouse [Maddie], The Wild-Child [Chloe] and The Steel Magnolia [Tara].

As the series opens up, we follow Maddie as she’s on her way to Lucky Harbor meeting up with her other two half-sisters at their mothers resort.

In ‘Simply Irresistible’  Jax and Maddie first meet as she almost runs him over, and you just know these two characters will have some major chemistry.

While Maddie hopes to get rid of her ‘bad luck’ curse and possibly rebuild her life with this chance her mother’s offering all three girls, the only thing the other two are hoping to rebuild is this run down resort and hopefully sell it at a good profit.

Jax is instantly attracted to Maddie so he’s willing to do anything to keep her around.

You’ll like this story of small town life in which cupid is alive and well, just waiting to strike. The sisters will not know what hit them when that happens.

In ‘The Sweetest Thing’ which is Tara and Ford’s story, you have two adults that carry some mutual baggage from many years before, when they were teenagers. After seventeen years and a failed  marriage to a NASCAR driver Logan, Tara is skittish about rekindling her relationship with Ford. Logan showing up in Lucky Harbor helped these two come to terms with their past and decide if they should have future together.

This story I liked a lot because it had the power to make me laugh and cry, almost at the same time!

I loved the tension and attraction of these two, and I think it’s because of their shared past that their story touched me the most.

There are also two extra short novella’s here and in ‘Kissing Santa Claus’ I was glad to see that the handsome ex Logan finds his HEA.

If I could go back and rewrite my review of ‘Under the Mistletoe’ here I would. After reading these stories, I really got better understanding of Mia and Nick, as well as everyone else in these stories.

I know that the fans of this author and this series will love these stories, but I’d like to recommend them to all those that have never read her.

If you like your contemporary romance populated with complex, funny, clever and sexy characters, you’ve got them all in here. This is a book brimming with sexual chemistry and steamy love scenes yet it’s also heartwarming and unpredictable.

I’m glad I read it.

JILL SHALVIS book is up for grabs: 1 commenter/1 print copy 

Tell us about your Christmas reads this year.

*US only, sorry.

*Melanie for b2b.

*Books provided by authors and publishers through NetGalley.

My 2013 Contemporary Christmas recommends [part 1]

TMHFC BN‘Take Me Home for Christmas’ by Brenda Novak

STORY: Christmas is a time for remembering….

Too bad all memories aren’t pleasant. Everyone in Whiskey Creek remembers Sophia DeBussi as the town’s Mean Girl. Especially Ted Dixon, whose love she once scorned.

But Sophia has paid the price for her youthful transgressions. The man she did marry was rich and powerful but abusive. So when he goes missing, she secretly hopes he’ll never come back—until she learns that he died running from an FBI probe of his investment firm. Not only has he left Sophia penniless, he’s left her to face all the townspeople he cheated….

Sophia is reduced to looking for any kind of work to pay the bills and support her daughter. With no other options, she becomes housekeeper for none other than Ted, now a successful suspense writer. He can’t bring himself to turn his back on her, not at Christmas, but he refuses to get emotionally involved. He learned his lesson the last time.

Or will the season of love and forgiveness give them both another chance at happiness?

REVIEW: This Christmas I ventured to read some more contemporary novels, and here are some of my recommendations…

I don’t remember reading any of Ms. Novak’s Whiskey Creek novels but I just might track them down now.

First, it wasn’t easy liking Sophia DeBussi and at the start of this novel I even had issues with the hero of this piece Ted Dixon, but you know what? I warmed up to them as their story developed and in the end I ended up rooting for them to finally get all that ‘baggage’ they carried resolve and let the ‘cupid’ win the day.

There’s a lot happening in this novel and I hope you give it a try as a second chance in love is offered these high school sweethearts.

Brenda Novak can write a very realistic, passionate love stories with some complex characters and great plots and this book is no exception to that rule.

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TG CJC‘The Gift’ by C.J. Carmichael

STORY: A heartwarming Christmas novella set in Bandit Creek Montana.

When is the wrong thing, the right thing to do?

What would you do if a little girl in need showed up on your doorstep on Christmas Eve?

Amy Gold, Bandit Creek’s kindergarten teacher, is not the sort of person to flout the law. Especially since she’s dating the local deputy, Gray Cassidy. But an unexpected Christmas gift is about to change everything – not just Amy’s plans for a traditional Christmas, but her entire future, and Gray’s as well.

REVIEW: I never read this author before, but after reading this heartwarming story, I’m going to try to stock up on her other titles.

Who doesn’t want to believe in Christmas miracles? I know I can’t help but believe…

The heroine, Amy wants so badly to have kids, but the reality is cruel and she knows that wish would never come true so she decides to spare her boyfriend this pain by setting him free so he can have a family he deserves.

On Christmas Eve everything changes as a bedraggled little girl shows up at her house and Amy has no choice but to help this little girl and by choosing that path, everyone’s destiny will change.

There’s no way you’re going to not love this story. It has everything in it for this season of God’s miracles. Go for it!

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ASCFC NS‘A Second Chance for Christmas’ by Nashin Sadeer

STORY: When Nathan Wyler’s adored wife Emily dies tragically in a car accident in December his entire world collapses around him. He immerses himself in work, doing everything he can to escape the grief and ends up neglecting his young son, Stefan, in the process – alienating himself from everybody he loves. Things are made worse still by Emily’s father, Xavier, who blames his son-in-law for the death of his brilliant young daughter.

As the years pass, Stefan is denied contact with his grandparents and starved of his father’s affections. As a result he becomes increasingly close to Kate, a substitute teacher at his school. An understanding and gentle woman, Kate is quick to identify the impact of Nathan’s selfish actions on his young son. As her bond with the Stefan flourishes, she visits Nathan at work in an attempt to make him aware of the emotional strain he’s been inflicting on the innocent boy. Preparing herself for a tempestuous encounter with Nathan, Kate is shocked to instead find a vulnerable, grief-stricken figure desperate to be saved, and a potent mutual attraction becomes clear to them both.

Nathan finds solace in the calming influence of this mysterious young woman, and, with her help, begins to reconcile his relationship with Stefan. Unbeknownst to him, Kate even brokers a successful meeting with Emily’s father and the two settle their differences over Christmas dinner. All may not be as it seems with Kate though, as Nathan slowly begins to piece together the feeling of familiarity he had experienced when they first met. As her good deeds continue and Christmas draws closer, the Wyler family begin to realise that she may not be who she claims to be. But who else could this ethereal samaritan be, and why does she seem so familiar to Nathan?

REVIEW: My, but this story almost broke my heart!

I dare you to read it and NOT shed a few tears!

The above blurb is very good in giving you the gist of the story, so I’m skipping on all that, but I do ask you to get this one if you like your Christmas story to be about forgiveness, and second chances at that elusive thing called love.

I’m very impressed with this author’s portrayal of such deep emotions such as loss and grief of and for a loved one; denial and acceptance of love that was a blessing to find second time in one’s lifetime.

This is another story with a miracle just waiting in the wings and I hope you give it a try.

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‘All I Want for Christmas is a Cowboy’ by Jennifer Ryan, Katie Lane, Emma Cane

STORY: From Emma Cane, Jennifer Ryan, and Katie Lane come three wildly romantic holiday stories featuring snowstorms, proposals, a sleigh ride … and, yes, cowboys.

‘The Christmas Cabin’ by Emma Cane

Sandy and her young son, Nate, are Christmas tree–hunting when a snowstorm strikes and an old ranch hand points them to an abandoned cabin. Little does Sandy know he sent cowboy Doug Thalberg to the same place. It’s a Christmas all of Valentine Valley will remember.

‘Can’t Wait’ by Jennifer Ryan

 Before The Hunted Series began …

Though she is the woman of his dreams, Caleb Bowden knows his best friend’s sister, Summer Turner, is off limits. He won’t cross that line, which means Summer will just have to take the reins if she wants her cowboy for Christmas.

‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’ by Katie Lane

Alana Hale hits the internet dating jackpot when she finds Clint McCormick. He’s sensitive and responsible—not to mention wealthy. When he invites her to spend the holidays on his family’s ranch, she readily accepts. But on the way there, a blizzard strands her with a womanizing rodeo cowboy who could change everything …

REVIEW: I must say all three stories were very entertaining to read and I liked them all equally. They were well written, plotted and had a fast pace so I didn’t have a chance to be bored.

All were different in plot so that helped, but one thing they all had in common besides romance, was hot dudes in chaps. Now how can you pass up on that?!

The Christmas Cabin by Emma Cane

This story is all about making lemonade when life dumps you a lot of lemons.

Everything in this story worked for me, from the plot to the wonderful characters such as Sandy and her little boy, to Doug who needed them s much as they needed him.

This story will make you stop and appreciate the simple things in your own life that you may have taken for granted.

Can’t Wait by Jennifer Ryan

This was a fun and frustrating story. Many times I wanted to pull a Cher [from Moonstruck] and slap Caleb, telling him ‘SNAP OUT OF IT’!

You see, Summer loves him to pieces, but for some reason this Dude is not allowing himself to love her because she’s his best friend’s sister.

Once she breaks down his defenses, we’re in for a treat and a love story that is sweet, poignant and entertaining.

Baby It’s Cold Outside by Katie Lane

I like this author and I think she can write comedy very well. Honestly, I think some of her stories are better written than those Hallmark movies!

If you want to find out what happens when Alana finds that ‘perfect’ man online, you need to read this story.

She acts impulsively by wanting to surprise him for Christmas, and instead gets stuck with a hot cowboy and can’t keep her hands to herself.

All three stories are different in plot and feel, but all of them have one thing in common-a cowboy who’ll make their dreams come true! Now, how can I not like that?!

*Melanie for b2b.

*Books provided by the authors and publishers through Edelweiss & NetGalley.

Holiday TV movies to see this Season…

‘A Princess for Christmas’

starring Sam Heughan & Katie McGrath

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‘On The 2nd Day Of Christmas’

staring Mary Stuart Masterson & Mark Ruffalo

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‘One Night With a King: Story of Esther’ 

starring Tiffany Dupont & Luke Goss

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‘Christmas Cupid’

starring Christina Milian & Burgess Jenkins

My Historical Christmas recommends [part 3]

BBWAM KB‘Bound by Wish and Mistletoe’ by Kat Bastion

BOOK BLURB: The holiday novella, Book 1.5, following the award-winning debut of Forged in Dreams and Magick in the Highland Legends Series:

Desperate to honor a life-long promise, Susanna MacEalan escapes her abusive clan with the fierce determination of never falling under the power of a man. Ever.

Aggravated by shallow-hearted pursuing lasses, Robert Brodie, commander of his clan’s elite guard, has foresworn scheming women. Forever.

When magick transforms Brodie Castle into a Christmas wonderland, the two despondent souls find solace in a most unexpected place . . . each other’s arms.

Amid a whirlwind of escalating events, Susanna’s traumatic past threatens Robert’s ability to protect the one woman meant for him. In a harrowing moment, as her fears and demons coalesce, will hope, faith, and love be enough to save them?

REVIEW: This is a short novella that follows on the heels of a full story ‘Forged in Dreams and Magick’ [which I read but haven’t had the time to review it yet; will do it soon, but my one word to describe it would be ‘excellent’] and it can stand alone, but if you’re a thirteenth century highland lover, both books are a must. We met Robert, hero of this novella, in the first book and I really hoped he’d get his story.

Robert Brodie is very handsome and formidable warrior which causes many maidens to throw themselves at him, and they’ve become obnoxious and tiresome to him.

Susanna’s father was about to betrothed her to a man she despises, so she decides to run as far s her legs can carry her.

And that’s when she runs into Brodie and his men. They were in the forest on a mission to find a fir-tree and bring it to Lady Isobel [she’s the time traveling heroin from the earlier book] for gracing the Hall at the keep.

Brodie is determined to save this damsel from her father and from her own fears, so he decides to take her back to the castle with him.

This short novella is fast paced, well plotted, filled with wonderful descriptions of 13th century Yule tide celebration and great characters all around.

Brodie and Susanna are very likeable from the start and if you like your Medieval romance sprinkled with a bit of magic, you must give this one a go.

I’m looking forward to book two in ‘Highland Legends’ series which is ‘Born of Mist and Legend’ coming in 2014.

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????????????????????????????????????????‘The Duke’s Match Girl’ by Lila DiPasqua 

BOOK BLURB: As childhood friends, Leopold d’Ermart and Suzanne Matchet were inseparable. One unforgettable Christmas Eve, their relationship changed from the best of friends…to lovers. But the heir of the Duke of Mont-Marly isn’t supposed to fall in love with the daughter of his family’s physician. Or vice versa.

Is this a second chance at first love?

Years later, Suzanne is dreading her first Christmas without her father. The heartbreak Leo caused when he left seven years ago is a distant memory. And she prefers to keep it that way. The last thing Suzanne expects is for tall, dark, and sinfully seductive Leo d’Ermart to show up at her door and announce he wants her back in his life. And in his bed. Worse, the now celebrated libertine is even more devastating to a woman’s senses than ever before…

Or are they playing with fire?

The only woman Leo, Duke of Mont-Marly, has ever yearned for is the adorably unconventional, intelligent beauty who got away. He discovers Suzanne creating and selling matchsticks, elixirs for the ill…and is still so damned alluring. Leo is determined to show her the depth of his desire, win back Suzanne’s heart. And give her a Christmas beyond her wildest imagination…

REVIEW: I read some of Hans Christian Andersen stories, but I never read the one that this novella was based on, ‘The Little Match Girl’ so I really can’t compare the two, but I can tell you that even though this is one of Lila DiPasqua’s Fiery Tales series it can be read as standalone.

Leo, a French Duc and Suzanne, a daughter of his family’s physician, grew up together developing a deep friendship, and when they were 18 and 20, they became lovers.

Soon after, on Christmas, Leo does something that breaks her heart, but not her spirit.

Seven years after that Christmas, Leo means to repair the damage and comes up with a plan to win his one and only love.

Even though this is a short novella, it lacked nothing that a full novel can offer. Characters of Leo and Suzanna were strong and well-rounded, entertaining and very interesting.

This story is for everyone, especially for those of us that believe in second chances, plus need I tell you that if it has Lila DiPasqua name on it, it will always be sensual and very steamy.

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AKFM CM‘A Kiss in Midwinter’ by Courtney Milan 

BOOK BLURB: Miss Lydia Charingford is always cheerful, and never more so than at Christmas time. But no matter how hard she smiles, she can’t forget the youthful mistake that could have ruined her reputation. Even though the worst of her indiscretion was kept secret, one other person knows the truth of those dark days: the sarcastic Doctor Jonas Grantham. She wants nothing to do with him…or the butterflies that take flight in her stomach every time he looks her way.

Jonas Grantham has a secret, too: He’s been in love with Lydia for more than a year. This winter, he’s determined to conquer her dislike and win her for his own. It all starts with a wager and a kiss…

A Kiss for Midwinter is a novella (38,000 words) in the Brothers Sinister series. It follows The Duchess War. Each book stands on its own, but those who prefer to read in order might want to read that book first.

REVIEW: I actually listened to this story from Audible, and you can too now, because right now this is a FREE Kindle with Whispersync for only $1.99.

This is one of those stories that you either love or you don’t, and I fall in the group of the former.

Ms. Milan never fails to populate her tales with many complex characters and this short story had an abundance of them, from our hero and heroine to their parents and friends.

We met both of these characters in the earlier books, so it was natural to bring them together, but the way this author does it is interesting and it will have you frustrated, sad and in the end you’ll rejoice in their unique relationship.

Without reviling too much, I have to tell you that this is a romance that deals with some issues that make you appreciate your parents just a bit more.

If you haven’t read the first book in the Brothers Sinister’s series, don’t fret, because this little gem totally stands on its own.

Just loved it.

FREE DOWNLOAD RIGHT NOW [don't know for how long, so download it today!]

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CATD SD‘Caroline and the Duke’ by Sabrina Darby

BOOK BLURB: A Widow Determined to be Merry

At the urging of her best friend, Caroline, Lady Ballister, seeks a lover with no emotional attachments. After all, experience has taught her that love is a fickle, pointless thing.

A Duke Determined to Marry

Sutbridge has wanted Caroline for ten years and, now that she is once again free, is determined to make her his wife. But will he settle for her body, or wage a war for the most important treasure of all: her heart?

REVIEW: This one was one of the shortest I’ve read this Christmas, but also one of the sweetest too and frankly, I was pleasantly surprised and relieved that being so short, neither the pace, plot or characters were sacrificed.

Caroline and John were likable and their story which has a long history between the two, enjoyable.

They’ve known each other fir some time, nd while Kohn lost a chance to declare himself ten years ago, now that she’s a widow, he aims to correct that and make her his wife. She on the other hand has had enough of a bad marriage and is actively looking for a lover, not a husband, and he is the one on top of her list. Another story of second chances and a good one too.

This is an author I’ve never read before, and if she can write a short story that is satisfying in plot and pace as well as characterization, I think I’ll read her again.

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AGSC AC SG VK KN‘A Grosvenor Square Christmas’ by Anna Campbell, Shana Galen, Vanessa Kelly), Kate Noble 

BOOK BLURB: Four breathtakingly romantic tales of a Regency Christmas from four bestselling romance authors.

Down through the years, enchantment touches a tall gray house in Grosvenor Square. The legend of Lady Winterson’s Christmas ball promises true love and happiness to one lucky couple. Who will feel the magic this winter?

1803 – The Seduction of a Duchess by Shana Galen

Rowena Harcourt, the Duchess of Valère, never forgot the handsome footman who helped her escape the French Revolution. For fourteen years, Gabriel Lamarque has loved Rowena—now at Lady Winterson’s Christmas ball, has fate finally delivered a chance to win her hand?

1818 – One Kiss for Christmas by Vanessa Kelly

Nigel Dash is London’s most reliable gentleman, a reputation he never minded until he fell in love with beautiful Amelia Easton. Unfortunately, Amelia sees Nigel as a dependable friend, not a dashing suitor. At Lady Winterson’s famous Christmas ball, Nigel vows to change Amelia’s mind—by sweeping her off her feet.

1825 – His Christmas Cinderella by Anna Campbell

At the season’s most glittering ball, a girl who has never dared to dream of forever after discovers a Christmas miracle.

1830 – The Last First Kiss by Kate Noble

Susannah Westforth has always loved Sebastian Beckett – but he’s only ever seen her as a friend. When Sebastian takes his Grand Tour, Susannah transforms herself into a woman he’ll notice. Now Sebastian is back, just in time for Lady Winterson’s Christmas ball – but the last thing he expects to see is his little Susie, all grown up…

You’re invited to join the whirling dance at Lady Winterson’s sparkling Christmas ball, where miracles happen and true love shines forever. How can you resist?

REVIEW: This collection of four tales from my three [never read Kate Noble before this short story!] favorite authors was delightful and now that it’s FREE I hope you take the advantage and grab it while you can.

All four tales have a common thread, which is a site, and that’s Lady Winterson Christmas party and as secondary characters, Lady Lucy Frost, Countess of Winterson and her butler Philbert were such a delight to watch.

1803 – The Seduction of a Duchess by Shana Galen

Out of all the stories, this one touched on a personal level because of the older woman/younger man romance.

I love it when authors leave the comfy zone of the ‘usual fare’ and do something a bit risqué.

This story I actually wanted really badly, and if I remember correctly, I even suggested to the author. Throughout the series of ‘Sons of the Revolution’ I always thought that the mother of these men deserved to find love once more.

I loved everything about this one, from the hero who was much younger but had the courage to go after the woman he admired for years, to once again visiting with the Sons and their lady loves.

1818 – One Kiss for Christmas by Vanessa Kelly

Another author I love and no wonder as she weaves a short story that is sweet and believable.

I liked Amelia, who was the Countess of Winterson’s niece, and Nigel, a genuinely nice guy who thinks it’s time to break out of that ‘reliable and dependable’ mold to win his lady.

This would be a perfect story to sample Vanessa Kelly and discover her writing style.

1825 – His Christmas Cinderella by Anna Campbell

If you loved Cinderella story as a child, you’re going to love this story.

Campion and Lachlan were entertaining throughout the story and it was great following their dialogue.

I thought this story very romantic, and my heart went out to Campion, a poor relation living with an aunt by marriage.

Lachlan was a great hero who we root for from the start of their affair as he rescues this damsel.

1830 – The Last First Kiss by Kate Noble

What a great way to get acquainted with an author!

Don’t ask me how this happened, but I never read Kate Noble book, and that needs to change.

This is a story of two childhood friends that are destined to fall in love with each other, although it will take Sebastian a bit longer to grasp that concept.

It takes Susannah a few years but she finally captures the attention of this man she always loved.

Another tale well told with fast pace and great characters.

All in all, a very satisfying collection of fun, sweet, intriguing, entertaining and humorous stories that will introduce you to authors you may have not discovered yet.

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MBM JMacL‘Married by Midnight’ by Julianne MacLean

BOOK BLURB: An Unattainable Rogue…

For seven years, Lord Garrett Sinclair– the ruggedly handsome illegitimate son of the Duke of Pembroke–has been traveling abroad with no intention of ever returning home to Pembroke Palace… until his father commands that he must marry by Christmas in order to thwart a family curse or lose his inheritance forever. Haunted by a tragic accident that has hardened his soul, Garrett entrusts his brothers to seek out a bride who will agree to a marriage in name only. Her reward? A sizable share of his inheritance–payable immediately after the wedding night….

A Beautiful Temptress…

Lady Anne Douglas has been ruined by scandal and disowned by her father. Facing a life of poverty and spinsterhood, she leaps at the generous terms of the marriage contract to ensure her independence. But the charade of a two-week engagement proves more of a challenge than either anticipated when they cannot resist the intoxicating lure of the marriage bed. Anne knows they will part ways after the wedding. Will she dare risk her heart for two weeks of pleasure in the arms of an irresistible rogue? Or will her surrender become her undoing after a most unexpected turn of events mere hours before the wedding?

REVIEWHere’s another author I never got a chance to read, Julianne MacLean.

This is a tale that’s part of a Pembroke Palace series and although I haven’t read any of the other books, I found the story standing on its own very well.

Here we have an old Duke, hero’s father, who believes that if his sons are not married by Christmas, their family is destined to be cursed. In order to foil this curse, he takes it upon himself to insure it never comes to that.

It’s Garrett’s turn to fulfill his father’s will by finally taking a plunge into matrimony.

In enters Anne who with no marriage prospects and dreadful living conditions, is willing to plunge herself into this union.

This is a Victorian period story with a surprisingly strong and complex female character of Anne, who I liked a lot.

I recommend it on that basis alone, but there’s a lot more: it’s well written, interesting and entertaining; great plot and wonderful chemistry between everyone that is in it.

Now I just need to stock up on the earlier books in this series!

*Melanie for b2b

*Books provided by the publisher through NetGalley & purchased by me.

‘An Unexpected Angel’ by Janet K. Halling

AUA JKHSTORY: Ella Davies, is focused, independent, and driven. Her hard work is finally paying off and she is on the brink of great success. But what no one knows is that her frantic drive is born not from a desire to succeed, but from a need to forget – forget her past, forget her guilt, and mostly, forget the tragedy that changed her life forever.

Ella’s strategy seems to be working but on Christmas Eve she meets Cohen, a strange man with an even stranger purpose. Cohen catapults Ella back through time and forces her to confront not only her own pain, but the pain of those long since passed. In the process, Ella learns about courage and compassion and that in the darkest hour, no one is ever alone.

BEHIND THE STORY by Janet K. Halling

My main inspiration came just from pondering some of the big questions in life such as why we are here and where we were before being born. I believe in life before birth and after death and so I wanted to explore that.

The other inspiration came during a trip to New York City with my sister. We were there in December and had spent the day shopping and of course everything was decorated to the hilt and it was completely crowded with people. It was quite late and as we were walking back to our hotel, I looked up into the lit windows of the skyscrapers and could see people who were obviously still at work. It was just odd. Here was all this revelry going on below and they were working. So I started wondering what their lives might be like and that provided a lot of the structure for Ella.  The story opens with her working late on Christmas Eve.

EXCERPT:

“Somewhere there was a rhythmic humming—a kind of a swooshing sound that increased and decreased in volume at regular intervals. She couldn’t remember where she was. Her whole body ached, and her head felt as if it would explode.

Ella groaned and opened her eyes. She was still in the gym, lying crumpled against the weight machine. The treadmill had stopped, and the rhythmic sound was coming from the man riding the spinning bike, which sat nearby.

Her fingers trembled as she felt the goose egg on the side of her head. Her face was on fire, probably scraped on the belt, and her knees were bloody, also from the belt.

Suddenly she stiffened. There was a man riding the bike! A man riding the bike. While she had been lying there unconscious. Had he just sauntered in and climbed on without seeing her at all or had he viewed her inert form without concern? That was cold, even for New York City. Gingerly, she turned her head to look at him.

It was the clerk from the deli, and he didn’t stop pedaling as he glanced her way. “Oh good, you’re awake.”

She stared up at him in mute astonishment.

He reached for his water bottle and took a long drink. “I’m glad you woke up on your own,” he said pleasantly. “I was about ready to pour this in your face, so you can thank me for sparing you an unexpected shower.”

Ella grasped the weight machine and pulled herself slowly to a sitting position. Her head was throbbing, and her stomach lurched. “I could sue you for failing to come to the aid of an injured person,” she snapped rather feebly.

The man studied her contemplatively. “Hmmm, yes, you would think of that, wouldn’t you? But I’m not too worried, Ella. You’re not going to sue me and we both know it.”

She opened her mouth to snarl a retort but stopped abruptly. “How do you know my name?” she demanded. “And what are you even doing here? You don’t live in this building.” She hesitated, realizing she wasn’t sure. “Do you?”

He jumped off the bike and held out his hand. “You should get up. Want help?”

She shrank away from him. “Don’t touch me! Who are you, and how do you know my name?”

“Well, it’s simple really. My name is Cohen, and I’m your guardian angel.” He broke into a brief but rapid tap dance routine and finished with flair. And with jazz hands.

Ella stared at him in perplexed silence, unsure if he was a hallucination or just crazy. “Uh-huh. Right,” she finally said, groaning as she pulled herself to her feet. A wave of nausea hit her, and she stopped, doubling over and willing herself not to vomit. She for sure had a concussion.

She tried to think. Should she go to the hospital? Or maybe just go home and try to sleep? She didn’t know. She made a move toward the door, but Cohen tap-danced over to block her path.

“Get out of my way,” she snapped at him with more bravado than she felt.

He grinned. “Can’t do that. You and me, we have business tonight.”

For the first time, she felt a small dart of fear. Cohen wasn’t exactly menacing, but he certainly was strange. If he attacked her, would she have the strength to fight him? If only her head would stop hurting!

“What do you want?” she asked.

“I already told you, I’m your guardian angel. Well, not technically an angel, but that word will serve as well as any other. Anyway, I’m here to help.”

“Sure. Like you helped me when I was unconscious a minute ago? If that’s your kind of help, no thanks.”

“No, not that kind of help, silly.”

“Look, whatever you’re on, whatever you’re offering, I’m not interested. Just leave me alone, please? I’m sore and tired, and my head is killing me. I need to go lie down.”

“Oh, right. That.” He made some sort of vague gesture and instantly her nausea subsided and the pain in her head vanished.

Chills raced up and down her spine, and she stared at him, “Wait . . . what’s . . . what’s going on?”

“Okay, no more joking around.” Cohen looked suddenly serious. “Here’s the deal. You need help and there’s a lot you need to learn. Only you’re far too stubborn to admit it. You might not even know how much help you need. But I know; so here I am.”

The pieces were starting to fall into place. “Wait . . . Christmas Eve . . . guardian angel. This is some kind of a joke, right?” she said before adding sarcastically, “What’s the matter, Jacob Marley was busy? Clarence already got his wings? Or wasn’t he on duty tonight?”

He grinned. “Both good men. But you got stuck with me. Although, all things considered, maybe it’s me who got stuck with you. You can be quite unpleasant, do you know that?”

Ella snorted derisively. “So when does the Ghost of Christmas Past show up? Or is he waiting for me upstairs?”

“Dickens took some liberties. It doesn’t exactly work like that. At least, this time it won’t.”

“You have exactly one second to get out of my way or I’m going to start screaming at the top of my lungs!”

Cohen cocked his head to one side and gave her a brief shrug of resignation. “Okay then, you win. Can’t say I didn’t try.” He stepped smoothly to one side and swept his arm in a wide arc toward the door. “Be my guest.”

Throwing him what she hoped was a withering glare, Ella marched past him, flung open the door—and stepped into a nightmare.”

REVIEW: Ella is one of those heroines that at the start of the story you’ll not like much. Growing up, she was the overachiever that grew into a workaholic  She is good-looking, single and dedicated to her work. Her work week consists of not just putting in seventy hours at the law firm, but extra hours at home as well.

She is the epitome of one of those women that are best described by the three B’s: Boring, Bland and Blah.The author did an excellent job in portraying her as too serious, rude and not likable at all. Even her living quarters are telling of her personality.The colors of the rooms are in varying shades of white, gray and light blue. Oh, and she dreads Christmas. Something about it brings up unpleasant memories that she’s not ready to face.

As for her love life, well there was none after Stuart and it looks like she doesn’t even want to be in a relationship. This woman’s life was just pathetic, and of her making. Until one evening when she meets Cohen….

For a little novella, this story sure packs a punch. From page one, right off the bat, it will grab you and keep you glued until the end. It will make you think and question its many what ifs and maybes. The author achieved in making the reader ponder this life and the next, and possibly the previous. This is my first time reading Janet Halling, but trust me, it won’t be the last.

Oh, and make sure you have the Klinex with this one too!

Janet K HallingFEATURED AUTHOR: Janet K. Halling

Author Bio: Janet Halling discovered her love of writing at the age of six when her story of a lonely duck won a first grade writing contest. She has a degree in Marketing Communications and lives with her family in northern Utah. She is currently working on her next novel.

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Time for some old Christmas reads…

Merry Christmas to all

Can you believe it?! December is here! That means whatever I’m reading that’s not a Christmas story, it needs to be abandoned for everything that is Christmas story.

Before I get to them though, I’d like to thank you all for making our second anniversary a huge success.To all the authors that have participated and to those that have been busy in their ‘writing caves’ and couldn’t stop by this year [and who I'll certainly accost next year], I want to send my heartfelt thanks. You are a bunch of unbelievably generous people that make me appreciate and love your work and you that much more.

My thanks go to all of my new and old subscribers who’ve faithfully followed and made comments [and made my days so much fun just by reading them all], I send my big, huge, humongous Serbian hug and a kiss! Without you, there wouldn’t be bookworm2bookworm. Period.

I also want to thank you all, authors and readers alike, for your patience with me on the contests that ran with every post [thirty-five in total for the month of November], as I procrastinated ’till the very last. I promise that by the end of this weekend many of you will be pleasantly surprised to find your names on our Contest page, and by the end of next weekend, we will have the Grand Prize announced and given away!

This month I’d like to dedicate to Christmas stories and will be recommending some that I’ve read before as well as some newly published. I hope you’ll stop by and join me in the coming weeks to find out which one’s I’m recommending and maybe recommend some of your own… I love this time of year and there’s nothing better than finding that perfect Christmas story that touches your heart, makes you sigh and cry…

Let me start with one of my all time favorites, and that is a story from Anne Gracie from an anthology I read a couple of years ago, Gifts of the Season. If you asked me about the other two stories in that book, I would have to probably think a bit to recollect them, but if you asked me about Anne’s, I’d tell you that I just cried and cried and smiled and smiled, that’s how much I loved the story and highly recommend you pick it up.

Gifts of the Season Anthology 

BOOK BLURB: The Virtuous Widow by Anne Gracie

Ellie was afraid she had no future. Left to her own devices now that her husband had passed away, she worried for her daughter’s welfare as well as her own. But her world changed when a stranger landed on her doorstep.

A Gift Most Rare by Miranda Jarrett 

Sara had never thought to see her precious Rev ever again. Yet here he was, come to stay for the holidays in the very home where she was a governess…and bringing up the painful memories of their shared past.

Christmas Charade by Lyn Stone

Beth didn’t want a husband. But when she agreed to marry handsome Jack as part of a scheme, she didn’t expect to be playing with her heart.

My next two recommends are from Mary Balogh. She never fails to give me one of the most touching Christmas stories and here are the two I think you’ll love.

ACP MBA Christmas Promise

BOOK BLURB: A love that cannot be bought or sold proves to be the greatest gift of all, in this heartwarming classic that demonstrates once again why New York Times bestselling author Mary Balogh is among the most celebrated authors of historical romance.

Weddings are supposed to be joyous occasions—especially when a couple seems as well matched as Randolph Pierce, Earl of Falloden, and his bride-to-be, Eleanor Transome. Ellie brings to the marriage a vast dowry, while Falloden, though distant, is handsome, tremendously desirable, and possessed of a title most young ladies can only dream of sharing.

Yet Ellie is not most young ladies. She knows that she must honor her dear father’s dying wish for her to wed the proud earl, but she dreads a lifetime in a union without love—and how can Falloden claim to love her when he married her only for her fortune? As Christmas descends upon the Falloden manor, the warmth of the season may yet melt away the trappings of duty and wealth, leaving behind only a man and a woman destined for each other’s arms.

UTM MBUnder the Mistletoe Collection

BOOK BLURB: In this collection of five Christmas-themed stories, beloved author Mary Balogh brings together tales of love, marriage, friendship, loneliness, and healing.

Includes four Balogh holiday classics, The Star of BethlehemThe Best GiftPlaying House, and No Room At the Inn, as well as A Family Christmas, which is only available in this anthology.

A Christmas Scandal by Jane Goodger

ACS JGBOOK BLURB: In her latest romance, Jane Goodger weaves an unforgettable tale of a woman who thinks she’s lost everything–until a little Christmas magic reunites her with the one man she could never forget. . .

Dashing, debonair, and completely irresistible, Edward Hollings has all of Newport buzzing–and to Maggie Pierce’s surprise, she alone has caught his eye. But when the handsome earl returns to England without proposing, a devastated Maggie knows she must forget him. Life only gets worse for Maggie, as all her dreams of happiness and love come crashing down around her. When Maggie receives an invitation to go to England for the Christmas birth of her dear friend’s baby, she accepts–vowing to keep her devastating lies and shameful secrets from the one man she has ever loved.

Edward vowed he’d never marry, but he came dangerously close with Maggie. She’s beautiful, witty, indescribably desirable–and Edward can’t forget her. When Maggie visits mutual friends for Christmas, Edward can’t stay away. In fact, he finds himself more attracted to her than ever–a desire fueled even more by Maggie’s repeated snubs. With the love he never thought he’d find slipping away, Edward is determined to make Maggie his own, no matter what the cost. . .

The Present by Johanna Lindsey

TP JLBOOK BLURB: As the entire Malory family gathers at Haverston to celebrate the season, a mysterious present arrives anonymously. The gift is an old journal — a tender and tempestuous account of the love affair between the second Marquis, Christopher Malory, and a dark gypsy beauty named Anastasia, who seeks a love match with a non-gypsy in order to save herself from a prearranged marriage to a brute.

Though the dashing English lord Anastasia sets her sight upon burns for the exquisite, exotic miss, Christopher could never consent to wed such a lowborn lady. But miracles have been known to happen in this season of peace and giving and love, as two extraordinary people separated by circumstance of birth begin a passionate dance of will and wiles.

And in the miraculous blossoming of a glorious romance at a long ago Christmastime, there are wise and well-learned lessons that will enrich the hearts of the Malory descendants — and, indeed, of everyone who has ever dreamed.

Forbidden Magic by Jo Beverly

FM JBBOOK BLURB: Left penniless after her parents’ death, Meg Gillingham was in dire straits. Her cruel landlord threatened to turn her and her siblings out of their home by the New Year—unless she surrendered her sister to his lecherous whims. Only a miracle could save her: a magic statue that granted wishes—for a price.

Meg never expected the statue to bring her a marriage proposal, especially from the handsome Earl of Saxonhurst, who needed a bride to keep his fortune. Her heart raced wildly, for she was held spellbound by her desire for this man. But a villain was determined to destroy their union with mistrust, and see them dead. Now Meg had to put her faith in a more powerful magic—the magic of love.

A Wallflower Christmas by Lisa Kleypas

AWC LKBOOK BLURB: Rafe Bowman has just arrived from America for his arranged meeting with Natalie, the very proper and beautiful daughter of Lady and Lord Blandford. His chiseled good looks and imposing physique are sure to impress the lady-in-waiting, and if it weren’t for his shocking American ways and wild reputation, her hand would already be guaranteed. Before the courtship can begin, Rafe realizes he must learn the rules of London society. But when four former Wallflowers try their hand at matchmaking, no one knows what will happen…

Winning a bride turns out to be more complicated than Rafe Bowman anticipated, especially for a man accustomed to getting anything he wants. However, Christmas works in the most unexpected ways, changing a cynic to a romantic…and inspiring passion in the most timid of hearts.

That’s just a handful of books that I really enjoyed in the past and I hope you’d give them a try, unless you already read them, in which case I would love to know what you thought of them. I usually look for short Christmas stories, often found in Anthologies  at this time of the year. They are the best because they give me the feel for the authors that I haven’t read before.

Speaking of, do you like Anthologies and why? If you have any good Christmas recommendations for me please let me know. This month should be fun as we talk Christmas books…and giveaway a few of those…