My FOREVER 2013 Christmas recommends…

IHFC JS‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas’ by Jessica Scott

BOOK BLURB: There’s nothing in the world Army Sergeant Vic Carponti loves more than his wife and his country. Smart-mouthed and easy tempered, he takes everything as a joke…except his promise to come home to his wife, Nicole, for Christmas. As he prepares to leave for his latest deployment into Iraq, Vic will do everything he can to shield his beautiful, supportive wife from the realities of war…and from his own darkest fears.

As a career army wife, Nicole Carponti knows just what to expect from her husband’s tour of duty: loneliness, relentless worry, and a seemingly endless countdown until the moment Vic walks through the door again. But when the unthinkable happens, Nicole and Vic’s bond is tested like never before and changes everything they believe to be true about the power of love and the simple beauty of being home for the holidays.

REVIEW: This was a short read and if you’re into military contemporary reads, I think you’ll like it. I found it interesting and entertaining because of the subject and the way their life was portrayed as they were dealing with his deployment at Christmas time. It gave me an ‘in depth’ look at the military families that, I must admit, I don’t think about often enough.

It’s kind of sobering to ‘see’ how strong the women as well as their men have to be and that’s the main reason I recommend you read it.

It’s sweet, funny, sexy, and eye-opening story of love that can withstand many obstacles in its way. Liked it a lot.

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ACTR A‘A Christmas to Remember’ by Marilyn Pappano, Molly Cannon, 

Hope Ramsay, Kristen Ashley & Jill Shalvis

BOOK BLURB: Jill Shalvis, Dream a Little Dream: Melissa has kept every man at a safe distance-especially firefighter Ian, a sexy friend with sexy benefits. But Ian secretly longs for more. Luckily, ’tis the season for giving love a chance . . .

Kristen Ashley, Every Year: Holidays don’t come easy for Shy and his brother, Landon. But with the magic of Christmas, along with a little help from Tabby and her family, the Cage brothers are about to get the gift of a lifetime . . .

Hope Ramsay, Silent Night: Down on her luck and evicted from her apartment, single mother Maryanne hopes to start over in Last Chance. When the snow begins to fall, it looks like her baby might literally spend Christmas Eve in a manger. And Maryanne might celebrate the holiday with a handsome stranger.

Molly Cannon, Have Yourself a Messy Little Christmas: Lincoln is a bachelor who’s set in his ways-until a professional organizer dressed up as Mrs. Claus changes his life, one tip at a time. . .

Marilyn Pappano, A Family for Christmas: War widow Ilena doesn’t mind spending Christmas alone. But when a new doctor blows into town with the winter wind, will she get her secret Christmas wish?

REVIEW: There’s a lot of stories in this anthology, and frankly most of these authors are my first reads, so we have a mixed bag of goodies here.

Keep in mind that this is an anthology, therefore the stories are short and fast moving. These kinds of stories are not for everyone, but I do recommend you read them for the most obvious reason: getting to know and ‘feel’ the authors you’re not familiar with, and enjoying the ones that you are familiar with.

That said, here we go:

‘Dream a Little Dream’ by Jill Shalvis

I was impressed with Ms. Shalvis’ character development within the constraints of this short story.

Melissa and Ian’s relationship was well developed, and fun to read about.

If you’re familiar with the Lucky Harbor series, you will defenatly love it, and if this is your first time reading this author, have no fear, this story stands on its own.

‘Every Year’ by Kristen Ashley

I’ve never read this author before and after this short story I’m debating if I should try her. I was a bit confused by the plot and the characters were not as well rounded as they could have been.

However, this may not be the case for you, so I think you should still give it a try.

‘Silent Night’ by Hope Ramsay

Leave it to Ms. Ramsey to make me cry. I just adored this story. It was well told, well-rounded and altogether just sweet, poignant and filled with hope in humanity.

Maryanne and Daniel with little baby Joshua, will steal your heart.

This is a perfect story for all of you that have never read this author before. You’ll be searching her other books after you’ve read this story. I guarantee that!

And for us that are getting more familiar with her, this one just makes us want for more!

‘Have Yourself a Messy Little Christmas’ by Molly Cannon

Molly Cannon is a new author for me, but this story will make me seek her out again.

I actually enjoyed the predictability of this romance. It was fun watching Dinah, a personal organizer, who gets hired by Lincoln, a messy accountant to organize a home of his parents.

And the sparks get ignited as these two personalities come together.

Fun and sweet, with some heat mixed in.

 ‘A Family for Christmas’ by Marilyn Pappano

Again, an unfamiliar author to me, and again, I’m conflicted about will I or won’t I read her again.

I just didn’t connect with the hero and heroine.

The story was good, but the characters just fell flat to me, and once that happened, I didn’t feel emotionally vested in their happily ever after. That doesn’t mean that you’ll feel the same, though, so give it a go.

Bottom line: worth reading for sure!

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TTWC DM‘The Trouble with Christmas’ by Debbie Mason

BOOK BLURB: It will take a Christmas miracle to melt her heart.

Resort developer Madison Lane is about to lose the one thing she loves most in the world—her job. Dubbed “The Grinch Who Killed Christmas,” Madison spoiled a deal that would turn quaint Christmas, Colorado, into a tourist’s winter wonderland. Now the citizens want her fired but the company gives her one last chance, sending Madison to the small town to restore the holiday cheer.

For Sheriff Gage McBride, no hotshot executive from New York City is going to destroy the dreams of the people he loves. But one look at this beautiful woman and it’s his heart that may be broken. In just a few days, Madison causes more trouble than he’s had to deal with all year. He can’t decide if she’s naughty or nice, but one thing is for certain—Christmas will never be the same again…

REVIEW: I just about loved everyone in this tale, but the hero is one of those down to earth guys that you can’t help but love.

It took me a bit longer to warm up to the heroine, but the longer I got to know her, the more I liked her.

I also thought that the people of this quaint town aptly named Christmas, in Colorado, were a hoot and I’m looking forward to reading about them through this series. I hope you give it a try because it had everything a Christmas story should: A heroine that’s nicknamed a ‘Grinch’ falling for a local man who loves his town and its folks who look up to him for more than just to ‘protect and serve’ their community.

If you’re looking for a very funny, very entertaining and heartwarming story, this is it!

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HfC JH‘His for Christmas’ by Jennifer Haymore

BOOK BLURB: Jennifer Haymore introduced sweet, but shy Lady Esme in The Duchess Hunt, the first novel in her House of Trent Series. But what readers may not know is that proper young Lady Esme has a secret: the youngest sister of the Duke of Trent privately pens erotic stories!

Society would never allow Lady Esme to share her own work, so her friend Jennifer Haymore is here to help—and just in time for Christmas!

His for Christmas is the steamy story of two travelers who find themselves stranded in an inn when an upexpected snowstorm blankets the English countryside. As the temperature drops, desire rises and the two strangers share a night of passion unlike anything either has ever experienced. When dawn breaks and the storm clears, will they continue on thier seperate journeys, or will they begin a new path together?

REVIEW: For me, this story was heartwarming, sweet and ‘sauna’ steamy, all at the same time.

Amelia and Evan were very likable and relatable characters, while their love story took both of them back to the past and the reasons behind their separation.

Once the reason for the misunderstanding begins to dawn on both, these two light up the pages with tension and sexual buildup of years and years of longing for one another, and let me tell you, get ready for it. It is HOT!

Recommending it to all of you that believe in second chances, and to those that are looking for a read that has a mix of sweet romance with sexy characters!

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TtNBM NR”Twas the Night Before Mischief ‘ by Nina Rowan

BOOK BLURB: ‘Twas the night before mischief and all through the house, a lady was plotting—it was time to break out!

When Penelope Darlington is persuaded to elope with a most unsuitable suitor, she wastes no time. With visions of passion and adventure dancing in her head, she steals away in the middle of the night, just before her father’s Christmas feast.

Fearing for his daughter’s reputation, Henry Darlington begs Darius Hall, the Earl of Rushton’s daring yet discreet son, to bring Penelope home. When Darius finally catches up to Penelope, he is shocked. She’s not the silly little girl he expected, but a beautiful woman with a sharp mind and an allure that cannot be ignored.

Now forced to kidnap Penelope in order to bring her home, Darius and his new charge spend the next several days—and nights—in very close quarters. Penelope wanted passion and adventure, but she never could have imagined the pleasures Darius can provide…

REVIEW: At a first glance, this might sound like a predictable story, but the further you go into it, the more you realize that not to be the case.

It is one of those love stories that involves two people who have a total misconception of one another, yet both are attracted to the other.

I thoroughly enjoyed the journey they took to come, finally, together.

I can’t recommend this one enough for the simple reason that this hero may as well have been my husband. It made me chuckle all the way through.

It really is true that opposites attract, and I can vouch for that!

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OUAHC SEW‘Once Upon A Highland Christmas’ by Sue-Ellen Welfonder

BOOK BLURB: Warrior Grim Mackintosh understands why his friend Archibald MacNab has decreed there be no trace of Christmas in his castle. After a devastating attack destroyed everything-and everyone-in Archie’s life, he prefers to stew in his own misery until the holiday passes. But Duncreag has seen enough tragedy. Grim decides to throw a grand Yuletide feast, one that the bards will sing about for years to come, one that will remind his laird how beloved he is. He can’t do it alone, though. Grim needs an accomplice . . .

There’s nothing Breena O’Doherty won’t do for Archie, so she’s thrilled to help Grim with his plan. Yet she has a Christmas wish all her own-to win Grim’s heart-and this might be her only chance to make it come true. As Breena and Grim work together to bring the joy of the season to the cold, gloomy castle and to the heart of the cantankerous chieftain, an undeniable passion ignites between them. But when a shocking secret about Breena’s past comes to light, threatening everything she holds dear, will it ruin Christmas in Duncreag forevermore?

REVIEW: Hope you click here for my review of this wonderful, fun and entertaining story.

*Melanie for b2b

*Books provided by the publishers through NetGalley.

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‘Once Upon a Highland Christmas’ by Sue-Ellen Welfonder

OUAHC SEWSTORY: Once Upon A Highland Christmas

Warrior Grim Mackintosh understands why his friend Archibald MacNab has decreed there be no trace of Christmas in his castle. After a devastating attack destroyed everything-and everyone-in Archie’s life, he prefers to stew in his own misery until the holiday passes. But Duncreag has seen enough tragedy. Grim decides to throw a grand Yuletide feast, one that the bards will sing about for years to come, one that will remind his laird how beloved he is. He can’t do it alone, though. Grim needs an accomplice . . .

There’s nothing Breena O’Doherty won’t do for Archie, so she’s thrilled to help Grim with his plan. Yet she has a Christmas wish all her own-to win Grim’s heart-and this might be her only chance to make it come true. As Breena and Grim work together to bring the joy of the season to the cold, gloomy castle and to the heart of the cantankerous chieftain, an undeniable passion ignites between them. But when a shocking secret about Breena’s past comes to light, threatening everything she holds dear, will it ruin Christmas in Duncreag forevermore?

REVIEW: I don’t know about you, I not only like reading books that the author writes, but I get a kick out of reading dedications, acknowledgments, pre and post notes, credits…I do sound like a worm…a BOOKworm, don’t I?! 

This books dedication brought me to tears and in a minute you’ll know why…here it is:

With all my heart for Leah Weller, dear and long-time friend, fellow nature girl, champion of needy animals, old soul, and lover of all things medieval and Scottish. Leah and I go way back, right to Devil in a Kilt days. She’s shared my path since then. In truth we’ve walked tandem even before that and surely will again, someday.

For very special reasons, this story simply had to be hers. She knows why.

Merry Christmas, Lady Leah.

With Highland love from Grim.

I just want to say that I’m so Blessed by having someone like Lady Leah here on the blog, ‘having my back’. Congratulations on this wonderful dedication. It couldn’t have happened to a more deserving person. I HEART you dearly, my friend.

And now my review…

Ms. Welfonder is starting her new Scottish series, Scandalous Scots, with this short novella as an introduction to it.

‘Once Upon a Highland Christmas’ is a novella in which Grim and Breena find their happily ever after-FINALLY!

As usual, Sue-Ellen Welfonder not just tells the tale, she takes you ‘inside’ it by creating a world that fascinates.

We finally get to watch this fierce warrior, who we met in the earlier stories, admit to his feelings for Breena, Irish lass almost as fierce as he is.

This is another little novella that packs a punch, and honestly it never felt short. It had a fast pace, great plot and characters were well-developed, so that could be the reason that it felt like a full novel.

Old Archie MacNab’s decree to forgo Yuletide celebration brings Grim and Breena together as they decide to thwart the old man’s wishes.

Breena is a wonderful heroine. It was a delight to watch this strong-willed and independent girl who was much wise in the ways of the world but ignorant of love. Grim was a wonderful Alpha male character with many sides to him and every side way too charming. Both are charismatic with high level of chemistry between them.

The research Sue-Ellen does for her stories are priceless, as she paints the wonderful setting that transports the reader into the Scotland of long ago.

I know that the fans of her Highland Warriors will have much fun reading Grim’s tale, but I’d like to recommend this story to all of you that have never read this author. This heartwarming, captivating and sweet Scottish tale would be a perfect time to be introduced to her unique writing style and great talent at weaving a wonderful story with a believable, sweet romance.

Keep an eye out for ‘To Love a Highlander’ which will be released in 2014 and is the first full length novel in this new and much-anticipated series.

Melanie for b2b

*Complimentary copy provided by the publisher.

‘Sins Of A Highland Devil’ by Sue-Ellen Welfonder

SOTHD b1 SEWSTORY: The first book in the Highland Warriors trilogy, in which three heroes make a pact to insure that a rival clan does not take over their Glen of Many Legends. At the same time, three women plot to marry these heroes to insure peace.

The king has ordered three clans to battle to the death: the one left standing will reign over the Glen of Many Legends. James Cameron, known throughout the Highlands as “The Devil,” leads his men with ruthless determination. He knows no weakness — until a headstrong, flame-haired beauty from a rival clan tempts him to abandon his ironclad loyalties.
Catriona MacDonald’s past encounters with James have proved that ladies who play with fire can get scorched. But her brush with this devil leaves her burning to feel his touch once more, even though the fierce warrior is her sworn enemy. Now “The Devil” must fight for his family, his honor, and his very life… even as he surrenders to his desire to possess Catriona at any cost.
REVIEW: Just sixty-some pages into the book James had smoke rising from the pages just by his words and I was totally in love with him. This couple definitely have chemistry! I see him as my sword tossing hero. 🙂 I see myself in Catriona with her hellcat ways and she’s always at any given moment ready to jump into the fray with dagger raised to protect those she loves and herself if needs be. What fire this woman has!As always and one of the things that I love about Sue-Ellen’s stories is that the lore, spirit, and magic of Scotland abound within her pages. The Makers of Dreams  Grizel and Gorm and their pet white stag Rannoch, the Bowing Stone, and two spirits, Scandia and Donar, whose story will tear at your heart are sure to draw you in along with the magical mist that entranced me imagining it whirling and floating across the land.

The King demands an end to the feuding of the three clans of the Glen of Many Legends and calls for 30 warriors from each clan fight to the death until only one remains standing who will have ownership of the glen. As I was reading the fight scenes I could actually hear the screams and swords clashing and see the men with muscles straining and faces distorted with rage. Smell the blood and see the dead and wounded where they lay and the ground soaked red with their life’s blood. I could hear the crowd (lowlanders and courtly guests for the most part) roar as they cheered the deaths and felt anger about the way they were taking something serious and making sport out of it. At the end, the three lairds stand as one and the King is satisfied there will be peace between the clans now.

Little do the Lairds know that their sisters will form a bond and make a pact that will make sure this peace and so starts the journey with this series. Join James and Catriona as they accept the love that fate has in store for them and the road they travel to get there. It’s full of banter that will curl your toes at one point and have you laughing the next, and treachery that will keep you wondering up til the last moment. And Magic… what would we be without some magic?

Leah for b2b

‘Temptation Of A Highland Scoundrel’ by Sue-Ellen Welfonder

TOAHS b2 SEWSTORY: The second book in the Highland Warriors trilogy, in which three heroes make a pact to insure that a rival clan doesn’t take over their glen and cause destruction. At the same time, three women will plot to marry these heroes to help insure peace.

Despite an official peace, old conflicts smolder in the Glen of Many Legends.  Kendrew Mackintosh, Chieftain of his clan, is famed as both a bold and hot-blooded warrior and a sensual lover. He has no intention of settling down . . . until he kisses a forbidden beauty whose passion matches his own.
Highborn and gently raised, Lady Isobel Cameron has long harbored a secret fascination for the fearless, charismatic Mackintosh—even though her brother is his sworn enemy. When destiny draws them together for one night, she can’t resist him. But what begins as a flirtation soon becomes a fight for survival. A deadly new threat has come to the glen, and Kendrew and Isobel must learn to trust and protect one another—or pay the ultimate price.

REVIEW: Kendrew is very proud of his Berserker lineage and is always within reach of his war ax. Hotheaded with a penchant for warring. It fires his blood! The Mackintosh are also known for their night walking abilities. 

Isobel has always wanted Kendrew and is willing to go to any lengths to win his heart. The only problem is her brother and Kendrew are bitter enemies even though they find themselves having to keep the peace for the glen. When Isobel sneaks off to Nought to see if Kendrew does indeed dance naked on the Dreagen Stones on Midsummer Eve it begins their journey of the heart. He is distraught to find he’s lost himself to his enemies sister and try though he may he cannot stay away or keep her from his mind and heart. One of my favorite parts has him stomping back and forth in front of the castle walls beneath her bedroom window brandishing her cloak like a flag.

Castle Nought, with it’s Dreagan Stones, is a rugged, cold place but beautiful in it’s harshness and I found myself there in the midst of it all through Sue-Ellen’s descriptions. Legend has it the rock formations are sleeping dreagans and ancient warriors who are master to the dreagans and that they are able to come to life and wreak havoc if they so choose.

I found myself laughing, crying, and even biting my nails as these two strive to find meaning. There is not only danger awaiting the clans but also Isobel and Kendrew’s sister. This is another scene in the book that is a favorite of mine. Kendrew and his men go night walking and rescue the women. There is also a moment when two souls that have been separated find each other and a moment when their ghostly apparitions are seen standing on a distant hill which left me with a huge grin on my face and peace in my heart. I also have to mention Grim, one of the Macintosh warriors. He is huge and fierce with a beard full of metal rings, who is just as deadly in battle as he is kind in his soul with a love for all animals seen and unseen. He has stolen my heart!

Leah for b2b

‘Seduction of A Highland Warrior’ by Sue-Ellen Welfonder

SOAHW SEWSTORY: The third book in the Highland Warriors trilogy…Three proud warriors locked in a struggle for victory. Three beguiling women united in their vow to restore peace.

At the King’s request, chieftain Alasdair MacDonald has sworn to preserve the peace in the Glen of Many Legends. Though he’s handsome and fearless, his warrior’s heart belongs only to his beloved land-until the fair sister of his oldest enemy shatters his defenses, branding his skin with a single touch, and sealing his fate with one stolen kiss . . .

Lady Marjory Mackintosh will do anything to unite the warring clans, even seduce Alasdair MacDonald. She has loved the rugged Highlander since she first saw him and now, as temptation leads to surrender, Marjory dares to own him, body and soul. But a dangerous new menace enters the Glen, and he will stop at nothing to strip Alasdair of his honor-and the only woman who can claim his heart.

REVIEW: Alasdair is a fierce warrior with a love for the glen that runs deep and he’s sworn to protect the peace at all costs. His honor is everything to him and he soon finds himself challenging everything he holds dear when his greatest enemies sister captures his heart. Even a year away hasn’t diminished his need for her.

Marjory has loved Alasdair from the moment she first saw him and has set her mind and heart to having him. She’s as fierce a woman as he is a warrior so there is bound to be some head butting here. Yet her brother is determined to see her wed to a Viking, anyone but Alasdair, and she does everything in her power to shoot down each suitor.

These two are constantly needling each other even as their hearts are begging them to give in to the love they feel. Just as soon as they do, treachery strikes and threatens the peace in the Glen of Many Legends. It all comes to a head and where Alasdair thinks the trouble lies turns out to be his salvation. There are several scenes that stand out to me. One had me howling with laughter and involves a spider outside of the joy woman tents. One is the entire 4th chapter in the book where I was on the edge of my seat with anxiety as I read it and I’ll leave that to you to find out when you read the story. The other is the moments in the caves both when they’re alone and when there is a celebration. The caves are simply amazing and were brought to life through Sue-Ellen’s wonderful writing.

This has been another fantastic read with touches of legend and a ghostly couple who made my heart cry for them as they found their peace. Sue-Ellen painted medieval Scotland so clearly for me that my senses came alive while reading. There were many a scene that had me laughing loudly leaving me with lingering smiles. I will miss the Glen of Many Legends and the people who play a part in this series whom I came to love. I’m sure I’ll get a glimpse of them in the future and look forward to that day. This series of highland warriors and the women they love will stay with me for a long time to come!

Leah for b2b

‘Seduction of A Highland Warrior’ by Sue-Ellen Welfonder

SOAHW SEWSTORY: At the King’s request, chieftain Alasdair MacDonald has sworn to preserve the peace in the Glen of Many Legends. Though he’s handsome and fearless, his warrior’s heart belongs only to his beloved land-until the fair sister of his oldest enemy shatters his defenses, branding his skin with a single touch, and sealing his fate with one stolen kiss . . .

Lady Marjory Mackintosh will do anything to unite the warring clans, even seduce Alasdair MacDonald. She has loved the rugged Highlander since she first saw him and now, as temptation leads to surrender, Marjory dares to possess him, body and soul. But a dangerous new menace enters the Glen, and he will stop at nothing to strip Alasdair of his honor-and the only woman who can claim his heart.

REVIEW: With ‘Seduction of a Highland Warrior’ Sue-Ellen Welfonder’s ends her Highland Warriors Series. In it she weaves lore with magic to bring us a story of three clans who lived in the Glen of Many Legends.

My favorite part, I must say, was the legend of how they came to be all there, right at the story’s beginning. The author did a marvelous job telling it and basically hooking me to the rest of the read.

Ms. Welfonder had her hands full with her heroine Lady Marjory Mackintosh, an impetuous, sharp-tongued maiden determined to do anything within her power, seduction included, to catch Alasdair MacDonald, Laird of the clan MacDonald as her husband. She’s loved him a while now but it seems that he won’t be easy to catch.

Alasdair MacDonald is one of those Alpha heroes that are strong, handsome and always do that which will benefit their people. That’s how he ended up being gone from the Glen for over a year, and now that he’s back, he must find out what’s afoot in the Glen.

He also knows deep in his heart that an alliance of marriage with Marjory is unrealistic because her brother aims to marry her to a Norse Warrior and would never ever give her to Alasdair.

What really impressed me more than the story itself was the author’s vivid description of the Highlands and its people, myth and legend.

Without a doubt, if you enjoy Highland stories, Alpha men in kilts, strong and determined heroines, you’ll enjoy this book.

This is my first time reading Ms. Welfonder, and I’m not sure it was a good idea to start with the book that ends this series. She did a good job in bringing me up to date with the earlier goings on, but in the end I don’t think it was enough for someone like me that has a need to read that first book of the series in which the author takes her time to introduce us to her future players.

Regardless, by the end of the story, I warmed up to the hero, heroine and their friends just as if I read the series from the start.

*Book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.