Serving Up Love by Tracie Peterson, Karen Witemeyer, Regina Jennings, and Jen Turano

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Harvey Houses, scattered along the railway at the turn of the twentieth century, operated on only the strictest of standards, with women of exemplary character employed as waitress. These Harvey girls are independent and adventures, ready for any serving catastrophe, but not quite expecting the romance they each encounter.

 

A Flood of Love by Tracie Peterson – Gretchen Gottsacker returns to New Mexico for the first time in years, never expecting to find her old long lost love, now a widower, in the small town.  Determined to avoid him, she does not plan on befriending his young daughter—or the romance that flourishes once again.

Neatly written, this novella brings forth a lovely story from start to finish.  I liked that the characters were friends in the past, because it made the quicker progression of their relationship more realistic.  The addition of a spunky young girl is a great secondary character.  I enjoyed learning more about the tiny town of San Marcial, New Mexico as well. Overall, I liked this story!

 

More Than a Pretty Face by Karen Witemeyer – Rosalind Kemp is determined to escape her past mistakes, accepting a job as a Harvey girl in Texas with hopes of someday transferring to California.  She is not expecting a young, handsome, regular customer at the Harvey House to begin to draw her out of her shy shell.  However, as Rosalind gets closer to him, her past begins to catch up to her and threatens to destroy all she holds dear.

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How is it possible for an author to write such an emotionally gripping story in such a short amount of words?  I was so excited to read more about Rosalind, who we met as Abigail’s sister in More Than Words Can Say.  She has made past mistakes but has matured into a wonderful young lady.  She is poised and pretty but also has gumption and strength that is admirable.  There are spiritual themes of forgiveness and mercy that are relatable and applicable to any reader.  I really liked the historical aspect of the story and learning more about the Harvey Houses.  I also found myself connecting with the characters almost immediately and definitely cried a time or two for Rosalind as she struggled and grew throughout the story. I really, really enjoyed this novella and highly recommend it!  The author has penned another winner!

 

Intrigue a la Mode by Regina Jennings – Willow Kentworth never imagines that she will be caught in the middle of a dangerous situation at one of the elegant Harvey Houses.  Even more so, she does not expect that the busboy, who seems to be keeping a secret of his own, becomes a confidant and a friend—and perhaps something more.

What a great read!  I definitely read this novella in one sitting, as I eagerly turned the pages to figure out the mystery of the story. Even though this may be a novella, the story develops well and contains quite of bit of content for such a short story. I really liked the characters and their relationship as they become friends, then partners as they solve a mystery, and finally fall in love.  I learned even more about the Harvey Houses from the historical tidbits.  I definitely recommend this novella!

 

A Grand Encounter by Jen Turano – Myrtle Schermerhorn becomes a Harvey girl to escape the embarrassment of a broken engagement in New York.  She has sworn off men forever—or at least until she meets the intriguing Jack Daggett.

Jen Turano always pens such fun stories, full of wit and humor that are intermingled with true character depth and development.  Her great writing style carries into even this short novella!  This story had time to develop with twists in the relationship despite its length.  I really enjoyed the setting and history, the intermixed bits of spirituality, and the budding romance.  I loved this novella and definitely recommend it!

 

Overall, this was such a fun collection of novellas that seemed to connect with the theme of the Harvey girls in such a unique way!  I really liked this book and highly recommend it!

 

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Karen Witemeyer.  Opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

Royally Yours by Melissa Tagg, Betsy St. Amant, Liz Johnson, and Ashley Clark

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Small town Tinsel, Vermont, has a strict no-paparazzi policy, making it the ideal getaway for royals looking to escape the public eye.  The quaint Christmas decorations and romantic snowy settings add the perfect background for the four royals as they relax, none of them expecting that romance may blossom in the midst of the holiday season.

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One Royal Christmas by Melissa Tagg – Melissa Tagg has perfected the art of writing a book that can include the perfect blend of romance, charm, and character development—all within a short novella!  She pens a wonderfully romantic story set in a snowy, quaint town that makes you want to cuddle up with a blanket and cup of tea on a cold day.  This novella transports you to the small town with ease, the descriptions flowing off the page and pulling you into the story.  The characters both deal with conflict and grow throughout the story in a satisfying way.  Their romance is adorably sweet and realistic.  There is something about reading about a prince during a snowy day that makes him that much more dreamy!  I loved the characters and their struggles and found myself sheading a tear or two as they overcome difficulties in their lives.  I really enjoyed this story and am a dedicated reader of Melissa’s stories for life!

 

The Reluctant Princess by Betsy St. Amant – This was my first time reading anything by Betsy St. Amant, and I am now a fan of her writing!  I really enjoyed the spunky characters and their friendship and then relationship as it developed throughout the story.  There is realistic conflict that adds depth to the story. The secondary characters were cute and fun and I really liked the snowy, small town setting.  This is a great novella for the Christmas season and fits in well with the rest of the collection in this book!

A Royal Wonderland by Liz Johnson – Liz Johnson has the wonderful ability to write a story that reads with ease, and this novella definitely fit that description!  The storyline is creative, the characters captivating, and the setting a perfect snowy town.  I liked the romance of the characters and the complications of past friendships.  This story definitely was a perfect addition to the novella collection!

A Tinsel Holiday by Ashley Clark – Ashley Clark was another new-to-me author and I really enjoyed her novella!  Mix together a princess, some much needed character growth, and the unlikely romance and you have a wonderful Christmas novella.  I liked the complexity of the romance, as it was not altogether predictable.  It was a great read!

Overall, I enjoyed these stories and highly recommend this novella collection!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Melissa Tagg.  Opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

Deadly Deceit by Natalie Walters

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Reporter Vivian DeMarco has been hurt before, so she keeps people at a distance, doing her best not to get attached to anyone.  But when her boss suddenly dies, Vivian realizes that she may have been closer to him and his family than she is willing to admit.  Worse, Vivian begins to suspect that his death may not be as accidental as it first appeared.  She tries to research the last story that her boss was working on, involving local deputy Ryan Frost as she digs deeper.  Soon danger draws closer and closer, lurking around every corner as Vivian and Ryan race to find answers before it is too late.

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Natalie Walters wrote such a phenomenal first book, I had doubts that she could do any better—but if possible, I liked this second book even more!  The plot moves at a perfect pace, balancing the suspenseful action with the relationships and friendships that are developing throughout the story. I liked the banter of the characters and their nerdy references to comic book characters.  I often think that the background of character growth gets lost in the action of suspense novels, but that is not true of this book as it has plenty of both!  I liked the development of the romance too as it ebbs, flows, and progresses realistically. The action was well written and really kept me guessing.  The ending brought together a satisfying conclusion of the building suspense.  I really liked the thread of faith, forgiveness, and truth throughout the story as well.  I could not put the book down!  I cannot wait to see what this author pens next!  I highly recommend this book!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author.  Opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

Christmas at Whitefriars by Elizabeth Camden

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Mary Beckwith takes great pride in the history of the magnificent English Whitefriars Castle.  She pours every penny and every second into restoring it to its former glory, preserving as much of the historical stories as possible. She is disappointed that her brother moved to America and does not seem to care much for the dilapidated castle, so she instead forms an unlikely friendship through letters with American millionaire Everett Wooten, who helps her with finances and ideas for restoration. But when the eccentric millionaire suddenly appears at Whitefriars for Christmas, he and Mary clash over new ideas for the castle.  Mary is determined to show him that there is more to the castle—and her—than he may realize.

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It is rare that an author has time to pen characters that have depth and personalities that change and grow in novellas, but Elizabeth Camden does a fantastic job of crafting two characters that have realistic flaws, amusing quirks, and relatable insecurities that create truly memorable individuals.  Their love story is sweet as it grows and is challenged throughout the story.  I loved the descriptions and historical tidbits of the grand English castle, the details drawing me into the majestic setting at a magical and festive time of year.  The themes of faith, security, humility, and compromise are intertwined seamlessly.  I really liked Mary and her passion for life even as she struggles with agoraphobia. Readers will also be delighted to meet with characters from Elizabeth Camden’s Empire State series, although this novella stands well on its own too.  The story is captivating and I had a really hard time putting it down!  I definitely recommend this novella, which is perfect for the holidays, but honestly could be enjoyed any time of the year!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author.  Opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

Always Look Twice by Elizabeth Goddard

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Previously a crime scene photographer, Harper Reynolds listens to her therapist and decides on a more peaceful job of taking photos of the nature.  But her past catches up to her when she actually takes photos of a murder while attempting to shoot outdoor photographs.  However, the murderer catches Harper taking his picture, forcing her to run and hide.  Reserve Deputy Heath McKade is tasked with keeping Harper safe, but the enemy is determined to keep his crimes secret, stopping at nothing to make sure Harper cannot speak.

My heart was pounding in the first chapter!  This book opens with a bang (no pun intended) and the action keeps the plot moving throughout the story.  I really enjoyed the characters because they are real and relatable and also have spunk and courage that makes them very likable.  There is suspense and mystery that keep you turning the pages long into the night!  The plot slows intermittently to intertwine spiritual themes and clean romance.  I have really enjoyed this series so far, and I do not think you need to read them in order.  I look forward to the next book in the series and I recommend this to those who love Christian suspense!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the Revell Publishing.  Opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

Hereafter by Jody Hedlund

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Emmeline has always known what her adoptive parents have sacrificed to keep her identity as the one of the lost princesses a secret.  She does not mind living in the secluded forest, so when her father returns from town and tells her they must move to find her sisters participating in the rebellion, she is hesitant to leave her comfortable home.  But it is not long before Prince Ethelrex finds her and forces her to marry him.  Faced with the loss of her family, her home, and her freedom, Emmeline is not sure she has the courage to overcome all the odds to join her sisters in the war for the throne.

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A perfect end to a great series!  I loved the characters in this book and really enjoyed reading about how their love, which was initially forced, develops and changes as it faces trials over and over again.  The romance is clean and certainly appropriate for young adults.  The characters were also individually challenged to grow into strong and courageous people.  The ending has a wonderful conclusion to the fight for the crown and the lost princesses we have met in the other books.  I think it is best to read this series in order as it gives you the most background for this final story.  There are great lessons of faith and life, applicable for any reader, intertwined among beautiful descriptions of dense forests, majestic castles, and dashing knights and princesses.  This series is directed toward young adult readers, but I think you will enjoy the books no matter your age!  I was a little sad as I read the last page, simply because I never wanted this series to end, but the conclusion to this series was absolutely perfect!  I highly recommend this novel and this series!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author.  Opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

When I Close My Eyes by Elizabeth Musser

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After famous author Josephine Bourdillon is shot and trapped in a coma, she dreams about her past and her future as her physical body fights to survive.  Her daughter, Paige, is struggling to understand how God can allow something like this to happen to their family.  She befriends the reclusive Henry, who is harboring secrets of his own and also facing his own demons.  But somewhere out there, despite the stressful emotions of each of them, the shooter is determined to finish the job.

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Oh. My. Goodness. This book was emotionally charged, deeply thought provoking, and seriously amazing!  I absolutely fell in love with each of these characters as they face tests of faith regarding God’s purpose and plan for their lives.  There are realistic struggles with depression and the overwhelming demonstration of forgiveness.  I found myself crying more than once over the emotion behind what each character experienced.  It was extremely difficult to put the book down, and even when I paused in reading to do activities of my daily life, I found the words and themes of the story sticking with me.  The ending is so beautiful and wraps everything up well.  The writing was real and touching.  The author has such a unique ability to craft such rich characters and themes!  It was easy to connect with the characters and to relate to their growth and the spiritual lessons to my own life.  Like all of her novels, Elizabeth Musser pens yet another book that is deeply powerful and definitely worth the read.  I cannot recommend this book enough!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author.  Opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.