Thursday, December 23, 2021

A Courtship Christmas by Shelley Shepard Gray

 Title:  A Courtship Christmas

Author: Shelley Shepard Gray

Narrated by:  Tavia Gilbert

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio

Length: Approximately 7 hours and 22 minutes

Source: Review Copy from Simon & Schuster Audio.  Thank-you!

 Atle Petersheim has a crush on widow Sadie Mast.  He is a quiet man that loves his work as a carpenter.  He is not sure how to go about courting Sadie.  She hires him to make a new room for her oldest son, Cale.  Cale has a crush of his own on his employers’ daughter, Hope.  Atle asks the bookmobile librarian, Sarah Anne, for help on how to court Sadie.  Instead of a self-help book, she loans him a modern romance in which she believes he will find inspiration.  Atle is embarrassed, but he does find inspiration in the book.  Will Atle be able to work up the courage to ask Sadie to court him?  After a disastrous first date with Hope, will Cale be able to win back her and her parents’ approval?

 I loved this audiobook.  It was a sweet clean Amish romance.  I really liked how there was a quote from Atle’s romance novel at the start of each chapter.  I felt vested in that story as well.  I loved both the forty something and teenage romances in this novel.  This is the third book in the series, but I haven’t read the rest of the series and I felt it worked well as a standalone. 

 I really enjoyed the characters.  Atle was a good man, but socially awkward.  Sadie’s first husband was verbally and physically abusive to her and her three children.  They are trying to figure out how to make it and move forward since his death.  Cale is a good boy, but at sixteen, he feels like he has to be the man of the house since his father’s death.  He wonders if he’ll be able to have his own life.  Hope has always felt like she was not as good as her older sister and self-conscious about her weight.  I like how through the novel she learns how to stand up for herself.

 I loved the thoughtful Christmas gifts in the novel, and I really liked the narrator.  This was a very enjoyable Christmas audiobook that would be enjoyable any time of year.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Dear Santa by Debbie Macomber

It isn’t Christmas without a new Debbie Macomber novel.  Dear Santa, is a sweet story.  Lindy Carmichael has returned to her hometown for Christmas.  She doesn’t have the Christmas spirit after finding out that her boyfriend was cheating on her with her best friend.  Her mother tries to lift her spirits by showing her old letters she had written to Santa as a youth.  As a lark, Lindy writes an adult version to Santa asking for a new best friend and boyfriend.  She soon rediscovers her old childhood best friend Peggy and her nemesis Billy.  Will Lindy be able to put her life back together and rediscover the magic of Christmas?

I loved this shorty and cozy story.  It was filled with the spirit of Christmas.  I really loved this premise with the letters to Santa.  It made me wonder what I wrote to Santa about as a kid.  I loved Billy’s story as well.  Isn’t it interesting as an adult to really learn about others that you grew up with and discover that there was a lot going on that you didn’t know about?  This book is a clean read and does have a magical Santa in it as well.  I liked the reconnection with family and friends, and the rethinking of life after it falls apart. 

I read Dear Santa as the December pick for the Brenda Novak Book Group.  Brenda Novak had a fun Christmas party with Debbie Macomber which can still be viewed on her Facebook page.  Debbie Macomber talks about her inspiration for this novel.  It was a lot of fun!

Overall, Dear Santa is an enjoyable Christmas novel.

Book Source:  Review copy from Netgalley. Thank-you! I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Monday, December 20, 2021

The Gift by Richard Paul Evans

 I love Richard Paul Evans Christmas books.  The Gift a little bit older book that I missed.  It was chosen as the December pick for the Page-turner’s Book Club at the Kewaunee Public Library.  I was excited to read this one and to discuss it with the club last week.

Nathan Hurst works security at Music World.  He travels the country to ensure that employee theft is not happening at their stores.  On one trip, he meets a single mother, Addison, who is trying to get back to Salt Lake City with her two children.  Stranded at the airport, he helps the family out by letting them sleep in his suite at the hotel.  Addison’s son Collin has leukemia, but he also has a special gift to be able to heal people.  Each time he uses his gift, he gets weaker.  He uses his gift on Nathan to cure him of his cold and of his Tourette’s Syndrome.  As the world finds out about Collin, what will he do with his gift?  Will Nathan be able to reconcile his past and move forward in life?

This was a touching story with plenty to discuss.  I didn’t know much about Tourette’s Syndrome, and I like that Richard Paul Evans put in the forward that he has Tourette’s and the symptoms he describes are his own.  Nathan’s back story gets revealed by the end, but I still had a hard time with his treatment of his mother.  She has dementia and is in a nursing home.  He hasn’t visited her in three years!!!  I know they didn’t have the best of relationships, but that just seemed very cold to me.  I did like the romance between Nathan and Addison.  The villains were very one-dimensional, but fun to hate in this story.  This book did make you ponder about what you would do with such a gift and how it could be used for both good and evil.

Overall, The Gift is a touching and thought-provoking Christmas story

Book Source:  Kewaunee Public Library.  Thank-you!

Sunday, December 19, 2021

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Super Easy! By Ree Drummond


As a working mother, the “Super Easy!” part of this title called to me. I have previously read and enjoyed Drummond’s autobiography, a previous cookbook, and some of her children’s books.  I will admit that recipes from her past cookbook that I had were very tasty, although one was too hot for my midwestern taste.  I was eager to try out this new cookbook. 

I was happy to see that recipes had a hot and a not so hot option for people like me that like some spice and not a lot.  There were a lot of great chapters including breakfast, apps & snacks, salads, soups & stews, pizza & sandwiches, pasta & grains, easy skillets, lovin’ from oven, terrific tex-mex, and desserts.  There is also a section on superhero shortcuts and top nine must have cooking staples to save time.  As a busy mother, I already use most of the shortcuts and have the cooking staples in my cupboard. . . except for canned peppers and hot sauces!

Each recipe has beautiful pictures that show the final product and all of the steps to make the dish.  There is a paragraph about the recipe, an ingredients list, and then step by step instructions with pictures for each step.  The only thing that was confusing when making the recipes is that the step-by-step pictures go in columns from top to bottom, left to right, rather than just left to right like when you are regularly reading a page.  At the end of the recipe is a list of variations that can be used on the recipe to change it up.

My husband Ben made the Teriyaki Chicken Sheet Pan Supper recipe for us for dinner one night and it was delicious.  Even our picky kids liked the chicken.  We did use green onions rather than asparagus as that is what we had on hand.  It was a delicious, relatively easy, and healthy dinner after work one night.  We have other recipes tagged that we will try out soon.

Overall, The Pioneer Woman Cooks:  Super Easy!  Is a great cookbook with interesting new recipes for busy nights after work.

Book Source:  Review Copy from William Morrow. Thank-you! I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

A Hopeful Holiday by Heather Moll

A Hopeful Holiday is a delightful Pride and Prejudice variation novella set at Christmas time.  In this variation, Lady Catherine never visited Elizabeth, and Darcy never returned after helping out Lydia.  Bingley and Jane are happily married, but Elizabeth has not found her happily ever after.  Mr. Darcy is visiting his Aunt Catherine for the holidays when he discovers that Elizabeth is visiting her friend Charlotte Collins and her new baby.  Elizabeth is invited to Lady Catherine’s New Year’s Masquerade Ball.  Lady Catherine’s other nephew, Hugh, is also visiting and tries to thwart both Darcy and Elizabeth’s desires.  Will they finally be able to tell each other about their changed feelings?

 I LOVED this variation.  It was a sweet story.  I also liked that the variation was very late in the original novel so most of the original story was still in place.  What is always important to me in a Pride and Prejudice variation are the characters.  Author Heather Moll wrote the characters delightfully and true to the original novel.  She also preserved the humor and the romance from the original novel.  I really liked Elizabeth and Darcy’s second chance romance in this novel.

 I was delighted to learn that every year the Fitzwilliam relations had a drawing of lots together to determine which two relations would go to visit Lady Catherine for Christmas that year.  “It was a matter of duty rather than affection that two of them wait on Lady Catherine for the holiday season.  The group collectively agreed that no one suffer Christmas at Rosings along.”  I laughed out loud at this part.

 I loved that Mr. Collins is such a wonderful father.  He loved having his own child and helped Charlotte out.  This really endeared Mr. Collins to me and really made the relationship of the Collins really work for me in this variation.

 I enjoyed the Masquerade Ball.  It was very romantic with Darcy and Elizabeth trying to find each other and express their true feelings.  It was also hilarious that Lady Catherine really wanted to find suitors for Elizabeth, but in the most demeaning way possible.

 Favorite Quotes:

“I suppose this is the part of the evening when I must ask by what name shall I call you?”

 “Call me yours.”

 Overall, A Hopeful Holiday is a wonderful Austenesque Christmas story and great Pride and Prejudice variation.  I highly recommend it.  I will definitely be reading more from Heather Moll!

 Book Source:  Purchased from

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Shadows of Swanford Abbey by Julie Klassen (Austenprose PR Book Tour)

 Miss Rebecca Lane is a paid companion to Lady Fitzhoward in the year 1820.  She has finally returned to her home village in England after traveling for the past few years.  She is surprised to find her brother in a state.  He has no room for her in the lodge he lives in, and he would like her to deliver his latest manuscript to a publisher that is staying at the nearby Swanford Abbey. 

 Swanford Abbey has been transformed into a high-class hotel.  Lady Fitzhoward is also staying at the Abbey and Rebecca is able to get a small room that fits into her budget.  Her childhood friend and crush, Sir Frederick, is also staying at the abbey. Rebecca starts to notice strange things such as a mysterious figure gliding around dressed as a nun and hushed secret conversations.  When a guest is murdered, Rebecca fears that it may have been her brother.  As Sir Frederick investigates, will Rebecca be able to prove her and her brother’s innocence?

 I loved this novel.  It is a perfect combination of gothic and romance.  It is like a Jane Austen novel and Charlotte Bronte novel blended together.  I loved all of the gothic details such as the mysterious figure, secret staircases, mysterious deaths, etc.  I also loved that everyone seemed to have a secret, but they all had a good explanation.  Rebecca is a great character.  I loved her world of being the daughter of a vicar but having to be a paid companion.  She’s not quite a lady and not quite a servant and is in a precarious social position.  I also loved Sir Frederick and the secret of his past with his first wife.  I love how he took over the investigation and helped to solve the mystery.    

 I have enjoyed Julie Klassen’s novels in the past.  This one is more of a suspense and historical mystery like The Secret of Pembroke Park.  I enjoyed it.

 Overall, Shadows of Swanford Abbey is a wonderful historical mystery with great characters and story.  I highly recommend it.

 Book Source:  Review Copy from Bethany House / Baker Publishing. Thank-you! I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.


·       Title: Shadows of Swanford Abbey

·       Author: Julie Klassen

·       Genre: Regency Romance, Historical Suspense, Inspirational Fiction

·       Publisher: Bethany House Publishers (December 7, 2021)

·       Length: (416) pages

·       Format: Hardcover, trade paperback, eBook, & audiobook 

·       Tour Dates: December 6-17, 2021



Agatha Christie meets Jane Austen in this atmospheric Regency tale brimming with mystery, intrigue, and romance.

When Miss Rebecca Lane returns to her home village after a few years away, her brother begs for a favor: go to nearby Swanford Abbey and deliver his manuscript to an author staying there who could help him get published. Feeling responsible for her brother's desperate state, she reluctantly agrees.

The medieval monastery turned grand hotel is rumored to be haunted. Once there, Rebecca begins noticing strange things, including a figure in a hooded black gown gliding silently through the abbey's cloisters. For all its renovations and veneer of luxury, the ancient foundations seem to echo with whispers of the past--including her own. For there she encounters Sir Frederick—magistrate, widower, and former neighbor—who long ago broke her heart.

When the famous author is found murdered in the abbey, Sir Frederick begins questioning staff and guests and quickly discovers that several people held grudges against the man, including Miss Lane and her brother. Haunted by a painful betrayal in his past, Sir Frederick searches for answers but is torn between his growing feelings for Rebecca and his pursuit of the truth. For Miss Lane is clearly hiding something…



Author Julie Klassen shares her inspiration for Shadows of Swanford Abbey



"A brilliant Agatha Christie-esque whodunit by reader favorite Julie Klassen. Set in the creepy atmosphere of an old abbey, Shadows of Swanford Abbey will keep you guessing until the very end. There's plenty of danger, intrigue, and—yes—romance to delight Regency-era lovers of all ages. Truly a don't-miss read!"—Michelle Griep, Christy Award-winning author of Once Upon a Dickens Christmas

“If you enjoy historical fiction with equal blends MYSTERY (suspense) and ROMANCE, then I recommend Shadows of Swanford Abbey with you wholeheartedly without any reservations. This may just be my FAVORITE Klassen novel yet.”—Becky Laney, Becky’s Book Reviews

“Once again Julie Klassen has delivered an intriguing book with all kinds of mystery and a few ghosts added in made it all worth the midnight oil I burned because I didn't want to put it down!”—Lori Parrish, Red Headed Book Lady







Julie Klassen loves all things Jane—Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. Her books have sold over a million copies, and she is a three-time recipient of the Christy Award for Historical Romance. The Secret of Pembrooke Park was honored with the Minnesota Book Award for Genre Fiction. Julie has also won the Midwest Book Award and Christian Retailing's BEST Award and has been a finalist in the RITA and Carol Awards. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Julie worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full time. She and her husband have two sons and live in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota.




Monday, December 13, 2021

Jane and the Year Without a Summer by Stephanie Barron


What is your favorite novel, movie, or TV show with an author as the main character?

 The Year is 1816.  In what will be the last full year of Jane Austen’s life, a volcanic eruption has caused global climate change that has brought about crop failure and global famine. This is the summer that Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein.  It is also the summer that Jane Austen spent a fortnight in Cheltenham Spa with her sister Cassandra to improve her health. 

 While in Cheltenham Spa, Jane and Cassandra meet an entire host of characters while staying at Mrs. Potter’s boarding house.  While one Mr. Garthwaite expostulates that the end of the world is neigh, Jane and Cassandra find themselves in the middle of a murder mystery after a masquerade ball.  Also visiting Cheltenham is Mr. Raphael West, an artist who Jane has previously solved a mystery with and has a spark with. Will Jane be able to solve this mystery?

 I loved this book.  I first started reading this series almost twenty years ago.  I feel that Stephanie Barron really has Jane Austen written as a relatable and wonderful character that matches the wit of her letters.  The research for the novels is wonderful.  I always enjoy the notes in the text to explain the history as well as the great author’s note at the end.  I feel like I get to enjoy learning about Austen’s life and world, while also having a great mystery involved.  I loved the boarding house setting and the new cast of characters.  As Jane learned more about the characters and peeled away the layers it added more mystery.  The ending was a surprise to me.  I also loved the flirtations between Jane and Mr. Raphael West.

 This novel will be released on February 8, 2022, and I highly recommend it.

 Overall, Jane and the Year Without  Summer is a riveting history mystery with my favorite author, Jane Austen, as the heroine.

 Book Source: Review Copy from Publisher Soho Crime. Thank-you! I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Christmas in Peachtree Bluff by Kristy Woodson Harvey

Title:  Christmas in Peachtree Bluff 

Author: Kristy Woodson Harvey

Narrated by:  Shannon McManus, Janet Metzger, Rebekka Ross, Candace Thaxton, and Erin Ruth Walker

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio

Length: Approximately 9 hours and 24 minutes 

Source: Review Copy from Simon & Schuster Audio.  Thank-you!

Do you live close to your family or travel for the holidays?

Christmas in Peachtree Bluff is the story of the Murphy family.  Mother Ainsley is happy to have her three adult daughters (Caroline, Sloane, and Emerson) and her grandchildren in Peachtree Bluff to celebrate Thanksgiving.  Caroline and her husband James are going through a divorce and their teenage daughter, Vivi, is acting out.  Ansley and her husband Jack decide to take granddaughter Vivi with them on their vacation of their dreams to cruse around Australia.   As the storm of the century barrels down on Peachtree Bluff, will they be able to get out in time?  Will they all be together again for Christmas?

I am new to the world of Peachtree Bluff.  This book is the fourth in the series, but I felt like it gave enough background that I was able to read it as a stand-alone book.   I loved how this book was narrated by all of the women in the family; Ainsley, Caroline, Sloane, Emerson, and Vivi.  There were different audiobook narrators for each of these characters and I thought it gave the book great personality.

I enjoyed all of the characters and their family story.  There was definitely adventure, heartache, and love in this story.  I loved the small-town southern setting.  It was a great tale of forgiveness and of making new starts in life.  I will admit I had a hard time with the character of Vivi at first, but she grew on me after a while.  My parents also divorced when I was in my teen years.  Vivi seemed more than a tad irresponsible and the excuse of her parents getting divorced was a bit grating.  Especially as she seemed to be rewarded and never punished for her behavior.  Luckily some long forgotten treasure and new love stories endeared Vivi to me by the end.

Overall, Christmas in Peachtree Bluff is a cozy Christmas tale with love, family drama and a hurricane.  I need to read more from Kristy Woodson Harvey!

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Keep Me Warm at Christmas by Brenda Novak

Keep Me Warm at Christmas was the October read for the Brenda Novak Book Group.  I loved the book group meeting that Brenda Novak posted, especially the Christmas cookie decorating contest with her daughter.  You can still watch the book group meeting on her Facebook page. 

 Keep Me Warm at Christmas is the story of two damaged souls staying at their friend’s estate over Christmas.  Tia Beckett has just had her first starring role in a movie that has Oscar buzz, but a horrific car accident has scarred her face making her unrecognizable.  With the paparazzi hot on her trail to get pictures of her injuries, she is happy to house sit for her producer Max and watch his parrot. 

 Seth Turner is a brilliant artist with a troubled past.  After the death of his wife, he feel like he can never find love again.  He’s spending a semester in the town of Silver Springs to help teach art at the New Horizons Boys Ranch that his mother runs for troubled teens.  He is happy to accept his friend Max’s invitation to stay at his estate, but curious about the reclusive neighbor staying at the guest house. 

 I enjoyed the story of Tia and Seth getting to know each other as well as the intrigue of who sent the paparazzi to Silver Springs.  I loved how Tia and Seth’s stories unfolded as well as their love for each other.  I really loved Tia’s story about how you can move on from a traumatizing accident.  Brenda Novak said at her book club that she was intrigued on how star Jennifer Grey’s appearance changed so much after her plastic surgery and how that impacted her acting career.  Tia is facing a similar problem with her appearance changing from the accident.  I also love how Seth had to move on and deal with his heartache from his wife’s death, but also the heartache of being abandoned as a child.  As a famous artist, he had to deal with who is using him for his money versus who loves him for who he is.  I liked that part of the story.  I also loved how supportive he was to Tia.

 I have not read all of the novels in the Silver Spring Series, and this novel did well as a standalone.

 Overall, Keep Me Warm at Christmas is a heartwarming Christmas romance.

 Book Source:  Purchased from


Wednesday, December 8, 2021

A Longbourn Entanglement by Monica Fairview


What is your favorite literary gift to give or receive for Christmas?

I just finished A Longbourn Entanglement by Monica Fairview.  It’s a “sweet and short” Pride and Prejudice variation.  In this variation, Mrs. Bennet falls ill the morning after the Netherfield Ball while Mr. Bennet is away visiting an old friend.  Instead of leaving abruptly for London, Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley stay to help out the Bennet sisters in their time of trouble.  Will this situation bring the Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy closer together or drive them apart?

I loved the variation in this one.  Monica Fairview always captures Austen’s characters so perfectly.  I love how Elizabeth finally is able to tell the truth of the situation to Darcy and how he responds with a crushing set-down.  It seemed so in character!  I also loved how Mr. Bennet came back and had some wonderful moments.  This was just the type of book I needed right now.

Overall, if you are looking for a sweet variation on the classic Pride and Prejudice tale, I highly recommend A Longbourn Entanglement. 

Book Source:  A Review Copy from author Monica Fairview.  Thank-you! I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

The Christmas Promise by Richard Paul Evans


Title:  The Christmas Promise

Author: Richard Paul Evans

Narrated by:  Helene Maksoud

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio

Length: Approximately 5 hours and 54 minutes

Source: Review Copy from Simon & Schuster Audio.  Thank-you!

Richelle and Michelle Bach were twin sisters who couldn’t have been more different.  After an act of betrayal, Richelle can’t move on and forgive Michelle.  Richelle’s last promise to her dying Father was to forgive her sister, but after Michelle dies in a tragic accident, she is never able to fulfill this promise.  Richelle is a pediatric nurse and a budding author.  She meets Justin at a writer’s group, and they immediately hit it off.  Will Richelle be able to come to terms with her past?  What is Justin’s secret?

I love how this story was an exploration of The Prodigal Son parable from the Bible.  This story switches things around to have sisters rather than brothers.  As the novel says towards the end, the story is about the “good” sibling and their reaction to the “bad” sibling.  What does forgiveness mean to them? 

I did guess Justin’s secret pretty much immediately, but I still enjoyed this story.  It’s not Christmas to me without a Richard Paul Evans heartwarming audiobook.  Helene Maksoud was a good narrator.

Overall, The Christmas Promise is a heartwarming Christmas story of forgiveness.