#BookReview: The Wedding Ranch by Nancy Naigle

Awkwardly Titled Slow Burn Hallmarkie Romance. This is one of those romances where it feels like Naigle was leaning perhaps a bit too hard into her Hallmark stories – as this one is dang near a cross between a Hallmark movie and something similar to Great American Country’s Heartland. If you like small towns and saying your prayers and going to church… yeah, this story is going to be right up your alley. If you’re opposed to any of the above, and particularly if you’re strongly/ vitriolically opposed to the above… maybe just skip this one and save yourself some time and spare the author a bad review over something that was never going to be a good fit for you to begin with.

But for those who *do* enjoy this type of story – and clearly, there is a large enough segment of the population to make a comfortable career within this space across several different mediums of art – this is a pretty solid story that goes down pretty well how you expect. A lot of small town interaction, some ranch riding, some will they/ won’t they (even though this is a romance and you *know* they eventually will), and being that this is of the “good Christian story” type, you know there isn’t going to be anything beyond a light kiss or so.

No, the biggest real criticism of the book is, as some others have mentioned, the titular venue only plays a minor role – which could be explained away more if this were Book 2 in a series, as it often feels that it is. And yet, from everything I’ve been able to see on Goodreads and elsewhere, this is truly a standalone book. Though *technically*, I suppose, the “Ranch” includes more than just the venue… including much of where this story takes place. So in a larger sense, it may actually work in the end. This still doesn’t excuse such *deep* backstory that seriously, this could have even been a Book 3, with Book 1 and 2 focusing on the creation of the venue and Book 2 focusing on some aspect of the friends in Raleigh. (Obviously perhaps not Lori herself, but the male friend – who features prominently in the couple here initially getting together and then again in the end of this tale – would make for a good center piece for one of these theoretical earlier book.)

Overall this is still a strong tale of its type, and well told. Very much recommended.

This review of The Wedding Ranch by Nancy Naigle was originally written on November 18, 2022.

#BookReview: A Wild River Match by Jennifer Snow

Short And Fun Valentine’s Romance Novella. This is a short and fun novella where the main conflict is that our leading dude used to date our leading lady’s sister, and while both are attracted to each other in this forced-proximity mishap, the sister weighs heavily on them both. Given that this is a 70 ish page novella… there isn’t a lot of room for much more conflict than that, and Snow works well within the space she has allowed herself here to show a full romance, but quicker and with fewer details in certain areas and less overall conflict/ adventures. Still, yet again, for long time fans looking for a quick book to hit whatever arbitrary reading goal you have or for those new to Snow looking for a quick taste to see if you’re even going to like her style of storytelling, this is a solid book for both camps and for anyone in between. Very much recommended.

This review of A Wild River Match by Jennifer Snow was originally written on November 2, 2022.

#BookReview: An Alaskan Christmas Homecoming by Jennifer Snow

Fun And Short Christmas Novella. This is a 50 ish page novella that packs a punch, particularly for anyone who has ever felt like the black sheep in the family. Solid Christmas theming, complete with decorations, a “Scrooge”, and forgiveness. Oh yeah, and even a complete romance tale that checks off all of the “rules” I am aware of, while not going into a *ton* of detail on any given aspect – the difference in a 50 page novella and a 300+ page novel. ๐Ÿ˜‰ For those looking for an introduction to the author and/ or this series, this tale works well as only a minimal time commitment to give them a try. For fans of the series, this is more of a quick bite between longer tales, and for readers – like this one – who are fans of the author and series who are looking for a quick book to meet some arbitrary reading goal quickly… here ya go. ๐Ÿ˜€ Very much recommended.

This review of An Alaskan Christmas Homecoming by Jennifer Snow was originally written on November 2, 2022.

#BookReview: A Homestead Holiday by Elizabeth Bromke

Complex And Short Tale. Bromke manages to show that if a storyteller is truly great, they can manage to pack quite a bit of complexity into a still short-ish (seemingly less than 200 page) book. Here, Bromke manages to show a teacher’s passion for her particular craft, a son’s devastation over losing his father, and how the two can come together in some very unexpected ways. Heck, she even manages to toss in elements reminiscent of Mr. Holland’s Opus (without the actual concert). And again, all in a short-ish book and *while still telling a compelling romance tale* to boot! Truly excellent work. Very much recommended.

This review of A Homestead Holiday by Elizabeth Bromke was originally written on November 1, 2022.

#BookReview: Marlowe Banks, Redesigned by Jacqueline Firkins

Fish Out Of Water Romance That Shows That Not Everything Is As It Seems. This is a fish out of water romance between a barely-has-a-job clothing designer assistant for a TV show… and one of said show’s stars. It is very much a slow burn, enemies to lovers type and yet still meets every RWA requirement. This noted, it does get a touch preachy about the differences between the characters actors portray and the actor themselves, though it *does* manage to keep much of this preachiness within the context of the story being told here – so that is good at least. ๐Ÿ™‚ Yet another romance where honest communication from the get-go could probably have saved about 80%+ of the overall friction/ drama between the couple, this one is still fairly light and funny despite its at-times heavy handedness noted above. Overall a fun look at a side of Hollywood not often seen, and written by someone with seemingly at least some knowledge of that particular setting. Very much recommended.

This review of Marlowe Banks, Redesigned by Jacqueline Firkins was originally written on October 23, 2022.

#BookReview: Alaska For Christmas by Jennifer Snow

Cold Weather Rescues, Amnesia, and Christmas Romance In Alaska! This is a solid tale with a few cold-weather rescues on both land and sea for the Port Serenity Coast Guard and our leading male… including one where he has to rescue our leading female… only to later discover she now has amnesia from her ordeal! It is at this point that the actual Christmas Romance portion of the novel sets in, and here too Snow does her usual strong romance work, including featuring some dates that seem possible only in Alaska or similarly northern locales. For those “clean” / “sweet” romance types… umm… this isn’t exactly erotica, but the reader is in the room for certain situations. So if you’re not a fan of such scenes… well, they’re fairly standard in most romance novels and this one is included there. Overall a strong novel that fulfills all the standard RWA rules while telling a fun and at times harrowing tale. Very much recommended.

This review of Alaska For Christmas by Jennifer Snow was originally written on October 16, 2022.

#BookReview: Love In The Forecast by Jennifer Snow

Short And Sweet Older Romance. This is a short and sweet – with a dash of danger – romance featuring two adults in the late 40s or older after their first marriages break apart for different reasons. Snow manages to show her skill in crafting a complete romance tale in under 50 pages, with the only difference between this and the 300 ish page Alaska For Christmas that it can be acquired bundled with being that in the longer text, obviously more things actually happen (on all angles). Here though, again, we *do* in fact get a solid and plausible romance, one that even the sweet/ clean crowd should be ok with – and we get it in under 50 pages, making it a solid and safe introduction to Snow and this particular series, for new readers to either. Very much recommended.

This review of Love In The Forecast by Jennifer Snow was originally written on October 16, 2022.

#BookReview: Built To Last by Erin Hahn

Hallmarkie Romcom Within HGTV model. This is a Hallmark type romantic comedy where 90 min+ of movie (or, in this case, 300+ pages) could probably be condensed to about 15 (min or pages) if the characters would just *be honest with each other*. So if that kind of thing irritates the Hades out of you… know up front that this is the kind of story you’re getting into here.

For everyone else, this is actually a smart and fun (and yes, steamy – again, if you don’t like being in the room with characters having sex… not the book for you either) tale that name drops quite a bit from real-world Hollywood, including National Geographic, Chip and JoAnna Gaines, and several other HGTV home reno type couples. If you enjoy those types of shows and wish you could see more “behind the scenes”, particularly as the couple first got together… this is going to be pretty much your ideal romance tale.

Overall this really was quite an enjoyable read, and seemed to read faster than its 300+ page count would generally indicate. Very much recommended.

This review of Built To Last by Erin Hahn was originally written on October 15, 2022.

#BookReview: Mistakes Were Made by Meryl Wilsner

Dang Near Erotica Level MILF Lesbian* RomCom. Seriously: Read the title of this review. If that type of book isn’t for you for any reason at all… save yourself the time and the author the 1* review and just find something else to read. The sex scenes start in Chapter 1 and are fairly frequent throughout the book – and *far* from closed door. XXX “on screen”, in fact. And all the sex is between a 40 something woman whose daughter is in college and a 21yo female college senior. Again, if that isn’t your thing… just move on. Finally, there are f-bombs and other curse words quite heavily as well (not sailor/ programmer level, but also not Independent Baptist Church level either). So yet again, not your thing… just move on. Please.

For anyone else that is still here… this is a somewhat slow ish angsty romcom, but the resolution comes perhaps a bit too quickly once it finally gets to that point. Still, there actually is a decent amount of drama here, and a seemingly realistic (enough) portrayal of people actually in these types of situations. The comedy part of the “romcom” label is mostly in the initial few scenes between the leading couple, but there are laughs to be had throughout the book and the romance itself picks up when the comedy wanes, so it works. Really the only quibble for those still here is the flash-forward epilogue, which is one of those things your mileage may vary on but which does add a bit of humor to the tail end of the tale.

Overall this was a solid tale well told, and the characters themselves are rare enough that anyone seeking “something different” will find this quite refreshing indeed. Very much recommended.

*Note: While the characterization of the leading couple is *actually* bisexual, according to the text here, and one has even been married and had a kid (and the other had a boyfriend before the events of the book), the only romantic/ sexual relationships actually in the book are all of the sapphic nature, and thus for actual purposes of review would be considered lesbian in at least some circles.

This review of Mistakes Were Made by Meryl Wilsner was originally written on October 8, 2022.

#BlogTour: Home Sweet Christmas by Susan Mallery

For this blog tour, we’re looking at the second book in a series of Hallmark Christmas Romance-type tales that feels like it was only tangentially related to its first book, The Christmas Wedding Guest. For this blog tour, we’re looking at Home Sweet Christmas by Susan Mallery.

Here’s what I had to say about it on Goodreads:

Hallmarkie Christmas Tale. This was a solid Christmas tale with a pair of romances in small town Washington State that features a *lot* of meddling by a mother/ “adoptive” mother who wants grandkids. You’ve got the expected small town charm, the native-who-left-and-came-back part of the couple (for one of the two romances), the out-of-towner (for the other), the successful businessman, the “normal” guy with a major (yet amazing) secret… basically, everything any Hallmark Christmas Romance movie enthusiast expects to see in their stories. And Mallery, as usual, does a solid job of using her 400 ish pages to fully flesh out this story without ever feeling overly long in the process. Truly a solid story well told, and a worthy addition to this series and Mallery’s overall catalog. Very much recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt from the book followed by the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: Home Sweet Christmas by Susan Mallery”