#BlogTour: The Wishing Bridge by Viola Shipman

For this blog tour, we’re looking at a solid Hallmarkie Christmas tale, perhaps with a not-as-typical feature. For this blog tour, we’re looking at The Wishing Bridge by Viola Shipman.

Here’s what I had to say on the review sites (Hardcover.app, TheStoryGraph, BookHype, Goodreads):

Solid Hallmarkie Christmas Movie. The main way you’re at least somewhat positive Viola Shipman wrote this particular one is that it is set in her (his) beloved Michigan. Beyond that, this is a fairly standard and typical Hallmarkie type Christmas tale of the young girl who loves the magic of Christmas growing up into a successful business tycoon before coming back to her small hometown for Christmas. Indeed, probably the one thing that makes this one at least a *touch* different is that our heroine is *also* (theoretically) the villain…

Filled with the wonders of Christmas as portrayed in the US 1970s ish, complete with department stores sending out toy catalogs at Christmas and the ubiquitous Boris Karloff How The Grinch Stole Christmas, this is yet another tale that so many fans of Hallmark Christmas movies will absolutely love – and those who despise those types of tales will most likely not like much at all. And yes, there is a loveable and old dog.

Overall a solid tale of its type, if not a particularly standout “Viola Shipman” novel. Still, very much recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt from the book followed by the “publisher details” – book excerpt, book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: The Wishing Bridge by Viola Shipman”

#BookReview: The Christmas Wager by Holly Cassidy

Solid Hallmarkie Christmas Romance. For the millions – AND MILLIONS! 😉 – of the Hallmark Christmas Movie fans… here is Hannah Mary McKinnon writing under a pen name giving you *exactly* the kind of story you love so much… with a *touch* of spice to boot. The pure-as-fresh-snow clean/ sweet crowd may not like certain scenes, but overall this book is exactly what it was designed to be and not one thing more – which is exactly what a book should be, to at least some schools of thought. Ultimately this book is going to come down to just how much you like that particular vibe. If you’re one of the types that can’t WAIT until Hallmark starts playing all Christmas movies, all the time, you’re going to love this book. If you’re one of the ones that sees the Hallmark Movie Channel and immediately flips to… literally *anything* else, even a channel dedicated to nothing more than paint drying videos… maybe this book isn’t for you. 😉 This isn’t necessarily a short read at roughly 350 pages, but it also isn’t a slog fest that you’re going to fight to get through (assuming you like these types of tales) either. A nice change of pace from McKinnon’s much more serious women’s fiction books under her actual name (which are also great, and something maybe the anti-Hallmark readers should consider instead :D), and I look forward to McKinnon continuing to write both types of books. Very much recommended.

This review of The Christmas Wager by Holly Cassidy was originally written on September 28, 2023.

#BlogTour: The Book Club Hotel by Sarah Morgan

For this blog tour, we’re looking at another Hallmarkie type Christmas tale done exactly as fans of such tales expect. For this blog tour, we’re looking at The Book Club Hotel by Sarah Morgan.

Here’s what I had to say on the review sites (Goodreads, Hardcover.app, TheStoryGraph, BookHype):

Solid Sarah Morgan Christmas Tale. For long time fans of Morgan or those who have never heard of her, know that this particular tale is *exactly* the type of tale she always tells for Christmas, at least in my few years’ experience reading her books. In this particular case, it is long time friends – each with their own secrets they’ve been hiding from the others – reuniting for Christmas at a small town bed and breakfast… that happens to have some needs of its own that these three friends just so happen to be particularly well suited to help with. You’ve got the Hallmarkie charm and at least one romance thread, you’ve got the female friends bonding even more, you’ve got the small Northeastern town at Christmas, complete with all the decorations and snow. You’ve got the slight flair for the dramatic, just to spice things up a bit. And overall you’ve got the great “cozy-read-by-the-fireplace-in-the-evening” feel that Morgan so often brings to the table so well. Again, nothing truly earth shattering here… but sometimes “not earth shattering” is exactly the kind of book you’re looking for. 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: The Book Club Hotel by Sarah Morgan”

#BookReview: Someone Just Like You by Meredith Schorr

Hilarious NYC-Based Rom-Com. This book has several different things going on at once, which can seem a bit chaotic – and seems to be meant to. The base setup, of two sets of siblings planning a joint anniversary party for both sets of parents, is chaotic enough. Then you throw in the actual romance here, of a boy and girl who almost literally grew up together and have a lifetime of bickering with each other and pranking each other behind them (which we get to see a lot of), and it becomes a recipe for… well, everything. The love is deep and heartfelt – even as neither of them realizes it. The comedy, both in the past and present, is pure gold. The drama… is both real (parents) and Hallmarkie (romance) and yet also comedic (a famous movie that has been remade at least twice, but revealing which one reveals things about the book). Overall, it hits all the genre “rules” and while it isn’t for the “sweet”/ “clean” crowd, also isn’t anywhere near erotica level either. In fact, as others have mentioned (both positively and negatively), the first “encounter” is rather comedic (and, I would argue, *real*).

At the end of the day, this is one of those kinds of books where your mileage really will vary. If you love zany “what the fuck” stories with a LOT of side characters and all kinds of stuff happening all around the main storyline, you’re going to love this book. The more you have a problem with that kind of setup, the less you’re going to enjoy this one.

Overall, I thought this was freaking hilarious and truly well done. Very much recommended.

This review of Someone Just Like You by Meredith Schorr was originally written on July 25, 2023.

#BookReview: Sex Ed by Kristen Bailey

Fun With Sex. My god this review is going to get me on so many porn bot radars, isn’t it? But the title here really fits – starting with the very title of the book, “Sex Ed”…. which then features a 28yo virgin named Ed being taught about sex by his wildchild best friend. The friends to lovers trope is in perfect display here, the friendship and trust there deeply established… until we get into Hallmarkie level drama at the exact point in the story you expect Hallmarkie level drama in a romcom. We even have the “interesting grandparent” trope hitting and hitting well, as well as some sisterly bonding. And yes, there is a lot of sex, pretty much all of it “on screen”. So if you’re not a fan of that… maybe the title here (of the book and/ or review) clued you in that this isn’t the best book for you? Speaking of the sex, while not necessarily the “oh my God this is nuclear hot” type found in some other works, this was more of the playful variety that to my mind is just as important in a relationship and doesn’t always get the attention it deserves in romcom books in particular. So kudos to Ms. Bailey for going that direction with it, it was clearly an inspired choice. Overall a fun tale that will offend few other than those actively looking to be offended, great for both fans of romcoms and for those looking for some level of a “palate cleanser” from darker tales. Very much recommended.

This review of Sex Ed by Kristen Bailey was originally written on June 30, 2023.

#BookReview: Second Chance Alaska by Jennifer Snow

Spicy Tropey Romance. Up front: If you prefer no sex/ “fade to black” sex in your romance books… this one isn’t for you. The sex in this one would get an automatic NC-17 if it was ever shown on film exactly as described in the text, even though there are only a couple such scenes in the book. That covers the spicy side of the title, but what about the tropey bit? Well, we’ve got a widower who hates his job, embraces his family legacy… but would love to leave it. He also happens to have one remaining daughter after his wife and older daughter vanished in the period before this story takes place – and yes, he does eventually get his closure on those topics within this story, thanks to cameos from other characters earlier in the series. We’ve got the small town shop owner (a book shop, in this case) who is perhaps a touch secretive about a few things… that she then learns maybe she wasn’t as secretive as she thought she’d been. And our shop owner happens to be the best friend of the missing wife… who harbors hidden feelings for our widower. So like I said, very tropey, very Hallmarkie type small town romance. If that is your jam and you either don’t mind or even actively like the higher heat level here… Snow always manages to slam these types of stories out of the park, and this one is absolutely no different. With the particular events in this book, I would actually recommend newbies start at least at the beginning of this Wild Coast series (even if you don’t go all the way back to the Wild Alaska series it spun off from, which isn’t really necessary to understand the events of this particular book). Readers who have already read the first two books were going to read this one anyway… but I’m fairly positive most will agree with me that this was another excellent entry into the series. And while it almost seems like our story in Port Serenity has finished, particularly with some of the seeming meta commentary built into this tale… that bonus novella advertised on the cover (Love In The Alaskan Wilds, a separate review for me) points to the idea that perhaps Snow isn’t quite finished with Port Serenity after all. Overall, as mentioned, a solid romance tale well told as always, and very much recommended.

This review of Second Chance Alaska by Jennifer Snow was originally written on March 21, 2023.

#BookReview: The Bookshop By The Bay by Pamela Kelly

To Mothers And Daughters And Best Friends Forever! Yes, the title is a line from near the end of the book. But I thought it summed up the book quite well – this is ultimately a story of girl power, of friends and family and the family you choose. It is a lighter-side Hallmarkie type tale where there is some amount of drama, but most of the tale is women finding their paths at various ages and stages of life. Yes, there is some romance here (though with no sex scenes, for the clean/ sweet crowd), but really the focus really is squarely on the various women at hand. While the men are never *quite* caricatures, there is certainly a fair amount lacking in their characterizations and indeed even ultimate importance to the story, but that is perhaps to be expected with the type of tale crafted here. Foodies – and those aware that Kelley has written at least two fiction tales specifically about a restaurant – will love the descriptions of the meals and drinks here. This is clearly designed, from its storytelling to its cover to even its early June release date, to be designated a “beach read”, and it absolutely feels comfortable in that type of space. Very much recommended.

This review of The Bookshop By The Bay by Pamela Kelly was originally written on January 1, 2023.

#BookReview: Forever Hold Your Peace by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke

New Spin On Wedding Wars. Fenton and Steinke manage to craft a new, much more dramatic yet still hilarious, spin on the Wedding Wars trope, this time by introducing quite a bit of explosive drama between three of the four parents involved. Yes, the drama itself takes up more of the pages than those who prefer a less dramatic romcom will probably like, but overall it works here to elevate the trope and provide a good bit of “meat” for those who are looking for something a bit sturdier than yet another vapid romcom whose details will be forgotten seconds after finishing it. Instead, this one will challenge you without putting *too* much pressure and will show you things you might not have otherwise considered – particularly if you’re one of the not-small population that can readily identify with much of the drama herein. And yet, ultimately this is more Lifetime meets Hallmark than anything *truly* dark and foreboding – it *is*, still, at its heart, a romantic comedy. Just one with a bit more bite than usual, which helps elevate it over so many of its genre siblings. Very much recommended.

This review of Forever Hold Your Peace by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke was originally written on December 23, 2022.

#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.

#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”