Showing posts with label Nicole Deese. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Nicole Deese. Show all posts

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Review: The Kissing Tree: Four Novellas Rooted in Timeless Love by Karen Witemeyer, Regina Jennings, Amanda Dykes, Nicole Deese



My rating: 4 stars / I really liked it

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Synopsis

Bestselling novelist Karen Witemeyer joins award-winning authors Regina Jennings, Amanda Dykes, and Nicole Deese for this Texas-sized romance novella collection. Each of the authors' unique voices is on display in stories where courting couples leave a permanent mark of their love by carving their initials into the same oak's bark.  

In Regina Jennings' Broken Limbs, Mended Fences, a small-town teacher has her credentials questioned by a traveling salesman.

In Karen Witemeyer's Inn for a Surprise, two opinionated collaborators with conflicting visions must turn a doomed business venture into a successful romantic retreat.

From Roots to Sky by Amanda Dykes follows a young WWII naval airman who heads to Texas to meet the sister of a lost compatriot.

Heartwood 
by Nicole Deese is a modern-day romance about the groundskeeper of a historic inn who's reunited with someone from her past while she fights to save a town landmark.

My Review

I love beautiful old trees, so the theme of a tree connecting four generations really appealed to me. Because of the variety of eras and the authors writing the different stories, each was unique and incorporated the Kissing Tree in a different way. While each story and couple was interesting, I connected the most with the emotions of the first, by Regina Jennings. A dream-killing injury, a challenge to her job, a wager, and unrequited love lead to an unlikely friendship between Bella and a schoolmate from her past. I appreciated how Bella does her best to forgive and look for the good in Adam. He is back in the town he grew up in to sell the latest technology in harvesting, yet his former community has difficulty believing his promises. He and Bella both have something to prove, and the support they give each other goes a long way to make them both successful in their endeavors and relationship. They feel strongly and are compelling as they earnestly seek for solutions to their quandary.

Inn for a Surprise brings the gentle humor author Karen Witemeyer brings to all her books, and the conflicting opinions on what would please the clientele of a hotel brought fun banter as the competition between Phoebe and Barnabas teaches them to listen and compromise in order to make the inn its best. 

I most enjoyed in Roots to Sky was the long correspondence between Hannah and Luke, and the way they grew to know each other before ever meeting. The healing and slow-developing sweet romance when they finally meet is lovely.

Heartwood was a little heartbreaking, since the great old tree is coming to the end of its days. I was fascinated with Griffin's occupation of arborist and all the skills and knowledge it involves. Abby's grief over her father bleeds into her lifestyle and the way she can't leave behind his work on the grounds of the inn and move on with her own life choices. Griffin's return resurrects old hurts for both of them that they must face and resolve in order to take risks again and heal.


Disclosure statement: A complimentary copy of this book was provided from a tour group, publisher, publicist, or author, including NetGalley, OR was borrowed from the library, including OverDrive, OR borrowed from Kindle Unlimited, OR purchased. A review was not required and all views and opinions expressed are unbiased and my own.



Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Favorite Books of 2017: Contemporary Romance


I had a hard time narrowing this list down, but here it is- my top 10 contemporary fiction books that I gave 5 stars in 2017, along with my reviews- why I thought these books were AMAZING!


Love's Shadow by Nichole Van

Heidi Reads... Love's Shadow by Nichole Van

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The first book in the series, Gladly Beyond, was pretty amazing and made my list for favorites of 2016. This second book did not disappoint and I loved it just as much! Full of emotion, heartache, love, and hope, it brings out all the feels and I shed a few tears while reading. I loved the connection between Bran and Lucy, despite both of them thinking they harbored an unrequited love for each other. There are so many fun quirky details that really make their relationship come to life. The paranormal aspect of the plot isn't too over the top and is based in the family's history, so the modern setting wasn't too much of a contrast for the things Lucy and the D'Angelo family are experiencing, perhaps because it's set in Italy. The supernatural gift/curse that the brothers have form a bond between them and the dynamics are complicated and fascinating. I already can't wait to read more!!!


Paige's Turn by Jennifer Peel

Heidi Reads... Paige's Turn by Jennifer Peel

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This is a pretty special book. I loved Paige's character, especially her unique blend of grace and moxie. As confident as we are as adults, there's something about returning to a hometown that makes us remember or relive those feelings of vulnerability associated with our youth. I also feel this way on the rare occasion when I get together with friends from high school. My life now is so separate from my life then, I wonder if people who grow up in the same place and with the same people avoid this experience. Anyway, back to the book! Paige is compelled by the death of her aunt to return and follow Mitzi's wishes that she run the bookstore and reconnect with Sam, her former crush and current landscaper. The notes she leaves Paige are hilarious and heartwarming, making her a definite presence and influence in the book. There are a variety of community and family members that are vividly portrayed and I loved my experience spending time with Paige as she navigates the minefields of gossip, misunderstandings, and jealousy. She has cathartic and healing experiences and even some vindication when her confidence and success is accepted as her true self instead of being seen as the person she once was. A lovely journey with fun, drama, angst, and of course romance!


Rescue Me by Susan May Warren

Heidi Reads... Rescue Me by Susan May Warren

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I can hardly believe it, but I just might have loved this second book in the Montana Rescue series even more than the first!!! (And that's saying a lot...) The action is way ramped up throughout the entire book, and I was literally biting my fingernails at times. (It was like watching a movie in my head!) I love the author's method of including two romances in the story- the main one between Sam and Willow, and also one between team members Jess and Pete, Sam's younger brother. The characters are strong, yet flawed, and all their journeys- physical and emotional- are compelling and human. I think that's why I connected with this story- each character has some major hang-ups, but it made them easier to relate to as they struggled and tried their best to do what they felt was right. The romances were both very "will they/won't they" and kept me turning pages and invested in the outcome. 


True to You by Becky Wade

Heidi Reads... True to You by Becky Wade

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True to You is oh-so-good! It totally made me cry... and that's a good thing. By the end of the book I felt so much compassion for John and his struggle to accept and overcome some pretty tough things. As a mother who adopted her children, I completely related to the theme of adoption and was fascinated by Nora and John's search for his biological parents. The contrasts between Nora and John were stark, but their differences complemented each other and the chemistry between them was awesome. I loved the emotional journey they went on as they learned to trust God and rely on Him for peace and resolution. Nora's sisters were a fun and integral presence and I can't wait to read their stories!


Right Next to Me by Rachel Ward

Heidi Reads... Right Next to Me by Rachel Ward

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Right Next to Me was a pleasure to read! It alternated between two times of transition in Sydney's life, and the comparison was intriguing. In her early high school days she struggles through her parents' divorce and takes on more responsibility in her family, which influences her later priorities when she graduates high school and begins college. The sweet beginnings of her relationship with Gavin show how hard it is to let go when they take separate paths. I loved her friendship with James and it's pretty much obvious to everyone except Sydney how they belong together. The author was skillful in showing (instead of telling) the supportive nature of their relationship and how much they enjoyed each other's company. It was easy to connect to the characters' emotions and the angst they are feeling as their relationship dynamic becomes more complex. A great young adult novel about growing up, navigating difficult circumstances, and the importance of friendship and forgiveness.  


The Promise of a Letter by Kathleen Fuller

Heidi Reads... The Promise of a Letter by Kathleen Fuller

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I absolutely loved Leanna! She is a unique character that owns her eccentricities and enjoys her independence. I admired her confidence, yet in this story her confidence is deeply shaken when her life is turned upside down in more than one unforeseen way. The manner in which she deals with her new circumstances and new friendship with Roman shows her compassion and ability to forgive. I enjoyed seeing Roman's journey as he is searching for his place and purpose despite being the black sheep of the family. We also see the struggles of Roman's brother Daniel and his wife Barbara which are heartbreaking but also full of hope and God's grace. Even though Roman and Daniel's grandmother has passed away, she is a major influence in the book and the lives of these men as she encourages them via letter to reconcile and support each other. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and connecting with the characters!


A New Shade of Summer by Nicole Deese

Heidi Reads... A New Shade of Summer by Nicole Deese

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After Davis was let down by Willa in the previous book of the series, I was so hoping that the author would give him his own story of finding love. And she did! And it is fabulous! I love how different Callie is and exactly what Davis and Brandon need. Her personality shines right off the page and yet has complexity woven in. Her connection to Brandon's artistic side draws him out which makes Davis take notice, in more ways than one. I loved how she was able to perceive people and their strengths, and communicate that to others. There are so many awesome nuggets in this book, but I want you to discover them for yourself! The chemistry between Davis and Callie is palpable and I loved how their romance budded naturally. Because Callie is so carefree in many aspects of her life, is seems that she is also free of fear, but her perceptions of herself and her innate characteristics are shaded by her father's choices and his words of legacy to her. Davis also has fears but he is an example to Callie in overcoming them by processing feelings of grief and anger through turning to God, allowing him to live life to the fullest. This book is full of light and humor, depth and compassion. 


Hometown Girl by Courtney Walsh

Heidi Reads... Hometown Girl by Courtney Walsh

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I just love this author's writing style! She has a way of drawing me into the lives of people who are struggling against the darkness and as their stories weave together the light emerges and hope shines brightly on its way to a happy ending- which really seems more like a new beginning. The contrasts and similarities between Beth and Molly as sisters really stood out to me, and it was interesting to see the characteristics they embraced and which ones they left behind as they were influenced by their parents and the people around them. I loved that they both rediscovered qualities about themselves that they believed didn't apply anymore. It's reassuring that it's never too late to decide to change and pursue a new focus in life. Beth and Drew are both holding on to painful secrets, and the process of loosening up around each other shakes the secrets out of dark corners where they can now be released... although Drew required a little more shaking ;) It was nice to see how they supported each other and yet had a realistic dynamic based on their very defined personalities. They had fabulous chemistry, and that first kiss- wow. I admit I read that scene a few times over (fans self). It was gratifying to see how the long time mystery unfolded and also watch the community band together to work hard for a new Fairwind Farm.


Once Again in Christmas Falls by Becky Monson

Heidi Reads... Once Again in Christmas Falls by Becky Monson

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This was my favorite book of the Return to Christmas Falls series, bar none. I absolutely loved the "childhood friends reunited" angle to the romance, especially when each character is so easy to like! London was so fun and interesting, and the author really delved into what made her tick and how her transformation affected her. Andy is lovable and charming and of course unrequited love gets me every time! They had such great chemistry together and even when the inevitable conflict came, I was rooting for them the whole time. I felt connected to the emotions of London and Andy which is one of my favorite things about reading a well-written book. This is one I'll definitely re-read and since it's the first book I've read by the author it made me add all her other books to my list! (This would be fine to read as a stand-alone even though it's in the middle of the series).


The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay

Heidi Reads... The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay

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At first I wondered if this book would be similar to others that have the characters dressing up and playacting in Regency form, but I needn't have worried- while there is a bit of that, it is taken to a higher level by Katherine Reay's unique writing style. This is a book that you just *feel*. While there is a great focus on the complex dynamics of the relationships Mary has with Isabel and Nathan, I loved that it delved just as deeply into her struggles with her job as an engineer and the part of her identity that is tied up in it. I loved her father and the influence he is on her life and creativity, he is such a great addition to the story and made it richer. I could relate to Mary's mixed feelings of resentment and love that she has for Isabel. There's something about growing up with a longtime friend that gives you so many experiences of good, bad, and in between that it's almost like family in how it shapes your personality. It was fascinating to see how Mary becomes more aware of Isabel's struggles and the way that she deals with the fallout of secrets that come to light. The simmering attraction between Nathan and Mary was delicious because the reader can tell how much they like the other but they are unaware of each other's interest... until they slowly become more brave in expressing that interest. It's not without conflict of course, and the anticipation while they worked things out was killing me- I just LOVED it!!!


Have you read any of these books? 
What are some of your favorites?