Monday, April 18, 2016

Review: Like Never Before by Melissa Tagg

Heidi Reads... Like Never Before by Melissa Tagg

My rating: 3 stars / I liked it


Maple Valley became Amelia Bentley's haven after her heart and her dreams of a family were shattered. But her new life as a newspaper editor is shaken when the small-town paper is in danger of closing. Her one hope: A lead on an intriguing story that just might impress the new publisher... if only she knew who he was.

After his biggest campaign success yet, widowed speechwriter Logan Walker now has the chance of a lifetime- a spot on a presidential campaign. But his plans are interrupted when he finds out he's inherited his hometown newspaper. He travels home intent on selling the paper and spending some much-needed time with his young daughter before making the leap into national politics.

But instead of a quick sale and peaceful break from his hectic career, Logan finds himself helping Amelia chase her story. She's scrappy, but wounded. He's dependable, but lost. They may butt heads more than expected, but a series of leads on Maple Valley's quirky unsolved mystery is just the start of the sparks that fly in the office and in their hearts.

My Review

Once again I was happy to be back in Maple Valley with the lovable Walker family, but found myself missing a connection with the main characters and their romance. The plot of the story moves along nicely and I enjoyed getting to know Amelia's tenacious personality and more members of the tight-knit community. She and Logan have a solid friendship and fun banter, but when it came to chemistry, I felt it was lacking that tension and emotion- kind of like watching an interesting movie without the musical soundtrack that really gets you feeling. I'm still looking forward to reading more in the series, especially about Walker siblings Reagan and Beckett.

(Thank you to Bethany House Publishing for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review)

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Review: From the Start by Melissa Tagg

Heidi Reads... From the Start by Melissa Tagg

My rating: 3 stars / I liked it


Kate Walker used to believe in true love and happily ever after. While her own love life may have left her brokenhearted, it hasn't kept her from churning out made-for-TV romance movie screenplays...until a major career slump and a longing to do something meaningful send her running back to her hometown of Maple Valley.

Permanently sidelined by an injury, former NFL quarterback Colton Greene is temporarily hiding out in a friend's hometown to avoid the media and the reminders of all he's lost. Maple Valley seems like the perfect place to learn how to adjust to normal life. The only trouble is he's never really done normal before.

While Kate plays things safe and Colton is all about big risks and grand gestures, they both get what it's like to desperately need direction in life. An unexpected project gives them both a chance to jumpstart their new lives, but old wounds and new dreams are hard to ignore. Starting over wasn't part of the plan, but could it be the best thing that's ever happened to them?

My Review

I enjoyed getting to know the family we were introduced to in the free prequel novella to start off the Walker Family series, Three Little Words. The strong family theme in a contemporary setting is one of my favorite trends in a series. The small town community is easy to envision and provides a great secondary cast of characters. Each member of the family plays a role in subtly influencing Colton and Kate while they are temporarily staying in Maple Valley to help in the wake of a natural disaster. The circumstances that they find themselves in and their opportunity to re-imagine their futures are the focus of the novel, and I was disappointed to find that while reading I always felt aloof from the romantic emotions of the characters- it was more observing rather than feeling along with them. The light-hearted nature of the writing might have played a part in that, it made the story fun but didn't delve deeper. Kate and Colton did friendship so well and I loved their banter, but missed the romantic tension and chemistry. Overall this was a pleasant reading experience and I look forward to reading more of the series.

(Thank you to Bethany House Publishing for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review)

Friday, April 15, 2016

Showers of Books Giveaway Hop!

Welcome to the Showers of Books Giveaway Hop! I'm giving away a print copy of The New England Romance Collection as well as two surprise books from Harlequin's Love Inspired line! Enter in the Giveaway Tools widget below and visit the other blogs in the hop to enter some more great giveaways!

New England is not just colorful in autumn but throughout the history of its states—including Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Through the trials and triumphs of the early years of American history, to the turbulent 1930s, enjoy five stories laced with history, faith, and romance. Will these couples find a place to call home among the northeastern states?

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Review: An Amish Market by Amy Clipston, Kathleen Fuller, Kelly Irvin, Vannetta Chapman

Heidi Reads... An Amish Market by Amy Clipston, Kathleen Fuller, Kelly Irvin, Vannetta Chapman

My rating: 4 stars / I really liked it


All the color and variety of a quaint Amish shop in a charming collection of novellas by four of your favorite authors. Feel free to come in and browse!
Love Birds by Amy Clipston
While Ellie Lapp and her mother are still mourning the loss of her brother, Seth, Ellie starts working at one of the gift shops in town. Seth’s friend Lloyd is talented at carving wooden birds, but his father disapproves and expects him to take over the family farm someday. Ellie sees the beauty in Lloyd’s creations and insists Lloyd sell the birds in the gift shop where she works. As Ellie and Lloyd spend more time together, they begin to develop feelings for one another, but she accidentally betrays his trust. Will she lose any hope of a future with him?
A Bid for Love by Kathleen Fuller
Every week, Hannah Lynne brings her home-churned butter to the local market. And every week Ezra stops by to purchase some. Hannah Lynne knows not to read too much into it—Ezra is a confirmed bachelor and barely even glances her way, despite any hope to the contrary. But when Ezra bids an exorbitant amount to win the quilt she had her heart set on, Hannah Lynne can’t stop her heart from taking over her mind. Could Ezra finally be in the market for love?
Sweeter Than Honey by Kelly Irvin
Shattering a jar of pickled beets wasn’t the impression Isabella hoped to make on her first trip to the local Combination Store of Bee County, Texas. But as embarrassed as she was by the accident, she didn’t think it warranted the frosty reaction from the handsome manager of the store, Will Glick. As she soon learns, though, Will’s heart has been broken one too many times. And now, for some reason, Isabella finds herself determined to be the one to repair that broken heart and renew his faith in love.
Love in Store by Vannetta Chapman
Stella Schrock works at the Old Mill in Nappanee, Indiana, with new employee David Stoltzfus, a recent widower. When strange happenings begin occurring around town, it appears as if someone wants to close the mill. Stella and David have to work together to solve the mystery of what is happening at the Old Amish Mill, and in the process they might just find that God has more in store for their future than they would ever have dreamed possible.

My Review

I enjoyed each of these novellas by some of my favorite authors of Amish fiction- the variety of characters, settings, and plots. It was interesting how some used the Amish market theme more than others, but all were well-rounded stories that didn't feel rushed or lacking in development. I especially enjoyed the theme of unexpected love in A Bid for Love and Sweeter Than Honey. A wonderful collection of simple and pleasant stories that can be enjoyed several times.

(Thank you to Thomas Nelson Publishing for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review)

Review: The {Re}Model Marriage by Maria Hoagland

Heidi Reads... The {Re}Model Marriage by Maria Hoagland

My rating: 4 stars / I really liked it


From the outside, Kirk and Jamie appear to have a beautiful home and the perfect marriage. Inside, the aging Craftsman is falling apart, their marriage is crumbling from neglect, and Jamie Royce wants out! Kirk, on the other hand, isn’t ready to give up on either the house or their relationship.

With their divorce scheduled for the day after their daughter’s high school graduation, Jamie and Kirk have to fix the home’s problems to lift their selling price out of the basement. Working to renovate the home together, they discover secrets—in the home, in their marriage, and in the fertility clinic that helped give them their daughter—and find themselves questioning what true love really is.

My Review

I don't read many romance books with a troubled marriage as the focus, but this one did it right. It was sad and disheartening to see how insecure and defensive Jamie and Kirk were, and how they let pride prevent them from being honest with each other. That was balanced out by the author skillfully weaving in pieces of their falling-in-love story to illustrate not only why their relationship was worth saving, but also the root of some of their issues. Communication, or the lack thereof, is the biggest hurdle they need to overcome. It's too easy as a reader to want to yell at them, "just say something!!!" but also recognizing that the difficult emotions they are feeling are all too realistic. I kept on reading quickly, trying to hurry to the point where they turn things around, but also found myself fascinated by the home renovations they undertake originating with demolishing a leaky bathroom. I found it to be a good metaphor for how they needed to fix their marriage- strip down the "quick fixes" until the true problem under the surface is revealed, and start over from there, building things carefully and correctly. Each chapter has a helpful tip about various aspects of home renovation, several of which I want to remember for the future!

(Thank you to the author for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review)

Monday, April 11, 2016

Review & Giveaway: Lady Helen Finds Her Song by Jennifer Moore

Heidi Reads... Lady Helen Finds Her Song by Jennifer Moore

My rating: 5 stars / It was amazing


Spring 1813
The exotic splendors of India are legendary, and the colorful sights of her new home in Calcutta immediately captivate eighteen-year-old Lady Helen Poulter. Whereas many of her fellow British expatriates despise the culture they see as barbaric, Helen sees excitement in the unusual locale. It is in this vibrant, bustling city that she finds a kindred soul in Captain Michael Rhodes, an Englishman whose lifelong love of India runs deep. Their friendship quickly grows, yet despite their undeniable connection, she could never think of Captain Rhodes as more than a dear friend.

Her love, in truth, has been captured by dashing British Lieutenant Arthur Bancroft. This handsome soldier represents the embodiment of all she's dreamed of in a husband. Preoccupied by her growing affections, Helen never dreams that beneath the glamor of the city, hostilities are reaching a boiling point. When battle ultimately threatens both of the men in her life, she must make a choice: pursue the man who symbolizes her British past, or let herself love a man who promises an unknown future in the land she loves. But amid the casualties of war, will her declaration of love come too late?

My Review

I loved this unique Regency reading experience! The setting of India was a character in itself, and the authors descriptions were vibrant and blended in to the narrative without becoming overlong. Seeing the country and culture through Helen's experiences added a feeling of wonder and appreciation since she savors the new and interesting aspects of her journey. She begins somewhat naive, but because of her observant and open nature she embraces the differences. Her friendship with Captain Rhodes helps her to become more confident since he has a deep love for India and they feel a connection. She is musical and has developed melodies representing members of her family. She hasn't been able to write one for herself however, and hopes to discover her song on this life-changing journey. I also enjoyed the gentle romance between Helen's mother and stepfather that serves as an example to Helen of what it means to love. A beautiful story of discovering what is truly important.

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Sunday, April 10, 2016

Review: The Dandelion Field by Kathryn Springer

Heidi Reads... The Dandelion Field by Kathryn Springer

My rating: 5 stars / It was amazing


This handsome firefighter makes a living coming to the rescue, but Gin doesn't need a man to fight her battles.

After Raine's dad walked out, Ginevieve Lightly never lived in one place too long, a rambling lifestyle that defined her daughter's youth. When their car dies in Banister Falls, Wisconsin, Gin promises Raine they can stay until she finishes her senior year of high school. Gin will do anything to make sure her daughter has a bright future . . . a future that's compromised when Raine reveals she's pregnant.

Dan Moretti has only ever called Banister Falls home. After losing his best friend in a tragic accident, Dan devoted himself to responding to fires, rescuing the helpless, and guiding Cody Bennett, his best friend's son, through life. With Cody being the epitome of the good kid, it was an easy job. Until he says four little words: The baby is mine.

Knowing gossip of Raine's pregnancy will erupt sooner or later in the small town, Gin's reflex is to grab the suitcase and escape to a new city, a new life. But with each passing day, Gin's feet stay rooted in Banister Falls, and she falls a little more for this local firefighter who shows her not all men abandon women at the first sign of smoke.

As Gin and Dan do the best they can to guide the two teenagers through their early entry into adulthood, they discover together that romance can bloom in the rockiest of situations. And God can turn the pieces of a broken past into a beautiful new beginning.

My Review

I loved the themes in this story of accepting consequences, looking for the good in others, and unconditional love and friendship. I got to know the characters in this book when I read the sequel first (I seem to be doing that a lot lately...) so reading this was like visiting old friends and discovering new stories about them. I would recommend reading them in order if you can, though ;) I liked seeing how Gin's upbringing directly influenced her attitudes but she was willing to change and try for the sake of her daughter. The steadiness of Dan's character is huge for both Gin and Raine, and as they become included under the shelter of his protective nature, he is an example of Christlike love to them. It was interesting to have the younger perspective of Cody and Raine as well as the adults; it made for a richer and more rounded telling of the story and all the emotions from various perspectives. The changing point of view never felt unbalanced and was skillfully woven as the plot unfolded. A heartfelt story of choices, consequences, and blessings.

(Thank you to Zondervan Publishing for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review)

Friday, April 8, 2016

Amazing e-book sale TODAY ONLY!

What an amazing deal! I love Denise Hunter's contemporary stories, and for today only you can get all four books in the Chapel Springs series for under $8!

Since losing her twin, Michael, in a drowning incident, Madison has rejected the faith he lived by. Instead, she’s devoted her life to fulfilling Michael’s dream—winning the River Sail Regatta in their small Indiana town, Chapel Springs.
As she trains for the regatta, Beckett O’Reilly is teaching Madison to swim. But he’s keeping a painful secret from her—and as they grow closer, that secret threatens to upend their lives . . . and the lives of both their families.

Creative and complicated, Jade McKinley felt like a weed in a rose garden growing up in Chapel Springs. When she left, she thought she'd never look back. But now, pregnant, alone, and broke, she has no other choice but to return.
The mayor of Chapel Springs, Daniel Dawson, has been an honorary member of the McKinley family for years. While his own home life was almost non-existent, Daniel fit right into the boisterous McKinley family. He's loved Jade for years, but she always saw him as a big brother. Now that she's back, his feelings are stronger than ever.
As Jade attempts to settle in, nothing feels right. God seems far away, she's hiding secrets from her family, and she's strangely attracted to the man who's always called her "squirt." Finding her way home may prove more difficult than she imagined.

Spirited PJ McKinley has the touch when it comes to food. Her dream of opening her own restaurant is just one building short of reality. So when a Chapel Springs resident offers her beloved ancestral home to the applicant with the best plan for the house, PJ believes it’s a contest she was meant to win.
Contractor Cole Evans is confident, professional, and swoon-worthy—but this former foster kid knows his life could have turned out very differently. When Cole discovers the contest, he believes his home for foster kids in transition has found its saving grace. All he has to do is convince the owner that an out-of-towner with a not-for-profit enterprise is good for the community.
But when the eccentric philanthropist sees PJ and Cole’s proposals, she makes an unexpected decision: the pair will share the house for a year to show what their ideas are made of. Now, with Cole and the foster kids upstairs and PJ and the restaurant below, day-to-day life has turned into out-and-out competition—with some seriously flirtatious hallway encounters on the side. Turns out in this competition, it’s not just the house on the line, it’s their hearts.

Ryan McKinley has tried to move on from his ex-wife, Abby. He’s sulked, he’s gotten angry, and ultimately he bought her dream house. Big mistake. Living alone in the massive 2-story has only made him miss her more. When her parents call him out of the blue about their anniversary party in Summer Harbor, Maine, Ryan believes God has dropped a golden opportunity straight in his lap.
Abby McKinley never exactly told her parents about the divorce. A strained relationship with her dad has culminated in a distant relationship with her parents, but she’s finally succumbed to her mom’s pressure to make the drive for their 35th-anniversary party.
Then Ryan shows up on her doorstep, looking as devastatingly handsome as ever. When he insists he’s going to Seabrook, with or without her, Abby knows she can’t say no. Her parents still think they’re married and now Ryan knows it too. Besides, he only wants to check in with his best friend from college—her cousin Beau, who just lost his dad. It’s just a one-week road-trip with the man who broke her heart. What could possibly go wrong?

Friday, April 1, 2016

Giveaway! Change of Heart by Molly Jebber in the Raining Romance Giveaway Hop

 Welcome to my stop on the Raining Romance Giveaway Hop! I'll be giving away my review copy of Change of Heart by Molly Jebber. Enter in the Giveaway Tools widget below for a chance to win!


A modern new century brings a young Amish woman an unexpected new life—and a chance to discover love's true way home…
Ohio, 1899. Soft-spoken midwife Becca Yost lived by her Amish faith's strict rules—until her fiancĂ© jilted her before their entire community. She's never been away from home, but the bustling Englischer town of Massillon, Ohio, is a welcome unexpected refuge. Especially when she goes to work for Dr. Matt Carrington, who shares her passion for healing those in need. His outgoing spirit and gentle strength show Becca a surprising new world of choices—and irresistible love. But there is one formidable obstacle: Matt's wealthy mother is determined her son will marry a society woman.

With her newfound resolve challenged, Becca decides that she and Matt must not be destined for each other after all. She accepts that she will have to forge a life alone—until a wrenching crisis and life-changing revelations teach her that true faith lies in all things, especially impossible second chances. . .