Where the Heart Is Romance Collection

Collections seem to be all the rage these days, and you won’t find me complaining. If the size of the stories must be limited, it helps there are so many (in this case nine) in each.  I’ve enjoyed seeing one story after another come to life, giving essence to new characters, different locales, and a wide range of scenarios. While some of the plots are similar to ones I’ve seen before, there is enough freshness to keep me reading, not just to the end of the story, but on to the next one, and the next one.

My favourites in this collection were the two by Erica Vestch. She sets up a scenario of four sisters from the East agreeing to marry Western men. Rushed for time, the preacher takes each to her new home and gives them precious little time to be wed and to say goodbye to their beloved sisters. I would have liked to have seen a novella for each sister, but was limited to two (though the results of the other sisters marriages comes up).  The two Erica did chose though were very interesting. The oldest is a war widow who arrives with her citified son to marry a rancher with a hoyden for a daughter. Neither knew the other was already a parent. Tensions mount when he wants her to make a lady of his daughter while he makes a “man” out of her ten year old son.  The third-born sister is the dreamer of the family and is eager to meet her romantic hero, a real-life cowboy. Unfortunately all the reading she did on the West in preparation, hasn’t prepared her for the reality of her new husband—a despised sheep-herder.

I hope you will enjoy these tales as much as I have. Thank you to NetGalley (https://www.netgalley.com/) and especially Barbour Publishing for providing me with this great collection of stories to read and review.

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The Lassoed by Marriage Collection

While living in a forced marriage is likely not as romantic as the stories in this collection make it sound, I can’t help favoring these types of scenarios for romance. After all, when God is in it (and He definitely is in these stories), even forced marriages can turn out to be a blessing for all involved.

What was truly astounding in all these novellas was the development of the characters. Even though the space for each story was very limited, the authors did a great job at making each and every character seem real. Complex situations and back-stories were superbly and subtly woven into the plot lines.

And it didn’t hurt that several of my current favourite authors’ works were included in this collection. I love humour and adventure within a romance and this book certainly delivered. From getting locked into a jail cell together to trying to get rid of a herd of longhorns who think they’re pets, the creativity of these authors never ceased to amaze me.

I especially liked Mary Connealy’s novella, a continuing story of the Hardens and their now grown kids, first seen in her novel The Husband Tree.

I also very much enjoyed the story where a practical, rather plain, woman gets a husband from the gallows—making for a dangerously exciting read.

Also, the incongruity of a noble Englishman who’d been living as a card shark in the Western US meeting up with a recent, God-fearing and pregnant widow made for an intriguing novella.

With nine stories in all and a great variety of characters and situations, this is a collection that is sure to please. As usual, my only regret is that the stories were much too short.

Thank you to NetGalley (https://www.netgalley.com/) and especially Barbour Publishing for providing me yet again with a great collection of stories to read and review.

The Heirloom Brides Collection

I read three of the four stories in this collection before running out of time (my own fault). I loved the idea of stories based on the “something old, something new…” theme. The only thing I didn’t like about them is that they were too short (my usual complaint). I especially enjoyed Kim Vogel Sawyer’s story Something Borrowed, where Clara has to “borrow” one of her neighbours sons to help out, only to be overwhelmed by everyone in the Mennonite community coming together to help her. It was interesting to learn more about Mennonite culture, and of course the romance was both sweet and poignant.

My only regret is that I didn’t get to read Something Blue, but I’m sure that it lives up to the rest of the collection in it’s characters’ spiritual developments, humour, and romance.

A big thank you to NetGalley (https://www.netgalley.com/) and Barbour Publishing for providing me with this book to read and review.

Calico Spy by Margaret Brownley

The third novel in Margaret Brownley’s Undercover Ladies series is written with the same spirit of the other two novels. Calico Spy is a tale of mystery, history, a little mayhem, and not a little love. A Pinkerton, Katie is undercover as a Kansas Harvey Girl. She’s supposed to be working with the town’s sheriff, but he’s not fond of Pinkerton detectives. Then again, Branch Whitman’s never met a woman detective before. How long will it be until she figures out his long kept secret? And if he does work with her, will he finally find out who killed two previous Harvey Girls in his town?

Katie has her hands full tracking down clues, living up to the Harvey Girl standard and schedule, and keeping a firm grip on her heart when Calico, Kansas’ sheriff walks through the door. They both have a job to do. They can’t afford distractions.

I like how Margaret allows us to follow in an old-time gumshoe’s, well, shoes. This isn’t CSI, folks. She and Katie show us just how hard it can be to track down the criminal without much to go on, and no lab results to clarify what makes for an important clue or not. But never fear—Katie always gets her man.

Thank you to NetGalley (https://www.netgalley.com/) and Shiloh Run Press (an imprint of Barbour Publishing) for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review.

“The Shock of Night” Book 1 of Darkwater Saga by Patrick W. Carr

Willet Dura—King’s reeve, least lord of the realm, betrothed of Lady Gael, and insane. After all, no one survives a night in the Darkwater Woods. Now he must explain to the people bent on killing him how he escaped, but the answers are locked in a vault. Inside his own mind. Given a gift he would never want and a mission he could never survive, he must do what he does best—solve mysterious murders and evade death, and what he does worst—trust others to help him. But how can he trust others when he can’t trust himself? Why does he wakes from a dreamless sleep with blood on his cloak whenever there is a murder?

From his first step the plot twists and winds beneath his feet as he is pursued at every turn by death and his fascination with it. His keen mind keeps him one small step ahead of those who would see him dead, which is almost everyone it would seem. I cannot even begin to explain the plot (nor would I want to give it away). I can only say that the author is adept at developing unexpected heroes—and villains—while keeping his readers guessing about who is what! So will the way the author will end a scene or chapter with Dura reaching a conclusion or realizing something important, but leaving the reader hanging.

It’s hard to believe, after all that happens in this novel, that this is only the first in a saga. Yet the author leaves plenty of questions and situations without permanent answers, and lots of room for maneuvering. I can’t wait for the next in the series. But I suppose I will have to, and so will all the Fantasy fans out there.

Did I mention there is a short introductory prequel to this saga? Look for “By Divine Right” for an adventure in its own right. It helps introduce the land and the main character, preparing the way for this new adventure. At the time of writing (this blog), “By Divine Right” was free on Amazon.

Thank you to Netgalley (https://www.netgalley.com/) and Bethany House Publishers for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review.

12 Brides of Summer novella collection #2

The second book in this collection contains three novella-sized romances.

Mary Connealy writes the first, A Bride Rides Herd. What I liked about this story is that its characters are ones we’ve seen as children in two of her other series—Betsy Harden and Matt Reeves. As much as I loved the connection and catching up with the characters, as well, as the chaotic and hilarious happenings, I was rather disappointed at how straightforward the romance was—and how quickly it occurred. Though this was probably due to the space limitations of a novella, I would have liked to have had more, given how invested I already was in the characters.

Amanda Cabot writes The Fourth of July Bride. When desperation drives Naomi Townsen into accepting an offer to pose as a man’s fiancee, she know nothing can real can come of it, because, as wonderful as Gideon is, he is lacking in faith. Spending time in his presence isn’t helping her heart any. Which is worse, suffering a broken heart or compromising her faith? It was an interesting read—with a good message for those caught in a similar dilemma.

The Summer Harvest Bride, written by Maureen Lang, finds Sally Hobson enjoying her life far from her former Chicago home. The one fly in the ointment of her future is one Lukas Daughton, newly arrived in town to propose the building of a gristmill. His constant attention, regardless of her being courted by the mayor’s son, is both flattering and terrifying. She doesn’t want to get caught up in a summer romance. I liked the way Maureen Lang describes her characters. More than a physical description she makes one feel like they know the characters already.

Thank you to NetGalley (https://www.netgalley.com/) and Barbour Books for providing me with a copy of this novel to read and review.

“The Sentimental Journey Romance Collection”

Sentiments run high in this collection of romances set during the Second World War. From England to Denmark, the USA to Newfoundland, romance comes during hardships, binding hearts and lives together.

As might be expected, there are times readers will cry in these novels, yet others where they will laugh, and each will leaving you sighing at the beauty of faith, hope and love. There is intrigue, sacrifice, healing and so much more woven together in these touching stories.

I especially enjoyed that three of the novels were connected by characters who knew each other and worked together in the war effort to rescue Jewish children from the Nazis.

There are nine stories total, and though I am not generally fond of novellas, these were an exception as they allowed me to feel with and through the characters what it was like to live through a World War.

And now for the illustrious author list: Cathie Marie Hake, Kim Vogel Sawyer, Dianna Crawford, Joann Croston, Kelly Eileen Hake, Sally Laity, DiAnn Mills, Janelle B. Schneider, and Lynette Sowell. I was pleased to see the names of many authors I’ve read and enjoyed over the last several years.

Thank you to NetGalley (https://www.netgalley.com/) and Barbour Books for providing me with a copy of this novel to read and review.