Monday, December 28, 2015

With This Ring? book review

With This Ring?: A Novella Collection of Proposals Gone Awry With This Ring?: A Novella Collection of Proposals Gone Awry

Humorous Historical Romance Novella
Collection Offers Love and Laughs

Four top historical romance novelists team up in this new collection to offer stories of love and romance with a twist of humor. In Karen Witemeyer's "The Husband Maneuver," Marietta Hawkins decides to grab the reins when the ranch foreman she loves seems to be leaving forever. Regina Jennings offers "Her Dearly Unintended," where friends stranded by a rising river pretend to be newlyweds when a dangerous stranger arrives.

Mary Connealy's "Runaway Bride" finds a Texas ranger getting more than he expected when he rescues a young woman fleeing a dangerous arranged marriage. And Melissa Jagears' "Engaging the Competition" finds a young woman forced to assist the man she's often sparred with after an accident leaves him helpless. Each tale is a fun blend of history and romance that will delight readers.

My Review: 9/10

I usually love Bethany House's book covers but was not a fan of this one. Every quick glance reminds me of Austin Powers. I realize it's the index finger and not the pinkie, but it's blurry and at a quick glance... combined with the pursed duck lips... ugh. But cover aside, loved this book and I really hope this novella collection becomes an annual thing.

I enjoyed the short story about Dead Eye Dan and Marietta. The conflict between them was original and I admired Etta's determined honesty and, well, her determination in general. It was nice to read about a female lead who (kind of relentlessly) pursued what she wanted rather than one who pined, but practiced self denial so regularly that by the time interest came her way she was bewildered by it.

I'm a big fan of Ms. Jennings' work, so naturally I loved her story as well, though it was a little weird for me to be reading about Josiah. I swear he was just a youngster playing pranks! Katie Ellen was a unique character. Her control issues and the thought processes behind them were very interesting. I loved their exchanges, so much sass! When I wasn't smiling stupidly to myself at how they cared for each other, I was laughing. But that's always the way with Ms. Jennings books. Even after the explanations, I still found their guest more than a tad disturbing, but then again, one of things I love so much about Ms. Jennings' stories is that her people are not black-or-white, good-or-evil. Being a little weird doesn't make you a bad person. And being likeable doesn't mean you're without flaws. Her characters are always so realistic and relatable because she embraces this. I hope we get a story for Josiah's little sister, too!

I have only read a couple of  Ms. Connealy's books but I had gotten the impression that her style was more over the top humor, which isn't really my thing. So I was really surprised by the tone of this story, which was very tense. While I really enjoyed the story, I kind of wish it had been a full length novel, so that Carrie and her brother, Isaac's, relationship could have been more flushed out; their family dynamic really intrigued me. There were a TON of characters, and I got the impression that the reader was supposed to appreciate the small bits of information tossed out here and there, as if they were updates on couples from other stories. It was a little confusing for someone not familiar with the previous stories.

I had hope for Ms. Jagears' story for a while, but Harrison and Charlie just did not suit if you ask me. I really did not like her. Harrison was right in everything he said about her. She was mean, thoughtless, unfaithful, a sore loser... I could go on and on. And by the end of the story, I didn't really like Harrison much either. She was engaged, so he had no business touching her or kissing her. He really was only set up as the hero because he was handsome and intelligent and liked her (for some reason), while her fiance was described as unattractive, slow, and primarily interested in her property. Yet, of the three of them, August was the only one who valued fidelity ("August won't marry a two-timer"). I would have much rather read his story- the one about the plain but strong man who wasn't academically minded, but wasn't stupid, who was a hardworker, steady and faithful, who was rarely emotional and wasn't really romantic, but believed in companionship and who, coming from a family of 20, wanted a small family of his own, separate from their demands and reputation, who had been cheated on and left by a woman just using him and was perhaps even more guarded than before as a result. Maybe he's a little rougher around the edges. Maybe he's the kind of guy who goes along with the crowd and has been a bully by association and needs to learn how to compromise and sacrifice and communicate in non aggressive ways. Or maybe he's all business and needs to slowly be coaxed into letting his guard down. The possibilities are endless and infinitely more appealing to me.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Midwife's Choice (At Home in Trinity #2) by Delia Parr book review

The Midwife's Choice (At Home in Trinity #2)

The Midwife's Choice (At Home in Trinity #2)

A Winning Combination of
Small-Town History and Sweet Romance

Martha Cade is a midwife in the town of Trinity in 1830s Pennsylvania. In a time when the traditional ways of medicine are constantly being questioned by new doctors fresh from medical school, Martha tries to balance her life's calling with the demands of her family. Recently reunited with her estranged seventeen-year-old daughter, Martha finds herself torn between guiding her child and allowing her to be an adult. And the town of Trinity itself is fraught with secrets: as a midwife, Martha knows which families are troubled, which wives are unhappy, and which husbands have crossed the line from discipline to abuse...

As Martha struggles with the conflicts of being a mother, a midwife, and a woman, she learns the greatest lessons of all--that hope can shine even in the darkest hours, and that faith has a way of making the impossible possible.

My Review: 9/10

This sequel was every bit as lovely and thought provoking as the first book.
Martha has learned some hard lessons but when the time finally comes to put them to practice, it is very easy to slip into old habits and beliefs.

I loved that the lessons Martha learns in this book- humility, faith, judgment of character, trust in God's plans and provision, letting go, and embracing change, just to name a few- came about naturally, some in a rush and some over time. I particularly loved the way she realized that some of her burden hadn't been necessary and that she should have opened up to others, sharing her load with them; that her pride and independece wasn't worth the people and relationships she'd had to sacrifice, like with her children and love.

I was just as invested in each of the side stories and loved the clever resolutions at the end.

I have no complaints with the story; I gave it a 9 out of my personal taste. I would recommend it to fans of Lawana Blackwell's Gresham chronicles. It's not to the same tone or style, but I did notice a similar flavor.

 I can't wait for the third book!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Lord Fenton's Folly (A Proper Romance #2) book review

Lord Fenton's Folly

Lord Fenton's Folly (A Proper Romance #2)

Lord Fenton is a gambler, a dandy, and a flirt—and he must marry or else he will be disinherited, stripped of his wealth and his position. He chooses Alice Stanbridge for two simple reasons: he once knew her as a young girl, and she is the least objectionable option available to him.

However, Alice has harbored feelings for Fenton since their first meeting ten years ago, and she believes his proposal is real. When she discovers it is not, she is embarrassed and hurt. However, a match with the most-eligible bachelor in London would secure not only her future but that of her family as well.

Determined to protect herself from making a fool of herself a second time, Alice matches Lord Fenton wit for wit and insult for insult as they move toward a marriage of convenience that is anything but a happy union. Only when faced with family secrets that have shaped Fenton’s life does he let down his guard enough to find room in his heart for Alice. But can Alice risk her heart a second time?

My Review: 9.5/10

I had been highly anticipating this book after absolutely loving the previous book, A Heart Revealed. I devoured it and admit that I was very disappointed. I procrastinated writing a review because I couldn't reconcile my dashed hopes, high respect for the author, and strong dislike of the book. I waited and waited, and as the weeks and months passed, decided I would reread the book, taking notes and writing an unemotional critical review. Well several months later I finally had the time do so and now I cannot even remember what was so off-putting the first time I read it!

To my surprise, I LOVED this book. My favorite thing about Ms. Kilpack's style is her characterization. Very rarely do I come across characters as honest and real as hers. I loved Alice. I loved her innocence, her openness, and her strength. I loved that she was flawed- prideful, humbled, and constantly warring with her need to protect herself versus her need to let her guard down in hopes of beginning a real relationship with her husband. I loved that she rarely played the victim or felt sorry for herself. I loved that she knew when she was wrong in the moment, and was human enough to stay the wrong course... and that she knew how to apologize. I loved Fenton too. He irritated and provoked me, just like Alice. I liked that he messed up and was caught in it sometimes. He was so very well layered, deep and intricate, that I understood and sympathized with Alice's predicament.


In my first reading, I was probably irritated by another marriage-in-name only set up, however, I have to excuse that as this may have been the ONE situation where I could understand and believe it. Because really, the only thing I thought could have been improved upon was Fenton's reaction to the disinheritance and subsequent change of heart. Given his contempt of his father, I couldn't see him snapping to attention and wanting to prove himself as readily as he did. I needed to see more of his thought process that led him to that point in order to accept it myself. But that was the only thing. The rest of the interactions between father and son were very believable and complicated and real.

On the whole, this book was so well crafted, the relationships so natural and relatable, the messages of vulnerability, healing, and forgiveness so well applied that I highly recommend it.