Book Recommendation ~ The Last Summer by Brandy Bruce

Book Description:

For twenty-something Sara Witherspoon and her group of friends, a perfect Southern summer includes lake-house getaways, wedding planning, outdoor concerts, and a dash of romance. But for these seven friends who love each other like family, this year, summer rolls in with changes for everyone.

Sara’s longtime crush, Luke, has been her best friend for as long as she has been a part of the group. When Luke begins seriously dating another of their friends, Sara’s forced to deal with her hurt and jealousy, while outwardly try to support them both.

While Sara comes to terms with her own heart and her friends’ relationships, an unexpected handsome pilot from North Carolina and an old flame are thrown into the mix. Knowing her heart suddenly becomes much more complicated.

But as time unfolds and friendships begin to unravel, Sara and the others are presented with the reality of what a season of change does to old friendships and new love interests.

Does growing older mean growing apart?

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I really enjoyed reading The Last Summer. The book is written in first person point of view and we journey with Sara in a coming of age story with romantic elements.

Sara has had a secret crush on her best friend, Luke, since the moment they met at the singles group at church when she moved back to Texas. She was welcomed into their tight knit and fun loving group. The seven friends support and encourage each other as they do life together.

Their idyllic and comfortable friendship group is challenged by life changes and new relationships. When Luke starts dating Debra, one of her friends in the group, Sara struggles to cope with how the budding romance impacts her friendships with both Luke and Debra.

I loved the ensemble cast of characters who were both real and flawed. They made mistakes and had to live with the consequences of their decisions. The faith of each of the characters played an important role in the story and impacted their life choices.

I spent a large part of the book uncertain about how I’d like to see the story end. I love Brandy’s writing style and I couldn’t put the book down. I highly recommend The Last Summer to readers who enjoy contemporary Christian fiction that’s reminiscent of the 90’s tv show Friends.

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Book Recommendation ~ Then There Was You by Kara Isaac

Book Description:

Paige McAllister needs to do something drastic. Her boyfriend can’t even commit to living in the same country, her promised promotion is dead on arrival and the simultaneous loss of her brother and her dream of being a concert violinist has kept her playing life safe and predictable for six years. Things need to change. A moment of temporary insanity finds her leaving her life in Chicago to move to Sydney, Australia. There she finds herself, against many of her convictions, as a logistics planner for one of Australia’s biggest churches, and on a collision course with her boss’s son.

Josh Tyler fronts a top-selling worship band and is in demand all over the world. But, in the past, his failed romantic relationships almost destroyed both his reputation and his family. He’s determined to never risk it happening again. The last thing he needs is some American girl tipping his ordered life upside down. Especially one who despises everything he’s ever worked for and manages to push every button he has.

When Josh and Paige are thrown together to organize his band’s next tour, the sparks fly. But can they find a way to bridge the differences that pull them apart? Or will they choose the safety and security of what they know over taking a chance on something that will require them to risk everything?

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I finished reading Then There Was You with a smile on my face after shedding a few tears toward the end of the story. We first meet Paige McAllister in Chicago at her nineteen year old sister’s wedding. Paige’s absent and commitment phobic long term boyfriend shows up late to the wedding and she takes the bold step of breaking up with him. She impulsively declares that she’s moving to Australia and staying in Sydney with her cousin, Kat.

Josh Tyler is the lead guitarist and singer in an internationally successful Sydney megachurch worship band. His parents are the founding church pastors and the media delight in giving his family bad publicity by creating fake news. Josh is aloof and wary of strangers, especially women. He’s over thirty, living at home with his parents, and single for a reason after making bad relationship decisions in the past.

Paige and Josh first meet when they catch the same flight from Chicago to LA, en-route to Sydney. Josh’s first impressions of Paige stay with him and give him an interesting perspective on her character. His belief that his parents always make wise decisions as leaders of their church is challenged when his mother employs Paige as a logistics manager for their upcoming women’s conference.

Josh and Paige are forced to work together on the church campus in suburban Sydney. Josh comes across as a bit full of himself and entitled. He lives in a tight knit megachurch bubble where he spends his time recording music and travelling the world with the worship team. He makes some big assumptions about Paige without checking his facts.

Paige is seemingly on a mission to make decisions that will make her life more miserable. For example, she picks the job at the megachurch despite her horrendous past experiences as a volunteer worker at a US megachurch. A few Google searches could also have made Paige’s life easier. Paige is carrying a truckload of emotional baggage that’s hinted at early on in the story but not fully revealed until later.

Josh and Paige develop a sort-of-friends romance where the emotional barriers stay up for a large chunk of the story. Once I got to know Josh and Paige and understood why they behaved in certain ways, I wanted to see them overcome all the obstacles in their romance to achieve their happily-ever-after. They are both challenged to take risks and grow in their faith during the story.

Then There Was You also has a connection to Kara’s previous books. Paige’s cousin, Kat, who travels the world as a makeup artist, is Allie’s best friend who we first meet in Close To You. I recommend Then There Was You to contemporary romance readers who enjoy the movie 10 Things I Hate About You style of romantic comedies with poignant moments.


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Book Recommendation ~ Can’t Help Falling by Kara Isaac

Book Description:

RT Reviews Top Pick, October 2016

A funny, heartfelt romance about how an antique shop, a wardrobe, and a mysterious tea cup bring two C.S. Lewis fans together in a snowy and picturesque Oxford, England.

Emelia Mason has spent her career finding the dirt on the rich and famous. But deep down past this fearless tabloid-reporter façade, there’s a nerdy Narnia-obsessed girl who still can’t resist climbing into wardrobes to check for the magical land on the other side. When a story she writes produces tragic results, she flees to Oxford, England–home to C.S. Lewis–to try and make amends for the damage she has caused.

Peter Carlisle was on his way to become one of Great Britain’s best rowers–until he injured his shoulder and lost his chance at glory. He’s determined to fight his way back to the top even if it means risking permanent disability to do so. It’s the only way he can find his way past failing the one person who never stopped believing in his Olympic dream.

When Peter and Emelia cross paths on her first night in Oxford, the attraction is instant and they find common ground in their shared love of Narnia. But can the lessons from a fantasyland be enough to hold them together when secrets of the real world threaten to tear them apart? Cobblestone streets, an aristocratic estate, and an antique shop with curious a wardrobe bring the world of Narnia to life in Kara Isaac’s inspiring and romantic story about second chances.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I enjoyed reading Can’t Help Falling and loved the English setting in Oxford. The story chronologically follows on from Close To You and I recommend reading the books in order. Jackson and Allie from Close to You are minor characters in Can’t Help Falling.

Emelia Mason is an American who creates a brand new life for herself in Oxford, England. She changes her appearance and does her best to forget about her previous life as tabloid journalist Mia Caldwell. She’s desperate to obtain a job at a charity based in Oxford to make amends for a tragedy that took place as a consequence of her tabloid story.

Peter Carlisle is the second son of a viscount. He’s struggling to recover from a shoulder injury that killed his Olympic dreams on the Great Britain rowing team. His older brother is a brilliant rower who is living Peter’s rowing dream. His brother treats Peter like a doormat and the reasons behind their dysfunctional sibling relationship unfold during the story.

Emelia and Peter first meet when he discovers her hiding in a wardrobe in an antique store. They share a mutual attraction despite the weirdness of the situation and her seemingly unhinged obsession with Narnia. Peter also finds the elusive teacup in the wardrobe that completes the tea set he has collected over the years for his mother. The next meeting between Emelia and Peter is also unique and their paths cross when Peter becomes her boss at his late cousin’s charity. They share a common goal of fundraising an enormous sum of money to prevent the charity from folding.

Emilia is determined to hide her past connection to Peter’s family and her big secret threatens to destroy their growing relationship. The faith element, in particular Emelia’s faith journey, is an intriguing aspect of the story that deepens the characterisation. The Narnia connection is fascinating and adds to the humour in the story.  I highly recommend Can’t Help Falling to readers who like fun contemporary romances, and especially for readers who are familiar with the writings of C.S. Lewis.


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Book Recommendation ~ Close To You by Kara Isaac

Book Description:

A disgraced scholar running from her past and an entrepreneur chasing his future find themselves thrown together—and fall in love—on a Tolkien tour of New Zealand.

Allison Shire (yes, like where the Hobbits live) is a disgraced academic who is done with love. Her belief in “happily ever after” ended the day she discovered her husband was still married to a wife she knew nothing about. She finally finds a use for her English degree by guiding tours through the famous sites featured in the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies. By living life on the road and traveling New Zealand as a luxury tour guide, Allison manages to outrun the pain of her past she can’t face.

Jackson Gregory was on the cusp of making it big. Then suddenly his girlfriend left him—for his biggest business competitor—and took his most guarded commercial secrets with her. To make matters worse, the Iowa farm that has been in his family for generations is facing foreclosure. Determined to save his parents from financial ruin, he’ll do whatever it takes to convince his wealthy great-uncle to invest in his next scheme, which means accompanying him to the bottom of the world to spend three weeks pretending to be a die-hard Lord of the Rings fan, even though he knows nothing about the stories. The one thing that stands between him and his goal is a know-it-all tour guide who can’t stand him and pegged him as a fake the moment he walked off the plane.

When Allison leads the group through the famous sites of the Tolkien movies, she and Jackson start to see each other differently, and as they keep getting thrown together on the tour, they find themselves drawn to each other. Neither expected to fall in love again, but can they find a way beyond their regrets to take a chance on the one thing they’re not looking for?

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I enjoyed reading Close To You, the debut novel by my New Zealand author friend Kara Isaac. I will confess I’m not familiar with Tolkien’s works… I’ve never read the books, I rarely read fantasy, and I saw a couple of the Lord Of The Rings movies at the cinema. The movie scenery inspired me to bump travelling to New Zealand higher up my travel wishlist.

You don’t need to be a Tolkien fan to enjoy this book. I identified with Jackson and his confusion as he was surrounded by die hard fans living their dream of dressing up and touring the various movie settings in New Zealand.

Allison (Allie) Shire, their PhD qualified Tolkien expert tour guide, is struggling to emotionally deal with her past mistakes and move on. She has a toxic relationship with her mother that emotionally cripples her. Her mother views Allie’s so-called failings as a personal slight against her and their family’s reputation. Her mother doesn’t empathise with her daughter’s difficult situation with her estranged and hopefully soon-to-be ex-husband. Allie has been betrayed by people close to her and has big self-esteem and trust issues. This includes trusting God and believing that God could love her for who she is. We meet Allie in Chapter One when she is literally and metaphorically hiding her true self in a Hobbit costume.

Jackson Gregory has an overdeveloped sense of responsibility and believes it’s his job to rescue the people he loves and those who have made the mistake of trusting him with their life savings. He’s desperate to convince his elderly Uncle Louis to invest in his new business venture so he can right the wrongs caused by his failed business venture. Jackson’s ex-girlfriend betrayed him and he’s determined to safeguard his heart and fix his life, his way. He turned his back on his childhood faith from small town Iowa to live a glamorous and opulent lifestyle in LA.

The romance that develops between Allie and Jackson is both entertaining and frustrating. They come from different worlds and hate each other on first sight. Their inability at times to speak honestly and openly creates mishaps and humour in the story.  Allie, in particular, hides behind sarcasm and snark to protect her fragile heart.

The witty dialogue and Tolkien references and stunning New Zealand setting create a fabulous combination for a fun contemporary romance. The minor characters, including Jackson’s Uncle Louis,  add wisdom and frivolity to the story. The faith element is drawn out more toward the end of the story when Allie and Jackson are working through their emotional issues. I highly recommend Close to You to readers who enjoy contemporary romances, and especially readers who are also Tolkien fans.


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Book Recommendation ~ Sprouts of Love by Valerie Comer (Arcadia Valley Romance 5)

Book Description:

Can love sprout amid a tsunami of vegetables?

Single mom Evelyn Felton takes on another part-time job managing a greenhouse and garden project for Grace Fellowship. Formerly homeless, she’s thrilled to offer truckloads of fresh produce to the Arcadia Valley food bank.

If only Ben Kujak weren’t running Corinna’s Cupboard singlehandedly, he’d be delighted to be on the receiving end. But Evelyn and her dynamo daughter, Maisie, won’t take no for an answer, even if it means restructuring Ben’s charity.

Soon Ben finds himself wishing they’d transform his personal life, too, but can true love sprout when their pasts collide with the present?

Narelle’s Thoughts: 

Have you been reading the Arcadia Valley Romance series? If not, go check out these stories. The prequel novellas for the full length books in the series are available for 99 cents in Romance Grows in Arcadia Valley.

I’m a big fan of series books. I especially love continuity series with interconnected stories and characters who pop up in different stories. It’s like you become reacquainted with old friends when you read a series that’s set in a small community.

Sprouts of Love is Book 1 in Valerie Comer’s Garden Grown Romance series and the fifth release in the Arcadia Valley Romance series.

In the prequel novella, Sow in Love, we meet Evelyn Felton and her adorable ten year old daughter, Maisie. Fast forward to Sprouts of Love, and the living trust we learn about in Joanna and Grady’s romance story is ready for harvest.

Evelyn is a single mother with three jobs. She’s doing her best to earn enough money to pay the rent on her dingy apartment and provide for Maisie. Evelyn has a heart for homeless people because she has been there. Her adult life has been a long financial struggle. She has appreciated the help she received when times were tough, and the life changing assistance from her mentor.

Ben Kujak lost his wife and young daughter in a car wreck. Five years later, he’s investing all his time and energy into running a soup kitchen that’s financed by a trust that is run by his late wife’s family.

Ben initially rejects Evelyn’s offer of free fresh produce for Corinna’s Cupboard. He’s feeding forty people and doesn’t have time to fuss with fresh food preparation. He’s intrigued by Evelyn and attends a Sunday Service at Grace Fellowship where he learns more about Evelyn’s connection to the innovative greenhouse garden project.

A delightful romance develops between Ben and Evelyn, and he can’t help but love Maisie as if she was his own daughter. Evelyn and Ben’s background and family history create a number of obstacles in the story. I empathised with the heartache they had both experienced, and their need to heal and forgive those who had wronged and hurt them.

The issue of homelessness was sensitively addressed in the story. I learned more about the specific issues facing women who find themselves in desperate financial situations.

Ben and Evelyn’s faith was challenged as secrets were revealed. They both had to deal with issues from the past that threatened their future.

I highly recommend Sprouts of Love to readers who are looking for a fun and thought provoking contemporary romance with a garden fresh food theme.

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Book Recommendation ~ Unnoticed by Amanda Deed

Book Description:

Plain Jane O’Reilly is good at being unnoticed. Detested by her stepmother and teased by her stepsisters, Jane has learned the art of avoiding attention. That is until Price Moreland, an American with big dreams, arrives in her small town.

Does she dare to hope someone might notice her?

However, Price Moreland may not be the prince that the whole town thinks him to be. Was his desire to be a missionary a God-given call, or just a good excuse to run from his past?

Complete with an evil stepmother, a missing shoe and a grand ball, Unnoticed takes the time-old Cinderella fairy tale and gives it an Australian twist.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I’m a fan of the Cinderella romance trope and enjoyed reading Unnoticed. The story is set in the 1870’s in Hay, a small Australian town in the western Riverina region of NSW.

Jane O’Reilly is your classic Cinderella heroine. She lost her beloved mother when she was young and her father remarried a woman with two daughters. Jane’s stepmother has no qualms about treating Jane as if she is a second class citizen and her personal slave. Jane’s father seems to turn a blind eye to his wife’s blatant favouritism of her own daughters over Jane.

Jane has very low self esteem that’s reinforced by the horrible treatment she receives from her stepmother and stepsisters. Her Aunt Ruby, who is their cook and her stepmother’s sister, is one of the few people who treats Jane with respect and dignity.

Forced by her stepmother to dress in old and ugly clothing, the townsfolk of Hay call her ‘Plain Jane’ and treat her as if she’s the town joke. Jane believes she’s ugly and feels powerless to change her life circumstances.

Price Moreland is an American who recently moved to Hay. He sets up a Barber and Dental Surgery in town but his main goal is to share the gospel with the unchurched townsfolk in Hay.  He has a complicated relationship with his wealthy rancher father and is troubled by his experiences of living in the south during the American Civil War.

Price meets Jane when she turns up at his dental surgery with an infected tooth. He’s the prince charming who is intrigued by Jane and sees both her inner and outer beauty. Jane struggles to believe she can be worthy of Price. They become friends and a sweet romance develops between them as they overcome many obstacles in the story.

Their spiritual journeys are explored and the faith element in the story is both overt and compelling. Price and Jane are challenged on a spiritual level and draw on Biblical truths to resolve their faith issues.

The story addresses social issues of inequality and racism in both Australia and the USA. My husband has Chinese ancestors who migrated to Australia during the 1850’s Gold Rush and lived in the Riverina region of NSW.  My personal connection to the setting added to my interest in the social class dynamics in the story.

I recommend Unnoticed to readers who like historical Christian romances set in Australia.

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Book Recommendation ~ Looking Glass Lies by Varina Denman

Book Description:

A poignant and relatable novel, Looking Glass Lies captures the war women wage against themselves, and the struggle to see beauty reflected in a mirror not distorted by society’s unrelenting expectations.

For most of her adult life, Cecily Ross has compared herself to other women—and come up short. After a painful divorce from her emotionally abusive husband, Cecily returns to her hometown of Canyon, Texas, looking to heal.

But coming home isn’t what she expects. In a town as small as Canyon, her pain is difficult to escape—especially with her model-perfect ex–sister-in-law working at the town’s popular coffee-shop hangout. With help from her father, a support group, and an old friend who guides her to see her own strengths, Cecily may have a shot at overcoming her insecurities and learning to love again.

The true test comes when tragedy strikes, opening Cecily’s eyes to the harmfulness of her distorted views on beauty—and giving her the perfect opportunity to find peace at last.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

Wow. That’s what I thought when I finished reading, and I read the book fast, within twenty-four hours. I’ve been a fan of Varina Denman’s writing since I read her debut novel, Jaded, and Looking Glass Lies didn’t disappoint.

The story opens with a prologue. We meet Cecily Ross when she’s curled up in the back of her closet in her LA home, hiding away from the world and her emotionally abusive husband. Brett is addicted to porn and has shattered Cecily completely by wanting a divorce.

Fast forward eleven months and Cecily has returned to her home town of Canyon, Texas. She stays in her childhood home with her dad who’s a widower and park ranger. Her father is worried about her and he asks the local therapist, Doctor Graham Harper, to call her.

Graham had a secret crush on Cecily in high school when she was dating her future husband, Brett Ross. Graham has overcome his teenage drug addiction and has a busy practice in town. He offers Cecily a receptionist job. Instead of providing counselling, he sets Cecily up in a women’s support group with married mom of four Shanty and college student Nina.

Cecily meets with Shanty and Nina at Midnight Oil, the local coffee shop owned by celebrity sports star Michael Divins. Cecily struggles to deal with her gorgeous and perfect looking ex-sister-in-law, Mirinda, who works at the cafe and is dating Michael.

Cecily learns that to become emotionally healthy she needs to confront and deal with issues from her past. Secrets are revealed that rock the small community of Canyon and challenge them to face the lies they believe. Body image issues are a core theme in the story, plus the devastating effects of porn addiction and other emotional issues.

The characters are realistic and they deal with real world problems in the story. Edgy issues that may be uncomfortable for some readers are addressed, and the story has a Christian worldview with only a few references to faith.

The sweet romance between Cecily and Graham is complicated. A hero who’s a therapist will, by definition, be cautious in his personal life. Cecily and Graham develop a friendship that is challenged by the events in the story.

I highly recommend Looking Glass Lies to readers who enjoy edgy and realistic Christian romance stories that deal with tough issues.

Looking Glass Lies releases on May 2, 2017. It’s available for pre-order in print and on Kindle, and will be available in Kindle Unlimited.

Many thanks to Waterfall Press and NetGalley for the Advanced Reader Copy.

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Book Recommendation ~ The Elusive Miss Ellison by Carolyn Miller

Book Description:

Handsome appearance counts for naught unless matched by good character and actions.

That’s the firm opinion of not-so-meek minister’s daughter Lavinia Ellison. So even though all the other villagers of St. Hampton Heath are swooning over the newly returned seventh Earl of Hawkesbury, she is not impressed. If a man won’t take his responsibilities seriously and help those who are supposed to be able to depend on him, he deserves no respect from her. In Lavinia’s pretty, gray eyes, Nicholas Stamford is just as arrogant and reckless as his brother–who stole the most important person in Livvie’s world.

Nicholas is weighed down by his own guilt and responsibility, by the pain his careless brother caused, and by the legacy of war he’s just left. This quick visit home to St. Hampton Heath will be just long enough to ease a small part of that burden. Asking him to bother with the lives of the villagers when there’s already a bailiff on the job is simply too much to expect.

That is, until the hoydenish, intelligent, and very opinionated Miss Ellison challenges him to see past his pain and pride. With her angelic voice in his head, he may even be beginning to care. But his isn’t the only heart that needs to change.

These two lonely hearts may each have something the other needs. But with society’s opposition, ancestral obligations, and a shocking family secret, there may be too many obstacles in their way.

Fans of Georgette Heyer, Lori Wick, and Julie Klassen will enjoy the spirited exchanges between the bluestocking minister’s daughter and the bruised war hero as they move past pride and presumption to a humbled appreciation of God’s grace and the true strength of love.

Narelle’s thoughts:

I really enjoyed reading The Elusive Miss Ellison, Book 1 in the Regency Brides series. The regency era is one of my favourite historical romance time periods, and it was a pleasure to read Carolyn Miller’s excellent debut novel.

Lavinia Ellison has a heart for the poor people who live in her village. Her faith inspires her to care for the poor and needy, even if there’s a personal cost to her own welfare. Lavinia has lived with the trauma from witnessing the accident that killed her mother when she was a young girl. She was raised by her church minster father and devoted aunt who encouraged her to pursue her love for music. 

Nicholas Stamford never expected to become the seventh Earl of Hawkesbury, a title he inherited after the death of his irresponsible older brother. A former soldier, Nicholas is a handsome and honourable man who is adjusting to his new life and responsibilities. 

Lavinia is on a mission to convince the Earl that he needs to repair the dilapidated village homes. She is wary of him, knowing that his brother was involved in the accident that killed her mother. Lavinia is convinced that Nicholas’ questionable character, lack of faith, and higher social standing rule him out as a potential suitor. 

Nicholas is intrigued by Lavinia, charmed by her beauty, and appreciative of her sharp wit. His mother is scheming to match him with a lady of means who will add to the family fortune and maintain their social status. A delightful twist in the story changes everything, forcing both Nicholas and Lavinia to move in a different direction and question their long held values and beliefs.

The story is beautifully paced with lively banter and plot twists that raised the stakes and kept me turning the page. Nicholas and Lavinia develop a friendship and the rules of society dictate how they relate to each other. The faith element is a natural part of the story and we journey with Lavinia and Nicholas as they grow in their faith.     

I highly recommend The Elusive Miss Ellison to regency romance fans who enjoy a fast paced and entertaining Christian romance. Book 2, The Captivating Lady Charlotte, will release on June 27, 2017.

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Book Recommendation ~ The Cowboy’s Christmas Baby by Carolyne Aarsen

 

the_cowboys_christmas_baby

Book Description:

A Family For Christmas 

No one expected Erin McCauley to arrive in Saddlebank, Montana, with a baby…and no wedding ring. Especially not Dean Moore, who cared for Erin but knew the by-the-book girl would never go for a hard-living cowboy like him. While helping renovate Erin’s new home, Dean realizes he’s still in love with her—and with her beautiful daughter. As far as he’s concerned, past mistakes don’t have to define them—but guilt is holding Erin back from seeing that Dean is offering exactly what she’s longing for. Because if she lets him, he’ll give her the home—and the family—she’s always wanted.

Narelle’s Thoughts: 

A contemporary romance with a handsome cowboy holding an adorable baby on the cover has to be a winner, right? Carolyne shared her thoughts on the cover and book title in an Inspy Romance post here. 

I really enjoyed reading this book. The Cowboy’s Christmas Baby is the third book in the Big Sky Cowboys series. Each book features a McCauley sister.

Erin McCauley was the good girl who had spent most of her life trying to do the right thing. But she has a secret she hasn’t shared with her sisters or her late father. A secret drenched in guilt and shame that has tested her faith and resulted in her becoming a single parent. The story opens with Erin returning to Saddlebank, Montana, to introduce her six week old daughter, Caitlin, to her sisters.

Dean Moore has had a crush on Erin for years. Erin was the unobtainable girl who was too classy to date a rodeo cowboy like him. She rebuffed his advances years ago when she spent her summer holidays staying on her father’s ranch. Her twin sister is set to marry his brother. Dean works in construction and is recovering from a rodeo injury that has left him with a limp and a lot of pain in his leg.

Dean is stunned by Erin’s return to Saddlebank with her baby. He’s charged with renovating her house on the ranch. Sparks fly as they spend time together and form a close friendship. Dean dotes on Caitlin and he doesn’t push Erin to share her story about Caitlin’s father.

Caitlin wants to put down roots in Saddlebank and raise her daughter with family close by. Dean has matured and now has a strong faith. She starts to rely on him and view him as a potential husband and father for Caitlin. But her past mistakes haunt her and threaten her future with Dean.

I loved the emotional depth in the story and how both Erin and Dean had to overcome their fears and face the reality of their life circumstances. We see Erin’s struggles and triumphs as she bonds and loves on her gorgeous baby.

I recommend The Cowboy’s Christmas Baby to readers who enjoy heartwarming Christian romance. It’s a standalone story that features cameo appearances from characters in the Refuge Ranch series that’s also set in Saddlebank. I also loved the unique proposal scene in the Epilogue.

Carolyne has a new release in February from Love Inspired: Courting The Cowboy (Cowboys of Cedar Ridge Book 1)

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Book Recommendation ~ Springtime of the Spirit by Maureen Lang

Book Description:

By the fall of 1918, the Great War has ended and the world is at peace, but there is little to celebrate in Germany. After four years of fighting for his homeland, Christophe Brecht returns to find there is little left of what he once called home. So when family friends ask him to travel to Munich to bring back their runaway daughter, Christophe agrees.

When he finally locates Annaliese Duray, he discovers she is far different from the girl he once knew. Headstrong, idealistic, and beautiful, she is on the front lines of the city’s political scene, fighting to give women and working-class citizens a voice in Germany’s new government.

As the political upheaval ignites in Munich, so does the attraction between Annaliese and Christophe. With an army from Berlin threatening to squash everything Annaliese has worked for, both she and Christophe are forced to choose between love and loyalty.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

Springtime of the Spirit is the third book in Maureen Lang’s The Great War series. A spirited and poignant love story set in Germany in 1918 during the politically turbulent months following the end of the First World War.

Annaliese Duray is from a wealthy family who live in a small town outside Munich, and her capitalist father has benefited financially from the war by building weapons in his factory. After the death of her beloved sister and Germany’s crushing defeat by the Allies, Annaliese runs away from her family. She disappears in Munich, determined to help create a better future for Germany.

The socialist revolution, arising during a time of high unemployment and food shortages, brings Eisner to power and Annaliese joins the socialist party. Within weeks she becomes a political voice for the rights of women. Keeping her privileged background a secret, she speaks passionately in the streets to the working class crowds, espousing socialist values of equality and the evils of capitalism.

Christophe Brecht is a disillusioned Major from the German Army who returns from France to discover his homeland has been changed by the war. He finds his family’s home abandoned and a note from his sister. His brother died fighting in the war, his parent’s are now deceased and his sister has moved to America.

Annaliese’s older sister, Giselle, was Christophe’s first love. After learning of Giselle’s death, he visits her heartbroken parents. They enlist his help in finding Annaliese in Munich and bringing her home before they leave Germany and move to America.

A fascinating story unfolds as Christophe finds Annaliese and tries to convince her to return home with him and reconcile with her parents. Annaliese has rejected her childhood faith and, as the political upheaval and danger intensifies around them, she is challenged by Christophe’s beliefs that are in conflict with her new socialist ideology.

Springtime of the Spirit is an amazing story of love and hope during a politically unstable time in Germany’s history. The characters are passionate in their political beliefs that also shape their decisions in their personal lives. The exciting political backdrop adds an extra element of danger and intrigue to the story. The heartache and desperation of a nation economically crippled by war is captured in the story and the character’s motivations and desire for change is realistically depicted. I recommend Springtime of the Spirit for those interested in political ideologies and looking for an exciting historical romance set during a time of significant social change.

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