Christian Fiction New Releases: December 2021

No Place Like Home by Amy R. Anguish

Can love secure Adrian’s wandering heart?

Roots are overrated, at least to someone like Adrian Stewart, preacher’s kid, who has never lived anywhere longer than six years. That’s why her job with MidUSLogIn Inc., is so perfect for her—lots of travel, and staying nowhere long enough to have it feel like home. But when work takes her to Memphis, closer to her family for the first time in years and in the same small office as Grayson Roberts, she starts to question her job, her lack of home, and even her memories of her rocky past with the church.

Gray is intrigued by Adrian from the moment he sees her, and he’s determined to get to the bottom of why this girl, who loves old movies and hums when she works, won’t go to church with him. As they grow closer, he wants more too, but how can he convince her to stay in Memphis when she doesn’t believe in home—or God? Can he use his own broken past to break through hers?

Healing Skye by Janet W. Ferguson

People can’t be trusted, but she’s forced to take a chance.

Animals always made more sense than humans did to marine biologist Skye Youngblood. After her mother’s suicide, she left Alabama and never looked back. These days, she pours her heart into protecting nature’s sea creatures. When she returns to Dauphin Island, Alabama, for a temporary manatee migration study, her dark past is much too close. She can’t let her guard down. But how can she keep her heart hidden when a kind man with a genuine smile makes her want a fresh start?

Charter fishing pays the bills for widower Pete Thompson and his little girl, but like his father, a pastor, Pete can’t help but fish for men. Only, after growing up under constant scrutiny as a preacher’s kid, Pete’s ways are a bit more unconventional. And the bulk of his life revolves around raising his precious daughter.

When he witnesses the car wreck of a new marine biologist on the island, it doesn’t take a genius to see that more than just her physical pain needs tending. Pete feels called to help Skye find true healing, but he’s navigating dangerous waters. And he’s not at all sure he’ll walk away unscathed.

Romanced By The Hero by Liwen Y. Ho

Two broken hearts. One lonely Christmas. And a love dare that changes everything for two new friends.

As Head of Security at Freedom Lodge, MacGyver Spark is used to protecting people. Since losing his fiancée in a car accident, he’s gotten good at protecting his heart as well. Determined to focus on his health and recovery, he’s kept himself busy with work and AA meetings and also far, far away from the opposite sex. He was content with living the life of a bachelor, until his cousin asked him to play tour guide for a gorgeous female friend.

Romance book blogger Amy McCormick isn’t one to wallow in self-pity. Born blind, she’s always tackled challenges head-on and been grateful for both the peaks and valleys of life. Except for her current valley—getting dumped by her first love—that has her questioning her faith and the future. Escaping to Colorado for a snowy, guy-free Christmas sounded like a good plan, until Mac shows up and challenges all her beliefs about men.

When faced with their greatest fears, Mac and Amy must learn to lean on each other and discover if love can really save the day.

Return to Freedom, Colorado and enjoy the faith, friendships, and forever-afters of the Heroes of Freedom Ridge in this Christian Christmas Romance.

Their Unbreakable Bond by Deb Kastner

His life has skidded off the tracks…

Can she help him start over?

Training avalanche rescue dogs with his best friend’s sister, Felicity Winslow, was never in Stone Keller’s plans. But after a reckless motorcycle accident ends his rodeo career, he has nowhere to go but home to Colorado. Working with the dogs—and Felicity—could be exactly what he needs to put the pieces of his life back together. 

From Love Inspired: Uplifting stories of faith, forgiveness and hope.

Reclaiming Hope by Carolyn Miller

Opposites attract—and repel. But which is more powerful?

Callie Steele might be a bit…focused on work, but despite what her employers say, she enjoys her well-ordered, productive life.

When she’s sent to meet the owners of an estate requiring post-hurricane landscaping, Callie meets their son, Kai Brody, a super-chilled pro surfer, who is as opposite from her as they come. Though initially smitten, Callie knows a relationship with Kai is a bad idea—a very bad idea.

Kai, however, can’t help but be intrigued by someone who challenges him to make something of his life again. He’s determined to pursue her, if she’ll give him half a chance.

The more time they spend together, negotiating the challenges of work, illness, and family, the more their opposing outlooks clash and connect. What do these unlikely friends really want from life? Is it best to focus on work or recreation?

As Kai and Callie seek answers from the Lord, they also must consider if such complete opposites have enough in common to make a relationship last.

Reclaiming Hope concludes the Hooper Island stories of the Independence Islands Series featuring five islands, six authors, and a boatload of happily-ever-afters.

The Independence Islands Series: beach reads aren’t just for summer anymore.

The Breakup Project by Carolyn Miller

New Year. New Resolution. New Romance?
What happens when the best-laid plans break a friendship?

As the twin sister of hockey’s hottest forward, romance-loving Bree Karlsson is used to being ignored, leading to a New Year’s resolution to not date any athlete in her attempt to find Mr. Right. But what happens when the man who might prove to be her personal Mr. Darcy is her brother’s hockey-playing best friend?

Mike Vaughan might be happy playing in Boston, but he’d be even happier if Bree could one day see him as more than a good friend. He agrees to help Bree with a special project in the hope she’ll finally see him as something more. But when a misunderstanding ends in a Valentine’s Day disaster, Bree realizes that her breakup project may have broken her friendship with Mike in two. Can she ever redeem her mistake?

This friends-to-more romance has plenty of heart, humor, and swoon-worthy kisses in this first book of the Original Six, a sweet, slightly sporty Christian contemporary romance series.

Their Yuletide Healing by Mindy Obenhaus

As her plans unravel, can she give her children what they truly need?

Foster mom Rae Girard’s determined to make her children’s first Christmas with her the best they’ve ever had—and she’s shocked when the town scrooge, attorney Cole Heinsohn, offers to pitch in. Rae’s young charges have melted Cole’s heart, and he wants them to experience the special day he never had. But when disaster strikes, an imperfect holiday might bring them something better: a family…

Buried Cold Case Secrets by Sami A. Abrams

Recovering her missing memories could be the key to solving a murder.

Searching for her best friend’s remains could help forensic anthropologist Melanie Hutton regain her memories of when they were both kidnapped—unless the killer gets to Melanie first. For her safety, Melanie must rely on Detective Jason Cooper, who still blames her for his sister’s death. Can Jason set the past aside to solve the cold-case murder…and shield Melanie from the same fate?

A Covert Cowboy Christmas by Carol James

A December ice storm destroys Rebekah Kingston’s Christmas plans. With the power out and the West Texas roads closed indefinitely, she’s forced to spend Christmas at her brother Braden’s ranch instead of at home with her parents.

But Rebekah and Braden are not alone. Also stranded is an annoyingly chatty ranch hand, Dirk Sims. While Rebekah is certain she’s met him before, Dirk insists she’s mistaken.

However, when Rebekah inadvertently eavesdrops on one of Dirk’s phone conversations, she discovers his lie. Dirk is not who he seems. This Christmas just got interesting.

Broken Together by Brenda S. Anderson and Sarah S. Anderson

How do you persevere when you have no more will to fight?

Jennifer and Chad Taylor had dreamed of opening a coffee and cocoa shop since before they said, “I do.” When Chad is sent to prison for murder despite claiming innocence, that dream—along with their family—is shattered.

After years of fighting for Chad’s release, Jennifer finally breaks free from her shame, anger, and hopelessness, and forges ahead with the dream the two of them once shared. With the help of their college-aged twins, she begins to move forward.

Without Chad.

When their lawyer arrives with news of evidence that may prove Chad’s innocence, a strange mixture of emotions overtakes her. Does she want Chad to return home? He isn’t the same man he once was, and she certainly isn’t the same woman. She’s worked hard to piece the remnants of their family back together, and his coming home could fracture the family once again.

It all comes down to one question. She loves her husband enough to fight for his release from prison, but does she love him enough to fight for their marriage?

What Matters Most by Carol Ashby

When faced with impossible choices, how do you decide what matters most?

For ten years, the incorruptible Tribune Titianus enforced Rome’s laws. He’s four days from leaving the Urban Cohort to teach at his brother-in-law Kaeso’s school when Emperor Hadrian and the Praetorian Prefect draft him to secretly investigate and thwart an assassination plot…one that might involve his own commander. He can’t refuse, but if Hadrian’s enemies discover his Christian faith, will it mean death for everyone he loves?

Titianus’s cousin Sabina returns as a widow to her father’s house after six years of misery in a marriage that sealed a political alliance. She’s dreading the next marriage Grandfather will arrange with someone seeking his support. When her brother’s best friend Kaeso offers the encouragement and friendship she’s longed for, can she escape the chains of society’s expectations to gain what her heart desires?

The new tribune Glabrio wants two things as Titianus trains him: to discover for their commander who Titianus is investigating and to gain the support of Titianus’s powerful relatives. Marrying Sabina would secure the backing of her grandfather, but because of the teacher, she’s making choices no noblewoman should. As he gets closer to both his goals, will he realize in time what matters most?

Dangerous times, difficult friendships, lives transformed by forgiveness and love

What Matters Most is the eleventh volume in the Light in the Empire series, which follows the interconnected lives of six Roman families during the reigns of Trajan and Hadrian. Each can be read stand-alone. The twelve novels of the series will take you around the Empire, from Germania and Britannia to Thracia, Dacia, and Judaea and, of course, to Rome itself.

Book Recommendation – Stay with Me by Becky Wade

Book Description:

Loving her is a risk he can’t afford . . . and can’t resist.

When acclaimed Bible study author Genevieve Woodward receives an anonymous letter referencing her parents’ past, she returns to her hometown in the Blue Ridge Mountains to chase down her family’s secret. However, it’s Genevieve’s own secret that catches up to her when Sam Turner, owner of a historic farm, uncovers the source of shame she’s worked so hard to hide.

Sam has embraced his sorrow, his isolation, and his identity as an outsider. He’s spent years carving out both career success and peace of mind. The last thing he wants is to rent the cottage on his property to a woman whose struggles stir his worst failure back to life. Yet can he bear to turn her away right when she needs him most?

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I usually recommend books that I enjoyed reading. Stay with Me is a compelling read that I couldn’t put down, and the characters in the story challenged me to go places with them that I wouldn’t necessarily describe as fun or enjoyable.

Every reader who opens a book will bring with them their emotional baggage, life experiences, and values and beliefs that influence how they connect with the characters and the story. The reader’s unique lens will impact how they experience the story. The best stories will engage our emotions, both positive and negative, and bring the characters and events in the story to life in our hearts and minds.

Stay with Me opens with Sam finding a late model Volvo SUV parked outside his guest house cottage on his farm near the small town of Misty River in the north Georgia mountains. He discovers a beautiful woman asleep on a bare mattress on the bed inside his guest house. She’s sleeping on her own pillow and has covered herself with a mismatch of clothes as a makeshift quilt.

When Sam fails to gently wake her, he needs to find out who she is and why she’s trespassing on his property. He discovers the prescription drug, OxyContin, and his stress levels spike. Sam has experienced firsthand in Melbourne, Australia, the pain of losing a loved one addicted to opioids, and old feelings of grief from that time in his life on the other side of the world resurface.

Genevieve is a hot mess and she feels like a fraud. At the age of twelve she miraculously survived being killed by an earthquake during a mission trip in El Salvador, and she became known as one of the the miracle five. Genevieve believes she owes God, and she also believes God must have saved her in El Salvador because he has big plans for her life. Her celebrity status from the earthquake, combined with a failed romance when she was only twenty, inspired her to study the Bible. This set the foundation for her to traditionally publish her best selling Bible studies and nurture her celebrity women’s ministry speaking career.

A year earlier Genevieve was prescribed pain killers for an ankle injury, and it kicked off her shameful and out-of-control hidden struggle with OxyContin. Her perfect and wholesome good girl Christian public persona hides the painful truth of her real life. She has returned to Misty River to find answers to the mystery fan mail she has received concerning her parents’ past, and to detox at her parents’ home. Her mother’s suffocating love and Genevieve’s refusal to share her addiction problems with her parents derail the detox plan, and Genevieve asks Sam if she can detox in his cottage.

Fiction can be a safe place to explore the “what if…” that’s too scary to contemplate in real life. At this early stage in the story, I wanted to tell Sam to run and never look back. It was Albert Einstein who said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. After Sam’s experience in Australia that resulted in him avoiding romantic relationships, why would he take on Genevieve and her problems? And the whole idea of detoxing outside a medical setting without professional support in place is frankly terrifying.

Since this is a fiction story and not real life, and is a romance story where the main characters definitely won’t die, I could put aside my thoughts on these issues and keep reading. And I’m glad I did!

The friends-to-more slow burn romance was complicated, the family mystery intriguing, and the faith element satisfying. I calmed down and settled more into the story when Genevieve starting seeing a counsellor and receiving the professional medical care she desperately needed.

Both Genevieve and Sam grew as people during the story despite the temptation for Genevieve to switch her co-dependency from the pills to Sam. I recommend Stay with Me to contemporary romance readers who are prepared for a wild ride that may challenge their thoughts and ideas on a range of issues.

Book Recommendation – The Silk Merchant of Sychar by Cindy Williams

Book Description:

One woman, five husbands and the weary rabbi at the well who knows everything she ever did. 

The day after they bury her husband Leah Marcellus loses her baby. A widow and childless, what man will want her now? 

Her father arranges a second marriage—a profitable business arrangement—sealed on Mount Gerizim, the holy mountain where every true follower of Yahweh worships, but Leah’s heart belongs to another. Her passion only brings trouble – jealousy, murder and lies. 

Leah’s skill at the loom and the secrets of dye –the woad, the murex and madder—brings her renown among the Roman women of wealth. 

Yet death and betrayal soon steal her security. In desperation, Leah sacrifices her peace of mind and risks everything to protect her family.

From the olive groves of Samaria to the bloodied sand of a Roman stadium to the exquisite silks brought from the East, The Silk Merchant of Sychar weaves colour into the biblical account of the woman at the well.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I enjoyed reading The Silk Merchant of Sychar and learning more about life and culture in Samaria and the Roman Empire during Biblical times. The story explores a fictional background for the woman who Jesus meets at the well. How has this woman reached a point in her life where she’s had five husbands, and is currently in a relationship with a man who is not her husband?

The story follows Leah’s life, starting when her first husband passed away and Leah miscarries their only child. We walk with Leah as she struggles with the limitations of a patriarchal society where women gain status from marriage and children, and need the legal protection of their father, husband, or male relative.

Leah is a descendant of Joseph from the tribe of Mannasseh. She is disillusioned with the legalism and practices of the priests at the temple. Leah’s husbands and their families believe in a variety of religious practices, including idol worship. Death is never far from Leah’s door, and desperation drives her to make both wise and unwise decisions in her search for love and security and a place to belong.

We are given an insight into married life through Leah’s eyes, and issues of lust and passionate romantic love are explored in the story in the context of Leah’s relationships. As a result, the level of sensuality and explicit detail in the story is higher and more detailed than the typical Biblical fiction story. Descriptions of sexual situations are tasteful, but the bedroom door is open and this content may be too graphic for readers who prefer clean reads. I recommend The Silk Merchant of Sychar to readers who like Biblical fiction that explores the dynamics of family relationships and faith issues in different cultural contexts.

Book Recommendation – Spring Splash by Denise Weimer

Book Description:

The heart of a champion may surprise you.

When an injury sidelines college swimmer Anna Callaway, her dreams are crushed. She pours herself into her sports marketing practicum, helping a local special needs organization promote their athletic event. What she doesn’t expect is a swim team ripe for the Special Olympics—and their handsome but stubborn coach.

Craig Holt has dealt with eager and ignorant volunteers before. No matter how determined or persuasive uptight Anna might be about coaching his team to the Special Olympics, he has no intention of allowing her to raise the hopes of his swimmers, his sister, or his guarded heart.

Then Anna herself gets a second chance at becoming a champion. Will she pursue her lifelong goals or make room for a new dream?

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I enjoyed reading Spring Splash and learning more about special needs swim teams. The story is set in Georgia, USA, where Craig is the coach of the local special needs swim team. Anna is a college student and swimmer who was injured and missed out on qualifying for nationals. Anna starts working on her sports marketing college project with the special needs swim team and Craig is her supervisor.

Craig and Anna are drawn to each other, but Anna is Craig’s student for the duration of the college project placement and that makes everything complicated. Craig is very protective of his sister, Margo, who is a gifted swimmer on the autism spectrum with sensory issues. He’s reluctant to let Anna encourage Margo to step outside her comfort zone in the pool.

A fun and beautiful romance unfolds as Craig and Anna fall in love while preparing the swim team for the Spring Splash Meet and potentially qualifying for the Georgia Special Olympics team. The supporting cast of characters in the swim team family were delightful and true to life. I loved the focus on health and fitness in the story. I recommend Spring Splash to readers who like contemporary romances in a sports setting with special needs athletes.

Book Recommendation – All Arranged by Meredith Resce

Book Description:

Regency romance author, Luella Linley (AKA Louise Brooker), should feel satisfied she has helped her two daughters marry happily. However, her successful meddling came at a price and her husband has advised she leave the children to their own devices.

But her eldest, Pete, is thirty-five, living back at home and dejected after having been jilted days before his wedding. Her responsible, hard-working and handsome son would make a good husband and father—but he’s given up after three failed relationships. He’s a good catch, but unlikely to be fooled by his mother’s scheming and meddling. 

This situation calls for a direct approach. Just like in her novels, Louise decides the parents should do the arranging and sort out the wheat from the chaff.  

Carrie Davis is a dedicated career woman and hasn’t had time for relationships. However, her sister, Ellen, is now happily married with a delightful little girl and for the first time, Carrie finds loneliness stalking her. Ellen want’s the best for Carrie, so when she comes across an odd advert in the classifieds, she wonders if it is a prank or an opportunity sent from heaven.

“Wanted. For a social experiment. A family arranged marriage.”

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I enjoyed reading All Arranged, the third book in Meredith Resce’s Luella Linley: License to Meddle series set in Adelaide, South Australia. The first two books in this series are lighter reads than All Arranged. This story is a fun and uniquely Aussie twist on the modern day arranged marriage and marriage of convenience romance tropes.

Luella Linley is concerned for her son, Pete, and his run of bad luck in romantic relationships. Being a successful regency romance author, Luella is sure she can mimic the success of her matchmaking efforts with her daughters and find the perfect wife for Pete. Luella hatches a plan to place a suitable advertisement in an Adelaide newspaper.

Pete indulges his meddling mother by providing her with a criteria list for a wife that he’s certain no real life single woman can actually meet. He figures his mother will drop the whole matchmaking idea once the advertisement is a failure.

Carrie’s sister, Ellen, is concerned her career-minded sister will miss out on meeting her perfect match due to her busy school teaching role. When Ellen comes across Luella’s advertisement, she starts to wonder if Carrie could be the right woman for Luella’s son.

The families arrange a meeting and start the ball rolling on Pete and Carrie’s potential relationship. A fun and hilarious story unfolds as the wedding plans are made and Pete and Carrie start to get to know each other. We also learn more about Luella and see the extended family dynamics from connecting the two families in marriage.

Unlike the earlier books in the series, I did cry while reading a section of the story. I empathised with the characters and the painful circumstances they were experiencing. I recommend All Arranged to readers looking for a family-focused arranged marriage contemporary romance story with a light faith element that has more depth and emotional angst than the typical rom-com.

Book Recommendation – Kinsale Kisses by Elizabeth Maddrey

Book Description:

She wants stability. He wants spontaneity. What they need is each other.

Colin O’Bryan cashed out of the software company he founded and started a new life in Ireland. Content to wander from town to town as a traveling musician, he had no goals beyond healing from the betrayals that led to his career change, and finding his next gig.

After the death of her parents, Rachel Sullivan hoped her aunt’s B&B on the Southern coast of Ireland would be a place for her to settle and start a new life. Though she can’t deny the sparks in Colin’s touch, his lack of concern for hearth and home leave her torn.

Can this free-spirited minstrel win her heart or will Rachel choose roots and stability over love?

This gentle inspirational romance will take you on a journey to Cork County, Ireland and give you a glimpse of Kinsale, Charles Fort, Blarney Castle, and Cobh as Rachel and Colin undergo their own journey of self-discovery as they learn that God’s plans are bigger than their own and that waiting on Him is worth the insecurity it brings.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I enjoyed reading Kinsale Kisses and travelling around Ireland with Rachel and Colin. Rachel travels to Cork County to help her spinster aunt run her bed and breakfast in Kinsale. Rachel recently lost her dad, and she was forced to sell the family rental cabins business in West Virginia that were rundown due to the expensive hospital bills from her late mother’s decade long battle with cancer. Aunt Siobhan in Ireland is Rachel’s only remaining family, and Rachel is looking to use her hospitality background and put down roots somewhere.

Colin is the former CEO of a software development company in Chicago. He sold out of the business he helped build when his business partner did the wrong thing by him. Colin is now a musician who’s travelling around Ireland playing gigs in pubs, and he lands in Kinsale when Rachel first arrives in the seaside town.

A fun and lighthearted romance develops as Rachel and Colin explore County Cork and the possibility of their friendship and simmering attraction becoming something more. I recommend Kinsale Kisses to contemporary romance readers who like short and sweet vacation romance novellas with a light faith element set in beautiful Ireland.

Christian Fiction New Releases: November 2021

Pieces of Forever by Valerie M. Bodden

The scars on her face are nothing to the scars on her heart. But can God help her find healing―and love?

Eight years ago, Ava and Joseph had the perfect future planned—he would go to veterinary school, she would embark on a career with an exclusive modeling agency, and they’d eventually get married and have three dogs and four children. Until a terrible accident changed everything. Unwilling to believe they could still have a future, she made Joseph promise to leave and live out their dreams without her.

Joseph has never broken a promise to Ava. Until now. Because before he made that stupid promise to leave, they’d made each other another promise—one of forever. Now that he’s done with veterinary school, he’s determined to return to River Falls and show her that his promise still stands. That he loves her just the way she is.

But first he’ll have to find a way to crack the safe she’s erected around her heart. Fortunately, he has help: in the form of three lovable dogs, a special group of sick kids, and more than a few slices of pie. But will it be enough to convince Ava that their forever is worth fighting for? Or will he be left picking up the pieces―alone?

Footprints on Her Heart by Tabitha Bouldin

He’s saving the world, one animal at a time.

Trent Raines’ opinion, happily ever after has four paws and doggy breath. He spends his days isolated at the shelter, taking care of animals. Especially now that romance seems to be spreading across the islands faster than fleas in summer.

 She lives a safe life behind the camera lens.

Kara Parker’s job at the animal shelter keeps her too busy to worry about romance. Sure, the boss is cute and all, but her introverted nature is perfectly happy as a photographer and website designer, thank you very much.

 Even a quick trip to the mainland to retrieve a truckful of animals won’t change their minds.

 Or so they think.

 As Trent comes to understand Kara, he discovers there’s more than meets the eye in his quiet employee. Together, they plan a Christmas adoption festival that’s certain to empty the animal shelter in record time. Until a blast from Trent’s past puts all the animals in danger.

Sure, Trent and Kara are fine on their own, but they’re even better together.

What will it take for these soulmates conquer their fears and rescue the animals before it’s too late?

Together in Thyme by Valerie Comer

Can he prove to her he’s sorry? Does she need to reveal everything? Because it’s easier to mask the pain than go all in for a second chance at love.
Basil Santoro is back in Bridgeview, but it’s hard to prove he’s reformed without admitting he’s been an arrogant jerk. The list of people he should apologize to is lengthy and starts with his family, his former business partners… and Hailey. If only she had already married someone else, all this would be so much easier.

Hailey North passed the last few years flirting with any man who’d look twice. With Basil’s return, she should stop playing and go out with the nice, respectable — but boring — banker who’s asked her a dozen times. That will show Basil she’s not pining for what might have been.

It’s juvenile. She knows it, but opening her heart to the man who crushed it years ago and still thinks it’s a joke isn’t an option. How can Basil and Hailey learn to be real and trust each other again?

An Awestruck Christmas Medley by Emily Conrad

Four hundred miles of snow-covered terrain stand between the men of Awestruck and a Christmas with loved ones.

A blizzard grounds flights and obscures highways across the Midwest, stranding the band at their latest tour stop in Chicago. But lead singer Gannon made a promise he’s determined to keep—to join Adeline, the woman he loves, in northern Wisconsin for Christmas.

Bassist Philip isn’t quite as eager for the holiday. The tour will end shortly after, and then his kids will have to leave their grandparents to stay with him full-time. He loves his children, but he’s not sure he can pull off a memorable Christmas. Does he have what it takes to be a single dad year-round?

When John caught his girlfriend in a lie earlier in the year, he gave her the benefit of the doubt. The drummer plans to introduce her to his family over Christmas, but before they manage to leave Chicago, he discovers more troubling truths. Was he wrong to trust her?

A Christmas filled with peace, joy, and loved ones? That’ll take a Christmas miracle.

A Small-Town Christmas Challenge by Susanne Dietze

Will reviving an old tradition be the start of something new?

When she inherits a beautiful historic house, nurse Leah Dean knows selling it could solve all her problems. But there’s just one catch—she and co-owner Pastor Benton Hunt must cohost the Gingerbread Gala in the home first. As Christmas approaches, Leah and Benton grow closer, and parting with the house—and each other—is not as easy as they thought…

Believing the Hero by Tara Grace Ericson

She’s been alone for years. Can this secret agent convince her to love again?

Jan Clark lost her firefighter husband ten years ago. She fills her days running Stories and Scones and doting on her first grandchild. Finding someone new feels like betraying the husband she loved for decades, and the thought of tragically losing someone again is terrifying. But Pete O’Rourke is handsome, charming, and makes her feel young again—and what could be safer than an insurance agent?

Pete moved back to Freedom, Colorado after 25 years as a CIA operative, not that anyone around here thinks he did anything but sit at a desk. Now, he is content with his quiet life as an insurance agent and real estate investor. When he finally convinces the lovely widow, Jan, to give a relationship a shot, everything seems to be falling into place. Until an unexpected visitor from his past arrives in Freedom and threatens to ruin the holiday.

Now, Pete is pulled back into the dangerous secrets of his past. He’ll do anything to protect his town and the woman he loves, but the high stakes could be too much for their fledgling relationship to handle.

Head Over Stilettos by Liwen Y. Ho

All this plumber wants is a crack at romance.

Josie

My friend was supposed to refer me to a plumber. Instead, she sends a Hugh Jackman lookalike to my bridal boutique. Wearing a leather jacket and tight jeans. And riding a motorcycle. The sight is almost enough to make me forget about my nearly-doomed grand opening, especially when I recognize Graham as my childhood crush. 

Graham

Sure, Josie once proposed marriage to me, but that was when she was twelve. Fast forward thirty years, and we’re both adults now. She’s single, gorgeous, and definitely not the kind of girl to fall for a plumber. But that doesn’t stop me from wanting to change her mind. 

Josie

The last thing my fragile heart needs right now is a blast from the past that leaves me red-hot and mortified. Who knew Graham would still remember my proposal? What’s crazier is that he said if I asked him to marry me today, he’d say yes!

Graham

Wooing clients isn’t usually part of my services, but when it comes to Josie, love might not be just a pipe dream after all. But proving to her that I’m the real deal will be the biggest challenge of this job … especially if I can’t get her leaky toilet fixed in time!

Never Too Late By Susan L. Tuttle

Once, her art brought her fame. This time will it bring her love?

Widowed homemaker Rachael Stark isn’t quite sure what comes after her only child leaves for college. To fill her suddenly quiet hours and scrawny bank account, she needs a job. But painful memories prevent her from resurrecting her former art career, and “motherhood” isn’t much of a résumé. When her best friend needs help recovering from a gunshot wound that occurred in the line of duty, she is there. Finally, someone to take care of.

Evan Wayne won’t let his injury keep him from being a police officer. His dedication to protect the innocent stems from the guilt he carries over having failed his childhood friend. What he needs now is to recover and get back on the streets. Instead, he’s handed a myriad of light-duty tasks by his captain—one of which involves heading up the department’s entry into the town’s annual mural contest. He’s not an artist, but he definitely knows one. And he’ll take any excuse to spend more time with her.

When Rachael agrees to paint for Evan, she never expects to also be drawn into finding answers for the mother of a missing child. As the two friends work side by side on the mural and the case, their feelings move beyond friendship. But with Evan unwilling to leave his dangerous job, and Rachael unwilling to risk another loss of a loved one, their fears may paint over the promise of a beautiful future together.

You and Me by Becky Wade

Easy-going, artistic Connor Bryant fell hard for his friend Shay Seaver when they were both in the seventh grade. Sixteen years later, he’s returned to Misty River. She’s finally between boyfriends. And his crush on her hasn’t wavered. Now’s his chance.

He tells Shay that he’s found someone he wants to date and is in need of a makeover when it comes to his appearance and dating strategies. He asks if she’ll serve as his consultant — in hopes that he’ll learn how he can become her ideal man. What he doesn’t tell her? That she’s the one he wants to date.

Sporty stationery shop owner Shay immediately agrees to Connor’s request because he’s one of the best guys she knows. However, she quickly realizes she’s in over her head. She’s pledged to help him win the affection of another woman — even though she dearly wants to claim his heart.

It’s Christmas in the mountain town of Misty River! This sweet contemporary romance novella, penned by Christy-winning author Becky Wade, can be read alone or paired with the other books in the series.

Always Been Yours by Jaycee Weaver

After years of waiting for her boyfriend to propose, office manager Hanady Ellsworth takes matters into her own hands. Now she’s engaged and planning her dream wedding with the help of her closest girlfriends. So why is she suddenly reading into everything Marco says and second guessing her choice? When her best friend is injured on the job, helping him through months of recovery is the perfect distraction from her confusing feelings.

Or not.

With a broken femur, Keenan Ochoa can’t exactly stand up for what he wants (or rather, who). But he knows firsthand Marco’s a jerk who doesn’t appreciate how gorgeous Hanady is—from her tall stature and generous curves to her sassy sweetness and strong faith. This injury might be the perfect chance for him to show her which of them is the better man.

Her Christmas wedding is coming fast, so he’ll have to get creative if he wants to sweep her off her feet when he can’t put weight on his. If she doesn’t see she’s marrying the wrong guy soon, his leg won’t be the only thing broken.

Unpacking Christmas by Beth K. Vogt

As Johanna, Jillian, and Payton look forward to celebrating the Christmas holidays with their families, they’re not prepared for an announcement that changes everything they’ve grown to love and cherish.

Their parents are selling their long-time family home. One change seems to lead to another, with Payton and Zach announcing their own decision to move, while Jillian and Geoff tackle the challenge of starting a family. The only ones maintaining the status quo are Johanna and Beckett—but romantic limbo is no place to be. Then their dad’s sudden health crisis spins life further out of control.

Instead of putting up holiday lights and decorating the family Christmas tree, the Thatcher sisters are helping pack up their childhood home. Along the way, they share treasured memories, try to hold onto valued traditions, discovering the struggles they’ve endured pale in comparison to the love they share with each other.

This Christmas, Johanna, Jillian, and Payton will laugh and cry together as they realize the true magic of Christmas isn’t found in gifts or decorations, but in the love of family.

Where Memories Await by Heidi Chiavaroli

Can memories of old restore a forgotten love?

Camden, Maine ~ Present Day

Spunky octogenarian Priscilla Martin is a woman with many Christmas secrets. When a beloved niece tempts her to bare her wounded soul, Priscilla must decide whether to share the secret of her sister’s demise—and the reason she abandoned the man she loved in favor of a loveless marriage. 

Camden, Maine ~ December, 1957

The only person Priscilla loves more than Ed Colton is her younger sister, Hazel. But when Ed is drafted and Hazel runs away to New York to be with a man she believes will make her famous, Priscilla’s plans crumble around her. Ed’s silence and Hazel’s tragic return leads Priscilla to make a choice she will forever regret.

Can revisiting long-ago memories give Priscilla what she’s longed for all these years?

Uncharted Courage by Kelly Brooke Keith

With the survival of the Land at stake and her heart on the line, Bailey must find the courage to love.

When Bailey accepts John Colburn’s offer for her to visit Good Springs, she leaves the Inn at Falls Creek expecting to spend the autumn relaxing in her favorite seaside village. Upon her arrival, Connor asks her to cover a shift of guard duty on the equinox, and her quiet vacation takes a shocking turn.

Revel Roberts works hard to keep his life commitment-free, making it easy to leave community decisions to men like Connor and John. But when the Land is threatened, Revel sees his chance to prove he is a man worthy of Bailey’s love. Amid the chaos in Good Springs, his unrequited feelings for her preoccupy him. One wrong choice could ruin everything.

As Bailey’s new life in the Land unravels and threats from the outside world loom, a yearning she can’t define surges within her. It distracts her from defending the hidden world she loves, and a tragedy reinforces her need for independence.

With the survival of the Land at stake and their hearts on the line, Bailey and Revel will need more courage than fighting ever required. They will need to find the courage to love.

The Corporal’s Codebook by Susan Page Davis

Jack Miller stumbles through the Civil War, winding up a telegrapher and cryptographer for the army. In the field with General Sherman in Georgia, he is captured along with his precious cipher key.

His captor, Hamilton Buckley, thinks he should have been president of the Confederacy, not Jefferson Davis. Jack doubts Buckley’s sanity and longs to escape. Buckley’s kindhearted niece, Marilla, might help him-but only if Jack helps her achieve her own goal.

Meanwhile, a private investigator, stymied by the difficulty of travel and communication in wartime, is trying his best to locate Jack for the grandmother he longs to see again but can barely remember.

Honor in the Mountain Refuge by Misty M. Beller

This epic journey is his last chance to start a new life. 

After being cast out of his Blackfoot village for his kindness to the Nez Perce captives, Chogan travels west in search of meaning for his life. Meaning that doesn’t require killing or torturing innocent people. Though the lovely face of Telípe, a Nez Perce woman, is imprinted on his heart, he avoids her village.  She deserves a happy life with her husband and coming child.

With her husband dead and the birth of her babe imminent, Telípe’s reality looks nothing like she planned. She’s been forced to return to the village where she grew up and the chaos of her family’s lodge—with all her boisterous younger brothers. She desperately desires to start a new life for herself and the babe growing within her, but she can’t seem to climb above the mire of her past. When she stumbles into the brave who’d shown her kindness during her captivity, something ignites within her—a new hope.

Chogan’s determination to stay and help Telípe is thwarted by her people’s fear and hatred for his tribe—especially since he was among last winter’s kidnappers. It doesn’t matter that he did everything he could to keep her and her unborn child safe and comfortable during that awful event. But as a new predator threatens the safety of the village, Chogan determines to take down the massive wildcat that’s already injured several children—including one of Telípe’s younger brothers. When the danger escalates, Chogan is faced with an impossible choice. No matter which option he chooses, his life will never be the same—nor that of the woman he’s come to love.

All That’s Fair By Amanda G. Stevens

Cady Schuster can’t die.

Unable for the last century to grow old or succumb to injury, Cady Schuster has lost a lot of people, some more recently than others. She’s trying to find new belonging in Harbor Vale, Michigan, among a welcoming little group of fellow ageless folk. Then she meets Paige, a mortal woman who needs a friend—and might need help.

Paige’s husband rules their church with an authority unquestioned by his congregation. When Paige suddenly severs all communication, Cady determines to find her. Churchgoers warn her off, and the behavior of Paige’s husband proves a still bigger warning. Is this friend lost too, or can Cady help her? And how far should an ageless woman involve herself in the conflicts of mortals?

Book Recommendation – Scattered by Nola Lorraine

Book Description:

To lose her family was unthinkable … 
To find them will take a miracle.

While working in Europe, nineteen-year-old Maggie never dreamed that her family would be ripped apart and scattered across the sea, with her young brother and sister sent to Canada as part of the Home Children Migrant Scheme.

Desperation sends Maggie on a search from England to Canada, with a harrowing shipwreck leaving her stranded on Sable Island. Eventually arriving in Halifax, Maggie is devastated to discover the trail to find her sister and brother has gone cold.

An offer of help from industrialist Thaddeus Tharaday seems like an answer to prayer, but is the wealthy Tharaday her benefactor or nemesis?

With the help of a dashing newspaper reporter, Maggie begins to unravel the web of deceit surrounding her siblings’ disappearance. However, the closer she gets to the truth, the more dangerous her quest becomes.

With lives on the line and the threat of everything she loves being torn away, can Maggie entrust the scattered pieces of her heart to the one who will never leave?

Set in Victorian-era Nova Scotia, Scattered weaves together elements of mystery, adventure, faith, and romance to take readers on a journey of hope and courage that will resonate with their hearts today.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I enjoyed reading Scattered, the delightful debut novel by Australian author Nola Lorraine. In the opening chapters we meet Maggie, a young English woman who is trying to locate her siblings. Her younger brother, Jack, and sister, Emily, were mistakenly assumed to be orphans with no family and were shipped to Canada in the Home Children Migrant Scheme.

Maggie accepts a job offer as a nanny with the goal of traveling to Halifax, Nova Scotia, on her new employer’s small merchant ship. They encounter rough weather in the waters off Sable Island and Maggie survives the harrowing shipwreck. She recuperates on Sable Island with the lighthouse keeper’s family before continuing her journey to Halifax and her search for her siblings.

Maggie secures lodging and a job in Halifax, but the mystery surrounding the location of Jack and Emily only deepens. Maggie isn’t sure who she can trust, and her heart is drawn to the charming newspaper reporter, Nash, who promises to assist Maggie in her search.

The mystery plot is interesting and complex. Maggie’s life is turned upside down as she overcomes obstacles in her journey to reunite her family. Her faith is challenged by the difficult circumstances she faces in the story. I highly recommend Scattered to readers who like historical Victorian era romantic mysteries set in Canada.

Book Recommendation – Tacos for Two by Betsy St. Amant

Book Description:

Rory Perez, a food truck owner who can’t cook, is struggling to keep the business she inherited from her aunt out of the red–and an upcoming contest during Modest’s annual food truck festival seems the best way to do it. The prize money could finally give her a solid financial footing and keep her cousin with special needs paid up at her beloved assisted living home. Then maybe Rory will have enough time to meet the man she’s been talking to via an anonymous online dating site. 

Jude Strong is tired of being a puppet at his manipulative father’s law firm, and the food truck festival seems like the perfect opportunity to dive into his passion for cooking and finally call his life his own. But if he loses the contest, he’s back at the law firm for good. Failure is not an option.

Complications arise when Rory’s chef gets mono and she realizes she has to cook after all. Then Jude discovers that his stiffest competition is the same woman he’s been falling for online the past month.

Will these unlikely chefs sacrifice it all for the sake of love? Or will there only ever be tacos for one?

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I enjoyed reading Tacos for Two, a foodie contemporary romance set in a small town in north Texas. Rory believes she’s a terrible cook, and she has inherited her aunt’s food truck business called Salsa Street. Her sweet cousin, Hannah, has Down’s syndrome, and needs Rory’s financial support to help pay for her assisted living accommodation.

Rory relies on Grady, her friend and loyal chef, to keep Salsa Street going. Grady and his wife, Nicole, are like family, and Rory is working full-time with Grady in the truck to keep Salsa Street afloat. The annual town food truck festival includes a contest with a cash first prize that would fix Rory’s financial problems.

Jude is a lawyer who doesn’t want to sit the Bar exam and continue working at the family law firm with his ruthless father and self-absorbed brother. Jude’s grandmother was influential in establishing the town, and his father is the wealthy patron who regularly donates funds to support the town. Jude has a love for cooking, and he wants to learn how to make the tacos he loved from his childhood. Jude gets the bright idea to ask Rory for cooking lessons in order to remember their housekeeper’s traditional recipe plus gain the skills to open his own taco food truck.

The meet cute between Rory and Jude is fun, and the cooking lessons are hilarious. When Grady becomes sick with mono, his wife Nicole steps up to help Rory with Salsa Street. Trouble arises when Rory learns Jude is her competition for the food truck prize, and we see the enemies-to-more trope playing out in the story. For a lawyer, Jude wasn’t smart in not predicting how Rory would react to learning she was training her competition. But, considering how Jude’s family steamroller people to get what they want, it’s not surprising that Jude didn’t think through all the implications of paying Rory for cooking lessons.

A fun and rocky romance develops against the backdrop of their adorable and anonymous online messaging relationship. In real life both Rory and Jude are emotionally shuttered and slow to trust, but online they’re emotionally vulnerable with each other and moving from friends territory to something more. I loved the ending of the story and all the twists and turns along Rory and Jude’s path to happily-ever-after.

Being an Aussie, I loved learning more about traditional Mexican and Tex Mex food. Jude loved cilantro and Rory hated cilantro. I’m with Jude on this point, and in Australia cilantro is known as coriander. The minor characters were delightful, adding charm and many hilarious moments. I recommend Tacos for Two to readers who like fun foodie contemporary romances with a light faith element.

I received a complimentary ebook from the publisher. Many thanks to Revell and Net Galley.

Book Recommendation – Team Bride by Valerie Comer

Book Description:

Sarah Jamieson has avoided weddings since a traumatic stint as a flower girl, but reluctantly agrees to stand up for her best friend. Only why does the best man have to be one of those confident, life-of-the-party types? Even worse, why does the bride make her promise to go on one date with the guy? Easy enough to agree, because she’ll make sure he never asks.

Corbin Morrissey takes his responsibilities for Team Groom very seriously, but coaxing smiles out of the maid-of-honor is harder — and more addictive — than he expected. To his surprise, she agrees to go out. There really isn’t any way a date to the Fall Fair could go amiss. Is there?

Can Corbin convince Sarah he’s ready to settle down and make her the head of her own Team Bride, or will their past keep getting in the way?

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I enjoyed reading Team Bride, the fourth book in Valerie Comer’s fun Riverbend Romance novella series set in a fictional small town in British Columbia, Canada. Sarah is a reluctant maid-of-honor at her best friend’s wedding, and she struggles with traumatic childhood memories that are triggered at weddings. The last thing she’s looking for is love, and the best man at the wedding, Corbin, is not her type of guy or potential boyfriend material. Sarah ignores Corbin’s flirting at the wedding, and her only interactions with Corbin are initiated by the matchmaking bride.

Corbin is intrigued by Sarah and her interesting reactions to his friendly overtures. He’s drawn to Sarah despite her protests. The more time they spend together, the more inclined Corbin is to believe Sarah might be the one for him. He’s a humble farmer at heart who inherited his grandfather’s farm that needs a lot of work. Sarah is a hard working school teacher who arranges an excursion with her young elementary students to visit Corbin’s farm.

Complications from Sarah and Corbin’s past threaten their future and create obstacles in their journey to happily-ever-after. I recommend Team Bride to contemporary romance readers who enjoy lighthearted wedding-themed small town romance novellas with a relevant faith message and loveable characters.