Monday, December 22, 2014

Bookish Thoughts: Christmas Romance (Mini Reviews)

The Look of Love by Sarah Jio
Plume, 2014
Fiction (Romance); 320 pgs

Opening Sentence: In the fashionable fifth arrondissement along the river Siene, Elodie stands beside her flower cart watching couples stroll arm in arm.

Jane Williams, a florist, is twenty-nine years old and has never known love. She has the gift of spotting it in others, or so she is told after receiving a mysterious birthday card in the mail.  Jane is told she must identify the six types of love before nightfall on her next birthday. If she doesn't, she will never find love herself. When a science writer walks into her life, Jane realizes just how much she wants love in her life--and yet, she begins to doubt she'll ever find it.

I have wanted to try something by Sarah Jio for awhile now, and took a chance on The Look of Love. I enjoyed the novel quite a bit. It is one of those books which I didn't want to stop reading once I started. I was drawn to the characters, especially Jane. I felt for her, understanding her desire to believe in love and her gift while at the same time struggling with the logic of it all. I liked how the author balanced the magic of the story with science, grounding the book and tying it to reality while not losing the enchantment of the overall story. The author took a risk formatting the novel as she did, alternating between 1st and 3rd person, focusing on multiple characters, but it paid off in spades. I felt invested in the characters' lives and stories. While some plot points were predictable, most left me guessing until the end. Opening and closing around the Christmas Season, this makes a charming story that can be read year round.  I can't wait to read more by Sarah Jio.

Rating:  * (Very Good)

To learn more about the The Look of Love and her books, please visit the author's website.

Source: I purchased and read my own copy of this book, however, I also received a copy from the publisher for an honest review (the print was so tiny, I couldn't read it though).




A Little Christmas Jingle by Michele Dunaway
St. Martin's, 2014
Romance; 200 pgs

Opening Sentence: "Up on the rooftop, reindeer paws . . ."

Detective Jack Donovan takes his job investigating animal cruelty cases very seriously, and, despite his better judgement, agrees to be Mr. December for that year's Sexy Public Servants Charity Calendar to draw attention to the cause.  When he comes across a horrific crime involving a puppy, Jack joins forces with veterinarian Katherine (Kat) Saunders, who is devoted to the animals she treats. Neither Jack nor Kat are interested in a relationship, but there is no denying their attraction to each other.

Jack is tired of his mother always trying to play matchmaker. His work is his life and he has no time for anyone, not a woman or a pet of his own. Kat has her own problems at the moment, trying to fight to keep her no kill shelter open despite neighborhood opposition. Putting their minds together, they come up with a plan that can help both of them with their problems.

Let me just say how much I loved Jack's family. I don't generally like meddling mothers or siblings, but Jack's were hard to resist. I also really liked Jack.  He and Kat are a good match.  Not only in their love for animals and their well being, but also in the way their personalities compliment each other, even when they disagree.

I couldn't resist a Christmas story involving an animal theme, and A Little Christmas Jingle did not disappoint.  It is a novel about hope and faith as well as miracles and love.

It should be noted as a word of warning that the initial injuries to the puppy and the cause for those injuries will make any animal lover sick to his or her stomach. It's the only portion of the novel that I found hard to read. It brings home, however, how evil some people can be and how serious a crime animal cruelty is.

Rating: * (Good)

To learn more about the Michele Dunaway and her books, please visit the author's website.

Source: I received an e-copy of this book from the publisher for an honest review.




Oh, Naughty Night! by Leslie Kelly
Harlequin, 2014
Romance, 224 pgs

Opening Sentence: "There's nothing worse than having the hots for a sexy guy, and then finding out he has the personality of a turnip."

Growing up, Lulu Vandenberg wasn't always kind ot Chaz Browning. She has a lot of regrets about how she treated him, especially after meeting him again at a Halloween party years later.  He's a sexy journalist and she's all grown up too--only he has no idea who she is under her witch mask.  All he knows is that he's quite taken with this mysterious witch and can't stop thinking about her.

I had such fun reading this novel, but I admit to wishing I could reach into the book and hit Chaz over the head a few times for not figuring out who his mysterious lady was a lot sooner.  Especially the more he gets to know Lulu as an adult.  The attraction between them is unmistakable.  They both fight it though.  Her out of guilt and at the risk of hurting their respective families, and him because he's got his heart set on his Halloween witch. Both characters have a lot to work on before they can acknowledge their feelings for each other.

Despite Lulu's deception, she is a likable character, and I wanted things to work out for her with Chaz.  Oh, Naughty Night! was a great holiday romance--steamy and sweet in all the right places.  

Rating: * (Good)

To learn more about the Leslie Kelly and her books, please visit the author's website.

Source: I received an e-copy of this book from the publisher for an honest review.



Blame It On the Mistletoe by Nicole Michaels
St. Martin's, 2014
Romance; 149 pgs

Opening Sentence: Snowflakes whirled around Brooke Abbott's head in blustery waves as she started down the sidewalk and back to her shop from the Stop & Go convenience store.

This was such an adorable Christmas romance! I am discovering how much I like old friends becoming lover romance themes--maybe in part because it's easier for me to buy into than the lust at her first sight ones, although there is something to be said for those kind too when done right.

Blame It On the Mistletoe is set in a small Missouri town. Brooke Abbott is trying to make a new life for herself, away from an abusive ex-boyfriend.  She is determined to make a go of her new boutique and is hoping this Christmas season will be just what she needs to turn her business into a success. Along comes her brother's old best friend, back in town for the reading of his grandfather's will.  Alex Coleman has no intention of staying long.  The town holds bad memories for him, after all.  Now he finds himself the owner of the very property where Brooke has her shop and a million dollar offer from a developer to sell.  His growing attraction and feelings for Brooke have him torn.

I liked Alex and Brooke from the start--Alex, the bad boy turned good man, and Brooke with her inner strength. The characters were well-fleshed out and the story fitting for the season.  I would love to wander into Brooke's boutique one day . . .

Rating: * (Good +)

To learn more about the Nicole Michaels and her books, please visit the author's website.

Source: I received an e-copy of this book from the publisher for an honest review.



Sleigh Bells in the Snow by Sarah Morgan
Harlequin HQN, 2013
Romance; 384 pgs

Opening Sentence: Kayla Green cranked up the volume on her favorite playlist and blocked out the sound of festive music and laughter wafting under her closed office door.

Katherine from I Wish I Lived in a Library recommended Sleigh Bells in the Snow, and what better time to read it than this time of year?  It was the perfect Christmas romance.

Kayla Green is one of the top public relations people out there and she is eager to take on the challenge of helping Jackson O'Neil, a successful businessman himself, build a campaign that will save his family's ailing Vermont resort.  Jackson is already sold on Kayla's skills, but she will have to prove herself to the rest of his family--and it won't be easy.  They are unlike any clients Kayla has ever worked with before.  And they are exactly the kind of people Kayla has been avoiding most of her adult life--a close knit family.

Hoping to escape her most dreaded time of year, Kayla agrees to visit the the Snow Crystal Resort at Christmas time.  Time alone and away from all things Christmas-y is just what Kayla most desires. Only Jackson has other ideas.  In order for Kayla to win over his family, she must experience life at the resort and all its magic. Can Jackson, his family, and Snow Crystal melt her heart?  Can Kayla save the O'Neil's from losing their home and resort?

Sleigh Bells in the Snow is the reason I started reading romance again after many years of avoiding the genre. Author Sarah Morgan's novel is full of well-developed and interesting characters that are hard not to love.  There is a depth to them as well as the story. It made it feel more real and genuine. Kayla is way out of her league at the mountain resort--being in a New York office is much more her style than traipsing through the snow. I like how the author balanced her weaknesses with her strengths, however. While she may not be prepared for what she'll find in Vermont, she is the top of her field for a reason. She could easily have been the bumbling over confident city girl made to look a fool.  And while she may have started out as over confident, she holds her own quite well.  I liked how accommodating and thoughtful Jackson was throughout--he laughed with Kayla, not so much at her.  And it was obvious he cared about her.  His own frustrations with his family over the resort and his attempts to save it were genuine.  He truly loves and cares for his family.

I fell in love with the O'Neil family, especially Jackson's mother and grandfather.  And I fell in love with Snow Crystal--and while maybe it's not a place I would want to spend the winter (I'm not a fan of the snow), I would love to visit the resort in the summer.  It sounds like such a beautiful place. The perfect setting for a Christmas romance. I  will definitely be looking for the other two books in the series.

Rating:  * (Very Good)

To learn more about the Sarah Morgan and her books, please visit the author's website.

Source: I purchased an e-copy of this book for my own reading pleasure.


© 2014, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

18 comments:

  1. These books are perfect for the holiday season. Especially like the sound of the Jio book.

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    1. Mystica - The Jio book was good. I don't think it's being marketed as a Christmas book, but the label fits--at least by my definition. :-)

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  2. The Look of Love sounds like a fun book to me!

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    1. Kathy - It was. I can't wait to read something else by Jio. I hear this one was quite different from her other books, so I'm especially curious.

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  3. These look like fun holiday reads. The Sarah Jio novel sounds unique and interesting.

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    1. Irene - They were! I have only recently began reading romance novels again, but they were perfect for my state of mind--and for the holiday season. :-)

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  4. I'm so glad you enjoyed Sleigh Bells in the Snow! It was one of my favorite romances of the year and I think it was my favorite of the trilogy. The Sarah Jio book is on my wishlist as I loved Goodnight June. I highly recommend that one. Great mini-reviews!

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    1. Katherine -I'm curious about the other books in the series--I could tell from Sleigh Bells in the Snow who the couples would likely be in the next two books.

      Goodnight Moon is on my wish list. :-)

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  5. Great list for the holidays season! I'm glad you enjoyed reading them all. :)

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    1. Melody - They were all quick and fun reads. I am glad I read them. :-)

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  6. I have The Look of Love, but haven't read it yet. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

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    1. Pat - I hope you like The Look of Love! I really liked Jio's writing style.

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  7. They all sounds cute and fun. The Jio book took my fancy though might have to keep an eye out for her.

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    1. Mandy - They were fun. :-) I really like Jio's writing and style and look forward to reading more by her. I've heard The Look of Love was a bit different from her other books, so I'm curious to see in what way.

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  8. I like Sarah Jio and am flad you liked her lastest. I think The Violets of March has been my favorite so far, but I've only read a few.

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    1. Stacy - I am looking forward to reading more by Jio.

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  9. I don't think I've ever sought out a book for a Christmas read...which is weird because I certainly watch movies and tv shows for that reason!

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    1. Lisa - It's not something I do often. I'm not sure what made this year different. Perhaps a combination of my sudden interest in romance and it being the holiday season. :-)

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