The Twelve Dates of Christmas

Author: Jenny Bayliss
Publisher: G.P. Putman’s Sons
Genre: Holiday Romance
Source: Penguin Random House

Goodreads:  ‘Tis the season for finding romance in this hilarious and uplifting holiday read

When it comes to relationships, thirty-four-year-old Kate Turner is ready to say “Bah, humbug.” The sleepy town of Blexford, England, isn’t exactly brimming with prospects, and anyway, Kate’s found fulfillment in her career as a designer, and in her delicious side job baking for her old friend Matt’s neighborhood café. But then her best friend signs her up for a dating agency that promises to help singles find love before the holidays. Twenty-three days until Christmas. Twelve dates with twelve different men. The odds must finally be in her favor . . . right?

Yet with each new date more disastrous than the one before–and the whole town keeping tabs on her misadventures–Kate must remind herself that sometimes love, like mistletoe, shows up where it’s least expected. And maybe, just maybe, it’s been right under her nose all along.

Ope’s Opinion: This is a really cute story, the characters are ones you would enjoy having in your life, and it is a heartwarming read for the holidays.  Each chapter is part getting to know Kate and Matt and their relationship.  The other part of the chapter is about Kate’s twelve dates.  Both parts have humor and warm moments.  

As with most romance books, including this one, you know what the ending is going to be.  The journey to get there is the enjoyable read.

Happily this Christmas

Author: Susan Mallery
Publisher: HQN Books
Genre: Holiday Romance
Source: Purchased

 

Goodreads:  Susan Mallery, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Fool’s Gold romances, proves there’s no place like Happily Inc for the holidays…

There’s no place like Happily Inc for the holidays…

Wynn Beauchene has a thriving business, a great kid and a mildly embarrassing crush on the guy next door—local cop Garrick McCabe. She’s a strong, independent woman who can’t help dreaming what-if about a man she barely knows. Until he needs her help…

Garrick’s pregnant daughter will be home for Christmas, and his house needs a woman’s touch. Garrick and his little girl were tight once and he’s hoping a small-town Christmas will bring her back to him. But thawing his daughter’s frosty attitude will take more than a few twinkle lights. Maybe sharing the holiday with Wynn and her son will remind her of the joy of family.

As the season works its magic on these wounded souls, Wynn realizes it’s time to stop punishing herself for a painful secret, while Garrick remains haunted by the ghosts of past mistakes. Will he allow Wynn to open the only gift she truly wants—his heart?

Ope’s Opinion: This could be a Hallmark movie, if you took out the unnecessary detailed steamy parts.  The story itself was a good one.  You know from the beginning where it is going to end, but getting there is fun to read.  

Garrick’s daughter was whinny and spoiled – at 21 married and pregnant, she should have been acting like an adult.  The whole story could have been better without her attitude.

The ending was really rushed.  It was what you would expect and want, but a bit too fast.

The Return

Author: Nicholas Sparks
Publisher: Grand Centeral Publishing
Genre: Romance
Source: Kristin of Kritters Ramblings

 

Goodreads:  In the romantic tradition of Dear John and The Lucky One, #1 New York Times bestselling author Nicholas Sparks returns with the story of an injured Navy doctor — and two women whose secrets will change the course of his life.

Trevor Benson never intended to move back to New Bern, NC. But when a mortar blast outside the hospital where he worked as an orthopedic surgeon sent him home from Afghanistan with devastating injuries, the dilapidated cabin he inherited from his grandfather seemed as good a place to regroup as any.
Tending to his grandfather’s beloved bee hives while gearing up for a second stint in medical school, Trevor isn’t prepared to fall in love with a local . . . and yet, from their very first encounter, his connection with Natalie Masterson can’t be ignored. But even as she seems to reciprocate his feelings, she remains frustratingly distant, making Trevor wonder what she’s hiding.

Further complicating his stay in New Bern is the presence of a sullen teenage girl, Callie, who lives in the trailer park down the road from his grandfather’s cabin. Claiming to be 19, she works at the local sundries store and keeps to herself. When he discovers she was once befriended by his grandfather, Trevor hopes Callie can shed light on the mysterious circumstances of his grandfather’s death, but she offers few clues — until a crisis triggers a race that will uncover the true nature of Callie’s past, one more intertwined with the elderly man’s passing than Trevor could ever have anticipated.

In his quest to unravel Natalie and Callie’s secrets, Trevor will learn the true meaning of love and forgiveness . . . and that in life, to move forward, we must often return to the place where it all began.

Ope’s Opinion: If you are a Nicholas Sparks fan, you may want to read this one.  It is his traditional book.  The instant love is not something I enjoy.  The story being told solely from Trevors point of view fell flat for me at times.  

The ending was a Nicholas Sparks ending… exactly what you would expect.

 

What Was Mine

 

                                                               Author: Helen Klein Ross
Publisher: Gallery Books
Genre:  Mystery
Source:  Kristin of Kritters Ramblings

 

Goodreads:  Simply told but deeply affecting, in the bestselling tradition of Alice McDermott and Tom Perrotta, this urgent novel unravels the heartrending yet unsentimental tale of a woman who kidnaps a baby in a superstore—and gets away with it for twenty-one years.

Lucy Wakefield is a seemingly ordinary woman who does something extraordinary in a desperate moment: she takes a baby girl from a shopping cart and raises her as her own. It’s a secret she manages to keep for over two decades—from her daughter, the babysitter who helped raise her, family, coworkers, and friends.

When Lucy’s now-grown daughter Mia discovers the devastating truth of her origins, she is overwhelmed by confusion and anger and determines not to speak again to the mother who raised her. She reaches out to her birth mother for a tearful reunion, and Lucy is forced to flee to China to avoid prosecution. What follows is a ripple effect that alters the lives of many and challenges our understanding of the very meaning of motherhood.

Author Helen Klein Ross, whose work has appeared in The New Yorker, weaves a powerful story of upheaval and resilience told from the alternating perspectives of Lucy, Mia, Mia’s birth mother, and others intimately involved in the kidnapping. What Was Mine is a compelling tale of motherhood and loss, of grief and hope, and the life-shattering effects of a single, irrevocable moment.

Ope’s Opinion:  When you read this you will have to accept the story as is because there are several things that are just not realistic.    It started out very intense, but quickly got into every day mundane life.  Then an unbelievable event and some more intense parts.

The story is told from a lot of different points of view.  It is interesting to hear from the kidnapper as well as the mother, and many more people effected by the kidnapping.

I was back and forth between three and four chairs until the end – it was left wide open – the book felt unfinished.  I don’t want to say too much more, so I don’t spoil it.

The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living

Author: Louise Miller
Publisher: Penguin Books
Genre: Fiction
Source: Kristin of Kritters Ramblings

Goodreads: A full-hearted novel about a big-city baker who discovers the true meaning of home–and that sometimes the best things are found when you didn’t even know you were looking

When Olivia Rawlings–pastry chef extraordinaire for an exclusive Boston dinner club–sets not just her flambeed dessert but the entire building alight, she escapes to the most comforting place she can think of–the idyllic town of Guthrie, Vermont, home of Bag Balm, the country’s longest-running contra dance, and her best friend Hannah. But the getaway turns into something more lasting when Margaret Hurley, the cantankerous, sweater-set-wearing owner of the Sugar Maple Inn, offers Livvy a job. Broke and knowing that her days at the club are numbered, Livvy accepts.

Livvy moves with her larger-than-life, uberenthusiastic dog, Salty, into a sugarhouse on the inn’s property and begins creating her mouthwatering desserts for the residents of Guthrie. She soon uncovers the real reason she has been hired–to help Margaret reclaim the inn’s blue ribbon status at the annual county fair apple pie contest.

With the joys of a fragrant kitchen, the sound of banjos and fiddles being tuned in a barn, and the crisp scent of the orchard just outside the front door, Livvy soon finds herself immersed in small town life. And when she meets Martin McCracken, the Guthrie native who has returned from Seattle to tend his ailing father, Livvy comes to understand that she may not be as alone in this world as she once thought.

But then another new arrival takes the community by surprise, and Livvy must decide whether to do what she does best and flee–or stay and finally discover what it means to belong. Olivia Rawlings may finally find out that the life you want may not be the one you expected–it could be even better.

Ope’s Opinion:  I was waffling between a three and four chair on this book. Here is why – 

3 chair side – the main character’s character is questionable.  She made some decisions I didn’t really think were great.  She was also not reliable – she took off whenever life got difficult without thinking of those she left behind and what it did to them.

4 chair side – the Vermont country side was described beautifully ( felt like I was there ), I could have eaten the food they were making, and there were many wonderful characters that I really cared about.

Final decision – 4 chairs because the story was wonderful, the town and people in made me feel close to them, and the ending was all I wanted to be.  I would read another book by Louise Miller.

The Daughters Join the Party

                                                               Author: Joanna Philbin
Publisher: Poppy Books
Genre: Young Adult
Source: Kristin of Kritters Ramblings

 

Goodreads:  They didn’t ask for fame. They were born with it.

In the third Daughters novel, The Daughters Take the Stage, Hudson found her own place in “the family business,” aka: show business. Now, for the first time, readers will meet Emma Conway, daughter of a powerful New York State Senator.

Emma has never fit into the sweater-set-wearing world of her political family, opting for purple hair and Chuck Taylors to keep herself out of countless photo ops, but when she accidentally lets her father’s presidential plans slip on national television, Emma finds herself thrown into the spotlight. Facing pressure to be the perfect First Daughter-in-training, Emma must learn to speak up for herself and for what she believes in. Thankfully, she has her new friends and fellow daughters – Lizzie, Carina, and Hudson – to help her along the way.

Ope’s Opinion: I read the second one of this series and wasn’t thrilled with it, but already owned the fourth, so I thought I would read it.  It is much better then the second one.  It is part of the series, but you can read it alone.

This one was focused on Emma and her becoming friends with Lizzie, Carina and Hudson.  It was also about her father running for office.  It was still a little too woe is me for people with a lot of money.

It reads fast and easy.  If you need something to just pass the time, you could pick this one up.  All the problems are there, then quickly solved with not very many consequences, so I would not want my teen to read this.

The Wedding Shop

Author: Rachel Hauck
Publisher: Zondervan
Genre: Christian Fiction
Source: Kristin of Kritters Ramblings

Goodreads:  Two women separated by decades. Both set out to help others find their dreams when their own have crumbled.

It’s the early 1930s, but Cora Scott is walking in stride as a career woman after having inherited her great aunt’s wedding shop in Heart’s Bend, Tennessee, where brides come from as far away as Birmingham to experience her famed bridal treatment. Meanwhile, Cora is counting down the days until her own true love returns from the river to make her his bride. But days turn into months and months to years. All the while, Birch Good continues to woo Cora and try to show her that while he is solid and dependable, he can sweep her off her feet.

More than eighty years later, former Air Force Captain Haley Morgan has returned home to Heart’s Bend after finishing her commitment to military service. After the devastating death of her best friend, Tammy, and discovering the truth about the man she loved, Haley is searching for her place in life.

When Haley decides to reopen the romantic but abandoned wedding shop where she and Tammy played and dreamed as children, she begins a journey of courage, mystery, and love.

As Cora’s and Haley’s stories intertwine through time in the shadow of the beloved wedding shop, they both discover the power of their own dreams and the magic of everyday love.

Ope’s Opinion: This is the third of The Wedding Collection books.  You can read this alone, but it really is better if you start with the first book The Wedding Dress.  This book had both a historic story line and a contemporary story line.

It was wonderful to see where and how the wedding shop got started and where it was now.  The story started slow and built as you read it.  As I read, I became more invested in the characters and their out come.

The ending was all you would have wanted and expected from this story.

 

Keeper by Surprise

Author: Laurie Larsen
Publisher: Random Moon Books
Genre: Romance
Source: Purchased

 

Goodreads:  College life provides the reprieve Keith Hanson dreamed of while growing up in his father’s strict household. Now, he concentrates on keeping his grades up (just enough to get Dad off his back), and loving his girlfriend Carly. He never knew life could be this good. Until a terrible accident leaves his parents killed, and Keith named as guardian over his three siblings. Although only 20, he’s the one now who has to earn money to support the family and take care of the kids. Including the discipline, something his teenage sister Dana is totally lacking.

Brand new social worker Lisa Carle has a lot to prove to her boss about her ability to do a good job. But it’s hard to focus on professionalism when she’s falling in love with the client. Can the two of them help each other? And will their budding relationship survive screaming twins, a teenage runaway and an unethical boss?

Ope’s Opinion:  I enjoyed this book.  It showed the struggle that Keith had stepping up to be a parent before he was prepared to be.  The reason and the way the social services were called into this family situation did not seem very realistic to me.  

Just a bit too descriptive of sexual thoughts and activity.  I didn’t enjoy reading that part – some was at the beginning of the book – which made me almost stop reading it all together.  It also ended up not being all the important in the story.

It was a predictable romance with the ending you would expect.