29 September 2016

Review and Giveaway: An Aussie Summer Christmas

I was thrilled when Narelle Atkins approached me with news of a secret Aussie project--a box set of romance novellas set in Australia in summer. I understand a summer Christmas is something most English-speaking people find odd. A little foreign, perhaps.

Well, that's kind of the point. These six authors wanted to introduce readers to Christmas Down Under, Aussie style. No snow, just sun, sand, and barbies on the beach. And a bunch of Aussie accents.

Yes, I'm a little biased. This collection features stories from some of my favourite authors. I edited each of the novellas in the collection, and I consider several of the authors personal friends (the others are the authors I haven't met yet, who are are friends-to-be!).

This collection is a great opportunity to try out some new authors, or read the latest from some of your favourite Aussie (and other) authors. Aussies and Kiwis will enjoy the familiar Down Under lifestyle, and our nothern neighbours can get a taste of what they are missing as they cuddle under their quilts and escape the winter.


Melbourne Memories by Marion Ueckermann

Justin Taylor escapes London in an attempt to outrun his pre-Christian past. He comes to Melbourne and befriends barista and cupcake maestro Ella Anderson ... and I so want to visit her coffee shop! Melbourne is well known for the cafe culture, and this novella got it spot on.

I lived in London for ten years and got to experience what many would call a "proper" Christmas (although they were more sludge-grey than white). It was great to revisit London, and to see a different side of Melbourne (a city I've visited only too briefly). This was a standalone story, a lovely romance with a touch of suspense and a strong Christian message.

You can find out more about Marion at her website.

Next Door Santa by Lacy Williams

Lacy Williams is American, and I have no idea if she's ever experienced my idea of a proper Christmas (i.e. SUMMER). No matter. She's done a great job in Next Door Santa, which introduces us to neighbours Christmas-obsessed Bridie, and no-complications workaholic Will. And a dog.

This is standalone romance from Lacy Williams. You can find out more about Lacy at her website.

Seaside Christmas by Narelle Atkins

Political advisor Gus Donovan is reintroduced to Chelsea Somers, the girl he never called back after their one and only date. He's become a Christian since then, and reevaluated what he wants out of life. But will Chelsea see eye to eye with him?

I'm not big into politics (and watching the US election from afar merely reinforces my stuck-in-the-mud views). But even I was sold on Gus as the reformed bad boy turned rising political star ... and yet I could still see why Chelsea hesitated. Enjoyable, if a little more thought-provoking than is normal for short Christian romances.

Seaside Christmas is part of Narelle's Sydney Sweethearts series, but can easily be read as a standalone. You can find out more about Narelle at her website.

A Christmas Resolution by Rose Dee

I've always enjoyed Rose's trademark style: Christian romance with a touch of edgy suspense balanced out by a good dose of Aussie humour, and with a definite emphasis on the Christian. A Christmas Resolution is no exception.

Breeah is back in her childhood home of Kiisay Point ... and face-to-face with her past. Face-to-face with her boyfriend of ten years ago, and his brother--once her best friend. A Christmas Resolution is a great story of reconcilliation and restoration ... and light suspense.

A Christmas Resolution is the final story in Rose's Resolution series, but can easily be read as a standalone. You can find out more about Rose at her website.

All is Bright by Andrea Grigg

All is Bright is the story of good, Christian Amy, whose only fault is that she's been in love with her brother-in-law for the best part of a decade. For his part, Josh has finally over the death of his wife and considering looking for love again. But he's never considered Amy ...

This could be a morose or even cringey plot, but it isn't. Andrea Grigg tackles it with her trademark blend of Aussie and Kiwi humour, and the result is a fun romantic comedy read.

All is Bright is a standalone novella, although fans might notice a couple of characters from Andrea's first novel, A Simple Mistake.

Falling for Maddie Grace

Maddie Grace is the first female professional umpire in Aussie Rules (a football game. It won't surprise you to learn it's unique to Australia). Although she won't be a ref for much longer if she can't control the rumours about her and a certain player after an on-field accident ...

I am not a football fan. No matter what you call it: soccer, rugby, league, American football, Aussie Rules ... I'd rather read a book. Yet Meredith actually managed to convince me it might be fun to watch a game of Aussie Rules (shhh! Don't tell my husband!). This was an excellent novella, with two likeable Christians falling for each other while trying not to.

Falling for Maddie Grace is a standalone novella, although I'm sure Meredith can redeem a few of the other boys on the team and come up with a sequel (hint, hint). You can find out more about Meredith at her website.

27 September 2016

Review: Critical Condition by Nicki Edwards

At Last!

I’ve been waiting to read Liam’s story since the release of Life Support , and was more than disappointed when I discovered Nicki’s last release, The Peppercorn Project, was a new series. I was waiting to find out if Liam would meet his perfect match, thank you very much.

Well, Liam’s story was worth waiting for. It took a while for him and Poppy to get together, but it was definitely worth the wait. I was left with a soppy smile on my face, so the romance definitely hit the right spot.

There wasn’t so much medical stuff in Critical Condition as in Life Support, which is great for those of us who get a little queasy at the sight or mention of blood. For those who enjoy medical romances—don’t worry. There should still be enough medical content to keep you interested, drawing on Nicki’s own experiences as an ED nurse. Just not as much blood.

Liam will need no introduction for those who have read the earlier books in this series. If you haven’t, don’t worry, as this is a standalone novel (although we are reintroduced to the lead characters from the earlier novels).

But Poppy was the standout character for me. She’s likeable and intelligent and beautiful … but the outward perfection hides a woman who is paranoid she’ll develop bipolar disorder and turn into her basket case of a mother. Critical Condition did an excellent job of portraying the difficulties of growing up with someone with an unmanaged mental health condition—a sad state of affairs, and one too many children grow up in.

One note to my Christian readers: while Nicki Edwards is a Christian, her novels are written for the general market. As such, they do include language and scenes you wouldn’t find in a Christian novel.

Recommended for those who enjoy a good general market medical romance. Thanks to Momentum Books and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

You can find out more about Nicki Edwards at her website.

22 September 2016

Review: A Tapestry of Secrets by Sarah Loudin Thomas

Promising but Slow

When Ella's grandmother has a stroke and needs in-home care, quilt artist Ella is happy to volunteer both to help Gran, and to escape Mark, her ethically-challenged overbearing ex-fiance. Here she spends time with her parents, and with Aunt Sadie, who never married.

The story is told in two points of view, in two separate timelines. The present timeline is mostly Ella's story, with some scenes from Gran, Perla. But the stroke has affected Perla's ability to speak, which means she can't share the big secret in her life: the identity of Sadie's father.

The past story is Perla's story from the summer she met Sadie's father and the events leading up to her conception. This is interesting because it gives momentum to the present story, but it was the present story, Ella's story, which engaged me more.

Ella's family live in a small town where their history goes back several generations, which gives the novel a sense of place which fascinates me (a first-generation immigrant to New Zealand). Ella places a lot of importance on the past, on past traditions--perhaps too much, perhaps to the point where she worships tradition over God. There were some great pearls of wisdom around this, especially around our plans vs. God’s plans:
You get to the place where you want whatever the Lord wants and you'll find you have more than you ever dreamed.
Getting things wrong is nothing more than one of the steps on the way of getting them right. All you've done is learn a valuable lesson.
Anything God gives you is sure to be better than what you thought you wanted in the first place.
I thought the first half of A Tapestry of Secrets was excellent. Great characters, great writing, and lots of fascinating questions (although this is part of a series called Appalachian Blessings, and I got no sense of place. It could have been set in any small town in America).

But I thought the second half lost its way. It felt slower, almost as though it was going around in circles and not getting anywhere. The end finally came and was good, but I got frustrated by the whole Mark subplot (if he was such a slimeball, why did she not tell her parents? There was no reason for keeping that a secret).

Thanks to Bethany House and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Sarah Loudin Thomas at her website, and you can read the introduction to A Tapestry of Secrets below:

20 September 2016

Review: Disillusioned by Christy Barritt

Fast-paced Suspense

Nikki Wright has successfully rescued her brother Bobby from the clutches of Colombian terrorists, but soon finds that's not the end of his trials. Or hers. Not as long as people believe her brother is hiding information, that his amnesia might not be real. And when a kidnapping attempt goes wrong, Bobby contacts the one person he trusts, the one person Nikki doesn't want to see: Kade Wheaton, the man who broke her heart.

Kade is happy to be helping his friend, and happy to be see Nikki again. But not so happy when Bobby starts acting strangely, to the point where even Kade wonders if there might be truth in the rumour that Bobby sold his country out to the Colombians. No matter what Nikki says to the contrary. But Bobby isn't the only problem ...

Disillusioned is Christian romantic suspense at its best, with plenty of suspense, a solid romance, and a very definite Christian theme. No, God doesn't forget us even when we forget about him.

Nikki is my favourite kind of fictional character—intelligent and savvy, but with a vulnerability behind her. And Kade was a great match, protective when he needed to be, but not controlling, and not protective to the point of belittling Nikki's talents.

The writing was excellent, especially the fast pace and the suspense. It was one of those novels you don't want to put down because you want to find out what happens next, but at the same time you suspect that what's coming might be a bit scary or unpleasant, so you want to put the book down.

Recommended for Christian suspense fans.

Thanks to Waterfall Press and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Christy Barritt at her website, and you can read the introduction to Disillusioned below: