Review of “Love’s Pure Light” by Deborah Raney, Susanne Dietze, Shannon McNear, and Janine Rosche

Raney, Deborah, et. al. Love’s Pure Light. Uhrichville, OH: Barbour Books, 2020.

ISBN-13: 978-1643526188 | $14.99 USD | 448 pages | Christian Fiction/Romance

Blurb

Be transported to unique time periods as you follow a treasured family nativity set through four generations of the Shepherd family.
 
While Shepherds Watch Are Keeping by Susanne Dietze
Massachusetts, 1899
This Christmas, Pastor Seth Shepherd has little to offer his flock of congregants in their time of need until Jessalyn Grant, a mysterious newcomer, comes to his aid.
 
The Wise Guy and the Star by Shannon McNear
Charleston, South Carolina, to Kansas City, Missouri, 1919
While journeying by train, Stella Shepherd befriends war veteran Nat Wise. She helps him find renewed faith in God, but could he also be the answer to the wanderings of her own heart?
 
On Angel Wings by Janine Rosche
Kansas City, Missouri, 1945
Elodie Wise plans a fundraising ball with the help of her friend Benjamin Gabriel. But can she look past the swanky Hollywood headliner to see the man who truly loves her?
 
Making Room at the Inn by Deborah Raney
Cape Girardeau, Missouri, Present Day
Benjie Gabriel thinks the chef’s position she’s just taken at an award-winning bed and breakfast is temporary—just a stepping stone. The B&B’s owner, Trevor Keye, thinks the same. Will five months be long enough for them to figure out that what they’ve each been longing for, praying for, is right beneath their noses? 
 

Review

While I have read interconnected anthologies before, even a similar one with a Christmas theme and following an heirloom across generations, this group of authors truly made the concept their own, resulting in one of the best Barbour anthologies I’ve read so far. 

“While Shepherds Watch Are Keeping” by Susanne Dietze

4 stars

A delightful starter, and I liked the message of feeling lost and working to find one’s identity through Jesus Christ, which even I can appreciate as a bit of a skeptic who still appreciates Jesus’ teachings, but can’t stand the oppressive dogma attached to them over the centuries. I could appreciate that Seth tried to do his best for his congregation, and even helped to influence the lives of some of them, while also being enlightened by Jessalyn himself. 

“The Wise Guy and the Star” by Shannon McNear

4 stars

Another enjoyable story as the nativity set shows up again and works its “magic.” I liked the continued thread of finding faith, with Stella helping war veteran Nate, and he her in return. 

“On Angel Wings” by Janine Rosche

5 stars 

This one was pure sweetness! Friends-to-lovers is my absolute favorite trope, and this one hit it out of the park in that regard. I love how the friendship between Elodie and Benjamin served as the perfect foundation for their romance, but it took Elodie time to see it that way, especially when blinded by admiration for the flashy film star. 

“Making Room at the Inn” by Deborah Raney 

4 stars

I loved seeing it all come together in the modern day with this one. Benjie and Trevor’s relationship was another with a strong basis in friendship, and I liked that progression. I also really liked the sense of Benjie reminiscing on her family history, connecting to the previous stories in a subtle way, but more so than the others. 

***

This anthology is wonderful, full of faith and hope, tracking a family from the turn of the twentieth century through two world wars up to the present. If you love holiday stories with family at the center, definitely pick this one up.

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Review of “The Reluctant Highlander” (Highland Nights #1) by Amanda Scott

Scott, Amanda. The Reluctant Highlander. New York: Open Road Integrated Media, Inc., 2017. 

ISBN-13: 978-1504016179 | $8.99 USD | 352 pages | Medieval Romance

Blurb

An uncertain bride looks for love with a man as wild and mysterious as his Highland home in this new Scottish romance from a USA Today–bestselling author.

Ordinarily, Lady Fiona Ormiston wouldn’t think of forming an alliance with an ungroomed, barbaric Highlander, despite the protection he offers. But now, by request of the king, Sir Adham MacFinlagh, a brazen stranger and outsider unlike anyone she has met before, is to be her husband. Torn from solitude and the comfort of her family to make a home with the rugged knight, Fiona surrenders to Adham’s powerfully passionate—and shockingly tender—touch, only to discover her new husband’s family ties may lie with an enemy of the king.

A sense of duty may have brought Adham to the marriage bed, but it’s his powerful feelings for his beautiful, willful wife that will be his undoing. Ultimately, the bold knight will have to decide: Does his allegiance lie with his blood ties to the man who hopes to bring down the king or with the bride who has stolen his heart?

From the author “frequently credited with creating the subgenre” of Scottish romance with her Lairds of the Loch and Secret Clan series, The Reluctant Highlander is a rich historical tale of intrigue and desire (Library Journal).

Review

4 stars

Note: I received this as an ARC ages ago through NetGalley prior to really understanding how it worked. I have since acquired a copy. 

While I can’t say what possessed me to acquire the ARC of The Reluctant Highlander to begin with, I have since become acquainted with Amanda Scott’s reputation as a prolific writer of Highlander romance who really knows her stuff. And while the subgenre is still not my favorite, I liked Scott’s style, especially in the way she entrenches her stories within the context of fifteenth century Scottish politics without alienating the reader. 

While I wasn’t sure about Adham at first, I quickly warmed to him as a hero. He has faced darkness in his past, but is a fairly solid person who shows tenderness to his wife, in spite of the fact that the marriage wasn’t initially in his plans. And Fiona was also quite lovely, and I admired her inner strength. 

It is a bit too history-heavy, and at times it does detract from the relationship arc. But for what page time the relationship had, I really liked it, and the stakes were really grounded in the wider historical/political stuff too, so it does kind of all work together. 

This is a wonderful historical that has further endeared me to a subgenre I’ve long had mixed feelings about. I will definitely be reading more Amanda Scott in the near future. And if you love Highlander or medieval romance, but haven’t read Amanda Scott yet, I recommend giving her a try. 

Author Bio

Amanda Scott, USA Today Bestselling Author and winner of Romance Writers of America’s RITA/Golden Medallion (LORD ABBERLEY’S NEMESIS) and Romantic Times’ Awards for Best Regency Author and Best Sensual Regency (RAVENWOOD’S LADY), Lifetime Achievement (2007) and Best Scottish Historical (BORDER MOONLIGHT, 2008), began writing on a dare from her husband. She has sold every manuscript she has written.

Amanda is a fourth-generation Californian, who was born and raised in Salinas and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in history from Mills College in Oakland. She did graduate work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, specializing in British History, before obtaining her Master’s in History from California State University at San Jose. She now lives with her husband and son in northern California.

As a child, Amanda Scott was a model for O’Connor Moffatt in San Francisco (now Macy’s). She was also a Sputnik child, one of those selected after the satellite went up for one of California’s first programs for gifted children. She remained in that program through high school. After graduate school, she taught for the Salinas City School District for three years before marrying her husband, who was then a captain in the Air Force. They lived in Honolulu for a year, then in Papillion, Nebraska, for seven. Their son was born in Nebraska. They have lived in northern California since 1980.

Scott grew up in a family of lawyers, and is descended from a long line of them. Her father was a three-term District Attorney of Monterey County before his death in 1955 at age 36. Her grandfather was City Attorney of Salinas for 36 years after serving two terms as District Attorney, and two of her ancestors were State Supreme Court Justices (one in Missouri, the other the first Supreme Court Justice for the State of Arkansas). One brother, having carried on the Scott tradition in the Monterey County DA’s office, is now a judge. The other is an electrician in Knoxville, TN, and her sister is a teacher in the Sacramento area.

The women of Amanda Scott’s family have been no less successful than the men. Her mother was a child actress known as Baby Lowell, who performed all over the west coast and in Hollywood movies, and then was a dancer with the San Francisco Opera Ballet until her marriage. Her mother’s sister, Loretta Lowell, was also a child actress. She performed in the Our Gang comedies and in several Loretta Young movies before becoming one of the first women in the US Air Force. Scott’s paternal grandmother was active in local and State politics and served as president of the California State PTA, and her maternal grandmother was a teacher (and stage mother) before working for Monterey County. The place of women in Scott’s family has always been a strong one. Though they married strong men, the women have, for generations, been well educated and encouraged to succeed at whatever they chose to do.

Amanda Scott’s first book was OMAHA CITY ARCHITECTURE, a coffee-table photo essay on the historical architecture of Omaha, written for Landmarks, Inc. under her married name as a Junior League project. Others took the photos; she did the research and wrote the text on an old Smith-Corona portable electric. She sold her first novel, THE FUGITIVE HEIRESS – likewise written on the battered Smith-Corona in 1980. Since then, she has sold many more books, but since the second one she has used a word processor and computer. Twenty-five of her novels are set in the English Regency period (1810-1820). Others are set in 15th-century England and 14th- through 18th-century Scotland, and three are contemporary romances. Many of her titles are currently available at bookstores and online.

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Review of “The Last Story of Mina Lee” by Nancy Jooyoun Kim

Kim, Nancy Jooyoun. The Last Story of Mina Lee. Toronto, Ontario: Park Row Books, 2020. 

ISBN-13: 978-0778320174 | $27.99 USD | 384 pages | Women’s Fiction

Blurb

“Suspenseful and deeply felt.” —Chloe Benjamin, New York Times bestselling author of The Immortalists

“Kim is a brilliant new voice in American fiction.” —Alexander Chee, bestselling author of How to Write an Autobiographical Novel

“Fans of Amy Tan and Kristin Hannah will love Kim’s brilliant debut.”Booklist, starred review

A profoundly moving and unconventional mother-daughter saga, The Last Story of Mina Lee illustrates the devastating realities of being an immigrant in America.

Margot Lee’s mother, Mina, isn’t returning her calls. It’s a mystery to twenty-six-year-old Margot, until she visits her childhood apartment in Koreatown, LA, and finds that her mother has suspiciously died. The discovery sends Margot digging through the past, unraveling the tenuous invisible strings that held together her single mother’s life as a Korean War orphan and an undocumented immigrant, only to realize how little she truly knew about her mother.

Interwoven with Margot’s present-day search is Mina’s story of her first year in Los Angeles as she navigates the promises and perils of the American myth of reinvention. While she’s barely earning a living by stocking shelves at a Korean grocery store, the last thing Mina ever expects is to fall in love. But that love story sets in motion a series of events that have consequences for years to come, leading up to the truth of what happened the night of her death.

Told through the intimate lens of a mother and daughter who have struggled all their lives to understand each other, The Last Story of Mina Lee is a powerful and exquisitely woven debut novel that explores identity, family, secrets, and what it truly means to belong. 

Review

4 stars

I received an ARC from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

 Part women’s fiction, part thriller, The Last Story of Mina Lee had an intriguing premise that drew me in immediately. And while this isn’t a perfect book, it does pack an emotional punch and it left me feeling breathless. 

I love the way Margot’s search for answers in the wake of her mother’s death is interspersed with Mina’s story of coming to America and experiencing all the drama and heartbreak this new experience brings her, and ultimately tying into the reason for her death.

 I found it fascinating how Margot has to confront her issues with her mother, including her disgust with aspects of her mother’s past. While this is a very extreme case, I felt it rendered a very realistic depiction of the generational divide between immigrant progenitors and their more Americanized offspring.

My one major complaint is that I felt like it resolved a little too quickly and abruptly, and I definitely wanted more from the suspense aspect. However, the ultimate concluding moments do hit home poignantly, delivering on Margot’s character growth and acceptance of her mother. 

This is a beautiful, heartbreaking book that discusses important, relevant topics. If the book sounds interesting to you and you’re prepared for a deeply emotional read, I strongly recommend picking it up. 

Author Bio

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Nancy Jooyoun Kim is a graduate of UCLA and the University of Washington, Seattle. Her essays and short fiction have appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Guernica, NPR/PRI’s Selected Shorts, The Rumpus, Electric Literature, Asian American Writers’ Workshop’s The Margins, The Offing, and elsewhere. The Last Story of Mina Lee is her first novel.

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Review of “Jade War” (The Green Bone Saga #2) by Fonda Lee

Lee, Fonda. Jade War. New York: Orbit Books,  2019. 

ISBN-13: 978-0316440929 | $26.00 USD | 608 pages | Fantasy

Blurb

In Jade War, the sequel to the Nebula, Locus, and World Fantasy Award-nominated Jade City, the Kaul siblings battle rival clans for honor and control over an Asia-inspired fantasy metropolis.

On the island of Kekon, the Kaul family is locked in a violent feud for control of the capital city and the supply of magical jade that endows trained Green Bone warriors with supernatural powers they alone have possessed for hundreds of years.

Beyond Kekon’s borders, war is brewing. Powerful foreign governments and mercenary criminal kingpins alike turn their eyes on the island nation. Jade, Kekon’s most prized resource, could make them rich – or give them the edge they’d need to topple their rivals.

Faced with threats on all sides, the Kaul family is forced to form new and dangerous alliances, confront enemies in the darkest streets and the tallest office towers, and put honor aside in order to do whatever it takes to ensure their own survival – and that of all the Green Bones of Kekon.

Jade War is the second book of the Green Bone Saga, an epic trilogy about family, honor, and those who live and die by the ancient laws of blood and jade. 

In the series

#1 Jade City

Review 

5 stars

Jade War is the second book in the Green Bone Saga, and it’s one of those sequels/middle books that is absolutely better than the first book, because of how it builds on what has been previously established, taking things to another level, while also still leaving the stakes high as we anticipate book three.

While the world was more contained in the first book and that served it well, it’s cool to see outside the city Janloon and country of Kekon, with one of the major characters, Anden, leaving the insular world of the city and experiencing the outside world’s perspective of his country. 

It was also fascinating to see a shift in the power dynamics with the next generation of the Kaul family now fully taking over family affairs. While they already were complex, this brought out new sides to them. While I definitely have mixed feelings about Hilo now, I did like seeing him as a father and uncle. Anden, who I wasn’t sure about before, definitely stepped up to the plate as my favorite character this time around. 

Mostly, I just really enjoyed letting the story take me for a ride, with more politicking, backstabbing, and grappling with the consequences of their actions. If you loved the first book, but haven’t picked up book two yet, get on it. And if the idea of an Asian-inspired fantasy meshing The Godfather with Kung fu, and starring morally gray characters appeals to you, definitely pick up this series at some point prior to the release of Jade Legacy.

Author Bio

Fonda Lee is the World Fantasy Award-winning author of the epic Green Bone Saga, beginning with Jade City and continuing in Jade War and Jade Legacy. She is also the author of the acclaimed science fiction novels Zeroboxer, Exo and Cross Fire.

Fonda is as a three-time winner of the Aurora Award (Canada’s national science fiction and fantasy award), and a multiple finalist for the Nebula Award, the Locus Award, and the Oregon Book Award. Her novels have garnered multiple starred reviews, been included on numerous state reading lists, named Junior Library Guild selections, and appeared on Best of Year lists from NPR, Barnes & Noble, Syfy Wire, and others.

Fonda is a former corporate strategist and black belt martial artist who loves action movies and Eggs Benedict. Born and raised in Canada, she currently resides in Portland, Oregon.

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Review of “Never Let Me Go” (The Southern Gentlemen #3) by Kianna Alexander

Alexander, Kianna. Never Let Me Go. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks Casablanca, 2021. 

ISBN-13: 978-1492647041 | $12.99 USD | 292 pages | Contemporary Romance

Blurb

Tender, emotional contemporary romance—you’ll fall in love with this band-of-brothers and the strong women they’re determined to win.

Architect Maxwell Devers is laser-focused on winning the contract to build a new cultural arts center—his biggest project yet. But as a single dad of a beautiful baby girl, he has to find some help if he’s going to stay on track.

Yvonne Markham is thrilled to get her first nanny assignment. She knows the high-paying job will speed her progress toward owning a child care center of her own. Maxwell’s daughter is a delight, and she quickly comes to love the bouncing baby girl. Falling for her handsome new boss, however, was not part of the plan…

Hang on to your heartstrings: This multicultural romance features a single father, a sweet baby daughter, and the nanny who falls in love with them both.

Enjoy all the books in the Southern Gentleman series.

“A lush, beautifully written story about the indelible mark of first love. Intelligent, fresh, and utterly lovely.”—KRISTAN HIGGINS, #1 New York Times bestelling author, for Back to Your Love

In the series

#1 Back to Your Love

#2 Couldn’t Ask for More 

Review

4 stars

I received an ARC from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Never Let Me Go was my first book from Kianna Alexander, although I had previously read a novella of hers in an anthology. And while this is the third in a series, it stands alone, while making me curious to pick up the other two. 

While the employer/nanny romance has been done in myriad ways before, Alexander injects something fresh into the setup and makes it her own. Max and Yvonne are both compelling characters with strong independent motivations that are at odds with a lasting romance between them, yet it’s obvious they work well together.

I also really appreciated the way Max’s own issues with committing to love over his dreams were interrogated, as I don’t feel like I’ve seen a lot of that, particularly in. terms acknowledging his own fault in the demise of previous relationships and how that mirrors the current one with Yvonne. 

This is lighthearted, charming Southern romance, and one I’d recommend to other contemporary romance lovers. 

Author Bio

I’m Kianna Alexander. I’m a wife, mother, sister, friend, and avid reader. I also write like my life depended on it, because, in a way, it does.

I’ve been writing since I was a shy, introverted child of about ten. My stories provided an escape from a world that sometimes seemed harsh and uncaring. When I wasn’t writing, I was reading- devouring R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps and Fear Street Novels, Sweet Valley High Books, and the occasional Nancy Drew mystery. I was in high school before I discovered romance novels. I  perused my mother’s untouched collection of Harlequin novels, and read the occasional clench-covered tome in the library. But at sixteen, I picked up Beverly Jenkin’s Night Song. That book changed my life, and I think that’s when the writing bug first bit me.

Stubborn as I am, I tried to deny my desire to write in favor of a more “practical” pursuit. At seventeen, I wasn’t confident enough to make my own choice, so I listened to the voices around me in deciding my career path. “You’re good with kids,” people said. “You should be a teacher.” Impressionable, shrinking violet that I was, I enrolled in college and majored in Elementary Education. In my junior year, they stuck me in a classroom with a bunch of second graders, and despite mastering all the pedagogical theory they’d thrown at me, I bolted in fear when confronted with 25 boisterous students. I dropped out of college at year’s end.

The following September, I married my childhood sweetheart, and settled down in a military town with him. While he worked, I cooked, cleaned, did cross-stitch. The desire to write was there, but by then it was so faint I ignored it. I feared I’d fail again, the way I failed at college- and my relatives were still asking me when I was going back. Then, a fateful thing occured- my husband had a health scare while training out of state, and I stayed with a cousin to be near him. During my four months at my cousin’s home, I wrote my very first book- Skye’s the Limit. My cousin, the late Tonya Davis, threatened to deny me food if I didn’t deliver a chapter a day- it was the push I needed to get back to writing. (I dedicated the book to her when it released in 2009, and she cried.)

Fast forward a few years, and I had my first child- a son, born with Down Syndrome. I saw in him so many possibilities, despite what the doctors said about what he might never accomplish. Every doctor and therapist known to man has seen my son, and I want it that way. As he grows, so do I, and I’m amazed at what he can do. In 2011, he suffered a bout with acute myelogenous leukemia, one that had us sitting in the hospital for seven agonizing, terrifying months of chemotherapy. My daughter, born in 2010, took her first steps in his hospital room. I wrote Embrace the Night as I sat by his bedside, to keep the worry from driving me to absolute madness.

At times of sorrow, or difficulty, I turn to writing. I pray, I think positive thoughts, but writing has been such a salve to me I don’t know how to live without it. When all else in life seems out of my control, the worlds and characters I create still lie under my command. For me, that is a very comforting thing.

It’s my hope that the words I’ve written can create a much needed respite for readers like you.

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Review of “Unbirthday: A Twisted Tale” by Liz Braswell

Braswell, Liz. Unbirthday: A Twisted Tale. Los Angeles: Disney/Hyperion, 2020.

ISBN-13: 978-1484781319 | $17.99 USD | 512 pages | YA Fantasy

Blurb

What if Wonderland was in peril and Alice was very, very late?

Alice is different than other eighteen-year-old ladies in Kexford, which is perfectly fine with her. She’d rather spend golden afternoons with her trusty camera or in her aunt Vivian’s lively salon, ignoring her sister’s wishes that she stop all that “nonsense” and become a “respectable” member of society. Alice is happy to meander to Miss. Yao’s teashop or to visit the children playing in the Square. She’s also interested in learning more about the young lawyer she met there, but just because she’s curious, of course, not because he was sweet and charming.

But when Alice develops photographs she has recently taken about town, familiar faces of old suddenly appear in the place of her actual subjects-the Queen of Hearts, the Mad Hatter, the Caterpillar. There’s something eerily off about them, even for Wonderland creatures. And as Alice develops a self-portrait, she finds the most disturbing image of all-a badly-injured dark-haired girl asking for Alice’s help. Mary Ann.

Returning to the place of nonsense from her childhood, Alice finds herself on a mission to stop the Queen of Hearts’ tyrannical rule and to find her place in both worlds. But will she able to do so . . . before the End of Time?

Review

4 stars

I received an ARC from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Unbirthday is my first foray into the Twisted Tales anthology series, however I’ve long been interested in the concept of it. And this one was a great one for me to start off with, since the source material (both Lewis Carroll’s Alice stories and the 1951 film) are absolute twisted madness already, and while I did like it, also felt that the Burton film compromised that a little bit to make a marketable action flick. 

Meanwhile, Braswell perfectly manages to merge the nonsense of the original with darker elements that don’t overly impact the message that Wonderland is supposed to be wacky. Even while there is an adventure with a clear end goal and the Queen of Hearts is clearly more malicious then we remember, it is rooted in fun, and I couldn’t help cracking up on occasion, especially as the outside narrator interjects, particularly with their commentary at the beginning and end. 

I did have some issues with the structural choices, particularly in terms of chapters ending abruptly, and then picking up in the next. While I do appreciate when chapter transitions can create tension, I felt like it sometimes ended in an awkward place, thus not stimulating interest in what might happen next. 

I did still like this book overall, and if this is indicative of what can be found in other Twisted Tales, I can’t wait to try more. And if you love fairy tale retellings and Disney movies, I strongly recommend picking this one up. 

Author Bio

After the sort of introverted childhood you would expect from a writer, Liz earned a degree in Egyptology at Brown University and then promptly spent the next ten years producing video games. Finally she caved into fate and wrote Snow and Rx under the name Tracy Lynn, followed by The Nine Lives of Chloe King series under her real name, because by then the assassins hunting her were all dead. She also has short stories in Geektastic and Who Done It and a new series of reimagined fairy tales coming out, starting with A Whole New World—a retelling of Aladdin.
She lives in Brooklyn with a husband, two children, a cat, a part-time dog, three fish and five coffee trees she insists will start producing beans any day. You can email her at me@lizbraswell.com.

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Review of “Secret Crush Seduction” (The Heirs of Hansol #2) by Jayci Lee

Lee, Jayci. Secret Crush Seduction. Toronto, Ontario: Harlequin, 2020.

ISBN-13: 978-13352099351 | $5.25 USD | 224 pages | Contemporary Romance

Blurb

She’s done waiting for what she really wants…

Aspiring fashion designer Adelaide Song wants to prove she’s more than just a pampered heiress. All she needs is a little courage—and the help of deliciously sexy Michael Reynolds, her childhood crush and her brother’s best friend. But when her secret crush turns into an illicit liaison, Adelaide realizes mixing business with pleasure spells trouble for all her plans…

In the series

#1 Temporary Wife Temptation 

Review 

3 stars

I received an ARC from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Secret Crush Seduction is the second in Jayci Lee’s Heirs of Hansol series, although it can be read as a stand-alone, as is the case with many Harlequin series romance. 

One of the consistent positives going into this one that carries over from the previous book is the great representation. I like the family dynamics in particular, especially Adelaide’s relationship with her grandmother. And the way Michael is made to feel like part of the family is heartwarming. 

I also liked Adelaide’s involvement with a charity show for autism awareness, working to develop a sensory friendly upscale fashion line. 

I had mixed feelings about the execution of the relationship between Adelaide and Michael, however. I liked them in theory, but wasn’t that moved to care whether they would end up together…the chemistry wasn’t really there. 

There are also some pretty weighty issues discussed, like infertility, which aren’t fully addressed, yet treated as barriers to them being together. I’d have liked to see this fleshed out more in a longer book. 

This one wasn’t as good as the first one for me (and even that one was a bit flawed), however, the positives still make it worth it for me. If you love interracial romance, then definitely pick this one up. 

Author Bio

Jayci Lee writes poignant, sexy, and laugh-out-loud romance every free second she can scavenge. She lives in sunny California with her tall-dark-and-handsome husband, two amazing boys with boundless energy, and a fluffy rescue whose cuteness is a major distraction. At times, she cannot accommodate real life because her brain is full of drool worthy heroes and badass heroines clamoring to come to life.Because of all the books demanding to be written, Jayci writes full-time now, and is semi-retired from her fifteen-year career as a defense litigator. She loves food, wine, and travelling, and incidentally so do her characters. Books have always helped her grow, dream, and heal, and she hopes her books will do the same for you.

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Review of “The Paper Daughters of Chinatown” by Heather B. Moore

Moore, Heather B. The Paper Daughters of Chinatown. Salt Lake City: Shadow Mountain, 2020.

ISBN-13: 978-1629727820 | $26.99 USD | 384 pages | Historical Fiction

Blurb

A powerful story based on true events surrounding Donaldina Cameron and other brave women who fought to help Chinese-American women escape discrimination and slavery in the late 19th century in California.

Based on true events.
 
When twenty-six-year-old Donaldina Cameron arrives at the Occidental Mission Home for Girls in 1895, she intends to stay for only one year to teach sewing skills to young Chinese women. Within days, she discovers that the job is much more complicated than perfect stitches and even hems. San Francisco has a dark side, one where a powerful underground organization—the criminal tong—buys and sells Chinese girls like common goods. With the help of Chinese interpreters and a local police squad, Donaldina works night and day to stop the abominable slave and prostitution trade.


Mei Lien believes she is sailing to the “Gold Mountain” in America to become the wife of a rich Chinese man. Instead she finds herself sold into prostitution—beaten, starved, and forced into an opium addiction. It is only after a narrow escape that she hears of the mission home and dares to think there might be hope for a new life.


The Paper Daughters of Chinatown throws new light on the age-old scourge of human trafficking. The heroes who fought this evil and the victims who triumphed over it more than a hundred years ago offer a bright example of courage and determination for anyone wishing for a better world.

Review

I received an ARC from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

The Paper Daughters of Chinatown intrigued me due to its subject matter, as while I knew a bit about Chinese immigration and how they were marginalized in the US in the first part of the 20th century, I didn’t know the full extent of it, largely due to my own ignorance and lack of effort in doing the research. And the fact that this was about someone who fought against the sex trafficking Chinese women were subjected to also intrigued me.

However, I also went in with a healthy amount of skepticism, given the fact that the author, Heather B. Moore is a white woman, and it could easily go wrong, given the tendency toward white savior narratives. 

And the verdict in that regard is…mixed? Moore definitely did her research into the period and the subject matter, including a lot of supplemental notes both introducing and concluding the narrative. She also depicts the Chinese women with relative compassion, and took the time to seek feedback from sensitivity readers, which I can appreciate…to an extent.

And I think she makes an important point in illustrating how Donaldina Cameron’s role and mission were different from others she worked with, particularly by referencing the “White Man’s Burden,” as originally written about by Rudyard Kipling, and interrogating that concept. It demonstrates how Cameron did not see people of color as lesser and thus able to be enslaved, as others at the time did.

However, Cameron also engages with other common assimilationist ideas, like teaching the women English and requiring Bible study. While the former could be seen as helpful in order to survive in the US if they choose to stay, the latter feels disrespectful. What I find most interesting about this is the fact that it is included as a discussion question at the end of the book, suggesting Moore and/or publisher wants to see it used as a point of discussion, which I found really odd. And upon doing a bit of further digging, I found that this policy of enforcing Christianity actually caused harm for one of the women at the hands of her family. 

The book also suffers from the issue of trying to depict a snapshot of someone’s life, cutting off at a place prior to its natural conclusion. Cameron went on working after the time period portrayed in the book, resulting in the end feeling a little anticlimactic. 

I do feel I should have seen some of this coming, given some of the red flags stated above (white author, story centering a white woman), and I will be using the included recommended reading list  as a starting point to get a more nuanced picture of the people and events the story concerned, as I can at least commend that aspect, even if the execution wasn’t good. However, I feel this is another book that does more harm than good, in spite of any good intentions. 

Author Bio

Heather B. Moore is a USA Today bestselling author of more than fifty publications. Her historical novels and thrillers are written under pen name H.B. Moore. She writes women’s fiction, romance and inspirational non-fiction under Heather B. Moore. This can all be confusing, so her kids just call her Mom. Heather attended Cairo American College in Egypt, the Anglican School of Jerusalem in Israel, and earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Brigham Young University in Utah. Heather is represented by Dystel, Goderich, and Bourret.

Please join Heather’s email list at: HBMoore.com/contact/
Blog: MyWritersLair.blogspot.com
Website: HBMoore.com
Instagram: @authorhbmoore
Twitter: @heatherbmoore
Facebook: Fans of H.B. Moore

Literary awards: 6-time Best of State Recipient for Best in Literary Arts, 4-time Whitney Award Winner, and 2-time Golden Quill Award Winner 

Review of “A Joyful Christmas” by Cynthia Hickey, Liz Johnson, Vickie McDonough, Liz Tolsma, Carrie Turansky, and Erica Vetsch

Hickey, Cynthia, et. al. A Joyful Christmas: 6 Historical Stories. Uhrichville, OH: Barbour Books, 2020. 

ISBN-13: 978-1643526348 | $9.99 USD | 448 pages | Historical Romance/Christian Fiction

Blurb

A Christmas Collection to Warm the Heart
Grab a warm cup of tea and watch as romance is kindled and joy is restored to broken lives during six bygone era Christmas celebrations.
 
A Christmas Castle by Cynthia Hickey
Married by proxy in Missouri, Annie Morgan sets off for Tombstone, Arizona, to join her new husband as a cattle rancher. But too soon she finds herself a widow with an unexpected daughter and butting heads with her handsome neighbor.
 
A Star in the Night by Liz Johnson
Wounded within Confederate territory, Union officer Jedediah Harrington finds refuge at the tiny cabin of Cora Sinclair and her grandfather. Still haunted by what she saw as a battlefield hospital volunteer, Cora finds that only Jed can understand. But, though she longs to give him her heart, the risks to both of them are too great.
 
An Irish Bride for Christmas by Vickie McDonough
When Jackson Lancaster’s brother and wife die, he takes his three-year-old niece home. But a meddling busy-body makes the judge give her custody “because an unmarried man shouldn’t raise a little girl.” Now Jackson has until Christmas to find a bride or lose his niece forever. Larkin Doyle is grateful her employer took in the orphan and believes Jackson abandoned his niece. When her heart says otherwise, will romance blossom? 
 
Under His Wings by Liz Tolsma
Adie O’Connell, orphaned and left alone in a dangerous Wisconsin logging camp, seeks the stability she once knew when both her parents lived. Despite the compassion and friendship offered by Noah “Preacher Man” Mitchell, she refuses to consider marriage to a man always drifting from one job to another for God.
 
Shelter in the Storm by Carrie Turansky
The daughter of a wealthy Tennessee doctor, Rachel Thornton begins nursing James Galloway, a wounded artist-war correspondent. As James recovers, their hearts draw closer together. Having already lost one sweetheart to the war, Rachel is hesitant to reveal her feelings for James, who insists on returning to the front lines. Would she be safer in the arms of another man?
 
Christmas Service by Erica Vetsch
Beth Sorensen has been put in charge of the Christmas pageant at the little log church, and this year she wants something different. But she didn’t count on a Minnesota blizzard paralyzing the whole town. Can the blacksmith teach this preacher’s daughter about what it means to serve one another in love through the storm?

Review 

This is a wonderful anthology of previously published Christmas historical stories that provide a generous helping of Christmas spirit. While I enjoyed some more than others, this collection is by and large a fairly solid one with no major disappointments. 

“A Christmas Castle” by Cynthia Hickey 

3 stars 

This was kind of an odd one for me. I liked it conceptually…it just fell a bit short in terms of the execution. I rooted for Annie being in a situation she didn’t expect, but wasn’t sure if the romance really won me over.

“A Star in the Night” by Liz Johnson

5 stars

This one is absolutely adorable. I love how Jed and Cora bonded while he was staying with her and her grandfather, recuperating from his injuries. I love how they connected, and it lasted even after they parted, waiting for them to reunite again. 

“An Irish Bride for Christmas” by Vickie McDonough

4 stars 

This one was charming, and it delves into the complexities of custody of a little girl. I rooted for Jackson to work things out so he could have security in his job and take care of Rosie, he liked that he and Larkin bonded over their shared concern for Rosie.

“Under His Wings” by Liz Tolsma

5 stars

This one was beautiful, with Adie initially resisting the prospect of marriage due to the obstacles presented her; but the love she and Noah shared and their mutual faith brought them together. 

“Shelter in the Storm” by Carrie Turansky

5 stars

This one was similarly good, and I loved the romantic tension that grew between James and Rachel due to happenstance, but she has to figure out if she’s moved on from a previous heartbreak.

“Christmas Service” by Erica Vetsch 

4 stars

This is a wonderful short about the importance of service and giving back in one’s community. I like how Beth had a very firm idea of her vision when it came to this concept, as well as her own prospects, but she came to learn from Todd’s unique perspective in both respects. 

***

If you love Christmas and Christian historical romance, this is a great collection that you should definitely pick this up. 

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Review of “Fable” by Adrienne Young

Young, Adrienne. Fable. New York: Wednesday Books, 2020.

ISBN-13: 978-12502544368 | $18.99 USD | 368 pages | YA Fantasy

Blurb

Filled with all of the action, emotion, and lyrical writing that brought readers to Sky in the DeepNew York Times bestselling author Adrienne Young returns with Fable, the first book in this new captivating duology.

Welcome to a world made dangerous by the sea and by those who wish to profit from it. Where a young girl must find her place and her family while trying to survive in a world built for men.

As the daughter of the most powerful trader in the Narrows, the sea is the only home seventeen-year-old Fable has ever known. It’s been four years since the night she watched her mother drown during an unforgiving storm. The next day her father abandoned her on a legendary island filled with thieves and little food. To survive she must keep to herself, learn to trust no one and rely on the unique skills her mother taught her. The only thing that keeps her going is the goal of getting off the island, finding her father and demanding her rightful place beside him and his crew. To do so Fable enlists the help of a young trader named West to get her off the island and across the Narrows to her father.

But her father’s rivalries and the dangers of his trading enterprise have only multiplied since she last saw him and Fable soon finds that West isn’t who he seems. Together, they will have to survive more than the treacherous storms that haunt the Narrows if they’re going to stay alive.

Fable takes you on a spectacular journey filled with romance, intrigue and adventure.

Review 

5 stars

I received an ARC from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Fable is my first book by Adrienne Young, but it definitely won’t be the last. I was particularly drawn to the pirates theme, which is far less plentiful in fiction today than I would like (it’s not completely absent, but doesn’t appear to have ever had the mileage vampires once had, for example). 

And it definitely delivers, starting with the protagonist. Fable has the strength to find her way off the island after really having to scrape by to survive, pitted against the nomadic criminal residents. And while I didn’t get why she wanted to reunite with her father, given he was the reason she ended up in that situation to begin with, I still admired her gumption, especially as she finally found her way off, and ingratiated herself with the ragtag  crew of the Marigold. 

This definitely feels darker than most YA  fantasy, while still feeling age-appropriate, especially since it avoids the sense of outright  “good vs. evil,” with many of the major characters, including Fable herself, having a sense of moral grayness to them. 

This is a fabulous book, and I can’t wait to find out what happens next. If you’re looking for an edgier take on the YA fantasy genre, you should definitely pick this one up. 

Author Bio

Adrienne Young is a born and bred Texan turned California girl. She is a foodie with a deep love of history and travel and a shameless addiction to coffee. When she’s not writing, you can find her on her yoga mat, scouring antique fairs for old books, sipping wine over long dinners, or disappearing into her favorite art museums. She lives with her documentary filmmaker husband and their four little wildlings beneath the West Coast sun.

For information on release, appearances, ARCs, giveaways, and exclusive content, sign up for the newsletter at https://adrienneyoungbooks.com/

Instagram: @adrienneyoungbooks
Twitter: @adriennebooks

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