Until I Met You

Author: Tari Faris

Series: Restoring Heritage #2

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: September 8, 2020

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

As the town square is restored, more relationships are restored between members of the town.

Libby Kingsley decides to take the job of the town librarian in Heritage, Michigan, the town her brother Luke has settled in.  Luke had been kidnapped from their family for many years and was just reunited with them.  Libby has also had her share of tragedy after the bookstore that she worked at in England was robbed by her boyfriend and she was held at knifepoint for cash and a first edition of Moby Dick.  Three years later, she decides to not let her fear control her life anymore and branch out.  When she realizes that the library is in the basement of the town hall, she tried to find a suitable replacement, which becomes the abandoned schoolhouse.  All she must do is convince the town council and a hot, but grumpy landscape contractor to agree to her plan.

Austin Williams wants to get his family business back on track.  But to do so, he must complete the revitalization project in Heritage, which is also the town that his brother serves as a pastor at a church.  To say that the two don’t get along is an understatement, so Austin wants to get this project over with as fast as possible.  When the new librarian throws a wrench in his plans, Austin gets more frustrated by the day.  But when he finds that she is not just book smart but can plan out ways to make his project stay within budget, he finds that he may need to reevaluate his life and his standards.

I enjoyed this book so much more than the first in the series!  Maybe the first book was just setting things up, but this story pulled me in so much more.  I loved Libby’s story, which may have been because she is such a book lover.  She had to overcome agoraphobia and a traumatic event with her boyfriend at the time.  Olivia was such a positive influence throughout the book and quite the opposite of Libby.  I thought casting them as roommates really brought out the best in both of them.  Austin and Nate’s relationship centered around stories that each had of the other.  Nate lived with a dark past that tormented him even though he knew he’d been forgiven by God.  He just couldn’t forgive himself.  Austin didn’t want to forgive Nate for the past and used it as a crutch to forge ahead.  All flawed characters in need of grace who pulled together when it was needed. 

. I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The Edge of Belonging

Author: Amanda Cox

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: September 8, 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A fantastic coming of age story about finding yourself in the darkest of times and learning that no matter what, everyone deserves happiness!

Ivy Rose has been returned to her hometown to sort out the affairs of her recently deceased grandmother. It is the only place she feels she can go after the relationship with her fiancé ends badly. She is hurt and wants to know about her past, the one thing no one has ever been willing to share with her. Her Grandmother left her clues to the mystery of her adoption, but a key piece to the puzzle has gone missing.

Over two decades earlier, Harvey James found a newborn baby abandoned on the side of the road. Harvey is homeless and has lacked someone to love and have a real connection with until he finds this baby that needs him. He knows he needs supplies to take care of a baby and goes to the church for help and ends up intertwined with two people trying to help him and the young baby he has found. But Harvey has spent years staying away from others after a lifetime of being abandoned. What matters most is the safety of the innocent child and keeping her safe. Harvey is willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen.

In this beautifully written dual-time story, readers will have no choice but to fall in love with Ivy, Harvey and all those they touch. I must admit, I put off starting this book, just didn’t seem like one that would touch me, but was I wrong. I tackled each page of this novel with rabid enthusiasm to follow the stories of Harvey and Ivy. The dual-time story gave a great dynamic to what was happening to the characters and why they would react the way they did in the present timeline.  The romance aspect of the story was one of the best written I have read in a long time. Each relationship played out in step as I felt it naturally would have. Nothing was forced and each character resonated with me on a deep level. The gem of the whole story would probably be Grandma Pearl in the flashback timelines of the story; she was so spunky and loved everyone with a kind of love we all should strive to show. After reading this, I sat and just thought about the way these characters truly found themselves.  They may have had to go through some hardships, but they came out the other side stronger and better for it. I think if we would all focus on the hard times we go through and find the happiness at the end, like Ivy and Harvey were able to do, we would see our lives in a much better way. I recommend this book to readers that enjoy a story full of mystery, intrigue, drama, hope, and so much more!

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Under Scottish Stars

Can two people who need new beginnings find one together?

Author: Carla Laureano

Series: The MacDonald Family #3

Publisher: Tyndale House

Release Date: July 7, 2020

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Serena Stewart is working to get her life back on track.  Her husband passed a few years ago, leaving her with two young children.  After the oldest child, Em, gets in a fight at her academy, she is given the choice to be withdrawn or expelled.  With little options, Serena decides to buy back her shares of the family hotel in Skye and return for at least the summer to figure things out.  While there, she begins to butt heads with the hotel manager Malcom Blake.  While the don’t get off on the right foot, they begin to learn to trust each other in more than just a working relationship.  While both she and Malcom have given up on their personal dreams to support their family, maybe together they can find a way to find a new dream.

Laureano always manages to write characters that I can relate with.  I wish that I had read the first books in this series to get the full back stories on all the supporting characters as well as any side stories that may have impacted both Serena and Malcom, but I quickly fell into step with both of them.  Both characters had to overcome hardships from loss and even when they thought they found a way forward to happiness; another challenge arose that really tested their will.  I loved the scenery descriptions that really brought the visual of the Scotland area, especially when dealing with the night sky.  Her books always make me want to travel to the location so that I can see it for myself and this was no different. 

I recommend this for those that love the series as well as contemporary romance.  If you are unsure because you haven’t read the others, this can easily be a standalone.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Side Trip

Side TripAuthor: Kerry Lonsdale

Publisher: Lake Union

Release Date: July 7, 2020

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Lonsdale shines as a master of relationship what-ifs play out in this two-sided story of love, growth, and loss!

Joy Evers has been carrying her sister’s death on her shoulders since it happened.  She gave up her interests of skateboarding and surfing to make her late sister’s dreams come true.  She went to UCLA and achieved a degree in chemical engineering and has lined up a job to develop a new line of lipstick for a large cosmetic firm in New York.  She decides to take a road trip down Route 66 on her way to New York from LA to check off the items from her sister’s bucket list before she begins the life she never wanted.

Dylan Westfield loves writing music, but he hates performing.  His dad and uncle were well known musicians and he has always been in the shadows except when his dad made him perform on stage.  Hid dad recently died and to obtain his inheritance, Dylan must travel along Route 66 and play the same dive bars that his dad did on his way to LA before he made it big.  Not only that, but he must drive the same car his dad did, which doesn’t even make it out of California.

By chance, both Joy and Dylan are at the same diner in Ludlow, California.  He manages to convince her to drive him to his gigs, but she has three rules.  1. No last names.  2. What happens on the road, stays on the road.  And 3. If they take a side trip, both parties have to agree.

Every year in July I look forward to a new Kerry Lonsdale book, which frequently shows up on my top 10 books of the year.  This year was no exception!  Readers are suddenly thrown into Joy and Dylan’s wild ride and find themselves tagging along for the adventure.  This book was both exciting and heart wrenching.  Readers will easily connect with either Joy or Dylan.  Told from both perspectives, it’s easy to get lost in both of their back stories, present stories, and future stories.

Joy carried the guilt of her sister’s death by herself and wouldn’t let anyone truly see her for who she was.  Dylan never wanted a serious relationship because the life of a musician isn’t kind to relationships, which proved true of his parents.  But when they are together, something special happens.  In her true fashion, Lonsdale’s books have an epic ending that nobody will see coming.  At first, I was really angry for what happened because I was cheering for both of them and then I was broken hearted.  But maybe a silver lining promise will keep readers fully engaged until the end!

There was a little difficulty at times when the story suddenly shifted between past and present without any kind of visible break, but it didn’t take long to figure out.  There is also a lot of language and well as implied sex that makes the book suitable for mature audiences.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Driftwood Dreams

driftwood dreamsAuthor: T.I. Lowe

Series: Carolina Coast #2

Publisher: Tyndale House

Release Date: June 1, 2020

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The second edition to the Carolina Coast series takes us right back to Sunset Cove and sets the romance up right from the start! Characters that are old friends are brought together again to see what might have been.

After her mother’s death, Josie Slater let her dreams slip away and set her sights in helping her dad run the Driftwood Diner. She has kept close with her two best friends, Opal and Sophia, and watched in envy as they followed their dreams. Josie always dreamed of being an artist but let that goal, along with all her others, go when her mother died. When a blast from her past comes back to town, she starts to wonder if any of her long-lost dreams might still be possible.

August Bradford comes back to Sunset Cove settle down and see if there is any hope of salvaging the one relationship that he regrets letting go. His time with Josie is one he can’t easily forget and now that he is back in town, he needs her help setting up a children’s art camp. It won’t be easy, but he hopes he can show her there is so much more to her life and her dreams are still within reach.

With summer fast approaching, Driftwood Dreams is the perfect story for a relaxing read for romance fans that will kick off right mood for the season! Josie is so stuck in her ways and the thought of not being there to help her father with the diner after the death of her mother isn’t even something she can consider. Her sense of duty to family is worth more to her than following her own dreams. A noble gesture to be sure but the lesson readers learn is that we can’t sacrifice our own happiness to keep others happy in the way we think will make them happy.

August knows that he is right for Josie. Trying to get her to see that and be okay with following her dreams is a task more complicated than he anticipated. Their back and forth dialogue brought so much tension to the story; knowing they were meant to be but having so much internal conflict keeping them apart kept me turning the pages quickly.

The setting of this book is one that will take readers away for a few precious hours and let them escape to a beautiful beach with great characters and a fun, enjoyable setting. Each book in this series brings about characters we can easily fall in love with, scenery you can’t help but want to run away to, and a story that readers can’t help but go back to again and again for the perfect escape. This was a quick fun read that many readers will devour over a weekend. I recommend reading the first in the series before this one to familiarize yourself with the characters that play a role in this one. Readers that enjoy a great romantic read will want to snatch this one up for their enjoyment.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish

Hadley BeckettAuthor: Bethany Turner

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: May 5, 2020

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Turner pulls off yet another Hallmark Movie story that her readers will love!

Hadley Beckett, famous TV chef, has a horrific experience facing rude, drunk, chauvinistic chef, Max Cavanaugh. Hadley’s popularity skyrockets as Max enters rehab for anger management. A world class agent wants to represent Hadley, promising to fulfill her dreams of cooking in a spectacular kitchen at her home in Nashville. One day, Chef Max shows up on Hadley’s doorstep humbled and apologizing. This begins a tumultuous relationship between the two chefs. Hadley and Max are cast together in a biographical TV show that is coveted by top chefs. The two must weather forming a friendship while learning about each other and moving past their challenging history.

I thought this story was a nice read. The beginning did not automatically draw me in but I’m glad I continued reading. The character development is well written. The plot is interesting and not all sunshine and rainbows but has a lovely happy ending. I found myself cheering for Hadley and Max in the end. I recommend this book to readers that enjoy contemporary romances that are a little cheesy and make them smile as they read.

I receive a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

On a Coastal Breeze

on a coastal breezeAuthor: Suzanne Woods Fisher

Series: Three Sisters Island #2

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: May 5, 2020

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A great story to show that anyone can change!

Maddie Grayson is finally starting up her own counseling practice on Three Sisters Island. She leases space in a building that shares space for the local church office. The island has been looking for a new pastor for quite some time and one finally agreed to come parish the small island off the coast of Maine. On the opening day of her practice, Maddie hears a commotion and discovers that the new pastor is parachuting into town. This doesn’t surprise her as much as when she learns that the new pastor is someone who she went to school with from kindergarten to graduation named Ricky O’Shea. Ricky tormented Maddie throughout her entire school life and she thought she was rid of him for good. But what is he doing as a pastor now? Can Maddie accept him to be the man he is today instead of the boy he was?

The second book in the Three Sisters Island picks up pretty much where the first left off. Cam and Seth are engaged, but a project to get the island on reliable renewable energy has taken Cam’s attention away and causing some problems. Blaine is back home from culinary school and facing challenges in her life and with her palette. Maddie is getting her practice going and having sessions with some of the islands characters.

The story is mostly centered on Maddie, although all three sisters experience growth of some sort. Maddie had to overcome past hard feelings about Rick and many of the experiences she had at his hands are relived at the end of several chapters. But what made Rick decide to join the marines and become the man he is today just might surprise some of the readers. I also enjoyed Maddie’s therapy sessions with her sisters and her clients. It made each of the characters come to life. The next book is set to be Blaine’s story as she travels across Europe and I can’t wait to help her find herself.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The Best We’ve Been

Best weve beenAuthor: Beth K. Vogt

Series: Thatcher Sisters #3

Publisher: Tyndale House

Release Date: May 5, 2020

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Friction between family members is all too real! Readers will easily fall in love with this family!

After discovering her fiancé cheated on her, Johanna Thatcher has decided to protect her heart at all costs. Things get more complicated when she finds out she is pregnant. Over the years, friction between her and her sisters, Jillian and Payton, has gone up and down leaving their fragile friendship hanging in the balance. When the family finds out about Johanna’s pregnancy, it causes extra tension between the sisters as this is something Jillian has wanted and may not ever be able to have. To make matters worse, Johanna doesn’t even know if she wants to keep the baby. Each sister has her own life troubles to deal with along with the others and through it all they have to decide what their definition of family is and what they are willing to keep the family together.

When I started this I didn’t realize it was the third in a series; had I read the others I might have understood a little more of the backstory, but since I didn’t realize that until after finished the book, I’m happy to say it didn’t take anything away from the story for me and reads easily as a standalone. There was enough about each character that I felt like I knew them and had a feel for what they were going through. Johanna had a big character development throughout the story and I enjoyed watching her grow and change. Several of the milestone moments the Thatcher sisters go through can be heart wrenching, but in such a good way. I loved the way the story shaped each story of the sisters to bring the whole family together. There is a strong faith element with several characters but nothing that was too pushy and might turn a reader away from the story if that wasn’t what they were looking for. The target audience is going to find this a fast, enjoyable and touching read. With the little glimpses of Jillian and Payton’s lives, I want to go get the others in the series so I can fully know and understand the Thatcher sisters and all they have gone through the be who they are at this point in their stories. Even though this is the third in the series and can be read as a standalone, I do feel I would have gotten even more out of it if I had read the first two. Throughout the novel, Beth Vogt brings a sense of hope and encouragement for readers to cling to. I would recommend this to readers that enjoy a heart touching story with hope, laughter, love and so much more they can relate to.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Starfish Pier

starfishAuthor: Irene Hannon

Series: Hope Harbor #6

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: March 31, 2020

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Another wonderfully written Hope Harbor edition with our favorite characters and more you can’t help but fall in love with!

After moving to Hope Harbor a year ago to reconnect with his brother, Steven Roark left his past as a Delta Force operator and is working as a charter fishing boat captain. During this year, his relationship with his brother hasn’t improved but he has hope that will change. Parts of his past still haunt him and the more he tries to put it behind him the more he finds himself coming face to face with his demons, especially when he runs into first-grade teacher Holly Miller. Holly is trying to help with a fundraiser for the town and asks Steven to donate a fishing expedition. It doesn’t take long for the two of them to feel the sparks for each other and no matter how much they try to deny it, the feelings are real. A problem arises when their pasts come to light and Holly doesn’t know if she can accept some of the decisions Steven has made and let her feelings for him progress.

Hope Harbor is one of the best contemporary Romance series I have read, evident in the fact there are six books in the series so far and each one seems to be better than the previous. I think my favorite thing about the series is Charley and his taco truck. I can’t see any reader not liking Charley. Each new book in the series brings a new set of main characters but also has some of our favorites as secondary characters. Holly and Steven have an interesting dynamic; at first glance you wouldn’t think they would be a good fit, but the longer the story goes it is hard to not see them ending up together. Steven starts out incredibly rough but as the story progresses, we get to see a lighter side to him. He has made mistakes, but he owns up to them and shows that a person can change if they have the right motivation and rely on a higher power for help. Holly has a rough past as well, with her medical issues and trying to convince everyone that she can take care of herself, she has her plate full and isn’t sure how much more she can take from others. It’s a back and forth dialogue between the two and I found the way their relationship was written very satisfying. Even though this is the sixth in the series it could be read by as a standalone. The reader might miss a few things from the previous books that would cause a smile. That being said, I do recommend reading the whole series to get the most enjoyment out of it.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Beach Haven

beach havenAuthor: T.I. Lowe

Series; The Carolina Coast #1

Publisher: Tyndale House

Release Date: April 7, 2020

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A great quarantine read for all of us staying home who need a world to escape to right now!

Opal Gilbert has always been a free spirit and loves her life in Sunset Cove running her store selling vintage furniture. As her store grows, she needs help with deliveries and hires Lincoln Cole, an ex-marine who is new to town trying to recover from wounds both physical and emotional. At first, he doesn’t want the job, but it doesn’t take long for him to come around after a hurricane strikes causing damage to Opal’s shop. Lincoln decides to help her restore the shop and the furniture. As he is trying to help restore the shop, Opal is trying to help restore Lincoln and all that he is dealing with. Even though Lincoln doesn’t want to admit it, his wounds are healing the more time he spends around Opal. He knows that if he wants to pursue any kind of future with her, he will have to step out in faith and repair some of the damage on his own.

With extra time on our hands, I decided to pick this one up and was pleased with the fun, entertaining read it was. I finished this in two days, could have been one if I had pushed it. Beach Haven is a fun start to a new series that I foresee being an enjoyment for readers that love a book they can pick up and escape into for a few hours. There is nothing in this book that is too heavy or extra that would take readers extra time to push through. Opal and Lincoln have a relationship that can be hard to understand at first, but the more time they spend together the more the reader will want to see them grow closer. I particularly enjoyed the way Lowe brought things to a conclusion; I don’t want to give anything away but the last several chapters were my favorites. Lincoln is a hard man to get along with and doesn’t want to allow anyone to get close to him. Once you learn a little of his back story, it is easy to see why he feels the way he does. This was a fun easy read for me and I am sure many will enjoy as well. I recommend this to readers that enjoy a clean, contemporary romance that will pass the time and put a smile on your face.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.