Book Review: A Christmas Flower by Bryan Mooney

Miracles are like snowflakes—no two are alike, but each one is precious and beautiful. This Christmas, Dr. Beth Harding could use a few miracles. The hospital she runs in River Dale, New Hampshire, is being shut down, unless she can convince the Scrooge-like board to save it. At least her closest friend, firefighter Logan Mitchell, is home for the holidays to offer a broad shoulder to lean on.

In California, Logan is a smoke jumper, but jumping into a romance with his best friend scares him more than any forest fire. After losing his parents at sixteen, Logan was taken in by Beth’s family. As kids, they were like brother and sister. Now they’re grown up, and sparks keep flying between them. If only Beth wasn’t already engaged. Maybe with a Christmas miracle or two, Beth can keep those hospital doors open—and two dear friends can finally allow their one true love to blossom.

From Lake Union Publishing via Netgalley. Some Spoilers below.

On some level, Logan has always been in love with Beth, but it’s only since her mother died earlier in the year that he’s begun to realise his true feelings. He works out as a fire jumper in California and it gives him the best thrill in his life. When he hears that his old boss has been injured in a blaze, and with the California fire season over, he returns home to check on things. With budget cuts, the local fire brigade is short on staff, so Logan is persuaded to take on some cover. The budget cuts also mean that the accountants plan to close the hospital that Beth’s mother set up – and to do it by New Year.

Naturally Beth is upset with this, and with staff shortages, she covers rounds, and realises that she misses the patient contact. Her sister Clare has announced that she wont be home for Christmas, as she will be staying with her boyfriend-of-the-month (roger) who seems to be controlling, and doesn’t celebrate Christmas. Meanwhile, Beth’s fiance (Rory) is under pressure from his company to make sure that Beth is signed up to join their pharmaceutical company, since her reputation is strong.  He is also told, in no uncertain terms, that he needs to get married to her, in order to progress his career. These pressures, plus the fact that he’s an ill mannered, tight git, means that when he turns up in River Dale just before Christmas, things dont go smoothly.

Positives: it’s a nice, clean romance; decent descriptions of what it’s like to be working in a Firehouse and a hospital; Logan and Beth are fleshed out well; there’s a nice spin on the Michael and Mary subplot.

Negatives: Clare could have been fleshed out a little more – there was potential when Logan goes to visit her and meets the boyfriend, but then she doesn’t really make another appearance until the end; the same could be said about Rory – there’s so much pressure on him to have Beth join the company and the pair to get married, he puts a lot into Drake’s presentation, but after Beth turns him down……he disappears….unless I missed something, he doesn’t even hang around to plead his cause; the arsonist that doesn’t get caught or set any more fires after 2 firefighters land in the hospital

So a bit of a curate’s egg – good in parts, missed potential in other areas.

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Book Review: Texas Christmas by Holly Castillo

Gabriella Torres loves returning home to San Antonio for the holidays–the decorations, the magic and her large family. As icing on the cake, she will serve as midwife for one of her cousins. Her Christmas visit also provides a temporary distraction from a looming obligation.

Luke Davenport has traveled across the world to accept the role as town doctor in San Antonio. But when he arrives to domestic chaos, the sheriff offers his hospitality and Luke can’t turn down the offer. While he’s embraced by all, Luke tries to keep his distance. His past remains a threat and the alluring Gabby Torres makes him dream of a brighter but impossible future.

When Gabby learns that Luke has never truly experienced Christmas, she sets out on a mission…to make this Christmas the best that Luke could ever have. As they spend intimate moments together, Luke begins to lose his heart to the woman who is showing him what life as part of a family could be like. When the ghosts of their pasts rise up to haunt them, will Christmas magic and love be strong enough to guarantee the happiness they’ve always dreamed of?

From Tule Publishing via Netgalley.

I didn’t know that this was number 4 in the series, but I thought it stood on it’s own pretty well. The secondary characters are pretty well rounded, and there’s no unnecessary exposition as to why they behave a particular way – invariably they just do what they need to do.

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Book Review: Miss Seeton Quilts the Village by Hamilton Crane

The new Miss Seeton mystery – the first in almost 20 years!

It’s practically a Royal Marriage. The highly eligible son of Miss Seeton’s old friends Sir George and Lady Colveden has wed the daughter of a French count.

Miss Seeton lends her talents to the village scheme to create a quilted ‘Bayeux Tapestry’ of local history, inspired by the wedding. But her intuitive sketches reveal a startlingly different perspective—involving buried Nazi secrets, and links to the mysterious death of a diplomat and to a South American dictator . . .

Serene amidst every kind of skulduggery, this eccentric English spinster steps in where Scotland Yard stumbles, armed with nothing more than her sketchpad and umbrella!

From Netgalley in exchange for a review.

Now I will admit that, despite this being the 22nd book in the series, I had never heard of Miss Seeton, never mind reading any of the books. Which is possibly because it’s a parody of, rather than challenger for Miss Marple. A golden age cozy mystery this isn’t!  Set sometime in the 1970s (long after suicide and Homosexuality were decriminalised) Miss Seeton is a retired art teacher, riding round her village of Plummergen on her push bike.   The other residents of Plummergen are used to Miss Seeton getting into untold “adventures” and are prone to overhearing half conversations and making up whole new stories….such as Miss Seeton wanting a new belt for her inherited sewing machine, and a whole story being fabricated over her taking part in kinky sex parties with the much younger Dan Eggleden from the Smithy (where she had gone for a replacement leather strap).    Later, seeing the police in the churchyard with a metal detector (looking for tunic buttons) only lead to gossip about body snatching and calls for the dead to be left to rest in peace.

Meanwhile, Nigel Colveden has returned from his honeymoon with his French (and therefore “foreign”) wife Louise. Their wedding presents have been on display, and included an intricate Cross Stitch piece, as well as a Quilt, both from Louise’s aunts. Not to be outdone, the community decide to make their own stitched item, despite varying sewing abilities, and Miss Seeton is coerced into producing drawings for the quilt. Meanwhile Summerset Cottage is being renovated for Nigel and Louise to move in.  In restoring the building after it has fallen into some state of disrepair, a rather challenging picture of King Henry VIII is found on the plasterwall, and it’s not all that it seems at first look. Whilst investigating the rest of the building, a radio transmitter set is found sealed up in the priest’s hole and labelled in German. Clearly there were German sympathisers or even spies in the village.

Down in Scotland Yard there is a hush hush investigation into the death – apparently by suicide – of one Gabriel Crassweller and Chief Superintendent Delphick and his sidekick in Detective Sergeant Ranger are drafted in to investigate. From the beginning both policemen believe they are only getting half truths, and it is the pictures made by Miss Seeton that sets Delphick down various routes of investigation. Meanwhile some “Spanish” “Foreigners” are in the village (really people from the People’s Republic of Stentoria, recently ousted as part of a coup) and are causing no end of havoc, in no small part because of their habit of driving on the wrong side of the road and running people over. There is also the find of Nazi Gold, leading to night time searches in the grave yard and a show down between the local motorcycle gang and the people of Stentoria who are in need of funds to stage another coup in their homeland.

As I hope you can tell, there’s quite a lot going on, and that’s not including the set comic pieces for when the village women are following Miss Seeton around, trying to work out what she’s doing and getting it all wrong (e.g. buying of black market drugs in the hat shop, when really all she went in for was some off cuts).  The quilts being made are really MacGuffins, used to move things along – they’re not really central to the plot beyond pulling the village together.

I would be interested if there is anyone out there who has read both this book and those of the original author, who can possibly tell me how well it stacks up to the original books? This was much “harder work” than a Miss Marple book, which are shorter. with a smaller cast list but with similar complexity.

About the Author(s)

Heron Carvic (21 January 1913-9 February 1980) was a British actor and writer who provided the voice for Gandalf in the BBC Radio version of The Hobbit, and played Caiphas the High Priest every time the play cycle The Man Born To Be King was broadcast.

As a writer he created the characters and wrote the first five books featuring retired art teacher Miss Emily D. Seeton, a gentle parody of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple.

Further books nominally in the Miss Seeton series were then written under two other pseudonyms. Roy Peter Martin as “Hampton Charles” wrote three novels which were all released in 1990. Sarah J. Mason, writing under the name of Hamilton Crane, then took up the series writing 14 books in all, some of which are still in print.  Hamilton Crane is the pseudonym adopted by Sarah J. Mason when she was invited to continue the Miss Seeton series originally created by Heron Carvic, who died in 1980. “Hamilton” after her hall of residence at St Andrews University (the big red building behind the 18th green on the Old Course) and “Crane” to continue the bird theme – a crane has a similar form to a heron.

Book Review: Merry and Bright by Debbie Macomber

 

 

Merry Smith is pretty busy these days. She’s taking care of her family, baking cookies, decorating for the holidays, and hoping to stay out of the crosshairs of her stressed and by-the-book boss at the consulting firm where she temps. Her own social life is the last thing she has in mind, much less a man. Without her knowledge, Merry’s well-meaning mom and brother create an online dating profile for her—minus her photo—and the matches start rolling in. Initially, Merry is incredulous, but she reluctantly decides to give it a whirl.

Soon Merry finds herself chatting with a charming stranger, a man with similar interests and an unmistakably kind soul. Their online exchanges become the brightest part of her day. But meeting face-to-face is altogether different, and her special friend is the last person Merry expects—or desires. Still, sometimes hearts can see what our eyes cannot. In this satisfying seasonal tale, unanticipated love is only a click away.

Ebook from Netgalley in exchange for a review.

It’s been a while since I’ve read a Debbie Macomber (and the day after I finished this one, I got the offer of another one from a friend in London! yay!).

Anyway, Merry is temping for a company, as she saves up enough money to go back to college. She lives with her parents and her younger brother Patrick, who (as someone born with Down’s Syndrome) has an alternative view on life, that can often be more positive and simpler than Merry would care to give credit for.  As she’s not planning to stick around after Christmas, she’s not kicked up a fuss when the HR department gets her nameplate wrong and rechristens her “Mary”. In fact, it makes things a little easier, when it turns out she gets into trouble with her “by the rules” boss, who then turns out to be her online date.

Told mainlyfrom Merry’s point of view, we also hear a little from Jayson’s point of view, especially what makes him sign up to the dating website in the first place. We get to see Merry’s interaction with her brother and mother, but I got little about her father, and nothing about Jayson’s father or uncle, except for a reference about how Jayson had fallen out with his father.

In talking to Merry online, Jayson begins to realise that there’s more to life than work and the mandated overtime that’s been put in place for the report he needs ahead of Christmas. Such as baking cookies for the neighbours; allowing people to put Christmas decorations up; and that perhaps aggressively enforcing the “no eating at your desk” rule, whilst making people work overtime could have been addressed differently.  Finally Jayson’s friend Cooper persuades him to pay attention to both Merry and Mary, especially after Merry has decided not to meet him In Real Life. Similar to the film “Shop around the Corner”, Jayson finds that taking the time out to talk to a real person can be as enjoyable as anything, if you’ve found the right person.

Whilst some of Macomber’s books can be a little predictable, it’s the telling that makes them enjoyable, and the little details she adds in that make people keep coming back. This is a great read in the run up to Christmas, and adds a little cheer to what can be a stressful time of the year

Netgalley #booktag

This was copied from “Destiny at Howling libraries” and her post on the subject. Like her, I haven’t been tagged for this post, but thought it would be something to post on, especially since so many of my books come from Netgalley.

AUTO-APPROVED:

Who’s one author whose books you automatically want to read, regardless of what they’re about?

I’m auto-approved for Erica Ridley as an author and have read many of her Romance novels as a result. I’m also auto approved for Tule Publishing and was approved for Le French Book, before they left Netgalley

REQUEST:

What makes you want to request a book that you see on NetGalley?

At the beginning I did splurge on the books, irrelevant of the author, and only paying moderate attention to the blurb. I’ve slowed down in my reading the last few years, so I’m being more selective with the books that I ask for now. These are generally from Authors I know and want to read; or from the blurb would imply that I would read and review soon. My current reading ration is 57% which is not great and really needs to be better.

FEEDBACK RATIO:

Do you review every book you read? If not, how do you decide what books to review?

I try and review everything I’ve read, even if only on Netgalley – it’s rare, though not impossible for me to not review on my own site. This is generally because I know the audience of my blog includes my mother, and it would just be my luck if the only time she reads on of my reviews is for one of the more saucy of books that I’ve read!

BADGES:

If you could create your own badge to display on your blog, what would it be for?

“She’s getting better”. I’m working my way backwards on my books,

WISH FOR IT:

What’s one book that you are absolutely dying to read?

Because I’ve so many books to read, I’m not really paying attention to what’s coming out, either in print or ebook, so I have no “Dying to reads”.  I did leap when the new Debbie Macomber came on board, and the review will come out closer to the publication date.

2017 NETGALLEY CHALLENGE:

What was the last book that you received as an ARC that you reviewed? If you’ve never received an ARC, what’s the last book you reviewed?

My last ARC was for Christmas on the Little Cornish Isles by Phillipa Ashley,  It was published on the 18th September, which is early for a Christmas book.

TAGS:

Everyone! I tag EVERYONE! Leave a comment below to your post so everyone can see your answers!

 

Book Review: Christmas on the Little Cornish Isles: the Driftwood Inn by Phillipa Ashley

Christmas has arrived on the Cornish Isles of Scilly, bringing mistletoe, surprises and more than a sprinkle of romance . . . Fans of Poldark and Carole Matthews will love this brand-new festive read from the author of the bestselling Cornish Café series.  For Maisie Samson, this Christmas is going to be different. After years working in a busy Cornish pub, she’s moved back to quiet Gull Island where she grew up, to help her parents run the family inn. But even though she can’t wait for the festive season to arrive, Maisie cannot shake the memories of what happened to her last Christmas – the day she lost everything. She keeps herself busy, setting up the tree and hanging mistletoe ready for her first proper family Christmas in years.

Until a new arrival to the island walks into her bar and changes everything. Australian backpacker Patrick is looking for a job for the low season. When Maisie takes him on, she doesn’t expect him to last the week, but to her surprise Patrick is the perfect fit. Charming and handsome, could Maisie allow herself to hope that she and Patrick could be more than just colleagues?

As Christmas approaches, Maisie finds herself dreading the spring, when Patrick is due to leave. With the help of a little Christmas magic, can Maisie get the happily ever after she always dreamed of?

 

From the Publishers, via Netgalley in exchange for a review.

This is the first book I’ve read this year with “Christmas” in the title, and I promptly got told off by someone for starting Christmas early (it is September after all).  I tried to explain about lead times, and sales etc, but to no avail.

This is the first in a new series by this author (I have read Christmas at the Cornish Cafe before, from the same author) and is set on the Scilly Isles, and Gull Island in particular.  Whilst Gull Island is small with a smattering of businesses, the book has been set up with enough secondary characters split across a number of islands to allow for books to be added to the series.

This is the first Christmas and New Year that Maisie has spent on her home island in more years than she cares to admit. Her previous job – running a successful pub “on the mainland” – stopped the previous Christmas due to personal reasons. Her parents run the Driftwood Inn, and have semi-retired now that that Maisie is running the joint.  She has an immediate attraction to “The Blond” (who she finds out later is called Patrick), an Australian who has come to the UK because of a promise made to a recently deceased friend.

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Book Review: A Chieftain’s Wife by Leigh Ann Edwards

As Alainn and Killian O’Brien begin their married life together, Alainn encounters many new and unexpected challenges. Stricken by the disturbing, reoccurring vision of Killian’s death, she desperately seeks a way to prevent it from happening. In hope of providing a normal life for their unborn child Alainn turns from her own magical abilities, but soon realizes that doing so may endanger everyone she cares for. 

Set in 16th century Ireland, A Chieftain’s Wife continues the captivating story of Alainn and Killian’s passionate love. Past indiscretions, deep jealousy, a vindictive witch, and tragic hardships all threaten to disrupt Killian and Alainn’s happiness and future together.

From Netgalley in exchange for a review.

This is the 4th in the series, the 1st I have read, and unfortunately it suffers from what I hate the most about series books – the “here’s what happened in previous books” info dump, especially in the first few chapters. It does get a little better later on in the book – the curse on Killian’s family regarding the birth of healthy children was alluded to well enough to make me consider going back to perhaps reading previous books. Unfortunately, the damage had already been done – why read a previous book, if you’ve already told me everything I need to know in this book?

Anyway Killian and Alainn are newly married, Alainn is 7 months pregnant, and the two are as horny for each other as ever and continue to regularly have sex, with little apparent concern for the welfare of the baby. In fact, sex is the main way that Alainn keeps Killian in check – when she’s angry or jealous, she bans him from her room in order to punish him.  She is supremely jealous of Ciara, a previous lover of Killian, who comes to live in the castle when Ciara’s husband dies. However, Alainn also seems to be oblivious to the young Danhoul’s attentiveness and how it, in turn, makes Killian jealous.

Besides all this, there is a darkness hanging over Castle O’Donnel – animals have been spelled to threaten Alainn at every opportunity; Ciara – apart from being one of Killian’s previous lovers – seems to be dabbling in dark magic which includes causing distress to animals; someone has tried to induce the birth of the baby early by spoiling Alainn’s food.  Alainn is also trying to suppress her magical talents, that includes visions and weather control.  Having had a vision of her husband’s death at the hands of the English, she also manages to do time travel, and transport herself across half the country.  In doing so, it kicks off a chain of events that consume the last third of the book, and sets up the story for the next book in the series.

In summary then, this is book 4 of a 6 book series, full of witchcraft and high drama, seemingly impossible tasks completed with a wave of a hand. Due to the “issues” mentioned before, this is not my style of story, and I will not be looking for others in the series. Based on other reviews out there, others seem to enjoy it, so each to their own.