Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Book Review: Falling for You at Christmas, by Kristin Wallace

Falling For You At Christmas
(Shellwater Key Book 1.75)
Kristin Wallace
Kindle Edition, 137 pages
Write Notions, Inc.
November 7, 2016
Christian Fiction, Christmas Romance, Contemporary Romance, Novella, Women's Fiction
Source: Amazon

Synopsis: “I’ve always wanted you, even when I didn’t know your name or who you would turn out to be…I didn’t know that the pregnant woman who came barreling through the lobby would turn my world upside down in a matter of days.”

A Nativity story for the modern day, set in the sleepy town of Shellwater Key, Florida. 

One expectant mother. One gorgeous innkeeper. One Lamb, two Shepherds, and a King. Three days that will change her life forever.  

Pregnant, single, and alone at Christmas, Cassie Stevens decides to take a holiday vacation in Shellwater Key before her baby is born. But then her reservation is lost and she finds there is literally no room left at the inn. Thankfully, single innkeeper, Jared Latham, offers to let Cassie stay with him and his young daughter. She won’t have to sleep in a manger, but being in such close proximity to the gorgeous and caring Jared might be more dangerous to her peace of mind…and heart.

But the magic of the season can change everything. Cassie is suddenly surrounded by a group of friends, who all seem to have names relating to another important birth long ago. And when Christmas Eve brings an unexpected delivery, Cassie will discover that miracles are still possible, even in modern times.

This delightful novella has been another WONDERFUL Christmas read this year! I really connected with and LOVED the characters, whether major or minor. Furthermore, even though I would prefer to spend my Christmases in a cozy cabin up north while snow fell softly outside, I did love the setting of this novel -- a laid-back small town in Florida, which is where I happen to live.

Shellwater Key is a fictional town invented by Kristin Wallace, as she has stated herself. However, it's obviously based on places like the Florida Keys, Naples, Fort Myers, and really, any mellow, slow-paced, beach town in the state. (Not Miami though, which has gradually been turning into a little New York City!)

While reading this short, and utterly engaging story, I temporarily put away my fantasies of a Vermont Christmas, and allowed myself to thoroughly enjoy this Florida one, with the balmy ocean breezes and tight-knit friends and families. The warmth was not only in the weather, but in the welcoming atmosphere of the people and places of Shellwater Key.

Cassie and Jared are such a great couple! Both have been burned in their past romantic relationships, but both are also equally willing to move on and start fresh. This is especially the case with Cassie, who is determined to raise her daughter all by herself, with no help from the disgusting boyfriend who abandoned her as soon as he found out she was pregnant. Nor can she count on help from her own family. Her mother has passed away from breast cancer, and her father's attention is totally focused on his new second wife, who very obviously resents Cassie, and does everything in her power to keep her father from being occupied with his daughter's needs. So Cassie's ebullience and optimism, in spite of her situation, are truly inspiring, and immediately draw Jared's attention. 

Jared is himself an inspiring character. He's totally devoted to his young daughter, Tara, who is herself a total delight. Jared is also a very attractive, decent guy, one who wouldn't dream of doing anything to hurt a woman. Needless to say, he's also funny, and appreciates Cassie's own sense of humor. Also, he's as far from being a condescending misogynist as any guy can be. He's caring and patient with Cassie, and is also a great listener. So where is Shellwater Key again? Lol.

These two terrific characters are surrounded by equally terrific secondary characters. I especially loved the fact that several of them had names directly related to the story of the birth of Jesus. Jared's mother's name, for example, is Mary. Amelia Lamb, one of the guests at the inn, quickly becomes Cassie's friend and gives her wise pregnancy (and love) advice. Her name is just as coincidental as the other names in this quirky, cute, and totally heartwarming Christmas story. There's also Jesus, (pronounced "He-Soos", with "he" as in "hen", and "soos" as in "soothe"). His last name is Velazquez, and he's the father of Gabrielle, the chef at the "Original Inn on the Strip", the place where Cassie has chosen to take her Christmas vacation. This inn is located along the Gulf of Mexico. And there are more characters whose names are related to the first Christmas, such as the Shepherds, and the "King" -- Henry Stuart, owner of an auto dealership and known as "King of the Deal". 

The coincidence with the names is not the only one that reminds the reader of that first Christmas. There's also the very obvious fact that, when Cassie arrives, there's literally no room at the inn, due to a glitch in the inn's computer. Her reservation has been lost in the system somehow. Of course, Jared, the handsome innkeeper, immediately comes to the rescue, offering to share his room, where he lives with his daughter, with Cassie. So it is that Cassie starts feeling like part of his family right away, although she does fight against her feelings. She simply can't believe that a true Christmas miracle could happen for her. She also can't believe how accepting and welcoming these strangers, now turned into friends, are toward her. Everyone makes sure to make her feel at home, whether they're guests at the inn, or locals.

While some might say that this story seems a pretty predictable one, I would affirm that, in spite of that, it's an absolutely absorbing, enchanting one, as well. This is the type of holiday reading that gives me those very much needed warm fuzzies!

This lovely little novel could not be complete without a Nativity play, and it's also very fitting that Cassie suddenly realizes, during the play, that her baby will most likely be her own precious Christmas present....

Reading Falling For You At Christmas will place the sentimental reader (like me!) in danger of shedding some tears of joy, sharing in the laughter, and feeling the spiritual and emotional warmth of this beautiful season. So by all means, fix yourself some hot chocolate, or perhaps a lemonade, if it's hot enough for it, sit back, and allow yourself to enjoy this sweet gem of a holiday treat! Kudos to Ms. Wallace!  


 Growing up, Kristin devoured books like bags of Dove Dark Chocolate. Her first Golden Book led to Laura Ingalls Wilder, Nancy Drew, Encyclopedia Brown, C.S. Lewis and the Sweet Valley High series. Later, she discovered romance novels and fell in love all over again. It was no surprise, then, that Kristin would one day try her hand at writing them. She writes inspirational romance and women’s fiction filled with love, laughter and a leap of faith. When she’s not writing her next novel, Kristin works as an advertising copywriter for clients that have included the Miami Marlins, Discovery Networks, The Peabody Hotel, Radisson Seven Seas Cruises and Sea World. She also enjoys singing in her church choir and worship team and playing flute in a community orchestra.

Can't Wait Wednesday No. 44: Hero at the Fall, by Alwyn Hamilton

Welcome to "Can't Wait Wednesday"!
This is a weekly event hosted by
Tressa @ Wishful Endings, and inspired by "Waiting On Wednesday", which used to be hosted by
 Jill @ Breaking the Spine.

For more information, please click HERE.

As in the previous meme, this one showcases future releases  we book  bloggers 
are eagerly anticipating!!
There's also a Linky widget, so participating blogs can link up!

Here's my choice for this week!

 Hero at the Fall
(Rebel of the Sands, Book 3)
Alwyn Hamilton
Trade Paperback,  528 pages
Faber & Faber
     February 1, 2018       
Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction

Once, in the desert country of Miraji, there was a Sultan without an heir.

The heir had been killed by his own brother, the treacherous Rebel Prince, who was consumed by jealousy and sought the throne for himself.

Or so it was said by some. There were others who said that the Rebel Prince was not a traitor but a hero...

In the final battle for the throne, Amani must fight for everything she believes in, but with the rebellion in pieces, and the Sultan's armies advancing across the desert plains, who will lead, who will triumph, who will live and who will die?

Why I can't wait for this one!

Oh. My. Gosh. The THIRD and last book of this series, and I haven't even started on the first.....This happens to me A LOT. Lol. But I'm sure I'm not alone in this. There are many bookworms out there in the same situation. 
Now I'm planning to buy the paperback, which I can get from The Book Depository. That's because I want all of my covers to match, and I do NOT like the switch in cover style on the second hardcover. The third one also has a realistic style. NOT COOL, publisher!! Thankfully, the paperback versions have kept to the mostly abstract style, which is BEAUTIFUL, of the first book! 
And, of course, this is an EXCITING, not-to-BE-missed trilogy!!! YAAAAAAAAA!!!!

The other books in this series! Click on the covers for the Goodreads pages.

Alwyn Hamilton was born in Toronto and spent her childhood bouncing between Europe and Canada until her parents settled in France. She grew up in a small town there, which might have compelled her to burst randomly into the opening song from Beauty and the Beast were it not for her total tone-deafness. She instead attempted to read and write her way to new places and developed a weakness for fantasy and cross-dressing heroines. She left France for Cambridge University to study History of Art at King’s College, and then to London where she became indentured to an auction house. She has a bad habit of acquiring more hardcovers than is smart for someone who moves house quite so often.
Alwyn's New York Times-bestselling debut, the YA fantasy Rebel Of The Sands, was published by Viking Children's Books in the U.S. and Faber Children's Books in the U.K., and in Brazil, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Israel, Turkey, the Czech Republic, Serbia, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Iran. Its sequel, Traitor To The Throne, was published in spring 2017. Alwyn was named the 2016 Goodreads Choice Award winner for Best Debut Author.


What do you think of my
choice this week? 
Please leave a comment and
let me know!


Sunday, December 10, 2017

Shelf Candy Saturday No. 234: Two Similar Covers

Welcome to Shelf Candy Saturday!

***Late Edition***
This is my weekly feature
showcasing beautiful covers!
It also provides information, 
if available, on their 
very talented creators!

This week, I'm comparing
two similar covers!

Karen Kingsbury
Hardcover, 272 pages
Howard Books
October 23 , 2014
   Christian Fiction, Christmas Romance,
Contemporary Romance

Angels at the Table
(Angels Everywhere, Book 7)
Mass Market Paperback, 256 pages
Ballantine Books
October 22, 2013
Christian Fiction, Christmas Romance,
Contemporary Romance

My Thoughts About These Covers

These two covers are undeniably  beautiful, each in its own way. However, if one compares them closely, one can see that the basic image is the same. We have the same green double doors (and what a GORGEOUS shade of green they are, too; I think it's called "Kelly Green"), the same brightly lit twin Christmas trees flanking steps leading to the doors, the same window space on each side of the doors. What makes these covers different is the very creative -- as well as brilliant -- digital manipulations of the basic image.

The cover of The Bridge clearly shows a bookstore, as we the viewers can see the shelves full of books through the windows on each side of the doors. The cover of Angels at the Table seems to display what could be a restaurant, all decked out for the holidays. It's not obvious what this venue is, though. We are unable to see clearly into the interior through those very same windows.

There are other, entirely fascinating, differences. There's a couple framed by the window inset on one of the doors, on the cover of The Bridge. The couple is obviously missing from the cover of Angels at the Table. Furthermore, the twin trees are more brightly and profusely lit on the second cover. Also, they are placed in some sort of vases. These vases are barely visible on the first cover; they are actually obscured. More differences: there's snow on the steps leading to the double doors, on the cover of Angels at the Table. There's no snow at all on the first cover, and you can't see the steps, as they, too, are obscured. Well, the first cover is much darker than the second one, overall. There's also a large awning above the double doors on the cover of the second book, while none at all on the first cover. 

Yet another difference between the two covers is that the first one has strings of colored Christmas lights along the sides of the double doors, as well as around the title, The Bridge. These lights are not present on the second cover.

The author's name, on the first cover, appears at the bottom of the image, while, on the second cover, it appears at the top. The fonts used on both covers are very similar, except for the title of The Bridge, which uses a very elegant, script font.

One subtle difference is that the second cover has a "painterly feel" to it, while the first one is definitely a photograph. I think that "painterly feel" is most likely due to more digital manipulation, since the second cover uses the same basic image as the first.

There are other, more sublte differences between the two covers, but the ones I have mentioned are the most immediately noticeable ones.

These covers show what can be done with images if they are placed in the hands of highly talented, highly creative artists and designers!

The designer of the first cover is Jaime Putorti, who is the Design Director at Simon and Schuster. Although he's on LinkedIn, I was unable to access his complete profile. There's a Facebook page, but there are no posts on it.

As for the second book, I was completely unable to get any information about the cover designer, but perhaps it was Putorti himself, having digitally manipulated an image he had previously used on another cover.

If I am later on able to get more information about the designer(s) of these two covers, I will return and add it to this post. Meanwhile, all I can do is admire these two GORGEOUS covers that are so similar to each other, and yet, so different!

What do you think of 
this week's covers?
Please leave a comment
and let me know!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Release Blitz/Giveway!! Holidays Ever After Romance Holiday Boxed Set

Get ready to heat up your holidays when you treat yourself to Holidays Ever After!

Holidays Ever After: Contemporary Romance Holiday Boxed Set
Digital Edition, 3,209 pages
Carter & Bradley Publishing
December 5, 2017
Anthologies, Christmas Romance, 
Holiday Romance

About The Collection

Which holiday hottie will you unwrap first?

No matter the time of the year, it’s always the season for seduction!

From Spicy to Sweet and everything in between, this sizzling boxed set of TWENTY contemporary romances from today’s New York Times, USA Today, and International bestselling authors will give you tons of holiday hunks to fall in love with.
Inside these pages you’ll find everything from sexy strangers and brooding billionaires to marines, firefighters, and the guy next door.

Whether you’re in the mood for a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, or a New Year’s celebration, this limited edition Holidays Ever After anthology is packed with exclusive, full-length titles to lift your spirits. From Halloween to Kwanzaa, Valentines' Day, Norooz, and the Fourth of July, these stories will give your holiday season extra spark and will be the best romantic holiday bundle to hit your ereader this year!

Get ready to heat up your holidays when you treat yourself to Holidays Ever After!
Including stories from…
Colleen Charles
Monica Corwin
Amy L. Gale
Becca Fanning
Victoria Pinder
Alexa Padgett
Tuesday Embers
Khardine Gray
Holly Dodd
Liz Gavin
Jillian Quinn
Courtney Hunt
Vivi Holt
Kristen Luciani
Astrid Arditi
Rebekah R. Ganiere
Jessica Gray
Ja’Nese Dixon
Teresa Roman
Angela Corbett

A Moonlit Serenade
Alexa Padgett

“I have a surprise for you, Mercer Island. One of my favorite female singers is here, just waiting to sing you my favorite carol.”

I stiffened, but it was nothing compared to the tenseness radiating from Ryn. Mila’s face lost its smile. She touched Ryn’s arm.

“He didn’t tell me. I would’ve told him not to.”

“He doesn’t mean me,” Ryn said, voice faint.

“You know why it’s my favorite?” Murphy winked. “Because she’s singing it.”

The crowd hooted and howled. Small children screamed and clapped. Probably the best tree lighting concert they’d ever have.

“Join me, Ryn Hudson. The folks here need some more Christmas spirit.”

Ryn turned to me, wide-eyed. Murphy boxed her in, and I wasn’t happy about it. And by the pulse beating in her throat, she wasn’t either.

“I don’t perform in front of crowds,” she whispered, her voice as desperate as her eyes.

Murphy beckoned her up, beaming like he’d just handed her a huge cash check.  I might just bloody his face for this.

“It’ll be all right,” I said, keeping my voice soothing. “It’s just like performing for your babies. You’re so good with them.”

“Because they’re babies! And they don’t care, really.”

The crowd began to grow impatient, craning to see who Murphy was waving to. The smile slid from his face as he caught a glimpse of mine, then Mila’s. Ryn’s was buried in my chest, as she shuddered through another breath.

“I’ll come up with you. You can do this.”

She tipped her head back and met my eyes. “What if I suck?”

I smiled as I swiped her cheek with the pad of my thumb. “You won’t because you can’t. That voice of yours is mesmerizing.”

She sucked in a breath and nodded. “Okay. But don’t leave me.”

I turned her toward the stage and clasped her hand. “Promise.”

She climbed the steps to the stage, her hand gripping mine. The crowd clapped politely but they already shifted, unsure of the newcomer who took too long to respond. My heart rose into my throat. The crowd needed to accept her, love her, like they had Murphy.

“Whatcha gonna sing for us, love?” Murphy asked.

She looked out over the audience, gauging their reaction to her. “Well, I didn’t really have anything planned.”

Murphy raised his eyebrow, as if his douchery were finally settling over him. “Jake here says you like ‘Jingle Bells.’” Murphy smiled for the crowd, who hadn’t heard Ryn’s response, but this time his grin was strained.

Ryn took a deep breath and let go of my hand. She removed her mitten and held out her hand for the mic. Murphy handed it to her as trepidation built in his eyes. If Ryn bombed, Mila and I would ream his arse.

Before any of us could say anything, Ryn started singing. Those first few notes were midrange but powerful. “The First Noel…” As she continued to sing, Ryn closed her eyes and let the lyrics take her. I’d heard multiple stars sing this song. None gave me goosebumps like Ryn had when she hit the pure, high note in “Israel.”

The woman sang. And she did it without any accompaniment, without earplugs. Her talent overwhelmed me, and I stood as enraptured as the crowd as she finished the second verse.

She lowered the mic from her mouth and glanced back at me, where I stood in the shadows. “How was that?” she asked.

I stepped forward and wrapped my arm around her shoulder, pulling her close enough to whisper in her ear, “Amazing.”

She smiled and did a small wave before handing the microphone back to Murphy.

Murphy grinned and bowed.

She turned to leave, but the crowd booed, then began chanting, “More, more!”

I hissed out a breath, thankful and a bit overwhelmed by their reaction.

“How about one more song?” Murphy asked, wiggling his eyebrows. His piercing caught and flashed in the lights. “Give us a mo’ to confer. We’ve not sung together before.”

He turned off the mic and walked over to us. His face morphed onto the pained look I knew well. “I’m a bloody arse.”

“I don’t really like to sing for crowds.”

“Why not?” Murphy’s surprise built. “With pipes like those, I’d sing my way through life. And make some fine quid doing so.”

“She doesn’t, and that’s all that matters,” I growled, stepping closer to my brother.

Murphy met my gaze, his features austere in the lights. “Got it. Won’t happen again.” He blew out a breath. “Any song we all know so the crowd doesn’t riot?”

“‘Jingle Bells,’” Ryn and I said in unison. I grinned down at her, excited that we were already sync—excited to share my love of music with her.

Murphy turned on and raised the mic. “We need two more microphones and a stand,” he said, buying us a few more seconds. He dropped the mic back to his side.

I smiled down at Ryn. “We can ask the kids to sing, which the parents will like.”

“Smart, mate,” Murphy said. “But I haven’t played that one in years. A bit rusty on the chords.”

“I’ll play it,” Ryn said. “That is if you don’t mind me taking your instrument.”

“No worries.” Murphy handed it to her, and she took off her other glove, shoving it into her left pocket. Once the microphones were in place, we turned toward the audience, almost in perfect synchronization, and smiled.

“We’ve got a classic for ya,” Murphy crowed. The crowd hollered.

Ryn strummed the notes and all movement in the audience stopped. “All right, boys. Let’s jingle some bells.”

Murphy and I joined her, letting Ryn’s guitar chords set the pace. I went to stand next to her while Murphy hammed it up with the crowd.

“Remember how I did it with the kids?” she asked.

I nodded.

“Okay, that’s how we’re playing this audience.”

She began to play and Murphy stepped back, letting her own the limelight. Once again, Ryn’s voice was killer—precise yet meltingly sweet. Murphy kept time on his thigh, joining in for the chorus. I added some deeper bass as Ryn worked her way up to harmonize with Murphy. He grinned at her as she met him note for note. By the last verse, we owned the song. The crowd clapped and sang along. This was one of the best highs I’d ever gotten while performing.

“Your turn!” Murphy called to the crowd. “Jingle Bells…”

Their voices filled the cold night air, the festive mood building with each note.

“Fair dinkum!” Murphy yelled when it ended. “What did I tell ya? Ryn Hudson, everyone.”

We took our bows and headed off the stage. As the crowd surged forward, no doubt wanting our autographs, Claude and the rest of the security team stepped in front of us, a human line just behind the metal barricade.

Mila latched on to Murphy’s arm and from the set of her lips, I doubted Murphy would like her next comments. He hung his head and nodded as Mila led him away.

“You ready to be off?” I asked.

“She does have him in hand, huh?” Ryn said, her gaze lingering on Murphy and Mila, who was still giving him an earful.

“I’ll make sure he apologizes for putting you on the spot like that.”

Ryn laughed, and I realized she was still on the high from a great performance. “It’s fine. Mila’s dealing with him, and I had fun. Lots of it.”

I brushed her hair back and pulled out her mittens from her pockets, holding them up so she could slide her reddened fingers back inside. “I’m glad.”

“Ryn!” The voice was female, urgent. We both turned to see the sheila from her flat. Sam, Ryn had said. Her dead husband’s twin. Not bloody likely this would go well.

Sam plowed forward, chest heaving and cheeks stained with tears. “What were you thinking? You never perform for crowds!”

“I didn’t plan to, Sam. Murphy blindsided me. If he’d asked, I would’ve said no.”

“Please.” Sam’s voice dripped with scorn. “Clearly the limelight suits you.” She looked me over, her face crumpling. “Why are you here—with him?” Sam pointed at me. “What about Dez?”

Purchase Links

Paperback Readers Giveaway!!
The authors are hosting a giveaway of the 20 romance books in the Holidays Ever After Box Set! Just click HERE!