Irish Legacy Trilogy // by Nora Roberts

  • Irish Thoroughbred
  • Irish Rose
  • Irish Rebel

Over the last few months, I’ve been reading four books at a time, on a rotating basis.  This method has its pros and cons, but it’s been working for me lately because it helps me to actually finish reading nonfiction books.  But right now, I actually have two nonfiction books in the rotation.  One is so challenging that I can hardly read it, and the other has such tiny print that I practically need a magnifying glass to get through it.  So my overall reading pace has somewhat slowed.  Plus, I figured out how to play a Solitaire version of Dominion, so that’s been keeping me busy, too.  :-D

Point is, the other night I wanted a relaxing book to read before bed.  Tom was working on some crazy project across the street with his dad, and I just wanted to cuddle into our soft, flannel sheets and veg.  A while back, I inherited a box of books (“oh you like to read, here are some books!”), a lot of which were by Nora Roberts.  She’s so prolific that I’m not sure I can say that I’m a “fan” as I’ve read only a small percentage of her books, and a lot of the ones I’ve flipped through don’t actually look like they would be my cup of tea.

Still, I have read a few of her series, and the Bridal Quartet in particular has become a favorite of mine.  Since the random box of books happened to include one complete trilogy, I thought I would start there.

//published 1981//

The foreword to Irish Thoroughbred stated that this was Roberts’s very first novel.  It was interesting to see her earlier writing style, which was definitely not as developed as it is now.  While Thoroughbred was a perfectly fine tale, it definitely followed many romance-novel cliches.  I liked the main characters, but it felt like Travis was a little too far into the stereotype of the domineering male.  Even though Dee wasn’t a meek little miss, I still felt like Travis’s protective nature sometimes crossed the line to bullying.  Even though this book isn’t that old (about my age, actually!), it was still interesting to see how it felt like it fit more with the times – no sex between these two until after they were married, and then it was all properly off-stage, as it should be (and as it isn’t always in Roberts’s later books, sadly).  I really liked that bit.  I’m not sure why it’s so difficult for authors to write romance books where there is good tension between the two characters without actually describing in detail all of their interludes.

//published 1988//

Somehow, it only took me like a day and a half to read Thoroughbred, and I just dived right into Rose, because why not?  Written – and set – almost ten years later, this book focuses on Dee’s cousin, Erin, who comes from Ireland to work for Travis and Dee’s neighbor, Burke.  One thing that I loved about this book was getting to see Travis and Dee later on – happily married, raising a family.  I thought it was hilarious that Roberts gave them so many kids (they end up with five or six).  It was also obvious that Roberts’s writing style had made some progress in the intervening years between these two books – Burke and Erin are better developed, as are the secondary characters.  Burke was still a bit too stereotypically tall, dark, handsome, silent male, but I was willing to roll with it.

//published 2000//

Irish Rebel was published quite a long while after the first two books, and focuses on Travis and Dee’s oldest daughter, Keeley, who falls in love with Travis’s new horse trainer, Brian.  I liked both these characters a lot and felt like they had more depth than the main characters of the first two books.  I really, really liked Keeley’s relationship with her family – she gets along with them so well, and has such a great relationship with her mom, even goes to talk with her about her feelings towards Brian instead of keeping them a secret.  Brian was a bit obnoxious at times, but I felt like his character did make some growth throughout the story.  The ending was a bit weird and rushed, like suddenly all the barriers between them just magically disappeared, and that felt a little strange.  And while there wasn’t a lot of sex in this book, there was definitely more than the first two books – another (sad) sign of the changing times.

All in all, while these three didn’t strike me as books I would want to visit time and again, they were still enjoyable as a one-time read, especially as a break from my rather boring “official” books that I have going on right now.  3/5 for all three books.

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Beauty & the Beast // by K.M. Shea // Guest Post

Despite the fact that my sister loves Shea’s books, I still haven’t gotten around to reading them quite yet.  *guilty look*   However, she is rereading them yet again, so I will be posting her guest reviews as they come along.  Mary Rose is my best friend, my sister, and my neighbor, so we hang out together a lot, and ranting and raving about books is kind of a hobby of ours.  :-D  Here is her review – enjoy!

******

//published 2013//

Fairytale retellings are my favorite, I’ve read a lot over the years and I have yet to come across a series as perfect as K.M. Shea’s. Her books continually stick to the heart of the story, pulling out the key concepts and factors, strengthening the characters, adding backgrounds that make sense, all while respecting the original tale. She also has kept a good balance of each of her stories being enjoyable stand-alone reads while also weaving them into an interlocked storyline.

This is my fourth re-reading of all her currently available fairytales so I figured it was finally time to write a review for each as I finished them: 

Beauty and the Beast is a comfortable and classic retelling of the tale, original without being overly fantastical in leaving out the needed aspects. Shea shows a respect for understanding the roots of the story and in so doing crafts an enjoyable retelling. 

Severin is cursed (through no particular fault of his own) and can only be saved by falling in love/being fallen in love with. His servants have been cursed along with him but are overwhelmingly loyal. Our heroine, Elle, falls through the roof of his Chateau, breaking her leg, and so has to stay until she is fully healed. This leads to classic fairytale/Hallmark movie story telling in which love slowly unfolds, drama ensues, but in the end everyone is happy and together (as they should be because this is a Fairytale). 

There were quite a few things I appreciated about this story, and since Beauty and the Beast is a popular story to retell, I’d liked to explain some, hopefully without any real spoilers: 

Severin isn’t cursed through any fault of his own. He is a good person with normal faults and pitfalls, but overall isn’t this terrible “beast on the inside” that deserved to be punished. It makes it much easier, for me at least, to understand why his servants would be loyal enough to be cursed along with him, and why they would care for him so deeply from the start. Also this means he doesn’t magically become a Changed Man when he meets Elle, he is simply still who he is, but improves (as everyone does) as he falls in love with her because that is what love does: improve our true selves. 

Elle is sharp, smart, and quick witted. She’s strong, self reliant, and extremely confident. It is a common theme throughout all of Shea’s books (that I’ve read, which is 90% of them) that she gets female characters right: they are characters, just like everyone else. She does not worry about “gender roles” or “making a statement for the feminists” but instead respects that people are people and allows a character to develop organically regardless of their sex. Elle is no exception. She is still feminine, she still has her own insecurities (as is human), she enjoys using her looks to get at the prince on occasion (well done scene), and she never shies from the fact that she is a woman. HOWEVER, neither does any of that detract from who she is either, because she is strong, focused, determined, and not at all thinking of Severin as a prince who will save her, but merely the love of her life. I appreciate Shea’s writing of women, it will be a common theme in any review I do of her books because she writes women as they aught to be written- not as though they’re struggling against The Man, but as they are: Humans, with pitfalls and strengths, weaknesses and abilities, and it’s so refreshing. And in the end I think we see Elle grow due to her love for Severin as well. 

Love: Shea has the perfect handle on what love truly is. In all the fairytales she underlines it accurately, but in this, the first book, she really sets the tone for what true love is, “You young maidens now days get misty-eyed thinking about true love and the fathomless adoration you will share. It’s not like that. Real love is looking at someone and knowing you wouldn’t mind waking up to their bad breath for the next century, and you are fine with them seeing you before you brush your hair and fix your face for the day. …. Loving a person isn’t a magical, sparkly passion. It’s hard work. It’s putting the other person before yourself. It’s companionship and being able to trust and depend on each other. That loquacious true love everyone spouts about is really finding a partner who will go through the heartbreaks and joys of life with you.” 

In the end this is possibly one of my favorite retellings of Beauty and the Beast, and honestly I give it a 4/5 (only misses being a full five because there’s minor unnecessary drama, like seriously, in real life I feel like there would have been COMMUNICATION, but that’s just me apparently, and honestly it’s not that bad, I just feel like it wasn’t fully accurate to the personalities of the servants at the very least.).

Overall Shea’s fairytales are… simplistic. But in their simplicity they clearly show the depth of each story and its original intent. As a whole the series is definitely a 5/5, please stay tuned for the next review, Wild Swans, a retelling of the Seven Swans. In the mean time- go read Beauty and the Beast by KM Shea! 

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore // by Robin Sloan

//published 2012//

This was the third book I received for my Mr. B’s Book Emporium subscription, and it was yet another book I already had on my TBR, making them 3/3!  I really enjoyed this book a great deal.  It had some fun adventures, some great characters, and a satisfying ending.

Our narrator is Clay, who begins the book unemployed in San Francisco.  Through a bit of serendipity, he walks past a Help Wanted sign in the window of a musty bookstore – Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, in fact.  When Clay begins working as the night clerk there, he realizes that there is a lot more going on besides selling books.

It’s hard to tell a lot about this book without giving things away, so I’ll leave it at that.  Clay ends up on some rollicking adventures with some old friends and some new ones, and it’s a really good time.  There were so many things about this book that I really enjoyed.  I liked Clay himself, and loved basically all the other characters as well, so I was really invested in their discoveries.  I loved the way that Sloan works in Clay’s favorite epic fantasy series and uses it as a catalyst for so much of what happens.  Clay is just enough of a geek to make this book super fun.

“Besides,” I say, “I’m the rogue in this scenario.”

Kat raises an eyebrow and I explain quietly, “He’s the warrior, you’re the wizard, I’m the rogue.  This conversation never happened.”

For the most part, I enjoyed Clay’s narration, although the tenses didn’t always seem to flow right.  However, there were moments when the line between what Clay is thinking and what Clay is saying out loud gets blurred and it happened just often enough to annoy me.

We are in the Gourmet Grotto … It’s downtown, right next to the cable-car terminus …  The Gourmet Grotto is its food court, probably the  best in the world: all locally grown spinach salads and pork belly tacos and sushi sans mercury.  Also, it’s below-ground, and it connects directly to the train station, so you never have to walk outside.  Whenever I come here, I pretend I’m living in the future and the atmosphere is irradiated and wild bands of biodiesel bikers rule the surface.  Hey, just like the Singularity, right?

Kat frowns. “That the twentieth-century future.  After the Singularity, we’ll be able to solve those problems.”

So at what point did the first paragraph stop being Clay’s narration/explanation for the reader, and start being something he was saying out loud to Kat?  It really isn’t clear, and for some reason got on my nerves, especially since it happened pretty regularly.

But overall this book was just so much fun that I wanted it to keep going forever.  4/5 for a really happy, fun, thought-provoking book – recommended.

December Minireviews

So I find that I not-infrequently read books that I just don’t have a lot of things to say about.  Sometimes it’s because it was a super meh book (most of these are 3/5 reads), or sometimes it’s because it was just so happy that that’s about all I can say about it!  However, since I also use this blog as a sort of book-review diary, I like to at least say something.  So I’ve started a monthly post with minireviews of all those books that just didn’t get more than a few paragraphs of feelings from me.

Album of Horses by Marguerite Henry

//published 1951//

This is an easy 4/5 read, and a childhood favorite – it just isn’t very long, so I don’t have a lot to say about it.  It’s an oversized book full of gorgeous illustrations by my fave, Wesley Dennis.  Each chapter is about a different breed of horse.  I love how Henry usually manages to tell a little story or anecdote about each breed.  She even says in the afterword that writing this book inspired her to write several of her other stories, because the little mini-story she was writing in Album just got way too involved and interesting!  If you have a young horse lover in your life, this is a perfect gift book.  The illustrations are amazing, and it’s just the right amount of information to get them going.

I will say that, rereading as an adult, I was intrigued by how some of the chapters did actually feel dated.  Album was published in 1951, and she says things about various draft horses still being used to plow fields, which was in fact still happening in the 1940’s, but has disappeared pretty much completely almost 70 years later.  However, rather than detracting from the book, I felt that it gave it even more charm!

Bronco Charlie by Henry Larom

//published 1951//

This children’s book is about a boy who becomes the youngest rider ever for the Pony Express.  It seems like a completely improbable tale, but I looked it up, and most of it is actually true!  I picked this up at a booksale eons ago, but hadn’t read it in years.  Of course, I was attracted to it because of the illustrations…  by Wesley Dennis!  Have I mentioned that he was an artistic genius??  :-D  In all seriousness, his pencil drawings really do add so much to this story, and made me want to saddle up right along with Charlie.  This is an adorable story, and definitely deserves a slot on the children’s bookshelves here at my house.

A Lady of Quality by Georgette Heyer

//published 1972//

Another 4/5 read – the perfect combination of fun, frothy, and witty that Heyer always presents, even if it is in a rather predictable pattern!

November 9 by Colleen Hoover

//published 2015//

I’ve never actually read a book by Hoover before, but Stephanie mentioned reading this one a while back, so I thought maybe it would be a good place to start.  In this story, Fallon meets Ben right before she moves from California to New York.  They have an instantaneous connection, but Fallon doesn’t want to start a relationship at that moment.  Instead, they agree to meet on November 9 for the next five years, but to have no contact with each other – not even through social media – in between.

This book has a fun concept and I did enjoy it for the most part, but it began to feel kind of same-y, since we only get the story on November 9 each year – nothing in between.  Fallon and Ben are super insta-love-y, which I would have been okay with, except it began to translate into the sexual, so now the November 9 dates not only don’t have a lot of story, they do have a decent amount of sex, which also felt kind of weird since they don’t actually know each other all that well.  There was also a decent amount of swearing, and there is nothing like a string of completely unnecessary f-bombs to put me off a book.

Part of the problem was that I never liked Ben, like not even a little. I thought he was obnoxious and pushy and kind of a creeper. And while I did think the twist was clever, it didn’t really make me like Ben even more. He’s still kind of a self-centered whiner.

I did like the ending and felt like things came together well, and I really did want to see how things turned out, but overall I felt pretty meh about the whole book, and not particularly inspired to look up more of Hoover’s works.

The Little Lady Agency by Hester Browne

//published 2005//

This story is about a woman who opens an agency that helps men get their lives together – she’ll help them shop for the right clothes, purchase nice gifts for people, redecorate their apartments, etc.  She’ll also provide herself as a date to various events where a plus one is needed – basically, she’ll help you with girlfriend stuff – but “no laundry, no sex.”  I really liked this concept and thought that this book would be about Melissa having various misadventures helping befuddled bachelors.  But this book turned out to be surprisingly boring.  Melissa aggravated me to no end, with her complete lack of self-confidence and the way she always knuckled under to her dad.  Her relationship with her long-time friend/flatmate (who is a guy) seemed extremely weird and confusing to me, especially since she was supposedly falling in love with this other guy.  Her dad was so horrifically obnoxious that I could hardly stand reading the scenes where she had to deal with him.  I was also confused about how Melissa was supposedly starting her own business but seemed to have no concept of how much money she had/was making/was spending…  I feel like I keep better records for my small, part-time Etsy shop than Melissa was keeping for a business that is supposedly becoming her livelihood.

I will say that I appreciated the lack of sex in this book.  While there were some romantic scenes, there was no shagging, and Melissa doesn’t sleep with anyone for the entirety of the book!  This was so refreshing and made me frustrated that I didn’t enjoy the book more overall.

The biggest problem was that this book wasn’t remotely funny.  There weren’t any humorous scenes at all, and there was so much potential!  Instead, it was basically just listening to Melissa waffle around and be stressed, which got kind of old after a while.  The next biggest problem was that there was not a single happily married person in the entire story.  Everyone who was married was miserable.  And I honestly didn’t feel like Melissa’s guy was going to make her happy, either.  It really put a damper on the overall tone of the book.

In short, this book didn’t make me feel happy to read, which is the whole purpose of chick lit.  It honestly made me feel low-grade stressed because I disagreed with so many of Melissa’s decisions.  And without anything funny to leaven the story, it just sort of dragged on with an overall dark gray tone to life.  3/5 for being fairly readable, but not particularly recommend.  At least I can mark this series off the TBR without bothering to read the other two books.

The Man Upstairs & Other Stories by P.G. Wodehouse

//published 1914//

Honestly, this was my least-favorite collection of Wodehouse stories that I’ve read to date.  While they weren’t terrible, they really lacked that sparkle and wit that I think of as trademark Wodehouse.  If I hadn’t known that these were Wodehouse stories, I wouldn’t have guessed it.  They were just rather flat, several with abrupt endings.  Not terrible for a one-time read, but rather disappointing on the whole, as I’ve come to expect more from Wodehouse, even with his earlier works.

The Woman in the Window // by A.J. Finn

//published 2018//

Back in the fall, I received a nice fat envelope, and inside of it was this book.  I really don’t remember requesting it or entering a giveaway, so I’m not sure how I got it (probably I did enter a giveaway and just don’t remember!), but I am grateful to the publisher nonetheless.  I held off reading this book because I wanted to read/review it close to the publication date, which is next week.

It took me a bit to really get into this book, although the very short chapters always help to draw me in.  The narrator, Anna*, gives us bits and pieces about her life, and part of the key to the story is receiving that information at that pace, but we find out within the first few pages that she is agoraphobic – afraid of open spaces – and doesn’t leave her house.  Her husband (Ed) and daughter (Olivia) aren’t living with her, although she still talks with them every day.  Anna’s main occupations seem to be drinking wine, spying on her neighbors, and watching old movies.

Everything comes to us quite slowly, as we carefully pick up the threads of Anna’s life and try to understand why she is the way she is.  Things start to pick up a bit when Anna witnesses one of her neighbors being murdered across the park.  Frantic, she calls the police – but by the time everything starts to get sorted out, there is no sign of a murder, and everyone is convinced that Anna imagined the whole thing, aided by medication and alcohol.

I really liked how even wasn’t sure if Anna really saw what she thought she saw.  And even though I didn’t always agree with her decisions – and frequently wanted to snatch her glass of wine right out of her self-destructive hand – I still liked Anna throughout the story, even when I learned about some of her more unsavory decisions in the past.  And throughout the book I kept recalling one of my dad’s favorite quotes – When the whole world’s out to get you, being paranoid is just smart thinking!

Parts of this story felt really similar to The Girl on the Trainwhich I just got around to reading this fall: short, snappy chapters with an unreliable female narrator who is convinced she saw a crime but no one believes her because she has a lot of personal issues and is usually drunk.  But once I pushed past that initial sense of same-y-ness, I found that The Woman in the Window was its own story, with a lot of different twists and turns than I anticipated.  While I was able to guess some things (and cleverer readers than myself may be able to guess more), overall I was surprised by a couple of twists and the ending itself.

This was the type of book that, when I got to the ending and had all the answers, I wanted to read again – I did just read the first few chapters again when I was writing this review, just to see if I could spot the clues I completely missed the first time around.

All in all, a 4/5 for The Woman in the Window.  While it does have bits that feel like familiar thriller material, and while it is definitely an homage to Hitchcock’s classic Rear Window, it still stands as its own story with a lot to offer.

*I was reading this at the same time as A Drop in the Oceanwhich is ALSO narrated by a woman named Anna.  Both women were also doctors.  Despite the fact that they were very different stories, and the first-person narration meant I didn’t hear their names all that often, having two important Annas going at the same time did feel somewhat muddling…

A Drop in the Ocean // by Jenni Ogden

I’m positive I read about this book on someone’s blog, but I’m not sure who…

//published 2016//

So this is my second book I’ve read recently set in Australia, and both books had a main character named Tom.  Are there a lot of Toms in Australia??  Also my husband’s name is Tom, so it always feels weird to read about another one…

Anyway.  This book is actually mostly about a research scientist named Anna, who narrates the story.  On her 49th birthday, Anna finds out that the funding for her long-term research project on Huntington’s disease has been discontinued, and she is now unemployed and not sure what she is going to do next.  Through a series of events she ends up renting a (very) small house on a (very) small island off the coast of Australia – a completely different experience from her apartment life in Boston.

I think I was hoping that this story would just be about Anna’s life on the island and getting to know people and whatnot, and at some level it was.  But on the island Anna meets Tom, who is also a scientist.  His work is studying sea turtles.  Anna falls in love with Tom, but even though he does become her lover, there isn’t really a sense of permanence about the relationship.  Anna is only staying on the island for a year, and there is a sort of big question mark as to what is going to happen to them when her time there is done.  It felt like way too much of this story was about Anna and her feelings towards Tom, which was disappointing to me, because the feelings weren’t particularly interesting, and felt somewhat weird considering Anna’s age – so much of her internal dialogue felt way more YA than mature adult.  Not that adults can’t have fluttery, romantic feelings, but Anna’s uncertainty and self-consciousness and jealousy just didn’t always feel like they fit her age.

There is an ongoing theme with Huntington’s disease, and as I have had a cousin (only two months older than me) pass away from complications of early-onset Huntington’s, and since his sister is also positive and beginning to show symptoms, I do have some personal connection, even if it isn’t super close.  While I felt like Ogden handled the disease aspect sensitively, it was pretty obvious that she is very much pro-assisted-suicide, a position that I cannot remotely condone.  While the book wasn’t necessarily polemic, it did venture that direction at times, and the reader is definitely only given one very specific position on a topic that to me has way, way more complications than Ogden’s simplified “this is just a nice way to make sure people don’t have to suffer if they don’t want to” explanation.  (It was also frustrating that Ogden only gave people two options: long, drawn-out misery and suffering or a quick, painless, basically pleasant death.  Especially after reading a book about hospice last winter, and after watching multiple relatives work through varying stages of cancer, I cannot possibly agree that killing oneself is the only “good” option…)  I was just really, really uncomfortable with the way Ogden consistently presented assisted suicide as a 100% great choice, and people who opposed it as being close-minded and unable to really understand the situation.  Of course, I always get aggravated when people inform me that my conservative viewpoint would obviously change if I was in a different situation.  Or… I’ve actually thought through it and this is what I believe from a logical decision, not just off-the-cuff?!

Anyway.  It also felt pretty obvious to me what Tom’s “big secret” was, and the way that it all played out really annoyed me quite a bit, which I’ll put below the cut.

Despite these negatives, I actually did enjoy reading this book.  Large chunks of it had nothing whatsoever to do with death or disease or suicide, and those bits were quite pleasant.  I loved reading about the sea turtles and the research there, and reading about Anna reconnecting with her love of the ocean.  And even though it felt somewhat odd, I even enjoyed Anna making up with her mom and the way those things played out.

Overall, A Drop in the Ocean had that typical A Novel tendency to make everything quite dreary and depressing, with even the “happy” parts somehow coming out a bit gray and surrounded by qualifications.  While I found it a nice one-time read, it definitely wasn’t a book that became an instant classic for me, especially because of the way it all concluded.  But apparently loads of people enjoy having all their characters end up with mediocre conclusions, so maybe this book is for you…

Spoilers below –

Continue reading

The Rose-Garden Husband // The Wishing-Ring Man // by Margaret Widdemer

I read a review for The Rose-Garden Husband over on The Captive Reader, and I must say that while Claire said she enjoyed the book, she also admitted to being frustrated by it – probably because everything works out for the book’s heroine with much greater ease than it ever seems to in real life!

//published 1915//

Phyllis is a librarian in the early 1900’s (the book was published in 1915), and her life is rather a hard one.  Long working hours, low wages, a lonely boarding house – most of the time Phyllis’s natural optimism is able to help her through, but on the dreary day in which our story begins, she is feeling rather low and frustrated.  What she really wishes, she realizes, is for a lovely home with a rose garden, and a husband.  And because this is a story instead of real life, her wish is granted almost immediately!

Widdemer manages to marry Phyllis off to a young man who was in a bad automobile accident several years earlier and is now unable to walk.  An invalid, his mother has cared for him ever since, but now she is very sick and dying, and is afraid that no one will care for her son when she is gone.  Believing that a wife would have more commitment than mere hired nurses, she asks her old friend and attorney to find a proper young woman to care for her son when she is gone.  While the premise sounds rather far-fetched, Widdemer actually pulls it off rather well.

Of course, Phyllis brings light and sunshine (and roses) into Allan’s life, and there are happy endings all around.  The story is nothing if not predictable, but was still told in such a warm and happy tone that it was just a delight to read.  Phyllis isn’t perfect, but she seemed like she would make a wonderful friend to have, and I was very glad to see her happy ending.

//published 1917//

The Wishing-Ring Man is a loose sequel, taking place several years later.  The heroine of this story is Joy, a young orphan who has lived with her grandparents her entire life.  Her grandfather is a famous poet, so Joy has had a rather strange upbringing – he considers her his muse, and writes many poems dedicated to her, and Joy wears rather ridiculous flowing clothes and has to attend all of his literary gatherings.  I’m making this sound a little weird and creepy, but it isn’t presented that way at all.   Joy’s grandfather is definitely pompous and self-centered, but not at all creepy.

Still, Joy is beginning to realize that her life isn’t exactly normal, and she wishes that she could have some ‘regular’ adventures.  Through a series of events, she and her grandparents end up spending a summer in a little cabin-camp in the mountains.  There, she meets our old friends Allan and Phyllis, now the happy parents of two adorable children.  When Phyllis invites Joy to come stay with them for a month, Joy’s grandpa won’t let her – he has always said that the only way she could leave his care was if she was safely engaged.  So… Phyllis announces her engagement to a man she has never met, which seems like a brilliant plan… until he shows up!

Honestly, once I got through the rather weird beginning, I actually liked The Wishing-Ring Man even better.  Joy and John are so adorable together, and I loved the fact that the ‘fake relationship trope’ has apparently been around a very long time.

Both of these stories were completely predictable and completely enjoyable.  I actually enjoyed the relationship between Phyllis and Allan even more in the second book as well – they are so happy together and their family is adorable.  I just wanted to be friends with everyone!

These books are both available as free Kindle books, so there is no reason not to read them as soon as you can.  They are perfect stories for relaxing on a wintry evening.  Easy 4/5 for both and definitely recommended.