Winter Brides // by various authors

//published 2014//

This is a collection of three novellas, each by a different author, and each for a different winter month.  There are actually twelve novellas altogether for a year of weddings.  In this first collection, I enjoyed each of the stories, although they didn’t particularly inspire me to seek out more of any of the authors’ writing.  (Although I have already read a lot of Denise Hunter’s books.)

December Bride by Denise Hunter – 3.5/5 – this was a really fun fake romance trope story, with characters who were relatable, pleasant, and had good chemistry.  The situation was plausible, and I liked how they both had their doubts, but it didn’t descend into nothing but internal angst.  The story is set in Chapel Springs, where several of Hunter’s other books take place, but was a completely individual story.

January Bride by Deborah Raney – 4/5 – this was my favorite out of the three, about an author who ends up writing letters to a fellow she has never met.  The whole story was just adorable fluff.  I loved the misconceptions they had about each other and how that played into their comfort with sharing letters.  I would have enjoyed having more of their letters and less of the drama of the fellow getting over his guilt about falling in love again (his first wife died several years earlier), but all in all a really fun little story.

February Bride by Betsy St. Amant – 3/5 – while this wasn’t a bad story by any means – and I actually really liked the characters – sooo much of this story was just listing to the protagonist internally bemoan how she just isn’t good enough to marry this guy and how their marriage would be doomed to failure if she even tried.  I think this story would have worked better at a longer length, where those internal monologues could have been broken up more with a bit of actual things happening.  Like, she had valid points and important issues she needed to work through, but because so much time was spent on those, the whole story kind of dragged a bit.

All in all, a fun collection of stories, and I’m looking forward to checking out Spring Brides next!


Barefoot Summer

//by Denise Hunter//published 2013//

51QInb3eE4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Sooooo guess what!  This is my first book I am reviewing that I read on my phone!  This is a big deal for me.  Still not super into not having a physical book, but I have to admit that it is very convenient to always have a book in my pocket.  It means I don’t have to carry around 3-7 back-up books with me everywhere I go!  I mostly read books on my phone that I don’t end up reviewing, because they’re terrible Pride & Prejudice retellings and whathaveyou, but the other day there was a perk and Barefoot Summer was free, so I downloaded it.

Back in the summer I read Dancing with Fireflies.  While it wasn’t the best book ever, it was a happy little piece of chick lit.  Of course, turns out that, go figure, it’s a sequel.  Seriously, people, why is it so hard to note that a book is part of a series?!?!?!?!?!?!  So Barefoot Summer is actually the first of the Chapel Spring romances, and now I kind of want to read Dancing with Fireflies again, because I wasn’t really paying much attention to Beckett and Maddy when I read it the first time – now I am way more vested in their future lives.  ;-)

In this story, 26-year-old Maddy is determined to win the annual boat race.  Her twin brother died when they were 17, but he dreamed of becoming the youngest winner of the race, and had just purchased a boat to race.  But if Maddy wants to live her brother’s dream, it has to be this summer – the current youngest winner was 27.  Of course, it’s a bit awkward because not only does Maddy not know how to sail a boat, she’s terrified of the water completely.  Still, she’s taking lessons from one of the town’s most accomplished sailors…  or at least, that was the plan.  At the last minute, Evan is unable to make it, and sends his friend Beckett instead.  Of course, Maddy and Beckett have some history, and there is lots of romantical tension between them, and just enough misunderstandings to keep things going along, and then there is a super happy ending that everyone saw coming.

So I actually liked this book better than the sequel.  The motivation for the characters felt more believable, and I really liked Maddy a lot.  Beckett, of course, is a total dish.  Maddy’s family is a strong part of why the book is so readable; they were my favorite part in Dancing with Fireflies as well.  There were a few minor ???? kind of issues (mostly because one sister has dashed off to no-one-knows-where but even though this book seems to be set in current 2010’s, she has no cell phone?????), but overall the story flowed well.

While Barefoot Summer isn’t a book that I want to read again and again, it’s definitely a warm and fuzzy chick lit, a super relaxing read for a quiet day at home.  3/5.

Dancing with Fireflies


by Denise Hunter

published 2014

So I’ve read several of Denise Hunter’s books, and they’re usually decent fluff. The Convenient Groom is my favorite (because, as I’ve mentioned, I’m a sucker for a story where people are already married when they fall in love).  Dancing with Fireflies is her newest book.  It was a pretty comfortable 3/5, almost a 4.  While the story was plausible and the characters likable, there was a lot about the main character that confused me.

Jade grew up in a sleepy town on the Ohio River.  The story opens with a prologue – Jade is living in Chicago with a close friend, and getting ready to have a guy over for a first date.  However, the friend gets called into work.  Instead of postponing the date, Jade goes ahead and (not a spoiler because this all happens before the first chapter), he drugs her drink and rapes her (one of those cut-scene rapes where she’s sleepy and then it’s the next morning).

First chapter fast forwards – Jade moves back home because she’s pregnant and needs the support of her family (who doesn’t know any of this).  (As an aside, women in books always seem to be super fertile.  I’ve been married four years and don’t have a baby, but in books it only ever seems to take one chance!)  Enter our hero, tall, dark, and handsome (actually, I can’t remember if he’s dark so that part might be a lie), Jade’s almost-brother, Daniel, who also happens to be the mayor of said small town.  Guess who’s going to end up married??

Like I said, I actually enjoyed the story just fine.  I really liked Jade, Jade’s family, and Daniel.  I also enjoyed the references to the Midwest of which I am oh-so fond.  ;-)  But the reason that this story just didn’t quite do it for me was Jade’s motivation.  Throughout the story, Jade is emotionally withdrawn and interested in a relationship that will be comfortable and workable, but not passionate.  This seems understandable because, you know, she was raped.  But instead of that event being the primary motivator, her reasoning keeps going back to a relationship she had in high school/just after.  She was engaged, and her fiancee died in a car wreck.  Consequently, Jade is terrified of loving anyone ever again.  While this makes a perfectly fine motivator for her actions/emotions/fears, it just didn’t fit with the rest of the story.  We didn’t know Jade when she was engaged to this guy, so it lacks the emotional impact to really make her attitude make sense.  On the other hand, while she doesn’t really just completely brush aside the being raped thing, she does, in a weird way, act like it wasn’t a big deal in that it doesn’t really come up when she’s thinking about why she doesn’t want to be in a relationship with Daniel.  In the end, it feels like Hunter just used the rape as a convenient way to get Jade pregnant (as a victim of circumstances beyond her control), when it feels as though it should be a lot more of a big deal.

Still, the story was a lot of fun, and Hunter does a good job of manipulating circumstances so that Daniel and Jade keep ending up leaning on each other (and of course Daniel’s been in love with Jade for years, so there’s that).

If you’re looking for a relaxing read with happy endings all around, Dancing with Fireflies just may fit the bill.