Bring Along the Mistletoe | 2015 Romance Wish List

I’m giddy with excitement to present my first HOLIDAY POST OF 2015. Whew! I’ve been preparing for this for twelve months. Well, kind of. We have about a week to go before Thanksgiving so I thought it was safe to talk about holiday romances. (I swear on Santa’s sleigh I’ve only listened to two Christmas carols so far — one accidentally.) With the end of year getting super busy with presents, parties, and good cheer, there’s nothing like relaxing with a quick read that keeps you interested and relaxes you. (They are especially great when paired with sparkly wine or some hot cocoa.)

First, a glimpse at the two I’ve sampled so far:

Christmas in Mustang Creek by Linda Lael MillerChristmas in Mustang Creek by Linda Lael Miller (9/29 from HQN Books): Charlotte is back home in Mustang Creek for good, and she’s surprised to find her ex, Jaxon, there too. The surprises don’t stop coming with the mysterious Mrs. Klozz, who has been taking care of Charlotte’s ailing aunt. For a cute story about second chances and true holiday magic, Christmas in Mustang Creek is sweet and sure to get you in the mood for a beautiful home cooked meal with only the best sweets. (Seriously, the menu in this book is fit for royalty.)

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Evergreen SpringsEvergreen Springs by RaeAnne Thayne by RaeAnne Thayne (9/29 by HQN Books): A single dad with two kids; a doctor who is so used to taking care of everyone else that sometimes she forgets about herself. This is what holiday dreams are made of. Cole and Devin have that opposites attract vibe, and this story is so much about how the spirit of the holidays uplifts the most downtrodden. I love how the town of Haven Point bands together to help their own (even those least likely to be joiners), the holiday traditions (peppermint cotton candy!), and the all around kindness expressed in this book. It’s everything I’d want a holiday romance to be — complete with a hot spring and a tree from the middle of the woods.

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And now, a few romance picks I’m curious about:

2015 Holiday Romance Picks

9/29: Marry Me at Christmas by Susan Mallery

10/20: Wrapped in Red two stories by Nana Malone & Sherelle Green

10/22: Christmas Ever After by Sarah Morgan

10/27: Bring Me Home For Christmas by Robyn Carr

11/1: A Copper Ridge Christmas a novella by Maisey Yates | Love, Lies, and Mistletoe by Jennifer Snow

11/11: A Cowboy Under the Mistletoe by Vicki Lewis Thompson

11/17: A Cold Creek Christmas by RaeAnne Thayne

12/1: A White Wedding Christmas by Andrea Laurence


Whew! Are we in the spirit? Just in case you might possibly need a few other suggestions, I had a blast throwing together a similar post last year. Happy reading, shopping, loving, and romancing! Until next time! – e

Why in 5: Linda Lael Miller’s The Marriage Season

The Marriage Season by Linda Lael MillerThe Marriage Season by Linda Lael Miller  ( web | tweet )
Published May 26, 2015 by Harlequin HQN
Pages: 304 | Target: adult
Keywords: remarriage, small towns, single parents, best friendship

Summary: Bex is always taking care of someone else; it’s about time she starts paying attention to the good looking single dad she keeps bumping into (whether it’s accidental or because of her best friends).

The Brides of Bliss County series is so fun because it centers around the lifelong friendship of three girls living in Mustang Creek. They all made a pact to find their happily ever afters, and now it’s Bex’s turn. Here’s 5 reasons you should toss this book into your beach bag:

  1. True friendship: Bex might be fiercely independent but she knows when she needs her girls. She also knows to be prepared for hang out time with snacks (can you imagine the darling bakery they probably came from). That’s what I call a friend. These girls know each other so well, and especially know when to call each other out on their crap.
  2. Two people just about/almost kinda ready to move on: Bex’s love, Will, died Afghanistan and Tate is a widow, raising two young boys on their own. There’s more to both of their stories (I love where Miller went with Tate’s) but as the reader, you know from the start these two can help fill the void in each of them — even they were both already established as people who embraced the detours they’ve hit, and lived satisfying lives.
  3. There’s no right way to fall in love. Miller’s a classic romance writer, and I love that familiarity but she also pushed and pulled our characters together in a way that didn’t fulfill some of the more traditional timelines in romance novels. I loved that. Definitely an emphasis on maturity, and less on drama — which fit Bex and Tate’s characters perfectly.
  4. Kids! I never realized quite how much I love having kids a part of a story like this one. You get to watch a character fall in love with more than her partner. She has to click with the kids too. Loved having these rascals (including Bex’s nephew, Josh) involved in the story too.
  5. A log cabin. Normally a log cabin would bring to mind images of Abe Lincoln, but this place was so important to this couple’s story… even if there were a little hiccups along the way.

You know you really enjoyed a trio of characters when you get choked up at the final chapter. I hope you’ll take some time to know this loyal threesome soon!

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Little Bird Publicity has provided me with one copy of THE MARRIAGE SEASON for a lucky U.S. reader. Try your luck below, and thanks to LBP for spreading the love!

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An early copy of this book was provided for review.

The Marriage Pact by Linda Lael Miller (Q/A + Giveaway)

The Marriage Pact by Linda Lael MillerThe Marriage Pact by Linda Lael Miller ( web | tweet )
Previously reviewed: Big Sky Wedding
Publication Date: May 27, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin
Pages: 384
Target audience: Adult
Keywords: small towns, Wyoming, friendship, old loves, fathers/sons
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley. (Thanks!)

Summary: Instead of a fairy tale ending at her wedding 10 years ago, Hadleigh was practically dragged out of the church by Tripp, her deceased brother’s best friend. He “saved” her from making a terrible mistake and now, he’s back in Mustang Creek and Hadleigh is overwhelmed with feelings she’s ignored for a long, long time. Will she finally get closure or does Tripp returning to town mean something else entirely?

When I first heard the term “marriage pact”, I was a little nervous.  I thought Hadleigh and her best friends were swearing off men for good, protecting one another from the “perils” of love. I didn’t give them enough credit. The idea of their marriage pact is actually a positive one. Hadleigh and her two best friends are protecting each other from losers, yes, but they are also focused on finding true, healthy love for one another.

I haven’t read a lot of romance novels that feature best friendship, and I loved reading about three strong, independent ladies who knew what they deserved and wouldn’t settle for any less.

Thankfully Hadleigh has her pals on her side because when Tripp, her deceased brother’s best friend and the guy who dragged her away from her wedding 10 years ago, pops up in Mustang Creek again — she literally has no idea what to feel. She’s still angry at him for embarrassing her in front of the whole town, but it’s more than that. How could he announce he was married after making such a huge production and turn around and leave? As you can imagine, the two have a lot of unfinished business between them in addition to some great banter and crackling chemistry right off the bat.

Tripp’s not making a pit stop in Mustang Creek. After years away from the small town he grew up in, he’s ready to settle down and rediscover his inner cowboy. He’s back to see his darling dad ( actually his stepdad), who is ready for a few changes of his own. Their relationship was so utterly sweet, and I loved that Jim is passing down the house and the land to Tripp. You could tell how big of a deal it was to both of them, and Tripp dives right into the reconstruction of the house and the farm with such care and determination.

But all of these CHANGES can’t keep Hadleigh off his mind especially when he realizes they could really do this thing this time. He’s been divorced for a long time; she’s single (as far as he can tell) and despite whatever happened way way back when, he’s willing to take the time to wear her down and get her to agree to a date.

The Marriage Pact gets so romantic and maybe it’s because Tripp is this strapping cowboy and Hadleigh has always had a thing for him — but I loved how Miller gave these two a second chance in more ways than one. They have both been dealt many blows over the years, had so much in common, and I couldn’t wait for them to come to their senses and create a loving family unit. They were sexy and sweet, and their relationship was so naturally paced.

Throw in some small town gossip, great tiny details, and the open and welcoming Wyoming homestead and The Marriage Pact will leave you with a tingly happy feeling and anxiously awaiting the next book in the Brides of Bliss County series!

You know I cannot resist a cowboy…

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Bonus –> Mini Q&A with Linda Lael Miller, author of THE MARRIAGE PACT

Q: The month of June, aka “Marriage Season,” is quickly approaching! If you could redo your wedding, where would you do it and what would it be like? Did you plan for THE MARRIAGE PACT to come out during the most popular wedding month of the year?

A: If I could redo my wedding, I’d marry a different man.  I’d choose a salt-of-the-earth cowboy type, most likely, and hold the ceremony in a country church.  I didn’t actually choose June for the book’s release—my publisher makes those decisions—but I’m awfully glad it landed there. 

Q: It’s often said that choosing whom you’ll marry is the most important decision of your life. Do you believe that? Do you think your characters believe that? 

A: I absolutely believe choosing a marriage partner is incredibly important, and so do my characters.  Marriage is essentially a sacred promise two people make to each other, and should be honored as such.

Q: What is your favorite scene from the book?

A: I love the opening scene, when Tripp Galloway, the hero, ‘kidnaps’ the heroine, Hadleigh Stevens, seconds before she can say “I do” to the wrong man.

Q: If you could give one piece to newlyweds for a happy life together, what would it be?

A: Tell the truth, no matter what.  Trust is everything in a relationship, and love will not survive long without it.

Q: Can you give us a sneak peak on what is next to come? We’ve heard there are two more Bliss County books after THE MARRIAGE PACT.

A: The next two books are: THE MARRIAGE CHARM, featuring Melody Nolan, Hadleigh’s friend and a participant in the marriage pact, and Spencer “Spence” Hogan, the local police chief.  They were deeply in love at one time, but things fell apart and they went their separate ways.  Now, the attraction remains, but both Spence and Melody are convinced they’re wrong for each other.

This will be followed by THE MARRIAGE SEASON, the story of Becca “Bex” Stuart, the third member of the marriage-pact bunch, and a newcomer to Mustang Creek, sexy widower Tate Calder with two beguiling children and a singular determination to remain single.

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Big thanks to Little Bird Publicity for providing one paperback copy of THE MARRIAGE PACT to a reader in the U.S.
Good luck!

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Estelle: Big Sky Wedding by Linda Lael Miller

Big Sky Wedding by Linda Lael Miller: August 2013 Harlequin romanceBig Sky Wedding by Linda Lael Miller  ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: August 27, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin
Pages: 384
Target audience: Adult
Keywords: life changes, ranch, romance, baggage
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley. (Thanks!)
Other book I reviewed by Linda Lael Miller: Big Sky Summer

Summary: Celeb heartthrob Zane Sutton is escaping Hollywood for his neglected ranch in Montana. He doesn’t plan to have his half-brother, Nash, in toe or the mysterious Brylee, living on the ranch next to his. Brylee hasn’t fully moved on since she was jilted at the altar, even though it seems like everyone else has. She’s a workaholic and has been totally avoiding going out with her best girlfriends, yet for some reason she can’t stop thinking about Zane despite their awkward first meeting. Is she capable of moving forward for good?

I think it’s a pretty fair statement to say that you don’t want to meet the man of your dreams when you are literally hugging a tree.

Right? Not exactly the best first impression.

This is how it all starts for Zane and Brylee. It’s one of those situations where they can’t stop thinking about each other after that first, very strange meeting. But things are standing in their way, of course. Zane is focused on settling down on his ranch and unexpectedly integrating his younger brother into his life. (Their dad is known for leaving his kids for long periods of time.)  And though it’s been years since Brylee had been publicly embarrassed when she was left at the altar, she hasn’t moved forward much and, instead, dedicates most of her time and energy to her business.

This is only my second Miller romance, and while I really liked Big Sky Summer, I did like this book more. I think Zane and Brylee were more relatable characters and I liked how the author chose to focus on the lives of these two characters that were undoubtably filled with more than just a budding romance. (In fact, my one complaint is that the romance happens too close to the end and the good stuff felt rushed.) Miller is so fantastic at making her setting shine: the horseback riding, the small town feel, the cowboy hats. I don’t think I’ve ever has a desire to visit Montana and after reading her books, I’m ready to pack my bag.

Let’s be real, folks. A title like Big Sky Wedding pretty much tells us how things are going to turn out, but how Zane and Brylee actually get there? It’s not melodramatic, it’s not over the top unrealistic, it just sort of is. Of course, there’s a good amount of hotness thrown in with some “eff you” heels and a killer red dress. But I don’t want to give too much away. Except there is one detail at the end of the book that really surprised me, and that I thought was a pretty awesome decision on behalf of the gentlemanly Zane.

Oh, and any book that has the line “kiss me cowboy” is a must-read for me.

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The lovely folks at Little Bird Publicity have given us one copy of Big Sky Wedding for a lucky winner (must be a U.S. resident). Good luck!

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Estelle: Big Sky Summer by Linda Lael Miller

Big Sky Summer by Linda Lael MillerBig Sky Summer by Linda Lael Miller ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: 5/28/2013
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Pages: 320
Target audience: Adult
Keywords: country music, children, cowboys
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley (Thanks!)

Summary: Casey is a well-known country music artist who has traveled all over the world, and Walker continues the family tradition of working rodeos. For years and years, Casey and Walker have kept the secret that her two teenager kids are actually his. But as Walker watches the kids grow up, he realizes he wants to be a part of their lives as “Dad” and not “uncle.” He’s also still in love with Casey. Can the two move on for the past and make a relationship work? Will their kids ever forgive them for the lies?

You had me at cowboy.

Walker is a hat-tippin, horse-riding gentlemen with a soft spot for country star, Casey Alder, and her two fantastic kids. Two kids that are his, evidence of two passionate nights with a woman he has been forced to love from afar. Kind of crazy isn’t it? Despite Casey’s popularity, the tabloids and the gossip columnists have not uncovered the fact that her kids were not product of test-tube pregnancies. But as they grow older, the resemblance becomes more evident, and Casey and Walker believe they finally have to tell their kids the truth.

I love that Casey and Walker have a history that spans the years when they were young and on the cusp of success. While I wish that Miller concentrated on their earlier moments together instead of informing readers in bits and pieces, this really amped up the tension between the two. THEY CANNOT KEEP THEIR HANDS OFF ONE ANOTHER.

Casey’s resolution to all the lies and craziness is marriage. Telling the kids the truth and then getting hitched to Walker. I don’t know if I necessarily agree with that jump in her decision making process. It seems hard enough to deal with a daughter who is very hurt and it felt the the decision was more about appeasing her fans and the public then her kids. But it also forces them Casey and Walker to share a bed. So there is that. (Although it is NOT cool to not tell your partner that the condom broke. I don’t care how old you are or what the circumstances.)

Despite that hiccup, I was really impressed with Miller’s dialogue. It’s often the case with romance novels that everything starts to blend together and I thought she did a nice job of bringing humor and affection to the story. It’s also interesting to see what happens to two characters who made certain choices when they were young, and watch them wrestle with those choices years later — not necessarily regretting them but certainly figuring out where they could have done better.

If you like a mega-country setting or are a fan of the television show, Nashville, I’d say you best pick this one up. Though I warn you, the country tunes will be two-stepping in your head for sure.

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