Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Review: Tall, Dark, and Texan by Jodi Thomas

Teagen McMurrary would ride to hell and back to protect his land. He’d certainly never felt that way about a woman. At least not until Jessie Barton showed up with her three little girls, desperate for a place to stay. Suddenly he finds himself proposing marriage, telling himself it is only to protect her and her children …

Jessie had no place to go except Whispering Mountain—and to Teagen, the one person who couldn’t deny her, thanks to the correspondence he shared with her dead husband. But what will happen once the man she’s loved through his letters discovers her tangle of lies?

The third in the Whispering Mountain series, Tall, Dark, and Texan proved an enjoyable read from start to finish. I read the book over the holidays and found myself stealing away at odd moments from the family in order to sneak in a chapter or two.

Jessie is a perfect mix of vulnerability and strength. What I liked most about her was that she didn’t really understand how strong she was until she had to stand up for herself and her children. Her courage grew throughout the novel as did her confidence. Because of this, she was able to make a hard decision that proved the right one in the end. 

The romance between Teagen and Jessie developed at a lovely pace, each learning about the other quickly. I really enjoyed Jessie’s need to be near Teagen without really realizing what she was doing and Teagen’s half-hearted attempts to stop her. From the very beginning the reader knows Jessie is going to win him over in every way without Teagen becoming the typical Alpha-hero. She softened him from the instant she met him. Her secrets are quite understandable and Teagen, after his initial reaction comes to her quickly, lovingly because he realizes she only did what she had to do.

The best part of the romance, however, is two lonely people finding each other. Each are surrounded by family, yet each has a distant ache in their hearts, unable to truly connect with others. Teagen and Jessie complete each other and as a reader, I was wholly satisfied. I look forward to the final installment (will there be one?) featuring Sage and (hopefully) Drum.

Things I Liked

~ In the previous two books, I didn’t have a real liking for Teagen and so in picking up this novel, I was a bit wary. He’s mean, he’s crusty, he doesn’t talk much (I’m a beta-hero girl myself) but Ms. Thomas managed to shine a light into Teagan and gave the reader great understanding of his nature. By the end of his first meeting with Jessie, all my reservations died away.  

~ The children – they weren’t cookie cutter cutsey and they added real value to the story. I loved Bethie’s antics, Rose’s forthright nature but I truly loved the evolving relationship between Teagen and the oldest, Emily.

Things I Didn’t Like

~ There were a few clichés in the book – all things you expect to find in Western romances – the bad guy, the bad family coming to get the children and forcing a marriage … but I was able to overlook these for the most part.

Additional Info

Published  ~ November 2008

~ Price ~ $7.99

Series ~ Whispering Mountain: Texas Rain and Texas Princess

~ Favorite Jodi Thomas ~ Two Texas Hearts

~ Author Website ~ www.jodithomas.com

(this review can also be found at Reading Romance Books)

Monday, December 29, 2008

Is It 2009 Already? ... Crap

I'm not one for New Year's resolutions. I tend to cave easily and forget exactly what I resolved to do anyway. Plus I don't do things like: "I'm going to lose 15 pounds" (although this year I might to get rid of this baby weight and all the fudge I ate over the holidays) or "I am going to quit smoking" (because I don't smoke). Those are your typical resolutions, right?

I could say that I am going to be a nicer person but honestly, I am perfectly nice unless provoked. And OK, some would say I am easily provoked but whatever, I know my limitations. Other people should too.

However 2009 is a special year for me. It's the first year of my baby's life and our family dynamic will never be the same. It's so new and odd to me to be a mother, but wonderful all the same. Some days I wonder if I were crazy to embark on this journey but then I look at his beautiful face (and he smiles, its not gas, I swear!) and I know I am holding onto a miracle. 

Also this year I have several new writing projects lined up. Oh and that little, itty bitty rejection letter to consider. I know I said it didn't bother me and really, it doesn't ... except at like, you know, three in the morning when I am feeding Michael and my mind wanders into the dangerous self-doubt territory. Those 3 am doubts are particularly strong when I am tired and so I've decided to do something about them. As in, not have them. Ever. And to do that, I must resolve. 

Crap. A resolution after all. 

Here it is:

I hereby resolve to take the good and leave the bad. To see the small things as they are - realize when they are actually big and when they are insignificant. And to appreciate each gift I am given. 

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Review: Christmas Pie by Emma Craig

Christmas really is the most wonderful time of the year. One of the things that makes the season so special is re-visiting all those traditions you’ve grown up with and the ones you’ve added on along the way. For me, one of those traditions is reading Emma Craig’s Christmas Pie at least twice. Once right before Thanksgiving and once closer to Christmas.

 Unlike most girls her age, Polly McNamara did not go out with friends to parties or on sleigh rides with charming beaux. She stayed home to take care of her ailing mother and only dreamed of a world of boundless riches and endless fun. But when shopping for a Christmas gift in Chinatown, she received a mysterious coin from an ancient-looking woman - and watched a series of remarkable events unfold...

 Soon, Polly's secret ingredient for happiness would appear in the unlikely form of her handsome and wealthy employer - James Drayton. She discovered he wasn't the snobbish and cold-hearted Scrooge she had always thought, but instead a lonely soul in need of a family. But could their love bridge the class divide and bring them the Christmas miracle they both needed? With a dash of faith and a pinch of patience, Polly set out to cook up a holiday wish as scrumptious as...Christmas Pie.

The book begins a little before Thanksgiving in San Francisco at the turn of the century. Polly, while walking home from work, wanders into a curio shop, drawn by a set of combs in the window she thinks her mother will love. In the shop she is given a coin by a strange old woman and soon the things she wishes for begin to come true. Enter then, James Drayton, Polly’s stern employer. James is a bit of a scrooge but something in Polly melts his cold exterior. Instead of just a typist, he begins to see her as a real person and eventually, the woman of his dreams.

Events, of course, conspire to keep them apart and a colorful cast of extras add rich layers to this Christmas tale. My favorite scene is most certainly when James’ rambunctious puppy has a run-in with a cart full of geese. The chemistry between James and Polly really begins to take off from there. She resists him, of course, for he is her employer and most certainly not of her class but James continues to win her over, starting first with her wheelchair bound mother, his dedication to orphans, and finally, helping to find her brother who was lost at sea.

At times a little purple in prose, this is most definitely a sweet romance worthy of any Christmas. A little bit of magic and mystery, a good dose of familial love and laughter, and the discovery of the one thing you’ve always longed for but never knew it … the perfect combination. I bought the book when it was first published and look forward to reading it each and every year. Out of print now, you can only purchase Christmas Pie used but I encourage anyone who stumbles across the gem to not let it slip through your fingers. 

(this review can also be found at Reading Romance Books)

Monday, December 15, 2008

An Update

That's the only word I can use to describe the past two weeks. 
Let me say it again. 

So. In the past two weeks, I have not:
1. Written a single word
2. Documented anything in the baby book I swore I was going to keep up to date. 
3. Read any of those historical novels
4. Watched a single episode of any of the shows I watch regularly. 
5. Really enjoyed a meal.
6. Written that blog post for the holiday avent tour

In the past two weeks, I have:
1. Changed 5,000 diapers
2. Slept in only one hour intervals
3. Fed baby boy approximately 1,256.87 times
4. Showered. Possibly. Not sure now.
5. Stared at baby in confusion, frustration, helplessness and adoration.

Now if you'll excuse me I must go change a diaper. And wander on over to ReadingAdventures to apologize for not posting that Christmas post. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Review: The Magic of Christmas by Carolyn Davidson, Victoria Bylin, and Cheryl St. John

A Christmas Child ~ Carolyn Davidson

Marianne Winters has no one in the world but her baby brother and, with Christmas approaching, she needs somewhere warm to stay. Will she find her home, and a loving heart, with the lonely pastor, David McDermott?

The lead-off story in this anthology, Carolyn Davidson’s tale really set the tone for Christmas. The story read like a sweetly inspired Christmas tale, set slightly away from deep point of view with strong relationships between Joshua and baby Jesus. 

I enjoyed Marianne and David’s story although I had trouble completely believing the love they felt for each other. I believed their love would grow, however, and so I was able continue reading without being bothered.

~ Favorite Carolyn Davidson: Homespun Bride

The Christmas Dove ~ Victoria Bylin

Maddie Cutler once snubbed bad boy Dylan McCall, but with nowhere else to turn she had come back to town – with a babe in arms. Dylan is a reformed man, and on seeing Maddie again he longs to heal her hurt – and claim her once and for all!

This is my first experience with Victoria Bylin’s writings and I can happily report that I will be on the lookout for her next effort. Her words flow effortlessly across the page, weaving a beautiful Christmas story about forgiveness and acceptance.

The story had potential to be a full-length book but Ms. Bylin did an excellent job of trimming down the details to create a lovely short story. The simplicity of Dylan’s love for Maddie was almost heart-breaking and his love fairly bled through the pages. Maddie, once a spoiled brat and now coming home in disgrace, was a well-rounded character, changed by the birth of her daughter. She was, at times, a little too hard on herself but Dylan provided the perfect balance.

Ms. Bylin, you have found yourself a new reader.

~ Author Website:  www.victoriabylin.com

A Baby Blue Christmas ~ Cheryl St. John

Turner Price hasn’t been the same since he lost his wife and child. But when he finds a young woman and newborn twin babies in his stable, he realizes this may be his second chance to be a loving husband and father, just in time for Christmas!

Easily my favorite story of the three, I went into reading this one expecting to feel that way and was not disappointed. Cheryl St. John is one of my favorite Western romance writers.

Turner and Gabby were truly made for each other – strong and sure, they found themselves in the midst of an almost impossible situation and came through better for their experiences, with each other and Gabby’s sweet nephews.

If anything detracted from the story it is a well-used Western cliché to round out the end of the story and help our hero realize that he really does love our heroine. However, the story was so engaging that even though I knew it was coming, I breezed through the last few pages unbothered and saddened when the story ended.

~ Favorite Cheryl St. John: Sweet Annie

~ Author Website: http://cherylstjohn.blogspot.com/

On a personal note: I read this book at nights, usually at three or four in the morning, while feeding my newborn son. At a time when I am struggling through exhaustion and the slightly panicky feeling of new motherhood, this book helped calm my fears with relatable characters and situations. I owe these authors a debt of gratitude for the comfort they offered.

Additional Info

~ Published: October 2008

~ Price:  $5.99

(this review can also be found at Reading Romance Books)

Why I've Been MIA or Baby Love

Born Sunday November 30 at 3:09 am. Weighed 7 lbs, 8 oz, 20.5 inches long.

Welcome to the world Michael Lee

He's quickly become the light of my life. The nights are long, my heart breaks when he cries, but when he sighs and turns his head toward my voice, I quickly forget every bit of exhaustion and just LOOK at him. 

The Husband and I are blessed beyond measure. 

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Nicest Rejection Letter

Back in April I went to the Chicago Spring Fling sponsored by Chicago's RWA. I had a lovely time, my second time attending and I even had the chance to pitch to an editor at one of my choice publishers. She was such a sweet person - very encouraging and happy and she asked for a partial and synopsis. So I ran home and tidied everything up and sent it off and crossed my fingers. Then I waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, earlier this week a package came to my house and I knew immediately what it was. They had rejected my partial. My heart sank down around my ankles. The Husband opened it up for me and began to read the letter. And as he read, my heart started to rise up back into my chest, inflate just a little bit. Because although the manuscript was rejected, the editor wrote that I was a very talented writer. Me. A Very. Talented. Writer. 

So thank you nameless editor. You rejected me, but you did it in such a way that I didn't even cry.