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A Sparkle of Silver by Liz Johnson

I’ve been busy preparing for the launch of Comfort & Joy, the 2018 Christmas Lights novella collection, but I took time to enjoy the new Liz Johnson book, A Sparkle of Silver.

A Sparkle of Silver by Liz Johnson

I’ve read other books by Liz Johnson, so when I was offered an advance reader copy of A Sparkle of Silver, I accepted it gladly and appreciated the break from my own writing! I really enjoyed it.  (Her book, not the break.) Millie and Ben are relatable – broke. burdened with responsibilities and guilt, doing the best they can in hard circumstances. They’re genuinely good people we like to root for.

We want them to succeed at finding the treasure because they aren’t just doing it for fun, being greedy. They need the money. Ben is stubbornly trying to make restitution for something that wasn’t his fault. Millie is desperate, working against a deadline to find enough money to pay for her grandmother’s care.

The setting – an opulent 1920’s era mansion with a history of lavish parties for the wealthy elite of Georgia – was intriguing. To gain access to the house, Millie got a job as a reenactor – dressing in the vintage clothing and putting on a show for guided tours through the historic building. I would have liked to read more about that, mostly because it sounds like a great job!

The historical romance and mystery were related through diary entries. Liz Johnson did a good job with this character. Ruth was a guest, not part of the rich crowd, and I could easily imagine her writing out the events and her feelings, a little overwhelmed and confused by her surroundings.

The ending is delightful for both timelines.  There is a swoony romantic scene and a not-too-outlandish happy resolution. I enjoyed it.

 

 

 

 

I look forward to the next book in this series, but unfortunately, it’s still nearly a year away. In the meantime, I recommend Ms. Johnson’s Prince Edward Island Dreams  series – especially if you’re an Anne of Green Gables fan!

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Sins of the Past – a Novella Collection

  Sins of the Past, a romantic suspense novella collection by Dee Henderson, Dani Pettrey and Lynette Eason Sins of the Past

Novellas vary, in length and in quality.  In a full-length novel, the author has more time to develop the plot and characters. The novella has to contain all of the story elements in a more compact package. It’s not an easy job – harder, in some ways, than writing a long book. The author has to develop a complete plot, create well-developed characters and (usually) write a believable romance  in a much shorter form. Novellas come in different sizes, usually between 25,000 and 45,000 words. Multi-author novella collections are popular, especially at Christmastime. They can be inexpensive and fun introduction to new authors.

This novella collection from three distinguished writers of romantic suspense, was published one year ago, and I have already listened to it twice. Obviously, I liked it! All three of the authors are on my “read everything list.”

Missing - a novella by Dee HendersonMissing

Dee Henderson’s O’Malley series is one of the most popular and enduring family sagas in its genre. I’ve read them all at least twice, so I had high expectations for her contribution to this collection, Missing. I was disappointed. As I considered it later, I decided that her full-length books are paced in a more leisurely style, developing gradually over a long period of time. She couldn’t do that in a short novella, so the characters had no depth. The romance didn’t make sense. I liked the plot, but unlike traditional mysteries, the ending was based on something totally unknown to the reader. I will still continue to read everything else she writes, of course, because I love her work!

Shadowed - a novella by Dani PettreyShadowed

I have been an enthusiastic Dani Pettrey fan since I found her first book, Submerged, shortly after it was released. It’s still one of my favorite books, and I’ve read everything she’s written since then – usually in audiobook form. Her novella, Shadowed, is by far the best of this collection. It reads like a full-length book, a complex and worthy addition to the Alaskan Courage series. It was set in the 1970’s – a fun and unusual time period we don’t see much of in current books. I enjoyed the “retro” cultural references. Shadowed has terrific characters, plot, setting… and bonus points for continuing the alliteration.

Blackout - a novella by Lynette EasonBlackout

I have only recently started reading Lynette Eason, but I’ve enjoyed the books I’ve read so far. Blackout was a little confusing sometimes, with many characters, but still very good. It moved quickly, with intense action, and I liked the base and progression of the romantic relationship.

Each of the novellas is now available separately, but the Sins of the Past collection is a bargain – and you can pick up the audio version for just a few dollars more!

What do you think?

What has been your experience with novellas?  Have you read many of them? What, in your opinion, makes a novella a good book?

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Front Window by Chautona Havig ~ a review

Front Window by Chautona Havig

Front Window, the newest book in the Hartfield Mysteries series by Chautona Havig,  is now available on Amazon!

I have to admit, I’m a sucker for a new Chautona Havig book. It’s partly self-preservation – she modeled a character on me one time, and it was not one of the good guys.  In fact.. well, never mind. Figure it out for yourself. It’s someone in this series.

 

 

 

 

 

Book #1 – Manuscript for Murder

Manuscript for Murder by Chautona Havig

 

Because of that, or in spite of it, the Hartfield Mysteries are my favorite Chautona Havig series. It is such a creative concept – in the first book, Manuscript for Murder, Alexa Hartfield is an eccentric mystery writer living in an idyllic small town. She’s a free spirit, dressing in clothing from different eras to suit her mood and the book she is writing, living alone and enjoying it. Then someone starts turning her murder mysteries into a blueprint for their own killing spree, and Alexa Hartfield teams up with an unusual police officer to solve the case.  This book just delighted me. I loved Alexa. She’s so “comfortable in her own skin.” The pace of the (obviously incipient) relationship with the policeman, Joe  Freidan, was perfect. I appreciate slow romances.

Book #2 – Crime of Fashion

Crime of Fashion by Chautona Havig

 

 

At the beginning of Crime of Fashion, Alexa assumes that her life will resume its previous tranquility. It doesn’t, of course. Things are changing at home and in a new business venture.  I really didn’t want her to get involved in that business. You could see it was a train wreck right from the start.  She and Joe are getting serious in this book.  The ending, unfortunately, left something to be desired. It was a complete shock to me, though, and I can usually solve the mystery by the middle of the book. Not here. I only started getting suspicious in the last few pages.  I still wish it had ended differently.

 

Book #3 – Two o’Clock SlumpTwo o'Clock Slump by Chautona Havig

 

Two o’Clock Slump was a totally different book. Alexa leaves her beloved home and travels back to the place she left behind – a place where she is neither liked nor welcomed, where even her own family (not nice people) cause her grief.  There was considerable character development in this book.  I liked it, but Alexa was depressed there, and I just wanted her to leave. Go back to Fairbury where people like you and you can be yourself, Alexa. Except she can’t, because someone is framing her for murder. She’s on the lam.

Book #4 – Front Window

Front Window by Chautona Havig

 

I don’t want to give spoilers, but you’ve probably already guessed that Two o’Clock Slump has a happy ending. Things are going along pretty well at the start of Front Window. Alexa’s even-more-eccentric aunt Faye is moving to Fairbury, and all of them are looking forward to a happy season when strange things start happening at the retirement village. Aunt Faye is the real star of this book, and she’s a worthy addition to the series! Front Window is an entertaining book with all the best qualities of the series. You’ll love it.

 

 

Have you read any of these books? What do you think? Which was your favorite? Do you think Aunt Faye should have her own book?

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Feta & Freeways by Susan M. Baganz

Feta & Freeways by Susan Baganz

 

Feta & Freeways by Susan M. Baganz is finally available for sale on Amazon! I have enjoyed all of the books I’ve read by this author, so I’ve been looking forward to this one. Like her other Orchard Hill books, the characters are complex. Susan M. Baganz portrays people with human strengths and weaknesses – people you can visualize and connect with, even when they are celebrities like Niko and the rest of the successful Christian band, Specific Gravity.

 

A rich story, skillfully crafted

As with the other books, I was struck by the cadence of her writing. She transitions smoothly from stress-filled scenes to more calm scenes to emotional scenes. Some of her characters have messy, painful backgrounds and some are from more stable environments. It is a good mix. Ms. Baganz is also good at creating realistic communities and family relationships. Her characters do not live in a bubble.

Glorifying God

The spiritual condition of her characters is sometimes rock solid, but it’s often like the rest of us – believing, but still occasionally anxious and confused. Niko and Tia don’t doubt the saving grace of God, but at times they muddle along hoping they are making the right choices. The author’s skill is clear in all of these aspects of the book. It is a “clean” book; there is no foul language and the small amount of violence is all off-screen, but Niko and Tia ARE married, and the implications of that relationship are not hidden. I recommend it for married women.

 

Susan Baganz

Susan M. Baganz chases after three Hobbits and is a native of Wisconsin. She is an Acquisitions Editor with Prism Book Group specializing in bringing great romance novels and novellas to publication. Susan writes adventurous historical and contemporary romances with a biblical world-view.

 

 

 

 

Her Orchard Hill series includes:

Pesto & Potholes

Salsa & Speedbumps

Feta & Freeways

 Pesto & Potholes by Susan M. Baganz    Salsa & Speedbumps by Susan M. Baganz    Feta & Freeways by Susan M. Baganz

 

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The California Gold Rush Romance Collection – review and giveaway!

ca-gold-rush

The California Gold Rush Romance Collection is a delightful collection of stories from nine talented and very creative authors. The plots are diverse, and I’ve never seen such an eclectic group of heroes and heroines in one book!

Enter below to win a free paperback copy! Only three days left!

 

 

Is it possible there’s an inheritance far greater than gold, or is Thalia destined to remain empty, like the ghost town she inhabits? – Gold Haven Heiress by Jaime Jo Wright

I enjoyed all of the stories in this book, but I was especially interested in Jaime Jo Wright’s Gold Haven Heiress,  which is an unusual love story with interesting characters. Jack Taylor is a man who grew wealthy by taking advantage of gold rush miners. He’s a changed man now, and he’s using his ill-gotten riches to help others by building a community in Gold Haven, an abandoned goldmining town, to be a place of redemption, where people can come to be healed and live safely together. He didn’t expect to find the cast-off “soiled dove” Thalia Simmons hiding in the deserted town, and while he is drawn to her, she struggles to reconcile concepts of a caring man and a loving God with her painful history.

Gold Haven Heiress, part of The California Gold Rush Romance Collection

Thalia is well-drawn. Ms. Wright did a good job of portraying the prickly, shell-shocked woman. Throughout the book, her impulsive words, actions and choices are consistent with her character and circumstances. I liked the development of her friendship with Celeste. It’s hard to squeeze a story into a short novella, but this author succeeded in bringing it all together – characters, setting, plot and all.

Civilizing Clementine was another fun story in this collection, and The Golden Cross was an interesting story about the Chinese culture during the gold rush.

The California Gold Rush Collection

The Price of Love by Amanda Barratt
The Best Man in Brookside by Angela Bell
Civilizing Clementine by Dianne Christner
The Marriage Broker and the Mortician by Anne Greene
The Lye Water Bride by Linda Farmer Harris
A Sketch of Gold by Cynthia Hickey
Love is A Puzzle by Pam Hillman
The Golden Cross by Jennifer Rogers Spinola
Gold Haven Heiress by Jamie Jo Wright

NOTE: You do not need to sign up for my newsletter to enter the contest unless you choose to do so. I will NOT be saving the emails you use to enter the contest. I will notify the winner by email and here on my website.

 

 

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The Baron’s Blunder by Susan Baganz

This delightful novella from Susan Baganz is part of the  “Love is…” series by Prism Book Group, looking at 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a. The Baron’s Blunder illustrates verse six:  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth.  

The Baron's Blunder by Susan BaganzThe hero is dashing and brave – and so is the heroine

Lord Charles Percy and the Honorable Henrietta Allendale are both independent, capable people who want to continue in their current single condition. He enjoys the clandestine activities that keep him busy, but an impulsive lie told to avoid discovery leads to complicated deception. She knows he’s hiding something. When Lord Percy confesses the truth, Henri isn’t sure she can trust anything else he says. As much as they enjoy life and engaging in exciting adventures without the encumbrance of a spouse, however, there’s no denying the attraction that pulls at both of them.

 

 

 

The Baron's Blunder by Susan Baganz

 

I enjoyed the pacing of this adventure romance. The main and secondary characters were likable people who seemed more multi-dimensional than those sometimes found in Regency romances. I especially liked the heroine, who managed to be independent without becoming aggressive about it or behaving in an anachronistic way.

Rose Hill Regencies

The Baron’s Blunder is a prequel to Ms. Baganz’s upcoming Rose Hill Regencies, a series of entertaining Regency romance novels for the inspirational fiction market. I look forward to them!

The Baron’s Blunder is available for pre-order now and will be delivered to your kindle device Friday, August 26.

Watch for the author’s upcoming novel, Feta and Freeways,  available for preorder now, releasing on September 16, 2016. It’s the newest book in her Orchard Hill series, and you won’t want to miss it.

Nikolos Acton is the lead singer of a Christian Band, Specific Gravity, struggling to make it in the industry after an unplanned break.

Tia Bartel loved Niko for the longest time, but it wasn’t until she stepped in to save his life that he finally realizes what has been there all along. Is it too late for him? Could a relationship between them work after years of ignoring her? How would he ever convince her he’s worthy of her trust?

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