Review: ROYAL HOLIDAY by Jasmine Guillory

Review:  ROYAL HOLIDAY by Jasmine GuilloryRoyal Holiday (The Wedding Date, #4) by Jasmine Guillory
three-half-stars
Series: The Wedding Date #4
Published by BERKLEY on October 1, 2019
Genres: Romance, Contemporary Fiction, Holiday
Pages: 304
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

 

 

 

 

ROYAL HOLIDAY Review

 

Royal Holiday is the fourth book in Jasmine Guillory’s popular romance series, The Wedding Date.  I actually haven’t read the first three books in the series but requested this one from Netgalley because I was in the mood for a holiday romance and I loved that this story is set in London and has royalty in it.

The synopsis promises a charming and fun holiday romance and it really delivers.  I especially loved that the main characters, Vivian Forest and Malcom Hudson are a more mature couple.  Vivian is in her fifties and is visiting England for the first time with her daughter, Maddie, who is there for work.  Maddie works as a stylist and has been tasked with styling a duchess over the holidays. What this means for both Maddie and Vivian is that they will actually be staying in a royal household. Talk about a bucket list trip for Vivian!  Almost as soon as she arrives at the royal residence, Vivian finds herself face to face with the handsome and very charming Malcolm, who is about her age and who works as the private secretary to the Queen of England.

Vivian and Malcolm hit it off right away.  I thought their time together was just so sweet.  Malcolm takes her on several special sightseeing dates because he wants to make her trip as special as possible.  Both Vivian and Malcolm haven’t had the best of luck in the relationship department so this second chance at love for both of them really warmed my heart.

About the only thing that would have made this an even more satisfying read would have been if I had felt a little more strongly about Vivian and Malcolm and their long-term prospects as a couple. As I moved through the story, however, I found myself feeling content however the author chose to end the story.  If it was just a holiday fling that ended as soon as Vivian went back home to America, fine. And if it ended with the two of them together, making a go of a long-distance relationship, fine.  I like to feel a little more invested in a relationship than that.  Regardless though, it really was a sweet story reading about their dates and watching them flirt with each other a little more each day.

Royal Holiday actually reminded me of one of those heartwarming Hallmark Christmas movies that are so popular every year.  If you like second chance romances and you’re looking for a charming little Christmas story to get you in the holiday spirit and put a smile on your face, Royal Holiday is your book.

 

 

 

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Proposal and “rising star in the romance genre” (Entertainment Weekly) comes a dazzling new novel about a spontaneous holiday vacation that turns into an unforgettable romance.

Vivian Forest has been out of the country a grand total of one time, so when she gets the chance to tag along on her daughter Maddie’s work trip to England to style a royal family member, she can’t refuse. She’s excited to spend the holidays taking in the magnificent British sights, but what she doesn’t expect is to become instantly attracted to a certain private secretary, his charming accent, and unyielding formality.

Malcolm Hudson has worked for the Queen for years and has never given a personal, private tour—until now. He is intrigued by Vivian the moment he meets her and finds himself making excuses just to spend time with her. When flirtatious banter turns into a kiss under the mistletoe, things snowball into a full-on fling.

Despite a ticking timer on their holiday romance, they are completely fine with ending their short, steamy affair come New Year’s Day. . .or are they?

three-half-stars

About Jasmine Guillory

Jasmine Guillory is a graduate of Wellesley College and Stanford Law School. She is a Bay Area native who has towering stacks of books in her living room, a cake recipe for every occasion, and upwards of 50 lipsticks.

Mini Reviews: ‘TWAS THE KNIFE BEFORE CHRISTMAS & A CHRISTMAS REVELATION

Mini Reviews:  ‘TWAS THE KNIFE BEFORE CHRISTMAS & A CHRISTMAS REVELATION'Twas the Knife Before Christmas by Jacqueline Frost
four-stars
Series: A Christmas Tree Farm Mystery #2
Published by Crooked Lane Books on November 23, 2018
Genres: Fiction, Holiday, Cozy Mystery
Pages: 246
Source: Netgalley
Amazon
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

A Christmas delight, ’Twas the Knife Before Christmas will charm the stockings off readers of Joanne Fluke and Leslie Meier.

It’s out of the cupcake tin, into the fire for Holly White’s best friend, Caroline. Can Holly clear Caroline’s name in time to go caroling?

When a body turns up in the dumpster behind Caroline’s Cupcakes, Holly White is horrified to learn her best friend Caroline is the main suspect. Everyone in town, including Mistletoe, Maine’s sheriff, saw Caroline fighting with the victim on the night of his death. Worse, Caroline’s fingerprints are all over the murder weapon, a custom-designed marble rolling pin.

Now, just ten days before Christmas, Holly’s up to her jingle bells in holiday shenanigans and in desperate need of a miracle. Juggling extra shifts at her family’s Christmas tree farm and making enough gingerbread jewelry to satisfy the crowd is already more than she can handle—and now she has to find time to clear her best friend of murder. Add in her budding relationship with the sheriff, and run-ins with an ex-fiancé looking to make amends, and Holly’s ready to fly south until springtime.

But her Sherpa-lined mittens come off when Caroline is taken into custody. Can Holly wrap up the case in time for Christmas…even after she gains the true killer’s attention? Find out in ‘Twas the Knife Before Christmas, Jacqueline Frost’s second pine-scented Christmas Tree Farm mystery.

Review:

If you’re looking for a delightful Christmas-themed cozy murder mystery, Jacqueline Frost’s ‘Twas the Knife Before Christmas is sure to please.  The story is set in Mistletoe, which is a charming little town in Maine, and boy, do these folks love Christmas!  For all of you Gilmore Girls fans out there, imagine Stars Hollow but all decked out for the holidays.  That was the vibe I got the entire time I was reading and I loved it.

The story follows Holly White and her quest to clear her best friend, Caroline, who happens to be a suspect in a murder that has rocked this quaint little Christmas town.  During the town’s annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony, a man is found dead, stabbed and dumped into a giant dish of peppermint candies.  The last person seen with him was Caroline, the town’s beloved owner of Caroline’s Cupcakes, and they were having a pretty heated argument.  Although no one can believe their sweet Caroline could possibly be a murderer, she still finds herself a suspect.  Holly, in particular, knows her friend is innocent and makes it her mission to prove Caroline’s innocence and find the real killer, even if she drives her boyfriend, the town’s sheriff, crazy in the process.

‘Twas the Knife Before Christmas is filled with characters that you can’t help but fall in love with. Holly, Caroline, and Sheriff Evan are all very likable, and some of the secondary characters are so quirky and fun that they practically steal the show. There’s Cookie Cutter who likes to brew “special” tea that is sure to put an extra kick in your step, a la Peppermint Schnapps, and then there’s Ray, who is so overprotective of his mother because she’s dating a new man, that he spends most of the book sneaking around spying on their dates.  Oh, and I can’t forget Holly’s cat, who has the best pet name ever, Cindy Loo Who.  Between the fabulous characters and a murder mystery that has plenty of twists and turns to keep the story interesting, I can’t recommend ‘Twas the Knife Before Christmas highly enough. Cozy mystery fans are sure to love it!  4 STARS

 

Mini Reviews:  ‘TWAS THE KNIFE BEFORE CHRISTMAS & A CHRISTMAS REVELATIONA Christmas Revelation by Anne Perry
Also by this author: Twenty-One Days (Daniel Pitt, #1)
three-half-stars
Series: Christmas Stories #16
Published by Ballantine Books on November 6, 2018
Genres: Fiction, Holiday, Mystery
Pages: 192
Source: Netgalley
Amazon
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

In this intriguing, uplifting holiday mystery from bestselling author Anne Perry, an orphan boy investigates a woman's kidnapping--and discovers there's more at stake than a disappearance.

It wouldn't quite be Christmas without a holiday mystery decorated with all the Victorian trimmings as only New York Times bestselling author Anne Perry can render it. Now the tradition continues as mayhem is once again found under the mistletoe, and intrigue stalks the cobblestone streets and gaslit parlors of old London Town.

Formerly a river urchin living on the banks of the Thames, nine-year-old Worm has never experienced a family Christmas. But thanks to a job at Hester Monk's clinic in Portpool Lane, he's found a makeshift family in kindly Miss Claudine Burroughs and curmudgeonly old bookkeeper Squeaky Robinson.

When Worm witnesses the abduction of a beautiful woman by a pair of ruffians just days before Christmas, he frantically turns to Squeaky for help. A one-time brothel owner, Squeaky knows the perils of interfering in nasty business, but he can't bear to disappoint Worm--or leave the boy to attempt a rescue on his own. What neither of the would-be saviors expects, however, is that the damsel in distress already has her dilemma well in hand . . . and is taking steps to bring her captors to justice for crimes far worse than kidnapping. But the rogues, as cunning as they are deadly, are not to be underestimated. The aid of cynical old Squeaky and hopeful young Worm just might make the difference between a merry triumph over evil and a terrible yuletide tragedy.

Review:

A Christmas Revelation is the latest installment of Anne Perry’s Christmas Stories series, which takes characters from some of Perry’s other popular series and inserts them into holiday-themed stories of their own.  This was my first time reading one of these holiday stories and I’m pleased to say that overall, even though they’re supposed to be part of a series, A Christmas Revelation still works quite well as a standalone.

The story follows a nine-year old boy nicknamed Worm, who used to live on his own as a street urchin until he got himself a job at Hester Monk’s clinic.  That job also brought him a makeshift family in the form of the always kind Miss Claudine and especially in the cynical and curmudgeonly old bookkeeper, Squeaky.  Squeaky is a man who prefers to mind his own business at all costs, but when Worm comes to him, completely distraught because he thinks he has witnessed a woman being abducted, Squeaky promises Worm, against his better judgment, that he’ll help him find and rescue the woman, if she really is, in fact, in distress.  Squeaky also realizes while he and Worm are playing detective and trying to locate the missing woman, that Worm has never had a real Christmas before so he makes it his mission to deliver a real family Christmas for Worm and to explain to him the true meaning of Christmas.

What I enjoyed most about this story was that it was a nice balance between the mystery of what happened to the woman Worm saw and the Christmas aspect that Squeaky introduces.  The story also boasts what felt like a truly authentic Victorian London setting.  It felt so Dickensian that I half expected Worm and Squeaky to rush around a corner and run smack dab into Ebenezer Scrooge himself.  I also especially liked the idea that the holidays make us want to be our best selves, as is witnessed by Squeaky’s efforts to not disappoint Worm and to bring Christmas to him for the first time.  I think the story would have worked even better for me if I had known a little more of the background of these two characters, but overall it was still a great holiday read. 3.5 STARS

four-stars

About Anne Perry

Anne Perry (born Juliet Hulme) is a British historical novelist.

Juliet took the name “Anne Perry,” the latter being her stepfather’s surname. Her first novel, The Cater Street Hangman, was published under this name in 1979. Her works generally fall into one of several categories of genre fiction, including historical murder mysteries and detective fiction. Many of them feature a number of recurring characters, most importantly Thomas Pitt, who appeared in her first novel, and amnesiac private investigator William Monk, who first appeared in her 1990 novel The Face of a Stranger. As of 2003 she had published 47 novels, and several collections of short stories. Her story “Heroes,” which first appeared the 1999 anthology Murder and Obsession, edited by Otto Penzler, won the 2001 Edgar Award for Best Short Story.

Recently she was included as an entry in Ben Peek’s Twenty-Six Lies/One Truth, a novel exploring the nature of truth in literature.

Series contributed to:
. Crime Through Time
. Perfectly Criminal
. Malice Domestic
. The World’s Finest Mystery and Crime Stories
. Transgressions
. The Year’s Finest Crime and Mystery Stories

About Jacqueline Frost

Jacqueline Frost is a mystery-loving pet enthusiast who hopes to make readers smile. She lives in rural Ohio with her husband and three spunky children. Jacqueline is a member of the International Thriller Writers (ITW) and Sisters in Crime (SinC).

Review: THE CHRISTMAS SISTERS by Sarah Morgan

Review:  THE CHRISTMAS SISTERS by Sarah MorganThe Christmas Sisters by Sarah Morgan
Also by this author: One Summer in Paris
four-stars
Published by Hqn on September 25, 2018
Genres: Fiction, Holiday
Pages: 407
Source: Netgalley
Amazon
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

MY REVIEW:

 

Sarah Morgan’s The Christmas Sisters follows the story of Suzanne McBride and her three adopted daughters Hannah, Beth, and Posy.  Suzanne and Posy live in the Scottish Highlands, while Hannah and Beth have made their homes in New York City.  This year Suzanne is ecstatic because all three of her girls are coming home for Christmas and she has made it her mission in life to put together the perfect cozy Christmas for them all.  But all doesn’t go according to plan, however, because each of her daughters seem to be going through some personal drama that is weighing them down and creating tension.

When Suzanne falls ill and her plans for the perfect family Christmas start to fall apart, can her daughters set aside their own personal drama, embrace the holiday spirit, and come together to spread some Christmas cheer of their own?

The Christmas Sisters was just such an easy book to fall in love with and that’s mainly because of the complex, well drawn characters that Morgan has created with the McBride daughters.

Hannah, the eldest, is the workaholic of the group and she’s hesitant to come home because she has a life-altering secret that she has been hiding from her family.

Beth, the middle daughter, is also dealing with issues of her own.  She’s a stay-at-home mom who no longer wants to stay at home and is trying to figure out how to make that happen.

Posy, the youngest daughter, is pretty content living near her parents.  She is, however, starting to get the itch to spread her wings and travel.  She’s conflicted though because her parents really do depend on her for so much. She doesn’t want to take off and abandon them.

I really loved these characters.  Each daughter’s personality is so well-developed and realistically drawn that I felt like they could be my own family members.  I also found the personal issues they were each dealing with to be so relatable that it was just easy to connect with each of them and become invested in their journeys. They’ve also each been burdened for years by the family tragedy that took their birth parents’ lives, a tragedy that they all refuse to talk about, even though it still clearly weighs on them.  I was just really rooting for them to come together, share their secrets and problems with one another because that’s what sisters are for, and just really push through all the tension and awkwardness and just bond.

In addition to these marvelous characters, I also adored the setting of the book.  Morgan captures the beauty and the remote atmosphere of the Scottish Highlands perfectly.  I could practically feel the chill in the air every time she described the setting and it made me want to grab a cup of cocoa and sit in front of a warm fire.  Those descriptions and the feelings they conveyed made The Christmas Sisters a perfect holiday read.

The only real issue I had with the book was that I found myself frustrated with Beth, not because of her choice to go back to work, but rather because of who she chose to go to work for, a toxic boss from her past.  I won’t give away anymore details than that, but I’ll just say she had me shaking my head so much.  Even though Beth’s story frustrated and annoyed me at times, I give major props to Morgan for creating such a realistic scenario here.  I could totally see a stay-at-home mom trying to go back to work ending up in a similar situation.

With her new novel The Christmas Sisters, Sarah Morgan has crafted a heartwarming family tale that is sure to put you in the holiday spirit. This was my first time reading a novel from Sarah Morgan, but it definitely won’t be my last!

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

In the snowy Highlands of Scotland, Suzanne McBride is dreaming of the perfect cozy Christmas. Her three adopted daughters are coming home for the holidays and she can’t wait to see them. But tensions are running high…

Workaholic Hannah knows she can’t avoid spending the holidays with her family two years in a row. But it’s not the weight of their expectations that’s panicking her—it’s the life-changing secret she’s hiding. Stay-at-home mom Beth is having a personal crisis. All she wants for Christmas is time to decide if she’s ready to return to work—seeing everyone was supposed to help her stress levels, not increase them! Posy isn’t sure she’s living her best life, but with her parents depending on her, making a change seems risky. But not as risky as falling for gorgeous new neighbor Luke…

As Suzanne’s dreams of the perfect McBride Christmas unravel, she must rely on the magic of the season to bring her daughters together. But will this new togetherness teach the sisters that their close-knit bond is strong enough to withstand anything—including a family Christmas?

four-stars

About Sarah Morgan

USA Today and Sunday Times bestselling author Sarah Morgan writes romance and contemporary women’s fiction and her trademark humour and sensuality have gained her fans across the globe. She is a 3 time winner of the prestigious RITA® Award from the Romance Writers of America and has been nominated five times. Sarah lives near London, England, and when she isn’t reading or writing she loves being outdoors.

Book Review: Winter Solstice by Elin Hilderbrand

Book Review:  Winter Solstice by Elin HilderbrandWinter Solstice by Elin Hilderbrand
three-half-stars
Series: Winter #4
on October 3rd 2017
Genres: Fiction, Holiday
Pages: 262
Source: Netgalley
Amazon
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

MY REVIEW:

Set primarily on the charming island of Nantucket, Elin Hilderbrand’s Winter series follows the ups and downs of the Quinn family over the course of about four years.  At the heart of this series is a strong focus on the importance of love, family, friendship, and loyalty, but there is also a healthy dose of drama so as to keep things from getting too saccharin-sweet.  I binge-read this series this year as part of a holiday readathon and fell in love with the Quinn family right away.  Everyone in the family is just so endearing and I became invested in all of them from the very first book in the series.

Winter Solstice is the fourth and final installment of the series, so much of this book is about saying goodbye to this family that readers have grown to love over the course of the previous books.  The Winter series was actually originally intended to be trilogy. I thought the third book left too many things unresolved, however, so I was thrilled to find out a fourth book had been added to the series.  I can’t say that I was ready to say goodbye to the Quinns yet, but I think Winter Solstice gives them the sendoff they deserve and gives fans proper closure.

 

What makes this series such a good read for me is how realistic it is when it comes to the Quinn family and the trials and tribulations that they go through.  I don’t want to go into too much detail since it would spoil the earlier books to do so, but what they go through is the same kind of drama that most families go through — the family drama, complicated relationships, cheating, addiction, financial difficulties, the emotional turmoil when a child in the military is deployed and sent thousands of miles from home, and so much more.  Of course some of the Quinn’s drama is ratcheted up Desperate Housewives-style for the added entertainment value, but overall, those ups and downs are very relatable for many readers and so it’s easy to become invested in what they’re going through and to feel tremendous sympathy for them.

In addition to the realistic domestic drama that we get throughout the series, I also loved the characters Hilderbrand created.  Even when they are at their worst and doing things that I want to scream at them for doing, I still couldn’t help but love the Quinns.  I’m a sucker for a well-drawn, flawed, utterly human character and that description fits all of the Quinns to a T.  I especially loved Kelley, the family patriarch.  He’s such a good man and his love for his family just shines through in every book of the series.  That’s not to say he doesn’t make his fair share of mistakes along the way, but I still just adored him. I found it harder to say goodbye to him than to any of the other characters so, in that sense, Winter Solstice was somewhat bittersweet for me.

Another highlight of the series, and especially of Winter Solstice, was watching the journeys of the four Quinn siblings as they navigate their way through the messy world of adulthood.  Many mistakes are made along the way, but if there is an overriding theme in Winter Solstice, I’d say it’s about second chances (or even third and fourth chances) – the idea that no matter how many times you mess up or how badly, you can still recover and move forward.

The setting of the novel is, of course, a huge highlight and also what gives the series its holiday charm.  It’s set in Nantucket and the charming Winter Street Inn during the Christmas holiday season. It immediately made me think of snow and snuggling up in front of the fireplace.  It doesn’t get much more atmospheric than that!

 

Even though I really enjoyed Winter Solstice overall, I still had a couple of issues with it.  One was that sometimes it just seemed like too much was going on.  Since the book was primarily about saying goodbye to the Quinns, I would have liked the book to focus solely on the Quinns and knowing that each of them was going to live happily ever after, so to speak.  There seemed to be a few random subplots running through this novel that distracted a bit from that.

The addition of new character ‘Fast Eddie’ was the biggest distraction.  While Eddie served somewhat of a purpose in Winter Solstice, I didn’t feel like he was important enough to the overall plot to have entire chapters devoted to his messy love life and his real estate endeavors.  In my mind, he was a secondary character and I didn’t care about him aside from what he could do to help the Quinns when they needed his real estate knowledge.  I think the series would have closed much stronger with Eddie’s presence minimized.  Eddie’s huge presence in Winter Solstice was especially frustrating because we actually didn’t have much of a storyline for Kevin Quinn and his wife, Isabelle.  Yes, of all of the Quinn siblings, they were probably the closest to having their act together by the fourth book, but I still would have liked more of them.

 

Even though I had some issues with it, Winter Solstice still provides a satisfying ending to the Winter series. Even though I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to the Quinns, I’m quite content with the path Hilderbrand has set them on.  If you’re looking for a heart-warming holiday-themed series that focuses on love and family, but that also has plenty of dramatic flair, the Winter series is a good bet.

Thanks so much to Netgalley, Elin HIlderbrand, and Little, Brown and Company for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  This in no way shapes my opinion of the book.

 

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

Raise one last glass with the Quinn Family at the Winter Street Inn.

It’s been too long since the entire Quinn family has been able to celebrate the holidays under the same roof, but that’s about to change. With Bart back safe and sound from Afghanistan, the Quinns are preparing for a holiday more joyous than any they’ve experienced in years. And Bart’s safe return isn’t the family’s only good news: Kevin is enjoying married life with Isabelle; Patrick is getting back on his feet after paying his debt to society; Ava thinks she’s finally found the love of her life; and Kelly is thrilled to see his family reunited at last. But it just wouldn’t be a Quinn family gathering if things went smoothly. A celebration of everything we love–and some of the things we endure–about the holidays, WINTER SOLSTICE is Elin Hilderbrand at her festive best.

three-half-stars

About Elin Hilderbrand

Elin Hilderbrand lives on Nantucket with her husband and their three young children. She grew up in Collegeville, Pennsylvania, and traveled extensively before settling on Nantucket, which has been the setting for her five previous novels. Hilderbrand is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University and the graduate fiction workshop at the University of Iowa.