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Reviews: CHRISTMAS IN PEACHTREE BLUFF & ALWAYS, IN DECEMBER

 

Happy Friday all!  I don’t know about you but I’m so ready for the weekend.  I’m really hoping to get in some quality reading time.  First though, I’m thrilled to share my thoughts on two absolutely lovely books I finished this week.  I’m like retail – finish up the spooky season reviews, then immediately start posting the Christmas ones, lol. 

 

Reviews: CHRISTMAS IN PEACHTREE BLUFF & ALWAYS, IN DECEMBERChristmas in Peachtree Bluff (Peachtree Bluff, #4) Goodreads

Author:  Kristy Woodson Harvey

Publication Date: October 26, 2021

Publisher:  Gallery Books

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

I’m a huge fan of Kristy Woodson Harvey’s books, especially her popular series, Peachtree Bluff. I fell in love with the smalltown Georgia setting and with the women of the Murphy family. Ansley and her daughters Caroline, Sloan, and Emerson found their way deep into my heart to the point that they felt like dear friends, so I was beyond excited to discover that the author has gifted her readers with Christmas in Peachtree Bluff, a new installment of the beloved series.

I couldn’t wait to see the Murphy women again and the Christmas backdrop was such a bonus.  Christmas in Peachtree Bluff is every bit as charming, magical, and full of rich traditions as I expected it to be, and also as expected, the Murphy women are a force to be reckoned with.  I loved watching them come together to celebrate the holidays and to face head-on any and all challenges that come their way, whether those challenges come in the form of a 15-year-old headstrong and rebellious teenager, or in the form of an out-of-season hurricane that is bearing down on Peachtree Bluff and threatening to wreck the holidays.

I don’t want to give away any spoilers, so I’m going to keep it brief.  It was just so delightful to be back in this world and with these characters, and I thought the story was the perfect mix of drama and holiday cheer. Between the tension created by the family drama and the suspense regarding the dangerous storm, I was glued to the pages and devoured this book in a day.

I also think Christmas in Peachtree Bluff would work beautifully as a standalone even though it’s technically part of a series. Woodson Harvey gives just enough background detail for each character, that I think the story is quite easy to follow along with even if you haven’t read the first three books.  I do highly recommend those first three books though, especially if you enjoy southern fiction, small town settings, and strong women.

If you’re looking for a heartwarming holiday read that focuses on the importance of family and forgiveness, Christmas in Peachtree Bluff is the book for you.  5 STARS

 

Reviews: CHRISTMAS IN PEACHTREE BLUFF & ALWAYS, IN DECEMBERAlways, in December Goodreads

Author: Emily Stone

Publication Date: October 12, 2021

Publisher:  Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine , Dell

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

Always in December by Emily Stone is a somewhat difficult book to classify.  Even though it does feature two people who are attracted to one another, I wouldn’t necessarily consider it a romance. And in the same vein, even though December and Christmas are both featured in the story, it’s not what I think of when I think of a holiday read.  At its heart, Always in December is a story about love and loss.

The story follows a young woman named Josie whose parents were killed on Christmas night years ago.  Still struggling with such a huge loss, Josie tends to avoid most of the Christmas festivities, only clinging to one holiday tradition.  Every year she writes and mails a letter to her parents, letting them know how much she misses them and still thinks about them everyday.  She has no idea when she ventures out to the post office that she is quite literally going to run into someone who will change her life forever.

Enter Max, the handsome stranger Josie runs over with her bicycle. Like Josie, Max is avoiding the holidays for his own reasons.  We don’t know exactly what is going on with Max when we first meet him, but he definitely seems a bit out of sorts, although Josie wins him over pretty quickly and they decide to spend the holidays together.  It seems to be going splendidly and Josie starts to envision a future for them, but then Max disappears without saying goodbye and her hopes are dashed. That is, until they keep randomly crossing paths over the course of the next year.  It feels like so much more than just coincidence, although Josie can’t understand why Max keeps pulling back from her.  It’s an emotional roller coaster for them both and I found myself frustrated with Max at times, although when we ultimately find out the reason for his reluctance, it’s a truly heartbreaking moment and I cried my eyes out.

I adored both Josie and Max from the first moment we meet each of them.  Josie is so sweet and vulnerable, and it crushed me to think of how lonely she must have been to grow up without her parents.  The loss has clearly shaped her and I was so happy when she and Max seemed to hit it off so well during that first meeting.  I was just as frustrated and heartbroken as Josie when he disappeared and then elated each time they crossed paths again, only to be heartbroken all over again each time they parted ways.  Max was a sweetheart too, although he clearly has some things weighing him down, and those things are in the way of him finding happiness with Josie.

I really loved how the author has Josie and Max’s relationship unfold.  The fleeting happiness, followed by heartbreak and confusion each time they met felt very authentic, and I also loved the idea that they were destined to keep finding each other, to force each of them to be brave,  live in the moment, and embrace love since we never know what the future holds.

Always in December is a quietly beautiful story about how our lives are shaped by love and loss. It’s a poignant story that I won’t soon forget.  4.5 STARS

Review: UNDER THE SOUTHERN SKY by Kristy Woodson Harvey

Review:  UNDER THE SOUTHERN SKY by Kristy Woodson HarveyUnder the Southern Sky by Kristy Woodson Harvey
Also by this author: Feels Like Falling
five-stars
Published by Gallery Books on April 20, 2021
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Women's Fiction
Pages: 400
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

 

 

 

Under the Southern Sky is the fifth novel I’ve read from Kristy Woodson Harvey and it’s my favorite yet.  It’s a story about love, family and childhood friendships rekindled, and it’s also a story about loss and grief and how to move forward when you think your life has fallen apart.

The story follows journalist Amelia Saxton. Amelia is recently separated from her husband after catching him cheating on her and while licking her wounds, she is also researching the biggest story of her writing career, a story about what couples who have gone through IVF choose to do with any leftover embryos.  Amelia discovers that her childhood friend, Parker, and his late wife, Greer, are on the list of those who have abandoned their embryos.  After much consideration, Amelia decides she is obligated to reach out to Parker and make sure he is aware of the abandoned embryos and it is then that Amelia’s hunt for a story takes her on a far more personal journey than she ever anticipated.

I loved both Parker and Amelia and enjoyed watching them reconnect.  They both have some tough choices to make, particularly Parker with respect to those embryos, and they are both dealing with loss and how to move on.  So much of what they go through is heavy and heartbreaking but there are some lighter and more hopeful moments as well.  I found myself rooting for them to build a future together almost right away because they just seemed so well suited to one another.

I don’t want to give anything else about the plot away as the story packs an emotional punch and it’s best to let it unfold as spoiler free as possible, but I will say that as someone who has gone through IVF, everything about this story spoke to me and I thought the author handled this sensitive topic with respect and grace.  Even though Greer is deceased, we still get some chapters from her perspective so we get a feel for what her and Parker’s dreams for a family were before she got sick.

Filled with wonderfully complex characters and poignant moments, and all framed by gorgeous writing, Under the Southern Sky is a story that is sure to tug at your heartstrings and keep you invested from the first to the very last page.  It’s not a light read but it’s one of the most beautiful stories I’ve read this year.

 

five-stars

About Kristy Woodson Harvey

Kristy Woodson Harvey is the bestselling author of DEAR CAROLINA, LIES AND OTHER ACTS OF LOVE, SLIGHTLY SOUTH OF SIMPLE, THE SECRET TO SOUTHERN CHARM and THE SOUTHERN SIDE OF PARADISE. Kristy is the winner of the Lucy Bramlette Patterson Award for Excellence in Creative Writing, a finalist for the Southern Book Prize, her work has been optioned for film and her books have received numerous accolades including:

Southern Living’s Most Anticipated Beach Reads
Southern Living’s Best Spring Break Reads
Southern Independent Bookseller Association’s Okra Pick
Parade’s Big Fiction Reads Every Book Club Will Love
Entertainment Weekly’s Spring Reading Picks
Us Weekly’s Sweet Reads for Right Now
Woman’s WorldBest Books
PopSugar’s Ultimate Summer Reading
USA Today Happy Ever After’s Best Women’s Fiction
New York Live’s “Ashley’s A-List”
Deep South Magazine’s Summer Reading List
Raleigh News & Observer‘s “The Best Reads of Summer”
Charlotte Observer’s “Summer’s Best Books”
Bustle’s Books to Read and Discuss With Your Mom and Grandma
Huffington Post’s Summer Reading: Women’s Fiction Style

She blogs with her mom Beth Woodson on Design Chic about how creating a beautiful home can be the catalyst for creating a beautiful life. Design Chic is the inaugural member of the design blogger hall of fame, sponsored by Traditional Home, and winner of Amara’s Best Luxury Blog, as chosen by Roberto Cavalli. She also loves connecting with readers on kristywoodsonharvey.com.

Harvey is a Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s school of journalism and holds a master’s in English from East Carolina University, with a concentration in multicultural and transnational literature. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications and websites, including Southern Living, Traditional Home, Parade, USA Today, Domino, Our State and O. Henry. She has been seen in Today.com, Women’s Health,The Washington Post, US News and World Report, The Huffington Post,Marie Claire’s The Fix, Woman’s World, Readers’ Digest, Bustle, New York Live and North Carolina Bookwatch, among others.

She is a proud member of the Tall Poppy Writers, serves on the board of Beaufort Historical Association, and is a member of the University of North Carolina’s Women’s Leadership Council. She is a frequent speaker at fundraisers, book conferences and private events. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and seven-year-old son where she is working on her next novel.