Review 5 star
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Miracle on Aisle Two is a light-hearted, feel-good Christmas novella. Author Beth Carter writes a about a surprise romance between a struggling single mom and a wealthy architect with a spirit of generosity. Adam Donovan grew up poor before he became successful and when he spots a desperate single mother failing to recover layaway toys in Target because she’s just lost her job, he offers to pay for everything. Madison is suspicious of him, but one date leads to another date, a tour of the amazing hotel he’s renovated, and an introduction to her whip-smart, cute little daughter Betsy. Adam is finding his way into Madison’s life and he seems too good to be true. But does he have a connection to the bitter divorce that put Madison’s dentist employer out of business and ruined her life?
What a perfect story for Christmas! Much like Madison falls for earnest, slightly goofy Adam, I found myself delighted by Miracle on Aisle Two’s encouraging tone that sometimes good things really do happen to people. There are miracles, surprises, and a touch of Santa-for-grownups in the world, giving the mature presents of friendliness, caring, and making things right. Madison is a practical person who struggles to accept a sudden turn for the better, with an endearing klutziness in the face of so many changes crowding into her life. I saw a lot of myself in her and I think most women would find Beth Carter’s book a pleasant and surprisingly vivid read about the strength and caring that the holiday season brings out in people. A nice supporting cast of a loyal friend, a distraught dentist, and a much-loved but hard to manage child round out this cozy little novella that has a warm and fuzzy twist at the end.
Review 5 star
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A Holiday by Gaslight: A Victorian Christmas Novella by Mimi Matthews is a short historical romance set in England during the 1860s. For Sophie Appersett, the daughter of an established, but almost bankrupt baronet, life isn’t easy in this time of tremendous change. After her father spends her dowry on an expensive installation of gasworks in their lovely country estate, Appersett House, her family plans to marry off responsible, selfless Sophie to some rich, but despised tradesman like Ned Sharpe. Her spoiled sister Emily still has a dowry and hopes to compete socially—but Sophie must think of the family first. She doesn’t know serious, distant Mr. Sharpe at all and is afraid they can’t love each other. But when she invites him to a Christmas party at Appersett House, the days hold plenty of surprises for everyone—and not least for Sophie herself.
A Holiday by Gaslight is a real delight. Completely satisfying as a graceful love story, it also doubles as a family drama, and an authentic presentation of the 1860s that reads with the simplicity and visual gusto of a period movie. Even though the small space of the book will leave avid period fans wanting much more, Mimi Matthews puts a lot of storyline into it. It’s a sweet tale filled with believable characters and fleshed out far beyond the two central leads—likable as they are. Stern, proud Ned Sharpe did indeed remind me of Mr. Thornton from North and South, but he’s a wholly distinct character as well, and Sophie was attractive and genuine as his opposite. Sophie’s hysterical father, in denial about how his actions impact his family; her cunning, dignified mother and immature sister; the guests at the Christmas ball; the sets of London and the countryside—everything was developed really well and the dialogue deserves praise all on its own. Fun to read and fun to read again, this book is one of my favorites now.
Review 4 star
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Heiress to Waitress by Ginny Clyde is the first in the YA romance series Bramble Wood’s Royal Tea Shop. Olivia, a teenage girl born to privilege in Scotland, loses everything and is forced to move to a humble Pennsylvania small town with her outcast mother and younger brother, James. Everything is difficult for a girl adjusting not only to a new income, a new school, and a new country—but to a new feeling of fear and helplessness. Olivia strikes up friendships, wins hearts with her musical talent, and finds work in a signature little tea shop run by the quirky Bramble Wood. But the story is only beginning, as mystery and discomfort loom around a strange, popular boy who seems instantly obsessed with Olivia.
Heiress to Waitress was all-around captivating. A delightful story defined by perfect pacing and stellar writing, and threaded with believable, subtly well-rounded characters both young and old. In a spot-on telling of the classic story of finding adventure by falling on hard times, Ginny Clyde's Olivia receives a reversal of fortune and handles it in an entirely lovable way. Loyal, plucky, and determined, she’s as likable as the enchanting small town of Knightswood that she now calls home. Ryan is a compelling foil, appealing and suspect at the same time, with a slightly weird quality that leaves the book on an ambivalent, intriguing cliffhanger. A lovely beginning to a promising series, Heiress to Waitress quietly builds a sincere and accessible world and populates it with a good set of characters. For readers looking for something light-hearted and sweet, this is the perfect cup of—tea!
This is the companion for Sarah Scheele's newsletter blog. In it I share reviews for books I'd recommend/are similar to my own.