Excited about Reading: Now & Forever by Mary Connealy

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The Cover Story ~

Saddle up for romance and adventure with the Wilde sisters!

Shannon Wilde is the middle sister–and the one who loves animals. She’s established her own homestead and is raising sheep for their wool. Things are going fine…until Shannon gets swept over a cliff by Matthew Tucker!

Tucker seizes every opportunity to get away from civilization, but one particular walk in the woods ends with him sprinting away from an angry grizzly and plunging into a raging river, accidentally taking Shannon Wilde with him. Their adventure in the wilderness results in the solitary mountain man finding himself hitched to a young woman with a passel of relatives, a homestead, and a flock of sheep to care for.

As Tucker and Shannon learn to live with each other, strange things begin to happen on Shannon’s land. Someone clearly wants to drive her off, but whoever it is apparently didn’t count on Tucker. Trying to scare Matthew Tucker just makes him mad–and trying to hurt the woman he’s falling in love with sets off something even he never expected. 

Sharing my takeaway ~
I just love Connealy’s kick-em-in-the-teeth, explosive, laugh-out-loud openings scenes! They never fail to yank me right into the story. By the end of the first chapter, my palms are sweaty and hubby’s asking what is so funny. Now & Forever was no different.  

Circumstances led Shannon and Tucker to an abrupt wedding shortly into the book, but the romance didn’t stop there. No, it progressed until the very last page, sweet, funny and oh-so-tender. There was never any doubt about their love for each other. They had plenty of obstacles, though, to keep me turning pages.

Nightmares plague Shannon and at one point she questions where God was during the war. Tucker’s faith is steadfast and sure, and I like how he responded without judgment, by suggesting that she bring her doubts to God and not to hide them, that God’s big enough to handle our doubts.

I thought Tried & True, the first book in the Wild at Heart series featuring Kylie and Aaron, might’ve been my favorite Connealy book, but I was wrong. Now & Forever took its place, but that seems to happen with every one of her books. Both books can be read as stand alone, but trust me and just start with the first one. You won’t be sorry! Contemporary and historical romance readers alike will enjoy Now & Forever. Set aside a few hours to read it, though, because you won’t be able to put it down! 

Disclaimer: Sending a big thanks to NetGalley and Baker Publishing Group/Bethany House Publishers for the privilege of reviewing Now & Forever. I was provided a free copy of the book in exchange for my fair and unbiased review.

A Mysterious Benefactor … A Secret Guardian by Sandra Ardoin

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Dora here. Over the last few years, I have been blessed with many writing friends, but few so dear as Sandra Ardoin. Sandy and I connected initially through ACFW, and when we realized we lived just a few miles from each other, decided to get together. Since then, we’ve scaled the writing mountains and wandered through the valleys of publishing while we share our writing and personal journeys over lattes. Today, I’m beyond thrilled to share that Sandy’s debut novella, The Yuletide Angel, releases on October 15 with Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Congratulations, Sandy!! 

About The Yuletide Angel

It’s Christmastime in 1890s Meadowmead, and someone is venturing out at night to leave packages at the homes of the needy. Dubbed The Yuletide Angel, no one knows the identity of this mysterious benefactor. 

No one, except Hugh Barnes, a confirmed bachelor who finds himself drawn to the outwardly shy but inwardly bold Violet Madison, a young woman who risks her safety to help others. 

When Violet confesses her fear of eviction from her childhood home, Hugh longs to rescue her. His good intentions are thwarted, however, when Hugh’s estranged brother shows up in town … and in Violet’s company. 

But Violet faces an even bigger threat. A phantom figure lurks in the shadows, prepared to clip the wings of The Yuletide Angel.

Please join me in welcoming my dear friend, Sandy:

I’d like to introduce you to a charming couple—the hero and heroine in my Christmas novella The Yuletide Angel. As I interview them, Hugh Barnes and Violet Madison are sitting shoulder-to-shoulder on the sofa in the formal parlor belonging to Violet’s recently-married brother. The air is filled with the sweet scents of sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Mmmm…. Please don’t be surprised if this interview is a short one.

Hugh, what was your first thought when you discovered the identity of The Yuletide Angel? Violet turns to him. Her head is tilted at a slight angle, as if she’s eager to hear the answer, too.

Frankly, I was stunned to see my shy neighbor, a woman I’ve spent months trying to get to know, trotting across town in the dark while toting small flour sacks. Of course, it piqued my curiosity to learn just what she was up to. When I saw her leave the first sack at the home of someone I knew to be in need, I realized the truth. At first I thought her a beautiful woman. Then reality chilled my pleasure. She was quite the reckless woman, and I feared for her safety.

Violet pulls a handkerchief from the pocket of her dress and balls it in a fist. Hugh reaches for the hand with the handkerchief. His thumb caresses the back of it. Encouragement? A silent apology for calling her reckless?

So you decided to follow her. Why?

Hugh: To protect her, of course.

Violet: She shivers and ducks her chin. I’d rather not discuss the frightening part of the story, Hugh.

Violet, how do you feel about having had a secret guardian?

Amazed. The men in my family have protected me in one way or another my whole life—first my father, then my brother. I suppose it was a good and honorable thing, but a bit smothering. Hugh’s protection was different. He allowed me more freedom.

When did you first realize you were meant to be together? They turn adoring eyes on one another. Really, friends, the look is as sweet as the icing topping one of Violet’s desserts.

Violet: I fell in love with him soon after I met him, but never believed he would look at a plain woman like me a second time.

Hugh: She was wrong. I looked and kept looking. And she’s not plain. She’s my beautiful Violet. He kisses her cheek. Once I realized the goodness of her heart, I knew she was to be mine.

So what’s next for the two of you?

Violet: A spring wedding, then—

Hugh: We’ll sail off on the adventure of our lives.

They look at each other and laugh. Must be an inside joke. I drop my pen and notepad on the nearest table.

Well, no one is leaving before I sample a large slice of Violet’s apple cake!

Sandra Ardoin

Sandra Ardoin is a multi-published author of short fiction. A fan of old westerns growing up, it’s only natural that she sets stories in the days of the horse and buggy. Her Christmas novella The Yuletide Angel is available on Amazon.com.

She’s the married mother of a young adult and lives in North Carolina. Learn more about her at www.sandraardoin.com and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Click the link and sign up for Sandy’s newsletter to receive Violet’s Apple Cake recipe, along with news and other tidbits. Enter The Yuletide Angel Facebook Launch giveaway. http://tinyurl.com/kyk2cdm

On My Kindle ~ His Most Suitable Bride by Renee Ryan

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About the book~
No one in Denver knows how close Callie Mitchell once came to ruin. Dowdy dresses and severe hairstyles hide evidence of the pretty, trusting girl she used to be. Now her matchmaking employer wants Callie to help find a wife for the one man who sees through her careful facade. 

For his business’s sake, Reese Bennett Jr. plans on making a sensible marriage. Preferably one without the unpredictable emotions that spring to life around Callie. Yet no matter how many candidates she presents to Reese, none compare with the vibrant, intelligent woman who is right under his nose—and quickly invading his heart. 

Sharing my thoughts~
When attorney Reese Bennett Jr.’s client and perpetual matchmaker points out that his law firm would suffer from his continued bachelor status and offers to help find him a suitable bride, he decides to allow her. But when Mrs. Singletary suddenly claims she’s too busy and turns that task over to her companion, Callie Mitchell, his ex-fiance’s sister, he debates withdrawing his permission. 

Docile one moment, bold the next. Plain one day, jaw-droppingly beautiful the next. Boring. Then exciting. Demure and shy. Then confident and determined. Who is Callie Mitchell and why is she hiding under dull shapeless clothes? Intrigued, Reece determines to find out, and accepts Callie’s offer to help him with his bride search.

Callie Mitchell refuses to forgive her past indiscretion over a man and believes that if she dresses plainly, no man will show interest and therefore she couldn’t repeat the mistake. But when gentle, handsome Reece looks past the dowdy dresses and begins to unravel the real Callie, her facade cracks. Her past did not have to define her future. She was a child of God, forgiven and loved…She could either spend the rest of her life feeling shame over her lapse in good judgment, or accept the Lord’s mercy. The past was the past. The future, hers for the taking.

While His Most Suitable Bride was an enjoyable read, I really appreciated the underlying theme of letting go of our past. I struggle with this myself, so I could relate to both Callie and Reese, and understood how their attitudes affected their decisions and relationships. Little gems like this were sprinkled throughout the book:

“Today is a new day, meant to be lived under grace.” ~Pastor Beau

“One must never focus on the ending when the story has yet to fully begin.” ~Mrs. Singletary

Whether you’re looking for a book to curl up with for a long evening, during a carpool line, or to take on vacation, you’ll want to include His Most Suitable Bride!

Disclaimer: Sending a big thank you to Harlequin Love Inspired Historical and NetGalley for allowing me the privilege of reviewing His Most Suitable Bride and for the free copy I received in exchange for my fair and unbiased review. This opinion is my own, and I received no compensation.