Saturday, November 30, 2013

Saturday Review: Two Heartwarming Holiday Tales from Harlequin

A Cold Creek Christmas Surprise
By RaeAnne Thayne
Harlequin (Special Edition)
Release Date: 
November 19, 2013

The day after his only sister’s wedding to veterinarian Ben Caldwell, Ridge, the eldest Bowman sibling, is left with the detritus of the wedding and the empty space, literal and figurative, in his life now that Caidy will be living with her new husband and his two children. Ridge knows that he and his eleven-year-old daughter, Destry, will adjust. Perhaps he has depended on Caidy too much all these years since he was left alone with a baby to rear and Caidy stepped in to help. Eating wedding reception leftovers for breakfast certainly makes him realize how much he will miss the pancakes, bacon, and hash browns that Caidy cooked in the mornings. But he has too much work to do to get caught up in reflection. If only the clean-up crew he hired would show up to do their job, he could get started on his job. When the crew of one does arrive, however, the sight of her sparks an attraction that sends Ridge running scared.

First-grade teacher Sarah Whitmore is not happy about her journey to the Bowman ranch, but she has something that belongs to the Bowman family, one of their mother’s paintings, a particularly treasured one It’s not Sarah’s fault that Ridge Bowman jumps to the conclusion that she is employed by the cleaning company Caidy has hired, and he doesn’t really give Sarah an opportunity to explain before he disappears. Still, she didn’t have to start cleaning. If she hadn’t, she would not have tripped on the stairs and ended up with a concussion and a broken arm. Then Ridge would not have insisted that she recuperate at the ranch, and Sarah would never have fallen in love with Ridge, with his daughter, and with ranch life and the whole Bowman family and the Pine Gulch community. Ridge and his world offer everything Sarah has ever wanted, but the secret she is keeping means that she can never really belong in this world. Perhaps she can have Christmas, but only if she hides the truth a little longer.

A Cold Creek Christmas Surprise is book 12 in RaeAnne Thayne’s Cowboys of Cold Creek series that was introduced in April 2006. It also marks the conclusion of the four Bowman siblings’ stories (following Christmas in Cold Creek, A Cold Creek Reunion, and A Cold Creek Noel) and provides the resolution to the mystery of their parents’ murder. Fans of the series will be happy to see Ridge finally get his HEA—even if it does come with complications. For those new to the series, Thayne provides ample details to follow Sarah and Ridge’s story. And these two wounded, great-hearted people deserve happiness. It’s easy to root for them to overcome the one barrier that could keep them apart. This shorter tale lacks the substance of Thayne’s single titles, but it is a sweet, cozy Christmas read nonetheless.

Sugarplum Homecoming
By Linda Goodnight
Harlequin (Love Inspired)
Release Date: 
November 19, 2013

Paige Turner, almost ten, and her eight-year-old brother Nathan know the legend of their hometown Whisper Falls, Arkansas: prayers whispered behind the falls are always answered. They have a really important request of God, so when their widower dad falls asleep on a family picnic, they take the challenging climb to the special spot and ask God to send them a new mom, one with brown hair like their first mom, and preferably by Christmas.

Lana Ross left Whisper Falls, back when the town was still Millersville and before the legend brought a name change and crowds of tourists. An eighteen-year-old party girl the small town expected to come to a bad end, she had dreams of hitting it big as a country singer and headed for Nashville as soon as she could legally leave home. Thirteen years later, she has returned to the house where she and her twin sister Tess grew up, a house haunted by memories darker than the haunted house tales the local kids tell to frighten themselves. The house her mother left to Lana and Tess is one of the reasons Lana has returned. Owning the house gives her a head start on giving nine-year-old Sydney the stable life she needs and deserves.

But memories are long in small towns. Lana knows that God has forgiven her mistakes, but she also knows human creatures are not so merciful. Some people don’t believe in second chances, and Lana has secrets to protect. Davis Turner proves himself a good neighbor, but Lana’s fears, Davis’s pride, and the relentless prejudices of some Whisper Falls residents threaten the new relationship that is developing between the two. Lana and Davis both must discover that God is bigger than all their fears and flaws before they can claim the happiness waiting for them

This is a tender story, the third in Goodnight’s Whisper Fall series, all of which center on the theme of a new life after an old one filled with bad choices. It is a Love Inspired book, so the Christian faith of the characters is central to their experience and to the story. But the story of a woman who turns her life around and the “Mr. Upright and Righteous” who discovers how far short he falls of his own standards is one that will touch hearts of readers regardless of whether they share that faith. The three kids are endearing without being unbearably cute and precocious, and the town is a believable mix of good people, small-minded people, and people who are a contradictory mix of the admirable and the deplorable.

I think have two more holiday reviews to write for this year. What is your favorite Christmas book of 2013?


irisheyes said...

So far, it's Brenda Novak's TAKE ME HOME FOR CHRISTMAS. I like Ted and Sophia's story. I still haven't read RaeAnne Thayne's CHRISTMAS IN SNOWFLAKE CANYON, though. I expect to like that one too. :)

I'm in the middle of an old Janice Kay Johnson Christmas story, WHAT SHE WANTS FOR CHRISTMAS. It's good but I'm not loving it like I'm used to with her books. I read THE CHRISTMAS WEDDING QUILT anthology and enjoyed that one a lot.

Janga said...

Irish, Christmas in Snowflake Canyon is one of my favorites in the Hope's Crossing series, and I loved The Christmas Quilt. I think Emilie Richards and JKJ are a good pairing. I noticed that Harlequin is pairing them again in spring 2014 when they reissue Richards's The Trouble with Joe, an extraordinary story, with an unnamed JKJ book.