Hang Your Heart on Christmas

It may not be Christmas anymore, but New Jersey is still completely freezing, meaning that books with a winter feel get first dibs on my list. This lovely Friday, I have the sweet audiobook Hang Your Heart on Christmas, written by Heather Blanton, Narrated by Meghan Kelly.

Genre: Sweet Western Romance

Heat Level: ❤️

Story Rating: 5/6 Glass Slippers

Narration Rating: 6/6 Glass Slippers

Dent wasn’t always a stone cold killer. Granted, a steady shot and a way with a noose has made him one of the best US Marshall’s in the west, but with each dead outlaw, he loses more of himself. And until he finds the man who killed his father so many years before, he won’t hand in his badge or hang up his guns.

Amy just moved to Evergreen, Wyoming to be the sleepy town’s new school teacher. She fled her home for her new post with a few scars that left her scared of men, the dark, and the unknown. She was promised the quiet life, and intends to heal with the help of her adorable students and a new place.

They’re so different, they immediately butt heads. Any thinks Dent is surly and abrasive. Dent thinks Amy is dull and too bookish. But you know what they say about opposites attracting. And when the towns new mayor and a mystery from the past invades Evergreen, the marshall and the teacher might have to join forces.

I thought this book was adorable. The romance was sweet with a nice, slow burn that really built up over time. It allowed me to get invested in Dent and Amy as characters without the “insta-love” some stories have. They had their own identities outside of the romance, which I loved. It wasn’t just a man and a woman, it was two individuals with complicated feelings and pasts that weren’t just slapped on a page.

The action in the book, which I won’t go into so I don’t spoil anything, also added a nice layer. Sometimes with sweet romances, it’s easy for me to get bored. But with murder, crime, and mysteries to keep things spicy, I was fully invested. The one thing I felt was missing, was the Christmas. They were carving pumpkins, not decorating for the holidays, so I would have liked to see more Christmas from a book with it in its title.

Finally, how is it that Meghan Kelly seems to get more talented with every book? Really, I was impressed with the first, but it’s like she keeps surprising me with the range of her voice. I think by the next one, I’ll be able to identify each character by tone alone! Between the light accents and the inflections unique to each character, she does a lovely job.

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The Billionaire’s Cure

Around the holidays, I like to listen to audiobooks while cooking, cleaning, baking, and wrapping. But when grandma’s there, or a great uncle, or other relatives are visiting, I can’t dip into my usual romance audiobook list without headphones. But when I find a sweet book that’s rated no higher than PG on the steam scale, I’m happy to share with grandma. Enter The Billionaire’s Cure by Penelope Spark, narrated by Meghan Kelly.

Heat Level: ❤️

Genre: Sweet Romance

Overall Rating: 5/6 Glass Slippers

Chad has always been a hard worker, a rigid businessman, and someone who could only relax with a drink in his hand. It paid off with billions in the bank, but he’s not the picture of health. His mentor ships him off to a retreat that’s more of a hippie commune in Chad’s eyes with all raw food, no cellphones, and more horrifically, no coffee. He’s less than into yoga and therapy, but he’s trapped without a car and no escape. But when he meets Heidi, he thinks he might just tough it out.

Heidi is the health coach at the retreat, knowing what herbs can get rid of a headache, and what the best yoga poses are for a strained back. Usually new clients are less than thrilled about the raw vegan diets and the hours of peace and quiet, but Chad takes it to a new level and she thinks he’s a bit of a spoiled brat. But Heidi never met a client she couldn’t crack.

Chad and Heidi strike up a loose friendship where both dance around how different their lives are. Then a new client from Chad’s area comes to stay and things get wildly complicated for a place that highlights relaxation on their brochure. With an end date in sight and lies between them, it’ll take more than a therapy appointment and some yoga to fix their mess.

Story wise, it was a cute book with a location unlike any other I had read. Personally, I don’t think I could survive without coffee and the internet, but if Chad could, I guess I could as well. Both Chad and Heidi were flawed in a human way that made them a bit annoying at times, but that often only served to make them seem more real, in some aspects.

As I listened, I was desperate for them to just come clean to each other. But annoyance of two peoples romantic ignorance is often the mark of a good book. If you aren’t a little torn or or anxious or angry or sad, is it really a book worth reading?

As with every other Meghan Kelly narration I’ve had the pleasure of listening to, The Billionaire’s Cure was a lovely book to spend time with. Each character had a unique tone that gave them all a voice without coming across as too much. With some audiobooks, over-narration can really take away from the story as the speaker tries too hard. But Kelly never over does it, merely adds to the story, just as a a narrator should.

A Cowboy Under My Christmas Tree

Who here is feeling the holiday spirit? I know I am…as is my bank account after fighting all the rest of the suburban moms for the last Hatchimal…whatever that is. So it’s nice to wind down at the end of the day with something to fill you with some Christmas joy. My first holiday read was A Cowboy Under My Christmas Tree by Janet Dailey.

Heat level:♥

Genre: Sweet Wester Christmas Romance

Overall Rating:5/6 Glass Slippers

Colorado rancher Sam has come to New York City to deliver a bunch of the finest Christmas trees to ever grace the big apple. With his Stetson on his head, he takes on the city and experiences all he can before he has to go back to the family farm at the end of the season. But he thinks he might want to stay in the city a bit longer when he meets Nicole.

Nicole has the brisk ways and fast fast talking nature needed in her line of work–designing and managing renovations. When a workplace accident leaves her one man short, Sam ends in being perfect for the job. He’s got that old school charm she can’t help but admire and his honest ways melt her heart. But there’s a sadness in her life she can’t quite shake, no matter how hard Sam tries to help her.

Janet Dailey is one of those romance authors that always promises a sweet read, and she didn’t disappoint with this book. While Sam spent money like it was his job, while constantly saying he was in NYC to boost his bank account, he was charming and adorably “American” in that rustic way that made you long for your own Christmas cowboy. It took me a bit longer to warm up to Nicole, but when you hear about her past, you begin to understand her struggle. The book was clean, but I wasn’t missing the sex, since the romance was so satisfying. Overall, the book was cute, fun, and perfect for reading beside your tree.

How to be a Mermaid

This afternoon I have a squeaky clean romance with some adorable fantasy elements. Yes, this is a book that’s safe for the youngest of preteens to the oldest of grandmas who like their romances just as sweet as their cookies. So let’s dive in to How to be a Mermaid by Erin Hayes.

Heat Level:♥

Genre: Fantasy Coming of Age Romance

Overall Rating: 6/6 Glass Slippers

Young Tara, fresh out of high school on her gap year, is much like many of us. That is, she’s always wanted to be a mermaid. But since she knows her secret dream is unobtainable, she takes a job as a traveling mermaid in an aquarium show. With the help of a breathing tube and a pull-on tail, she delights children all over America. But things get weird when she things she hears one little dolphin talking.

She thinks she’s lost her mind until she sees a man with a tail climbing out of the ocean. She ends up so startled, she takes a nasty fall on some rocks. Luckily, the merman takes her to his sea witch aunt who knows just the spell to fix her up. When Tara wakes up to find herself breathing water, being able to talk to fish, and halfway to a great adventure with the merman named Finn, she’s about to get more that she bargained for during her summer vacation.

Sure, I usually read some sizzling hot books where the men are ripped, the women are swooning, and there’s more sex than you can shake a stick at, but sometimes it’s nice to just read something sweet. When I say this book is clean, I really mean that there’s not even any hint of sex. It’s just a cute little book where a girl finds herself, solves a crime, and meets a man. Really a story for romance lovers of all ages who want a break from the whips and chains. I know I needed it. It’s also part of a greater series called The Cotton Candy Quintet, so maybe I’ll head back that way the next time I need a breath of clean air.

Peace in the Storm

Peace in the Storm is a second chance romance novel from an author named Seven Steps.

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Heat Level: ♥

Overall Rating: 3/6 Glass Slippers

Genre: Wholesome Interracial Romance

The book opens with Lisa turning down a marriage proposal from Henry before their family and friends. On paper, Henry is the bees knees; handsome, well-off, caring, supportive, everything you would want in a life partner. Except, Lisa isn’t in love with him. She’s still nursing the emotional wounds infliction upon her by her ex husband, Chase. In an effort to regain her happiness, Lisa goes on  vacation to Jamaica with her best friend Trish, hoping it will erase the pain of past few years of her life. Chase has been forced on vacation to Jamaica, something that the business mogul despises. But he thinks that his trip might get a bit more interesting when his ex wife Lisa walks into his life again and they’re forced to work together in order to save their lives. Talk about an awkward vacation.

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I wanted to enjoy this book, and I mostly did, but there were just too many issues. First of all, Lisa is hugely successful in her personal life and has pushed away two attractive, rich, and caring men away for seemingly little reason. Her negative attitude made me wonder what these men saw in her personality. But, maybe disliking her is what makes it a “real” romance. However, the read was quick and the storyline largely very enjoyable.

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Kissed by a Cowboy

Let’s get some good old fashioned western romance in the mix! Today we have Kissed by a Cowboy, the first book in the eight part series titled Heart of Oklahoma by Lacy Williams.

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Heat Level: ♥

Overall Rating: 4/6 Glass Slippers

Genre: Contemporary Christian Romance

Haley Carson comes back to her small hometown in Oklahoma in order to tae care of her dying aunt. A chance meeting with a little girl named Olivia brings Maddox Michaels back into her life. Maddox was Haley’s high school best friend’s older brother, and hewas on the fast track to a pro football career. But life often has different plans and he ended up back in Oklahoma to care for his family. Haley always held a bit of a candle for the tall cowboy, and the spark was reciprocated, although neither of them would truly admit it before. Now it seems that they might have a second shot at exploring a possible romance, but life is messy and family obligations can get in the way.

I don’t believe I’ve ever read a christian romance before, but I went in with an open mind, looking forward to reading a book focused on budding love, rather than lust. While the sweet story was lovely, I was left wanting more. More romance, more dialogue, more…something. Now, that something wasn’t sex, but depth into the characters and their motivations. The info dumping and choppy sentences also left me feeling irked, but I often try to ignore those for the sake of the story as a whole. Still, if you like squeaky clean love in a novella form, pick up a copy of Kissed by a Cowboy.

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