Virgin River by Robyn Carr
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Publication Date: April 1, 2007
What’s it about:
Wanted: Midwife/nurse practitioner in Virgin River, population six hundred. Make a difference against the backdrop of towering California redwoods and crystal-clear rivers. Rent-free cabin included.
When the recently widowed Melinda Monroe sees this ad she quickly decides that the remote mountain town of Virgin River might be the perfect place to escape her heartache, and to reenergize the nursing career she loves. But her high hopes are dashed within an hour of arriving: the cabin is a dump, the roads are treacherous and the local doctor wants nothing to do with her. Realizing she’s made a huge mistake, Mel decides to leave town the following morning.
But a tiny baby, abandoned on a front porch, changes her plans…and a former marine cements them into place.
Melinda Monroe may have come to Virgin River looking for escape, but instead she finds her home.
Rachel’s Thoughts: I could list many of Robyn Carr’s novels as favourites, but I’m going to go for this one as it’s the book that got me hooked on contemporary romances. I kept seeing Virgin River mentioned by different friends on GoodReads, and finally I became intrigued enough (even though it was out of my usual comfort zone) to pick it up when I got a good eBook deal. I’m glad I succumbed to the pressure! This book ticked all the right boxes for me: small-town setting, heroine is a total fish out of water, some humorous situations, quirky secondary characters, midwifery stories, and perfectly imperfect hero and heroine with a ton of baggage and backstory. Plus, it’s the start of a twenty-book series! So you can revisit these characters over and over, and see how their lives change and meet new additions to their families. For me, the appeal of Robyn Carr’s novels isn’t just the romance, but the strong community presence. Maybe it’s a bit too idyllic, but I still love it!
Angel’s Rest by Emily March
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: January 1, 2011
What’s it about:
Welcome to Eternity Springs, a little piece of heaven in the Colorado Rockies.
Gabriel Callahan has lost everything that mattered. All he wants is solitude on an isolated mountain estate. Instead, he gets a neighbor. Vibrant, no-nonsense Nic Sullivan is Eternity Springs’ veterinarian, and she has an uncanny plan to lure this talented architect back to the world of the living. First with a dog, next with a renovation project, and, finally, with a night of passion that ends with a surprise.
Now a man still raw from tragedy must face the biggest struggle of his heart. Can he forgive himself and believe in the power of second chances? Dare he trust in the promise of a future and a brand-new family here in Eternity Springs?
Rachel’s Thoughts: Angel’s Rest isn’t technically my favourite book in Emily March’s Eternity Springs series, but I don’t think I would have appreciated the later books had I not started with this one. This series has its ups and downs, but even if I read a book where I’m not totally enamoured with the hero or heroine, I keep coming back so that I can visit the town! I think it was the town and the community that got me hooked, and kept me reading until I truly fell in love with the characters. Angel’s Rest and the novels that follow are the ultimate feel-good reads, and given that this is a mainstream series, I’m continually impressed with the subtle spirituality present in it. I feel like this is a great crossover romance for those who are used to reading Christian novels and want to dip their toes into the general market.
There You’ll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: October 3, 2011
What’s it about:
Grief brought Finley to Ireland. Love will lead her home.
Finley Sinclair is not your typical eighteen-year-old. She’s witty, tough, and driven. With an upcoming interview at the Manhattan music conservatory, Finley needs to compose her audition piece. But her creativity disappeared with the death of her older brother, Will.
She decides to study abroad in Ireland so she can follow Will s travel journal. It’s the place he felt closest to God, and she’s hopeful being there will help her make peace over losing him. So she agrees to an exchange program and boards the plane.
Beckett Rush, teen heartthrob and Hollywood bad boy, is flying to Ireland to finish filming his latest vampire movie. On the flight, he meets Finley. She’s the one girl who seems immune to his charm. Undeterred, Beckett convinces her to be his assistant in exchange for his help as a tour guide.
Once in Ireland, Finley starts to break down. The loss of her brother and the pressure of school, her audition, and whatever it is that is happening between her and Beckett, leads her to a new and dangerous vice. When is God going to show up for her in this emerald paradise?
Then she experiences something that radically changes her perspective on life. Could it be God convincing her that everything she s been looking for has been with her all along?
Beth’s Thoughts: In There You’ll Find Me, Jenny takes a somewhat implausible story line and creates something genuine and moving. I was kind of expecting another “teen” book with some extra fluff thrown in for good measure, but there was so much more in Finley’s story. This story made me laugh, brought tears to my eyes and made me breathe a sigh of contentment upon turning that last page.
The Best Man by Kristan Higgins
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Publication Date: February 26, 2013
What’s it about:
Sometimes The Best Man Is The One You Least Expect…
Faith Holland left her hometown after being jilted at the altar. Now a little older and wiser, she’s ready to return to the Blue Heron Winery, her family’s vineyard, to confront the ghosts of her past, and maybe enjoy a glass of red. After all, there’s some great scenery there….
Like Levi Cooper, the local police chief – and best friend of her former fiancé. There’s a lot about Levi that Faith never noticed, and it’s not just those deep green eyes. The only catch is she’s having a hard time forgetting that he helped ruin her wedding all those years ago. If she can find a minute amidst all her family drama to stop and smell the rosé, she just might find a reason to stay at Blue Heron, and finish that walk down the aisle.
Rachel’s Thoughts: This was another impulse buy when it was on sale, and yet again, I’m glad that I took the plunge and tried a new author. As with Robyn Carr, Kristan Higgins is an author that I kept hearing about, even when I was still thoroughly entrenched in the worlds of Amish and Historical Romance. The Best Man is the first book of hers that I read, but since then I’ve devoured most of her back catalogue. I’d still recommend The Best Man to newbies, and not just for sentimental reasons. This book had me giggling away one minute, and dabbing my eyes the next. It has the perfect blend of laugh-out-loud humour, swooning romance, small town ridiculousness, close family craziness, and genuinely touching moments. Several of Kristan Higgins’ novels are on my Favourites list, but I still think that this is one of her best books to date.
Carrie’s Thoughts: This was the first book I read by Kristan Higgins & remains my very favorite. The situations in which Faith finds herself (the climbing out of the bathroom scene!), combined with her crazy family (Pru!), keep me in fits of giggles throughout the book. But then there are also – frequently – moments that get me right in the heart, clog my throat, and stream down my face. Let’s also not forget the times I had to fan myself with the book because … Levi. Overall, I love the emphasis on family and friends in the Blue Heron series, on loving each other despite our quirks and our flaws and our antics. This is a book I pull out and reread often!
Five Days in Skye by Carla Laureano
Publisher: David C. Cook
Publication Date: June 10, 2013
What’s it about:
Hospitality consultant Andrea Sullivan has one last chance to snag a high-profile client or she’ll have to kiss her dreams of promotion good-bye. When she’s sent to meet Scottish celebrity chef James MacDonald on the Isle of Skye, she just wants to finish her work as efficiently as possible. Yet her client is not the opportunistic womanizer he portrays himself to be, and her attraction to him soon dredges up memories she’d rather leave buried. For James, renovating the family hotel is a fulfillment of his late father’s dreams. When his hired consultant turns out to be beautiful, intelligent, and completely unimpressed by his public persona, he makes it his mission to win her over. He just never expects to fall under her spell.
Soon, both Andrea and James must face the reality that God may have a far different purpose for their lives—and that five days in Skye will forever change their outlook on life and love.
Carrie’s Thoughts: All I really need to say about this book is “James” and it would describe why I love it so much. I mean, just in the first few pages of the book, he’s already winking and grinning and playful and SMOLDERING. James with Andrea? Spot-on. One of the most beautiful things about Five Days in Skye is the opportunity to watch Andrea relax and unfold like a cocooned butterfly with each moment she spends in James’ presence, though it’s not an easily-won metamorphosis. Carla Laureano’s ability to create such dimensional characters, including her swoonishly delicious heroes, is perfectly showcased in this debut novel.
Dear Mr Knightley by Katherine Reay
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: November 12, 2013
What’s it about:
Samantha Moore survived years of darkness in the foster care system by hiding behind her favorite characters in literature, even adopting their very words. Her fictional friends give her an identity, albeit a borrowed one. But most importantly, they protect her from revealing her true self and encountering more pain.
After college, Samantha receives an extraordinary opportunity. The anonymous “Mr. Knightley” offers her a full scholarship to earn her graduate degree at the prestigious Medill School of Journalism. The sole condition is that Sam write to Mr. Knightley regularly to keep him apprised of her progress.
As Sam’s true identity begins to reveal itself through her letters, her heart begins to soften to those around her—a damaged teenager and fellow inhabitant of Grace House, her classmates at Medill, and, most powerfully, successful novelist Alex Powell. But just as Sam finally begins to trust, she learns that Alex has secrets of his own—secrets that, for better or for worse, make it impossible for Sam to hide behind either her characters or her letters.
Beth’s Thoughts: I love stories that are epistolary – for some reason books written as letters have always been a huge draw for me as a reader. Katherine created such a relatable character in Sam, the first-person narration is excellent and the references to classic literature had the book-nerd in me giddy with happiness. I was drawn in immediately by this unique and layered story.
Meant to be Mine by Becky Wade
Publisher: Bethany House
Publication Date: April 24, 2014
What’s it about:
Ty Porter has always been irresistible to Celia Park. All through high school–irresistible. When their paths cross again after college–still irresistible. This time, though, Ty seems to feel exactly the same way about Celia. Their whirlwind romance deposits them at a street-corner Las Vegas wedding chapel.
The next morning they wake to a marriage certificate and a dose of cold reality. Celia’s ready to be Ty’s wife, but Ty’s not ready to be her husband. He’s a professional bull rider; he lives on the road, and he’s long planned to settle down with the hometown girl he’s known since childhood.
Five and a half years pass. Celia’s buried her dreams so that she can afford to raise her daughter. Ty’s achieved all of his goals. Or thought he had, until he looks again into the eyes of the woman he couldn’t forget and into the face of the child he never knew he had.
How much will Ty sacrifice to win back Celia’s trust and prove to her that their spontaneous marriage can still become the love of a lifetime?
Carrie’s Thoughts: The star of this book is undoubtedly the pint-sized, teal-glasses-and-pink-cowboy-boots-wearing scene stealer named Addie. Her scenes with Ty have me giggling and grinning no matter how many times I read them – Addie teaching him about princesses, Ty telling her a bedtime story for the first time (OH THE CUTENESS!) Celia’s realistic struggles to forgive Ty provide plenty of opportunities for Becky Wade’s delightful writing voice to shine – “She shut the Bible and dashed into the pantry to alphabetize her spices. She couldn’t deal with forgiveness today. Maybe tomorrow.” Speaking of Ty, he’s my favorite. Cocky, flirty, charming, dimpled, cowboy Ty. Be still my book-boyfriend-crushing heart. Oh – and I can’t forget to mention the kissing. So. much. KISSING!!!
A Broken Kind of Beautiful by Katie Ganshert
Publication Date: April 15, 2014
What’s it about:
Fashion is a fickle industry, a frightening fact for twenty-four year old model Ivy Clark. Ten years in and she’s learned a sacred truth—appearance is everything. Nobody cares about her broken past as long as she looks beautiful for the camera. This is the only life Ivy knows—so when it starts to unravel, she’ll do anything to hold on. Even if that means moving to the quaint island town of Greenbrier, South Carolina, to be the new face of her stepmother’s bridal wear line—an irony too rich for words, since Ivy is far from the pure bride in white.
If only her tenuous future didn’t rest in the hands of Davis Knight, her mysterious new photographer. Not only did he walk away from the kind of success Ivy longs for to work maintenance at a local church, he treats her differently than any man ever has. Somehow, Davis sees through the façade she works so hard to maintain. He, along with a cast of other characters, challenges everything Ivy has come to believe about beauty and worth. Is it possible that God sees her—a woman stained and broken by the world—yet wants her still?
Megan’s Thoughts: First off, Katie Ganshert wrote it, so of course it’s good! Where to begin…I’m not sure whose journey I enjoyed more Ivy’s or Davis’s. The title is perfect, the book cover is gorgeous, and the discovery of self-worth makes this a truly beautiful story.
Beth’s Thoughts: Katie takes what could have been a typical “girl returns home” story and created something with emotion and depth. The characterization is nearly flawless; I loved the side characters just as much as Ivy and Davis. These characters were messy, flawed and oh so realistic. The pacing is spot on, and the romantic moments are sweet and well-done.
Sway by Amy Matayo
Publisher: SYG Productions
Publication Date: September 15, 2014
What’s it about:
Falling in love is a beautiful thing. Unless you fall for the wrong person.
Finally settled after a tragedy-laden life, 24-year-old Caleb has found security in his faith, his friends, and his career. It’s the life he’s always wanted—simple, predictable, and safe. Enter Kate Hawkins, the attractive 21-year-old stranger he rescues from a bar fight who has an odd affinity for the color pink and a unique sense of humor.
It doesn’t take long to realize their connection is intense, but after only a handful of dates, a shocking revelation surfaces. Lines are drawn, sides are taken, and loyalties are decided as their newfound relationship is brought to a sudden halt.
But unlike most couples who split, avoiding each other is impossible. As daily interactions become unbearable, one realization becomes clear: they’ve both fallen hard for the absolute wrong person, which leaves both scrambling for a way to make it right.
Megan’s Thoughts: I can’t say much without giving away the part that makes this story so great (I’m a sucker for I-should-have-seen-that-coming twists.) Edgy and Sassy writing, this book kept me up way past my bedtime so I could finish it in one reading.