Review: Love Takes the Cake – Betsy St. Amant

Betsy St. Amant. Love Takes the Cake: A September Wedding Story. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015. Ebook.

How do you find your next book to read? Sometimes, I look for a favorite author. Other times, I’m simply in the mood for a light-hearted story. That would be the case for Betsy St. Amant’s most recent e-novella, Love Takes the Cake. It’s a great blend of quirky characters, humorous plot twists, and amazing cakes!

In Love Takes the Cake, Charlotte Cantrell has built her bakery from the ground up, as a haven for her broken heart and her young daughter. After giving her heart to the wrong man in college, Charlotte is determined to avoid making the same mistake again. However, she secretly daydreams about a future with her favorite weekly client, the tall man who stops by every Thursday at precisely 5:40 for his order of two snickerdoodles. The day she finally learns that his name is Will, he introduces himself as the best man for a wedding that needs some serious desserts! Soon after, Charlotte discovers that she will be working with a bridezilla of extraordinary proportions, but Will makes himself indispensable as the ultimate diplomat. In the time before the wedding, Charlotte and Will become inseparable, but can Will’s mysterious past and Charlotte’s trust issues get in the way of a perfect recipe for romance?

Love Takes the Cake serves as September’s edition within Zondervan’s monthly wedding novella series. Authored by Southern fiction sweetheart, Betsy St. Amant, the story combines her unique characters and her ability to capture the hearts of bakers everywhere.

Overall, I found Love Takes the Cake to be a pleasant story, in keeping with the tone and pacing of other novellas in the series. My biggest problem with the novella actually comes about as a result of its general summary. If you read the synopsis currently listed on Amazon and then read the story itself, you’ll quickly discover some serious discrepancies in the characters’ back stories. However, at its heart, Love Takes the Cake fits perfectly with the tone of the summary. Additionally, it remains true to Ms. St. Amant’s previous plotlines and character development, which oftentimes incorporates individuals navigating imperfect relationships and overcoming these challenges to find love in the South.

Fans of Ms. St. Amant’s previous works, especially All’s Fair in Love and Cupcakes, will definitely want to read Love Takes the Cake. Additionally, those who appreciate food and baking-related stories, such as the Emma Rae Creations series by Sandra Bricker, will also appreciate this story. In general, Love Takes the Cake follows the general formatting and plot development of many Christian novellas, which oftentimes result in simpler storylines and character development than found in full-length novels. As a result, this story may attract a somewhat different audience of readers than would typically read Ms. St. Amant’s other novels.

Special thanks to BookLook Bloggers for an advanced copy of Love Takes the Cake!

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Amazon – Love Takes the Cake: A September Wedding Story (A Year of Weddings Novella Book 10)

Review: The Sea Keeper’s Daughters – Lisa Wingate

Lisa Wingate. The Sea Keeper’s Daughters. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2015.

Cover: The Sea Keeper's Daughters

The work of a book reviewer is never done. It’s hard to fully explain the constant influx of new books coming in from publishers, new types of books to explore, and the enormous responsibility to diplomatically articulate the strengths and weakness of each novel. In the midst of these challenges, I also find myself blessed to have this opportunity and to share it with all of you. This week’s novel, The Sea Keeper’s Daughters, explores the similarly complex responsibilities of those who safeguard history in the midst of ever-present trial.

Lisa Wingate’s most recent novel, The Sea Keeper’s Daughters, builds upon her prior novels of the Carolina Heirlooms series. Whitney Monroe spent her childhood summers working at her family’s hotel on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. While grappling with her father’s untimely death, Whitney and her mother forged a tumultuous relationship with her grandmother. As an adult, Whitney views the Excelsior Hotel as a much-needed inheritance that has the power to save her Michigan-based restaurant. However, she never imagined the outpouring of dissent regarding the historic building’s demise, as the structure’s tenants fight to preserve the hotel for their businesses and a nonprofit that has the power to turnaround the area’s failure of its youth. In Whitney’s desperate attempt to find heirlooms worth saving or selling, she uncovers a mystery that has lasted for generations. Through the story of her great-aunt’s work with the WPA folklore writers in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Whitney comes to realize the incredible work of God’s faithfulness in her own life and across generations of her family.

Overall, I ended up greatly enjoying The Sea Keeper’s Daughters. However, I found the pacing and my general interest in the novel to vary throughout sections of the book. The novel focuses its earlier chapters almost exclusively around Whitney’s present-day story, which were far less compelling and slower than the rest of the novel. As Ms. Wingate incorporated an increasing amount of historically-based material around Whitney’s great aunt and the WPA folklore writers, the novel significantly changed to a faster pace and became an absolutely fascinating story to read. Consequently, it is challenging to give an overall rating of The Sea Keeper’s Daughters. While the first portion of the book was hard to get through (even for a very fast-paced reader), the historical aspects and the second half of the novel were inspired and would rank among one of the best novels of the year. It is based on those incredible highlights of this novel that I will likely be reading Ms. Wingate’s The Story Keeper and The Prayer Box in the near future.

Fans of Ms. Wingate’s other novels will appreciate and enjoy The Sea Keeper’s Daughters. The book most closely fits the character development and setting of Ms. Wingate’s Carolina Heirlooms novels, The Story Keeper and The Prayer Box. In general, Ms. Wingate’s pacing is generally slower than that of many other contemporary Christian fiction works, such as those by Rachel Hauck, Denise Hunter, and Becky Wade. However, her style masterfully captures the details of the American South in both the past and present.

Special thanks to Tyndale House Publishers for an advanced copy of The Sea Keeper’s Daughters!

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Amazon – The Sea Keeper’s Daughters (A Carolina Heirlooms Novel)

Review: Falling Like Snowflakes – Denise Hunter

Denise Hunter. Falling Like Snowflakes. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2015.

What did you do with your Labor Day weekend? For a much-needed change of pace from “The Great Move” (as it should be called), I curled up on the couch and dove into Denise Hunter’s newest release, Falling Like Snowflakes. Needless to say, it was a great break and a wonderful read!

Falling Like Snowflakes kicks off Ms. Hunter’s most recent series based in Summer Harbor, Maine. Beau Callahan is the quintessential law enforcement officer, until his father’s death leads him to take over the family’s Christmas tree farm. When Eden Martelli and her five-year-old son come to the town, with few resources and even less of a back story, Beau’s innate senses honed in the Summer Harbor sheriff’s office kick into high gear. Eden’s short-lived life on the run leads her to the Callahan’s door, where she finds herself as the temporary caregiver of Beau’s aunt and the family’s home. After years of abuse, Eden rediscovers herself and the peace of the Christmas season among the Callahan family and their neighbors. However, her past soon comes knocking, forcing Eden to choose between finally trusting Beau or losing everything she holds dear.

Fans of Ms. Hunter’s earlier works, especially Married ‘til Monday, will definitely recognize the Callahan family, their Christmas tree farm, and the town of Summer Harbor. In addition, the Summer Harbor series offers additional connections between characters and locations included in Colleen Coble’s Sunset Cove series. It’s wonderful to see evidence of the authors’ friendship in their novels!

Overall, I really enjoyed reading Falling Like Snowflakes. While my husband would claim that the general premise on the back cover sounds like a Hallmark movie, I thought that Ms. Hunter did an excellent job of creating complex characters, an intriguing plot, and a captivating town filled with unlimited possibilities for future novels. Though I am not typically a fan of novels that incorporate themes related to domestic abuse and violent relationships, I thought that Ms. Hunter did a masterful job of presenting it as part of the story’s conflict.   After reading, Falling Like Snowflakes, I am definitely looking forward to future novels in this series, including The Goodbye Bride (March 2016).

Fans of Denise Hunter’s works, especially Married ‘til Monday, will want to read Falling Like Snowflakes. Additionally, readers who enjoy novels by Colleen Coble and Susan May Warren (especially Take a Chance on Me) will find Falling Like Snowflakes to be well worth the read. The novel’s setting in rural Maine will also capture new readers who are interested in a different setting for Ms. Hunter’s prose. Personally, I have found it to be one of her strongest novels yet, particularly in its complexity and the level of detail she incorporates into her characters and the town of Summer Harbor.

Special thanks to BookLook Bloggers for the advanced copy of Falling Like Snowflakes!

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Amazon – Falling Like Snowflakes (A Summer Harbor Novel)

Review: The Lost Heiress – Roseanna M. White

Roseanna M. White. The Lost Heiress. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2015.

Life has been particularly crazy over the last several weeks, as I’ve been busy moving the home base for the Books and Biscuits Blog. Fortunately, I’ve been able to keep my Kindle fully operational, allowing me unlimited access to this month’s books. Through all of the zany situations involved in a move, it’s been an absolute pleasure to read this latest novel!

Growing up among the royalty of Monaco, Brook has always known that she belongs elsewhere. The only evidence of her heritage comes in the form of a packet of letters and a pearl necklace, which Brook entrusts to her best friend, Justin Wildon, the future Duke of Stafford. He soon discovers that Brook is the missing heiress of Eden and the Baroness of Berkley. As Brook and Justin travel to England to embrace her heritage, she soon discovers that the mystery of her mother’s death and the threat that follows Brook wherever she goes are inherently connected to a rare treasure. Together, Brook and Justin must discover the secrets of Brook’s inheritance before they become targets of kidnappers and thieves themselves.

The Lost Heiress was an interesting and exciting novel to read, particularly as I am not familiar with any of Ms. White’s previous works. She expertly created a complex cast of intriguing characters, who brought this absorbing storyline to life. Likewise, her writing style and plot structure place Ms. White among the top tier of emerging Christian fiction authors.

Overall, I would highly recommend The Lost Heiress to anyone interested in excellent Christian historical fiction! While other novels released this year have been recommended to readers based on their similarities to the Downton Abbey series, The Lost Heiress most closely connects to the period (1910) and British society and servants that has made the TV series such a hit. Ms. White expertly intertwines Brook and Justin’s perspectives with those of their servants, as they attempt to solve the mystery of Brook’s origins and her connection with a mysterious treasure. Additionally, the novel contributes a fresh set of twists on classic storylines, making the novel feel both comfortable and captivating to its readers.

Fans of Ms. White’s previous works, as well as those who particularly love British settings in novels, will definitely want to read The Lost Heiress. Those who enjoy Downton Abbey and other British storylines that involve both “upstairs” and “downstairs” characters, will also want to take a look at the novel. Ms. White utilizes an approachable writing style and a pace that will keep readers fascinated with the book’s relatively complex plot.

The Reluctant Duchess, the second novel of Ms. White’s Ladies of the Manor series, will be arriving in April 2016!

Special thanks to Bethany House Publishers for an advanced copy of The Lost Heiress!

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Amazon – The Lost Heiress (Ladies of the Manor)

Review: A Noble Masquerade – Kristi Ann Hunter

Kristi Ann Hunter. A Noble Masquerade. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2015.

I love the feeling of finding a great new author. Several months ago, I first read debut author Kristi Ann Hunter’s e-novella, A Lady of Esteem, and was very impressed with her ability to develop her characters within a Regency-era story. Based on that review, I leaped at the opportunity to read her first full-length novel.

A Noble Masquerade builds upon the events and characters featured in Ms. Hunter’s e-novella, A Lady of Esteem, including the Hawthorne family. Lady Miranda Hawthorne struggles to meet society’s expectations of a lady, a topic that her mother constantly lectures her on a daily basis. In a childhood act of rebellion, Miranda began a secret, one-sided correspondence with her brother’s school friend, the Duke of Marshington, in lieu of a diary. As she heads into her third Season, Miranda faces a new set of challenges, including her younger sister’s first Season and the appearance of her eldest brother’s admittedly unorthodox valet, Marlow. When Marlow sends one of Miranda’s letters to the Duke of Marshington, she is stunned to receive a response from him, as he has spent years hiding from society. When Miranda becomes increasingly involved in the dangerous world of the Duke, she must choose between fulfilling the expectations of a lady or embracing the uniqueness of her own personality.

Ms. Hunter joins an incredible group of acclaimed Christian authors in bringing Regency-era Britain to life. The Hawthorne House series offers enormous opportunity for Ms. Hunter to expand upon both A Lady of Esteem and A Noble Masquerade for future stories, while building a very promising career in the Christian fiction genre.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading A Noble Masquerade. Ms. Hunter’s writing style and storyline are easily accessible for a diverse readership, especially those who appreciate Regency-era fiction. Likewise, her characters are absolutely delightful! The Hawthorne family and their fascinating friends make for an engaging and entertaining story that will bring readers back to Ms. Hunter’s books again and again. In comparison to similar Christian authors in the genre, Ms. Hunter’s book aligns most closely with the style of Lori Wick, due to its light story and easy pacing. In comparison, Julie Klassen has a denser style that involves smaller casts of characters, while Ms. Hunter maintains an emphasis on an entire family of characters with a more humorous bent to the overall action of her story.

Readers who enjoy Regency-era fiction will definitely want to read Ms. Hunter’s stories, including both A Lady of Esteem and A Noble Masquerade. While A Noble Masquerade can easily function as an independent novel, readers who appreciate Ms. Hunter’s style and characters will also want to read the prequel novella. Currently, A Lady of Esteem is only available in a free e-book format.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Bethany House Publishers for the advanced copy of A Noble Masquerade!

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Amazon – A Noble Masquerade (Hawthorne House)