Review: Sweetbriar Cottage – Denise Hunter

Denise Hunter. Sweetbriar Cottage. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2017.

Some authors are known for writing series, while others consistently write stand-alone novels.  Over the last year, a few authors have tried to attempt writing the opposite of their normal, with surprisingly positive results.

Acclaimed contemporary Christian fiction author, Denise Hunter, developed Sweetbriar Cottage as a stand-alone novel.  The story concentrates on the relationship of Noah and Josephine Mitchell, a young couple who unexpectedly discover that the paperwork for their divorce was never finalized by the judge.  In the midst of trying to rectify the final paperwork, Josephine finds herself stranded at Noah’s mountainside horse ranch in a historic blizzard.  After avoiding one another for months, Noah and Josephine are faced with an extended period of time in each other’s company.  When an emergency arises on the ranch, they must both head out into the storm, where they face nature’s wrath and risk their survival trying to return to the ranch.  In the midst of the storm, Josephine finally admits her painful history and the tragedy that eventually led to their divorce.  When faced with the real possibility of death, both must decide whether to love and forgive or finally give up on their relationship altogether.

In this story of unconditional love and forgiveness, Ms. Hunter writes a gripping tale of Josephine and Noah’s relationship.  Set in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia, Sweetbriar Cottage offers an intense winter story with a Southern spin.

Overall, I appreciated the chance to read Sweetbriar Cottage.  While I’m not typically a huge fan of stories focused on broken marriages, Ms. Hunter’s books are of a consistently high caliber to try reading.  Using a series of flashback scenes throughout the novel, Ms. Hunter expertly intersperses the intense winter survival story with past moments of Josephine and Noah’s history.  Readers will find Josephine’s story to be particularly heartbreaking and intense, especially within a work of Christian fiction.  However, Josephine’s tragic past provides a significant and compelling springboard for Ms. Hunter to develop the rest of her plotline.   While some readers may not be comfortable with elements of this story, many will see the worth of this story as one of ultimate love and redemption.

Fans of Ms. Hunter’s past works will definitely want to read Sweetbriar Cottage.  While elements of this story may seem familiar to readers, Ms. Hunter’s storytelling ability shines through and illustrates why she may be one of only a limited number of authors capable of tackling this challenging story.

Ms. Hunter will kick off a new series with Blue Ridge Sunrise in November 2017!

Special thanks to NetGalley and Thomas Nelson for the advanced copy of Sweetbriar Cottage!

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Amazon – Sweetbriar Cottage

Review: Just a Kiss – Denise Hunter

Denise Hunter. Just a Kiss. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016.

It’s always sad to see a great book series end.  Just a Kiss wraps up Denise Hunter’s Summer Harbor series, which has become a fan favorite.  Fortunately, she managed to finish the series on a high note!

Riley Callahan and Paige Warren have been best friends throughout life’s most challenging moments.  As loveable characters throughout Ms. Hunter’s Summer Harbor series, their story finally takes precedence in Just a Kiss.  Riley arrives back from his military tour wounded and disabled, with no hope of finally confessing the truth about his feelings to Paige.  Oblivious to Riley’s emotional state, Paige is determined to help her best friend, even if it means nurturing him back to health in her own home.  Between the stress of caring for Riley and hoping to save her job, Paige must rely on the entire Callahan family to save the day.  However, both Riley and Paige soon discover that the help they need may require looking further than the family and friends of their small Maine town.

Ms. Hunter offers a heartwarming and enjoyable conclusion to the Summer Harbor series.  Readers will be thrilled with this last story of the Callahan brothers and their hometown.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading Just a Kiss.  Ms. Hunter brings an approachable and engaging story, even with some relatively serious themes related to Riley’s physical and mental health, as well as Paige attempting to keep the animal shelter open due to funding challenges.  I was absolutely thrilled to also see a conclusion to Aunt Trudy’s story within this novel, which serves as an excellent subplot throughout the series.  Altogether, the Summer Harbor series, which also includes Falling Like Snowflakes and The Goodbye Bride, offers a compelling story of the Callahan family.  Readers who particularly enjoyed Susan May Warren’s Christiansen Family series and Becky Wade’s Porter Family series will find many similarities to the Summer Harbor series, although Ms. Hunter offers a marginally more serious tone to some of her books.  After reading this book, I am very curious to see where Ms. Hunter goes next with her upcoming books.

Fans of Ms. Hunter’s Summer Harbor series, including Falling Like Snowflakes and The Goodbye Bride, will definitely want to read Just a Kiss.  Readers who also enjoy books by Colleen Coble and Susan May Warren will also want to check out this series.

Special thanks to BookLook Bloggers and Thomas Nelson for the promotional copy of Just a Kiss!

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Review: The Goodbye Bride – Denise Hunter

Denise Hunter. The Goodbye Bride. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016.

I’ve been reading Colleen Coble’s Mermaid Moon and Denise Hunter’s The Goodbye Bride back to back. These two author-friends have created interconnected series, with their books sharing characters and settings. If you want to see them in action, check out Colleen Coble’s Sunset Cove series and Denise Hunter’s Summer Harbor series, which both have recent releases over the last couple months!

Lucy Lovett and Zac Callahan experienced love at first sight when they met. After waking up from a concussion in a mysterious bathroom, Lucy finds herself dressed in a bridal gown that she doesn’t recognize. Naturally, she calls the one person she remembers perfectly, Zac. Unfortunately, Zac has spent the last seven months putting his life back together after Lucy left him in the weeks prior to their wedding. Forced together once again, Lucy desperately tries to remember her life before her amnesia, even as Zac fears the truth that could drive her away from him again. With the help of the Callahan family and a delightful cast of Summer Harbor friends, Zac and Lucy will discover the important secret that can overcome their fears of repeating the past.

Fans of Ms. Hunter’s Summer Harbor series will greatly enjoy this continuation of the Callahan family’s story. With characters and storylines that interweave between the books of Ms. Hunter’s (and Ms. Coble’s Sunset Cove) series, The Goodbye Bride is an absolute treat in the Christian romance genre!

Overall, I was quite thrilled with The Goodbye Bride! Having enjoyed the introductory novel in the series (Falling Like Snowflakes), this novel felt like returning to a favorite vacation spot with great friends. Ms. Hunter creates an engaging and light-hearted story that feels simultaneously intricate, yet approachable. Likewise, her characters and their development serve as the heart of the novel. In comparison to Falling Like Snowflakes, I thought that the themes were lighter and more appropriate to a general audience of readers. However, this novel and the rest of the series ultimately focus on the Callahan family, making it most similar to the works in Susan May Warren’s captivating Christiansen Family series and Becky Wade’s Porter Family series, which both wrapped up in recent months. As a fan of those series, I am thrilled to find another series to continue in the coming years. After reading this novel, I can’t wait to see how Ms. Hunter continues to develop the series in Just a Kiss (September 2016)!

Fans of Denise Hunter’s books, especially Falling Like Snowflakes and the Summer Harbor series, will definitely want to read The Goodbye Bride. Additionally, readers who enjoy Colleen Coble and Susan May Warren’s books will definitely want to check out this series.

Special thanks to BookLook Bloggers for the advanced copy of The Goodbye Bride!

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Amazon – The Goodbye Bride

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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Review: Married ’til Monday – Denise Hunter

Denise Hunter. Married ‘til Monday. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2015.

Have you ever read a book that reminds you all the world of a place (or places) where you’ve lived previously? I spent much of my graduate school experience living in Indianapolis. Whenever I read Denise Hunter’s books that are set in Indiana, I find myself reminiscing about the places and people that made it such a great place to live for those years. When I discovered that one of the primary characters in her most recent novel, Married ‘til Monday, lived in Indy, I couldn’t wait to read the novel.

Married ‘til Monday, the fourth book in Ms. Hunter’s Chapel Springs Romance series, follows the eldest son of the McKinley family. Ryan McKinley coaches football for the local high school, but still dreams of his college sweetheart and ex-wife, Abby. When Abby’s parents call to invite him to their thirty-fifth wedding anniversary in Maine, Ryan quickly realizes that she has kept their divorce a secret from those who should be closest to her. Before they know it, Abby and Ryan are on a cross-country road trip that offers them a chance to find out the truth behind the failings of their marriage. With a nervous dog in tow, a tiny car, and too much time on their hands, they discover that they are in for the ride of their lives and a God-given second chance.

In Married ‘til Monday, Ms. Hunter displays her award-winning ability to create a cast of engaging characters, who personify the real-life challenges faced by Christians. The truth behind Abby’s past and the challenges that tore apart her marriage will rivet readers who enjoy emotionally-driven plotlines, while Ryan and his extended family will continue to delight fans of the Chapel Springs series.

Overall, I liked Married ‘til Monday as a library read. However, I would likely rank The Wishing Season as my favorite book within the Chapel Springs Romance series (its review will be posted at a later date). While Married ‘til Monday remains true to Ms. Hunter’s style, I never became entirely immersed in the story. I’m finding in my reading of this and other books that I rarely enjoy emotionally-driven plotlines and, instead, prefer external conflict. For instance, I really enjoyed the scene in which Ryan and Abby are stranded in a fishing shack for several days. The scene was one of my favorites, in part, because it highlighted Ms. Hunter’s ability to develop unique and likable characters who could simultaneously grow personally and further a plotline. In addition, it offered some of the few laugh-out-loud moments of an otherwise serious novel. In comparison, the emotional plotline of the novel significantly slowed the pacing in key sections and resulted in secondary characters questioning the actions of the primary characters. At that point, I had to agree with their assessment and found myself wishing for the book’s final resolution.

Fans of both Denise Hunter and the Chapel Springs Romance series will definitely find Married ‘til Monday to be a worthwhile read. Additionally, those who typically read Christian fiction by such authors as Susan May Warren and Colleen Coble will likely also enjoy reading Denise Hunter’s works.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Thomas Nelson for an advanced copy of Married ‘til Monday!

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Amazon – Married ’til Monday (A Chapel Springs Romance) – Married ’til Monday