Review: Christmas at Carnton – Tamera Alexander

Tamera Alexander. Christmas at Carnton: A Novella. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2017.

Christmas stories start being released by publishers during the fall months, to the delight of readers eager for a new story from their favorite authors.  With an advanced copy of Tamera Alexander’s newest Christmas story, I actually ended up reading this book in July!  In spite of the holiday emphasis of the story, I found it to be enjoyable and appropriate for any time of the year.

In Christmas at Carnton: A Novella, Ms. Alexander launches her newest series set at the Carnton Plantation in Franklin, Tennessee.  The story occurs during the Civil War years, when the family is preparing for a Women’s Relief Society auction intended to benefit the Confederate soldiers.  Aletta Prescott recently lost her husband, as well as her job.  Desperate for a place to live for herself and her young son, she accepts a job cooking for the Women’s Relief Society’s auction and other Christmas season events at Carnton.  While there, she befriends Captain Jake Winton, who has been assigned to help with the auction during his recovery.  Aletta and Jake soon discover that their losses may have changed their lives, but God provides hope and restoration for them both during a season of war.

Fans of Ms. Alexander’s previous works will be thrilled with Christmas at Carnton as the start of her newest series, featuring yet another Southern plantation.  With connections to the families featured in her previous series, Ms. Alexander makes a seamless transition to the family and location of the Carnton Plantation.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading Christmas at Carnton!  Ms. Alexander’s stories have been improving steadily throughout her career, so I find it fascinating to see her development of a new series.  As a novella, Christmas at Carnton is quite a bit shorter than a standard novel, but the length fits the structure of this particular story.  Set during the Civil War, the novella seems slightly similar to other historical fiction works based around the same period.  However, readers interested in the forthcoming books of Ms. Alexander’s series will find the story worthwhile, as it introduces characters and settings relevant to future works that will be released.  Personally, I also found Ms. Alexander’s focus on the Women’s Relief Society’s efforts to be particularly interesting and enjoyable.

Fans of Ms. Alexander’s previous works will definitely want to read Christmas at Carnton.  Additionally, those with an interest in historical Christian fiction works set during the Civil War will also enjoy this Christmas-themed story.

Ms. Alexander’s first full-length novel of this series will be released in the fall of 2018!

Special thanks to NetGalley and Thomas Nelson for the advanced copy of Christmas at Carnton!

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Review: One Enchanted Eve – Melissa Tagg

Melissa Tagg. One Enchanted Eve: A Novella. Middletown, DE: Larkspur Press, 2016.

As the season of Advent begins, Melissa Tagg returns with another Christmas novella, following the events of last year’s release, One Enchanted Christmas.  In One Enchanted Eve, Colin Renwycke is determined to make up for his behavior from the previous year.  He has finally found a purpose for his life through his incredible baking abilities at the Denver Culinary Institute.  However, his culinary school instructor, Rylan Jefferson, finds Colin to be her most disruptive student, as he continually experiments beyond the strict constraints of her recipes.  When Rylan must create an impressive recipe as part of an interview for her dream job, she turns to Colin’s creativity as her secret ingredient.  Colin persuades Rylan to travel with him back to Maple Valley, Iowa, as the perfect place to conduct her culinary experiments, even as he hopes for a second chance with his family.  With a Christmas Eve deadline for her recipe, Rylan and Colin will need to draw on Maple Valley’s small-town charm to achieve the second chance they both desperately need.

Ms. Tagg revisits the town of Maple Valley and the Renwycke family during the Christmas season, in this Christmas-themed e-novella.  Even as a short-form story, Ms. Tagg brings her delightful writing style and gift for fascinating characters to this work.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading One Enchanted Eve.  Ms. Tagg expertly builds on the characters introduced in One Enchanted Christmas, as well as her Walker Family series.  Throughout each work, she manages to expand upon Maple Valley as a convincingly real, yet idyllic setting for her stories.  One Enchanted Eve also includes a strong food component, as both of the main characters have culinary skills and aspirations.  As someone who enjoys reading about great food and recipes, this novella offered a fun look at these characters’ jobs.  Honestly, I would have loved to see this as a longer-form story, as Ms. Tagg brought her signature writing style and humor to this novella.  However, it left me wanting to see where she takes her characters next, especially as the work implies that a third novella will be released in this series, likely in time for Christmas 2017!

Fans of Ms. Tagg’s other works will be absolutely delighted with One Enchanted Eve!  Readers who enjoy humorous, light-hearted Christian romance will definitely want to read this story, too.  The novella is only available in e-book formats.  However, I would highly recommend finding a copy to read, especially for readers familiar with Ms. Tagg’s Walker Family series set in Maple Valley.

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Review: A Royal Christmas Wedding – Rachel Hauck

Rachel Hauck. A Royal Christmas Wedding. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016.

Admittedly, the end of October seems rather early for a Christmas story.  However, several publishers are already releasing their Christmas books, well before I would think to buy them.  Fortunately, Rachel Hauck happens to be among my list of favorite authors, which makes any story of hers (Christmas or not) well worth reading!

In A Royal Christmas Wedding, Ms. Hauck returns for one last story featuring the characters of her acclaimed Royal Wedding Series.  First introduced in Once Upon a Prince, Avery Truitt has grown up from simply being the kid sister of the King of Brighton’s wife, Susanna.  Avery made a name for herself as a college volleyball star before an unfortunate injury forced her to the sidelines, just in time for her to find a career of her own after graduation.  In the wake of her husband’s death, Avery and Susanna’s mother wishes to travel with Avery to spend the Christmas season in Brighton.  Travelling back to Brighton means that Avery will inevitably encounter Prince Colin, the one man who broke her heart five years ago.  However, time has not left Prince Colin unchanged, as he finds himself regretting the loss of Avery, even as he has begun a successful career himself.  Both Avery and Colin must choose between continuing to pursue their current paths or finally coming back to each other, hopefully in time for a centuries-old Brighton tradition of the prince marrying on Christmas morning.

Fans of Ms. Hauck’s Royal Wedding books will be delighted with this Christmas-themed conclusion to her acclaimed series of novels.  While the novel brings together many characters introduced earlier in the series, it also serves as a worthwhile stand-alone Christmas story.

Overall, I was exceptionally pleased with A Royal Christmas Wedding!  Even as a shorter-form story (supposedly a novella), it offers a compelling and complete plot with a surprising amount of character development.  As indicated in the author’s acknowledgments, Ms. Hauck received countless requests for a satisfying conclusion to Avery and Colin’s story.  After reading A Royal Christmas Wedding, Ms. Hauck certainly fulfilled that request!  This book offers plenty of extra detail and development that will leave fans with many more of their questions answered, as well as a better sense of what happens to the various families in the years following the series.  Granted, I’m sure that any of Ms. Hauck’s readers would also be just as happy to hear of future novels in this vein.

Readers who particularly enjoyed Ms. Hauck’s Royal Wedding Series will definitely want to read A Royal Christmas Wedding.  Likewise, fans of great contemporary Christian fiction, especially with a Christmas emphasis will also find this to be a satisfying read.

Special thanks to BookLook Bloggers and Zondervan for the advanced copy of A Royal Christmas Wedding!

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Review: One Enchanted Christmas – Melissa Tagg

Melissa Tagg. One Enchanted Christmas: A Novella. Kindle Edition, 2015.

If you happen to read Melissa Tagg’s blog or Facebook posts, you likely already know the entire backstory of One Enchanted Christmas. Inspired by her own unexpected crush on the cover model for her upcoming novel, Like Never Before (March 2016), Ms. Tagg will delight readers with this charming Christmas-themed novella.

One Enchanted Christmas follows successful author Maren Grant, who finds herself with a crush on Colin Renwycke, the handsome cover model for her debut hit novel. On their one and only date, Colin invites Maren to his family’s idyllic farm in Maple Valley, Iowa, as a perfect haven for her writing. When Maren finds herself a year later with a serious case of writer’s block, she decides to surprise Colin (and herself) with an unplanned visit. Rather than finding Colin at the Renwycke farm, Maren encounters his older brother, Drew. With a plan to save the family farm and bring his siblings together again for Christmas, Drew finds himself with unexpected company in the form of an author taking up residence in his attic. However, Maren may be the secret ingredient to making the old farmhouse into a home and bringing his siblings closer together after years apart.

Ms. Tagg revisits the town of Maple Valley (introduced in Three Little Words and From the Start) to bring this Christmas-themed novella to her readers. At only 113 pages, One Enchanted Christmas offers a surprisingly complete story in a relatively compact form.

Overall, I found myself loving every page of One Enchanted Christmas. Ms. Tagg incorporates her unique flair and style, which fans of contemporary Christian fiction have come to love. Additionally, the story is filled with wonderful references, details, and a hilarious narrator that could be lifted directly from the commentary on Ms. Tagg’s blog. Although One Enchanted Christmas serves as a self-published work, Ms. Tagg’s expert writing skills (with the help of an excellent team of editors and readers) have guaranteed a spectacular final product. I found myself laughing out loud while reading the story, in addition to being simultaneously impressed by the amount of detail and character development she achieves in the relatively short length of the story. If I could offer one small critique of the story, it would be that I simply found myself wishing for more of Ms. Tagg’s incredible characters, which will likely come in the form of later novels in the Walker Family series. To her credit, the novella is impeccably conceived, with a plotline and writing style that fits the novella length to perfection.

Fans of Ms. Tagg’s other novels and novellas will be absolutely delighted with One Enchanted Christmas! Readers who enjoy humorous, light-hearted Christian romance will definitely want to read this story, too. The novella is only available in e-book formats. However, I would highly recommend finding a copy to read, especially for readers familiar with Ms. Tagg’s Walker Family series set in Maple Valley.

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Review: All Is Calm, All Is Bright – Colleen Coble

Colleen Coble. All Is Calm, All Is Bright: Two Christmas Novellas. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2015.

Since this week is Thanksgiving, I thought it tremendously appropriate to post a holiday-themed book review on The Books and Biscuits Blog. :) Somehow, the season of Christmas brightens up the ever-shorter days of late fall and early winter in a way that simply makes me smile.

Accomplished author, Colleen Coble releases two novellas in All Is Calm, All Is Bright, returning her readers to Bluebird Ranch and Hope Beach to further build upon two beloved series. “All Is Calm” focuses on the story of Lauren Everman and Brendan Waddell, two souls who find security and hope at the Bluebird Ranch. After being injured, Brendan’s future in the Special Ops is left in question. However, his skills at sniffing out the truth come in handy when Lauren arrives amid questionable circumstances. Lauren left her previous job after being falsely accused of a murder that she witnessed. Together, Brendan and Lauren must find the truth before the culprit threatens the lives of those seeking protection at the Ranch.

“All Is Bright” presents the Christmas-time events at Tidewater Inn, expanding upon the Hope Beach series. Delilah Carter has managed the Tidewater Inn for years. An accomplished organizer, she has also been called upon by her friend, Elin Summerall to plan a Christmas wedding. However, Delilah must contend with Sheriff Tom Bourne when someone tries to run her car off the road, endangering her life. Fortunately, the townspeople of Hope Beach know about Tom’s feelings toward Delilah and eagerly throw them together if it means keeping her safe. With a determined criminal on the loose, Tom must protect Delilah from imminent danger, even as he hopes that it will not ruin his Christmas surprise for her.

Overall, I rather enjoyed reading All Is Calm, All Is Bright. Although I’m not intimately familiar with all of the books in both series, Ms. Coble offers intriguing stories and characters that feel well-developed even in the shortened novella format. The two novellas function as separate stories, with the first related to the Bluebird Ranch novels and the second connected to the Hope Beach series. Together, they offer Christmastime-themed extensions of those series. However, I still felt like I could enjoy them as short stories, independent of the series’ respective contexts and character development. While I don’t normally read (and enjoy!) unfamiliar short stories from other authors, Ms. Coble’s writing style and story development are excellent and thoroughly entertaining. After reading All Is Calm, All Is Bright, I will be tracking down the other novels in these series to find out more about the characters and stories.

Fans of Ms. Coble’s novels who are more familiar with the other stories from the series will particularly relish these stories. However, readers who typically enjoy shorter-form Christian fiction will also appreciate All Is Calm, All Is Bright. For those unfamiliar with Ms. Coble’s stories, she typically incorporates suspense and mystery elements in a Christian romance plotline. As a result, her stories are somewhat darker in tone than contemporary Christian fiction written by such authors as Melissa Tagg and Rachel Hauck.

Special thanks to Thomas Nelson and the Fiction Guild for the advanced copy of All Is Calm, All Is Bright!

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