Category Archives: Book Reviews

Review and Giveaway: A Sparkle of Silver by Liz Johnson

A SPARKLE OF SILVER
Georgia Coast Romance #1
by
LIZ JOHNSON
Genre: Contemporary / Romance
Publisher: Revell
Date of Publication: October 16, 2018
Number of Pages: 368

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Millie Sullivan plays a 1920s-era guest during tours of a palatial estate on the shore of St. Simons Island, Georgia, where her great-grandmother was a real guest ninety years ago. When Millie learns of a lost diary that may contain the location of a hidden treasure on the estate and reveal the identity of her great-grandfather, she sets out to find the truth of her heritage—and the fortune she desperately needs. But it won’t be easy.
When security guard Ben Thornton discovers her snooping in the estate’s private library, he threatens to have her fired. Still, her story seems too ludicrous to be fiction, and her offer to split the treasure is too tempting to pass up.
Get ready for a romantic escapade through dark halls and dusty corners that will have you holding your breath and sighing with delight.

PRAISE FOR A SPARKLE OF SILVER:

“A mystery, a treasure hunt, and a split-time romance—all set within a beautiful chateau. What more could we want?”—Katherine Reay, author of Dear Mr. Knightley and A Portrait of Emily Price
“A charming romance about real people triumphing over real problems. Add in a dash of mystery, a treasure hunt, and old family secrets, and you have a story that will warm every corner of your heart.”—Victoria Bylin, award-winning author of Together with You
“Lovers of history will enjoy this treasure-seeking adventure through a historic estate, and readers will appreciate a story that turns up riches of the lasting kind.”—Denise Hunter, bestselling author of Honeysuckle Dreams
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review

I had the hardest time putting this book down. It had so many details and moving parts in it that kept me reading well past my bedtime. The cover looks like your run of the mill romance set in some beautiful destination vacation spot, but it’s the quote by Denise Hunter that most clearly identifies what makes this novel different from the rest: it’s a mystery as well.

 

And it’s the mystery of who Millie’s great-grandfather is, and whether she could be the heir to a fortune, that propels our heroine and her unlikely sidekick, Ben. Actually, to be fair, Ben just thinks Millie is looking for a treasure, he has no idea that she might be an illegitimate heir from affluent stock hoping to come into some kind of an inheritance.
Kudos to Johnson for making us work for what we want to know. We are not told from the beginning that Ben and Millie are quite easy on the eyes; this is a revelation that comes to light as the two begin to trust each other and enjoy each other’s company. As each layer falls away, you can really believe that two strangers are falling in love, much like another couple that we see through old journal entries. Each story progresses nicely, maybe a little slowly with the intention of building suspense.

Johnson doesn’t hit you over the head with details, she merely inserts suggestions here and there. If you’re not reading carefully, you might miss them. I have gotten a little better with my predictions when reading mysteries, but I have to say that I missed the mark on the culprit. I actually couldn’t think of who the criminal mastermind could be. I did, however, predict the ending right. Read up and tell me if you figured it out.

 

I recommend this book to anyone who loves a good romance and/or mystery. You can cozy up to this with a warm mug of deliciousness or lay out on a beach with a cool, refreshing drink. Either way, be on the look out for book #2.

 

Liz Johnson is the author of more than a dozen novels, including The Red Door InnWhere Two Hearts Meet, and On Love’s Gentle Shore, as well as a New York Times bestselling novella and a handful of short stories. A marketing manager for a Christian film company, she makes her home in Phoenix, Arizona.
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OCTOBER 10-19, 2018

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Review & Giveaway: The Encouragement Letters by Shanna Spence

THE ENCOURAGEMENT
LETTERS
by
SHANNA SPENCE
Sub-genre: Middle Grade / Historical Fiction
Publisher: Book Liftoff
Date of Publication: November 22, 2017
Number of Pages: 180
Scroll down for the giveaway! 
WILLIAM CROMWELL, at age eleven, knew what it was like living with new changes. In 1865, Manchester, England a new textile factory moved into town and after a tragedy that befell him and his mum, they struggled to live. With so many things going on in his young life he wanted to be the encouragement that his father was to him.
As everything changes along with terrible hardships, just maybe the hope he gives to the growing town will find its way to Will…
PRAISE FOR THE ENCOURAGEMENT LETTERS: 
This was such an uplifting wholesome book! It was so nice to read something positive about a time when people were so willing to step in and help someone in need without expecting anything in return! I couldn’t put it down!– 5 Stars, Kindle verified purchase reviewer
Excellent read!! This story speaks to people in all walks of life. It is encouraging, sweet, and funny at the same time. I would recommend this book to anyone needing to see what it means to “treat others as you want to be treated.” — 5 Stars, Kindle verified purchase reviewer

 
A very inspiring book from a great new author! — 5 Stars, Kindle verified purchase reviewer

A charming tale of a simpler time. Yet, the message is ageless. I congratulate Ms. Spence on this her first effort and look forward to more entertaining reads from her in the future.— 5 Stars, Kindle reviewer
 
review
At first glance you can already tell that this book is historical. But the cover is so mature looking that I thought it might be a nonfiction book intended for adults. However, the book’s slight profile and, as I began to read, tone tipped me off to the intended middle grade audience. While an adult fiction book would ease the reader slowly into its world and gradually unfold the protagonist’s innermost desires or struggles, middle grade books tend to be more straight forward and honest with their intentions. I enjoy a flowery passage here or there, but the direct delivery found in books like this can be refreshing when you want to immerse yourself in a different world and just get down to the nitty gritty.
And poor little Will’s world is very gritty. Tragedy hasn’t lost his address as it continues to visit him at every turn. First his beloved father dies, then he worries that his mother is ill with the same affliction, and… well, I don’t want to ruin the story for you. But know that this young man is made of such wonderful moral fiber that he repays other people’s kindness with beautifully crafted, anonymous letters of encouragement until he is able to repay them properly. What really struck my heartstrings was the love and respect that he had for his mother. No matter how dire their situation, he never went against her wishes for him to continue his schooling and not work in a factory.
Spence did a really lovely job of creating characters that I cared about and set them in a time and place in history that I wasn’t very familiar with. I’ve read my fair share of books set across the pond or books that took place in the 1800s, but I’ve never read a combination of the two before. I was fully invested in the people, especially Will, and loved reading about a village that was helping to raise a good man.
I highly recommend this book to young readers and older readers alike. I think that this would be a great book to read in history class preceding lessons on the industrial revolution or child labor. But this is also a great book to read when life is getting you down and you need to pick yourself up.
Shanna Spence is a wife, mother, and registered nurse of over twenty years. She has written poetry since the age of thirteen and always dreamed of writing books. Raised in a small East Texas town, she pursued a career of nursing in Dallas, Texas but eventually went back to East Texas to settle down and raise a family.
Now she finally has found the time to fulfill her dream of writing stories that will hopefully bring out the imagination in others — as well as inspiration. She is currently living in Longview, Texas. 
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Review & Giveaway: Burden of Proof by DiAnn Mills

BURDEN OF PROOF
FBI Rapid Response, #1
by
DiANN MILLS
Genre: Inspirational /Mystery / Suspense / Romance
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Date of Publication: October 9, 2018
Number of Pages: 416

Scroll down for the giveaway!
Reeling from a negotiation gone wrong, FBI Special Agent April Ramos is caught off guard when a frazzled young woman shoves a crying baby into her arms, then disappears. Worry for the child’s safety quickly turns to fear when a man claiming to be the girl’s father abducts them at gunpoint. April puts her hostage negotiation skills to use to learn more about who she’s dealing with: Jason Snyder, a fugitive accused of murder. 
As Jason spins a tall tale about being framed for the killing of his business partner, April must sort through his claims to find the truth. A truth that becomes all the more evident after April overhears a conversation between Jason and the local sheriff and realizes something more sinister may be happening in their small town of Sweet Briar, Texas. But aligning herself with a known fugitive to uncover the burden of proof could cost April her job . . . or worse, her life and the lives of other innocent people.
PRAISE FOR DiANN MILLS:
“The tension level rises as layers of lies are peeled away in multiple plot twists.” —Library Journal

“DiAnn Mills is a master of fast-paced and intricately plotted romantic suspense.” —Colleen Coble, Bestselling author

“[A] fast-moving, intricately plotted thriller.” —Publishers Weekly
CHECK OUT THE BOOK TRAILER! 

review
I was excited to get a copy of DiAnn Mills’ latest book because she never fails to capture my undivided attention. I get a little breathless when gripped with suspense or excitement, and this book is filled with so many moments that make your heart skip a beat. Mills is especially skilled when it comes to writing dialogue. Each characters’ speech sounds natural and flows just as well as the non-dialogue text. When Mills switches the point of view, there is no confusion because the character’s voice shines through very clearly and the writing style is concise.
I can say with all honesty that Mills’ books are all very unique. Although I’ve read several FBI-mystery-romance books by her, they are all very different from each other, as well as books by other authors in the same genre. You would think that there are only so many meet-cute scenarios that can happen between an FBI agent and a paramour, but Mills will raise you another. In fact, she will keep them coming since this is the first book of a new series.
I’m Filipino, so I’m excited to see a Filipino protagonist whose ethnicity is not central to the plot. Sure, Mills throws in an Adobo reference – you should try this dish if you haven’t yet (it’s not the same as the Hispanic Adobo dish) – but April could be any ethnicity really. But since she’s not just any ethnicity, I’m going to nitpick a little. April is uncomfortable during long prayers, but most Filipinos are (or were at one time in their life) Catholic, so super long prayers – Hail Mary, anyone? – should be no biggie. April’s parents would prefer that she was a university professor rather than an FBI agent. Are you kidding? Filipinos love to brag and most of them love guns as well. And they live in Texas? Game over. They have guns of all shapes and sizes. And they would bring all those guns to the range to show their friends while they proudly talked about their FBI agent daughter.
But overall, I’m really amazed at how Mills’ characters spring to life in every book, this one especially. I think she is very successful with her portrayal of April’s struggle to do the right thing because I was constantly second guessing myself on what was the “right” or best thing to do in that situation too. I feel lucky to not have to make decisions that place my family on one side of the scale and the community on the other. I suppose most normal Joes like myself don’t have to.
I look forward to reading the next book. While you wait for the next installment, I suggest you pick up one of her FBI Task Force novels.

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She combines unforgettable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels.
Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne du Maurier, Inspirational Reader’s Choice, and Carol Award contests. Firewall, the first book in her Houston: FBI series, was listed by Library Journal as one of the best Christian fiction books of 2014.
DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She is co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, where she continues her passion of helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. 
DiAnn has been termed a coffee snob and roasts her own coffee beans. She’s an avid reader, loves to cook, and believes her grandchildren are the smartest kids in the universe. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas. DiAnn is very active online and would love to connect with readers.
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Review & Giveaway: Cowboy Charm School by Margaret Brownley


COWBOY CHARM SCHOOL 
HAYWIRE BRIDES, #1

by
MARGARET BROWNLEY
Sub-genre: Western / Clean Romance
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Date of Publication: September 4, 2018
Number of Pages: 384
Scroll down for Giveaway!
When Texas Ranger Brett Tucker accidentally derails a wedding, he’s determined to bring the estranged couple back together…but he never dreamed he’d start falling for the bride!
Texas Ranger Brett Tucker hates to break up a wedding, but the groom—notorious criminal Frank Foster—is a danger to any woman. So he busts into the church, guns blazing…only to find he has the wrong man.
 
STOP THAT WEDDING!
Bride-to-be Kate Denver is appalled by her fiancé’s over-the-top reaction to the innocent mistake and calls off the wedding—for good. Guilt-ridden, Brett’s desperate to get them back on track. But the more time he spends with Kate, the harder he falls…and the more he yearns to prove that he’s her true match in every way.
“Light and airy as cotton candy, this tale charms.” 
— Publishers Weekly
 
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review
From the very first chapter, I could tell that this book wasn’t written by your typical romance novelist. I can’t put my finger on it, but perhaps it is Brownley’s word choice – none of those overused descriptions we see in most western romance novels – that sets this book apart from all the other romance novels I have read. Or maybe it’s because that first chapter, so suspenseful and visceral, doesn’t read like a romance at all. But don’t worry, come chapter two, you definitely know that you have picked up a romance novel, if the pretty book cover hasn’t tipped you off yet.
If you follow my blog, you know that I have recently reviewed another western romance that featured a young woman who makes candy for a living and eventually falls in love with a law man. You can rest easy that this book is completely different and exciting to read. The search for the robbers is paced nicely with very subtle clues about who the culprits might be. Kate’s job as the town’s candymaker is more than just a quaint occupation she holds, but a family legacy and vehicle with which she spreads hope and goodwill to the citizens of Haywire.
The part that I enjoyed most, that also had me sighing with exasperation at times, was Brett’s tutelage of Frank – very Cyrano de Bergerac. Although, I got the impression that Brett was easier on the eyes than Frank, which is not the typical Cyrano reincarnation. The whole “Cowboy Charm School” thing had me at war with myself. The idea that a guy can learn to be more romantic was sweet, but at what point is it like the games guys play nowadays just to land the girl? And the sticky situation of falling in love with someone that you’re trying to help someone else woo, that doesn’t usually work out well either. No matter, it was fun to read and to guess how it would work out in the end.
While Brownley’s language is beautiful, it’s not too flowery. There are no wasted descriptions or useless dialogue. I really am amazed that although this book can be considered a mystery, it very solidly reads like the western romance that it is classified as. I look forward to reading about the other Haywire brides.
I recommend this book to anyone who loves a cozy romance, but also to anyone who likes mysteries as well.
New York Times bestselling author MARGARET BROWNLEY has penned more than forty-five novels and novellas. She’s a two-time Romance Writers of American RITA® finalist and has written for a TV soap. She is also a recipient of the Romantic Times Pioneer Award.  
 
Her story, A Pony Express Christmas, will appear this fall in the Old West Christmas Brides collection, and book two of her Haywire Brides series will be published May 2019.  Not bad for someone who flunked eighth-grade English.  Just don’t ask her to diagram a sentence.
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Review & Giveaway: Mistletoe Miracles by Jodi Thomas

MISTLETOE MIRACLES
Ransom Canyon
by
JODI THOMAS
Sub-genre: Holiday Romance / Western
Publisher: HQN
Date of Publication: September 25, 2018
Number of Pages: 354
Scroll down for an exclusive giveaway from Jodi Thomas! 
A small-town Texas Christmas story, where hearts are lost, love is found, and family always brings you back home.
Griffin Holloway is desperate: the Maverick Ranch has been in his family for generations, but lately, it’s a money pit. He’d sooner marry one of his horses than sell the ranch. Marriage, though, could be a solution. If he can woo a wealthy bride, he might save the ranch—just in time for Christmas. Jaxon O’Grady likes his solitude just fine, thank you very much. But when a car accident brings the unexpected to his door, he realizes just how much one person can need another. Crossroads is the perfect place for Jamie Johnson: avoiding nosy questions about why she’s single, she’s happy to keep to her lakeside home. So she’s baffled when she gets the strangest Christmas present of all, in the form of a Mr. Johnson, asleep on her sofa. Who is he, and why does everyone think he’s her husband?

In this uplifting novel, three unlikely couples discover just what Crossroads, Texas, can offer: romance, belonging, and plenty of Christmas spirit. 
”Deeply poignant moments and artfully
rendered characters create a rich story that
transports readers to an idyllic place.”
Publishers Weekly
 
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review
I didn’t read the summary or the book jacket before diving into this lovely Christmas romance, so I didn’t know that I would get three love stories for the price of one. It was sort of a Love Actually feel, three stories running parallel to each other, dipping and twisting together every once in a while. Thomas did a fantastic job of making me care about each and every character (except for the bad guy) and every storyline.
This is the first romance novel that I have read where the leading ladies don’t appear until chapter 7. (Actually, one appears in chapter 3 but she is unconscious, so it doesn’t count.) I found that a bit unorthodox, but I liked the tone it set. You really get to know the men in this book, and I loved the three Holloway brothers’ banter so much! It makes me wonder if Thomas based them off of close friends or family because their hilarity is so vivid. Actually, all of her characters are so full of life and color. Not a single detail or conversation felt cliche or disingenuous.
 The reluctant and slow (although, is less than a month really slow?) love that develops between the three couples feels believable. Never was there a moment that I scoffed, ‘she wouldn’t do that’ or’ he wouldn’t say that.’ I was lapping up every detail and so sad whenever I had to take a break from reading to do something else.
My only critique is that there are some typo and type setting issues, at least with the e-book. I hope that those little blunders were caught before this lovely book went off to the printing press. Overall, I really really enjoyed this modern day western romance. I highly recommend it to sad hearts that need a smile, but also to anyone who just loves to feel the glow of new love in their soul.
A fifth-generation Texan, New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Jodi Thomas chooses to set the majority of her novels in her home state, where her grandmother was born in a covered wagon. A former teacher, Thomas traces the beginning of her storytelling career to the days when her twin sisters were young and impressionable. 
 
With a degree in family studies, Thomas is a marriage and family counselor by education, a background that enables her to write about family dynamics. Honored in 2002 as a Distinguished Alumni by Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Thomas enjoys interacting with students on the West Texas A&M University campus, where she currently serves as Writer in Residence.
 
Commenting on her contribution to the arts, Thomas said, “When I was teaching classes full-time, I thought I was making the world a better place. Now I think of a teacher or nurse or mother settling back and relaxing with one of my books. I want to take her away on an adventure that will entertain her. Maybe, in a small way, I’m still making the world a better place.”
 
When not working on a novel or inspiring students to pursue a writing career, Thomas enjoys traveling with her husband, renovating a historic home they bought in Amarillo and checking up on their two grown sons.
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Review & Giveaway: Out and In by Pat Dunlap Evans

OUT AN IN
a mystery-thriller
MARIE DONOVAN MYSTERIES, #1
by
PAT DUNLAP EVANS
Genre: Fiction / Romantic Suspense
Publisher: A.M. Chai Literary
Date of Publication: April 27, 2016
Number of Pages: 316
Scroll down for Giveaway!
Stunning beauty and amateur cellist Marie Donovan finds herself in deep trouble after her pro-quarterback husband dives off a Dallas high rise—many say in shame after his shady investments go sour. Just months later, the grieving Marie faces capital murder charges for the death of a lecherous opera maestro. When hard evidence points squarely at her, only her best friend and defense lawyer believe her.
 
Marie is no stranger to struggle. During her six years as an NFL Football wife, she fends off groupies eager to take her man, all the while feeling lost in her husband’s macho culture. Studying the cello becomes Marie’s solace until her hard-drinking husband retires after an injury. Returning to Dallas, he plays with high society’s money in an investment scheme until winning at all costs leaves Marie and her twin sons on the hook for millions.
 
Scorned by society friends, charged with murder, Marie pins her hopes on hunky defense lawyer Ryan Ingles, one of Cole’s college football pals. After Ryan’s legal team discovers some of the maestro’s dark secrets, Marie and Ryan’s investigative troupe travel to exotic islands in search of clues Cole left behind. As the tropics weave a romantic spell, a corrupt offshore banker dashes Marie’s hopes. She wonders if she’ll ever be free of blame…and able to claim her own place in this world.


PRAISE FOR OUT AND IN

Out and In is the perfect mystery-thriller for the beach, a long flight, or to savor before bed…an exciting but heartfelt story about a beautiful woman who struggles to prove her innocence … As for the ending, I am still stunned.” — Lara Reznik, Amazon best-selling author of The Girl from Long Guyland and Bagels and Salsa.
 
“Could not put it down, once I started reading. Definitely a must-read. Look forward to reading more books from Pat Dunlap Evans. ” — five-star Amazon review by reader “Mimi”
 
“Awesome…flowed nicely … definitely kept you on your toes to who actually committed the murder. The lead character was a perfect blend of hard and soft. A great read.” — five-star Amazon review by reader “Tiffany”
 
review
I have never felt such mixed emotions about a book before. I think that almost every element of this book – the setting, the plot, the characters – evoked feelings from opposite poles within myself. Take the setting: I hate Dallas; but I love the fine arts scene. Like Marie, I play the cello and love the human voice quality of it. Unlike Marie, I couldn’t imagine playing my instrument naked. I don’t love it that much. The plot: I really liked the mystery side of this book. Some authors hit you over the head with key details, thus ruining the surprise. Evans knows how to write a mystery and keep things mysterious. But the romance side of things, some details came down hard and bopped you on the nose. The characters: I felt compassion for Marie and her predicament but felt zero sympathy for her with regard to her spoiled “boys”. I guess I found it hard to believe that a go-getter like Cole wouldn’t have taught his sons how to succeed – even if that meant teaching them the wrong way to do things. 
The book cover is clever and sensual with a man (is that supposed to be Luca?) drawing a bow across the back of a woman with cello strings and f holes tattooed or drawn on her back. I’m not a fan of the font used and the decision to put “a women’s mystery-thriller” on the cover too. Bop! Right on the nose with that one. It’s nitpicky, but I think that bass clef signs should have been used instead of treble clef signs at the beginning of each chapter since that is the clef that cellos mostly play in. Speaking of the chapters, I didn’t mind the changes in point of view, but it sometimes took me a while to figure out who was talking. To be fair, there were a few chapters where Evans didn’t want us to know who was talking. I really liked those chapters where the killer(s) would talk about what they have done and how they got away with it.
The book could have used another pass on the editing table, but it was an entertaining read. I had a hunch about who the killer was and was surprised when it seemed like someone else murdered Luca. But then I got another helping of surprise when I realized that the story had not yet quite ended and then we finally get to find out whodunnit. I was hoping that Marie would have a drama free life from here on out, but I’m happy to see that this book is the beginning of a series. I recommend this book to anyone who thinks they can solve mysteries easily (yes, this is a challenge to you).
Pat Dunlap Evans was born in Michigan but “got to Texas as soon as I could,” she says. Her family lived in San Antonio and later Dallas, where she attended South Oak Cliff High School and Southern Methodist University. Pat eventually completed her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English at University of Missouri, Kansas City, with emphasis on creative writing. She also taught freshman writing courses as a part-time lecturer.After a divorce, Pat stressed her way as a single mom through twenty-five years of high-stress advertising and marketing roles before retiring to write fiction and screenplays. She lives in the Lake Travis area with her second husband Dr. Bill Evans and enjoys travel, golf, volunteer work, sailing, and the chaos of the couple’s combined five adult children, five grandchildren, and two cockalier dogs.

Pat has published two novels, To Leave a Memory and Out and In, with a third novel Those Who Try due out soon.

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Review & Giveaway: The Theory of Happily Ever After by Kristin Billerbeck

THE THEORY OF
HAPPILY EVER AFTER
by
KRISTIN BILLERBECK
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Revell
Date of Publication: May 1, 2018
Number of Pages: 288
Scroll down for Giveaway!
According to Dr. Maggie Maguire, happiness is serious—serious science, that is. But science can’t always account for life’s anomalies, like why her fiancé dumped her for a silk-scarf acrobat and how the breakup sent Maggie spiraling into an extended ice cream–fueled chick flick binge.
Concerned that she might never pull herself out of this nosedive, Maggie’s friends book her as a speaker on a “New Year, New You” cruise in the Gulf of Mexico. Maggie wonders if she’s qualified to teach others about happiness when she can’t muster up any for herself. But when a handsome stranger on board insists that smart women can’t ever be happy, Maggie sets out to prove him wrong. Along the way she may discover that happiness has far less to do with the head than with the heart.
Filled with unforgettable characters, snappy dialogue, and touching romance, The Theory of Happily Ever After shows that the search for happiness may be futile—because sometimes happiness is already out there searching for you.

PRAISE FOR THE THEORY OF HAPPILY EVER AFTER: 

“. . .the sweet will-they-or-won’t-they of Sam and Maggie’s courtship will please readers. . .”
                        —Publishers Weekly
“Billerbeck returns with a light Christian chick-lit novel just in time for the summer beach-read season, taking on stereotypes of femininity, intellect, and worth within an exciting cruise-ship setting with plenty of sunshine and gelato.”
                        —Booklist
“Billerbeck’s latest is full of memorable characters and witty dialogue. . . .The overall story reminds the reader that sometimes happiness will find you, no matter what you may do to avoid it.”
RT Book Reviews  Four Star Review
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review

Right away I could tell that I would have trouble putting this book down. So I approached reading it the way any other rational person would: I cleared my day of all commitments so that I could read without any interruptions. To be completely honest, there were interruptions despite my best intentions. I would guffaw at something, my husband would look at me questioningly, and then I had no choice but to read some choice lines aloud to him.

One of my favorite lines that I spent 5 minutes flipping through the book to find, so you have no choice but to read it: “There’s little doubt that Jake’s soaring, Lycra-wearing Tinkerbell sprinkled pixie dust in her wake and left him feeling as if he too could fly, while a scientific downer like me spread nothing but Spock-like facts and despair — covering a room with a dark, dingy feeling similar to volcanic ash.” [pp. 37-38]. So many references and imagery in one funny sentence! And the book is chock full of gems like this. Many quick, one-liners, but even some fun paragraph-long inner (and outer) dialogue full of quirks. I found myself hoping to find a friend as witty as the author one day.

I was a little surprised that this book wasn’t tagged as Christian (although Booklist did identify it as light Christian chick-lit) because there are definite references here and there that a Bible studier would catch. When faith and Christianity are discussed head on, it makes a little more sense that the story lacks the typical debauchery and maybe even a little premarital activity that you would expect to occur on a cruise ship full of singles, especially in a romance novel.

The way that Billerbeck pokes fun at her heroine’s obsession with the Hallmark channel and storybook romances makes this surprisingly chaste read anything but boring. As much as Maggie tries to paint herself as this dry, data driven nerd with librarian fashion sense (I sort of resent that!), you get a sense that she suffers from some sort of body and soul dysmorphia. Despite being flanked by two gorgeous and confident friends, she manages to take her pick of the only two charming and good-looking men on the ship. Oh, if only that were really the case in real life. Am I right, ladies?

You know me, I don’t ruin books for y’all. The after taste of this one sort of reminded of a Bridget Jones’s Diary – probably because the main character is self deprecating, yet is caught in a great love triangle, and has colorful friends. Also, even though everyone is from California or Texas, a few of the characters seem to have a slip of nationality and use words like “bin” and … ugh, I knew I should have made a list.

Either way, this is the perfect beach read. But to be honest, I can see myself cozying up with a cup of hot tea as well. It’s a feel good book whose chapter intros even include mantras from Maggie’s fictional book, The Science of Bliss. I will leave you with this particular quote that feels like equal parts Namaste, fortune cookie wisdom, and just plain common sense: “Savor the good times in life. Studies tell us people who savor happy experiences in life are more likely to be optimistic about their past outcomes and their future.” [p. 150].

Kristin Billerbeck is the author of more than thirty novels, including What a Girl Wants and the Ashley Stockingdale and Spa Girls series. She is a fourth-generation Californian who loves her state and the writing fodder it provides.
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2ND PRIZE:Copy of The Theory of Happily Ever After
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3RD PRIZE:Copy of The Theory of Happily Ever After
+ $10 Starbucks Gift Card
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August 22-31, 2018
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