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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
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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.
————————————— 
GIVEAWAY!  GIVEAWAY!  GIVEAWAY!
GRAND PRIZE: Copy of The Theory of Happily Ever After + Bookish Beach Towel, Tumbler, & Book Sleeve
2ND PRIZE:Copy of The Theory of Happily Ever After
+ $25 Barnes & Noble Gift Card
3RD PRIZE:Copy of The Theory of Happily Ever After
+ $10 Starbucks Gift Card
(US ONLY)
August 22-31, 2018
CHECK OUT THE OTHER GREAT BLOGS ON THE TOUR:
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Excerpt, Part 1
8/22/18
BONUS Post
8/23/18
Excerpt, Part 2
8/24/18
Review
8/25/18
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8/26/18
Review
8/27/18
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8/28/18
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8/29/18
Author Interview
8/30/18
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On Lone Star Trail by Amanda Cabot

On Lone Star Trail
(Texas Crossroads Book 3)
by 
Amanda Cabot

Genre: Christian Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Revell, a division of Baker Group
Date of Publication: February 2, 2016
# of pages: 368


The Future Starts When You Let Go of the Past
“She wasn’t looking for love at Rainbow’s End, 
just a change of scenery and a chance to rest”
Sometimes our past tries desperately to navigate our future. But what if facing our fear and going against our protective impulses is the key to our future? In Amanda Cabot’s final book in her Texas Crossroads series, an unlikely couple discovers that their differences just might be what bring them together. 
Gillian Hodge was heading toward a fulfilling life as a concert pianist when her dreams and career were shattered by a motorcyclist. Now she once again faces an encounter with a motorcyclist whose bike crashes in front of her. 
 
TJ Benjamin, who has been wandering around the country on his motorcycle, is recovering from the death of his beloved wife and feeling lost in both his life and his faith. When he finds himself stranded with a busted bike and a reluctant rescuer, he has to wonder about God’s sense of humor. 
Can a woman with an uncertain future and a man running to forget his past find love at Rainbow’s End? Or are they too tied to the way life used to be? These vivid characters develop and grow while readers enjoy the beautiful Texas setting.
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Amanda Cabot is the bestselling author of the Texas Dreams series, the Westward Winds series, Christmas Roses, At Bluebonnet Lake, and In Firefly Valley. Her books have been finalists for the ACFW Carol Awards and the Booksellers’ Best Awards. She lives in Wyoming.


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Review
 I read the occasional Christian Romance and, though I read more worldly romance novels as well, tend to hold these books to a different standard. I know it’s not fair, but something feels off when a “Christian” romance book’s protagonist engages in premarital sex and then doesn’t feel an ounce of remorse. I appreciated how the characters in this book were relatable and yet, still maintain their values. But what I admired even more is how Cabot eases you into the spiritual aspect slowly.
You could read the first half of this book and not even realize that this is a Christian book. It is a very well-written romance book that you can sort of guess who will get together, but you’re still excited to see how it comes about. That’s the type of approach that the characters TJ and Gillian have with some kids they help in the book. They don’t go at the kids trying to change them, but approach them as someone who just wants to get to know them, maybe help them, and end up being good influences.
The way that all of the characters gradually open up about their relationship with God is similar to the way that this novel unfolds itself as a Christian book. You get to know the novel on the surface level (ex-concert pianist and ex-teacher collide and find their way back to living a full, happy life), and only when you are truly invested do you get to know about their spiritual inclinations. I think that is the best way in real life, and it works in novels as well.
And though I struggle with suppressing my eye rolls at literary love triangles, I really like what Cabot did here. Mike isn’t a bad match for Gillian in any obvious way, and Cabot could have taken the easy way out and have the guy try to get physical with her or something to draw a definite line between the two men. Instead, you’re weighing Gillian’s choices along with her, not completely sure who to go with.
Again, the book is somewhat predictable, but the journey is still quite enjoyable. There were also some details along the way that were nice surprises. Overall, I highly recommend this to anyone who loves a nice, uplifting romance.
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