Tag Archives: christmas romance

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Book Review: Highland Stranger, by Kerrigan Byrne

I picked up a copy of Kerrigan Byrne‘s Highland Stranger as an Amazon freebie in an attempt to add a little variety to my Christmas Reading Challenge. (It’s been very contemporary romance heavy.)
highland stranger cover
His heart was made of ice…

Born a nameless bastard into the Berserker horde, Finn is the measure of strength, ferocity, and brutality at the Temple of Freya. Sent to the Highlands bent on revenge and murder, he stumbles on an infant deserted in the snow. What he chooses next may seal his fate.
Her life was cold and empty…

Rhona McEwan has lost everything. Her husband, her child, and soon she fears she must relinquish her dignity in order to survive the bitter Highland winter. When the most fearsome, mysterious, and breathtaking man seeks the help she can give to the child in his arms, she’s unable to turn them away. Even though she’s not certain he’s entirely human.
Three of the world’s Unwanted…

On a snowy Solstice night during the magical Yuletide season, their need for each other may alter their destinies forever. In the third installment of the best-selling Highland Historical Series, Kerrigan Byrne weaves a tale of blood and vengeance, of love, redemption, and the bonds that make a family.

my review
This is the first of this series that I’ve read and I was able to follow it admirably well. I was a tad confused on what, exactly, a berserker was (it’s quite a ways into the book before it’s explained). But that was the only issue with having not read the first two books.

I have a soft spot for supernatural men who are just a tad broken and cling desperately to their love (be it a mate, a wife, an amour, whatever). And Finn is just that. I liked him quite a lot as a hero. I appreciated Rhona too. She’s been through the wringer and come out stronger for it. But I’m not a huge fan of female characters written as if they’ve somehow never discovered their own bodies. Similarly, I cringe when “her womanhood,” “his manhood,” etc is repeatedly used as descriptions in sex. It seems super limiting.

Regardless, for a 150(ish) page novella it was a satisfying enough read.

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Other Reviews:

A Date With a Book: Unwanted (aka Highland Stranger)


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Book Review: Christmasly Obedient, by Julia Kent

Julia Kent‘s Christmasly Obedient was featured on Sadie’s Spotlight last Christmas season. The promo material included a copy of the book. However, I was in the middle of a kitchen remodel last December and didn’t do any purposeful Christmas reading. But I happen to be doing a Christmas Reading Challenge this year, so it got read at last.

Tree picking in glorious, downeast Maine. Snow. Santa. Roaring fires, people you love, and a good life. What more could a guy want?

Or, rather, two guys?

Mike and Jeremy have a quiet life with Lydia, on her parents’ family campground in Verily, Maine. It’s a little boring, sure, but after the craziness of their old lives, what’s wrong with boring?

Besides, Jeremy and Mike find Lydia anything but.

As Christmas looms, and an unexpected oops leaves them all in a state of uncertainty, they have to ask themselves: is it time to let life be a little less boring?

And what’s inside that slim box Lydia’s giving them both on Christmas morning?

my review
When I first went through all my books and picked out the Christmas themed one to make a Christmas reading list, I included Christmasly Obedient. I later took it off the list because it is number four in a series and I neither own nor have read the previous three books. I didn’t think I had the time to do so during the period I’d allotted myself for the reading challenge. Then, I came across two reviews that stated the book had been read as a standalone and it was fine. So, I put it back on the list and read it.

Turns out the book does stand alone. Now, I won’t pretend I didn’t feel the lack of those previous three books. By this point the threesome is established, the characters have had three books to grow and get to know one another, etc. And yes, you notice that. But the plot contained within this book does stand alone and it’s quite sweet.

I liked seeing everyone come to terms with the situation. I liked the family cameos. There wasn’t a lot of sex, but it was the right amount of spice for a short read. I did think the guys came across as unlikable at times. But I also sensed that their gruff personalities were meant to have been tempered in previous books. So, what I was supposed to see was that the situations wasn’t unrealistically hearts and roses, not just grumps.

All in all, I enjoyed it.

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Book Review – Bittersweets Christmas: Arvin & Tina, by Suzanne Jenkins

I picked up a copy of Suzanne JenkinsBittersweets Christmas: Arvin & Tina December before last as an Amazon freebie.

bittersweets christmas

What does a Jewish neurologist and a Muslim ER physician have in common? LOVE!

Tina Halevy’s sense of identity had begun to morph long before she met ER physician Arvin Amir in Philadelphia. When she lived at home with mom and dad, every Saturday, she went to The Great Synagogue in Jerusalem. That sense of community was the first thing she looked for when she moved to Missouri for an neurology residency at Barnes Jewish Hospital, and she found it.

But in Philly, she had to start all over again and the isolation was just getting to her when she met Arvin. Once she decided to give him a chance, their romance became legendary among the colleagues at the hospital where they practiced.

The only stumbling block? Tina’s parents, especially her mother, were not going to tolerate a Muslim man for a son in law. Something larger, out of their control would have to happen first, and then they find out why their daughter loved him so much, and that they would love him that much, too.

my review

Oh my, I have so many things to say. I’ll start out with the title, which is “Bittersweets Christmas – Arvin & Tina: Steamy Romance.” I just don’t know if you can call something a “Steamy Romance” if all the sex is behind closed doors or fade-to-black. So, the book is not steamy. Though I do very much appreciate that Tina had no issue with standing up for herself and what she considered acceptable or not in the sex department (and Arvin was willing to take instruction without getting angry about it). Secondly, I don’t think the blurb is particularly accurate to the actual story in the book.

Next, I think I should mention why I chose to read this book. There are lots of reasons a person might pick a book up. I grabbed this as an Amazon freebie because the blurb said, “What does a Jewish neurologist and a Muslim ER physician have in common? LOVE! And how will they celebrate Christmas? Romantically!” and I thought, “Wow, that’s hugely dismissive and feels problematic in about a hundred ways.” I honestly chose to read this book to see if it is as offensive as it sounded to me.

Having now read it, I have to make a side note that if there are any dog whistles here in this interracial/inter-religious romance, I didn’t recognize them. So, I’m going to move forward as if Jenkins did as I sensed and tried to write a book about a White Jewish immigrant getting over her racist upbringing to love a Black Muslim immigrant, all set around Christmas. And she wasn’t trying to write a book steeped in any number of -isms. I can’t know for sure, one way or the other, obviously, but I’m going to move forward with the assumption that she wasn’t.

Also having now read it, I realize that as a White woman who has no claim to any of the religions on display here, I’m not the one to decide if said -isms are present in the book or not. What I will say is that I felt like the religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) weren’t given equal treatment in the narrative and the book is super, Super, SUPER cringey (in general and around the issue of race). OMG, so CRINGE! There just isn’t any delicacy. And I fear this is probably an example of why people who are not of a demographic—be it race or religion—shouldn’t write characters of that demographic without lots and lots of beta readers from that demographic. I suspect there are a lot of errors in representation here.

What’s more, the story-line is far too rushed, with a lot of characters thrown at the reader with almost no introduction. The writing is excessively plebeian, with names used too often in the dialogue to feel natural and too much of the narrative told instead of shown. The editing, however, feels pretty clean.

All in all, I imagine there will be an audience for this book. Like I said, I feel like Jenkins was trying to write a book that countered racism and religious bigotry. I just don’t know how successful she was…or if she was successful but I was too busy cringing to see it.

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