Review: On Magnolia Lane (Blue Ridge Romance #3) by Denise Hunter

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From the bestselling author of The Convenient Groom (now a beloved Hallmark Original movie) comes the final book in Hunter’s Blue Ridge Romance series.

Pastor Jack McReady has secretly carried a torch for Daisy for two long years. She’s a member of his congregation, after all, and she’ll never see him as more than a trusted counselor. Jack’s best friend Noah has taken every opportunity to encourage his lovesick friend, but when Noah catches wind that Daisy has joined an online dating site, he takes matters into his own hands and orchestrates a meet-cute of the most unconventional kind.

Owner of the local flower shop, Daisy Pendleton is content with her small-town life, but she’d sure like someone to share it with. After several disastrous first dates, she’s about to give up—and then she finds a seemingly wonderful man online. Daisy gets to know TJ through a series of messages but finds herself spending more time with Pastor Jack outside of the church at the same time. What she doesn’t know is that her online prospect and Jack are one and the same.

Just as Daisy’s love life starts to look promising, a mysterious woman appears in town. Daisy is faced with a revelation about her family that turns her world upside down, and she looks to both TJ and Jack for help.

Jack must find a way to reveal himself as her online suitor without breaking her heart and losing her trust. As Daisy faces Jack’s betrayal, she’ll have to learn to extend grace to herself, her family, and the man she’s grown to love.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

On Magnolia Lane will be available November 6, 2018.

I’ve enjoyed the other books in the Blue Ridge Romance series and On Magnolia Lane just might be my favorite of the series.

I found both the lead characters, Daisy and Jack, to be likable. Sometimes I struggle with the likability factor of this author’s female leads, but I really liked Daisy here. She was kind and I felt like all of her reactions to some of the bad things she found out about were reasonable. I really liked Jack, too, though the whole dating site deceit storyline did keep me from really loving him.

Speaking of the dating site, that part of the plot really reminded me of another one of Hunter’s books. In the interest of full disclosure, I only read a couple of chapters of that book before I decided it wasn’t for me. I have to admit that while it didn’t ruin the book for me or anything, I really didn’t like it any better here. In a different book, I probably would’ve been ok with the male lead being a little dishonest about being the online suitor. I got that he wanted her to get to know him without the Pastor title she associated with him. BUT, I feel like as a Pastor he should’ve handled it better. I have a really hard time excusing his deceit in light of his occupation.

Which brings us to the message of forgiveness. Even though we have a tendency to place certain people on pedestals, everyone is just human and fallible. It’s only by grace that we are forgiven. This is a really easy truth to accept until you’re faced with being betrayed by someone you care about. In addition to Jack’s deceit, Daisy finds out things about her parents that was hard to get past. I found myself in a similar situation over the past year so I found this very relatable and it’s probably the biggest reason this is my favorite book of the series. It made me realize I still have a little ways to go when it comes to forgiveness, too.

Overall, I enjoyed On Magnolia Lane. It was a quick, easy read that I flew right through. I liked the characters and the message of forgiveness and grace. I believe this is the last book in the Blue Ridge Romance series and I thought it ended well. I recommend it to fans of Contemporary Christian Fiction.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

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Review: Honeysuckle Dreams (Blue Ridge Romance #2) by Denise Hunter

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

After Brady Collins’ ex-wife dies, he receives devastating news—his nine-month-old son Sam isn’t his son at all. And Sam’s wealthy maternal grandparents want custody of the child. Brady knows he’s in for the fight of his life. But regardless of what any blood test says, Sam is his son, and Brady will go to any lengths to keep him.

Brady’s attorney tips him off that one major life change would virtually assure him of winning guardianship of baby Sam at the final hearing: an impending marriage. And his friend Hope is willing to step in as the loving and devoted fiancé.

Local radio celebrity Hope Daniels has been driven by a solitary goal her entire life, and after a happy accident she’s finally offered her dream job. But if the truth comes out about her arrangement with Brady, she may miss the chance of a lifetime and stand in the way of a dear friend’s dreams.

As Brady and Hope make sacrifices to help each other in their times of need, they risk uncovering a truth neither of them expects to find.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review. 

Honeysuckle Dreams will be available 5/1/18. 

What I Enjoyed

-For most of the book I really liked both Brady and Hope. I thought they made a good team and I enjoyed their blossoming romance. I liked how they interacted with Sam and their friends.

-This is more of a Marriage-of-Convenience story than the Fake Relationship I thought it was, but I still liked that aspect of it. It’s one of my favorite tropes and I thought it was well done. I liked that they went into the marriage with the intent of having a real relationship, but that they didn’t rush it.

-I thought the storyline regarding Sam’s custody case was well done, if perhaps a little easy. I thought it had great potential for drama, but it was kept in check and I liked that.

What Didn’t Work for Me

-As I mentioned above, there wasn’t a lot of drama for most of the book, but I felt like it saved it all for the end. Once the custody case was wrapped up I felt like all of a sudden Hope went kind of crazy. While there were a few things said about Hope’s past and fears throughout the book, it felt like it escalated out of nowhere and it really brought down my enjoyment. It felt tacked on and I just didn’t think it was necessary. My biggest complaint with books by this author is that I often find the female lead unlikable and I thought that wasn’t happening in this book, but by the end Hope was really frustrating me.

Overall

Overall, I enjoyed Honeysuckle Dreams, though the added drama at the end did bring it down a bit for me. I liked the characters for the most part and the Marriage-of-Convenience theme. I look forward to continuing the series.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

 

Reviewing the Unrevewied: February 2018

I read a lot of books that I don’t end up reviewing for whatever reason. Some because I wasn’t impressed. Some because I didn’t have the time. Some I just wasn’t feeling it on whatever particular day I finished. Reviewing the Unreviewed is my monthly post where I share my few thoughts on all the books I didn’t formally review.

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The Smallest Part by Amy Harmon. February 16-17. 4 Stars. 

Love. Love. Love.  Amy Harmon writes beautiful books.

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My Lady’s Choosing: An Interactive Romance Novel by Kitty Curran & Larissa Zageris. Read February 17-18. 3 Stars. 

love this concept! I read through the book several times choosing different scenarios and feel like I only scratched the surface on the possibilities. Full review to come.

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Then She was Gone by Lisa Jewell. Read February 18-19. 4 Stars. 

Lisa Jewell does it again. I was so consumed by this story that I finished it in under 24 hours. Full review to come.

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Honeysuckle Dreams (Blue Ridge Romance #2) by Denise Hunter. Read February 19-21. 3.5 Stars. 

I enjoyed this, though the added drama at the end did bring it down a bit for me. I liked the characters for the most part and the Marriage-of-Convenience theme. I look forward to continuing the series. Full review to come.

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Runaway Groom (I Do, I Don’t #2) by Lauren Layne. Read February 21-23. 4 Stars. 

Such a fun book. I really liked both Ellie and Gage. I enjoyed the “The Bachelor” type setting, too, though I thought it could have been played up a bit more. I’m really looking forward to the next one.

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What You Want to See (Roxane Weary #2) by Kristen Lepionka. Read February 24-25. 4 Stars. 

I really enjoyed this book. It was well-paced and well-written, with a really interesting mystery. I also love that this book is set in Columbus, OH and I recognized a lot of the areas mentioned. I definitely recommend this series to Mystery fans and am looking forward to reading more from Lepionka in the future. Full review to come.

********Re-Reads********

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After finishing Iron Gold I fell into a book slump and decided to re-read the original trilogy, which I failed to do prior to reading Iron Gold. I still loved them all the second time around (third time for Red Rising). I had forgotten how completely epic Morning Star really is.

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Catching Jordan (Hundred Oaks #1) by Miranda Kenneally. This was recently free on Kindle. I pretty much have all the same issues with this book as I did the first time I read it. However, I think I may have enjoyed it slightly more this time around. It’s a pretty quick read.

********Back on the TBR********

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Books from the library that I never started before they expiredFragments of the Lost by Megan Miranda, A Map of the Dark by Karen Ellis, and The Cruel Prince by Holly Black.

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Books from the library that I started and couldn’t get into: Fake Wife by Stacey Lynn, Moonlight Sins by Jennifer Armentrout, Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson. I usually love a good fake relationship story, but I read several chapters of Fake Wife and just couldn’t get into it. I think I want to try it again someday, though. I read about a chapter and a half of Moonlight Sins and again, just couldn’t get into it. I used to love everything by JLA, but all but one of her last several books have been ones I didn’t like or didn’t finish. I’m not sure if I’ll ever give this one a chance again. Truly Devious seems promising, but I was in a mood when I started it and then I realized it was the first book in a series and not a standalone, so I think I’ll wait until more books are published before I read it.

Review: Blue Ridge Sunrise (Blue Ridge Romance #1) by Denise Hunter

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Former free spirit Zoe Collins swore she’d never again set foot in Copper Creek or speak to the man who broke her heart. But return she must when her beloved Granny dies, leaving the family legacy to Zoe–a peach orchard nestled at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

When Zoe returns home with her daughter and boyfriend Kyle, she finds that she’s the only person in town who doesn’t expect her to give up the life she’s established far away from Copper Creek. Everyone believes she was born to run the orchard, but how can she make it her home after so many years?

Cruz Huntley never quite got over his first love Zoe Collins, the little sister of his best friend Brady. Not when she cheated on him during their “break,” not when she took off to parts unknown with good-for-nothing Kyle Jenkins, and not even now—five years later.

As life-changing decisions and a history with Cruz hang over Zoe’s head, tensions rise between her and Kyle. Even as she comes to terms with the shifting relationships in her life, Zoe still isn’t sure if she can remain in Copper Creek with her new responsibilities . . . and her first love.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

Blue Ridge Sunrise will be available 11/7/17. 

I can’t think of a book that I have gone back and forth so much on as I did this book. For awhile I was really loving it. Then I was really annoyed at a turn of events. Then I loved it again. Then I was annoyed again. Then it picked up a little bit again at the end.

I was immediately drawn in to Zoe and Cruz and their second-chance romance storyline. As with most of Hunter’s leading ladies, I found Zoe kind of hard to like, but she did grow throughout the story. I, of course, loved Cruz. I also liked Zoe’s brother, Brady, and her best friend, Hope (I’m anticipating them to be lead characters in a future book in this series). The second part of the book is a flash back to when Zoe and Cruz started dating. I’m a big fan of multiple timeline storytelling and I loved watching those two get together.

As I mentioned above, after loving the book for awhile, something happened that really annoyed me. This is just personal preference, but I really, really dislike any romance trope that involves babies/kids. It just brings my whole enjoyment of a book way down. Another thing that I really dislike in books is when one small miscommunication is the main source of conflict and just one honest conversation would clear everything up. It drives me crazy to read a whole book like that.

Thankfully, the miscommunication was cleared up much more quickly than I anticipated. I was able to get back on the Cruz and Zoe ship and enjoy myself again. I liked watching them grow closer as they worked together to get the peach market up and running. However, Zoe’s old boyfriend Kyle is still not entirely out of the picture. Zoe decides to do something so annoyingly frustrating to remedy that and I found my enjoyment disappearing again. Things did work out in the end, though, with a nice lesson in faith tacked on.

Overall, Blue Ridge Sunrise was just a little uneven for me. While I did really enjoy Zoe and Cruz’s relationship, some romance tropes that I don’t really like were employed and kind of dampened my experience. I know that some people really love those type of storylines though, so I can see many readers eating the whole thing up with a smile. I also thought that for being Christian Fiction it was really light on the Christian. Again, not something that will bother everybody. This wasn’t my favorite Denise Hunter book, but it wasn’t my least favorite either. I liked it enough that I want to continue the series.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Reviewing the Unreviewed: August 2017

I read a lot of books that I don’t end up reviewing for whatever reason. Some because I wasn’t impressed. Some because I didn’t have the time. Some I just wasn’t feeling it on whatever particular day I finished. Reviewing the Unreviewed is my monthly post where I share my few thoughts on all the books I didn’t formally review.

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How I Lost You by Jenny Blackhurst. Read August 1-5. 2.5 Stars.

I really wanted to like this book. It definitely looks like it would be just my type. Unfortunately, it just didn’t really work for me. Full review to come closer to release date.

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Only You (Bachelor Brotherhood #1) by Denise Grover Swank. Read August 5-6. 4 Stars. 

I loved this! Holly and Kevin were such likable characters and I absolutely loved them together. Though everything happened very fast, I really enjoyed watching their relationship progress. With a large focus on family and a few zany characters this reminded me a lot of a Kristan Higgins book, who is my favorite Romance author. I realized that I have a couple of this author’s books that I’ve never read before and I am remedying that right away.

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The Substitute (The Wedding Pact #1) by Denise Grover Swank. Read August 6-8. 3 Stars. 

I really enjoyed the fake relationship aspects to this story. There were lots of humorous and slightly uncomfortable moments. I thought the book was a little too long, though, and while I liked Megan and Josh I never really fell in love with them. I didn’t like this as much as the other book I’ve read by this author, but I’m still going to try out some of her other books.

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The Player (The Wedding Pact #2) by Denise Grover Swank. Read August 8-13. 2.5 Stars.

I really enjoyed parts of this. I like the 2nd chance romance trope and thought it was done pretty well here. I liked Garrett. Blair was just so, SO unlikable, though! I hated her in the first book of the series and thought being in her head this time around would make me understand her behavior, but it didn’t. Sure, she was hurt in the past, but I don’t think that can completely excuse how bitchy she was to everyone, including her best friends who were always there for her. I was going to give this 3 stars, but the more I think about Blair, the more it brings the whole story down for me, so I’m going with 2.5.

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Blue Ridge Sunrise (Blue Ridge Romance #1) by Denise HunterRead August 13-15. 3 Stars.

This was just a little uneven for me. While I did really enjoy Zoe and Cruz’s relationship, some romance tropes that I don’t really like were employed and kind of dampened my experience. I know that some people really love those type of storylines though, so I can see many readers eating the whole thing up with a smile. I also thought that for being Christian Fiction it was really light on the Christian. Again, not something that will bother everybody. This wasn’t my favorite Denise Hunter book, but it wasn’t my least favorite either. I liked it enough that I want to continue the series. Full review to come closer to release date.

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Textrovert by Lindsey Summers. Read August 18-19. 3 Stars. 

I originally got this from NetGalley, but the ARC didn’t format well on my Nook and all the texts were missing. Since the texts are obviously an important part of the story, I didn’t end up reading it then. It finally came to my library, though, and I was excited . Keely was mostly likable, but was kind of frustrating a lot of times. There were several very cute moments between her and Talon, but I thought Talon was a little too much of a jerk to really ever love him. I felt like the ending was a little abrupt and left a several storylines kind of open-ended. Overall, it was a cute quick and easy read, but it’s not one I plan on ever picking up again.

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Just Another Girl by Elizabeth Eulberg. Read August 20. 3.5 Stars. 

This book ended up being much different than I thought it would be. It wasn’t quite the cute read I was expecting, but I still ended up really appreciating it. I loved the style it was written in. The POV switched between Hope and her biggest rival Parker and we even got one POV chapter from Brady, the guy in the middle. It was a little jarring at first because from Hope’s POV we are to hate Parker and even though I thought Hope was way over-dramatic and too boy-crazy, I did kind of hate Parker. But then we get Parker’s POV and realize she’s nothing like Hope thinks. I thought it was a great way to show how we judge people very easily without really knowing what’s happening behind closed doors. There is one thing I really liked that I’m giving it the extra half star for and it’s a spoiler.

***SPOILER ALERT***SPOILER ALERT***

While I am a sucker for a cute romance, sometimes I think it would be nice to see the girl NOT get the guy (or vice versa) once in awhile. And that’s what happens here! Hope is hopelessly infatuated with Brady and convinces herself that he likes her too, even though he’s dating Parker. But as the book goes on we find out that Brady does care about Hope, but only as a best friend and nothing more. She realizes unrequited love is not the worst thing in the world and they remain friends. He and Parker also break up and the book ends with both of our leading ladies single and doing fine. This is definitely a rare occurrence in YA Contemporary and I loved it.

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Prom & Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg. Read August 20-22. 4 Stars. 

Super cute YA Pride and Prejudice re-telling. I really liked the main characters and all the “big moments” from Pride and Prejudice that I expect to see in a re-telling were represented. The only thing I didn’t really like was the reason behind Elizabeth being bullied at school. It was so shallow and not very realistic. If you like YA and Jane Austen re-tellings I think you will definitely enjoy this one.

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A Charmed Little Lie (Charmed in Texas #1) by Sharla Lovelace. Read August 22-24. 3 Stars. 

There were lots of cute things about this book and lots of humorous moments. I liked Laine and Nick together. There was just something missing for me, though. I thought some of the things Laine did were unrealistic – and I’m not even talking about the fake relationship part – and cringe-worthy. I liked it enough, though, that I would read more from this author.

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Walk of Shame (Love Unexpectedly #4) by Lauren Layne. Read August 24-26. 4 Stars. 

Ridiculously cute. I loved Georgie and Andrew’s relationship and their banter and how darn cute they were together. I did get frustrated with Georgie, though. This is not the first book by Lauren Layne I’ve read where the female lead acts like everything she does is perfectly justified and gives the male lead crap for acting differently. It really annoyed me that Georgie would provoke him and then get mad when he didn’t respond the way she wanted. Other than that, though, and the few slightly too graphic scenes, I really enjoyed this book.

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Everywhere that Mary Went (Rosato & Associates #1) by Lisa Scottoline. Read August 26-27. 3.5 Stars.

It started out a little slow for me and got a little slow in the middle so that’s why I couldn’t quite give it 4 stars. I did enjoy it, though. Mary frustrated me some, but I liked her. I think after hearing Lisa Scottoline speak in person, I was better able to appreciate Mary. I thought the conclusion of the mystery was pretty good. I hadn’t suspected it at all, but it made sense. I’m seriously considering spending money and buying the next book in the series because there’s a really long wait for it at the library.

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The Last Place You Look (Roxane Weary #1) by Kristen Lepionka. Read August 27-29. 4 Stars. 

I really enjoyed this book. There were several clichéd things about it that I thought would kind of ruin it for me, but it didn’t. The main character is an abrasive, alcoholic detective with daddy issues. She is set apart a little from this character cliché by being a PI instead of with the police and is bisexual. The resolution of the mystery was very similar to at least two books I’ve read this year. Despite those things, I did not want to put the book down. It was pretty perfectly paced in regards to both the mystery aspect and to Roxane’s personal relationships and character development. Even though there was plenty about her I didn’t like, she still somehow ended up being a likable character. I also really liked that this was set in Ohio. I am definitely looking forward to reading more Roxane Weary books.

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Books I’ve Read In 2017 So Far

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish , is: Best Books You’ve Read In 2017 So Far. Books 1-3 are the ones I’ve given 4.5 Stars to and all the rest have 4. It was hard to narrow down which 4 star reads would make the list, but I went for the ones that are the most likely to be re-reads in the future.

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1. Daisy in Chains by Sharon Bolton

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2. Ragdoll by Daniel Cole

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3. Making Faces by Amy Harmon

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4. Seeking Mansfield by Kate Watson

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5. Sweetbriar Cottage by Denise Hunter

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6. Now You See Me by Sharon Bolton (aka SJ Bolton)

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7. I Found You by Lisa Jewell

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8. Dating You/Hating You by Christina Lauren

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9. The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond

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10. When It’s Real by Erin Watt

What are your best books of 2017?