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Book Review: Smitten Book Club by Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, Diann Hunt, and Denise Hunter

Posted by Julie on February 18, 2014 in Book Review, Julie Arduini, Life Lessons |

519fdbtKEPL._AA160_About the book: The century-old Gentlewoman’s Guide to Love and Courtship is no ordinary book club choice. But for the little book club in Smitten, Vermont, it might be their best pick yet!

The thick, leathery tome Heather pulled out of the dusty cardboard box was definitely coming home with her. Not only was The Gentlewoman’s Guide to Love and Courtship an appealing curiosity by virtue of its title; it was also written by Smitten, Vermont native Pearl Chambers, a local gentlewoman from three generations back.

Little did Heather know the repercussions this little curiosity would have on her and her friends’ romantic exploits.
When Heather and her fellow book club members begin passing the book around, their respective interpretations are unleashed on their respective love lives . . . for better or for worse. Is it a mystery? An idealist fantasy? An intimation of Jane Austen? As romantic love finds its way to each woman, the Guide proves itself both surprisingly prescient and hilariously irrelevant.

What’s more, a handwritten inscription indicates that the arcane book might hold the only extant clues leading to buried gold—exactly what one of the members needs to keep her house. How could they not go treasure hunting?

In this remarkable collaborative novel, besties Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, Denise Hunter, and Diann Hunt tackle the tale of the Gentlewoman’s Guide by writing for one book club member apiece. Smitten Book Club is a hopeful, hilarious story of friendship and healing, written by friends for friends.

 

I absolutely adored the premise behind the Smitten Book Club. An old book find full of sage advice from a local woman three generations ago finds its way through Smitten. There is the mystery of buried gold and whether Chambers hid clues to the treasure within the pages of her Gentlewoman’s Guide. There’s the fun of watching romance unfold throughout Smitten thanks to the book.

I thought each story was seamless and as cozy as a Vermont drive. The romances were natural, as were the book club members and their friendships and struggles. The mystery was a fun touch, too.

The hard part for me was reading Diann’s story. I took twice as long because I kept thinking of her and her family as I read, knowing she received her eternal homegoing two months ago. I read so much from the others knowing no matter what Diann was facing or feeling, she met her deadlines. I savored her story knowing how hard she worked to deliver a story readers would love. How hard this must be for Colleen, Denise, and Kristen to promote without their friend.

Diann’s wish is realized. Smitten Book Club is a story readers will love. It’s a smart story that effortlessly weaves friendship, romance, humor, and mystery.

About the authors:

RITA-finalist Colleen Coble is the author of several best-selling romantic suspense novels, including Tidewater Inn, and the Mercy Falls, Lonestar, and Rock Harbor series.

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Christy Award finalist and two-time winner of the ACFW Book of the Year award, Kristin Billerbeck has appeared on The Today Show and has been featured in the New York Times. Her books include A Billion Reasons Why and What a Girl Wants.

Denise Hunter is the award-winning and best-selling author of several novels, including A Cowboy’s Touch and Sweetwater Gap. She and her husband are raising three boys in Indiana.

Diann Hunt has lived in Indiana forever, been happily married forever, loves her family, chocolate, her friends, her dog, and, well, chocolate. Diann lost her courageous battle with cancer in December 2013.

To purchase Smitten Book Club, click here.

I received a copy of Smitten Book Club from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: Barefoot Summer by Denise Hunter

Posted by Julie on June 22, 2013 in Book Review, Julie Arduini, Life Lessons, surrender |

There’s nothing better than having a summer day to read a book about summer, and Denise Hunter is among a handful of authors who knows how to create a great day for her readers.

About Barefoot Summer:

Madison’s heart has been closed for years. But one summer can change everything.

In the years since her twin brother’s drowning, Madison McKinley has struggled to put it behind her. Despite the support of her close-knit family and her gratifying job as a veterinarian in their riverside town, the loss still haunts her.

To find closure, Madison sets out to fulfill her brother’s dream of winning the town’s annual regatta. But first she has to learn to sail, and fast.

Beckett O’Reilly knows Madison is out of his league, but someone neglected to tell his heart. Now she needs his help—and he’ll give it, because he owes her far more than she’ll ever know.

Madison will do anything—even work with the infamous Beckett O’Reilly—to reach her goal. And as much as she’d like to deny it, the chemistry between them is electrifying. As summer wanes, her feelings for him grow and a fledgling faith takes root in her heart.

But Beckett harbors a secret that will test the limits of their new love. Can their romance survive summer’s challenges? And will achieving her brother’s dream give Madison the peace she desperately seeks?

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Madison is a character to relate to and root for. Although her cause to win the regatta is a noble one, the odds are stacked high against her. She’s got grit, even when she’s stuck with Beckett. Now the impossible goal is to not root for these two, both in romance and Madison’s desire to win the regatta.

The story has heart, community, smiles, and of course, a romance worthy of a summer read.

I think you’re going to enjoy Barefoot Summer. I know I did.

To purchase Barefoot Summer, click here.

I received Barefoot Summer from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: Secretly Smitten by Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, Diann Hunt, and Denise Hunter

Posted by Julie on January 26, 2013 in Book Review, Julie Arduini, Life Lessons, surrender |

When it comes to romance, there are a lot of sub-genres. Historical, contemporary, suspense, inspirational, and chick-lit to name a few. Secretly Smitten enters a sub-genre I don’t think I’ve heard–cozy romance.

This book, written by real life best friends Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, Diann Hunt and Denise Hunter, is a sequel, but you wouldn’t know. Each story is a stand alone and doesn’t confuse readers with information from the previous book. Although mystery is part of Secretly Smitten, romance takes center stage and deserves a standing ovation.

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Each author wrote a story and they are all quick reads. They flow so well together, it’s obvious these are authors who know each other well enough to finish each other’s sentences. Afterall, that’s what BFF’s do, right?  Aside from reading enough from the authors to know their own quirks (who knits, for example) I would not have been able to tell this was written by more than one author. The transition between stories was seemless.

Each story is held together by the past. One of the characters, Tess, finds a pair of dog tags in her grandmother’s attic belonging to David Hutchins. Turns out he was her grandmother’s first love, and she believed him to be dead. Tess and her sisters work to unravel how David was thought to be dead when he really wasn’t, and was he still alive?

While they investigate the past, the Thomas’ women discover love on their own. Each woman has her own struggles, and I love that the women had to overcome. Each character was strong in her own right, but there was a challenge in each story. Their men were also each different, with their own backgrounds and conflicts that threatened the romance.

Mystery and romance would be enough to satisfy, but the authors create an added layer for the reader to work through, family. As the David Hutchins mystery unravels, two sisters endure hurt and unforgiveness. I thought this backstory was exceptionally well done and relatable. There truly is something for everyone in Secretly Smitten.

From Amazon:

Summer, fall, winter, spring—Smitten, Vermont, is the place for love . . . and mystery!

There’s a secret in Grandma Rose’s attic—a forgotten set of dog tags belonging to her first love. But David Hutchins was killed in action and never returned to Smitten. How did the dog tags end up in the attic?

The mystery intrigues Rose’s three granddaughters—Tess, Clare, and Zoe—and they decide to investigate, though their mother, Anna, warns against meddling. But as the seasons turn and the mystery unravels, the three young women and their mother encounter some intriguing mystery men of their own. Has a sixty-year-old puzzle sparked something new for this close-knit family of women?

Join popular romance novelists—and real-life BFFs—Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, Diann Hunt, and Denise Hunter for four delightful intertwined tales of mystery and sweet intrigue.

Secretly Smitten was as comfortable as a pair of slippers, a favorite blanket, and a roaring fire. Which I think you should gather as you read this equally cozy book.

Purchase Secretly Smitten here.

I received Secretly Smitten from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Secretly Smitten Live Webcast February 5th

Posted by Julie on January 22, 2013 in Book Review, Julie Arduini, Life Lessons, webinars, Writing |

The “gals” are celebrating the release of Secretly Smitten with a fun Live Webcast on February 5th. They’ll be debuting the *NEW* animated Smitten trailer, giving away tons of prizes, dishing on the book and their friendship. They’ll also be wrapping up the Secretly Smitten blog tour, answering audience questions and testing your trivia skills. Don’t miss the fun and bring your friends. Click here to RSVP and set up a reminder.

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Book Review: Lasso Me a Mom by Stephanie Jackson

Posted by Julie on December 4, 2012 in Book Review, Julie Arduini, surrender |

There’s nothing like the Christmas season to dive into a heartwarming story. Those winter months are where I’m looking for a sweet story that pulls on my emotions. Lasso Me a Mom by Stephanie Jackson is such a read.

Nikki Turner has it all: she is an honor student, has a popular boyfriend and is a star dancer. However; never is there a time that a smile crosses her face. With a constant frown and a sharp tongue, she doesn’t let anyone get a rise out of her, especially her teacher Cassie McGregor.

When it is revealed that Nikki is homeless and in the foster care system, Cassie, who is a certified foster mother, is chosen to be her temporary guardian, an agreement they both object from the start. As their animosity begins to deplete, Nikki and Cassie realize that what they’ve always wanted just might bring them closer.

Although on TV a similar theme is playing out on the TNT show “Major Crimes,” a lovable but rejected teen paired with an adult that appears an odd fit still isn’t one often explored, and I liked the way Nikki and Cassie interact. They have a not-so-great history, but their positive progression to a great fit is well done.

I would like to see the onion layers, so to speak, peeled back even more when it comes to character development and dialogue. This is a dialgoue-driven book, and I’d enjoy experiencing the character sensing things through dialogue beats instead of just tags. My sense is that in future works, these things will be as natural of a progression as Nikki and Cassie were. The author lists Denise Hunter and Colleen Coble as inspirations, and those are top-notch authors to observe.

Lasso Me a Mom is an uplifting read full of heart. Check it out!

Purchase here

I received a .pdf from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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