Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 in Review - Our Favorite Reads

As 2014 comes to an end, we all look back on what the year held for us. This year, we can't help but reflect on all the amazing books we read - and 2014 was a banner year for Christian Romance Fiction! We were thrilled to keep having great new reads. Is it bad we worry 2015 can't possibly top it? We would be ecstatic to be proven wrong! 

Of all the books we read this year, we wanted to share our top 10 just in case you happened to miss one of these gems. These were all published in 2014. Some were stand alone titles, some a part of a series; and some left us hanging, wanting to read more, with a new read to come in 2015. All of them were great, and a few can even be found on our Golden List. 

Well here it is: counting down to the #1 book of 2014!

#10 Deep in the Heart by Staci Stallings
#9 Here to Stay by Melissa Tagg
#8 In the Field of Grace by Tessa Afshar
#7 Broken Kind of Beautiful by Katie Ganshert
#6 Silenced by Dani Pettrey
#5 When I Fall in Love by Susan May Warren
#4 Surprised by Love by Julie Lessman
#3 Meant to be Mine by Becky Wade
#2 It Had to be You by Susan May Warren
#1 Dancing With Fireflies by Denise Hunter

Top Five Novellas

We know many people enjoy novellas as well, and we love having a little escape with them too! These were our top five of 2014. Some are stand alone and some are a collection of four.

#5 Cliché Christmas by Nicole Deese
#4 March Bride by Rachel Hauck
#3 Smitten Book Club (Four Novellas) Denise Hunter, Colleen Coble, Kristen Billerbeck, Diann Hunt
#2 A Match Made in Texas (Four Novellas) Mary Connealy, Karen Witemeyer, Carol Cox, Regina Jennings
#1 December Bride by Denise Hunter...(ok, confession: it came out November 2013, but we read it twice in 2014 because it was that good!)

Here's to more happy reading in 2015!!!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Love at Any Cost (By: Julie Lessman)

Love at Any Cost
By: Julie Lessman

*Note: This is book one of The Heart of San Francisco Trilogy.


This book is quite the page turner! Cassidy McClare comes to San Francisco to visit her cousins after having her heart broken by a fortune hunting suitor. Almost from the moment she steps off the train, she and Jamie McKenna, a family friend, hit it off and a romance ensues. But there's a problem - Jamie is himself a fortune hunter and Cassidy's wealth has recently dried up - neither of which know about the other. Also introduced in this first book is the saga of another couple - Logan McClare and Caitlin McClare - that adds enough elements to keep this book emotionally exciting. At first we thought the book would be fairly predictable, but that was not the case. The journey is original, exciting and delightful and made for a few late nights of reading with intelligent writing and a heart-stopping plot twist.


Julie does a wonderful job weaving together complicated family history with the current events going on. The characters are complex and facing real life issues of grief, betrayal, love and family. Author Julie isn't afraid to let her characters experience hard realities about life, and she doesn't tie them up neatly with a bow for some quick solutions.


The reality that God desires to be involved in every aspects of people's lives is evident in this book. Cait and Cassie have very deep relationships with Jesus, mostly displayed by their high standards of purity they demand upon their prospective beaus. As such, Logan and Jamie are forced to examine their own standings with God and, when they come up short, then must realize the choice they have between surrender or pride.

Squeal Factor

You will rarely find a good, solid, wholesome book that can get any higher in squeal factor than this! This story is already solid, so the fireworks are the cherry on top here. Lots of tender moments, lots of sweet stolen kisses and lots of chemistry have pushed this book into our Golden List!


This book has all the elements needed - excitement, plot twists, romance, deep faith and just the right amount of activity going on. But be prepared for some sleepless nights if you choose to pick up this gem!

Monday, December 22, 2014

A Broken Kind of Beautiful (By: Katie Ganshert)

A Broken Kind of Beautiful
By: Katie Ganshert

This story is about Ivy Clark, a model who is quickly aging past her prime. As her 25th birthday approaches ("aged" by industry standards), her job offers are drying up after being in the modeling business for over ten years. This story also centers around Davis Knight, a former fashion photographer who has decided to quit the business. The two are thrown together when they are both commissioned to do a photo shoot for Ivy's step mother, Marilyn. The plot is original and interesting, and the lovable characters are well developed.

Books rarely get much deeper than this! As the title indicates, the central theme is brokenness, and Katie Ganshert tackles it wonderfully. All of the characters are dealing with their own kind of brokenness in that life has not turned out the way they planned nor wanted. They all wrestle with these issues and must discover what it takes to be made whole again.

A Broken Kind of Beautiful believes that God is the answer to people's brokenness. He loves the characters where they are at and wants to redeem them. Most notably, they learn that sometimes God asks us to do the hard things - but He is there every step of the way and Has great purpose in it. The redemption in this book is satisfying and deeply written.

Love Story
The only area we would have liked a little more of! A couple of touching scenes between Davis and Ivy grace the pages, but nothing sent our hearts racing.

Overall Overall, a fantastic book and one that stayed with us for quite awhile after we turned the last page. It gave a quick, but fascinating, glimpse into the modeling industry and left us with some deep insights into God's character and His powerful ability to redeem even the most broken of people.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Trilogy Review: The Heart of San Francisco (By: Julie Lessman)

The Heart of San Francisco Trilogy
By Julie Lessman

This exciting trilogy is made up of the following three books: Love At Any Cost, Dare To Love Again, and Surprised By Love. It reads as a good cross between historical and modern day fiction.

The entire series revolves around the McClare family: wealthy, Nob Hill residents in early 20th century San Francisco, who are grieving the early death of their patriarch, Liam. Left behind are his widow, Caitlin McClare, his brother Logan McClare, and his children Blake, Alli, Megan and Maddy. Also mixed in with this family are Blake's best friends, Bram Hughes and Jamie McKenna. At the very start, plenty of family history is revealed, the most prevalent storyline being that Logan and Caitlin were once engaged. Logan broke Cait's heart, which threw her into the arms of his brother to whom she was happily married for 26 years. Logan became the perfect, gentlemanly brother-in-law during that time, his formal betrayal forgiven by Cait. But now, 26 years later and with Liam passed away, Logan and Cait fight the chemistry that is threatening to rise to the surface after a long, long deep burial.

In the first book, Love At Any Cost, cousin Cassidy McClare arrives to spend the summer with the family. She is recovering from a broken heart, brought about by a fortune hunter who withdrew his love when her family's oil fields - and thus, wealth - dried up. Friend of the family Jamie begins to fall for her, but has a problem: It has been his steadfast mission to marry into wealth. This book is full of real faith, exciting chemistry, and stunning plot twists - including one near the end that nearly made our hearts stop beating. The first book in this series actually made it onto our Golden List!

The second book, Dare To Love Again, centers on feisty oldest daughter Alli, as she fights for her heart's greatest desire: independence. She fiercely loves her family, but desires to be free to do things as she pleases. She has a strong relationship with the Lord, mainly resulting from having her heart broken several times, and has decided that He and her calling to teach are enough for her. She meets Nick, the cop who patrols the school's neighborhood, and who wants to keep her safe, and the sparks begin to fly - but not the good kind. Between both of their tempers and pride, they fight from day one but reluctantly begin to work together. This book also includes a wonderful plot twist and ending that left us wanting more!

In the final book of this trilogy, Surprised By Love, we finally get to see Megan's story blossom. Meg has long been the wallflower of the family; the insecure, homely girl that was noticed only to be teased. Her family has been her constant source of unconditional love, especially family friend Bram Hughes, who has acted as a big brother to her. But as Meg grows up and blossoms into a stunning beauty, Bram is suddenly conflicted by his new attraction to her and the course he was planning for his life. Again (as Julie Lessman is sooo good at!!), faith issues and squeal factor play large roles in this book!. We are also given satisfying conclusions to several other storylines that were picked up earlier in the trilogy.

So onto our criteria:

Storyline - Julie Lessman is one of the best. Her writing is intelligent, descriptive and flows nicely together. Her storylines are fairly original and she excellently works out plot twists to satisfying conclusions. She keeps us on our toes!

Depth - The depth in these books is tied very closely with faith. Each character deals with real life issues, and then must wrestle with these issues and God. Author Julie isn't afraid to let her characters experience hard realities about life, and she doesn't tie them up neatly with a bow for some quick solutions. But she reminds readers that alongside these painful moments in life is the beauty of family and that there is always something to be thankful for.

Faith - All three books delve into deep spiritual issues that everyone must wrestle with during their lives. Jesus is a very real, personal Savior in her books, desiring to be involved in every aspect of the characters' lives. Of particular note in this trilogy is a theme of the heroines' high respect for themselves and for purity. As a result, the men in their lives are held to a high standard and forced to examine their own hearts as they line up with God. The ladies absolutely do not accept a man's simple word that he "believes in God" - they want to see it. And when they don't, they don't settle.

Squeal Factor - As if these books weren't already good enough, author Julie adds the cherry on top by giving us plenty of heart-racing tenderness and touching moments between the various couples. 

Overall - this series is a must read!