My final installment in this book review series is Becky Wade’s Bradford Sisters series. The first book - True to You - was the first book by Wade I had ever read, and now I am completely hooked on her writing! Several of her novels are on my Kindle wish list. I highly recommend her!
This series centers around three sisters: Willow, Nora, and Britt. They are unique in that they all have the same father, but different mothers. How that happened is a great plot point in itself, and is the premise of a companion novella, Then Came You, which is a prequel about their dad (which I also loved!). All three have an element of mystery as well as romance.
Book one (True to You) is about the middle sister, Nora. My favorite thing about this one was how absolutely hilarious it was. I could also identify so much with socially awkward, bookworm Nora. And the male lead, John Lawson? Talk about swoon-worthy! He’s a heroic former Navy SEAL, but he has a devastating secret. I absolutely loved this book, but I hesitate to recommend it in some ways because they end up uncovering something about John’s past that completely shocked me. I don’t want to give anything away, so I’ll just say that it would be something extremely difficult to get past if I were in Nora’s shoes.
Book two (Falling for You) is about the oldest sister, Willow. I wanted to like it, but I have to tell you I was disappointed. The romance fell flat or me. It was difficult for me to connect with Willow, the perfect, beautiful, oldest sister who is a model. And her ex? An NFL star, naturally. To be honest, I never liked Corbin Stewart at all. He supposedly has become a Christian since breaking Willow’s heart, but I just didn’t buy it. I thought Willow should have been more cautious in letting him back into her life. I’m all for forgiveness and redemption - I love those stories! - I just didn’t believe it with Corbin. It felt to me like he still saw Willow as a possession to be won. At one point, he even bribes her to go on a date with him (he uses that word). Manipulation in a relationship is never romantic to me. I didn’t hate the book, though. I loved Corbin’s twelve year old niece, Charlotte, who felt much more real than the romantic leads. It was really the mystery of what happened to Charlotte’s aunt decades previously that kept me turning pages, not the romance. Of the three, this is the book that has the most mixed reviews on Goodreads. That means I’m not the only one for whom this fell flat, but there were others who loved it.
Do you know what I did love about book two? Britt and Zander! Britt is the youngest of the sisters, and her relationship with her best friend Zander is introduced in book one, further developed in book two, and brought to a fantastic conclusion in book three. I am a sucker for best friends to lovers (by lovers I mean, love, not sex), and I am also soft for characters who pine for the other. Poor, precious, brooding Zander! I loved him before I even got to Sweet on You. I think Becky Wade saved the best for last on purpose, and the build up does not disappoint! Zander leaves in book two, unable to handle his unrequited love anymore. In Sweet on You he returns, and Britt senses something has changed between them. (Duh, Britt! You do want to shake her sometimes, but in the best way!) There’s a mystery to solve in this one as well, and I loved the suspenseful moments.
Bottom Line: Even though I wasn’t crazy about book two, reading all three is worth it for Britt and Zander!
As I explained in my last book review, sometimes the best book in a series takes awhile to get to, and sometimes you don’t even have to read them all! If only someone could tell you about that hidden gem. If only someone could warn you if there are books you can skip. Well, my friends, that’s exactly what I’m here to do!
Today, I’m reviewing the Cane River Romance Series by Mary Jane Hathaway. To be honest, Hathaway is always a hit or miss author for me. Some of her books I count among my favorites while others, frankly, aren’t that good. When it comes to her Cane River Romance Series, you could give up too soon and miss out an amazing read with book four!
First off, the series takes place in Natchitoches, Louisiana, and largely centers around a vintage book store in the historical district. Book one, The Pepper in the Gumbo, is a Louisiana spin on the movie You’ve Got Mail with bookstore owner Alice Augustine as the main protagonist. Every book thereafter features at least one character who lives in the upstairs apartment of the bookstore. I actually read book two, These Sheltering Walls, first. I therefore know from personal experience that these can be read on their own and out of order anyway (with one exception - which I’ll get to later).
I read book two, then book one. Both were great (with book two being far more serious). Then I got to book three, Only Through Love, and I was extremely disappointed. I didn’t realize it was a novella when I bought it on my Kindle, first of all, so I was shocked at how short it was. But even a novella should have a strong ending, and this one ended abruptly. I actually scrolled expecting another chapter and got confused when there wasn’t one! The romance wasn’t even fully fleshed out and felt rushed. The couple - Charlie and Austin - show up again in book six, and they are honestly much cuter in that book. (By the way, Charlie is a girl. The girl in book two is named Henry. It’s just a thing with this series.)
I read a lot of reviews of Only Through Love that matched my feelings. Sadly, many of them said “I’m done with this series,” which is a shame because the BEST book in this entire series, in my opinion, is book four - A Star to Steer By.
First of all, A Star to Steer By is absolutely hilarious. Rarely has a book made me laugh so hard. I actually read it in one day. Granted, I was stuck at the hospital while my husband had surgery, so I didn’t really have anything else to do. People kept looking at me weird because I was laughing out loud, and how many people do that at a hospital? It honestly helped me through a really rough day.
Why is it so funny? Two words - giant cupcake. Roxie Hardy has returned to her family bakery because of her grandmother’s health, and is forced to stand outside in a giant cupcake costume just like during her torturous high school days. Andy McBride meets her while she’s in the costume, shows her rare kindness, and finds himself confiding in the mysterious “cupcake.” He has no idea it’s his neighbor Roxie. Seriously, I was laughing so hard I cried.
Roxie and Andy are also downright adorable. When they describe themselves, you imagine someone awkward and unattractive. Yet, when Andy describes Roxie or vice versa, you see someone gorgeous and sexy. I absolutely adore that in romance novels. Beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder. While I enjoyed books one and two, book four is the only one I would re-read.
My only criticism of this book is the cover. The story takes place in the fall, and Roxie and Andy are always complaining about the heat and humidity. As a matter of fact, the heat even adds to the humorous plot situations. So why in the world is the couple on the cover bundled up? The woman is in a mitten, scarf, and hat! As a woman from Georgia, I can tell you that we rarely pull those out in the fall, and I imagine coastal Louisiana is even warmer. The woman in the picture doesn’t look at all how Roxie is described, either. I know I’m being nit picky, but it bugs me!
Book five is called The Boundless Deep, and to be completely honest, I can’t really remember it. I remember more about Alice and Paul from book one having cute moments. Actually, Alice and Paul show up in all of the books. That’s really the only reason to read them all. The other couples show up now and then, but not as much.
Book six is called Until Winter Comes Again and is set at Christmas time. While a new couple is introduced, the book is really about all of the couples in the entire series (the whole thing is centered around a wedding). As a matter of fact, they all are trying to play matchmaker with the childhood best friends who just signed up to move into the two apartments above the bookstore. After all, the bookstore brought the rest of them together. Surely it’s going to work it’s romantic magic again. Or will it? To be honest, the only parts of this one I liked were the parts with Alice and Paul from book one, and - of course - Roxie and Andy. Because all of the characters feature heavily in book six, it’s also the only one that doesn’t stand alone. It won’t make sense if you haven’t read the other books.
Bottom Line: Read books one, two, and four. Skip books three and five. Maybe skim book six to catch up on your favorite couples, but definitely save it for last.
Last week I added lists of my favorite books to my blog. As I listed my favorite Christian novels, I realized that some of them were book three, and in one case book four, in a series. I contemplated posting the series instead of the individual books, but in each case there was a book in each series that I didn’t care for enough to recommend. So I’m going to review these three titles and explain why I chose them. I’ll also give you my opinion on whether you should wade through the whole series or skip some of the books.
Today, we start with On Magnolia Lane by Denise Hunter:
On Magnolia Lane is book three in the Blue Ridge Romance series by Denise Hunter. Book one is called Blueridge Sunrise and book two is Honeysuckle Dreams. There is also a stand alone title called Sweetbriar Cottage that takes place in the same small town in the north Georgia mountains as the other three. I’m not sure why it isn’t included as part of the series. It may be because it has a heavier subject matter while the three included in the series have more humor. I actually read the stand alone title first, then the series in order. However, the final book is my absolute favorite!
The main reason I love it so much is because the male romantic lead is a pastor. Married to a pastor myself, I was impressed with how Hunter portrays Pastor Jack. He is an ordinary man who just happens to be in ministry, and he longs for a relationship with a woman who will love him just as he is and not for his job. Specifically, he’s already fallen in love with Daisy. Unfortunately, Daisy sees him only as a pastor. Like many romances, there’s a comedy of errors as his well meaning friends decide to make a fake dating profile for him so Daisy can get to know the “real him.” You can probably guess that both humor and conflict comes as a result. I love Hunter’s main theme: that “pastor” is Jack’s job, but it isn’t who he is. I could relate to that so much! Parts had me laughing so hard I cried while other parts just made me cry, period.
Would I recommend reading the entire series? Not necessarily. You don’t have to read them all to enjoy each individual title. All of the characters appear in all three (including the main couple in Sweetbriar Cottage), but each book has its own plot thread that you can easily follow and enjoy without reading the others. All of the books are great, however, and there weren’t any that I disliked. As a matter of fact, I absolutely loved Honeysuckle Dreams as well. I can’t rave about the other two, to be honest, but I didn’t dislike them. Do be warned that Sweetbriar Cottage depicts a vaguely described rape of a twelve year old girl. (The man comes into the girl’s room while she’s sleeping, and then it cuts away.) Some may want to skip that one due to its upsetting subject matter.
Denise Hunter does a fantastic job in all of her novels describing the setting. She actually travels to the places where she sets her books, and it shows. I am from Georgia, and she perfectly captured the northern, mountainous part of the state. Many people don’t even know that Georgia has three different regions with three distinct climates. Even fewer know about the mountains here (called the Blue Ridge Mountains - hence the series title). She even slips a little joke about that into one of the books where a tourist says “I didn’t even know Georgia had mountains!” She also understood the size of the state of Georgia, something that other books and movies constantly get wrong. They always act like everyone in the state can pop over to Atlanta, not understanding that some parts of the state are four to six hours away from the capital! So I was happy in book two when Hope, the main female character, gets a job in Atlanta and has to get an apartment there, thus driving a wedge between her and her love interest. Major kudos to Hunter for understanding that you can’t commute to Atlanta from the mountains! The titles obviously reference this southern setting: honeysuckles, sweetbriars, and magnolias (thank you Hunter for avoiding the peach cliche!), but none of the titles really have anything to do with the plot or theme of any of the books. Because of this, I have a hard time remembering the titles of these and which one is which!
Bottom Line: Pick and choose from this series, but books two and three get my vote as the best!
I am a former English teacher turned homeschool mom of three who writes Christian romance novels on the side. You know, in my huge amount of spare time.