I am SUCH a sucker for holiday stories. I devour them every year from October through January, and I’m usually willing to take a chance on a new (to me) author with a holiday story, which is exactly what happened here.

Mistletoe on Main Street is book one of the Briar Creek series by Olivia Miles. Grace is returning home for the second time in 5 years. Her father died of a heart attack, and this is the first Christmas without him, so she’s coming home to spend the holidays with her sisters and her mom. Unfortunately the first person she sees is the one she had hoped most to avoid: Luke. Her childhood sweetheart, the love of her life, and the one man she’s always loved, even though he broke her heart.

I enjoyed this one. It had enough angst to tug at the holiday heartstrings, yet it didn’t feel too over-the-top. There were a few things I would have liked to have seen expanded on. For example, the drama and mystery surrounding what happened originally to break up Luke and Grace went on a little too long. And we never really did get a clear answer on that. Sure we “see” what happened immediately after, and what the consequences were, but we never really understand what exactly happened to drive them apart. We also never find out how Karen came into the picture. How long did he really wait before dating her after Grace?

Y’all know my stance on groveling. There can never be enough. That goes double, in my opinion, for holiday stories. While no one really needed to grovel here, the smoothing over of issues was a little too quick. If I were either Grace or Luke, after clearing the air I’d need more than a few minutes before we jumped into bed together, or even took a chance on renewing the relationship.

Overall, this was a nice way to spend an afternoon. I liked seeing their mom start to come out of her grief and get into the Christmas spirit, and I want to shop at Grace’s dad’s book store. I’m also intrigued by both of Grace’s sisters, so I’ll be watching for their books to come out. I’m looking forward to seeing how Olivia Miles’ writing continues to grow.

Rating: 3 Stars

Lynda the Guppy
aka Give Me All the Christmas Stories
And No One Gets Hurt
aka the Fish with Sticks

The Rocky Mountain gang. Oh, how I’ve missed you. Yes, we’ve visited with you in the Thompson & Sons series, but it’s nice to get back to the original clans.

In Rocky Mountain Romance, Melody Langley is returning home after a year away to get some extra training for her veterinary skills. Who does she meet first thing? Steve Coleman. Her former boyfriend. The last time they saw each other was right before Melody left and she was dumping a pitcher of beer over his head in the middle of the local bar in front of his friends and family.

One of Melody’s complaints with Steve from a year ago is he was immature and careless with other people’s time. He was kind of just gliding along without ever stepping up to do what needed to be done. In this book Steve knows what he lost when he lost Melody and he’s determined to get her back no matter what. So while she’s spent the year studying, he’s spent the year growing up and facing some unpleasant realities about how he used to be.

WARNING: SPOILERS AHOY! Read on at your own risk.
(highlight paragraph to read spoiler)

While I liked this book, and this couple, quite a bit, I finished the book a little disappointed. I felt the whole situation between her and the ranchers was wrapped up a little quickly, and I wanted to know what Tom’s problem was. Was he annoyed she was left in charge? Was it that she was younger? newer? a woman? Not him? Was he the one causing the miscommunications or was it truly just a series of unfortunate events? I’m a demanding reader. I want to know MORE.

END OF SPOILERS!

The romance between Steve and Melody hit all the right notes. Seeing Steve struggle to really listen to Melody this time around and be a better man, both for her and for himself, was great. I felt he really paid attention to what was missing from their relationship before and he was putting in the work to make sure it didn’t happen again. He was in it for the long haul.

Melody was also willing to step up. She knew she was taking a risk on trusting Steve again, but she did it anyway because she could see how he had changed and Melody acknowledged that if he could put himself out there again, the least she could do was meet him halfway. It was also nice that she didn’t blame Steve for everything that had gone wrong before. It was as if their relationship was on hiatus while they each grew up a little and decided whether they were going to move forward together or not.

And here’s the part where Vivian Arend always gets me. She has these tortured men in her books that always just grab me and won’t let me go. They spend lots of time as minor characters in books before they get their own stories. The last one was Travis. I loved Travis from the moment I met him, and I KNEW his book was going to break my heart. And it totally did. And I loved every. single. moment. Now there’s Rafe. He’s Gabe Coleman’s younger brother from Rocky Mountain Angel, and he’s another one who is going to break me once she finally gets around to writing his story. Can’t wait.

All in all, and minor disappointment aside, this was a solid addition to the Six Pack Ranch books.

Rating: 3 stars

Lynda the Guppy
aka A Six Pack Ranch Girl
aka The Fish With Sticks

I have a New Year’s Eve tradition. Every year, at some point I make myself a cup of my beverage of choice, cuddle up somewhere comfy with the cat, and I read Shannon Stacey’s holiday novella. This tradition started with Holiday Sparks in 2010. It was my first Shannon Stacey book ever, and I was hooked. In 2012 she did a summer novella instead of a holiday one and New Year’s Eve felt very strange.

Of course I pounced on the opportunity to review Her Holiday Man. A holiday novella?! And from a favorite author?! Where do I sign up?!

In this story, Will is returning home after living a semi-nomadic life the last few years. His wife and unborn child had been killed in an accident with a drunk driver right before Christmas a few years earlier, and he left town so he could try and get through his grief. He’s returned home because his father had a heart attack and died, and he wants to be closer to his mom.

Christina and her son Nathaniel are living across the street from his mom. Christina’s ex was very wealthy and ended up swindling lots of people and losing everyone’s money, including his own and his wife’s, and going to prison for it. She’s now working for the first time in her life, and learning how to build a good life for her and Nathaniel.

Shannon Stacey’s holiday novellas are something I look forward to all year long. They’re the perfect holiday treat. This one was no exception. She has a way of making a short novella feel like you’ve spent years with these characters. We really felt Will’s struggle with all the reminders of his wife and child. This is the first time he’s been home for the holidays, and there’s a lot for him to face. As for Christina, this is the first Christmas where she’s out on her own. There’s no designer Christmas trees and no extravagant gifts. They both know how fickle life can be, and it’s lovely to see these two enjoy each other and all the love in their lives. There are struggles, sure. It’s a romance of course. But watching these two learn to open their hearts and trust again, and take risks again, was a beautiful thing.

I can’t wait to reread it on New Year’s Eve. Review or not, it IS a tradition, after all.

Lynda the Guppy
aka The Ho-Ho-Holiday Novella Guppy
aka The Fish With Sticks

Haul out the holly
Put up the tree before my spirit falls again
Fill up the stocking
I may be rushing things, but deck the halls again now

I think this year We Need a Little Christmas is going to be my holiday fight song. I’m looking forward to Christmas this year, especially getting to spend it with a dear friend, but it’s still a little hard for me. It also doesn’t help that Thanksgiving day it was 90 degrees. So I’m feeling at turns really excited and…really…meh. It would be easier if I could pick an emotion and stick with it.

For we need a little Christmas
Right this very minute
Candles in the window
Carols at the spinet

Yes, we need a little Christmas
Right this very minute
It hasn’t snowed a single flurry
But Santa, dear, we’re in a hurry

I have fantastic friends who bring all sorts of happiness and laughter and support into my life. My dad and I are making more of an effort to see each other face to face instead of texting all the time (Yes, Dad texts. I know, right?!). My mom’s best friends from college have all adopted me into their group (I’m Nancy 2.0)  and are wonderful amazing women who have known me literally my entire life and love me anyway.

So climb down the chimney
Put up the brightest string of lights I’ve ever seen
Slice up the fruitcake
It’s time we hung some tinsel on that evergreen bough

I still miss mom every day, and I can’t really see that changing any time soon, but that’s okay. This past year I’ve started dealing with my feelings towards some family drama that has gone on since she died. And I’ll be honest. It hurts. A LOT, but I’ve made a few decisions about what I need to do and how I need to deal with it, and while I’m sad, I feel…lighter…after making those decisions.

For I’ve grown a little leaner, grown a little colder
Grown a little sadder, grown a little older
And I need a little angel sitting on my shoulder
I need a little Christmas now

I don’t say any of this for sympathy. I’m not looking for any nor do I want it, but I have no decorations up for Christmas for reasons, (I’ll fill you all in on why later). It doesn’t feel like Christmas here at Chez Guppy. And while I certainly haven’t grown any leaner, I’m pretty sure colder, sadder, and older are definitely checked off on my list this year. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, either. To do what I needed to do for my own peace of mind and happiness I HAVE had to be a bit cold. So I think I need a little Christmas. Damn it.

Haul out the holly
Well, once I taught you all to live each living day
Fill up the stocking
But Auntie Mame, it’s one week past Thanksgiving Day now

I’m honestly in a good place overall. I’m starting to do some proofreading work and will hopefully eventually get into copy editing and proofreading full time. Honestly, work should not be this much fun. It’s stressful, because I want to do a good job, and meet the deadlines, not to mention I worry I miss stuff, but seriously? I LOVE it, and I think I’m good at it. I hope I’m good at it. 

So climb down the chimney
It’s been a long time since I felt good, neighborly
Slice up the fruitcake
It’s time we hung some tinsel on that mayberry bough

Everything’s pretty much great, but I have moments of sadness, too, and am not QUITE getting into the spirit of Christmas yet. So I’m gonna do what everyone does. Fake it till I make it. In the meantime….

We need a little Christmas
Right this very minute
Candles in the window
Carols at the spinet

And we need a little Christmas
Right this very minute
We need a little Christmas now

We need a little Christmas now
We need a little Christmas now

Lynda the Guppy
aka Grinchy Guppy
aka The Fish With Sticks

We Need A Little Christmas, Mame soundtrack
Book by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edward Lee
Music and Lyrics by Jerry Herman

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