The Best Gift by Morris Fenris

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

The Best Gift by Morris Fenris

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Emma is planning a surprise for her first Christmas with her new husband, but an unexpected emergency could put a damper on their holiday. Years of working in advertising has made Christmastime a stressful season for Julie, but this year will remind her what the season is about. These two tales are paired up in The Best Gift by author Morris Fenris.

Pretty sure it was the cover that once drew me to these short stories, as I had no idea what they’re about until I read them. They’re out-and-out Christmas tales that highlight simple holiday joys, and it was nice to read about two married couples at different stages in life. Plus, I suspect one of these stories might have a little fantasy dust sprinkled in.

I’ll admit I liked the stories better than the style they’re written in, as there’s an awkward, novice kind of feel to much of the wording. Toward the beginning, I almost felt like I was reading a summary about a story instead of the story itself, and the ending of the second one is a little abrupt.

Still, the Christmas lover in me couldn’t help but to enjoy these simple, warm, quick reads.

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These two short stories, First Christmas and A Christmas Wish, are now in a boxed set called The Miracle of Christmas.

 

Murder at the Flamingo by Rachel McMillan

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. BookLook Bloggers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for an honest review.

Murder at the Flamingo by Rachel McMillan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

“If I was smart, I would pick up my hat and gloves and never return here. But we’re going to solve this.” She held on to that. “We are going to solve this murder.”

Set on accomplishing something independent of his father’s help, Hamish DeLuca goes to Boston, where his cousin is opening a posh nightclub. Regina “Reggie” Van Buren is also in search of independence, away from the society life she grew up in. But she and Hamish never expected they’d be joining forces to solve a mystery in Murder at the Flamingo by author Rachel McMillan.

After the way I enjoyed all of the Herringford and Watts mysteries by this author, there was no question I’d be reading this novel. McMillan has a distinct way of personifying a city, and 1937 Boston comes to life here, the social climate pulsing between different classes. Plus, I dig a hero (or heroine) who wears glasses!

Even with the title, though, murder isn’t a part of the plot until more than halfway through the story. While I do appreciate the character development along the way, I found much of the read to be slow, and my interest lagged until about the last third of the novel. Also, due to a “feelings back and forth between two men” kind of love triangle setup I tend not to care for, the end of the book was a downer for me.

Now, I feel I should mention to fellow ChristFic lovers that this isn’t a “come to Jesus” kind of story. Still, 1) this is a new series, and you can’t judge an entire faith arc by one book (or by one “book” or season of any person’s life, in real life); 2) I’ve already seen this author’s finesse with faith before, even without quoting scriptures and such; and 3) there are themes in this novel that should indeed be important to people of faith, if you can recognize and appreciate them.

All things considered, I’m looking forward to next year’s release of the second Van Buren and DeLuca mystery.

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You’re a Charmer, Mr. Grinch by Paula Moldenhauer

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

You’re a Charmer, Mr. Grinch by Paula Moldenhauer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Every year, Rick dresses up like the Grinch and delivers rhymes to promote the town of Christmas, Florida. But the town postmaster, Edie, isn’t moved by Rick’s charms. Perhaps he’ll need to be a bit more insistent in his pursuit of Edie in You’re a Charmer, Mr. Grinch by author Paula Moldenhauer.

Since I either skimmed or skipped reading the blurb before picking up this book, I didn’t realize it’s a romance involving an older couple. A bonus! I enjoy stories about people finding new love later in life, along with some of the perks and practical complications they may have on their hands.

This novella is heavy on its faith theme. Though I especially like how a supporting character owns it in one scene (out of the mouth of babes!), I think a “less is more” approach would’ve been a good fit for this book. It seems the story, perhaps inadvertently, gives the impression that the level of God’s goodness is based on how much a person gets what they want.

Also, the characters’ feelings seem rushed after a certain point. I think tension can be all the more meaningful when characters wrestle with that middle area, when they don’t go to extremes of “I love you” or “I’m done with you” too suddenly.

Still, this quick read should be right down the alley of plenty of Christmassy ChristFic romance fans.

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You’re a Charmer, Mr. Grinch is Book One in the Tinseled Tidings series.

 

 

Design for Dying by Renee Patrick

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Design for Dying by Renee Patrick

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

The 1937 silver screen is sparkling, and though Lillian Frost hasn’t made it as an actress, she’s okay with working in a Los Angeles department store. But then her salesgirl job ties her to the case of a murdered Hollywood hopeful in Design for Dying by authors Renee Patrick.

Yes. I said “authors,” there. I was delighted to see that Renee Patrick is the pseudonym of a husband-and-wife author duo. How fun is that?

And this historical mystery novel is rather fun too, but not silly fun. Lillian has a mild, dry humor to her, and though she hasn’t yet found her ideal place in life, she’s got a good head on her shoulders. There’s a crisp smartness to the story’s style, and it’s entertaining without trivializing the murder or the seamy side of Hollywood glamour.

I’ll admit it’s borderline material for my quasi-conservative tastes, partly due to the moderate amount of language I wouldn’t use. But the novel does hold to a level of tact, and it helps that Lillian isn’t a starry-eyed chickadee zooming recklessly down Sunset Boulevard’s fast lane.

While this is a Lillian Frost & Edith Head novel, it’s told from Lillian’s perspective. So I would’ve liked if she ultimately played a stronger role in the solving of the case, instead of more or less being along for the ride when the rubber finally meets the road.

Still, the story’s nod to Lillian’s mother’s legacy is touching. And in all, as the novel has left me in the mood to once again watch the 1937 version of A Star is Born, I think it’s done its job.

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Design for Dying is the first Lillian Frost & Edith Head novel.