Review: Autumn Brides

Once a month I review a book – usually fiction, sometimes non-fiction. Grab your favorite hot beverage (mine’s a mocha), and let’s talk books!

Are you a fan of seasonal novels? I’ve become a sucker for Christmas fiction the last couple of years. And when I spied a novella collection celebrating my favorite season, fall, I could resist as much as I can a comfy sweater and a day of pumpkin carving.

This month, like a big ol’ pile of leaves, we jump into Autumn Brides (Zondervan, 2015), by Kathryn Springer, Katie, Ganshert, and Beth K. Vogt. You get three novellas in one volume.

Autumn BridesFrom the cover:

Happily ever after begins today. The honor of your presence is requested at three autumn weddings . . .

A September Bride by Kathryn Springer

When Annie moves to Red Leaf, she’s ready to call the little town home, but Deputy Jesse Kent can’t believe his mother has handed the keys to her bookshop over to a woman she met on the internet. Jesse has seen his mother taken advantage of before, and he decides to keep a close eye on this Annie Price. But when a close eye turns into a historical wedding reenactment with Jesse and Annie as the couple, make-believe nuptials quickly give way to real-life emotions.

An October Bride by Katie Ganshert

No one but Jake and Emma know the true reason they’re getting married—so Emma’s dying father can walk her down the aisle. While Jake and Emma plan an autumn wedding together, it becomes clear that their agreement has a few complications—the biggest being their true feelings for each other.

A November Bride by Beth K. Vogt

Having celebrated the big 3–0 by ending a relationship, Sadie is tired of romantic relationships-by-text. The only man she knows willing to put down his iPhone and have face-to-face conversations with her is Erik. It’s time to put a 21st-century twist on the Sadie Hawkins’ tradition of a woman going after her man. But when he realizes he’s fallen for her, can Erik convince Sadie his just-for-fun dates were the prelude to “’til death do us part”?

Rating: 4 mochas out of 5 for the set

You might like this if you like: Seasonal fiction, contemporary romances, Hallmark movies, Runaway Bride

I liked:

A September Bride – Kathryn Springer’s story evoked the charm of small-town America. The fictional burg of Red Leaf beckons the reader like a cozy throw blanket. I wanted to step into the pages and stroll past the quaint businesses and chat with the locals. The writing style is top-notch and tight.

An October Bride – Confession: When I realized the premise included terminal illness, I was tempted to skip it. My day job deals with this topic, so it didn’t seem to fit the bill for escapism fiction. But this story won the 2015 Carol Award in the novella category, so I decided to give it a try. I’m glad I did.

Ganshert deftly balances a weighty topic with a lighter tone that engages. The characters prove likable and believable. And the setting–a big draw in any fiction I choose–showcases the glory of fall.

A November Bride – The characters pop off the page. Sadie and Erik made me grin and were just plain fun to watch. This friendship-to-love tale weaves backstory into the fabric in a way that adds more depth than most novellas.

I wasn’t crazy about: Once or twice, potentially major plot points get resolved too easily. I chalk this up to the limitations of the novella format, but it did irk to a mild degree. And the authors made a few of the secondary characters too interesting! I want to see the brother and best friend pair from An October Bride get their own story.

The Bottom Line:  Want a cozy read for a crisp autumn day? Autumn Brides steps up to the plate. I recommend with no reservations.

Questions for you: Do you ever indulge in seasonal novellas, or do you stick with full-length novels?



Time Travel: Skipping Stones

Veterans’ Day. As Americans we celebrate their sacrifices and service every November.

For the WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) of World War II, our annual celebrations didn’t include them until 1977. Over 30 years after their service, these women finally received the nod of acknowledgment from the U.S. government. They’ll tell you–the ones who still live today–that they didn’t do it for the recognition. But it’s right, just the same.

And in 2010, the WASP added Congressional Medal recipients to their status as veterans. They never imagined it possible. But it’s fitting, just the same.

These honors skipped decades. …But like stones skipped on a pond’s glassy surface and their ripples, the effects of the women who earned them are felt far beyond their lifetimes.

To hear their own words on that historic day in Washington, D.C., take a look at this five-minute news story:


Re-viewing Review: Daughters of Fortune

Note: This month I revisit a series I first featured a few years ago. I’ve reread the series, and it holds up over time, I’m happy to say. I’m struck again by Warren’s masterful descriptions and epic story lines.  Enjoy! – Alison

Once a month I review a book – usually fiction, sometimes non-fiction. Grab your favorite hot beverage (mine’s a mocha), and let’s talk books!

Do you create your own destiny through your choices, or is there no escape from what your life is meant to be? Can mistakes be redeemed?

Heiress-coverThis month I review an award-winning trilogy: Daughters of Fortune series (Summerside Press), by Susan May Warren: Heiress – Book One, Baroness – Book Two, and Duchess – Book Three.

Rating: 4-1/2 mochas out of 5 for the series

You might like this if you like: Downton Abbey, The Great Gatsby, The Natural, Kate & Leopold, Swing Kids or anything else about Europe iBaronesscovelrgn World War II.

Summary: The only trouble with reviewing a series is sharing a flavor of the books without spoiling anything! Here’s a try. This family saga sweeps you into New York’s turn-of-the-century Gilded Age and criss-crosses continents through the end of World War II.

In Heiress, sisters Esme and Jinx want different things from their privileged upbringing: Jinx dreams of love and significance through wealth, but Esme wants to leave it all for the call of the West. Life’s twisting surprises – shaped by their choices – catches each off guard.

Baroness follows cousins Lilly and Rosie from flapper-filled Paris to barnstorming shows across the U.S. plains, and unexpected places in between. Both strong-willed young women are determined to carve out their own lives, but will love throw them a curveball?

Duchess rounds out the trilogy with the glamour of Hollywood on the precipice of the Great Depression. Rosie’s world crumbles but a new opportunity in Europe appears, though it’s not all that it seems.

I liked: HistoricDuchess-250x381al fiction works when I feel transported into the storyworld – a world based on reality but not too bogged down in detail as to be distracting. This series delivers in spades. The research necessary to pull this off must have proved monumental to Susan May Warren. She weaves it into the storylines so masterfully that it comes across as effortless. I felt fully immersed into these settings: the opulence of the Gilded Age, the rush of adrenaline while performing atop a biplane, the intrigue amid Europe during World War II, among others.

The same can be said for the characters. Stories of the rich and glamorous don’t  interest me, normally. These characters captured me and made me care. The reader gets to know them as fully developed people.  I care what happens to shallow Jinx and misguided Rosie, for instance. The break between each book was agonizing!

The stories themselves don’t disappoint. Each book follows multiple, intricate storylines than go way beyond the scope of my paltry descriptions. That’s the most frustrating part of creating this review: Knowing that each story encompasses so much more than I can highlight. I’d be overjoyed if any of my readers take on this series so that we can talk about it!

I wasn’t crazy about: If I sound like I’m gushing about this series, I am. But we both know that no story is perfect. Two things prick my memory here. First, a couple of storylines allude to and describe (with restraint) sinful choices. A touch of violence could be disturbing for some. These elements are not glorified and logical consequences, though buffered with God’s grace, follow – sometimes for generations.

Speaking of God’s grace, one would have to be blind not to see it saturating each character’s life. A few scenes mention God specifically. That said, I would’ve liked more.

The Bottom Line:  Few novels these days stick with me for very long. This series stands out after at least two years and remains my favorite of Susan May Warren’s stories. Read it if you want to get lost in a sweeping, multi-generational saga riding a roller coaster of emotions. I love series that follow families because we see how choices – good and bad – affect others over time. And with all three published, you can binge-read without the agony of cliffhangers.

Questions for you: Which historical eras do you like, and which don’t interest you? Do you think your upbringing always determines your future?  Any feedback on the format of this review?

Links of interest:

Susan May Warren

New York Gilded Age Homes on Pinterest

Barnstorming Site

Lindbergh Arrives in Paris (1927): YouTube

1940s Films

Grab Bag: As You Wish

For this month’s grab bag, let’s talk about a behind-the-scenes account of one of the most beloved movies of the 20th century: The Princess Bride.


What it’s about: Actor Cary Elwes, who stars in this romantic adventure comedy as the daring Westley, and Joe Layden pull back the curtain for an entertaining read. Readers ride along for the pre-production through the movie release and more. What was it like working with Andre the Giant (Fezzik)? How much of the famed sword fight was real? Did Elwes and Robin Wright (Buttercup) get along?

What I liked: Elwes digs deep into memory and research to bring us this heartwarming memoir of the movie and its impact on fans. He provides enough story-behind-the-story detail that will spur yet another watching with fresh eyes.

And this isn’t a tawdry tell-all that will spoil a fan’s affection for this classic. Elwes writes with obvious care and love.

I’m not crazy about: Having said that, one does wonder if the book hands us a glossed-over account. Almost no mention of any negative element makes its way onto the page. Is it possible that this entire production was that amicable behind the scenes? Again, no real complaints here, but I did wonder.

The bottom line: As You Wish doesn’t disappoint. I breathed a sigh of relief when I finished knowing that one of my favorite movies is even more special to the cast and crew than I realized. The anecdotes prove interesting, and Westley (Elwes) once again saves the day.

What about you? Which movie would you choose if you could read an actor’s account?




Life with God: Wait for It…

We just wanted to relax. You know what I mean?

No high-speed shoot-’em-ups that would spike our blood pressure. Sure, those proved fun most other times, served with a side of popcorn and adrenaline.

by Armando Maynez

by Armando Maynez

But not that night. It had been an achingly long week, and we craved a laid-back movie. Not Mission: Jurassic Avengers, Part 9. No tear-jerkers–no, thank you. Another time, Buster.

And we knew just the movie. The previews promised a low-key, enjoyable story. We settled into the cushy theater seats, and I exhaled.

It started out nice enough. But then the characters grew more intense, more serious.

And then the cliff-hanger of a climax exploded, when all seemed lost for a little boy, no less! Tears threatened to spill down my cheeks. My throat squeezed tight. What happened to our nice Friday night? The storyline seemed hopeless and depressing.

…But then, wait for it…

Hope happened. A sliver here, a ray there. Soon, the nightmare of a storyline faded and the little boy was okay.

I exhaled again.

If only life resolved itself in a jiffy, like the movies. But life is hard, life can feel dark.

Paul, too, reminds us in Ephesians–more than once–of the truth: that life is dark. And hopeless.

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins…and we were by nature children under wrath as the others were also. Eph. 2:1a, 3b HCSB.

But wait for it…

But God who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace!

And this is real, not some flickering images on a big screen. This is truth and hope for our dark world! And there’s more:

…You were without the Messiah, excluded from the citizenship of Israel, and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. Eph. 2:12 HCSB

Wait for it…

But now in Christ Jesus, you were far away have been brought near by the blood of the Messiah. Eph. 2:13 HCSB

Who do you know who needs this hope? Who is stuck in the cliffhanger, seemingly hopeless, who you can say: Wait for it! …Wait for Him, who saves us by grace and makes us alive again?

Or maybe it’s you. You need that reminder today.

You need to remember that He’s brought you near through His blood. That he loves and cherishes you.

And that you can exhale, and relax in His arms.