Book Review

ARC Book Review: The Two Bells of Christmas by Joanna Barker

Rating: ★★★★★
Audience: Holiday Regency Romance Novella
Length: 142 pages
Author: Joanna Barker
Publisher: Rose Petal Press
Release Date: November 21st, 2022
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Christmas is the perfect time to fall in love—unless you’re pretending to be your twin sister.

Cassandra Bell is happy to stay in the shadow of her poised and proper twin sister. After all, her only goal for the Hastings’ Christmas house party is to not make a complete fool of herself. Vivian, however, has much higher aspirations—her heart is set on a proposal from the eligible Mr. Hastings himself. But when Vivian grows ill, she begs Cassie to switch places with her and keep the other conniving ladies away from Mr. Hastings. Cassie reluctantly takes on the role of her twin, certain the charade will end in disaster.

Anticipating a quiet Christmas in the country, Roland Hastings arrives home to learn his matchmaking mother has organized an entire house party to help him find a bride. The last thing Roland wants is to spend the Yuletide season fending off simpering ladies—that is, until he meets Miss Bell. Spunky and unconventional and refreshingly honest, Miss Bell sweeps into Roland’s heart like a whirlwind. A whirlwind he has no desire to escape.

Mr. Hastings is nothing like Cassie expected, and the closer she grows to her handsome host, the harder it becomes to hide her true self—and her true feelings. But falling in love was never part of the plan, especially since Roland believes she is someone else. With Vivian quickly recovering and the house party coming to a close, Cassie is torn between loyalty to her sister and the unexpected yearnings of her heart . . .

The Two Bells of Christmas is a sweet Regency romance novella that was previously published in the Timeless Regency Collection, A Christmas Promise. This edition has a bonus epilogue and new edits.

Thank you to the author for an eARC.

LOOOOVED.

Joanna Barker’s books never let me down. Even her novellas are some of my favorites because she can captivate an audience beautifully with whatever romance she is writing. I AM HERE FOR IT ALWAYS.

I loved both of these characters. Roland and Cassie were the sweetest. There was plenty of interaction between them, lots of soft moments, and kisses in the snow. YAY.

The plot was handled amazingly too. I loved how the twin switch worked out between Cassie and her sister. I love when siblings love and take care of each other and this was no exception. Especially when the go get the girl line comes up? Done. I am a puddle of swoon.

All in all, perfect for the season. You’ll love these characters and this story and I hope it gives all the warm fuzzies it gave me.

Overall audience notes:

  • Regency Holiday Novella
  • Language: none
  • Romance: kisses
  • Violence: none

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Book Review

ARC Book Review: A Game of Hearts by Joanna Barker

Rating: ★★★★★
Audience: Regency Romance
Length: 320 pages
Author: Joanna Barker
Publisher: Self-Published
Release Date: October 18, 2022
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

If you can’t join them… beat them.

Marigold Cartwell has only one goal: to defeat her long-time rival on the archery field. She knows she can outshoot irritating, cynical Tristan Gates, but the local bowmen’s society—the one he belongs to—refuses to allow women to compete. Spurred on by their rejection, Marigold decides to start a new society. Naturally, it has only one rule: no men.

Tristan Gates is used to Marigold Cartwell always getting her way, so he is far from surprised when she forms her own society. He knows how relentless she can be, something he learned firsthand facing her at the targets. But Tristan has enough worries of his own, what with his bachelor uncle falling in love with a fortune hunter. He has no time to entertain Marigold’s ambitions.

However, after a visit to the seashore ends in disaster—and scandal—Marigold and Tristan soon realize how little they know about each other. The strained tension between them quickly turns to simmering attraction, but an important archery competition looms ahead. Lines are drawn all around them, with Marigold and Tristan on opposite sides, and neither can afford to lose. Yet winning might be the very thing to tear them apart.

Thank you to the author for an eARC.

I AM A PUDDLE.

OMG I LOVED THIS BOOK SO MUCH.

That should be this review: NO NOTES.

I’ll drop a bit more though. I could not get enough of Marigold and Tristan. Marigold has some of the best type of character development that had me easily won over to her side as the book progressed. Add in a broody grump with a cinnamon roll soul in Tristan and these two reluctant lovers ARE A MATCH.

There were so many good moments. I would love to list them, but I also think you should go into reading this without those hints. Tristan and Marigold end up in some dicey situations that lead to their own consequences. And while not their initial choice, learning to communicate was something they both needed that really made my heart soar.

Also, the family????? On BOTH sides were loving and kind. Supportive and compassionate. I loved the parents, the siblings, the uncle. All of them. It was very refreshing to have this kind of support and it made the whole book.

All of the archery stuff was super cool to learn about too. I love archery and it was a unique dynamic to add into a regency romance. It’s the kind of thing I love about Barker’s books. They feel inventive to the genre and this is without a doubt my new favorite of hers.

Overall audience notes:

  • Regency Romance
  • Language: none
  • Romance: kisses
  • Violence: low
  • Trigger/Content Warnings: loss of parents (recounted), misogyny

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Book Review

Book Review: Otherwise Engaged by Joanna Barker

Rating: ☆☆☆☆ 1/2
Audience: Regency Romance
Length: 266 pages
Author: Joanna Barker
Publisher: Covenant Communications
Release Date: October 12th, 2020
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

She’s never been afraid of breaking the rules—until she risks breaking her heart

Constantly stifled by the rules of Society, spirited Rebecca Rowley enjoys finding ways to quietly—or not so quietly—rebel. But riding bareback and avoiding nosy neighbors are nothing compared to the thrilling secret she is keeping from her family.
When Rebecca’s quick thinking saves the life of a young girl, she unwittingly attracts the attention of the child’s dashing brother, Lieutenant Nicholas Avery. As that attention turns flirtatious, Rebecca is forced to tell him the truth: she is secretly engaged—to the one man her family would never approve of. Fortunately, Lieutenant Avery is a navy man with no wish to marry, or so they both assume as they enter into a friendship. Rebecca hopes to change her family’s mind about her betrothed, but the more she comes to know the handsome lieutenant, the more she wonders if she promised her hand too hastily.

After all her carefully laid plans are shattered during a family crisis, Rebecca must force her heart to decide. Should she stay true to the promise she made or fight for the future she’s only just begun to imagine?

SMITTEN.

Wow. I was blown away by this regency! It’s the first one from the author I’ve read and I found it enjoyable on many levels.

One of those being the unique nature of both Rebecca (the narrator) and Nicholas (the love interest). I loved that Rebecca rode bare-backed and was interested in learning how to shoot guns and other things that really added to her personality. Nicholas was a Navy lieutenant who was totally cool with Rebecca’s interests and willingly helped her improve those skills. They were such a match from the moment they met.

Which leads me to my 1/2 star deduction. I struggle with this across genres. I don’t like a current love that takes up most of the book. It takes away from the romance I’m trying to be fall for. Because it always creates instances of cheating (as it did here) and no amount of wording really makes me feel completely fine about it. This one did end that plot line better than I expected so I’ll give it that at least.

Overall, a really great regency. I love this genre, especially when swoony kisses are added in. The writing was beautiful and kept me captivated. The plot moved steadily and I loved the introspection from Rebecca. Even with that one issue I had I liked the way she easily acknowledged she messed up and could apologize and work towards her character arc. Many things to love on in this one!

Overall audience notes:

  • Regency Romance
  • Language: none
  • Romance: kisses
  • Trigger/Content Warnings: gun use (not in a violent matter), recollection of a bad fall from a horse, medical trauma, depiction of difficult birth, cheating

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Book Review

Book Review: Romancing Her Rival (Promise of Forever After #2) by Joanna Barker

Rating: ★★★★★
Audience: Regency Romance Novella
Length: 156 pages
Author: Joanna Barker
Publisher: Love Letter Press
Release Date: August 5th, 2020
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

He stole her inheritance. She stole his heart.

Daphne Windham has depended upon one thing her entire life: inheriting her beloved great-aunt’s estate, Cheriton Hall. With her mother desperate to marry her off to the highest bidder, Daphne is relieved to escape to Cheriton for the summer—until she learns that her aunt has decided upon a different heir entirely. Cole Everard, the steward’s son and Daphne’s childhood friend. Former friend, that is.

Raised on the grounds of Cheriton, Cole Everard never imagined he would be named heir, but he is determined to prove himself worthy of the position. Unfortunately, that is easier said than done, especially when Daphne arrives claiming he is anything but worthy. Instead of their close friendship, Cole is met with cold indifference—which would sting much less if he wasn’t entirely in love with her…

Hurt and betrayed, Daphne believes her only choice is to undermine her new rival and reclaim what is rightfully hers. But that plan becomes increasingly difficult, what with Cole’s infuriating charm and kindness. When fate offers Daphne a second chance, will she take it or risk it all for the promise of love?

Romancing Her Rival is the second in a series of books about five friends. The other four novellas will be written by authors Sally Britton, Megan Walker, Heidi Kimball, and Arlem Hawks.

SMITTEN.

An absolutely charming regency novella. I was grinning for ear to ear by the closing scenes and I am falling more in love with Barker’s books as I go!

This is a super quick read (150 pages) and is excellently paced. I liked that there was enough background mentioned between Daphne and Cole to know that they had a history prior to the book. I feel like that’s always really critical for a novella. An established past helps fuel the connection we get to see on page.

And what a connection it was!! I immediately saw the chemistry between our main couple and I loved the progression of their romance. The critical conflict scenes weren’t out of bounds I I am here for a passionate confession of feelings accidentally in front of the other person.

Super smitten with this whole read. One of those moments wondering why it took so long for me to pick it up in the first place. Can’t wait to read more!

Overall audience notes:

  • Regency Romance Novella
  • Language: none
  • Romance: kisses
  • Trigger/Content Warnings: emotionally manipulative parenting

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