My usual MO is to read a book in its entirety before reviewing it, but for the sake of timeliness, I wanted to share what I’m reading this holiday season. I decided to pick “fun reads” and “light reads” to finish out the year.
A Wish For Father Christmas
I finished this first book by Laura Rollins from the “A Christmas Match” series set during the England’s Regency period. I provided this review below on Goodreads. I am now reading the second book, A Sleighride Kiss by Jen Geigle Johnson. I had saved this series last year on Amazon’s wish list. Each book is written by a different author. A matchmaker helps to connect all five books.
The first book opens with a letter from Margarette Fudge who corresponds with Amelia, the next matchmaker. Not sure what the wager is yet for successfully matching couples. Lord Brooks and his friends, Lord Parsons and Lord Robins, have come to Carlaby to be closer to a young lady’s family during Christmas. Lord Parsons loves Miss Turner whose mother has been ill. The men stay with matchmaking, Aunt Margarette. She wants Lord Brooks to marry for love and not for money, but Lord Brooks starts out wishing to marry for convenience. She pushes him toward a Miss Dowding at events, but Lord Brooks keeps having moments with a certain flame-haired countess.
The red-headed Alice Grant, Countess Nightingale, who looks nothing like the woman on the cover, has come to the small community of Carlaby (possibly a fiction place in England) to find a husband. She is looking for someone who wants to marry her apart from her title and money. No fortune-hunters may apply. She promises her son, Joseph, Lord Hoskins, that Father Christmas will bring him a new father. At first, Alice did try to throw Joseph off that idea by getting him a dog, Ponto, but alas, he still wants a father.
To do some recon, Lady Nightingale enlists the help of her staff Mr. & Mrs. Clarke to give herself a makeover. She dons the clothing of a man and pretends to be Mr. Allen, a cousin of Lady Nightingale, so she can do some husband recon. She strikes up a friendship with Isaac Miller, Lord Brooks, at a gentlemen’s club while she’s in the guise of Mr. Allen. He hates Lady Nightingale’s late father who he swindled him of a property, Langdon Hall (That’s my dentist’s name: Dr. Langdon.) Lady Nightingale is aware of her father’s use-them-up-and-spit-them-out business dealings. He had a public and a private face. Because Mr. Allen seems a distant cousin, Lord Brooks finds he has a new friend.
I did find several errors in my kindle version. Some I was able to report — easy fixes — but some sentences had a word here and there that made no sense. I couldn’t fathom what word should go there. I skipped it and moved on. I felt the characterization of the little boy, Joseph, went back and forth between child and adult. Sometimes Laura referred to him as Lord Hoskins and not Joseph. He is, but he had been “Joseph” to the reader before. I had to think who Lord Hoskins was. And I didn’t think the dialogue written for Joseph made sense for a small boy. I don’t think he’s even 10 years of age. Example: He asked about shaving.
Joseph: “When will I have to start shaving?”
Alice: “When you are older.”
Joseph: “And how does one do it?”
I mean – that’s rather formal for a little kid.
Laura’s story reminded me of other “women disguised as men” stories, like Shakespeare’s “As You Like It,” a 1989 movie, “Just One of the Guys,” and “She’s the Man.” Since it is set in the Regency period, Laura includes letters written between Margarette and Amelie, the matchmakers. I think those would have worked better if the reader could read both sides of the conversation, but I think Laura would have encroached on the next author’s writing of “A Sleigh Ride Kiss.”
I liked Lady Nightingale and Lord Brooks. They took care of the people in their lives. Lord Brooks’ relationship with Aunt Margarette was more mother and son. Margarette wanted her nephew to have a happy, loving relationship as she had with her husband. She said love can “make you a better person” and admonished Isaac for worrying about his pocketbook. This is a clean romance perfect for the holiday season. A link to the series is here. The order of the books in A Christmas Match Series are as follows:
A Wish for Father Christmas by Laura Rollins
A Sleighride Kiss by Jen Geigle Johnson
A Yorkshire Carol by Jennie Goutet
A Mistletoe Mismatch by Sally Britton
A Tangled Wreath by Laura Beers
I will review each of these books after reading on Goodreads, but so far, I’m finding these stories delightful. It’s interesting from a writing perspective. I think of all those times where I had to have a partner with someone in a writing class and how I dreaded it. Some partners were as motivated as I was to complete the assignment, while others wanted to wait until the last minute. Many years later, I understand why I had those experiences. Writing with people I learned was so much better than writing alone. I don’t know for sure, but I can see these ladies had some fun writing this series, alone but together.
Christmas Changes Everything: How the Birth of Jesus Brings Hope to the World by Elisa Morgan
Each month I receive a devotional from Our Daily Bread Publishing. What makes their devotional stand out is the scripture passage provided in full on the right side of these small, easy to carry booklets. I am familiar with the names of their writers; in fact, one of them – Mike Wittmer — went to my first church, Grace Baptist, in Canton, Ohio. When I saw Elisa Morgan’s name on this Christmas devotional, I put in a request at Netgalley to read the advance review copy.
Dedicated to her husband Evan, Elisa focused her devotional on some of the people mentioned in the first Christmas story and how that first Christmas impacted the lives of Mary, Joseph, Zechariah, Elizabeth, the shepherds, Simeon, Anna, the Magi, and Herod. She tells a personal story, or shares someone else’s story, and then moves into the Bible story about each person. The scriptures are in full in this book, not unlike my Our Daily Bread devotionals.
I like the historical details presented the most. Elisa noted that the angel Gabriel whose name means “hero of God” and “mighty one of God” is named in this account of Jesus’ birth several times. He first announced the birth of John and the coming Messiah to Zechariah, and then he announced the birth of Jesus to Mary. Before this account, Gabriel had appeared to Daniel twice.
I knew Mary, the mother of Jesus, could have been between 12 and 13 years old. I didn’t know that in Jewish culture back then marriages were arranged at birth. Joseph would have been 18, “the average age of betrothal for men.” Mary and Joseph were chosen because of their right-standing with God. Joseph also was part of David’s line, which fulfilled prophecy. Elisa said Mary would have been troubled about a virgin birth, yes, and the fact that betrothal meant the same as marriage does today. The penalties were severe. A person could have a nose cut off, an ear, or be stoned to death. But She also would have known that pregnancy could become dangerous. Babies often didn’t live past the first month. Fifty percent of children didn’t live past age 5.
Elisa employs a “sermon style” of writing. If you are familiar with sermon style, then you will see that she has a question she’s trying to answer about how that first Christmas impacted the lives of the people she’s chosen to highlight in her book. She starts with “Who was Mary?” “Who was Joseph?” “Who was Zechariah?” And then she provides answers that act as bullet points. She finishes each section with how Christmas changed that person, for better or worse, and what we as reader can learn from the study of this scriptural account. I did note some repetition of ideas that would make this a better audio book, or a book to be read aloud. Elisa ends with questions for the reader to answer. Those would make good journal prompts.
Elisa’s devotional is easy to read. I have learned new historical details I didn’t know before, so I recommend this book during the season…or any time you want to learn about Jesus’ birth. Thank you to Netgalley and Our Daily Bread Publishing for providing a free copy in exchange for my honest review of this book.
I don’t know about you, but I’m always looking for stories set during the holidays. Leave a comment below of any you recommend. Remember to slow down this month. Pause and reflect over all the highlights of this year as we close out 2022. Happy Holidays to you all. Let me end with Mary’s song of praise in Luke 1:46-55 that is just beautiful:
The Magnificat: Mary’s Song of Praise
46 Mary responded,
“Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.
47 How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!
48 For he took notice of his lowly servant girl,
and from now on all generations will call me blessed.
49 For the Mighty One is holy,
and he has done great things for me.
50 He shows mercy from generation to generation
to all who fear him.
51 His mighty arm has done tremendous things!
He has scattered the proud and haughty ones.
52 He has brought down princes from their thrones
and exalted the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away with empty hands.
54 He has helped his servant Israel
and remembered to be merciful.
55 For he made this promise to our ancestors,
to Abraham and his children forever.”