Today’s Top Ten Tuesday is all about the books I would love for Santa to leave under my tree this year. If I were to add both new releases and just novels I would love to own in general, I would have an extremely long list on my hands (even now my list is extremely cut down to just be ten), so I’m just going to slim my options down to a much smaller category: stand-alone novels I have been dying to read over the past few months, stand-alone novels I have either already recently read and loved, or books I am missing to complete a series I have recently read. If it is a book I haven’t yet read, I will add the description on the back of the book to my comments, but for the books I have finished I will supply my own mini descriptive review. So, without further ado, I’m “asking Santa” for…
1. Beyond All Dreams by Elizabeth Camden
Anna O’Brien leads a predictable and quite life as a map librarian at the illustrious Library of Congress until she stumbles across the baffling mystery of a ship disappeared at sea. Thwarted in her attempts to uncover information, her determination outweighs her shyness and she turns to a dashing congressman for help.
Luke Callahan was one of the nation’s most powerful congressmen before his promising career was shadowed in scandal. Eager to share in a new cause and intrigued by the winsome librarian, he joins forces with Anna to solve the mystery of the lost ship. Opposites in every way, Anna and Luke are unexpectedly drawn to each other despite the strict rules forbidding Anna from any romantic entanglements with members of Congress.
From the gilded halls of the Capitol where powerful men shape the future of the nation, to the scholarly archives of the nation’s finest library, Anna and Luke are soon embroiled in secrets much bigger and more perilous than they ever imagined. Is bringing the truth to light worth risking all they’ve ever dreamed for their futures?
Doesn’t this sound like such a sweet and intriguing story? I’ve only read one of Elizabeth Camden’s novels so far—The Rose of Winslow Street—but I really enjoyed it, and Beyond All Dreams sounds like something right up my alley. I absolutely love mysteries, and forbidden romances make for some of the best stories! I know I wouldn’t be disappointed if Santa left this novel under my tree!
2. Deception on Sable Hill by Shelley Gray
Eloisa Carstairs is one of my favorite heroines. She is so sweet, caring, and broken, and it just made her so loveable as well as completely relatable, despite her wealthy status in society. The way that she almost initially dismisses the social barriers keeping her and Sean apart because she knows he makes her feel safe, and that is something she needs so desperately, is one of my favorite aspects of this book. On top of that, she continuously treats him as her equal, as he deserves to be treated, and I just love that about her. She never puts Sean down for being “less than her”, but rather over looks his social standing to see the heart of gold inside. And I just love her for that.
Why? Because Sean is, by far, one of the best heroes I have ever read about, and I wouldn’t be able to stand it if Eloisa hadn’t treated him well. Sean is caring, thoughtful, brave, and compassionate, and he deserves a woman who is going to see that about him and praise him for it. Okay, rant aside, Sean is amazing. He is so sweet to Eloisa, it made me thoroughly jealous. And the way he is protective of Katie just goes on to remind me why I’ve always wanted an older brother.
Deception on Sable Hill is the second book in Shelley Gray’s Chicago World’s Fair Mystery series—I own the third book, Whispers in the Reading Room—and it is my favorite of the two that I don’t own. In it, we learn more about Eloisa Carstairs, a wealthy debutant, and the way she was assaulted by a spoiled heir named Douglass Sloane. She keeps this secret to herself, up until she meets Sean Ryan, who barely knows her yet fights to make things better for her. He may only be on the fringes of society because of his police officer status, and not because of his background, but he has a heart of gold far more precious than anything the elite society could boast. But a mystery of a murderer and the differences in their lives my keep Eloisa and Sean from the greatest thing that could ever happen to either of them. I know I would love Santa forever if I woke up to this novel on Christmas.
3. For Such a Time by Kate Breslin
Hadassah/Stella is by far one of my favorite heroines. Even after facing the horrors of Dachau and barely escaping a firing squad, she risked her life again and again in attempts to save the prisoners at Auschwitz. Her bravery was inspiring, but not only that, she was a relatable character. I felt that if I had been there, I would’ve loved to have her for a friend. And I suppose she is one now. All characters are friends, ones that you can visit any time you open the pages.
I really loved Aric as well. Although he had so much pain bottled up inside him, hardness that bubbled out whenever provoked, he was truly sweet, when he let himself be. He was compassionate and considerate, he just didn’t believe he could be that man. Once I got to know him better, I loved him even more. He is also one of my favorites. Especially since he is such a valiant warrior. You’ll find out why that’s important when you read the book.
For Such a Time is Kate Breslin’s stand-alone debut novel, and is another book I would absolutely love to find beneath my tree. This sweet, Esther inspired, WWII novel pulls you in and tugs at your heartstrings in ways that you will never, ever forget. I don’t even know that I can accurately describe just what made this story so wonderful. Kate just did an amazing job with it, and I know I’m planning on reading it again, so it would be perfect to have my own copy.
4. In the Field of Grace by Tessa Afshar
Love resurrected from lifeless dreams happens in the arms of a loving God.
Without wealth or family, the widow Ruth left her people and followed Naomi, her beloved Hebrew mother-in-law, to rebuild Naomi’s home in Israel. Provisions gone and starvation at the door, Ruth used all that she had left—a strong back and a willing heart—to gather grain in a field, abandoned after the harvest.
Tormented by others, Ruth is shocked to find the owner of the field watching her. Talking to her. Bringing food to her and Naomi. Boaz tells himself his kindness toward Ruth is repayment for the love she has shown to his cousin Naomi. But his heart knows better.
Doesn’t this sound like such a wonderful novel? In the Field of Grace by Tessa Afshar is a retelling of the classic Bible story of Ruth, Boaz, and Naomi, and is a book I have been dying to read ever since I first stumbled upon it on Goodreads. I have always loved the story of Ruth, and have wished for a novel like this one that expounds on the parts we already know, and now here one is, and I cannot wait to dive into it. My only fear is that it won’t stay true to what we know from the Bible as some retellings do, but I’m hopeful that it will, and I know that my fears won’t keep me from wanting to see this novel under my tree.
5. Lizzy and Jane by Katherine Reay
Lizzy and Jane couldn’t be further from Jane Austen’s famous sisters for whom they are named.
Elizabeth left her family’s home in Seattle fifteen years ago to pursue her lifelong dream—chefing her own restaurant in New York City. Jane stayed behind to raise a family. Estranged since their mother’s death many years ago, the circumstances of their lives are about to bring them together once again.
Known for her absolute command of her culinary domain, Elizabeth’s gifts in the kitchen have begun to elude her. And patrons and reviewers are noticing. In need of some rest and an opportunity to recover her passion for cooking, Elizabeth jumps at the excuse to rush to her sister’s bedside when Jane is diagnosed with cancer. After all, Elizabeth did the same for their mother. Perhaps this time, it will make a difference.
As Elizabeth pours her renewed energy into her sister’s care and into her burgeoning interest in Nick, Jane’s coworker, her life begins to evolve from the singular pursuit of her own dream into the beautiful world of family, food, literature, and love that was shattered when she and Jane lost their mother. Will she stay and become Lizzy to her sister’s Jane—and Elizabeth to Nick’s Mr. Darcy—or will she return to the life she has worked so hard to create?
Lizzy and Jane by Katherine Reay is Katherine’s second novel, and is a story I have been excited to read ever since I first heard about it. I read Katherine’s debut novel—Dear Mr. Knightley—about a year ago, and loved it, so when I heard she was working on another Austen-themed book, I was thrilled. Although I think I may be more exited for her next release, The Bronte Plot, I know that this is another story I would love to find hidden underneath my tree on Christmas morning.
6. A Most Inconvenient Marriage by Regina Jennings
Nurse Abigail Stuart never encouraged the attentions of any of her patients, knowing they were lonely and in pain and not really attracted to her. But when her favorite patient, the gravely wounded Jeremiah Calhoun, asks her to marry him as a practical arrangement—in the interest of his ailing sister—she reluctantly accepts. After he passes, she carries out her part of the bargain by making her way to his farm and family, until she is stunned by the appearance of the real Jeremiah Calhoun. Will she be able to convince him that her story is true and she has no intention of stealing his farm, or will he quickly send her packing?
A Most Inconvenient Marriage is the first book I read by Regina Jennings, but it is also the novel that got me hooked on her writing. I mean, doesn’t it sound like such a captivating story? An there is a mystery that also fills the pages that makes it even more interesting than ever, and the characters are some of the most lovable I have ever encountered. I know I would love to get to read this again, since I sped through it so quickly the first time, so it would be wonderful to find it under my tree!
7. A Respectable Actress by Dorothy Love
When India Hartley is accused of murder, she must uncover the deceptions of others to save herself.
India Hartley, a famous and beautiful actress, is now alone after her father’s death and embarks upon a tour of theaters across the South. Her first stop is Savannah’s Southern Palace. On the eve of the second night’s performance, something goes horribly wrong. Her co-star, Arthur Sterling, is shot dead on stage in front of a packed house, and India is arrested and accused of the crime.
A benefactor hires Philip Sinclair, the best—and handsomest—lawyer in Savannah to defend India. A widower, Philip is struggling to reinvent his worn-out plantation on St. Simons Island. He needs to increase his income from his law practice in order to restore Indigo Point, and hardly anything will bring him more new clients than successfully defending a famous actress on a murder charge.
Because India can’t go anywhere in town without being mobbed, Philip persuades the judge handling her case to let him take her to Indigo Point until her trial date. India is charmed by the beauty of the Georgia lowcountry and is increasingly drawn to Philip. But a locked room that appears to be a shrine to Philip’s dead wife and the unsolved disappearance of a former slave girl raise troubling questions. Piecing together clues in an abandoned boat and a burned-out chapel, India discovers a trail of dark secrets that lead back to Philip, secrets that ultimately may hold the key to her freedom. If only he will believe her.
Although I have yet to read a novel by Dorothy Love, I am very hopeful that A Respectable Actress will be my first. I have heard so many wonderful things about it, and it sounds like a story I know I would love. Mystery, intrigue, and romance all rolled into such a beautiful package? I know I would be hooked. Couldn’t Santa leave this underneath my tree?
8. Sweetwater Gap by Denise Hunter
Josie is so full of pain. I almost couldn’t stand it, especially as I got deeper into the story and learned why, and realized that some of it was self-inflicted, although she wouldn’t have known it. With so much heartache from her past, and even some that had begun when she was only a child, I almost couldn’t tell where the pain stopped and where Josie began. I cannot tell you just how sorry I felt for her, just how much I wish things had been different—someone had told her the truth and helped her to realize she was worth more than she thought—although it wouldn’t have been much of a story if someone had. Denise did a wonderful job of slowly bringing Josie’s secrets, her inner torment, to light for us readers while still having it remain unknown to the other characters, which made it easy to sympathize with Josie when her family unknowingly touched on a sore spot in her life.
Can I take another moment to dwell on how wonderfully heartwarming this story was? I have not read a novel that touched my heart more. The hurts these characters face are real, and completely believable, especially with the way Denise slowly brought them to light while giving you little glimpses into the hearts of those who carried them. As I got deeper and deeper into the story, I realized more and more just how realistic—and possible—Josie’s heartbreak was, and it caused every decision she made to make perfect sense. And, unlike many other romances, the hurt and fears that made Josie and Grady reluctant to give in to their growing feelings for one another never once felt forced, but rather played in perfectly to their stories and were perfectly valid reasons that anyone would face today.
Sweetwater Gap by Denise Hunter is the first stand-alone novel I have read by her, though I have read another five of her books. She has been one of my favorite authors for quite some time now, and this novel is a good example of why I love her writing so much. She always does such a wonderful job of weaving real-life, believable pain into her stories, and every one of them has touched my heart; this novel the most. There is so much raw hurt that fills its pages that you cannot get through it without wiping away more than a few tears. I would be absolutely THRILLED if Santa left this novel for me.
9. To Get to You by Joanne Bischof
To get to the girl he loves, Riley Kane must head off on a road trip with the father he never knew. Then pray for a miracle.
Most teens would love to have a pro surfer for a dad. Just not Riley. Abandoned as a kid, he hates the sound of the ocean and the man who gave himself to it.
When the eighteen-year-old learns that his best friend is stranded at a New Mexico hospital as her father fights for his life, Riley hits the highway to head east. But when he Jeep breaks down before he even leaves California, he must rely on the one man he despises to get to the girl who needs him the most. And when it comes to the surfer with the Volkswagen van and dog-eared map, a thousand miles may—or may not—be enough to heal the past.
I have been waiting to read To Get to You by Joanne Bischof—even though I’ve yet to read a single one of her novels—ever since I first heard of it early this year. It sounds so, so good, and I know it would be a book that would touch my heart long before I made it to the end of the story. I have been dying to read this story for so long now, I know I just might scream if I found it beneath my tree.
10. The Wishing Season by Denise Hunter
PJ McKinley has always felt like she has something to prove, especially to her family. So when she has the opportunity to start her own restaurant right out of culinary school—as long as she wins the rights to her neighbor’s ancestral home—she jumps at the chance. There’s only one problem. She has to earn it while sharing it with a man she can barely go five minutes without arguing with.
Cole Evans has wanted to open a home for in transition foster kids for a long time. Now that he has his chance, he hates that he has to share the house with PJ. Her restaurant is taking up valuable rooms that he could use to help more kids. And her bubbly personality has an uncanny way of getting under his skin, no matter how hard he tries to keep her at bay.
Although The Wishing Season wasn’t my favorite novel of the Chapel Springs series, that was Dancing with Fireflies of course, I did love it VERY much, and it is the only one that I currently do not own. Clearly, I must find a copy of this sweet, captivating story under my tree this year so that I can finally have the completed series.
Well, there are the top ten novels I would love for Santa to put under my tree this year! How about you? What are some novels you want to find underneath your tree?
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly link-up hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
To see where I’m linking up, check out my Where I Party page.
All credit for the italicized synopses of Beyond All Dreams, In the Field of Grace, Lizzy and Jane, A Respectable Actress, and To Get to You goes to the authors and their publishers.
All of the italicized reviews/descriptions of Deception on Sable Hill, For Such a Time, A Most Inconvenient Marriage, Sweetwater Gap, and The Wishing Season are from my blog reviews of each novel. To see the full review, click on each highlighted title.