Thursday, October 8, 2020

Isn't It Romantic? - The Holiday Edition

The Twelve Dates of Christmas

Jenny Bayliss
Age/Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: GP Putnam & Sons
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Tis the season for finding romance in this hilarious and uplifting holiday read

When it comes to relationships, thirty-four-year-old Kate Turner is ready to say "Bah, humbug." The sleepy town of Blexford, England, isn't exactly brimming with prospects, and anyway, Kate's found fulfillment in her career as a designer, and in her delicious side job baking for her old friend Matt's neighborhood café. But then her best friend signs her up for a dating agency that promises to help singles find love before the holidays. Twenty-three days until Christmas. Twelve dates with twelve different men. The odds must finally be in her favor . . . right?

Yet with each new date more disastrous than the one before--and the whole town keeping tabs on her misadventures--Kate must remind herself that sometimes love, like mistletoe, shows up where it's least expected. And maybe, just maybe, it's been right under her nose all along. . .
Kate was just about ready to give up on finding her "someone", but thought she should give it one last try. She signed up for the special dating package - twelve dates with twelve men in twelve locations. The plan was to meet her match by the holidays, and despite all the ups and downs, she actually did find love. 

Four words to describe this book: delightful, heartwarming, whimsical, and charming. The extremely fun premise was deftly executed by Bayliss, and I had the BEST time waiting for Kate to discover the man who had won her heart. 

There was so much to love, but I will start with the setting. Kate had returned several years ago to her childhood home. It was a rather small village, which was filled with people who had always been part of Kate's life. There was this warmth and sense of belonging that simply amplified my love for the town. Bayliss really sold it to me too. I wanted to go caroling, shop at the winter bazar, drink coffee at the Pear Tree, and visit the manor. It all sounded quite lovely, and I was so glad the town was featured prominently in the story. 

Bayliss didn't just paint a lovely picture of Blexford, she also took me on twelve fun and fabulous dates. I won't say that they all went smoothly, but I loved that I was exposed to many different and interesting experiences. Dancing, escape rooms, cocktail creation -- there were so many great activities, even if not every match was a good one. 

I really felt for Kate when she was on some of these dates. A few of them started off great, but then took turns I had never expected, while others were doomed from the start. Either way, Kate was a great sport and made the best of each situation. She also grew a lot from the experience. She opened herself up to possibilities and eventually realized what her heart really desired. 

Friends and family also made this story memorable for me. Two of her childhood friends, Matt and Laura, were always there for Kate in some capacity. I am such a fan of long and storied relationships and these three shared a lot of history. There were some memories that hit me right in the feels, while other had me laughing out loud. These two plus Kate's lovely father and the rest of the villagers brought so much warmth and joy to this story, and that is exactly what I look for in a holiday themed book. 

The Twelve Dates of Christmas was an enchanting story of looking for and finding love. I was wholly absorbed in Kate's quest and had an incredible time waiting for her to find her soulmate. This book made me laugh, smile, and shed happy tears, as it delivered a big jolt of holiday spirit. 

All About Us

Tom Ellen
Age/Genre: Adult, 
Publisher: Harper 360
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
A chance encounter leads to the journey of a lifetime in this powerful and emotional love story, perfect for fans of One Day, Me Before You and In Five Years.

If you could turn back the clock, would you choose a different life?

Ben’s always loved the month of December, but this year, with his relationship with Daphne on the rocks, it’s missing its usual magic. And then his old friend Alice gets back in touch. Ben’s always thought of Alice as the one that got away, and he can’t help but wonder: what if he’d done things differently all those years ago?

He never imagines he might get to find out… but when a stranger sells Ben a mysterious watch one freezing winter’s night, he’s astonished to wake up the next morning on 5th December 2005: the day he first kissed Daphne, leaving Alice behind.

Now Ben must make the biggest decision of his life, all over again. But this time around, will he finally find the courage to follow his heart?

All About Us is a captivating novel of heartbreak and loss, friendship and hope – and how the choices we make throughout our lives will shape our destiny.
Once upon a time, Ben chose Daphne over Alice. He was happy with his choice, but with his marriage seemingly over, he began to wonder what-if? Confronted with a choice from which his relationship would never recover, Ben met a mysterious stranger with a magical watch, and got an opportunity to revisit some important events in his history. When faced with this decision again, who would he choose? 

When I saw Tom Ellen was writing a new book, I knew I had to read it. I had enjoyed his previous co-writes and was eager to check out his solo work. This book was something really special. I had no idea it would consume me the way it did, nor did I expect it to steal my heart. 

At first, I thought this was simply a time-travel type story, but as the tale continued, I realized it was A Christmas Carol retelling. Can I just say, I absolutely loved Ellen's spin on the classic. The parallels to the original story were there, but it was different in that the was a focus on the romance. Christmas warm-fuzzies plus romance -- I was a very happy camper. 

This book wasn't simply read by me, it was inhaled. I was sneaking in pages, here and there, and fighting sleep, because I was so invested in what path Ben would take. I liked getting to see Christmas Present and Christmas Yet-to-Come, but I LOVED watching Christmas Past unfold. 

The moments in the past hit me with quite a punch. I really appreciated seeing how differently Ben began to view events from his past. We tend to grow as we age, and hopefully, we acquire some wisdom, and I really think Ben had. He needed to be reminded of the things that had transpired and seeing them through a different lens was just what he needed. There were many beautiful and touching moments shared between him and Daphne during their long relationship, and this trip down memory lane was what he needed to remember why he chose her in the first place. 

I am such a sucker for stories like this! Taking this journey with Ben was utterly heartwarming. It was an emotional roller coaster for me, but it was a phenomenal ride. This book put a smile on my face, happy tears in my eyes, and an abundance of joy in my heart. 

**ARCs received in exchange for honest reviews.

Are you ready for the holidays?
Let us know in the comments!


  1. Twelve Dates of Christmas sounds soo cute and I love how engrossing the setting is. Maybe I'll download the audio!

    1. It was fun. The dates were nutty and the romance was one I was definitely all in for