Monday, September 4, 2023

In a Nutshell Reviews

In a Nutshell Reviews are my version of mini-reviews, because sometimes, you just want the highlights.

The Beginning of Everything
 by Jackie Fraser
Published by Dell on September 26, 2023
Age/Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Fiction

An irresistible friends-to-lovers novel of resilience, hope, and new beginnings from the author of The Bookshop of Second Chances

After escaping a bad relationship, Jess Cavendish is running and leaving it all behind, carrying just a few treasured belongings in her knapsack. She needs to start over, but that means sleeping where she can and making the most of her slim savings. Luckily, she comes across a recently sold, unoccupied house. It couldn’t hurt to stay there while she saves up enough to get her own place, right?

Gethin Thomas is also looking to move on after the end of a long-term relationship. He’s returned to his hometown, anxious to renovate the fixer-upper he bought and move out of his sister’s cramped guest room. When he walks through the door one morning, he finds Jess, who’s ready to run again, and surprises them both by offering to let her stay. It feels like the right thing to do, but Jess doesn’t want a handout. They strike a Jess will help with the restoration, furnishing, and decorating in exchange for room and board.

While they peel wallpaper and shop for new furniture, an unexpected friendship develops as they bond over music and food, and slowly open up to each other about their pasts. When it’s time for Gethin to move in, he convinces Jess to be his official housemate and she agrees—so long as he lets her pay rent. The connection between them soon shifts to an attraction that seems both inevitable and overwhelming, and Jess must decide what she wants. With so much hurt in her past, can she risk loving again? She was brave enough to reach for a new life—and now a future she hadn’t even dreamed possible could be just within her grasp.

Back in 2021, I read The Bookshop of Second Chances which was a lovely story about starting over. Once again, Fraser has written a tale about starting over and second chances which warmed my heart.

After fleeing an abusive relationship, Jess found an empty home she thought she could occupy until the owner moved in. Little did she know the new occupant would be the kind and wonderful Gethin. Like Jess, he was leaving a relationship, and I loved that they found each other as they embarked on their new beginnings.

Gethin and Jess seemed to have a rather meaningful connection from the start, and it was a treat watching their friendship take shape. Gethin was generous in sharing his home with Jess, but he got so much from their relationship as well. He had been lonely, and Jess filled that hole in his heart. She may have been stunned by Gethin's kindness, but in return he got so much pleasure from her company and friendship.

I adored both Gethin and Jess, and I was rooting for them as a couple. Jess had many, many years of trauma to overcome with her last relationship leaving physical and mental scars. She was never treated as well as Gethin treated her, nor was she ever regarded with such high esteem. This was all difficult for her to believe, and she also worried about it falling apart. The push and pull was hard for me to tolerate at times because I KNEW these two belonged to each other, but as with most things, my patience was rewarded.

Overall, I found The Beginning of Everything to be a warm and wonderful story of two middle aged people finding each other at rather low points in their lives and lifting each other up as they attempt to start anew.

The Christmas Wager
 by Holly Cassidy
Published by Viking on September 26, 2023
Age/Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

From a bestselling Canadian author comes a delightful enemies-to-lovers holiday rom-com set in the quaint town of Maple Falls, about a city girl and a small-town boy who compete in the town's annual holiday games in order to win the right price for a Christmas shop, perfect for fans of The Hating Game and One Day in December.

One rivalry. Eight days until Christmas. Let the holiday games begin.

When LA-based real estate developer Bella Ross arrives in the sleepy, mountain town of Maple Falls, she has one mission: to acquire the local failing Christmas shop, Always Noelle, securing the promotion of her dreams. Nothing can get in her way. Except the shop owner's stubborn grandson, Jesse Harrison.

Both refuse to budge, until an unlikely wager is struck: Bella and Jesse will compete in the Maple Falls Holiday Games, an annual tradition of eccentric feats of strength and skills. Winner decides the selling price. They'll give each other a run for their money, but as the competition heats up, Bella and Jesse's icy feelings toward each other begin to thaw. It'll take a Christmas miracle for them to admit there's a spark, but what if it's just another game?

When I first read the synopsis for The Christmas Wager, I immediately got the Hallmark movie vibes. Please note: this is a good thing. As a Hallmarkie, I look forward to the fun and the feels of the holiday stories such as this, and I am happy to say, The Christmas Wager did not let me down.

Bella had one goal when she arrived in Maple Falls, and that was to purchase the holiday shop, Always Noelle, at a low price in order to earn a promotion. Little did she know that the shop owner's grandson, Jesse, would give her a run for her money, challenging her to participate in the Holiday Games. What should have been a simple task got a lot more complicated for Bella, but this wager resulted in something better than a promotion.

Right here, right now, I have to say that the Holiday Games were fantastic. Anyone who is a fan of outrageous reality show competitions will delight in the outlandish and complex challenges the Merryatrics came up with for the competitors. Seriously, the tasks put forth were fabulous, and I had a wonderful time waiting to see how it all turned out.

Overall, this was a warm and wonderful holiday book highlighting tradition, family, and friendship. I had an amazing time visiting Maple Falls, and it would be a special treat if I could visit again.


Favorite reality competition show?
Let us know in the comments!


  1. My husband loves a good Hallmark Christmas romance, so The Christmas Wager sounds perfect for us!

    1. I love that your hubs is a Hallmarkie! Fantastic!

  2. The Christmas Wager sounds like a lot of fun. I'm going to put it on my list for this upcoming holiday season to read. Great reviews!

    1. It was a lot of fun. The competition was highlight, but the ending was great too

  3. Yay! I'm happy to see you enjoyed The Christmas Wager. I'll be reading it this month. Great reviews!

  4. Both of these sound like fun reads. I like that the couple is a little older in The Beginning of Everything and I like the game premise of The Christmas Wager.

    1. I am loving all the older couple romances I am finding. It's nice to read about people around my age sometimes.

  5. I seem to see more and more Christmas reads on your feed Sam!

    1. I need a little cheer these days and holiday books always do it for me