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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Book Review: Smitten Anthology

Delightful reading! "Smitten" is a perfect way to describe how you feel when you read these heartwarming stories of love, friendship and faith.
  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Nelson (December 20, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1401684947
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401684945
     Genre: Contemporary Romance
     My Rating: 4.25+ of 5.0

Book Description
Publication Date: December 20, 2011
Welcome to Smitten, Vermont.
With the help of four friends, it's about to become the most romantic town in America.

The proposed closing of the lumber mill comes as unwelcome news for the citizens of Smitten. How will the town survive without its main employer? A close-knit group of women think they've got just the plan to save Smitten. They'll capitalize on its name and turn it into a tourist destination for lovers-complete with sweet shops, a high-end spa, romantic music on the square, and cabins outfitted with fireplaces and hot tubs.

But is this manly town ready for an influx of romantically-minded guests?

Country music sensation Sawyer Smitten, the town's hometown hero, wants to help by holding his own wedding there on Valentine's Day. And little Mia's lavender wreaths hang all over town as a reminder that faith can work miracles. Along the way, four women spearheading the town's transformation-energetic Natalie, sophisticated Julia, graceful Shelby, and athletic Reese-get in the spirit by reviving their own love lives.

Join best-selling inspirational romance authors (and real-life BFFs) Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, Diann Hunt, and Denise Hunter for an inspiring stay at the (soon-to-be) most romantic town on the eastern seaboard.

One visit . . . and you'll be smitten too.

This really is adorable! The four friends are like close sisters and they have the grit and determination to initiate changes to save their town. The mill is closing so the four decide to turn the town into a romantic getaway. After all, the name Smitten fits the desired new image. Of course the men in town resist what they think will turn their town into a frilly girl place that is going to fade around them.

The four stories have different voices but fit together beautifully. They each have varying faith issues of forgiveness, trust, independence and pride that they have to overcome. The Biblical references are well placed and appropriate in the lives of the Christian characters. They are shared in the natural circumstances so they aren’t really preachy but are rather a reminder of God’s safe control and desire for the best in our lives.

There is a fun forward and a Reading Group Guide as well as "Conversation over Coffee with the Authors" describing how the authors got together to work up the anthology. There is a brief blog post here:

I would recommend reading any of these authors for warm characters and engaging plots. I look forward to reading more by each of them. I rate each story as 4.25 and the whole package gets extra bonus for working so well together!

Natalie: Birthday Wishes by Colleen Coble
Natalie’s father left when she was young and she doesn't trust men or relationships. Carson is a dependable businessman in town but Natalie’s sister, Lisa, has named him as the father of her daughter, Mia.  Natalie is raising the adorable Mia who is making lavender wreaths for the doors. The wreaths are to give the townspeople hope during the difficult times.

When Carson’s country star brother agrees to be married in Smitten, Natalie is able to talk Carson into updating the old fishing cabins he owns. He can’t see it until she begins to describe the changes and becomes his assistant to remodel. As they work closely together they are drawn to notice each other as more than just friends.  Natalie has to find forgiveness and learn to trust if she wants to allow love to remodel her own life. 

Julia: Small Town, Big Dreams by Kristin Billerbeck
Julia has returned from New York to take care of her injured mother. Her friends encourage her to set up a spa like the one she ran in the city. A big city fellow comes to town to give her advice and to consider investing in her plans. He recommends that she rent space that is owned by rugged Zak who has the local rustic grill. It is a beautiful setting but Julia has always had a crush on her older brother’s best friend, Zak. She claims that she can’t envision a spa next to the smells of a rustic grill even though Zak is remodeling his restaurant. 

Zak has always liked Julia but promised her brother that he would look after Julia and never try to seduce her. But he’ll chase away that city slicker and remodel the space for her spa because he knows she can make it work even if she doesn’t think so.  Can Julia find enough faith to risk telling Zak how she really feels or will she run back to New York?

Shelby: You’ve Got a Friend by Diann Hunt
Shelby tends to be a little accident prone but her friend Nick is always there coaching her on safety and rescuing her. Shelby isn’t really a socialite, she just appreciates fashion and teaches Social Graces to young girls so they will have nice manners and deportment. Nick is a strong lumberman and doesn’t see himself as someone Shelby could fall for. Besides, Nick has an ex-wife who left because she wanted the society things that Smitten and Nick couldn’t offer. But when Nick’s ex-wife dies and his preteen daughter comes to live with him its Shelby’s turn to rescue him by helping with this sweet lost young girl.  Meanwhile Shelby’s long absent father moves in and they begin to rebuild their relationship. 

When Shelby and Nick grow closer Shelby knows she has to tell him of her secret. She has had to learn to put aside the guilt and forgive herself but will she be able to forgive Nick when he judges her for her past?

Reese: All Along by Denise Hunter
Reese and Griffen were best buddies in high school. When Reese was preparing to marry Sawyer Smitten Griffen left town to hide his broken heart. He is back in town now to help with all of the renovations and to see if he can’t show Reese how he really feels. Too bad that Reese seems to be struggling with her old feelings for her ex-fiancé who is coming back to town to marry someone else. 

Reese is working hard on setting up her outfitters shop and she is really glad to have her good friend Griffen there for support. But suddenly she sees him as more than a good friend. She decides to take plans into her own hands, even if it means a little deception. But her plans to make Griffen jealous backfire when he thinks she is trying to make Sawyer jealous.

Reese realizes how God must feel loving us so much when we don’t always love him back. Can she get out of her own tangled web before Griffen leaves town again?
 I received this book for review from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley.
This book will be linked to Vermont in my Where are you reading map; it will also go towards my ARC challenge.

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