I am enjoying my Christmas in July reading. For my first three books, I selected a cozy mystery, a romance and a family drama. They all met my expectations and I want to share my thoughts with you.

Wagging Through the Snow (Melanie Travis #21)

Wagging Through The Snow by Laurien Berenson

Published September 26th 2017 by Kensington Publishing Corporation

3.5 Stars:

This was my first book for Christmas in July and it was a quick, fun and enjoyable story. Protagonist Melanie Travis is divorced from Bob, but they are still friendly. Her brother Frank is partners with Bob, although Frank doesn’t always consult him before making decisions. When Frank sees a Christmas tree farm up for auction, he doesn’t think, he doesn’t ask anyone, he bids on it and wins. While they are all there checking it out, they stumble upon a dead body. Mel begins to nose around when the man’s sponsor swears he has stopped drinking and they are determined to prove he was murdered.

I have not read all of these books, in fact I have only read three or four of them. The mystery deals with Pete, a homeless man and his alcoholism that has driven almost all of his friends and family away. The plot leads us back in time to see how his life progressed until he was found dead. Melanie’s compassion shines as she tries to find answers and justice for a man she never met. She is a caring and considerate character, who everyone likes and is willing to talk to. She has a lot going on in her life between her family, her dogs, her job and now investigating this mystery. I can’t believe how organized she is. I really liked Aunt Peg, a take charge older character, whose sassy nature adds some humor to the story. When they find a tiny Maltese hidden under the dead body, it is Aunt Peg takes him under her wing. The mystery was not easy to solve and when I thought I had it figured out, I was wrong. I enjoyed the humor in the plot, but she also handles serious issues well. Laurien Berenson wraps up all the details in this story with a bright Christmas bow.

Christmas on the Coast: The Off Season, Book 3

Christmas on the Coast (The Off Season #3) by Lee Tobin McClain, Sandy Rustin (Narrator)

Published October 13 2020 by Recorded Books, HQN Books

4 Stars: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

This is the third book in The Off Season series, set in Pleasant Shores, but I had no problem following this story. The overall theme in the series is based on the Healing Heroes cottage where a wounded hero, whether physically or suffering from PTSD or both, agrees to stay for three months of healing as well as participating in a volunteer project. Amber Rowe is a single mother, author and cancer survivor. One evening she finds four year old Davey in her backyard with his dog, Sarge. She then meets her new neighbor, Paul Thompson, who is living in the cottage while healing from PTSD as well as the death of his wife. There is an attraction between them that they are both trying to fight. The two were previously, briefly acquainted when Amber interviewed Paul’s now deceased wife, Wendy, for a book about cancer. The more time they spend together while working on a volunteer project, the harder it is to resist the growing attraction. As there is the possibility of Amber’s cancer returning, they do not want to put Davey through the loss of another mother as well there is also a huge secret that Wendy shared with Amber that she was asked to keep. Can Amber have a relationship with Paul and keep her promise to Wendy? There is also a side story going on with Mary, the owner of the town’s bookstore as well as their philanthropist, being bullied and manipulated by someone from her past. Mary tries again and again to help her and forgive, but it seems to escalate the abuse more. I enjoyed learning about Mary’s past as well.

This was an emotional and heartwarming story. This story deals with complicated life issues like infidelity, cancer, murder, bullying, guilt and abuse. There is also a situation with grandparents and how far do you go when they overstep parental boundaries. I really liked Amber, Paul Davey and Mary. They were wonderful characters who made the story realistic. Even Sarge, Paul’s dog and retired K-9, was lovable. This was not an easy road for Amber and Paul and I found myself rooting for them. Amber was living in fear of her cancer returning and that is something that many people live with daily. I was angry about what was happening with Mary. She was a loving, generous and caring individual who didn’t deserve the way she was being treated. What I thought would be a sweet and happy Christmas story had my emotions all over the place. It definitely took me on a rollercoaster ride. Rest assured, it as a happily ever after with elements of love, forgiveness, acceptance and taking chances for what you really want. The scenery and the Christmas vibes add atmosphere making this a satisfying and enjoyable Christmas story. Narrator, Sandy Rustin, does a nice job with this book. She has a pleasant voice that made listening to this audiobook an enjoyable experience.

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Christmas on Honeysuckle Lane by Mary McDonough, Marnye Young (Narrator)

Published July 2nd 2019 by Dreamscape Media, October 23rd 2018 by Kensington

4 Stars:⭐⭐⭐⭐

In historic and picturesque Oliver’s Well, you will find the Reynolds’ house on Honeysuckle Lane. This is the house where Andie, Emma, and Daniel Reynolds grew up—before they began to grow apart. Their mother died recently and the family is getting together to decide what to do with the house, probably preparing it for sale, and spending Christmas together. Daniel, the one who cared for their mother while she was ill is having a hard time and is resentful towards his sisters. Andie, divorced and left her daughter with her husband to raise. She has to come to grips with what that has done to her daughter and face her own fears and insecurities. Emma, the middle child, struck out on her own instead of accepting her father’s offer to share his business, but is now seeing the possibilities of returning home. For anyone who has had to clear out their family home, you know that everything has a memory attached, either good or bad, and it is hard to let go sometimes. As these siblings deal with their mother’s estate, they also deal with many emotions, past hurts and angers and finally healing.

I watched the Hallmark movie made from this story a couple of years ago, but I must say, I liked the book more. There is a bit of a romance in the book, but it is a much larger piece in the movie. I liked that the dynamics of the family played the major role in the book. They feel like people you’ve known for years and were very relatable. There were times that I wanted to grab one of them and smack some sense into them when they were thinking or behaving foolishly. Grief can (and often does) change the dynamics of a family following the loss of a loved one. Relationships that were once good become tense, and some families are torn apart. This story shows how important it is to work through it and learn how to move forward together. I know this is fiction, and that doesn’t always happen, but I am glad it did in this case. Having this book set at Christmas shows how those family traditions can bring a family together. This was a great addition to my Christmas in July theme. The audiobook was narrated by Marnye Young. She did a good job with the emotions and various voices using tone and inflection. A nice book to listen to.