I am continuing to read Christmas books for my 20 Books for Christmas Challenge as well as Ho-Ho-Ho Readathon and just because I love Christmas books. All of these books end with an uplifting feeling, but they also deal with some serious issues that many people deal with at some time in their lives. Grief, Mental Health, Divorce, Fear and even sexual assault are brought up in at least one of these books, but I love how family, community and Christmas magic help people heal. All of these audiobooks were provided my the publisher at my request. The rating and opinions shared are my own.

Wrapped Up in Christmas Hope: An Uplifting Small Town Romance

Wrapped Up in Christmas Hope: An Uplifting Small Town Romance by Janice Lynn, Narrated by Madeleine Maby & Seth Podowitz

Published October 26th 2021 by Hallmark Publishing

4 Stars: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

This is the third Wrapped up in…. book by Janice Lynn that I have read or listened to. Even though this is the third book in the series, it can be read as a standalone. The series is set in Pine Hill, Kentucky and quilts are central to the stories. In this book, Morgan and her son Greyson are looking for a new beginning. Morgan is a widow trying to get over the loss of her daredevil husband. She wants nothing more than a quiet life with people that she can love and get support from. What she is not expecting is to meet a local firefighter whose goal is to become a firejumper. Not only that, but Greyson and Andrew seem to have some kind of natural bond that pulls them together. How can she bring a man in her life who is planning to leave, especially taking on a job that is so dangerous. She can’t let Greyson get attached to him, but it might already be too late.

This is an adorable holiday story that will steal your heart. Both Andrew and Morgan have some baggage or roadblocks that prevent them from becoming involved, but their hearts tell them something different. I really liked their characters and was rooting for them from the start. Andrew falls in love with both mother and son but stills want to peruse his dream job. Morgan is afraid to lose another person. Greyson is such a sweetheart and just knows who he cares about, not why it shouldn’t work. This is such a heartwarming story with lots of love, community and family. Several characters are present from the previous stories and I loved seeing them again. The Butterfly Girls, a group of nosey, but loveable older ladies, always add some humour to the story. Throw in a fairytale Christmas wedding of senior citizens, a Quilts of Valor workshop and presentation, and this story truly shares a Christmas wrapped in hope. This is a Hallmark movie in book format that I really enjoyed. I listened to the audiobook narrated by Madeleine Maby and Seth Podowitz. Each narrator did alternating chapters, including all voices in their chapter. They were both wonderful and Madeleine Maby’s voices were excellent showing her range. I did prefer Seth Podowitz’s voice for Andrew’s POV chapters, but I enjoyed both narrators. I definitely recommend this book to those who enjoy Christmas Romance, and uplifting stories.

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Under the Mistletoe by Sue Moorcroft, Olivia Mace (Narrator)

Published October 28th 2021 by Avon

5 Stars: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Under the Mistletoe by Sue Moorcroft is a lovely, emotional holiday book. I want to start by saying that the cover suggests a sweet, fluffy holiday romance and that is not what you will get here. Having said that, this is an uplifting story, but it deals with some difficult issues in the characters’ past that need to be worked through. I did enjoy this story and I do recommend it, but there are issues some readers might find difficult.

Laurel has returned home to Middledip to help her sister Rae who is suffering from agoraphobia, her niece Daisy, and to figure out what to do with her life after a difficult divorce. Shortly after her arrival, she runs into Grady, her highschool boyfriend who she left behind many years earlier when she fled Middledip. Grady never knew or understood why she left without a word. She also runs into Grady’s brother, Mac, who is a teacher at Daisy’s school. This causes problems for Laurel as Mac was the reason Laurel fled year ago. Can Grady and Laurel rekindle something they had all those years ago? Will Laurel be able to spend time with Grady when she can’t even be in the same room with his brother Mac? Will she be able to forgive Mac for his actions?

I really enjoyed visiting the village of Middledip, you have to love that name. It is full of quaint and eccentric characters. The descriptions of the people, shops, and activities brings it to life and it is a place I would love to visit. This is a holiday story that deals with some important issues. There sexual assault, mental health (agorophobia), bullying, guilt, forgiveness and the fallout of keeping secrets. I have to say there were times that I wanted to sit Laurel down and talk to her about finding support to deal with the issues that were still taking over parts of her life. She was such a caring and compassionate person that I wanted her to find some peace as well. Grady was a sweetheart who was in the dark for a long time about what had happened between Laurel and Mac. He was in turmoil when he found out and Laurel was concerned about ruining his relationship with his family. I liked that the author treats the type of assault that Laurel deals with seriously as well as showing how this affects a person’s life forever. With all the seriousness in this story, the story is not all doom and gloom. There is humour, Christmas Spirit, Family and Friendship. The ending is wonderful. All is not perfect, but much is worked through and healing is underway. This is a story of hope, family, healing and love set at Christmas time. I did a read/listen with Under the Mistletoe and enjoyed both formats. Olivia Mace does a wonderful job with the narration of the audiobook. I recommend this one to those who are looking for a balanced Christmas story, not all sweet, but real and uplifting. If you enjoy audiobooks, I recommend this one, but it is also good to read as well.

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A Catalina Cove Christmas (Catalina Cove #3.5) by Brenda Jackson, Ron Butler (Narrator)

Published December 25, 2019 by Madaris, November 16th 2021 by Harlequin Audio

4 Stars: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

A Catalina Cove Christmas is a novella in the Catalina Cove series. I enjoyed visiting again and meeting up with some of the familiar characters. You do not need to read the series to enjoy this story, but I recommend it as it is enjoyable. Isaac and Donna were highschool sweethearts, who married and divorced when their work came between them. Isaac moved back to their hometown of Catalina Cove a year ago looking for peace and happiness. It has been announced that the highschool is holding a reunion for holiday homecoming and Donna is planning to attend. He wants to hate her for choosing a career over their marriage but discovers that his feelings for her are still there. Donna is worried about meeting up with Isaac. She knows she hurt him, but also knows she still loves him, which is why no other relationship has worked out. Will they be able to rekindle their romance and love for one another? Will a relationship work now? What is success in business worth if there is no love or personal happiness?

There is a lot going on in this novella. Because Isaac and Donna already had a relationship in the not so distant past, the relatively quick rekindling of those feelings was not an issue. What I enjoyed was working through what happened to their relationship and what is important in their lives. They are great characters that went astray in their lives chasing success and losing sight of what was important. I also liked the supporting characters in the book who give advice, but allow them to make their own decisions. A sweet Christmas story, with a bit of steam, where love finds a way. The audiobook was narrated by Ron Butler as the story is mainly from Isaac’s POV. Ron Butler’s voice is soft and smooth, perfect for this book. His pacing, tone and expression added to my enjoyment of this audiobook. If you are looking for a Christmas romance with a few realistic issues to work through, then pick this one up.

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Christmas in Rose Bend (Rose Bend #2) by Naima Simone, Mari (Narrator)

Published October 26th 2021 by Harlequin Audio, HQN Books

3.5 Stars:

This is the second book in the Rose Bend series, but I had no trouble following this story or enjoying it. Nessa has a lot of baggage in her life. She was raised by her mother after her father left them. He had another daughter in another relationship and it made Nessa feel that she was lacking. When he dies, she finds out he was not her birth father as well as that she is now the legal guardian of her half-sister, who is a teenager. Nessa and Ivy head to Rose Bend for Christmas after finding some clues that her mother had once vacationed there and there is a possibility that is where she met Nessa’s birth father. Ivy is an unhappy, sullen teenager ready to make life miserable for everyone. Shortly after arriving, Nessa runs into, literally, Wolf, the son of the Inn Keepers where she is staying. This is a story with insta-love as there is an immediate attraction. Can Nessa and Ivy find common ground? Will Nessa find love? Will she find out more about her “real” father?

I enjoyed this story, but there were a few things that I had issue with. First, there were some steamy scenes that I was not prepared for and did skim over. Second was the instalove. Having said that, I loved Nessa’s character. She had been through so much in her life, and even found out that she really wasn’t related to Ivy at all, but she took on the responsibility of raising her and trying to become a family. It was wonderful to see how the Dennisons, Wolf’s family, took Nessa and Ivy into the fold including them in all the family Christmas activities. This was a fun Christmas romance with family bonds, grieving, love, sex, and Christmas magic. I listened to the audiobook narrated by Mari. The narration was very enjoyable and at a good pace. I found her expression, tone and voices well done and added to the enjoyment of the story.