Title: Winter Brides
Authors: Denise Hunter (A December Bride), Deborah Raney (A January Bride), and Betsy St. Amant (A February Bride)
Narrators: Julie Carr (A December Bride), Christy Ragland (A January Bride), and Amber Quick (A February Bride)
Audio Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Print Publisher: Zondervan
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance, Christian Fiction
About the Collection (from the Publisher):
Happily ever after begins today. The honor of your presence is requested at three winter weddings…
My Thoughts on the Collection:
Winter Brides is a fun collection of short and sweet contemporary Christian romances. Each of the three novellas included in this collection was first published individually in print and audio editions as part of Zondervan’s A Year of Weddings series, so if you’ve already read A December Bride, A January Bride, or A February Bride, then parts of this collection will be very familiar to you. I had not previously read any of the individual titles myself, but I’d heard some lovely things about them, so I was excited at the opportunity to read and review the audio edition of this book. And yes, the collection turned out to be just as much fun as I’d hoped.
If you enjoy reading contemporary romance, this book is for you. Each story brings something uniquely enjoyable to the mix. While the shorter length of the novella format doesn’t lend itself to the complex plots and characterizations typically found in longer novels, I thought each of the authors did a great job giving readers a fully fleshed out story in a short and sweet package. In fact, if you’re looking for some light reading to fill the gaps in the midst of this busy holiday season, or an audiobook to pass the hours on a long car ride, this book could be just the thing!
Since we’re talking about the audio edition in particular, I’ll confess to being a little surprised that the narrators didn’t give each character his or her own unique voice. Given the wide range of characters in terms of age, gender, and other traits, this struck me as a missed opportunity to make the audio edition really stand out. However, I’ll also say that I didn’t miss that feature as much as I thought I might. The narrators’ clear and pleasant reading styles worked well with the strengths of the stories themselves to keep me hanging on every word.
About A December Bride by Denise Hunter:
When Layla O’Reilly and Seth Murphy make their engagement public, she knows it’s only to convince a major client that she’s high-society enough to work for his agency. Seth has secretly loved Layla for years, but she’s never given him the time of day. For Layla, this romantic illusion is the chance to save her career. And for Seth, it’s the chance to finally win her heart.
My Thoughts on A December Bride:
I imagine fans of Denise Hunter’s Chapel Springs Romance series will find the setting and some of the characters in this novella familiar from the novels in that series. However as someone who hasn’t read that series yet, I can tell you that this lovely little novella stands on its own two feet just fine.
This is the story of two friends, Seth and Layla, who kind of had a thing for each other once upon a time but never actually dated because Seth’s best friend Jake asked Layla out first… only to break her heart. Trouble is, Layla blames Seth in part for introducing Jake to the woman who came between them. Circumstances conspire to give Seth a chance to change her mind about him and possibly win her heart.
The premise works really well for a novella. There’s enough history in their backstory to make the story’s outcome and timing plausible and enough built in conflict to keep things interesting. I liked the characters, especially Seth, and was totally rooting for him to win Layla over. The author included some really sweet romantic moments and wrapped the story up with a conclusion that brought a smile to my face.
In the audio edition, Julie Carr’s narration does a great job capturing the characters’ emotions, and keeping the reader engaged with the story.
About A January Bride by Deborah Raney:
Novelist Madeleine Houser arranges a temporary office in a local bed and breakfast to escape the distracting renovations at her sister’s house. Although she’s never laid eyes on the inn’s owner, an unlikely friendship blossoms between them as they leave daily notes for each other, and before long, Maddie finds herself falling for her mysterious host — a man likely many years her senior — and a man she’s never even met.
My Thoughts on A January Bride:
This one was such a cute story! I was highly amused by the way one detail after another reinforced Maddie’s and Art’s erroneous assumptions about each other, right up until the point they finally met face to face. What a surprise they’re in for, and the fact that the reader sees it coming a mile away makes it all the more enjoyable. I don’t know how Ginny managed to keep quiet about the misunderstanding as long as she did, but as a reader, I kept wanting to nudge Maddie and Art toward the truth, because it was so easy to see they were perfect for each other. I had a lot of fun reading this one, and particularly enjoyed the bit about the photo Maddie used to represent her book’s hero. (You’ll understand when you read it.)
Christy Ragland’s clear voice and careful enunciation made for a very pleasant listening experience and did a good job showcasing the merits of the text itself.
About A February Bride by Betsy St. Amant:
History repeats itself when Allie Andrews escapes the church on her wedding day — wearing the same dress passed down for generations of women in her family, all women with histories of failed marriages. Allie loves Marcus but fears she’s destined to repeat her family’s mistakes. When thrown unexpectedly together for a wedding months later, Allie and Marcus discover their own story might be far from over.
My Thoughts on A February Bride:
I loved the theme of restoration running throughout this sweet novella. Allie restores old furniture and Marcus restores classic cars, but can their relationship be restored after she leaves him at the altar? Readers of romance can probably guess the answer to that question, but the fun is in following their journey. Imagine the awkwardness of being maid of honor in a wedding where the brother of the bride is the man you almost married. The showers, the planning, the rehearsal… somehow they keep running into each other, and the tension is palpable. I enjoyed seeing Allie’s faith journey and how it tied into the romantic relationship and I absolutely loved the role the dress played in the story. One small detail of the ending stretched believability a bit in the interest of a cute wrap-up, but I did enjoy that wrap-up, so I can’t complain.
The narrator paired with this story, Amber Quick, seemed to be a good match, with a pleasant reading style, rich in emotion, that made it easy to get swept up in the story.
Many thanks to Zondervan and Brilliance Audio for the opportunity to review this audiobook.
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