Tackling the TBR *Christmas Edition 2022*

It has become apparent that my TBR (to be read) list has gotten nearly out of hand. Therefore, I have decided to do a post featuring ten books from it approximately every other week. As I go through the list, I will evaluate each book and decide whether or not it still belongs. Who knows, perhaps as my list (hopefully) shrinks, you will find a few books to add to your own!reviews-from-the-stacks-headers

The last time I did a Tackling the TBR post was November 15. The last time I did a Christmas Special Edition of Tackling the TBR was December 14, 2020. There are currently 29 books on my Goodreads tbr-Christmas list.

Christmas at Hembry Castle#1.  Christmas at Hembry Castle by Meredith Allard

Synopsis: You are cordially invited to Christmas at Hembry Castle. An unlikely earl struggles with his new place. A young couple’s love is tested. What is a meddling ghost to do? In the tradition of A Christmas Carol, travel back to Victorian England and enjoy a lighthearted, festive holiday celebration.

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Heaven and Nature Sing: 25 Advent Reflections to Bring Joy to the World#2. Heaven and Nature Sing: 25 Advent Reflections to Bring Joy to the World by Hannah Anderson

Synopsis: “Joy to the world—the Lord has come!” We sing these words every year, but what does it mean that the Creator came to his creation as a baby? How exactly does the “earth receive her King?”  What does it sound like when rocks, hills, floods, and plains echo his praise? And what would it mean for you to join in the chorus?

Heaven and Nature Sing invites you into a fresh reading of the Christmas story—one where earthy, overlooked things like snowflakes, trees, serpents, bodies, and swaddling bands reveal the glory of the Promised Son. Journeying from the first pages of Scripture to the last, you’ll experience the goodness of our Creator King and learn how the whole earth sings his praise.

So this Advent season, join Hannah Anderson as she guides you through 25 meditations on the natural elements of the Christmas story. Accompanied by Nathan Anderson’s distinctive artwork, the entries gradually move you from hope to faith to joy to peace. Find your soul renewed and your heart restored, and discover once again why heaven and nature sing. 

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So, This Is Christmas#3.  So, This Is Christmas by Tracy Andreen

Synopsis: When Finley Brown returned to her hometown of Christmas, Oklahoma, from boarding school, she expected to find it just as she left it. Christmas hasn’t changed much in her sixteen years. But instead she returns to find that her best friend is dating her ex-boyfriend, her parents have separated, and her archnemesis got a job working at her grandmother’s inn. And she certainly didn’t expect to find the boy she may or may not have tricked into believing that Christmas was an idyllic holiday paradise on her grandmother’s doorstep. It’s up to Finley to make sure he gets the Christmas he was promised. This is Finley’s Christmas. It’s about home and family and friends and finding her place, and along the way she also finds the best Christmas present of all: love.

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Snow-Globe World#4. Snow-Globe World by Chelsea Burden

Synopsis: From the outside, the snow-globe world is a picture postcard of Christmas joy and peace. A world of snowflakes and church-bells, of happy people and cozy churches nestled into their wintry world like merry children cuddled to sleep in their downy beds at night.

But are there aching hearts concealed beneath the dancing flakes or drowned by the chiming bells? Are there hidden sorrows that even Christmas cannot efface? And are those sorrows the secret behind Mia Allonby’s tired sigh, Ashton Melbrook’s stern reserve and Mrs. Cavendish’s sad smile?

Is there any way to reconcile heartache and Christmas? And is there, after all, a special, secret blessing which sorrow can bring to the celebration of One who came to heal the broken-hearted?

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A Homewood Christmas#5. A Homewood Christmas by Courtenay Burden et al

Synopsis: The close-knit community of Homewood, Minnesota might not even be a dot on most maps. But from its earliest settlement to the present day, a warm Christmas welcome and a shining Moravian star have been its hallmarks of the holiday.

Step into the bustle of preparations as a young orphan travels an unexpected path to the Christmas he’s longed for and a boisterous flock of cousins learns the eternal secrets of the Christmas fruit bowl. Follow a wintery road with a widowed mother in the shadow of war and a generous aunt trying her best for her family as they search for a place where they truly belong. Slip into the fire glow next to a lonely stranger with a terrible secret and a hometown girl trying to escape past hurts, and watch Christmas light and love warm even the coldest places.

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Christmas at Whitefriars#6. Christmas at Whitefriars (Empire State #3.5) by Elizabeth Camden

Synopsis: Mary Beckwith lives in a magnificent English castle during the twilight years of the gilded age. With the help of an American millionaire, she has succeeded in renovating her beloved Whitefriars castle into a splendid estate just in time for Christmas.

From across the ocean, millionaire Everett Wooten has spent a fortune propping up Whitefriars to add modern conveniences and rebuild crumbling old walls. Even though he’s never met Mary, they have enjoyed a lively business correspondence over the nine years they have been working toward a renovation. Now he has finally come to see Mary and the castle in person, but nothing is as he was led to believe. Mary and Everett try to find a way forward, but red-blooded American entrepreneurship doesn’t always mingle with blue-blooded English tradition. Can a Manhattan business tycoon and an English lady come to an accord, or will their joint venture in Whitefriars result in heartbreak for them both?

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The Christmas Swap#7. The Christmas Swap by Melody Carlson

Synopsis: All Emma Daley wants this holiday season is a white Christmas. But the young teacher and struggling musician sure can’t find that in sunny Arizona. Luckily, there’s someone living in a perfect mountain home in the Colorado Rockies looking to make a vacation trade this year.

Tyler Prescott is an in-demand songwriter and talented musician who put his own singing career on hold to write songs for celebrity acts to perform. When his mother convinces him to do a vacation trade for Christmas, he never imagined one of the houseguests would be so sweet–or so strikingly pretty. Naturally, he decides to stick around, and, to get better acquainted, he poses as the house’s caretaker. But when Emma’s friend Gillian discovers his true identity and sets her sights on him, things
get . . . messy.

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A Christmas in the Alps#8. A Christmas in the Alps by Melody Carlson

Synopsis: After a time of heartache and loss, Simone Winthrop discovers a tantalizing letter from her French great-grandmother, which seems to suggest that she is heir to a family treasure. Ever practical, Simone assumes the claim is baseless, but her best friend encourages her to find out for sure. Despite her deep-rooted fear of flying, Simone boards a jet to travel to Paris at Christmastime to uncover the truth.

During the long flight, Simone meets the charming Kyle Larsson, who’s on his way to France to become an apprentice clockmaker. Though they abruptly part ways, an unexpected rendezvous in the French Alps at Simone’s family’s clock factory may lead to the discovery of the family treasure . . . and so much more.

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Mutts and Mistletoe#9. Mutts and Mistletoe by Natalie Cox

Synopsis: Thirty-one-year-old Charlie isn’t in the mood for Christmas cheer...

Her boyfriend has left her for his personal trainer, her mother has absconded with her latest husband for the holidays, and–adding insult to (literal) injury–her London apartment has just been destroyed by a gas leak. Single, mildly concussed and temporarily homeless, Charlie realizes there’s only one place to go: Cozy Canine Cottages, where she’ll spend the season looking after her cousin Jez’s doggy day care center. And if she’s not exactly a dog person, well, no one has to know…

But her plans for a quiet Christmas in a quaint country village are quickly dashed. Peggy the pregnant beagle and Malcolm the anxious Great Dane seem determined to keep her up all night. A strange man has been casing her cousin’s house. And where is Cal, the unbearably patronizing but disturbingly handsome local vet, when she needs him?

As the days tick down to Christmas, Charlie’s life has never felt so out of control–but with some help from her new four-legged friends, she just might learn a thing or two about living in the moment, embracing the unexpected and opening herself up to love…

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Christmas at the Cat Café#10. Christmas at the Cat Café (Cat Café #2) by Melissa Daley

Synopsis: The Costwolds’ town of Stourton-on-the-Hill has its very own cat café. Resident cat Molly, and her kittens, live here in feline paradise, while owner Debbie serves the locals home-made goodies. But even in the most idyllic surroundings, things don’t always go to plan…

When Debbie’s heartbroken sister Linda arrives at the cafe, Debbie insists she move in. But Linda is not alone, and the cats are devastated with the arrival of Linda’s dog, Beau. Sadly, Beau’s arrival is not the only bombshell – now Molly’s home is also under threat when a rival cat moves in on her turf.

With Christmas approaching, Molly is unsettled, barely roused by the promise of tinsel to play with. Fearing for her feline family she hopelessly stares out of the café window searching for an answer. Only a Christmas miracle could bring everyone together…   

Remove, although I’m pretty sure the first book in the series is still on my general TBR list, so this might eventually make a comeback.

Tin Can Serenade#11. Tin Can Serenade by Amanda Dykes

Synopsis: An enchanting Christmas story laced with joy, God’s healing hand in the broken places of life weaves through each letter passed over the river in that tin-can strung from the rusted pulley.

Enter into a simpler time in this petite tale, written to be just long enough to tuck into a stolen moment as you rest your feet and quiet your heart in the bustle of a busy season.

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Candy Cane Crime (Amish Candy Shop Mystery #5.5)#12. Candy Cane Crime (Amish Candy Shop Mystery #5.5) by Amanda Flower

Synopsis: Christmas is coming all too quickly for Harvest, Ohio’s famous chocolatier, Bailey King. Thanks to her new cable TV show, her shop has more candy orders than she can handle this holiday season. Fortunately, her beloved Cousin Charlotte is happy to take the Candy Cane Exchange off Bailey’s to-do list. After all, Charlotte has come to Harvest from her conservative home district to find her future outside of her family’s influence. What better way than by taking on the Englisch task of pairing the sweet notes everyone is exchanging with a peppermint treat, just in time for Christmas Eve delivery? But when Charlotte discovers some of those delicious missives are for her, suddenly she’s staking out the festive postbox, hoping to catch her secret admirer in his intriguing tracks…

When Charlotte sees something underhanded going on beneath the merrymaking, she enlists the help of Sheriff Deputy Luke Little to find out if her unknown correspondent is none other than the town’s biggest suspect. And the surprising truth about her suitor’s identity has her contemplating leaving her Amish roots behind forever…

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A Pioneer Christmas Collection: 9 Stories of Finding Shelter and Love in a Wintry Frontier#13. A Pioneer Christmas Collection by Kathleen Fuller, et al

Synopsis: Journey along with American settlers who learn that despite where the trail takes them or how primitive their lodgings may be Christmas is all about the heart. Determined to honor Christ’s birth, these pioneers find a way to make Christmas happen in places like a cave, a tipi, and a dugout. Modern readers will enjoy a peek into life before commercialism took over the sacred day, distracting us from the true blessings of faith, hope, and love. Enjoy nine original novellas of Christmas romance as penned from many of today’s leading Christian authors, including Lauraine Snelling, Kathleen Fuller, and Vickie McDonough.

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A Cat Cafe Christmas#14. A Cat Café Christmas by Codi Gary

Synopsis: Veterinarian and animal lover Kara Ingalls needs a Christmas miracle. Opening the Meow and Furrever Cat Café to find loving homes for adorable, adoptable cats was a dream come true—but with more cats than customers, it’s quickly turning into a nightmare. If Kara can’t figure out some way to get the café out of the red, it won’t last past the holidays.

Marketing guru Ben Reese may be annoyingly smart and frustratingly bossy, but when he hatches a plan to put the café in the “green” by Christmas, Kara realizes that she’d be a fool to turn down his help. And so what if he turns out to be an excellent problem solver and nerdy-hot—he can’t even handle fostering one little kitten. She needs to keep their relationship professional and focus on saving the café.

But if Ben and Kara can set aside their differences—and find homes for all the cats by Christmas—they might discover that, by risking their hearts, they’ll have their own purr-fect holiday.

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The Engagement Cover (Christmas in Garland Collection #2)#15. The Engagement Cover (Christmas in Garland #2) by A.M. Heath

Synopsis: After a disastrous dating app experience that nearly destroyed her modeling career, Teresa Bradford knows what she wants, and Justin Reynolds seems to check every box. But when her family pressures her to bring him home as her fiancé in order to ease the mind of her dying grandmother, their relationship takes a weird turn, and his absences create the need for a fill-in fiancé.

Since his mom’s passing, and with his dad working out of state through the holidays, Alex Landry misses the feeling of home. So, when his friend Marc Bradford asks him for a strange favor with the promise of family for the holidays and all the tamales he can eat, he’s all in. What he didn’t expect was Marc’s sister to be the girl he’d gone on an awful date with two years ago.

Committed to a fake engagement to fulfill a dying woman’s wish, Alex and Teresa form a rocky friendship. As first impressions change and it becomes clear that Alex fits in better with her family than Justin does, Teresa is forced to reconsider what she wants. She’s drawn to both men for different reasons, but the one who nearly ruined her life might be the one to help her find what truly matters.

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It Came Upon a Midnight Clear (Christmas in Garland Collection, #3)#16. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear (Christmas in Garland #3) by A.M. Heath

Synopsis: Pregnant and alone, Alissa Hill moved to Garland, Tennessee to help at her aunt’s inn. When a guest brings her hidden past to the inn’s door, she must decide whether to face it or continue to run.

A career-ending injury ruined Stephen Powell’s life plans. Now a former NFL kicker, he’s searching for a new purpose while recovering at the Cheery Inn. But those at the inn may offer him much more than he expects. Sparks fly when Alissa and Stephen meet, but secrets and regrets may keep them apart unless they can learn to forgive and move beyond their brokenness.

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The 12 Cats of Christmas (The Kitten Files)#17. The 12 Cats of Christmas by Perry Elizabeth Kirkpatrick

Synopsis: “What you need is a cat.”

When her beloved dog passes away just before Christmas, Gloria isn’t sure about her best friend’s advice. Holiday hilarity ensues when a new cat shows up on her doorstep each day. Who’s leaving the cats? And why? Will Gloria’s Christmas go up a poof of pet fur, or will it prove to be the most purrfect holiday ever?

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On This Holy Night#18. On This Holy Night by Max Lucado et al

Synopsis: Every year, the story of Christmas is told and retold, but sometimes the very familiarity of holiday traditions causes us to overlook the vital expressions of this meaningful season. On This Holy Night breathes new life into several aspects of the Christmas story through the voices of six beloved Christian communicators. Each author explores the meaning of Christmas in different facets of the holiday:

Max Lucado—a look into Joseph’s story, a man caught between what God says and what makes sense. Rick Warren—the real gift of Christmas is that God sent His own Son to connect with the human race. David Jeremiah—why the name of Jesus is so important and perfect. John Maxwell—how to journey like the wise men to unexpected places. Jack Hayford—a look into Mary’s story, a woman who embraced the seemingly impossible with God at her side. Bill Hybels—rediscovering meaning in the nativity scene.

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Christmas at Red Butte#19. Christmas at Red Butte by L.M. Montgomery

Synopsis: In Christmas at Red Butte, Theodora, the jolliest, bravest girl of sixteen in all Saskatchewan pawns a precious locket so she can afford to buy toys for the poor family that has kindly taken her in after her own parents died. A heartwarming Christmas story for all generations by Anne of Green Gables author Lucy Maud Montgomery.

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The Christmas Escape#20. The Christmas Escape by Sarah Morgan

Synopsis: It was supposed to be Christy Sullivan’s perfect Christmas getaway—a trip to Lapland with her family and best friend, Alix. But facing a make-or-break marriage crisis, Christy desperately needs time alone with her husband. Her solution? Alix can take Christy’s little daughter to Lapland, and they will reunite there for Christmas Day. It’s a big ask, but what else are friends for?

There’s nothing Alix won’t do for Christy. But Christy’s request to save Christmas is giving Alix sleepless nights. She knows something is wrong, but for the first time ever, Christy isn’t talking. And even the Arctic temperatures in Lapland aren’t enough to dampen the seriously inconvenient sizzle Alix is developing for Zac, a fellow guest and nemesis from her past.

As secrets unravel and unexpected romance shines under the northern lights, can Christy and Alix’s Christmas escape give them the courage to fight for the relationships they really want, and save the precious gift of each other’s friendship?

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A Little Christmas Gift (Christmas Collection)#21.  A Little Christmas Gift by Rebekah Morris

Synopsis: Brianna wants nothing more than to give Jesus a gift for Christmas, but what does a wheelchair-bound girl have to offer when she’s already given her heart? Her little recorder provides a sudden inspiration, but surely cheering up one passerby isn’t much of a gift.

But the ripples of her song stretch farther than she knows, reaching neighbors, friends, and strangers alike. How many lives will be touched by the echo of a simple Christmas tune?

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Christmas Island#22. Christmas Island by Natalie Normann

Synopsis: In the bleak midwinter…A really frosty wind is making Holly’s life absolutely miserable.

After all the years of hard work it took Londoner Holly Greene to become a doctor, now it could all be taken away and she only has herself to blame. She’s retreating to her brother’s rustic home on an island off the coast of Norway to lick her wounds. Only, it’s the middle of winter and icy slush plus endless darkness isn’t exactly the cheery, festive getaway she had imagined.

Nearly stumbling off the edge of a cliff in the dark, Holly is saved by Frøy, a yellow-eyed cat of fearsome but fluffy proportions, and his owner – grouchy, bearded recluse, Tor. Tor has his own problems to face but the inexplicable desire to leave a bag of freshly baked gingerbread men on Holly’s doorstep is seriously getting in the way of his hermit routine.

Call it kindness, call it Christmas, but Holly’s arrival means midwinter has never looked less bleak.

Remove. Christmas isn’t even in midwinter, it’s early winter.

On the Way to Christmas: Three Stories#23. On the Way to Christmas by Sheila Roberts et at

Synopsis: In this glittering and heartwarming collection, three of today’s bestselling sweet romance novelists offer up the gift of cheer for the winter holiday season.

Darby doesn’t want to go home for the holidays, but a career fail sends her slinking back to the small town she always wanted to escape. No one there is especially glad to see the former mean girl—especially not her sister, Erica, or childhood best friend, Gregory. Darby is working hard to be a better person, but has she eaten enough humble pie to make amends?

When Willow’s boyfriend of seven years dumps her on the eve of a romantic getaway, she decides to take the two-week train trip on The Christmas Express alone. Hurt as she feels, she can’t anticipate how the hilarious rebound ride with conductor Oliver, elf Ian, and aging world adventurer Clarence will heal her heart—and renew her sense of worth.

Kacey adores the metropolitan life, but when she gets away to help her sister during a family crisis and run her bakery, she falls in love with former classmate Drew. The problem: he’s a small-town man, and she’s a big-city woman. Is their love big enough to overcome such a major difference?

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Best in Snow (Andy Carpenter, #24)#24.  Best in Snow (Andy Carpenter #24) by David Rosenfelt

Synopsis: Christmas has come early to the town of Paterson, New Jersey, in the form of a snowstorm that dumps two feet of snow on the ground. Lawyer Andy Carpenter likes snow – white Christmas and all that – but it can cause problems for the walks he takes his dogs on every day.

When Andy’s golden retriever, Tara, goes to play in the snow and instead discovers a body, Andy ends up on the phone with the local newspaper editor. The murder victim is Mayor Alex Oliva, who had an infamous relationship with the newspaper. Last year a young reporter published an expose, and Oliva had him fired for libel. Now, the young reporter – and prime suspect – is in need of a lawyer.

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If the Fates Allow#25. If the Fates Allow (Fangirl #1.5) by Rainbow Rowell

Synopsis: Social distancing came easily to Reagan. Maybe a little too easily. She’s always liked people better from afar. But Reagan doesn’t want her grandpa to be alone for Christmas this year—he’s already spent too much time on his own in 2020. So she heads back to her hometown with a dish of holiday Jell-O salad, hoping they can have a little normalcy. Hoping it will be safe…

She isn’t expecting to run into the boy next door. Mason is all grown up now. He’s considerate. He’s funny. He doesn’t mind how prickly Reagan is—he maybe even likes it. And it makes Reagan feel like her defenses are falling. She needs her defenses, doesn’t she? In a time when six feet is close enough, how long can they keep their distance?

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The Greatest Gift: A Christmas Tale#26. The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern

Synopsis: For almost seventy years, people the world over have fallen in love with Frank Capra’s classic Christmas movie It’s a Wonderful Life. But few of those fans know that Capra’s film was based on a short story by author Philip Van Doren Stern, which came to Stern in a dream one night.

Unable at first to find a publisher for his evocative tale about a man named George Pratt who ponders suicide until he receives an opportunity to see what the world would be like without him, Stern ultimately published the story in a small pamphlet and sent it out as his 1943 Christmas card. One of those 200 cards found its way into the hands of Frank Capra, who shared it with Jimmy Stewart, and the film that resulted became the holiday tradition we cherish today. Now fans of It’s a Wonderful Life, or anyone who loves the spirit of Christmas, can own the story that started it all in an elegant, illustrated edition that’s perfect for holiday giving.

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Glad Tidings: A Flash Fiction Advent Calendar#27.  Glad Tidings: A Flash Fiction Advent Calendar by Angie Thompson

Synopsis: Celebrate the true spirit of the season with this collection of five-minute holiday stories. Perfect to pair with your morning coffee or binge-read while curled up with a favorite blanket on a snowy afternoon!

From a stately mansion to a rough barn, from a cheerful fireside to a lonely mountain road, from a chaotic church pageant to the grim aftermath of war, no heart is without its burden. But no trouble is too deep to be touched by the light of love and the warmth of Christmas.

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A Match Made at Christmas#28. A Match Made at Christmas (Nantucket Love Story #1.5) by Courtney Walsh

Synopsis: Hayes McGuire never believed the stories about a famous Nantucket matchmaker until she ropes him into taking over her duties in while she’s off the island for Christmas.

So he enlists the help of the one person he can trust with this crazy scheme—his best friend, Prudence. Armed with a series of rules, a book of success stories and the promise of Christmas magic, the pair of old friends sets out to make a Christmas match. Little do they know that magic doesn’t discriminate, and the pair soon finds their years of friendship deepening into something more. Will Pru and Hayes ignore the electricity in the air between them or will there be more than one match made at Christmas?

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The Christmas Heirloom: Four Holiday Novellas of Love Through the Generations#29. The Christmas Heirloom by Karen Witemeyer et al

Synopsis:  Perfect for the Christmas season, four beloved authors bring their bestselling, award-winning talents to a multigenerational collection of romantic holiday novellas. In stories ranging from 1820s Regency England to present-day Washington state, readers will be treated to Christmas tales of an heirloom brooch passed from mother to daughter for almost two hundred years. Will the family legend claiming the brooch brings love to its recipient hold true for these women separated by the years but bonded together by the ties of family?

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There are so many promising Christmas-themed books here! From personal preference, I’ve tried to trim the fluffiest stories in favor of meatier or less romantic ones. Much as I enjoy a fun Hallmark movie, I’m increasingly tired of shallow interpretations of Christmas that lean more on feelings and “magic” than on scripture and history.

Have you read any of these books? Do you have any seasonal favorites to recommend?

Until the next chapter,

Jana

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