Monday, December 17, 2012

Secretly Smitten by Colleen Coble, Kristen Billerbeck, Diann Hunt, Denise Hunter

Summer, fall, winter, spring—Smitten, Vermont, is the place for love . . . and mystery!

There’s a secret in Grandma Rose’s attic—a forgotten set of dog tags belonging to her first love. But David Hutchins was killed in action and never returned to Smitten. How did the dog tags end up in the attic?

The mystery intrigues Rose’s three granddaughters—Tess, Clare, and Zoe—and they decide to investigate, though their mother, Anna, warns against meddling. But as the seasons turn and the mystery unravels, the three young women and their mother encounter some intriguing mystery men of their own. Has a sixty-year-old puzzle sparked something new for this close-knit family of women?

Join popular romance novelists—and real-life BFFs—Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, Diann Hunt, and Denise Hunter for four delightful intertwined tales of mystery and sweet intrigue.

Secretly Smitten is a sweet collection of four novellas each written by a different author and connected by a thread of mystery and romance. The stories are short and completely romance focused, so if romance is not your cup of tea, this book is not for you. Secretly Smitten follows in the footsteps of the previously released Smitten, but it is not critical to read the other novel first. It does give background on many of the other characters, but this novel is understandable on its own.

The first novella is called Love Between the Lines and is by Colleen Coble. It stars the smart, kind, yet insecure Tess Thomas as she struggles to find true love, herself, and solve a puzzling mystery. I found Colleen Coble's novella to be the most interesting of Secretly Smitten. She did a great job setting the stage for the rest of the stories, and she introduced and developed her main characters in a way that made them enjoyable and relatable for the reader. I did not like the light in which she painted the mother, Anna, because it did not really match up with the character I saw in the other three novellas. While I am not sure that I related the best to the two main characters of this novella as compared to the other characters, I did have the strongest connection to the characters because of the way they were developed.

The second novella is called Make Me a Match by Kristen Billerbeck. This story focuses on Zoe Thomas, the youngest daughter who is filled with bright ideas, dreams of romance, and uncontained energy. This was my least favorite story of the four because the romance seemed unrealistic and occurred far too quickly and there was very little plot development even for a novella. I had little connection to the male character simply because I did not know anything about him. I liked Zoe, but I knew little about her either. I also did not feel that the main connecting plot line was well carried out through this novella.

The third novella is Knit One, Love Two by Diann Hunt. The character that this story focuses on is Anna Thomas, the mother of Tess, Zoe, and Clare. This novella was interesting because it focused on an older woman finding new love. It was also disconcerting at points because Anna did not act or have thoughts that one would typically expect from a mother and older woman. While this could simply be a misconception on my part, it did make it harder for me to read and certainly harder for me to connect to her character. I found this story very interesting and well written, but I had little connection with the characters.

The fourth novella is Love Blooms by Denise Hunter. Starring in this final novella was Clare Thomas, the middle Thomas sister. After learning some things about Clare during the other stories, it was interesting to see how Clare viewed herself and watching her realize her flaws and change as the story progressed. I think Clare may have had the most growth of the characters, and I found myself able to connect to many of her attributes, such as an inability to accept change or trust others. I also enjoyed the male character in this novella, and his positive influence on Clare and other characters. This novella wrapped up the overall thread of Secretly Smitten in a way that was satisfying and interesting. I was left feeling pleased as the story ended.

Overall, I found Secretly Smitten to be a quick yet enjoyable collection of novellas. There were aspects that I enjoyed about each and there were stories and parts that I liked more than others. I found the overall storyline to be intriguing, and I enjoyed seeing familiar characters and settings from the first collection. I also liked how the four authors worked together and how their characters each viewed the other characters differently. If you are looking for a heartwarming yet easy read to curl up with in front of the fire this holiday, this is the book for you.

I received this novel for free from in exchange for an honest review.

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