#Harlequin Heartwarming Series Book Review | “If Not for a Bee” and “A Family like Hannah’s” (Book Three & Four: Seasons of Alaska) by Carol Ross

Posted Friday, 29 March, 2019 by jorielov , , , , , 0 Comments

Book Review badge created by Jorie in Canva using Unsplash.com photography (Creative Commons Zero).

Borrowed Book By: I’ve been hosting for Prism Book Tours since September of 2017 – having noticed the badge on Tressa’s blog (Wishful Endings) as we would partake in the same blog tours and/or book blogosphere memes. As I enquired about hosting for Prism, I found I liked the niche of authors and stories they were featuring regularly. Oft-times you’ll find Prism Book Tours alighting on my blog through the series of guest features and spotlights with notes I’ll be hosting on behalf of their authors when I’m not showcasing book reviews on behalf of Harlequin Heartwarming which has become my second favourite imprint of Harlequin next to my beloved #LoveINSPIRED Suspense. I am also keenly happy PRISM hosts a variety of Indie Authors and INSPY Fiction novelists.

This particular review is slightly different from my regular blog tours and hosting features for Prism Book Tours – as an opportunity came along this March to secure a spot on a ‘review tour’ rather than a ‘blog tour’ for a novel within the Seasons of Alaska series by Carol Ross. I had previously read a novel by Ms Ross when I was attached to the five-book series “Return of the Blackwell Brothers” review tour wherein I read the entire series as a hostess for Prism Book Tours.

This time round – I am borrowing most of the “Seasons of Alaska” book series through my local libraries – either through ILL (inter-library loan) and/or local borrowing opportunities as one of my libraries had more of the books in their local catalogue than the others. My readings of this series will be spilt into review showcases of two books in sequence leading into my review for the review tour of “In the Doctor’s Arms” which is the latest release for this Harlequin Heartwarming series.

We had a lot of flexibility with this review tour – we were not required to read the entire series, however, being a serial fiction reader who likes to read more of a series than less – I elected to seek out the series in full to be read before “In the Doctor’s Arms”. The author herself was kind enough to send me a copy of the one novel I couldn’t borrow through my library which is “Bachelor Remedy”. The scheduling of my readings and my review postings for this review tour are as follows: “Mountains Apart” and “A Case for Forgiveness” (post one); “If Not for a Bee” and “A Family Like Hannah’s” (post two) and “Bachelor Remedy” and “In the Doctor’s Arms” (post three) – the third of which will be featured on my 6th Blogoversary the 31st of March, 2019.

I decided to read all the stories in this series ‘blind’ – meaning, I didn’t read each of the synopsis’s before setting into the stories as I was reading them. I knew I could trust where Ms Ross would take me as I loved her instincts for Return of the Blackwell Brothers – therefore, it became a bit of a lovely adventure seeing how her characters within this new series would develop, strengthen and grow!

I borrowed the following novels “If Not for a Bee” and “A Family Like Hannah’s” through the local library’s catalogue. I was not obligated to post a review and am sharing my ruminative thoughts for my own personal edification whilst keeping my readers updated on my readerly life whilst I progress through the Seasons of Alaska series. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein. Although I did not receive these novels through Prism Book Tours and/or the author – I did receive a few of the Press Materials to be used in conjunction with my reviews leading up to reviewing “In the Doctor’s Arms”.

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What I have been enjoying about reading the #SeasonsOfAlaska series:

Considering the fact I have oft-mused what it would be like to live in Alaska despite the jaw-dropping ice-inducing temperatures the state is renown for having during Winter – the opening paragraphs of Mountains Apart gave me a hearty laugh of joy as I had a feeling nothing is ever quite as it seems when your living in a place whose harsh environs would test even the strongest of wills for a transplant! Alaska is truly one of the last places where you can honestly say going in is an experience in survival, wit and adventure; still though – if you jaunt round the Alaskan cities websites, drink in the videos on YT and find the awe-inspiring raw lifestyle of living on the fringes of the wilds a compelling reason to jump ship from the lower 48 – you can see why people opt for Alaska! I know my adventurous soul has considered it more than a half dozen times as there is just something alluring about that particular state! The lack of regional hospitals notwithstanding as you can opt-in to helio ambulance services – Alaska has a lovely niche of natural living and natural beauty which is unparalleled.

Thus, as I started to soak into #SeasonsOfAlaska – what you can gleam through online research and what you can ascertain through other stories set in this lovely state, you could immediately identify with the angst of what Emily is facing – the intensity of the cold wicking through your bones and the antiquated technology which hasn’t gone through an upgrade but still assists you in your business if you have the patience to wait out the quirks of using it. Felt like the best way to enter her life as it hugged close to what you presume might be a life set in Alaska and the quirkiness of how life has a way of keeping you on your toes even if you think you have all your ducks in a row!

I felt Ross presented both sides of the argument well – even though some of the more technical aspects of what drives the risks and toxicity of fracking can do on a particular region of extraction were left for readers to research themselves, she took the compassionate route to entice the reader to view this from a community-based response – where a towne has to decide where they stand for their future and what kind of legacy they want to instill on the present lives of their residents. That is truly what matters the most – what you believe in and how far you will stand on the side of that truth to overtake a powerful company from re-identifying your own community.

However this wasn’t just an entreaty about the concerns over environmental impact and small communities – at the heart of the story remained a turning point in the lives of Bering and Emily. They were each smitten with each other but for different and very distinctive reasons – Bering saw in Emily aspects of herself she was a bit blind to knowing existed as she lived life with a very narrow focus on her career. Emily on the other hand was like a woman moving through her own personal insurrection – where she had to stop, examine and re-evaluate her own life. Bering brought out the unexpected and the unknown – he encouraged her to embrace the ordinary of the hour and the beauty of a living moment. Emily hadn’t known how to live before she met Bering because her whole life was rooted in how her family had raised her to see the world. And, this is what I felt made reading Mountains Apart even more dimensionally intuitive – how a stepping out of time and of life can re-render a world view you never considered.

Ross is etching a firm grip on the art of living within A Case for Forgiveness – as we view Jonah going through the motions of life in Rankins, we find a bloke who has forgotten that there is more to life than living for work. He’s a predominately Type-A personality – he can’t stop thinking about work nor can he separate his corporate life as a lawyer in the Mid-West for the slower paced lifestyle his grandfather (whose also a lawyer) enjoys in coastal Alaska. For Jonah, if your not billing hours you’re defeated – he views everything in his life by the bankable hours he could be earning at his firm and it doesn’t take long to realise how backwards he has set his life to run. Having a stable income is viable and important but Jonah takes this to the next level – he cannot separate himself from the job and it is this obsessive compulsion to work without having a life outside of it which Ross brings to the center inside his character’s journey.

Jonah is the kind of guy he’s facing his own insurrection of sorts – he has caught between the life he believes is the right one for him to claim and the life that someone a bit wiser thinks he should reconsider. He’s also a bit of a lousy friend and lacks better judgement in knowing when to route information to people in his life – such as the exchange between him and Shay at the restaurant wherein he discredited the importance of making a phone call. He tries to side-step it with Shay but if you read between the lines, he simply didn’t place an importance on that call as much as Shay had herself. It was another glimpse at his disconnection with Rankins and of the life they once shared together whilst he lived there.

You have to give it to Ms Ross – this is the second series I’ve read of hers which involves the craftiness of an old gent who is bent on proving a point to the younger generation! lol I won’t say what exactly is going on in this regard, but I happen to think one of her assets as a writer is setting the field for characters to become involved in a moment of truth reckoning that is set-up by someone close to them who feels they need to take a better stock of the kind of life their living and if that life is the one they really wanted to choose to live. From that – I love how she puts a spin on Contemporary Romances – where it is not merely about the two persons who need to develop or reconsider their own relationships but how she carries the arc of the narrative through all the characters’ in her series. She paints the broader picture of how individual lives are at the intersection of affecting other people’s lives as much as their own but also, how as a community, everyone’s life has a purpose towards the benefit of the whole. I love that adage of insight but I also love how she writes Contemporaries rooted in family and the benefits of finding family even if they are outside the ones you’ve been raised. She has both sets of family in Seasons of Alaska – giving you a proper glimpse into how all of her characters have chosen to live intuitively next to the wilds and to live authentically with the persons who call this remote Alaskan towne home. This is of course one of the underlying testaments of the series – how if your not living authentically and owning your own choices in life, how then, can you have proper friendships and relationships?

The fact she set this one in Alaska is wicked brilliant as I have a personal affection of interest in the state and I also like how she brought current events and environmental issues into the foreground of the story itself. Ross has a true gift for bridging you into the lives of persons who have a very dramatic life – they’re going through this epic life shift and sometimes, they are not even aware of how much change is about to enter into their lives until their living through it. I find this to be the most relatable aspect of her writing style as she knits in real world situations into her characters lives in such a way as to be not just believable but honestly compelling. You start to feel for her characters – the unresolved angst, the anguish of striving towards something they feel they need to prove and the overwhelming odds stacks against them – you take this incredible journey alongside her characters and along the way, your spirit soars with their triumphs and their heartaches.

I was hoping #SeasonsOfAlaska would be family centred as much as #ReturnOfTheBlackwellBrothers and I was not disappointed! Bering has such a close-knitted family – you can’t help but become caught inside his love for his nephews which are in-scene with both Emily and Bering whilst they babysat the boys together. It was lovely finding young boys not just articulate in a Contemporary Romance but also very matter-of-fact and interesting just like their composites would be IRL. The two were a bit opposite of the other – one was intellectual and the other was more game oriented but the blessing was how much admiration they had for their Uncle Bering. I loved finding this thread of familial connection inside the Seasons of Alaska series and I was definitely intrigued at how the series would progress forward – would it remain within Bering’s family or extend to other families in the towne?

As we made our return back into the series with A Case for Forgiveness – what I loved the most is how I felt whilst I was reading the story. When you read serial fiction, your looking for the moment where you feel as if time has stalled and where as soon as you re-direct yourself back inside an installment of the series you’re progressing through – it is as if nothing has happened before your return. I felt this rather immediately as soon as I was keeping in step with Shay, Jonah, Caleb (Jonah’s grandfather) and Hannah (Shay’s sister). Everyone is just as I had remembered them being – they didn’t change their personalities and the continuous line of entry into the evolving series felt organic and natural. I love series which reflect an awareness of their characters and setting – Ross has definitely maintained this scope of identity within Seasons of Alaska!

-quoted from my reviews of Mountains Apart & A Case for Forgiveness

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Seasons of Alaska series by Carol Ross

Seasons of Alaska series by Carol Ross

Mountains Apart (book one)

A Case for Forgiveness (book two)

If Not for a Bee (book three)

A Family Like Hannah’s (book four)

Bachelor’s Remedy (book five)

In the Doctor’s Arms (book six)

If Not for a Bee
Subtitle: Seasons of Alaska
by Carol Ross
Source: Borrowed from local library

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 9780373367436

Also by this author: The Rancher's Twins, Mountains Apart, A Case for Forgiveness, Bachelor Remedy, In the Doctor's Arms, Keeping Her Close, Second Chance for the Single Dad, Series Spotlight w/ Notes: Return of the Blackwell Brothers, Catching Mr Right, The Secret Santa Project, His Hometown Yuletide Vow

Setting: Alaska

Published by Harlequin Heartwarming

on 1st October, 2015

Format: Larger Print (Mass Market Paperback)

Pages: 380

Published by: Harlequin Heartwarming (@HarlequinBooks) | imprint of Harlequin

Converse via: #Contemporary #Romance & #Harlequin

& #SeasonsOfAlaska

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About Carol Ross

Carol Ross

USA Today bestselling author Carol Ross grew up in small town America right between the Pacific Ocean and the Cascade Mountains, in a place where you can go deep sea fishing in the morning and then hit the ski slopes the same afternoon. The daughter of what is now known as free range parents, she developed a love of the outdoors at a very early age.

As a writer, Carol loves to breathe the life she has lived into the characters she creates, grateful for the “research material” that every questionable decision, adrenaline-charged misstep, and near-death experience has provided.

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from the note of the author:

I must admit, as I was reading Mountains Apart it felt like Janie was getting the shorter end of the stick when it came to happier endings. I was thankful this story was partially inspired by the sister of the author as I, too felt Janie deserved to have someone walk into her life and surprise her – by spirit and by heart. She had a lot to shoulder and she had survived such a heap of trauma and dramatic life events in such a short period of time, I also felt she needed the tides to turn in her life where perhaps things didn’t quite have to feel so oppressively hard.

I love the idea of focusing on her life – seeing how her future could become sweetened even by a second chance at romance as she had found the love of her life previously before everything ended on such a tragic note.

I had a sneaky feeling the title was actually a phrase to tip-off the meaning behind the plot and I am so thankful that I was correct in assuming this as Ms Ross happily explained how the key to everything within this story is actually the cutest insect who does the most for our mutual benefit in the food chain: the bee!

On a personal note – I love tweeting out support for #SaveTheBees as not only for their endless support of our food supplies but because without their production of honey, my environmental and seasonal allergies would be far worse than they are without the benefit of adding local honey into my diet. Let’s just say I combine their honey with one of my favourite drinks – fresh brewed tea!

my review of if not for a bee:

I was so caught inside the evolution of Emily and Bering’s romance, I somehow missed seeing or even acknowledging Emily’s brother Aidan! This clearly was a character I ought to have taken a few notes about though as he’s making a return appearance whilst he also is not winning over Janie with his nonchalant attitude over a spoilt cake! I could almost see his reasoning about the bee which led to the cake fiasco but it how he was dismissing the obvious emotional reactions out of Janie and her son which felt like he was a bit clueless round the edges. Either that or he was just misconstruing the whole situation which wasn’t any kinder to the other parties involved.

Something told me this might have been a special cake for Gareth, Reagan and Janie – considering their father had died I was thinking this might have been a cake in his honour or it was for celebrating one of their birthdays or perhaps even, their twin siblings? Either way – the disappointment over what befell the cake’s demise was dearly felt by everyone except for Aidan, of course, who thought everything could simply be re-purchased or re-made. Clearly he hasn’t lived within set perimeters and the limits of food allergies to recognise how futile his attempts were at rectifying this particular upset.

Your heart simply goes out to Janie and her four sons; this cake meant something special to them and after you find out what the cake was representing you can re-feel the sense of emotions this young family has been struggling through over the years. Finding out Aidan is in Alaska because he’s an expert on bees shouldn’t have surprised me even though it had as being that bees are his field of experience, I would have thought he would have understood people’s hesitations about being too close to them? As a lot of people are seriously allergic to bee stings?

I never would have realised he was Emily’s brother – part of his personality is quite opposite of her own it didn’t quite seem like they were related! They both are seriously focused on their careers which they shared in common with one another and that single-mindedness was definitely a sibling trait of theirs as well.

I must admit, I’d love to take a table and experience the Cozy Caribu myself – though, mind, I’m not entirely sure if their menu includes some lovelies of the vegetarian kind but it is the ambiance Ross etched into this #musteat restaurant of Rankins which makes your mouth water whenever your making a return trip into this cosy small towne! It is the kind of haunt the locals love to be caught inside and it has the essence of a wicked good restaurant you can’t wait to experience for yourself! I could see why Aidan was immediately attracted to the place and why he felt like his foodie self had finally landed in a place where his palette would be treated to a lot of savoury delights!

I definitely understood why Janie had her dander kicked up by Aidan – for some reason whenever people learn you’re predominately self-taught and self-educated, they get this twisted sense of reality where only those with degrees could be the people in the world who are allowed to be called ‘educated’. I’ve run into enough of those sorts myself over the years and it was striking me odd that Aidan would have such a fierce perspective being that he had a sister like Emily; she was a self-made woman by her own rights and that is one reason I knew why Janie had Emily’s full respect. By all turns, Aidan and Emily were starkly unique individuals who didn’t share a lot within their sibling heritage as they seemed to be complete opposites the more you had the chance to get to know Aidan.

I also understood why Aidan was trying to hide the encounter with Janie but you’d think the bloke would trust his own sister to make a gentle enquiry before he passed full judgement against Janie? To say the world is unjust and unfair in regards to first impressions, you wouldn’t have to look further than Aidan to see how right that statement is reflective in how dismissive men can be of women they either a) barely know or b) haven’t been properly introduced too. Honestly, it is that kind of mindset that I think is injuring the chance of me liking this fellow as he’s going to have to truly win me over to prove he deserves Janie!

Young Gareth (Janie’s son) feels the full responsibility all older siblings do whenever they’ve lost a parent – he feels like he needs to step in to fill that void of where his father would be encouraging him and his brothers towards adulthood. You feel for Gareth rather immediately but you also are hopeful he’ll recognise he just needs to concentrate on himself and being an older brother; yielding the parental duties to his Mum, his Uncle, Aunt and the rest of his immediate family. This is why I felt it was important how Ross was showing how Gareth is struggling to reconcile his father’s death but also how he is reluctant about the new men who are entering this life; such as Aidan as being Emily’s brother, it proves to be a tricky experience as her husband Bering is his Uncle (ie. Janie is Bering’s sister).

Ross has a way of having prideful men in her stories which seek to sway your opinion on their behalf – as the current contender is Aidan! He is a bit hard to read round the edges as he has this instinct for giving you a maddening headache for his obtrusive nature but then, he has a kindness in him that takes you unawares all the same. He’s definitely not as easy to sort as he first leads you to believe and I suppose in many ways that is part of the point of this story-line; to dig deeper into these lives Ross has chosen to place on a collision course! I just struggle as Aidan, unlike Bering and even Jonah, doesn’t seem to have a personality that befits the community of Rankins nor the lifestyle. Though in truth, neither did Jonah on first appearances but what lent his chances of winning you over is the fact that he was a local boy who was coming back home to help his grandfather. In this case, Aidan is the odd duck out whose never lived in Alaska and apparently doesn’t have the common courtesy to be respectful of their lives.

Until of course he was taken clamming! I was almost laughing observing Aidan at the beach but then, when Janie said something rather profound and insightful about Aidan’s personality – it sort of clicked in my mind why Ross was writing this character in this vein of light. It has to do with relatablity and of whom Aiden reminds Janie of the most – not that that is getting him too many brownie points, but it is a new way of ‘seeing him’ without only seeing his faults. I admit, its hard not to see his faults due to his ego but he does have a few softer spots whenever he decides to let his guard down. Though of course, at the beach he not only received his fair share of come-uppings (in regards to a conversation he had with Janie) but he also learnt an important life lesson from Alaska: respect all wildlife and the natural cycle of nature!

When I’m reading series from Harlequin Heartwarming, such as this one as well as the Rocky Mountain Cowboys or the Return of the Blackwell Brothers – the series I’ve been able to spend the most time inside recently – my favourite bit to discover is the breadth of the continuity! In this installment – Shay and her sister Hannah are happily exchanging a conversation with Janie, which warms my bookish heart as I wanted to know more about what was going to happen in both their lives (though I suspect the next story I’m reading will focus on Hannah directly; if titles were anything to go by! big smiles) as they had such an impact on me as I read A Case for Forgiveness. All the Heartwarming novelists have this within their series and the next series I’d like to focus on is Catherine Lanigan’s Shores of Indian Lake as I was quite charmed by a certain firefighter and a single Mum named Grace!

Janie’s boys – Gareth and Reagan are too adorable for words! I love how their individual personalities are being explored – Reagan reminds me of the twin in Overboard who loved to surprise Goldie Hawn’s character with his ‘inventions’ – he has a scientific mind and his gift isn’t limited to experimentation but rather, in the research and accumulation of facts! He has a wicked curious mind and it is on full display all the time! I can see how Janie needs to keep a few yards ahead of him whilst also not lose her patience as his curiosity like most children his age can get the best of him! Laughs. In many ways, he reminded me of myself round the edges, too. Gareth is a quieter child but he has a lot going for him in other ways – he constantly looks out for his Mum and he loves sports; even if his patience runs a bit on the dry side for his brother Reagan, he still loves him all the same.

There is something a bit mysterious about Gareth in the story – he has this unusual late hour habit and for the life of me, I kept trying to decipher what he might be doing but kept coming up short! I really wanted to understand what he was doing as I know children cope in different ways after loss and trauma – if anything Ross gave me something to look forward to lateron in the story!

Shay rocked the sisterhood girlfriend award when she defended Janie’s honour – she had just learnt of what Aidan had said about Janie and it was super awesomesauce of her to recognise what I had seen myself in that fateful conversation where he prejudged a woman he had no right to judge. Shay was like that though – she commanded a lot out of her employees, which was part of being a wicked good owner of an established Inn but when it came to her family and her best friends – she was the woman of sound reason, comforting support and a shoulder you could lean on til morning. I was thankful Janie had her in her life as Shay was just the person Janie needed right now.

Oy, oy when it comes to Aidan you need to have him round in doses in order to get accustomed to his ways and his peculiarities! It isn’t that he’s a bad bloke – it’s just that he has this social issue about not realising what is acceptable to say and discuss that gets him into hot water the most! Especially when he’s with Janie – part of me thinks this has to do with his growing attraction towards her and her boys; something that I’m not even sure he is processing properly but it is there – in the undercurrents of all his bumbling attempts to make their lives a bit easier and better. I’m unsure if Janie feels the same way towards him – as he is so dearly infuriating it is hard to sort through the angst for the small joys he brings to their lives. Again, to me – he’s a hard sell for a leading man in this story because he ruffles a lot of feathers and he barely knows how to articulate himself in the right way which doesn’t infuriate you or irk your ire – which is where I find Janie is right now – caught between wishing to distance herself from Aidan and allowing herself to recognise the good he’s doing for her boys.

I felt for Janie in this story – she truly was caught between the rock and the proverbial hard place when it came to Aidan, her job as a journalist and her position within the community of Rankins! So much was on the line for her and yet, there was the cheerfully clueless Aidan, not quite understanding the ramifications as it would impact Janie’s life but still the type of bloke who was hard to hate because he had a few redeeming qualities even if he was quite the buffoon at trying to express himself!

The main thread of interest outside of the relationship focus within If Not for a Bee is a beautiful segue about bee culture and bee preservation. I liked learning more about the bumblebee as generally I learn more about the honey bee – bees have a very unique dynamic within their hives and their populations but this wasn’t focused as much on what they do in their lives (as per usual) but rather how their lives were populating in Alaska and if those populations were healthy. In essence, it was definitely focused more on the health of the bee and the ways in which the bee were mutually affecting each other as well as their native environs in and around Rankins. This was a unique segue I felt as bee culture isn’t usually the scientific research you find in a Contemporary and it made this feel very present day considering the crisis in the natural world.

The more human Aidan became throughout the story, the more I struggled with his personality – as I will admit, he has some remarkable points in his favour but to me, he still has this giant step towards convincing me he’s romantically viable. He seems more like a mentor for kids and a scientist whose a bit removed from the social communities he wishes to become a part of – which does lend itself towards another layer of the story about social anxiety and awkwardness of those who are book smart but have trouble out in life. Still. Aidan just rubs me the wrong way and that is something that has maintained itself throughout my readings of this story. He also changes his mind quite a lot or he inter-changes what he’s said in the past which makes your head spin quite a bit as you never really believe you understand where he’s coming from or what he honestly believes. There are parts where he is more transparent but they felt a bit too few for me as he just remained this obtuse character who was trying to be more of a people person.

What I truly loved most about this story is how much Janie and her boys were loved and cared for in this small community. Even when the bad things happened to them – they were buffered, encouraged to rise through their conflicts and to find the higher road to walk against their bullies. Children who are bullies truly do cause a lot of havoc on those they are bullying – being a girl who was bullied throughout her life, I appreciated seeing the steps Ross took to re-affirm that the best route through a bully’s head is by find your own advocacy and confidence. There is strength in owning your own courage and I truly appreciated seeing the evolution of self-growth in Gareth and Reagan.

Counter to the boys self-growth, their continued healing processes about the loss of their father it is their mother, Janie who had the most to gain about her own self-worth. Janie was on the brink of a self-discovery and the beauty of If Not for a Bee she might not have realised what she was missing in her life if a ‘bee’ hadn’t precipitated events to happen which led towards a future she had not readily imagined possible. This is definitely a keen story for all Mums – whether your currently a mother or are considering becoming one in the future – it is a story of championing your authentic self and living life for the moment in the full acceptance of finding hope renewed each day you wake up and embrace the unknown.

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Seasons of Alaska series Books One & Two Book Photography Credit: Jorie of jorielovesastory.com. Photo edits and collage created in Canva.
Seasons of Alaska series Books One & Two Book Photography Credit: Jorie of jorielovesastory.com. Photo edits and collage created in Canva.

A Family Like Hannah's
by Carol Ross
Source: Borrowed from local library

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 9780373367757

Also by this author: The Rancher's Twins, Mountains Apart, A Case for Forgiveness, Bachelor Remedy, In the Doctor's Arms, Keeping Her Close, Second Chance for the Single Dad, Series Spotlight w/ Notes: Return of the Blackwell Brothers, Catching Mr Right, The Secret Santa Project, His Hometown Yuletide Vow

Series: Seasons of Alaska

Also in this series: Mountains Apart, A Case for Forgiveness, Bachelor Remedy, In the Doctor's Arms

Setting: Alaska

Published by Harlequin Heartwarming

on 1st February, 2016

Format: Larger Print (Mass Market Paperback)

Pages: 384

from the note of the author:

As a prelude to sharing my thoughts – I was most interested in knowing what became of Hannah – she was one of the characters of Rankins who truly stood out to me. I wanted to rally behind her and see how love might touch her life and also, there are some characters you find where you’d love to be their insta-bestie and share their experiences. Hannah is this kind of character for me and I love how interconnected her family is – the James family definitely left a strong impression on my bookish heart!

Laughs with mirth! Immediately connecting with the antidote of Ms Ross’s life – as she shared how her family sees the positive even if life turnt into lemons and gave you a heck of a ride for adversity! Her example led me to remember when our car broke down in the Everglades (whilst we were on holiday with a short time window to appreciate our visit) – there is a spot down there where you can literally be stranded for hours due to how infrequent it is travelled at certain times of the day or night. It was before the golden twilight hours – in the heat of a humid Summer, where the mosquitoes and other lovelies were starting to emerge but the blessing for us like her, the storms of intensity were at bay and a kind Samaritan came to our rescue. We decided that perhaps our stay-over needed a small extension? And/or – perhaps our arrival to where we were heading needed a short delay? Whichever way you look at it – we were being watched over as later we learnt that stranded motorist on that stretch were notoriously having issues with people who had nefarious intentions. Blessedly we left that patch of road unscathed.

There are other instances of where I can relate to what she’s talking about, too. Where we choose how we set our attitude to get through our harder days, we immediately rejoice when life brings a spirit of joyfulness into our lives as well. We’re generally known as the positive-minded family or the ones with the cheerful spirits. Ironically, we do not oft hear this said of others – as wherever you are in life, your either going to have a wicked run of good days, a spurt of adverse days or perhaps somewhere betwixt the two – without the rougher patches, the sweetness of joy isn’t as appreciated as you learn through your experiences; good, bad or indifferent, life has a well of circumstances to take something away from,… which is why I felt I was identifying with what Ms Ross was sharing in her lovely author’s note. This might also point towards why reading this particular series is now in my top 3rd position of bookish love for Harlequin Heartwarming!

For those interested, the series with a soft spot in my bookish heart as follows:

  1. the Rocky Mountain Cowboys series by Karen Rock
  2. Return of the Blackwell Brothers series by multiple authors; started by Carol Ross
  3. Seasons of Alaska by Carol Ross

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Exactly! This is exactly how I live my life as well – no wonder I feel as if I’m gravitating towards Hannah! I also agreed – it is quite true, sometimes you bolster yourself up against the tides of life to the best of you ability, through the grace of your faith and the strength you have within you — however, that doesn’t mean there will be moments where your tested and the foundation of courage you felt you had feels like its shifting away. I definitely was keen on finding out how this new trial in Hannah’s life was either going to break her resolve or she’d find a way to muddle through even if it felt like it wasn’t going to have a light at the end of it all. Those are the moments where we’re all tested the most – to dig harder into what fuells our hope, even when the light flickers softer and sometimes feels like its burnt out.

my review of a family like hannah’s:

You can barely get through the opening paragraphs of this story – it is such a gutting premise and reality – one that is all too familiar when your considering adopting from foster care, as children who are coming from broken homes or are attempting to find a family who will stay for the long haul rather than the short-term – have stories like this one to share. Tate has wanted to do right by his nephew (his sister’s son) for quite a long while if you read between the lines, except he had one main obstacle in his path – his mother. She seemed to view her grandson as a way to have security in her life (from her son, Tate, of course!) rather than to be the honourable grandmother, she only kept the boy for what she could get out of him. Not the healthiest of situations by half and as you see where the boy was living, it does break your heart quite a heap but the upturnt is the fact he has an Uncle who can turn his tomorrows into something better than his current situation would afford.

Finding Hannah taking care of the koi I had the joy of seeing come into Rankins was quite the delight in this installment – as it also anchoured her connection to the new residents: Tate and his nephew, Lucas. Janie is still knitting up a storm of lovelies – a re-direction of purpose which came at the conclusion of her story-line for If Not for a Bee. These are the small nuanced details I love finding from installment to installment – as time ebbs and flows through Rankins, the tightness of the continuity remains intact. You get to follow in step with the characters’ you’ve known whilst updating what you know of them as you move forward into the series itself. It is a blessing to have a series flow as easily like this one from one story to the next as it gives a measure of depth and place which allows you to feel as if you’ve lived those years in Rankins yourself.

I loved how Tate ribbed Hannah on her plans to assert her resort was friendly for the ski enthusiast as much as the snowboarder! Mostly as being a girl whose loved the Winter Olympics and the Winter X-Games – I’ve observed boarders enough to know they like to have their own niches of space to explore at resorts. Plus, too, I never understood the backlash snowboarders (or skateboarders for that matter) received as the sport is a true sport by definition. It takes not just skill and timing to pull off those runs and tricks, but a heap of courage – especially when you get into the more complex competitions where your not in the half-pipe but your cruising downhill and still jumping rails or expertly going over the terrain meant to give you more lift into your jumps. I could see why Tate was concerned – Hannah’s resort was more geared towards the skier not the boarder – even if she saw the dual purpose of the slopes, a boarder might consider they were interlopers. In this, Tate scored the first meeting as Hannah’s understanding was limited and skewed towards only one half of the purpose of the resort itself. I understood her frustration with his questions but if you look at it without bias, Tate was definitely right to drive home the point on how snowboarders would feel shunned.

I had wondered if the absence from the competitive circuit Hannah thrived on all those years was going to take its toll on her spirits. I can see why Ross etched out how she’s still seeking to re-establish the same thrills she had on the circuit as a competitor with new thrills at the resort she was developing at Snowy Sky. There is something about the sport and the intensity of what it pulls out of you as a competitor, I could see why Hannah wanted to find less dangerous means of achieving the same results. The irony of course, is how Tate was misunderstanding her nature and for whichever reason hadn’t recognised something the two of them shared together: the love of being on fresh powder, open range and the beauty of how either ski or board can take you down a mountain.

Hmm,… when it comes to business, you have to love how some people try to separate the personal from the corporate when in reality, business is personal to most people. I had the feeling Tate wasn’t quite understanding where Hannah is coming from as he has this narrow view of her and his arrogance is showing. I don’t believe Tate means to come across as this gruff bloke either – his heart is in the right place but its his lack of experience of being a caregiver, a business man and juggling a romantic interest in a woman where his faults start to show in greater effect than if he simply tried to be himself a bit more. He is in new territory – being a single Dad, sorting out his financial affairs and as Viktor (his former coach, surrogate father and roommate) pointed out where he is blindsided the most is recognising how things affect other people. He wants to do right by Lucas but in the interim he is doing wrong by Hannah. That’s the main rub, for me – if he can’t counter his bluster round Hannah he isn’t going to win me over. Not completely, anyway!

Hannah I can see is still being misunderstood – her light-hearted approach to living, her child-like joy of snow, skiing and activities where usually children or teens are the ones appreciating most are what get her misconstrued by her peers the most. Or in this instance, by Tate. It isn’t immaturity but rather a healthy respect for embracing the ability to keep ‘playing’ with the randomness of a joyful moment – she finds way to experience the snow that would make anyone half-jealous for her skill set to do what she does but in a safe way. Tate views her with judgement where he shouldn’t place any against her because he’s locked into viewing everything in black and white details. This makes sense from his perspective because of his past and what he’s trying to overcome for Lucas’s sake but in reality, it rubs people the wrong way because he’s being presumptuous in the wrong ways. This even goes as far to how he’s asserting his quarter ownership of Snowy Sky – it is like he wants to be a wrecking ball of influence rather than a guiding light of calmer strength. Sometimes the path is easier to walk if you’re not trying to plough through someone else’s vision.

I wish Hannah had stuck it to Tate in front of the Christmas party! He really needed to hear her point of view but more than that – sometimes you have to lose your temper in order to get through a thick-skull of a bloke’s! Tate is keeping himself blinded to everyone’s situation but his own – his narrowness is waning my interest in him, as Viktor was right on so many counts! He thinks his life’s goals are the only ones which ought to be considered as if no one else has the right to pursue a passion project or to find something which would be a viable business option for their life’s work. He makes me so infuriated! More so than even Aidan in some respects and that’s saying loads!

One of my favourite sequences was also a sad one – the Christmas party Hannah’s family threw which they happily invited Lucas, Tate and Viktor to attend. The whole James’ family was in attendance and since I’ve become so very fond of each of them, I knew immediately who would be there and why they’d all appreciate the time to visit amongst themselves. I liked too how Ross had the three girls’ stay over and have a bit of a slumber party afterwards: Shay, Adele and Hannah. Of the three, Adele was the new addition to the clan – the one who hadn’t realised she had such a kind family to find in Alaska. Her story-line was a cleverly spun one even though I had nearly felt it wasn’t going to pan out as well as it had! In many regards, Adele and Tate have a lot in common. They both grew up on the harder side of life’s ledgers, where their families fell a bit short and how they both longed to belong to a family. Adele had it a bit easier as she had a Mum but there were pieces of her life where having the James’ family now in her life rounded out her tapestry where she could feel grounded and secure. I knew Tate was seeking this – he might have Viktor in his life, but for whichever reason, he felt as adrift as Adele had.

And, this is when Ross turnt round my opinion of Tate! It happened whilst they were out of towne seeking to see if Snowy Sky had potential to harness an equality of business for both skiers and snowboarders – wherein, Tate finally sorts himself out, sees how lopsided his priorities have been in life and finally starts to consider someone else for a change (other than himself). In fact, so much so, I knew then I trusted Tate more than Aidan as a keen match as Aidan felt more like a bloke you’d thank for helping you with a tricky situation with your kids but Tate had the lasting effect of being someone you could appreciate having a more substanial role in your life. I think for me, I saw Aidan as a mentor and role model for kids to aspire towards and find inspiration on life from but with Tate, I saw the potential for a partnership in life; which of course, made the difference for me in how I viewed both men in the series. Tate was the better bloke of the two (for me) and if I can’t see the potential in a character, they just don’t feel like the right person for whomever their meant to be the romantic connection for in a story.

This is something I have felt for awhile – as reading Romances becomes a personal experience – you feel connected to some characters over others but for me, if I can’t see the merit of a romantic lead – as in, someone I would feel would be a viable match for the character they are intended to be for, than for me, I find myself not enjoying the romance nearly as much as I ought too. This is what happened during my reading of If Not for a Bee and what I had dearly felt concerned about re-happening whilst reading A Family Like Hannah’s. I was overjoyed realising my fears were unnecesary as apparently the only person I just didn’t find my cuppa tea in this series thus far along is Aidan!

As an aside, I really like how Viktor fits into the story – he has this quiet presence throughout the novel, where his advice and his parental guidance, not just in regards to young Lucas but for Tate as well – has such a strong and pivotal role to play in how Ross tells the story, I was thankful for his inclusion! He also is Eastern European, something I picked up on before it was disclosed as his English is uniquely written to fit in which is character’s country of origin and how he learnt English. I felt this was another touch of realism Ross gave to her series but also, how she brings out the humanistic qualities of her characters. Viktor’s kind heart, his sincerity and his ways of trying to get Tate to unlock the war within his own heart and mind are a few of the reasons why this novel stood out to me as being one of the turning points of the series.

This is the point where the series starts to feel alive – all the characters are grown, their lives have shifted forward and even the children who were highlighted in the past are endeavouring to have more adventures as the years continue to move into different transitional stages. Everyone is still here – Rankins is a community full of life and is teeming with new additions, new memories and new footholds of personal growth. It is the kind of place you feel the cosy homey sensation of familiarity whenever you return. I felt Ross did a great service to her readers for presenting the Seasons of Alaska series as she has – the lifeblood of Rankins is a beautiful overlay to the lives of her characters, as the towne and the people who occupy it are both moving forward together.

One of the best parts about this series is the undercurrent theme of redemption intermixed with forgiveness. It is a heartwarming look at how lives can become altered through circumstance, how hearts can become healed through forgiveness and how all of us (if we are open) can thrive through the hope we all allow ourselves to embrace when life brings unexpected grace into our lives. This is another example of how Ross has etched out a heartfelt drama set in a towne where life unfolds at a pace we can all soak inside one interpersonal examination of a life being lived at a time. I love this capsule of time – this introspective examination of humanity and the truer bounty of being attached into a community where hearts, souls and lives are striving towards a tomorrow where second chances can be the reality of sought after prayers.

on the contemporary rom styling of carol ross:

Ross has continued to etch out the families in Rankins to where you feel like you get an inside edge into knowing the major families who call this community their home. The James family (ie. Bering and Janie) have a stronghold in the towne but it is how their extended family, friends and their neighbours play such a distinctive role in their lives which makes returning here such a pleasant experience each time I settle into a new novel within the series! This time round it is due to how familiar I feel inside the series – being my third reading of the Seasons of Alaska series, I feel like Ross has carved out a place I have come to know quite well.

She has a keen sense of what makes the most interesting stories to knit into a Contemporary Romance but also does it with an uplifting insight of hope to encourage you forward into the series itself. Each time you soak into one of these stories, you feel your heart charged with the beauty of the setting but also the beauty of the people – they really are down to earth people who love their families and their community members. It is lovely to celebrate fiction like this and the other series I’ve become fond of within Harlequin Heartwarming who give me this same kind of takeaway – as these are the kinds of stories you can relax inside and know you’re going to be treated to a wickedly brilliant story within a larger arc of narrative that lets you root a bit in one particular place until the last of its story is told.

I love her instincts for rounding out her characters – for instance, within If Not for a Bee – one of the main interests of Janie is knitting. This is something I could insta-relate too being a knitter myself – from the calming influence of the patterns to the curious ways in which the tacticle benefits enrich your joy as your knitting with different fibres. I loved this portion of Janie’s life and I liked seeing how it developed throughout the story.

The more I learnt about Aidan in the story, the more respect I had for Ross who can create a lot of back-story for a disagreeable character – at least, in my eyes as I just never warmed up to Aidan myself as a reader. Ross took her time to diverge everything about Aidan – including why he comes across as stand-offish and why he has a lot of issues socially. Despite all that – even after knowing his fuller story and could gain more perspective on him as a person, I still didn’t find him approachable. He just didn’t have the personality I generally would equate to a romantic lead – he even takes nerdom to a new level as most nerds I actually love to find in Contemporaries even if I feel more like a geek than a nerd. It was more to the fact I just didn’t feel convinced about him in the story in the way in which he was placed inside it. He has his good points and he has a lot to give but in regards of being a romantic lead? I just wasn’t buying it.

When it came time to instill the realities of a kinship adoption – (ie. Tate having full custody of his nephew, Lucas) Ross brings a new dimension of interest into the Seasons of Alaska series. She is openly honest about how blending a family together isn’t as easy as wanting one and how sometimes even adults need to learn a few things before they can love, mentor and guide a child. She tackles the realities of single parenthood from a father’s perspective and how there are growing measures to be taken when your given the full responsiblity of a child for the first time.

I also liked how Ross addressed how Hannah has a natural instinct for motherhood about her – how she learnt a lot from the expansive James’ family she was bourne inside but also, how she naturally gravitates towards children. It is also reflective of her childlike innocent way of looking at the world and of embracing the innocent joys which can sometimes become muddled and lost in adulthood. This is a part of her which Tate misinterprets the most throughout A Family Like Hannah’s because he lost that kind of innocence himself years ago.

Ross has redeemed my impression of her choices in leading men with Tate – he might have had a lot of growing-up to do in this installment but it is how he handled this growth period that wooed me in the end. In fact, if Aidan had taken half the road of Tate, I might have felt differently about his role in Janie’s life. Tate is the kind of bloke you’d hope to meet how was not just willing to meet a person halfway (in theory, as I’m not spoiling the story!) but could redeem your opinion of him through his actual actions of personal growth. This is a testament of how Ross curates her character’s central arc of narrative but also, how through each new story in this series, we draw closer to her intentional sociological exploration of the soul.

These stories don’t just touch your heart, they touch your soul because there is soulfulness to their continuous journey to speak to the honesty of our lives. I love stories like this because of that and I am so very thankful I was given the chance to discover this series and this author – a credit to PRISM, twice over as they also gave me the chance to read Return of the Blackwell Brothers, which first tipped my hat into finding Carol Ross. My gratitude to Tressa is overflowing and my admiration for Ross’s skill at writing serial fiction has grown tenfold.

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I truly have become attached to this particular series – it is definitely one I want to seek out the other installments to have in my personal library, as similar to my love & affection for the Rocky Mountain Cowboys + the Return of the Blackwell Brothers, I want to be able to tuck inside this series again… re-live those memories of their lives and see new scenes to reflect upon which I might have missed or overlooked the first time round. You know, those kinds of re-readings you can have during a blizzard or in the middle of a fierce thunderstorm? Where hours can wick off the clock and no one cares because your lost inside a beloved series?

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Which Harlequin Heartwarming series do you appreciate reading?

Do you have a preference? Western, Contemporary, Historical, Suspense, etc?

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This review tour is courtesy of: Prism Book Tours

Prism Book Tours

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I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary!
Especially if you read the book or were thinking you might be inclined to read it.
I appreciate hearing different points of view especially amongst
readers who gravitate towards the same stories to read.
Bookish conversations are always welcome!

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Reading this novel counted towards
my New Year Reading Challenges & Focuses:

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These reviews will be cross-posted to LibraryThing.

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{SOURCES: Seasons of Alaska series collage graphic, the author photo of Carol Ross and her biography; as well as the Prism Book Tours badge were all provided by Prism Book Tours and used with permission. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Beat the Backlist banner provided by novelknight.com and is being used with permission. Tweets embedded by codes provided by Twitter. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: Book Review Banner using Unsplash.com (Creative Commons Zero) Photography by Frank McKenna; Seasons of Alaska series Books Three & Four collage graphic (Book Photography Credit: Jorie of jorielovesastory.com), #LibraryLove Challenge banner and the Comment Box Banner.}

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Friday, 29 March, 2019 by jorielov in Blog Tour Host, Book Review (non-blog tour), Contemporary Romance, Family Drama, Family Life, Indie Author, Inheritance & Identity, Life Shift, Prism Book Tours, Romance Fiction, Second Chance Love, Small Towne Fiction

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