A #blogmas #HarlequinHeartwarming Blog Book Tour | “The Christmas Kiss” (Back to Bluestone River series, Book Two) by Virginia McCullough

Posted Friday, 13 December, 2019 by jorielov , , , , 0 Comments

#blogmas 2019 badge created by Jorie in Canva.

Acquired Book By: I started hosting with Prism Book Tours at the end of [2017], having noticed the badge on Tressa’s blog (Wishful Endings) whilst I was visiting as we would partake in the same blog tours and/or book blogosphere memes. I had to put the memes on hold for several months (until I started to resume them (with Top Ten Tuesday) in January 2018). When I enquiried about hosting for Prism, I found I liked the niche of authors and stories they were featuring regularly. I am unsure how many books I’ll review for them as most are offered digitally rather than in print but this happily marks one of the blog tours where I could receive a print book for review purposes. 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.

I received a complimentary copy of “The Christmas Kiss” direct from the author Virginia McCullough in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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Why I enjoy reading a Virginia McCullough
Harlequin Heartwarming novel:

Ruby is the kind of woman who likes to see the potential in life rather than the sour lemons that can upset your plans. She wouldn’t be the first to admit that losing a job she believed in struck her in the heart and was effectively difficult to re-group after due to how much of herself she put into the belief her job was one that had mattered. Instead, she put on the kind of brave face you hope will soak through you the longer you wear it and decides to re-settle into her hometowne of Bluestone River! This coming off the suggestions of her bestie Emma kept nudging her with photos of the open prairie grasses, the calming scenes of wildlife and the potential of what Ruby might find once she arrived. I think the key word there is how Ruby might find something she hadn’t planned to find and thereby, finding a new way forward when life felt like it was falling apart. That’s a sentiment I think most can relate too when things go south and you have to rebuild your life.

Counter to Ruby’s woes are Emma’s concerns for her own health – as she has a serious condition that requires not just surgery but loads of patience as the recovery isn’t an easy one. These are two woman at cornerstones of their lives seeking comfort and shelter together if only to weather the storms and find a way to come through them a bit less affected than if they were to ride them out alone. Although the same could be said for Mike and his young son Jason; as they were two warriors riding into their own storm as well. Mike was the kind of father who was not just committed to his son but he was an encourager of random joy. He liked to keep the legacy of how he was raised in the growing years of his son Jason, even if his own childhood and his son’s held a few stark differences between them. For instance, when Mike was growing up he wasn’t struggling with PTSD like his son but there was solace in being back in Bluestone River. The area held a calmness over it – where the natural world in of itself had the best calming effect on the residents and perhaps, a healing effect as well.

I liked how McCullough took her time in allowing Jason to come round to others; how he interacted with his father, his teacher and even new persons he was just starting to meet like Ruby and Peach (the dog). His behaviour matched what you would expect from a young child who was struggling with the issues he had and yet, each time he was in-scene, it felt organic, honest and real. Nothing felt forced and I appreciated the realism and the extra touches of honesty threading into how Jason was portrayed.

McCullough tackles childhood PTSD and what causes a child to be mute rather than to speak through their emotions and their crises; giving new empathy for how PTSD affects children but also, how sometimes children find the hardest part of their recovery and healing process is resuming the art of speaking. Words have a lot of hidden meanings but they also hold a lot of truths that can be hard to speak; which I felt is partially why Jason might have stopped speaking as his reality had become shattered in such a tragic and traumatic way, it was easy to see why his voice might have become silent for awhile.

There is an ease of awareness and of setting here – you can tell McCullough has taken her time to develop this series, of giving us a well-rounded and well-thought out plotting to where the foundation of the series can build out of this first installment. It is a place that isn’t entirely without its prickles of angst but it has a heart-centred feel to it which gives you the hope of what could happen if people allow themselves to forgive the past and to seek a future without allowing the past to dictate how your life is meant to be lived.

-quoted from my review of A Family for Jason

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A #blogmas #HarlequinHeartwarming Blog Book Tour | “The Christmas Kiss” (Back to Bluestone River series, Book Two) by Virginia McCulloughThe Christmas Kiss
Subtitle: Back to Bluestone River
by Virginia McCullough
Source: Author via Prism Book Tours

Will working together

…lead to together forever?

Recently divorced, Parker Davis needs to focus on his new job so he can provide a stable home for his daughter in time for the Christmas holidays. The problem is, he’s frequently at odds with his boss. He and Emma O’Connell approach everything differently. Yet he finds her intriguing, and Bluestone River festivities keep pushing them together—often enough that two people at odds could find themselves evenly matched in love!

Genres: Christmas Story &/or Christmas Romance, Contemporary (Modern) Fiction (post 1945), Contemporary Romance, Romance Fiction

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 9781335510969

Also by this author: A Family for Jason, A Bridge Home, The Rancher's Wyoming Twins

Also in this series: A Family for Jason, A Bridge Home

Published by Harlequin Heartwarming

on 3rd December, 2019

Format: Larger Print (Mass Market Paperback)

Pages: 375

Published by: Harlequin Heartwarming

Converse via: #Contemporary + #Romance and #HarlequinHeartwarming

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Back to Bluestone River series:

A Family for Jason (book one) : Ruby & Mike’s story (see also Review)

The Christmas Kiss (book two) : Emma & Parker’s story

I love how the sequel involves Emma! She’s Ruby’s best friend & she helped Ruby become re-established back into Bluestone River. I thought it was fitting she’d get her own story after finding out how tied-in she is to the community & Ruby’s life!

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About Virginia McCullough

Virginia McCullough

Born and raised in Chicago, Virginia McCullough has been lucky enough to develop her writing career in many locations, including the coast of Maine, the mountains of North Carolina, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and currently, Northeast Wisconsin. She started her career in nonfiction, first writing articles and then books as a ghostwriter and coauthor. She’s written more than 100 books for physicians, business owners, professional speakers and many others with information to share or a story to tell.

Virginia’s books feature characters who could be your neighbors and friends. They come in all ages and struggle with everyday life issues in small-town environments that almost always include water—oceans, lakes, or rivers. The mother of two grown children, you’ll find Virginia with her nose a book, walking on trails or her neighborhood street, or she may be packing her bag to take off for her next adventure. And she’s always working on another story about hope, healing, and second chances.

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My review of the christmas kiss:

The setting for The Christmas Kiss begins at a natural wildlife sanctuary which I immediately felt drawn inside because I have a heart for wildlife. I’m also a wildlife and natural world photographer wherein I love being absorbed into a scene where animals, birds and humans can interact but at a distance that respects them both. I try not to intrude on a moment where say a bird of prey needs a respectful distance from where you are with your camera but at the same time – if you can catch a hidden moment of theirs at that distance and have it on film – that’s a beautiful moment. Boardwalks and natural habitats which are protected either by a sanctuary like this one or by city ordinances are the places I love to explore whilst there is nothing better than a hike where you can tuck away from lights and the citified ways of our modern era to hug closer to nature and just simply ‘be’ with the wildlife and the purity of the air flowing through the trees. Trees of course in of themselves are a brilliant reducer of stress simply by being near their presence but that’s for another day and another topic of interest!

Parker was struggling with his newly titled role of single father to Nicole – finding himself ill-prepared half the time to deal with a brooding college student who was not entirely secure in the situation post-separation; as her parents were dealing with their divorce. For his part, Parker tried to draw her out of her shell, make light-hearted attempts to steer her mind off what stressed them both out about the differences in their lives and help her find a way to re-affirm the new life they were trying to live now. Still. The transitions were going to be difficult even if the setting they were currently living in was spellbindingly beautiful!

At the same time, Emma was struggling to get her mind straight about her physical limitations – she was used to being able to do whatever she wanted whenever she wanted to do them. With her new inability to just ‘get up and go’ at that same kind of fierce momentum was starting to drain her and it was affecting how she was interacting with others. You could sense this as she tried to overcompensate when she first met Parker – trying to prove she was as independent as she felt and as active as he was on the trails. Sadly, her body had other thoughts towards that kind of independence and the one thing Emma didn’t like admitting is that she had any kind of physicality shortcomings which needed to be recognised or addressed.

Parker for his part was bringing in a bit of biased prejudice towards foundations and charities – or rather, how non-profits are organised and executed which I felt would bring its own kind of drama to the sanctuary’s rebuild as this would pit him against Emma. Each of them had their own baggage but one thing they agreed upon was the natural setting being maintained and the ambiance of the sanctuary to find its own voice amongst the funding being provided for its upkeep. You can see how places like this can become beautified without having to erase their natural wonder and provide a place where humans can entreat into the natural world without leaving a scarring effect on the wildlife or their habitats, too. This is partially what was appealling to me about the novel – how they were dedicated to take care of the place but also find a way to re-fuell people’s interest in visiting it before it was lost and forgotten.

Seeing Parker attempting to help an injured owl made me think back to why I enjoy watching Crikey! Its the Irwins due to their wildlife hospital and rescue outreach throughout Australia. Without intervention, prevention and mobility of ‘helpers’ – as seen through the series on Animal Planet or as referenced in this novel, wildlife would have a harder time adjusting to their injuries or the circumstances of where our modern lives start to erode away their natural habitats. I was hoping the sanctuary in the novel would expand a bit faster towards having a proper rescue hospital to help those birds of prey and animals who might need their assistance but of course, without proper funding towards that direction its a bit harder to bring into reality. It was lovely seeing how comforting Parker was for the owl and how amazed his actions and instincts to nurture the owl touched the heart of Emma.

One of the best parts of the story is getting to catch-up with Ruby and Mike as their expecting their first child now. McCullough cleverly put their lives into the life of Emma and Parker – showing how tight-knit Bluestone River is when it comes mayor support and how interactive everyone tries to become in each others life. Mike also was trying to feel out Parker a bit regarding his current situation but keeping his distance a bit at the same time. I felt Emma and Ruby had a better connection to each other (as they were already previously established) and although Emma’s role in Nicole’s life felt stilted it also felt like a natural reason to have that rub of angst between them as Nicole was missing her mother something fierce as the holidays of Autumn were starting to affect her mood due to the memories she had of the past.

I struggled a bit to get into the context of the story, though admittedly the week I was reading The Christmas Kiss I was overcoming a bad Winter cold and my father’s health was afflicted too. I felt there were a few hits and misses in the flow of the banterment between Parker and his daughter Nicole and the interactions they had with Emma – I enjoyed the fact McCullough was showing how this father daughter were trying to repair their lives in a new tucked away community where they could find their own reasons to grow new memories and experiences; but sadly some of those interactions just felt a bit flat to me. I think partially as Nicole came off either a bit too short-tempered or younger than her years to be believable in some of the scenes and in regards to how she acted round her father or how he reacted round his own peers – something just felt amiss. I struggled a bit to see how they would all pair together because for most of the first half of the novel it felt more like they were oil and vinegar; where they might be better off separated.

This was an interesting turn for me in the series because A Family for Jason flowed better than The Christmas Kiss. I felt this story was still trying to find its identity and its voice of where the direction for the characters was going to take us as readers. The community held my eye and the continuation of the story-line involving Ruby and Mike and their growing family was most endearing to read but overall I felt I might have to give this a second reading in order to fully understand Parker and Emma as a couple.

On the Contemporary writing style of Virginia Mccullough:

McCullough has already charmed me into loving this series – when I read A Family for Jason I was captured by this small community and the people who populate it. It is one of those communities who wants to redefine itself and reaffirm that they can become a viable towne despite setbacks and re-transitions into new industries from the old ones which previously sustained them.

Those kinds of stories are my favourites – in both fiction and film, because they are everyday stories of real people who are striving to make their communities a better place for the locals, their visitors and the new residents they haven’t yet had the chance to meet.

Plus, let’s face it – I have a soft spot in my readerly heart for #smalltownefiction!

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I want to thank Ms McCullough for thinking of me when she enclosed the bookmark for this series as it will be a lovely way to continue to celebrate why I am enjoying my journey into discovering which series by Harlequin Heartwarming on the ones I enjoy reading the most. It has rounded edges too which is a special treat!

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This blog tour is courtesy of: Prism Book Tours

Prism Book Tours

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The Christmas Kiss blog tour via Prism Book Tours

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End of the Blog Tour badged provided by Prism Book ToursBy clicking this badge you can find out about the giveaway associated with the tour;
my particular tour stop doesn’t host the giveaway as I’m a review stop, however,
you’ll find many other bloggers who are hosting the information!

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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 story counted towards my 2019 reading challenges, specifically:

2019 New Release Challenge created by mylimabeandesigns.com for unconventionalbookworms.com and is used with permission.

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{SOURCES: Cover art of “A Family for Jason” and “The Christmas Kiss”, book synopsis, author biography, author photograph of Virginia McCullough, blog tour banner and 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. 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 and the Comment Box Banner.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2019.

I’m a social reader | I tweet my reading life

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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, 13 December, 2019 by jorielov in 21st Century, A Father's Heart, Blog Tour Host, Bookmark slipped inside a Review Book, Contemporary Romance, Content Note, Equality In Literature, Family Drama, Flashbacks & Recollective Memories, Fly in the Ointment, Grief & Anguish of Guilt, Indie Author, Life Shift, Modern Day, Mute | Medical Loss of Voice, Prism Book Tours, PTSD, Realistic Fiction, Romance Fiction, Second Chance Love, Single Fathers, Small Towne Fiction, Small Towne USA, Special Needs Children

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