A #Harlequin Heartwarming Book Review | “Her Surprise Engagement” (City by the Bay Stories, Book Six) by Cari Lynn Webb

Posted Monday, 13 July, 2020 by jorielov , , , , 2 Comments

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Acquired 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.

I received a complimentary copy of “Her Surprise Engagement” direct from the author Cari Lynn Webb in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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Why I have been enjoying reading the City by the Bay series:

There is an interesting secondary focus of thoughtfulness threading through the narrative straight out of the gate – the concept of charity and business – how the two can walk hand in hand vs how to keep the two separate (if you wanted to keep them separate) as it pertains to a perspective on ethics from both Josie and Theo. From Josie’s perspective, running a company with a mindset focused on social commitment to the local community is her ethical divide in the sand whereas with Theo, he believes in charity but not if it interferes with his bottom-line or the forward motion of his company (and his interests therein). Neither of them are inherently wrong but there is a question percolating in the background as they volley for space in the disagreement and discussion – if you had the chance to choose how you impacted your social environment outside your business, would you consider profit over charity or charity over profit? Would you consider taking a smaller profit to enable a charity to thrive?

I love how Webb fuses in a background for her character’s about the foster care system and how memories of life within the system can still have overreaching effects on the adults who grew up as foster children. This was brought into the story-line through Josie’s perspective – how self-reliant she needed to become but also how kind-hearted a few of her foster Mums were to give her the impression that not all of them were simply doing the job required but truly were there for the children too. Webb presents a very well-rounded glimpse into life of fosters but finds a way to re-anchour those experiences into what is giving them a bit of adversity in their current lives as sometimes after you shift through one kind of adversity, you can be greeted by another.

There is a small focus on women’s shelters as this is a secondary plot segue within the main story’s arc of focus and I loved how Webb brought Penny into the foreground! She had an important role to Josie’s back-story and through that back-story we learnt so much about how communities who are intuitively providing ways for women to rise through their circumstances and rebuild their lives are the ones who are becoming the stronger versions of all our cities and townes. To help those who need a bit of an extra lift gives renewed purpose to why each of us can be an everyday angel to someone we might never realise needed a bit of extra help on a day where we were simply passing forward the everyday kindnesses we ourselves were blessed to have received.

I loved this whole message within the novel and how the social conscience thread truly was shaping how you viewed each of the characters start to finish – there was growth to be had within this novel but it is how Webb chose to give that growth to her characters which touches your heart the most!

-quoted from my review of In Love by Christmas
(Book Five: City by the Bay series)

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In case you missed it, during my 6th Blogoversary I celebrated why I love Harlequin Heartwarming whilst I also showcased the authors I’ve loved discovering via this imprint for #TopTenTuesday!

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A #Harlequin Heartwarming Book Review | “Her Surprise Engagement” (City by the Bay Stories, Book Six) by Cari Lynn WebbHer Surprise Engagement
Subtitle: City by the Bay Stories
by Cari Lynn Webb
Source: Author via Prism Book Tours

A football star and a single mom…

Teach each other to trust again

To impress the executives buying her app, Nichole Moore enlists the help of old friend and pro quarterback Chase Jacobs. A pretend marriage is the perfect ruse: Chase’s celebrity status will impress the executives, while likable, hardworking Nichole could fix his fading career. But as their fake relationship plays out under the glare of the public eye, Nichole realizes her feelings might be the real deal…

Genres: Contemporary (Modern) Fiction (post 1945), Contemporary Romance

Places to find the book:

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 978-1335889775

Also by this author: The Rancher's Rescue, Single Dad to the Rescue, In Love by Christmas, Three Makes A Family, The Texas SEAL's Surprise, Trusting the Rancher with Christmas

Also in this series: Single Dad to the Rescue, In Love by Christmas

Published by Harlequin Heartwarming

on 1st July, 2020

Format: Larger Print (Mass Market Paperback)

Pages: 384

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

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the City by the Bay Stories:

The Charm Offensive by Cari Lynn WebbThe Doctor's Recovery by Cari Lynn WebbAva's Prize by Cari Lynn Webb

Single Dad to the Rescue by Cari Lynn WebbIn Love by Christmas by Cari Lynn WebbHer Surprise Engagement by Cari Lynn Webb

The Charm Offensive (Book One)

The Doctor’s Recovery (Book Two)

Ava’s Prize (Book Three)

Single Dad to the Rescue (Book Four) | (see also Review)

In Love by Christmas (Book Five) | (see also Review)

Her Surprise Engagement (Book Six)

Converse via: #Contemporary #Romance

+ #Harlequin OR #HarlequinHeartwarming & #CityByTheBayStories

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About Cari Lynn Webb

Cari Lynn Webb

Cari Lynn Webb lives in South Carolina with her husband, daughters and assorted four-legged family members. She's been blessed to see the power of true love in her grandparent's 70 year marriage and her parent's marriage of over 50 years. She knows love isn't always sweet and perfect, it can be challenging, complicated and risky. But she believes happily-ever-afters are worth fighting for. She loves to connect with readers. Visit her at her website.

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a note about my reading life:

I’ve had quite a few starts and stops when it comes to my reading life this year – however, one thing which has been fuelling my return to stories is by streaming some wicked wonderful series via Roku as my family and I have been sampling different streaming services this past Winter, Spring and now Summer. Of late, we took a trial for Netflix as The Babysitters Club was about to debut this July – yet, it was curling into unexpected treats of joy: Sweet Magnolias and Virgin River which I felt helped lead me back into reading.

Some weeks you might find your concentration is on other matters than the next story you’re wishing to be reading – the struggle this New Year has been finding myself able to be still enough to read without any other inference to take my focus off the novels. In regards to these NetFlix series – two were beloved series I had read, whereas with Virgin River, despite owning the debut of the series since close to the time it was released, I decided to tuck into the series without reading the novel. Some years you find an adapted series just charms your heart a bit more than attempting to read the source material.

As I moved into reading Harlequin Heartwarming this July – I am thankful I had some heartlifting series on Netflix to get me re-inspired to soak into stories in print again. Sometimes I think we can all use a bit of a renewal of grace and inspiration – for me, that comes in different forms, as sometimes just being able to experiment with fresh produce and fruit from farmer’s markets is a well of blissitude and other times, its quite literally binge watching the first series of Virgin River in one singular day!

my review of her surprise engagement:

Sorting out your life in private is one thing but for Chase, his life is lived in the ever-seeing public space which pin down football players antics for sport. Although in his case, Chase seems to have a devil may care attitude hindering his effects to be a responsible member of his football team. He has a direct passion for the game itself but what he does during his downtime hours is something quite less desirable. Seeing him outside his sport, when he’s in a more vulnerable state of mind and in the company of his sister Mallory, you start to see that Chase has a lot of bluster but much more heart if he only had the inclination to show it.

The anxiety which consumes Nichole is beyond severe – she has a fear of confidence, success and more importantly of speaking in public when it comes to advancing her own career. Her friends can encourage her and try to bolster her courage ahead of time but I noticed that the internal framework of how Nichole views herself and understands what triggers her anxiety is what truly was at the heart of the conflict. Rather than seeing herself boldly comfortable in the role she’s devised for herself, she has fallen into the habit to short-change herself even before she has the chance to accomplish one of her goals. Almost as if she’s attempting to talk herself out of it without having any foundation for why such a thing would be worthwhile to do. I felt for her – she was bottled so tight inside her own thoughts and the recriminations against her own character, that she struggled to see past her own self-hate. She was much more at ease being a Mum than the woman who developed her own app and was re-writing how she could be self-sufficient.

One of the more endearing aspects of this installment in the series is how introvertedly shy Nichole is around Chase. She might have a long history of being his friend and a person who could help him when he needed someone to be his ally in high school; yet, if you put all that aside, Nichole still hasn’t grappled well with making process on believing in her own self worth which would fuell her own level of confidence. Even being reunited with Chase, she was all fits and flutters trying to calm her resolve long enough to find her words – to talk to someone she already trusted about something quite important and time sensitive.

The interesting bit about chasing after your dreams is that you have to own them. Chase was a bit surprised himself when he realised that certain aspects of Nichole’s negotiating skills were a little short of ideal and he stepped in to help resolve a few of those rougher edges. Seeing these two reunited be as they were was an interesting way of seeing how some people never should have parted from one another. Some people just have the kind of chemistry and easiness of familiarity with each that you are quite surprised they’d have separated at all. And, yet, for Chase and Nichole – there were so many years between their high school friendship and the present day trials they were each facing.

When the whole faux marriage started to erupt into their lives – as even the timing and announcement of this scheme had its own rhythm of disclosure – I am unsure if either of them were fully prepared for the repercussions of their spur of the moment idea! I enjoyed seeing how unhinged Chase was about the prospect of being tied down to someone whilst Nichole was struggling with accepting the terms of this awkward arrangement! They definitely reminded me of the impulsive nature of how people who should know better simply rush into things – which brought me back to remembering why I adore the film Fool’s Rush In. Or, even While You Were Sleeping which parlays on a similar theme as Her Surprise Engagement – especially when it comes to sorting out the lies from the truth and how to own your choices when your heart makes its own choice whilst your still figuring out your life.

My favourite scene by far is the reaction of Chase’s family – specifically his two sisters, Mum and Nonna as they first realised that their dear sweet son, brother and grandson have kept rather important news away from them: his marriage! The round robin way in which the women asserted their discomfort in not knowing about the marriage and their disappointment that Chase wasn’t prioritizing their chance to meet Nichole (after so many years apart themselves) was wicked good folly!! Especially as Chase was truly sinking fast under their fierce glare of shame – the shame in having someone they felt they could trust to tell them the important bits of his life only to realise that one major even that affects the whole family was the one event they were not invited to know about sooner than now. I think for them, that is what rankled the most – not that this was presenting as a reckless and impulsive act of youth but because he hadn’t had the decency to update them about his relationship status.

I had a bit of a chuckle about Wesley’s (Nichole’s son) reaction if he had been allowed to take a day off from school – mostly because I never felt guilty about skipping a day of school myself. For starters, some years you just needed some space and personal time away from the chaos of school and other times, a day off did a world of good just for your own sanity. I suppose not everyone looks at it the same way, but honestly, perfect attendance lives and dies at school; no one cares how many days you took off or how many days you attended anymore than your GPA post-graduation. I can say that with confidence because I’ve been out for over two decades now and no one has ever enquired about any of that on my behalf. Therefore, I felt it was quite interesting how Wesley reacted to having a day off verse just going to school as usual.

My favourite character was Nonna – her simple wisdom, the ways in which she showed how cooking can bring people together and the ordinary kindness she showed both Chase and Nichole warms your heart. She’s the kind of grandmother who wants what is best for her grandson but also someone who upholds family tradition – which led-in to one of my favourite scenes, which was having the three of them in the kitchen, attempting to cook a beloved recipe. Whilst there you had the overall feeling that Nonna might know more than she’s letting on – as both Chase and Nichole seemed to be at odds with themselves and they were saying more than they ought to have in that moment with Nonna. I personally think Nonna sorted it out for herself – the big secret and the reasons behind it. I just wouldn’t put it past her to see through the thin veil of their lies.

One of the interesting bits of soaking into this story is that both of Webb’s lead characters (ie. Chase and Nichole) are at turning points in their lives. Chase has a severe injury which could either set him back from his career goals or be a period of mindful rest during his recovery whilst Nichole is on the fringe of launching her app even if she’s dealing with combating her own insecurities first. They both seemed to be at war with themselves – as each of them were battling through something quite specific to their own internal struggles with anxiety and self-recrimination. It started to set the tone for the healing and self-growth to evolve through the storyline which I enjoyed seeing developed.

Webb places you into her storyline rather immediately – you instantly know what is most important to the lives of her characters simply by observing where we’re meeting them in the text. Nichole and Chase have rather immediate needs at the start of this novel which allows the story to unfold at a quicker pace than others. I enjoyed seeing how Webb was going to heal the distance between them but also, tuck closer to whom they’ve become whilst they’ve been apart. Both of her characters have lived so many years separated from each other, a portion of themselves has become a bit more muddled and lost; which I felt they each saw in each other when they first reunited. As it would be hard not to see the changes in your long lost best friend and that is how this story first presents itself – even before the grandparents are brought into the fray (as this is a story set against the love and nurturing guidance only grandparents can give) this is a story that is anchoured by a resolve of unquestioning trust between two best friends who understand each other better than they understand themselves.

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This book review is courtesy of: Prism Book Tours

Prism Book Tours

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Her Surprise Engagement blog tour banner provided by Prism Book Tours and is used with permission.

End of the Blog Tour badged provided by Prism Book Tours

By 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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{SOURCES: Cover art of “The Charm Offensive”, “The Doctor’s Recovery”, “Ava’s Prize”, “Single Dad to the Rescue”, “In Love by Christmas”, “Her Surprise Engagement” as well as the synopsis for “Her Surprise Engagement”, the author photo of Cari Lynn Webb and her biography; and the Prism Book Tours badges 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 and the Comment Box Banner.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2020.

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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)

read more >> | Visit my Story Vault of Book Reviews | Policies & Review Requests | Contact Jorie


Posted Monday, 13 July, 2020 by jorielov in Blog Tour Host, Contemporary Romance, Indie Author, Prism Book Tours, Romance Fiction

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2 responses to “A #Harlequin Heartwarming Book Review | “Her Surprise Engagement” (City by the Bay Stories, Book Six) by Cari Lynn Webb

  1. Thank you, Jorie for your thoughtful comments and review about Her Surprise Engagement. Your insightful words warm my heart. And I have to confess – I’m rather partial to Nonna myself. Hope you and your family are safe and healthy.

    • Hallo, Hallo Ms Webb,

      I knew I was going to connect with Nonna – as soon as I read your author’s note about this story focusing on grandparents; as I was blessed with having mine (all five!) until the age of twenty-four before they had all passed. I miss them dearly and there is a special place in your heart for your grandparents; I felt those scenes with Nonna were a bit bittersweet because anyone who comes from a close-knit family understands the impact your Nonna would have on their own heart.

      Thank you for writing a story I felt was a tribute to grandmothers and their grandchildren. I’m thankful my words uplifted you and touched your own heart. It is nice to return the joys we receive.

      PS: Thank you for your kind note on behalf of my family; we have altered everything we do and how we do them since March. We’re trying to get used to wearing masks in the humidity but that is one key issue that is hard when its over 100+. Still we strive to do our bit and to reduce our interaction in order to reduce our risks. I pray the same for you and yours.

      Many blessings to you, Ms Webb! And, soon it will be time to start talking about the #BlackwellSisters — I’m wicked blessed I was able to book you all for #SatBookChat in October. I haven’t announced it yet (as it was quite early!) except for being on the chat’s schedule page however, its hard sitting on good news!

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