#RomanceTuesdays | feat. #HarlequinHeartwarming author Virginia McCullough’s “A Bridge Home” (Back to Bluestone River series, Book Three)

Posted Tuesday, 4 August, 2020 by jorielov , , , , 0 Comments

#RomanceTuesdays 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. This is how I came to love discovering the Harlequin Heartwarming authors & series as much as it has been an honour to regularly request INSPY stories and authors. Whenever I host for Prism, I know I am in for an uplifting read and a journey into the stories which give me a lot of joy to find in my readerly queue of #nextreads. It is an honour to be a part of their team of book bloggers.

I received a complimentary copy of “A Bridge Home” 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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#RomanceTuesdays | feat. #HarlequinHeartwarming author Virginia McCullough’s “A Bridge Home” (Back to Bluestone River series, Book Three)A Bridge Home
Subtitle: Back to Bluestone River
by Virginia McCullough
Source: Author via Prism Book Tours

Will a new beginning…

Lead to forever?

What good is a home without a family? School principal Eric Wells finally has the house he’s always wanted, but a painful childhood makes him question his ability to be a father. So when his high school crush Amy Morgan returns to Bluestone River with her troubled daughter, he’s surprised to find he wants to be there for both of them. Will Amy finally give him a chance?

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

Places to find the book:

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 9781335889843

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

Also in this series: A Family for Jason, The Christmas Kiss

Published by Harlequin Heartwarming

on 1st August, 2020

Format: Larger Print (Mass Market Paperback)

Pages: 368

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Back to Bluestone River series:

A Family for Jason by Viriginia McCulloughThe Christmas Kiss by Virginia McCulloughA Bridge Home by Virginia McCullough

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

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

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!

A Bridge Home (book three) : Amy & Eric’s story 

Published by: Harlequin Heartwarming

Converse via: #Contemporary + #Romance and #HarlequinHeartwarming

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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 a bridge home:

My favourite season is Winter and having the chance to begin a novel with a firm falling of snow to be considered ‘whiteout’ conditions whilst suffering through a Summer’s wrath of volcanic insanity is the perfect kind of blissitude for me as a reader! As soon as I realised just how much snow was falling outside their window, I was already half a mind curled inside this setting! I had to smirk a bit though – as Amy was far more concerned with her unexpected reunion with a former classmate (ie. Eric) than whether or not her daughter’s angst at home with homework and chores was worth pitching a fight over that night. I love when characters find themselves slightly at sixes and sevens; worried about the impression they will give and how they will respond to someone from their past! Amy isn’t any different in that regard, where her anxieties about the present are starting to spill into all aspects of her life.

How can you immediately not feel warm-hearted towards Eric? He’s quite the catch – he has his mind set on forward motion in his current career where he’d like to move out of the day to day grind of being a principal into a more admin position whereas it was how he took the time to find the right house to turn into a family home on a tree lined street that truly felt like a capstone on a bloke who simply had arrived into his future but was awaiting for his wife and child(ren) to arrive to start their lives together. Family oriented and with a heart of gold towards his own parents – Eric makes a strong presence in the opening bridge of this story!

Likewise, I am enjoying the intergenerational connection to how Amy’s grandparents played a strong role in her own upbringing as they are in the life of her daughter Cassie. It is wonderful to see unconventional families at the heart of a Contemporary Romance because all families I feel should be represented equally including those where both parents and grandparents are equally represented if they play a strong role in a child’s life like Amy’s. As an aside, I was enjoying the cheeky humour playing out in the minds of Amy and Eric – those two are creative when it comes to distracting themselves from a reunion! You had to think – why would these two singletons want to work so hard not to meet with each other?

Seth instantly stood out to me – he’s Eric’s Cousin and he’s working on his own goal of developing a new construction company – wherein his pet project is helping his Cousin reno his house! I love when families stick together but more to the point, what a wonderful portfolio for an upstart construction company, right? I felt it was a smart choice to introduce Seth so early in the story – as it helped see how grounded Eric is in his own life and how he’s moving towards being open to exploring his choices in the local community. Seth also is a great sounding board and voice of conscience for Eric which I also appreciated. For secondary characters, he was such a strong contender for being my favourite in this installment.

Eric is a bloke whose is touch with his feelings and understands dimensionally what can be affecting a child because of his own’s life’s journey. How he feels he can co-relate to what Cassie is going through herself was a beautiful passage in the novel because it shows his willingness to look past her faults and to see the truth of what is going on rather than just to label her as another troublesome troublemaker at school. You can definitely see why he wants to move into administrative work within the school district but I almost think he might lose the connection he has in seeing children right at the point in their lives where intervention and sympathy can go a long way towards ensuring their well being into adolescence and adulthood.

One unexpected joy in the story which gave me such a happy smile is the name of Amy’s grandmother’s cat: Cloud! The reasons behind the name are just as endearing but what I loved about it is how personal it was to name this cat this name. Too often I think cat names are just serving a function but sometimes a writer will surprise you and give you a name for a cat in a story which not only talks to the personality of the cat but something about them as well, such as Cloud. Being a girl whose grown up with cats in her life and has one purring next to her as she’s reading this novel – it was fitting to see how well Cloud fit into the story!

I had to laugh a bit – Eric fits so well into Amy’s life, I think it is scaring her off a bit! She doesn’t want to think about futures and boyfriends as she’s not in that place of her mind to consider it but you can tell Eric is connecting more dots on his side than Amy is on hers. The interesting bit though is that Eric dedicated to the welfare and well being of children – trying to leave a more positive impact on their lives than where he might meet them right now in their lives. You have to give the bloke credit for that – for wanting to be part of the inspiration to turn their lives around and to find better meaning out of the chaos their lives have become.

In the background of the story unfolding between Eric, Amy and young Cassie is the state of the covered bridge in Bluestone River. Portions of this story reminded me about what happened in Vermont when the flooding waters took out most of their historic bridges and many of which could not be fixed or replaced. Covered bridges have been affected by heavy rains and flood waters for several years now, not just in Vermont and I happen to be on the side of the argument about preserving them if they can be preserved and/or restored. Their a symbol of the past but they also are a unique presence in a small towne giving a lovely picture to entering a place you want to visit. I felt the background about the bridge and the ways in which it was dredging up old sores and arguments about gentrification in Bluestone River were a fitting backdrop to the slow burning romance in the foreground. Especially since, smaller townes are notorious for their towne hall meetings – wherein, I feel more communities should get back into the habit of hosting and perhaps, resolving some key issues that prickle into local communities which could otherwise have been mediated at the towne hall.

Bluestone River is one of those communities which is thinking about how it wants to make positive progress into their own towne’s future. There is something to be said for that kind of thinking – of where a towne considers all angles of new proposals but also takes stock into consideration how they want to grow rather than just growing without a firm plan in mind to execute. Too often I think smaller townes grow too fast and they all start to look like a commercial zone of big box stores and differing styles of architecture without any cohesive way of bridging the towne and their aesthetic together. It was nice to see this discussion taking place and having a community question what is motivating their future endeavours as the towne continues to grow.

Ms McCullough brought the continuity together beautifully between installments – as Eric is the mutual friend of our first Bluestone River sweethearts, Ruby and Mike. It wasn’t lost on me the connection between the title’s metaphor and the symbolism of the bridge being in jeopardy throughout the storyline – not to mention that this story took place during my favourite season of Winter! Everything was percolating so well in this installment – from how the community was rallying together to discuss their future plans for development and to how Amy needed to find her footing in her choices to return to Bluestone River. Even Eric was at a crossroads in his life wherein he needed to sort through what was motivating him and the choices he needed to be making for himself as he looked towards where he wanted to be in the next chapter of his life. This is a story about choices and owning them once they are made as everyone needs a boost of confidence at different junctions of their lives.

Small Content Errors:

A few times in the narrative, I caught the wrong character name mentioned – such as when Eric is talking about Seth and another time, two other character names were exchanged for each other as well. It threw me off slightly at first, as I had to read forward a bit and backwards to catch what was happening but other than that, I was able to follow the story without any other hitches. This is the first time I caught copy edit errors in a Heartwarming novel though in truth, it is easy to see how one character’s name could be inserted for another by mistake.

On the Contemporary writing style of Virginia Mccullough:

In this installment of Back to Bluestone River, I was happy to see an intergenerational plotting – wherein Amy is with her grandmother and there is a history of grandparents raising children in the storyline. Lately, I’ve been enjoying finding intergenerational stories – where different role models and guardians are being explored in the context of Contemporary stories. It is a refreshing twist and one I think should be celebrated more often as there are a lot of children who live in non-conventional families and those families should be represented more as I am loving how Ms McCullough presented Amy’s presence in her grandmother’s life.

On a personal note, I’m thankful the author also talked about how grandparents of a certain age start to have different health issues. The only thing I questioned is the comment about the grandfather’s stroke and the seemingly unaffected status of his memory and/or his cognition skills – which means, I believe he had a mild stroke rather than a moderate one. I notice these slight differences now since my father had his moderate bilateral stroke as there is definitely a difference between mild and moderate; it wasn’t stated which was which in the story but as my living reality changed nearly four years ago with a stroke survivor in the family whom I’m a carer – I know Amy’s grandfather had a far more milder case even though it is affecting his movement and his ability to walk at the level he had prior to his stroke. Unfortunately after a stroke hits like an earthquake in the mind, the issues which come lateron – even a few years after the initial attack can surprise both the survivor of the stroke and the family and it is hard to pin point what will remain affected thereafter. I felt in that case it was believable that the grandfather didn’t have any cognitive deficits and only seemed to struggle with his mobility.

I felt this installment brought me back to centre – back to where I originally felt hugged close into the series within the pages of A Family for Jason. Bluestone River has a way of settling into your heart because its the kind of towne where you can either return home after a long absence or it is a towne where you can move to redefine your life and have your own new beginning. What keeps you rooted in the series is the familiar way in which McCullough makes you feel like you’ve gone home yourself – Back to Bluestone River!

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I want to thank Ms McCullough for thinking of me when she enclosed more bookmarks for me to enjoy reading her Harlequin Heartwarming stories – I can NEVER have enough bookmarks – I am forever putting them into the books I’m currently trying to make process with reading and that leads me to running ‘out’ of bookmarks. I am dearly thankful whenever an author thinks of us by enclosing a bookmark or two whilst sending us a note as well. Always happy #bookmail from the authors of Harlequin Romance, Love Inspired & Harlequin Heartwarming!!

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This blog tour is courtesy of: Prism Book Tours

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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This review is cross-posted to LibraryThing.

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{SOURCES: Cover art of “A Family for Jason”, “The Christmas Kiss” and “A Bridge Home”, the 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. LibraryThing banner provided by librarything.com and used with permission. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: #RomanceTuesdays badge 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)

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Posted Tuesday, 4 August, 2020 by jorielov in #RomanceTuesdays, 21st Century, Blog Tour Host, Bookmark slipped inside a Review Book, Contemporary Romance, Content Note, Family Drama, Life Shift, Modern Day, Prism Book Tours, Romance Fiction, Second Chance Love, Small Towne Fiction, Small Towne USA

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