The Scent of Rain

The Scent of RainThe Scent of Rain by Kristin Billerbeck
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Number of pages: 305
My copy: ebook review copy from Netgalley

Could it be that the life Daphne’s always wanted is right under her nose?

Daphne Sweeten left Paris–and a job she loved–to marry the man of her dreams in the U.S. But when he stands her up on their wedding day, she’s left reeling and senseless. Literally. She’s been trained as a perfume creator and now her sense of smell has disappeared along with her fiance.

She has to figure out why her nose isn’t working, fix it, and get back to Paris. Meanwhile, she’ll rely on her chemistry skills and just hope her new boss at Gibraltar Products, Jesse, doesn’t notice her failing senses. They’ll be working together on household fragrances, not posh perfumes. How hard can it be?

As Daphne and Jesse work on a signature scent for their new line, she feels God at work as never before. And the promise of what’s possible is as fresh as the scent of rain.

* * *

Daphne Sweeten is a professional nose — by that, we mean she’s a chemist who is trained to be a perfume creator. When she gets stood up on her wedding day, though, her sense of smell disappears. Trying to piece her life back together, she works for a small company in Ohio, hoping to get her sense of smell back and fly back to Paris, which she gave up for the supposed love of her life. But her new job requires her nose, too, and her new boss, Jesse, doesn’t seem to notice that she cannot smell anything. They’re not creating perfume anyway — she can definitely do this, right?

I’ve always considered Kristin Billerbeck books as a comfort read ever since I read and liked her Ashley Stockingdale series years ago. It’s been years since I last read a Billerbeck book, but even so, it was easy enough for me to get immersed in the book. There’s a certain familiarity in the way she writes, in her characters and her stories that makes her books easy reading, hence the comfort read label. :)

The Scent of Rain has that Billerbeck formula — a girl who has some sort of romantic fiasco, a guy who’s all bad news for her and a guy who’s obviously good for her. Then there’s the supporting cast: the best friend, the family (who, more often than not, cares for the main character in a really strange way), and the church group who will help her get back on track. And there’s the villain, who we all hate, but we will eventually understand, because of something that will happen. This book has all the common ingredients in a nice and clean chick lit novel, with the bonus factor of the main character’s job, a perfume specialist. I really liked the scent aspect of the book, and it gave me a whole new perspective with how to scents work with our senses. And I agree — scents can bring memories! I remember holding on to a perfume bottle for so long because it reminded me of this particular memorable event in my life. :)

It’s a very enjoyable read, and I found myself rooting for Daphne and wishing that Jesse would finally make that step to move their relationship forward. I liked the set-up, though, and their relationship seemed very organic despite the short time they spent. There was just the right swoon, too, but not too much that it’s too cheesy. It was fun, but not mindless and it’s clean but not too prudish.

I think my only complaint is that certain event in the end that brought about the big changes — it felt a little too convenient despite it being a bit surprising, bordering on being a deus ex machina. But other than that, I really enjoyed reading The Scent of RainIt’s not super duper amazing, but it’s good, and it makes me want to start looking for my own personal scent.

Reading this book makes me want to revisit the Ashley Stockingdale series to see if I still like it as much as I did on my first (and second) reads. Hmm.

Rating:

Other reviews:
Wall to Wall Books

Smitten

SmittenSmitten by Kristin Billerbeck, Colleen Coble, Diann Hunt and Denise Hunter
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Number of pages: 432
My copy: ebook review copy from Netgalley

Welcome to Smitten, Vermont. With the help of four friends, it’s about to become the most romantic town in America. The proposed closing of the lumber mill comes as unwelcome news for the citizens of Smitten. How will the town survive without its main employer? A close-knit group of women think they’ll be smitten too.

* * *

In a town called Smitten, their main source of income is their lumber mill. With the lumber mill comes the men, who’s used to providing for their families, content with the life of being men despite the fact that their town had a very…well, feminine name. What happens then, when the town’s only source of income closes? The women come to the rescue, of course. Taking advantage of the town’s name, a group of friends planned to turn their town into a romantic tourist spot. Armed with lots of ideas and a whole lot of faith, Natalie, Julia, Shelby and Reese work with the rest of the town to and pray that their ideas would take off and put Smitten on the map — and maybe, along the way, they would find someone to be smitten too as well.

I love short stories and anthologies for the simple fact that they’re so easy to read and digest. I got Smitten from Netgalley because of that, followed by the fact that one of the authors in this book, Kristin BIllerbeck, is a favorite. I was in the mood for a cozy romance last month (being February and all) while I was in the middle of some (sort of gross) zombie books, so I picked up Smitten ready to be, well, smitten. Interestingly, the authors of this book are all friends with each other in real life, and they even had a note at the start of the book to share their story of their friendship. Like I said, the only author I have read there is Kristin Billerbeck, so I was looking forward to reading what she wrote there, and I was also curious with how the other authors write. Maybe this would convince me to get some of their books too.

The best thing about this book IMHO is the setting. The town of Smitten came alive to me from the first page, and I was rooting for the girls’ ideas to come to fruition in the town. Smitten seemed like such a picturesque town that needed some feminine touch, and I looked forward to reading how the town improved towards the romantic direction in each story. It may seem a little too much of a perfect town at some point, and maybe if I thought of it a little further as a too nice town it would be a bit creepy. But I want to be there, and I want to spend some time in their town even if I wasn’t a part of a couple.

The stories were pretty entertaining, too, although I can’t say I liked all of them. This is a collection of stories but I realized that it’s not really an anthology because the stories are all connected to each other and you can’t read the next without reading the one that precedes that because you’d get spoiled. Think of it as a series of spin-offs in a book. The thing with short romance stories, though, is they don’t have as much time to develop the romantic relationship from the ground up. By this, I mean, the stories can’t really start from the two characters getting to know each other for the first time and then their relationship developing from something because it would need a longer length to make the relationship feel more realistic to avoid the risk of it being another insta-love story. Unless of course that is the real intention. But anyway, with this in mind, the love stories in Smitten were all about the girls and their old time friends or old acquaintances in the town that they never really paid attention to, or have pined for but has been unrequited for some time until this. To be perfectly honest I had a hard time adjusting to that because I was used to reading full-length novels with the romance starting from the very start. The idea of old-time friends suddenly turning into lovers took some time getting used to1. But once I got used to it, I got all the nice tingles when the stories developed.

But as nice it was for the romantic relationships to start from friendships in Smitten, I felt that the shortness of the stories kind of hindered the book from delivering a bigger “oomph”. For some stories, I was just getting used to the two characters dancing around each other and (wholesomely) flirting when suddenly, they’re on their first date or someone’s confessing their love or someone is stealing a kiss from someone. Before I got used to that, the couples are fighting, or having an argument or dealing with old issues. The only story that didn’t feel too abrupt at some point was the last (my favorite among the four), and it even had some kind of foreshadowing from the previous story, which made it exciting for me because it felt like a spin-off (and you know how I love spin-offs). I’m sure the word count limit is an important factor and it’s one of the things that made the stories so and we can’t really do anything about it as a reader. I just really wish that the stories were just a little bit longer.

Despite those nitpicks, Smitten is still a pretty good book. It was exactly what I expected it to be: a nice and cozy, fluffy, romantic read. Granted, there could have been more swoony moments, but overall, it’s a nice (and clean!) book about romance and faith. My favorite story is Reese’s, but like I said up there, don’t skip the stories! Reading the first three makes Reese’s story the most satisfying of them all. :)

Rating:

Other reviews:
Vic’s Media Room
These Pretty Words
Reading in Winter

  1. You know this just shows how I think of the friend zone, LOL. But let’s not talk about that here. []

A Billion Reasons Why

A Billion Reasons Why by Kristin BillerbeckA Billion Reasons Why by Kristin Billerbeck
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Number of pages: 308
My copy: paperback, review copy from Booksneeze

He’s a handsome billionaire. She’s not impressed.

Katie McKenna has never loved any man but one: billionaire Luc DeForges. He was her first love. But there are a billion reasons why she’s engaged instead to Dexter Hastings, a solid and stable man who wants the same things she does: marriage and a family but all of the things that she wants without the deep-seeded pain and fear of being abandoned that Luc brings.

Dexter and she have worked an arrangement that’s akin to faith without action, love without deeds — a dead faith. Going home to New Orleans to sing for her childhood friend’s wedding, Katie must search her heart to find out if any of her reasons for being with Dexter are stronger than love. Only when Katie steps fully into faith and jumps off the cliff of life into the arms of Luc does she understand the fullness of God’s grace.

* * *

Ah, marriage. And engagement. Two things that I never really thought much about up until my brother got married. Now it feels like everyone around me is getting engaged or married. How many old female high school friends have changed their surnames (or at least, added their husband’s surnames to their names? How many friends in high school and college have I seen change their status from “In a Relationship” to “Engaged”? Sometimes they take me totally by surprise, too, only because they seemed so timid and shy back when I know them and now they’re getting married and starting their own families. It doesn’t make me want to get married yet (well, maybe a teensy part of me wonders — just a small part, because hello, I don’t even have a boyfriend yet), but it makes me realize that maybe I am at that particular season of my life where everyone around me is getting married and I’m…not.

Talk about a chick lit novel.  I knew my life can be qualified as a chick lit novel.

That may be one of the reasons I decided to read Kristin Billerbeck’s newest novel for Valentine’s weekend. Kristin Billerbeck wrote the Ashley Stockingdale series, one of my favorite Christian novel series, and I was thrilled to be able to request a copy of her newest book, A Billion Reasons Why, from Booksneeze.

Katie McKenna has been burned. Badly. She loved Luc DeForges with all her heart eight years ago, but he rejected her publicly, causing her to run away to build herself up again, even going to California shortly after her father died. Katie has found a new life in California with her best friend, teaching special kids. She was also about to be engaged to Dexter Hastings, a simple and stable man who wants to settle down and have a family like she does — basically everything that Luc is not. However, in comes Luc again, now a multimillionaire and still with an oozing charisma that Katie could not resist, asking her to sing for his brother’s wedding.

Truth be told, this felt a little bit harder to read to me compared to Ashley Stockingdale. The Ashley novels read a lot like Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic series but with a geeky and Christian flavor. A Billion Reasons Why brought me into the world of New Orleans and 40’s music and movies, things that I am not too entirely familiar or fond with. This definitely had the author’s style, though — the over thinking heroine, the hot guy who knew the right words, the other, somewhat boring guy, the in-your-face best friend and the somewhat crazy mothers. I had a hard time following the story and though, because I was plunged right into the action from the start. I spent almost half of the book wondering what exactly Luc did that embarrassed Katie until it was finally revealed, and by then I felt like my attention has gone somewhere else, like reading about tattoo removal or something. It also felt that some characters were quite inconsistent with their affections, like Eileen, Katie’s best friend. She would rag on Luc then rag on Dexter, and she was really getting annoying at some point. Sometimes some of the characters felt a bit one-dimensional, particularly the one touted as the antagonist. It was an automatic dislike for the character from the very start. I think from the blurb alone, you know what’s going to happen and who Katie is going to choose, and it really didn’t give me much of a thrill when things unfolded in the book.

I wasn’t quite sure if I liked the book when I finished it because the entire story didn’t gel with me too much. I didn’t feel much of a deep connection with any of the characters, and the story, while cute and interesting, didn’t really give me too many “awww” or “aha” moments unlike the Ashley novels. Interestingly enough, I found that the book made much more sense a few days after I read it. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I think Luc’s pursuit of Katie is the point. She was almost content with being someone she had to learn to love eventually than with someone she was in love and has loved ever since. Luc pursued her relentlessly despite all the people against him, not because he was afraid of losing her but because he knew what he wanted her. That makes all the difference in the world. He loved Katie and he wanted Katie, and he would do anything just to win her heart all over again to make up for the past mistakes. I especially liked what Katie’s Mam told her, which is a pretty good advice for everyone, IMHO:

You know, Katie, you can plan so nothing goes wrong in life. But something will, and it won’t be what you expected to go wrong. So make sure you’re with someone who will help you bail the water out of the boat, not someone who will blame you for the hole. (p. 188)

And this:

Love isn’t safe. And whoever you love will hurt you. It’s part of the human experience. No one is perfect…people make mistakes. The secret is to focus on what they do right and decide what quirks you can live with. (p. 284)

Stability and good faith in a relationship is good, but without love, what’s the use? And I don’t think you can call it true love without the commitment and stability and faith.

A Billion Reasons Why isn’t my favorite novel from Kristin Billerbeck, but it’s a good book that talks about the complications of relationships and love and makes you think of your own convictions in that life aspect. It didn’t make me want to get married anytime soon (heh), but it does make me want to go and pick up all the other Billerbeck novels I’ve missed. :)

Rating:

Other reviews:
Steps
Creative Tree

Waiting on Wednesday: Perfectly Dateless by Kristin Billberbeck

Did you notice that I have two consecutive posts about two Noras? Now this is another post about another Kristin. How about that?

Waiting on Wednesday

Anyway, this is my first Waiting on Wednesday post! “Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill of Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating. My WoW entry for this week is:

Perfectly Dateless by Kristin Billerbeck

Perfectly Dateless by Kristin Billerbeck

Daisy Crispin has 242 days to find the right date for the prom. There’s only one problem–her parents won’t let her date or even talk to a guy on the phone. Oh, and she’s totally invisible at school, has to wear lame homemade clothes, and has no social skills. Okay, so maybe there’s more than one problem. Can she talk her parents into letting her go to the prom? Or will they succeed at their obvious attempt to completely ruin her life? With hilarious and truthful writing, Kristin Billerbeck uncovers the small–and large–mortifications that teen girls encounter. Readers will fall in love with Daisy’s sharp wit and resourcefulness as she navigates the world of boys, fashion, family, and friendship.

Kristin Billerbeck is one of my favorite Christian chick-lit authors — God knows how much I loved her Ashley Stockingdale series. :P I saw this book while I was doing my Amazon shopping over the weekend (more to that on a later post, when my books get here), and I thought it was already released, but alas. I have to wait until July 1. I hope my dad comes home around that time too, so I can have this ordered. :D