Smitten 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 to ((You know this just shows how I think of the friend zone, LOL. But let’s not talk about that here.)). 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. :)
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