Book Review | Stuck in Manistique by Dennis Cuesta

Book Description:

Near the midpoint of the Upper Peninsula, along a Lake Michigan bend of shore, is the town of Manistique, Michigan. Mark had never heard of Manistique before the death of his estranged aunt, but as sole beneficiary of Vivian’s estate, he travels there to settle her affairs. As Mark tours his aunt’s house for the first time, the doorbell rings.

Days after graduating medical school, Dr. Emily Davis drives north, struggling with her illicit rendezvous on Mackinac Island. She never makes it—on the highway near Manistique, her car collides with a deer, shattering the car’s windshield. Stranded for the night, Emily is directed to a nearby bed and breakfast.

Maybe it’s a heady reaction, the revelation that his aunt, an international aid doctor, ran a bed and breakfast in retirement. Or perhaps he plainly feels pity for the young, helpless doctor. Regardless, Mark decides to play host for one night, telling Emily that he’s merely stepping in temporarily while his aunt is away.

As a one-night stay turns into another and more guests arrive, the ersatz innkeeper steadily loses control of his story. And though Emily opens up to Mark, she has trouble explaining the middle-aged man who unexpectedly arrives at the doorstep looking for her.

Will these two strangers, holding on to unraveling secrets, remain in town long enough to discover the connection between them?

This was a pretty easy-to-read book. It started out with the perspective coming from Mark, the main character. He goes to Manistique (a place he’s never been) because he gets word that his aunt has died and when he gets there, he learns she has left him her inn. He didn’t have the best relationship with her, so he immediately feels guilty about staying and wants to meet with the lawyer to get things going to sell. Then all of a sudden, people start showing up, with previous bookings, unaware that Vivian has passed. He jumps into action and accommodates them, but doesn’t want to own a bed and breakfast.

Emily is someone who wouldn’t have even crossed paths with Mark unless she hit a deer, on her way to meet her doctor boyfriend on Mackinac Island. She tries to get out of seeing Dr. Bulcher, as she realizes that the relationship isn’t progressing as it should, and then ends up at the bed and breakfast. She hits it off with Mark, and after some exploring in the basement, she finds a book for Doctors without Borders, and begins reading.

Throughout the book, there are few characters. Most are townspeople trying to assist those who have come to Manistique and are stranded. Then, there are the ones staying at Mark’s bed and breakfast. He wants to get rid of the place and responsibility, but realizes that there might be a connection between him and Emily.

One thing I will have to admit, was that I was very appreciative of how he treated Emily throughout the book. He could’ve taken advantage of her, or been inappropriate at times, but he always held her in high regard, even when she would push his buttons, or when she would leave the inn because he was impossible to be around. I thought that was a highlight of the book. I enjoyed their personality conflicts, and how they grew to understand each other as they learned things about each other.

I think this is a great vacation read, for learning about small town characters, our internal struggles with grief and loss, admitting when we need help, and growing in relationship with others.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Celestial Eyes Press and Netgalley.  I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions expressed are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 ( “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review | The Key to Love by Betsy St. Amant

NEW RELEASE – 10/13/20!~!~!

Book Description:

The only thing Bri Duval loves more than baking petit fours is romance. So much so, she’s created her own version of the famous Parisian lovelock wall at her bakery in Story, Kansas. She never expects it to go viral–or for Trek Magazine to send travel writer Gerard Fortier to feature the bakery. He’s definitely handsome, but Bri has been holding out for a love story like the one her parents had, and that certainly will not include the love-scorned-and-therefore-love-scorning Gerard.

Just when it seems Bri’s bakery is poised for unprecedented success, a series of events threaten not just her business but the pedestal she’s kept her parents on all these years. Maybe Gerard is right about romance. Or maybe Bri’s recipe just needs to be tweaked.

Novelist Betsy St. Amant invites you to experience this sweet story of how love doesn’t always look the way we expect–and maybe that’s a good thing. 

Alright y’all, I love Hallmark movies – maybe because they’re safe, wholesome and predictable. Yes, they can be nauseating, or they can tell sweet stories of love found in the craziest places. Typically, I love the establishment of the characters, their revealed flaws, a conflict and the resolution which usually involves a perfect kiss. I felt like this book was following that format pretty clearly until I got to the last page. It ended up being a sweet relief from the norm, and that is why I highly suggest this book! Because Betsy St. Amant is one of my favorite authors, I was honored to help in the launch of this new book! It just released October 13, 2020! Grab your copy now!

The main character Bri, is a grieving young woman who is a total romantic – she thinks very highly of her deceased parents and their relationship. She works in her mom’s bakery in a small town and loves reminiscing about her parents’ devotion and love to each other, as she works alongside the two ladies who worked with her mom: Agnes and Mabel. There is silliness and inside jokes amongst the coworkers. The “love angels”, named for their matchmaking abilities, banter and lovingly pick on Bri. The baking team loves to make petit fours, macarons and delicious delectables that draw in the locals.

On the premises of the bakery, is a replica of the “Love Lock Wall” that had previously been torn down in Paris, France. For a quick history of this wall, read here:

So in the story, a travel writer comes to Story, Kansas to do a piece on the bakery and the love lock wall. He’s nothing like Bri would assume, but Gerard Fortier and her hit it off, develop feelings and keep running into each other in town. Of course there is a nemesis, Charles Richmond, a lawyer who wishes to purchase the bakery and Bri’s ex-boyfriend.

As Gerard and Bri collaborate on the magazine article, Charles keeps pursuing Mabel and Agnes with monetary offers to tear down the bakery and replace it with a commercial coffee place. Bri disagrees with selling, as she has such strong feelings on the bakery. It is one of the last things she has linking her to her mother.

Throughout the book, Gerard and Bri have many exchanges – some professional and some personal. Gerard seems to test everything there is in Bri, and his outlook of love is a complete polar opposite to hers. But in their exchanges, as frustrating as they can be sometimes, you notice the growth and inspiration effect that the one has on the other, and vice versa. They both learn from each other, and challenge each others’ beliefs. Where Gerard feels love is a waste of time, Bri thinks almost too highly of it, and crashes hard when some realizations about her parents shock her world. As a reader, you sense the imbalance.

What I loved most about the book, particularly when Bri finally saw things as they needed to be seen, was the faith element. There is a pastor who leaves a mark on Gerard, and the lesson that needs to be learned is clearly explained. Transformation takes place and the ending is sweet and realistic. I personally loved the conflict and tension of the story, because growth also takes place and REAL LOVE manifests.

Grab a cup of coffee (preferably a little bitter), a few macarons and a few hours of quiet and escape to Story, Kansas, where love still lives, as human as it is, and transforms even the hardest of hearts. A great read with a sense of completion at its end. I am appreciative of the opportunity to provide a non-biased review of this book.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Revell at the author’s request. I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions expressed are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 ( “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”