When I agreed to receive a complimentary copy of Splash! 9 Refreshing Romance Novellas Filled with Faith in exchange for my honest review, I had no idea what a great deal I was getting!!! This is nearly 1,000 pages of really quality writing – all of which is not only clean but spiritually uplifting. I had only heard of one or two of the authors before and so it also had the added benefit of introducing me to some new authors. I will be looking into the other books written by every single one of these authors because they each write well with a distinct voice and style and have a commitment to Jesus that shines through their books!
There really is so much to love about this collection. I love that the authors gave themselves “rules” as follows: Christian contemporary romance stories between 20,000 and 35,000 words in length, in summer, with water. Those parameters really helped to tie the collection together, and it’s really fun to see how each author’s creativity and writing style shone through when given such loose parameters. The novellas have a wide variety of settings in really cool places! I loved how the settings played a pretty major role in each book, and I felt like I got a world tour as a bonus with this collection as we visited Australia, Canada, Scotland, Alaska, Oregon (with a character pretending to be French so lots of French language and cultural references), Chincoteague, Virginia with its fascinating wild ponies, Savannah, Georgia, and finally Zambia with a few scenes in England to boot! One of the novellas is even set in Missouri near my hometown so that was fun.
I highly recommend this collection of novellas. At 99 cents for now, it is such a good deal for so many great reads! Click here or on the picture below to buy it from Amazon. (affiliate links)
Here are descriptions from the authors along with just a few of my thoughts on each of the novellas. As they go on sale individually, I’ll add their book covers and my Amazon affiliate links to them here, but I really do highly recommend the collection. As you’ll see, the collection actually costs less than some of the individual books for now!
His Perfect Catch by Narelle Atkins (Australia)
A holiday romance isn’t part of the plan when Mia Radcliffe temporarily moves to Sapphire Bay and lives next door to Pete McCall, her secret crush from years ago. Pete prefers the simple life. Can Mia leave behind her big-city dreams and settle with Pete in the seaside town?
My review: While an enjoyable read, this was not a stand-out for me. Mia was pretty high maintenance which made it hard for me to like her. Pete was sweet though, especially putting up with her :), and it was a solid, sweet, clean, romantic read.
Sweet Serenade by Valerie Comer (Canada)
Carly and Reed thrive on the rush of running rapids in a canoe until they capsize in both river and romance. Will secrets from the past drown their future, or can this idyllic summer romance lead to a lifetime of sweet serenades?
My review: I always enjoy Valerie Comer’s Canadian settings. She does such a good job making the places come to life and making me want to be there! I also liked the characters of Carly and Reed. The message of the importance of sexual purity, while perhaps a little heavy-handed in this short read, is a very necessary one these days and I thought it was handled well.
More than Friends by Autumn Macarthur (Scotland)
When nurse Catriona asks for help with her Vacation Bible School for disabled children, she never imagines how much could go wrong on a simple seaside day out — or that the colleague she’s secretly loved for years might come to see her as more than his best friend’s little sister.
My review: This was a very sweet day at the beach in Scotland. It was fun to get to know Cat and Ally and learn their history as it was slowly revealed throughout the novella, and I really appreciated Cat’s journey of learning to receive grace. I loved the characters of the disabled children; I thought the author did a great job of showing how unique and precious each one was while not sugar-coating their challenges or those of their care-takers. This novella serves as a gentle encouragement to all of us to notice the needs of care-takers of disabled children and do what we can to give them a break or at least some encouragement. I was also totally intrigued by the concept of “messy church” and definitely want to learn more about it!
Love Flies In by Heidi McCahan (Alaska)
He’s a seaplane pilot determined to honor his convictions. She’s a kayak guide who mocked his faith for sport. One small lakeside cabin in Alaska can’t house them both.
My review: This was a very interesting novella in that the characters’ shared history lay in the experience of the female mocking the male for his faith in college. She has since come to faith but he doesn’t know that. The Alaskan setting adds much to their complex journey toward forgiveness, restoration, and finally, love, and I really enjoyed traveling it with them.
Testing the Waters by Lesley Ann McDaniel (Oregon)
After breaking up with her ultra-critical boyfriend, Teresa decides to reinvent herself. She meets a nice guy named Curt on the beach in Crescent Cove, Oregon, and tells him she’s Terése from Paris. Pretending to be someone else is fun until the unthinkable happens — she starts to fall for him.
My review: This one was a little less enjoyable for me as it was the hardest to believe. Novellas give such a short time for the characters to get to know one another (which is why so many of them rely on previous shared history), but in this one, the characters not only have no history, but the vast majority of their experience in the short story consists of her pretending to be someone else. I also had a hard time connecting with the depths of Teresa’s low self-esteem. What saved this novella for me was the secondary characters of the family that Teresa and Curt got to know and the fact that no commitments were made – just that they all (including the family) found out at the end that they live quite close to each other and could continue getting to know each other. Viewing this novella as the beginning of a story rather than a story in itself made it okay for me.
The Lifeguards, the Swim Team, and Frozen Custard by Carol Moncado (Missouri)
Lifeguard Alivia Collins looks forward to another summer on the guard stand at the Serenity Landing Aquatic Center. This year, she’s going to have to keep herself from falling for the cute, new guard — or realize it’s time to give love another chance.
My review: Neither the title nor the synopsis for this one impressed me, but it actually ended up being one of my favorites. I enjoyed the young adult feel as well as the first person narrative. I found the characters really engaging – I loved Alivia’s tender heart for children and the little girl she was a nanny for. And I loved the new life guard CJ – I really enjoyed the slow reveal of who he was and why he had really moved to town. And he was so sweet in the way he treated not only Alivia but also his sisters. I highly recommend this one!
Time and Tide by Lynette Sowell (Virginia)
When out-of-work fashion journalist Karyn Lewis uses the summer to regroup on the coast of Virginia, she plans to lie low at Pine Breezes campground. She doesn’t plan for her heart to be on a collision course with old friend Brodie Reed. They must decide if the past that looms between them will be too much for them to have a future together.
My review: The highlights of this one for me were the setting on Chincoteague Island, a place I’ve been fascinated with since reading Misty of Chincoteague as a little girl, and the slow reveal of the tragedy in the characters’ shared history. This was really well done. I didn’t connect as well with these characters, but I enjoyed the story nonetheless.
Draw You Near by Jan Thompson (Georgia)
Savannah artist Abilene Dupree keeps her personal life out of her commercial paintings except one. That one painting has now brought Londoner Lars Cargill back to the coastal town and into her art world. Can she hold him at bay before he invades her personal space and her heart?
My review: My favorite part of this story is how loveably quirky Lars is. He is truly unique and, as such, you never know quite what to expect from him. His obsession with a painting and thus its painter is actually pretty funny as are said painter Abilene’s reactions to him. I really enjoyed the interactions between these two, especially as they were just beginning to get to know each other. They were hilarious! I also love the unique church community introduced in this book. I hope to get to know many of these other characters in other books by this author!
Orphaned Hearts by Marion Ueckermann (Zambia)
His faith buried with his wife, Simon devotes himself to raising his daughter and orphan elephants. Lady Abigail postpones an arranged marriage, leaving England to teach the children of Africa. Will his past—or her future—keep their hearts orphaned?
My review: I loved this story, its characters, and its setting. My only complaint was that I wanted so much more! This story, in my opinion, had the potential to be a nice long novel so that we could really get to know not only the main characters better but also the kids in the orphanage, the workers at the elephant sanctuary, and even some of the main characters’ extended families. I wanted to go so much deeper into the emotional and spiritual journeys of the two main characters. I so hope that this writer writes a whole lot more books and that they are long, satisfying reads!
While I did really enjoy each of the novellas in this series, I have to be honest and say that the introvert in me finds it hard to invest in characters for the short length of a novella and then never see them again. It was especially hard for me reading through this collection quickly in order to review it on time. I felt like I’d just been to a week-long retreat of meeting new people every day that I’d never see again. I was so emotionally exhausted that my husband actually laughed at me! I had to read a long series with the same characters after that to recover – (I chose Robin Lee Hatcher’s Sisters of Bethlehem Springs Collection and really enjoyed it!)
Had I read this collection without a deadline, I would have stopped after each novella and gone to find out whether the author had any more books set in that world and especially where those characters recurred. I would have read those before moving on to the next novella. When I shared this with one of the authors, Valerie Comer, she told me the good news that quite a few of the Splash! stories are in series where there are or will be recurring characters. Here is what she shared with me:
- Narelle Atkins’ novella, His Perfect Catch, is a spin off of her novel Seaside Proposal.
- Carol Moncado’s characters from The Life Guards, the Swim Team, and Frozen Custard have been around before and will be again. (I found this to be particularly exciting since I found myself rather attached to these characters. When I looked at Carol Moncado’s other books, I couldn’t really tell which books would include these characters, but it looks like both of her existing series take place, at least in part, in the same town as this one. And when I looked, a couple of them were free for Kindle!)
- Autumn Macarthur’s characters in More Than Friends were minor characters in A Model Bride, book 3 of her Love in Store series. (I was excited to see that book 1, The Wedding List, is free for Kindle and books 2-4 are available for Kindle Unlimited subscribers! I’ll be reading this series very soon!)
- Heidi McCahan’s Love Flies In is related to her novel Unraveled.
- Jan Thompson’s Draw You Near will be recurring characters (7 novellas set there). (The first of these seven, Know You More, is already out, and I’m really excited to read the rest! It looks like they will be characters from that unique church community I mentioned! Yay! The Amazon page for Know You More, linked above, has a description of the plan for the whole series.)
So which of these novellas sounds the most interesting to you? Have you read any of these authors before? I’d love to hear your thoughts!