Genre: Christian Christmas Contemporary Romance and Southern Fiction
Release date: November 8, 2022
This year, Annalee has more ugly to deal with than you can find at a Christmas sweater party.
After eighteen years of living in the shadow of danger, shame, and regret, preschool teacher Annalee Prichard just wants to keep life safe and simple. It’s worked so far, but her best friend has other ideas and guilts Annalee into helping with a Christmas charity event. When the event’s entertainment backs out, it’s up to Annalee to convince her high school crush, Nick Daniels, to step up and step into the gig.
Nick Daniels has never been accused of having but one oar in the water, and he learned the hard way that pride truly does come before a fall. He sacrificed everything to achieve the fame he desired above all else. But after hitting rock bottom, he returned home to Bedford County, clinging to a mustard-seed-sized faith.
That’s when homely Annalee Pritchard shows up, convinced he’ll be willing to flirt with fame once again—all in the name of Christian charity.
Nick’s friendship has Annalee grinning like a fool. Could there be more to life than shame and shadows? Could this be her most blessed Christmas ever?
Little does Annalee know that her fearsome past is about to rear its ugly and perilous head and drag her and Nick down together.
I highly recommend These Simple Gifts by Jennifer Sienes, especially if you have been reading her other books from the Bedford County Series. This Novella is part of that series.
This was the third book by the author that I enjoyed. As with all of her books, Jennifer can tell a fantastic story that keeps you holding on to every word.
The story begins with Annalee Prichard, who operates a local preschool. Her best friend, Jacey, informs her that the upcoming Christmas charity event has an issue. In a nutshell, Jacey is planning the event but has no backup entertainment lined up. Annalee is on the hook to ask Nick Daniels, her high school crush, if he would headline the charity event. Nick wasn’t exactly known as the giving type. Nick sacrificed everything to achieve fame as a musician. But after hitting rock bottom, he returned home to Bedford County, clinging to a mustard-seed-sized faith. With newfound lessons learned, Nick is not willing to entertain.
The story gets interesting when Annalee and Nick get reacquainted. However, I wondered if Nick would be enough to make Annalee feel safe when a threat from her past arrived to take revenge. The author did a fantastic job of letting the story unfold through the difficult turn of events.
Overall, I found the book to be a worthy read, filled with examples of forgiveness and redemption. I give These Simple Gifts 5 out of 5 stars.
Note: I reviewed a complimentary copy of this book, which I received through Celebrate Lit. I was not required to write a positive review nor compensated for sharing my thoughts.
About the Author
Jennifer Sienes holds a bachelor’s in psychology and a master’s in education, but discovered life-experience is the best teacher. She loves Jesus, romance and writing–and puts it altogether in inspirational contemporary fiction. Her daughter’s TBI and brother’s suicide inspired two of her three novels. Although fiction writing is her real love, she’s had several non-fiction pieces published in anthologies–two in Chicken Soup for the Soul. She has two grown children and one very spoiled Maltese. California born and raised, she recently took a step of faith with her real-life hero and relocated to Tennessee.
More from Jennifer
Who doesn’t love a good redemption story? The bad boy (or girl) gone good. My husband and I have recently started watching the television show Nashville. Yes, I’m aware it’s probably considered a prime-time soap opera, and it certainly wouldn’t come close to passing as “clean” television, but we were hooked from the very beginning. Why, you might be asking? First and foremost, the talent on this show is absolutely amazing. Take it from someone who can’t carry a tune to save her life, I am enamored with people who can sing like the actors in this show. The second reason we enjoy it is because it was basically filmed in our backyard. We live an hour south of Nashville, and it’s always a treat to recognize your own surroundings on television. I remember my mom was a big fan of The Streets of San Francisco back in the day, because she worked in this city and the scenery was familiar. I don’t think the fact it starred Michael Douglas hurt either.
How does this connect to a redemption story? One character in Nashville, named Avery Barkley, starts out as someone that’s hard to stomach. Self-centered, arrogant, and immature. He reminds me of Nick Daniels in These Simple Gifts and Night Songs. So much so, had I been watching the show before I wrote Night Songs, I would’ve believed that I based Nick off of Avery. However, that wasn’t the case.
And just like Avery in Nashville does a 180-degree (albeit slow) switch in his character, so it is for Nick Daniels in These Simple Gifts. Redemption is every bit as attractive to me as romance. I love that we are all just broken jars of clay that the Lord shapes for our good and His glory, if we’re sensitive enough (and broken enough) to recognize it.
I didn’t care much for Nick when I created him—and neither did my readers. More than one church lady-fans gave me an earful about how much they didn’t care for him. But if I know one thing it’s that no one is all good or all bad. We are a combination of our upbringing and choices (both right and wrong). And until we leave this earth, God isn’t done growing our character. I like to believe anyone can be redeemed given the right circumstances and a heart toward the Lord. Even Nick Daniels.
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