Romance

This page is for books that are defined by the relationship in the book. It could be contemporary, historical, paranormal, futuristic, fantasy, mystery, or anything else, but it is about the relationship between the main characters.

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Fortune Cookie Christmas by Jeanne Kern

Fiction, Short Novella, Romance, Holiday

5*****

Blurb: Haley can’t face Christmas. Her super-critical family hate her presents and her life. It’s her turn to prepare the holiday diner, but her apartment kitchen is too small for anything but toast. Which is the only think she knows how to cook. When her cookie fortune turns out to be an ad—Madam Zelda, Fortune Teller—she makes a desperate decision. Zach is the mastermind behind the ad. He and Zelda show Haley that a fortune cookie can be full of surprises, solutions, and love.

Thoughts: This was a short, fun novella with a touch of heat. Haley has issues with her family. A lot of issues. So she goes to a fortune teller to get help for the upcoming Christmas dinner she’s supposed to be hosting. Madam Zelda is a hoot and her nephew Zach is amazing. He’s someone to definitely have around for all things holiday! If I had anything negative to say (and I really don’t), it’s that this story was too short! I loved it and wanted more.

Recommendation: If you’re looking for a very quick, fun, slightly warm holiday read, pick this one up. And pick up some of the other “Cookie” books from the publisher as well. You will not be disappointed.

Disclaimer: Thanks to the author for providing this book. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by anyone. I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”

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RED VELVET CRINKLES AN CHRISTMAS SPRINKLES by Maria Imbalzano

Fiction, Contemporary Sweet Romance, Novella, Holiday Theme

5*****

Blurb: Competitive, work-obsessed Bella Simonetti has just been fired from her high-paying job at a Manhattan law firm. At an all-time low, she returns home and helps her parents at their small-town gift shop, but the business is failing and may not make it past the Christmas holidays. Successful landscape architect Dean Jackson is like a son to Bella’s parents. But he’s a persistent annoyance to her—he seems to have forgotten his unforgivable blunder thirteen years earlier. When Bella transforms her parents’ gift shop into a cookie cottage, Dean’s generosity and magnetic smile are hard to resist, and those feelings of unrequited adolescent love come rushing back. But can Bella let go of the past and accept Dean for the man he is today?

Thoughts: I loved this story. It’s a sweet, contemporary romance that is a quick read (only 81 pages). Bella and Dean have a history—and not a good one. He hurt her years ago and she’s held the hurt for a long time. But when she returns home after losing her job, she can’t help but run into him. After all, he’s at her parents’ house almost every day and helps them out at their shop. Not only did Bella lose her job and apartment in New York City, but when she returned home, she discovered her parents’ business may be going under. So she puts her degree and experience in business and law to use and provides a possible way back. Which means also dealing with Dean.

Bella has a lot of life changes to deal with, not the least of which is Dean. She faces them head-on and comes out the other side. There is good growth for her character as well as the other characters. And a HEA ending that leaves you smiling.

This book is one of The Wild Rose Press’s “Christmas Cookie Series” – dozens of short novellas themed around the holidays and cookies.

Recommendation: I strongly suggest you pick this one (as well as any of the others) up and settle back with your favorite beverage and a supply of cookies. And enjoy. I know I did

Disclaimer: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”

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58903448THREE WIDOWS OF WYLDER by Julie Howard

Fiction, Historical Romance, Old West

4****

Blurb: After the death of her husband, Clara flees a hanging judge and seeks refuge with her brother in Wylder, Wyoming. With secrets of her own and good reasons to flee, spoiled and vain Mary Rose joins Clara on the trek to Wyoming. Surely a suitable man exists somewhere. Emma is a mystery. A crack shot and expert horsewoman, her harrowing past seeps out in a steady drip. She on the run from something, but what? After the three women descend on Wylder, a budding romance leads to exposure of their pasts. As disaster looms, will any of them escape?

Thoughts: This was an…interesting story. It concerns three women who meet up while on their way elsewhere. Clara, at 36 is the oldest of the three. She has been accused of killing her husband and is heading to Wyoming and the safety of her brother’s farm. On the way, she meets Mary Rose, a “society-type” woman who was recently widowed (for the third time) and who is looking to go to Colorado Springs and her mother. They meet up with Emma, young enough to be Clara’s daughter, who dresses, shoots, rides like a man. She’s on her way to Oregon along with two beautiful prize horses and a mule—and secrets of her own. All three have secrets but things have a way of coming out.

Of the three, I liked Emma the best and Mary Rose the least—but all three are well-drawn and believable—though I really would no like to meet Mary Rose in person!  Nor do I like how things turned out for her, but… the author left a tiny thread dangling so maybe we’ll see more of her and maybe she will get justice.

Whatever happens, this was an entertaining read with a good ending that (mostly) satisfied. I love how things turned out for Emma.

Recommendation: If you’d like a romance with a different kind of twist—not all hearts and flowers—give this one a look. It’s good writing, good story telling, and a good ending.

Disclaimer:  Disclosure of Material: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”

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38929783._sy475_PRINCE OF GRANOLA by L.A. Sartor

Fiction, Contemporary Romance

4****

Blurb: Cacao – long a symbol of wealth, love, and power – now the center of a powerful rivalry. The fabled Costa Rican Plantation of White Treasure, source of the rarest form of the cacao bean, is up for sale. Though two fierce competitors have been invited to bid on it, only one can win. For Drew Hopkins, purchasing the plantation is the perfect solution to escape a life she never wanted. For Robert Prince, it’s the perfect route to revenge. Drew, the founder’s daughter and now CEO of HH Chocolate, heads a company whose sales are waning. Robert, CEO of Prince Organics, a man driven by excellence, despises everything and everyone labeled Hopkins. But it wasn’t always that way. Will their forced proximity at the lush and exotic plantation rekindle old flames or will it fan the fires of antagonism? 

Thoughts: Take two serious rivals who used to be best friends, mix in a little chocolate, romance, and an exotic locale and you have an interesting book that grabs you from the beginning. It is obvious the author has done her research on how cacao is grown, harvested, and processed. But she doesn’t hit you over the head with the information. Instead, it is woven into the story in such as way as to make it interesting and melds well with the characters.

Drew and RP (Robert) have been at odds since Drew’s father fired Robert’s father from HH Chocolates. The rivalry between the two families is ugly and there doesn’t seem to be a way around it. Then both Drew and RP get an invitation to visit and bid on a Costa Rican cacao producing plantation. Drew knows she doesn’t have a chance since RPs pockets go much deeper than hers, but she has to try. Having the rare beans at her fingers could turn her failing business around. While in the jungles, things happen that throw the two competitors together. While they work through old feelings and hurts and face new issues, the characters learn a lot about themselves and each other. And there’s a HEA that leaves you smiling.

Recommendation: For a romance in a steamy jungle with all sorts of twists and turns and a HEA that satisfies, pick up Prince of Granola, grab a chocolate bar, and enjoy.

Disclaimer: Disclosure of Material: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”

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REDEEMED BY FIRE by CJ Bahr

Fiction, Contemporary Romantic Suspense

4****

Blurb: Cassanne Thomas returns to New Orleans to start her life over and becomes the target of a supernatural serial killer. Escaping her close call with death, Casi is the only witness to the crime and finds herself placed in protective custody by a handsome Cajun detective. But with her dark, troubled past, trusting the police is the last thing she wants to do. Detective Lucas Avery, the top homicide detective in NOLA, is unaware of the supernatural world surrounding him. With the killer stalking the streets, he vows to shield the beautiful, enigmatic Casi with his life while fighting his growing attraction to her. He’s been burned before. Danger chases Lucas and Casi from the streets of the French Quarter to the wilds of the bayou. Will they be able to stop a monster, straight out of a nightmare or become victims themselves?

Thoughts: New Orleans and the bayous, a supernatural villain, a hunky Cajun cop, and a troubled heroine. Oh, and a cat who seems to be more than a cat. What more could you ask for? Okay, one caveat – there is a note at the beginning that the story contains references to sexual abuse. That being said, there is a lot going on in this story. Casi is on the run from a supernatural serial killer, but she doesn’t trust cops. Casi was hoping for a new start in New Orleans, but what she gets is danger, not just from the killer, but from losing her heart to the handsome Detective Lucas Avery. As they go on the run, their attraction to each other grows, something neither one wants at the beginning.

The setting is intricately presented so you feel as if you are there. The characters are well-drawn and believable and the attraction between Casi and Lucas is excellent. And the ending is definitely satisfying.

Recommendation: If you’re looking for some romantic paranormal suspense, definitely pick this one up. You won’t be disappointed.

Disclaimer:

Disclosure of Material: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”

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58926800._sy475_COVERT EXPOSURE by Valerie J. Clarizio

Fiction, Romantic Suspense, Contemporary

3***

Blurb: Detective Spinelli’s life is tossed sideways when he is reassigned from the Homicide division to assist in the Child Services division of the Social Services Department for the holiday season. From the beginning, Spinelli and Caseworker Shannon O’Hara generate their own kind of fireworks, causing more than the normal workplace stress. They both have their own philosophies for dealing with the clientele. However, the forces of nature have their own plan for Spinelli and Shannon. Shannon moonlights as Santa Claus’ little helper at the mall, and when Santa and an elf turn up dead Shannon appears to be next on the killer’s list. Spinelli is placed back on homicide and goes undercover as Santa to help capture the killer. He catches a great deal of grief along the way but will he capture the heart of his little Santa’s helper as well?

Thoughts: Note: this book was first published in 2012 under the title “Cookies for Santa”. This is a contemporary romantic suspense, however, the relationship between Spinelli and Shannon is more lust-based than romantic. The two of them hate each other on sight and the animosity continues throughout with Shannon angry almost all the time. Spinelli is too – but his anger is interspersed with lust. An no, not romance. Just lust. Though there are spots where he admires her care for others, mostly we’re treated to his thoughts on her long legs, especially in short dresses, her shape, her green eyes, etc. There’s no real character development on Shannon’s part. Spinelli does grow a little and we are given some of his backstory, but nothing on Shannon. The times when they go to a home to determine foster care are realistic and well-written. And absolutely hilarious when Spinelli is playing Santa – especially the part where the kid pees on him! As far as the mystery goes, there is absolutely no doubt who the bad guys is from the outset. Yes, Shannon may be a target, but so could any of the other elves, and even Spinelli. The story itself isn’t awful. And there’s definitely conflict between Spinelli and Shannon. But the book needs some serious editing by someone who understands the rules for capitalization, tense mixups, POV hops, and more.

Recommendations: If you don’t mind editorial issues, hot lust, and are just looking for an interesting story to kill a couple hours, pick this up.

Disclaimer: Disclosure of Material: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”

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CRAVING VENGEANCE by Valerie J. Clarizio

Fiction, Contemporary Romantic Suspense,

3***

Blurb: Nick Spinelli’s normal life as a homicide detective has been catapulted into a whirlwind of chaotic holiday adventures ever since he met the beautiful Shannon O’Hara. Nick had hoped to spend his first Valentine’s Day with Shannon in a traditional manner, starting with a nice dinner out on the town and then perhaps a long warm adventurous night in her arms. His plans quickly change when cupid is found murdered in a back alley. The investigation becomes more and more inconceivable, as Spinelli discovers that Shannon is linked to the victim. When another cupid turns up dead, and it is discovered that Shannon knows him as well, Spinelli is motivated to go undercover as a singing valentine dressed as cupid, complete with wings and a quiver of arrows. How many other cupids are at risk? Is Spinelli on the killer’s list as well? The stress ignited by the day’s events causes sparks to fly between Spinelli and Shannon as he struggles to piece it all together and stop the string of slayings.

Thoughts: This book takes place two months after the first one “Covert Exposure” with our couple—Nick Spinelli and Shannon O’Hara—much closer together than before. Like the first one, this is also a reprint of an earlier version (originally published in 2013). Also, like the first one, there were editorial issues I could not discount which somewhat spoiled the read for me.

The first book took place at Christmas and now we’re on to Valentine’s Day with Cupids being murdered. Again, it’s pretty obvious who the murderer is, but not the why until later. So once again, Nick goes undercover—this time as Cupid—in order to discover who is targeting the Cupids, especially since Shannon dated them at one time or another. There are a few red herrings thrown in and the conclusion didn’t work well for me. But there is a happily ever after for Nick and Shannon so that part was good. The team Spinelli works with is a good one with different strengths for each member.

The characters grow a little more in this story, but not a lot. There’s still a lot more lust than romance per se—definitely not a book for the under 18 crowd. But for a short read, it’s not bad.

Recommendation: If you liked the first one, you’ll enjoy this one. And even if you haven’t read the first one, you’ll get enough of a background in this one so you know the characters and what’s going on.

Disclaimer: Disclosure of Material: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”

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UNEXPECTED by Jana Richards

Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Sweet

4****

Blurb: Single dad Ben Greyson wants only one thing – to retain custody of his two stepdaughters. A dysfunctional childhood has made family the most important thing in his life. When his late wife’s parents sue for custody, a desperate Ben is left with two choices – run away with his girls or marry his next-door neighbor. Jamie Garven wants only one thing – to be a mother. She’s intrigued by her handsome new neighbor and falls in love with his little girls. Then disaster strikes and Ben is faced with losing his children. Despite the prospect of another loveless marriage, Jamie agrees to marry him for a chance at motherhood. They’re determined to show the world, and the girls’ grandparents, two loving parents. Their marriage of convenience turns into unexpected love. But when Ben interprets Jamie’s efforts to save their family as a betrayal, they could lose everything, including each other. 

Thoughts: My feelings about this book were… “unexpected”. I enjoyed it, and yet, at times, it was disturbing. There is a lot of distrust going on in this story – almost too much sometimes. Ben is completely clueless when it comes to trusting people. I could understand his not wanting to give up his girls. That’s a given, but his constant harping on not letting the grandparents have anything to do with the girls was obsessive—and not in a good way. He forbids Jamie from letting the grands see or speak to the girls—which she does anyway. And that causes even more problems when he finds out. Yes, she was dishonest, but… it was on the internet, not in person. And Ben blew it completely out of proportion. Trust was definitely an issue. Along with past history on all counts, bad parents, PTSD, Lupus, alcoholism, and more. It was almost as if the author threw everything she could think of into a hat and pulled them out at random to throw into the story.

That being said, it is a decent story with a satisfying ending that will leave you smiling. Recommended with the caveat that there are a lot of issues in this story that may bother some readers.

Disclaimer: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”

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HOMETOWN by Wendy Stetson

Fiction, Contemporary Romance

4****

Blurb: When Tessa’s big-city plans take the A Train to disaster, she lands in her sleepy hometown, smack in the middle of the most unlikely love triangle ever to hit Pennsylvania’s Amish Country. Hot-shot Dr. Richard Bruce is bound to Green Ridge by loyalty that runs deep. Deeper still is Jonas Rishel’s tie to the land and his family’s Amish community. Behind the wheel of a 1979 camper van, Tessa idles at a fork in the road. Will she cruise the superhighway to the future? Or take a slow trot to the past and a mysterious society she never dreamed she’d glimpse from the inside?

Thoughts: Tessa Meadows is out of a job when her college closes down so, of course, she goes home to Green Ridge, PA to housesit for her parents while they are away. She spends the summer planting flower gardens and trying to figure out what’s next for her. She’d planned on moving to New York City, but that got derailed when her best friend and roommate moves in with her boyfriend. Plus, a trip to NYC shows Tessa that the big city is definitely not where she wants to be. Back home, she heads to the farmers market for her favorite treat of whoopie pies where she meets Jonas, an Amish carpenter who is too good looking (and his dour sister and adorable niece). She has the idea him building a unique gazebo for her parents, thus putting them together for weeks at a time.

While her admiration for the quiet carpenter grows, she’s also thrown together with Dr. Richard Bruce. The handsome doctor woos her and captures her interest, but there’s something about Jonas.

Torn between the two men, things come to a head and Tessa has to make the decision of her life.

The surprise ending is a definite plus.

This is a sweet romance that is true to the roots of life in central Pennsylvania. Amish and English (anyone not Amish) are often close in area, but not in lifestyle. The back roads and markets are true to the area. The differences between Jonas and Richard paint an accurate picture of the differences between the two cultures.

Red flags: Tessa’s relationship with Richard threw up several red flags for me as he was doing things abusers would do. Things like not letting her order what she wanted, making all the decisions… I’m glad the author made Tessa nervous about things like this and ultimately turned Tessa away from Richard.

Recommendation: This is a sweet romance with a surprise ending that satisfies. Recommended.

Disclaimer: Disclosure of Material: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”

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ORANGE CREAM DREAMS AND MURDEROUS SCHEMES by DM Grant

Fiction, Contemporary romance/mystery novella

3***

Blurb: Callie Clark’s ice cream shack on Chocolate Lake is finally up and ready for business, but a murder and an ominous warning throws her into a decades-old treasure hunt with the brooding groundskeeper who can’t seem to keep his hands to himself. Dean Lowry can’t stand Callie’s spoiled superiority complex, but that doesn’t stop him from admiring her outrageous bikinis from afar. When the promise of a killer’s return threatens the woman he loves to hate, the tug of war between heart and mind begins. Can they put their differences aside, or will status and small-town secrets tear them apart?

Thoughts: Note: this is a short book of only 98 pages so there’s not a lot of room to get into a complicated plot. I had trouble getting into this book. I’m not sure why. Maybe the style? I didn’t buy the instant love between Callie and Dean when they hated each other so much. If they hate each other so much, why jump into bed so fast? Callie is a rich girl who wants to prove that she can do things on her own, but her ice cream shop gets shut down after just a few days due to the murders. And the murderer was obvious to me so no real mystery there.

What I liked: the imagery is nicely done. And I liked the characters even if their relationship didn’t work for me. And there’s a good HEA ending that satisfies.

What I didn’t like: When Callie is hurt by the killer and is unconscious, why didn’t the family call an ambulance? Yes, a doctor eventually shows up, but it really bothered me that they didn’t do more than that.

Recommendation: It’s a decent story. It just didn’t work for me. But it had a good ending that satisfied. You might love it. And it’s short, so why not give it a try?

Disclaimer: Thanks to Netgalley and The Wild Rose Press for providing this story. Disclosure of Material: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”

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LOVE, DEATH, AND THE ART OF COOKING by Linda Griffin

Fiction, contemporary romance

3***

Blurb: Software engineer Reid Lucas loves to cook and has a history of falling in love with married women. When he leaves his complicated past in Chicago for a job in California, he runs into trouble and must call a virtual stranger to bail him out of jail. Alyssa Knight, a tough street cop waiting for a church annulment from her passive-aggressive husband, is the roommate of the woman Reid calls for help, and she reluctantly provides bail for Reid. He falls for her immediately, and cooking for her is an act of love. She just wants to be friends, but they keep ending up in bed together. When his boss is murdered, Reid is a suspect…or is he the intended target?

Thoughts: I wasn’t sure if this was supposed to be a mystery or a romance. It’s kind of a balanced intertwining of the two. The romance goes back and forth so many times, it was like watching a bad tennis match. “We need to be just friends” but “I agree, let’s have sex”. Reid actually comes across as a bit of a stalker to me. And the sudden “I love you” attraction just didn’t work for me. But… if you’re looking for a book with a ton of food? This is it! I got hungry just reading some of the foods he made – and wishing he lived near me! I’d pay him to cook for me. Yum.

What I liked: The foods. I can honestly say that was my favorite part of the book. And there is a satisfying “happily for now” ending that leaves you smiling. One thing I wish was that the author might have put a recipe or two at the end. I’d love to have one for that apple cider roast!

What I didn’t like: Reid. He just came across as too “stalkerish” for me. He actually gave me the creeps at times.

Recommendation: If you love books with a lot of food references, a bit of suspense, a bit of romance, pick this one up. It’s not a bad story – it just didn’t grab me and that’s okay. You may love it.

Disclaimer: Thank you to Netgalley for providing this book. Disclosure of Material: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”

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DON’T MIND ME, I CAME WITH THE HOUSE by CJ Zahner

Fiction, contemporary romance, older heroine

4****

Blurb: Nikki Stone just wanted to be noticed. Recently divorced and juggling an accounting job with an after-five life as her kids’ maid, Nikki’s luck suddenly changes when a popular golf pro, Blake Andersen, falls in love with her. She’s offered a CFO position at work, her kids release the death-like grip they have on her life, and she spends weekends traveling the glamorous US golf circuit with Blake the Pro. But when female problems surface in her forty-seven-year-old body, she’s certain illness will dash her future. Then she gets the news. She’s not dying—she’s pregnant. Dumbfounded, demoralized, and determined not to force Blake into marriage, she vows to keep her pregnancy secret until he proposes. Her bungling efforts catapult her into online sensationalism. Careful what you wish for!

Thoughts: This is the first book by this author I’ve read – and I know I’ll be reading more. The star of the book, Nikki, is a mess to the point of disaster. And anyone who’s around her suffers whether friend, coworker, or enemy. She’s beyond emotional—lashing out at times, crying at others. She believes it’s hormones from menopause happening. When she finds out she’s pregnant at age 47, she starts screaming at the doctor. She wrecks bikes, wedding rings, golf ball washers, relationships, and more. Her best friends tell her she has only two sides: “Mis and hap”. I had to laugh at that because it was so true to her character.

Her three kids come across as brats which she kind of brings on for herself as she allows them to treat her badly. But by the end, they come through for her which is nice. Her lack of self-confidence and self-respect is a bit over the top at times. She kind of reminds me of an old comedy-of-errors show. But, that being said, it was funny, emotional, sad… You want to kick Nikki into believing in herself, or hug her so she knows she’s loved. I felt for her—and recognized myself in some of her antics (unfortunately!).

What I liked: Nikki and her friends Evy, Val, Bennet. Blake’s not bad either. And the way he loves her and stands up for her… and passes out in the doctor’s office. Nicely done. I liked that she grows and changes by the end. And that the author had her boss willing to work with Nikki through all her issues. I also liked that the kids grew up by the end and turned into decent human beings.

What I didn’t like: After a while, Nikki’s self-deprecating nature got a little old, but it all worked out in the end.

Recommendation: Definitely recommended. Especially if you like your characters a little on the older side. Yes, the character is a bit too “I Love Lucy” at times, but it has such a good ending.

Disclaimer: Disclosure of Material: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”

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UNDERCOVER IN VENICE BEACH by Melody DuBois

Fiction, Contemporary Romance,

4****

Blurb: By trading places with her twin, Audrey Powell has the opportunity she’s always wanted, running her late mother’s teahouse. When she fails to create food that delights the palate, she hires Liam James–a sexy-as-sin Brit with a flair for cooking. He tries to seduce her with titillating dishes and his charm, but she’s vowed to steer clear of romance. Working undercover, Liam’s mission is to keep an eye on the teahouse. He poses as a chef to catch the traitor who is leaking UK security secrets. The last thing he wants to do is fall for a suspect, but when sparks fly, the romance starts to feel all too real. 

Thoughts: I found the book very confusing at first. I had trouble figuring out who was who and what was going on. Had I not been reading it for review, I might have put it aside for later. BUT… I’m glad I kept on because it got much better for me later on and the ending is definitely worth the wait. It’s a perfect HEA.

What I liked: The imagery. Especially at the end in the wilds of England. And the change in syntax with the local dialect. Nicely done. And the beach walk near the teahouse. I also found the anti-technology ideals of the teahouse interesting, especially with the problems it causes for them. I liked how the family dealt with the death of the mother (Audrey and Lucy) and the uncle who’s so against technology that he loses a publication deal because he won’t go ebook. The characters are well-done and almost believable. There were a few quirks that had me cringing just a little, but overall likeable.

What I didn’t like: I got really confused with the twin swapping thing. Who was Audrey and who was Lucy and what the heck were they trying to do besides confuse everyone? And if Liam is this superspy, how did he not figure it out? Plot-wise, the only thing I wondered about was toward the end when the tape reveals that there is a spy who’s getting secrets. Or is that all part of the uncle’s book? Like I said, I was confused.

Recommendation: Overall, I thought this was a fun, quirky romance with an interesting plot and good characters. The HEA ending is definitely worth the read. I’d read it again just for that aspect. Recommended.

Disclaimer: Disclosure of Material: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”

7/7/21

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CASTING HER CRUSH by M.C. Vaughn

Fiction, Contemporary Romance

4****

Blurb: Romance with a co-worker is a terrible idea…unless he was the star of your teenaged fantasies. As a teenager, MELINDA COLE underwent life-saving heart surgery. Ever since, the hyper-efficient stage manager has no patience for wasting time. She devotes herself to what matters most—her friends, her parents, and her job. Once upon a time, her boyfriend had a spot on that list. Then he broke up with her out of nowhere. So now? She’s diving deep into her work at Baltimore’s cutting-edge theater company, with an eye on becoming a director by next season. MAX CAMERON spent his teen years as the heartthrob star of the number one family sitcom in the U.S. But now, years after his wild child lifestyle ended, he’d be lucky to score a spot on bad reality television. To reinvigorate his career, Max and his cameraman buddy have cooked up an idea they hope will turn viral. At the height of his popularity, he’d visited his number one fan as part of the Grant-a-Wish program. Dropping in on her today would be ratings gold. Melinda has zero idea why Max Cameron, star of her teenage fantasies, has crashed her theater’s auditions. Or why he’s bearing flowers, a cameraman, and his trademark platinum smile. Before she can ask, the theater’s producer sees a stunt casting opportunity. Her boss cuts her a deal—if Melinda convinces Max to take the lead and coaches him to a Bard-worthy performance, then a directorship is hers. Challenge accepted, but she must keep her crush on lock. No one would take her seriously again if she fell for the leading man.

Thoughts: I enjoyed this story. It is the fourth (and final) book in the Charm City Romance series. Because of the subject (putting on the play Antony and Cleopatra), there was a lot of Shakespeare sprinkled throughout, which I enjoyed. The contrast between the formal Shakespearean language and contemporary speech was interesting—and I mean that in a good way. Melinda and Max were great characters. Their back-and-forth interplay made for good conflict and Max’s struggles to remain sober were well done, as were Melinda’s health issues. Though the ending seemed a bit rushed to me, it was a HEA that satisfied.

What I liked: The characters of Melinda and Max were well-done with lots of flaws that made them realistic. The interaction between them, the cast, Spencer, and the roommates came across well. And the way Max berated Spencer at the end, nicely done, especially with Spencer’s comeback to Max placing a lot of the blame on him.

What I didn’t like: There were a lot of editorial issues—typos, word misuse, etc. Enough that I started to wonder if this was a prepub that hadn’t been proofread yet. They definitely need to be fixed.

Recommendation: Once the editing issues are addressed, this will be a fine book and a good end to the series. It’s a nice romance with some heat and a decent (though somewhat rushed) ending. Still everything is tied up in a neat bow. I do recommend the story.

Disclosure of Material: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”

6/9/21

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SWORN TO FLY by Maria Imbalzano

Fiction, Contemporary Romance

3***

Blurb: Risk-averse ER nurse, Alyssa Beckman, is about to lose her job because of yet another bad decision. In order to put her life back on track, she books a week at a rustic mountain resort to ponder her next steps and rejuvenate. But when she arrives, she learns she’s enrolled in boot camp, an adventure program far out of her comfort zone. While there, she meets Gabriel Sutton, a world-travelling high fashion photographer who is in danger of losing his clients as well as his status if he doesn’t start following the rules. While hiking, kayak racing, and participating in team challenges, sparks fly between Alyssa and Gabe as they encourage each other to take different life paths. But will those paths lead them farther apart or bring them closer together?

Thoughts: I normally love this author’s works, but this one felt a little “off” to me. Still, I did enjoy it for the most part – and some parts had me chuckling, never a bad thing. So, what was off? The romance. Yes, there were some heated moments. Looking up at the stars was nice. I laughed at the picture the author painted of Alyssa getting dunked from her kayak and coming up covered in muck. And cringed in sympathy as she tried a yoga class after a mountain hike that had her sore. But there wasn’t much in the way of romance. The two are hot for each other, but Alyssa keeps putting Gabe off. I guess I can understand it after her last two relationships, but then she should walk away and not go back. It’s more a lust story than a love story for me. With Alyssa’s waffling, I’m surprised Gabe kept going forward with her. And the whole “I missed our date because of work” thing got old fast. Though it did give Alyssa the nudge to go forward on her own.

What I liked: In addition to the scenes above (the dunking, the classes, etc.), I enjoyed the scenery the author painted. I’d love to visit this camp myself!

What I didn’t like: See above, plus one thing I see in a lot of books. It’s pitch dark outside (night) and the two are noticing the color of each other’s eyes. You cannot see the color of one’s eyes in the dark. And maybe this is a peeve of mine, but it does irk me. Go out with someone else some dark night – little to no moonlight – and look into their eyes and tell me you can see the color.

Recommendation: For all its faults, this wasn’t a bad read. I actually enjoyed parts of it and the main characters did grow and change for the better, plus there was a HEA ending that satisfied. If you enjoy Maria Imbalzo’s books, pick this one up.

Disclaimer: Disclosure of Material: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”

6/3/21

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UNTIL by Beth Henderson

Fiction, Historical Romance (with mystery/suspense)

5*****

Blurb: When Talmadge Hammond drifts into the Idaho mining camp he has no intention of using his law degree. He’s there for whiskey and the gold he can win at cards. Instead, he must save the life of the woman who’d once vowed to love him until… Noletta Kittridge begins that day covered in a man’s blood and accused of murder. She has sinned to stay alive. Redemption can come only by giving her life to save the person who accidentally killed the man. Even Tal’s reappearance in her life can’t revive Letty’s will to live. Determined to keep her from the hangman’s noose, Tal must either convince her to tell who did kill the victim or solve the mystery himself. If he fails, he and Letty will finally reach that unvoiced destination beyond until…

Thoughts: There were a very few minor issues with this story, but that did not detract from my enjoyment of it. In the beginning, there was a quick POV jump that caught me off guard and later on, maybe a timeline issue (not completely sure about that one), but overall, this was a really good book. There is romance, suspense, a mystery that needs to be solved, action, and more. I didn’t even figure out who the killer was until the author announced it. Though I was pretty sure about who killed Kit. And I’m an avid mystery reader! In my defense, I was reading this for the romantic aspect, not the mystery, but still… It’s a good romance and a very good mystery.

What I liked: the characters! They are quirky—especially the mayor! Laughed at him. And didn’t see the twist coming. Nicely done. Tal is amazing the way he doesn’t let anything stand in his way, not even Letta/Pearl. He makes the sheriff do his job and not just railroad Letta/Pearl. Even the curmudgeonly sheriff was interesting. I loved that he eventually let the jail door open for Letta and even trusted her not to run away when he went out to help with the fire. The descriptions of the camp were well done, putting you in the dark jail cell or the smelly, dirty bars.

What I didn’t like: Very little.

Recommendation: highly recommended. This is a gripping, suspenseful historical with lots of suspects and several murders/thefts to tie up—which the author does very well. The ending is satisfying and leaves you cheering for Letta and Tal.

Disclaimer: Disclosure of Material: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”

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THE ROMANOV LEGACY by Marilyn Baron

Fiction, Contemporary Women’s Fiction

3***

Blurb: Melody, a young single mother, discovers she’s descended from the last Tsar, Nicholas II. She becomes the best hope of a secret global society, Guardians of the Romanov Legacy, dedicated to restoring a Romanov to the throne of a New Russia. A diary and an heirloom necklace inherited from her murdered grandmother hold the key to her identity and to the location of the Tsar’s lost shipment of gold. She must accept the sacrifices her birth demands and trust the machinations of the estranged father of her child. To refuse means turning her back on her heritage, her daughter’s legacy, and the long line of her family’s women who were keepers of the secret. Will her longing for true love have world-changing consequences?

 

Thoughts: This was an interesting story based on the historical accounts of the last tsar of Russia—the Romanov family. Because of the way the story unfolds, we are obviously on a different timeline than our reality—which is absolutely acceptable in fiction. It *could* have happened this way. While I found the premise intriguing, I had too many “what?” moments for me to rate this higher. For instance, at one point, Melody demands that her daughter Katya be moved to her room or she won’t cooperate. Nicolai agrees—but it never happens and she goes along with them anyway, thus giving up any semblance of credibility. Also, the initial trip to Italy, even though it’s short, why not insist Katya accompany them? It would have been a perfect time for the other faction to kidnap the baby and Melody should have thought of this. There were other instances like this.

What I liked: I loved the bits from the diary. That was the best part of the book for me.

What I didn’t like: Ever heard of birth control? There’s a lot of unwed pregnancy going on in this book. And the rabbi’s name – Slick – just didn’t work for me. The name just made me think sleezy and nasty, not a gentle, loving rabbi. Also the “instant attraction” just came on too strong for me. Lust, yes. Love? No. In fact, I didn’t buy any of the romance throughout the story (except for the diary). Even Nicolai. It seemed more obsessive than romantic. None of the romance worked for me, but the historical tie-ins were well done.

Recommendation: If you skip the romantic idea of the tale, there’s a decent story here. It’s based on true historical events which makes it interesting. I did enjoy most of the book, but there were just enough parts that had me shaking my head. Otherwise, it would have received a much higher rating.

Disclosure of Material: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”

5/24/21

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A STRICT LESSON by Eliza Quinn

Fiction, Erotic Contemporary

2**

Blurb: Rule #1: Never get involved with a student. Professor Patel Park knows better than to risk his career on a student. It was right there in the rules; rule number one, to be exact. So what if it was his own personal rule? But when Tatiana Edwards enters his classroom, he knows things are about to heat up. Because she’s attractive as can be and there’s a look in her eyes begging him to dominate her. Tatiana wants to seduce her anatomy professor. Tatiana isn’t happy about her unexpected move, but when she meets her new anatomy professor, she can’t stop thinking about him. She can’t stop imagining him taking control and taking her. Is he the kind of guy that’s into all the dark things she wants? Or is he as vanilla and boring as most of the guys that try to come on to her? There’s only one way to find out! 

Thoughts: Read the blurb and, except for the sex, you have the story. This is a very short (52 pages), very hot story with little substance. And no, I’m not against erotic stories. I used to edit for a publisher who specialized in erotic stories so I’ve pretty much read it all. But there still has to be some kind of plot to the story, even a short one.

What I liked: hmmm – okay, it caught my attention and kept me reading to see if there was more to the story, mostly because I was looking for reasons for the characters doing what they did.

What I didn’t like: The reason Tatiana stays with her father doesn’t show up until the last page—and suddenly, after just a couple sentences, he has an epiphany and turns his life around (and hers). Beyond that tiny bit, there’s really no story here. It’s more a vignette—a part of a larger—almost like a blurb in and of itself. There needs to be more “story” to the story.

Recommendation: If you’re looking for a short read to get you sweating, this will do it. But if you’re looking for good characters with decent backgrounds and an actual story, keep looking.

Disclaimer: Disclosure of Material: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”

 

5/24/21

 

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A RECKLESS HEART by Jennifer Wilck

Fiction, Contemporary Romance

4****

Blurb: Meg Thurgood, former society girl, took the blame for her friend and paid a steep price. Now all she wants is solitude and a chance to rebuild her life. She thinks she’s found that in an isolated house she rents from a mysterious stranger. Simon McAlter has hidden in his house on the coast of Maine since a fire left him scarred. A successful landscape architect who conducts his business and teaches his classes remotely, he’s lost his inspiration and is trying to pretend he’s not lonely. Simon’s new neighbor is more than he bargained for. When he learns Meg’s secret, will he retreat into the shadows or will he learn to see past the surface and trust in Meg’s love?

Thoughts: This is a take on the “Beauty and the Beast” story with Simon being the beast and Meg as Belle. Simon has been horribly scarred from a fire that killed his family and destroyed his home. Because of this, he has become a recluse. He lives in what would have been the former guest house of his family’s mansion and rents out the “keepers house” to single elderly people. Except Meg is definitely not elderly. But she is single. And she has a few scars of her own, though hers are on the inside. Having spent two years in jail for something she didn’t do, she’s trying to find peace somewhere and hoped that this small town was it. What she didn’t count on was falling for her landlord. Unfortunately, when the townspeople find out about her past, they’re not very forgiving.

And that’s where I started having problems. I can understand a few people having a problem with her when they find out about her past, but the entire town? And being so rude to her? And Simon thinks she’s reacting his scars since she yelps every time she sees him in the beginning. Hey, after the first one, I knew she was just reacting to him startling her. It’s what happens when someone sneaks up on you. She wasn’t afraid of him, she was just reacting to being startled.

I also didn’t like the way the townspeople treated Simon. He grew up in this town and his family was killed. You’d think they’d have a little more compassion than what was shown. But there was almost none beyond his best, and oldest friend, Claire. I get that he had emotional issues after the fire, but shouldn’t more than one person have cared?

Final thing… I understood the “gag order” placed on Meg—kind of. But it just really bothered me that everything could have been cleared up if she’d just trusted Simon and told him the truth from the beginning. Okay, so maybe she couldn’t have told him every little detail, but enough to let him know there were other things at work besides what he might hear. The whole setup just didn’t ring true for me. But I will say the bedroom scenes are well done and fit the story.

I won’t say I loved this book. But I did like it. I enjoyed the connection between Meg and Simon and especially the botanical rehab references and especially Simon’s friend, the “garden gnome” Jed.

Recommendation: This is a good book for a lazy-day read. There is a HEA ending that satisfies and it will tug at your emotions on every page. Did I love it? No. But I did enjoy it. And you will too.

Disclosure of Material: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”

5/10/21

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KEEPER OF THE GROVE by Juli D. Revezzo

Fiction, Romance, Paranormal

4****

Blurb: Unless Stacy Macken can stave off her creditors, she may lose her renowned history center. Yet she knows in her heart that the center is sacred and what a catastrophe losing it would be. How much of a catastrophe, she hasn’t a clue. Until Aaron Fielding arrives with his tales of magical guardians and the Tuatha dé Danann, sworn warriors from Celtic legend who protect humanity from a wicked enemy seeking their destruction. Is the end of the world imminent? What can she, a modern woman and her warrior lover, possibly have to offer when a long-prophesied druidic mythic battle explodes around them?

Thoughts: Combine a modern woman trying to save her history center and an ancient warrior and a looming battle… what’s not to like? Stacy Macken has been given a sacred duty to protect her land, which happens to be the site of the history center for her small town in Florida, but unless she can hold off her creditors, she may lose it – and losing it would mean losing the battle between good and evil. But she has help in the form of Aaron and the warriors and others with him who are just as determined as Stacy to save the land. What follows is a story that mixes Florida history, Celtic myths, and the age-old good vs. evil fight. There’s action, there’s romance, there’s mythology… there’s a lot going on in this book. It all creates a unique tale that, unfortunately for me, was a little slow at times. Especially in the beginning. But the ending is perfect and perfectly done. If you can get through the first bit and stick with it, you’ll enjoy the book.

Recommendations: If you find it a little slow, hang in there and keep reading. I promise, the ending will make it all worthwhile. There’s a HEA ending that satisfies and some twists that keep it interesting. Even though I had trouble getting into this in the beginning, I’ll definitely be looking for more in this series.

Disclaimer: I was sent this book in hopes of an honest review. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by anyone.

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IMMORTAL JUSTICE by Faith V. Smith

Fiction, Paranormal Romance

4****

Blurb: Immortal Executioners. Over a millennium ago, Highlander Darach MacRath was murdered. Resurrected by the Archangel Michael to fight demons as an Immortal Executioner, Darach now opposes all evil in the mortal world. His life is solitary—but when he rescues a young woman who not only sees demons but battles them herself, he is captivated by her courage and beauty. Abigail Dupree is not looking for love. But when a tall, dark demon fighter with a sexy brogue intervenes in her hunt, she’s fascinated. She should run away—but then his gentle yet sizzling touch ensnares her heart. When a demon from Darach’s past sets his sights on Abby, Darach will do anything to protect her—but for Abby, losing him would be worse than death. Together they must fight the demons of past and present, and the possibility that evil could destroy them both before they find the gift of love.

Thoughts: This story centers around Darach (an ancient Scot turned immortal to battle evil demons) and Abby (modern New Orleans woman with a stubborn streak), but my favorite character in the book was actually the Archangel Michael. I absolutely loved his little quotes and writings at the beginning of each chapter. And I absolutely loved the gifts he bestowed toward the end of the book. Can’t tell you what they were as that will give something away, but they were perfect. Sean, the half-demon/half-human NOLA cop was also an interesting character. And his constant bickering with Arianna—another immortal working for Michael—led me to believe there’s going to be a story for them in the future. I’d love to see where that one goes! Overall, the story was reminiscent of Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunter series, but not as hot (thank goodness!). Plus, the immortals in this one actually like Michael (and so do I). My favorite bit of Michael was when he was saying that archangels don’t cry while wiping his tears. Loved that.

Things I didn’t like: there were some minor editorial issues that caught me off guard. Some misspellings and POV switches. Minor, but they caught my eye. And the beginning. The rape/murder of Darach’s wife and the murder of the baby really put me off, but I continued on, and am glad I did.

Recommendation: If you’re looking for a paranormal romance with a HEA that satisfies and relatively low heat levels, definitely pick this one up. I enjoyed it and I’m sure you will too.

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Vicky 2/15/21

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PHENOMENAL IMPACT by Natalie J. Damschroder

Fiction, Action, Adventure, Science Fiction, Romance

5*****

Blurb: Oakley Commton has been cursed. After minor exposure to an unknown element mined from an asteroid, she’s suddenly aware of being a heroine in a Natalie J. Damschroder story. And she’s pissed. Learning you’re not in control of your own life would depress anyone. Plus, Damschroder writes romance, and Oakley can’t tell what trope she’s using. Friends to lovers? Alpha male? Forbidden love with the boss? The only saving grace is that when she’s assigned to a mission that could lead to her death—or worse—she knows the outcome will be success. Damschroder only writes happy endings. But she’s sure going to make it difficult to get there…

Thoughts: This was a phenomenal novella. The main character, Oakley, has been “infected” with a new element from outer space. One that some bad guys are trying to use as a weapon, so of course she has to stop them since she’s the only one the stuff won’t kill.


What I liked: I loved the world building and characters – done extremely well. And the quotes – from page 10 “Another little reminder that I am…” (not going to give you the spoiler), and several others. I just sat here and laughed at them. The author makes references to “The Princess Bride” and other favorite shows and movies.
What I didn’t like: Nothing unless you consider that it is a short story (61 pages). I wanted more! So I will definitely be ordering the next one!

Recommendation: for fun, adventure, lots of action and a little romance that has you going “awww”, definitely pick this one up!

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THROUGH THE VOID by Natalie J. Damschroder

Fiction, Science Fiction, Action, Adventure, Romance

Short story

5*****

Blurb: When Vix discovers the secret life that has led to her husband’s coma, the only thing she can do is make that life hers. It takes her into a world of unimaginable pain and astounding gratification for lives saved. Training to go battle an insidious enemy helps her process her grief and shock. When she goes on her first mission through the void, she finds not only a new self-purpose, but her lost husband, as well. She did the impossible once. Can she do it again, and bring him home? NOTE: This story was first published as part of The First Sentence Anthology. It has not been changed.

Thoughts: This is a short (42 pages), fast read full of action and romance. Vix’s husband Luke is in a coma from his last mission. He belongs to a group who go into the Void to kill off borers – things that are infecting the brains of people. Except he gets lost in the void. Vix joins the agency in order to get him back. This is a short story full of action, adventure, romance and has a HEA ending that satisfies.

Recommendations: I would definitely recommend this to anyone looking for science fiction, action, adventure, romance and a HEA that gives you that “awww” factor.

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A HEART FOR ALL TIME by Linda Tillis

Fiction, Time Travel Romance,

4****

Blurb: Sarah Haskins’ last family member died months ago, and since then she’s put in way too much overtime at her job as a 911 dispatcher. Looking forward to a much-needed vacation and some peace of mind, she has no way of knowing that buying a piece of antique Cherokee Indian jewelry will forever change her life. When Aaron Kramer wakes on a beautiful August morning in 1890, there is nothing to warn him he is going to be hanged that day—hanged and then saved from death by a very confused woman. Beautiful but not quite right in the head, poor thing, she thinks she’s from the future. While FBI Agent Frank Kramer investigates Sarah’s disappearance from the present, she must adjust to the farm life of a century earlier—and to the man who makes her skin tingle and her heart beat faster. If she returns to her own time, can she be happy there, longing for the only family she has left?

Thoughts: This was a light read with a sweet, somewhat religious, time-travel romance that takes us from 2016 to 1890 and back again. The way the author linked the past and present in the story was done well and I enjoyed the tie-in to the FBI agent who is investigating her disappearance. It reminded me vaguely of an old movie “The Two Worlds of Jennie Logan” or “The Love Letter” with characters of today interacting with ones from the past. In this one, Sarah is taken back due to an arrow-head necklace she finds in an antique shop and through the intervention of a Native American legend. In the past, she finds love and a family that she is willing to fight for. The characters were well-done and believable (especially Granny – loved her!) and the story is sweet. The only thing I didn’t like were the multiple POV (point of view) shifts. They were disconcerting to me and occasionally took me out of the story. Other than that, this was a good read.

Recommendation: If you don’t mind POV shifts, I would definitely pick this one up for a sweet time-travel romantic read that gives you a satisfying HEA ending.

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ORANGE BLOSSOMS—LOVE BLOOMS by Dalia Dupris

Fiction, Romance, Contemporary

3***

Blurb: Strong-willed Elaine Hart is determined to save Hartland Ranch, her family’s California orange groves. After the recent ending of a turbulent relationship, she vows to keep her professional and personal life separate, even though she’s attracted to the man who holds her family’s fate in the palm of his hands. Serious-minded banker, David Cole, has two goals- collecting on the delinquent ranch account and resisting his attraction to the unpredictable and beautiful Elaine Cole. When a series of circumstances brings them together, they must decide if they will continue to suppress their emotions or succumb to passion and take a chance on a forever love.

Thoughts: The first thought that comes to me with this book is that it is first person, present tense point of view with multiple viewpoints. Which was confusing. There were times when I wasn’t sure whose head I was in and it often took several paragraphs for me to figure that out. Yes, the author kept the POV separated by chapters, but it would have made things a lot easier had she headed each chapter with the name of the character leading that chapter.

Beyond that, it was a decent enough story, though I found the relationship between Elaine and David a bit unethical. His bank holds the note to her land and her loan is behind…and they get involved? That shouldn’t be happening. But putting that aside, the ending seemed a bit rushed to me as well. They love each other, but they hate each other? It seems like they’re always yelling at each other—or at least Elaine is. And suddenly… a proposal? It really didn’t work for me at all. They barely know each other, and both have had bad relationships, but now, it’s all good? And they take a twenty-minute drive to the groves so Elaine can explain her plan, but she doesn’t say a work the entire way there? Or back? Or the entire drive to the other town and at the strawberry festival? There were so many places where they could have just talked…and didn’t. Okay, what I did like: the characters were well developed. It was the relationship I didn’t buy, not the characters themselves.

Recommendation: It’s a nice, sweet story with lots of problems for the characters to overcome, but beware of the issues above. If you just want an entertaining romance, this is decent.

Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

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THE SUFFRAGETTE’S VOW by Linda Carroll Brad

Fiction, Historical Romance (late 1800s, Oregon)

Series: Keepers of the Light #8

4****

Blurb: Michael Hamlin has always been fascinated by the ocean but lived his whole life on a northern Oregon dairy farm. Following his father’s death, he assumed he’d run the dairy but his headstrong mother has other ideas. Two years of having his suggested changes to benefit the business ignored is bad enough. But when his mother and sisters start matchmaking attempts, he follows his passion, ending up in Spruce Hill on the Pacific Ocean coast as a lighthouse keeper. The chance to do something heroic is just what he needs, even if life on the ocean’s edge is a bit mundane…and lonely. Novice reporter Nadina Cutler is bent on proving her worth to the editor of The New Northwest, a suffragette newspaper. Her prominent Portland, Oregon, real estate family indulges her wish to pursue journalism but only until her upcoming twenty-second birthday. Unless she can prove her earnings amount to more than her trust fund income, she’s expected to return to Portland and marry to benefit the family’s social status. After interviewing the manager of a dairy farm, Nadina then travels to Spruce Hill to do a follow-up with the wayward son. But nothing goes right. Their personalities clash. Nadina pushes for answers and Michael clams up. He’s not interested in reconnecting with the family that rejected him and Nadina has to find a big story to secure her freedom. Then an ocean tragedy forces them to work together and they see each other in a new light. Will their temporary partnership grow into something more?

Thoughts: I find that I didn’t enjoy this one as much as I did the following one “Between Two Beaus” but it is an entertaining read. There is a lot of information concerning the differences between the Swedes and Norwegians as well as rich/worker. Nadina has no idea how to do anything beyond her privileged upbringing. She can’t cook, sew, clean… nothing. But she can write and that’s what she does, sending out stories to a suffragette newspaper about strong women. I didn’t understand the Mikael/Michael name change at first. I thought it was a typo, but the author went on to explain the change – which was interesting. In fact, she explained a lot of things that are unique to the background for Mikael. I loved all that information. But it did slow things down just a little.

Recommendation: For quick, clean, sweet reads, pick this series up. The imagery and characters are worth it.

Disclaimer: I received this from the author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by anyone.

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BETWEEN TWO BEAUS by Linda Carroll-Bradd

Fiction, Historical Romance (late 1800s, Oregon)

Series: Keepers of the Light #9

4****

Blurb: A visit to the coastal Oregon town where her brother is a lighthouse keeper opens Gala Pedersdotter to the wider world. So much so that she dreads returning to the family dairy farm in the eastern part of the state. She’d rather while away the summer on friendly outings in the company of two attentive loggers, Hal and Bork. Her secret wish is that roguish Hal will ask to court her. Instead, she’s surprised by Bork’s fervent request to act as his pretend fiancée during his parents’ upcoming week-long visit. Of course she agrees to help out this quiet man with his dilemma. When her decision threatens the balance among the friends, Gala is torn between Hal, who has suddenly shown interest, and fulfilling her promise to Bork.

Thoughts: This is a novella so a short, quick, clean read. I liked it better than the previous book (though that one was okay too). The scenery is very well done, the characters believable, and the world building excellent. I could almost see the lighthouse home and how perfectly Gala keeps the place running for her brother and his wife (and how perfectly inept Nadina is at running a home!). The beaus – Bork and Hal – are an interesting pair for Gala. But I honestly did not like Hal from the start so I wasn’t surprised when he turned out to be a cad. The fake engagement with Bork’s family is interesting – and hilarious. His mother is positively horrid! I just wish Bork would have stood up to her a little more, but it did make for an interesting conflict. I also loved how the author wove the differences between Swedes and Norwegians in- very interesting differences.

Recommendation: For quick, clean, sweet reads, pick this series up. The imagery and characters are worth it.

Disclaimer: I received this from the author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by anyone.

Vicky 1/21

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BISHOP TAKES KNIGHT by McKenna Dean

Fiction, Mystery, Historical (1955), Paranormal-romance, shifters

5*****

Blurb: A gutsy heroine, a reluctant hero, a cute dog… and three rival shifter gangs on the hunt for mysterious artifacts. What could go wrong? New York, 1955. Former socialite Henrietta (“Rhett”) Bishop, destitute after her father gambles away the family fortune, takes a job at Redclaw Security. But Redclaw is no ordinary operation. Part detective firm and part enforcement agency, Redclaw regulates matters involving the growing population of shifters who have emerged since the onset of the nuclear age. Peter Knight is a nuclear scientist shattered by the death of his wife. Blacklisted by the government and scientific organizations, he drowns his sorrows while searching for the people behind his wife’s murder. When Rhett is assigned to recruit Knight, their meeting is more than either bargained for—a rival organization will do anything to secure Knight for themselves. Following a lead to locate a missing cache of alien technology stolen from Redclaw, Rhett is thrown back into her previous glittering life with Knight as her pretend boyfriend. But when a dangerous person from the past turns up to start a bidding war on the artifacts, Bishop and Knight wind up in a fight for their very lives.

Thoughts: This is a rollicking fun read with a lot of suspense, intrigue, romance, and more. The main character, Rhett Bishop, is witty, quick-thinking, daring (maybe a little too much for her boss’s comfort!), and doesn’t take gruff from anyone. The back and forth between Bishop and Peter Knight is amazing. I haven’t enjoyed a book this much in a long time. Her best friend, Em, is a perfect background to compare what Bishop was at one time (a rich socialite) to who she is now—poor and determined. In some ways, Bishop reminded me of a combination of Peggy Carter (from the Avengers, Captain America) and Phryne Fisher (Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries) – she’s just that perfect. I couldn’t put the book down, it was just that good.

What I liked: I love that the shifters are varied – from wolves to bears, owls, and even a phoenix! I love the gadgets and especially the way some of them react to Bishop. And the way Knight keeps showing up to cook dinner for Bishop – perfect! And her boss, Ryder, is a very interesting character.

What I didn’t like: absolutely nothing!

Recommendation: Highly recommended. For a rollicking good read with mystery, intrigue, romance, and interesting gadgets and shapeshifters, this is one to buy. I’m definitely looking for more by this writer.

Disclaimer: ARC provided by the author in hopes of an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Vicky 12/20

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A SONG FOR ANOTHER DAY by Maria Imbalzano

Fiction, Contemporary Romance

5 Sparklers

Blurb: Gigi Jenson, an up-and-coming Broadway star, finds herself in Willow Springs, Vermont, for the summer as director of their first annual community revue. This sleepy town is worlds away from her vibrant and beloved New York City, but the experience she’ll gain will be invaluable to her career.
Jason Simmons has lived in Willow Springs his entire life. Working several jobs while writing music, he yearns for a contract to record his songs. The one chance he had to make it in Nashville he blew due to stage fright. When Jason volunteers to help Gigi with the revue, sparks ignite but their dreams are taking them in different directions. Could their love for each other guide them to the same path? 

Thoughts: I loved the imagery in this story, especially the beginning. Gigi is someone who wears upscale clothing and mile-high heels and when she arrives in Willow Springs, she gets splashed with muddy water and then her heel breaks. Not an auspicious start to her new job. There was also a line: “She stuck out in the crowd like a glittering star in a dark, moonless sky.” That line just resonated with me because it was so descriptive. This is a sweet, relatively short (100 pages or so) romance with a HEA ending that definitely satisfies. The characters are well-done and believable and their growth arc is perfect as is the plot. It’s a feel-good story that will leave  you smiling.

Recommendations: A definite “add to your library” story. This is a story you don’t want to miss.

Disclaimer: I received this story in hopes of an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Vicky 12/20

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JUSTIFIED MISFORTUNE by Lori Matthews

Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Western

4 Sparklers

Blurb: Hudson Riggs has returned to his family’s ranch after years spent traveling the world. The former Navy SEAL accepted a position as a Personal Security Specialist, a job that didn’t leave much free time. He never expected his visit to his hometown to turn into another job. His former High School flame has been arrested for murder, but Hudson’s gut instinct is she didn’t do it. All he has to do now is prove it. For Sunny Travers, being back in Canyon Springs is bittersweet. She desperately misses her life in California, but her grandmother needs her. Sunny’s world flips upside down when she’s arrested for killing the local hero. Now the citizens of Canyon Springs have turned against her and she’s forced to accept help from the man who broke her heart all those years ago. Hudson knows Sunny hasn’t forgiven him. Hell, he hasn’t forgiven himself for how he left things, but all his emotions take a back seat when someone tries to kill Sunny. Can Hudson protect Sunny long enough to apologize to her and right old wrongs or will the killer get to her first?

Thoughts: This is a “second chance” romance in that the main characters—Sunny and Hudson—were sweethearts in high school, then he left. And it’s up to him to keep her safe as the entire town turns against her. The chemistry between the two characters is well done and the things that happen to Sunny (food dumped on her, her car damaged, attacks, and more) are believable. Sunny wants nothing to do with Hudson because of their past, but he’s determined to make sure she’s safe from whoever is trying to kill her. The action is fast, and the growing passion between the two is believable. And I was kept guessing as to who the killer was until the very end. I hadn’t read any of this author’s books before, but you can be certain that I’m going to look for more.

What I liked: The back and forth between Hudson and Sunny. She wants nothing to do with him, but her grandmother wants her protected and he’s the one to do it. She’s stubborn, but so is he. Both of them knock heads more than once, but it all works out in the end. I also enjoyed the descriptions of the diner and the other characters. So much fun within the action.

What I didn’t like: very little. It’s a good book with good characters. There were a couple very minor typos – but that’s to be expected. Overall, the editing was well-done and the reading went very fast.

Recommendation: If you’re looking for romance with suspense and action, pick this one up. You won’t be disappointed. And I’m going to look for more by this author.

Disclaimer: I received this book in hopes of a review. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by anyone.

Vicky 12/20

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Christmas Cookies at the Cat Café by Kris Bock

Fiction, Sweet Romance, Contemporary

4 Sparklers

Blurb: Diane had a great marriage and a wonderful life raising two daughters and a grandson. Now she’s 53 and a widow. Her grown children are encouraging her to do less – but she wants more. Rick loved Diane in high school, but he traveled the world while she settled down with another man. Now he’s back, but not to stay. Rick temps Diane to quit her job, sell her house, and travel, but she can’t leave the family that might still need her. Diane tempts Rick to quit his wandering ways, but he can’t replace her husband. As the weeks pass from Thanksgiving to Christmas, the holiday season brings out complicated emotions. Can Diane and Rick find a way to make a new life together while holding onto the best parts of the past? They’ll need more than attraction and affection. They might even need a Christmas miracle.

Thoughts: This is the fifth book in the Furrever Friends series. I read this one first instead of the first one so didn’t have a lot of background, but that didn’t matter once I got into the story. Everything is there and you aren’t missing anything (though I do recommend reading the other four first, especially #1). This is a sweet romance between two older (50s) people who are starting over with their lives. Diane is two-years widowed with two grown daughters and a grandson. Rick is her old high school flame who has been traveling the world as a photographer who comes back home to help his mom a little. He’s not looking to settle down…until he meets up with Diane again. There is romance. There is melancholy. There is hope. Emotions run high in this story but it all works out with a satisfying HEA. It’s definitely a book to show you that dreams don’t die as we get older, just change…and maybe get better.

What I liked: The characters of Rick and Diane being older than your standard romance. It was sweet and something I could completely relate to. And having purring felines around is nice too.

What I didn’t like: Diane’s allergies. The author could completely have left this out and it would have worked, but since it was in the first, I guess it must continue. And yes, Diane is getting shots and takes meds, but having one of the daughters give her a cat as a gift when she has allergies? That part made me cringe.

Recommendations: I would definitely recommend this if you’re looking for a sweet, light romance with an older couple and purring cats. Actually, I’m going to recommend this entire series. They’re light, quick reads that leave you smiling and we all could use a little more of that.

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in hopes of a review. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by anyone.

Vicky 12/20

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COFFEE AND CRUSHES AT THE CAT CAFÉ by Kris Bock

Fiction, Romance, Sweet, Contemporary

4 Sparklers

Blurb: What do you do when you meet the guy of your dreams? Set him up with your sister, of course. Kari doesn’t have time for love when she’s opening her new cat café. Renovating an old restaurant, hiring employees, fighting with the health inspector – oh, and welcoming 16 shelter cats – keeps her plenty busy. She’s doing this for the cats, the community, and most of all her family. The café will give her sister, Marley, a job worthy of her baking skills. Then a tattooed military vet wanders in claiming to be a master baker himself. The café doesn’t need another baker, but maybe Marley needs a man. Surely she’ll fall for a guy this sweet, this sexy, this tasty. Colin has other ideas. It’s Kari who makes him want to pour on the sugar and turn up the heat. But he’s spent the last two years recovering from physical and psychological wounds. Is he really ready for a relationship? He’s not even sure he should commit to Samson, the fluffy marshmallow of a cat who steals his heart.

Thoughts: As the author says, this “Furrever Friends Sweet Romance series features the workers and customers at a small-town cat café, and the adorable cats and kittens looking for their forever homes.” And she’s right. It’s a sweet romance centered around a cat café where purring felines capture the characters’—and your—hearts. In this one, Kari is busy opening her café, but things keep going wrong—as often happens in opening a business. But she is determined to make this work for her family. What she doesn’t count on is falling for the guy she wants to set her sister up with. But it all works out to a HEA that satisfies. Though I have never been to a cat café, I have a friend who goes quite often and loves it.

What I liked: the cats! They have as much personality as the human characters and work perfectly with the story. I also loved that the mom is constantly dealing with her cat allergies. I’m not sure I would have put that in, but it does make for an interesting conundrum for her. The characters are real and believable. Kari with her Type A personality always needing to be in charge, Marley as the baker and single mom, their mother (with a cat allergy), and Colin—an ex-soldier injured in the Middle East, with PTSD and a missing leg. All of them come together to form a good group.

What I didn’t like: I didn’t realize this was the first book in the series and read it second so it seemed a little off for me. And that’s my fault. It’s a good story, though the ending seemed a little weak.

Recommendation: If you’re looking for a sweet romance that hits a bunch of tropes and gives you a HEA, and includes some purring felines as well, pick this one up. But be sure to read this one first as it gives you all the background you need for the other stories.

Disclaimer: I was provided this book by the author in hopes of a review. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by anyone.

 

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UNDERCOVER OUTLAW by Gini Rifkin

Fiction, Romance, Historical Western

4****

Blurb: Jesse is determined to track down the man who killed his brother in cold blood. Impersonating an outlaw, his quest for justice becomes a living, breathing, part of his soul. Trinity is heading to Denver to escape her vicious guardians. When her stagecoach is robbed, Jesse kidnaps her, and all her well-laid plans collide with his, leaving them both in danger. Trapped in Prairie Ridge by a flood, Jesse and Trinity’s feelings soon run as high and wild as the river. When Jesse is accused of murder, Trinity stands by his side, and they take on the town’s tyrannical leader. As the city cowers in fear, help comes from an unexpected source, but can it save Jesse from a hangman’s noose?

Thoughts: This is a standard historical western with a good guy, a sweet girl, bad guys, saloon girls, horse chases, and more. Where it goes beyond standard is what happens with all these characters. The story flows well from the beginning with conflict right off the bat as Trinity is kidnapped by Jesse and taken to the outlaw hideout. She is an orphan who grew up in an awful family and who had the guts to escape them and try to make it on her own (with the help of a friend). She lands in Prairie Ridge where she is befriended by Solomon, the local newsman (and friend of Jesse). She also befriends the saloon girls, teaching them to read and write, and they, in turn, help save her and Jesse.

What I liked: the characters! They are well-drawn and believable. I absolutely loved the girls and how they take care of things in their “unmentionables”. So much fun. And Trinity has some nerves as well, but… there were a couple places where things just happened to her rather than her taking care of them (not giving anything away). That was the only thing that kept this from being a 5 sparkler for me. Jesse is a good hero and the story flows well to a satisfying ending that leaves you smiling.

What I didn’t like: As mentioned above, there were just a couple small things that put it off for me, but they were minor as overall, the book was well done.

Recommendation: If you like historical westerns with gentleman heroes and sweet heroines who stand by their man, then this book is for you. A good romance, suspense, funny spots, and a HEA that satisfies all wrapped up in one well-written story.

Disclaimer: I received this book gratis in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by anyone.

Vicky 10/26/2020

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STROKE OF MIDNIGHT by K. Webster

Fiction, Romance, BDSM, High heat level

3***

Blurb: Money can buy anything. And anyone. As the head of the Constantine family, I’m used to people bowing to my will. Cruel, rigid, unyielding—I’m all those things. When I discover the one woman who doesn’t wither under my gaze, but instead smiles right back at me, I’m intrigued. Ash Elliott needs cash, and I make her trade in crudeness and degradation for it. I crave her tears, her moans, her submission. I pay for each one. And every time, she comes back for more. When she challenges me with an offer of her own, I have to decide if I’m willing to give her far more than cold hard cash. But love can have deadly consequences when it comes from a Constantine. At the stroke of midnight, that choice may be lost for both of us.

Thoughts: There’s a little romance, a lot of over-the-top heat, kink, a bit of BDSM, and more in this book. It is definitely not for someone looking for a sweet romance. But, that being said, it is well-written. I can’t say I liked the characters, but they were…interesting. As were the situations Ash finds herself in. I felt sorry for her, but she didn’t seem to have much backbone, especially when it came to her stepbrothers. However, I can understand that had she stood up for herself, things could have gone much worse for her. Constantine has no scruples at all, but he does protect Ash—which kind of makes him redeemable.

What I liked: Oddly enough, the bird. Ash has a pet bird that the brothers terrorize but Constantine accepts. I liked that Constantine protects Ash (or tries to). And I liked the one scene where Ash pays Constantine $500 back.

What I didn’t like: the ending. I absolutely hate books that stop in the middle of the story. This is definitely NOT a stand-alone book. It is continued in the next book—which I was not aware of. I was fully engulfed in the story, waiting to see how it all played out, and… it didn’t. I realize this is a marketing ploy used by publishers and some authors to get you to buy the next book, but this is one reader who will not be doing that. I don’t care how much I liked the book. And up to that point, I actually did like it, heat and all.

Recommendation: if you like kink, lots of graphic high heat, and don’t mind that this is not a complete book, get it. The writing is good and the story is intriguing (and yes, there is a story underneath all the sex).

Disclaimer: I received this book gratis in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and not influenced by anyone.

Vicky 10/26/2020

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AMBUSH IN THE EVERGLADES by Petie McCarty

Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Adventure

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Blurb: Stranded in the Everglades? Overnight? With only her unpredictable guide for protection? Kayli Heddon tumbles headlong into those dire straits when the governor sends her to the Everglades on a secret assignment. Trapped with nightfall approaching and no way back, Kayli learns some tough lessons from her sexy but volatile airboat guide: Trust means everything in the dangerous River of Grass, and a skilled partner makes all the difference in your survival. Skye Landers takes the airboat safari gig as a favor to his cousin who is called out of town. Skye doesn’t expect the governor’s photographer to catch his eye, but Kayli Heddon is unlike any woman he has ever met. He knows he should keep his distance, but common sense flies out the window whenever she gets near. Unfortunately, Kayli values honesty above all else, and placing her trust in Skye tests her resolve–especially when he turns out to be a fraud. When secrets from his past chase them into the Everglades, Kayli and Skye are soon on the run from more than just alligators.

Thoughts: I read this book really fast because it was a good read. If you ever wanted to know anything about the Everglades, this is also a good book to read. I learned more about the plants and animals of the Glades than I ever knew before. I loved Skye’s character. He’s stoic, strong, handsome…everything you want in a hero. Kayli on the other hand bothered me a little. Yes, she found the nerve to stay in the Glades with Skye and to go back, but she came across as a bit wishy-washy when it came to dealing with Brad. I did love the Uncle Wren bit, especially at the end.

What I liked: The “thing” with Uncle Wren (not saying what it is so I don’t give anything away). I loved Skye and his cousin Jimmy. They are both good characters. So is Sally. I also liked the Glades descriptions, but it did get a little heavy at times. As for Kayli… she had her good points and not so good. Why couldn’t she just tell Brad off and let everyone know he is *not* her boyfriend—including him? Yes, not telling him added conflict to the story, but it was weak conflict. Adding drug runners in ramped up the danger aspect of the tale. The ending was satisfying.

What I didn’t like: See above. A little too much detail on the flora and a simple discussion would have alleviated a lot of the issues (though it would have also killed the story).

Recommendation: Even with the few problems noted above, I did enjoy the story. If you enjoy action with your romance, definitely pick this one up.

Vicky 9/25/2020

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MOUNTAIN BLAZE by Debby Grahl

Fiction, Contemporary Romance

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Blurb: Rodeo star Dillon McCoy comes home to the mountains of North Carolina to lick his wounds and take over running the family ranch, the Lazy M, unaware danger awaits. Diana Thompson is having doubts about her engagement to Trent Sawyer. Needing time away, she agrees to leave Chapel Hill and spend Thanksgiving with her friend Jenn at her ranch. When Diana and Dillon meet, neither can deny their attraction, but both must resolve past relationships before giving in to their desire. Danger lurks after Dillon turns down an anonymous offer to purchase the ranch. And when a body is found, Dillon is determined to discover who wants the McCoy land bad enough to commit murder. Can he and Diana elude the killer while the sparks of their newfound love grow?

Thoughts: This is a contemporary romance with a touch of mystery added. Diana and Dillon are worlds apart in their backgrounds and experience, but if it’s true that opposites attract, then these two have it made. Diana is the only daughter of rich Philadelphia society parents. She’s engaged to the perfect man—Trent—but isn’t sure he’s the right one for her. Her best friend Jenn invites her home to the North Carolina mountains (near Asheville) for Thanksgiving so she can think about things. While there, in the midst of a big, rowdy family, she meets Dillon and the sparks fly. Unfortunately, he’s in the middle of a divorce. Diana knows she has to break it off with Trent—after all, she wouldn’t be lusting after another man if she was really in love with Trent, right? But the breakup doesn’t go well and Trent shows a violent side. Added to this, after he refuses to sell the ranch, someone is trying to kill Dillon. There’s a lot going on in this story. Maybe too much. It sometimes gets a little muddled as to who is trying to do what to whom.

What I liked: the characters are well done, and I’d love to visit this ranch. I’ve been to Asheville and it is beautiful country there. The emotional ties and conflicts between the characters are realistic. The resolution to all the subplots (Dillon and Diana’s exes, and the person(s) trying to buy the ranch and kill Dillon) are tied up nicely—though I will admit to being a little confused by the murder plot resolution. But the villain got taken care of, so…okay.

What I didn’t like: The violent scene between Diane and Trent was off-putting. That could be a big trigger for some people. And there was no warning or earlier indication of his violent tendencies, so it caught me completely off guard. I’d think Diana would have seen something before this. Also, as noted above, the resolution to the murder subplot seemed a little convoluted. There was a lot going on—and it did get solved, but it was a tad confusing to the point where I had to read it again just to “get” it.

Recommendation: This is an enjoyable romance with a satisfying HEA ending and a decent mystery buried within but… if a single scene of abuse is a trigger for you, be forewarned. Other than that, I’d pick it up. And I know I’ll look for other books by this author.

Vicky 9/14/2020

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THE TURKISH AFFAIR by J. Arlene Culiner

Fiction, Contemporary Romance

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Blurb: Anne Pierson was a top-notch Washington journalist until a liaison with the wrong man implicated her in scandal. Years later, she’s hiding out in backwoods Turkey, working as a translator near the ancient Hittite site of Karakuyu, determined to keep her past a secret and avoiding personal relationships. But her quiet little world is turned upside down when she meets American archaeologist Renaud Townsend. Renaud knows little about this foreign country or the project he’s been sent to manage after the former boss disappeared. Anne’s refusal to be his translator troubles him, but instinct tells him he can rely on her. Or is that only desire speaking? A lusty love affair for the duration of the summer dig would definitely help him adjust. When Anne’s reputation links her to stolen artifacts and murder at the site, their budding romance comes skidding to a halt. To clear her name, she must sacrifice her safety and reach out to trust Renaud. But is there enough time to give love a second chance?

Thoughts: The title pretty much says it all: the story takes place in Turkey, and there’s an affair. Anne Pierson is a tour guide in the area of Karakuyu – an archaeological dig. She’s an ex-pat having run from the states after a devastating scandal and divorce. When Mike, the dig director disappears, she gets worried. But the new director, Renaud, is devastatingly handsome and pulls at her. Unfortunately, things go from bad to worse as relics start disappearing and the previous director turns up dead. Suspicions land on Anne and she and Renaud have to fight corrupt police, strange mores, and locals in order to prove her innocence. The author does a very good job of conveying the climate of the area as well as the scenery, the customs, and more. In fact, at times, there was a little too much description and I found myself skipping parts because they slowed down what was happening. Plus, I didn’t understand the whole dog thing. In fact, there were several things that puzzled me—the dog, the complete 180 that Renaud does as far as commitment goes (didn’t quite believe that one), the rather abrupt ending (though it is a satisfying one).

What I liked: The characters are all strong and well-developed. They have issues and conflicts, both internal and external that relate to the overall plot. I liked the dog… but wasn’t sure why he was a part of the story. He didn’t seem to have any purpose. I’d have loved to see him as part of the solution to the problem. Then there would be a reason for him being there. Like maybe growling at or attacking the bad guy. The descriptions of the heat was done well – you felt like you were really there.

What I didn’t like: The book seemed slow at times for me. And the ending seemed a bit abrupt.

Recommendation: For a book that is part mystery, part romance, and that takes place in a foreign country, I’d pick this one up. It’s a good romance, a better suspense/mystery. Will look for more by this author.

Vicky 7/19/2020

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BLUEBERRY SWIRL WALTZ by Maria Imbalzano

Fiction, Romance 1950s

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Blurb: After a family crisis, Katie Hathaway must return home to help out in the family’s ice cream shop. She leaves behind her dream job of teaching ballroom dance to spend her summer scooping ice cream and mixing milkshakes. Chaz Hollander, Katie’s high school crush, has also returned to town to work in his family’s business. After Katie treats him to a blueberry swirl sundae, he invites her to the town’s upcoming dance. The only problem is he has two left feet. When Katie starts giving Chaz dance lessons, their chemistry ignites, and the postponement of her dream doesn’t seem as ominous. But financial woes and a suspicious business deal cast a shadow on their budding relationship.

Thoughts: This is a short (novella length), sweet romance that takes place in the 1950s. Katie has finally landed her dream job in the big city—teaching dance at an “Arthur Murry” type studio. When she goes home to her small town to tell her family, she finds nothing but turmoil. Her mother has injured herself, the family might lose their business and their home unless Katie takes over. So she says goodbye to the city and stays home to help. Chaz, Katie’s high school crush is back home as well and the attraction goes both ways now. The author’s world building is very well done. You are back in the 50s with record players and jitterbugs. The story is a quick read and has a satisfying ending that will make you smile.

What I liked: Katie’s can-do attitude. The author did an amazing job of building the character. Even though it’s the 1950s, Katie is a strong female who doesn’t let obstacles stand in her way.

What I didn’t like: Nothing. This is a cute, sweet story with a HEA that satisfies.

Recommendation: Grab a bowl of your favorite ice cream and enjoy this quick read.

Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for an honest review. My opinions are my own and are not influenced by anyone or anything.

Vicky 7/13/20

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BELLA CIGNA by Wendi Dass

Fiction, Contemporary Romance

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Blurb: Devastated by personal loss, Sarah Flynn escapes to Rome where she finds a job teaching English. Only the girls’ school is like a nunnery and she’s expected to speak fluent Italian overnight. What has she gotten herself into? While the beautiful sights rekindle her interest in art, not even her brush finding canvas can heal all the wounds she carries. She’ll need the help of a meddling nun, a nutty mathematician, and a handsome Italian admirer. Can Sarah overcome the insecurities born of a shattered marriage? Will she again take a chance on love?

Thoughts: I liked the premise of this book. The main character, Sarah, is 33, in the midst of a divorce, and depressed. So what does she do? Heads for Rome, Italy and a girl’s school. She doesn’t speak Italian, knows nothing about the place she’s going, but goes anyway. Questions I had that confused me: she applies for the job under her maiden name, but wouldn’t all her documents (visa, passport, etc.) still be in her married name since she’s not yet divorced? When she gets there, her luggage is lost, but we never learn if it eventually caught up with her. And why doesn’t she just say something to Eduardo about possibly not being able to have a child? She had the guts to fly half-way around the world to a place where she doesn’t speak the language, but she’s too much of a coward to say: my husband dumped me because I can’t get pregnant. Just didn’t work for me.

What I liked: I loved the head nun. Sister Maria is an amazing character, and when she teams up with Sarah’s mother – perfect! Anna was interesting as well. And the ending of the story was perfect.

What I didn’t like: the “almost” rape scene – totally unnecessary. And a trigger for some readers. Also, noting that this is a pre-pub ARC, there were some minor editorial issues (misspellings) that I hope are taken care of in the final.

Recommendation: Even with the issues I had, I did enjoy this book. It had good characters and a satisfying ending. So… I do recommend it for a sweet romance with a HEA ending.

Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by anyone.

Vicky 7/13/20

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UNCONVENTIONAL BEGINNINGS by KaLyn Cooper

Fiction, Contemporary Romance

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Blurb: He’s dead. But they can’t allow it to affect her. She’s too important. Nine months into the pilot program for the top secret Joint All Female Special Operations School, Katlin Callahan–Malone’s husband is killed in action along with his entire SEAL team. The Pentagon brass wants to know how that happened but the four highest ranking women in all the military services are more concerned about its effect on Katlin. She is pivotal to the success of their test project. Will the death of her husband change her mind about women being allowed in SpecOps? Unconventional Beginnings sets the stage for the Black Swan series by giving you a glimpse into the lives of several main characters three years before Unrelenting Love, the first book in the series. Although Unconventional Beginnings is a cliffhanger, the author has included the first three chapters of Unrelenting Love.

Thoughts: This is a short introduction to the Black Swan series. It introduces you to the major characters and the things going on in their lives. But it’s not really a full story – it has a cliff hanger ending as noted in the blurb that continues in the next book (three chapters of which are included). It left a few too many questions unanswered for me—which is appropriate for an introduction. I am intrigued enough to continue on with books in the series.

What I liked: The premise of the series—a group of women in special ops. I liked Katlin’s character and her strength and her relationship with her father. I also liked how the author noted all the sycophants trying to get in the higher-ups good graces. Funny – and realistic!

What I didn’t like: I was confused about Lobo. There’s a point where she’s wondering if he knows about her husband’s death, but she knows he’s bringing the body home. Either I read something wrong, or I missed something there. It was a little confusing. Also the ending left me unsatisfied (though I did read on to find out what happened next).

Recommendation: As a quick introduction to the series, go ahead and pick this up. It will give you the characters and their backgrounds. But don’t expect a full-blown story here. It is just an intro. I will, however, be looking further into the series for more from this writer.

Disclaimer: I received this story in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by anyone or anything.

Vicky 7/13/2020

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A BID FOR ROMANCE by Meredith Bond

Fiction, Historical Romance

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Blurb: Can the Ladies of the Wagering Whist Society help a duke’s sister find love where she would least expect it? Lady Margaret refuses to believe she is as beautiful and charming as people say. With a deadline to marry, she knows she needs to rely on her friends’ help in putting herself forward. And now she’s even seeking out the support of her chaperone’s footman. Only through his incredible art can she recognize what she is unable to see in her mirror. Tall, blond, and broad-shouldered, James Douglass, Marquess of Rossburke, has the looks of the perfect footman. This unexpected career path is unfortunately the only way the impoverished Scottish nobleman can find to support his passion for painting – for which London is the only place to be. But how can he now win the heart of his new passion, the lovely and vulnerable Lady Margaret? To make sure that love is well served, the Ladies of the Wagering Whist Society have to concoct their most devious plan to convince the footman to show his true hand.

Thoughts: This was the second book in the series I’ve read and I enjoyed it almost as much as the first. I did find though, that there was a lot of repetition. It was like reading parts of the previous book again. There’s nothing wrong with that – in fact, it was necessary in order for the plot to happen the way it did. But be aware of that. In this one, we have Lady Margaret in the market. Unfortunately, she falls for the footman/artist instead of a person of the ton. What she doesn’t know is that James is actually of the nobility. And he’s fallen for her as well. But a footman and a lady can never be together.

What I liked: I loved the private moments between Margaret and James, especially at the masquerade ball. I also loved how James tries to help the lady overcome her shyness. I really loved how James’ friend and the ladies of the Whist society get him to “come out” in the end. It was perfect.

What I didn’t like: At times, I didn’t much care for Alys because of how she occasionally bullies Margaret, but it all works out in the end so that’s good. Also, there were times when I got confused as to the names, especially Warwick and Wickford. I could never remember who was who.

Recommendation: Definitely pick up this series and be prepared to have fun with the ton and all their secrets.

Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by anyone or anything.

Vicky 6/30/2020

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A TRICK OF MIRRORS by Meredith Bond

Fiction, Historical Romance

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Blurb: Can the Ladies of the Wagering Whist Society help sort out a love quadrangle?

It’s not that the practical Beatrice Kendrick doesn’t trust her mirror twin, the vivacious and flirtatious Isabel. It’s just that the rebellious Bel has proven herself all too capable of welcoming the attentions of the wrong sort of man. So to keep Bel from getting into trouble, Bee secretly accompanies her when she makes her debut in Regency London. Can Bee shield her own heart while trying to protect her sister? And can Bel ensure that her quiet sister gets a taste of the joys of London society—and a chance at romance? When the broodingly romantic Edward Conway, nursing a broken heart, meets musically inclined Bel Kendrick, she stirs a passion in him he wasn’t sure he could ever feel again after the death of his Italian lover. The strappingly handsome Paul St. Vincent, too, meets the thoughtful and clever woman he thinks is Bel, and she seems to be just the sort of intellectually-minded woman he’s looking for. Only sometimes Edward senses that Bel doesn’t always remember what they’d discussed the last time they met. And at times she is entirely too giggly for Paul’s taste. Both men, however, have decided that Miss Kendrick is the right woman for him. What they don’t realize is that they’re both right. But it will take a little sleight of hand by the ladies of the Wagering Whist Society to untangle this trick of mirrors.

Thoughts: This is a fun historical romance about twins who end up fooling London society. Bel (Isabel) has been sent to her aunt Claire’s in London for the season while her twin Bea (Beatrice) is supposed to stay home and wait a year (their parents couldn’t afford for both to go). But practical Bea is determined to help her flighty twin out. The problems arise when the two girls fall for two very different men. And they each believe they’re in love with the same girl. It’s a rollicking good time — doubled. Especially when the girls are revealed in the masque ball.

What I liked: the differences between the girls – one is flighty, one more practical. One loves music, one loves history. They are twins, but they are each unique characters. I especially loved the reveal in the ball.

What I didn’t like: There are frequent point of view shifts so I wasn’t sure who I was with sometimes.

Recommendation: This series is fun. A little stronger editing would have made it memorable, but I still recommend the entire series. If you like light-hearted historicals, pick these up.

Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by anyone or anything.

Vicky 6/30/2020

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CAT THERAPY by Kathy Bosman

Fiction, contemporary romance

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Blurb: Cat Therapy is a tender and funny women’s fiction and romance novel about healing, love, and cats—lots of them!

Two-times divorcée Cherry Smith is quite happy with sin-gle life. Well, a little lonely at times—until she gets given four more cats to add to her two. When the kitten needs some shots, she visits the new vet in town. Dr. Jeff Clark turns out to be even more handsome than what she’s heard. But Cherry can’t let him distract her—she’s been burned too many times by attractive men. Jeff makes her feel uncomfortable, especially when he seems to disapprove of her having six cats. To pacify him, she tells him that she’s running a cat therapy hotel. As she ponders the lie, she realizes what a fantastic idea it is, especially since she has to move out of her home. With the help of her friend Delia, they set up a bed-and-breakfast facility. People come from far and wide to enjoy the love of her cats, including a gentle widower named Seb, who needs help with his grieving son. Maybe she should rather date Seb. He’d make the perfect husband. And, much to her irritation, Jeff keeps checking up on her cat therapy hotel. How can she get rid of him? When Cherry is swept away by the trials and joys of her cat therapy hotel, she has to learn what she wants most in life and the true meaning of love and friendship.

Thoughts: This is a cute, sweet story that takes “crazy cat lady” to a new level. Twice divorced Cherry loves her two cats. When a friend dumps four more on her, what can she do but open up a B&B where guests can get cat therapy. Jeff is the new vet in town — and he doesn’t seem too sure about Cherry and her ideas.

What I liked: It’s a cute story with an interesting premise. I loved the scene with the Chinese lanterns and letting go of things like that.

What I didn’t like: Unfortunately, the premise doesn’t hold out for me. There were editorial misses (like misspelling of wonder/wander) and the relationships seemed too forced. I especially didn’t like Jeff at the beginning. In fact, I didn’t much care for him until the very last page. There’s one spot where Jeff has taken off his shoes and socks… then he rushes out of the house without putting them back on or even grabbing them.

Recommendation: The story has a cute premise, but it just didn’t resonate for me. Still… if you’re looking for a sweet romance with lots of cats, this one could be “purrfect” for you. J

Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by anyone or anything.

Vicky 6/30/2020

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THE STORY BETWEEN US by Darlene Deluca

Fiction, Contemporary Romance

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Blurb: (not yet on GR/AZ 6/30)

Thoughts: This is a sweet, poignant story about loss, love, and family. Kristen is a children’s author on a book tour when she meets Reed and his nephew Dylan. Reed was thrown into parenthood when Dylan’s parents and little sister were killed in a car accident. Kristen strikes up a friendship with the injured boy—and his uncle. Unfortunately, the distance between Denver where Kristen lives and Dallas where Reed and Dylan live is nasty. But Kristen can’t resist the draw of the boy—and the man.

What I liked: the characters. They are authentic with realistic problems that pull at the emotions. The way Kristen helps Dylan with his fear of horses, decorating his room, and more is sweet. And helping Reed with his parenting skills is great.

What I didn’t like: If anything, it’s that the story seemed to drag on too long. But that doesn’t make it a bad story. It is sweet.

Recommendation: If you’re looking for a sweet romance about family, love, loss, and more with a HEA ending that satisfies, pick this one up.

Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by anyone or anything.

Vicky 6/28/2020

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TWO TRUTHS AND A LIE by Daryl Devore

Fiction, Erotic Contemporary Romance

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Blurb: The legend of Robin Hood and Maid Marian with a twenty-first-century twist. If you love hot, billionaire romances, then this is a must read. From the author of the Two Hearts One Love Trilogy, multi-published, hot romance author Daryl Devoré’s latest book revolves around deceit, betrayal, passion and the theft of a multi-million-dollar, rare, red diamond. As if multiple planes crashes, a car accident, and a concussion isn’t enough, carefree Byn and straight-laced billionaire, Mark clash over Byn’s need for independence and Mark’s struggle with guilt pushing him in the opposite direction of love. When an art forger, an art thief and a ninety-year-old woman get involved the chance for true love for Byn and Mark fades. All is lost until a children’s game is their only hope.

Thoughts: This is fun, hot, sexy, quirky. I thoroughly enjoyed this story. Robyn is a high-class thief who donates most of her gains to charities, including her sister’s orphanage where they grew up. Mark is a billionaire who runs a mega-corporation—and has a few secrets of his own. Their back and fort relationship starts off hot and strong, fizzles, and comes back even stronger. With a HEA ending that satisfies.

What I liked: The play on names was hilarious, especially the scene in the sheriff’s office. The sex scenes are hot and well done.

What I didn’t like: If anything, there just seemed to be too many crashes. I get the first ones, but after that… no. Just didn’t work for me.

Recommendation: I definitely recommend this quirky, fun, hot book.

Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for an honest review. My opinions are my own and are not influenced by anyone or anything.

Vicky 6/28/2020

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ALWAYS ON MY MIND by Andrea Downing

Fiction, romance

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Blurb: 1972 – Vietnam, the pill, upheaval, hippies. Wyoming rancher Cooper Byrnes, deeply attached to the land and his way of life, surprises everyone when he falls for vagabond hippie Cassie Halliday. Fascinated and baffled, he cannot comprehend his attraction—or say the words she wants to hear. Cassie finds Coop intriguingly different. As she keeps house for him and warms his bed at night, she admits to herself she loves him but she misinterprets Coop’s inability to express his feelings. Parted, each continues to think of the other, but how can either of them reach out to say, “You were ‘always on my mind’?

Thoughts: The story starts in a bar in Jackson Hole, Wyoming in 1972. Cassie and her “hippie” friends stop in one night and sparks (as well as fists) fly. Cooper is mesmerized by the other-worldly Cassie. Though he’s warned by his friends that she isn’t his “type”, Coop can’t take his eyes off her. Cassie is a Boston girl heading for Haight Ashbury in California to meet new and different people – but this cowboy is about as different as they come. When he asks her to join him, she agrees. Nine months later, she leaves with a note thanking him. The two are definitely mismatched, but the heart wants what it wants. Years go by with both of them trying to forget the other – but it doesn’t happen. They live their lives, but always feel as though something is missing. The ending is a perfect one for the odd couple.

What I liked: the plot is straight forward and builds to the end. Both characters have their issues and deal with them in the ways that work for them. I loved the gay couple who takes in Cassie and her daughter. They are so sweet.

What I didn’t like: Coop didn’t draw me in a lot, but I understood where he was coming from. And the ending did work out for both him and Cassie.

Recommendation: The book is true to the era (1970s) and the romance between Coop and Cassie is a good one. Overall, it’s a nice story that is easy to read and follow. A decent romance with a HEA ending that satisfies.

Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by anyone or anything.

Vicky 6/8/2020

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RAINBOW SPRINKLES by D.V. Stone

Fiction, Contemporary Romance

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Blurb: After the storm come the Rainbows. Retired and widowed Gloriana Jones is forging on with the plans she and her late husband dreamed of—bringing joy and happiness, one ice cream cone at a time, to Lake Unami. But bad weather is drowning her dream.A trip to Upstate NY is bittersweet for Nathan James. He is excited to see his first granddaughter but without his wife he’s lonely. When his car breaks down, he heads to the only light he can see, an ice cream shop. With aid from a heavenly source, electricity sparks, but will the two weather the summer storms and find love a second time? Or will their hopes and dreams melt away?

Thoughts: This is a sweet, relatively short romance about second chances. Both Gloriana and Nathan have lost their spouses. When Gloriana retired, she followed her dream of opening an ice cream parlor at a tourist area at Lake Unami. Nathan gets stranded there during a storm, and sparks fly. But he lives in Delaware, not New Jersey. It takes the interference of others (loved who they were!) to finally get the two together. The author drew me in with the characters and the story and didn’t let me go until the last page.

What I liked: everything. This is a sweet romantic story that will warm the heart. It’s all about starting over and moving on, but keeping the memories of love past with you.

What I didn’t like: Nothing. I absolutely loved this story.

Recommendation: This is a definite buy. The romance is sweet, the ending amusing but perfect, leaving you with a warm fuzzy feeling. Highly recommended.

Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by anyone or anything.

Vicky 6/28/2020

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ROCK HOUSE GRILL by DV Stone

Fiction, Contemporary Romance

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Blurb: Aden House, successful but driven chef and TV personality, refuses to slow down. His life implodes one night, damaging him both physically and emotionally. He’s rescued by a woman he thinks of as his angel. Shay McDowell has rebuilt her life after her divorce. She juggles volunteer EMT duties and her job, while dreaming of becoming a chef. She finds her way to Rock House Grill and back into the life of the man she helped save. Can love be the ingredient needed to survive the many obstacles they face?

Thoughts: When Shay, an EMT, is called to a “domestic disturbance”, the last thing she expects to find is her husband and another woman. Her friends try to shield her, but she’s seen—and heard—too much. Months later, after the divorce, she’s working at a restaurant and the “other woman” manipulates things to get her fired. Down on her luck and her life, she takes one more chance…and finds hope and happiness at a new restaurant. This is a sweet, uplifting story about life, love, loss, and more. The characters are believable—if a bit tragic. There were a lot of nasty things happening in the story to both Shay and Aden—but they come through it all in the end.

Things I liked: Shay. She doesn’t let life get her down for long. She gets hit with one thing after another and keeps coming back. Olivia is another good character as she comes back from a devastating loss to find love again. And Eli and Margaret. Actually, the only character I didn’t care a lot for was the “hero”, Aden. He often came across as a bit self-centered, but he redeemed himself in the end, so it’s all good. The author obviously knows her stuff when it comes to EMTs and the way hospitals and ambulances work. She either did a lot of research or has done this work herself because the believability shows. Also, the “mystery” of who the villain is, is done well. The clues are there as are the real dangers to the characters.

What I didn’t like: I wish the author had told me what happened to Detective Brandt. I’d really have liked to have seen him get his as well. I really did not like him.

Recommendation: A definitely good read. Highly recommended. A sweet romance with a HEA that satisfies.

Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by anyone or anything.

Vicky 6/16/2020

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THE WONDER OF YOU by Laurie Kellogg

Fiction, Romance 1970s

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Blurb: Her child’s happiness, or her own? A choice no woman should have to make Six years ago, Julie Danvers’ husband was declared missing in action. Due to the dangerous nature of Rick’s Marine Corps assignment and lack of any hopeful news, she eventually was forced to accept he’d probably died. A tipsy, grief-filled night left her pregnant and still uncertain whether she’s a widow or a wife. When she learns the love of her life, Rick, is actually alive and coming home, she’s both overjoyed and terrified. Now she’ll have to choose between her war-ravaged husband—who may be unable to accept her daughter, a sticky-faced reminder of Julie’s lack of hope he’d ever return—and her child’s father who wants to make them a real family. The only thing that kept POW Rick Danvers—also known as Ben—sane during his hellish Hanoi Hilton vacation was the dream of holding his beautiful wife again. During Operation Homecoming, he eagerly returns home to discover his entire world has changed. His country doesn’t respect him, he’s lost his parents, and his so-called best friend has already provided Julie the baby Rick ached to give her before Uncle Sam drafted him. If that’s not bad enough, while Julie was burning her bra, his aging uncle came out of the closet and appointed her president of their family construction business—a position she has no intention of relinquishing. Rick’s now a visitor in his own home, forced to live with a bossy preschool princess who resents him and has hijacked his faithful dog’s affection. Nevertheless, the passion between Julie and Rick burns hotter than ever. He refuses to give up the woman he still loves—or his business—without putting up a damn good fight. He didn’t survive hell only to lose everything in the end.

Thoughts: On the surface, this sounded like a really intriguing book. It’s an era in time that I know from having lived then (as a kid, not an adult), it has an interesting premise – MIA soldier returns home after six years… but while he’s gone, the young wife gets pregnant by his best friend. All the makings of a good soap opera! And it was intriguing. I kept getting pulled into the story. Kept wondering how it would all turn out. So why only three stars? Because it kept going back and forth so much – go with Todd, stay with Rick. I’m not saying it wasn’t good – because it was. The author kept upping the ante with the issues. But it just didn’t keep my attention.

What I liked: I really liked Julie. She was a good character who has a difficult choice to make. She has a lot of guilt and, except for that one night that got her pregnant, she’s been faithful to Rick. Rick is also very like able. He survived being a POW under someone else’s name for six years. And now he’s home…to a wife he barely knows and a “daughter” who belongs to his former best friend. Not only that, but his family construction company is now being run by his very capable wife.

What I didn’t like: Todd. And Sara. Neither one of them was very like able. Todd kept pressuring Julie to marry him but she wanted to wait. To be sure. And Sara just came across as a spoiled brat at times. Plus… this was the 60s/70s and an illegitimate child would still have carried a bit of a stigma, especially when her mother was running a “man’s” business. Julie being a carpenter is really cool, but… not exactly accepted back then. Most people would have insisted on dealing with a man when talking building. There were a few other things I question concerning the timing, but those could be more a lapse of memory than real issues.

Recommendation: This is a good book. It just wasn’t a good book for me. It’s an intriguing premise that delivers a good ending that satisfies.

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by anyone or anything.

Vicky 6/16/2020

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AN AFFAIR OF HEARTS by Meredith Bond

Fiction, Historical Romance

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Blurb: Can the Ladies’ Wagering Whist Society turn back the clock to restore the reputation of a lady maligned? The lovely, kind Elizabeth, the Countess St. Vincent, is determined to re-enter Regency society now that she is widowed. Despite the years that have passed since her fiasco of a debut, one man still remembers and resurrects old rumors. With her reputation destroyed, so are her hopes. Can a newfound friend be the key to burying the past before the season ends? Charles Aldridge is a watchmaker and businessman fighting to protect a centuries-old industry threatened with extinction. But he is distracted from his quest when he is dragged into the troubles of the beguiling Lady St. Vincent. Every chivalrous bone in his body insists he do all he can to help her. Yet, following his heart may mean jeopardizing his life’s mission. The Ladies’ Wagering Whist Society will have to play a clever hand to settle this Affair of Hearts… before time runs out.

Thoughts:  This was the third book I read in the series and I’m still enjoying them! They are fun, romantic, sweet, with characters you like (or don’t like in one case, but he’s the villain, so it fits). In this one, Elizabeth St. Vincent is attempting to revamp her reputation in society, but certain people aren’t making it easy on her. Help comes in the form of Charles Aldridge and the Ladies’ Whist Society.

What I liked: The ladies of the society and how they gather around to help and protect Elizabeth. I also loved how Charles steps up to help her as well – and the scene in the coach while he’s on his way to Dover is perfect. The relationship between Penelope (Charles’ mother) and Bolton is also fun. Especially the big reveal at the end. Nicely done and a nice subplot.

What I didn’t like: As in other books, there was some minor confusion between names: Aldrich, Alder… suggest the author might want to make the differences between some names wider – though that may not be possible at this juncture.

Recommendation: I heartily recommend this series. To get the most out of the books, start at the beginning, but it’s not absolutely necessary. They’re sweet historicals that give you a satisfying HEA.

Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by anyone or anything.

Vicky 7/2/2020

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LOVE, ART, AND OTHER OBSTACLES by Sadira Stone

Fiction, Contemporary Romance

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Blurb: Rejected by her family for her bisexuality, graphic artist Margot DuPont yearns for a life with no fences, no limits, and no family ties. Between college, work at Book Nirvana, and an art competition, she barely has time for her part-time girlfriend much less a flirtation with her competitor. Dumped into the foster system at a young age, ceramics artist Elmer Byrne craves a big, loving family of the heart. His artist family almost fills that need, but something is missing…until Margot. But when he offers his heart, her thorny defenses shatter him. Thrown together in an art competition that could jump-start one artist’s career, but not both, their irresistible attraction forces them to reconsider the meaning of success.

Thoughts: This is the third book in the “Through the Red Door” series. I’ve read others in the series and they’re all fun, hot, and romantic. The story takes place in Eugene, Oregon, in the art community and the characters are all connected by art and the vibrant Maxie. In this one, Margot—a graphic artist—and Elmer—a ceramic artist. They both had challenging childhoods and are both working hard to survive and create their art. In this story, they are competing for a top prize in an arts contest. They are also attracted to each other—even though Margot is in a long-distance relationship with her girlfriend Darcy. Note: this is an erotic story and leaves very little to the imagination. Second note: You don’t have to have read the other books in the series to know and understand what’s going on, though it may help settle the characters in your mind.

What I liked: the characters are so real, I can actually imagine them being there and working on their art. I loved the concept of “family” that Margot finally discovers—it’s not always through blood that a family is formed. And friendship is important to hang onto.

What I didn’t like: what happened to Maxie. It made sense and worked well in the story, but it was Maxie!

Recommendation: If you’re looking for a hot romance with lots of emotion and an ending that satisfies, pick up this series. Great characters and situations make for a good read.

Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and not influenced by anyone or anything.

Vicky 7/3/2020

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COMING HOME TO THE TOP OF MAIN STREET by Meg Easton

Fiction, Sweet Romance

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Blurb: She’s his best friend’s sister and completely off-limits. But she’s also the only one who can help him. Business savvy Joselyn Zimmerman knows everything about how to run her own business, except what kind of business to run. Chef Marcus desires a life outside the kitchen—one with a family of his own, and more than anything, he wants that family to include Joselyn. But her family has always been there for him, and he doesn’t want to do anything to jeopardize that. When an empty commercial space that they both want becomes available in their home town, Nestled Hollow, the two work together to open an ice cream shop. After spending time in close quarters, making their dreams a reality, Joselyn falls for Marcus. But when their relationship threatens both their new business and Marcus’s place in the Zimmerman family, can their relationship survive? 

Thoughts: Joselyn Zimmerman has been planning on running a business for her entire life. She’s jumped from job to job trying to find the right fit and learning what it takes to be in business, but nothing has ever felt right to her. She knows everything about business, except what she wants. Chef Marcus has known Joselyn since he was nine and she was seven. Best friends with one of her brothers, he’s practically a member of the family. But he broke her heart in high school when he broke up with her. She’s not sure she can handle that again. Marcus wants to get out of the chef gig and run his own business—owning an ice cream shop. But he knows nothing about the business end of things. Just how to make the best ice cream around. The two of them go into business together—her to run it, him to make amazing dessert. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy and as they grow closer, things start falling apart. It takes the entire Zimmerman clan to get them back together before it’s too late.

What I liked: the characters. They are so real and so wonderful—and so broken. But I mean, come on, who doesn’t love a man who can cook—and looks hot to boot? And the family dynamics make it even better. I especially loved the airport scene!

What I didn’t like: Very little. This is a sweet romance in a small town with great family dynamics, romance, and more.

Recommendation: A definite must for your TBR shelf. I know I’m going to be reading more from this talented author.

Disclaimer: I received this book for free. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by anyone.

Vicky 6/8/2020

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ELIZABETH BARRETT AND CUPID’S BROOCH by Donna Ann Brown

Fiction, Romance, Time-Travel

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Blurb: Legend has it Cupid’s Brooch sends you to your one true love…
Actress Liz Barrett, adored by millions, wields Cupid’s Brooch and trades places with Miss Elizabeth Barrett of 1812, a young lady without connections who fears having no choice in whom she must marry. Either Liz’s rabid fans have made up this crazy story, while Elizabeth suffers what is surely purgatory, or they’ve traded places in time and perhaps even fallen into the arms of their one true love. But what will Lord Whittington and Dr. Demfry do if fate is determined to switch them back?

Thoughts: This was a fun, imaginative story set in two different time periods—1812 and 2012. It is basically two stories in one—which was why I gave it four stars instead of five. I got to what I thought was the end of the story – we had our HEA ending… but I was only half-way through? So I read on… and found the second story. The first half is about 2012 Liz—and actress who goes back in time to 1812. She is strong-willed and outspoken—not how a lady acts in those times. But it endears her to her “guardian” Lord Whittington. Her chaperone believes her mad and her “fiancé”—a duke who lives across the street—thinks her vulgar. They finally discover that an ugly brooch he had gifted her with was the talisman that led her back to this year and her true love. It also sent Elizabeth forward to replace Liz in her life in 2012. It’s fun reading about how the two women try to fit into their different time periods. The author did a wonderful job of giving us details—and reasons why Liz doesn’t have a horrid time fitting into 1812 (she was an actress in a time period piece).

What I liked: the use of an “ugly” brooch as the magic talisman. Different and fun. I loved the juxtaposition of the two time periods. It was so much fun! I liked the way Liz loosens up the staid Englishmen and brings life to them. Honestly? I enjoyed Liz’s story in 1812 much more than I did the 2012 one with Elizabeth. Her story was good, but her fitting into 2012 didn’t seem as problematical as Liz’s did. Anyway, in either case, we end up with HEAs that satisfy.

What I didn’t like: the sudden change from Liz’s story (which I thought was the end of the book) to to Elizabeth’s. I was a tad flummoxed at first. But soon got into it and enjoyed it.

Recommendation: For a fun time-travel body-switch romance, definitely pick this one up. It’s fun, interesting, and with double HEAs that leave you smiling.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing this book for review.

Vicky 5/2020

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TO HEAL A HEART by Jana Richards

Fiction, contemporary romance

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Blurb: Garrett Saunders’ world changed two years ago on a road in Afghanistan. Back home, he feels like a stranger. As he struggles to find his place in the world, he meets a horse destined for the slaughterhouse and a woman bent on rescuing the strays of the world, including him. Blair Greyson moves to Masonville to look after her ailing grandfather and give her rescue horses a home. Right away she butts heads with a surly former Marine. Despite a rocky start, they come to an agreement: Blair will board Garrett’s rescue horse and he’ll help with repairs around her farm. Garrett finds purpose working with Blair—and falls in love with her. But she’s hiding a secret. Can she forgive herself and accept Garrett’s love, or will she let guilt and regret continue to rule her life?

Thoughts: What a wonderful, poignant romance full of emotions that will pull at your heartstrings. It starts off with a strong scene where Garrett is having a dream flashback to his time in Afghanistan. The book is all about PTSD – not just for Garrett, but for Blair as well – and how we deal with issues. There are some warm “bedroom” scenes, but they are nicely done and fit with the story perfectly. The characters of Blair and Garrett are believable and the issues they’re facing—as well as the other characters are real and not uncommon in today’s world.

What I liked: the characters. All of them are well done, grow and change through the story, and are realistic. I liked the HEA ending that satisfied. I loved that rescuing horses and other animals are central to the story not just as rescues but as helpful for healing those with issues. It was also obvious that the author either has personal experience or did her homework on amputees and other PTSD issues.

What I didn’t like: nothing. This is a wonderful story. Okay, honestly, I didn’t think I’d like it much at first because of the way it started out… but the author drew me in and didn’t let go of my emotions until the end. She had me giggling – and crying.

Recommendation: Definitely recommended. The author drew me in, made me care what was happening to the characters. The issues were realistically presented. And there was a happily ever after ending that satisfied.

Disclaimer: I received this book through Netgalley in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own and not influenced by anyone.

Vicky

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REFLECTIONS OF HOPE by Natalie Damschroder

Fiction, Romance, Action-Adventure

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Blurb: Vanessa Ripley (do not call her Vanessa) uses her rare combination of physical and mental super abilities only for consulting and training, staying out of the field after a catastrophic mission resulted in the death of a civilian. But now her old flame Evan Forgeron needs her help. His task force is this close to stopping the Citizens Against Superhero Existence (CASE), and he needs Ripley’s mental powers to do it. When Evan’s in trouble she can’t say no, even if getting involved with him again threatens to tear both of them apart. Then CASE’s mission becomes intensely personal, ripping open secrets Ripley never knew existed and putting a target on Evan and every superhero in the country. If they can end CASE, she and Evan may have a chance at a future together. But if they fail, it will take everything and everyone they love.

Review: This is the third book in the Case Files series of superhero books. You don’t have to have read the first two to enjoy this, but it would help you understand what’s going on better. In this one, Rip has been called upon to help Evan in their fight against CASE. I won’t tell you exactly what happens, but it’s something that causes Rip to question her past, herself, and even her future. The author knows how to make a story exciting while still maintaining a level of emotional interaction between the characters. Actually, this series reminds me a lot of the S.H.I.E.L.D. television series. If you like that kind of action, this series should be in your library.

What I liked: the action, the adventure, the emotions involved not just in the romantic sense, but throughout as the characters—especially Rip—face their individual demons.

What I didn’t like: Nothing. I enjoyed the book immensely.

Recommendation: If you like shows like S.H.I.E.L.D. or any action/adventure series that includes superheroes, then this is a series you should pick up.

Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated are my own and not influenced by anyone.

Vicky

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Light the way Home by Elizabeth Andrews

Contemporary Romance

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Publisher blurb: Single dad Nate Baxter has his hands full with his son and his haunted lighthouse. He doesn’t have time to spend with a woman…especially one who won’t stick around, like his ex-wife. But Lucie Russo’s not like other women Nate’s met. She’s sweet and sexy, and his mouth waters every time he’s around her. Will a family emergency cause him to break his relationship rules? And if he does, will his heart be broken too? This story is part of the Common Elements Romance Project, over 70 stories with just five things in common: a lightning storm, lost keys, a haunted house (really haunted or rumored to be), a stack of thick books, and a person named Max. Everything else is up to the individual authors.

Review: This is a really nice short quick romantic read with all the elements listed above – a ghost, lost keys, a storm, books, and Max. The characters of Nate and Lucie have both been hurt badly in the past and are reluctant to start again, but they agree they can do temporary. Unfortunately, their hearts decide differently.

What I liked: the characters and the setting. Lucie and Nate are really well done and the energy of Nate’s son Hayden comes through perfectly. I almost felt antsy just reading about him. The way the author gets them together is realistic and the ending is satisfying and sweet.

What I didn’t like: Very little. This was a quick read that touched my heart. If anything… and it’s minor… I’d loved to have had Lucie have an up close and personal with the ghost. And the fact that the ghost’s lost love was also a “Lucie” (Lucinda)… maybe something could have been done with that? But overall, those are so minor as to be negligible.

Recommendations: For a quick romance read, definitely pick this up. Note: there are a couple hot sex scenes so be sure you’re ready for that. It’s such a good book that I couldn’t put it down. Recommended.

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HOT RAIN by Kat Martin

Romantic Suspense

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Publisher Blurb: Allie Parker knows her best friend’s death was no accident, and her quest to find the truth soon puts her in the wrong place–at the worst possible time… An unwilling passenger on a boat carrying deadly cargo and dangerous men, her only ally is mysterious Jake Dawson, who warns her that she must play the role of his reluctant bedmate…if she wants to stay alive.
Before long, the heat rising between Allie and Jake has drawn them into the heart of the steamy Carribean–and into something deeper than they ever imagined. Now as Allie places her trust–and herself–in the hands of a total stranger, she wonders if this desperate gamble will be her last…

Review:

I enjoyed this book the first time I read it – back in 2002, when it first came out. I wish the publisher would have warned me about that as I didn’t enjoy it as much this time around. While it’s still a good book, my tastes have changed in eighteen years. I am still a fan of Kat Martin and will still read her books – when new ones come out.

Vicky 3/23/2020

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MERRY AND BRIGHT by Jill Shalvis

Contemporary Holiday Romance – anthology

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Publisher Blurb: Finding Mr Right

Brilliant chemist Maggie Bell has a knack for choosing Mr. Wrong, and with yet another lonely Christmas looming, she decides it’s time to alter the equation – and seek out someone who seems totally wrong for her. Eureka! The heart is a genius…

Bah, Handsome

Behind on her bills, B&B owner Hope receives an unlikely guest – stranded solicitor Danny, who has been threatening to put her out of business. Funny how the holidays can bring people together no matter how much they resist…

Ms. Humbug

Born rebel or overgrown man child, Matt is the kind of man no woman can tame–until an unexpected encounter with his nemesis, Cami, at the office holiday party proves there is an exception to every rule.

Review:

This is a collection of three novellas in one between fifty and ninety pages long. They are all set in the Christmas season, though that doesn’t play heavily into the stories. They all moved at the speed of lightning as far as developing the relationships went and the sex was hot and frequent—something that was a little off-putting for me as they just seemed to move a little too fast. In the first one, Finding Mr.Right, Maggie has the hots for Jason—a contractor at the lab where she works and someone she had a huge crush on in high school. This one actually worked for me because there was a previous relationship of sorts to build on. In the second one—Bah, Handsome—the only thing that really rang unreal for me was at the beginning of the story, we’re told there are guests in the B&B, yet those guests are never around, even though they’re definitely snowed in. The relationship was…okay. And it ended well. I just would have liked it better had there been no mention of other guests. As for the third—Ms. Humbug—Again, a little too fast for my tastes, but not a bad story overall.

What I liked: The stories were quick, easy to read, and with HEA that satisfied.

What I didn’t like: The relationships just moved a little too fast for me, especially the hot sex. Yes, these were short stories which doesn’t allow for a lot of development, but they just felt a little too rushed for me. I’d liked to have seen more emotion, less sex.

Recommendation: for hot quick reads with HEA endings that leave you smiling, definitely pick this up, but don’t expect depth in the storylines. They are short stories and it shows in the development.

Thanks to the publisher for providing this book

Vicky 3/4/2020

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HER ONE AND ONLY HERO by Sharon Hartley

Contemporary Romance/Romantic Suspense

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Publisher Blurb: Francesca Scarpetta is desperate—her twelve-year-old daughter trusted the wrong people and now she has disappeared. Fran’s last hope is Miami detective Dale Baldwin, her high school sweetheart and the father of her child. Only, he doesn’t know he’s a father. Will they be able to overcome the pain of the past in time to rescue their daughter?

Opinions: This is a Harlequin Super Romance with all the tropes you need for a good Harlequin book. You have a couple who knew each other in the past and who reconnect in the here and now and you have a secret baby (who is now a 12-year-old); a love-interest who is a cop. Add in international human trafficking and kidnapping and you have a suspenseful good story with a HEA that satisfies.

What I liked: Bella, the daughter, when we finally meet her, is wonderful. Loved her. And Dale, the father who is a cop, isn’t bad either. Fran’s doubts about her suitability as a mother are realistic and well done. And the plot takes you on a rollercoaster ride that doesn’t slow down until the last chapter.

What I didn’t like: Fran just came across as too angry all the time. Yes, her daughter’s been kidnapped and taken from her home in Rome, Italy to Miami, Florida by a scumbag who traffics in humans. But there’s no let down until the very end. It just got to be a little too much after a bit. Also… some very minor editorial issues (statute for statue) that most people won’t even catch.

Recommendation: A definite yes if you like intrigue, suspense, and a good cop story mixed with your romance. I will look for more from this author, and you should too.

Vicky 2/9/2020

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PICTURES OF YOU by M.C. Vaughan

Contemporary Romance

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Publisher Blurb: When Grier Cushman’s parents push her out of their diamond-studded nest, the shutterbug socialite scrambles to land on her stilletoed feet. She could take the job her mogul mom dangles in front of her, but Grier’s stomach cramps just thinking about Mom’s micro managerial tendencies. Instead, she’ll focus on flipping her photography into a legit career. Because there are two things Grier knows inside and out—her camera and how to make everyone look flawless. After all, she learned to project perfect when her ex-high school crush shredded her heart eight years ago.

Cocky investment banker Quint Kincaid is back in town. He thought he’d left this city behind forever, but fate dealt his family a bad break, and now he’s on a mission to earn buckets of cash for his father’s medical expenses. When he runs into the one person he misses from back in the day, all grown up and sexy as hell, it brings up all the old powerful feelings he’d hidden as a teenager. He wants more, even if he hasn’t quite gotten over how she ghosted him.

Despite their hesitations, the two former friends agree to help each other out—Grier reintroduces him to the moneyed social circles in Baltimore, and Quint guides her through setting up her business. As they fall into old patterns and rediscover what drew them to each other in the first place, they confront the secrets that snuffed their teenaged romance before it could even begin

Review: Grier was born into money and never gave a thought to spending it. Prada, Vuitton, Hermès, and more fill her closet. Then her parents cut her off without warning and she has to actually work for a living. Her mother offers her a job working for their new non-profit, but that would be worse than shopping at a discount store. So she goes to work for a mall photography store. In the meantime, her first love, Quint is back in town and has become a successful funding analyst. The two hook back up, but things do not go smoothly.

What I liked: I enjoyed the differences between Quint and Grier showing so plainly. His family was working-class while hers…wasn’t. Violet was perfectly detestable – a very well-done character that plays well for Grier’s conflicts. But the absolute best part of the story? The end with Grier in the bar loft and all the pictures of her and Quint. Loved that scene.

What I didn’t like: Honestly? Though I enjoyed the story for the most part, I found it a little slow for me. Please, don’t get me wrong… it’s a lovely story with a HEA that satisfies and with good characters that are believable. It just didn’t draw *me* in. The supporting cast is varied and adds to the overall feel of the story. Though I will note that there were a few minor editorial issues that made me cringe at times, overall, it’s still a decent story.

Recommendation: If you like a good romance with a little heat (not a lot, just enough), good characters and a satisfying HEA ending, then pick this one up.

Thanks to the author who provided this book to me for an honest review.

 

Vicky 2/1/2020

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THIS DAY IS OURS by Gretchen Jeannette

Historical Romance

 

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Blurb: The American Colonies, 1776. As the flames of revolution spread across a divided land, a shadowy figure prowls the city of Philadelphia. Known only as Jack Flash, rebel highwayman, he preys on wealthy aristocrats loyal to the British Crown. The unpredictable outlaw always manages to stay one step ahead of his foes. Until the night he targets a Loyalist lady whose fiery spirit could spell his doom.

Alexandra Pennington believes she has her future well planned when a chance encounter turns her world upside down. Betrothed to a dashing king’s man suited to her in every way, the young widow becomes entangled with an unrefined rebel fiercely opposed to British rule. Against all reason, she finds common ground with an enemy of the Crown. The sensible course for her is clear, but her bond with the notorious rogue will test her loyalty not only to her king but also to the man she vowed to marry.

From the drawing rooms of Philadelphia to the battlefields of an emerging nation, one woman stands between two men fighting for love and honor in a war destined to change all their lives forever.

Review: This is not your typical historical romance. It’s epic in proportion and research, but that doesn’t mean it’s dry or boring. The author weaves the historical aspects in so lifelike that you feel as if you are there. Her characters are engaging and realistic and the love story between the Tory and the Patriot is as compelling as the the battle scenes. In this story, aristocratic widow Alexandra Pennington, is sought after by two men. Rich Royalist, Charles Villard and poor patriot, Dalton Jameson. Smooth talking Charles is not all he seems, but then, neither is Dalton. Her choice is not only between the two men, but two countries—the comfort of England, or the unknown new United States.

What I liked: the characters are richly developed and well-drawn. Their conflicts, both internal and external play well in the backdrop of the revolution. The realism of the war and the intensity of both sides is very well-done. It is obvious the author did her research and knows her subject. The little tidbits thrown in with language of that time (clothing, bandages, other little daily things that have changed over the years). Alexandra is intelligent, courageous when necessary, kind, but with a bit of a stubborn streak and a touch of recklessness that makes her an engaging character. The villain is a nasty sort (but with reason) but also likable on the surface. Dalton is down-to-earth, semi-illiterate (not unusual for that time period), and a true romantic hero. The secondary characters, especially Clue, are also skillfully done.

What I didn’t like: very little, though I will note that there were some very minor editorial glitches that made me stop a couple times (Note here: I’ve been an editor for 20 years. Most people wouldn’t notice these things, but I do). It’s also an epic story so be prepared for the length. But it’s worth it!

Recommendation: Like history? Like light romance? Then get this book. You will not be sorry. It’s got everything—romance, intrigue, action, battles, rogue characters, good imagery, and more.

Thanks to the author for providing this book.

Vicky 1/19/2020

 

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LOVE LETTERING by Kate Clayborn

Contemporary Romance

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Blurb: In this warm and witty romance from acclaimed author Kate Clayborn, one little word puts a woman’s business—and her heart—in jeopardy . . .

Meg Mackworth’s hand-lettering skill has made her famous as the Planner of Park Slope, designing custom journals for her New York City clientele. She has another skill too: reading signs that other people miss. Knowing the upcoming marriage of Reid Sutherland and his polished fiancée was doomed to fail is one thing, but weaving a secret word of warning into their wedding program is another. Meg may have thought no one would spot it, but she hadn’t counted on sharp-eyed, pattern-obsessed Reid.

A year later, Reid has tracked Meg down to find out how she knew that his meticulously planned future was about to implode. But with a looming deadline and a bad case of creative block, Meg doesn’t have time for Reid’s questions—unless he can help her find her missing inspiration. As they gradually open up to each other, both try to ignore a deepening connection between them. But the signs are there—irresistible, indisputable, urging Meg to heed the messages Reid is sending her, before it’s too late . . . 

Review: Rarely are two characters more diametrically opposed than Meg and Reid. They are complete opposites, but opposites who complement each other perfectly—like peanut butter and jelly. And that pretty much describes them. Meg is a whimsical artist who specializes in lettering. And in the beginning of the book, we learn all about serif, sans serif, upstrokes, and more that have to do with lettering. While it adds to the overall flavor of the story, I did find myself skipping over a lot of it. Reid, on the other hand, is definitely a numbers man but he comes across at times as a little too intense (though we find out why later). Meg loves New York while Reid hates it (for a reason discovered later also). But Reid’s willingness to be with Meg in her world through his “letter games”was so sweet. I had a little trouble getting into the book, but past the first half, it pulled me in more. It is a good story about love, friendship, honesty, and building a slow relationship instead of all in at the beginning.

What I liked: The way the author wove together Meg and Reid—such different people who discovered they could work well together. Meg’s determination at the end to solve the “signs” (don’t want to give the end away, but this was really interesting!). I also liked that Meg and her friend found their love for each other again. And Reid’s family was so neat. But, best of all, were the word games. Finding letters all around the city. Made me want to go out and look around my town at all the different signs.

What I didn’t like: It was a little slow in the beginning to the point where I put it down a few times to pick up other books, but eventually it drew me in. Also, although the letter styles were interesting and added to the overall story, they really meant little to me so I tended to skip over them a lot.

Recommendation: For a sweet, slow romance with a bit of intrigue, I’d definitely pick this one up.

Thanks to the publisher for providing this ARC.

Vicky 1/19/2020

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PUBLISH OR PERISH by Kerry Blaisdell

Romantic Suspense – Contemporary

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Blurb: When computer whiz Emma O’Manny’s scientist husband dumps her on Valentine’s Day, vandalizing his office seems like a justifiable—if petty—response. But then Dan’s small plane crashes under mysterious circumstances, and Emma’s suddenly the prime suspect in a double homicide. Worse, Dan may have faked important vaccine safety research, to further his career—and the digital trail leads to Emma. Can she determine which data is correct, to prove her innocence? Or will Dan keep controlling her life, even from the grave?
…THE FIRST TO PUBLISH WINS…
Detective Vin Bronislovas came to Portland to rebuild his reputation, after nearly blowing a years-long investigation by believing the lies of a mobster’s daughter. A single misstep—like falling for another suspect—would destroy his career and ruin his life. But when the killer strikes again, and Emma and her children are threatened, Vin must choose between the Job and love. Can he trust his gut? Or will repeating his past mistakes allow a murderer to go free, and potentially put millions of children at risk from an unsafe vaccine?
…AND ANYONE CAN MAKE A KILLING. ANYONE.

Review:  This is a romantic suspense book with more twists and turns than a roller coaster. It’s also got some hot scenes – so definitely not for the non-adult set. Not erotic, but definitely PG-17+. The characters are well-drawn and the setting adds to the overall tone of the story. Although Emma and Vin are the main characters, the relationships between other characters are also part of the plot.

What I liked:  I loved Azi, Vin’s uncle. He has Down’s Syndrome and is struggling to find his independence, a beautiful subplot to the story. I loved LJ—the mob guy who isn’t a mob guy. He’s so sweet! I liked the first scene where Vin and Emma meet—not an auspicious meeting, but it had me laughing! I could just see the scene. I liked the Karen/Parker situation and how it played out. I liked the “black moment” – I was pretty sure I knew who the perp was, but the author did keep me guessing until the last scene. There were a lot of other things I liked as well. It’s a good book…but:

Things I didn’t like: I really didn’t like Emma’s mother. Okay, I understand the reasoning behind her actions, but she was not likeable. Also, the ending with Vin and Emma seemed almost too rushed. What about the feelings of the kids? It just didn’t work well for me. I’d rather have seen it as an epilogue a few months later.

Recommendation: Kerry has great promise as a romantic suspense author. I would definitely read more by her and with that in mind, I do recommend this book.

Thanks to the author for providing this book in exchange for an honest review.

Vicky 1/7/2020

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THEN THERE WAS YOU by Lynn Crandall

Contemporary Romance

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Blurb: Runaway bride Cherish Moss never anticipated the outcome of her wedding day. Will she regret the path not taken or embrace new adventures and opportunities ahead? Opposites attract in Lynn Crandall’s Love in Dunes Bay novel debut, a truly unputdownable story. Cherish Moss is well aware that most people would do anything for the life she has—accomplished attorney, daughter of a wealthy family, and hours away from her wedding day. But on the inside, she is barely breathing and no one even notices. When she leaves her fiancé at the altar, she waits for the feeling of remorse…so why as she runs out of the church and down the street does, she feel like she’s reclaiming her life? Grayson Steele is hiding out having left his dream job in Chicago as an investigative reporter. After exposing police corruption, the threats on his life came fast and furious and now he has to not only protect himself but his family too. He’s not interested in a relationship. He can’t be, because he won’t put anyone in danger. But after meeting Cherish at a local bar, his longing for her is intense and it won’t go away. The timing is all wrong for them both, but Grayson and Cherish must face the unwanted fate they helped create or follow their hearts to survive.

Review: Gray has moved back to Dunes Bay from Chicago supposedly to help his father with his shipbuilding company, but it was really to get away from the death threats that came from an expose’ he wrote on crooked cops. Cherish, a lawyer, is engaged to Devin—a high power lawyer with questionable ethics. Cherish also works with her sister and parents. Her parents are as controlling as Devin. Charity runs out on the wedding and meets Gray.

What I liked: Grayson and his family are amazing. They are so close, and his brothers are so much fun. Rachel—Cherish’s sister—is interesting. The imagery is beautiful. The emotional connection between Gray and Cherish is well-done (if a little quick). I like Cherish’s ethics and the way she handled the big case.

What I didn’t like: minor editorial issues (though I will note this an ARC so is not final). There were also a couple minor timeline issues–an awful lot happened on one day that should have probably been spaced over a couple days. I didn’t care for the way Cherish seemed so… cowled by Devlin and her parents. She almost slid into the TSTL (too stupid to live) side of things. Devin was borderline abusive—physically and emotionally in addition to being unethical. Cherish knows her parents are also unethical, but she has no problem working for them. She tells them to go straight…and nothing happens to them, though they’d been doing illegal things. I have a problem with that.

Recommendation: Though there was a lot happening in this story, and it has a satisfying ending that left me smiling, the story overall didn’t grab me. That’s not saying it’s a bad book. It’s not. It has a really good premise, it just didn’t draw me. So… sweet romance, lots of action, HEA that satisfies. If these work for you, pick it up.

Vicky 1/1/20

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ATTIC LETTERS: SECRETS OF LOVE AND WAR by Laurie Adams

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Blurb: An ordinary life…Everything in Daniel Coughlin’s life in Brooklyn has been comfortable. His Irish Catholic roots tie his extended family together in a close knot. His life is ordinary — but perfect.Until Daniel uncovers life-altering family secrets…A rift with his oldest son, Liam, threatens to ruin their family Christmas. Daniel’s elderly mother is emphatic that the box of WWII love letters hidden in her attic will solve the problem between him and Liam, but Daniel has no interest in reading them. What answers can fifty-year-old letters hold for him? The tension threatens to rip apart his family. Spurred by his mother’s insistence, and having no other choice, Daniel gives in and starts reading.And he’s stunned to learn that his family’s history isn’t so ordinary.What he learns flips his world upside down, shattering what he has always believed about his family’s history and his own. Instead of pulling the family back together, will these revelations push them farther apart?

Review: I wasn’t sure what I was going to get with this book. Was it a historical? A contemporary? Both? Neither? And WWII? But the author hooked me from the first page and didn’t let me go until the end. Part of it is a historical love story told through letters from WWII from a young soldier in Europe, his sister-in-law in the states, and his love interest in Paris. It’s also the story of a 50-something man today and his relationship with his son—and the son’s fiancé. It’s also about Daniel’s relationship with his mother. Everything in the book is tied to the letters and what Daniel learns through them. The story made me laugh, made me cry, brought despair—and hope. It’s poignant and sweet with a good ending.

What I liked: The way Liz (Daniel’s) wife deals with him, showing him that he’s being an idiot, but supporting him when he needs it. I absolutely loved the ending. I liked the way the author interspersed the letters with the present, giving us both sides. I loved Maggie, Daniel’s mother.

What I didn’t like: very little. If anything at all, at times the story was a bit slow, but the subject matter and characters make up for it.

Recommendation: Though a little slow at times, this is a really good story with believable characters and a satisfying ending that leaves you smiling. I recommend it as something different to read. A bit of history. A bit of contemporary story. A bit of family issues. But all those bits make an interesting story.

Thanks to the author for providing this book in exchange for an honest review.

Vicky 1/5/2020

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RUNAWAY LOVE STORY by Sadira Stone

Contemporary Romance

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Blurb: She hates average…he’s as average as they come.

High school history teacher Doug Garvey is trying to enjoy his last few weeks of summer vacation, but receiving his final divorce decree hits him harder than expected. After a brief fling fizzles, he fears love just isn’t in the cards for him. If only he could find someone who’s real, someone interested in something beyond herself…maybe a new running partner who can keep up with his more carnal appetite. When sexy, straight-talking Laurel runs across his path, he dares to hope again. He’s done with social-climbing posers…she’s ambitious and has big dreams. Fired from an art gallery, Laurel Jepsen shelves her pursuit of an art career in San Francisco to help her beloved great aunt Maxie move into assisted living. While out on a morning run, she’s harassed by a group of teens until a tall, broad-shouldered hottie steps in, pretending to be her boyfriend with a kiss that makes her wish it were true. But she’s only passing through, not looking for a relationship. Their fierce chemistry burns up the sheets—and the couch, the shower, the forest—but falling in love would ruin everything. Laurel can’t stay in Eugene, and he can’t leave. Doug’s only hope is to convince her the glittery life she’s after could blind her to the opportunities already in her path.

Review: Laurel is flighty, angsty, easily cowled by her father and someone who runs—not just physically (though she does that a lot), but also when things go wrong, she runs. And there’s a lot that goes wrong in her life. When she’s fired from her job at an art gallery, her family sends her to Eugene, OR to help her aunt Maxie prepare for a move to a retirement home. Along the way, she meets Doug, a divorced history teacher and also a runner, and a friend of Maxie’s.Things heat up, but getting involved with someone doesn’t match Laurel’s plans to move to San Francisco as soon as she can to pursue a job in an art gallery.

What I liked: Maxie! She is an absolute hoot! This is a sweet romance with some heat. The chemistry between Laurel and Doug is real and believable as is the conflict. He won’t leave Eugene and she doesn’t want to stay. I loved how her lack of self-confidence came across so well and turned into success with her art. And though I didn’t particularly like what happened with Maxie, I appreciated the emotions the author pulled from me.

What I didn’t like: Laurel has a lot of baggage (as does Doug) which makes her come across as a less than likable character at times. But her growth through the story makes up for this lack. Also, at times, the story was a little repetitive—same problem, new situation, which made it a little slow at times.

Recommendation: If you’re looking for a nice romance of the “beach read” type, then pick this one up. It’s a cute story with a HEA ending that will satisfy.

Thanks to the author for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review

Vicky 12/29/19

 

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LACEWOOD by Jessica James

Romance with historical connections

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Katie McCain is a New York socialite daughter with a demanding mother and agent. But she’s tired of all the nonsense that goes with her glitzy lifestyle. While on a trip to DC, she rents a car and drives into the Virginia countryside, hoping to find her grandmother’s old home. A place where she spent childhood summers. She gets lost and ends up on a back road looking at an abandoned mansion. The local sheriff finds her and lets her into the place to look around—and she falls instantly in love with the dilapidated place. She decides to buy it and restore it and plans on doing the work herself. Her agent—and most of the townspeople in the tiny town nearby—think she’s crazy. Katie gets help in the the shape of Will, a local guy who’s suffering from PTSD from the Navy. Together, the two of them work on the mansion, and themselves. In the process, they find companionship, comfort, and even a ghost or two.

What I liked: Katie rolling up her sleeves and doing a lot of the work herself. And Will’s service dog. The descriptions were beautifully done—I could almost “see” the mansion. I also liked the description of the small town—the people were spot on (trust me, I know. I’ve lived in a place like that!). I also liked the ties to Annie Logan and the past (1860’s). At first, I didn’t care for the chapters about Annie and Jon, but by the end of them, I was crying and caught up in their story. I also loved the description of the rain on the metal roof. Perfect. I also loved that Katie did actually find her grandmother’s home. I also loved “Rosie” the tractor! Fun.

What I didn’t like: I know Katie was determined to do things herself, but there had to be things she couldn’t do—like replacing windows, electricity, plumbing… things she would have had to hire someone for. I’d liked to have least seen a passing note about these workmen being there. Also, as demanding as Katie’s mother supposedly is, why isn’t she there demanding Katie return or something like that? I’d think she’d make at least an attempt to get Katie back home.

Recommendation: This is a sweet story with historical ties. It’s not quite a historical romance, but the history of Annie and Jon figures heavily in Katie’s story. I’d definitely recommend this book.

Vicky 12/29/19

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FORTUNE’S FOLLY by Cat Dubie

Historical romance

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Blurb: In 1867, Eden Fitzgerald marries, not for love or money, but to persuade her influential in-laws to obtain her father’s release from a contrived prison sentence. Cleverly evading those who believe she, like her father, is a smuggler and Fenian collaborator, Eden does what she can, what she must to achieve her goal. When legal methods are exhausted, she dons a mask, carries a pistol and, using her wiles, wits, even her seductive beauty, robs wealthy citizens to amass enough money to arrange her father’s escape. Her life grows ever more complicated by the lustful attentions of several men who profess to love her, and the one man she loves but dares not trust. As her crimes worsen, culminating in what may be treason, and her enemies grow more dangerous and determined to apprehend her, she must run for her own freedom.

Review: I really enjoyed this book up to a point, which you’ll see below. I will note, however, that there were multiple—albeit minor—editorial issues that occasionally hit me, mostly point of view shifts so I wasn’t sure who I was supposed to be with at sometimes. Again, for most people, they wouldn’t notice this, but I did.

What I liked: I loved Eden. She goes completely against what is normal for a woman of that time period (yay here!). She knows what she wants and goes after it (in most cases). Unfortunately, that’s often to her detriment as she gets involved in multiple nefarious dealings. Her brother-in-law is a good character. I didn’t like him at all, but he is still a good character. As are many of the other characters. The author did a good job of building them. And setting the story mostly in Canada—something not usually done, but enjoyable. The author also does a decent job of describing the setting—I could almost see the cold rooms of Louis’ Montreal home.

What I didn’t like: And the only reason this got three stars—was that it didn’t end. This is a serialized story with a “To Be Continued” ending that upset me completely. I *hate* these kinds of stories. I hate that I will be forced to purchase the next book to find out what happens to Eden. I don’t know that I will do that. This kind of ending usually irks me enough that I refuse to purchase more books by the authors who do this, but… I enjoyed this one enough that I might.

Recommendation: I highly recommend this book with the caveat that it is not a stand alone and does not end and needs slightly better editing. If you don’t mind those things, then pick this one up. It is a decent story that held my interest right up to the last page.

Thanks to the author for providing this in exchange for an honest review.

Vicky 12/21/19

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RED SNOWFLAKES by Kristal Dawn Harris

Paranormal Romance (Vampires), Christmas, Novella

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Blurb: Forensic photographer, Dena Williams, has spent her life trained to see what others cannot. Vampire, Dimitri Kovac, has waited every Christmas for a miracle that does not come. In the Oregon wilderness, during a snowstorm, these two destined souls collide. Dena’s only hope of survival rests in a vampire with the heart of a poet. Dimitri only has five days to win a skeptical woman’s heart. As the Christmas tree lights burn brightly and the snow continues to fall, will Dena succumb to a vampire’s charms? With so little time, can Dimitri win her love?

Review: Wow. Hot, emotional, reminiscent of “Beauty and the Beast” but with a hunky vampire. In this case Gaston is played by a serial killer and, though we aren’t there, he does get his in the end.

What I liked: The beautiful red snowflakes that Dmitri shapes from glass – it’s so touching that Dena wants to hang them all on their tree. The opening of the story is very strong—and very CSI. So be forewarned—it’s a murder scene and she’s photographing it. I loved the imagery the author gives us—it’s beautiful. I loved that Dmitri’s best friend is a pastor of a church. Plus, Dmitri isn’t your run-of-the-mill vampire.

What I didn’t like: Very little. This is a steamy hot vampire romance that ties into Christmas. Okay, I’d have liked for it to be a little longer (it’s a novella), but seriously, that’s it.

Recommendation: If you like hot, hunky vampires who set your blood to pounding, this novella is definitely for you.

Thanks to the author for providing this story in exchange for an honest review

Vicky 12/21/19

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COVEN OF SECRETS by C. J. Beaumont

Paranormal Romance (witches – Urban Fantasy)

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Blurb: Once touched by darkness, always tainted. Roxanne Cole swore off magic for a reason. But now her little sister Kathryn has gone missing, and the only person willing to help is her pretty-boy nemesis, Ray Hammond. Roxy’s not sure she can trust him, but with nowhere else to turn, she’s forced into an uneasy alliance. When the coven’s high priestess also goes missing, it seems her sister’s disappearance is just a small piece of a much bigger puzzle. And the more she works with Ray, the more she realizes he’s just another temptation that could add to the ever-increasing magical missing persons count. As bodies start dropping and the death toll rises, it becomes clear someone is declaring war on the Bayshore Witches. Now, if Roxy wants her little sister back, she’ll have to decide what, and who, she’s willing to sacrifice.

Review: Wow, does this story grab you from the first page. There’s a lot of impact in the first paragraphs…BUT… I will note here that the beginning has a “suicide attempt” that could be a trigger for some people. I have a friend who would lover this story, but I won’t recommend it to her because of that scene and the way the subject arises through the story.

What I liked: the characters. They are well-developed with issues and problems that go beyond what we in the “normal” world deal with, although there is crossover. I can absolutely see religious fanatics going after people because they are witches. It’s an interesting commentary on our “conform or else” society. I also loved the cat Logan, the way he shows up and settles in. The issues between Roxy and Ray Hammond were good—she hasn’t forgotten their past, he has no clue. I really liked the way they came to an agreement on jobs. So funny.

What I didn’t like: and the only reason it got 3 sparklers instead of higher, was that this is NOT a stand alone book. It doesn’t end. It’s a “to be continued” story, which I detest. I know it’s a marketing ploy, but it really makes me angry to get so invested in a story, and it doesn’t end. The story is a good story, the ending isn’t.

Recommendation: with the caveats listed above, if you can handle them, pick this up. It’s a good story.

Thanks to the author for providing this book in exchange for an honest review.

Vicky 12/21/19

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IN LOVE BY CHRISTMAS by Cari Lynn Webb

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Sweet romance – Christmas

Blurb: All Theo Taylor wants for Christmas is a profitable year-end and a flawless wedding for his sister. Hiring beautiful but unknown designer Josie Beck is a huge risk, especially when the Taylors’ reputation is at stake. Josie is sweet, kind, and impossible to resist. But is Josie about to destroy Theo’s perfect wedding plan…or is she the answer to his heart’s secret Christmas wish?

This is a sweet Christmas romance from Harlequin with all the standard tropes you expect from one of their stories, which is not a bad thing. Theo is a handsome businessman who is all about profits. His sister Arianna is planning her perfect winter wedding but their mother has other plans—her own wedding (even though she doesn’t have a boyfriend). Lilian Taylor picks the same gown as Arianna, the same flowers, and even samples the menu all while using a matchmaker to find her the groom she’ll need. Theo has to intervene and picks Josie to design the new gown for his sister. Josie is barely  making ends meet, but that doesn’t stop her from helping women struggling even more than she is to have the perfect wedding gown. Taylor can’t understand someone like Josie, but she intrigues him. Even though they come from very different backgrounds, they have more in common than they realize.

What I liked: that it was a sweet, easy-to-read romance with a happily-ever-after ending. I liked Mia’s (Josie’s best friend) mother and mother-in-law. They were amazing and I wish I knew them!

What I didn’t like: Lilian. Yes, she was supposedly doing what she did on purpose, but the things she did really made me hate her and her redemption in the end didn’t work for me. I had trouble forgiving her.

Recommendation: If you’re looking for a sweet Christmas story with a HEA ending, pick this one up. You won’t be sorry.

Thanks to the author for providing this in exchange for an honest review.

Vicky 11/5/19

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THAT APRIL IN SANTA MONICA by Melody DeBlois

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Madison is an interesting, realistic character who, like many, is driven, fueled by caffeine and junk food. She seldom slows down to relax. Her “always on” lifestyle catches up to her and we meet her as she’s slowly coming to after fainting. Her rescuer is guru Brandon, there to try to talk her into changing her life before she kills herself.

Scared by her prognosis, she agrees to take part in Brandon’s reality show and become his next student project. But the rules don’t fit with her life. No junk food, no caffeine, no alcohol or cigarettes, no cell phone, no outside contact beyond her sister. She tries rebellion, but when the producers threaten to kick her out, she agrees.

The presence of cameras everywhere except the bathroom and study keeps their growing attraction at bay. Plus, Brandon is determined not to get involved with a student. There’s a lot of sexual tension, and their attraction is clear, but they don’t even kiss until near the end. And the heat between the sheets, when they finally get there, is tastefully described, with more emotion than physicality.

The secondary characters here were a lot of fun, too, from the folks on the program crew, to Maddie’s crazy family—and the dog! Loved that mutt. Also lots of soul searching and life changes here for both Maddie and Brandon.

What I liked: the characters. Especially Maddie. She’s so real. And quirky, snarky, broken, and changes and grows very much through the story. I loved the setting details and the struggles Maddie faces. The tension between the characters was really well done.

What I didn’t like: very little. Well done book.

Recommendation: Definitely recommended.

Vicky 10/25/19

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NICK OF TIME by Allison B. Hanson

Contemporary Romance

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Nicole (aka Nic) is left standing at the altar by the man she’d been with for almost seven years. He finally accepted that he was gay—on their wedding day. Nic pastes on a smile and goes on with her life, even if it means being best “man” at her best friend’s wedding. The biggest problem there isn’t getting through the ceremony, but in dealing with his younger brother, Tucker. Tucker has been a thorn in her side from childhood and she’s developed a healthy hate for him.

Tucker hates weddings. They mean “forever” and he doesn’t do things that last. A fallen rock star who hit bottom and has clawed his way back out, he knows his family doesn’t trust him. That distrust extends to his brother’s best friend, Nicole. She’s too out of his league. Too…perfect.

Due to circumstances beyond their control, Tucker and Nicole end up stranded together in a cabin during an ice storm. One thing leads to another and… The hot and heavy night turns into strong attraction that keeps them coming back for more. Though they agree it’s nothing serious, they’re denying what’s really there. But the life of a rock star means travel and temptations. How can Nic trust Tucker? How can he trust himself?

What I liked: This isn’t normally my genre of book. I rarely read contemporary romance, but I am so glad I did read this one. Both Nicole and Tucker are broken. You can be rich and entitled and still be broken. The author makes it believable and pulls at your emotions so strongly that I had to finish this book in one day. The characters are realistic, the settings nice (though I could use just a little more detail), and the HEA ending satisfying.

What I didn’t like: Nothing. Like I said above, this really pulled me in and kept me turning the pages.

Recommendation: If you like romance, definitely pick this one up. It’s a good story with believable characters and a satisfying ending. Be prepared for it to pull at your heartstrings.

Vicky 10/2/19

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A WITCH IN TIME by Wynter Daniels & Catherine Kean

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Paranormal/Time Travel Romance

It’s 1645 and Colin Wilshire is onboard a ship with his pregnant wife. They’re near Florida and heading for Barbados when a horrific storm hits them. The ship wrecks and while trying to save those he can, Colin is hit on the head and ends up in Cat’s Cove in modern times. He’s found by Luna, a witch, who recognizes him from her dreams. Though they both fall for each other, Colin is desperate to get back to his wife…until he discovers it’s not necessary.

Things I liked: It’s a cute, sweet, short (novella length) story with good characters and a satisfying ending.

Things I didn’t like: There’s not much setting given. Yes, it’s a short story, but I’d like a little more detail. Also, a question… how does Luna get rid of Chuck? That’s never addressed—or are we supposed to guess?

Recommendation: If you’re looking for a quick, light, fluff piece, this is it. It’s fun, but there’s not much substance here.

Vicky 9/10/19

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TAMING A SCANDAL by Linda Carroll-Bradd

Historical Romance – Novella

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This was a sweet historical romance and I loved the bits of true history the author added in that showed she did her research—and yes, I checked. J

Mercia Saunders has been attending art school in Philadelphia. While on a break and visiting her family in Rhode Island, she discovers she has been evicted from her rooming house in Philly, and to escape the scandal, she is being sent to her older brother in the wilds of Texas. To complicate matters, a Pinkerton detective, Dominic Grant, has been set on her trail, both to watch her for her father, and to see if she’s involved in the theft of a silver locket. Dominic does this through a series of disguises that she never quite sees through.

The story is sweet and has a HEA ending, but… Mercia starts off as a somewhat spoiled single woman (she’s 25) and that doesn’t change. Characters are usually supposed to grow and change through a story and she doesn’t. Though she does downgrade her wardrobe at the end, she’s still very much into herself. Dominic changes a lot (pun intended) as he goes through at least five disguises while watching her, but that also is all on the surface. There’s not much depth to him. But at least he helps out on the ranch. Although I liked the characters, I’d really have liked to have seen some more depth to them. And yes, I realize this is a short novella and a quick read, but there could ha be been a little more development, especially where Mercia is concerned.

Seeing the setting through artistic Mercia’s eyes was interesting—and well done. It’s one of the best parts of the story. The differences between Philadelphia and the tiny town in Texas; the long travel by train, stagecoach, and more. Excellently done.

I think, however, the thing that bothered me the most was that the mystery wasn’t solved. We never find out who took the locket. I have a feeling this part of the story is continued in the other stories in the series, but it bothered me.

So… overall, if you’re looking for just a quick, fun, sweet, quick read, definitely pick this one up. I do enjoy the writer’s style and her attention to detail. But if you’re looking for depth, this isn’t it.

Vicky 7/27/19

 

RINGS OF FAOLAN – RUBIES by Kristal Dawn Harris

3 1/2 sparklers

2nd in series Shapeshifter Romance – high heat level

theringsoffaolanrubies_w13215_750-1When Michael and Natalie first meet, they know they are mates and are destined to be together, but they fight their attraction. However, when Michael is injured by Hunters who have vowed to eradicate all Lycans, Natalie goes to his ancestral home to help him heal and to help restore his home to its former glory. While there, Natalie discovers Michael’s protection of Lycans includes half-breed orphans, she finds herself falling for him despite herself. His surly exterior hides a noble character.

Good things: This is a moving story with solid world-building, well-crafted, believable characters and well-done fantasy mixed with realism. The end was a satisfying (and fun) HEA for the two main characters—with the surprise wedding being really cute. The way the characters care for the children, especially the half-breeds, is beautifully done.

Issues: I had trouble getting into the story. It was like coming into the story in the middle of it. This is the second book in a series and it shows. It was only after I was into it that I realized this one must take up after the first one ends so unless you’ve read the first one, you may not “get” everything that’s happening. Also, although the end is satisfying, it also leaves an awful lot of threads dangling so you know there’s going to be more. Once I was into the story, I enjoyed it, but honestly, had I not been reading this for a review, I probably wouldn’t have gone past the first chapter. I’m glad I did, but I believe you really need to read the first one (Emeralds) before this one in order to understand what’s going on with the characters.

Recommendation – pick this one up only if you’ve read the Emeralds one first.

Vicky 8/6/19

 

HAZELANNE by Linda Carroll-Bradd

4 sparklers

HazelanneGenre: Historical, America, Utah, 1884

Note: this is a novella of 114 pages

Hazelanne is a young woman who has shouldered the responsibility of her large family after her mother takes ill. But finances are meager. To help alleviate them somewhat, she agrees to be a mail-order bride to a rancher in Utah. When she gets there, the man she is to marry comes off as rough, somewhat cruel, and impatient. He hauls her off the stagecoach straight to the judge. When she arrives at the rustic cabin, she sees her life ahead as one of drudgery, similar to what she left. And a husband who refuses to call her anything more than “wife”. Fortunately, her life does change, but not in the way she imagined and thanks to the Wells Fargo guard, Brice, whom she met on her ride.

The plot was good and true to the times and the characters well-developed and believable. I really enjoyed getting into the story. And the ending was perfect. It left me smiling and satisfied. As far as the story went, I would recommend this.

So what didn’t I like? Why didn’t it get a 5 rating? I will be honest, it’s something that is probably only a problem for me. But there were quite a few editorial issues. Oh, they’re minor things. I will grant that. But there were enough of them that it bothered me a little. And again, it may only be because I have twenty years as an editor. So it appears obvious only to me. I will grant that.

So… if you can overlook the minor editorial issues, I definitely recommend this story. It’s a good story with believable characters.

FREEDOM’S PATH by Linda Carroll-Bradd (Historical, American)

5 sparklers

This is a short story, historical (1855 Vermont) and concerns the Underground Railroad.

To be honest, this type of story is not my normal go-to read. But, that being said, the author drew me in with her characters, the world-building, the story-line… She grabbed me and didn’t let me go until the end. And when the story ended, I was disappointed that there wasn’t more. I wanted to continue on with Sidonie and Colin’s story. To find out what happens to them. To experience their adventures with them.

Sidonie is a maid at a local inn, but she is also a conductor on the Underground Railroad, helping slaves escape. One of her favorite customers at the inn is Colin, a salesman. Except he’s not just a salesman. He’s an army corporal tasked with upholding the law—the law that says he has to arrest anyone caught helping slaves escape.

You really need to read this story to find out what happens between Sidonie and Colin. And it won’t take long. Like I said, this is a short story so it goes fast (mostly because of the author’s skill in telling the story). If you like historical books set in the colonial US, you’ll love this. If you’re not huge into historicals, you’ll still love it. I did, and that says a lot. Enjoy. I know I did. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07JZ2DGB6/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_tkin_p1_i10

Vicky 6/21