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.
MOUNTAIN BLAZE by Debby Grahl
Fiction, Contemporary Romance
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.
THE TURKISH AFFAIR by J. Arlene Culiner
Fiction, Contemporary Romance
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.
BLUEBERRY SWIRL WALTZ by Maria Imbalzano
Fiction, Romance 1950s
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.
BELLA CIGNA by Wendi Dass
Fiction, Contemporary Romance
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.
UNCONVENTIONAL BEGINNINGS by KaLyn Cooper
Fiction, Contemporary Romance
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.
A BID FOR ROMANCE by Meredith Bond
Fiction, Historical Romance
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.
A TRICK OF MIRRORS by Meredith Bond
Fiction, Historical Romance
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.
CAT THERAPY by Kathy Bosman
Fiction, contemporary romance
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.
THE STORY BETWEEN US by Darlene Deluca
Fiction, Contemporary Romance
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.
TWO TRUTHS AND A LIE by Daryl Devore
Fiction, Erotic Contemporary Romance
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.
ALWAYS ON MY MIND by Andrea Downing
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.
RAINBOW SPRINKLES by D.V. Stone
Fiction, Contemporary Romance
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.
ROCK HOUSE GRILL by DV Stone
Fiction, Contemporary Romance
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.
THE WONDER OF YOU by Laurie Kellogg
Fiction, Romance 1970s
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.
AN AFFAIR OF HEARTS by Meredith Bond
Fiction, Historical Romance
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.
LOVE, ART, AND OTHER OBSTACLES by Sadira Stone
Fiction, Contemporary Romance
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.
COMING HOME TO THE TOP OF MAIN STREET by Meg Easton
Fiction, Sweet Romance
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.
ELIZABETH BARRETT AND CUPID’S BROOCH by Donna Ann Brown
Fiction, Romance, Time-Travel
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.
TO HEAL A HEART by Jana Richards
Fiction, contemporary romance
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.
REFLECTIONS OF HOPE by Natalie Damschroder
Fiction, Romance, Action-Adventure
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.
Light the way Home by Elizabeth Andrews
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.
HOT RAIN by Kat Martin
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…
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.
MERRY AND BRIGHT by Jill Shalvis
Contemporary Holiday Romance – anthology
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…
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…
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.
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
HER ONE AND ONLY HERO by Sharon Hartley
Contemporary Romance/Romantic Suspense
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.
PICTURES OF YOU by M.C. Vaughan
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.
THIS DAY IS OURS by Gretchen Jeannette
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.
LOVE LETTERING by Kate Clayborn
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.
PUBLISH OR PERISH by Kerry Blaisdell
Romantic Suspense – Contemporary
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.
THEN THERE WAS YOU by Lynn Crandall
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.
ATTIC LETTERS: SECRETS OF LOVE AND WAR by Laurie Adams
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.
RUNAWAY LOVE STORY by Sadira Stone
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
LACEWOOD by Jessica James
Romance with historical connections
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.
FORTUNE’S FOLLY by Cat Dubie
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.
RED SNOWFLAKES by Kristal Dawn Harris
Paranormal Romance (Vampires), Christmas, Novella
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
COVEN OF SECRETS by C. J. Beaumont
Paranormal Romance (witches – Urban Fantasy)
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.
IN LOVE BY CHRISTMAS by Cari Lynn Webb
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.
THAT APRIL IN SANTA MONICA by Melody DeBlois
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.
NICK OF TIME by Allison B. Hanson
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.
A WITCH IN TIME by Wynter Daniels & Catherine Kean
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.
TAMING A SCANDAL by Linda Carroll-Bradd
Historical Romance – Novella
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.
RINGS OF FAOLAN – RUBIES by Kristal Dawn Harris
3 1/2 sparklers
2nd in series Shapeshifter Romance – high heat level
When 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.
HAZELANNE by Linda Carroll-Bradd
Genre: 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)
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