Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Review: The Lightkeeper

The Lightkeeper
Susan Wiggs
Historical Romance
1876/Washington Territory
MIRA/October 1, 1997
Re-issued/MIRA/March 1, 2002

When his pregnant wife dies in a shipwreck, Jesse Morgan gives up his wealth and place in Seattle society. He relegates himself to a tiny community where he dedicates his life to protecting others from the ocean. As keeper of a remote lighthouse along a dangerous coast in the Pacific Northwest, Jesse rejects all social contact so that he can brood about his loss. When the sea tosses up a beautiful pregnant woman, the lone survivor of another shipwreck, Jesse finds he has a second chance at life and love.

Mary Dare is an outspoken Irish woman who takes poverty, single motherhood, and death in stride. She brings vitality, passion, and joy to Jesse's life and forces him to face his guilt and unhappiness. Mary's honesty and compassion transform Jesse, and together they find beauty in a simple life.

Growing up in the Midwest, I always wanted to live on the coast. The idea of living in a lighthouse was truly amazing to someone whose only experience with a large body of water was Lake Michigan. Yes, there are (or were) lighthouses on the Great Lakes but I when I envisioned living in a lighthouse, it was always on the ocean. Through Jesse and Mary's story, I was able to live out my dream. Many years ago, when The Lightkeeper was first published I was lucky enough to read it and get lost in the beautiful world Susan Wiggs created. It was enjoyable to renew the love of the sea and of Wiggs' writing.

Jesse Morgan chooses to live his life as hermit and he's found a good place to do it. At the lighthouse, Jesse is able to more or less keep to himself and avoid interacting with most of the locals. He has lived this way for twelve years and has no desire to change. Then, the sea grants him the precious gift of Mary and her unborn child. He does not want this gift and tries to make Mary leave the lighthouse. There is such sadness and loneliness in Jesse. You can feel it in his actions, in what he says and what he leaves unsaid. Wiggs makes you want Jesse to find happiness. He has stayed in the dark for too long. Mary is the light to show him the way out.

Mary Dare is a woman who has survived so much and yet she still has this bright outlook on life. It wasn't difficult to share in Mary's enthusiasm for life. She is quite stubborn, which fits with her character. A woman without Mary's sheer stubbornness would not have made it as far and through as much as she has. Mary still has her insecurities and fears and she has every right to fear what she is running from.

Wiggs evokes strong feelings of love, loss and hope and within the pages there is also humor. Mary teases Jesse, helping to bring him back to the world of the living. I found myself laughing out loud at certain parts, sometimes at Mary's teasing but often at Jesse's self-deprecating comments. It lightened the more serious moments.

Those serious moments do conclude into a dramatic finale. It was easy to get caught up in the moments with just the right amount of tension and danger. A wonderful romance about surviving and learning to live life to the fullest.

Rating: A

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

TBR Challenge: A Pirate of Her Own

A Pirate of Her Own
Kinley MacGregor aka Sherrilyn Kenyon
Historical Romance/1793
Sea Wolves/Book 2
HarperCollins/April 1999
Reprinted/Avon/May 24, 2005

He is the Sea Wolf, a dreaded pirate who stops English navy ships and frees impressed American sailors. Few know Morgan Drake's name, and none guesses at his past. Except, that is, a nosy Savannah reporter named Serenity James. Determined to protect his secrets at any cost, Morgan sets sail for Savannah... and Serenity. 

All her life, Serenity has longed for adventure. As a woman, though, she's lucky even to be tolerated in her father's newspaper office. Then she's kidnapped by the bold, sexy pirate whose story fired her imagination, and in his embrace Serenity finds adventure beyond her wildest dreams. 

This month's suggestion was something published over ten years ago. One of the reason I chose this one is due to all the Kinley MacGregor books I have on the giant TBR pile. When I was gathering up Sherrilyn Kenyon novels years ago, I also grabbed any MacGregor books I could find. I've read Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark Hunter and Chronicles of Nick series and enjoy them but have yet to try her historical romances written under the MacGregor pseudonym. This was the the oldest on my shelf and I have a soft spot for pirates. :)

Serenity James lives in a world where women are expected to be obedient daughters and wives. That obedience doesn't always come easy for her, especially when she is researching a story. Her obsession with the pirate known as The Sea Wolf leads her onto his boat and into his arms. It's an adventure she has secretly longed for. Serenity surprised me because she didn't get on my nerves. Yes, I was half expecting it to happen. Thankfully, she wasn't a simpering miss who expects men to fall at her feet and do her bidding. Instead, she is smart and witty showing compassion for others without being easily taken in. It's those qualities Morgan Drake finds so compelling. Well, that and her looks. He is, after all, a man and a pirate.

Pirates have only a few uses for women - writing and talk of reform are nowhere to be found on the short list. For Morgan Drake, finding Serenity James on his ship throws him for a loop and he is determined to get her off his ship posthaste. That is until he spends time in her company and finds he can't seem to stay away from her. Morgan is a pirate, has killed to survive, but there is also a tender side to him. He is loyal to those he cares about and this comes through in his actions not only regarding Serenity but his crew as well.

The pacing slows down when Morgan and Serenity are on board his ship. There are some rough seas and a sea fight but those go rather quickly, leaving Morgan and Serenity to adjust to each others sudden presence in their lives. I was anticipating more action, in fact, I was looking forward to it. But perhaps I am comparing this to Kenyon's Dark Hunter books which have loads of fight scenes and battles to the death and sometimes beyond.

A Pirate of Her Own is not what I would call earthshaking, more of a satisfying romance with a fairly predictable plot and conclusion. Still, it was a fun romp on the high seas if you're in the the mood for a pirate romance.

Rating: B

Sea Wolves Duology ~

Master of Seduction
A Pirate of Her Own

Saturday, May 16, 2015

ARC Review: Outlaw Hearts

Outlaw Hearts
Rosanne Bittner
Western/Historical Romance
Outlaw Hearts/Book 1
February 1, 1993/Bantam
Sourcebooks/May 5, 2015

At twenty, Miranda Hayes had known more than her share of heartache and loss. Widowed by the war, orphaned by a vicious band of rebel raiders, she was a woman alone in a harsh, unyielding frontier. Then she clashed with the notorious gunslinger Jake Harkner, a hard-hearted loner with a price on his head, and found within herself a deep well of courage...and feelings of desire she'd never known.

Hunted by lawmen and desperadoes alike, haunted by his brutal past, Jake had spent a lifetime on the dusty trail--and on the run. Until he met a vibrant, honey-haired beauty who was determined to change his violent ways, who loved him enough to risk her life to be his woman...an outlaw's woman. 

From the vast plains of the Midwest across the Oregon Trail to the sun-drenched valleys of southern California, from the blazing Nevada desert to the boomtowns of Colorado, Miranda and Jake struggled to endure amid the perils of a lawless wilderness. In a world of heart-stopping danger and burning desire, could their hard-won love survive the shadows that stalked their happiness?

I've always loved a good western romance and Rosanne Bittner certainly knows how to write them. This isn't just a western romance but an adventure spanning miles and years of rough roads and rougher living. Through all of this, Jake and Miranda endure and eventually thrive.

Miranda Hayes has such a strong spirit but even her spirit is tested in what she has endured both during and after the American Civil War. What I liked most about her is her ability to see not just right from wrong but to use both her heart and her head when making difficult decisions. She continues to have hope in the good of the world but is still practical in her need to survive.

Jake Harkner was on the path to lawlessness at an early age. Circumstances and bitterness lead to a life on the wrong side of the law and his image on wanted posters. Jake isn't a bad guy but you can't say he's completely good either. He has no problem killing and little to any remorse when he feels it's justified. His redemption comes through Miranda. Had it not been for her, he would have died in a shoot out or at the end of a noose. The thing about Jake is he doesn't feel he is deserving of redemption but he tries. He does succeed but still doesn't completely give up violence, not when his family is in danger. To me, that's a very believable compromise.

Miranda and Jake come together through their own unique way of living life. Miranda with her need to help others and Jake with his need for trouble. When they separate, they don't expect to see each other again but fate has a way of  bringing two people together who were meant to be together.

This is not a pretty, romanticized look at the west. Bittner shows the wild west in all its hostile, brutal glory. I would actually find myself worrying about Miranda and Jake. Silly, since there wasn't any doubt they wouldn't make it through to their Happily Ever After. This is a romance after all. The villains were truly villainous and even though the logical part of my brain knew Jake and Miranda would ultimately be okay, there was still the feeling all would not turn out well.

If you're in the mood for an exciting western with an authentic feel, Outlaw Hearts fits the bill. And this July the sequel will be released allowing us to catch up with Miranda and Jake, twenty-six years later. I'm curious to see what Ms. Bittner has in store for the older, wiser couple.

Rating: B+

Outlaw Hearts

Outlaw Hearts
Do Not Forsake Me (July 7, 2015)

Monday, May 11, 2015

ARC Review: Kiss Across Deserts

Kiss Across Deserts
Tracy Cooper-Posey
Erotic Romance/Time Travel/MMF
Kiss Across Time/Book 4
Self-Published/May 5, 2015

Time travel is not for the weak of heart.

Alexander Karim, long-time friend of Brody, Veris and Taylor, has been questioning everything; his purpose in life and his identity as a vampire and a doctor. Even his long time pursuit of the lovely but reluctant police lieutenant Sydney Stevens is on shaky ground.

Life tosses him a curve ball when Alex learns that Brody’s trial lawyer, Rayner De Leon, the youngest appeal court judge in the state, is attracted to Alex. Rayner is a vampire, Rafael, who has known Brody and Veris since the fifth century. Alex warily allows Rafael to seduce him, and the affair has surprising results for both of them.

But then a deliberate hit and run tosses Sydney back into Alex’s life and this time, her defenses are down and she is vulnerable. But there are unanswered questions surrounding Sydney. Who tried to kill her?  And why is she insisting that Alex was there, when he doesn’t remember it that way?

When a kiss sends Alex and Sydney back to Alex’s beloved desert, and he realizes that Taylor is not the only one who can time travel, the questions pile up like gunpowder. The flint that strikes the spark is Sydney’s past, which is exposed when Rafael reaches through time and uncovers her dangerous secret.

The explosion that follows is both deadly and tragic, reaching out to touch everyone’s lives.

Warning: This time travel menage romance features two super-hot alpha vampire heroes, multiple sex scenes, including anal sex, MM sexual play, and MMF sex. Do not read this book if frank sexual language and sex scenes offend you.

The time-space continuum was restored to order at the end of this book. Promise.

Sexy vampires and time travel. A combination sure to produce steamy, sexy scenes. Not only does Kiss Across Deserts deliver hot sex scenes, there is also an engaging plot to go along with it. The one caveat - if you haven't read the previous books in the series you might find yourself a little lost at times. The heroes and heroine from those books feature heavily in the plot, having a history with the current heroes.

Sydney Stevens is dealing with a demanding job and she seems to be a bit of a loner. Her work is her life. Sydney is a detective although this was not apparent at the beginning. There were clues alluding to what she did but I would have preferred it being stated rather than guessing until it was finally revealed. Syndney has struck up an odd friendship with Alex Karim, who keeps asking her out, she continues to decline. This relationship I found intriguing because it was new for both of them and they were each coming from very different places in their lives.

Alex is working through some serious issues and doesn't seem to know what he wants when it comes to relationships. His confusion leads to a stressful situation with Sydney and Rafael. Alex is also a doctor doing research into time travel and at first it was a little murky as to what he is searching for. Some clarity early on would have been helpful.

Enter Rafael. He is attracted to Alex and makes that attraction known. This is all new to Alex which Rafael takes into consideration as he pursues a relationship between the two of them. But this doesn't last and Alex is again alone. The dynamics between Rafael and Alex were well written with both men showing how their long pasts have affected their present attitude concerning relationships. But that's all about to change as these two men realize what is missing from their lives.

The time travel aspect was interesting but what I really enjoyed was the relationship between Alex, Sydney and Rafael. How they come together, meshing their lives into one. The dynamics are at first difficult to see how they might combine their lives but as the story progresses, we see the three were meant to be together.

This was a solid addition to the Kiss Across Time series. I would recommend reading the previous books since they give the additional background stories needed to make this series feel complete.

Rating: B

Kiss Across Time Series ~

Kiss Across Time
Kiss Across Swords
Kiss Across Chains
Kiss Across Deserts

Monday, April 27, 2015

ARC Review: Part Time Cowboy

Part Time Cowboy
Maisey Yates
Contemporary Romance/Western
Copper Ridge Series/Book 1
Harlequin/April 1, 2015

Sadie Miller isn't expecting any welcome-home parades on her return to Copper Ridge. Least of all from part-time rancher, full-time lawman Eli Garrett. The straight-laced, impossibly hot deputy sheriff glares at her like she's the same teenage hoodlum who fled town ten years ago. But running from her demons has brought Sadie full circle, ready to make a commitment at last. Not to a man, but to a B and B. On Garrett land. Okay, so her plan has a tiny flaw…

Eli works too hard to let a blonde ball of trouble mess up his town. But keeping an eye on Sadie makes it tough to keep his hands off her. And if she's so wrong for him, why does being with her feel so right?

When I think of Oregon, ranching doesn't come to mind. So it was a pleasant surprise to find a story about ranching set in Oregon. I was curious to see if the setting would give the story a different feel from one set in the more traditional Montana or Wyoming. The main difference is Copper Ridge, the fictional town, is on the coast so we get some mention of the beautiful Oregon coastline. Other than that, this story could have been taken place in any number of ranching areas.

Coming home can be a profound experience. Good or bad, coming home has an impact on the person we were when we left. For Sadie Miller, coming home is filled with frayed nerves and uncertainty. Sadie's departure from Copper Ridge was not a joyous occasion, rather it was more a run-for-your-life situation. She has since been running from one place to another, never really finding the right fit. Sadie thinks it's time to settle somewhere so she heads back to Copper Ridge. It seemed a little odd that she would sign a five year contract for the B&B when she has spent the past ten years wandering across the country. I found it a little hard to believe Sadie would have such a turnabout. She is the opposite of her high school crush Eli Garrett.

Ah, cowboys...how can you not like them? They make is easy to overlook the smell of hay and horses and simply concentrate on the way their Wranglers fit them so well. Even though the hero, Eli Garrett is a deputy sheriff, he still helps his brother Conner at the family ranch. Eli and Sadie had a run in years ago when Eli was a new deputy. That encounter set off a series of events in Sadie's young life that Eli has no idea about. When he does find out his reaction says a lot about his character. He is not only horrified but sorry about the part he inadvertently played. Eli's main problem is he takes on too much responsibility for others which leads to guilt when things don't work out. Yes, there were times when I just wanted to smack him and tell him he is not everyone's parent.

Sadie and Eli get off to a rocky start when Sadie rolls back into town. It's only made worse by their past and their current proximity with Sadie living on the ranch. It's inevitable they will run into each other and those run-ins lead to all sorts of trouble. The sexual tension is done just right with Eli's old man, uptight attitude against Sadie's fun loving, easy going ways. Loved the friction these two generated!

Even though this is technically not the first story in the series, there is a novella that comes prior, Part Time Cowboy, it is a solid start and makes me look forward to the next two books. Next up is Connor's story. He is Eli's older, drunken brother. Followed by the sister, Kate's story. Both sound like they will be good reads based on the blurbs and what I know of the characters.

Rating: B

Copper Ridge Series ~

Shoulda Been a Cowboy (novella)
Part Time Cowboy
Brokendown Cowboy (May 26, 2015)
Bad News Cowboy (July 28, 2015)

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

ARC Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses

A Court of Thorns and Roses
Sarah J. Maas
A Court of Thorns and Roses/Book 1
Bloomsbury Children's/May 5, 2015

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she's been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

My first Sarah J. Maas book and I'm already looking forward to the next one! Maas leads the reader along on an adventure worthy of the name. Since this was my first experience reading Maas, I kept my expectations open, as always hoping for a good story. What I got was that and much more!

The world Feyre lives in is so far from where she came from, not in distance but in circumstance. She is the provider for her little family consisting of her father and two sisters. Feyre's main goal is to feed her family. That's it. She has no real hopes for the future because she doesn't dare think about the future. It's too depressing. So when she finds herself taken across the Wall and into the land of the Fae she is all about surviving and finding a way back to her family. It's not because she has such great love for them, no, what she feels for them is responsibility. A promise made is a promise kept. Feyre always keeps her promises. The struggles Feyre goes through with the obligations to her family, her desire to leave them and the responsibility for them behind adds more depth to her character.

Feyre may only be nineteen but she is an old nineteen. She has had to shoulder the burden of her family for many years. It is that burden which leads her into the world of the Fae and the High Lord. What Feyre learns about the Fae and about her host is stories are sometimes just that. But there is also some truth to the tales of the Fae. Feyre's experience in Tamlin's court lead her into a world of both beauty and horror. She not only forges grudging friendships, she also makes a profound impact on her host, the High Lord. Tamlin is heavily conflicted over his feelings towards Feyre. This is evident in how he treats her, at first wanting little to nothing to do with her, then spending more time with her, almost as if they are becoming friends.

Both Feyre and Tamlin are well drawn characters filled with strengths and flaws defined in ways to pull the reader in. The romance is filled with friction and I liked how the conflict played out not only between Feyre and Tamlin but also between the secondary characters who are loyal to Tamlin. This loyalty is in direct conflict with their feelings towards the new human in their realm. The Fae in general have little liking for humans, with Tamlin's followers barely tolerating Feyre in the beginning. Over time, Feyre wins over not only Tamlin but some of his most staunchest allies.

If I found any thing wrong with the story it would be the slower pacing at certain points. I would find myself wanting the characters to just get on with it. They know what they should do, they've thought it through, now do it! I think I became inpatient simply because the rest of the story was so very good!

This is said to be similar to Beauty and the Beast but I think the same can be said of many a romance whether it was intended by the author or not. And yes, Tamlin can literally turn into a beast but some heroes can be quite beastly without going all furry. If the comparison to the tale of Beauty and the Beast turns you off, don't let it turn you off of Feyre and Tamlin's story.

Rating: A-

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

TBR Challenge: Simply Irresistible

Simply Irresistible
Rachel Gibson
Contemporary Romance
Chinooks Hockey Team/Book 1
Avon/January 1, 1998

Georgeanne Howard leaves her fiancé at the altar when she realizes she can't marry a man old enough to be her grandfather, no matter how rich he is. Hockey superstar John Kowalsky unknowingly helps her escape, and only when it's too late does he realize that he's absconded with his boss's bride. This bad boy isn't looking to be anybody's savior but his own. Still, a long night stretches ahead of them—a night too sultry to resist temptation. 

Seven years later, Georgeanne and John meet again. She is on her way to becoming Seattle's domestic darling and he is past his hellraising days. Shocked to learn that he has a daughter, John's determined to be part of her life. Georgeanne has loved John since the moment she jumped into his car, but will he risk the wrath of his boss, and one final chance at glory, to prove that this time his love will be everlasting?

Another month gone and another book off the TBR pile. Yeah! At this rate ... well, I'll always have a TBR pile but it does give a false sense of accomplishment. :)

This month's theme was contemporary. While I have read a few of Rachel Gibson's books, I own more than I've read. Simply Irresistible, and the series as a whole have popped up as recommend numerous times, which no doubt is why I picked them up.

Now, I'm not much for watching sports. Mostly because I find them boring. Slow with lots of down time, except for hockey and soccer. Those I'll watch. Not necessarily a whole game but I've been know stop and watch a while when channel surfing. So I was happy to see the hero was a professional hockey player. Turns out the downside was there is little hockey playing going on. I would have liked to read more about the culture these often violent men live in.

At first, I found Georgeanne annoyingly southern. Nothing against southern women but Georgeanne seemed to exemplify all the southern female clichés. She played helpless and batted her eyelashes to emphasis her poor little me cliché. After her and John's night together, we jump forward seven years and Georgeanne has become more secure in who she is and her abilities to take care of herself. She was definitely more likable.

John was okay in the beginning. He had this gorgeous woman in distress practically begging him to save her. He's a guy so he helps her out. She drives him crazy with her incessant chatter but he decides to focus on her luscious body instead. He does point out her nonstop talking and how he doesn't care about the stories she tells about people he doesn't know. Georgie is a little offended but that doesn't stop her from having a one night stand with the hunky hockey player.

Seven years have past without any contact between John and Georgeanne but that is about to change. Georgeanne has done well for herself, becoming part owner of a catering business. John is captain of the Chinooks hockey team and has left his drunk and disorderly lifestyle behind. When John finds out he has a daughter he is determined to be in her life. He's also mad as hell at Georgeanne for not telling him. I don't blame him but he did leave Georgeanne with the distinct impression that he wanted nothing to do with her. So in her defense, I can see why she didn't tell John. Plus, he broke her heart.

So they come to an agreement to allow John to get to know Lexi, the little girl. Of course there are some bumps in the road as well as a few very large potholes before they get to their happy ending. The part before those big potholes was probably my favorite part, seeing them slowly becoming a family. But then everything gets messed up and John and Georgeanne are at odds with Lexi in the middle. I'd say Lexi is my favorite character in the book. I never did really warm up to John or Georgeanne.

There is a secondary romance which I would have liked to see more time spent on developing but it is secondary so no such luck. I have a feeling I might have liked the hero and heroine more than John and Georgeanne.

So, going on the blurb, it was a fairly predictable romance and while I liked some parts, it left me feeling a bit disappointed.

Side note: I did read the second book in the series, See Jane Score, over five years ago and liked it a heck of a lot better. Link to review is below.

Rating: C

Chinooks Hockey Team Series ~

Simply Irresistable
See Jane Score
The Trouble With Valentine's Day
True Love and Other Disasters
Nothing But Trouble
Any Man of Mine

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Review: The Scribe

The Scribe
Elizabeth Hunter
Contemporary Fantasy/PNR
The Irin Chronicles/Book 1
Self Published/October 15, 2013

Hidden at the crossroads of the world, an ancient race battles to protect humanity, even as it dies from within.

Ava Matheson came to Istanbul looking for answers, but others came looking for her. A reckless warrior guards her steps, but will Malachi’s own past blind him to the truth of who Ava might be? While ancient forces gather around them, both Ava and Malachi search for answers. 

Whispering voices. Deadly touch. Their passion should be impossible... or it could be the only thing that will keep them alive.

A shout out to Kristie from Ramblings on Romance for recommending The Scribe. I might have missed this wonderful fantasy and missed adding Elizabeth Hunter to my list of authors to read. 

Ava Matheson has traveled the word, photographing some of the most beautiful and brutal scenes. She comes to Istanbul to meet with a doctor she hopes can help her. Ava hears voices in her head. It's hard for her to be around crowds for obvious reasons. She thinks she's crazy but still holds out a small hope something can be done to "fix her", or at least lessen the voices. What she finds in Istanbul is far more than she expected and leads her into a world she could not have imagined. The world Hunter has created is fascinating for its history as well as how the inhabitants exist in concordance with our world. 

It's through these revelations Ava meets Malachi, a man who shadows her moves and the others who stalker her. Malachi wants to keep her safe but has to earn her trust first. Their relationship is a jagged mess of misinformation made believable through circumstances. Malachi has a mission which doesn't include falling for Ava. All that is set aside when he realizes she is much more than he thought, not only to his fellow Irin brethren but to himself. 

Ava is a strong heroine. She is accustomed to being on her own so she knows how to take care of herself. Her intelligence is evident when she eludes the Grigori when the try to follow her. I found her to be very likable. She doesn't intimidate easily and can hold her own with Malachi and his brothers. Malachi is equally a strong hero. He gives so much of himself for his brothers and then for Ava. It was wonderful to see how the relationship between these two develops into to an enduring love affair. 

The pacing is kept tight with just the right amount of tension and mystery. As more is revealed about Malachi and his brothers in arms, we also learn about Ava's connection to the Irin and her importance to the Grigori. The Grigori are the ancient beings who prey on women, making them desire the Grigori until they will do anything they are told. Then, the women are used and discarded like trash. It is these evil men Malachi and his brethren fight. The long held hatred between the Irin and the Grigori only builds as Ava and Malachi search for answers about Ava's ability and how it plays into the future of the Irin.

The feel of the story takes on not only a suspenseful romance but an exotic tone filling the senses with the sights, sounds and smells of Istanbul. It is an exotic location and Hunter's writing makes the reader want to absorb every essence that is Istanbul. I've never been there, and you wouldn't find it on my top ten list of places I want to visit. But now, now it might just make that list. 

The Scribe is a wonderful blend of romance, suspense, action and paranormal. One word of caution - there isn't a Happily Ever After at the end of The Scribe. Rather, this is the beginning of Ava and Malachi's story and it continues into the next two books of the trilogy. 

Rating: A

The Irin Chronicles Series ~

The Scribe
The Singer
The Secret

Thursday, April 9, 2015

ARC Review: Last One Home

Last One Home
Debbie Macomber
Ballantine Books/March 10, 2015

Growing up, Cassie Carter and her sisters, Karen and Nichole, were incredibly close -- until one fateful event drove them apart. After high school, Cassie ran away from home to marry the wrong man, throwing away a college scholarship and breaking her parents’ hearts. To make matters worse, Cassie had always been their father’s favorite -- a sentiment that weighed heavily on her sisters and made Cassie’s actions even harder to bear. 

Now thirty-one, Cassie is back in Washington, living in Seattle with her daughter and hoping to leave her past behind. After ending a difficult marriage, Cassie is back on her own two feet, the pieces of her life slowly but surely coming together. Despite the strides Cassie’s made, she hasn't been able to make peace with her sisters. Karen, the oldest, is a busy wife and mother, balancing her career with raising her two children. And Nichole, the youngest, is a stay-at-home mom whose husband indulges her every whim. Then one day, Cassie receives a letter from Karen, offering what Cassie thinks may be a chance to reconcile. And as Cassie opens herself up to new possibilities -- making amends with her sisters, finding love once more -- she realizes the power of compassion, and the promise of a fresh start.

Last One Home is not what I would consider a straight up romance. There is a romance but the sisters' relationships and their attempts at reconciliation is the driving force of the story. The main focus is Cassie and her desire to get back in touch with her sisters whom she has not seen since she left home at eighteen. Years have gone by with little communication between the sisters but that's all about to change.

Cassie Carter has done a lot of hard growing up since she left home as a teenager. Her marriage ended in disaster and she was lucky to get away. Cassie moves to Seattle with her twelve year old daughter to give them a better life. She's close to her childhood home but distant enough to give her the fresh start she's dreamed of. Part of the new life Cassie envisions for herself and her daughter is their own home. That's were Habitat for Humanity comes in along with Steve Brody.

Steve Brody is a workaholic and has no patience for anyone he thinks is a slacker. He allows his first look of Cassie to set his mind to the type of person she is. He really should learn not to judge a book by it's cover - or in this case, a person. Cassie doesn't let Steve's surly attitude get to her and stop her from making her dream of home ownership come true. I understood how Steve's past colored his objectivity when it came to Cassie but being a jerk right off the bat didn't exactly endear him to me.

Cassie's sisters, Karen and Nichole started off as immature bitches. They were still holding grudges against Cassie and her leaving without knowing the full story. It turns out their lives were not as perfect as they thought. Cassie showed how much she had matured by moving beyond the past and welcoming her sisters into her life. There were times when I felt sorry for Cassie and how everyone was treating her. The people in her life assumed they knew things about her and judged her on those assumptions. Some of the scenes evoked such strong emotions for Cassie, it took me by surprise.

It's not only Cassie Steve becomes closer to but also her daughter Aimee. Cassie and Aimee are a package deal. Cassie would do anything for Aimee and I did enjoy their close relationship but there were times when Cassie needed to take charge and be the parent, not the friend. Aimee was too manipulitive when it came to getting her mom and Steve together. She pushed and Cassie should have taken charge of the situation but she didn't which left me frustrated.

I really don't know how Cassie found the time to work as a stylist, volunteer as a women's shelter, put in hours at Habitat for Humanity and raise her daughter. When did this woman sleep? Add in a new romance and I had to wonder how anyone could realistically keep this schedule. Good thing this is fiction!

The plot takes a few turns which were mapped out early on so no real surprises. There are some emotional moments but ultimately, it's an easy, predictable story.

Rating: C+

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

ARC Review: Vanishing Girls

Vanishing Girls
Lauren Oliver
Contemporary Young Adult
HarperCollins/March 10, 2015

Dara and Nick used to be inseparable, but that was before – before Dara kissed Parker, before Nick lost him as her best friend, before the accident that left Dara’s beautiful face scarred.

Now the two sisters, who used to be so close, aren't speaking. In an instant, Nick lost everything and is determined to use the summer to get it all back. 

But Dara has other plans. When she vanishes on her birthday, Nick thinks Dara is just playing around. But another girl has vanished, too—nine-year-old Elizabeth Snow—and as Nick pursues her sister, she becomes increasingly convinced that the two disappearances may be linked.

In this edgy and compelling novel, New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver creates a world of intrigue, loss, and suspicion as two sisters search to find themselves, and each other.

The relationships between sisters can run the gamut of best friends for life to wanting to choke the life of out each other. With Dara and Nick, it runs somewhere in between. They are only eleven months apart with Nick being the elder. Nick also wears the title of perfect older sister to Dara's rebellious little sister. They each feel they have very defined roles in their family. There are a lot of underlying issues both sisters have with each other, not the least of which is resentment. Nick resents Dara for having to clean up the messes her rebellions make and Dara resents Nick for always being first and best.

The sisters' relationship is not the only one explored but it is kept central to the story. The secondary relationships allow the reader to see how Dara and Nick relate to the people in their lives. So much of the push of the story hinges on finding the truth of what happened on the night of the accident. Through experiencing memories of before the accident, we see how Dara and Nick's relationship had begun to deteriorate with neither one of them knowing how to fix the ever growing rift between them. I loved how even while you feel the animosity between them, there is still the underlying love they will always have for each other.

The plot twist took me by surprise and being surprised took me by surprised. (You know what I mean.) I usually, but not always, figure out what the twist is or at least have some clue before the big reveal but not this time. This time when I read the plot twist my reaction ran along the lines of "wait...what?" I had to re-read the section in order to absorb what had happened. A shrink might say I didn't see it coming because I didn't want it to be true. Whatever the reason, I didn't like it and I'll leave it at that.

Even after my reaction to the plot twist, I still enjoyed the overall story. Oliver can write, there's no denying it. She is able to make her characters feel an array of strong emotions all while conveying those emotions to the reader, making this story a page turner.

Rating: A-

Saturday, March 28, 2015

ARC Review: We All Looked Up

We All Looked Up
Tommy Wallach
Young Adult/Pre-Apocalypse
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
March 24, 2015

Four high school seniors put their hopes, hearts, and humanity on the line as an asteroid hurtles toward Earth in this contemporary novel.

Peter, the star basketball player at his school, is worried “they” might actually be right. Meanwhile Eliza can’t wait to escape Seattle—and her reputation—and perfect-on-paper Anita wonders if admission to Princeton is worth the price of abandoning her real dreams. Andy, for his part, ddoesn'tunderstand all the fuss about college and career—the future can wait.

Or can it? Because it turns out the future is hurtling through space with the potential to wipe out life on Earth. As these four seniors—along with the rest of the planet—wait to see what damage an asteroid will cause, they must abandon all thoughts of the future and decide how they’re going to spend what remains of the present.

This is a scenario which could potentially happen. We do hear about asteroids coming what science calls "close to earth", when in reality they are millions of miles away. But for the characters in Tommy Wallach's We All Looked Up, coming close isn't a factor. This asteroid is almost destined to make impact. It's a pity the characters and their story didn't leave a great impact on this reader.

The story starts out with getting to know these teens and their lives prior to the devastating news that will change their lives. What I found interesting is the different reactions to the news of the asteroid. Some people pull closer to their families while others rebel against everything and everyone. It makes you wonder if they are going against their nature or if the event is bringing out their true nature.  It's always good when a book makes you think.

The main characters don't have much in common at the beginning but band together and find some surprising commonalities  as they come to know each other. The pairings up would not have occurred in real life but this is a surreal life these characters are living, knowing their lives might be ending in a very short amount of time.  Might as well make the most of it seems to be the prevailing attitude.

If the plot had continued focusing on the main characters the story would have held my interest but instead we are lead into another direction. The world of drugs and crime populated by thugs left me caring little for the outcome of these characters. They continued to make poor, idiotic choices, wasting away the time they had instead of appreciating it.

In the end, while I wanted to care about these characters, about the changes they made prior to the asteroids impact, I felt a bit empty by the end.

Rating: C-

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

TBR Challenge: Once in a Lifetime

Once in a lifetime
Jill Shalvis
Contemporary Romance
Lucky Harbor/Book 9
Grand Central Publishing/February 18, 2014


After a wrenching loss, Ben McDaniel tried to escape his grief by working in dangerous, war-torn places like Africa and the Middle East. Now he's back in his hometown and face-to-face with Aubrey Wellington, the hot-as-hell woman who is trouble with a capital T. Family and friends insist she's not the one to ease his pain, but Aubrey sparks an intense desire that gives Ben hope for the future.

Determined to right the wrongs of her past, Aubrey is working hard to make amends. But by far, the toughest challenge to her plan is sexy, brooding Ben - even though he has absolutely no idea what she's done...

Can this unlikely couple defy the odds and win over the little town of Lucky Harbor?

Aubrey is a former troubled teen and beauty queen but if you stop at that simple description, you would be missing out on a lot. After her latest, very public embarrassment, she's reforming herself. Aubrey has decided to atonement to everyone she's wronged. So she makes a list and checks it off as she goes but one name on the list is causing her a lot of problems.

Ben McDaniels' wife Hannah died five years ago and since then Ben has been making himself scarce in Lucky Harbor. Instead, he travels around the world, helping others. Ben works in dangerous places around the world, running from his memories in Lucky Harbor. But he keeps coming back because it's home and his family is there. When he finds himself back in Lucky Harbor he has no plans to stay long but those plans change when Aubrey Wellington runs across his path.

The chemistry between Aubrey and Ben is there but there is also reluctance on both their parts to give in to any desires. That reluctance doesn't last long and soon Ben and Aubrey have moved past their hesitancy into a not-so-serious relationship. It was believable but I didn't like the way everyone warned Ben away from Aubrey, implying she wasn't good enough for him. Ben garnered sympathy because of his dead wife and Aubrey was known as the town screw up but I think that had just as much to do with her mistakes as with jealousy over her looks.

Often there is a secondary relationship which can sometimes be just as interesting, if not more, than the main couple. In this case, the secondary relationship I enjoyed is between Ben and his cousin Luke. They are more like brothers, growing up together after Luke's mom took Ben in when he was left alone in the world. It's a beautiful relationship filled with love, laughter and mutual harassing of each other. I found myself wishing they had more page time which I can't remember ever happening with two straight guys.

Once in a Lifetime, the ninth book in the series, left me less than satisfied. There is a feeling of sameness to the stories. I know where it's going, which isn't always bad but there are few if any surprises along the way. Surprises are good, they keep our interest piqued. I do plan to read the rest of the series in the hopes there are still a few surprises along the way.

Rating: C

Lucky Harbor Series ~

Simply Irresistible 
The Sweetest Thing
Kissing Santa Claus novella in the anthology Small Town Christmas
Head Over Heels
Lucky in Love
At Last 
Forever and a Day
It Had to Be You
Always On My Mind
Once In a Lifetime
It's In His Kiss
He's So Fine
One In a Million

Monday, March 16, 2015

ARC Review: Badlands

C. J. Box
Cody Hoyt/Book 3
Minotaur Books/July 28, 2015

Twenty miles across the North Dakota border, where the scenery goes from rolling grass prairie to pipeline fields, detective Cassie Dewell has been assigned as the new deputy sheriff of Grimstad--a place people used to be from, but were never headed to--now the oil capital of North Dakota. With oil comes money, with money comes drugs, and with drugs comes the dirtiest criminals wanting to corner the market. 

In the same small town resides twelve-year-old Kyle Westergaard. Even though Kyle has been written off as the "slow" kid, he has dreams deeper than anyone can imagine. While delivering newspapers, he witnesses a car accident and now has a lot of money and packets of white powder in his possession. 

When the temperature drops to 30 below and a gang war heats up, Cassie finds that the key to it all might come in the most unlikely form: an undersized boy on a bike who keeps showing up where he doesn't belong.

A kid like Kyle is invisible. But he sees everything.

The setting, the writing, the characters are all classic Box. While this is technically the third book in the "Cody Hoty" series, it can be read as a stand alone. Cassie Dewell was a secondary character in the second book and now she takes the lead. She's a strong character but not without some flaws.

Badlands is not only the title of the novel but refers to the area of the United States where the story takes place. The badlands of North Dakota have undergone a serious transformation. With the oil boom, the landscape has gone from scenic to overcrowded with men, trucks and noise. It's this new landscape Cassie Newell finds herself thrown into. Cassie wants to get away from the corruption of her former police force so she takes a high paying job in Grimstad, North Dakota. The pay is high because the price of everything have skyrocketed. With fast food cashiers making $18 an hour, it's no surprise drugs have become more prevalent.

The intensity of the situation Cassie walks into is highly stressful. She is the new cop and the outsider but that isn't such an oddity since there are so many new people in town. What causes Cassie stress is she doesn't know which of her fellow deputies she can trust. This adds tension to the plot, moving it into dangerous situations for Cassie as well as for local Kyle Westergaard.

Kyle Westergaard has not had it easy in his twelve short years. He was born with fetal alcohol syndrome and while he may be a little on the slow side, he is tenacious. That trait, along with his inherit will to survive, combine to make Kyle an unlikely hero. It was interesting seeing the story through Kyle's eyes. He gives a different perspective than the adults. Kyle's point of view gave the story more depth and I'm glad Box took the chance on this unique character.

The plot starts out at a slow pace, with information about the oil boom peppered throughout. It doesn't really pick up speed until the last 100 or so pages, at which point the book is hard to put down. The ending was well done with enough of a teaser for the next book in the series.

Rating: B+

Review: Third Degree

Third Degree
Julie Cross
Contemporary/ New Adult
Flirt/March 25, 2014

I used to be “Isabel Jenkins, child prodigy.” As lame as that sounds, at least it was an identity. But now I’m not sure what I am. I just failed the most important exam of my life—the emotional readiness test required to get into a medical residency program—and it turns out my parents can’t stand each other. Now I’m trying to figure out how to pick up the pieces of my life, and that means re-enrolling as a college freshman, but this time I’m shutting the books and majoring in being eighteen.

But so far, my roommate hates me and I’m not into the party scene. The only good thing about school has been getting to know my insanely hot RA. Marshall Collins makes me wonder about everything I missed while I was growing up too fast. Pretty soon we’re hanging out constantly, but for the first time, I find myself wanting more than a no-strings-attached physical relationship. And the lesson I really need is one Marsh definitely can’t teach me: love. Because I’m going to be alone forever if I don’t learn fast.

Oh, this was such an enjoyable story! I'm surprised at how much the young me inside could identify with Izzy and it has nothing to do with her genius IQ. Izzy's an oddity in the world of medicine. An eighteen year old with her M.D., she is freakishly book smart but her life experiences are so limited when it comes to human interaction she stumbles and falls often.

After failing to get into a residency program, the genius Izzy heads back to college. Not so much for the traditional classroom experience but for the life experience. To help Izzy gain this experience is her R.A. (resident adviser), Marshall Collins. He's hot, funny and attracted to Izzy. He also genuinely likes Izzy for who she is. He does give her advice about tempering her need to diagnosis everyone as he helps Izzy learn to fit in.

Marsh comes up with a plan for Izzy to experience college life and teen life to the fullest. To experience what she has been missing out on while she was busy earning her doctorate when most teens were in high school. Marsh is playful, cheerful, mischievous and sweet and just an all around good guy. Yes, we females tend to be intrigued by "bad boys" but there is something to be said about the good guys.

Izzy and Marsh's relationship is running along fairly smoothly but we know it will hit a rough patch and it does. How they both handle it shows that maturity and intelligence do not always go hand in hand. Izzy begins to realize just how much she has missed out on because of her unconventional upbringing. She has had great opportunities but missing those everyday teenage activities has lead to her struggles to form healthy relationships. Cross does a good job showing this through Izzy's revelations about herself as she works through her new emotional side.

Third Degree is a smart, funny and adept look at how Izzy and Marsh cope with their challenges and how they learned to lean on each other's strengths.

Rating: B+

Monday, March 9, 2015

Review: Hard Time

Hard Time
Cara McKenna
Contemporary Romance
Penguin/April 15, 2014

My pounding heart went still, eerie as birds fallen silent in the wake of a gunshot.

He was big. Tall frame, wide shoulders-but not burly. His near-black hair was due for a cut, curling under his ears. Dark brows, dark stubble, dark lashes and eyes.

And he was handsome. So handsome it broke your heart.

A deck of cards was split between his hands, paused midshuffle. Some of the men wore navy scrub tops and bottoms, some navy tee shirts, a few white undershirts. This man wore a tee, with COUSINS stenciled on the front, above the number 802267. Those digits imprinted on my brain, burned black as a brand.

He watched me. But not the way the others did. If he was trying to picture me naked, his poker face was strong, though his attention anything but subtle. His entire head moved as I passed through his domain, but his eyes were languorous. Lazy and half-lidded, yet intense. A hundred looks in one. I didn't like it. Couldn't read it. At least with the horny jerk-offs, I knew where I stood. I wondered what the worst thing you could do and still only get sent to a medium-security prison was. I hoped not to ever learn the answer.

And I hoped to heaven inmate 802267 hadn't signed up for any of the day's programs.

So very different and so very good! It's not often romance readers get to see and experience the inside of a prison. As the story opens, librarian Annie Goodhouse is on her way to her first day at Cousins Correctional Facility. She, of course, is nervous. Who wouldn't be, knowing you will be in a room full of convicted criminals with only a handful of guards to protect you? But Annie wants to help and she's curious about the inmates. It's an environment not many outsiders have access to so there's bound to be some curiosity. There is also fear and trepidation. Annie has some doubts as to what she is doing and if she can really help any of these men.

Inmate 802267 catches Annie's eye right away. He stands out in a room full of dangerous men. It's the way he holds himself and the way he looks at her. Annie is very aware of his presence as Eric, inmate 802267, is very aware of her. Eric Collier has been locked up for five years on a ten year sentence. He's quiet, thoughtful but can be dangerous if pushed. I found Eric to be an interesting character but the interest, at the beginning, is more of how Annie reacts to Eric than Eric himself.

The first part of the story takes place at the prison while the rest takes place outside prison. I found the beginning to be more tense and intriguing. After the prison, the romance became far more similar to other "good girl/bad boy" romances. Annie believes in the good in Eric while Eric is still very aware of the bad in himself. It's not so much that he apologizes for himself but he doesn't think he's good enough for Annie and there were times when I agreed. He became less alpha and more subservient to Annie towards the ending.

The insight Annie give gives to her experiences in Cousins is revealing not only in what goes on in prisons but what an outsider is exposed to. Annie realizes some of her preconceptions are accurate while others, not so much.

Rating: A-

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Review: Lovely Wild

Lovely Wild
Megan Hart
Contemporary Fiction
MIRA/November 25, 2014

Brought up in the savage captivity of her unstable grandmother's rural Pennsylvania home, Mari Calder once yearned for rescue. Now she struggles every day to function as an adult in the confines of normal society. Left with only a foggy recollection of her childhood, she's consumed with being a dutiful wife to her husband, Ryan, and mother to their two children.

But an unexpected twist of events returns her to that long-forgotten house in the woods. Soon, Mari is greeted with reminders of a past life, the clarified memories only inviting a new level of strangeness into her fragile world. To protect her family, she must find the beautiful, powerful strength hidden in her inner chaos. Because someone is bent on exploiting Mari's trauma, and as normal and wild begin to blend, a string of devastating truths force Mari to question all she thought she knew.

I don't always know what to expect from Megan Hart other than a good story. Maybe I should expect the unexpected? Lovely Wild is clearly a deviation from Hart's erotic romance roots but she still delivers her thought provoking writing and emotional punches in true Hart style. Don't shy away from this because it is not a romance. It's a story not to be missed and hard to put down.

I dare you not to feel sorry for Mari. She is different and she knows it which is why she is not always comfortable around people. There is little to no pretense with Mari, she says what she means and doesn't lie. But she doesn't always know what to say in "normal" circumstances. After getting to know Mari and her background, I didn't feel like Mari was less than normal. Mari makes you see how what is considered normal is often fake and insincere, which Mari doesn't know how to be.

As the story progresses, Mari finds her life circling around to where she started, at the house in the woods. It's here Mari confronts her past as well as how the past fits in with her present and future. Her children are the most important people to Mari but they are not the only family she has. It's family, in all forms, that Mari must deal with.

Seeing Mari back at her beginnings, it's eye opening. She has come so far but still has a ways to go. What I enjoyed seeing is how Mari interactions with her children. She may not have the traditional background of growing up with a loving mother but she is a wonderful mother. It's instinctual with Mari. So while she is having trouble in her marriage she continues to nurture and protect her kids.

One thing that sets this story apart is the different point of view. We not only get Mari's POV but also her husband Ryan's and her teenage daughter Kenda. This gave the story a different feel than it would have had it all been told from Mari's POV. While I didn't like Mari's husband, I wouldn't say seeing events through his eyes made me sympathetic towards him, it did help to understand why he made some real bad choices. Mari's daughter Kenda comes off as they stereo-typical self-absorbed teen but her observations show she is more aware than her parents think she is.

Towards the end is where the plot became less filled with surprises and more filled with predictability. Mari's world is not wrapped up in a pretty bow but ended up closer to normal than where it felt Mari should be.

Rating: A-

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Review: Closer Than You Think

Closer Than You Think
Karen Rose
Romantic Suspense
Cincinnati/Book 1
Signet/February 3, 2015

Psychologist Faith Corcoran is desperate to escape the stalker who’s made her life a nightmare for the past year—desperate enough to run to the one place that has been her nightmare far longer. Both boon and bane, her recent inheritance of her grandmother’s old house in Cincinnati offers sanctuary in which she can start her life anew, but requires that she face the dark memories that still resonate to this day. 

But she has no idea how close to home her fears still are. 

Two college girls have gone missing in the area, and FBI Special Agent Deacon Novak is called to work on the case. When his inquiry unexpectedly leads him to Faith, he finds a beautiful and brave woman he can’t help but fall for. Soon they’ll discover that this seemingly simple investigation is anything but. Reaching back decades into Faith’s own past, it will shatter everything she believes to be true and will give terrifying new meaning to flesh and blood.

The start of a new series from a favorite author can be exciting. While this is a new location and some new characters there are a few familiar characters, most notably the hero, Deacon Novak.

Deacon is a very physically distinct character but beyond his physical attributes, he is intelligent, determined and a risk taker. He's an FBI agent and while he follows the rules, he also thinks outside the box. It was good to learn more about Deacon, about his past and his family. It helped make him a more complete character rather than this shadowy form in a leather coat. I did find him almost ordinary but I think that was due more to the build up in previous books as well as his unique features. Was I expecting some type of superhero? Maybe. Turns out he's more of an everyday hero.

Faith Corcoran is an intelligent psychologist who is trying to escape her past. She has changed her name and moved in an attempt to be safe. Faith's intelligence is not hidden or downplayed in a false attempt to make her seem more vulnerable and I liked that. Faith certainly still has vulnerable moments, but through intelligence and sometimes luck, she survives. She also doesn't treat Deacon like a freak of nature but sees the allure of his physical differences.

I've always thought Rose can write some creepy, nasty villains,but this time she may have just outdone herself. Sick bastard sounds about right. Rose keeps the reader guessing as to who the villain really is. We are also introduced to some new secondary characters who added another layer to the plot. The plot itself is intrinsic to both Deacon and Faith resolving the struggles and suffering in their pasts.

Like many of Rose's romances, this one happens quickly but doesn't feel rushed. Along with the quick pace of the suspense, so goes the romance between Deacon and Faith. At one point I couldn't believe it had only been two days since Deacon and Faith met. It felt like they had known each other for years. It had to do with the way they clicked with each other. The suspense and danger do throw them together in stressful situations which only seems to enhance the attraction.

With the first book in a "newish" series read, I already find myself looking forward to the next book. I wonder who the hero and heroine will be? For now, only Ms. Rose knows.

Rating: B+

Cincinnati Series ~

Closer Than You Think

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

ARC Review: The Girls of Mischief Bay

The Girls of Mischief Bay
Susan Mallery
Contemporary Fiction
Mischief Bay/Book 1
Harlequin/February 24, 2015

Spoiler Alert/Warning Below Rating

Nicole Lord wants to be a good wife, but there's a difference between being supportive and supporting her husband, who quit his job to write a screenplay she's never seen. He won't even help take care of their son, leaving Nicole to run the house and work full-time at her Mischief Bay Pilates studio. Can she say enough is enough without losing the man she loves?

Sacrificing a personal life for her career is how Shannon Rigg rose to become vice president in her firm, but she wonders now whether she made the right choice. An exciting new relationship with a great guy convinces her that it might not be too late—until he drops a bombshell that has her questioning whether she can have it all. And if she can, does she want it?

Although Pam Eiland has a beautiful house and a husband she adores, she feels… restless. She wonders who a stay-at-home mom becomes after the kids are grown. Finding sexy new ways to surprise her husband brings the heat and the humor back to their marriage, but when unexpected change turns her life upside down, she'll have to redefine herself. Again.

Through romance and heartbreak, laughter and tears, three very different women will discover that friends can become family, and that life is richer with sisters at your side.

This isn't what I would consider a romance. It's a contemporary story about friendship with some romance but not in the traditional sense of following the relationship of a main hero and heroine. What it is is a story about three women, Nicole, Shannon and Pam, who through their friendship, weather some very rough seas together.

One thing about Nicole, Pam and Shannon that sets them apart from what might be called the typical friends story is their age differences and the stage that each is in their lives. Pam is the eldest at fifty. She has been married for many years and has three grown children. Shannon, closing in on forty, is single and career driven but hoping to find love. Nicole, the youngest at thirty, is married with a young son. All three have struggles in their love lives but those struggles are different because each woman is at a different phase in her life. This kept the plot moving along.

We get points of view from each of the three women which helps give insight to how they are feeling and thinking. They share a lot of their thoughts with each other but do hold back some. Also, getting the same scene from different points of view shows how perceptions of others isn't always accurate, even with close friends.

With three different women there is a greater chance the reader will relate to at least one of the women. The downside is if the reader only relates to one of the lead characters that leaves a possible disconnect with approximately two-thirds of the narration. I found myself able to relate easiest to Pam but less so to Nicole and Shannon. Nicole mostly because of how she allowed her husband to treat her. She didn't stand up for herself, but rather tried to justify his self-centered actions. This left me feeling little sympathy for her. Shannon was a little different. With Shannon there is sympathy for her situation even though she has been in control of her life and where it has lead her up until now. Her decisions were intelligent and well thought out. I actually liked her the best.

The first half of the book was enjoyable getting to know the three women and seeing where their lives were going. It was when the bad things started to happen the story took a turn that turned out to be a turn off. It was as if some terrible, life shattering event had to happen to each woman and they might not make it back from the brink they found themselves on. I found certain parts simply depressing. Yes, they did band together and overcome and pulled each other back from the brink but in the end, the trip was a little too rough for me.

Rating: C+

Mischief Bay Series ~

The Girls of Mischief Bay

Spoiler Alert / Warning

If you have recently, and that could be months or years, depending on where you on in the grieving process, suffered the death of your spouse then this might not be the book for you. One of the main characters' spouse dies and we see her go through the aftermath of his death. It wasn't easy to read and might prove to be too difficult for someone who has been there. Or, it could have a positive affect. Reading about a character going through this might make you feel like you're not alone. I felt a warning was needed because the death in the book came as a surprise. Not the blurb nor the story leading up to the death made me think this would happen.

My sincere condolences if you have suffered the death of your spouse, at any point in your life.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

TBR Challenge: Fallen from Grace

Fallen From Grace
Laura Leone aka Laura Resnick
Contemporary Romance
Five Star/June 2, 2003
Reissued/Blonde Trifecta/January 31, 2011

* Rita Award Finalist for Best Contemporary Romance
* Desert Island Keeper, AllAboutRomance.com
* No. 29 on DearAuthor.Com’s list of the Top 100 Romance Novels

My TBR pile is huge! There are any number of books that I have no idea how they got there because they have been there so long. The book I chose for this month has been sitting on one of my bookshelves for years but I do remember who recommended it. Kristie from Ramblings on Romance was kind enough to share her enjoyment of this unique romance. I'm so glad I listened to her advice and scouted this one out at the used bookstore many years ago. I just wish I had not waited so long to read it!

After thirty-something Sara Diamond experiences professional and financial setbacks, she moves into an eccentric little apartment and works on reviving her career. Before long, she becomes good friends with Ryan Kinsmore, the handsome twenty something man next door, who shares her balcony—and her unreliable utilities.

But Sara’s new neighbor conceals painful secrets and a double life behind his gentle charm and good looks. As their friendship blossoms into love, Sara gradually learns the truth about Ryan, who’s trapped in a world of lies, danger, and sex-for-hire. With his spirit renewed by love, he becomes determined to find a way out of the life he was drawn into as a runaway minor, and equally determined to rescue a street kid whom he finds falling into the same traps that once caught him. But Ryan’s secret life is lived in a ruthless world which won’t easily let him go. Having fallen so far from grace, can he find his way back?

This is certainly something different. Given that it was first published over ten years ago, I doubt there were many novels that could compare at the time. A hero prostitute is not something you come across everyday. Luckily for Sara Diamond (and me) this hero came into our lives.

Sara Diamond has downsized. Sold her condo and moved into an interesting apartment with crooked stairs and an eccentric landlord. The move was not planned but inspired by circumstances which were out of Sara's control. She is now self-employed, attempting to revive her career. The one truly bright spot in her new life is her neighbor, Ryan Kinsmore. He is not only good looking but kind, caring and simply fun to hang out with. Sara is attracted to him but is aware of the age difference, he's 26, she's 35. She thinks there is no way Ryan would ever see her as more than just a friend.

Ryan Kinsmore is exactly what he seems when he is with Sara. But there is much he is hiding and he knows when it eventually comes to light, things will never be the same between him and Sara. The situation is complex, made more so after Ryan and Sara sleep together. Ryan had to know how Sara would react after they made love and he is called into work. Which is why his disappointment towards Sara's reactions surprised me. If he knows women and Sara so well, there's no way he could have expected Sara to react any differently. This isn't casual to her and there is no way to expect her to be okay with him sleep with other women. It doesn't matter if it's only work to Ryan, in Sara's eyes it's cheating.

There are so many elements that made this story so compelling. Ryan's coping mechanism for living the life he does. He keeps his personal life separate from his work life. He even has a different name for work. No one from work knows where he lives. He takes in strays - a bird, cat, and dog. Yes, a psychiatrist would have a field day with Ryan. But it's Sara who pushes into both Ryan's personal and work life. Sara is pushy, sometimes too much, not always knowing when to back off. It did become a little irritating when she had such tunnel vision to get Ryan to talk to her, even when he was clearly in pain, either physical or emotional. She did help him realize he is worth so much more than being used by Catherine, his boss.

The ending felt a little rushed and tidied up too neatly. After everything Ryan and Sara went through, the end was almost anti-climatic. Still, the story as a whole was captivating with well developed characters and a plot surely different than most.

Rating: A-

Monday, February 16, 2015

ARC Review: One Wish

One Wish
Robyn Carr
Contemporary Romance
Thunder Point/Book 7
MIRA/February 24, 2015

Grace Dillon was a champion figure skater until she moved to Thunder Point to escape the ruthless world of fame and competition. And though she's proud of the quiet, self-sufficient life she's created running a successful flower shop, she knows something is missing. Her life could use a little excitement.

In a community where there are few eligible singles, high school teacher Troy Headly appoints himself Grace's fun coach. When he suggests a little companionship with no strings attached, Grace is eager to take him up on his offer, and the two enjoy…getting to know each other.

But things get complicated when Grace's past catches up with her, and she knows that's not what Troy signed up for. Faced with losing her, Troy realizes Grace is more than just a friend with benefits. He's determined to help her fight for the life she always wished for but never believed she could have—and maybe they can find real love along the way.

Can't believe we're already on book seven in the Thunder Point series.  In a way it feels like we just started but then again these characters feel so familiar, much like the Virgin River characters began to feel like family. One Wish was a relaxing romance. The hero and heroine are both intelligent, mature adults who didn't irritate the heck out of me with stupidity. That's always a relief!

Troy is attempting to heal his broken heart. Poor Troy! I didn't really feel sorry for him after his crush on Iris McKinley (see previous book) didn't pan out. Troy likes playing the field and it never felt like his heart would stay broken for long. Which is why it was no surprise when Troy took notice of Grace who just happened to be Iris' best friend.

Grace isn't blind and Troy is certainly easy on the eyes! Not only is she attracted to him physically but she finds she enjoys spending time with him. Grace's usual male friends include a medieval knight, a vampire and a Navy SEAL. Yep, Grace has book boyfriends! This made me like her that much more! She has convinced herself that she wants a quiet life and her life in Thunder Point suits her. Except she finds, after meeting Troy, a need for a little bit of excitement outside of her books. Troy offers that excitement and at first Grace thinks it's enough.

The romance starts as casual, friends with no strings but soon both Troy and Grace realize they want more. They're comfortable with each other and find they have much in common with their humor and their dedication to their work. It was a sweet friendship to lovers romance but nothing earthshaking. I found Grace's background and how she came to Thunder Point nearly as interesting as the romance.

Rating: B

Thunder Point Series ~

The Wanderer
The Newcomer
The Hero
The Chance
The Promise
The Homecoming
One Wish
A New Hope (June 30, 2015)
Wildest Dreams (August 25, 2015)