Review: Home at Last

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: Home at Last
Author: Lily Everett
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Release Date: March 2017
Length: 303 pages
Series?: Sanctuary Island #6
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Home is where the heart is…

Marcus Beckett left Sanctuary Island after his mother’s funeral, and he hasn’t been back since. Until now. Needing a change from the high-risk, high-stakes life of a bodyguard, Marcus makes a solitary life for himself running the neighborhood bar in his hometown. His only mistake? Seducing and then dumping the town’s sweetheart, Quinn Harper. Marcus knows he did the right thing—a good girl like Quinn has no business with a broken man like him. But now no one will come to his bar, and he’s watching his last chance at a peaceful life go up in smoke. So when Quinn proposes a fake four-week courtship, he can’t refuse…even though he knows it’s a bad idea.

It’s a romantic charade that will buy Quinn time to distract her mother and father from their own martial problems—and will help Marcus welcome back some paying customers besides. But what begins as an engagement of convenience slowly transforms into a deeper connection, one that heals both of their hearts…and ignites the simmering passion between them. Could it be that pretending to be together is just what Quinn and Marcus needed to give their real love a second chance?

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

The Skinny

Quinn is trying to figure out her adult life, but she’s kind of flighty and noncommital. When her parents return to Sanctuary Island from their travels, Quinn decides it is time to move out and try adulting. She convinces Marcus to let her live upstairs above the Buttercup Inn, the bar he restored and is opening after he has finally come back home.

Soon there is trouble in paradise, and Quinn’s parents announce their impending divorce. Little Princess Quinn can’t believe her parents want a divorce – they are the most in love couple she has ever known. In order to save her parents marriage, she again convinces Marcus to do something for her: a fake engagement. Not only is Quinn the belle of the isle, now Marcus has some redeeming qualities around town. Then her mother’s “marriage guru” comes to town. In order to “work his magic,” both couples have to live together in Quinn’s family home while working through their issues. Ron believes there are so many bad vibes and tries to sabotage the Harper’s marriage at every turn, only adding to the reasons her mother thinks the divorce should happen.

While squashed together all uncomfy and too cozy, Quinn continues to think about how and why Marcus left the island in the first place. She never saw him again after his mother’s death so many years before. When her proddings to visit his dad don’t have Marcus trudging down the lane to his own childhood home, Quinn pays his father a visit and finds the most extraordinary surprise – or two, rather. One of the surprises is for Marcus, and the other is for her parents and just could be the one thing to save their marriage.

 

The Players

Quinn – the island darling who can’t get it together

Marcus – the prodigal son returned home, pissed off the town for dumping Quinn

Ingrid – Quinn’s mother, a hippie-type spacey free spirit

Paul – Quinn’s father, a logical man and retired, often gives in to Ingrid or Quinn

Ron – the snaky marriage guru friend Ingrid met while traveling who’s going to “save” the Harper marriage

The Quote

 Marcus was this close to bolting again. She was like a National Geographic photographer in the wild or something – she didn’t want to spook him.

The Highs and Lows

  • Quinn. She is the quirky redhead darling of Sanctuary Island. Growing up she had the biggest crush on the next door neighbor boy, Marcus. She grew up and is a bit of an airhead at times, never committing to any one thing. She’s flighty, and sadly her parents and everyone around town know it, but they love her just the same. The other thing about Quinn is she is incredibly loving and loyal, sometimes even to her own detriment.
  • Marcus. He broke up with Quinn and the whole town is pissed. They’re boycotting his bar and his bottom line is suffering for it. If this keeps up, he’ll go belly up. Quinn proposes he pretend to be her boyfriend for four weeks. Not only would that convince her parents she’s able to hold down something, she strikes a deal with Marcus. Be her boyfriend and she’d get the customers rolling in. In order to save his business, he agrees.
  • The Plot. After her parents announce their divorce, Quinn will do anything to show them they shouldn’t. Her mother is a gullible flake and her dad is is a retiree who doesn’t know what to do with his life. They’ve never believed she’d ever do anything of consequence with her life – she couldn’t even finish college or hold a steady job! Now she’s determined to show them that she’s serious and committed. When Ron stipulates that both relationships need to be all under the same household, Quinn is totally on board. For whatever odd reason, Marcus seems to be as well – and he’s making his devotion and adoration of Quinn believable. It is a zany, crazy, and brainwashing adventure. I wasn’t expecting the entire storyline to focus on Quinn’s parents, especially after so much build up between Quinn and Marcus in the previous book. I was looking forward to really exploring their little old married-couple-like relationship, but I feel it was slightly smothered by her parents’ drama. There was a lot of redundancy and repetition in that whole process that left me wanting to just bash some of their heads together so they’d see the light.
  • The Villain. “Doctor” Ron is an unlicensed marriage guru who believes in the colors of the wind and all that. He is an enterprising and conniving man, no more than a con artist. And he’s conned Quinn’s mother to kingdom come. Nothing her father says or does is good enough; clearly, he can’t agree to take this seriously and work on their marriage, blaming Ron at every turn while Ron continues to urge them that there is just too much negativity and they should sell their home, cut their losses, and move on. He’s such a skeez and slime ball. He’s weird and kinda creepy. I hated him. I wished he’d choke on a blueberry or something.
  • Marcus’s Father. I found Quinn’s enduring wish to reunite Marcus and his father endearing. When Marcus finally went back home, I was just as surprised at he at what he found his father had been up to. He also shared some interesting news with Quinn and Marcus – interesting news about good old Ron’s wife and her own business enterprises. It is the crucial thing that Quinn needs to save her parents marriage.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lily Everett grew up in a small town in central Virginia, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Although she’s lived many other places since, from college in Philadelphia to her first publishing job in New York City and her current home in Austin, Texas, she never forgot the beauty and warmth of her little hometown. She is thrilled to be writing the Sanctuary Island series full time because it allows her to combine her longstanding love of romance with the memories of her childhood home.

Lily’s alter ego is Louisa Edwards. Under that name, she is the author of the Recipe for Love series, sexy contemporary romances with hot chef heroes set in the high-stakes, fast-paced world of professional restaurants.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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Review: Close to Home

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: Close to Home
Author: Lily Everett
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Release Date: February 2017
Length: 288 pages
Series?: Sanctuary Island #5
Genre: Contemporary Romance

The best journeys take us home….

When Tessa Alexander came to Sanctuary Island, she left behind a marriage to a man who didn’t love her the way she loved him. When she finally found the strength to set them both free, she discovered friendship and self-acceptance in her adopted hometown. Now she’s settled into a quiet life on her own—never expecting to see her husband again.

Johnny spent almost two years deep undercover, unable to let his wife into his cold, dangerous world. He’s shaken to the core when he comes home to find her gone. It’s painfully clear that Tessa is no longer the timid young woman he married—she’s become a force of nature, a brave and determined beauty. Johnny can’t let her go without a fight so he sets out to seduce his own wife. But will passion alone be enough to convince Tessa that her new life should include a second chance at happiness with a man who must learn to believe in love?

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

 

my review

The Skinny

Johnny is a hot mess after coming off his two-year undercover assignment with the ATF. He has PTSD-like tendencies and paranoia, seeing danger everywhere. He is on high alert and suspects anyone and everyone of anything. Upon returning home he finds a “Dear John” letter and divorce papers left by his wife of eight years.

Tessa has spent a year making a life for herself on Sanctuary Island and is happy with her physical, emotional, and mental transformation. She is no longer the weak, timid girl she was before, but Johnny is determined to convince her to come back home. Tessa never dreamed he’d come looking for her, let alone want her back, so they agree to work on their marriage in the meantime and see if it is salvageable.

The Players

Tessa – formerly Amish and timid girl whose found a new life

Johnny – an ATF officer and husband-protector of Tessa

Patty – the local bakery owner and Tessa’s boss and friend; she’s wise and friendly and reminds me of Patty from Gilmore Girls

Quinn – a local girl who hops from one thing to another, her parents and everyone around town consider her flighty and incapable of committing to anything; she sets her sights on Marcus

Marcus – the prodigal son returned to town working on restoring and opening his own bar, agrees to let Johnny board upstairs and tries fending off Quinn

The Quote

“How did you get to be so wise, Miss Patty?”

A nostalgic smile flickered across the wrinkled visage. “My mother was a wonderful woman. Ahead of her time in many ways, and one of those ways was that she hated how many of her women friends didn’t enjoy sex. She told me that I deserved to someday have a ‘healthy marital relation,’ as she called it. I know she hoped I’d find it with a husband, but well, that’s another story.

The Highs and Lows

  • Tessa. She is a different kind of character with an interesting and sad history. Her early life is what landed Tessa on Johnny’s property and led to their “marriage of convenience” of sorts. Johnny was able to protect her and that was the role he played in their marriage. Terri changed her name to Tessa, found solace on Sanctuary Island, and started developing her own life independent of her husband, his protection, and his lack of love. If Johnny can’t love her the way a man should love his wife, she’ll let him go so they can hopefully both find the love they deserve.
  • Johnny. He has a hero complex. It’s why he rescued and married Tessa. He can’t accept that Tessa has moved forward with her life, discovered independence, and no longer needs him to protect her and look after her. He’s a little dumbfounded at what he finds in Sanctuary Island and that she is leading a life without him. What happened to his wife? He wants her back. He’s kept his feelings successfully hidden all these years. He can keep denying how he feels to Tessa and himself or risk losing her forever.
  • Johnny’s Paranoia. Due to his work in the seedy underbelly, Johnny suspects everyone. Especially the new guy in town opening a bar. He wants a buddy at the ATF to do some digging on Marcus. Johnny keeps pushing his friend to help him out. He’s convinced Tessa is still in trouble and in danger.
  • Setting. Sanctuary Island is so idyllic! The way it was described with being able to see certain aspects of town from different corners and Main Street reminded me of the little town of Cabot Cove (which is actually Mendocino, California)  in Murder, She Wrote. I loved how Johnny observed the town and its goings on, and how the gentleman would sit out and play checkers and gossip. I enjoyed the cast of characters and the town very much. It helped “sell” Sanctuary Island and why Tessa chose to settle here.
  • Plot. While the main story was about Johnny and Tessa working on their marriage – which was a great thing to see and I totally believe in and support equine therapy and there should be more of it in our country – Marcus and Quinn’s storyline also played a large part in this installment. The way Tessa would describe her loveless marriage and what she yearned for were heart-wrenching and understandable. It made her character so much more believable and relatable. When a ghost from Tessa’s past wreaks havoc on the town, Johnny’s paranoia is right on the money.

Overall this was a sweet rekindling romance set in a quaint and beautiful town. I enjoyed seeing aspects of Dr. Voss’s equine therapy and Tessa and Johnny working through their marriage and the roadblocks there. Quinn also showed growth as an individual and seems to be finding her way.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lily Everett grew up in a small town in central Virginia, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Although she’s lived many other places since, from college in Philadelphia to her first publishing job in New York City and her current home in Austin, Texas, she never forgot the beauty and warmth of her little hometown. She is thrilled to be writing the Sanctuary Island series full time because it allows her to combine her longstanding love of romance with the memories of her childhood home.

Lily’s alter ego is Louisa Edwards. Under that name, she is the author of the Recipe for Love series, sexy contemporary romances with hot chef heroes set in the high-stakes, fast-paced world of professional restaurants.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Review: To Move the World

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: To Move the World
Author: Regina Sirois
Publisher: Createspace
Release Date: October 2016
Length: 246 pages
Series?: Power of the Matchmaker #10
Genre: Contemporary Romance 

Eve Brannon never had to bother planning out her future. In the Yorkshire dales where life is harder, it is also simpler. Next in line to inherit her family’s farm, she will raise another generation of children and sheep high in the uplands of England. Waiting until next year when she is 19 to marry her father’s handsome hired hand, Alan, is the detail she added herself.

But in 1939 even the most stalwart corners of the world are vibrating with the tremors of change. Eve’s long-anticipated proposal comes on the wings of losing Alan to the Royal Army and at the brink of the farm’s profitable war years the sheep herd is decimated by a mysterious illness. With her steady future suddenly in the clutches of a capricious fate, Eve is introduced to Jonathon Doran, a land manager anxious to prove himself in a crisis, and she discovers that the solid earth beneath her feet is moving after all.

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

The Skinny

Eve is a young woman living on a sheep farm with her father and brother. Eve and the farmhand her father hired plan to marry the following year. With the rumblings of war, everything is topsy-turvy. Her beloved enlists to earn more money for their own farm, and he is sent to fight. Worse still, a strange outbreak among the sheep threatens the livelihood and home of Eve and her family.

In Alan’s absence, she meets a wealthy landowner, Jonathon, who takes it upon himself to assist Eve and her family with the mysterious sheep attack.

The Players

Eve – a young girl responsible for the family farm; she yearns to write

William – Eve’s older brother; he attends university

Alan – the farmhand who works alongside Eve’s father on the farm; he plans to one day have his own farm

Theo Weller – Eve’s best friend;

Marion Doran – the youngest son of a wealthy family nearby; Eve’s girlhood crush

Jonathan Doran – a wealthy landowner and older brother of Marion; he lends aid to the family farm

The Quote

“You say a heart doesn’t move,” she said, “but that would mean it is dead. Love should always move us.”

The Highs and Lows

  • Pearl. The Power of the Matchmaker series is a series of stand-alone books with one common thread throughout. The character of matchmaker Pearl is the connection between all the books, but in this installment Pearl hardly appears at all. More than halfway through the book Pearl still had not surfaced, and when she did, it was quite minimal. I was disappointed with that and hoping Pearl made a  grand entry in this book, but that wasn’t the case.
  • Writing. I couldn’t put this story down! The imagery and language were poetic and detailed. I felt like I was there with Eve, like an invisible soul living alongside Eve and her life.
  • Eve. She was such an interesting character. Eve brought such expression to life with her typewriter. That was her outlet, the one thing on the farm that was hers. Eve is a bit of a mix. She is loyal and devoted to the family farm, but at the same time she regrets the lack of the opportunity to go to college like her brother. While she is grounded to the farm and level-headed, she also has a dreamy side.
  • Journal Entries. Since Eve has this typewriter and she records her daily life, the story is told through journal entries. At first this confused me but after the first two chapters I got used to it.
  • The Engagement. Alan is a wonderful, loyal, sweet but shy young man. He works as hard as Eve’s father on a farm that isn’t his, but he has hopes and dreams for his future – and Eve’s. It was a path Eve thought she wanted, and she is handling all these new emotions and feelings. When Jonathan shows up, it is obvious to everyone but Eve where her path should go – and who should walk it alongside her.
  • The Niggling Feeling. While it was obvious how Eve reacted to Jonathan from the start, I didn’t find that she really expressed any true emotion or feeling for him (or Alan for that matter). It was like she was swept up and just went along with things. The ambiguous ending also didn’t really satisfy me after this long-laid romance on Jonathan’s part.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Regina Sirois believes in intelligent books that challenge us to reach higher and be better. She believes in the powerful years of adolescence and loves to capture the raw moments when young adults begin to solidify into the people they were meant to be. She lives in Kansas with her high school sweetheart (also known as her husband), her two daughters, and their nearly hairless cat. She continues to write stories that won’t leave her alone.

Find the author: Website | Twitter | Goodreads

Review: King of the Friend Zone

ABOUT THE BOOK

31752357Title: King of the Friend Zone
Author: Sheralyn Pratt
Publisher: Wicked Sassy
Release Date: August 2016
Length: 351 pages
Series?: Power of the Matchmaker #9
Genre: Contemporary Romance 

Esme Taylor has an amazing fiancé, a lifelong best friend, and a problem. The problem stems from the fact that her best friend is named Hunter and, well. . .he’s kind of (totally) hot. It’s hate at first sight when her fiancé, Jon, and Hunter meet. Jon’s convinced that Hunter is in love with Esme, and that Hunter must be out of the picture if their upcoming marriage is to succeed.

Esme thinks Jon is paranoid.

The truth is, Jon’s not that far off. Hunter is in love with his best friend and always has been. What Jon has wrong, however, is that Hunter never had any plans of ruining Esme’s happily ever after. Hunter wants what’s best for Esme, even if that’s not him.

When Jon pushes hard to end Esme and Hunter’s friendship, opposition comes from the most unlikely of places. It’s an eccentric lady with a cookie cart who suggests a different solution to Esme’s problem: Hunter and Esme should give each other a chance.

They’ve both thought of the possibility over the years—of course they have. But with a ring already on Esme’s finger and a heap of hurt feelings and broken trust in the mix, there hasn’t been a worse time to explore the depths of their feelings for each other.

Both Esme and Hunter think it’s time to move on and leave childhood crushes in the past. The question is: Can one woman and the taste of one cookie change their minds?

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

The Skinny

Hunter and Esme have grown up their whole lives with one another. Their mothers were best friends, so naturally they became best friends. Esme keeps up with all of the calls for service Hunter is dispatched to, competes with him for steps on her FitBit, and constantly keeps up by texts. They are integral parts of each other’s lives, which they quickly learn the hard way after being ripped apart by jealousy – Esme’s jealous fiancé, that is. Jon is a straight up douche that goes for the jugular and single-handedly cuts all communication between the lifelong best friends and manipulates Esme into making decisions she later regrets.

While Esme is figuring it out with Jon, Hunter is busy working with a street kid named Kenny. Shauna, his social worker, has brought several kids Hunter’s way before…usually the end of the line.

The Players

Hunter – a hot fireman

Esme – a crisis manager

Daryl – Hunter’s fireman coworker

Grace – Esme’s friend; she helped Grace out in a bad situation before

Luke – Hunter’s best friend; he flips houses

Kenny – a kid in the system; assigned to work with Hunter at his boxing gym

Shauna – Kenny’s social worker; in an abusive relationship

The Quote

He kept going, ignoring his phone when it buzzed yet again. But Andy didn’t. “Someone named, uh, NOT TODAY SATAN is blowing up your phone, Hunter.”

“Leave it,” Hunter said, still going strong.

“Another psycho?” Andy guessed, clearly trying to distract him.

“Basically,” Hunter said, earning an arched look from Daryl in his peripheral vision.

The Highs and Lows

  • Real. What I loved most about this story was so real. Hunter’s reactions and inner dialogue were so on point. He thought – and sometimes said – what everyone else was thinking. Sometimes it wasn’t the best time or place, but he was honest with himself. And with others, even when they were in denial. *cough* Esme *cough*
  • Jon the Jackass. Seriously, the guy had a major problem. He was the best worst guy ever. Right from the start he immediately hones in on Hunter and creates problems. He is very manipulative and selfish. I was hoping Esme would catch on, but the girl was blind. I thought he was going to slip up in front of other people, but he was always able to keep his cool. A master manipulator, knowing when to turn it on and turn it off.
  • Esme’s Stalking. Seriously, NOT TODAY SATAN. Esme asked for certain things from Hunter – demanded them – and then went against everything she asked him for. I could not wrap my brain around that, even as a woman. I tried feeling some sympathy for her, but I couldn’t. She was a character I didn’t really like. She abandoned all of her character and integrity and beliefs.
  • Shauna’s Story. While Shauna knows Hunter on a professional level due to her work, he and his firemen friend Daryl do their best to help her out in a sticky situation. She works with Kenny, a young rough and tough kid who doesn’t believe in Hunter’s methods. The change in Kenny is profound, and he and Hunter (and Esme) play an intregal part in Shauna’s story.
  • The Fun. I love how fun Hunter is. He is such a jokester. The conversation he has with Daryl and his girlfriend about if they were a TV show was quite humorous. As was the engagement party.
  • The Cookie. Miss Pearl’s cookie cart in the park was genius. No two cookies every taste the same, and she has incredible wisdom she imparts to Hunter and Esme.

The Take-Away

This was a fun read! I really like reading from Hunter’s perspective. Esme rubbed me after a while, but she still had a story to offer.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sheralyn was born at an early age, with 10 fingers and 10 toes. She is proud to report that she currently retains all 20 digits. Described by one reviewer as “the bomb dot com” (url already claimed… bummer), Sheralyn has been a karate instructor, musical theater performer, a beach bum, freelance writer, nomadic traveler, and, yes, a private investigator. At the moment she enjoys working with and training her dog to give the poor thing breaks from sitting and Sheralyn’s feet with the unbearable task of watching someone write a book.

Sheralyn currently resides in Salt Lake City, Utah, although as people who know her can attest to, that is subject to change at any time 😉

Find the author: Website | Twitter | Goodreads

Review: Chasing Fireflies

ABOUT THE BOOK

30136490Title: Chasing Fireflies
Author: Taylor Dean
Publisher: Taylor Dean Books
Release Date: July 2016
Length: 311 pages
Series?: Power of the Matchmaker #7
Genre: Contemporary Romance

My sisters think I’m crazy.

But, I’ve never forgotten the mysterious woman from my childhood who told me Paul is the name of my one true love.
She told me to search far and wide for him.
I haven’t stopped looking ever since.

When I stumble across an article about a successful American entrepreneur named Paul who lives and works in China, I’m intrigued. When the opportunity to teach English in China presents itself on the same day, I know it’s not a coincidence.

It’s destiny.

My sisters say I’m chasing a dream.

Just like the fireflies we tried to catch on the warm summer evenings of our youth, the dream seems beyond my grasp. Will my quest for the elusive Paul always be just short of fulfillment?

My sisters tell me it’s a fool’s errand.

Until I remind them of the day we saw the Red Bird.
The memory silences them.
The Red Bird Incident remains inarguable—and proves my search for Paul is not a silly fantasy.

I will find Paul . . . I will.

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

 

my review

The Skinny

Savannah met Miss Pearl, the matchmaker, when she was 11. Miss Pearl told her three important things. The first two have come true, and now Savannah must fulfill the last thing: find Paul. Not just any one specific Paul, but the Paul that his her soulmate. How in the world does she do this? She ignores anyone (romantically) without the name Paul. After flipping through her university’s alumni magazine, she discovers Paul, a UT alumni businessman in China. So she signs up for a program teaching English in China in the same city as Paul.

The Players

Savannah – an extreme introvert on a mission

Dakota – Savannah’s read-headed roommate who is incredible intuitive

Hunter – a young, blond, goofy kid more interested in the food and the fun

Lori and _____ – the married couple leading the English teaching expedition

Julian – an American chef at Burger, Burger; former teacher in the same program at

Paul – UT graduate and businessman in China

The Quote

The Highs and Lows

  • Pearl and the Prophecies. The way Pearl showed up in this installment in the series was different than all the others. Savannah meets Pearl when she is 11 years old. Pearl is the next-door neighbor of one of Savannah’s friends, and when the two meet Pearl tells her three important events about her future. When these prophecies begin to be fulfilled, like the tragic news and The Red Bird incident, Savannah holds steadfast to Pearl’s last item: she will search far and wide for Paul.
  • Savannah. She is an introvert to the max, like me, so it was very easy to understand her character and can relate very much. It is something that is hard to explain to other people. Savannah keeps to herself and goes through life wearing an invisible cloak that lets her blend into the background and be forgotten or overlooked in social situations.

The truth of the matter is I like being invisible.

Social situations sometimes exhaust me. Not that I don’t enjoy them. I do. Absolutely. But afterwards I need space, time to regroup and recover from the effort.For some reason, social situations take a lot out of me and I can only handle them in small doses. But it doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy them or need them.

I don’t enjoy situations where I feel at a loss for words. Every once in a while, I find myself searching for words and not finding them. That’s when things get awkward.

I don’t enjoy being the center of attention. I like to observe and listen, it’s the niche where I feel most comfortable.

I hate the disconnect between my brain and my tongue. It’s an innate part of me that I can’t seem to fight, no matter how hard I try. The words stick in my throat.

  • Julian. He is an incredible individual, and I was impressed with his business skills to co-own Burger, Burger in China with Mr. Tang. He caters more to the American tourists, which the book made clear is where the group eats daily, preferring American fare over Chinese. The other thing that got me was his instant attachment to Savannah, and his brazen way of letting her know and calling attention to that fact as much as possible. He is also very obvious in his dislike for the group leader, Lori and her husband, and another girl in the group who hangs on his every word and is very fake. Overall, he’s a fun guy and I liked that in his character. Savannah did, too. Only problem is his name isn’t Paul. But all the things you’d want in a partner are there in Julian. Who cares if his name isn’t Paul?
  • Pina Coladas. Julian plays on this song quite a bit throughout the novel, and it is kind of like their “thing” he and Savannah share. They make light of others in the group only having half a brain. Comments about yoga and the taboo making love at midnight comes up.
  • Hiding Savannah’s Past. Since the first two chapters, “The Red Bird Incident” is referred to several times, but never explained in any kind of way except that it was the second item Miss Pearl foretold Savannah about. It drove me crazy! Savannah and all of her sisters gabbed on and on about these things, and it was like being left on the outside looking in – and not in a good way. It really made me want to stop reading entirely. I didn’t ever foresee being told what the hell was going on. There would be chapters that would flash back and the entire chapter would be about Savannah’s past. It would build up and build up and then just dropped. The book even started in this way. I was left wondering who the hell Paul was and why her sisters didn’t trash him or build him up as an individual. The reason was he didn’t exist – he, as a specific person. Paul is just any man named Paul, and Savannah set her sights on the UT alum in China.
  • Fundamental Drawbacks. As I read, I had some things I couldn’t get past some things at the end. Some of Savannah’s commentary about her relationship or responses to Julian.  It was weird. I did feel that Savannah and Julian had some sort of connection, but there were some things that didn’t mesh for me as a reader. For these reasons, I was disappointed in this installment in the series. Because of these things I felt it did not live up to the basic principles of romance and true – TRULY – true love. It was subpar and I feel like the last few chapters reinforced all the wrong things I think young girls and women today fall victim to in relationships.

 

The Take-Away

I didn’t really like this one. Developmentally a lot of things could have been different. I also don’t really see the swoony romance here. I see a connection that is then up in the air as both Savannah and Julian have different thoughts and make up their minds about things.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

6425797Taylor Dean lives in Texas and is the mother of four grown children. Upon finding herself with an empty nest, she began to write the stories that were always wandering around in her head, quickly finding she had a passion for writing, specifically romance. Whether it’s paranormal, contemporary, or suspense-you’ll find all sub-genres of CLEAN Romance in her line-up.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Review: Somebody’s Baby

ABOUT THE BOOK

29875915Title: Somebody’s Baby
Author: Donna Alward
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Release Date: April 2017
Length: 304 pages
Series?: Darling, VT #3
Genre: Contemporary Romance 

Veterinarian Rory Gallagher chose a different path from his brothers, both of whom became first responders in the lovely little town of Darling, Vermont. Rory’s always had an affinity for animals and the ladies. Known for his impressive track record in breaking hearts, Rory never meant to hurt anyone; he s just never been in a hurry to settle down. It’s not as if he needs to pay a visit to the town s famed Kissing Bridge to magically find love. He’ll know The One when he sees her. . .right?

Oaklee Ferguson is the kid sister of Rory’s best friend and, even now that she’s all grown up, remains immune to the pet-doctor’s charms. When she shows up at Rory’s clinic late one night devastated after hitting a stray dog with her car, Rory’s so-called bedroom eyes are the last thing on her mind. Still, his care and kindness toward the dog, and his concern for her feelings, catches Oaklee by surprise. . .and soon the two (and rescued dog makes three!) begin to share a deep connection that neither could have ever imagined. Could it be that love has been waiting for them by the bridge all along?

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

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my review

The Skinny

Oaklee returns to her hometown of Darling to join the city council in promoting tourism. She knocked it out the the park re-creating the town’s iconic photo of Aiden Gallagher kissing Laurel Stone on the Kissing Bridge when they were just five years old, re-branding the city’s entire marketing campaign. Despite the fast-paced life she leads, and the jillions of people she interacts with on a daily basis, whether in person or online through Twitter, Oaklee is hiding her loneliness from everyone, even herself.

Which is exactly what she is doing one night when she hits a dog. Frantically, she gets it in her car and takes it to the vet clinic, where Rory Gallagher works and lives. While Oaklee feels massive guilt, she is stuck footing the larger than expected bill for the dog with a broken leg, named Buster by the clinic. Then Rory up and pushes her into fostering the thing. She’s never had a dog in her life!

Just like with his brother and his wife, Rory has a history with Oaklee. Cam, Oaklee’s now-famous hockey star older brother, was Rory’s best friend growing up. After Cam went all famous, Rory was tasked with looking out for Oaklee until she went off to college.

Now they are both back home, both working in their small town, and both trying to make a go at adult life. There’s just one problem: they are both keeping the truth – their truths – a secret from every single person they know.

The Players

Oaklee – 23 year old city council socialite and younger sister of a famous hockey player

Rory – 26 year old vet at the local clinic; a serial first-date-is-the-last-date kind of guy

Hannah – Rory’s sister who gets all nosy up in Rory’s personal business; Oaklee’s friend

Buster – the dog Oaklee hits and then Rory convinces her to foster

The Quote

So close now…her eyes drifted closed, waiting for that first touch of his mouth on hers.

Instead his lips touched her forehead. She froze in place, both from surprise and dismay. A kiss on the forehead was what you gave a sister or a friend. She’d been moving in and he’d just friend zoned her big-time.

The Highs and Lows

  • Animals. Let’s be real, here. Animals are always the way to win over the hearts of readers, and Rory Gallagher has them in spades. Buster is an adorable dog, and he fills the holes in Oaklee’s life. When reading about how he wanted to be in bed with her the first night after fostering him, it reminded me so much of my own dog, Baby, whom has slept with me since she came home. I could see the same way Baby does when she wants to crawl in bed in Buster, and it brought a smile to my face.
  • Emotional Baggage. Both Rory and Oaklee carried such emotional baggage. I could understand both of their pasts and the pain and fear it puts you in to try again at love, but neither of them ever told anyone what happened. NO ONE. That seemed so unrealistic to me. NEITHER of them told ANYONE. That is very uncharacteristic of human nature. They are both choosing to hide behind their pasts, despite their feelings for one another.
  • Oaklee’s Loneliness. Due to Oaklee’s baggage, she doesn’t allow anyone in. That’s why she has a messy car and an apartment that sets off Rory’s OCD like nobody’s business. It’s why Rory pretty much offs Buster onto Oaklee, so she wouldn’t be lonely. He sees it as just an outsider and wants her to have some companionship, but Oaklee has to come to terms with it herself: she keeps her apartment in this state so it looks lived in, so she doesn’t feel lonely. She’s also flat broke and barely making it, something that shocks Rory considering her brother is a rich and famous hockey player, but Oaklee refuses to ask for a hand out or help. She has to get creative with Buster’s vet bill, and offers to redesign the vet clinic’s website and do some other social media packaging to help pay for the unexpected financial cost.
  • Twitter. The use of Twitter in this installment is Oaklee’s job. Her life. But I wasn’t kosher with her using it to publicly ask Rory out. Then the pressure and maelstrom that followed as all the local businesses and locals themselves began to weigh in and give their opinions. In a world where we have to teach our students and children digital citizenship and appropriate social media usage in a world drowning in oversharing, I though this was a perfect example of what not to do. There were some things that came back to both characters, questioning the already unsteady ground they were on with each other. In an about-face, later in the book Rory also uses Twitter to send out an announcement to Oaklee.
  • Lies and Deception. Sometimes a white lie is necessary, like telling your husband the dog knocked over the expensive vase when your 8 year old really did it playing football in the house. I get that – protecting others. I also get that at times in our lives we have to be self-serving and protect ourselves. I get it. I was there once a bunch. But what kept rubbing me a little quite a bit the wrong way was that neither Rory nor Oaklee had ever told anyone anything, as I mentioned above. But it wasn’t just that. Despite the budding relationship between Oaklee and Rory, neither one of them is honest. They both lie to each other. They are not all-in and willing to be honest with themselves or each other. Oaklee basically had to beg Rory for a date, and at the end she finally revealed her hidden truth and gave him an out to share his. And then he ignored her for two weeks. That bothered me.
  • The Title. For the longest time I could not understand why the book was titled Somebody’s Baby. I still kind of don’t. At the end of the book, Rory surprises Oaklee with an unexpected gift, and that is the “somebody’s baby” part…but I didn’t think that warranted being the title.

The Take-Away

I really thought for the longest that Rory was just going to walk away and leave Oaklee hanging. Ignore her and put her off and avoid her as much as he could, given the small town and the nature of Oaklee’s job to make it her business to support his business and others around town. There was something not quite there for me in this installment in the series. I’m not sure if this is the last book in the series or not, but there are still three more Gallagher children who are single! I hope Hannah is the focus of the next book.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

marti-corn-photography-donna-alward-h-r-1600While bestselling author Donna Alward was busy studying Austen, Eliot and Shakespeare, she was also losing herself in the breathtaking stories created by romance novelists like LaVyrle Spencer, Judith McNaught, and Nora Roberts. Several years after completing her degree she decided to write a romance of her own and it was true love! Five years and ten manuscripts later she sold her first book and launched a new career. While her heartwarming stories of love, hope, and homecoming have been translated into several languages, hit bestseller lists and won awards, her very favorite thing is when she hears from happy readers!

Donna lives on Canada’s east coast with her family which includes a husband, a couple of kids, a senior dog and two crazy cats. When she’s not writing she enjoys reading (of course!), knitting, gardening, cooking…and is a Masterpiece Theater addict.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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Review: Someone to Love

ABOUT THE BOOK


29875888-1Title:
 Someone to Love
Author: Donna Alward
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Release Date: March 2017
Length: 320 pages
Series?: Darling, VT #2
Genre: Contemporary Romance 

Some wishes do come true…

Ethan Gallagher is a firefighter in Darling, Vermont, who followed tradition and pledged his love on the Kissing Bridge to ensure lifelong happiness. A few years later, he s a widower with two rambunctious boys who no longer believes in magic. But even he has to admit that free-spirited Willow Dunaway fills him with wonder and an attraction he cannot deny.

Willow s come back to Darling a different girl than the one who left after high school. Overcoming her past and owning her own business has made her into a strong, independent woman. Single dad Ethan appeals to her in a way she didn t expect, even though settling down is the last thing on her mind. But after fire destroys the local food bank, the town rallies, and a fling between Ethan and Willow leads to unintended consequences. Can they find a way out of their heartbreak to make a home in each other s hearts?

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

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my review

The Skinny

Darling, Vermont is known for their famous Kissing Bridge. Local legend says that a kiss on the bridge brings everlasting love.

Ethan Gallagher doesn’t think so. He kissed his bride on the Kissing Bridge and she died, leaving him to raise two young boys on his own. The loss is obvious, and the entire family pitches in to care for the boys due to Ethan’s firefighting schedule. He loves his boys, but not much else.

When his boys meet Willow by accident. Ethan is as surly to Willow as the Beast, and again when Ethan’s sister invites her to dinner with the Gallagher family. Ethan’s attitude and words cut like a knife, despite the cheerful smile and kind responses Willow tries to give. Willow left Darling and came back a very different person. She has had to work hard each and every day to love herself. She is putting her happiness into her business and being a good community member. When Ethan’s sister begs Willow to watch Ethan’s boys for a few hours, Willow is more than happy to accommodate…only to land in hot water with Ethan!

 

The Players

Willow – owner of The Purple Pig; does yoga and eats crazy healthy; practices mindful self-care

Ethan – a firefighter and recent widow; struggles to raise his two little boys

Hannah – runs the local realty office near The Purple Pig; Ethan’s sister and Willow’s close friend

Connor and Ronan – Ethan’s sons; Ronan remembers everything

 

The Quote

“I didn’t really peg you as the tattoo type,” he said, nodding at her arm.

Her stomach twisted into a knot. Her ink was rather personal, thought its meaning was well known. “I only have the one,” she remarked, keeping her voice light. “Though I’ve thought about getting another.”

“A semicolon in a flower. That seems kind of a weird choice, don’t you think?” He gave a little chuckle. “Did you study English or something?”

He didn’t know. She wasn’t sure why she was surprised. Not everyone understood the meaning behind the semicolon, she supposed. Did she want to explain? And if she did, did she want it to be here, sitting at her business, with the chatter of other customers around?

The Highs and Lows

Warning: This post contains heavy subject matter not for the faint of heart.
  • The Subject Matter. There are two heavy subjects that come up in the book. The first is in relation to the quote I picked out for the book to share above. A semicolon is a very well-known mark, and has now become a stamp forever as a reminder and as hope for many people who battle depression or other mental health issues. If you want to find out more about what the semicolon means, there is an entire project dedicated to it. I encourage you to read about it here. The second heavy subject revolves around a woman’s right to choose for herself and her body, which is somehow a controversial topic in what is supposed to be such a progressive time.
  • Willow. She has suffered quite a bit. She is not the girl she left behind, and every day she focuses on being happy and harmonious. She happily is the face of healthy eating in Darling, and she takes care of her people. She goes out of her way to be courteous and nice to others, because she knows what it is like to live a lie to the outside world. Willow is a very flawed character, with a background of darkness. Now in Darling, she is a ray of sunshine to many, but Willow’s past keeps her grounded and keeps her going. As a result, she tries to be as open and honest as possible.
  • Ethan. He is a surly old bear! I could understand his frustration with the universe, but he chose to take it out on Willow in about 84758475 ways. It is difficult to be in a hard situation and be faced with someone who has everything you want: happiness, real and pure and true. The character growth he experienced from purposefully making fun of Willow’s hard work to practice self-love and care to wanting to get to know her, seeing how he sons come to like and enjoy Willow slowly brings Ethan out of his shell. However, Ethan is not one to mince his words…but he also lacks tact and the forethought to think before he speaks, which drives a wedge between Willow and him. I also like this realization from Ethan:

He blinked back tears, wondering at the odd sensation of grieving for his actual grief. Because the absence of heartbreak had to mean he was moving on. It was a sad, complicated feeling.

  • Willow’s Choice. Willow and Ethan slowly grow close to one another, neither wanting to admit what they have. But life takes its natural course, and all of the reason behind Willow’s semicolon tattoo forces her to make a different choice at this point in her life – not the choice she made before. Not the choice Ethan wants her to make. Willow chooses not to allow someone else to force her into making a choice she does not want, so she chooses her own path. When an innocent bicycle collision happens in front of her store, it propels Willow into an entire situation she and Ethan are not prepared to handle. On the flip side, as Ethan points out to Willow, she has also robbed him of his right to choice in the matter. It is a fine and delicate line, and in the end, Willow made the best decision for herself. She kept Ethan in mind, but also gave him the choice to walk away.
  • The Ending. The ending wasn’t as satisfying as I was hoping it the last little hill of build-up lead me to believe in. It was alright, but I was building up higher hopes in my mind, I suppose. Willow is such a strong, inspirational character that I wanted the world for her.

The Take-Away

This book brought a lot of personal stuff to the plate that most romances don’t. It explored two topics I still consider taboo in our country, and they were both approached with beauty and grace, just like Willow. I think both of these issues – and the outcomes – are very representative and speak volumes to women in our country today.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

marti-corn-photography-donna-alward-h-r-1600While bestselling author Donna Alward was busy studying Austen, Eliot and Shakespeare, she was also losing herself in the breathtaking stories created by romance novelists like LaVyrle Spencer, Judith McNaught, and Nora Roberts. Several years after completing her degree she decided to write a romance of her own and it was true love! Five years and ten manuscripts later she sold her first book and launched a new career. While her heartwarming stories of love, hope, and homecoming have been translated into several languages, hit bestseller lists and won awards, her very favorite thing is when she hears from happy readers!

Donna lives on Canada’s east coast with her family which includes a husband, a couple of kids, a senior dog and two crazy cats. When she’s not writing she enjoys reading (of course!), knitting, gardening, cooking…and is a Masterpiece Theater addict.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads