Review: Hope at Christmas

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: Hope at Christmas
Author: Nancy Naigle
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: October 2017
Length: 342 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Contemporary, Romance

A recently divorced woman and her daughter look for a fresh start by moving to a small town that embraces them in ways that only fate and the magic of Christmas can explain.

Sydney Ragsdale is divorced, but her husband is still calling the shots. In an attempt to shake free from his hold, she and her daughter, Ray Anne, head for tiny Hopewell, NC to the only asset her ex has no control over – a decaying farmhouse that once belonged to her grandparents. She finds solace at The Book Bea, the bookstore she’d loved as a child during her summer stays.

Kevin MacAlea, Mac to his friends, is the local high school history teacher and baseball coach. Father of a twelve-year-old son, he’s Hopewell, North Carolina’s most sought-after bachelor. His young bride abandoned him and his son just before Christmas and has never come back. It has left his son bitter about Christmas which is hard for Mac who loves the magic of the season. He’s been the Santa here in Hopewell since the year Seth was born.

But when catastrophe forces The Book Bea to close before the end of the year, everyone in the small town is feeling the loss. While Sydney is already off-balance by the bad news, her ex-husband breaks a promise to their daughter that sends Ray Anne running away. As Sydney tries to figure out what her next steps are she discovers all of the answers are right here in Hopewell.

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

My Thoughts 

This is a sweet, clean holiday romance read. Reeling from her husband’s infidelity and request for a divorce, Sydney Ragsdale packs up what is left of her Atlanta life and takes her daughter to Hopewell, North Carolina. The old farmhouse where she spent her summers with her grandparents was never a vacation option on her husband’s list, and the inherited property has been ignored for years. Making the move means giving up a lot of luxuries and also facing the full force of her daughter’s anger.

RayAnne Ragsdale is the classic daddy’s girl and she is not happy with her parents splitting up. Moving to smalltown Hopewell means leaving her dad and his money and extravagant gifts behind. She wheedles every chance she can to just get her mother to go back home, not knowing the full ramifications of her parent’s separation.

Sydney does everything she can to protect her daughter while maintaining the meager funds she has until her new job starts in the new year. Meanwhile, she will spend the holidays alone in Hopewell once RayAnne goes with her dad on a ski trip, a newfound interest of his after years of never wanting to travel anywhere.

Upon her return, Sydney steps into The Book Bea, the local and longtime bookstore run by Bea. Sydney remembers Bea from her own childhood spent in The Book Bea where Sydney met and befriended Diane. On her first visit back, Bea reveals she could use some assistance in the store. Having nothing but time on her hands until her new job after the holidays, Sydney volunteers to help out. Being in the bookstore with Bea brings out so many of the good qualities in Sydney that I admired about her.

Bea is the little old lady in town that is adored by all. I found such strength and wisdom in Bea’s character, who found joy in finding just the right book for all of the readers who happened upon The Book Bea. While Bea is busy finding books, she is also astute in the language of love. While Sydney is looking for a soft place to land, Bea knows Kein MacAlea, known as Mac, is where Sydney needs to end up.

Mac is a divorced teacher and coach with his own teen boy, Seth, who has a hate relationship with Christmas. Residual side effects of his mother’s abandonment. What few in town know is Mac plays the local Santa every year and he has quite a knack for it.

Just as Sydney fell in love with Hopewell and its smalltown feel and community, so did I as a reader. Her childhood friend Diane is still in town, married with two kids, and their daughters bond as Sydney and Diane reconnect. RayAnne and Seth also find themselves to be two peas in a pod and their friendship was adorable to watch blossom. RayAnne’s anger and emotional yo-yo-ing from her dad lead her into some situations and Seth is the best of friends and doesn’t turn his back on her. It was a great testament to another strong friendship.

As Sydney and RayAnne settle into Hopewell and the holidays look, Mac and Seth continue to make them welcome in town. As Sydney and Mac spend more and more time together, she fights the doubts and staggers on the realization she is not ready for a new relationship. Seeing the great things in front of Sydney and her denying them was frustrating, especially lying to her daughter about not seeing Mac and Seth.

Sydney was a mix of a character. At times, I did not like her at all because she seemed she didn’t have a backbone when it came to her husband or her daughter’s whiny rants. It definitely gave credence to her last name because they both ragged on her more than she should have put up with considering how strong she really is.

There was some manufactured drama toward the end that allowed things to be tied up nice and neat and smooth. It kind of felt like a betrayal a reader after falling in love with the town and characters. I think the ending still could have happened without one particular event. The following chain of events and reactions didn’t seem genuine to the magnitude of what happened. It seemed like a disservice on behalf of all the characters involved, and that was disappointing.

Overall a great Christmas read I definitely recommend!

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

With a career spent on the cutting edge of technology in the banking industry, she never let go of her dream to write. Now she works full-time writing stories that are a calming blend of community, family, and the simple things in life. She writes the kind of stories she hopes will provide an escape from the hectic day-to-day in the make-believe worlds she creates.

Aside from writing she enjoys hunting for treasures in junk and antique shops, and getting crafty no matter what the medium from painting and digitizing embroidery designs, to weaving pine needle baskets.

A Virginia native, and spending most of her life in the Tidewater area, she now calls North Carolina home.

Find the author: GoodreadsWebsite | Facebook | Twitter 

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Review: No Place Like You

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: No Place Like You
Author: Emma Douglas
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: December 2017
Length: 304 pages
Series?: Cloud Bay #3
Genre: Contemporary, Romance

Home–in the island village of Cloud Bay–is where the heart is. . .

Leah Santelli always knew that Zach Harper, son of a rock legend and her best friend’s brother, was painfully out of reach. Then, on the night of her eighteenth birthday, Leah shocked herself by asking for–and receiving–the gift she wanted: one night of passion with Zach before he left town to pursue his rock star dreams. Now, years later, Zach is back in Cloud Bay to record his first solo album. His return could also be Leah’s big chance to step up her own music career. But getting the producing credit she needs means spending long hours with Zach in the recording studio…and falling back into the habit of longing for him, for better or worse.

Zach used to believe that a man must put his past behind him. But coming back home for Cloud Bay’s famed music festival has allowed him to finally make amends with his family and, much to his surprise, reunite with Leah. He might have left her once but now it seems he can’t stay away. Trouble is, even though the heat between them burns hotter than ever, Leah has old wounds in need of healing before she can give Zach a real chance. Can he find a way to convince her that they can make more than just great music together–and that she’s the one that he wants for all time?

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

My Thoughts 

Zach Harper, son of the late Gery Harper and leader of the rock band Blacklight, is working hard to establish his own way in the world. After his band leader breaks the band up to “find himself,” Zach returns home to Lansing Island and Cloud Bay. With at least a year off, he plans to make his own music and launch a solo album. Returning home won’t be an easy landing after his six years away. Six years in which he ditched his sister and their musical career when his father fell ill, joined another band to continue moving his career forward, and being a no-show with no word at the family music festival, Cloud Fest, on the island the year before. Essentially, Zach has done everything he could to ignore his family and advance his own musical career.

While making amends with his sisters, Faith and Mina, and stepmother Lou, Zach also finds himself being a jerk to the Grey studio sound engineer, Leah. The girl-next-door type of girl, Leah grew up on the island living on the fringes of the Grey Harper family. Her father served as his sound engineer and she spent many days on at the Harper studio.  Now she is following in her own father’s footsteps while Zach is trying to make his name and his own way, no matter who he has to use or step over or leave out to make it happen.

Just like he did 10 years ago when he loved and left Leah on her 18th birthday. Not that she is holding a grudge – she knew he was leaving but she wanted her night with him anyway. Since then Leah Santelli has lived her own life. She married and later divorced, and she is happy with her life. Now she is trying to get her own music career as a producer off the ground. Zach’s return home and solo album is the perfect project to launch her own career.

First, Zach totally rebuffs the idea of Leah the unknown nobody making his album. Despite knowing him well and knowing his music well, Zach wants a big wig to produce his music. After being turned down by his dream producer and having another mangle his vision, he slinks back to Leah, who is doing some amazing work with one of Faith’s newfound female artists.

As their professional career flourishes, Leah and Zach find themselves in the conundrum of the personal creeping in. Once again, Leah proposes a liaison. This time, though, a friends with benefits relationship. She knows once the album is finished he’ll be leaving again, but she’ll spend her time with him while she can.

I loved Leah’s character. She is strong and spunky and has an equal measure of compassion for others and also herself. She has her own dreams that aren’t shadowed by a relationship. I didn’t like that Zach called most of the shots. He makes himself look like a huge jerk. While Leah is in charge of the studio, she is also doing her best work as a producer and has her sights set on a bigger project after Zach’ album.

With Cloud Fest, the music fest his father started decades ago, on the horizon for Lansing Island and Cloud Bay, Zach is betting on the secret slot to launch his new music and create some buzz and publicity. Suddenly, one of his father’s bandmates and father of his best friend, swoops in and steals the secret slot from under him. There is lots of drama revolving around those issues that throw Zach out of kilter. In some form of retribution, Zach is offered the producer of a lifetime.

Zach has continually put his desires for his career above his family and friends for years and years. He has everything at his fingertips, but can only pick one dream.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Emma Douglas has read like a wild thing since she was small. She discovered romance novels at an age that way probably way too young but she survived unscathed. When she realized you could make up stories as well as read them, she started taking notes about what the characters wandering through her head were telling her and then, eventually, books happened.

Before the books happened she did the usual things (was a band geek (and a geek generally), had crushes on rock stars and fictional characters, spent chunks of her summers on an island beach, got a degree in something sensible that doesn’t involve writing about kissing, became a black belt in internet procrastination, fell down the rabbit-hole of craft, traveled a bit, indulged her love of baked goods, got bossed around by cats, began a quest for the perfect margarita, and napped to recover from all of the above.

She still does most of that plus the writing thing from a tiny house which her feline overlords have kindly agreed to share with her.

Find the author: GoodreadsWebsite | Twitter 

Review: A Season of You

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: A Season of You
Author: Emma Douglas
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: October 2017
Length: 293 pages
Series?: Cloud Bay #2
Genre: Contemporary, Romance

It’s Christmastime in the quaint island town of Cloud Bay, where love is always in season…

Will Fraser has believed in love at first sight since the day he first laid eyes on Mina Harper five years ago. There was only one problem: She was happily married. Then, when Mina’s husband was killed by a drunk driver, Will figured she’d want nothing to do with a guy who owns a whiskey distillery. So he’s kept his feelings locked away, knowing that not even a Christmas miracle would be enough to melt Mina’s heart. . . Mina believes her days of true love are behind her. Since losing her husband she’s kept to herself, content to do her own painting and stay out of the limelight that comes with her famous family. But when, after a freak accident, Will comes to her rescue, Mina can’t quite get him out of her mind. As curiosity turns into a fling during Cloud Bay’s first Christmas Festival, she finds it harder to convince herself that her feelings for Will are just mistletoe-inspired. Could Mina be ready to lay the past to rest and finally admit that what she really wants for Christmas–and forever–is Will?

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

My Thoughts 

Ever since seeing Mina Harper waiting for the ferry five years ago, Will Fraser has believed in love at first sight. Will’s dreams with his dream girl were dashed when he discovered Mina was happily married. He set Mina out of his sights, but she was never far from mind. He continues to build his whiskey distillery business with his brother, Stefan, on Lansing Island. The Salt Devil is waiting for its first barrels to ready, and run a bar to ensure continual capital in the meantime.

Fast forward five years and Mina has experienced more loss than someone her age should. She lost her infamous and legendary rock star father to cancer, and shortly after she lost her beloved husband to a drunk driver. A drunk driver leaving Will and Stefan’s bar. While Will is responsible for all the accounting of the distillery and bar, those numbers just don’t add up in his favor. He’d never even stand a chance of getting more than a perfunctory greeting in passing from Mina Harper.

With winter weather settling in, Mina is cursing her bad fortune with a flat tire late one night. With a mishap and misstep, Mina goes down hard. With Will’s late nights, he notices the car pulled to the side of the road and then the sudden wild wielding of a flashlight slicing through the dark and takes himself out to investigate. He discovers Mina lying on the ground with a gash on her head. Bundling her and her lab Stewie into his rebuilt Mustang, he takes her to the hospital. Being discharged, Will is tasked with taking care of Mina throughout the night.

Lansing Island is home to the Harper family and her father’s Blacklight bandmates. They basically have their own compounds on the island, monitored by high tech security and everything. Her older brother Zach is off touring and her older sister Faith is still on the island and newly married. Lou, her father’s second wife and Lou’s mother, is the self-proclaimed mother to all three of the Harper kids.

Like Rapunzel in her tower, Mina hardens her heart and locks herself in her lighthouse when the storms of life are too much. Trying just to cope and survive the day to day, for the last few years Mina has been serving as the night shift for the island’s search and rescue operations. While it is an unpaid, voluntary position, Mina doesn’t need the money after her inheritance. She does it to serve a purpose and to chase away her own demons. She enjoys the solitude of the night, it keeps her from fighting her PTSD and sleeping at night, and she can take her dog Stewie. Every morning she returns to the lighthouse on the Harper compound and spends the morning hours using the fabulous light to paint by. She has an upcoming art show in LA that she is furiously working to finish paintings for. It is the first thing she will do on her own – out from her father’s famous name. She is set to send 30 ocean seascapes to the gallery, but that night with Will has her doing nothing but thinking of drawing his face, his hands. Him. It is a distraction she can’t afford right now, and a risk she can’t take.

When Mina’s boss tasks her with attending and aiding in the annual Christmas Festival, Mina is in weekly contact with the mayor, Angie, and Will. The mayor has set her sights on belittling the Harper family after her father starts dating Lou, Mina’s step-mom. While I feel there is much more to Angie’s anger, I enjoyed Mina and Angie’s own father setting her straight from her witchy words.

But mistlefoes change sides when the mistletoe is hung, and soon Will finds himself getting the opening he’s always been hoping for. Mina sets the boundaries that this relationship is only temporary. Will bets on Mina letting her self-imposed parameters fall away as the days and nights go on. Will understands Mina’s insecurities and also respects her feelings, doing everything he can to help her. In their time together, Mina learns there is so much more to Will than whiskey. Despite living on the island, he has a terrible fear of the water. But it’s not the water that destroys his relationship with Mina. The differences in their lives – Will working for everything he has, putting everything into The Salt Devil and Mina having everything at her fingertip’s courtesy of her daddy’s millions – rend a tear in the fabric of what they were building together.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Emma Douglas has read like a wild thing since she was small. She discovered romance novels at an age that way probably way too young but she survived unscathed. When she realized you could make up stories as well as read them, she started taking notes about what the characters wandering through her head were telling her and then, eventually, books happened.

Before the books happened she did the usual things (was a band geek (and a geek generally), had crushes on rock stars and fictional characters, spent chunks of her summers on an island beach, got a degree in something sensible that doesn’t involve writing about kissing, became a black belt in internet procrastination, fell down the rabbit-hole of craft, traveled a bit, indulged her love of baked goods, got bossed around by cats, began a quest for the perfect margarita, and napped to recover from all of the above.

She still does most of that plus the writing thing from a tiny house which her feline overlords have kindly agreed to share with her.

Find the author: GoodreadsWebsite | Twitter 

Review: Deck the Halls

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: Deck the Halls
Author: Donna Alward
Publisher: Swerve
Release Date: October 2017
Length: 128 pages
Series?: Darling, VT #3.5
Genre: Contemporary, Romance

In the last year, George’s life has drastically changed. The formerly homeless veteran now has a job he likes, a family in the residents of Darling, VT, and for the first time in years, a home. But while his present is good, he’s still haunted by the past, a past that appears shortly before Christmas when the older sister of his brother-in-arms hunts him down and finds him in Darling, working at the Ladybug Garden Center.

Amy’s looking for closure for her family after her brother’s death in the Middle East, but the serious man she finds working in Vermont doesn’t resemble the soldier she remembers from years before. This man is hardened and yet somehow fragile, too, and in her desire to find out what really happened to her brother, she learns more about George than she ever expected.

With a little Christmas magic and the whole town supporting them, can these two bruised hearts make a future together?

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

My Thoughts 

This installment in the Darling, VT series focuses on George. Homeless and a vagrant when helped by Aiden and Laurel, he has been working at The Ladybug Garden Center for a while now. With the help of his new friends and a compassionate town, he now has his own little apartment. Despite his good fortune, he still suffers from his past that landed him on the streets. Like many veterans today, George lost his best friend in combat. Returning home to face his friend’s family was impossible. He didn’t keep his friend safe, and he lost his life because of George. Instead, George returned home and followed a few different paths before landing on the streets.

Fifteen years later, the twin sister of George’s friend finds him at The Ladybug. Amy shows up just weeks before Christmas following her own disaster of a divorce. George isn’t ready to face Amy – or the nightmares she brings back. While Amy is looking for closure for herself and her family, George cannot go back to that dark place. The guilt and PTSD kept George from contacting Amy’s family all these years. Amy is not leaving town until she can get George to share her brother’s final days and minutes of his life.

I loved the Christmas setting! Amy is installed in a rented farmhouse for her visit, and she does her best to spruce it and make it ready for the holiday away from home. George is making holiday wreaths at the Garden Center. Together they go shopping and decorate George’s apartment for Christmas, including a little tree. The cheer and moments that reminded me of the season helped to alleviate some of the pain you felt for George and Amy and all they lost.

I applaud Donna Alward for writing about the reality that many veterans face when they return to the United States after serving a hard deployment. This is just a touch of what it is like to live with the horrors they have seen while serving their country. PTSD is the silent killer of 22 veterans per day who take their own lives. Coming home from war, a six-month deployment on a ship, or simply transitioning from a life in uniform to a life without one, can be difficult and the various state and federal systems set up to deal with this transition and life after military services are unable to meet the need. The challenges of adjustment and transition, post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injuries, and physical disabilities, all need to be addressed especially as these things result in barriers to education, employment, healthcare, and overall individual well-being. There are just too many gaps in the system and our veterans suffer.

With George and Amy having a shared past and connection, it was easy to see they would be drawn to one another. While there is no moving on from a veteran’s past, they are able to move forward with their lives. Amy found herself wanting to be part of George’s moving forward.

The running theme throughout the book is second chances, and the heartwarming love and friendship from Amy really made those second chances possible beyond what George already had.

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

Review: Chocolate Kisses and Love Filled Wishes

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: Chocolate Kisses and Love Filled Wishes
Author: Linda West
Publisher: Morning Mayan Publishing
Release Date: February 2016
Length: 178 pages
Series?: Love on Kissing Bridge Mountain #3
Genre: Contemporary, Romance

Summer and Brad are slated to get married but things go awry in Kissing Bridge! Brad’s younger sister, snowboarding champion, Kacey Anderson is forced to come home to heal from a bad accident. After being told she can no longer compete, she begins to train at home while still missing her beloved Olympic gold medalist boyfriend Brody Jenkins. Against doctor’s orders, she begins to regain her strength in the hopes of competing in the 2016 Olympics. When a young Climate Change activist enlists her help to bring awareness to the cause, Kacey begins to think that her future may be much different then she imagined.

Summer is forced back to LA to finish a modeling contract when the worst blizzard in decades hits their hometown. Unable to return, she can only suffer as she hears a fate worse than she can ever imagine is unfolding back home in Kissing Bridge Mountain.

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

My Thoughts 

The first thing I notice about a book after the cover is the synopsis on Goodreads/Amazon. Looking at the blurb for this book had a bunch of trash and unnecessary sentences that are not about the content of the book. Always a first clue that it most likely isn’t a well-developed book.

My thoughts were absolutely correct in that regard. The storyline is interesting – a young Olypmic hopeful suffering an injury, returning home. But there is no development of a true story here. Even the timeline of events is not believable. It is definitely something written as a novella instead of a novel. The story is rushed, there is no depth to the characters or events. Also, this book is marketed as a Christmas read, but there’s not really a Christmas background. There’s just snow. Snow does not equal Christmas.

The events of the book are pretty hokey, bordering on the unrealistic. I did like how the “save the earth” guy was found out and run off and the rescue scene at the end.

Additionally, the editors need to spend some quality time with this book. Both the developmental editor in helping get the storyline off the ground and the copy editor to proof for grammar, particularly for paragraphs, dialogues, and breaks within a chapter. It is difficult trying to figure out who is speaking what and when and then when there is a setting or time shift and there are no *** or line breaks to help readers determine the passage of time and new characters in the new scene. Readers’ brains shouldn’t hurt trying to figure out your book.

It was hard to determine who the MC was supposed to be because it keeps switching between Kacey and Summer. It seemed like two different book ideas (because again, undeveloped) mashed together into one piece of writing masquerading as a novel.

This is definitely not a romance read. I suppose it is better for young adults pining over a breakup because there wasn’t much more to the book besides that.

 

Review: Christmas at Two Love Lane

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: Christmas at Two Love Lane
Author: Kieran Kramer
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: October 2017
Length: 352 pages
Series?: Two Love Lane #1
Genre: Romance, Contemporary

From the moment he strode through the iron gate and into the offices of Two Love Lane on a crisp December day, it was obvious that Deacon Banks was something different. He wasn’t a Charleston native, not with that adorable Yankee accent. And unlike the usual client at the elegant matchmaking agency, he had no interest in finding a woman to marry–just a few no-strings dates while he was in town.

Macy Frost takes her professional services very seriously–how could she not, when she’s rumored to be a direct descendant of Cupid? Tech entrepreneur Deacon says he’s just trying to make his social-climbing aunt happy by being seen out and about with a few prominent beauties, but Macy insists she can make her client fall in love…for real. And Deacon can’t help but think she might be right. As charming as the palmetto trees and magnificent harbor may be, it’s the beautiful, breath-of-fresh-air Macy who’s become Deacon’s favorite part of the scenery. But can the hopelessly romantic Southern belle stop trying to fix him up and just let Cupid do his work on her own heart?

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

My Thoughts 

The setting for the book is Charleston, South Carolina during the Christmas season. Charleston is described as the classic southern belle charm era that we all know, but the description and action within the book boasted a small town, intimate community instead of the vast size and population of Charleston. The book intimates that everyone knows everyone, and I don’t believe that is possible in a city the size of Charleston. Perhaps the “old families” know one another – the founding families and those around for generations upon generations, but that single-minded focus was very narrow and snooty to exclude newcomers to the city. The true purpose of Charleston’s setting functioned solely to bring in Cecilia’s character, her connections, and the reason Fran has hired her to help her make an appropriate splash into Charleston’s upper crust. While the culture and houses were described well within the community, the Christmas setting seemed more of a convenience than providing the cheer and magic of Christmas.

Being the first book in the series, it’s focus was more on Macy Frost than her coworkers at Two Love Lane, a matchmaking service they founded together following some of their own disastrous love affairs. Macy is described as the perfect woman. Everyone says so. She is so perfect and believes to be descended from Cupid, hence the matchmaking service. While it is doing very well and Macy’s mission is to find the soulmates for her clients, she absolutely will not commit herself. The high and mighty persona she wears about love – being good for everyone else, not for herself, woe is me, I’ll live my life in solitude with this cat – definitely, put her last name into perspective. She is the contemporary ice queen! It was not an attractive quality and quite off-putting, making it difficult to relate to her character and like her.

There were some tidbits dropped about each of the other women, Greer, Ella, and Miss Thing. I mean, seriously? Miss Thing? How unoriginal. Any other name would have been better. There seems to be some discord between the girls, and Miss Thing operates within the office as a gossip hound imitating British fashion. One of the ladies is searching for buried treasure in the building and one is conducting an affair with a married man – of someone they all know! It seemed so random and out of character for women running a matchmaking business. The ladies all seem taken in by Deacon and I was astonished, like Macy, that they all left her alone in the building alone with the man and allowed themselves to be bought off with spas or hair salon appointments. He could have been a serial killer! Some friends.

Deacon’s character rubbed me the wrong way throughout the book, too. He comes to Two Love Lane – a matchmaking service – looking to be set up on a series of dates with the female clients. After his Aunt Fran moved to Charleston and is trying to acclimate into their society, her wish is for him to also settle down. To appease her wish without giving into it – in essence, to trick her – he will go on dates all through the Christmas season and if a bedroom relationship develops, great, but there is nothing more than two dates with the same woman. All of which offends Macy, but the business desperately needs the double fees Deacon is willing to pay. So she sets him up with some Charleston sparklers.

In a twist of irony, Macy lives directly next to Aunt Fran, so there are several scenes set on their piazzas, yelling back and forth, watching bedroom windows and such. The cast of characters next door to Macy cracked me up! Fran is a vivacious, forceful woman – in the sense that she was a celebrity interviewer her entire life. She got people to do and reveal things they normally wouldn’t while on air – and she had the audacity to kiss married men. And I do mean KISSSSSS. On camera. Now that she has retired, she has set her sights on truly getting into Charleston society. She has brought her manservant, George, with her. He serves every role possible in her household, except lover. He is a hoot and their friendship is adorable. Fran is a woman who steals every scene she appeared in. She has hired Cecilia to help her get in good with the old families of Charleston, and Cecilia and Macy have a past. They have several scenes of their own and things even continue to escalate in the present day events of the book.

The pacing of the book was on the slower side. The situations in the book were quite comedic most times – especially if Fran or George were involved in a scene, and usually one or the other was. The scene breaking into one of Deacon’s date’s houses and what followed was also quite funny – and then Macy having to explain it to the homeowner later! Those instances are what I liked best about the book.

Most assuredly, the back and forth “I’m not made for love” mentality of Macy definitely didn’t endear her (or her business) to me. Despite that, there were a few sex scenes. They all began on the page and finished off the page, which was disappointing given all the tension and buildup. I prefer a little more sizzle to my romantic reads.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

USA Today bestselling author Kieran Kramer currently writes fun contemporary romance with a Southern flair for St. Martin’s Press. She lives where she grew up–in the Lowcountry of South Carolina–with her family.

Find the author: GoodreadsWebsite | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Review: Snowed

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: Snowed
Author: Pamela Burford
Publisher: Radical Poodle Press
Release Date: April 2017
Length: 197 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Contemporary, Romance 

Snowed in with a billionaire! A fun contemporary romance novel brimming with secrets, witty banter, and surprising twists.

The last thing wealthy photographer James Bradburn expects when he turns in after his surprise birthday party is to find a beautiful woman asleep in his bed. The last thing Leah Harmony expects after succumbing to exhaustion during the party is to find herself stranded with the yummy birthday boy at his isolated Gold Coast mansion. A record blizzard has trapped them together for days on end.

Leah guards a stunning secret as she struggles to resist their mutual attraction. Of all the men in the world, James is the last one she should even think of that way! Little does she suspect he harbors a secret of his own.

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my review

My Thoughts

This book contained a plot line I have never encountered before. At least, I’m pretty sure. Trying to rack my brain and coming up with nothing. However, the plot revolves around a subject that turns most people’s stomachs: incest. The plot was very predictable and lacking. It needed much more development, as did the characters.

Leah is a young, in her early 20s, and has worked hard to open her own business, Southern Grits. She is rather mature for her age, educated, and has a wealth of compassion. She is left reeling in the very beginning after discovering a heart-stopping, revealing secret about her parents and her older sister, who conveniently died on the same day she was born. Immediately she heads to the Gold Coast Mansion where both her parents worked many years before. She plans to confront a man there. She convinces an art gallery owner to bring her as his date to a birthday party at Gold Coast.

Everything from here goes downhill for Leah. She’s laid a perfect plan – in terms of getting to the mansion – and that’s about it. She quickly discovers the birthday is not for the man she believed. Instead, it is his son. Then her date turns into a sleazeball and tries to rape her upstairs. She winds up locking herself in a room. No surprise whose room it is.

Leah is harboring MANY secrets, not just one, all tied to her identity. James Bradburn is a reknowned photographer and enjoying his big birthday bash – especially when he finds a beautiful Leah in his bed after sending all the partygoers home because of the impending blizzard. They are effectively snowed in. A perfect setting to build tension. In that respect, the book almost mirrors Perfect by Judith McNaught. Since there’s nowhere to run, the close proximity should lend itself to secrets being revealed, but Leah refuses to budge on her secrets and even outright lies at times to hedge the truth.

While snowed in, the two pretty people hook up after their physical chemistry. Then they are on “don’t let me see you” terms. Then Leah saves James and eventually the snow clears and she goes back home to take care of her business with her tail between her legs, ruminating on how stupid her plan was to just show up and abandoning her parents and her business partner without so much as a by your leave.

A strong sting of irony existed in the book in the fact that Leah expected honesty from James and was so deceitful herself. It was galling. Even though James’s lie revolved around being adopted (or not). Although his lie tied to her lie, and the possibilities of their own relation, Leah was never upfront or honest with James in any way. To throw herself into a snit over his dishonesty is laughable. A good “cover” and excuse to continue to hide her lies.

James oozes sex appeal, but he has a funny and caring side to his charisma. He’s also a very prideful man, and from the beginning, he sets his mind to the notion of Leah being one of “those” women trying to corral him. She so conveniently winds up in his bed to be snowed in together, so of course, that’s why she’s at Gold Mansion. James tries peeling back the layers of Leah while revealing his own. I felt more of James was revealed in this book than Leah.

All of the characters needed more depth and development. They were very flat and predictable characters. There was chemistry between Leah and James that started out strictly physical and it does slowly develop and build. Upon a tower of lies, but there is relationship development.

 

The concept of incest and Leah dreaming over James was stomach curdling. I knew there had to be some loophole to the whole situation, but it was too weird that Leah could even knowing what she knew.

The book was much too short – it felt more like a novella than a novel. Perhaps because it was largely underdeveloped in the characters and a strong, unpredictable plot line.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Pamela Burford comes from a funny family. You may take that any way you want. She was raised in a household that valued laughter above all, so of course the first thing she looked for in a husband was a sense of humor. Is it any wonder their grown kids are into stand-up comedy and improv? Oh, and here’s another fun family fact: Pamela’s identical twin sister, Patricia Ryan, aka P.B. Ryan, is also a published novelist. Patricia is the Good Twin, and yeah, Pamela knows what that makes her. But hey, Evil Twins have more fun!

It should come as no surprise that everything Pamela writes is infused with her own quirky brand of humor, from her feel-good contemporary romance and romantic suspense novels to her popular Jane Delaney mystery series, featuring snarky “Death Diva” Jane, her canine sidekick Sexy Beast, and a fun love-triangle subplot. Pamela’s own beloved poodle, Murray, wants you to know that any similarities between himself and neurotic, high-strung Sexy Beast are purely coincidental.

Pamela is the proud founder and past president of Long Island Romance Writers, Inc., a chapter of Romance Writers of America.

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