Review: Rogue Most Wanted

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: Rogue Most Wanted
Author: Janna MacGregor
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Release Date: June 2019
Length: 371 pages
Series?: The Cavensham Heirresses #5
Genre: Historical Romance

There’s one creed all Cavensham men subscribe to: they fall in love completely and decidedly. But what happens when the woman you fall in love with swears she’ll only marry you as a last resort? 

SHE NEEDS TO MARRY SOMEONE

Lady Theodora Worth needs to marry fast in order to keep her estate. It’s been her heart and home for years, and she’ll not lose it to anyone. There’s just one problem—as a woman who was raised in isolation by her grandfather, she’s completely incapable of pouring a cup of tea, never mind wooing a man. She’ll need a little matchmaking help from her sprightly next-door neighbor in order to find a convenient husband…

IT’S JUST NOT GOING TO BE HIM

Lord William Cavensham’s heart was broken years ago, and since that day he vowed to never love again. But his spirited Great Aunt Stella is determined he’ll marry or not inherit a single penny from her. And she’s got just the woman in mind—her beautiful and completely hapless next-door neighbor, Thea…

Thea and Will agree there’s no sense in marrying each other. Will wholeheartedly believes he’s incapable of love, and Thea refuses to marry the first man she’s practically met. But Will may be the rogue Thea wants the most after all.

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my review

Thea Worth is an endearing, kind, heartfelt character. I loved her as a person. It pained me to see her making a faux pas and realizing it. How hard it was on her due to the embarrassment. She has not had the proper upbringing her peers did.

She has struggled through hard times, hard situations, and hard choices. Things no young lady should have had to endure and shoulder alone. She has run the vast estate for years as her grandfather’s mental health continued to decline to such a state he could not attend functions or leave the property. She has had no social opportunities whatsoever – not even friends. She is intelligent and independent, and lacks the social graces, but is a prize in some eyes with the Scottish estate and her inheritance.

If she can find a man to marry her before everything is swiped away from her by her vile, manipulative cousin. He is convinced – out of his own selfish motivations – in his accusation that Thea killed their grandfather and he intends to challenge the title. The fact that she’s just lost the one person most important in her life has no bearing on him. He will toss Thea out without hesitation or a backward glance. She knows the tenants and cares about them. He is only interested in the value of the land and doesn’t care one iota about the people who reside there. Thea has to protect her people and her home.

By grace, the neighboring property is owned by Stella Cavensham, a well-connected woman. She acts as Thea’s godmother and offers her assistance to the cause. The obvious order of business is obtaining a husband. The first thing on the list is her magnificent nephew, who is needing to settle down. Unfortunately, Lord William Cavensham has no intention of marrying. Ever. But if his aunt Stella asks…his arm just might be crooked correctly for a crusade down the aisle for his cherished aunt.

William carries the title of a rogue, but he is anything but. I’m not sure why that’s even part of the title. At a young age, he had his heartbroken completely. He’s carried this pain with him. He stays away from women and invests all his time running the family estates. He is integral to the family workings as the younger son, but he is Stella’s favorite, and so she plans to disinherit him if he doesn’t marry Stella.

Upon meeting, William realizes Theodora Worth is more than just a fluff of tulle on the marriage mart. She’s engaging and different. The more time he spends in Thea’s presence, his opposition to love is minutely chiseled away. Perhaps it’s worth the risk?

While intelligent, Thea’s lack of social training and the ways of the ton make her feel like she isn’t a solid marriage prospect. It doesn’t help matters that rumors are spreading about her. In the vein of support and her own selfish desires, Stella teaches Thea how to become a desirable bride.

One of my struggles reading this book was the continued angst of pitting Thea and William against one another about actually marrying. Both strangle the idea that “I can’t marry you”. Nothing stands in their way except themselves, and too much time and plot was dedicated to rehashing the same broken record with no forward momentum.

I was surprised by Thea’s choices to disregard her virtue. She seemed unconcerned with the fact of being a virgin on her wedding night. At first, it shocked me, but she didn’t have really any upbringing in societal norms. She wouldn’t have placed the same value – and fear – in being unvirtuous as another peer with proper education would.

Review: The Vintage Summer Wedding

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: The Vintage Summer Wedding
Author: Jenny Oliver
Publisher: Carina
Release Date: May 2014
Length: 352 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Women’s Fiction

A Vera Wang dress, the reception at a sophisticated London venue, and a guest list that reads like a society gossip column are all the ingredients of Anna Whitehall’s perfect wedding that never was…

Spending the summer uncovering hidden treasures in a vintage shop, Anna can still vividly remember both her childhood dreams; the first was that she’d become a Prima Ballerina, and dance on stage resplendent in a jewel-encrusted tutu. The second was that at her wedding she would walk down the aisle wearing a collective-gasp-from-the-congregation dress.

Years ago Anna pirouetted out of her cosy hometown village in a whirl of ambition…but when both of those fairy-tale dreams came crashing down around her ballet shoes, she and fiancée Seb find themselves back in Nettleton, their wedding and careers postponed indefinitely…

Don’t they say that you can never go home again? Sometimes they don’t get it right… This one summer is showing Anna that your dreams have to grow up with you. And sometimes what you think you wanted is just the opposite of what makes you happy…

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my review

This book was hard for me to get into for quite a while. The suspenseful crumbs, in the beginning, did not work for me because they simply confounded everything for me. I finally ascertained that Anna and Seb, engaged and flat broke, return to their hometown after they’ve spent everything on the wedding of the millennium. That’s obviously not happening now!

All of her plans, carefully crafted since a teen, where to get out of her hometown and be a big star. She was never coming back. She wasn’t very kind when she left, either, making returning even harder for her. No one is giving her a pass for being a mean, nasty teen – not her dad, her classmates, or others in town.

She was so high on her own pedestal, the fall was hard. Bone-jarring. She lost her job after her clients were stolen from her by her newly hired administrator. From the beginning, Anna had nothing going for her to make her a likable character. She was spoiled and condescending, with a huge ego. Seb, on the other hand, was enthusiastic about this change and their new life and lifestyle and coming back to where they as a couple started.

Being back at home, Anna encounters other characters, situations, challenges – and even a couple enemies – that bring out life from what seemed to be a cold, black heart. Slowly, she tried making the right choices and her history brings some clarity to some of the stone-cold block she was in the beginning. It is easy to understand how she became that individual. Anna’s constant strive to prove herself was one of those side-effects of her childhood. It took so much from her.

I thoroughly enjoyed the cast of characters that rounded out the book. With their new connections, Anna began to evolve. From her work in the antique shop she spent time in as a child to her hard work with the town’s rag-tag ensemble of kid dancers, she begins to come into her own element and shine.

Anna took her hand of cards – crappy as they were – and started making things work for her. Excelling where she had strengths. Despite talking about going back to London and pursuing a different life equivalent to her old one, step by step she begins to earn respect from others that then blossoms into some great friendships.

Review: Ain’t He Precious?

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: Ain’t He Precious?
Author: Juliette Poe
Publisher: Big Dog Books
Release Date: April 2017
Length: 120 pages
Series?: Sex and Sweet Tea #1
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Novella

Welcome to Whynot, North Carolina, population 3,872. It has one stoplight, one bar, and the one-and-only Trixie Mancinkus.

Eleven years ago, Trixie graduated Harvard Law, turned down a job offer from one of the most prestigious law firms in Boston, and headed home to Whynot to open her own firm. Not only did she leave behind the big city, but she also left her boyfriend of three years. And just so we’re clear… that would be me.

So what am I doing in Whynot at this very moment? It seems Trixie needs help with a legal case and for some insane reason, she called on me for assistance. I’ve been in town for five minutes, and I’m every bit as out of place as I feel. Trixie is all sweet, southern curves to my tailored suits and high-priced haircuts. It’s a culture clash of north versus south and about the only thing we have in common is our physical attraction to each other.

But I have a new motto since coming to Whynot: When life hands you lemons, all you need is a little sex and sweet tea to make things better.

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my review

Written under a pen name, Sawyer Bennett’s first novella is sweet and endearing. A much appreciated southern romance!

Trixie Mancinkus left Boston 11 years ago, giving up *the* dream job of her career – one of Boston’s most prestigious and respected law firms. And with that also went Ry Powers, the love of her life, after only three short years growing together professionally and romantically. She traverses back home to her roots in Whynot, North Carolina – a reality Ry cannot fathom. With the birth of their young careers and their differences, there is no reconciliation or compromise. Trixie returns home to be a small-town lawyer while Ry follows his pursuits in Boston.

Now Trixie reaches out for Ry’s assistance with a high-profile lawsuit. But it’s never a good thing to tempt fate – or is it? Ry jumps at this chance. No one has compared to Trixie over the years. That spark from a decade ago is still there, but how do they move forward wanting two different futures?

I enjoyed Trixie and Ry’s interactions – the good and the bad – and their time spent with the other characters in Trixie’s life: Trixie’s meddlesome grandfather, her precious mother, and disconnected father, and a mix of siblings with just the right rambunctiousness and embarrassing questions. I would love to be a part of this family! There was a strong mesh weaving these characters into the plot without it feeling forced or out of place. It just worked wonderfully in continuing to build Trixie and Ry’s story.

Review: Girl Meets Class

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: Girl Meets Class
Author: Karin Gillespie
Publisher: Henery Press
Release Date: September 2015
Length: 232 pages
Series?: Girl Meets Class #1
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Humor

The unspooling of Toni Lee Wells’ Tiffany and Wild Turkey lifestyle begins with a trip to the Luckett County Jail drunk tank. An earlier wrist injury sidelined her pro tennis career, and now she’s trading her tennis whites for wild nights roaming the streets of Rose Hill, Georgia.

Her wealthy family finally gets fed up with her shenanigans. They cut off her monthly allowance but also make her a sweetheart deal: Get a job, keep it for a year, and you’ll receive an early inheritance. Act the fool or get fired, and you’ll lose it for good.
Toni Lee signs up for a fast-track Teacher Corps program. She hopes for an easy teaching gig, but what she gets is an assignment to Harriet Hall, a high school that churns out more thugs than scholars.

What’s a spoiled Southern belle to do when confronted with a bunch of street smart students who are determined to make her life as difficult as possible? Luckily, Carl, a handsome colleague, is willing to help her negotiate the rough teaching waters and keep her bed warm at night. But when Toni Lee gets involved with some dark dealings in the school system, she fears she might lose her new beau as well as her inheritance.

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

My Thoughts 

This book intrigued me because I am an educator in a public school. While it was interesting how often so many of Toni Lee’s struggles are real in schools across America, one thing was solidly not: a person without a bachelor’s degree and a teaching certificate and a special ed certificate would not be hired at any campus to work with SPED students. This element of the storyline REALLY bugged me.

This book is humorous, heartwarming, and heartbreaking. The author eloquently establishes the playing field for Toni Lee and her coworkers. Clearly, from the beginning readers are supposed to root for and support her and Harriet Hall.

Toni Lee is a washed-up tennis player. After a wrist injury that changes the trajectory of her life, Toni takes full advantage of her trust fund spoiled brat status. When she is arrested, her Aunt Cordelia (who runs the family food company, which is the source of their wealth), has had enough. She stamps out this churlish, embarrassing behavior. There’s an ultimatum: keep a job that is actually challenging for a year, walk away with five million.

To Toni, that’s the easiest thing ever. Until she realizes she gets cut off while doing so. No more lush condo. No allowance. When the Harriet Hall SPED position pops up, Toni jumps at it and quickly finds herself in an unknown part of her own city she never knew existed. As much as she doesn’t want to be there, she finds her kids don’t want to be there even more. Through building relationships with these kids and the addition of a new student to the mix changes everything for Toni.

She struggles to hide her newfound reality from her friends, and her true self with her new coworkers. In the end, Toni finds a new woman beneath the layers she’s piled on and what I liked most about this new Toni was that she moved forward in life with integrity.

The book also has a focus on the naive perspective an individual can have walking into public education – and the realities Toni faced are not just at inner-city schools. I face these challenges at my school, which is too property wealthy (yet portables at every campus) that we fall under the “Robin Hood” legislation and must pay out several hundred thousand dollars to poorer districts. There are not desks from this century, and any minute you one of the crappily welded legs can go flying and drop a person (this happened to me this year) or it can bend and become a shank to any unsuspecting passerby. No air conditioning except in the office until students arrive. And that’s not even in a portable! Broken faucets. How are we supposed to promote good hygiene? Behavior students who seem to magically be placed in the exact same classes and prohibit learning from happening. Admin turning the other cheeck or pretending they don’t hear the most vital complaints and needs of teachers to make our primary job role (TEACHING!) possible. Referrals for repeat offenders deleted. Admin admitting they should have sent students to the alternative campus due to behavior, and yet continuing to do the same things and not addressing misbehavior and disruptions as serious classroom issues. Admin that are fearful of parents, so they must have a 1000% customer service role. This is education today, and Toni wasn’t making up anything in her teaching experience.

Toni encounters corruption and political agendas individuals have in public education. She finds that there are some straight jackass people who teach students. This is true. I have encountered this too, and I’m like “Why? Why are you here?”

I enjoyed seeing Toni become strong. A strong woman, a strong employee, a strong individual within her family unit. She got some class. Overall, a great ultimate feel-good read that takes some turns and requires some strong backbone.

Review: I Love You More

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: I Love You More
Author: Jennifer Murphy
Publisher: Doubleday
Release Date: January 2014
Length: 304 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense

One man, three wives, the perfect murder. A scintillating novel of betrayal and conspiracy.

Picasso Lane is twelve years old when her father, Oliver, is murdered at their summer beach house. Her mother, Diana, is the primary suspect—until the police discover his second wife, and then his third. The women say they have never met—but Picasso knows otherwise. Picasso remembers the morning beautiful Jewels showed up at their house, carrying the same purse as her mother, and a family portrait featuring her father with two strange boys. Picasso remembers lifting the phone, listening to late night calls with Bert, a woman heavily pregnant with Oliver’s fourth child. As the police circle and a detective named Kyle Kennedy becomes a regular fixture in their home, Picasso tries to make sense of her father’s death, the depth of his deceit, and the secrets that bind these three women. Cunningly paced and plotted, I Love You More is a riveting novel of misplaced loyalty, jealousy, and revenge.

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my review

My Thoughts 

I Love You More reminds me in some ways of The Three Little Pigs. Each  piggie is one of Oliver Lane’s wives, while he quite clearly manifests as The Wolf. Reality, perception, and lies were integral to each of the characters in this book.

Oliver Lane tells each of his wives lies. The biggst of all? “I love you more than life itself.”

Clearly not, as he proceeds to marry two more women. Three wives. Three different women. Three different homes and even three different offices. Three entirely seperate lives that he has maintained for a dozen years. Oliver Lane’s scintillating secret that has gone undiscovered by anyone for over a decade comes crashing down when one wife connects some strange dots.

Sneaky Oliver winds up murdered during a family beach vacation with his first family. Leading a triple life leads to no lack of suspects.

This novel is told in various perspectives, and begins with Picasso, Oliver’s first child. Picasso knows her mother has been behaving out of sorts and begins her own PI work. Like one of the wives discovered, she finds out about her father’s other two families.

Detective Kyle Kennedy is also in hot pursuit on this unusual case, and there are chapters for all of the wives. Oliver also has his own chapter, which shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was most definitely a sociopath. Like her father and all the adults in her life, Picasso learns how to expertly lie herself.

This book was thrilling and kept me turning pages to find out what bizaare thing would happen next or what the next lie would be. One thing that endeared me in this highly sensational story was that the wives’ circumstances were life-shattering, and yet they developed strong bonds. I highly recommend! The ending was not predictable as is often the case in a mysterious book.

Review: Spring in Sweetwater County

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: Spring in Sweetwater County
Author: Ciara Knight
Publisher: Defy the Dark Publishing
Release Date: May 2014
Length: 198 pages
Series?: Sweetwater County #2
Genre: Contemporary, Romance

Forty years after the death of her true love, Judy Gaylord discovers he’s alive. With the guilt of her falling into the arms of his cousin to console her grief, she now must face the man she betrayed.

Dr. James Benjamin has dedicated his life to helping people deal with their post-traumatic stress disorder in hopes of forgetting about his own trauma. Not wanting to risk the safety of others, he’s spent decades alone, but when he sees the woman he never forgot from before the war, his heart awakens.

When circumstances force Judy and James to work together, they soon discover old feelings never faded. Judy must forgive herself and James will have to face his fear or they will miss their second chance.

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my review

My Thoughts 

This seemed like a novella and not a full-length novel. The beginning is a convulted. I tried to work out all these ominous statements about characters and figure out what happened “all those years ago.” Obviously, despite what many individuals say about this being able to be a standalone, it is not. I have seen a couple mention that Winter in Sweetwater County is a must read prior to Spring in Sweetwater County. 

This is Judy’s story, Eric’s mother. As a young woman, she was in love with James Benjamin, whom she has believed all these years was killed in action in Vietnam. Her high school friend Cathy knows otherwise and has kept that a secret for decades. This information fuels Judy’s hatred for Cathy and a lot of plot is dedicated to Judy’s hot/cold blowing classification of friendship with Cathy and betrayal by Cathy. A couple of these blow-ups seemed inappropriate and childish for a grown woman later in life.

Dr. James Benjamin has been living in Miami all this time. He spends his life dedicated to saving others while he also struggles with his PTSD demons. This was painted eloquently and realistically for soldiers returning home with PTSD. This is the reason he chose not to return to Sweetwater County all those years ago.

However, he does find himself back there – facing Judy’s wrath and receiving support from Cathy. While the town is a cesspool for gossip, they truly care about their townspeople. There is no comfort for them in mean or spiteful behavior; they rally to support others in their town and that was heartfelt. The town comes together to aid James in restoring his childhood home and give James and Judy space and support and love and encouragement they need to choose one another.

I enjoyed most of the secondary characters in the town – Eric and Lisa, and especially Cathy. She was a stand-up friend for James and did everything she did for her love and care for Judy. I can’t say I wouldn’t have done the same thing in her position. A town I can definitely get behind and one I’d love to move to just for the great people.

Review: Should’ve Been You

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: Should’ve Been You
Author: Nicole McLaughlin
Publisher: Swerve
Release Date: January 2018
Length: 250 pages
Series?: Man Enough #3
Genre: Novella, Contemporary, Romance 

Childhood neighbors get a chance at love in Should’ve Been You, an achingly romantic novella in Nicole McLaughlin’s Man Enough series!

National Guardsman Jase Beckford wants to live a quiet life raising cattle and taking care of his mother. His childhood friend and neighbor Hannah is still his best friend, but when he walks into the Walters house one morning and sees her twin sister Becca for the first time in five years, he wonders if he missed out on something special.

Becca Walters has nursed a secret crush on Jase since childhood, but he always preferred Hannah, so she buried her feelings assuming her sister and Jase would one day turn their flirtation into a real relationship. And this Christmas, she is anticipating a proposal of her own, so Jase’s reappearance in her life doesn’t mean anything. Much. Okay, maybe more than Becca would like to admit.

However, when Becca’s sister gets engaged to someone who’s not Jase, Becca and Jase find themselves spending more together. And when secrets are revealed, suddenly those dormant feelings come back to life; but is the possibility of something between them worth risking the happiness of everyone they love?

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

My Thoughts 

I was surprised this was also a novella. I thought it was a full-length novel, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. However, it is part of a series but can be read as a standalone. The series is composed of novellas that focus on a different couple, so they don’t have to be read in order.

Twin sisters Hannah and Becca grew up with Jase, a very cute neighbor. Becca has crushed on him since almost the beginning. Hannah and Jase were best friends and Becca was almost always left out.

Growing up, Hannah and Becca’s parents kept an eye on Jase once it was known that his father was abusive. He became a part of their lives and household. Due to manipulations, Jase always thought Becca didn’t like him, and was crushing on her in silence, too.

This was definitely a second chance romance. The plotline was clear and their pasts were easily established although you could see the writing on the wall from way back then. That backstory was important to the characters’ development, feelings over the years, and the current situation.

Becca comes home for the holidays and discovers that Hannah is engaged. But not to the only person everyone thought would be the man for her. Not Jase. Not knowing how he fits into Hannah’s life anymore, Jase pulls hard on the reins and refuses to be Hannah’s first lifeline. With an almost empty life now, Jase has the opportunity to spend quality time with Becca, who discovers she’s not getting engaged as she thought would happen and also has time to spend. When the two pair up and reminisce, things become crystal clear to them both.