Review: Spring in Sweetwater County


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


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.

Review: First


Title: First
Author: M.A. Grant
Publisher: Escape Publishing
Release Date: January 2016
Length: 165 pages
Series?: no
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Maya and Cat have been there for each other through thick and thin, the good and the bad, the laughter and the heartache. But with college graduation on the horizon and real life looming, they find themselves facing an uncertain future: one where not even friendship can save them from confusing choices, bad decisions, and the risks of falling in love.

Maya knows that love only leads to pain, and the best relationships are short—one night short. But after waking up with Jake, her best friend’s older brother, in her bed, suddenly things aren’t as cut and dry. Cat and Jake are close, a tight unit since their parents’ death, and Cat will never forgive her if Jake gets hurt. Jake is a firefighter, and is used to running into flames—not away from them, and Maya can’t seem to resist. But she’s already decided her future, and it’s far away from here. The only way to get what she’s always wanted is to burn every bridge behind her, and destroy the possibility of a future with the one man she may be willing to love.

When Cat Jacobs’s parents died while she was in high school, her brother’s best friend Dallas Miller was there to help pick up the pieces. Several years and a looming college graduation later, Cat’s motorcycle-riding, tattooed knight is about to ride off into the sunset—and leave her in his dust. She only has six days to convince him to fulfil her secret fantasy of having him for her first before he’s gone forever. She’s stubborn and he’s tempted, but this is a battle for more than just some time in the bedroom—it’s a fight for both their futures.

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my review

My Thoughts 

Two novellas tied together with the same characters. I loved both stories, but I wish Grant had taken both storylines and developed them into their own full-length novels.

Book 1: Maya and Jake

Jake is Maya’s BFF’s brother. She has always acted condescending and snide toward him. Meanwhile, he’s had a crush on her since forever and continues trying to be nice to her and chalks it up to the fact that she just hates him. One night they get drunk at a bar and wind up arguing about their one-night stand. Maya swears it won’t happen again.

Jake had to grow up too soon. His parents died, he was 19 and had to grow up and be his sister Cat’s guardian. He chose to become a firefighter and put everything in his life on the backburner to be a parent to Cat.

I didn’t particularly like Maya’s character. She was real bitchy and just an overall jerk. It was hard to see how Jake kept trying to be nice to her.

Book 2: Cat and Dallas

Dallas (nickname Dally) is Jake’s BFF. Cat is Jake’s baby sister. Their story made more sense to me. When Cat’s parents died, Dallas moved back home. And he’s been in love with Cat ever since. Cat is now of the age where she’s done with being a virgin and sets her sights on Dallas to teach her what she needs to know. She is relentless on the warpath. Dallas refuses at every turn, even though he would like nothing more, because Jake would straight kill him. Plus, he’s moving back to Arizona now that Cat is grown and Jake doesn’t need as much support any longer.

Dallas finally gives in and agrees. But things do not go according to plan, and the one person who needs to not know nothing discovers everything.

Cat and Dally had a playful, close relationship that I enjoyed seeing bloom from their individual sides to growing together. An endearing, cute couple that made for a great read.

Review: Holes


Title: Holes
Author: Louis Sachar
Publisher: Scholastic
Release Date: September 2000
Length: 233 pages
Series?: Holes #1
Genre: YA, Middle Grades

Stanley tries to dig up the truth in this inventive and darkly humorous tale of crime and punishment—and redemption.

Stanley Yelnats is under a curse. A curse that began with his no-good-dirty-rotten- pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather and has since followed generations of Yelnats. Now Stanley has been unjustly sent to a boys’ detention center, Camp Green Lake, where the warden makes the boys “build character” by spending all day, every day, digging holes: five feet wide and five feet deep. It doesn’t take long for Stanley to realize there’s more than character improvement going on at Camp Green Lake. The boys are digging holes because the warden is looking for something. Stanley tries to dig up the truth in this inventive and darkly humorous tale of crime and punishment—and redemption.

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my review

My Thoughts 

My kids have come up with so many predictions as we read through the book. Some of them were pretty wild (but still valid) and some were pretty great connections based on things we knew.

  • Stanley’s dad played a part in his crime (as in he was to blame for it).
  • How was Stanley’s GG Grandfather wasn’t killed by Kissin’ Kate??
  • Mr. Sir has something to do with the yellow-spotted lizards. He trains them or can call them or keeps them as pets somehow with his sunflower seeds.
  • Zero is a spy for the Warden, which is why he doesn’t talk.
  • Zero is the Warden’s son, which is why nothing is known about him and he doesn’t have an education. He’s grown up at Camp Green Lake as a nobody.
  • There is no Warden. Stanley hasn’t seen him at all.
  • The Warden is Madame Zeroni.
  • The Warden is Kissin’ Kate’s descendant.
  • They are looking for Stanley’s GG Grandfather’s lost treasure.
  • The Warden does have cameras set up, and when Stanley is brought to her about the sunflower seed theft, she turned off the TV (cameras) real fast.
  • The line order is like the mafia and the order is how X-Ray views their loyalty to him.

This was my first time reading Holes, which many of my kids didn’t believe. The story of Kate and Sam was so touching and heartbreaking. The intertwined plot lines were done wonderfully. A MG book I definitely recommend!

Review: To the Duke, With Love


Title: To the Duke, With Love
Author: Amelia Grey
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: December 2017
Length: 352 pages
Series?: The Rakes of St. James #2
Genre: Historical, Romance

Sloane Knox, the Duke of Hawksthorn is guardian for his sweet, younger sister. Due to his misguided past as one of the infamous Rakes of St James, Hawk is hoping to avoid the Season by securing a match for her before it begins. He has the perfect gentleman in mind, but for one infuriating―and unexpectedly intoxicating―obstacle: the intended groom’s own sister, Miss Loretta Quick.

Having narrowly avoided her own arranged marriage to an unacceptable nobleman, Loretta is determined that her dear brother―a gentle, good-natured soul―should marry for love. Matching wits with Hawk may be her greatest challenge yet. . .until she realizes it may also be her greatest pleasure. For the young duke’s irresistible charm has not only begun to crumble her stubborn resolve, it has claimed her heart in true love as well.

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

My Thoughts 

This is the second book in the Rakes of St. James series. I read the first book and enjoyed it quite a bit, so I was expecting so much from this next book. It fell flat for me. The obvious insta-lust was so strong, it didn’t even read right in this historical romance setting. I did not get the feeling that the primary couple actually fell in love with one another. “I want you” is not the same as “I love you.” Additionally, there was a great imbalance of financials, which rubs me the wrong way with that type of power play.

Sloane Knox, Duke of Hawksthorn, is one of the three Rakes of St. James who played a prank on a dozen debutantes a decade ago. Following last year’s season and a possible threat to the younger sister of one of the other Rakes of St. James, Sloane wants to bar any such threat happening to his younger sister, Adele, as she makes her debut. Arranging a secret engagement before the start of the season will ensure that Adele comes out successful with a suitor and free of any retribution. In efforts to arrange what Hawk believes is the perfect match, he travels to Mammoth House, set far in the countryside, remote and isolated. Eager to make arrangements with Paxton Quick, a handsome and kind man, Hawk is harshly surprised to find not Paxton, but his sister Loretta at Mammoth House. A confusing confrontation ensues, with lines drawn in the sand and Loretta firmly making her stance that she will do everything in her power to keep her brother from this marriage.

Despite being a drastic act, Loretta was once set up in an arranged marriage herself. It was a business transaction more than a love match. In fact, she didn’t feel anything for the man…and left him at the altar. Following her uncle’s severe embarrassment and ensuing rage, Loretta has been banished to live at the remote Mammoth House, not even allowed to visit the village. She is required to remain at Mammoth House and not allowed to leave and sees her uncle but once a year at Christmastime. Having suffered the repercussions, Loretta only wants her brother to marry for love.

Going against all etiquette, Hawk dines alone with Loretta that night as a massive storm blows in. Midway through, a young urchin is found at the backdoor. Hawk follows him into the storm and brings him back, while Loretta and the other staff nurse him back from the brink of death. Once he revives a little, he is feisty and foul-mouthed.

Hawk is bent on ensuring the match between Adele and Paxton, inviting them to London for a meeting. Going to the lengths to visit the Earl of Switchingham and fatten him up to the idea, Hawk also persuades him to allow Loretta to make the journey. Considering the earl will not be out one penny for any of the travel and it will only be acceptable for both siblings to make the journey, the earl agrees. Getting the responsibility of his nephew off his shoulders will be a welcome change.

Embarking to London, Loretta makes the last-minute decision to bring Farley with them. He needs to be seen by a doctor, but Hawk is cold to the idea and cold to Farley. He sees him as a street rat who will pilfer anything. The two males almost have a burning hatred in their eyes for one another. The boy is quick witted for sure and brings comedic relief and drama to the unfolding story.

The insta-lust is palpable even from the immediate start of the book, and continues on throughout the book. There are a few close calls where they are almost caught, and Hawk makes some pre-arranged tasks for others so that he and Loretta can be alone. Ironically, Adele and Paxton hit it off extremely well and their match seems inevitable.

There were a couple of inaccuracies (dollars in England?) that showed the lesser planning for this second installment. I was looking forward to this second book in the Rakes of St. James series and the insta-love and some of the awkward wording dropped the book significantly from the momentum established with the first book. I’m not sure what to expect with the next in the series.


Amelia Grey (aka Gloria Dale Skinner) grew up in a small town in the Florida Panhandle. She has been happily married to her high school sweetheart for over twenty-five years. She has lived in Alabama, Connecticut, New Hampshire and now lives in Florida.

Amelia has won the coveted Romantic Times award for Love and Laughter, the prestigious Maggie award for best historical and Affaire de Coeur’s best American historical award. She has been a finalist for the Golden Heart and the Holt Medallion awards which are given by Romance Writers of America and numerous other awards. Her books have been sold to many countries in Europe, Russia and China.

Amelia likes flowers, candlelight, sweet smiles, gentle laughter and sunshine.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Goodreads

Review: The Christmas Cowboy Hero


Title: The Christmas Cowboy Hero
Author: Donna Grant
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: October 2017
Length: 320 pages
Series?: Heart of Texas #1
Genre: Contemporary, Romance

’Tis the season for ex-Navy SEAL Clayton East to come home for the holidays―even if the mood at home is anything but festive. His father is ill. The East Ranch is in financial trouble. And now it’s on Clayton, the prodigal son, to make sure his family doesn’t lose everything.

Headstrong Abby Harper is like a mother to her younger brothers, who she’s helped raise since she was a teenager. Keeping them in line is no small task while she’s also working toward her college degree. And now that one of her brothers has been arrested for stealing cattle at the East Ranch, Abby is at her wit’s end. But there is a silver lining: Clayton East. He believes in second chances, and is willing to give one to her brother this Christmas. Letting beautiful Abby―and the inescapable longing in his heart―off the hook, however, is a whole ’nother story. Could it be that the woman of this local hero’s dreams has been back at home all along?

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my review

My Thoughts 

The Christmas Cowboy Hero is the first book in the new Heart of Texas series. Set in Clearview, Texas, this book focuses on the cattle and ranching industry, a staple of Texas with some long-running, large family ranches.

Clayton East is an ex-Navy SEAL now working in Africa protecting big game from poachers. After separating from the military, he purposefully did not return home to the East Ranch. Being there brings back reminders and is too painful. Shortly before Christmas, he gets a call he can’t keep ignoring: his dad isn’t doing well and the ranch is in trouble.

Upon arriving home, Clayton discovers the East Ranch is a mess. Their accountant has disappeared with essentially all of the ranch’s money. Additionally, someone has stolen a hundred head of cattle, most of which are cows ready to calve. Their prize bull was also stolen.  The total of the theft alone comes to $275,000.

One of the rustlers, a 16-year-old kid, is arrested. Going to the station, Clayton meets Brice Harper, who won’t talk and is obviously scared of something. He also meets Brice’s sister, Abby Harper, whom he instantly is drawn toward. After being informed Brice has never been in trouble before, Clayton has a moment of self-motivated kindness. Believing in second chances and hatching a plan to gain Brice’s trust, Clayton offers Brice a job working at the ranch to work off his debt in lieu of going to jail. Hoping Brice will eventually open up and talk about the theft, it also gives Clayton opportunities to see Abby Harper again.

Abby was only 18 when her mother abandoned her, leaving the guardianship of her two young brothers to her. It’s been eight years and she’s never come back, leaving Abby struggling just to manage and raise her 16 and 14 year old brothers. She works at an accounting firm being paid in the drudges. When she can scrape together enough funds, she attends school part-time to continue toward her accounting degree. They’ve only known hardship and struggle, but there is a lot of love in the Harper family.

After Brice begins at the East Ranch, he is enamored of the work and the people and the animals. Soon, his younger brother Caleb is also tagging along to work at the ranch. While still paying off his debt, Brice is openly welcomed and supported and encouraged to be the best version of himself he can be. With her brothers being at the ranch so long, Abby also ends up spending time there and is introduced to the ranch’s accounting books. After digging through them, she discovers many things about the AWOL accountant and the status of the ranch. Their mutual attraction slowly blossoms into a budding Christmas romance.

Both boys show great improvement under Clayton’s direction. Abby also sees some reprieve in her future with the potential to work at the East ranch with a significant pay raise. Carrying all the burdens of the world on her shoulders, she has been the heart and soul of her family. The mother, father, and sister. Being shown she doesn’t have to do it alone, that she can share her burden, is a glimpse of a life that appeals and frightens Abby. What if she is abandoned again?

The suspense over the missing cattle is an angle Clayton still can’t seem to work out. Brice won’t budge. Abby begins digging around at her office and unearths a possible connection. The disappearance of the accountant is no longer such a mystery, but there is a growing danger as Abby tries to puzzle things out.

For the first time in his life, Clayton opens up about the loss and pain and guilt he feels. This is why he never wanted to return to the East Ranch. That moment of vulnerability changes things between Abby and Clayton.

The characters and down-home feel are what made the story for me. Clayton and Abby both have their flaws, and both come from families you can depend upon in a time of need. Even the cast of East Ranch characters were ones I could connect with. The Easts are the quintessential family. It seems the perfect place to be. Friendly and welcoming, the Texas way.

The setting was familiar and the East family is heartwarming. The characters brought the story to life and kept the pace moving. This was one of my favorite holiday reads and I couldn’t put it down. I definitely want to continue reading the Heart of Texas series.


Born and raised in Texas, Donna has ties across the border in Louisiana. Growing up with two such vibrant cultures, her Cajun side of the family taught her the “spicy” side of life while her Texas roots gave her two-steppin’ and bareback riding. She is never far from her faithful 80 pound dog, Sisko, or her three cats. She can often be found at the movies or bookstore with her children. Or buying makeup. And shoes.

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Review: The Duke and Miss Christmas


Title: The Duke and Miss Christmas
Author: Amelia Grey
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Release Date: October 2015
Length: 65 pages
Series?: The Heirs’ Club of Scoundrels #2.5
Genre: Historical, Romance

Crispin, the Duke of Hurst, has never met a woman he couldn’t handle—until he’s hit over the head with a basketful of mistletoe by a young lady who mistakes his intentions. When he gets into a tussle with her—and she can hold her own—Crispin knows he has finally met his match.

Miss Gwen Prim is mortified that she attacked a duke, but even more concerning is the way her resolve melts when she’s near him. She’s never felt this way about a London gentleman in her life. And with the magic of Christmas in the air, she may end up with a proposal she didn’t expect.

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my review

My Thoughts 

Crispin is the seventh Duke of Hurst and and a member of the Heirs’ Club, a group of young men who become embroiled in scandal. Waiting for the gossip to die down, he join his mother and siblings in America before returning to England and accepting an invitation to the Christmas Ball hosted by his friend, the Duke of Drakestone. While riding to Drakestone, Crispin stumbles upon a young girl named Sybil sitting in the snow. Cutting greenery in a tree, she fell and injured her leg. Crispin arranges Sybil on his horse. In the process, her leg is pressed upon, causing her to cry out. Crispin is suddenly attacked from behind. It is another woman with a basket, who wields it like a madman. Crispin tries to calm the woman and explain he was assisting young Sybil. Refusing to give her name, he calls her Miss Christmas.

Gwen Prim has returned to Drakestone following her season. Heartbroken by her journey into the ton, she flies into action when she discovers her sister being attacked by a strange man. Being the sister-in-law to the Duke of Drakestone, Gwen and her siblings are well-cared for. At dinner, she is shocked to learn Crispin is also a duke and staying at Drakestone. Her utter embarrassment is palpable and she silently cowers in her seat in mortal fear that it will be revealed that she struck a duke.

I liked the characters, both of whom come from large families with several siblings. Gwen is a fiesty redhead who protects her family. Crispin has a humorous, good nature for a duke.

The insta-love reaction to one another rankled. The one issue I had was with the steamy scene. I don’t buy it as a reader. Gwen was just giving narration about the potentials of pregnancy after a single encounter. Knowing the ramifications, the fact that she gives into a single encounter – in the snow – at the end of an outing with her sisters – seemed against Gwen’s morals and out of place.

This was one of the shortest novellas I’ve read. It was constantly moving along and was a funny Christmas read that can be read as a standalone.


Amelia Grey (aka Gloria Dale Skinner) grew up in a small town in the Florida Panhandle. She has been happily married to her high school sweetheart for over twenty-five years. She has lived in Alabama, Connecticut, New Hampshire and now lives in Florida.

Amelia has won the coveted Romantic Times award for Love and Laughter, the prestigious Maggie award for best historical and Affaire de Coeur’s best American historical award. She has been a finalist for the Golden Heart and the Holt Medallion awards which are given by Romance Writers of America and numerous other awards. Her books have been sold to many countries in Europe, Russia and China.

Amelia likes flowers, candlelight, sweet smiles, gentle laughter and sunshine.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Goodreads

Review: Christmas at Seashell Cottage


Title: Christmas at Seashell Cottage
Author: Donna Alward
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Release Date: October 2014
Length: 198 pages
Series?: Jewell Cove #1.5
Genre: Contemporary, Romance

It’s Christmas in Jewell Cove, and local doctor Charlie Yang finds her quiet, steady life disrupted by both an abandoned baby in the nativity manger and a real-life mystery man. Sure, she’s always wanted a family of her own, but she didn’t imagine it coming from a baby that wasn’t hers and a man who was more interested in living day by day than making long-term plans…

Ex-SEAL Dave Ricker hadn’t planned on making Jewell Cove his forever home, but the talented and tender-hearted Charlie has him reconsidering his position on settling down. Can a beautiful woman, adorable baby, and a small town full of holiday spirit change his mind for good?

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my review

My Thoughts 

Charlie Yang is relatively new to town. She defied her parents and accepted a small town doctor position. Growing up an only child and brushed off by her parents, she wants more from life than the living to climb the career ladder. With hopes of joining in the community and being accepted in an insular small town where everyone knows everyone, Charlie is struggling to be seen as anything but the town doctor.

Dave Ricker also recently moved to town after putting his Navy SEALs life to rest. Stuck in the in between and wanting to be near his young daughter, he’s taken a job working at the boat docks. Unbeknownst to him, Charlie spends many of her lunch breaks watching the new guy at the docks. She dreams of having the life she didn’t growing up: an adoring husband and family. Love.

In an effort to fit in more with the townspeople, Charlie and Dave both volunteer to help decorate the town for Christmas. They decide to meet for the annual tree lighting ceremony. Being the two outsiders in the town, they decide to band together at this town event. Despite Dave’s fear of commitment, they agree to a no-strings attached arrangement. With a plan to meet up with Charlie’s boss and some other townies, their night is thrown off-course after walking past the manger scene in front of the church. The plastic baby doll Jesus Charlie placed there just days before is gone. In it’s place is a real baby.

To fill her own void, Charlie agrees to foster the baby for a few weeks until the investigation is concluded. Trying to care for a newborn while maintaining her full-time doctor status eventually takes its toll.  In the meantime, the newcomer’s romance slowly starts to unfold. Together, Charlie and Dave care for this little Christmas miracle. But Charlie is not a no-strings, no connection girl. She pushes for more. Being relationshipaphobic, Dave retreats. Alternately, the two continue this strange mating dance of freaking out on one another and changing their minds. The continual cycle felt childish and manufactured to create a dramatic upheaval.

Being a short novella, the pacing was fairly quick and consistent. Charlie’s character was flushed out fairly well and developed. Her childhood has played a major role in her life and her emotions. On the other hand, Dave’s character is glossed over and lacking in that character background. His story and his personality were underdeveloped and a disservice to his character and the storyline.

There was a resolution to the mystery of where the mystery baby came from. Named Daniel by Charlie and Dave, Charlie is able to help the young mother set up and get on the right track.

I fell in love with the town of Jewell Cove and I was falling in love with the story and the characters until the manufactured drama turned up. It was like watching a high school couple fight about being together and then break up, and then fight about not being together and get back together, and then fight about not being together and break up again. I feel like something got lost a little somewhere in there and wished it had only happened once. It dampened my enjoyment of the book overall.


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: My Lady Governess


Title: Sock Monster
Author: Elise Clarke
Publisher: Escape Publishing
Release Date: December 2017
Length: 200 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Historical, Romance

One knight, one runaway heiress, one rollicking romance: A breath of fresh air in Regency romance!

Proud and haughty, Lord de Waare is almost as medieval as his castle…until he accidentally abducts a governess, who turns out not to be a governess at all, and who shows this knight that his heart is not as armoured as he thought.

A girl with a dangerous past, Marina would happily disappear again, but since de Waare won’t let that happen, then the least he can do is help her clear her name. But moving back into society is dangerous for her and for the stern man she’s coming to love. She knows the rules of honour and society, and she won’t allow de Waare to compromise the principles that define him.

But de Waare didn’t become the Crusader by accepting defeat. Faint heart never won a fair lady, and de Waares always win.

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my review

My Thoughts 

Marina Frome takes her role as governess to her three charges seriously, but she is not one to cower to a bully. When Lord de Waare – among others – are invited to stay at the Kemp household while Lady Kemp preys upon her first daughter’s future husband and said daughter simpers like a fool. Marina sees the writing on the wall and intervenes in this plotting mama’s scandalous act, and winds up being abducted from her own residency by Lord de Waare himself – drunk, at that. The opening scenes were quite comical and albeit over-the-top with a fast pace.

On the way to his northern home, Tam discovers Marina Frome is not a frumpy, frizzy-haired, overweight governess. Instead, she is a slender blonde resembling a sprite with such a mind that there is no way she is anything but from the nobility. No servant would dare speak or act in ways such as she. Set to discovering her true identity, Tam gives Marina his own nickname that follows her throughout the book. Convinced she is ruined, Tam refuses any word on the contrary that he will marry her.

Marina soon discovers Tam’s dotting aunt, who seems to do exactly as he bids. A foreign concept to her. She also meets Tam’s younger brother who quickly falls into puppy love with her. Meanwhile, Marina is fighting her own growing attraction and affection for Tam. There are a few awkwardly funny scenes that weren’t fully fleshed out to reveal themselves as naive attractiveness and how Marina can’t handle that. The scene upon discovering Tam in the lake and stumbling all over in the snow comes to mind.

Soon Marina’s identity is revealed to Tam in the few items his friend collected from the Kemps. A small family Bible reveals her to be almost a princess in her own right. The gravity of this scene and Tam’s shock underscores just how massive a scandal this was when it happened four years prior. And the lies that were told only add up to one thing: greed. Marina would have gone on living in hiding, but Tam is determined to assist Marina in getting her inheritance back. And it starts with a visit to an asylum…

While Tam now knows Marina’s true identity, no one else does. They go on pretending, even as they travel to London. It is there that Tam’s wartime friends come into the light, as well as Tam’s very Moulin Rouge-like Uncle Quentin who tells such a tale of the war with the French…and Tam’s old flame, a tall, lithe, bombshell blonde. Once the troupe arrives in London, things take some very strange turns filled with surprises, jealousy, crazy, and blows to pride.

Despite her level head and all of her reflection over the past four years of her life, in addition to her own insistence of how spiteful and mean she was growing up (sometimes just because she could), I couldn’t reconcile such growth and maturity with the fact that Mariana STILL went into overly melodramatic hysterics and weeping on several occasions. The behavior was at odds with her character growth.

Just as there is a flaw in Marina’s character, there is an even bigger one in Tam’s. He lives and dies by honor, but he had an ugly nasty habit of domineering and physically abusing Mariana in what today would be labeled domestic violence. I also couldn’t reconcile that behavior with the man he seemed to be. When Mariana disobeyed him or refused to give in, he would grab her chin and jaw in his hand and jerk her head around to force her to agree with him on whatever subject was at hand. This didn’t add up to the character Clarke built of him being such a gentleman, right out of the Medieval period.

There was some superfluous wordiness at times that bogged down everything. I think it could have been worked out with some more editing and revising, or done away with altogether. I’m not sure the purpose of the particular scenes I’m thinking about being written in that way.

Overall, an enjoyable book if you can look past the few flaws. I did enjoy Marina’s character (minus the hysterics) and I loved Uncle Quentin’s own hysterically outlandish behavior. A roué indeed! I’m interested to see the books that feature Tam’s friends, the wounded Irishman and gorgeous hunk that is the prime meat of the marriage mart.

Review: Cactus Rose


Title: Cactus Rose
Author: Samantha Harte
Publisher: Diversion
Release Date: August 2015
Length: 238 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Historical, Western, Romance

Rosie Saladay needs to get married—fast. The young widow needs help to protect her late husband’s ranch, but no decent woman can live alone with a hired hand. With the wealthy Wesley Morris making a play for her land, Rosie needs a husband or she risks losing everything. So she hangs a sign at the local saloon: “Husband wanted. Apply inside. No conjugal rights.”

Delmar Grant is a sucker for a damsel in distress, and even with Rosie’s restrictions on “boots under her bed” stated firmly in black and white, something about the lovely widow’s plea leaves him unable to turn away her proposal of marriage.

Though neither planned on falling in love, passion ignites between the unlikely couple. But their buried secrets—and enemies with both greed and a grudge—threaten to tear them apart. They’ll discover this marriage of convenience may cost them more than they could have ever bargained for.

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

My Thoughts 

I thought it was going to be a great book from the start. A woman looking for a husband in Arizona Territory — in the saloon?

Rosie Salady suspects her husband was murdered at his work site, far into the interior of their property that is much-speculated about in town to be a gold mine. Perhaps that was the motive, she believes as she eyes the nasty Wesley Morris trying to buy it up. But how can she prove it? Not to mention Abner’s work – it has to be protected! In order to keep her husband’s land and work site safe, Rosie hastily marries a stranger she finds in the saloon only a week after burying her husband.

Delmar Grant, a gunfighter, continually finds himself gambling away everything as he makes his way back home…a destination he will never reach. He is an attractive man and answers Rosie’s strange ad, surviving through the interview process. The judge marries them and Rosie takes Del home. He quickly surmises that Rosie lives in a shack and that her husband didn’t put in any work into the house, barn, or any other little things that needed doing. As they pick up married life, Del discovers that Rosie’s husband was only home to eat dinner and sleep on a mat in his own add-on to the house. Del quickly puts himself to work tending to things, fixing things, and putting them to rights to improve Rosie’s pitiful buildings. Slowly, as they live married life together, they slowly fall in love, even though Del has his own secrets.

Rose was a mill girl with no family. She came west to marry Abner…only to find out he wasn’t in need of a wife, but a housekeeper. Rosie kept the house up, cooked, and made sure to look out for absent-minded and dedicated Abner. Rosie’s life was so isolating and lonely it was heartbreaking. Del soaks it all in and treats Rosie with kindness and small touches of the love she didn’t have but craved.

Eventually Rosie takes Del to Abner’s work site – a beautiful indigenous community built into the side of a massive cliff. The residents long gone, Abner dedicated his entire life to documenting every single thing about the site in journals and collections. Del chooses to secret the journals away in the desert, which proves useful later. He also discovers an indication that Abner might have died of natural causes, in addition to his own regrets about Rosie in the last few weeks of his life.

As much as I enjoyed this book and its fresh take on mail-order brides, there were a few strange moments between the two main characters as the book went on. I understood its purpose to create tension and suspense, but it was quite strange. My take-away was that Del thought Rosie was absolutely crazy and told her so without mincing any words. There were a couple times Rosie’s freaking out was too much and some things she said didn’t make sense. I surmise these were difficult scenes to write. In all this chaos and a dirty underhand deal before Rosie ever set eyes on Del, Rosie is back to living a life of lonely solitude as Del tries to figure out all the players after Rosie’s land. He discovers a looter on Abner’s site and things begin to unravel at breakneck speeds from there with the looter and Wesley Morris.

An interesting read and commentary on protecting our history and historical sites as is, as well as shining the spotlight on women and their needs in their marriage. The concept of Abner’s native work site and treasures reminds me quite a bit of Baxter’s Draw by Juliette Harper wherein the three daughters of Langston Lockwood discover a hidden retreat in the property’s draw that contain beautiful native artifacts, artwork, and other items.