Friday, January 24, 2020

Coastal Magic Author Spotlight - - Elicia Hyder

Welcome back to another spotlight of a featured author for the 2020 Coastal Magic Convention. The convention is only four weeks away and the author I'm delighted to introduce you to today is the irrepressible and multi-talented Elicia Hyder. I first met Elicia four years ago at a reader-author event in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I've been fortunate to attend many events over the years where I have met numerous authors but few - no, let me amend that - none have been quite as memorable as my introduction to Elicia. You see, rather than shaking hands over a table at an author signing, or exchanging conversation over cocktails at a meet and greet, I first met Elicia in the hallway of my hotel, in my pajamas, with bed head and no makeup, somewhere between midnight and dawn, while fire alarms were blaring all around us. Even if I didn't enjoy her books - and I do - and even if she wasn't a woman whose zest for life is inspiring - and it is - she would still be an author I would never forget. A very interesting life path (read more on her website and follow her on social media) has led this wife and mother of five to a full-time career as a writer of paranormal suspense and contemporary romance/women's fiction. 

Back in the eighties, my late husband and I became avid fans of women's roller derby, watching bouts on TV and supporting our local team so, of course, I was excited when I first heard that Elicia Hyder was planning a contemporary series set within that world. Even more exciting was learning that she created this series after spending time "living the life" as a member of the Nashville Rollergirls. Her first-hand experience comes to life in these stories that are filled with humor, likeable characters, strong female friendships, and women challenging themselves to discover their strengths, and weaknesses, and, ultimately, be their best selves.

The first book in Hyder's Music City Rollers series is Lights Out Lucy

Lucy Cooper isn't looking for love when she finds it - or slams into it, rather - during rush hour traffic. But her heart, like her car, is a total loss the moment West Adler steps out of his truck to inspect the damage. 

West truly is the perfect guy; handsome, funny, rich. The benefactor of not one, but two children's hospitals. And he's the main sponsor of the Music City Rollers, Nashville's championship roller derby team. 

When Lucy discovers the Rollers are actively recruiting "Fresh Meat," she puts her life on the line to catch West Adler's attention. But will accident-prone Lucy skate off with the heart of Nashville's Most Eligible Bachelor? Or will she get herself killed in a sport that promises, "It's not a matter of if you'll get hurt - but of how bad and when."

It's a story that had me smiling from beginning to end, immersed in the lives of these characters, and totally hooked on the series by the time I reached the final page. 

Book two, Britches Get Stitches, was released last March. 

Best revenge on a cheating man?
A dozen eggs.
A stolen dog.
And a night with his very best friend.

After a two-year struggle to conceive ends with her husband getting another woman pregnant, Grace "Britches Get Stitches" Evans is taking out her frustrations on the roller derby track. Full-contact violence and absolutely no cheating men? Best divorce-support group ever. 

With the help of her teammates, Grace is reclaiming one piece of her broken heart at a time--starting with the family dog, which she lost in the divorce. When the dognapping ends with a call to the police, the best revenge shows up at her door in the form of Officer Jason Bradley. He's hot. He loves animals. And he's her ex-husband's best friend. 

Then her ex does the unimaginable, threatening everything she has left as well as the new life she's started to build. Only Grace isn't the woman he kicked to the curb anymore. Derby has taught her a priceless lesson... 

How to hit back.

I was there for every step of this multi-layered, personal journey as Grace rediscovers her passion for life, and love, along with her confidence, strength, and self-worth. It's a journey filled with laughter, anguish, devious revenge (I may have cheered), more laughter, a few tears, and a sigh-inducing, dog-loving hero who not only captured Grace's heart but mine as well. And then there's the wonderful supporting cast, led by Grace's college intern, a snobby senior customer with surprising depths, Grace's family (loved them but I would never accept an invitation to dinner), and Bodhi, the adorable dog who might turn her into a felon (but it would be so worth it). 

I can't wait to find out what Elicia Hyder has in store for the ladies of the Music City Rollers next! 


When Elicia isn't busy writing contemporary roller derby romance she's hard at work creating new additions to her enormously popular The Soul Summoner series and The Soul Summoner Companion Stories. If you enjoy paranormal suspense or urban fantasy thrillers, you won't want to miss these spellbinding stories. 

Blessed or cursed with a connection to the souls of others, Sloan Jordan can see the best in people...and the worst. With nothing more than a glance at a photograph, she can judge the living from the dead and the good souls from the evil ones. For twenty-seven years, she's kept her ability a secret, but eleven young woman have been murdered in the mountains of North Carolina, and Sloan may be the only hope of finding their killer. 

She has agreed to help Detective Nathan McNamara with the case, when a stranger--who is as alluring as he is terrifying--shows up at her doorstep with a dark past and another puzzling mystery: she can't see his soul at all.

Now Sloan is on the hunt for a deadly psychopath with two irresistible men. One of them would die for her, and the other one would kill to keep her safe. 

With more than 1800 reviews and a 4.5 star average on Amazon, the first book, The Soul Summoner, will have you hooked and eagerly anticipating each subsequent book in the series (many of which are currently on sale or available in reduced-price boxed sets). Hyder brings this beloved series to a conclusion on March 31, 2020 with the release of book nine: The Daughter of Zion

It all ends where it first began...

Life as Warren Parish knew it fell apart during his short time away from Earth. Now the most vile demon of all time is assembling his army to destroy mankind.

The final showdown has begun.

The Detective, The Mercenary, and The Archangel are companion stories featuring the three leading men of The Soul Summoner series. Elicia would like to know which type of leading man is your favorite: the funny, drool-worthy detective, the badass, sexy Marine, or the seductive Archangel of Death? 

One randomly chosen person who comments before 11:00 PM, January 25, will receive a $10 Amazon gift card and their choice of a signed copy of The Detective, The Mercenary, or The Archangel. 

*Must be 18 or older

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Review - - Blame It on the Billionaire

Blame It on the Billionaire
by Naima Simone
Blackout Billionaires - Book 3
Publisher: Harlequin Desire
Release Date: February 1, 2020
Reviewed by PJ

It was a night filled with secrets, lies…and soul-stealing passion. And now the blackout that turned lowly executive assistant Nadia Jordan and start-up billionaire Grayson Chandler into insatiable lovers leads to a proposal Nadia can’t refuse. As she steps into Grayson’s privileged Chicago world, will his matchmaking mother and vengeful ex destroy her dreams? Or will her fake fiancĂ© make those dreams a reality?

PJ's Thoughts:

I don't know why I haven't read Naima Simone before now. I've certainly heard about her, had friends recommend her books, meant to pick one up. I guess it's always been one of those too-many-books-too-little-time situations. But then, Harlequin sent me an email, asking if I'd like to read and review Blame It on the Billionaire. It's like the universe was telling me I'd waited long enough and needed to read this author. Now. You know what? The universe was right. Simone's well-developed characters, fast-paced plot, steamy chemistry, and emotional depth kept me immersed in the story and cheering for this unlikely couple from beginning to end. 

I couldn't get enough of Nadia. While all the characters, both primary and secondary, are vividly rendered and well-developed, and I loved Nadia and Grayson as a couple, Nadia is the highlight of this book for me. Strong, nurturing, confident, and protective of those she loves, she's put her dreams aside to raise her younger brother, working hard to move them away from their toxic southern hometown and ensure his dreams are fulfilled. She's someone I'd want in my corner, as Gray slowly comes to realize. I love how she defends him against those who should have his best interests at heart, but don't. She may have been the poor, neglected child of a woman of ill repute but the woman she's grown into can hold her own with a billionaire businessman and the elite Chicago society into which he was born. Did I mention how much I loved this character?

It's been a while since I read a Harlequin Desire and Naima Simone's Blame It on the Billionaire was the perfect opportunity for me to dip my reading toes back into their delicious, steamy goodness. This may have been my first Simone novel but I guarantee it won't be my last. In fact, many of her titles are currently on sale for $2.99 and $3.99 in e-book format. Excuse me while I venture off to download Simone titles to my reader's heart's content. 

One more thing. While this is the third book of a series, it stands well on its own. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Review - - Five Days With a Duke

Five Days With a Duke
by Christi Caldwell
The Heart of a Scandal - Book 5
Publisher: Christi Caldwell
Release Date: January 7, 2020
Reviewed by PJ

Years earlier, Connell Wordsworth, the Duke of Renaud gave up the woman he wanted for the responsibilities thrust upon him. After loss upon loss, he heads to London, for a new home with no memories, no staff, and the only thing he wants in life…to be alone. He’s managing that feat quite nicely until…

Lady Constance Brandley, has a secret. She and her family don’t have two farthings to rub together. A spinster, long past the age of either love or marriage, she finds herself presented with a unique opportunity that could improve her circumstances. Except, that opportunity also brings the unlikeliest of gentlemen into her life—her best friend’s former betrothed, the Duke of Renaud.

Thrown together with the notorious scoundrel, it isn't long before Constance discovers there’s far more to Connell, the Duke of Renaud than the world sees. And soon she finds herself longing for, everything she shouldn’t—the heart of a duke.

PJ's Thoughts:

I adored these two! Connell is an emotionally wounded hero who, suffering painful loss too many times, has shut himself - and his heart - away from the world with only his two (outspoken and highly untrained) servants for company. Constance has also known painful loss but instead of giving up, she decides to save herself by taking a job - a job that leads her directly to the duke who, ten years earlier, dumped her best friend. It's safe to say he is not someone she holds in high esteem. What ensues is snappy banter, sizzling attraction, painful introspection, redemption, forgiveness, and love...accompanied by much laughter, a few tears, and heartfelt sighs of satisfaction. In other words, a typical Caldwell book. She never fails to make me think, make me feel, and leave me happy to have tagged along on another journey to love. 

I'm kind of particular about reading a book series in order, something I usually strongly recommend with Caldwell, but when an author is as prolific as she is, sometimes I have to toss my preferences out the window and just dive in. Five Days With a Duke is the fifth, and final, installment in Caldwell's Heart of a Scandal series. I have not read the first four books in this series yet but did that lessen my enjoyment of this book? No, it did not. As I read Constance and Connell's story, not once did I feel lost or as if I was missing something. Caldwell's storytelling gave me everything I needed to fully embrace these characters, understand the events that had brought them to this point of their lives, and experience the peaks and valleys of their emotions as they forge ahead. Of course, as is typically the case with Caldwell's books, I'm now so fully immersed in her Heart of a Scandal world that I'll be downloading and reading the rest of the books in the series at the first opportunity.


Have you read any Christi Caldwell books?

Do you have a favorite Caldwell book or series?

One person who comments before 11:00 PM, January 23, 2020, will receive a signed, trade-size, print copy of FOR LOVE OF THE DUKE, the first book in Caldwell's Heart of a Duke series. 

*Must be 18 or older
*U.S. addresses only

Monday, January 20, 2020

Review - - Wicked Bite

Wicked Bite 
by Jeaniene Frost
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: January 28, 2020
Reviewed by Nancy

Warning: This is a sequel to Shades of Wicked and picks up where that book left off. There are spoilers for Shades of Wicked in this review.

Everyone’s favorite vampire rogue, Ian from Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress series, finally took center stage last year. In Shades of Wicked, the first book of the Night Rebel trilogy, he teamed up with a vampire Law Guardian named Veritas to hunt down a demon. Veritas wants the demon, Dagon, dead because he tortured her, repeatedly killing her and watching her resurrect, to gain worshippers and power thousands of years ago. Ian wants him dead because, in a moment of horrible but mistaken grief, he sold Dagon his soul. Veritas and Ian formed a somewhat grudging alliance. As they worked together, however, she realized there was much more to Ian than the horny reprobate he showed to the world. He realized she was vulnerable and insecure under her tough facade. They grew to trust each other and even married.

Unfortunately, their confrontation with Dagon was disastrous. He killed Ian and took his soul. Veritas killed Dagon, then bargained with her father, a demigod, to revive Ian. Her father obliged, but he warned her Ian wouldn’t remember anything. To keep Ian safe, she left him with Cat and Bones from the Night Huntress series and went after Dagon on her own.

That brings us to the beginning of Wicked Bite. When the story opens, Ian has remembered far more than anyone anticipated and is gradually regaining other memories. He knows Veritas is his wife, and he wants her back. She’s avoiding him, however, because she’s still going after Dagon and doesn’t want to risk Ian being killed again.

Ian eventually tires of leaving messages Veritas ignores and sues her employer, the vampire council, for keeping her from him. Forced to appear before the council, she tries to convince them she and Ian are not married. She’s still determined to keep him safe by staying away from him while she hunts Dagon. She also doesn’t think he remembers the closeness they’d built and can’t bear to be with him when their relationship is a shadow of what it was. She repeatedly tries to ditch Ian, only to have him pursue her.

As he tries to win her over and she tries to escape to keep him safe, neither manages to gain the upper hand for long. The twists through this part of the book, with each of them foiling the other’s strategies were a delight to read.

Ian eventually forces Veritas to believe his feelings for her, despite his memory gaps, are as strong as they ever were. The two of them then join forces to hunt Dagon.

Veritas’s insecurities are believably and sympathetically drawn. So is the secret part of her nature she fears to unleash lest it turn her into a monster. It’s doubly dangerous because her other nature is magical, but magic is forbidden to vampires, on pain of death. Throughout the story, Ian works to convince her she can accept and control this part of her. His efforts at that and at building their marriage are loyal and stubborn and loving.

As their emotional bond deepens, they’re also resolutely pursuing Dagon. Veritas learns more about the side of herself she stifles, and Ian develops additional, unusual abilities. Their quest leads to an encounter with an enemy from Veritas’s past. This meeting, while it’s nearly disastrous, forces Veritas to confront her past with new eyes. As Ian points out, it’s hard to cast aside beliefs about yourself that were instilled by someone you loved and trusted. That’s exactly what Veritas had to do, and her emotional struggle is skillfully drawn.

The worldbuilding is, as always beautifully done, with the introduction of new races and an exploration of demon culture. The action scenes include choice details without slowing the pace, and the suspense builds to the end of the book. The fights involve a fair amount of blood, and some of them have gory moments. Readers bothered by that may want to skim those scenes.

The one hitch in the book is the arrival of a ghost who supposedly has been helping Veritas but isn’t mentioned until she appears on page eighty-two. She and Veritas then talk as though they’ve been in touch before. I found this confusing.

Veritas and Ian’s confrontation with Dagon at the end of the book forces her to make a choice that could lead to her execution. It also introduces a new demigod, Phanes. If she survives, he’ll complicate her life immensely.

Wicked Bite is a terrific installment in Ian and Veritas’s story. It’s emotionally gripping and full of dynamic action, with great twists and turns in the relationship.

Highly recommended, 4.5 stars.

~ Nancy

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Review - - Love Her or Lose Her

by Tessa Bailey
Publisher: Avon Books
Release Date: January 14, 2020
Reviewed by Hellie

Rosie and Dominic Vega are the perfect couple: high school sweethearts, best friends, madly in love. Well, they used to be anyway. Now Rosie’s lucky to get a caveman grunt from the ex-soldier every time she walks in the door. Dom is faithful and a great provider, but the man she fell in love with ten years ago is nowhere to be found. When her girlfriends encourage Rosie to demand more out of life and pursue her dream of opening a restaurant, she decides to demand more out of love, too. Three words: marriage boot camp. 
Never in a million years did Rosie believe her stoic, too-manly-to-emote husband would actually agree to relationship rehab with a weed-smoking hippie. Dom talking about feelings? Sitting on pillows? Communing with nature? Learning love languages? Nope. But to her surprise, he’s all in, and it forces her to admit her own role in their cracked foundation. As they complete one ridiculous—yet surprisingly helpful—assignment after another, their remodeled relationship gets stronger than ever. Except just as they’re getting back on track, Rosie discovers Dom has a secret... and it could demolish everything.

Hellie’s Heeds:

I am all about the 2nd chance at love tropes, and this story ticks all my boxes for a Happily Ever After. What’s even better, it’s not the kind of second chance at love where the couple doesn’t have attraction anymore--oh, no, it’s more complicated. They want each other. BADLY. It’s just they don’t communicate and the reality is, you can’t fix everything in the bedroom, as much as our dear hero Dominic might wish it were so. 

This book about killed me with the romantic gestures that Dominic would do (but no verbal communication! Gah!) and the sizzlingly hot sex scenes...or near sex scenes. (OHMYGOD, “the tip” scene will have you fanning yourself with the book itself. Do not read that scene in public. People will KNOW what kind of scene you are reading. Though that might not bother you--you might just give them the link to Amazon so they can read it themselves, which I highly recommend.) Dominic’s love language, acts of service, will undoubtedly resonate with many readers who have similar mates who would rather have all their teeth pulled than say “I love you” but will do a thousand little gestures that sound unromantic to teenagers but those of us in the trenches recognize as “I Love You” actions. The heroine, Rosie, is adorable and loveable and utterly relatable. She’s a heroine I don’t see represented too often in romance--she’s biracial, and the social conflict that can cause was a new element for me to watch this character navigate something that undoubtedly results in microagressions multiple times a day. But I rooted for her on every page. She’s my favorite Tessa Bailey heroine to date. 

However, it wouldn’t be a Tessa Bailey book if there wasn’t an element of the absurd to have you laughing inappropriately throughout your lunch hour when you sneak another chapter. The “love guru” Rosie picks for their marriage counselor is hysterical. If second chance at love couples aren’t enough for you to pick up this book, do it for the Love Guru Marriage Counselor. And don’t eat or drink anything while you’re reading any scene with him in it because it will come out of your nose. 

The best thing about a romance novel (IMHO) is how it makes the reader reconnect with the idea that love conquers all, and some people are meant to be together if they just do what it takes (within healthy limits, obviously). This couple felt completely real and their happily ever after felt absolute. I highly recommend without reservation. Well, only the reservation, make sure you’re in a safe space when you get to one of the sex scenes… *fans self* Damn. 

Monday, January 13, 2020

Winner - - The Secret She Keeps

The randomly chosen winner of a copy of

The Secret She Keeps by HelenKay Dimon is:



Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Review - - The Secret She Keeps

The Secret She Keeps
by HelenKay Dimon
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: December 30, 2019
Reviewed by PJ

No matter where you run to…
Connor Rye seeks solace on remote Whitaker Island. When his first quiet evening ends with a blow to the head, it’s clear that nothing—and no one—is as it seems. Still haunted by his sister’s murder, he’s buried himself in work while trying to hold his family together. Now, when he has a minute to breathe, he knows better than to get involved with a stranger, but it might be too late to keep his distance.
Desire will find you...
For years she’s pretended to be someone else, but Maddie Rhine is done living in the shadows. Old habits are hard to kick however, and when her past follows her to Whitaker she’s forced to hide once more. Except with Connor. Effortlessly sexy Connor makes it difficult to ignore him. He sees right through her…and senses her fear.
Someone is watching her. And waiting for the right moment to strike. This time Connor vows to be ready.

PJ's Thoughts:
Connor Rye is a protector. Following his sister's death, he stepped in to take care of his family, and the family business, but he's never faced his own grief or (misplaced) guilt over his sister's murder at the hands of her husband. Now, at his family's insistence, he's on a small island in the Pacific Northwest and, instead of the peace they were hoping he'd find, he's smack-dab in the middle of something far more dangerous.
Maddie Rhine is hiding from the dangers of her past and a remote cabin on a remote island seems the perfect place to do it. Maddie has been careful to maintain both anonymity and distance from the island's residents but when Connor arrives, a miscalculation on her part changes her carefully laid plans. Now she finds herself more and more exposed to the other people on Whitaker, and the danger that is far closer than she realizes.
I adored these two. Following their unexpected - and unconventional - introduction, sparks fly. So do bullets, firewood, and various articles of clothing. Their chemistry sizzles, the emotional connection that develops, unexpected to both, and the eventual coming together between a man who's a natural protector and a woman who is determined to save herself, so much fun to watch. There's plenty of danger, suspense, and some heart-wrenching emotion in Maddie and Connor's journey but Dimon tempers it with rapid-fire banter, well-placed humor, and a cadre of quirky island residents who keep everyone on their toes. As for the mystery, I figured out the villain's identity pretty early on but knowing that didn't lessen my involvement in the story as I still had no idea of the person's motivation or how events would eventually play out.

If you're looking for a fast-paced, romantic suspense story with quirky characters, plenty of danger, and an emotional journey that will have you laughing, crying, gasping, and gripping the edge of your seat, give HelenKay Dimon's The Secret She Keeps a try. I also recommend book one of this series: Her Other Secret (read my review here). You don't have to read them in order but it is fun to watch the evolution of other residents on Whitaker Island. I'm already looking forward to the next book in the series and hoping it might star the island's law enforcement officer and a newly arrived mystery woman. 

Where would you go if you wanted to get away from it all? Mountains? Beach? A remote island in the Pacific Northwest?

One randomly chosen person who comments before 11:00 PM (Eastern), January 10, 2020, will receive a print copy of The Secret She Keeps

*U.S. only
*Must be 18 or older.

Winner - - Sweet Talkin' Lover

The randomly chosen winner of a print copy of

Sweet Talkin' Lover by Tracey Livesay is:


Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Review - - Sweet Talkin' Lover

Sweet Talkin' Lover
by Tracey Livesay
A Girls Trip Novel - Book 1
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: December 30, 2019
Reviewed by PJ

Marketing manager Caila Harris knows that the road to success in the beauty industry doesn’t allow for detours. She’s forsaken any trace of a social life, working 24/7 to ensure her next promotion. When grief over her grandfather’s death leads to several catastrophic decisions, Caila gets one final chance to prove herself: shut down an unprofitable factory in a small Southern town. But as soon as she arrives in Bradleton, she meets one outsized problem: the town’s gorgeous mayor.
Wyatt Bradley isn’t thrilled about his nickname, Mayor McHottie. He’s even less happy to learn that his town might be losing its biggest employer. If he has to, he’ll use some sneaky tactics to get Caila on his side. Yet even as he’s hoping she’ll fall for Bradleton, he’s falling too—right into a combustible affair that shakes them both with its intensity.
Two stubborn people, torn between loyalty, ambition, and attraction. But when you’re willing to give it your all, there’s no limit to how far love can take you…

PJ's Thoughts:

I enjoyed the heck out of this book. Tracey Livesay has packed this story that launches her new Girls Trip series with plenty of witty banter, sizzling chemistry, female empowerment, character growth, and heart-tugging romance while tempering the humor and fun with the realistic challenges of family expectations and obstacles facing an interracial couple. Not to mention the obstacles of pairing a workaholic, big-city woman with a laid-back, small-town guy, neither of whom is looking for a relationship, and then placing them on opposite sides of an issue that, depending on its outcome, could spell economic doom for his hometown or the end of her career. I loved the chemistry between these two, the banter, the battle of wits, and the sweetness of the emotions that develop as they begin to look beyond the surface into one another's hearts. The scene where they first meet sets the tone and I knew right then I wouldn't be putting the book down until I turned the final page. 

I don't know if Livesay has ever lived in a small town but she sure nails the positive, and negative, complexities of one in this book. The town of Bradleton is so skillfully rendered that it becomes one of the characters of the story. It didn't take long at all for me to become immersed in people's lives and  emotionally invested in Caila's decision and its potential impact on the town and its citizens.

Finally, the foundation of this series is centered around a group of successful woman of color who met in college and have continued to strengthen their bonds of friendship through the years, including an annual girls trip where work is (supposed to be) left behind. While readers will learn more about each woman in future novels, Livesay introduces them as a group in this book, revealing intriguing glimpses into each character through their interactions with one another that have me eagerly anticipating their stories. These women seem so authentic, their friendships so real, that I wasn't the least bit surprised to learn the characters were inspired by Livesay's own group of college friends who, yes, are all successful, accomplished women and who also vacation together once a year. Women only. 

The next book in Livesay's Girls Trip series, Like Lovers Do, is scheduled for release on August 25, 2020. I already have it on pre-order. 


Have you read Tracey Livesay's books yet?

Do you have a long-time group of friends like Caila and Tracey?

Tell me about the girlfriends who keep you grounded.

I have a print copy of Sweet Talkin' Lover for one person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM (Eastern), January 8, 2020. 
*U.S. addresses only
*Must be 18 or older

Monday, January 6, 2020

Tour Review - - Meet Me on Love Lane

by Nina Bocci
Publisher: Gallery Books
Release Date: December 10, 2019
Reviewed by Hellie

Charlotte Bishop is out of options in New York City. Fired, broke, and blacklisted by her former boss, she’s forced to return to her hometown of Hope Lake, PA to lick her wounds. Although she’s expecting to find a miserable place with nothing to do, she is pleasantly surprised to discover it is bustling and thriving.

She’s only supposed to be in Hope Lake temporarily until she can earn enough money to move back to New York. She’s not supposed to reconnect with her childhood friends or her beloved grandmother. She’s not supposed to find her dream job running the local florist shop. And she’s definitely not supposed to fall for not one but two of Hope Lake’s golden boys: one the beloved high school English teacher, the other the charming town doctor.

With a heart torn between two men and two cities, what’s a girl to do?

Hellie’s Heeds:

This story ticked the boxes for my usual feel good reads: small town setting, fun secondary characters, heartwarming heroes, and a plucky heroine. Said plucky heroine has to return to a home she hasn’t called home nor been in for over twenty years, and whose memories of her childhood here are filled with pain and antagonism. Her plan is to get on her feet long enough to make a new plan to get back to New York City (the only real city in the world) before anyone has made any real connection she is back. No sooner has she arrived to town than she makes a conquest of a new town doctor, Max, and nearly permanently emasculates her old childhood bestie, Henry, whom she doesn’t remember. 

Without going into details, I think you know who she ends up with. Anyone who has read a romance at all knows who the love interest will be. And in true Hallmark channel fashion, our plucky heroine finds her purpose and destiny--and neither of these involve New York City. (Which is great because by then we all love Hope Lake and want to move there.) 

For me, the story felt a little ho-hum (and this could be just the mood I was in when I read it.) It was okay, but not overly memorable in writing style, plot, or dialogue. There were funny moments and sad ones; I connected with the characters, but not in a deep way. (And again I don’t think every reader seeks that sort of experience of finding your new imaginary BFF with every book you read.) When I thought about it, I think my biggest disappointment was that the Black Moment didn’t feel black. Honestly, I couldn’t even identify a black moment...or even a mildly gray one. I will say the heroine’s struggle was her amnesia when it came to her childhood in Hope Lake, her memories of her mother’s constant belittling of the town and insistence of raising her child somewhere that wasn’t a bubble, and the fact she has basically missed out on important family time with her father and grandmother since her mother has been dead for several years. The conflict is internal and nearly solely the heroine’s--and the rest of the people who populate Hope Lake can come across as a bit too perfect and understanding at times. 

Now not every story needs a black moment of Black Hole proportions; and the story hit the right beats in the other ways of storytelling, so for you the story might be much more satisfying. I am intrigued enough by Hope Lake and other characters to search out the other books in the series to see if I grow to like the writing more. Please let me know what you think of it when you do get a chance to read it.