Thursday, January 21, 2021

Review - - Enjoy the View

Enjoy the View
by Sarah Morgenthaler
Moose Springs, Alaska - Book 3
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Release Date: January 19, 2021
Reviewed by PJ
 

A grouchy mountaineer, a Hollywood starlet
And miles of untamed wilderness...
What could possibly go wrong?

Former Hollywood darling River Lane's acting career is tanking fast. Determined to start fresh behind the camera, she agrees to film a documentary about the picturesque small town of Moose Springs, Alaska. The assignment should have been easy, but the quirky locals want nothing to do with River. Well, too bad: River's going to make this film and prove herself, no matter what it takes.

Or what (literal) mountain she has to climb.

Easton Lockett may be a gentle giant, but he knows a thing or two about survival. If he can keep everyone in line, he should be able to get River and her crew up and down Mount Veil in one piece. Turns out that's a big if. The wildlife's wilder than usual, the camera crew's determined to wander off a cliff, and the gorgeous actress is fearless. Falling for River only makes Easton's job tougher, but there's only so long he can hold out against her brilliant smile. When bad weather strikes, putting everyone at risk, it'll take all of Easton's skill to get them back home safely...and convince River she should stay in his arms for good.


PJ's Thoughts:
Sarah Morgenthaler's Moose Springs, Alaska has quickly become one of my favorite contemporary romance/romantic comedy series. Filled with quirky characters, impeccable comedic timing, and a satisfying depth of emotion, these stories are delightful page-turners I can't get enough of.
In Enjoy the View, Morgenthaler gives readers the comedy and quirkiness we've come to expect but adds another layer with the danger and intensity that come with climbing the daunting Mount Veil. It's clear this author has more than a passing acquaintance with mountain climbing. Her descriptions create a feeling of authenticity as they carry the reader into the middle of the danger, and exhilaration, of the life-threatening elements of a 14,000 ft. climb. It's easy to believe the characters' driving need to master the geological beast. But the author also understands the sheer genius of comedic relief in the midst of intensity. The scene-stealing, love-sick marmot darn near steals the whole book and had me laughing so hard I was sure my condo neighbors would start banging on walls any second. In fact, the entire book is filled with passages that tickled my funny bone. 
In addition to the adventure and comedy, Enjoy the View also brings a sweet and satisfying romance for Easton and River. I loved the banter between these two as well as the gradually developed friendship and mutual respect that deepened into more. I admired River's determination to take control of her future, even if I didn't agree with her every action. Easton has unexpected layers and I loved all of them. He's fascinated me from the beginning of the series and it was so much fun to finally see him step into the spotlight and find his partner in love. 
You can absolutely begin this series with Enjoy the View and thoroughly enjoy River and Easton's journey. The author has written these books so that each can stand on it's own but I do believe you'll enjoy them even more, especially the scenes with earlier couples and other secondary characters, if you read them in order. Three times the laughter. Three times the fun. 

Have you read a book recently that made you laugh out loud? 
 




Monday, January 18, 2021

Winner - - The Forever Girl

 



The randomly chosen winner of a print copy of

The Forever Girl by Jill Shalvis is:

Patty B from NY

Congratulations!

Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com



Saturday, January 16, 2021

Winner - - Someday My Duke Will Come

 



The randomly chosen winner of a

print copy of

Someday My Duke Will Come by Christina Britton is:

Katie Chapman

Congratulations!

Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com



Friday, January 15, 2021

Tour Review & Giveaway - - The Forever Girl

The Forever Girl
by Jill Shalvis
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Release Date: January 12, 2021
Reviewed by PJ



When Maze returns to Wildstone for the wedding of her estranged bff and the sister of her heart, it’s also a reunion of a once ragtag team of teenagers who had only each other until a tragedy tore them apart and scattered them wide.

Now as adults together again in the lake house, there are secrets and resentments mixed up in all the amazing childhood memories. Unexpectedly, they instantly fall back into their roles: Maze their reckless leader, Cat the den mother, Heather the beloved baby sister, and Walker, a man of mystery. 

Life has changed all four of them in immeasurable ways. Maze and Cat must decide if they can rebuild their friendship, and Maze discovers her long-held attraction to Walker hasn’t faded with the years but has only grown stronger.


PJ's Thoughts:

In The Forever Girl, Jill Shalvis has crafted a funny, endearing, emotional, sweet, and sexy, story of family found, second chances, forgiveness, self-acceptance, and learning to open your heart to love.
Each of the four main characters brings a different perspective to their group. Bound together by one year spent in Cat's family home as foster siblings, they made the choice to be family. While those chosen bonds have been put to the test over the years, they have never broken, though they are currently strained to the limit. Cat, on the eve of her marriage to a man she's sure is Mr. Right, but might be Mr. Wrong, is determined to bring her family together again and see those bonds strengthened, even while she's falling apart. Heather, the youngest, has grown up but still can't keep a secret...except the one she's been keeping for the past three years. Walker is still their strength, except for his vulnerable heart, which has always belonged to Maze. And Maze, the fiercest among them, while also the one with the most tender heart, is the one who most needs to open that heart to the love and forgiveness that has always been there for her. They all found a special place in my heart and I was there, laughing (out-loud, snort-laughing, more than once), crying (there are some incredibly poignant moments), and cheering them on to happy endings (however that looks for each of them).   
Shalvis surrounds her main characters with a vividly-depicted secondary cast who provide conflict (mother-in-law from hell, anyone?), humor (the dog descriptions are hilarious), and steadfast friendship, then wraps them all up in a fun, sigh-worthy, and emotionally-satisfying story that has my enthusiastic recommendation. 
   ~~~~~~~~~~~

Do you enjoy women's fiction novels?
What's the last book that had you laughing out loud?
Have you read Jill Shalvis before? Do you have a favorite Shalvis novel?
One person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM, January 17 will receive a print copy of The Forever Girl.
*Must be 18
*U.S. street addresses only


New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis lives in a small town in the Sierras full of quirky characters. Any resemblance to the quirky characters in her books is, um, mostly coincidental. Look for Jill’s bestselling, award-winning books wherever romances are sold and visit her website, www.jillshalvis.com, for a complete book list and daily blog detailing her city-girl-living-in-the-mountains adventures.



 

Cover Reveal - - The Guardian

 

 Release Date: March 9

Guard against any danger. Especially if it comes from within.

Detective Matteo Garza doesn't just do the job--he is the job.

He's learned the hard way that work and pleasure can't co-exist.

So when his little sister's best friend accidentally uncovers a money laundering scheme
led by one of Remington's most cold-blooded criminals,
Garza vows to keep things strictly business as he keeps her safe.

No matter how much the quirky mathematician
makes him feel things best left buried.

No matter how much she makes him want.

Delia Sutton knows she's not like most people,
just like she knows she needs to forget her ages-old crush on Matteo
and focus on survival.

But the closer they get, the bolder she becomes--
the more she breaks down his carefully crafted barriers to discover the man beneath.

Danger is closer than either of them could possibly imagine
and no one can be trusted.
Delia needs a guardian to fight by her side, and Matteo will do anything to protect her.

No matter who the enemy is.
********
The Guardian is a scorching forbidden lovers romantic suspense featuring a grumpy Alpha hero who would walk into fire to save the woman he loves and a smart-is-sexy number-nerd heroine who would save him right back. Equal parts heart-pounding suspense and steamy romance. Complete standalone with no cheating and a full (but hard-fought!) HEA.

Pre-Order Your Copy Here!

Add to your Goodreads TBR List!

Meet Kimberly Kincaid

Kimberly Kincaid writes contemporary romance that splits the difference between sexy and sweet and hot and edgy romantic suspense. 

When she’s not sitting cross-legged in an ancient desk chair known as “The Pleather Bomber”, she can be found practicing obscene amounts of yoga, whipping up anything from enchiladas to √©clairs in her kitchen, or curled up with her nose in a book. 


Kimberly is a USA Today best-selling author and a 2016 and 2015 RWA RITA® finalist and 2014 Bookseller’s Best nominee who lives (and writes!) by the mantra that food is love.


Kimberly resides in Virginia with her wildly patient husband and their three daughters.

Connect with Kimberly Kincaid

Website | NewsletterFacebook | Amazon Author Page | Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter | BookBub


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Thursday, January 14, 2021

Review - - Blood Heir

Blood Heir
by Ilona Andrews
Kate Daniels World - Book 1
Publisher: NYLA
Release Date: January 12, 2021
Reviewed by PJ


Atlanta was always a dangerous city. Now, as waves of magic and technology compete for supremacy, it’s a place caught in a slow apocalypse, where monsters spawn among the crumbling skyscrapers and supernatural factions struggle for power and survival.


Eight years ago, Julie Lennart left Atlanta to find out who she was. Now she’s back with a new face, a new magic, and a new name—Aurelia Ryder—drawn by the urgent need to protect the family she left behind. An ancient power is stalking her adopted mother, Kate Daniels, an enemy unlike any other, and a string of horrifying murders is its opening gambit.

If Aurelia’s true identity is discovered, those closest to her will die. So her plan is simple: get in, solve the murders, prevent the prophecy from being fulfilled, and get out without being recognized. She expected danger, but she never anticipated that the only man she'd ever loved could threaten everything.

One small misstep could lead to disaster. But for Aurelia, facing disaster is easy; it’s relationships that are hard.

PJ's Thoughts:

Before beginning this review I should confess that I haven't read any of the ten books in the Kate Daniels series. I was introduced to Ilona Andrews' writing through the Hidden Legacy series (which I highly recommend) but found the ten books in the KD series a bit daunting when my reading time is at a premium. Did not reading those books have a negative impact on my ability to enjoy Blood Heir, the first book in a new spin-off series, featuring a key character from the KD series? Absolutely not! Did reading Blood Heir make me want to download the entire KD series and begin reading those books immediately? Well, let's just say that Magic Bites (the first KD book) is now waiting on my Kindle and leave it at that. 

One of the things I most enjoy about an Ilona Andrews book is the world building; how this husband and wife writing team expertly brings a well-known, present-day city to life in an entirely new, unexpected, and realistic way. I've been to Atlanta many times, driven her streets, visited her neighborhoods. Andrews' post-shift Atlanta is like nothing I've ever seen and yet it's brought to life so vividly that I had no trouble imagining it. The attention to detail (street intersections, college campuses, local eateries) give it a striking authenticity and sucked me into the belief that this Atlanta could actually exist. 

And then there are the characters. The care that is taken in creating each of the characters makes the reading experience all the more powerful. No single-dimension, cardboard cut-outs here. Each one is given layers and complexities that convince the reader that these are not really characters in a book but actual people who are walking the streets of post-apocalyptic Atlanta. When they engage their magical abilities, it seems natural. When they shift into another form, it's exhilarating rather than surprising. 

Many of the characters in this book were introduced, or had story arcs, in the Kate Daniels series but I never felt lost or confused when meeting them in Blood Heir. Andrews skillfully inserts bits and pieces throughout the book that paint a complete picture of each cross-over character, and their back story, without the onerous info-dump that is so often inserted into a book that connects to a prior series. I had no difficulty connecting with them and understanding their motivations. 

I love how this author uses a wide range of breath-stealing danger, heart-wrenching emotion, unexpected humor (yes, I did snort-laugh in a few places), and everyday activities (a heroine who de-stresses from fighting monsters by baking cookies) to illustrate the many sides of these characters and create a bond between them and the reader. I am now fully invested in Aurelia/Julie, Derek, little Marten, Douglas, and more. It doesn't matter if it takes four books or ten to complete their stories. I plan to be here for each and every one of them. 




Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Review & Giveaway - - Someday My Duke Will Come

Someday My Duke Will Come
by Christina Britton
Isle of Synne - Book 2
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: January 12, 2021
Reviewed by PJ




Lady Clara Ashford had no intention of ever getting married. A rogue took advantage of her innocence when she was young, and she's spent her whole life trying to make sure no one finds out. But now that her sister is engaged, Clara's well-meaning aunt has set her sights on Clara. Desperate to avoid the matchmaking schemes, Clara's not sure what to do -- until her neighbor, the new Duke of Reigate, shows up on her doorstep in need of her help.


Quincy Nesbitt reluctantly accepted the dukedom after his brother's death, but he'll be damned if he accepts his brother's fiancée as well. The only polite way to decline is to become engaged to someone else -- quickly. Lady Clara has the right connections and happens to need him as much as he needs her. But he soon discovers she's also witty and selfless, and if he's not careful, he just might lose his heart.

PJ's Thoughts:

Since meeting Quincy and Clara in book one of this series, I have been eagerly anticipating their story and I'm happy to say Someday My Duke Will Come did not disappoint. 

I loved these two and their friends-to-lovers/fake engagement romance. Clara has given so much of herself to ensuring the happiness of those she loves, without any thought for her own. At thirty-one, she's firmly on the shelf, even if she does occasionally long for a family of her own. She's also calm, selfless, and nurturing but with an intriguing bit of fire she keeps well hidden. It was such a pleasure to watch those simmering coals ignite, first in her defense of Quincy then later when their friendship takes a deeper turn. There are also emotional depths to her that she has suppressed over the years. Watching her come to terms with the events of her past was both heart-wrenching and empowering. 

And then there's Quincy. ::Sigh:: He's the hero many of our hearts seek. Charming, fun-loving, steadfast, loyal, a gentleman to his core, incredibly sexy, and endearingly vulnerable. I adored him. His life experiences (as a young boy in England and as a man in America) have given him emotional depths that he also keeps well hidden. My heart ached for him as his story unfolded but rejoiced as certain truths were brought to light. He's the kind of hero who makes you want to laugh with him, play with him, hug him, and drag him off to have your way with him. Did I mention how much I adored him? 

I love the path Britton took with Quincy and Clara, bringing them together first as partners to defeat the villainous duchess, then evolving into friends with lively banter and subtle flirting, building their chemistry until it ignites, then finally guiding them to a deep, abiding love. I like that they each have an individual journey and growth arc within the journey they take as a couple and that those individual lessons help bring them closer to one another. I turned the final page of their story with a heartfelt smile and a happy sigh. It doesn't get much better than that.

While Someday My Duke Will Come can be read as a standalone, it does feature several characters from book one, A Good Duke is Hard to Find. You can absolutely start with book two and enjoy it but I believe you'll enjoy it more if you read the books in order. The third book in the series, A Duke Worth Fighting For (Margery's story), is scheduled for release in August 2021. I already have it on pre-order and am counting down the days until my next visit to Christina Britton's Isle of Synne. 

Have you read Christina Britton yet?

Tell me about a fictional hero you've fallen in love with recently.

Do you enjoy historical romances that take the characters out of London?

One randomly chosen person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM, January 15 will receive a print copy of Someday My Duke Will Come

*Must be 18
*U.S. addresses only


Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Review - - Special Ops Seduction

Special Ops Seduction
by Megan Crane
Alaska Force - Book 5
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: January 12, 2021
Reviewed by PJ


She's the last woman he ever wanted to see again...

After an official operation turned deadly, Jonas Crow began a new life in Grizzly Harbor with Alaska Force. But when fellow soldier Bethan Wilcox joins the group, she forces him to remember things he actively prefers to forget. That’s unforgivable enough. But now the two of them are forced together on a mission to uncover deadly secrets tied to their complicated past, and with the heat between them at a boil, forgiveness is the least of his worries...

And the only woman he needs.

Bethan Wilcox, one of the first women to make it through Army Ranger school, didn't join Alaska Force to deal with Jonas's foul temper. Or her own errant attraction to him. Thrown together in a race against the clock, they have to pretend to be a couple and play nice to throw the enemy off their scent. She knows better than to let their pretend love feel real...especially while time is running out.

Jonas has always been good at saving the world. But it’s Bethan he needs to save this time around—if she doesn’t save him first.

PJ's Thoughts:

Once again, Megan Crane has crafted a romantic suspense novel that kept me on the edge of my seat while also giving me the heart-tugging emotion my romantic heart desires. For you adrenaline junkies, don't worry, there's plenty of heart-clenching action, suspense, and danger in this one. But it's expertly balanced with an emotionally-satisfying relationship that is by no means a given. These two have a lot of issues to work through.

I loved the dynamic between Bethan and Jonas. Two kick-ass members of Alaska Force, they are, literally, lethal weapons. They are also complex people with a history that colors their current relationship, such as it is. Even though they're teammates, they are neither friends nor lovers. In fact, they (especially Jonas) avoid one another as much as possible. So what does Crane do to them? Why, she throws them into an undercover operation at Bethan's family wedding, posing as a couple, with national security at risk, of course. I mean, really, what could go wrong?

Special Ops Seduction is another page-turner that I did not want to put down. The suspense gets more intense with each chapter, eliciting gasps, hand wringing, and, at one point, actual begging to please allow the characters to find a way out of their predicament. As a counterpoint to that, we have the gradually changing romantic relationship between Jonas and Bethan as well as an individual growth arc for each of them. There is much healing that needs to occur before they can claim happiness together. I enjoyed the dichotomy between the highly trained soldier, ready to kill to protect their country and the soft, squishy, center they ultimately discover they each hold for the other. I also appreciated the fact that the author gave them the necessary time to reconcile these two halves of themselves. The secondary cast provide humor, tension, complex family relationships, and a truly evil villain with a diabolical plan...and an unexpected connection to our hero and heroine. Crane did an exceptional job of weaving the many, seemingly disparate, threads of this story into a compelling journey with breath-stealing and life-threatening surprises around every corner and I was there for every single bit of it. 

I don't know what Megan Crane has planned next but, after reading the Alaska Force series, you can bet it will be on my must-buy list. 


Saturday, January 9, 2021

Winner - - Second Chance on Cypress Lane

 



The randomly chosen winner of a

print copy of

Second Chance on Cypress Lane by Reese Ryan is:

SusanLovesBooks

Congratulations!

Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com


Winner - - Coming Attractions

 



The randomly chosen winners of a 

package of books are:

Pamela Devereux

and

robinb

Congratulations!

Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com




Friday, January 8, 2021

Excerpt - - The Ultimate Betrayal

 

by Kat Martin
Publisher: HQN
Paperback Release Date: December 29, 2020
Reviewed by PJ: August 10, 2020 - Click to read


To prove her father’s innocence, she’ll have to turn a killer’s sights on herself


When journalist Jessie Kegan’s father is accused of espionage and treason, Jessie has no doubt the man she looked up to her entire life is innocent. Worse yet, before Colonel Kegan can stand trial, he’s found dead of a heart attack…but Jessie knows it was murder. Forcing down her grief, she’s determined to use her investigative skills and resources to clear her father’s name. But going after the truth means Jessie soon finds herself in the crosshairs of a killer who wants that truth to stay buried with her father.

Protecting Jessie Kegan is a job bodyguard Brandon Garrett can’t refuse. Jessie isn’t just a client at Maximum Security—she’s the sister of his best friend, Danny, killed in Afghanistan. With dangerous forces gunning for Jessie from every angle, keeping her safe will mean keeping her close and Bran finds their mutual attraction growing, though being Danny’s sister puts Jessie out of bounds.

With their backs against the wall, Jessie and Bran will have to risk everything to expose her father’s killer—before his legacy dies with his daughter.


The Ultimate Betrayal

Excerpt #2

Thin rays of sunlight washed over the flat Texas landscape the following morning.  Bran sat at the controls of the sleek white twin-engine Beechcraft Baron G58 parked in front of its hanger at the Dallas Executive Airport, south and a little west of downtown. 

He had learned to fly after he’d left the military.  Barely recovered from the bullet wounds that had forced him to leave the Army, one in his thigh, one in his abdomen, and another that had taken out part of his spleen, he’d been bored and unhappy to have lost the job he was trained for.

He’d been trying to figure out what to do with his life when Chase suggested he take flying lessons.  Once he’d started, he’d liked it so much he’d considered getting a plane of his own, maybe something like the single engine Cessna that Hawk Maddox flew. 

Chase had come up with the idea that Bran and Reese should share the one he owned, since it didn’t get used that often.  It was a beautiful plane so Bran had eagerly agreed.  Once he discovered private security work was the answer to his dilemma, the plane had come in handy.  As it did today.

“You belted in?” he asked Jessie.

She nodded.  “All set.”  She settled back in the fawn-colored leather co-pilot’s seat and glanced around the interior.  “This is really nice.”  Besides the two people in the cockpit, the plane carried four passengers in comfortable club seating.

“It hasn’t gotten a lot of use lately.  We’ve all been pretty busy.”  He started the pre-flight, checking the electrical system, looking for any warning lights, checking the GPS navigation, checking the oil and fuel levels.

He’d already done the walk-around, inspecting the body for damage, looking for fluid leaks: oil, fuel, hydraulics. 

“We’re all set.”  He put on his headphones and waited for Jessie to put on hers.  Settling back, he got on the radio and spoke to the tower, then began taxiing into position on the runway. 

Once cleared for takeoff, the plane began to roll down the tarmac, the propellers humming as the engine picked up speed.  Jessie studied the landscape outside the window as the plane lifted into the air and climbed to flying altitude.  She didn’t say much until the city of Dallas disappeared in the distance behind them.

“As a rule, I’m not crazy about flying,” she said.  “But I have to admit this is great.”

He smiled.  “Glad you’re enjoying it.  For me flying’s mostly a convenient way to get around.  Helluva lot better that going through all the hassle at the airport.”

“That’s for sure.”

It was an easy flight, just a few thunderheads beginning to develop, which he was able to skirt by slight course alterations.  The patchwork quilt of farmland held Jessie’s attention, giving him a chance to study her.

She was really pretty, he thought, and she was smart.  There were plenty of beautiful women in Texas, but when you added brains and a dynamite figure, it was a combination Bran found hard to resist. 

Unfortunately, anything other than a completely platonic relationship was out of the question.  He owed a debt to Danny Kegan that he could never repay.  A one-night hookup with his sister or anything remotely similar was out of the question.  His sigh went unnoticed beneath the hum of the engines.   

Near the half-way point, he landed at a small executive airport in Amarillo and had the planed topped off while they went into the terminal restaurant for a pit stop and something to eat.  Sandwiches and soft drinks and a couple of bags of chips and they were airborne again.  A short flight north and a little west and he landed at Cutter Aviation, a private airport a few miles west of Colorado Springs. 

The executive terminal, where he’d made arrangements for a hanger to store the plane, was a log building furnished with brown leather sofas, photos of the surrounding snow-capped mountains, and bronze sculptures of wildlife, a place perfectly suited to its location in the Rockies.

Bran had a rental car waiting, a big dark gray metallic Ford Expedition.  He grabbed the handle of his carryon, tossed the black canvas duffle that held his gear over one shoulder, and urged Jessie, towing her own carryon, toward the parking lot.

“I booked two rooms for us at the Holiday Inn,” she said as he loaded their luggage into the back of the vehicle.  “I hope that works for you.”

He paused to take the Glock out of his canvas duffle, clipped the holster to his belt and pulled his Henley out to cover it, then loaded the bag into the back. 

“Call and cancel,” he said.  “I’ve got a suite for us at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort.  It’s up in the hills not far from Fort Carson.”  Apparently she hadn’t figured out that separate hotel rooms weren’t an option.  People had been shooting at her.  He wasn’t letting her get that far away.

“It’s an hour drive from there to the Depot,” he said, opening the passenger door.  “But we’ll also be spending time at the base, which is fairly close, so we might as well stay somewhere nice.” 

“You’re spending a lot of money.  I didn’t expect that.  I’ll find a way to repay you.”

He stopped walking and turned back.  “I told you before--I owe your brother my life.  You don’t owe me anything and especially not money.  I’ve got plenty of it, far more than we’ll need.”  He stared down at her.  “All right?”

She shrugged.  “I guess so.”  She was a foot shorter than he was, petite, with a trim figure, but she wasn’t frail.  He usually went for tall, buxom women.  They just seemed less fragile, a better fit for a guy his size.  But there was something about Jessie that drew him.

“No more talk about money,” he said to make the point.  “Okay?” 

Her chin went up.  “Fine.”

He bit back a smile.  She was really cute.  Too bad she didn’t look more like her silver-haired father and less like her brother, whose good-looks appealed to women around the world. 

They belted themselves into their seats and he started the engine.

“You don’t want to talk about the money you’re spending,” she said.  “So what do you want to talk about?  The case, I hope.”

He grinned.  “Why don’t we talk about why you don’t have a serious boyfriend.  That should be interesting.”

Instead of the snarky remark he expected, Jessie’s face went pale.  She glanced out the window.  “It’s not a good story.”

Bran silently cursed.  Dammit, he hadn’t intended to make her uncomfortable and it was really none of his business.  “Hey, I’m sorry.  I was just kidding around.  You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to.”

 


Thursday, January 7, 2021

Review - - Second Chance on Cypress Lane

Second Chance on Cypress Lane
by Reese Ryan
Holly Grove Island - Book 1
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: December 1, 2020
Reviewed by PJ


Rising-star reporter Dakota Jones is usually the one breaking the news---until an inadvertent scandal wrecks her career. The only place she can go to regroup is Holly Grove Island. But her small South Carolina hometown comes with a major catch: Dexter Roberts, the first man to break Dakota's heart, is 
her new boss. Working alongside Dexter, who is more attractive than he has a right to be, shows Dakota what might have been . . . but she isn't giving him another chance to break her heart.

Dexter has always regretted the way things ended between him and Dakota. Her return could be his opportunity to finally make amends. But the more time he spends with Dakota, the more he realizes his feelings for her never went away. Now he has just a few months to convince her to give their love a second chance. But for Dakota to agree to stay, Dexter will have to reveal the devastating truth about why he let Dakota go all those years ago.

PJ's Thoughts:

Second Chance on Cypress Lane launches what I hope will be a long-running series as I have fallen hard for all of these characters and their small town in North Carolina's Outer Banks. Ryan brings them all to life with her vibrant descriptions of both people and place.

I love a second-chance romance and this one is filled with all the goodness I hope to find in this trope. Dexter has had a long time to regret breaking up with his high school sweetheart. Yes, his motives were pure but that sure hasn't lessened the heartache they caused. I was in his corner cheering him on to win her back. He's such a good guy, was in a no-win situation back then, and his heart still knows what it wants. He was really not much more than a boy the last time they saw one another but now, boy howdy, now he is a man. Successful, sexy, thoughtful, loyal, and he plays alto sax in a local band, staring soulfully into Dakota's eyes from the stage? If she didn't want him I was more than willing to drive over to the coast and claim him for myself! 

For Dakota, raised to believe her small town had nothing to offer and she would only find success in the big city, coming home is not what she expected. There are revelations around every corner, both professional and personal. I enjoyed her assimilation back into the town; reconnecting with her childhood best friend (everyone should be lucky enough to have a friend like Sinclair), learning to be more accepting, discovering a professional path that's both fulfilling and brings her joy, and rekindling the sizzling chemistry she'd always shared with her first love. The new, adult relationships she forges with her father and with Dexter show how much she's grown as does her emotional navigation of the secret both men have been carrying. By the end of the book, I was fully confident that Dakota was where she was meant to be and would continue to flourish with Dexter by her side.

Now, on to the next couple and the next chapter of life in the charming, seaside town of Holly Grove Island. I don't know when book two will be released but I am all in!

~~~~~~~~~~

Have you read any of Reese Ryan's books?

Do you enjoy small-town romance?

I love the sand, surf, and seaside breezes of Holly Grove Island. What's your favorite small-town setting? 

One person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM, January 8 will receive a print copy of Second Chance on Cypress Lane. 

*Must be 18
*U.S. addresses only







Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Review - - The Ballad of Hattie Taylor

The Ballad of Hattie Taylor
by Susan Andersen
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: January 5, 2021
Reviewed by PJ




In the small, bustling town of Mattawa, Oregon, the turn of the century offers a new kind of frontier for women: a vast and exciting range of possibilities--to a point. It's a time for change, and no one is more eager to embrace new paths than free-spirited outsider Hattie Taylor. If only she could embrace Jake Murdock too.

 
Jake can't remember a time he was so confused. Hattie is off-limits. The provoking spitfire is under his mother's protection--his protection--and he has always belonged to another. But now, with the passing of his wife, Jake feels something shift between them. Frustratingly aware of Hattie as a woman, he struggles with new feelings, new questions, new desires.
 
But when a desperate decision born of good intentions turns out to have ugly repercussions, Hattie confronts a cruel reality she can no longer ignore: the truth of where women really stand and the actions men take to keep them there. To navigate her new world of tainted justice and privileged order Hattie will draw on the strength of the women around her--and Jake will learn what it truly means to support the woman he loves.

PJ says:

The Ballad of Hattie Taylor is a saga that follows the life of orphaned Hattie from the age of eleven to her early twenties. Set in Oregon at the turn of the 20th century, it not only tells the story of Hattie but reflects upon the lives of all women of that era. It was a time where exciting possibilities were opening up but also when a woman's reputation was precarious and inequalities existed, not only between women and men but between women of different classes. Societal issues are highlighted through the actions of the characters as well as the (sometimes brutal) injustices they suffer.

The book is a well-written, thought-provoking, page-turner with complex, fully-formed characters and complicated relationships. Readers are taken on a life journey that evokes a full range of emotions. Make no mistake, this is Hattie's story and it is a compelling one. She is a character who endeared herself to me early on and I was firmly in her corner from start to finish. But there is also a rich supporting cast of characters who are vividly portrayed and critical to Hattie's story. Like many sagas, while they have pivotal parts to play in Hattie's life there are also individual stories to be told. Stories that will also evoke strong emotions. One that made a significant impact on me is that of a young maid, a minor character, but with an important role, whose courage I greatly admired and whose circumstances clearly delineated the line between classes. 

It would be hard to discuss Jake in too much depth without giving away spoilers so I'll just say that my feelings about him, as well as his relationship with Hattie, and his relationship with his first wife, are mixed and leave it to you to make your own decisions about him.

There are parts of this book that will not be easy to read and many issues women still face today that I was left pondering long after finishing the book. Readers should know that Hattie ultimately claims a happy ending but it certainly isn't won without a lot of pain, forgiveness, healing, and internal strength.  


Content Warning:

One thing the author does not do in this book is hold back from harsh realities of life. There are some major triggers that I was unaware of before beginning the book and the impact they had on me was deep. Not only was I filled with heartache and rage for the entire second half of the book, I'm still haunted by what happens to these characters. Readers who are sensitive to these topics should be aware that they will be dealing with the following issues on the page: 
Rape
Beating 
Adult death
Death in utero