Friday, September 30, 2022

Review - - Kit McBride Gets a Wife

Kit McBride Gets a  Wife
by Amy Barry
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: August 23, 2022
Reviewed by Hellie



The four McBride brothers have their worlds turned upside down when their precocious younger sister secretly places an advertisement for a mail-order bride. 

Kit McBride knows that Buck's Creek, Montana, is no place to find a wife. Between him and his three brothers—plus little Junebug—they manage all right on their own, thank you very much. But unbeknownst to Kit, his sister is sick to death of cleaning, cooking, and mending for her big brothers, so she places an ad in The Matrimonial News to get them hitched. 

After Maddy Mooney emigrated from Ireland, she found employment with an eccentric but poor widow. When her mistress decides to answer an ad for a mail-order bride, Madd​y is dragged along for the ride to Montana. But en route to the West, Maddy is suddenly abandoned and left to assume the widow's name, position, and matrimonial prospects…. 

With no other recourse in the wilderness, Maddy must convince Kit she’s the wife he never knew he needed.

 

Hellie’s Heeds 

Part Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, part Ransom of Little Red Chief and Tom Sawyer, this book brings the best of these comedies for this historical rom-com. I would like to clarify that Maddy doesn’t really set out to convince Kit she’s the wife he actually wants. When she arrives (unwillingly) at his trading post, a series of unfortunate (but hilarious) events have occurred, mostly at the behest of the book’s most memorable character: the kid sister, Junebug McBride. All she really wants to do is go back home to Ireland because America isn’t all it's cracked up to be. When Kit finds out his kid sister has placed an ad for a WIFE on his behalf, he doesn’t want one, not even one as pretty and lovely as Maddy. And his other three brothers certainly don’t want a wife. 

Who then wants a wife? Junebug. In what I would consider a more accurate response to having to take care of a bunch of dirty, ill-mannered backwoods-men, Junebug has had it with all the cooking, cleaning, laundering, housekeeping, and all manner of things womenfolk have been saddled with since time immemorial. (God bless Millie* who pushed up her sleeves and took it on, but I would not have.) So Junebug places an ad for a wife, but what she receives is not who represented herself in her letters (an irony that knows no bounds.) Maddy is actually the “maid” for the supposed wife in question, but when Junebug meets the marital prospect and realizes her mistake, her rectifying of the situation ends up leaving Maddy homeless and abroad.  

Maddy ends up spending some time in the company of these brothers, though she too is not the wife material that Junebug was hoping for. After all, what Junebug would have liked most was someone who could cook. (She despises cooking, something that many of the readers could probably sympathize with.) Maddy is a housemaid, so cleaning, sure; laundry, perhaps to some extent; but cooking? Nope. Meanwhile Kit is worried about Maddy, who when she arrives, is frightened by his brother and then horribly injured. Maddy is convalescing and isn’t able to help with the chores (yet again something Junebug was not wanting–another person to care for.) However, given some time, a new arrangement is made: the brothers will send Maddy back to Ireland (once she is healed) after she gives some “feminine” lessons to their sister, who they point out is as wild as a badger. No one has to marry anybody…except after some time in close proximity, now Kit and Maddy are reconsidering the idea. What if she stayed? That is, until the original “bride” returns to claim her man.  

Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.  

Both the main characters are lovely and worthy hero(ine)s and Kit McBride is a very deliciously built Hemsworth brother who is a blacksmith, strong but sensitive, while Maddy is a plucky heroine who is just trying to make the best of some unfortunate things that have happened to her. Morgan–the scary older brother–is definitely going to be an amusing hero of the next book (a very crusty old dragon on the outside, marshmallow middle); and Junebug, the character who steals every single scene she is in–and she’s in a lot of them–well, it will be interesting to see who manages to tame her. I can’t wait to read more. Well done. 


*main character from Seven Brides.  


Thursday, September 29, 2022

Review & Giveaway - - The Highlander's Holiday Wife

The Highlander's Holiday Wife
by Vanessa Kelly
Clan Kendrick - Book 5
Publisher: Zebra Books
Release Date: September 27, 2022
Reviewed by PJ




It's
Christmastime in Edinburgh, but Lady Samantha Penwith’s secret mission takes no holiday: the Highlands-born lass vows to find the assailants who murdered her beloved husband, founder of a charitable school for orphaned boys. On her latest undercover excursion, she closes in on a pair of armed attackers and interrupts another assault, then disappears into the darkness, leaving the lone victim mystified—and lucky to be alive . . .
 
Braden Kendrick may be the sensible brother, yet the dedicated doctor routinely ignores the dangers of his late-night calls to the city’s slums. But when a fleet-footed rescuer saves his life, he’s determined to uncover the stranger’s identity. And once he does, he’ll find himself facing his own past loss for the first time—and more than willing to risk his heart again, just in time to make the Clan Kendrick’s Christmas celebrations more festive than ever . . .

PJ's Thoughts:

I had doubts that any of Kelly's Kendrick couples would be able to equal Logan and Donella in my affections but dang if Braden, the quietest among them, and intrepid Samantha weren't up for the challenge. I adored them, couldn't put their book down, and cheered them on the entire way. The Highlander's Holiday Wife is now one of my top two favorite Clan Kendrick books. 

Kelly threw me into the action from the get-go with this book and never really let up until I reached the end. It's a tightly-crafted, fast-paced tale filled with suspense, danger, emotional depth, humor, betrayal, abduction, murder, and, of course, romance. Much of the humor is once again provided by the loving, meddling, and always entertaining Kendrick clan with Logan, Donella, their children, Grandda Angus, and the youngest Kendrick brother, Kade taking the supporting cast leads this time around. It was fun to watch Braden navigate their meddling while balancing his frustration with the surety of their love and support. I'm going to be very sad when Kelly finally says goodbye to this family. They're one of my fictional favorites. But they aren't the only creators of humor in this book. Several of Samantha's scenes had me chuckling out loud as well. Kelly is very good at knowing when to insert a snappy retort, sarcastic aside, or other type of organic humor to lighten tension.   

I love the banter between Braden and Samantha. Also the respect, admiration, and growing affection. I enjoy how they work together. And I love their chemistry. I also enjoy how Kelly deftly balances their gradually deepening feelings with the growing intensity of the danger and mystery surrounding the disappearance of children from the orphanage supported by Samantha's foundation and her quest to discover the truth behind her husband's death. The emotional evolution of both characters is tightly woven together with unexpected twists that plunge them into life-threatening danger, revealing secrets that took me by surprise and events that kept me guessing what would happen next. My favorite kind of book!

The Highlander's Holiday Wife hit all my happy reader buttons, giving me a fast-paced, emotionally satisfying story with plenty of humor, heart, and adventure to keep me eagerly flipping pages from beginning to end. It has my enthusiastic recommendation.

Though some continuing series characters have key roles, Braden and Samantha's story itself is begun and completed within the pages of this book. For that reason, readers new to the series should be able to begin with The Highlander's Holiday Wife and not feel lost or confused. 

~~~~~~~~

Click the link to read the first three chapters of The Highlander's Holiday Wife at Vanessa Kelly's website. 

~~~~~~~~

Have you read any of Vanessa Kelly's Clan Kendrick books?

Do you have a favorite Kendrick couple?

Vanessa Kelly has graciously offered a signed, print copy of The Highlander's English Bride (book 3) and a $10 Amazon gift card to one randomly chosen person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM, September 30.

U.S. / Canada
Must be 18
Void where prohibited

If you'd like to read the entire Clan Kendrick series, the books are, in order:

The Highlander's Princess Bride 
The Highlander Who Protected Me
The Highlander's Christmas Bride
The Highlander's English Bride
The Highlander's Irish Bride
The Highlander's Holiday Wife

 

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Review - - Reckless Fortune

Reckless Fortune 
by M. M. Crane
The Fortunes of Lost Lake - Book 2
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: September 27, 2022
Reviewed by PJ
 
 


Bowie Fortune has always liked a risky proposition. A bush pilot out in the Last Frontier, flying in and out of places that give most pilots nightmares is what he lives for. That and his off-the-grid home out by Lost Lake, where his family has been living up close with the elements for generations. When his sister dares him to participate in the local version of a mail-order bride contest, he’s not interested—but Bowie doesn’t back down from a challenge. Even when the challenge turns out to be a woman who makes him want every last thing he knows he shouldn’t.
 
Entering a summer-long publicity stunt in far-off Alaska might seem extreme, but Autumn McCall has always had an indomitable spirit. She took care of her sisters and father after her mother died, and this is more of the same—since she intends to win the contest. Immersing herself in the pioneer lifestyle is one thing, but what she isn’t expecting is brooding, sharp-eyed Bowie with his wicked smile. As the sparks fly between them, will they burn each other alive—or learn how to simmer their way to a much bigger prize...together?


PJ's Thoughts:


What a fun, heartwarming, adventurous story! First of all, it's set in Alaska which is my new favorite contemporary romance location. Set your book in the stunningly beautiful, rugged, test-your-pioneer-spirit state and I am there for it. Second, it features a reality television, mail order bride contest premise and yeah, I'm totally into that. Third, both Bowie and Autumn are much more complex than they appear at first glance. Another plus! Add unexpected danger into the mix, a quirky, caring community of family and friends, emotional baggage the depth of which I was not expecting, and you have a totally immersive story I couldn't put down.

These characters were so endearing. I loved Bowie's adventurous spirit, his kindness, his humor, and his immediate attraction to Autumn even though the contest was not about romance. I loved his family, how they all embraced their Alaska lifestyle, and how they loved and supported one another...while still maintaining that teasing, snarky, sibling dynamic. Autumn's family was a bit more complex, with an unbalanced relationship dynamic to sort through, but no less staunch in their love and support of one another. I loved how Autumn threw herself into the contest, her competence and determination to win. My heart ached for how she viewed herself in relation to her sisters. It was so satisfying to watch her slowly begin to view herself as others viewed her. And so much fun to watch both Autumn and Bowie navigate the unexpected feelings that slowly developed between them. 

The danger Autumn and Bowie faced was an unexpected twist but one that afforded them the opportunity to confront their deepest fears and uncertainties as well as, for Bowie, the secret emotional trauma that had steered his life for too long. Kudos to the author for crafting this unexpected, life-altering scenario that left me with a bundle of feelings, including tears, laughter, breath-stealing anxiety, enthusiastic cheering, and the confidence that these two were destined for a long life of love and adventure together. 

If you're looking for a fun, fast-paced, heart-tugging story filled with adventure, witty banter, a community of quirky characters, well-placed humor, plenty of chemistry, danger, and unexpected emotional depth, join Autumn and Bowie in the Alaskan back country in M. M. Crane's Reckless Fortune. It has my enthusiastic recommendation.

This is book two in Crane's The Fortunes of Lost Lake series. You do not have to read the books in order though now that I've met the main couple from book one, I will definitely be reading their story too. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Winner - - All is Bright

 



The randomly chosen winner of a print copy of

All is Bright by RaeAnne Thayne is:

Linda May

Congratulations!

Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com



Review & Giveaway - - At Home on Marigold Lane

At Home on Marigold Lane
by Debbie Mason
Highland Falls - Book 5
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: September 27, 2022
Reviewed by PJ




True love deserves a second chance.


For family and marriage therapist Brianna MacLeod, moving back home to Highland Falls after a disastrous divorce feels downright embarrassing. Bri blames herself for missing the red flags in her relationship and worries she’s no longer qualified to do the job she loves. But helping others is second nature to Bri, and she soon finds herself counseling her roommate and her neighbor’s daughter. Bri just wasn’t expecting them to reunite her with her first love . . .

Caleb Scott knows his failed marriage has been tough on his stepdaughter, so he’s grateful she’s found someone to confide in . . . even if it’s Bri MacLeod. Seeing Bri brings up feelings he’d thought were long buried. He knows it’s not the right time for either of them to be rekindling a relationship, but being with Bri feels right—like coming home. He’ll just have to convince her that risking her heart again might give them exactly what they both need . . . a second chance.

PJ's Thoughts:

I've been reading Debbie Mason for a long time, since her debut back in 2010 when she was writing historical time travel - with a touch of fairy magic - as Debbie Mazzuca. I followed her into small town contemporary romance (as Mason) and have never been disappointed. Her complex, well-developed characters, emotional storylines, perfectly-placed humor, and complicated family dynamics never fail to take me on an emotional ride, depositing me at the end of the book with a satisfying, well-earned, happy ending.

In At Home on Marigold Lane, Mason continues the story of Brianna MacLeod that began in book four, The Inn on Mirror Lake. While this new book stands well on its own, for a complete understanding of what Brianna has suffered, as well as the tumultuous relationships within her family, I recommend reading the two books in order. 

I never know where Debbie Mason is going to take me when I begin one of her books and in this one she took me places I did not expect. She's a master at developing an array of characters and then weaving them in and out of the story in a way that progresses the main story line as well as each individual's path, and those paths aren't always easy ones to travel. She's also very good at creating flawed, multi-layered characters who justifiably earn my anger with their actions. But then she starts unpeeling their layers, revealing emotional scars, fears, and reasons. She takes them a journey of learning and introspection and by the end of the story, I've found myself in their corner. Such is the case with a few very important secondary characters in this book who play parts in keeping Cal and Bri apart but, ultimately, become their biggest supporters. 

Mason isn't hesitant to tackle the tough subjects and there are more than a few in this book. They are balanced with humor, sweet romance, healing, and hope but they are never glossed over. Cal and Bri must both confront issues standing in the way of their happiness together but that makes their HEA all the more enjoyable in the end. I really loved these two together. I'm all about second chances and they sure deserved theirs. Mason continues the second-chances theme in this book with more than the central romance. There are second-chance friendships, second-chance family relationships, second chances to build a rewarding career, and, hopefully, more second chances to come. There are some secondary characters in this book who are in need of a happy ending. I'm hoping we'll see more of them in future books. 


Have you read Debbie Mason yet?

Do you enjoy romances with a community of characters?

One randomly chosen person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM, September 29 will receive a print copy of At Home on Marigold Lane

*U.S. only
*Must be 18
*Void where prohibited


 



Monday, September 26, 2022

Review - - The Duke Not Taken

The Duke Not Taken
by Julia London
A Royal Match - Book 2
Publisher: HQN
Release Date: September 27, 2022
Reviewed by PJ
 


Impossible. Infuriating. Intoxicating.


Ever since her sister became queen two years ago, Amelia Ivanosen, Princess of Wesloria, has been flirting and skirting scandal—just barely. Before she does anything 
too outlandish, she is sent to England and Lila Alexander, illustrious matchmaker to the ton, is recruited. Respectably ensconced at the country estate of a family friend, Amelia is introduced to many eligible bachelors, but…there is no spark. There never seems to be unless the man is completely wrong for her.

Next door lives Joshua Parker, Duke of Marley, who is grumpy and reclusive—for good reason. His first wife died in childbirth. When Marley is dragged by a friend to his neighbor’s soiree, he and Amelia 
instantly
 dislike each other. Their banter is snarky and heated. He’s a stuck-up smarty-pants; she’s a self-involved, annoying princess.

Sparks fly when they’re together—fireworks actually—but they loathe each other. Really. So why can’t they stop thinking about each other?


PJ's Thoughts:

After meeting Amelia (heroine's younger sister) in Last Duke Standing, I was quite curious about what London planned to do with her when the time came for her own story. In her sister's book, Amelia comes across as spoiled and self-centered, but still staunchly supportive of her sister, the future queen. In other words, a complex character, my favorite kind. In The Duke Not Taken, we finally discover exactly what makes Amelia tick, what it is she has been longing for all these years, and the journey is an absolute delight. I've already read the book twice. In fact, it's ended up being one of my all-time favorites written by Julia London. 

In London's capable hands, the characters in this book (even the four-legged ones) practically leap from the pages. They are all wonderfully developed, including secondary characters, though it's Amelia and Joshua who take the lead. The friction between these two could start a forest fire (though actual romantic scenes are very mild). Their banter is lively, witty, and non-stop but when we finally reach the point where it takes a deeper turn, London gives them the opportunity to reveal their hearts, their fears, and their dreams in a sweet, poignant way that they've not done with anyone else. Their slowly evolving romance is endearing, snarky, humorous in parts, heart-tugging in others, and had me cheering them on throughout. 

The secondary cast shines without taking the spotlight from our opinionated princess (who just wants to be like everyone else) and grumpy duke (who just wants to be left alone). The young girls are hilarious and help reveal hidden facets of Amelia's personality while driving Joshua around the bend with their loud and off-key singing...until the youngest among them starts knocking down the walls around his heart. Miles, Lord Clarendon, is the kind of best friend every brokenhearted duke deserves. Lila, the matchmaker is at her wit's end trying to match a princess who seems set on taking the most difficult path to love possible. And Donovan, who has appeared in both book one of this series and in the A Royal Wedding series, just may be my favorite Julia London character ever. If you've yet to meet Donovan, picture Mary Poppins as a drop-dead gorgeous, gay man beloved by parents and children alike, and you have Donovan. Wherever he goes, laughter, joy, and well-planned organization follow. There's a garden scene in this book involving Donovan that could easily be missed if you blink, but its poignant simplicity is enormous for its emotional depth. My thanks to the author for including it. It filled my heart with joy and brought me to tears. 

And then there are the letters. I adore an epistolary romance. So much is revealed, even - maybe especially - when the letter writers don't realize to whom they're writing. The letters between "a concerned resident of Devonshire" (actually Joshua) and the "Master of the Iddesleigh School for Girls" (actually written by Amelia) are humorous, thought-provoking, and such a delightful way of offering insight into these two characters as well as (unknowingly) deepening the relationship between the two. 

Finally, London wraps things up with an epilogue (I do love epilogues) that had the happy tears flowing. This book made me laugh, snort, sigh, and, yes, cry. It's going to my keeper shelf. I have a feeling it's destined to become one of those comfort reads I turn to when I need a feel-good story to soothe my soul. 


 


Winner - - Snowed In for Christmas

 



The randomly chosen winner 

of a print copy of

Snowed In for Christmas by Sarah Morgan is:

AmyH

Congratulations!

Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com


Saturday, September 24, 2022

Winners - - PJ's Birthday Giveaway

 



Thanks for helping me celebrate my birthday!

The nine randomly chosen winners 

from my birthday giveaway are:

Kim H

Alisha

Anita H

Diane Sallans

catslady

Barbara Selman

Carole B

Paula

Sue Gormsn

Please email your top three birthday giveaway choices

plus your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Giveaway choices will be awarded in the order your 

emails are received.

Giveaway options are:

Package of books from my stash (4 winners)

The Road to Christmas (print copy)

Come Home to Me (signed print copy)

Lizzie & Dante (hardcover copy)

Love is a Rogue (signed hardcover copy)

$15 Amazon gift card




Review & Giveaway - - All is Bright

All is Bright
by RaeAnne Thayne
Publisher: HQN
Release Date: September 20, 2022
Reviewed by PJ
 


Sage McKnight is an ambitious young architect working at her father’s firm who takes on her most challenging client in Mason Tucker. The former pro baseball player is still healing from the physical and emotional scars after a plane crash left him a wheelchair-using single dad, and he’s determined not to let anyone breach his emotional defenses. Sage knows her work on Mason’s new home in Hope’s Crossing is her best work yet, and she won’t let her grumpy client prevent her from showcasing her work personally.


With Sage’s gift for taking broken things and making them better, the matchmaking talent of the quirky locals and a generous sprinkling of Christmas cheer, Mason doesn’t stand a chance against the power of this magical holiday season.

PJ's Thoughts:

After an eight-year absence, RaeAnne Thayne returns to Hope's Crossing with a feel-good Christmas romance that gives three secondary characters - all grown up now - from books two (Woodrose Mountain) and three (Sweet Laurel Falls) their long-awaited happy endings. Fans of the series will no doubt delight in catching up with familiar citizens of Hope's Crossing while readers new to the series should have no difficulty enjoying this new book on its own. 

Thayne combines the comfort and complexity of family, community, grief, healing, and hope - along with the magic of the Christmas season - in this new story that drew me in and refused to let go. I love her characters, how she imbues them with realistic flaws and layers then gives them seemingly insurmountable obstacles to confront and conquer. It doesn't matter if they're ridiculously wealthy athletes or guidance counselors at the local school, they all feel real and relatable. 

There are a few emotionally traumatizing issues addressed in All is Bright. Thayne deals with them with candor, sensitivity, and a hopeful, though realistic, attitude. I appreciate that difficulties faced by her characters aren't glossed over but dealt with head on. It gives them substance and even more relatability. 

There are a couple areas where I found myself wanting a bit more depth. I would have liked a little more attention given to Sage's current relationship with (younger sibling) Nick. Recent changes in Nick's feelings are hinted but not taken any further. Also, while the secondary romance between Taryn and Charlie is meaningful, readers who have also read their backstory will likely have an even greater appreciation for their HEA.  

As for Sage, her personal journey begins in the earlier books but culminates in this new novel. It was immensely satisfying to see how far she's come in her life and the good she's doing in the world. Thayne does a good job of giving readers background information to catch them up with Sage's growth since those early years though for a deeper understanding of all she's been through, I'd suggest picking up the books noted in the opening paragraph of this review. Mason is also on a healing journey, one which Thayne handles with care, but realistically, in light of his injuries and losses. 

Sage's romantic journey with Mason, fully encompassed in All is Bright, is one that touched my heart and brought me to tears but also had me smiling. I love a grumpy-sunshine pairing and watching Mason slowly succumb to the lure of Sage's kindness and light was immensely satisfying. I also enjoyed Sage's evolving relationship with her parents, younger siblings, and Mason's daughter, Grace who all have key roles in the story. I turned the final page of the book with a smile and a sigh, happily confident in Mason's and Sage's love for one another and their future happiness together. 

If you're looking for a holiday story with real-life issues, complex family dynamics, sweet romance, emotional depth, and happy endings, add RaeAnne Thayne's All is Bright to your holiday reading list. 

Have you read any of the Hope's Crossing books? 

Do you enjoy added depth in your holiday stories or is fun and fluffy more to your taste?

All is Bright is set in a snowy mountain town. What's your favorite setting for a Christmas story?

One randomly chosen person posting a comment before 11:00 PM, September 26 will receive a print copy of All is Bright (generously provided by HQN books).

*U.S. only
*Must be 18
*Void where prohibited

Friday, September 23, 2022

Review & Giveaway - - Snowed in for Christmas

Snowed in for Christmas
by Sarah Morgan
Publisher: HQN
Release Date: September 20, 2022
Reviewed by PJ
 



A family gathering


This Christmas the Miller siblings have one goal—to avoid their well-meaning family’s endless stream of prying questions. Ross, Alice and Clemmie have secrets that they don’t intend to share, and they are relying on each other to deflect attention.

An uninvited guest

Lucy Clarke is facing a Christmas alone and the prospect of losing her job. Unless she can win a major piece of business from Ross Miller, the season promises to be anything but festive. She’ll just deliver her proposal to his family home and then leave. After all, she wouldn’t want to intrude on the Miller family’s perfect Christmas.

A Christmas to remember

When Lucy appears on the Miller family’s snow-covered Highland doorstep, she's mistaken for Ross’s girlfriend. By the time the confusion is cleared up, they're snowed in—she can’t leave, even if she wants to! But does she want to? As secrets spill out like presents from an overstuffed stocking and the chemistry between her and Ross ignites, this is going to be either Lucy's worst Christmas ever or the best mistake of her life.

PJ's Thoughts:

One of my favorite holiday treats I look forward to each year is a new book from Sarah Morgan. This year's entry aims straight for the heart with a slight detour to the funny bone along the way.

Sarah Morgan is a master of setting scenes. Her descriptions bring the locations of her stories to life, fully immersing me into the story and leaving me wanting nothing more than to jet off to, in this case, a snowy village in the Highlands of Scotland. Logistically, getting snowed in with strangers a few days before Christmas isn't ideal, but in the hands Morgan, it's a sure-fire recipe for a story that kept me gleefully flipping pages from beginning to end.

With the Millers, Morgan has created a family with whom many of us can relate. I loved the dynamic among the siblings. These three are a strong unit but, like most siblings, aren't above throwing one  another under the bus if it's to their benefit. Hence, the family thinking Lucy is Ross's girlfriend when she lands on their doorstep, a scene reminiscent of some of my favorite old-school rom coms. But this story isn't only about the younger generation, their careers and romantic woes, or their complicated relationships within the family. The Miller parents, and grandmother, all have significant roles and interesting journeys of their own; everyone in this family is at a crossroads. I especially enjoyed the heart-to-heart exchanges that occur between the generations, the sometimes difficult discussions between parent and child, and the wisdom dispensed by their grandmother, in her direct and frequently hilarious way. I love multi-generation stories where each character is given a chance to shine, and to grow. Morgan is one of my favorite authors who does this so well. 

Lucy is such an endearing character. My heart ached for the heartache life had tossed her way and I couldn't help but cheer her on. Morgan draws her into the center of the Miller family's joyous holiday traditions while also showing in small, poignant ways the outsider she actually is. Don't worry, everything ends happily. In fact, everything ends happily for all the characters though the path to that end is littered with more than a few emotional pot holes. But that's life, right? 

Some of my favorite scenes in this book take place in the kitchen. Have you ever noticed how the kitchen is the hub of the home, of the family? There can be a roaring fire in the living room, a table laden with food in the dining room, but it's the kitchen where the important work takes place, where emotions are laid bare, life-changing advice is dispensed, eye-opening revelations realized. If you can't have the important conversations over tea, sizzling bacon, or the making of the family's delicious shortbread then where can you? 

If you're looking for a charming, heartwarming story to add to your holiday reading list this year, look no further than Sarah Morgan's Snowed in for Christmas. It's a gem of a treat that will no doubt have you looking for more books from this talented author...to read in your cozy kitchen while the tea steeps and your favorite cookies bake. 

Have you read Sarah Morgan? Do you have a favorite of her books?

Christmas wouldn't be complete at the Miller's house without their famous shortbread. What's your favorite holiday treat to make or eat?
Feel free to share recipes!

One randomly chosen person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM, September 25 will receive a print copy of Snowed in for Christmas. (Thanks to HQN for the giveaway!)

*U.S. only
*Must be 18
*Void where prohibited







 

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Tour Review - - Killers of a Certain Age

Killers of a Certain Age
by Deanna Raybourn
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: September 6, 2022
Reviewed by Hellie
  


Older women often feel invisible, but sometimes that’s their secret weapon.

They’ve spent their lives as the deadliest assassins in a clandestine international organization, but now that they're sixty years old, four women friends can’t just retire – it’s kill or be killed in this action-packed thriller by New York Times bestselling and Edgar Award-nominated author Deanna Raybourn.


Billie, Mary Alice, Helen, and Natalie have worked for the Museum, an elite network of assassins, for forty years. Now their talents are considered old-school and no one appreciates what they have to offer in an age that relies more on technology than people skills.


When the foursome is sent on an all-expenses paid vacation to mark their retirement, they are targeted by one of their own. Only the Board, the top-level members of the Museum, can order the termination of field agents, and the women realize they’ve been marked for death.


Now to get out alive they have to turn against their own organization, relying on experience and each other to get the job done, knowing that working together is the secret to their survival. They’re about to teach the Board what it really means to be a woman—and a killer—of a certain age.


Hellie’s Heeds


Part Charlie’s Angels (movie version), part RED, this book delivers the action and antics one would expect of a story where the main characters are the underestimated underdogs. (In one of the descriptors of this book, it was pitched as The Golden Girls meets James Bond–which is also apt, but for me, when I heard the premise, I was immediately, “Oh, it’s RED but all women! I’m in!” The Charlie’s Angels bit came a bit later when I was immersed in the world of the four women, mainly Billie’s POV, who reminds me of Drew Barrymore’s character in the Charlie’s Angels movies, and the hilarious shenanigans the Angels did to accomplish their goals.) Normally I would offer more details of the story itself (sometimes the blurb doesn’t really do the actual story justice) but in this case, the blurb is exactly what is happening: these very dangerous women aren’t being allowed to have the quiet retirement they have earned. The organization where they’ve worked for 40 years has issued a termination order for them, and it takes all their cunning to stay ahead of the kill shots and take out the organization instead. 


If you ever were curious how to make a death look natural, you will definitely get an idea how to do so; as well as some truth how even the best thought out plan can go awry when the bad guy has a gun and a twitchy trigger finger. Also the very real need for a personal trainer to keep one in the physical shape needed to crawl around in the catacombs of France or outmaneuver the assassin who is trying to kill you. I love the fact that no matter how old these women are, they are the same women as they were when they were 20, which I think in our culture (maybe in all cultures), we forget and treat women of a certain age as well, not people. It’s a smack on the nose of the patriarchy that just because a woman isn’t “young”, she isn’t sexy or smart or relevant any longer, that she doesn’t deserve to be a heroine (main attraction) just because she’s over the age of 40. So yes, it’s some good feminist fiction. 


My only beef with the story is the writing style for the “flashbacks.” The current scenes, first person POV of Billie, are smooth and well-paced, easy to follow, and the dialogue and banter are hysterical. However, the flashbacks almost always drew me out of the story and made it a bit too easy to set the book aside to go do something else, which is a problem when you’re reading something that needs a review by a particular date. It wasn’t that the flashbacks weren’t necessary; when I did get into them, the content was relevant and also well-paced, but it was written in third-person present-tense omniscient, which meant for me it had two pet peeves of mine: head-hopping (thus no deep point-of-view) and flashbacks (things that already occurred) told in present tense. It made me crackers. However, not everyone is as precious about the type of tense used in story writing, so this might not bother most readers. There are a ton of YA novels that others rave about that I won’t touch because it’s in present tense. I’m just sharing my opinion about this in case anyone wonders, “Why only 4 ½ stars? Are you only somewhat feminist, Hellie?” No, no, I’m wholeheartedly feminist; I’m anti-present tense is all. 


That said: I think if you like a good romp with your girlfriends, if you think of your girlfriends as “ride or die” friends, this is a book to celebrate those relationships. Also, I am wondering if we might see these women again. I feel like the ending is left open to the possibility of another book, and I want to remind everyone that RED 2 was even funnier than the first RED.