Thursday, January 29, 2015

"Light the Lamp" by Catherine Gayle

Life’s been rough lately for Noelle Payne, but she’s not one to let negativity rule. So, she lost her job? She’ll find another one. The bank foreclosed on the house? Well, she can live out of her car for a while. There’s always an upside to be found…but now Noelle needs to find something to give her life meaning. She owes it to the universe to figure it out, too, because a stranger just saved her life.

 When Liam Kallen’s wife died, his goal-scoring ability died with her. After a trade from the only pro hockey team he’s ever played for, he’s now playing for the NHL’s Portland Storm. Everyone said he needed a change of scenery, but nothing changes until he rescues Noelle. All of a sudden, the world once again looks bright and he’s lighting the lamp like he used to.

Noelle’s cheerful disposition is just the bit of sunlight Liam needs in his life. He wants to give her everything she needs because she’s everything he wants. The problem? She doesn’t believe she needs anything…at least nothing material. The one thing they both know she truly needs—a real purpose—also happens to be the one thing he doesn’t know how to give her. If he can’t help her find that, she might walk away and take all her sunshine with her.

My review:
In Light the Lamp, Liam and Noelle are both grieving major losses in their life in different ways. Liam lost his wife almost 2 years ago, and Noelle lost her parents about 6 years ago, and more recently, she lost her home. Liam and Noelle meet under the most unusual of circumstance, and Liam saves Noelle from suffering the same fate of his wife.

Throughout the development of the relationship between Liam and Noelle, we find two people whose biggest struggle is learning the love language of the other. Liam's love language is clearly giving gifts and Noelle struggles because she feels that she is taking advantage of Liam as a result. What Noelle needed him to give her wasn't gifts - but himself. Noelle's need to feel needed is deep rooted and her struggle with accepting help goes much deeper than her relationship with Liam. It creates a stubbornness in her that frustrates the reader as she doesn't accept fundamental help that she clearly needs. Thankfully her friends, and her brothers, finally got through to her.

I loved Liam's all encompassing feelings and emotions in his relationship with Noelle. Despite her continued accusations about his holding something back, the emotions he showed her, and us, were real.

I did feel that the action that brought Noelle back was a bit "contrite" - because Liam could stand up in front of a group and tell a story, she decides to take him back. Her demands for "his everything" was a bit much and frustrating to this reader as a result.

I continue to love Jamie (Babs) in this story. He often demonstrates a maturity much more than many of the older characters in the story. He is the comic relief, and the grounding influence on many players / characters in these stories. I would say he has an "old soul" and I look forward to continuing to get to know him in subsequent stories.

Amazon: Amazon Listing
Goodreads: Goodreads Listing

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

"Breakaway" by Catherine Gayle

She’s reaching for a breakaway pass.

Dana Campbell has spent the past seven years in self-imposed isolation for a crime she didn’t commit. The danger is well in the past, but her panic attacks make it impossible to have a normal, healthy relationship with a man. Even her counselor has given up on her. She has to find someone she trusts to help her fight through the panic, or her seven-year ordeal will become a lifetime sentence. There’s only one man she feels safe enough to ask.

He got caught with his head down.

As the captain of the NHL’s once elite but now fading Portland Storm, Eric Zellinger knows a thing or two about keeping his focus on the job. Questions are flying about his ability to lead the team back to the playoffs. If they don’t make it, he might be shipped out of town. It’s the worst time possible for his best friend’s kid sister to divide his focus. How can he give her what she needs without jeopardizing both the Storm’s playoff hopes and his future with the team?

It’s her only chance, but it’s his last shot.

My review:
I'm not even sure what I can say about "Breakaway" by Catherine Gayle. I've read thousands of romance books but I can't remember the last time a book touched me in the way this book did.

When I first started reading, I had trouble picturing Dana in my head - I can usually visualize a character pretty quickly. But, it didn't take long before I had an image of a strong, but broken girl, who wanted to find a way to start the rest of her life. My heart broke for Dana throughout the book and I found myself crying along with her many times. I think she was stronger than she gave herself credit for many times, and I was pleased to see her strength and self-confidence grow throughout the book.
Eric had a heart of gold. You wouldn't expect a professional athlete - especially a hockey player - to have such a sensitive and insightful side to him. An athlete in a sport where there are players whose primary focus is to fight their opponents on the ice, we see a man who is tough on the ice, and strong with an incredible gentleness in his relationship with Dana. He was the perfect man for her to turn to, even without knowing what he had been keeping from her for years.
The conflicts in this storyline were great and Eric and Dana were fighting against the forces that would keep them apart for most of the story. Dana's struggles overshadowed the fact that neither was communicating their real thoughts and feelings.

I don't know much about ice hockey, and there were a couple of times when specifics about the game were woven into the story. I was a bit confused at those times, but it didn't bog me down and take away from the over-arching storyline. I had to fight myself to turn to the end to make sure they got their happily ever after, so I was reading quickly because I wanted to really absorb the story, but at the same time, I wanted to get to their happy ending.
I also love it when an author introduces other characters and gives you just enough about them to make you want to read their story - I look forward to Soupy and Babs' stories!
This was my first read by Catherine Gayle, but it won't be my last.
Amazon: Amazon Listing
Goodreads: Goodreads Listing

Monday, January 26, 2015

"Eyes of Jade" by Tess St. John

America’s Sweetheart, Eve Knight, has decided to retire from acting at the age of twenty-nine. After more than twenty years in the public eye, a heart-breaking divorce, and rehab, she plans to start a new life.

When FBI Agent Jake Dane arrives to question Eve about a suspicious fire, they instantly become targets of an assassin. Someone is trying to kill Eve. Jake swore off love after his engagement ended in tragedy, but as he and Eve fight to stay alive, she charms him and awakens his soul.

Realizing she’s falling for Jake, Eve worries she’s fabricated a connection because of their intense situation. The FBI convinces her to bait a trap, but will putting on the performance of her life be enough to save her?

Eyes of Jade is Book 2 in the Undercover Intrigue Series ~ FBI agents risking their lives for the job and everything for love

My Review:
I love Jake and Eve's story. I really thought it was interesting how the villain chooses the storylines of Eve's stories as methods to try and kill her. Eve and Jake were thrown into an intense situation and it was clear how his feelings were developing for her as they spent their time together. As each of them fought their feelings, they were fighting someone intent on killing Eve.

Jake's struggle with his demons of the past threw me for a loop - not that he was struggling, because that was clear from the beginning, but what it was ultimately revealed to be. What a wonderfully healthy and inspiring outcome from a truly awful situation!
Amazon: Amazon Listing
Goodreads: Goodreads Listing

Friday, January 23, 2015

"A Home of Her Own" by Brenda Novak

When Lucky Caldwell was ten, her mother, Red - the best-known hooker in Dundee, Idaho - married Morris Caldwell, a wealthy and much older man. It didn't last, of course, but Morris's kindness was the highlight of Lucky's life.
Mike Hill, Morris's grandson, doesn't feel too well-disposed toward Red or her kids. He believes they alienated Morris from his family. Even Morris's Victorian mansion, on the property next to the Hill ranch, wasn't inherited by one of his grandchildren. Instead the house went to Lucky, who left it sitting empty for years.

Now that Red and Morris are both dead, Lucky has finally come back to Dundee. She plans to restore the derelict place - and to look for her real father, who has to be one of three men named in her mother's diary.

That means Mike has a new neighbor.

One he doesn't want to like…

My review:
 In "A Home of Her Own", we see a girl who can't live down her mother's past. And her mother's sins have become her sins: in her own mind, and in the mind of the residents of Dundee. No one is welcoming to her, except Mike Hill. I was thrilled to see how he was quickly to see through her tough façade to realize that below her tough exterior was a fragile girl who was desperate for acceptance. She wasn't accepted by her own family, including her own mother and mostly her brothers, and she wasn't accepted by her hometown. I was at first put off by the age difference between Mike and Lucky but quickly saw that Mike's maturity is exactly what Lucky needed. I kept hoping that Mike would come to his senses and stand up for Lucky publicly sooner than he did. Family pressures kept pushing on Mike from one direction, and his growing feelings for Lucky pushing on him from another direction - its no wonder he about exploded. 
I was quite surprised at the hostility that Mike's mother continued to hold towards Lucky and that she couldn't see that she was foisting the sins of mother down on the daughter. And I was eventually disappointed in Mike in his continued acceptance of that behavior - he created a situation that allowed everyone to continue their shunning of Lucky.

In the end, I thought Brenda did a wonderful job of their happily ever after - I loved their communication at the end, and the Realtor was a hoot!!

All in all, another great story from Dundee, Idaho and I like how Brenda has begun to introduce other characters that we'll hear about their stories in future books!
Amazon: Amazon Listing

Goodreads Goodreads Listing

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

"A Family of Her Own" by Brenda Novak

When Katie Rogers returns to Dundee, Idaho, it's not because she wants to. It's because she's disillusioned, broke -- and pregnant. She was going to make something of her life in the big city. Instead, she's paying a high price for trusting the wrong man.

Booker Robinson is the man she didn't trust, the man she'd left behind in Dundee...and the first person she sees when she comes back. But despite Booker's notorious past, he now has a successful business and a home of his own.

He's also spent two years getting over Katie. She's the last person he wants to see. But when her parents refuse to take her in, she doesn't have anywhere else to go, and Booker soon finds himself with a roommate -- one who needs a father for her baby.... Katie's vowed she'll never trust the wrong man again. But sometimes a man isn't everything he seems. And sometimes he's more....

My Review:
Who doesn't love the bad boy? A Family of her Own is a great story that shows that first impressions typically aren't the right ones - both good AND bad. I love Brenda Novak's story of Katie's return to Dundee and the reestablishment of her relationship with Booker. Brenda did a fantastic job of showing how the people we love the most can hurt us the most, how parents who don't know how to have a relationship with their adult children can ultimately alienate those children instead of forming an adult relationship with them, and how those with the toughest exterior often have a heart of gold. I loved seeing Booker's maturity and true love of helping others in his relationship with Delbert, and ultimately with Katie.

My heart broke for Rebecca, swelled with love for Josh in his support of her, and cheered for Mike with his ultimate gift for Katie.

And lest we not forget, I wanted to smack Katie's father upside the head! :)

Another great story from Dundee, Idaho!

Amazon: Amazon Listing
Goodreads: Goodreads Listing

Monday, January 19, 2015

"A Baby of Her Own" by Brenda Novak

What Delaney wants... a baby.

A baby of her own. At thirty, she longs to break away from the constraints of her life. Longs to reach out for her heart's desire. She'd prefer marriage as well, but there's no man in Dundee, Idaho, she's interested in marrying.

Then one winter night she and her best friend, Rebecca, go to Boise with the intent of finding a man for Delaney. She meets a handsome stranger named Conner, a man who might be able to provide her with the solution she needs...and the baby she wants!

Afterward she thinks she must have been out of her mind. But it's too late. Because she's pregnant. And because the stranger isn't a stranger anymore. Conner Armstrong is now living on a ranch just outside Dundee.

This is not my first time reading the Dundee, Idaho series from Brenda Novak.  I was looking for some easy reads that I knew had a HEA from an author I knew I liked.  Brenda Novak never disappoints in that regard.

My review:
A Baby of Her Own is a story of two people (Connor and Delaney) who are both feeling that they have no where to belong, and are fighting with everything they can to find that place, that family. Delaney has decided that a baby will give her someone guaranteed to love her; Connor believes he can prove himself to his uncles and grandfather with turning the ranch around.

The author gives us a glimpse, with Delaney, into what it was like to feel like she didn't belong anywhere, and as a result, she felt obligated to support everyone in her town because they took her in. In Connor, we see how deeply he has been affected by his, and his mother's roles, in their family, and the abuse under which he has suffered since he was a child.

The author makes it easy for us to want to root for both of them, and then turns Connor into someone we don't know when he realizes what Delaney has done. As his relationship with Delaney progresses, we see his feelings transition from anger to fear, and that fear continues long past the time Delaney's feelings have turned to love. It takes the fear of losing Delaney for Connor to get his head out of his, ahem, well, you know, and decide it was important for him to express his feelings, regardless of his fear of rejection and loss.

We also got a glimpse into the lives of several of the other residents of Dundee, such as Rebecca and Katie, and look I forward to digging deeper into their lives in subsequent books!
Amazon: Amazon Listing
Goodreads:Goodreads Listing

Sunday, January 18, 2015

"Return to Cradle Lake" by Cynthia Thomason

When the life you know is over, can you go home to start again? This heartwarming and emotional story tells the journey of Grace Peyton who faces her biggest challenge when she returns to Kinsey Falls, Ohio, after twenty-four years. Her estranged husband, running for political office in the Peytons’ Ohio home district, has been in an automobile accident and is in a coma. Remaining by the bedside of the man who betrayed her, Grace confronts an uncertain future and a painful past. But it is when she comes face to face with Cal Westover, the man who broke her heart years ago and whom she has avoided for over two decades.that Grace realizes that her old love, her first love, never died and old sins must be forgiven – even her own. Can she follow her heart or will the secret she never told Cal destroy her chance for happiness?

My review:

You can't go home again. That's what we've always been told. But Grace finds in "Return to Cradle Lake" that you CAN go home again. And perhaps home has been waiting all along for you. Return to Cradle Lake is a well-written, emotional book about a long marriage that just "fizzled out", and a life-long love that hasn't. Cynthia Thompson has written a fantastic story of youth becoming maturing, forgiveness, self-discovery, and ultimately love in a small town. I loved the small town nuances she wrote into the story, with Friday night football games, the burger joint where the teenagers hang out, to the small town festival with concessions and crafters galore. All of this was underscored by Grace's guilt that she was rediscovering life while her husband was fighting for his life in a coma.
The author wrote Alan's father as the man you love to hate; his mother as the typical snobby entitled socialite, who looked down on anything and everything Grace did; and Cal as the hometown hero who has continued to be the life line of many people in Kinsey Falls. And lets not forget Dottie, who was the voice of Grace's conscience and the voice of Grace's free spirit as she travelled the journey of discovering the next phase of her life. I greatly enjoyed my visit to Kinsey Falls and living a short time with the people around Cradle Lake
Amazon: Amazon Listing
Goodreads: Goodreads Listing

Saturday, January 17, 2015

"Holly Lane" by Toni Blake

The weather outside is frightful, but kisses by the fire are so delightful

Sue Ann Simpkins is working hard to rebuild her life and find some holiday spirit. A weekend away from Destiny in a cabin on nearby Bear Lake seems like the perfect Christmas gift to herself—until her ex's best friend, Adam Becker, shows up at the door, claiming the cabin is his! And if that's not trouble enough, how had she never noticed how gorgeous he was?

Alone for the holidays and forced to play a reindeer at the local department store, Adam's been feeling rather Scrooge-ish himself. But finding the smart, sexy woman he's admired since elementary school waiting in the house he rented is helping to brighten his humbug mood. And when a sudden snowstorm strands them together in very close quarters, leading to one very hot night together, Adam soon realizes that what he really wants for Christmas is a second chance at love. Now all he has to do is convince Sue Ann…

My review:
Holly Lane is a wonderful, whimsical addition to the Destiny, Ohio series that I have come to love from Toni Blake. The book starts with the distraught flight of Sue Ann to her friend Jenny's house when she's found out her husband is leaving her. And Jenny continues to be her rock and her life-line throughout the next six months as she begins to navigate life as a single-mother. While I felt that her relationship with Adam started a bit "quickly", having Sue Ann and Adam turn to each other as single parents, alone together, was a great way to help Sue Ann move on with her life. I enjoyed how Toni Blake kept us up to date on the other residents of Destiny, from the girls in the book store, to Jenny and Mick and the transformation of their relationship. I'm always happy when I'm able to keep up with the other folks we've come to love in a series of books. I was thrilled with the way that Adam worked to redeem himself with Sue Ann, and wanted to smack her when she told him that she couldn't be with him. But not nearly as much as I wanted to smack Jeff for, well, being Jeff. Even his new girl had the perspective to respect Sue Ann and Sophie's need to have parts of their lives that aren't invaded by Jeff and his new chippie. In the end, Sue Ann and Adam get their happily ever after, and a little bit of Christmas magic to boot! Another great book in the Destiny, Ohio series.

Amazon: Amazon Listing
Goodreads: Goodreads Listing

Friday, January 16, 2015

"More than Memories" by Kristen James

Can she love him if she can't remember him? Molly Anderson returns "home" to a town she doesn't remember, hoping it will spark a memory. She runs into Trent Williams, a Ridge City police detective, and something else definitely sparks.

He wants to know why she left town, with her parents, but without a word to anyone. She doesn't remember that life. She can only tell him she knew her parents briefly before they died . . . or were murdered, she's not sure. She hopes regaining her memory will help answer that question.

Trent has his own secrets, but they have a mystery to solve. As they work together and Molly meets their old friends, she realizes their relationship went deeper than memories. In fact, she grew up in Ridge City, even though her parents had said they lived there just a few years. How could she have forgotten her lifelong friend and love? Can she love him again if she doesn't remember him? There's also the possibility that she did something awful -- and maybe that's why she's afraid to remember her old life.

Molly knows she wants him now, but the truth might destroy their love.

My review:
I was intrigued by the premise of this book - a woman with no past trying to find her past. And she walks right into her past, and back into Trent's life, in Ridge City.

I thought the book started out a bit clumsy. I felt as though the author struggled at the beginning to create the backstory and the depth to the characters. The "mind speak" was a bit stilted at the beginning and made it hard to stick with the book.

But, as you stick with it, the story begins to flow better and the mystery of what had happened to Molly in the past begins to emerge. There are so many characters that have so many pieces of the puzzle and Trent and Molly keep trying to put the pieces together while rediscovering their relationship.

There were a couple of times I felt the story go in an unusual direction and a couple of aspects of the storyline felt contrite and added simply to make the story feel more suspenseful or dramatic than it was (Bev, and the neighbor Justin). Neither of those aspects of the story were really necessary in order to convey the romance developing between Molly and Trent or the suspense of why she had lost her memory in the first place.
Amazon: Amazon Listing
Goodreads: Goodreads Listing

Thursday, January 15, 2015

"Love Will Find a Way" by Barbara Freethy

From #1 New York Times Bestselling Author Barbara Freethy comes an emotional and romantic story of love and family.

Rachel fell in love at nineteen with a man who came into her life on a whirlwind of sunlight and romance. She married Gary Tanner, had his son, and thought she would live happily ever after. But fate had other plans. Gary died in a tragic accident … at least she thought it was an accident. Now, there are questions that need to be answered, and only one man she can turn to, Gary's best friend, Dylan.

Rachel was everything Dylan Prescott wanted in a woman. But Gary met her first, so she became untouchable. For years he stayed away from her. Now Rachel is a widow, her marriage is over, and she turns to him for help. The passion he feels for her is no longer out of his reach. The life he always wanted is beckoning to him, but when the secrets come out, will their love find a way to survive? 

My review: 
Love Will Find a Way is a very applicable title for the story of forbidden love, that is maybe not so forbidden.

There are so many parallels that are developed in this story - Gary and Dylan's secrets, Carly's secret, Rachel's hold on anyone and everyone she loves because everyone she loves leaves her. There is so much depth to the relationships and emotions of the characters in this story.

And all through it is the magic of the Lady Elaine's apples. I loved the twist about Rachel's love and her understanding of the reality of her love for Gary and her feelings for Dylan.

As always, Barbara provides a great read with a Happy Ever After that takes you through a complicated journey to get there. You don't know until the very end how the road is finally going to turn but I guarantee you'll be happy where it ends when you get there!
Amazon:Amazon Listing
Goodreads:  Goodreads Listing

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

"Just the Way You Are" by Barbara Freethy

A baby brought them together -- and even though Alli has always loved her strong, sexy husband Sam and the life they've made together, she's now decided to set him free to follow his youthful dreams. For although she worships Sam, it's no longer enough for her to be wife and lover when she knows she holds so little of his heart.

Sam has always dreamed of a life away from the close-knit world of Tucker's Landing, but marriage and fatherhood ended all that. Now Sam is torn between what was and what was meant to be. He must decide if it's time to rekindle the dreams of the past...or accept Alli, and her love, just the way she is.

My review: 
I finished "Just the Way You Are" with tears in my eyes. Tears of sadness. Tears of happiness. "Just the Way You Are" is a great love story - actually 4 love stories all wrapped up in each other. You walk into Allie and Sam's relationship on the verge of divorce, with Allie believing Sam still loved her sister, Tessa. I loved the parallels between Allie's belief of Sam and Tessa's relationship, and William's belief in Phoebe and John's relationship. As we see Phoebe reflecting on her 49 year marriage to John, after a brief relationship with William, we see Allie and Sam thinking on their 9 year marriage, after Sam's "epic" love with Tessa when they were children. I loved reading the stories as they progressed and each came to an understanding of what real love is - perhaps the relationship didn't start as an epic love, but epic love is always possible, and often the result. William's recognition of Phoebe's epic love helped give her peace at the end, and Sam's understanding of how his love grew for Allie over their marriage helped give him peace and understanding and recognition of the love he has for his wife. The intertwined love stories of "Just the Way You Are" make it a deep, emotional read with a "Happily Ever After"
Amazon: Amazon Listing
Goodreads:  Goodreads Listing

Monday, January 12, 2015

"Half Moon Hill" by Toni Blake

Trying to escape her troubled past, Anna Romo has come home to Destiny determined to carve out a place for herself. When she buys the old Victorian house on the hill with the intent of furnishing it into a Bed and Breakfast, she’s thrilled by the possibilities.

Ex-biker-gang member Duke Dawson is as much a fish out of water in Destiny as Anna, but he’s handling it fine until an accident scars not only his body but his mind. When Anna stumbles across him in an old cabin in the woods near her newly acquired house, at first she’s terrified. But they work out a deal - she’s willing to keep his solitary living arrangement a secret if he’s willing to help her with some of the heavy lifting at the house.

Working together on the rennovations, romance brews between Duke and Anna. That is, until war hero Jeremy Sheridan returns home in a blaze of glory and sets his sights on Anna. Suddenly torn between the outgoing and charming Jeremy and the intriguing Duke, Anna’s heart is torn between two paths and left with only one solution.

My review:
What a fantastic wrap up to the Destiny series. The story of Anna and Duke was a fantastic story of two lost souls looking for solitude, only to find it together. I loved how the story of the girl who used to live in the house was woven into, and used to draw parallels with Anna's and Duke's story. And the introduction of the quotes from "Phantom of the Opera" were all perfectly selected based on what was going on in Anna and Duke's story.

It was also great to catch up with Mike and Rachel and Tessa and Lucky and even Jenny and Mick and put a bow on their happily ever afters.

Anna and Duke learned together how to let another person into your life and how to deal with the struggles that life deals you. It was nice to see Anna begin to become part of the Destiny community and Duke, somewhat, through Anna. Duke may have said his feelings were casual but his actions showed so much more.

Toni Blake does a fantastic job of bringing depth of feeling to her characters and Half Moon Hill was no exception! I was pleased to see that Anna chose to rejoin her Destiny family and the community of Destiny. I want to move there!!

Amazon: Amazon Listing
Goodreads:  Goodreads Listing

Sunday, January 11, 2015

"Willow Springs" by Toni Blake

Amy Bright might be the best matchmaker in Destiny, Ohio, but she's desperately shy when it comes to her own love life—and helpless when it comes to Logan Whitaker, the best friend whom she's head-over-heels in love with. So Amy decides to become Logan's secret admirer, sending him sensual love letters steamy enough to unseal their own envelopes. One letter leads to another, one thing leads to another, and then comes an unplanned kiss…

Overcoming a tragedy from his life as a firefighter, Logan needs a friend. Thank goodness for Amy. But when a woman from Logan's past resurfaces right as some anonymous letters send Logan's pulse hammering, suddenly he doesn't know what he needs—a reliable friend, or a passionate lover? One smoking-hot kiss could change everything…but will it ruin a one-of-a-kind friendship, or show Logan and Amy that they've already found everything they need, right here in Destiny?

My review:
While Toni Blake continued to create characters with a lot of depth that are easy to relate to, I didn't enjoy this read as much as her previous Destiny books. Its difficult to discuss the aspects of the story I disliked without providing spoilers.

Friends becoming Lovers is always a fun storyline but I disliked that Amy wasn't strong / mature enough to do more than "write notes from a secret admirer". This seems very childish and immature for a 30+ year adult. And I hated that it took her most of the book to realize she was a "doormat" because she was. No one should continue to put herself out there for someone who can't decide what they want from day to day. And Logan was right when he accused her of meddling in others lives. His insight that she thought her ideas were the right ideas for other people was something she needed to be told. So, I basically didn't like Amy as a character in this relationship at all.

And ultimately, I disliked the newcomer to Destiny. Her ongoing disdain for everyone in town, and her complete lack of empathy, understanding, or even awareness of others' feelings about the situation just made her shallow and narcissistic. She came to town as a confident woman, despite her past, yet her attitude was snobby towards everyone who wanted to forge a relationship with her. I almost wish she had gone home to Indy.

All in all, a good read but not a great read. I had a harder time relating to the characters in this story because I felt that neither of the principal characters acted as though they were adults, which made the storyline feel very juvenile. I continued to enjoy catching up with Mike and Rachel and wish there had been a bit more of Lucky in this story. Mike has emerged in this series as the "patriarch" of the majority of the Destiny books and while a strong character, he can be a bit overbearing and that can dominate the story at times.
Amazon: Amazon Listing
Goodreads: Goodreads Listing

Saturday, January 10, 2015

"Whisper Falls" by Toni Blake

Welcome to Destiny, Ohio—where coming home means finding your true heart and maybe even your true love.

Tessa Sheridan came crawling back home to Destiny after her big city interior design career crumbled. Now not only must she struggle to make ends meet, she has to contend with a biker next door and the roar of Harleys shattering the serenity of her cabin in the woods. Worse still, her sexy bad boy neighbor makes her feel breathless and weak—and shy, petite Tessa knows what a major mistake it would be to get involved with someone so…dangerous.

They say that former teen rebel Lucky Romo has a dark, secret past—that he’s trouble with a capital “T.” Still, Tessa feels all tingly when she sees how well he fills out a pair of tight jeans. And when Lucky invites her into his world, she knows the intense heat sparking between them could lead her somewhere wild and wonderful…and, yes, dangerous!

My review:
Toni hit another home run in Whisper Falls. Both Tessa and Lucky have struggles in their lives, for very different reasons, but their vulnerability draws them together. Lucky may project a "tough guy" exterior, but I think he's anything but. He seems incredibly insightful about his own thoughts and feelings. Despite his struggles, its clear his foundations are strong as he continues to do the right thing for his family and for Tessa. His ability to reach out and care for Tessa is such a contradiction to his tough exterior.

Tessa is a bit different. While her struggles are real, I thought she was still doing more running than facing her struggles. I felt that for her to use her disease, however challenging, as a reason NOT to even adopt a cat is a bit weak. I know that was included to show how Tessa grew in her challenge but anyone who knows cats know that honestly, they need very little care. They can be left for a weekend alone with food and water, so for her disease to be an excuse to not be able to take care of a cat was a bit contrived.

And lastly, while I believe Tessa's struggle with Lucky's decision was initially correct, she didn't give Lucky a chance to really see if that's who he was, or whether he really was this new person. Even after Tessa heard the result of the situation, her stubborn insistence that she and Lucky don't belong together was a bit cowardly on her part.

All of that said - I loved this story. I think it was because Lucky is an extremely introspective and deep feeling character and that is such a dichotomy with the image that he projects and who doesn't want a man who is tough on the outside and loving on the inside in their life.

And, as an aside, I wanted to SMACK Mike for about half of this book! But, I was happy that the author continued to include Mike's struggles in Lucky's story, to keep the family's story continuing.
Amazon:  Amazon Listing
Goodreads: Goodreads Listing

"Sugar Creek" by Toni Blake

Rachel Farris returned to her childhood home with one mission in mind: get Mike Romo out of her family’s apple orchard business and out of their lives. But hard-nosed and totally hot Mike, who happens to be the law in Destiny, is convinced the Farris clan stole the land from his family fifty years ago and he’s not backing down. Even when shapely trouble shows up in a pair of designer blue jeans. However, neither the hunky cop nor the sexy prodigal hometown girl can anticipate the electricity that heats things up whenever they’re together—adding new sizzle to an ongoing feud that’s raged for generations, and soon putting both their hearts at risk.

Amazon: Amazon Listing
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Thursday, January 8, 2015

"One Reckless Summer" by Toni Blake

The perfect daughter. The perfect prom queen. The perfect wife. Jenny Tolliver's been the good girl all her life, and it's gotten her nowhere. Now that her marriage has been busted up by her cheating ex, she's decided it's time to regroup and rediscover herself. This summer she's headed back to her hometown of Destiny, Ohio, to the very lakeshore cottage where she grew up, to figure out what life holds in store for her next.

She never dreamed the answer would be Mick Brody, Destiny's #1 hellraiser. He comes from the wrong side of the tracks (or in his case, the lake), and he's landed in hot water more times than he can count. He's exactly the kind of guy Jenny's always kept her distance from . . . but soon the good girl and the bad boy are caught in a raw heat that's out of control. Too bad Mick's got a secret that threatens to tear them apart and ruin Jenny's perfectly, passionately reckless summer . . .

My review:
This was the first book I read by Toni Blake, but it won't be the last. I was really able to connect with the characters quickly and felt really invested in them. I found myself CRYING about 3/4 of the way through the book, and it lasted several chapters!! I didn't expect the tears but it just goes to show that Toni Blake can make you identify even with "less than savory" characters.

I really liked the progression of Jenny's character throughout this story. She found her strength and while it was an adjustment for some of the people in her life, I was happy to see that she identified what she needed to change and did so. She showed a lot of growth. And Mick's character had such depth as he struggled with his current situation. His is clearly a story of "pulling himself up by his bootstraps" and I was happy to see that Mick and Jenny got their happily ever after.

I found the dialogue easy to follow and while there were definitely times of "internal thoughts being heard" it was just the right amount to help us know what is going on with the characters without feeling like that's all we were seeing. This was a great read and I look forward to reading about the other folks in Destiny, Ohio in subsequent books!
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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

"Winter in Sweetwater County" by Ciara Knight

Lisa Mortan’s ideal life crumbles when her rich and powerful fiancé demands she ends an unwanted pregnancy. With no job or social support, she flees to a small town in hopes of finding a good family for her unborn baby, but instead finds a man who is as broken as she is.

Eric Gaylord returns to his home town for a respite after a tragic loss, but when his spitfire mother takes on an unknown woman as a business partner, he is forced to face the nightmare he’d left behind or risk losing the one woman who could heal his heart

My review:
** spoiler alert ** Lisa is running away from an abusive situation - right into the arms of a man who refuses to love again. Both Lisa and Sam are fighting past demons and Sam's mom is right in the middle of it - that daggone matchmaker!:) I thought that Sam was a little quick to go from "I don't want anything to do with her" to "I want to kiss her right here and now". I did like, however, how their relationship developed over Skype, although the premise for why he was in Paris was a bit "clunky".

When Mark returned and Lisa ended up in the hospital, I thought it was a bit farfetched that Sam was so "insistent" that this clearly abusive man was just "in shock" about his babies and he would turn around because "no man can turn his back on his child". I thought he took that a bit far. I was happy to see that while Lisa was in the hospital that he supported her, but still.

The one thing I didn't like is that Lisa and Sam kept talking over each other - they weren't LISTENING to each other. Each time one person wanted to tell the other something, the other would interrupt, assume, presume, etc. I didn't like that about their personalities. In the end, I thought it went from Sam wanting nothing to do with a baby to Sam declaring his undying love, after being gone for 2 weeks to find himself, or to get legal papers, or something (that wasn't exactly clear) to be a bit farfetched and unrealistic.

I do wish there was an epilogue to give a "glimpse" into how it wraps up. I know there is a follow-on book with mom's story where there will be more info about Sam and Lisa but there is a way to wrap up this story with an Epilogue that won't ruin the next book at all. There was too much left incomplete about the baby, etc. All in all, a feel-good read with a happy ending
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"Waltz Back to Texas" by M. J. Fredrick

Welcome to Evansville, a sleepy Texas town on the verge of a boom.

After growing up in a dying town, with only two restaurants, no movie theater, and no future, waitress Cassidy Simon wants out. For once, luck is on her side when the oil boom comes to South Texas. She’s determined to use it for her advantage, starting up an RV park for the oilfield workers to add to her escape fund. She’s never been out of Texas, and she’s itching for adventure.

Grady McKenna couldn’t get away from his family’s ranch fast enough when he was a teenager, but a tour in the Air Force in the Middle East is enough to convince him there’s no place like home. He’s seen the world, had his adventure. Now he’s ready to contribute to his family’s legacy in Evansville.

Naturally, the woman who draws his attention is the one intent on slipping through his fingers. How can he convince her life with him will be all the adventure she needs?

My Review:

* Spoiler Alert* Cassidy and Grady have a great story together in "Waltz Back to Texas". Grady returns from overseas in the military and seems to be immediately taken with Cassidy in the small town where they both grew up. Cassidy is stuck in small town Texas because of her mother and her drunken ways, and all she wants is to LEAVE while Grady is here to stay!

I loved how confident Grady was in going after what he wanted - no wishy/washy, "can you pass her a note", does she love me kind of storyline. He decided he wanted to get to know her, and he started going to eat lunch at her restaurant every day so that he could interact with her. I LOVED how he tried to ask her out in front of his sister, who was a complete SNOB who said she wasn't good enough for him. But he didn't care, he asked her out anyway - there's a man with confidence.

He continues to show confidence regardless of what anyone else said, including Cassidy as she struggled with whether to get involved with Grady due to what is going on in her life. I loved Grady's character.

I was as heartbroken as Grady was when Cassidy broke it off with him, and I was happy that Cassidy's mother finally convinced Cassidy that she needed to go after what she wanted in life, which was Grady. Cassidy realized that seeing that world didn't matter if she couldn't see it with the person she loved. I really liked that once she figured that out, she went and found Grady and they were able to finally be together.

I thought the story was well written and the dialogue was very natural. The characters were well developed and it made you want to "love em"/"Hate em" (as appropriate, of course). The storyline was realistic and applicable and it was easy to quickly get into the story and want to find out what happens with the characters. I look forward to reading about Sage and Hollywood in an upcoming book.
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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

"Fair Game" by R. C. Matthews

Leah Anderson has one dating rule…absolutely no men in the medical field! She learned a long time ago from her biological father that men in the medical field care about one thing—themselves. Leah reluctantly agrees to spend one evening dirty dancing with her best friend’s brother, Jared, despite the fact that he is a medical student and real jerk to boot. Anything to help out her best friend!

Jared Billette has secretly crushed on Leah for years and acts like a real jerk to her to keep his attraction in check. Some things in life are simply taboo, and dating your sibling’s best friend is one of them. That is until his sister Jordan breaks all the rules by dating Jared’s best friend JT. Now pursuing Leah is suddenly fair game. If only he can help Leah see that her own stupid rules are meant to be broken.

My Review:

** spoiler alert ** Fair Game is a light read showing how someone is able to overcome years of "conditioning" about relationships to find the perfect one for her. I loved how Jared made his intentions perfectly clear to Leah and went after her compassionately but with purpose. I liked how this book started with Jared in love with Leah and on a mission to convince her. I definitely found it interesting how the author introduced "The Five Love Languages" through Grannie and that Jared used it as a way to bridge the gap between Leah and her father. While Leah's father thought he was showing her love, their lack of communication led to a relationship breakdown due to their differences in "languages". And Jared was quick to identify what Leah's "language" was and to let her know that he got her! I did think that Leah's transformation from "hating" him to being in love was a bit quick but other than that, a delightful read with a happy ending.
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Sunday, January 4, 2015

"Flirting with Felicity" by Gerri Russell

Felicity Wright never expected to inherit the hotel where she works as head chef. But now, she’ll do anything to keep the Bancroft Hotel operating—even if that means mixing it up with the late owner’s handsome nephew, Blake Bancroft. He’s here to challenge her unexpected inheritance of the Bancroft Hotel, and there’s no way either of them are walking away without a fight.

When his uncle wills away his family’s oldest property, Blake Bancroft cooks up a plan to get it back. To check out his competition, he’ll need to check in. Too bad his first encounter with Felicity proves to be anything but smooth. As their battle over ownership begins, things begin to heat up between them—and not just in the kitchen. Their attraction may be a recipe for disaster. Yet with the right ingredients, it could turn into a recipe for love…

In her debut contemporary romance, award-winning historical romance author Gerri Russell whips up a sweet, passionate, and unforgettably delectable story.

My Review: 
Gerri Russell's first Contemporary Romance is a hit. Felicity inherited a hotel and restaurant from a kind old hotel resident she had befriended. Little did she know that he was a billionaire, and the owner of the hotel. The wrench in the plan - the nephew, Blake. Throughout the story, Blake and Felicity each work to convince the other of their intentions with regard to the hotel, and in the course they fall in love. I was able to identify and relate to both of the characters quickly in the book - it captured me from the first page. Even Blake, while a billionaire, was relatable to me and didn't hesitate to get his hands dirty and help out with Felicity in the kitchen. I felt I could see Blake's transformation throughout the story and KNEW in the end he would do the right thing. And as it turned out, they both won!! An engaging read from Gerri Russell and a great book for me to read over the Christmas holiday!!
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Saturday, January 3, 2015

"More to Give" by Terri Osburn

Callie Henderson had to fight to put her tragic past behind her, but now the up-and-coming player in the hospitality industry is well on her way to happiness. She has her sights set on the lead renovation position at the Sunset Harbor Inn - an inn that just happens to be owned by Sam Edwards, the man who comforted her in her grief and gave her one night of passion before walking away.

Sam is searching for someone who can turn his quaint inn into a premier boutique hotel. He just never expected that someone to be the one woman who knows his deepest secrets. But he needs Callie, and Callie needs the job. Throw in a talking parrot with a cracker addiction, some uncooperative islanders, and enough sexual sparks to light a beach side bonfire, and they've got their work cut out for them.

"More to Give" is a story of heartbreak and healing, of facing the past and having the courage to believe in a future

My Review: 
What an interesting twist to a love story between two people who had been wronged in the past - they were each wronged by their spouse - AND the other's spouse. Six years ago, Callie and Sam's lives were both shattered when their respective spouses died in a car accident... together ... on the way to a romantic rendezvous. Sam and Callie haven't seen each other since they fell into bed together a week later and now its been six years. Sam is on Anchor Island to renovate two hotels inherited from his uncle (with the little known stipulation that he has to live there for two years). His resentment of that stipulation is clear in his dealings with the community. But, his hard shell starts to crack when Callie walks into his office to head the renovation. Throughout the renovation, you see that not only is the hotel being renovated, but so is Sam's heart. He begins to open his heart to Callie after they realize they cannot deny their attraction any longer. In a typical storyline where each agrees to a short fling, its clear early on their both of them start having deeper feelings for the other and take steps to extend their time together - unbeknownst. A simple miscommunication has the two breaking up with Sam leaving the island and Callie staying to make her home. Thankfully in the end, Sam realizes where he belongs - with Callie - and he finally tells her that he wants to be where she is.

This was a great romantic read. I loved catching up with previous characters (gotta love Sid) and the goings on on the island. And lets not forget Cecil. That bird was hilarious. The "Feather brain" comment Sam makes just before their show, and Cecil's whispering of the comment after refusing to perform had me laughing out loud. That bird was a GREAT comedic add to the story - "Don't forget the condom".

A great conclusion to the Anchor Island series of books. Each was great!!
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