Category Archives: Rated C+

Review: Toughest Cowboy in Texas by Carolyn Brown

Title: Toughest Cowboy in Texas by Carolyn Brown
Happy, Texas Book One
Publisher: Forever
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: C+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

The Spark of an Old Flame

Last time Lila Harris was in Happy, Texas, she was actively earning her reputation as the resident wild child. Now, a little older and wiser, she’s back to run her mother’s café for the summer. Except something about this town has her itching to get a little reckless and rowdy, especially when she sees her old partner-in-crime, Brody Dawson. Their chemistry is just as hot as ever. But he’s still the town’s golden boy-and she’s still the wrong kind of girl.

Brody hasn’t had much time lately for anything other than ranching. Running the biggest spread in the county and taking care of his family more than keeps him busy. All that responsibility has him longing for the carefree days of high school-and Lila. She may have grown up, but he still sees that spark of mischief in her eyes. Now he’s dreaming about late-night skinny dipping and wondering how he can possibly resist the one woman he can never forget…

Review:

The first book in Carolyn Brown’s Happy, Texas series, Toughest Cowboy in Texas is an entertaining second chance at love romance.

Twelve years ago, Lila Harris left Happy, Texas with a broken heart courtesy of her secret boyfriend Brody Dawson.  Now a well-respected school teacher, Lila returns to Happy to sell her mama’s cafe but she cannot escape the town’s long memory.  Considered the town’s “wild child” because of her fun-loving, spirited antics, the townspeople still refer to her by her former nickname and she is the object of an awful lot of mean-spirited gossip. And woo whee!  Two of the Lila’s biggest detractors are Brody’s mama and Grandma and they are hoping he stays far away from her while she is in town.

Brody’s life changed direction dramatically due to circumstances beyond his control and he now has his hands full running the family ranch with his brother Jace.  He harbors quite a few regrets for the way he treated Lila while they were dating and as an adult, he is quick to apologize for his mistakes. Brody is also ready and willing to fight for her once he realizes he is still attracted to her.

The sparks fly between Brody and Lila once they are reunited but there is plenty of internal and external conflict to prevent them from acting on their attraction. With the townspeople convinced she is nothing but trouble, Lila cannot wait to leave Happy again. She is also rather reluctant to trust that Brody will not break her heart again. Brody knows that Lila is the woman for him, but his mama and grandma are dead set against them becoming a couple. Will Brody fight for Lila no matter what his family thinks? And will Lila be able to work through her reservations about living permanently in a town where she is nothing but fodder for  gossip?

Although Brody and Lila are likable characters, their relationship has a bit of an insta-love feel to it. The townspeople are rather judgmental and quick to think the worst of Lila despite the fact that they really do not know her.  It is also rather frustrating that both Lila and Brody’s families are dead set against them seeing another. The reasons are ridiculously overblown and have absolutely nothing to do with either Brody and Lila.

Toughest Cowboy in Texas  is a sweet yet steamy small town romance with a cast of eclectic but likable characters. While there are a few frustrations with some elements of the storyline, this first installment in the Happy, Texas series is an enjoyable read that I recommend to old and new fans of Carolyn Brown.

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Filed under Carolyn Brown, Contemporary, Forever, Happy Texas Series, Rated C+, Review, Romance, Toughest Cowboy in Texas

Review: In This Moment by Karma Brown

Title: In This Moment by Karma Brown
Publisher: Park Row Books
Genre: Contemporary, Women”s Fiction
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: C+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Bestselling author Karma Brown is back with a morally infused and emotionally riveting exploration of one woman’s guilt over an unexpected—yet avoidable—tragedy

Meg Pepper has a fulfilling career and a happy family. Most days she’s able to keep it all together and glide through life. But then, in one unalterable moment, everything changes.

After school pickup one day, she stops her car to wave a teenage boy across the street…just as another car comes hurtling down the road and slams into him.

Meg can’t help but blame herself for her role in this horrific disaster. Full of remorse, she throws herself into helping the boy’s family as he rehabs from his injuries. But the more Meg tries to absolve herself, the more she alienates her own family—and the more she finds herself being drawn to the boy’s father.

Soon Meg’s picture-perfect life is unravelling before her eyes. As the painful secrets she’s been burying bubble dangerously close to the surface, she will have to decide: Can she forgive herself, or will she risk losing everything she holds dear to her heart?

Review:

In This Moment by  Karma Brown is an affecting exploration of unresolved guilt and grief.

Meg Pepper is a busy working mother who has never quite made peace with a tragedy that occurred when she was a teenager. Her long buried feelings of guilt come to the surface in the aftermath of a car accident involving the twin brother of her fifteen year old daughter Audrey’s boyfriend Sam Beckett. After Meg waves Jack across the road, he is struck by an inattentive driver traveling in the opposite direction. She immediately blames herself and in the aftermath, her guilt takes a huge toll on her marriage to Ryan, her career and her relationship with Audrey as Meg begins making questionable decisions.

Even before the Jack’s accident, Meg is already struggling to keep up with the details of her personal and professional lives. She is also a little resentful that Ryan does not seem to take her career seriously. Like many working mothers, she is expected to juggle the demands of her job with motherhood and the duties around the house. After Jack’s accident, Meg becomes so guilt-ridden that she cannot sleep and when she does, she is plagued with nightmares about tragic events that occurred when she was a teenager. Sleep-deprived and incredibly stressed, Meg begins making mistakes at work and at home, she and Ryan begin bickering.

Up to this point, Meg is a very involved and protective mom who tries to ensure Audrey does not make the same mistakes she made as teenager. Before Jack’s accident, Audrey never gives her or Ryan any reason to worry about the choices she makes and they trust her implicitly. Almost immediately after the accident, Audrey’s behavior begins to change but she and Ryan are slow to realize exactly what is going on with the daughter.

With trouble brewing both at home and the office, Meg becomes her own worst enemy as she refuses to talk about her profound guilt over her self perceived role in Jack’s accident.  Although Ryan knows about what happened to her as a teenager, she cannot bring herself to admit that Jack’s accident has brought all of her unresolved feelings to the forefront. Meg’s downward spiral leads to discontent in her marriage and she makes a fateful choice that threatens her relationships with everyone she holds dear.

In This Moment by Karma Brown is a poignant and thought-provoking read but some elements of the storyline become repetitive.  Meg’s guilt over her role in what happened in both the past and present seems a little extreme and it is very difficult to understand why she won’t talk to Ryan about the things that are bothering her.  Although not everything is completely resolved, the novel’s optimistic conclusion is quite satisfying.  

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Filed under Contemporary, In This Moment, Karma Brown, Park Row Books, Rated C+, Review, Women's Fiction

Review: New York, Actually by Sarah Morgan

Title: New York, Actually by Sarah Morgan
From Manhattan with Love Series Book Four
Publisher: HQN Books
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: C+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

One man. One woman. Two dogs. 

Meet Molly—New York’s most famous advice columnist, she considers herself an expert at relationships…as long as they’re other people’s. Still bruised from her last breakup, Molly is in no rush to find happily-ever-after—the only love of her life is her dalmatian, Valentine.

Meet Daniel—A cynical divorce lawyer, he’s hardwired to think relationships are a bad idea. If you don’t get involved, no one can get hurt. Until he finds himself borrowing a dog to meet the gorgeous woman he sees running in Central Park every morning…

Molly and Daniel both think they know everything about relationships. But as they try—and fail—to resist their undeniable chemistry, they’ll soon discover they just might have a lot left to learn…

Review:

New York, Actually introduces readers to the Knight siblings, who will star in the next three installments of Sarah Morgan’s delightful From Manhattan with Love series. This fourth installment pairs up oldest brother Daniel Knight, a cynical divorce lawyer, with Molly Parker, a psychologist with an über popular relationship blog. While this newest release can easily be read a standalone, I highly recommend the previous novels as well.

After a scandal destroyed her both personally and professionally three years earlier, Molly decides to relocate from England to New York. She avoids romantic entanglements since she is convinced she does nothing but hurt the men she dates. Keeping busy with several classes, Molly is very close friends with her neighbors Mark and Gabe. Her steadfast companion is her rescue dog, Valentine, and together, they jog in Central Park every day where, unbeknownst to her, she has caught the eye of Daniel Knight.

A very successful lawyer with a thriving practice, Daniel works long hours and while he dates, he does not do relationships. With vivid memories of his parents’ acrimonious marriage, he is dedicated to helping his clients escape their unhappy unions. Daniel is surprised by his interest in the jogger he sees every day in the park and he devises a clever, if dishonest, scheme to meet her: he borrows a dog from his twin sisters, Fliss and Harriet.

Daniel’s plan comes to fruition to some degree since he does manage to engineer a meeting with Molly. However, he is stunned when she turns down his invitation to go out with him. The pair continue to run into each other but eventually, Daniel’s persistence begins to feel vaguely stalkerish. Molly uncovers his deception about being a dog owner and she finally ends up providing him with her address. The situation which finally brings them together feels contrived and it is quite annoying how easily Molly falls apart during a crisis.

While Molly and Daniel’s romance finally does take off, their individual issues and unresolved baggage continue to plague them. Given her career as a psychologist, Molly’s reasons for avoiding a relationship just do not ring true. Daniel’s past experiences from his childhood provide a valid basis not wanting to fall in love and in are refreshing change of pace, he is more open to taking their relationship to the next level.When Molly’s past is uncovered, will it bring her and Daniel closer or will it derail their fragile romance?

New York, Actually is a very slow moving but enjoyable romance between two extremely cautious protagonists. While this latest release has a few flaws, Sarah Morgan’s enticing glimpses of Fliss and Harriet will leave readers impatiently awaiting the next installments in the From Manhattan with Love series.

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Filed under Contemporary, From Manhattan with Love Series, Harlequin, HQN Books, New York Actually, Rated C+, Review, Romance, Sarah Morgan

Review: All the Best People by Sonja Yoerg

Title: All the Best People by Sonja Yoerg
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Historical (70s), Women’s Fiction
Length: 368 pages
Book Rating: C+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

An intricately crafted story of madness, magic and misfortune across three generations from the author of The Middle of Somewhere and House Broken

Vermont, 1972. Carole LaPorte has a satisfying, ordinary life. She cares for her children, balances the books for the family’s auto shop and laughs when her husband slow dances her across the kitchen floor. Her tragic childhood might have happened to someone else.

But now her mind is playing tricks on her. The accounts won’t reconcile and the murmuring she hears isn’t the television. She ought to seek help, but she’s terrified of being locked away in a mental hospital like her mother, Solange. So Carole hides her symptoms, withdraws from her family and unwittingly sets her eleven-year-old daughter Alison on a desperate search for meaning and power: in Tarot cards, in omens from a nearby river and in a mysterious blue glass box belonging to her grandmother.

An exploration of the power of courage and love to overcome a damning legacy, All the Best People celebrates the search for identity and grace in the most ordinary lives.

CONVERSATION GUIDE INCLUDED

Review:

Written from four distinct perspectives and weaving back and forth in time, All the Best People by Sonja Yoerg is an engaging novel about mental illness and to a lesser extent, social injustice between the wealthy and poor.

In 1972, Carole Gifford La Porte is a mother of three who works with her husband Walt in the family’s car repair business. When she begins forgetting things and hearing voices, she is quick to assume her recent insomnia is responsible for her mind playing tricks on her. However, she cannot ignore her family’s history of mental illness since her own mother, Solange, has been a permanent resident of the Underhill State Hospital ever since her father had her committed thirty-four years earlier. As Carole’s condition worsens, she continues hiding her symptoms from her family and she begins growing paranoid and fearful of those around her.

Carole and Walt’s eleven year old daughter Alison is becoming increasingly frustrated by her mother’s bizarre behavior. She is also quite upset by her mom’s refusal to help with the normal preparations for the upcoming school year. When her attempts to bring her mom’s strange actions to her father’s attention do not yield results, Alison tries casting spells and other supernatural phenomena to try to help her mother.

Thirty four year old Janine is nothing like her older sister Carole. Her birth is the catalyst for their father to commit their mother to the state hospital and Carole is the only maternal figure in her life. Janine is incredibly self-absorbed and she will go to any lengths to try to get her way.& Her actions throughout the story are extremely self centered and her final efforts to snag a husband go horribly wrong.

The middle part of the story centers on Solange and her marriage. Solange meets and marries her wealthy husband back in the 1920s and at first the differences in their family’s socioeconomic status makes no difference in their lives. Solange is initially content to view the world through her husband’s eyes but as she witnesses her poverty stricken family struggle to survive during the Depression, she begins forming her own opinions on the division between the classes. Her once happy marriage begins to flounder and in a moment of anger, Solange makes an ill-fated choice that will reverberate for generations.

The premise of All the Best People is quite unique and the historical elements are fascinating. However, Carole’s worsening mental health symptoms become repetitive and somewhat annoying. While it is initially plausible that she successfully conceals her symptoms from her immediate family, there comes point when it is impossible to believe that Walt and their sons do not become more concerned about her increasingly strange behavior.

All the Best People is a well-researched novel that touches on some very relevant social issues. The portions of the storyline which focus on the Solange’s history and Carole’s attempts to hide her symptoms from her family are gripping but Janine’s ridiculous attempts to snare a husband are, for the most part, an unnecessary distraction. Sonja Yoerg does an outstanding job educating readers on classism and the horrifying mental health practices that are thankfully no longer used. Overall, it is an interesting read that is quite informative.

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Filed under All the Best People, Berkley, Historical, Historical (70s), Rated C+, Review, Sonja Yoerg

Review: A Piece of My Heart by Sharon Sala

Title: A Piece of My Heart by Sharon Sala
Blessings, Georgia Series Book Four
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: C+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

She’s never had a home
Growing up in a troubled foster home, Mercy Dane knew she could never rely on anyone but herself. She’s used to giving her all to people who don’t give her a second glance, so when she races to Blessings, Georgia, to save the life of an accident victim, she’s flabbergasted when the grateful town opens its arms to her. She never dreamed she’d ever find family or friends—or a man who looks at her as if she hung the stars.

Until she finds peace in his arms
Police Chief Lon Pittman is getting restless living in sleepy little Blessings. But the day Mercy Dane roars into his life on the back of a motorcycle, practically daring him to pull her over, he’s lost. There’s something about Mercy’s tough-yet-vulnerable spirit that calls to Lon, and he will do anything in his power to make her realize that home isn’t just where the heart is—home is where their heart is.

Review:

A Piece of My Heart is a cute addition to Sharon Sala’s small-town Blessings, Georgia series.  Although this latest release is the fourth installment in the series, it can easily be read as a standalone.

As someone who grew up in the foster care system, Mercy Dane is a self-reliant, tough as nails waitress who works in a biker bar.  When she gets an emergency phone call requesting a blood donation for a car accident victim, she immediately jumps on her Harley and rushes to Blessings.  Her good deed yields surprising benefits as Mercy is reunited with Lon Pittman, a man whom she shared one incredible night with several years earlier. But most shocking is the discovery that Mercy is the long lost sister of Hope Talbot, the accident victim to whom she donated blood. The sisters were separated as children after Hope was adopted out of foster care. Mercy does not hesitate to move to Blessings to become better acquainted with Hope, her brother-in-law Jack and his brother Duke. Despite the years that have passed since they last met, Lon would like nothing better than to date Mercy, but will she let down her guard enough to give their fledgling romance a chance?

Mercy is a refreshingly straight forward woman who does not play games nor does she hesitate to speak her mind. With no family of her own, she has forged close ties with the bar owner where she is employed but the chance to get to know Hope is too tempting to pass up. Although she is a little uncomfortable living with complete strangers, she is delighted for the opportunity to reconnect with her sister.  While Mercy is a bit wary, she also quickly agrees to renew her acquaintance with Lon in order to see if there is the potential for a relationship between them.

Lon never forgot the night he spent with Mercy and he is stunned when he recognizes her at the hospital.  Determined not to let the opportunity to date her slip through his fingers, Lon wastes no time letting her know he is still interested in her. Lon is a steady, reliable man who is not afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve and he is quick to reassure Mercy he will give her all the time she needs to decide how she feels about him.

Despite Lon and Hope’s easy acceptance of Mercy, some of the townspeople are not as quick to welcome her to Blessings. Mercy’s reaction to an ill-spirited verbal attack is quite unexpected and exposes her well-hidden vulnerabilities. Hope’s brother-in-law Duke is quite judgmental but Mercy never hesitates to put him in his place.  Some of the residents are quick to stereotype Mercy based on her appearance and the fact she rides a Harley.

The relationship between Lon and Mercy is free from conflict but there is a bit of an insta-love quality to their romance. This is most likely due to the fact that although they have a few dates, their time together is short and often interrupted by a variety of dramatic events. It is also not much of a surprise when someone from Mercy’s past resurfaces although the ensuing situation is rather surprising.

With an eclectic cast of endearing characters and a sweet romance A Piece of My Heart is an engaging novel with a delightful small town atmosphere.  Longtime fans of the Blessings, Georgia series will enjoy catching up with their favorite characters from previous installments.  Sharon Sala provides enough background information on the various characters that new readers can easily begin the series with this latest installment.

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Filed under A Piece of My Heart, Blessings Georgia Series, Contemporary, Rated C+, Review, Romance, Sharon Sala, Sourcebooks Casablanca

Review: You’re the One that I Want by Giovanna Fletcher

Title: You’re the One that I Want by Giovanna Fletcher
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: C+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

In this charming and exciting women’s fiction novel, You’re the One That I Want, Giovanna Fletcher explores the complicated relationship between three friends—Maddy, her fiancé Rob, and their best friend Ben.

Maddy, dressed in white, stands at the back of the church. At the end of the aisle is Rob—the man she’s about to marry. Next to Rob is Ben—best man and the best friend anyone could ever have. And that’s the problem. Because if it wasn’t Rob waiting for her at the altar, there’s a strong chance it would be Ben. Loyal and sensitive, Ben has always kept his feelings to himself, but if he told Maddy she was making a mistake, would she listen? And would he be right?

Best friends since childhood, Maddy, Ben, and Rob thought their bond was unbreakable. But love changes everything. Maddy has a choice to make, but will she choose wisely? Her heart, and the hearts of the two best men she knows, depend on it… Romantic, suspenseful, and a whole lot of fun, You’re the One That I Want is a great read about friendship, love, and the decisions that we make.

Review:

You’re the One that I Want by Giovanna Fletcher is an endearing novel of friendship.

Thick as thieves from the day they met, Maddy Hurst, Rob Miles and Ben Gilbert have been friends since childhood.  Despite their classmates’ speculation that Maddy might harbor feelings for one or both of the boys, their friendship remains platonic until their mid-teens.  An unexpected romance springs up between Maddy and one of her friends but the three still remain close although one of the young men ends up suffering from unrequited love.  The brokenhearted young man laments his lost opportunity and he never reveals his feelings for Maddy until a pivotal moment in university.  On her wedding day a few years later, Maddy cannot help but wonder if she is marrying the right man.

Opening with the Maddy walking down the aisle, the novel then flashes back to the first day Maddy, Rob and Ben met.  The chapters alternate between two of the character’s perspective and take readers through the years of their friendship.  These chapters are interspersed with brief snippets from the remaining character’s point of view in the present. Maddy, Rob and Ben’s friendship is quite heartwarming and even after she pairs up with one of the boys, the three remain inseparable.

While their childhood exploits are quite entertaining, the novel’s pacing slows down after Maddy, Rob and Ben go off to university. Maddy’s romance takes a bit of a turn and once she is aware of her other friend’s long standing love of her, she is somewhat indecisive about which of the two young men she loves.  Even after she seemingly makes her decision, she is still uncertain she made the right choice and this dithering continues to plague her even as she is walking down the aisle. While there is not actually a full blown love triangle between the three, Maddy’s vacillation becomes irritating as does the unrequited lover’s continued feelings for her.

You’re the One that I Want is a light-hearted story of friendship and love.  The storyline is entertaining  and the cast of characters are appealing.  For a good portion of the novel, Giovanna Fletcher keeps readers guessing who Maddy is going to marry but there are enough hints dropped along the way that it is fairly easy to predict whom she chooses in the end. The epilogue is sweet and offers a nice peek into their lives several years after the wedding.  A pleasurable, mostly conflict free read that fans of contemporary women’s fiction will enjoy.

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Filed under Contemporary, Giovanna Fletcher, Rated C+, Review, St Martin's Press, Women's Fiction, You're the One that I Want