Category Archives: Contemporary

Review: Blame It on the Cowboy by Delores Fossen

Title: Blame It on the Cowboy by Delores Fossen
The McCord Brothers Series Book Three
Publisher: HQN Books
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 416 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Every cowboy has a wild side—all it takes is the right woman to unleash it… 

All of Logan McCord’s carefully laid plans erupt the day he walks in on his would-be fiancée getting…well, not so carefully laid. Tonight, just once, Logan is acting on instinct. And that instinct is telling him to say “Happy to oblige” to the cute stranger looking for a no-strings fling with a Texas cowboy.

When chef Reese Stephens made her bucket list, she mistakenly thought she had weeks to live. Not that she regrets her one-night-stand with the gorgeous rancher. But she does regret leaving an heirloom watch as a parting gift. Tracking Logan down is easy. Walking away again is another matter. Because Reese’s crazy past and Logan’s battered heart are no match for the kind of chemistry that could turn one night into the start of a passionate lifetime.

Review:

Blame It on the Cowboy is an entertaining addition to Delores Fossen’s The McCord Brothers series.  Although it is the third installment in the series, it can be read as standalone but I highly recommend the previous books as well.

After finding his girlfriend of eight years in a truly cringe-worthy compromising situation, Logan McCord is drowning his sorrows when he meets Reese Stephens.  After playing a few drunken word games, Reese makes him an offer he cannot refuse and they spend one incredibly hot night together.  The next morning, they both return to their normal lives with no plan to ever see each other again.  Three months later, Logan is shocked to discover Reese is the newly hired cook at a local diner and naturally, he is very suspicious about why she has moved to his small hometown.  Reese’s reason for finding Logan is on the up and up but she understands why he might be mistrustful of her. Her plan to remain in town a few days is quickly derailed and Reese and Logan further complicate things when they give in to their simmering passion. Is there any chance for this mismatched couple to live happily ever after?  Or will Reese’s troubled past tear them apart?

Reese might not have many physical possessions but she has a ton of emotional baggage.  The most of her problems are not of her making, but she cannot escape the guilt she feels for other people’s actions.  A previous relationship has left an indelible mark on her and Reese blames herself for how things finally ended between her and her ex.  She has steered clear of romantic entanglements ever since, but her attraction to Logan is too strong to resist.  As their lives becomes more entangled, Reese becomes more certain than ever that her somewhat sordid past will ruin Logan’s reputation.  When someone from her past tracks her down, her first reaction is to run away, but will Logan convince Reese to stay?

Having taken over the family business after his parents’ tragic deaths when he was 19, Logan takes his responsibilities very seriously.  He is a little staid  but well-respected by his business associates and the people in his hometown.  Surprisingly, he is not overly concerned what anyone thinks about his relationship with Reese and he is quick to try to convince her to stay in town.  When his ex returns to try to repair her ruined reputation and win him back, Logan is willing to hear her out but he is not at all keen to renew their romance.  As Reese’s troubles continuing to spiral out of control, will he remain with her? Or will he decide to reunite with his philandering ex?

Reese and Logan’s relationship often takes a backseat to the various shenanigans of people from Reese’s past.  At first amusing, these antics soon become tedious and a little over the top as they continue to snowball.  Logan’s ex is also determined to win him back so be prepared for some scheming as she tries to come between him and Reese.

When the story focuses on Reese and Logan, there is no denying the chemistry between them and their scenes together are absolutely delightful.  Despite the sometimes ridiculous exploits of everyone else, things between Reese and Logan are a little intense due to Reese’s rather traumatic past.  They genuinely like one another and Logan is respectful of Reese’s privacy once he gets to know her.  Reese and Logan are a wonderful couple and it is frustrating that their romance is overshadowed by the subplots involving people from their respective pasts.

Blame It on the Cowboy is a lovely romance between two wounded protagonists. Reese and Logan’s road to happily ever after is full of detours and unforeseen obstacles but in the end, love prevails as they help one another overcome the problems that have haunted them for so long.  Old and new fans of Delores Fossen are going to love this latest addition to The McCord Brothers series.

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Filed under Blame It on the Cowboy, Contemporary, Delores Fossen, Harlequin, HQN Books, Rated B, Review, Romance, The McCord Brothers Series

Review: Saving Jake by Sharon Sala

Title: Saving Jake by Sharon Sala
Blessings, Georgia Series Book Three
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Love heals in New York Times bestselling author Sharon Sala’s newest contemporary romance

There is always hope
After eight years in the Marines, Jacob Lorde returns to Blessings, Georgia, with no plans other than to hole up in his empty house and heal what’s left of his soul. But with a charming next door neighbor and a town full of friendly people, keeping to himself is easier said than done.

As long as you can come home
Laurel Payne understands far too well what Jake is going through, after witnessing her late husband experience similar problems. She’s in no hurry to jump into another relationship with a complicated guy, but their attraction is undeniable-and perhaps exactly what both of them need.

Blessings, Georgia Series:
Count Your Blessings (e-novella)
You and Only You (Book 1)
I’ll Stand By You (Book 2)
Saving Jake (Book 3)

Review:

With a dash of suspense, Saving Jake by Sharon Sala is a heartwarming novel of love and healing.  This third installment in the Blessings, Georgia series can be read as a standalone but I highly recommend the previous books as well.

Although it has been two years since her husband Adam took his own life, Laurel Payne recognizes a troubled war veteran when she meets Jacob “Jake” Lorde.  Having her heart broken once was more than enough, so she plans to stay as far from her new neighbor as she can.  However, her young daughter, Bonnie, is nursing a serious case of hero worship for Jake, so their paths cross on a fairly regular basis.  After realizing she has unfairly projected her own issues onto Jake, Laurel is much more open to friendship but will she risk her heart once she begins to fall in love?

Laurel not only lost her husband, but she lost the support of his family in the aftermath of his suicide due to them blaming her for his death.  Financially ruined and emotionally decimated after his death, she has managed to pick up the shattered pieces of her life. After meeting Jake, she empathizes with his struggles with PTSD but she vows to keep her distance from him.  However, as she spends time with him, Laurel is quick to notice that while he might be haunted by the nightmares of war, he is not consumed by them like her late husband.  Once she discovers how steadfast and strong Jake is despite the demons that plague him, Laurel is much more receptive to friendship and, perhaps, love.

Although his physical wounds are healed, Jake continues to be haunted by nightmares and PTSD from the things he experienced during combat. Letting the peace of his hometown settle over him, he slowly begins to reintegrate back into civilian life. Enjoying the quiet and solitude, he does not hesitate to lend a helping hand to Laurel when she needs assistance.  Surprised by how much he enjoys both her and Bonnie’s company, Jake is initially a little hesitant to pursue a friendship with his neighbors but he soon cherishes the time they spend together.  He is open and honest about wanting to take their friendship to the next level but Jake is uncertain whether or not Laurel will agree to give him a chance given her history.

While the relationship between Jake and Laurel is refreshingly free from angst or unnecessary drama, there is outside conflict that directly affects both of them.  A person from Jake’s past is intent on revenge while Laurel is beset by vindictive in-laws.  The chapters alternate back and forth between the main storyline with Jake and Laurel and the various characters involved in these secondary story arcs.  It would have preferable for Ms. Sala to concentrate more on Jake and Laurel’s developing relationship rather than the suspense elements.  These minor story arcs do not add much to the overall plot although they do set the stage for a somewhat dramatic ending.

Saving Jake by Sharon Sala is an emotionally satisfying romance between two people who have been wounded by the effects of war.  Through Laurel’s experience with her first husband,  readers get an insightful and informative view of the “silent” victims of war.  Jake’s struggles with PTSD and nightmares offers an all too realistic look into the devastating consequences of wartime even when a soldier is no longer in combat.  The romance between Jake and Laurel is incredibly sweet yet poignant as they help one another heal from the tragic events from their respective pasts.   

All in all, an uplifting love story that old and new fans of the Blessings, Georgia series are sure to enjoy.

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Filed under Blessings Georgia Series, Contemporary, Rated B, Review, Romance, Saving Jake, Sharon Sala, Sourcebooks Casablanca

Review: The Vanishing Year by Kate Moretti

Title: The Vanishing Year by Kate Moretti
Publisher: Atria Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Zoe Whittaker is living a charmed life. She is the beautiful young wife to handsome, charming Wall Street tycoon Henry Whittaker. She is a member of Manhattan’s social elite. She is on the board of one of the city’s most prestigious philanthropic organizations. She has a perfect Tribeca penthouse in the city and a gorgeous lake house in the country. The finest wine, the most up-to-date fashion, and the most luxurious vacations are all at her fingertips.

What no one knows is that five years ago, Zoe’s life was in danger. Back then, Zoe wasn’t Zoe at all. Now her secrets are coming back to haunt her.

As the past and present collide, Zoe must decide who she can trust before she—whoever she is—vanishes completely.

A “dark, twisty, edge-of-your-seat suspense” (Karen Robards), The Vanishing Year combines the classic sophistication of Ruth Rendell and A.S.A. Harrison with the thoroughly modern flair of Jessica Knoll. Told from the point-of-view of a heroine who is as relatable as she is enigmatic, The Vanishing Year is an unforgettable new novel by a rising star of the genre.

Review:

The Vanishing Year by Kate Moretti is a suspense-laden psychological mystery.

Beautiful socialite Zoe Whittaker leads an enviable life with her wealthy husband, Henry.  Her gorgeous husband lavishes her with extravagant gifts, pampers her with lavish vacations and refuses to allow her to lift a finger around their beautiful apartment. However, her storybook life begins to fall apart after someone from her distant past recognizes her at a charity event she organized. Zoe has been keeping a dark secret about the events that led to her precipitous move and name change several years earlier and she is deathly afraid of anyone learning the truth about her. 

Feeling a bit unmoored as memories begin to haunt her, Zoe decides to renew her search for her biological mother. At the same time, she meets with local reporter Cash Murray to dissuade him from using any pictures of her in his accompanying article for his feature on her charity event. A little preoccupied by thoughts of her past, Zoe is stunned when Henry throws harsh accusations her way and his attention begins to feel more controlling than loving. Following a couple of unsettling incidents, Zoe is certain her past is catching up with her but is the truth more frightening than she can possibly imagine?

Little by little, Zoe has given up bits and pieces of her identity since meeting Henry.  Transformed from the purple-haired, multiple pierced apprentice floral designer into a sleek, polished millionaire’s wife, she is content to let Henry make all the decisions in their marriage.  Filling her days with charity work and shopping, she is a little bored, but overall she is satisfied with their life.  However, with no living relatives (excerpt Henry), Zoe cannot help but feel the need to renew her search for her biological mother.  Dismayed but undeterred by Henry’s vehement objections, she takes Cash up on his offer to help with her search.

Having never witnessed anything but loving attention from Henry, Zoe is astonished by his sudden and inexplicable mood swings.  Her once charming and adoring husband is sometimes frightening as he places unreasonable demands on who she can see and what she can do.  Even more disconcerting are his unfounded and abrupt allegations that her relationship with Cash might go beyond friendship.  Suddenly unsure of how Henry’s reactions, Zoe carefully guards what she tells him as she renews old friendships and continues looking for information about her ongoing search for her mother.

With a series of puzzling incidents, a scandalous past and a marriage that is perhaps a little too good be true, The Vanishing Year by Kate Moretti is a riveting mystery that is full of spectacular twists, turns and astonishing revelations.  Although initially a bit slow-paced, the novel quickly gathers steam as it hurtles to a stunning conclusion.  All in all, an outstanding mystery that fans of the genre are sure to enjoy.

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Filed under Atria Books, Contemporary, Kate Moretti, Mystery, Rated B, Review, suspense, The Vanishing Year

Review: The Life She Wants by Robyn Carr

Title: The Life She Wants by Robyn Carr
Publisher: MIRA
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction, Romance
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

#1 New York Times bestselling author Robyn Carr brings together a poignant novel with a rich tapestry of characters. A moving story that will leave the reader laughing and crying, as two friends confront their pasts and move towards their futures.

In the aftermath of her financier husband’s suicide, Emma Shay Compton’s dream life is shattered. Richard Compton stole his clients’ life savings to fund a lavish life in New York City and, although she was never involved in the business, Emma bears the burden of her husband’s crimes. She is left with nothing.

Only one friend stands by her, a friend she’s known since high school, who encourages her to come home to Sonoma County. But starting over isn’t easy, and Sonoma is full of unhappy memories, too. And people she’d rather not face, especially Riley Kerrigan.

Riley and Emma were like sisters—until Riley betrayed Emma, ending their friendship. Emma left town, planning to never look back. Now, trying to stand on her own two feet, Emma can’t escape her husband’s reputation and is forced to turn to the last person she thought she’d ever ask for help—her former best friend. It’s an uneasy reunion as both women face the mistakes they’ve made over the years. Only if they find a way to forgive each other—and themselves—can each of them find the life she wants.

Review:

The Life She Wants by Robyn Carr is wonderful novel of forgiveness, healing and love.

Emma Shay had absolutely no idea her husband Richard was defrauding his investors with a Ponzi scheme, but that does not stop everyone from blaming her for their losses.  After she is cleared of wrongdoing, she returns to her hometown in California in hopes of picking up the pieces of her life.  Completely honest about her past, Emma is dismayed by her inability to find employment in her former career field but she is not too proud to apply for service industry jobs.  Running into her old childhood friend Adam Kerrigan is a blessing in disguise for Emma as she tries to rebuild her life.

While Emma is a likable character, she is frustratingly passive as she avoids conflict instead of facing it head on.  While she truly did not have direct knowledge of Richard’s illegal activity, she was aware that things were not quite right but she blindly accepted his explanations when she did ask questions.  In the aftermath of his conviction and subsequent suicide, Emma’s conscience will not allow her to keep any of money Richard illegally obtained.  With very little money to her name, she has no choice but to work but she greatly underestimates how difficult it will be for prospective employers to overlook her somewhat sordid past.  Renewing her friendship with Adam is surprisingly easy but she remains reluctant to act on their mutual attraction due to her complicated history with his sister (and her former best friend), Riley.

Growing up, Emma and Riley were closer than sisters, but after Emma left for college, the young women began to grow apart.  Riley betrayed Emma is the worst possible way when she had an affair with Emma’s boyfriend Jock.  After a horrible fight where they exchanged hurtful barbs, they went their separate ways.  Riley has never been able to accept responsibility for her role in the demise of their friendship but she reluctantly hires Emma to work for her.  Realizing just how precarious  her situation is, Emma refuses to do anything to upset their fragile truce. With their lives intertwining both personally and professionally, it is only a matter of time before Riley learns the truth about Emma’s relationship with Adam.  Is there any chance the estranged friends can forgive one another for past mistakes?

The storyline for The Life She Wants is conflict free and moves at a leisurely pace. The aftermath of the scandal with Emma’s husband is realistic and her desire to live life on her own terms is understandable. Her need for honesty after essentially living a lie for her entire marriage is easy to relate to but it is inevitable that she will need to alter her approach in order to find a job.  Her relationship with Adam is an absolute joy and their transition from friends to lovers is believable. 

While Emma’s desire to steer clear of confrontation is reasonable, it is very difficult to agree with her decision to keep her romance with Adam a secret. It is also quite frustrating to watch Emma allow her stepmother to continue to take advantage of her.  Avoiding unnecessary drama is one thing, but Emma takes it to a whole new level by not fighting for what is rightfully hers. She does enjoy her much simpler life but Emma sometimes makes things harder for herself than necessary by refusing to take charge of certain situations.

The Life She Wants by Robyn Carr is an engaging novel with a cast of likable characters.  Delightfully free from angst and drama, readers will be completely invested in this quiet but meaningful story of healing and resiliency.  A moving and emotional novel that fans of contemporary women’s fiction are sure to love.

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Filed under Contemporary, Harlequin, Mira, Rated B+, Review, Robyn Carr, Romance, The Life She Wants, Women's Fiction

Review: Unlocked by Margo Kelly

Title: Unlocked by Margo Kelly
Publisher: Merit Press
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Horror, Mystery, Supernatural Elements
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

Hannah is losing it. Everything. Her friends, her life, and probably her mind. Bugs crawling over her hands made her wreck the car and cause her friend’s death, but…were the bugs even real? Is someone moving Hannah’s things around, or is she imagining it? Why does her brain feels as though she’s not controlling it? She’s probably headed for a useless life in and out of the locked ward, like her dad. In desperation, she reaches out when the school’s self-proclaimed “occult” expert offers to help, and, through this supposedly weird kid, Hannah discovers shocking news that could mean she really is going crazy, or that someone misusing a terrible power.

Review:

Unlocked by Margo Kelly is a young adult mystery with supernatural elements.

For their last outing before their senior year begins, Hannah O’Leary, her boyfriend Manny and her friends enjoy a night at a local fair.  At the urging of best friend Lily Sloane, the teens not only attend but participate in a hypnotist’s demonstration.  Almost immediately afterward, Hannah begins experiencing strange visions, auditory hallucinations  and creepy sensations that no one else seems to see or hear.  On the way home from the fair, she crashes her car which leaves one of the teens dead and two others seriously injured.  When school begins, Hannah is ostracized by her friends but she befriended by a group of misfit teens who help her get to the bottom of her increasingly bizarre behavior.

Hannah is one of the most popular kids in her class with a bright future ahead of her.  All of that changes after the car accident and as she begins acting completely out of character, she becomes more and more isolated and frightened by the eerie things she is seeing and hearing.  Finding unexpected allies in classmates Eugene, Nick and Kyla, she tries to maintain her relationship with Manny, but he is not very understanding of her inexplicable behavior.  In the aftermath of another horrifying incident, Hannah can only count on her new friends to assist her as she tries to uncover the truth about what is happening to her.

Due to her family history, Hannah’s mom believes her daughter is suffering from schizophrenia.  Hannah is initially uncertain what to believe but as her life continues to spiral out of control, she begins to think the diagnosis might be correct.  On the other hand, Eugene is convinced there is a much more malevolent reason for what is happening to her and their research into the occult offers a plausible explanation for some of her experiences.  However, Hannah and her friends soon discover there is much more going on than they previously imagined and she is in serious danger.  Will Hannah escape from this nightmare before it is too late?

With a well-rounded cast of characters and an imaginative storyline, Unlocked is a fast-paced and engaging young adult novel.  Expect the unexpected as Margo Kelly incorporates both horror and supernatural elements into this thrilling mystery that will keep readers on the edge of their seats until the pulse-pounding and suspenseful conclusion.

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Filed under Contemporary, Horror, Margo Kelly, Merit Press, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Supernatural Elements, Unlocked, Young Adult

Review: Daisy in Chains by Sharon Bolton

Title: Daisy in Chains by Sharon Bolton
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

He’s a serial killer. A murderer of young women, all killed in brutal attacks.

But despite Hamish Wolfe’s conviction, he’s always stuck to his story—he’s innocent and he’s been wrongly imprisoned. And now he wants someone to investigate and, more importantly, to write his story.

Maggie Rose is a notorious defense attorney and writer whose specialty is getting convictions overturned. At first, Maggie is reluctant to even acknowledge Hamish’s requests to meet, ignoring his letters. But this is a very charismatic and persuasive man, good-looking and intelligent.

Eventually even she can’t resist his lure…

Review:

Daisy in Chains by Sharon Bolton is a spellbinding mystery about a serial killer’s efforts to get his conviction overturned.

Maggie Rose is a reclusive defense attorney and true crime author who is famous for successfully getting several notorious murderer’s convictions overturned.  After refusing to meet with Hamish Wolfe, a handsome doctor convicted of murdering three young women, she is approached by his mother who asks her to reconsider her decision.  After she learns more about Hamish and the murders, she decides to meet with him so he can present his case to her in person.  Although not fully convinced of Wolfe’s innocence, Maggie agrees to look over the evidence but she warns him she will most likely not change her mind about representing him.  However, the deeper she delves into the cases, the more intrigued she becomes and Maggie officially accepts Hamish as her client.  While the odds of discovering new evidence that will exonerate Wolfe are not in her favor, Maggie is soon embroiled in her investigation.  Will she find information that will clear Hamish?  Or will Maggie discover irrefutable proof that he is, in fact, guilty of the crimes he has been convicted of committing?

Although she lives a low-key life out of the limelight, Maggie is a bit of a contradiction.  She does not hesitate to help rescue a possible drowning victim and her hair is dyed bright blue.  She is fiercely independent and values her privacy, but after a series of vaguely threatening incidents at her home, she comes to the attention of Detective Sergeant Pete Weston, who, coincidentally, arrested Wolfe for the murders. He has absolutely no doubt he arrested the person responsible for the killings but he is willing to hear Maggie’s theories once she begins digging around in the case.  However, Pete is not swayed by her theories and he continues to try to dissuade her getting involved with Hamish.

During the course of her investigation, Maggie dissects Wolfe’s life both in the past and the present.  He might be a well-liked and well-respected surgeon now but in his college days, there were whispers of impropriety  about him and a group of his friends and their ill-treatment of overweight women who bear a striking resemblance to the three women he is convicted of murdering.  Even more chilling is the unexplained disappearance of his college girlfriend Daisy Baron, who vanished without a trace years earlier while they were dating.  With plenty of rumors hinting at a dark side to Wolfe, Maggie refuses to heed his requests to leave the past alone.  After she discovers troubling information that might link Wolfe to the murders, Maggie is running out of time to find exculpatory evidence that will lead to a new trial.

Written from multiple points of view, Daisy in Chains is a compelling psychological mystery that is initially a little slow paced but eventually becomes impossible to put down.  The characters are richly developed and although flawed, they are easy to root for. The novel is well-written with chapters alternating between the various characters’ perspectives and a series of newspapers articles, e-mails and letters.  Although Sharon Bolton  eventually drops enough clues for the reader to guess the killer’s identity, the novel comes to a suspense-laden conclusion that contains a few unexpected plot twists.  An entertaining mystery that fans of the genre will enjoy.

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Filed under Contemporary, Daisy in Chains, Minotaur Books, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Sharon Bolton