Category Archives: Contemporary

Review: A Promise of Forever by Marilyn Pappano

promise foreverTitle: A Promise of Forever by Marilyn Pappano
Tallgrass Series Book Four
Publisher: Forever
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 369 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Sergeant First Class Avi Grant’s return to Tallgrass, Oklahoma is a long-deferred wish come true. With her final tour in Afghanistan over, Avi can focus on her future-a job here at home and a family of her own. There’s just one thing she has to do first: visit her beloved commanding officer’s widow and share her grief. The last thing she expected was to feel an instant attraction to the woman’s son. Too bad the sexy surgeon is impossible to ignore . . . and even harder to resist.

The sting of his parents’ divorce still niggles at Ben Noble. So when a warm, funny, and beautiful young sergeant arrives, mourning his stepfather’s loss as strongly as his mother does, Ben can’t help but feel conflicted. If his parents taught him anything, it’s that love doesn’t last-especially with a career soldier. But try as he might to keep his distance, Ben begins to see that Avi-and the spark she brings to his life-is the stuff forever is made of. As Avi’s leave ticks away, can Ben convince her to take a chance on forever with him?

Review:

Marilyn Pappano keeps the Tallgrass series fresh with A Promise of Forever, the newest addition to this heartwarming and meaningful series. Instead of focusing on someone who has lost a spouse, this novel centers on two people’s whose lives have been affected by the death of George Sanderson: his stepson, Ben Noble and his best friends’ daughter, Avi Grant.

Ben and his estranged mother Patricia were introduced A Love to Call Her Own following George’s death in Afghanistan. Ben is still struggling with his lingering resentment toward Patricia for leaving him and his sisters when she divorced his father to marry George. His troubled relationship with his mom has improved in the months since their uneasy reunion, but Ben is nowhere near forgiving her for breaking his father’s heart and tearing their family apart.

Avi’s admiration for George is the reason she chose to enlist in the Army and she was overjoyed that she and her mentor finally had the opportunity to serve together in Afghanistan. Now on leave before beginning her next duty assignment, she has returned home to spend some time with Patricia and her parents. Avi’s first stop when she arrives in Tall Grass is Patricia’s where she meets Ben and after the two hit it off, they decide to enjoy one another’s company until it is time for her to report to her new base.

Despite losing many of her friends in combat, Avi is surprisingly upbeat and positive. She loves her career and she is eager to begin her next assignment. Although she still has eight years until retirement, she is hopeful that she will realize her dream of marrying and raising a family someday soon. Avi is surprised by her attraction to Ben, and while she knows there is really no chance for a future together, she decides to live in the moment and grab her chance at happiness even if it does not last beyond thirty days.

Ben and Avi’s relationship is easygoing and stress free. Both realize that their romance has an expiration date, but they do not let this stand in the way of spending as much time together as possible. They genuinely enjoy one another’s company and although they don’t see eye to eye on a few things, no arguments or disagreements mar their time together. But with Avi’s departure date fast approaching, both come to realize that their casual relationship has transformed into something much deeper, but neither can see any way of making their relationship permanent. Avi is fully committed to her career while Ben is firmly entrenched in Tallgrass. Will they sacrifice their love or will they find a compromise that will allow them to live happily ever after?

A Promise of Forever is another warm and inviting installment in the Tallgrass series. As always, the characters are beautifully developed, multi-faceted and so lifelike that it is easy to become emotionally invested in unfolding story.  The novel is well-written with a believable storyline and Marilyn Pappano touches on relevant issues in a thought-provoking and realistic manner. Intriguing glimpses of a character with ties to one of the members of the Margarita Club will leave readers impatiently awaiting the next novel in the Tallgrass series.

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Filed under A Promise of Forever, Contemporary, Forever, Marilyn Pappano, Rated B+, Review, Romance, Tallgrass Series

Review: Twice in a Blue Moon by Laura Drake

twice blueTitle: Twice in a Blue Moon by Laura Drake
Publisher: Harlequin Superromance
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Author

Summary:

Wanted: one master winemaker

Indigo Blue is starting over, again. Following the death of her husband, she’s rebuilding her life around her only inheritance—a California winery. There’s just one problem: she doesn’t know a thing about wine. Enter brooding vintner Danovan DiCarlo.

Eager to put his own painful past behind him, Danovan is the perfect partner. And not just in business. As they work side by side, Indigo can feel more than the vineyard coming back to life. Falling for Danovan is a scary prospect. But how do you say no when you find love twice in a blue moon?

Review:

In Laura Drake’s Twice in a Blue Moon¸ the Tippling Widow Winery is the perfect setting for Indigo Blue and Danovan DiCarlo to pick up the pieces of their lives after they each suffer tragic losses. For Indigo, the bucolic location is where she shared many happy moments with her husband Harry. For Danovan, the winery is his last hope for resurrecting his shattered career. For both Indigo and Danovan, the peaceful surroundings heal their wounded hearts as they unexpectedly begin to fall in love while rebuilding the winery to its former glory. But will the baggage from their pasts destroy everything they have worked so hard to build?

Indigo’s happy life comes to an abrupt end after her beloved husband Harry passes away and with nowhere else to go, she moves to Widow’s Grove to run the Tippling Widow Winery. She is a little adrift and struggling to find the confidence she needs to make well-informed decisions about the business. She is also unsure she is making the right choices since some of her earlier experiences before she married Harry leave her doubting her judgment. Indigo has a lot of ideas for revitalizing the mismanaged winery, but she needs an experienced vintner to make the venture a success.

Danovan learned the hard way that mixing business and pleasure can sometimes have disastrous consequences. Although his reputation as a winemaker is impeccable, gossip and innuendo make him virtually unemployable. The job at the winery is the opportunity he needs to salvage his career so Danovan convinces Indigo to hire him without checking his references from his previous employer.

Despite a few misconceptions about one another, Indigo and Danovan have an excellent working relationship. Indigo becomes more self-assured as she masters the intricacies of winemaking and Danovan proves to be a patient and knowledgeable teacher. Both are taken off guard by an unexpected attraction to one another, but initially, neither is ready (or willing) to act on it. Their friendship deepens as they begin confiding in another and a delicate dance ensues between them after a passionate kiss. Indigo is uncertain that her instincts are leading her in the right direction and when she learns about that Danovan was less than truthful with her, she pulls away from him. Danovan is determined to regain her lost trust and once he reveals his heartbreaking past to her, Indigo is quick to forgive him for his deception. They quickly move past this minor hurdle and their relationship soon takes a romantic turn but Indigo remains hesitant about fully committing to a future with Danovan. Just as she puts her faith in him both personally and professionally, Danovan makes a fateful decision that jeopardizes their future.

Twice in a Blue Moon is beautiful novel of love and healing. Indigo and Danovan are vibrantly developed characters and although flawed, they are sympathetic and easy to like. The setting is idyllic and provides the perfect backdrop for love to flourish as they make peace with their respective pasts. Another heartfelt and engaging love story by Laura Drake that old and new fans are sure to love.

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Filed under Contemporary, Harlequin, Laura Drake, Rated B+, Review, Romance, Superromance

Review: Crazy Little Thing Called Love by Beth K. Vogt

crazy calledTitle: Crazy Little Thing Called Love by Beth K. Vogt
Destination Wedding Series Book One
Publisher: Howard Books
Genre: Contemporary, Christian, Romance
Length: 368 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Wedding bells and storm clouds collide in the first engaging novel in a brand-new series about destination weddings, the power of love, and the possible mishaps and missteps that happen on a couple’s journey down the aisle to “I do.”

Paramedic Vanessa Hollister has put her adolescence behind her, including the unwanted label of being the new kid in town over and over again, thanks to her father’s military career. She’s overcome what her mother called “the biggest mistake of her life” and is planning an elegant destination wedding in Destin, Florida with her new fiancé. But will the reappearance of her first husband from her what-were-you-thinking teenage elopement disrupt her dream of an idyllic beach wedding?

As a professional storm chaser, Logan Hollister is used to taking risks. However, a reckless decision during the last tornado season has him questioning the future of his team, the Stormmeisters. Coming face to face with his ex-wife eight years after their divorce compels him to confront his greatest regret: losing Vanessa. Does their past give him the right to interfere with her future?

A fast-moving, powerful hurricane throws Vanessa and Logan together as they evacuate to a storm shelter along with other residents of the Florida Gulf Coast. Forced to spend time together, the pair battles unexpected renewed feelings for each other.

Vanessa and Logan are faced with a choice: Should they accept, once and for all, their teenage marital mistake? Or is God offering them a second chance at happily ever after?

Review:

Crazy Little Thing Called Love by Beth K. Vogt is a wonderful second chance at love romance. This faith based love story is the first installment in the unique and appealing Destination Wedding series and it is a sweet novel that is heartfelt and touching.

After moving frequently for her father’s military career, Vanessa Hollister learned the hard way that relationships are temporary. She is a little jaded and based on her previous experiences, she is reluctant to make friends with classmates she is only going to have to say goodbye to in the not too distant future. But Mindy and Logan sneak past her defenses and they become close friends. Soon after, she and Logan begin dating but when their plans for attending college together are threatened, they make an impetus decision to marry over spring break. However, when Logan accepts a scholarship to a college in OK, she refuses to leave FL and they try to make their long distance marriage work. But immaturity, an inability to see the other person’s point of view and a lack of communication take their toll and the two divorce.

Fast forward eight years and Vanessa is planning her second wedding when her practical fiancé Ted Topliff convinces her to combine their nuptials with a medical conference in Destin, FL. Although she has NO desire to return to the town where she met and married Logan, she reluctantly agrees to his suggestion. After she arrives in town, Vanessa reconnects with her best friend Mindy and the two are soon immersed in wedding plans. With many of preliminary details taken care of, Vanessa is about to return home when a hurricane makes landfall. While at a local shelter waiting out the storm, she is dismayed to run into Logan. They are thrown together both during and after the storm and as they reminisce about their shared past, they are surprised to discover they each have a few regrets about their failed marriage. Logan asks Vanessa to give him a second chance, but will she agree?

On the surface, Vanessa and Logan still appear to be the same two people they were eight years earlier. Vanessa still has troubling forming relationships while Logan stubbornly makes decisions that affect other people without discussing his plans with them first. However, Vanessa is finally beginning to realize that she wants a more from her life than just work but it takes much of the story for her to reconcile this need with her upcoming marriage to a man who continually makes his career a priority instead of her.

An error in judgment while chasing a tornado causes Logan to doubt his ability to keep his team members safe. With the funding for his storm chasing team in jeopardy and haunted by fears of endangering his crew again, he is convinced it is time to change careers. However, after insight from an impartial observer, Logan finally makes an effort to discuss the reasons behind his decisions with his team members and he learns the importance of compromise in relationships.

Logan and Vanessa spend much of the novel apart as they work through their individual issues. Their past is revealed through flashbacks and this provides valuable information about why their marriage ended. As they look back on their relationship, they begin to understand how they contributed to the problems in their marriage, but, most importantly, they learn from their mistakes.

Crazy Little Thing Called Love by Beth K. Vogt is a wonderful romance between two imperfect but sympathetic protagonists. The storyline is well developed and delightfully unique. The premise of the Destination Wedding series is unusual but this adds to the story’s charm. All in all, a beautiful love story that fans of Christian fiction are sure to love.

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Filed under Beth Vogt, Christian, Contemporary, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Destination Wedding Series, Howard Books, Rated B, Review, Romance

Review: As Night Falls by Jenny Milchman

as nightTitle: As Night Falls by Jenny Milchman
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense, Psychological Thriller
Length: 385 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

From the acclaimed author of Ruin Falls and Cover of Snow comes a breathless new novel of psychological suspense about a dark, twisted turn of events that could shatter a family—a read perfect for fans of Gillian Flynn, Chris Bohjalian, and Nancy Pickard.

Sandy Tremont has always tried to give her family everything. But, as the sky darkens over the Adirondacks and a heavy snowfall looms, an escaped murderer with the power to take it all away draws close.

In her isolated home in the shadowy woods, Sandy prepares dinner after a fight with her daughter, Ivy. Upstairs, the fifteen-year-old—smart, brave, and with every reason to be angry tonight—keeps her distance from her mother. Sandy’s husband, Ben, a wilderness guide, arrives late to find a home simmering with unease.

Nearby, two desperate men on the run make their way through the fading light, bloodstained and determined to leave no loose ends or witnesses. After almost twenty years as prison cellmates, they have become a deadly team: Harlan the muscle, Nick the mind and will. As they approach a secluded house and look through its windows to see a cozy domestic scene, Nick knows that here he will find what he’s looking for . . . before he disappears forever.

Opening the door to the Tremont home, Nick brings not only a legacy of terror but a secret that threatens to drag Sandy with him into the darkness.

Review:

As Night Falls by Jenny Milchman is a pulse pounding psychological thriller that will keep readers on the edge of their seats until the story’s dramatic conclusion.

The night begins like any other night in the Tremont household. Sandy is putting the finishing touches on dinner while waiting for her husband Ben and daughter Ivy to return home. Ivy arrives first and after a bit of an argument with Sandy, she storms upstairs to her room. Sandy and Ben enjoy a rare dinner alone after Ivy refuses to come downstairs and eat with them. However, their evening takes a frightening turn when two strangers enter the secluded house through the unlocked front door as Sandy and Ben are cleaning up the kitchen. The two men, Nick and Harlan, are escaped convicts who want something that only Ben can provide but violence erupts when Ben fights to protect his family from the intruders. Just when it seems nothing else can go wrong, an early snowstorm wreaks havoc on Nick’s plans and the Tremont’s terror continues unabated for the next several hours.

Nick and Harlan are cellmates and although Harlan is the one everyone first fears, it soon becomes apparent that Nick is the brains behind the escape while Harlan supplies the brawn.  Nick is highly intelligent and personable until things begin to spiral out of control and he is quick to respond to any threats with cold, calculated violence. Harlan is a gentle giant but his less than average intelligence leaves him vulnerable to Nick’s manipulation. He obeys Nick without question although he is uncomfortable with what he is being ordered to do.

Sandy is a therapist and she employs some tricks of the trade as she tries to drive a wedge between the two men. Some of her endeavors are moderately successful but she completely underestimates Nick’s ability to read any situation. Many of these attempts backfire, further endangering the family. Ben’s instinct to protect his wife and daughter is overwhelming and he refuses to quit fighting even in the face of escalating violence. Ivy’s survival instincts are equally strong and she never stops trying to escape her captors.

One of the questions that drives the story is understanding why Nick targeted the Tremont family. On the surface, the answer appears clear early on, but the real reason behind Nick’s motive for selecting the Tremont’s is quite shocking. Equally perplexing is the reason the men were incarcerated in the first place. Flashbacks provide valuable insight into Nick’s behavior from the time he was quite young and while it is obvious that he most likely committed a heinous crime, the truth is absolutely stunning. Harlan’s crimes are completely unrelated to Nick’s and surprisingly, he is a very sympathetic character despite his participation in Nick’s twisted plan.

While As Night Falls is not a traditional whodunit, there are numerous secrets to uncover and Jenny Milchman masterfully keeps readers off balance with a number of unexpected plot twists. Cleverly written with plenty of action, this riveting novel poses some very thought-provoking questions about what drives a person to commit acts of violence. A very intriguing high octane thriller that fans of the genre do not want to miss.

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Filed under As Night Falls, Ballantine Books, Contemporary, Jenny Milchman, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, suspense, Thriller

Review: Kiss Me by Susan Mallery

kiss meTitle: Kiss Me by Susan Mallery
Fool’s Gold Series Book Seventeen
Publisher: HQN Books
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher

Summary:

New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery creates the small-town destination for romance in charming Fool’s Gold, California—where a loner cowboy finds the one woman who can capture his heart 

After Phoebe Kitzke’s kind heart gets her suspended from her job in LA, she swears off doing favors—until her best friend begs for help on the family ranch in Fool’s Gold. Unfortunately, sexy cowboy Zane Nicholson isn’t exactly thrilled by the city girl’s arrival.

Thanks to his brother’s latest scheme, Zane has been roped into taking tourists on a cattle drive. What Phoebe knows about ranching wouldn’t fill his hat, but her laughter is so captivating that even his animals fall for her. One slip of his legendary control leads to a passionate kiss that convinces him she’s exactly the kind of woman a single-minded loner needs to avoid.

In his arms, Phoebe discovers she’s a country girl at heart. Yet no matter how much the small town feels like home, she can’t stay unless Zane loves her, too…but is this cowboy interested in forever?

Review:

In Kiss Me, the newest addition to the always fabulous and incredibly heartwarming Fool’s Gold series, Susan Mallery takes an unusual approach by setting the novel on gorgeous cowboy Zane Nicholson’s ranch instead of in Fool’s Gold. This bold (and possibly risky) decision, coupled with the addition of several new characters, keeps this long running series fresh while guest appearances by beloved characters from previous installments will delight devoted fans of the series.

Phoebe Kitzke is a compassionate and kindhearted woman whose latest act of kindness almost lands her jail when she takes the blame for a mistake made by her boss. She is generous to a fault and genuinely helpful to those in need and although this tendency to help others often ends badly, she remains unfailingly optimistic and caring.  Phoebe has many endearing qualities (such as conversing with animals)and she is also surprisingly intuitive, quite humorous and unexpectedly self-aware. Phoebe is absolutely marvelous and she is impossible not to like as she gamely agrees to join her best friend Maya Farlow on her ex-stepbrother’s cattle drive.

The ex-stepbrother in question is none other than Zane, the taciturn and delectably sexy cowboy briefly mentioned in previous novels of the Fool’s Gold series. Zane is beyond furious when he discovers his seventeen year old brother Chase set up a website offering tourists the chance to join in the ranch’s yearly cattle drive. He is Chase’s guardian and their relationship is precarious since Zane keeps trying to prevent Chase from making decisions that he will later regret. Zane carries tremendous emotional scars from his childhood and in an effort to avoid the heartache his father experienced after his mother’s death, he keeps his entanglements light and emotion free.

Joining them on the cattle drive are a group of eclectic greenhorns who are fighting a few battles of their own. C.J. and Thad Swanson volunteer to bring Lucy and Tommy, two foster kids on the drive. While Thad is eager to bond with the children, C.J.’s disappointment and anger at what she has lost causes her to avoid them as much as possible. Audacious and fun-loving septuagenarians Eddie and Gladys are two of the series regulars who join the cattle drive. Although the pair once again provide comic relief with their zany antics, a very poignant discussion with Zane will make even the most stoic reader shed a few tears. Married couple Martin and Andrea round out the cast of secondary characters and they definitely add a little spice to the adventure with their dietary demands.

Phoebe and Zane are attracted to one another right from the start, but neither plan to act on it. Phoebe takes relationships seriously and this is something that Zane not only recognizes but respects. However, they do enjoy one another’s company and they share many quiet (and a few passionate) moments together during the cattle drive. Zane thinks Phoebe is a little goofy but he surprisingly enjoys her little quirks. He also sees how open and giving she is and he appreciates her perceptive observations. Phoebe knows she is a little too trusting and while she vows to stop helping people, she eventually realizes that these traits are integral parts of who she is. However, she does learn to stand up for herself and not let others take advantage of her.

Kiss Me is another sweet, sexy and charming romance by Susan Mallery. The characters are multi-dimensional with believable flaw and realistic issues to overcome. The setting is unique and provides added interest to the overall storyline. This latest installment of the Fool’s Gold series is an emotional yet highly entertaining novel of love and forgiveness that old and new fans are going to love.

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Filed under Contemporary, Fools Gold Series, HQN Books, Kiss Me, Rated B+, Review, Romance, Susan Mallery

Review: A New Hope by Robyn Carr

new hopeTitle: A New Hope by Robyn Carr
Thunder Point Series Book Eight
Publisher: Mira
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 336 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher

Summary:

Starting over is never easy, but in Thunder Point, where newcomers are welcome and friends become family, it’s possible to find yourself again. #1 New York Times bestselling author Robyn Carr takes us on a moving and rewarding journey as a young woman finds new hope.

After losing her child, Ginger Dysart was lost in grief. But since moving to Thunder Point, a small town on the Oregon coast, Ginger is finally moving forward. Her job at the flower shop is peaceful and fulfilling, and she’s excited to be assisting with the Lacoumette wedding.

In spite of her lasting heartache, Ginger is swept up in the pleasure of the occasion. But the beauty of the Lacoumette farm and the joy of the gregarious family are ruined by an unfortunate encounter with the bride’s brother, Matt. Struggling with painful memories of his own, Matt makes a drunken spectacle of himself when he tries to make a pass at Ginger, forcing her to flee the scene in embarrassment.

But when Matt shows up at the flower shop determined to make amends, what started out as a humiliating first meeting blossoms into something much deeper than either of them expected. Everyone around them worries that Ginger will end up with a broken heart yet again. But if Ginger has the courage to embrace the future, and if Matt can finally learn to let go of the past, there may still be hope for a happy ending.

Review:

A New Hope, the newest addition to Robyn Carr’s heartwarming Thunder Point series, is a wonderful story of healing. This incredibly sweet friends to lovers romance pairs up two wounded people who are struggling to overcome the heartbreak from their previous relationships.

A new job in Thunder Point is just what Ginger Dysart needed to begin healing from a devastating personal loss.   She loves working in Grace’s flower shop and she is also enjoying the new friends she has made. Ginger has made significant progress on figuring out what went wrong in her marriage and she has forgiven herself and her ex-husband for the mistakes that lead to their divorce. Despite her lingering grief, she is at a good place in her life but while she may be prepared to make a commitment to staying in Thunder Point, Ginger is not ready for a new relationship.

Matt Lacoumette is still deeply bitter and angry over his divorce and he is nowhere near ready to relinquish his animosity towards his ex-wife. He also maintains an emotional distance from his close family and he has not confided in them about what lead to his divorce. Although he has been dating for the past year, Matt has no intention of committing to a serious relationship. However, after his disastrous incident with Ginger at his sister’s wedding reception, Matt knows it is time to clean up his act and settle back into his normal life.

Matt and Ginger quickly move past their embarrassing first meeting and their recent divorces unexpectedly provide common ground between them. They both find it relatively easy to discuss their failed relationships and their casual acquaintance soon deepens to friendship. They gradually transition from friends to lovers with both of them agreeing to take things slow. Matt has the most difficult time with their new romance and when he withdraws from her, Ginger has enough confidence in herself to let him go. Although their relationship easily recovers from this misstep, Matt’s unresolved issues continue to plague their blossoming romance. Ginger gently encourages him to let him go of his lingering bitterness and anger but it is not until he is finally able to confide his deepest hurt that he can truly forgive and fully commit to a future with Ginger.

A New Hope by Robyn Carr is a beautiful novel of friendship, family and love. It is well-written with a poignant and emotional storyline. The characters are lifelike and vibrantly developed with realistic issues and problems to overcome. Heartfelt and moving, it is a powerful addition to the Thunder Point series that old and new fans are sure to enjoy.

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Filed under A New Hope, Contemporary, Harlequin, Mira, Rated B+, Review, Robyn Carr, Romance, Thunder Point Series