Category Archives: Contemporary

Review: Before He Finds Her by Michael Kardos

before findsTitle: Before He Finds Her by Michael Kardos
Publisher: Mysterious Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Everyone in the quiet Jersey Shore town of Silver Bay knows the story: on a Sunday evening in September 1991, Ramsey Miller threw a blowout block party, then murdered his beautiful wife and three-year-old daughter.

But everyone is wrong. The daughter got away. Now she is nearly eighteen and tired of living in secrecy. Under the name Melanie Denison, she has spent the last fifteen years in small-town West Virginia as part of the Witness Protection Program. She has never been allowed to travel, go to a school dance, or even have internet at home. Precautions must be taken at every turn, because Ramsey Miller was never caught and might still be looking for his daughter. Yet despite strict house rules, Melanie has entered into a relationship with a young teacher at the local high school and is now ten weeks pregnant. She doesn’t want her child to live in hiding as she has had to. Defying her guardians and taking matters into her own hands, Melanie returns to Silver Bay in hopes of doing what the authorities have failed to do: find her father before he finds her. Weaving in Ramsey’s story in the three days leading up to the brutal crime, Before He Finds Her is a stirring novel about love and faith and fear—and how the most important things can become terribly distorted when we cling to them too fiercely.

The Review:

Before He Finds Her by Michael Kardos is a somewhat poignant but very intriguing mystery. This engrossing whodunit is full of interesting and unexpected plot twists that are sure to delight fans of crime fiction.

For most of her life, Melanie Dennison has been living off the grid with her aunt and uncle in West Virginia. Mostly homeschooled, with very few friends and little social life, Melanie has been slowly spreading her wings since she started taking classes at the local community college. She also has a part time job and a secret boyfriend as well. Now pregnant and tired of living in fear of being found by her father, Ramsey Miller, Melanie returns to her home town of Silver Bay. Hoping to discover the whereabouts of her father, who disappeared after killing her mother, Allison, fifteen years earlier, Melanie’s amateur sleuthing leads to a surprising break in the case.  But learning the truth about the events of that long ago night might not provide Melanie with all of the answers she is searching for.

Melanie is a gutsy young woman who finds herself completely out of her depth when she travels to Silver Bay. She is fairly fearless during her investigation and while she sometimes acts before she thinks, she does use a little common sense during risky situations. Melanie is incapable of subterfuge so it is fairly easy for her interviewees to see through her ploys to find answers for her questions. Most of the time, she is fairly clueless about what she doing but she perseveres despite her setbacks. But Melanie also knows when she needs help and she is willing to ask for it.

The days leading up to Allison’s death are revealed through flashbacks. These glimpses of the past are mostly from Ramsey’s perspective, and this provides readers with important background information about his dysfunctional childhood. His past is not sugarcoated and this helps readers see how much he changed after his marriage. Ramsey is a surprisingly sympathetic character and it is quite touching learning how much he loved Allison and his daughter and what shaped his decisions in the intervening days before the murder.

Before He Finds Her is an well-written novel with an interesting and unique storyline. Michael Kardos does an excellent job weaving past and present into a compelling and fast paced mystery.  The final plot twist is quite shocking and completely unexpected. Although the characters are left with a few lingering questions, all of those loose ends are completely wrapped up for readers. All in all, Before He Finds Her is a satisfying read that mystery lovers will enjoy.

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Filed under Before He Finds Her, Contemporary, Michael Kardos, Mysterious Press, Mystery, Rated B, Review

Review: The Marriage Charm by Linda Lael Miller

marriage charmTitle: The Marriage Charm by Linda Lael Miller
The Brides of Bliss County Series Book Two
Publisher: HQN Books
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

The women of Bliss County have a pact—to find husbands. The right husbands.

One already has: Hadleigh Stevens, who married rancher Tripp Galloway a few months ago. Now Melody Nolan thinks it’s her turn. Melody has recently found success as a jewelry designer, and her work is the focus of her life. She’s not exactly unhappy, but she wants more. She’s always been attracted to Spence Hogan, the local chief of police, but she’s convinced that Spence, a notorious charmer, isn’t what you’d call husband material.

Spence is a good cop who isn’t scared of anything—except love. And he’s done everything he can to preserve his reputation as a womanizer—a reputation that keeps marriage-minded women, including Melody, at bay. And yet…there’s something about Melody he can’t forget. Something his heart can’t ignore.

The Review:

The Marriage Charm is another delightfully heartwarming romance by Linda Lael Miller. This newest installment in The Brides of Bliss County is a beautifully written second chance at love story that old and new fans are sure to love.

Melody Nolan and Spence Hogan have known one another since childhood but their romance years earlier ended with broken hearts for both of them. Thrown together when their good friends Tripp and Hadleigh fall in love, it is obvious to both of them that they still harbor strong feelings for one another. Melody and Spence share one steamy night together, but Melody continues to feel the sting of Spence’s long ago rejection and finds it nearly impossible to trust the kind-hearted sheriff.

Melody is content with her life in Mustang Creek until her close friend Hadleigh marries the man of her dreams. She is truly happy for Hadleigh but at the same time, she cannot help but feel a little jealous. When the opportunity arises for Melody to reconnect with Spence, she does not give much thought to what, if any, future the two might have. Melody is still in love with him, but she is not sure trusting him is the smartest move for her.

Small town gossip has painted Spence as quite the player and as far as Melody is concerned, that is another black mark against him. Her jealousy gives him hope that all is not lost for them, but his undeserved reputation comes between them more than once. Luckily for Melody, Spence not only knows what he wants, but he is also willing to do the work necessary to reassure her that he is serious about her. He patiently waits for her to sort through her complicated feelings for him and Spence refuses to become discouraged when Melody keeps him at arm’s length.

Despite of Melody’s doubts, she and Spence do make progress on their relationship. Both turn to their closest friends for advice and while they may not always like what they hear, they do appreciate the different perspectives. Spence gently pursues her but he does respect her wishes when she asks him to back off. Part of their issues stem from lack of communication while others are a direct result of misinformation. While some of their problems are easier to solve than others, it is the unavoidable overlapping of their lives that really helps them clear up some of Melody’s misconceptions about Spence.

The Marriage Charm is a very sweet, fun and sexy addition to The Brides of Bliss County. As always, the characters are easy to like, well-developed and very charming. Linda Lael Miller adds a bit of a suspense element to the plot that helps keep both the story and the series fresh and unique. All in all, a captivating love story that is heartfelt and engaging.

Read my reviews of the other novels in The Brides of Bliss County series HERE.

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Filed under Contemporary, Harlequin, HQN Books, Linda Lael Miller, Rated B, Review, Romance, The Brides of Bliss County Series, The Marriage Charm

Review: War of the Wives by Tamar Cohen

war of wivesTitle: War of the Wives by Tamar Cohen
Publisher: Mira
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Think marriage means happily-ever-after? Think again…

Selina and Lottie are complete opposites. Where Selina is poised but prudish, Lottie is quirky and emotional. Selina is the dutiful mother of three children and able manager of their stylish suburban home. Lottie lives with her eccentric teenage daughter in a small city apartment fit to bursting with color and happy chaos. But these women also have one shocking similarity: they’re married to the same man…and they’ve just found out he’s dead.

Selina has been married to Simon Busfield for twenty-eight years, Lottie for seventeen. Neither knows a thing about the other until the day of Simon’s funeral, where the scandalous truth is revealed in front of everyone they know. Another wife, another family… And they’ve only just scratched the surface of Simon’s incredible betrayal.

With dark humor and razor-sharp wit, Cohen expertly unravels a story of deception and betrayal, where two very different families will discover they are entwined in ways that will change them all forever.

The Review:

War of the Wives is a very intriguing and riveting novel about two women who discover they were both married to the same man at the same time. While the premise of the story seems improbable, Tamar Cohen is simply brilliant at creating an entirely plausible scenario for the long lasting deception.

Selina Busfield has been married to Simon for twenty-eight years and they enjoy a lavish, privileged lifestyle. They have three children who range in age from late teens to their early twenties with only the youngest living at home. Selina is pampered and self-indulgent with a bit of a superior attitude. She is happy with her mostly long distance marriage and readily admits she is stingy with her affection to her husband and children. Selina is naturally stunned to discover that Simon has been living a double life, but she absolves him of all blame for falling for the second Mrs. Busfield, whom she fully believes is a nothing but a money-grubbing husband stealer.

Although Lottie has been married to Simon for seventeen years, she is completely unaware of his other family. She is nothing like Selina and their marriage is also very different from the one he has with Selina. Lottie is laid back, a bit of a spendthrift and unconcerned about their financial future. Although he is only around part of the time, Simon is a very hands on and doting father to their teenage daughter. Lottie is shocked to learn of Simon’s death and she cannot fathom why his funeral has been planned without her input. Needless to say, her appearance at the service brings the whole sordid mess out into the open and leaves both women struggling to understand Simon’s betrayal.

The differences between Selina and Lottie don’t end with their appearances and lifestyles. They each cope with Simon’s death in completely opposite ways. Selina remains organized and she faces the problems that arise head on whereas Lottie completely falls apart. Strangely enough, neither woman blames Simon for their current situation and as a result, Selina and Lottie’s relationship is incredibly antagonistic. However, the women do find themselves turning to one another as unexpected information is revealed, but their truce is fragile and easily broken.

The circumstances surrounding Simon’s death are rather perplexing and remain a mystery for much of the novel. Was his death a tragic accident? Did he commit suicide? Or is there a far more sinister reason for his untimely death? As more of his secrets come to light, each of these scenarios is conceivable, and when the answer is finally revealed, I immediately wanted to re-read the novel to see what, if any, clues I might have missed.

War of the Wives is a very compelling novel that is incredibly engrossing. Lottie and Selina are interesting characters that, while sympathetic, are not always easy to like. The plot is unique with numerous twists and turns and Tamar Cohen brings the story to an absolutely jaw-dropping and stunning conclusion. The remaining loose ends are wrapped up with a lovely epilogue that is quite heartwarming. All in all, it is a delightful gem of a story that I highly recommend.

4 Comments

Filed under Contemporary, Fiction, Harlequin, Mira, Rated B+, Review, Tamar Cohen, War of the Wives

Review: Huckleberry Spring by Jennifer Beckstrand

huck springTitle: Huckleberry Spring by Jennifer Beckstrand
The Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill Series Book Four
Publisher: Zebra Books
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Amish
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Nothing gives Anna and Felty Helmuth greater satisfaction than seeing their grandchildren happily married–except for planning their next matchmaking venture. And as springtime comes to Huckleberry Hill, Wisconsin, the air is filled with promise. . .

Ever since the Helmuths’ grandson, Ben, abruptly broke his engagement and moved to Florida, Emma Nelson has kept busy tending her vegetable garden and raising award-winning pumpkins. She can put her heartache aside to help Ben’s Mammi with her own pumpkin patch. At least until Ben shows up to lend support to his ailing Dawdi. . .

Gardening side by side with pretty, nurturing Emma is a sweet kind of torture for Ben. She could have her pick of suitors who can offer what he can’t, and he cares too much to burden her with his secret. Leaving once more is the only option. Yet Emma’s courage is daring him to accept the grace that flourishes here, and the love that has been calling him back to Huckleberry Hill…

The Review:

Jennifer Beckstrand whisks readers back to Bonduel for another very entertaining and thought-provoking installment in The Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill series. Huckleberry Spring is a second chance at love romance that is a very fun read but there is also an underlying seriousness to the plot that gives the story depth and substance.

In the months since Ben Helmuth inexplicably ended their engagement, Emma Nelson has put on a happy face for everyone around her, but her broken heart is nowhere near healed. Emma is a sweet, obedient girl who is a bit accident prone and endearingly inept at cooking and sewing. Since her break up, she has concentrated very hard on keeping out of trouble and perfecting her household skills. The one area of her life which needs no improvement is her green thumb, so when Ben’s grandmother asks for her gardening assistance, Emma reluctantly agrees since she knows she won’t run into her ex-fiancé. Or so she thinks…

As soon as Ben ended his engagement, he immediately moved to Florida and has never returned to Bonduel. Although the reason for the break up is well-intentioned, he is completely unaware of how badly everyone misconstrued his actions and the effect this has on Emma and her relationships with his extended family. Both Emma and Ben are very kind and giving people, but Ben has a bit of an over-developed sense of responsibility and his pride will not allow him to accept help in return. While he knows he cannot (or so he believes) reunite with Emma, he comes up with another well-intentioned but misguided plan to fix things for her, but this leads to further misunderstandings and heartache between them.

Ben and Emma are quite the star-crossed pair but Emma is the most sympathetic of the two since she is in the dark about what lead to their break up. She spends a lot of the story in tears because Ben continues to hurt her off and on as their paths continue to cross. Her clumsiness and her mother’s impatience with her make it easy for her to take on the blame for, well, everything, so it is easy to overlook her crying. While it is true that Emma finds herself in some very precarious situations, Ben is guilty of overlooking some of her strengths. There is much, much more to Emma than people believe and it is so gratifying when they begin to realize it.

Matchmaking grandma Anna has her hands full trying to bring Emma and Ben back together. Her harebrained scheme relies an awful lot on her poor husband Felty undergoing quite a few medical procedures. Of course, Felty is a good sport and goes along with whatever she suggests, but keeping in his assigned role is not easy for the active octogenarian. Felty is the first one to see what Ben is trying to hide but will his advice to his grandson fall on deaf ears?

Huckleberry Spring is another heartfelt addition to Jennifer Beckstrand’s The Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill series. It is sweet romance with delightfully lovable characters that imparts an important and practical message that is easy to relate to. All in all, a very lovely story that old and new fans of this series are going to love.

1 Comment

Filed under Amish, Contemporary, Huckleberry Spring, Jennifer Beckstrand, Rated B, Review, Romance, The Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill Series, Zebra

Review: Ghost of a Promise by Kelly Moran

ghost promiseTitle: Ghost of a Promise by Kelly Moran
Phantoms Trilogy Book One
Publisher: Entangled: Covet
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal/Supernatural, Romance
Length: 300
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher

Summary:

It might be love…but will they survive the night?

The ghosts of her family’s estate on the coast of Maine never troubled Ava Trumble. When she finally inherits the historic mansion, however, there’s a small string attached: Ava has exactly one year to solve a 200-year-old mystery of a missing girl, or lose her family’s home…

The lead investigator for paranormal TV show Phantoms, Jackson Granger, is prepared for any metaphysical encounter—until now. It’s not just the uncanny sense of “coming home” or even his reaction to the fiery redhead who seems to consume his every waking thought. No, it’s that the ghosts are using Jackson and Ava’s attraction to play out a centuries-old tragedy. Heartbreak. Loss. Overwhelming passion. Now Jackson and Ava must determine if they’re sharing something real…or if they’ve been possessed by a love that never died.

The Review:

With an intriguing mystery, an eerie ghostly presence and a sizzling hot romance, Kelly Moran’s Phantoms Trilogy is off to a spooktacular beginning with Ghost of a Promise. If you are a fan of ghost stories (or the TV show Ghost Hunters), you absolutely do not want to miss this riveting first installment in what promises to be a very spooky series about a group of paranormal investigators.

Ava Trumble is dismayed to discover that in order to inherit her great-aunt’s mansion she has to solve the mysterious disappearance of Sarah Kerrick. Sarah vanished without a trace over 200 years earlier and the family estate has been plagued with ghostly appearances and unexplained deaths ever since. While the hauntings do not bother her, Ava is genuinely interested in learning the fate of Sarah and calling in the Phantoms team is her best chance for solving the mystery.

Jackson Granger is the lead investigator for the paranormal show and he is immediately charmed by both Ava and her home. He is a bit unsettled by his unexpected feelings of familiarity upon his arrival, but he pushes his unease away as they begin their investigation. For the first time in his career, Jackson’s experiences at the estate have a personal effect on him and his surprising attraction to Ava seems to be a trigger for some of the supernatural phenomena. Pairing up to get to the bottom of the mystery, Jackson and Ava eventually give in to their desire, but will Jackson’s commitment issues and Ava’s fears prevent them from staying together once the investigation has ended?

The paranormal/supernatural element of Ghost of a Promise is absolutely outstanding. The ghostly occurrences are very spooky and rather chilling. The history of the house is quite fascinating and the mystery surrounding Sarah’s disappearance is equally spellbinding. The paranormal investigation is very well researched and fans of ghost stories will be thrilled by this aspect of the storyline.

Ghost of a Promise is a captivating start to Phantom’s Trilogy. The cast of characters is superbly developed and the plot is quite engrossing. Kelly Moran expertly weaves mystery, romance and the supernatural into a compelling story that is sure to delight readers and leave them impatiently awaiting the next novel of this marvelous series.

2 Comments

Filed under Contemporary, Entangled Covet, Ghost of a Promise, Ghosts, Kelly Moran, Paranormal, Phantoms Trilogy, Rated B+, Review, Romance, Supernatural Elements

Review: Flirting with Disaster by Victoria Dahl

flirting disasterTitle: Flirting with Disaster by Victoria Dahl
Jackson: Girls’ Night Out Series Book Two
Publisher: HQN Books
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

There’s no hiding from sizzling chemistry…

Artist Isabelle West has good reasons for preferring a solitary life. Tucked away in a cabin in the woods, she has everything she needs…except a red-hot love life. That is, until a hard-bodied US marshal threatens to unearth secrets she’s spent years protecting. But giving in to the sparks flying between them can only lead to one thing…disaster.

Tom Duncan lives by the letter of the law. But no one has tempted him—or confused him—more than free-spirited Isabelle, who arouses his suspicion and his desire. As their connection grows, and their nights get hotter, they find their wild attraction might shake everything he stands for—and expose everything she has to hide.

Bonus Girls’ Night Out novella, Fanning the Flames, included!

The Review:

Flirting with Disaster is another highly entertaining and steamy romance in Victoria Dahl’s fabulous Jackson: Girls’ Night Out series. There is also a hint of suspense in this installment which helps keep this dynamite series fresh and provides yet another layer to the very appealing main characters.

Isabelle West has a quiet but happy life on the outskirts of Jackson Hole, WY. She is good friends with her nearest neighbor, Jill and she shares a close friendship with Lauren Foster and Sophie Heyer, two of the local librarians. She is a bit of a free spirit with a successful and lucrative career as an artist. In her mid thirties, she is sexually confident and unashamed about fulfilling her desires. But Isabelle is hiding a huge secret which makes it impossible for her to have a long term relationship. Which is not really a problem until Deputy US Marshal Tom Duncan arrives on the scene. At first scared to death her past has caught up with her, Isabelle cannot deny her attraction to the handsome lawman, but can she trust that he won’t uncover her secret?

Tom is a very refreshing male lead-he is sexy but he is not the typical alpha male who is in complete control of the heroine and their relationship. Instead, he is just an all around nice man who is easy to embarrass (which is a very endearing trait) and an impossible to resist need to meddle in the lives of the people he cares about. With nearly twenty years of law enforcement behind him, Tom has good instincts and Isabelle’s reaction to him puts him on high alert. He knows she is hiding something and since he cannot resist helping someone in need, Tom keeps digging into her background until he discovers what that something is.

Isabelle and Tom know their budding relationship has an expiration date since he will be leaving once his current case wraps up. At first, both of them are ok with this since neither is really in a position for anything long term. By the time Tom unwittingly brings Isabelle’s past smack dab into her present, their feelings for one another go deeper than desire. But things go horribly wrong in a hurry and Isabelle discovers that her trust issue run deep and she is fearful of another rejection by another important person in her life.

Flirting with Disaster is a wonderful addition to the Jackson: Girls’ Night Out series. The characters are immensely appealing with flaws and imperfections that are realistic. The plot is unique and quite compelling. The characters from earlier books make brief guest appearances and these scenes are absolutely hilarious and beautifully demonstrate the close friendship shared by the women. The sex is, as always, sizzling hot, but it is the camaraderie and friendship that Isabelle and Tom share outside of the bedroom that makes Flirting with Disaster such a delightful read. It is another outstanding romance by Victoria Dahl that I absolutely adored and highly recommend.

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Filed under Contemporary, Flirting with Diaster, Harlequin, HQN Books, Jackson Girls' Night Out Series, Rated B+, Review, Romance, Victoria Dahl