Category Archives: Contemporary

Review: Daisies in the Canyon by Carolyn Brown

daisiesTitle: Daisies in the Canyon by Carolyn Brown
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 274 pages
Book Rating: A

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

She’s here to claim her birthright…

Ex-army sergeant Abby Malloy feels no loss after the father she never knew passes away. Still, part of Ezra Malloy’s ranch belongs to her, and if the stubborn blonde has to live there for a year with two half-sisters who are strangers to her, so be it. Nothing could stand in the way of her inheritance…except a local sheriff wrapped in snug blue jeans and a sexy grin.

He’s here to claim her heart…

Cooper Wilson, the local sheriff and rancher next door, is having his world turned upside down. Abby is all straight talk and sweet, lush curves—the kind of woman who gets under his skin in just the right way. Whereas Cooper has roots in Palo Duro Canyon, Abby’s got wings. But he knows she belongs here. If she can stop running from her past, he’ll happily lead her to a brighter future, one hot cowboy kiss at a time.

The Review:

Daisies in the Canyon by Carolyn Brown is an exceptionally well-written, engaging and heartwarming romance. This wonderful novel set in the Palo Duro Canyon is a beautiful love story between Abby Malloy and Cooper Wilson. It is also a healing story about making peace with the past and embracing the unexpected as Abby and her newfound half-sisters, Shiloh and Bonnie, begin a new life on the ranch left to them by the father they never met.

Fresh out of the Army, Abby has lived a transient life for so long that the thought of putting down roots is a foreign concept. But to inherit the ranch left to her by her absentee father Ezra, she has to stay on the ranch for one year. Abby is reluctant to commit to the entire year, so she decides to stay until spring, then she will re-evaluate whether or not it is time to move on. But when she begins to fall for Sheriff and neighbor Cooper Wilson, Abby must decide if she is ready to risk her heart despite not knowing what the future holds.

Abby is a strong, capable woman and she is more than up to the task of learning the ins and outs of ranching. Although she had a stable, happy childhood, Ezra’s abandonment left its mark and she has struggled with commitment issues and a sense of not belonging for most of her life. Her time on the ranch provides the opportunity for Abby to gain a better understanding of herself and some of the choices she has made. But it is not until Abby begins to fall for Cooper that she realizes how deeply Ezra’s rejection has affected her.

It is not at all difficult to understand why Abby is drawn to Cooper. He is deliciously sexy, dependable and hardworking. Between his Sheriff and ranching duties, he has been too busy for a serious relationship but that does not stop him for pursuing Abby once she catches his eye. For the most part, Cooper is content to patiently wait while she works through her problems, but he does gently nudge her towards staying both in the canyon and with him.

Cooper and Abby’s relationship heats up really fast, but the two quickly step back once they realize they have very different plans for the future. However, their paths cross fairly frequently and they become friends all the while trying to ignore to ignore their simmering desire. Cooper and Abby decide to explore their attraction but a misunderstanding and Abby’s fear of commitment threaten their blossoming romance.

The one area of Abby’s life that is relatively trouble free is the unanticipated bond she finds with Shiloh and Bonnie. There is little animosity between them and although their backgrounds are diverse, the three find common ground as they settle into their new lives. Their individual strengths offset one another’s weaknesses and they are surprised by how compatible they are. When Abby’s fears about the future jeopardize her relationship with Cooper, Shiloh and Bonnie are a welcome source of advice and comfort.

Daisies in the Canyon is a sweet, humorous and sometimes poignant novel that is quite captivating. The cast of characters is beautifully developed, appealing and very easy to root for. Carolyn Brown’s love for the Palo Duro Canyon is always apparent and her descriptive prose brings the picturesque setting vibrantly to life. The storyline is refreshing with very little angst or drama. All of the necessary ingredients for a heartfelt, feel good story that I absolutely loved and highly recommend!

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Filed under Carolyn Brown, Contemporary, Daisies in the Canyon, Montlake Romance, Rated A, Review, Romance

Review: Thief by Mark Sullivan

thiefTitle: Thief by Mark Sullivan
Robin Monarch Book Three
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Genre: Contemporary, Thriller
Length: 349 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher

Summary:

In Mark Sullivan’s Thief, Robin Monarch is a man with a complicated past and dangerous present. He’s been a soldier, a CIA agent, a freelance operative but first and foremost, Robin Monarch is a thief of the highest order. Orphaned at twelve, Monarch originally stole for survival, then he stole for his friends and cohorts, now he steals to order, and to give back to the to the woman who saved his life many years ago.

With the help of his team, Monarch breaks into the legendary Christmas party of Beau Arsenault, a shady investor and behind-the-scenes player at the very highest levels of power politics. Arsenault is not above bending or breaking the rules if there’s illicit profit to be made. Monarch has decided that those illicit profits will be better used to take care of orphans and street kids. Using the party as cover to break into Arsenault’s secret vaults, Monarch comes away with two unexpected things. One is a bullet—he gets shot when he’s caught trying to escape with tens of millions of negotiable instruments. The second is a lead on what might be his most audacious exploit ever. A previously undiscovered tribe in South America may well have the secret to the most sought after knowledge in history—that of eternal life. And Robin Monarch must use all his skills—as an operative, as a thief—to keep this secret from falling into the worst possible hands.

The Review:

Thief by Mark Sullivan is another pulse pounding thriller starring the very intrepid Robin Monarch. In this outing, the stakes are high for Robin as he, along with his trusted crew, race to save Sister Rachel Diego del Mar from ruthless kidnappers.

At the end of Outlaw, Robin was left with a few suspicions about billionaire Beau Arsenault’s involvement in the kidnapping of a top US official. He digs a little deeper into Arsenault’s life but the subsequent investigation fails to yield any solid evidence to support his theory. However he does uncover some very interesting information about the billionaire’s financial dealings, and Robin embarks on a daring heist that leads to a hefty payoff and nets him a powerful foe.

Needing medical attention for the wounds he sustained during his escape, Robin is soon in the care of Sister Rachel, the nun who, years earlier, convinced him to walk away from his life in the Brotherhood of Thieves. Information he revealed during his escape from the robbery provides Arsenault with the information he needs to figure out Robin is behind the theft and he then devises a nefarious plot to gain Robin’s cooperation in stealing vital research information. Arsenault puts in motion a plot to kidnap Sister Rachel and to save her, Robin must join forces with scientist Estella Santos and her fellow researchers as they journey deep into the Amazon jungles.

Robin is still clever and quick thinking but his concern for Sister Rachel causes him to ignore his instincts on more than one occasion. He has no choice but to finagle his way into Estella’s research trip but their truce remains uneasy. Their journey is fraught with danger as they battle not only the harsh elements but a nemesis from Robin’s past. Another complication arises upon their arrival at the remote village where Monarch struggles with a moral dilemma as he weighs the pros and cons of a decision he must soon make.

While Robin is occupied with Estella, his close friend Claudio Fortunato is hot on the trail of Sister Rachel. His investigation goes in an unexpected direction that leads straight back to his and Robin’s days in the Brotherhood of Thieves. Secrets, lies and an almost maniacal thirst for revenge are just a few of the difficulties Claudio encounters as he frantically searches for Sister Rachel.

Thief is a spellbinding adventure with a unique storyline and intriguing setting. Unexpected plot twists and plenty of action keep the story moving at a brisk pace. Old and new enemies once again prove formidable adversaries for Robin Monarch and his elite team but thankfully, in the end, good triumphs over evil as Mark Sullivan brings the novel to a dramatic and highly satisfying conclusion.

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Filed under Contemporary, Mark Sullivan, Rated B+, Review, Robin Monarch, Thief, Thriller

Review: A Nip of Murder by Carol Miller

nipTitle: A Nip of Murder by Carol Miller
Moonshine Mystery Series Book Two
Publisher: Minotaur
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher

Summary:

As Daisy McGovern knows all too well, it isn’t easy being a young, small-town waitress at a local diner in Virginia. It becomes even harder as she’s trying to stitch her life back together and salvage her job by converting the diner into a bakery. She’s preoccupied with snickerdoodles and cinnamon buns, trying to feed a group of geocachers in town, when a mysterious robbery occurs in the back room and one of the thieves ends up dead with a chef’s knife in his chest. With the sheriff out of town, Daisy, distrustful of the cop left in charge, takes it upon herself to follow up on clues and find out who the robber was and why he was there. While she’s investigating, she meets a handsome geocacher and is commissioned to bake a cake for the unlikely wedding of one of the Balsam boys, at the same time trying to avoid the charms of his moonshine-brewing brother.

When a second murder occurs, Daisy finds herself in a twisted game of cat and mouse that takes her from secretive nip joints overflowing with moonshine to weathered Appalachian mountaintops overflowing with history and guns. She must figure out who is the murderer and how her bakery is involved before she becomes the next victim.

The Review:

Carol Miller serves up another puzzling and very unique mystery in the Moonshine Mystery series with her latest release, A Nip of Murder. Daisy McGovern is now the proud owner of Sweetie Pies and her bakery is doing a booming business. That is until a mysterious break in leads to murder and Daisy is finds herself embroiled in a search for the dead man’s identity.

Daisy does not have much confidence in the deputy investigating the break in at Sweetie Pies and she decides to do a little sleuthing on her own. The discovery of a mysterious chip leads her a moonshine “nip” in a neighboring town where she finds uncovers more baffling evidence. A couple other strange break-ins add to her confusion but Daisy is convinced that all of the events are somehow connected.

Once again, Daisy finds herself crossing paths and matching wits with Rick Balsam, a childhood friend whom she does not trust any farther than she can throw him. She is also saddled with the Rick’s brother Bobby, who is harmless but not overly bright, but surprisingly, he does have a few useful skills that prove very helpful. Both of the Balsam brothers are key players in the case, and Daisy’s continued animosity towards Rick hinders the investigation.

A Nip of Murder is another delightful installment in Carol Miller’s Moonshine Mystery series.  It is a very engrossing story with a mystery that is virtually impossible to solve. With a colorful cast of characters and plenty of down home Southern charm, A Nip of Murder is a fun and unique read that mystery lovers are going love.

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Filed under A Nip of Murder, Carol Miller, Contemporary, Minotaur Books, Moonshine Mystery Series, Mystery, Rated B

Review: The Last Cowboy in Texas by Katie Lane

last cowboyTitle: The Last Cowboy in Texas by Katie Lane
Deep in the Heart of Texas Series Book Seven
Publisher: Forever
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

No Sad Songs Here, Darlin’

Country music princess Starlet Brubaker has a sweet tooth for moon pies and cowboys: both are yummy-and you can never have just one. Now Beckett Cates may not be a cowboy, but he certainly has the heart, soul-and body-to whet her appetite. He’s a sexy ex-Marine with a touch hotter than the scorching Texas sun and arms strong enough to catch her when she lands into trouble.

Playing bodyguard to America’s sweetheart isn’t easy for Beckett. But falling for her sure is. Unfortunately, Starlet has a reputation for keeping a guy or two wrapped around her finger and Beckett refuses to be anybody’s backup. So now it’s up to Starlet to prove that she’s put her cowboy-crazy days behind her. Otherwise, she’ll be singing solo instead of living in harmony with the man who’s loved her even before her fame and fortune.

The Review:

The Last Cowboy in Texas is a sweet, funny and heartfelt novel and it is the perfect ending to Katie Lane’s entertaining and heartwarming Deep in the Heart of Texas series.   In this outing, Starlet Brubaker and Beckett Cates are shocked when their previously antagonistic relationship unexpectedly turns romantic.

Starlet’s dream of becoming a successful country singer has come true, but her life has spiraled out of control. Between her controlling manager, uncle, cousin and alcoholic mother, Starlet cannot seem to find a moment of peace nor does she have a minute to call her own. After her latest tour ends, Starlet returns to Bramble where her much needed break is soon complicated by kidnapping attempts, writer’s block and a surprising romance with the now grownup and deliciously sexy Beckett.

Beckett is the youngest of the Cates’ siblings and he has never fit in with his rough and tumble older brothers. Feeling the need to prove himself, he joined the Marines and he is no longer the skinny, nerdy Cates everyone remembers. However, the changes in Beckett go deeper than his outward appearance. After a tour in Afghanistan, he is struggling with some residual PTSD and guilt from his last mission. He is not planning on staying in Bramble, but when Starlet needs a bodyguard, Beckett agrees to protect her until she is no longer in danger.

Starlet and Beckett’s relationship is a wonderful blend of scorching hot love scenes and sweetly romantic moments that occur as they get to know one another. They also begin to understand that their previous animosity was fueled by misunderstandings but most importantly, they discover their feelings for one another run deeper than either realized. Just as they begin to look toward a possible future together, their blossoming romance is complicated by Starlet’s past.

In addition to Starlet and Beckett’s romance, there are numerous subplots featuring some of Bramble’s colorful residents. These secondary story arcs help wrap up minor storylines that were not completely resolved in previous novels. There is also a hint of mystery that adds some drama to the overall story.

The Last Cowboy in Texas is a fast paced and engaging novel with a somewhat zany cast of characters and a delightfully unique (and slightly outrageous) storyline. It is a touching and emotional romance and Katie Lane’s moving epilogue wraps up all of the loose ends and makes it just a little bit easier to say good-bye to the wonderful town of Bramble and all of its crazy but lovable inhabitants.

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Filed under Contemporary, Deep in the Heart of Texas Series, Forever, Katie Lane, Rated B, Review, Romance, The Last Cowboy in Texas

Review: House Broken by Sonja Yoerg

house brokenTitle: House Broken by Sonja Yoerg
Publisher: NAL Trade
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: 336 pages
Book Rating: A

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher through Penguin’s First to Read Program

Summary:

In this compelling and poignant debut novel, a woman skilled at caring for animals must learn to mend the broken relationships in her family.…

For veterinarian Geneva Novak, animals can be easier to understand than people. They’re also easier to forgive. But when her mother, Helen, is injured in a vodka-fueled accident, it’s up to Geneva to give her the care she needs.

Since her teens, Geneva has kept her self-destructive mother at arm’s length. Now, with two slippery teenagers of her own at home, the last thing she wants is to add Helen to the mix. But Geneva’s husband convinces her that letting Helen live with them could be her golden chance to repair their relationship.

Geneva isn’t expecting her mother to change anytime soon, but she may finally get answers to the questions she’s been asking for so long. As the truth about her family unfolds, however, Geneva may find secrets too painful to bear and too terrible to forgive.

The Review:

House Broken is an absolutely spectacular debut novel by Sonja Yoerg. This beautifully written story is a touching, insightful and thought-provoking exploration of the strained relationship between an alcoholic mother and her children. It is a complex tale of family dysfunction that is quite riveting but it is the cast of characters that makes it a truly unforgettable read.

The youngest of four siblings, Geneva Novak is a married mother of two teenagers who reluctantly lets her alcoholic mother Helen temporarily move in while she recuperates from a car accident. Geneva has never been close to Helen and she decides to use this opportunity to bridge the gap between them. Her attempt to understand why her mother drinks leads to the discovery of a shocking family secret that explains Helen’s behavior but will this knowledge allow them to repair their fractured relationship?

Geneva is very regimented and logical thinking so at first, she appears rather strict and unbending. She is quite intuitive and she lets her instincts guide her most of the time. Her relationships with husband Tom and her kids, Ella and Charlie, are troubled as they begin to rebel against her unyielding standards. Her relationship with her brother Dublin is rock solid and the two have no secrets from one another. But to get answers for the questions that are troubling her, Geneva turns to her older sisters, Florence and Paris, but neither of them is eager to rehash the past with her.

Helen is flippant, conniving and self-absorbed and this makes her very difficult to like. Her reflections on her past make some of her actions understandable but for the most part, she remains an unsympathetic character. Helen’s memories provide an explanation for her alcoholism and the reasons for her distance from Geneva, but these revelations do little to redeem her character.

Ella is dealing with the typical teenage insecurities and angst. She has a sardonic and snarky sense of humor that is absolutely hilarious. Her relationship with her brother Charlie is often adversarial but Ella keeps quiet about his increasingly alarming activities.

House Broken is an intriguing and sometimes heartrending novel that does not shy away from difficult subject matter. Sonja Yoerg brilliantly weaves past and present into a compelling and realistic story that is healing but always stays true to the characters. A sensitive portrayal of a family’s darkest secrets that I will not soon forget and highly recommend.

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Filed under Contemporary, Fiction, House Broken, NAL Trade, Rated A, Review, Sonja Yoerg

Review: Return to Me by Kelly Moran

Return to MeTitle: Return to Me by Kelly Moran
Covington Cove Series Book One
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher

Summary:

A Covington Cove Novel—First in a new contemporary romance series from an award-winning author featuring “two characters you’ll never forget.” (Carly Phillips, New York Times bestselling author)

With every beat of the heart comes a memory of what could have been…

Ten years ago, Cole Covington was just another rich kid who got everything he wanted—including young and trusting Mia Galdon. Then one night everything changed, and two hearts were shattered. Cole buried his guilt in the military, where love was just part of the past. Now Cole has come back home, emotionally damaged, guarded, and unprepared for what’s waiting for him…

At the urging of Cole’s sister, Mia has returned to the Covington family’s coastal home in Wilmington as a private nurse to help Cole recover. With her uncertain personal life at a crossroad, Mia doesn’t have the luxury of saying no to the job. And she soon finds out that the attraction is still alive. So are memories of betrayal. But Mia will discover more than the power of resilience. She’ll discover a secret Cole has held for years, one that will force them to confront the past and give new meaning to letting go, forgiveness, and a future worth fighting for.

Pre-order Links (Available March 3, 2015): Amazon * B&N

The Review:

Return to Me by Kelly Moran is an enchanting second chance at love romance that tugs at the heartstrings as Cole Covington and Mia Galdon heal the wounds of the past. This first installment in the Covington Cove series is an emotional, poignant and uplifting novel that I highly recommend to fans of contemporary romances.

Mia has worked hard to escape the poverty of her childhood. In the ten years since the terrible break up with Cole, she achieved her goal of attending college to become a registered nurse. Currently unemployed after her position was eliminated, she is struggling to pay the bills when Lacey Covington offers her a job as Cole’s private nurse. Despite the heartache of their past, Mia accepts the position and hopes that by helping Cole, she will find answers to her lingering questions about the abrupt end to the their relationship.

Mia is a warm and caring woman and it is impossible not to like her. She is a little shocked at Cole’s condition but she takes a tough love approach to his care. Mia is pragmatic, resourceful and refuses to back down no matter how much Cole fights her.

Cole is stubborn and he has refused to do anything to aid his recovery from his injuries. In addition to his physical injures, he is suffering from post traumatic stress and he has isolated himself from friends and family. Mia leaves him no choice but to comply with her treatment plan, and he slowly begins to heal. Although Cole is beginning to recover from his battle injuries, he continues to be haunted by the unresolved issues in his past.

Events from the past are revealed through brief flashbacks that detail Cole and Mia’s relationship from their first meetings through their disastrous breakup. In spite of their vastly different backgrounds, they formed a close friendship that eventually turned to love.  Although the odds were against them, their romance was flourishing right up until Cole inexplicably broke up with Mia.

In the present, Mia and Cole’s relationship is at first professional, but they quickly resume their previous friendship. Once Cole confesses why he broke things off, he and Mia are finally free to explore their continued attraction to one another. But once again, interference from outside sources threatens their burgeoning romance.

Return to Me is an engaging novel with an appealing cast of characters and a unique storyline. Kelly Moran expertly weaves past and present into a compelling story of love and healing that is realistic and quite moving. It is an absolutely delightful beginning to the Covington Cove series that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the next installment.

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Filed under Berkley, Contemporary, Kelly Moran, Rated B+, Return to Me, Review, Romance