Category Archives: Contemporary

Review: Return to Homecoming Ranch by Julia London

homecoming ranchTitle: Return to Homecoming Ranch by Julia London
Pine River Series Book Two
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 334 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Curly-haired Libby Tyler never stops smiling…until her beloved boyfriend suddenly forces her out of their home and away from his adoring kids. When she learns he dumped her for his flighty ex-wife, Libby’s sadness turns to fury—and she very publicly smashes his truck with a golf club, earning herself a trip to a mental health center for some “rest.”

Handsome, hazel-eyed deputy Sam Winters has been sober for two years. Afraid of backsliding, he lives in the mountains and keeps his distance from people. Yet he never forgot Libby, his former colleague at the sheriff’s office whose charm and cheerfulness always warmed his days.

Now Libby’s back, ignoring the townspeople’s whispers (and her ex’s restraining order) while desperately trying to make Homecoming Ranch a successful event destination. She keeps causing trouble for Sam, but he finds her smile more beautiful than ever…and his touch gives her thrills she’s never felt. Could these two lost souls mend each other’s broken hearts?

The Review:

Return to Homecoming Ranch is the second novel in Julia London’s Pine River series. This installment features another one of the Tyler sisters and it is a poignant and very heartwarming story.

Return to Homecoming Ranch opens not long after Libby Tyler’s very public breakdown where she attacked her ex-boyfriend’s truck with a golf club. A week of intensive, inpatient therapy has helped her regain her equilibrium, but she still has hopes of regaining her lost family. A recovering alcoholic, Deputy Sam Winters knows what it is like to pick up the pieces after a public fall from grace. So when Libby violates the restraining order her ex took out on her, instead of arresting her, Sam takes a softhearted approach and lets her go with a stern lecture. Libby keeps getting into trouble, Sam continues to rescue her and before long, their somewhat uneasy friendship leads to romance.

Libby is a passionate, vivacious and giving young woman but she is also impulsive, reckless and stubborn. The end of her four year relationship blindsided her but it was losing her ex’s two young kids that really broke her heart. Libby has irrational and unrealistic expectations of salvaging her relationship with the kids and nothing and no one can convince her otherwise. It is incredibly frustrating watching her self-destruct time and again and while Sam’s efforts to help her are well-intentioned, he should have let her deal with the consequences of her actions much, much sooner.

Sam works hard to maintain his sobriety and he now leads a solitary, quiet, peaceful life. He is incredibly patient with Libby and his feelings run much deeper than just friendship. Sam has serious reservations about becoming involved with Libby, and he is very upfront about what he needs from her to make things work between them. But Sam’s expectations are impossible to maintain and Libby makes a rash and impetus decision that jeopardizes their relationship.

Adding to Libby’s problems is the future of Homecoming Ranch. She and her sister Madeline are struggling to turn it into a hotspot for destination events, but they are running into numerous snags while working on their current project. Libby is also having problems with a fundraiser she is spearheading and in order to make it a success, she needs the expert assistance only her estranged sister Emma can provide and her arrival sets the stage for the next book in the Pine River series.

Return to Homecoming Ranch is a wonderful novel and Julia London deftly handles very difficult subjects with ease. Sam and Libby are well-developed, imperfect protagonists who eventually (if somewhat painfully) triumph over their personal demons. All in all, this heartfelt romance is compelling, entertaining and emotionally satisfying.

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Filed under Contemporary, Julia London, Montlake Romance, Pine River Series, Rated B, Return to Homecoming Ranch, Review, Romance

Review: Between the Sheets by Molly O’Keefe

sheetsTitle: Between the Sheets by Molly O’Keefe
Boys of Bishop Series Book Three
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Imprint: Bantam
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 370 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Perfect for readers of Susan Mallery and Rachel Gibson, Between the Sheets is Molly O’Keefe’s final book in the Boys of Bishop trilogy, featuring a sizzling romance between a sexy motorcycle bad boy and the girl next door who can’t resist him.

After years of running, Wyatt Svenson has now parked himself in Bishop, Arkansas, trying to do the right thing and parent a son he didn’t even know he had until recently. Over six feet tall and packed with muscles and power, Ty likes to get his hands dirty, fixing his motorcycle at night and keeping his mind away from the mistakes he’s made. Then his pretty neighbor shows up on his driveway, doesn’t bother to introduce herself, and complains about the noise. First impression? She should loosen up. Funny that she turns out to be his son’s elementary school art teacher—and the only one willing to help his troubled boy. Ty needs her. In more ways than one.

Though Shelby Monroe is safe in her structured life, she is drawn to Ty’s bad-boy edge and rugged sexuality. What if she just lets it all go: her worries about her mother, her fear of heartbreak, and her tight self control? What if she grabs Ty and takes a ride on the wild side? “What if” becomes reality—intense, exhilarating . . . and addictive. But Ty wants more than a secret affair. He wants it all with Shelby. But will she take a chance and open her heart? Ty is determined to convince Shelby to take the biggest risk of her life: on him.

The Review:

Between the Sheets by Molly O’Keefe is an intense, heartbreaking and poignant novel that is also insanely hot and incredibly passionate. In this third installment of her marvelous Boys of Bishop series, neighbors Shelby Monroe and Wyatt “Ty” Svenson’s first meeting is a bit contentious. However, they easily set aside their differences for the sake of Ty’s troubled son, Casey. What they find impossible to resist is their sizzling attraction to one another, but when Ty wants more from Shelby than explosive sex, her troubled past makes it virtually impossible for her commit to a real relationship.

Shelby is a likable character but she is so closed off that getting to know her takes a lot of grit and determination.   Everything she is, everything she does, stems from her dysfunctional and abusive childhood. Peeling back her many layers is painful and watching her try to cope with her mother’s worsening Alzheimer’s is beyond heartbreaking. Shelby does not lack sexual experience but since she has never had a serious relationship, she is rather awkward when it comes to flirting and dating. Even after a very public sex scandal, no one sees Shelby as anything but sweet, prim and proper. So the fact that she uses rough, angry sex to cope with her frustrations comes as a huge shock.

Ty is a former bad boy who is struggling to be a good dad to his newly discovered son. Moving to Bishop is supposed to be a clean slate for both of them, but eleven year old Casey continues to act out and Ty is fighting his old urge to run from his problems. Ty is clearly out of his element with Casey but he does not allow his discomfort deter him from trying to get through to his emotionally damaged son.

While Ty is clearly surprised by Shelby’s aggressive approach to sex, he is an eager participant. Their sex scenes are raw and gritty and there is very little tenderness between them. Both use sex as their release valve and escape from real life, but Ty wants more from their encounters than Shelby but she quickly shuts down his efforts to get to know her.  Ty definitely gives more to the relationship than Shelby and no matter how many times she pushes him away, he never gives up hope that things will work out between them.

Between the Sheets is an emotional, complicated and messy romance that is unique and engrossing. Ty and Shelby are complex, vibrantly developed characters whose smoldering attraction leads to fiery, explicitly detailed sex scenes. It is another powerful novel of love and healing by Molly O’Keefe that old and new fans of the Boys of Bishop series do not want to miss.

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Filed under Bantam, Between the Sheets, Boys of Bishop Series, Contemporary, Random House Publishing Group, Rated B+, Review, Romance

Review: Hungry Mother Creek by Heather W. Cobham

mother creekTitle: Hungry Mother Creek by Heather W. Cobham
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 385 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Author

Summary:

Inspired by the idyllic setting of Oriental, North Carolina, Hungry Mother Creek is a story of love, loss, and the healing power of speaking your truth.

To the outside world it looks like Maya Somers lost everything in Hurricane Katrina: her husband, the bungalow they shared and her job. But inside, Maya knows Katrina gave her the gift of a fresh start. She and her yellow lab, Doodle Bug, leave the destruction of the Gulf Coast for North Carolina and settle in Oriental, a quaint fishing village on the Pamlico Sound.

In her new home by the water, Maya begins to rebuild her life. She knows she needs to heal from her abusive marriage and the trauma of Hurricane Katrina, but isn’t sure where to start. It isn’t long before teachers appear to help her: Hazel, her elderly but spirited neighbor who has secrets of her own; Travis, a handsome kayak guide to whom she immediately feels a strong attraction; Buster, a crusty old fisherman who always seems to show up just when she needs him; and Bay Witherspoon, the much younger wife of a wealthy attorney who becomes a close friend despite their initial differences. Maya finds the most profound help when she is welcomed into a women’s circle that meets on the banks of Hungry Mother Creek. Gathered with these women, Maya learns that becoming vulnerable and sharing her pain with others is the first step of her healing journey.

What is the second step? Maya isn’t sure, but with the help of her loyal yellow lab, her new friends and the peace of living by the water, she stays the course. Ultimately, Maya finds the healing journey to be messy, tangled and unpredictable. The result is nothing she could have ever imagined.

The Review:

Hungry Mother Creek by Heather W. Cobham is a lovely novel of new beginnings, friendship and healing. When Hurricane Katrina survivor Maya Somers relocates to a small tranquil town in North Carolina, she meets several people who aid her as she tries to make peace with her painful past.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Maya is still struggling to make sense of her marriage. She is haunted by lingering questions about her husband, his untimely death and most important, why she stayed with him after his behavior drastically changed. The joy and contentment she experiences in her new life is overshadowed by her guilt that her chance at happiness is a direct result of her husband’s death. It is not until a group of women welcome her into their loving fold that Maya is finally able to reconcile her conflicted emotions about her husband and her unanswered questions with the promising future she so richly deserves.

Maya is a sympathetic protagonist and it is easy to understand why she is so desperate for answers. Two years after Hurricane Katrina, she still cannot fully accept that she may never find what she is searching for and this part of the storyline quickly becomes frustrating and a little repetitious. The pace of the story really picks up after Maya becomes friends with an eclectic group of women are also dealing with problems of their own. Through unconditional friendship, unwavering support and helpful advice, each of them finds the strength to face their fears and eventually find a measure of peace.

Hungry Mother Creek is an emotional and insightful novel that is quite enjoyable. The vibrant and colorful cast of intriguing characters is well-developed and appealing.  The setting is unique and Heather W. Cobham brings it vividly to life. All in all, it is an engaging story that is  poignant yet uplifting and hopeful.

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Filed under Contemporary, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, Heather W Cobham, Hungry Mother Creek, Rated B, Review

Review: Swan Point by Sherryl Woods

swan pointTitle: Swan Point by Sherryl Woods
The Sweet Magnolias Book Eleven
Publisher: Harlequin
Imprint: Mira
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 368 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

#1 New York Times bestselling author  Sherryl Woods draws readers back into  the world of strong friendships and heartfelt emotions in Serenity, South Carolina

Determined to build a new life for her family after her divorce, Adelia Hernandez has bought a home in the historic Swan Point neighborhood of Serenity. Promoted to manager of Main Street’s most fashionable boutique, she feels revitalized and ready for a fresh start as a single mom. But barely into this new independent phase, she crosses paths with the sexiest man to hit Serenity in years.

Gabe Franklin, back in town to make amends for past mistakes, has no intention of settling down, but Adelia’s proving irresistible. Cheered on by their friends, “the Sweet Magnolias,” Gabe is bringing long-absent passion and laughter into Adelia’s life. To his surprise—and hers—sometimes a rolling stone is just what it takes to build the rock-solid foundation of a family.

“Woods’ readers will eagerly anticipate her trademark small-town setting, loyal friendships, and honorable mentors as they meet new characters and reconnect with familiar ones in this heartwarming tale.”  —Booklist on Home in Carolina

The Review:

Swan Point is another warm and inviting novel in Sherryl Woods’ incredibly heartwarming Sweet Magnolias series. In this latest visit to Serenity, newly divorced Adelia Hernandez is beginning a new life with her four children while Gabe Franklin is trying to make peace with his turbulent past. They are caught off guard by their mutual attraction, but with plenty of encouragement from interfering but well-meaning friends and family, they tentatively begin dating. While this couple has plenty of external obstacles to overcome, it is their internal struggles that threaten to derail their burgeoning romance.

Moving into a new house is just the first step Adelia makes in regaining her independence. After years of criticism from her ex-husband, her flagging self-esteem gets a boost with a well deserved promotion to manager of the clothing boutique where she works. Her biggest concern is the emotional well-being of her children and she is focused on helping them adjust to their new life.

Gabe has a lot of misgivings about his temporary return to Serenity but he is pleasantly surprised by the how well received he is by most of the townspeople. Growing up with an promiscuous mother with an alcohol addiction, his childhood was marred by rumors of her numerous affairs and his countless fights to defend her honor. Older, wiser and more mature, Gabe gains a new perspective on his past and while it would be easy to slip back into old habits, he now considers the consequences before acting on his impulses.

The romance between Adelia and Gabe is sweet and slow-growing. Both are hesitant to enter into a serious relationship but when Gabe begins renovations on Adelia’s house, their attraction becomes impossible to ignore. They begin dating, but the close scrutiny of family and friends adds tension to their already shaky romance. Adelia’s family is dismayed that she is dating and her slimy ex-husband becomes a force to be reckoned with as well. But, in the end, it is Gabe’s unresolved issues that are the real threat to their relationship.

Swan Point is another captivating novel in The Sweet Magnolias series. This lovely romance unfolds at a leisurely pace but it is always quite engrossing. The cast of characters is beautifully developed with realistic flaws that are easy to relate to. The town of Serenity is quite charming and while the townspeople sometimes overstep their boundaries, they genuinely care about one another. Another superbly written love story from Sherryl Woods that I highly recommend.

Please click HERE to read my reviews of the other books in The Sweet Magnolias series.

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Filed under Contemporary, Harlequin, Mira, Rated B+, Review, Romance, Sherryl Woods, Swan Point, The Sweet Magnolias

Review: Looking for Trouble by Victoria Dahl

looking troubleTitle: Looking for Trouble by Victoria Dahl
Jackson Girl’s Night Out Series Book
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

A good reason to be bad…

Librarian Sophie Heyer has walked the straight and narrow her entire life to avoid paying for her mother’s mistakes. But in tiny Jackson Hole, Wyoming, juicy gossip just doesn’t go away, so the last thing she needs is for history to repeat itself. Falling hard for the sexiest biker who’s ever rode into town would undo everything she’s worked for. And to add insult to injury, the sexy stranger is none other than Alex Bishop–the son of the man her mother abandoned Sophie’s family for. He may be temptation on wheels, but Sophie’s not looking for trouble!

Maybe Sophie’s buttoned-up facade fools some, but Alex knows a naughty smile when he sees one. Despite their parents’ checkered pasts, he’s willing to take some risks to find out the truth about the town librarian. He figures a little fling might be just the ticket to get his mind off of family drama. But what he finds underneath Sophie’s prim demeanor might change his world in ways he never expected.

The Review:

Looking for Trouble is the first full length novel in Victoria Dahl’s spin-off series, Jackson Girl’s Night Out, and it is FANTASTIC! This über sexy romance between Sophie Heyer and Alex Bishop is a scorching hot love story that has a surprising amount of depth.

Sophie and Alex had very different reactions to the scandal surrounding their parents’ long ago disappearance. Sophie goes to extreme lengths to maintain a squeaky clean image.   But underneath her prim and proper exterior is a sexy and vibrant woman who has put her hopes and dreams on hold while taking care of her father and brother. As one of the town’s librarians, Sophie is very much in the public eye, but she keeps her life as private as she can. She occasionally indulges in passionate flings with the local tourists, but Sophie carefully avoids any entanglements with the local men.

Alex could not leave town fast enough and for the past sixteen years, he has successfully avoided returning to visit. But when his brother, Shane (from Too Hot to Handle), asks him to come home for their father’s memorial service, Alex reluctantly agrees.   Alex is dismayed by his mother’s continued erratic behavior and while he keeps her at arms’ length, he and Shane work hard to mend the rift between them.

There is an instant attraction between Sophie and Alex and although Sophie knows she should stay far away from him, she cannot resist the tattooed biker. He brings out her inner bad girl which results in blistering hot sex scenes between them. However their casual relationship soon gives way to deeper emotions, but with Sophie’s strong commitment to her family and Alex’s vagabond lifestyle, is there any chance for a future for them?

Looking for Trouble is a fast-paced and engaging novel with an endearing cast of characters. The storyline has serious overtones but it is mostly a light-hearted, drama free read. Victoria Dahl has once again created a believable romance between two flawed but realistic characters whose relationship not only helps them heal the wounds from the past but ultimately makes them better people. This heartwarming, sweet, sexy love story is an outstanding addition to the delightful Jackson Girl’s Night Out series that old and new fans are sure to enjoy.

You may read my reviews of the other novels in the series HERE.

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Filed under Contemporary, Harlequin, HarlequinHQN, Looking for Trouble, Rated B+, Review, Romance, Victoria Dahl