Category Archives: Contemporary

Review: The Girls of Mischief Bay by Susan Mallery

girls mischiefTitle: The Girls of Mischief Bay by Susan Mallery
Mischief Bay Book One
Publisher: Mira
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: 416 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher


New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery is world renowned for her “insightful, funny, and poignant” stories (Booklist). With her brand-new Mischief Bay series, she brings vivid color to the story of three friends on the brink of a new life.

Nicole Lord wants to be a good wife, but there’s a difference between being supportive and supporting her husband, who quit his job to write a screenplay she’s never seen. He won’t even help take care of their son, leaving Nicole to run the house and work full-time.

Sacrificing a personal life for her career is how Shannon Rigg became a VP at her firm, but she wonders now whether she made the right choice. An exciting new relationship with a great guy convinces her that it might not be too late—until he drops a bombshell that has her questioning whether she really can have it all.

Although Pam Eiland adores her husband, she feels restless now that the kids are grown. Finding sexy new ways to surprise him brings the heat and humor back to their marriage, but when unexpected change turns her life upside down, she’ll have to redefine herself. Again.

Through romance and heartbreak, laughter and tears, the girls of Mischief Bay will discover that life is richer with friends at your side.

The Review:

The Girls of Mischief Bay is a beautiful novel of friendship and new beginnings for three very different women who are at very different stages of their lives. Heartwarming and poignant, this first installment in Susan Mallery’s Mischief Bay series is a very emotional story that is sure to appeal to readers of all ages.

Nicole Lord is the youngest of the three women and she is married with a five year old son, Tyler. She is trying to be a supportive wife, but she has become increasingly unhappy with her home life. Without warning, her husband Eric quit his job to pursue his dream of becoming a screenwriter, leaving her as the sole breadwinner in the family. Nicole is physically exhausted from juggling her long hours at her pilates studio with household chores and childcare duties. Her frustration with Eric increases as he does less and less around the house and fails to follow through with his promises to help out more. With their unresolved disagreements hanging over them, Nicole is beginning to worry their marriage might not be worth saving.

Shannon Rigg is a successful businesswoman who has never been married. She longs for a husband and family, but she is unwilling to give up the career she loves. Deciding to give on line dating a try, she meets Adam, a divorced father of two. Adam is not intimidated by her success or her dedication to her job and he is determined not to repeat the mistakes that contributed to his divorce. Just as Shannon is on the verge of having it all-career, husband and family, Adam’s stunning revelation threatens their future together and leaves Shannon questioning what she really wants in life.

Pam Eiland is happily married but after thirty plus years of marriage, their life is more routine than passionate. She is having a bit of a mid life crisis when she decides it is time to put the spark back into her marriage. A weekend retreat is just what she and her husband need to get back on track and they are happier than ever when an unexpected tragedy forces her to re-evaluate her life.

While all three women must face some of the changes in their lives on their own, Nicole, Pam and Shannon are always on hand to offer one another unconditional love and friendship. With the most life experience, Pam is calm and reassuring and Nicole and Shannon often turn to her for advice. Pam and Shannon are both very business savvy and Nicole finds their guidance invaluable in both her professional and personal lives. Nicole and Shannon provide Pam with emotional support when her life dramatically changes.

The Girls of Mischief Bay is an absolutely marvelous beginning to Susan Mallery’s Mischief Bay series. The small town setting is very charming and quite homey. The characters are well-drawn and easy to relate to with true to life flaws and imperfections. The challenges each of the women are facing are realistic and the novel’s conclusion feels more like a beginning as they each prepare for the next stage in their lives. It is a very endearing and heartfelt novel that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the next book in this delightful new series.


Filed under Contemporary, Fiction, Harlequin, Mira, Mischief Bay Series, Rated B+, Review, Susan Mallery, The Girls of Mischief Bay

Review: Finding Jake by Bryan Reardon

finding jakeTitle: Finding Jake by Bryan Reardon
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction, Suspense
Length: 272 pages
Book Rating: A

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss


A heart-wrenching yet ultimately uplifting story of psychological suspense in which a parent is forced to confront what he does—and does not—know about his teenage son

For sixteen years, Simon Connelly’s successful wife has gone to her law office each day, while he has stayed home to raise their children. Though Simon has loved taking care of Jake and Laney, it has cost him a part of himself, and has made him an anomaly in his pretty, suburban neighborhood—the only stay-at-home dad among a tight circle of mothers.

Shepherding them through childhood, the angst-ridden father has tried to do the best for the kids, even if he often second-guesses his choices. For sunny, outgoing Laney, it’s been easy. But quiet Jake has always preferred the company of his books or his sister to playdates and organized sports. Now that they are in high school, Simon should feel more relaxed, but he doesn’t. He’s seen the statistics, read the headlines.

Then, on a warm November day, he receives a text: There has been a shooting at the high school.

Racing to the rendezvous point, Simon is forced to wait with scores of other anxious fathers and tearful mothers, overwhelmed by the disturbing questions running through his head. How many victims were there? Why did this happen? One by one, parents are reunited with their children. Their numbers dwindle, until Simon is alone. Laney has gone home with her mom. Jake is the only child missing.

As his worst nightmare unfolds, Simon begins to obsess over the past, searching for answers, for hope, for the memory of the boy he raised, for the mistakes he must have made, for the reason everything came to this. Where is Jake? What happened in those final moments? Is it possible he doesn’t really know his son? Or he knows him better than he thought? Jake could not have done this—or could he?

As rumors begin to ricochet, amplified by an invasive media, Simon must find answers. But there is only one way to understand what has happened . . . he must find Jake.

A story of faith and conviction, strength and courage, love and doubt that is harrowing and heartbreaking, surprisingly healing and redemptive, Finding Jake asks us to consider how well we know ourselves . . . and those we love.

The Review:

Finding Jake by Bryan Reardon is a suspense-laden and emotion-filled novel that is every parents’ worst nightmare: a shooting at your child’s school. What makes the story so compelling are several unanswered questions: the fate of a missing student, his involvement (if any) in the shooting and how well do parents really know their children. There are several other fascinating elements to the storyline that are also quite thought-provoking but discovering the answers to these three questions is what I found most riveting.

Simon Connolly is a stay at home dad who has always worried about his two kids, Jake and Laney. He agonizes over the smallest details of his parenting but in the aftermath of the school shooting, he cannot help but obsess over whether he made the right decisions for both kids, but Jake in particular. When the parents of the students begin to learn the fate of their children, Simon is the last parent to receive information about Jake, but he is left reeling at the news that Jake is a suspect in the shooting and that he is, in fact, missing. His son’s connection to the troubled suspect is tenuous but police immediately focus on Jake as a co-conspirator and Simon is left wondering if he overlooked signs that Jake is capable of committing such a heinous act of violence.

Simon is panicked from the first notification that there is trouble at the school and he remains that way for much of the novel. He flashes back to different moments in Jake’s childhood and the picture of a quiet, shy, introverted child quickly emerges. Simon wonders if he imparted the right lessons to his son and if he made the right choices during pivotal moments of Jake’s childhood. While Simon’s wife and daughter never doubt Jake’s innocence, Simon is plagued with misgivings and uncertainties that cloud his judgment in several instances. In a moment of startling clarity, Simon finally puts the pieces of the puzzle together and he is nearly shattered by his subsequent discovery.

School shootings are particularly horrifying crimes and it is easy to make snap judgments and leap to conclusions in an effort to understand the incomprehensible. Friends and neighbors are the first to point fingers and distance themselves from the alleged perpetrators. There is intense pressure on law enforcement to provide answers and reassure the public that they have solved the crime. Parents are easy to blame when their child misbehaves and in a school shooting, it becomes imperative to assign responsibility and parents are often burdened with guilt and their decisions are closely scrutinized. Each of these topics are realistically explored in Finding Jake and the reactions of the various characters ring true.

Finding Jake by Bryan Reardon is an incredibly well-written novel that is poignant, tragic and ultimately, quite moving. An absolutely absorbing read that is incredibly relevant in today’s world and one that I highly recommend.

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Filed under Bryan Reardon, Contemporary, Fiction, Finding Jake, Rated A, Review, suspense, William Morrow

Review: When Joss Met Matt by Ellie Cahill

jossTitle: When Joss Met Matt by Ellie Cahill
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


In the tradition of New Adult superstar Jessica Sorensen, Ellie Cahill’s debut novel is a charming friends-with-benefits story . . . with a twist!

What if after every bad breakup, there was someone to help “cleanse your palate”—someone who wouldn’t judge you, who was great in bed, someone you were sure not to fall in love with? “Sorbet sex” could solve everything—as long as it never got too sweet.

Joss and Matt have been friends since freshman year of college, meeting one night after Joss is dumped by her boyfriend. After a few drinks, Matt humors her with a proposition: that he’ll become her go-to guy whenever she needs to heal a broken heart. In return, she’ll do the same for him. The #1 Rule: They’ll never fall in love with each other. People scoff at the arrangement. But six years later, Joss and Matt are still the best of friends . . . with benefits.

Through a string of boyfriends and girlfriends—some almost perfect, some downright wrong—Joss and Matt are always there for each other when the going gets tough. No strings. No attachments. Piece of cake. No problem. After all, since they wrote the rules, surely they can play by them. Or can they?

The Review:

With a unique and refreshingly angst free storyline, When Joss Met Matt by Ellie Cahill is an absolutely delightful New Adult romance. This marvelous friends with benefits-ish novel is a light-hearted read that begins when Joss and Matt meet their freshman year of college and follows their rather unusual friendship for the next seven years. It is a very charming story with an appealing cast of characters and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys contemporary romances.

When Joss and Matt first meet, there is a spark of attraction between them, but Joss is in a long distance relationship with her high school sweetheart. When her boyfriend dumps her, Matt proposes a somewhat unorthodox plan to help her get over him: Sorbet sex. A meaningless encounter that replaces the bad experience with a pleasant one. As a result, their unorthodox “friends with benefits” arrangement is born. To protect their friendship, the two make up a list of “rules” that range from silly to aww, sweet and over the next seven years, Joss and Matt date other people, but they always end up back in one another’s beds. Is there more to the arrangement than two friends simply helping one another get over their last relationship? Will Joss and Matt finally figure out what is blatantly obvious to everyone else in their lives?

Written in first person from Joss’s point of view, When Joss Met Matt begins in the present but quickly flashes back to Joss and Matt’s first meeting. The story then follows both Matt and Joss through the ups and downs of their relationships with other lovers. Some of their relationships were meaningful and left them with battered hearts while others were just blips on their dating radars.

Joss and Matt always maintain their close friendship no matter if the other was in a relationship or not, and eventually, they anticipate their sorbet sex more than their current romance. While both are careful to keep their emotions out of their sorbet encounters, it soon becomes clear that there is more to their relationship than casual sex. For Joss, her fear of losing Matt’s friendship make it difficult for her to admit to herself, let alone Matt, that she might be in love with him. Just as Joss is beginning to come to terms with her unexpected feelings, Matt re-evaluates his life after a tragic loss and a misunderstanding soon threatens their entire relationship.

When Joss Met Matt is an enchanting novel that is relatively drama free. The novel is well-written with witty dialogue and a cast of genuine and likable characters.  The sex scenes fade to black with few details so it is a mostly clean romance. Like many novels set during college, there are several drinking references, but nothing too over the top and the characters do behave pretty responsibly. Overall, Ellie Cahill avoids most of the clichés that are typically found New Adult romances which makes it an engrossing and extremely entertaining novel.


Filed under Ballantine Books, Contemporary, Ellie Cahill, New Adult, Rated B, Review, Romance, When Joss Met Matt

Review: The Forever Bridge by T. Greenwood

forever bridgeTitle: The Forever Bridge by T. Greenwood
Publisher: Kensington
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: 369 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


With eloquent prose and lush imagery, T. Greenwood creates a heartfelt story of reconciliation and forgiveness, and of the deep, often unexpected connections that can bring you home.

Sylvie can hardly bear to remember how normal her family was two years ago. All of that changed on the night an oncoming vehicle forced their car over the edge of a covered bridge into the river. With horrible swiftness, Sylvie’s young son was gone, her husband lost his legs, and she was left with shattering blame and grief.

Eleven-year-old Ruby misses her little brother, too. But she also misses the mother who has become a recluse in their old home while Ruby and her dad try to piece themselves back together. Amid all the uncertainty in her life, Ruby becomes obsessed with bridges, drawing inspiration from the strength and purpose that underlies their grace. During one momentous week, as Hurricane Irene bears down on their small Vermont town and a pregnant teenager with a devastating secret gradually draws Sylvie back into the world, Ruby and her mother will have a chance to span the gap between them again.

The Review:

The Forever Bridge by T. Greenwood is an utterly heartbreaking and poignant novel that is also uplifting and hopeful. It is a beautifully written story of forgiveness, redemption and healing that is incredibly moving and full of deep emotions.

Two years after the accident that took the life of her seven year old son, Jess and left her husband Robert in a wheelchair, Sylvie Dupont is emotionally fragile and struggling to put the pieces of her life back together. Suffering from PTDS, agoraphobia and depression, she has isolated herself from friends and family and lives by herself in the family home on the outskirts of town. Barely capable of taking care of herself, Robert and their eleven year old daughter Ruby have moved in with Robert’s brother, but when the men need to take an out of town trip, Sylvie has little choice but to care for her daughter. Their reunion is uneasy and full of tension as they tiptoe around the memories that haunt both mother and daughter.

Sylvie is crippled with anxiety and it is very frustrating watching her refuse to get the help she needs to cope with her fears.   While at first it is incomprehensible that she has so completely checked out from her life and her loved ones, once some of her history is revealed, some of her actions become a little more understandable. But what Sylvie does not realize is her control and safety are only an illusion. It it is impossible to protect herself from further pain and that despite her best efforts, disaster can still strike despite all the safeguards she has tried to put into place.

Ruby is very mature for her age but no matter how wise she is, she still longs for the mother Sylvie used to be. Ruby closely monitors her mother’s erratic behavior and she takes every opportunity to escape the tense and unhappy household. Unfortunately her best friend seems to be replacing her with another girl their age so Ruby spends a lot of her time exploring the woods surrounding her home. When she discovers a pregnant teenager hiding in an abandoned shack, Ruby keeps her presence a secret and helps her as much as she possibly can. But when the young girl needs more help than Ruby can provide, will Sylvie step out of her self-imposed prison and overcome her fears long enough to give them the assistance they need?

Pregnant teenager Nessa is a runaway who has not spoken a word for two years. Disappointed but not really surprised to discover her mom has moved on, she takes shelter in the rundown shack and forages in Sylvie’s garden for food. Nessa has experienced little kindness in her young life and she is profoundly grateful for Ruby’s generosity.

The Forever Bridge slowly winds its way to a dramatic but immensely satisfying conclusion. The characters are three-dimensional and although flawed, they are sympathetic and likable. T. Greenwood’s writing style is quite captivating and she brings the setting vibrantly to life. The storyline is complex, and while some of the plot is a little predictable, there are quite a few unanticipated twists that make it impossible to guess how all of the various storylines will come together. Overall, it is a heartfelt novel of healing that I highly recommend.


Filed under Contemporary, Fiction, Kensington, Rated B+, Review, T Greenwood, The Forever Bridge

Review: Vanilla by Megan Hart

vanillaTitle: Vanilla by Megan Hart
Publisher: MIRA
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic, Romance, D/s
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


It’s an acquired taste…he just has to acquire it

Elise knows what she wants in the bedroom, and she makes sure she gets it. Her thirst for domination has long been quenched by a stable of men only too happy to bow down before her.

But sexual satisfaction isn’t the same as love, and she’s been burned in the past by giving her heart too freely.

Niall is handsome, smart, successful and sweet—sweet as vanilla. When they meet, their romantic connection is electric, even though he’s way on the opposite end of the kink spectrum. Despite how she fights it, Elise falls for him—but how can a relationship work when both lovers want to be on top?

The Review:

Vanilla is a highly erotic novel and Megan Hart expertly weaves a very sweet romance into the storyline as well. There is also an amazing amount of depth and emotional healing for the main protagonist.  It is another multi-layered, complex novel by one of my favorite authors that I greatly enjoyed and highly recommend.

Elise is sexually confident and she unapologetically embraces her sexuality. While she does not like inflicting pain or humiliation on her partners, she does like to dominate submissive men. She is beautiful and smart with a lucrative, successful career but she has not been in a serious relationship since a bad break up four years earlier. Although she has been in a long term relationship with a man she met through a BDSM dating site, their interactions are purely sexual and neither is emotionally invested. Elise is obsessing over the man who broke her heart and although he offers her no encouragement, she still continues to send him messages when she is feeling emotionally vulnerable. When she meets Niall, she is surprised by her attraction to someone who is clearly uncomfortable with her desires.

Elise is a likable, no nonsense type of woman and she does let anyone push her around. This self assurance makes it all the more puzzling when she continues to pursue the man who crushed her heart. It is incredibly frustrating watching her pour her heart out to him time and again only to have him continue to reject her. While her current arrangement with her lover satisfies her sexual needs, she is beginning to miss a more intimate connection and when he inexplicably ends their relationship, Elise is stunned by the sense of loss she experiences.

When Elise meets Niall at an art exhibit where she is one of the featured models, he knows upfront about her “kinks”. He is also honest that he does not understand her desires and while there is an instant connection between them, he backs off pretty quickly. When their paths unexpected cross at her nephew’s bar mitzvah, the two pick up their relationship where they left off. For the first time in her life, Elise is in a relationship with someone who takes a slow approach to dating and although they indulge in some very steamy make out sessions, they do not immediately jump into having sex. Elise is happy with Niall, but she struggles with letting him into her heart while he finds it difficult to relinquish control in the bedroom.

Although a little slow-paced in the beginning, Vanilla is a very captivating read. Elise is a complex and intriguing character and while much of his back story is never revealed, Niall is a nice man who genuinely likes and appreciates her. The storyline is unpredictable and as always, Megan Hart puts her characters through an emotional but healing journey before they can find their happily ever after.

All in all, Vanilla is another extremely satisfying novel that is the perfect combination of blazing hot sex and a surprisingly tender romance.


Filed under Contemporary, Erotic, Harlequin, Megan Hart, Mira, Rated B, Review, Romance, Vanilla

Review: Betting on Hope by Debra Clopton

betting hopeTitle: Betting on Hope by Debra Clopton
Four of Hearts Ranch Series Book One
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre: Contemporary, Christian, Romance
Length: 310 pages
Book Rating:

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


A bet gone wrong. A small town’s meddling. And a cowboy intent on saving his ranch.

Maggie Hope is an advice columnist whose background leaves her with little advice to give . . . and it’s beginning to show. When Maggie fills in at an interview with champion horse trainer Tru Monahan, the on-camera chemistry between them is undeniable. Maggie’s bosses know this is the opportunity she’s been looking for to launch her career—and their bank accounts. In order to save her column, Maggie takes Tru up on the bet that he can teach her to ride a quick-stepping cutting horse like any cowgirl, despite the fact that she has never been on a horse. And in the meantime, she can get the scoop on the man under the cowboy hat.

Tru has been on the competition circuit for longer than he’d like, but he knows it’s the only way he can afford to keep the Four of Hearts Ranch that means so much to his ailing grandfather. So when his sponsors see the opportunity for Tru’s fans to get to know the star on a more intimate level, he knows he must oblige. To his dismay, Maggie not only invades his small town of Wishing Springs, but she also invades his heart, and that is something he cannot let any woman do—for her own good.

In Wishing Springs, Maggie finds what she has always been looking for: a community and a home. But when her past catches up to her, it threatens everything, even the tender hope that this town holds all of her heart’s desires.

The Review:

Set in the small town of Wishing Springs, TX, Betting on Hope is the first novel in Debra Clopton’s Four of Hearts Ranch series featuring the Monahan brothers. It is an overall sweet and heartwarming love story that fans of Christian fiction are sure to enjoy.

Maggie Hope is an introverted advice columnist who is out of her element when she is forced to step in front of the camera when she fills in during an interview with Tru Monahan. She is also a little clumsy and her first meeting with Tru includes several embarrassing mishaps. Her nervousness during their interview leads to a surprising challenge that neither of them plan to act on but Maggie’s boss and Tru’s sponsor think that the bet would garner both of them some much needed publicity. City girl Maggie is like a fish out of water on Tru’s ranch, but with both their careers on the line, she sets aside her apprehension and concentrates on winning the bet.

Maggie has not had an easy life but she has an optimistic outlook and sunny disposition. She is also very kind-hearted and compassionate and this shows in the advice she gives to her readers. Maggie lacks confidence in unfamiliar situations and this coupled with her fears makes her very uneasy about having to follow through on the bet. However, the biggest obstacle that Maggie must overcome is her longstanding trust issues.

Tru is a hardworking cowboy whose finds his reputation as ladies’ man rather embarrassing. He, along with his brothers Bo and Jarrod, inherited the family ranch after their parents’ death and unbeknownst to anyone, his father had mortgaged it to the hilt. All three men have been working hard to pay off the massive debts, so Tru has to do what his sponsors ask of him. He gently encourages Maggie to overcome her fears but he remains frustrated by her continued lack of confidence in herself.

Tru and Maggie harbor misconceptions about each other but they quickly and easily clear up some of their early misunderstandings. They share a mutual attraction, but for the longest time, they avoid acting on it. When Tru receives devastating news, he pulls back from Maggie, which leaves her understandably upset and confused since he refuses to give her an explanation. Maggie also has a secret she has been keeping, but when she is threatened by someone from her past, she turns to Tru for some much needed advice.

The small town setting is perfect for the story and it is quite enjoyable getting to know its residents. The townspeople are quite colorful and a little eccentric, but they are very likable. They are a little nosy and over involved in each other lives, but it is also quite obvious they genuinely care about their friends and neighbors.

Betting on Hope is a lovely romance with a very appealing cast of characters. Debra Clopton does an excellent job keeping the storyline fresh and unpredictable with a few unexpected plot twists. It is an overall wonderful beginning to the Four of Hearts Ranch series and I am very much looking forward to reading Bo and Jarrod’s novels.

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Filed under Betting on Hope, Christian, Contemporary, Debra Clopton, Rated B, Review, Romance, Thomas Nelson Publishing