Category Archives: Harlequin

Review: A Snow Country Christmas by Linda Lael Miller

Title: A Snow Country Christmas by Linda Lael Miller
Carsons of Mustang Creek Series Book Four
Publisher: HQN Books
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 256 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

It’s a Christmas affair to remember as a Hollywood mogul discovers his inner cowboy—and the woman of his dreams—amid the rugged beauty of Wyoming. 

Raine McCall would take snow-covered mountains over a star-studded premiere any day. But when hotshot movie executive Mick Branson arranges dinner on Christmas Eve to discuss a work opportunity, she’s intrigued—by the offer and the man. She’s a no-makeup, no-frills single mom, who’s happy with her quiet life. Sharing chili cheeseburgers and sizzling kisses with Mick is sure heating up her holiday, but country girl and power player don’t mix…

It’s not just work that’s brought Mick back to Mustang Creek. Since he first visited to oversee a documentary, free-spirited graphic designer Raine has been in his head. Her approach to life is as unconventional as her quirky holiday ornaments. Their attraction is undeniable—and so are their differences. Putting down roots in the Wild West wasn’t in the script. But there are some Christmas gifts you can’t walk away from, even when they turn your whole world upside down…

Review:

A Snow Country Christmas by Linda Lael Miller is a light-hearted, conflict-free holiday romance. Starring secondary characters from previous novels in the Carsons of Mustang Creek series, this fourth installment can easily be read as a standalone.

Raine McCall is a little surprised by the out of the blue dinner invitation from Mick Branson. The two have crossed paths before while he was in town working on a film project with her ex-boyfriend and daughter Daisy’s father, Slater Carson. Since it is Christmas Eve and Daisy is spending the night with Slater and his extended family, Raine asks Mick to join her for a simple meal.  Their enjoyment in each other’s company leads to a whirlwind romance but Raine is a little concerned about fully committing to Mick since they lead very different lives.

Raine is a bit of a free spirit so working from home as a graphic designer is a perfect fit for her. She is a straight shooter who speaks her mind and lives a quiet life with Daisy. While she has dated off and on since her split from Slater, she is quite cautious when it comes to relationships.  However, with Mick, Raine is a little more open to romance but she is concerned they might not be a good fit for a permanent relationship due to their different lifestyles.

With a high powered career and a privileged background, Mick is used to the finer things in life but he is ready to settle down and simply his life.  While he has a few handy excuses to explain why he is in Mustang Creek, the real reason is quite simple. Mick is interested in pursuing a romance with Raine but is she interested in dating him?

With a beautiful snow-covered setting, Snow Country Christmas is a whimsical, low-key love story.  Raine and Mick are well-developed, likable protagonists. Their relationship is easygoing and free from any angst or drama.  Linda Lael Miller’s latest addition to the Carsons of Mustang Creek series is lovely holiday romance that old and new fans are sure to enjoy.

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Filed under A Snow Country Christmas, Carsons of Mustang Creek Series, Contemporary, Harlequin, HQN Books, Linda Lael Miller, Rated B, Review, Romance

Review: The Summer That Made Us by Robyn Carr

Title: The Summer That Made Us by Robyn Carr
Publisher: MIRA
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 336 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

The brand-new novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Robyn Carr that Kirkus calls “a blissful beach read.” The Summer That Made Us is an unforgettable story about a family learning to accept the past, to forgive and to love each other again.

That was then… 

For the Hempsteads, summers were idyllic. The lake was a magical place, a haven where they were happy and carefree. All of their problems drifted away as the days passed in sun-dappled contentment. Until the summer that changed everything.

This is now…

After an accident turned the lake house into a site of tragedy and grief, it was closed up. None of the Hempstead women speak of what happened, and relationships between them are uneasy at best to hurtful at worst. But in the face of new challenges, one woman is determined to draw her family together again, and the only way that can happen is to return to the lake and face the truth.

Robyn Carr has crafted another beautifully woven story about the complexities of family dynamics and the value of strong female relationships.

Review:

The Summer That Made Us by Robyn Carr is a multi-layered novel about a once close-knit family that was torn apart by tragedy.

Once upon a time, sisters Louise and Josephine, along with their daughters, spent idyllic summers together at the family’s lake house.  They each had three daughters and the cousins were just as close as their mothers. However, in the aftermath of  a tragic accident, Lou and Jo become somewhat estranged and their daughters’ lives take very troubling turns. Fast forward to the present and Lou’s daughter Meg decides it is time for the family to reconcile and she invites everyone back to the lake house for the summer.  There is never any doubt Meg’s sister Charley will agree to her sister’s plan but will cousins Hope, Krista and Beverly accept her invitation? And is it too late for Lou and Jo to repair their long strained relationship?

Alternating between the various characters’ perspectives, Robyn Carr’s newest release is not a light or happy read and quite frankly, it is a bit of a chore to even like many of the characters. Meg is the most sympathetic, and while she sets the reunion into motion, she remains firmly in the background as the story unfolds. Her sister Charley is probably the least likable as she alienates her long-term partner, Michael, after she loses her job. On the other end of the spectrum is their cousin Krista whose life took a dramatically wrong turn but she is incredibly appealing as she faces each challenge with a positive and cheery attitude. Krista’s sister Hope makes a couple of very memorable guest appearances that will leave readers shaking their head in disbelief. Their other sister Beverly remains on the periphery of the unfolding drama. Jo is an utterly fantastic character and she never hesitates to do whatever is necessary to help her daughters.  Her sister Lou is nowhere near as personable and well, it is not easy to feel much sympathy for her even though she has endured some very painful losses.

Despite a somewhat slow start, The Summer That Made Us is an engaging novel with an interesting (but sometimes overly busy) storyline.  While not a particularly joyful read, it is easy to become swept up into the various characters’ story arcs.  Robyn Carr brings the novel to a bittersweet yet uplifting conclusion.  

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Filed under Contemporary, Harlequin, Mira, Rated B, Review, Robyn Carr, The Summer That Made Us, Women's Fiction

Review: Lie to Me by J.T. Ellison

Title: Lie to Me by J.T. Ellison
Publisher: MIRA
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 416 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Domestic noir at its best. Readers will devour this stunning page-turner about the disintegration of a marriage as grief, jealousy, betrayal and murder destroy the facade of the perfect literary couple. New York Times bestselling author J.T. Ellison takes her exceptional writing to a new level with this breakout novel. 

They built a life on lies 

Sutton and Ethan Montclair’s idyllic life is not as it appears. They seem made for each other, but the truth is ugly. Consumed by professional and personal betrayals and financial woes, the two both love and hate each other. As tensions mount, Sutton disappears, leaving behind a note saying not to look for her.

Ethan finds himself the target of vicious gossip as friends, family and the media speculate on what really happened to Sutton Montclair. As the police investigate, the lies the couple have been spinning for years quickly unravel. Is Ethan a killer? Is he being set up? Did Sutton hate him enough to kill the child she never wanted and then herself? The path to the answers is full of twists that will leave the reader breathless.

Review:

Lie to Me by J.T. Ellison is a twist-filled, suspense laden mystery about a missing wife whom the police eventually suspect the husband might have murdered.

Sutton and Ethan Montclair are a seemingly perfect couple.  Both are successful authors who lead a somewhat glamorous life. They live in a beautifully remodeled home in an upscale neighborhood. However, after enduring an absolutely heartbreaking loss, cracks appear in their once rock solid, happy marriage and both suffer a few upsetting career setbacks.  So when Ethan wakes up to find that Sutton has disappeared without taking any of her personal possessions, he is concerned about her in spite the note she left for him telling her not to look for her.  After Ethan reports her disappearance to the police, he becomes their prime suspect when they uncover damning information that leads them to believe he might have murdered Sutton. One of the investigators on the case, Holly Graham, is not quite convinced that Ethan is responsible for his wife’s disappearance but will she uncover the evidence she needs to clear him of wrongdoing?

The mystery surrounding Sutton’s disappearance is gripping and initially, Ethan’s version of events rings true. However, disquieting information is quickly disclosed that allows doubts to gradually creep in. His behavior is erratic and some of his reactions seem just a tad bit… off. The information the police uncover is sinister but would Ethan really be stupid enough to leave evidence if he is actually responsible for Sutton’s suspicious disappearance?

Interspersed with the unfolding events are chapters from an unidentified person’s perspective. These chilling entries paint the picture of a very disturbed individual. The addition of this unknown entity ratchets up the tension as the search for Sutton intensifies.

Lie to Me is an extremely clever mystery with a dark and twisted storyline that keeps the novel moving at a blistering pace. The characters are not likeable and as the story progresses, they become increasingly unreliable. Readers will remain glued to the pages of this diabolical thriller as they attempt to piece together the truth about whether or not Ethan has anything to do with Sutton’s disappearance.  Through a series of cunning twists and shocking turns, J.T. Ellison  brings the novel to a jaw-dropping conclusion. A masterfully written thriller that I absolutely LOVED and highly recommend to fans of the genre.

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Filed under Contemporary, Harlequin, JT Ellison, Lie to Me, Mira, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Suspense

Review: Holiday in the Hamptons by Sarah Morgan

Title: Holiday in the Hamptons by Sarah Morgan
From Manhattan with Love Series Book Five
Publisher: HQN
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 416 pages
Book Rating: C+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

The perfect summer escape? 

Professional dog-walker Felicity Knight loves everything about New York…until her ex-husband starts working at her local vet clinic. She hasn’t seen Seth Carlyle in ten years, but one glimpse of him—too gorgeous, and still too good for her—and Fliss’s heart hurts like their whirlwind marriage ended yesterday. So when her grandmother in the Hamptons needs help for the summer, it seems the ideal way to escape her past.

Their relationship might have lasted only a few scorching months, but vet Seth knows Fliss—if she’s run away to the Hamptons, it’s because she still feels their connection and it terrifies her. He let her go once before, when he didn’t know any better, but not this summer! With the help of his adorable dog, Lulu, and a sprinkling of beachside magic, Seth is determined to make Fliss see that he’s never stopped loving her…

Sarah Morgan delights with more love and laughter in her acclaimed series From Manhattan with Love, which Publishers Weekly calls “engaging…[a] classic sweep-you-off-your-feet romantic experience.”

Review:

Holiday in the Hamptons is a second chance at love between a couple who have been divorced for ten years.  This fifth installment in Sarah Morgan’s From Manhattan with Love series is the second novel featuring the Knight siblings.

In an effort to avoid running into her ex-husband, veterinarian Seth Carlyle, professional dog walker Felicity “Fliss” Knight quickly seizes the chance to go to the Hamptons to help her grandmother. Despite their marriage only lasting a few short, scorching hot months, Fliss has never really gotten over her first love.  Unfortunately, she runs into Seth as soon as she arrives in the Hamptons and she impulsively goes to somewhat ridiculous lengths to try to avoid him. Scarred from her verbally abusive father, Fliss is emotionally closed off and her father’s criticism and negative remarks continue to affect her. Despite her feisty and colorful personality, Fliss is a difficult character to like due to her unwillingness to let anyone close to her. Her refusal to have meaningful discussions is understandable, but she is so emotionally crippled that getting past her defenses takes a herculean effort.

Seth is kind, compassionate and caring so it is no surprise that he is well-liked and highly respected by everyone who knows him. He has never quite gotten over Fliss and following an unexpected loss, he decides it is time to become reacquainted with his ex-wife.  Seth realizes his feelings for Fliss have not lessened over the years and he hopes if they can discuss what went wrong in the past they can start over again. He knows getting through to his ex-wife is not going to be easy and although he has quite a bit of patience with Fliss, he is no pushover.  When she continues to hold him at arms’ length, Seth is gentle yet forceful as he confronts her about her behavior.  He is also adamant they work on the emotional part of their relationship before giving in to their blazing hot passion.

Holiday in the Hamptons is a slow-paced romance  and it is not easy to connect with Fliss and Seth as a couple due to Fliss’s kneejerk reactions and unwillingness to lower her defenses.  Some elements of their present day relationship are somewhat unrealistic considering the circumstances surrounding their divorce, the short duration of their marriage and the passage of time.  While Fliss is a frustrating character, Seth is quite charming and immensely appealing. Fliss’s grandmother is also quite wonderful and the scenes with her and her friends are absolutely priceless.  Sarah Morgan’s intriguing glimpses of Fliss’s twin sister Harriet will leave readers impatiently awaiting the next installment in the From Manhattan with Love series.

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Filed under Contemporary, From Manhattan with Love Series, Harlequin, Holiday in the Hamptons, Rated C+, Review, Romance, Sarah Morgan

Review: You Say It First by Susan Mallery

Title: You Say It First by Susan Mallery
Happily, Inc Series Book One
Publisher: HQN Books
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Fool’s Gold romances invites you to visit Happily Inc., a wedding destination founded on a fairy tale!

Sculptor Nick Mitchell grew up in a family of artists and learned from his volatile father that passion only leads to pain. As he waits on a new commission, he takes a day job as a humble carpenter at a theme wedding venue. The job has its perks—mainly the venue’s captivating owner, Pallas Saunders.

Pallas adores Weddings in a Box. But if she can’t turn the floundering business around, she’ll have no choice but to cave to her domineering mother and work at the family’s bank. Then when a desperate bride begs Pallas for something completely out of the box, her irresistible new hire inspires her. Nick knows she doesn’t belong behind a desk, and she knows in her heart that he’s right—where she really belongs is in his arms.

Don’t miss the next book in the Happily Inc. series, Second Chance Girl!

Review:

The first installment in Susan Mallery’s new series, Happily Inc, You Say It First is a sweet yet sassy romance between a couple who are both carrying their fair share of emotional baggage.

Nick Mitchell is temporarily staying with his brothers, Ronan and Mathias, as he waits to hear if he has been selected to create a sculpture that will take him to Dubai for two years. Working as a part-time carpenter for Weddings in a Box owner Pallas Saunders sounds like the perfect way to fill his time while he waits. Growing up with his famous yet extremely temperamental artist father, Nick has decided passion is to be avoided at all costs so he resists romantic entanglements. However, since his time in town comes with an expiration date, will Nick give in to his unexpected attraction to Pallas?

Pallas always planned to work in her  family’s bank but her life took a few surprising detours and she now owns a destination wedding business. Weddings in a Box is on somewhat shaky financial ground but with plenty of weddings booked for the next several months, she is hopeful she can turn things around. When her mother finally presents her with a long anticipated job offer, Pallas’s reaction surprises both herself and her mom.  She feels like she can never live up to her mother’s expectations and she hates that she feels like she has to earn her mother’s love.  Because Pallas always falls short with her mother, she shies away from relationshops since she does not want to feel pressured to earn a man’s love. Since Nick is only going to be in town a short time, will Pallas decide to embark on a steamy no strings fling?

The romance between Pallas and Nick is slow growing and an absolute joy to watch unfold. Nick is honest with her right from the beginning that he is only interested in a short term relationship. Pallas  is relieved there is no pressure on her to earn his approval or love, so there is a decided lack of conflict as they indulge in some steamy interludes.  Outside of the bedroom, they are friends who work well together as they bounce ideas off each other after she is presented with an opportunity to stretch her creative wings for an upcoming wedding. Pallas grows both personally and professionally throughout their relationship but has Nick made any progress on conquering the demons that plague him?

You Say It First is a very heartwarming romance that is quite engaging.  Nick and Pallas are brilliantly developed lead protagonists whose foibles and frailties that make them easy to relate to. The supporting cast of characters is somewhat quirky yet immensely appealing. Old and new fans of Susan Mallery  will be absolutely delighted to immerse themselves in this first installment of the Happily Inc series.

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Filed under Contemporary, Happily Inc Series, Harlequin, HQN Books, Rated B, Review, Romance, Susan Mallery, You Say It First

Review: Secrets of the Tulip Sisters by Susan Mallery

Title: Secrets of the Tulip Sisters by Susan Mallery
Publisher: HQN Books
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction, Romance
Length: 448 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Don’t miss this heart-warming tale about family, and the unbreakable bond between sisters. From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Daughters of the Bride comes the feel-good novel of the year!

Kelly Murphy’s life as a tulip farmer is pretty routine—up at dawn, off to work, lather, rinse, repeat. But everything changes one sun-washed summer with two dramatic homecomings: Griffith Burnett—Tulpen Crossing’s prodigal son, who’s set his sights on Kelly—and Olivia, her beautiful, wayward and, as far as Kelly is concerned, unwelcome sister. Tempted by Griffith, annoyed by Olivia, Kelly is overwhelmed by the secrets that were so easy to keep when she was alone.

But Olivia’s return isn’t as triumphant as she pretends. Her job has no future, and ever since her dad sent her away from the bad boy she loved, she has felt cut off from her past. She’s determined to reclaim her man and her place in the family…whether her sister likes it or not. For ten years, she and Kelly have been strangers. Olivia will get by without her approval now.

While Kelly and Olivia butt heads, their secrets tumble out in a big hot mess, revealing some truths that will change everything they thought they knew. Can they forgive each other—and themselves—and redefine what it means to be sisters?

Told with Mallery’s trademark heart and humor, the Tulip Sisters are in for the most colorful summer of their lives…

Review:

With a cast of complex characters, a storyline with plenty of depth and just a hint of sizzle, Secrets of the Tulip Sisters by Susan Mallery is a beautiful novel of healing, new beginnings and love.

Kelly Murphy is a no nonsense young woman who works on the family tulip farm with her dad. She is estranged from her younger sister Olivia and their mother. Recently out of a long term relationship, she is a little surprised by how easily she has recovered from their break up. Kelly is a little nonplussed when she begins running into her high school crush Griffith Burnett everywhere she goes in their small town.  She does not know what to think when he suggests they begin seeing each other but she decides she can easily handle a no pressure relationship. However, Kelly’s world is quickly turned upside down when Olivia shows up without warning.

Olivia is at a bit of a crossroads so her boss suggests she take some time off, she decides it is the perfect time to pay a visit to her childhood home. Sent away to boarding school after their parents’ divorce, she has made peace with her father but she and Kelly slowly drifted apart over the years.  At loose ends since she has no interest in the family business, Olivia volunteers to head a fundraiser for a local business and she is pleasantly surprised by the business owners’ receptive response to some of her suggestions to help them bring in more customers. In between getting reacquainted with Kelly and her work on the fundraiser, she finds the time to embark on a no strings fling with a local hottie.

Just as Olivia, Kelly and their father Jeff are becoming comfortable with the changes in their lives, someone from the past unexpectedly shows up and puts everyone on edge.  Jeff goes out of his way to be fair but is he doing the right thing for everyone involved? Olivia and Kelly’s fragile bond is quickly tested and Kelly is not certain she can trust her sister. Olivia is more certain than ever she is ready for a change, but she is in an awkward position as she tries to figure out what she wants to do next. Kelly is not exactly at ease with certain elements of her burgeoning relationship with Griffith and a situation involving her dad  puts her at odds with the one person she trusted without reservation. With so much uncertainty surrounding them, what will the future hold for Kelly and Olivia?

Secrets of the Tulip Sisters is an absolutely charming novel that is heartfelt and engaging.  With a couple of notable exceptions, the wonderfully developed cast of characters undergo a great deal of growth as they face new challenges and repair their fractured relationships. The storyline is engrossing with believable issues for the various characters to overcome.  The romances are incredibly sweet with just the right amount of steam and it is an absolute joy watching the couples open themselves to the possibility of love.  A delightful small town story that old and new fans of Susan Mallery are sure to enjoy.

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Filed under Contemporary, Harlequin, HQN Books, Rated B+, Review, Romance, Secrets of the Tulip Sisters, Susan Mallery, Women's Fiction