Category Archives: HQN Books

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: 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

Review: The Lady Travelers Guide to Scoundrels & Other Gentlemen by Victoria Alexander

Title: The Lady Travelers Guide to Scoundrels & Other Gentlemen by Victoria Alexander
The Lady Travelers Guide Series Book One
Publisher: HQN Books
Genre: Historical, Romance
Length: 544 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Embark on the breathtaking romantic adventures of The Lady Travelers Society in the brand-new series by #1 New York Times bestselling author Victoria Alexander 

Really, it’s too much to expect any normal man to behave like a staid accountant in order to inherit the fortune he deserves to support the lifestyle of an earl. So when Derek Saunders’s favorite elderly aunt and her ill-conceived—and possibly fraudulent—Lady Travelers Society loses one of their members, what’s a man to do but step up to the challenge? Now he’s escorting the world’s most maddening woman to the world’s most romantic city to find her missing relative.

While India Prendergast only suspects his organization defrauds gullible travelers, she’s certain a man with as scandalous a reputation as Derek Saunders cannot be trusted any farther than the distance around his very broad shoulders. As she struggles not to be distracted by his wicked smile and the allure of Paris, instead of finding a lost lady traveler, India just may lose her head, her luggage and her heart.

Free bonus story included in this volume! Don’t miss The Proper Way to Stop a Wedding (in Seven Days or Less), a The Lady Travelers Guide novella.

Review:

Brimming with humor and set against the backdrop of Paris, The Lady Travelers Guide to Scoundrels & Other Gentlemen by Victoria Alexander is a highly entertaining historical romance. The Lady Travelers Guide series is off to a strong beginning with this first full-length novel that stars a marvelous cast of characters.

India Prendergrast is incredibly worried when she stops receiving letters from her cousin Lady Heloise Snuggs. Heloise booked her adventurous trip through the Lady Travlers Society and when her inquiries about her cousin go unanswered, India is convinced the society is defrauding its members of their money.  She is also certain the widows who run the organization are a front for the real mastermind of the nefarious scheme.  When she discovers Derek Saunders discussing Heloise with the club’s founders, Lady Guinevere Blodgett and her two best friends, India is convinced her suspicions have been confirmed. However, unbeknownst to India, Derek has figured out what the ladies are up to and he is determined to protect his aunt and her friends from any legal repercussions from their actions. India and Derek join forces to find Heloise and their first stop is Paris, but locating the missing woman amongst the crowd of visitors enjoying the World’s Fair is a daunting task. Will Derek be able to stall India long enough for his uncle’s detectives to locate her missing cousin?

India is a very independent and no nonsense young woman. Unlike most women of the time period, she has no interest in marrying so she works for Sir Martin Luckthorne as his secretarial assistant. She is extremely well-organized with a fairly rigid viewpoint of life.  Convinced she is always right, India tends to rub people the wrong way with her propensity to speak her mind and her unbending attitude.

Derek is in line to inherit his family’s title and he has recently begun to change his rakish ways.  In order to clean up his reputation, he has been working on his uncle’s estate and much to his surprise, he finds he is enjoying his new duties. Very protective of his great aunt, he will do whatever it takes to prevent the truth about her scam from becoming known.

Derek and India rub each other the wrong way right from their very first meeting. Derek thinks she is opinionated and unbending; India views him as an unrepentant scoundrel. As they begin their search for Heloise, they bicker endlessly as they trek from one hotel to another. Derek convinces India to take time to savor the beauty sights of Paris and slowly but surely, she begins to realize that she might have misjudged him.   Over the next several weeks, India becomes much more self-aware once she recognizes how narrow her viewpoint is. Her once adversarial relationship with Derek gradually turns into a friendship as he challenges her to broaden her horizons.  A mutual attraction also simmers under the surface but will Derek and India take their relationship to the next level?

The Lady Travelers Guide to Scoundrels & Other Gentlemen is an absolutely charming historical romance with an eclectic cast of likable characters. The story’s premise is refreshingly unique and the storyline is quite engaging. Delightfully witty banter will keep readers laughing as Derek and India set off on an adventure that leads to a journey of self-discovery for the erstwhile heroine. This first installment in Victoria Alexander’s The Lady Travelers Guide series is an exciting and fun-filled romance that is sure to be a hit with fans of the genre.

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Filed under Harlequin, Historical, HQN Books, Rated B+, Review, Romance, The Lady Travelers Guide Series, The Lady Travelers Guide to Scoundrels & Other Gentlemen, Victoria Alexander

Review: New York, Actually by Sarah Morgan

Title: New York, Actually by Sarah Morgan
From Manhattan with Love Series Book Four
Publisher: HQN Books
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: C+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

One man. One woman. Two dogs. 

Meet Molly—New York’s most famous advice columnist, she considers herself an expert at relationships…as long as they’re other people’s. Still bruised from her last breakup, Molly is in no rush to find happily-ever-after—the only love of her life is her dalmatian, Valentine.

Meet Daniel—A cynical divorce lawyer, he’s hardwired to think relationships are a bad idea. If you don’t get involved, no one can get hurt. Until he finds himself borrowing a dog to meet the gorgeous woman he sees running in Central Park every morning…

Molly and Daniel both think they know everything about relationships. But as they try—and fail—to resist their undeniable chemistry, they’ll soon discover they just might have a lot left to learn…

Review:

New York, Actually introduces readers to the Knight siblings, who will star in the next three installments of Sarah Morgan’s delightful From Manhattan with Love series. This fourth installment pairs up oldest brother Daniel Knight, a cynical divorce lawyer, with Molly Parker, a psychologist with an über popular relationship blog. While this newest release can easily be read a standalone, I highly recommend the previous novels as well.

After a scandal destroyed her both personally and professionally three years earlier, Molly decides to relocate from England to New York. She avoids romantic entanglements since she is convinced she does nothing but hurt the men she dates. Keeping busy with several classes, Molly is very close friends with her neighbors Mark and Gabe. Her steadfast companion is her rescue dog, Valentine, and together, they jog in Central Park every day where, unbeknownst to her, she has caught the eye of Daniel Knight.

A very successful lawyer with a thriving practice, Daniel works long hours and while he dates, he does not do relationships. With vivid memories of his parents’ acrimonious marriage, he is dedicated to helping his clients escape their unhappy unions. Daniel is surprised by his interest in the jogger he sees every day in the park and he devises a clever, if dishonest, scheme to meet her: he borrows a dog from his twin sisters, Fliss and Harriet.

Daniel’s plan comes to fruition to some degree since he does manage to engineer a meeting with Molly. However, he is stunned when she turns down his invitation to go out with him. The pair continue to run into each other but eventually, Daniel’s persistence begins to feel vaguely stalkerish. Molly uncovers his deception about being a dog owner and she finally ends up providing him with her address. The situation which finally brings them together feels contrived and it is quite annoying how easily Molly falls apart during a crisis.

While Molly and Daniel’s romance finally does take off, their individual issues and unresolved baggage continue to plague them. Given her career as a psychologist, Molly’s reasons for avoiding a relationship just do not ring true. Daniel’s past experiences from his childhood provide a valid basis not wanting to fall in love and in are refreshing change of pace, he is more open to taking their relationship to the next level.When Molly’s past is uncovered, will it bring her and Daniel closer or will it derail their fragile romance?

New York, Actually is a very slow moving but enjoyable romance between two extremely cautious protagonists. While this latest release has a few flaws, Sarah Morgan’s enticing glimpses of Fliss and Harriet will leave readers impatiently awaiting the next installments in the From Manhattan with Love series.

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Filed under Contemporary, From Manhattan with Love Series, Harlequin, HQN Books, New York Actually, Rated C+, Review, Romance, Sarah Morgan

Review: On Second Thought by Kristan Higgins

Title: On Second Thought by Kristan Higgins
Publisher: HQN Books
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 448 pages
Book Rating: A

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Following in the footsteps of her critically acclaimed novel If You Only Knew, multi-bestselling author Kristan Higgins returns with a pitch-perfect look at the affection—and the acrimony—that binds sisters together

Ainsley O’Leary is so ready to get married—she’s even found the engagement ring her boyfriend has stashed away. What she doesn’t anticipate is for Eric to blindside her with a tactless breakup he chronicles in a blog…which (of course) goes viral. Devastated and humiliated, Ainsley turns to her half sister, Kate, who’s already struggling after the sudden loss of her new husband.

Kate has always been so poised, so self-assured, but Nathan’s death shatters everything she thought she knew—including her husband—and she learns that sometimes the people who step up aren’t the ones you expect. With seven years and a murky blended-family dynamic between them, Ainsley and Kate have never been overly close, but their shared sorrow dovetails their faltering worlds into one.

Despite the lifetime of history between them, the sisters must learn to put their differences aside and open their hearts to the inevitable imperfection of family—and the possibility of one day finding love again.

Review:

On Second Thought by Kristan Higgins is a sad but witty, heartbreaking yet uplifting novel about two sisters whose bond is strengthened after they experience life altering events.

At thirty-nine, Kate O’Leary has finally come to terms with her single status so she is somewhat bemused and wary when Nathan Coburn asks for her phone number. Convinced she’ll never hear from the handsome architect, she is pleasantly surprised to find herself in a whirlwind relationship. Married just a few months after they begin dating, Kate is barely used to being a wife when she is widowed after a tragic accident.

Unlike Kate, her thirty-three year old half-sister, Ainsley has been with her boyfriend, Eric Fisher, since college.  Ainsley has been anxiously awaiting for Eric to pop the question and after discovering an engagement ring, she is chomping at the bit for his proposal now that he is fully recovered from testicular cancer. So imagine her surprise, when Eric asks unceremoniously dumps her then publicly humiliates her  on his blog.  With no place to go, Ainsley temporarily moves in with Kate which turns out to be a huge blessing in disguise for both women.

Kate’s struggle to grieve Nathan’s loss is surprisingly complicated since they were only together such a short time.  She treasures her precious few memories of them as a couple but she cannot help but wonder if she would have been better off never marrying him since he died so soon after their life together begins.  After hearing other people’s memories of the man she is just realizing she barely knows, Kate begins questioning their entire relationship.  It certainly does not help that Kate’s friends from her single days are not exactly supportive although she is pleasantly surprised by the one person who does make an effort to be there for her.

Ainsley first comes across as an empty-headed ninny but behind her unfailingly cheerful and positive facade, she is unexpectedly intuitive and insightful.  She certainly has blinders on about her self-absorbed, selfish boyfriend and even after Eric uses their break up to find his fifteen minutes of fame, she still wants to reconcile with him. Which is why  Ainsley is a little confused when she begins to notice her uptight, seemingly emotionless boss is an attractive man with a surprising amount of depth.

Between their age difference and their complicated family dynamics, Kate and Ainsley were never overly close even though they genuinely care about one another.  Kate is quite shocked at how much she appreciates Ainsley once she moves in with her.  Although some of their interactions are somewhat awkward due to Ainsely’s uncanny ability to put her foot in her month, Kate appreciates her sister’s emotional support.  Equally surprising is Ainsley’s no nonsense advice as she gently coerces Kate to return to “normal” life.  Both sisters discover new and surprising things about one another and to the delight of both women, they finally close the gap in their once distant relationship.

On Second Thought is an emotional novel of love, loss and new beginnings.  The characters are beautifully developed with relatable flaws and true to life issues to overcome. The touching storyline will resonate with anyone who has experienced a break up or loss of someone they love. Kristan Higgins deftly balances the more sorrowful elements of the plot with wry humor, witty banter and laugh out loud scenes. Fans of contemporary women’s fiction are going to laugh, cry and ultimately rejoice as Ainsley and Kate forge a close bond while helping one another recover from their personal tragedies. A poignant, yet heartwarming novel that will touch reader’s hearts and linger in their minds long after the last page is turned.

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Filed under Contemporary, Harlequin, HQN Books, Kristan Higgins, On Second Thought, Rated A, Review, Women's Fiction