Category Archives: Rated C

Review: The Sweet Spot by Stephanie Evanovich

sweet spotTitle: The Sweet Spot by Stephanie Evanovich
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 355 pages
Book Rating: C

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

A sizzling story of everyone’s favorite couple from amazing Stephanie Evanovich’s New York Times bestseller Big Girl Panties: hunky professional baseball player Chase Walker and his sassy wife Amanda.

When pro baseball player Chase Walker first meets Amanda at her restaurant, it’s love at first sight. While Amanda can’t help noticing the superstar with the Greek-god-build, he doesn’t have a chance of getting to first—or any other—base with her. A successful entrepreneur who’s built her business from scratch, Amanda doesn’t need a Prince Charming to sweep her off her feet. And a curvy girl who likes to cook and eat isn’t interested in being around the catty, stick-thin herd of females chasing Chase and his teammates.

But Chase isn’t about to strike out. A man who isn’t interested in playing the field, he’s a monogamist who wants an independent woman like Amanda. His hopes rally when she discovers that squeaky-clean Chase has a few sexy and very secret pre-game rituals that turn the smart, headstrong businesswoman on—and into his number one fan.

Then a tabloid discovers the truth and turns their spanking good fun into a late- night punchline. Is Amanda ready to let loose and swing for the fences? Or will the pressure of Chase’s stardom force them to call it quits?

The Review:

The Sweet Spot by Stephanie Evanovich is the romance of Chase and Amanda Walker, a secondary couple introduced in her first novel, Big Girl Panties. The two novels stand on their own and can be read independent of one another (but I highly recommend Big Girl Panties).

Chase Walker is an extremely successful and wildly popular squeaky clean baseball player who falls in love  with restaurant owner Amanda Cole pretty much at first sight. Amanda resists his considerable charm but he eventually wears her down and they begin dating. When Chase makes a surprising request that involves Amanda’s career,  she turns him down and what happens next irrevocably changes their relationship and eventually puts them in middle of a very public scandal.

Despite his successful career, Chase is rather humble and does not take his good fortune for granted. His life has not been all sunshine and roses but he does not dwell on his losses and he tries to focus on the positive. Chase is charismatic, appealing and so unbelievably persistent it is little wonder Amanda finds him impossible to resist.

Amanda is a self-assured and independent woman. She has a few residual self-esteem issues that stem from her childhood, but she does not lack self-confidence. She has been so focused on making a success of her restaurant that she does not date much but she is not inexperienced when it comes to matters of the heart or sex. She is bedazzled by Chase but her self-esteem issues come into play and she is left wondering why he is attracted to her. When Amanda finally does agree to date him, they take things slow and their romance is sweet and despite Chase’s hectic schedule, fairly uncomplicated.

But (isn’t there always a but?) Chase has been keeping a kink of his secret and instead of talking about it with Amanda, he makes an unreasonable demand and when she refuses, he turns into a sulky, petulant jerk. The resulting showdown between them takes an unexpected turn and when Amanda is confused and uncertain about what happened between them, Chase becomes an arrogant, condescending jerk  who claims to knows her better than she knows herself (which I always find insulting and rather ridiculous).  Instead of walking away from him at this point, Amanda turns rather spineless, gives in to his every whim and molds herself into what Chase wants her to be. From this point in the novel, I really disliked both characters and I found it impossible to believe either of them had any deep emotion for the other.

The major conflict occurs between them when their secret goes public and Amanda runs from the entire situation. She has good reasons for avoiding Chase (mainly because there is NO way she can live up to his unrealistic expectations), but the real impetus behind her leaving is based on  sketchy advice from someone she knows better than to listen to. When Amanda is finally ready to face the scandal, Chase does not exactly welcome her back with open arms and she goes to pretty extreme lengths to salvage their relationship.

I have a very mixed feelings about The Sweet Spot. I absolutely loved the first half. The characters were wonderfully realistic and likeable and the romance between Chase and Amanda was sweet and romantic. But the second half feels like it was written about two completely different characters (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde come to mind).  I could not stand who they turned into or the direction their relationship took.

Despite not being overly crazy about The Sweet Spot, Stephanie Evanovich is an excellent author and based on how much I loved Big Girl Panties, I would definitely consider reading any of her future novels.

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Filed under Contemporary, Rated C, Review, Romance, Stephanie Evanovich, The Sweet Spot, William Morrow

Review: The Beach Quilt by Holly Chamberlin

beach quiltTitle: The Beach Quilt by Holly Chamberlin
Publisher: Kensington Books
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: 417 pages
Book Rating: C

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Set in a picturesque Maine beach town, bestselling author Holly Chamberlin’s heartwarming and insightful novel delves into the choices and changes faced by two families over the course of one eventful summer. . .

Everyone in Yorktide, Maine, knows sixteen-year-old Sarah Bauer. She’s a good student and a dutiful daughter, as well as a beloved best friend to Cordelia Kane. So it’s a surprise to all when sensible Sarah reveals that she is pregnant.

Though shocked, Sarah’s family is supportive. But while Sarah reconciles herself to a new and different future, the consequences ripple in all directions. Her father–a proud, old-time Mainer–tries to find more work to defray expenses. Her younger sister grapples with a secret she can’t share. Cordelia feels abandoned, and Cordelia’s mother faces the repercussions of a long-ago decision. As Sarah’s mother, Cindy, frets about how she’ll juggle childcare with her job at the local quilting store, she seizes on an idea: to band together and make a baby quilt. Piece by piece, a beautiful design emerges. And as it progresses, reflecting the hopes and cares of the women who create it, each will find strength in the friendship and love that sustains them, in hardship and in joy. . .

The Review:

In The Beach Quilt, Holly Chamberlin explores the effect that sixteen year old Sarah Bauer’s unexpected pregnancy has on the people around her.  It is lovely story of friendship and family that offers an interesting array of reactions and opinions in the aftermath of Sarah’s announcement.

Sarah is very smart and responsible so her pregnancy is a huge shock to everyone around her. Her parents, Cindy and Joe are stunned but completely supportive of her decisions regarding the baby. Her young sister, Stevie, is going through a bit of a crisis of her own, and she is a little overlooked as everyone rallies around Sarah. Best friend, Cordelia, is hurt that Sarah kept details of her relationship a secret and she feels left out as Sarah deals with the upcoming changes in her life. Cordelia’s parents, Jack and Adelaide, are also affected by the news but in completely different ways. As the school principal, Jack is concerned with the day to day practicalities of a pregnant student. Sarah’s announcement and her decision about her future resurrects a long held secret from Adelaide’s past.

The Beach Quilt is told from four different points of view: Sarah, Cordelia, Cindy and Adelaide. The chapters alternate between perspectives which provides readers an in depth view of the unfolding drama. Sarah is by turns, shocked, angry and accepting of changes that are headed her way. She knows she has a difficult future ahead, but, for the most part, she stands firm in her decision. Cordelia is self-absorbed and immature but she becomes more compassionate and understanding throughout the course of the story. Cindy is a worrier and she is consumed by her concerns about their financial future. She is also struggling with the upcoming changes in her relationship with Sarah. Joe is the least affected by everything around him-he is accepting of the changes and continues to work hard to provide for his family.

The Beach Quilt is an angst ridden story that thrives on imagining worst case scenarios. The plot is slow moving and it gets bogged down with extraneous details. A lot of the novel takes place inside the various characters’ heads which is great because readers gain valuable information about their emotions and reactions. But this also makes the novel feel choppy as the chapters constantly jump from one character to another.

The Beach Quilt is a thought-provoking novel of friendship and family. The storyline is original and Holly Chamberlin deftly handles some very difficult subject matter with sensitivity. A stunning plot twist brings the story to an unexpected but realistic conclusion.

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Filed under Contemporary, Fiction, Holly Chamberlin, Kensington Books, Rated C, Review, The Beach Quilt

Review: The Tea Shop on Lavender Lane by Sheila Roberts

tea shopTitle: The Tea Shop on Lavender Lane by Sheila Roberts
Life in Icicle Falls Series Book 5
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: C

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

When it comes to men, sisters don’t share! 

After a fake food poisoning incident in L.A., Bailey Sterling’s dreams of becoming a caterer to the stars collapse faster than a soufflé. Now Bailey’s face is in all the gossip rags and her business is in ruins. But the Sterling women close ranks and bring her back to Icicle Falls, where she’ll stay with her sister Cecily.

All goes well between the sisters until Bailey comes up with a new business idea—a tea shop on a charming street called Lavender Lane. She’s going into partnership with Todd Black, who—it turns out—is the man Cecily’s started dating. It looks to Cecily as if there’s more than tea brewing in that cute little shop. And she’s not pleased.

Wait! Isn’t Cecily seeing Luke Goodman? He’s a widower with an adorable little girl, and yes, Cecily does care about him. But Todd’s the one who sends her zing-o-meter off the charts. So now what? Should you have to choose between your sister and the man you love (or think you love)?

The Review:

The Tea Shop on Lavender Lane, the latest addition to Sheila Roberts’ Life in Icicle Falls series, has a dual storyline featuring the youngest two Sterling sisters.

Cecily and Bailey both left Icicle Falls to pursue their dreams in LA and after things do not turn out as expected, they end up moving back home. Cecily is the first to return home and while she is happy with her career in the family chocolate business, she is ready to marry and settle down. Bailey grudgingly accepts her sisters’ offer of a place to live after a fake publicity stunt destroys her catering business. With Bailey trying to figure out what is next for her professionally, Cecily is torn between two very different men. The bond between the sisters is tight but after Bailey enters into a business partnership with one of Cecily’s love interests, jealousy and sibling rivalry threaten to destroy their relationship.

An ex-matchmaker, Cecily has successfully set up several of her friends, but she has not been as fortunate in her own love life. She is finally ready to begin dating again and she has two completely opposite men interested in her. Luke Goodman is a widower with a young daughter and Todd Black is the bad boy owner of a disreputable tavern. She is drawn to Luke, but she cannot ignore the sizzling attraction she has for Todd. Cecily dates both men but which one will win her heart?

While Cecily is dealing with her romantic dilemma, Bailey finally emerges from her depression over her failed catering career and takes a temporary job as a desk clerk at a local B&B. Although she is afraid to cook professionally again, she fills in as a weekend breakfast cook and regains some of her lost confidence. A surprising opportunity comes her way to open a tea shop and she excitedly begins planning her next business venture. Unbeknownst to Bailey, her new partner happens to be one of the men Cecily is dating and after Cecily’s insecurities lead to some very unfounded accusations, the sisters’ relationship rapidly deteriorates.

Cecily and Bailey are well-developed characters but I found it difficult to like either of them. Bailey has an annoying habit of dissolving into tears at the first hint of trouble and her insistence that she could never cook again professionally is a little unreasonable considering no one actually was sickened by any food she has served. Cecily’s desperation to get married and start a family overshadows the romantic aspect of her storyline. Her ultimate goal is marriage and she is pretty much planning the wedding before the relationship has progressed past casual dating. The conflict between the sisters feels contrived and immature, and the situation between them spirals of control.

Todd and Luke are likable characters but their development feels superficial. The bare facts are given about each of their backgrounds, but it is all surface information. Luke’s back story is barely touched on but he is a nice guy and at times, he is a little too nice. Despite having more insight into Todd’s past, he sometimes comes across as emotionally distant and a little shallow.

While there is more a romantic element the previous novel in the Life in Icicle Falls series, The Tea Shop on Lavender Lane is firmly based in reality with plenty of conflict and unexpected twists and turns. Sheila Roberts brings the novel to a satisfying conclusion and neatly wraps up all of the loose ends with a nice epilogue.

1 Comment

Filed under Contemporary, Harlequin, Life in Icicle Falls, Mira, Rated C, Review, Romance, Sheila Roberts, The Tea Shop on Lavender Lane

Review: Aloha Also Means Goodbye by Jessica Rosenberg

alohaTitle: Aloha Also Means Goodbye by Jessica Rosenberg
Publisher: Sand Hill Review Press
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 305 pages
Book Rating: C

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

 

Jo and Jordan tied the knot five years ago in a mud hut in the middle of Zambia far from all their friends and family. Now they’re in Hawaii for a big wedding vow renewal ceremony elaborately planned by Jo’s mother. There’s just one small issue, something’s wrong with the wedding license issued in Africa and only Jo knows that she wasn’t legally married in Zambia. Enter her old flame, the man she was running from when she met Jordan. He’s on the island and with his two kids, both of whom are named after her.

Coming face to face with her past, just as she’s trying to brave her future, forces Jo to make some big decisions. It might even force her to grow up. Luckily she doesn’t have to do any of it on her own; her two best friends are there to hold her hand and help her down the right path. But what path will she choose?

Despite all the upheaval and complications, Jo will eventually walk down the aisle to say “I do” to the man who completes her. But will the wedding be the one Jo’s mother planned? Or will it be something much, much better?

The Review:

With its lush tropical setting, Jessica Rosenberg’s Aloha Also Means Goodbye is an ideal beach read. It is a mainly light-hearted romance with Jo and Jordan planning to renew their wedding vows, but their upcoming ceremony is threatened when Jo is confronted by her unresolved past.

Aloha Also Means Goodbye is off to a strong beginning, but it quickly gets bogged down by too many storylines. The main story arc focuses on Jo and her sudden doubts about whether she and Jordan belong together. These misgivings intensify when she runs into her first love Andy and she learns new information about their break up years early. When Jordan finally arrives for their renewal ceremony, Jo is left wondering which of the two men she really loves.

The secondary story arcs revolve around Jo’s friends, Sadie and Roxie. Sadie has a long history of falling for men who are going through some sort of turmoil and once they are back on their feet again, they dump her. So when Sadie meets a sexy and kindhearted bartender, she is immediately smitten but has she made a mistake risking her heart so soon? Roxie is the complete opposite of Sadie-her relationships are fun, flirty and short-lived. However an unexpected attraction leads her to question her lifelong beliefs about love.

Throw in Andy’s crumbling marriage and Jo’s troubled relationship with her mom, and an already convoluted storyline becomes even more complicated. Both of these storylines are eventually resolved, but with so much else going on, the overall story feels rushed and somewhat superficial.

All in all, Aloha Also Means Goodbye is a heartwarming, light read with a surprising amount of depth. The romances are enjoyable, the various conflicts are neatly wrapped up and Jessica Rosenberg brings the novel to an emotionally satisfying and very romantic conclusion.

2 Comments

Filed under Aloha Also Means Goodbye, Contemporary, Jessica Rosenberg, Rated C, Review, Romance, Sand Hill Review Press

Review: Wonderland by Stacey D’Erasmo

wonderlandTitle: Wonderland by Stacey D’Erasmo
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: 256 pages
Book Rating: C

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Anna Brundage is a rock star. She is tall and sexy, with a powerhouse voice and an unforgettable mane of red hair. She came out of nowhere, an immediate indie sensation. And then, life happened.

Anna went down as fast as she went up, and then walked off the scene for seven years. Without a record deal or clamoring fans, she sells a piece of her famous father’s art to finance just one more album and a European comeback tour.

Anna is forty-four. This may be her last chance to cement her place in the life she chose, the life she struggled for, the life she’s not sure she can sustain. She falls back easily into the ways of the road—sex with strangers, the search for the perfect moment onstage. To see Anna perform is something—watch her find the note, the electric connection with the audience, the transcendence when it all comes together and the music seems to fill the world.

A riveting look at the life of a musician, Wonderland is a moving inquiry into the life of a woman on an unconventional path, wondering what happens next and what her passions might have cost her, seeking a version of herself she might recognize. It takes us deep into a world many of us have spent hours imagining and wishing ourselves into—now we have a bit of that wish come true.

The Review:

Stacey D’Erasmo’s Wonderland is an authentic portrayal of a rock star’s comeback tour. Seven years ago, Anna Brundage’s career and love affair crashed and burned. In the interim, she has married, divorced and lived a rather mundane life, but she decides to give her musical career one last shot.

Beginning right before the first stop in Anna’s European tour, Wonderland is a little confusing as it meanders back and forth between past and present. Glimpses into her childhood highlight her unconventional and somewhat eclectic upbringing. Details of her past love affair with a married man expose the highs and lows of their failed relationship and her ongoing heartache over their breakup. Brief mention of her marriage and divorce lead to unexpected introspection. A tragic loss hints at a troubled relationship. All of the revelations play out alongside the current tour stops, one night stands and sometimes tense moments between Anna and her band mates.

While these various bits and pieces are interesting, they do not give enough information about events or characters to form a complete picture of Anna or her life. The transitions between past and present are disjointed. The characters are likable but lack dimension.

While lacking in some areas, Wonderland is definitely a hit when it comes to the rock star atmosphere. The nerves, the tension and the exhaustion of tour are keenly felt as is Anna’s uncertainty about her future. Stacey D’Erasmo ends the novel on hopeful note, but like the rest of the story, it is frustratingly ambiguous.

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2 Comments

Filed under Contemporary, Fiction, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Rated C, Review, Stacey D'Erasmo, Wonderland