Category Archives: Rated C

Review: A Year After Henry by Cathie Pelletier

henryTitle: A Year After Henry by Cathie Pelletier
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: 272 pages
Book Rating: C

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

In her exquisite new novel, acclaimed author Cathie Pelletier presents a witty and refreshingly candid portrait of grief, intergenerational conflict, and the impact one person can have on those he loved.

Bixley, Maine. One year after Henry Munroe’s fatal heart attack at age forty-one, his doting parents, prudish wife, rebellious son, and wayward brother are still reeling. So is Evie Cooper, a bartender, self-proclaimed “spiritual portraitist,” and Henry’s former mistress. While his widow, Jeanie, struggles with the betrayal, Henry’s overbearing mother is making plans to hold a memorial service. As the date of the tribute draws closer and these worlds threaten to collide, the Munroes grapple with the frailty of their own lives and the knowledge that love is all that matters.

With her trademark wry wit and wisdom, Cathie Pelletier has crafted an elegant and surprisingly uplifiting portrait of the many strange and inspiring forms that grief can take in its journey toward healing.

The Review:

A Year After Henry by Cathie Pelletier is an interesting glimpse of Henry Munroe’s loved ones as the one year anniversary of his untimely death approaches. In the days leading up to the memorial service, everyone is still grieving his loss but perhaps their biggest struggle is reconciling the new paths their lives have taken since he passed away.

Henry’s widow, Jeanie, is saddened by her husband’s death but her biggest regret is not getting the chance to confront Henry about his last infidelity with bartender, Evie Cooper. In the year since his death, she has become obsessed with Evie and she spends a lot of her time stalking Evie while trying to work up the courage to confront her about the affair. While Jeanie is wallowing over past mistakes, her fifteen year old son Chad is trying to numb his pain with drugs and alcohol.

Larry Munroe always lived in the shadow of his outgoing, gregarious younger sibling and in the year following Henry’s death, his life is in upheaval. After losing his wife, son and job in a shocking divorce, Larry is now living back home with his parents in the same bedroom he and Henry shared as children. He is sinking into a depression that is more about the loss of his marriage and son than Henry’s death. Larry also has an unforeseen connection to Henry’s former mistress and this too plays a role in his growing despair.

In a sea of sadness, Evie Cooper is an unexpectedly refreshing breath of fresh air. As the “other woman” in Henry’s affair, she is not cast in the best light but there is surprising depth to her character. Evie uses her gift as a spiritual portraitist to help the grieving cope with their losses. As a bartender at the local watering hole, she offers a sympathetic ear when needed but she is also willing to step in and find a solution to a friend’s increasingly dangerous situation.

Of course at the heart of the story are the various memories of Henry. As each of the characters reflect on their respective pasts, a rather unflattering portrait of Henry emerges. Although people were drawn to him, he was rather self-centered and self-absorbed.  As the memorial approaches, everyone begins to gain new perspectives on his role in their lives and they begin to make peace with not only his loss, but his flaws and imperfections as well.

While the plot of A Year After Henry is unique, the novel is slow-paced and the overall flow is interrupted by meandering thought tangents and superfluous details. The characters are fascinating and it is enjoyable watching them emerge from their grief and take charge of their somewhat out of control lives. Cathie Pelletier ends the story on a hopeful note as all of the participants say their final goodbyes at Henry’s memorial service.

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Filed under A Year After Henry, Cathie Pelletier, Contemporary, Fiction, Rated C, Review, Sourcebooks Landmark

Review: One Night: Promised by Jodi Ellen Malpas

night promisedTitle: One Night: Promised by Jodi Ellen Malpas
One Night Trilogy Book One
Publisher: Forever
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic, Romance
Length: 416 pages
Book Rating: C

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

The new breathtaking novel from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the This Man trilogy

ONE NIGHT WILL NEVER BE ENOUGH . . .

Livy notices him the moment he walks into the coffee shop. He’s heart-stoppingly stunning, with a blue-eyed gaze so piercing she’s almost too distracted to take his order. When he walks out the door, she thinks she’ll never see him again. Then she finds the note he left on his napkin . . . signed M.

All he wants is one night to worship her. No feelings, no commitment, nothing but pleasure. Every defense mechanism Livy has adopted during her solitary life is at risk of being obliterated by this confounding man. He’s obnoxious but well-mannered. He’s a gentleman but aloof. He’s passionate but emotionless. Yet the fascination is so powerful, Livy can’t deny him . . . or herself.

M awakens something in Livy, something deep and addictive that she never knew existed-and that she fears only he can satisfy. But she senses that behind the fast cars, fancy suits, and posh apartment, he’s aching inside. To have him, body and soul, she’ll have to brave his dark secrets. Delving into his world and breaking down his defenses become her obsession-an obsession that could shatter her heart beyond repair . .

The Review:

Promised is the sexually charged first installment in Jodi Ellen Malpas’ new erotic trilogy, One Night. Bistro waitress Livy is gobsmacked by her reaction to one her customers, the very mysterious and striking M. The two share an instant and scorching hot attraction but the enigmatic M cannot commit to a lasting relationship. He instead offers 24 hours of pure pleasure but will Livy accept his very provocative invitation?

Livy and M start out as likable characters but it does not take long to become incredibly frustrated with both of them. On the surface, Livy seems self-assured and confident but as soon as she becomes involved with M? She turns into an indecisive, whiny mess who puts up token resistance to M’s commanding and ridiculous demands. The reasons for some of her behavior appear to stem from her dysfunctional past, but it takes so long to learn her secrets that she is more annoying than sympathetic.

M is closed off and secretive but he is upfront that he is emotionally unavailable. He relentlessly pursues Livy and he crosses over into creepy, stalker territory pretty much right away. He treats her like a child and M expects her to reveal everything about herself to him but he refuses to tell her anything about himself.

The pattern for Livy and M’s relationship is established pretty early on with Livy running away, M pursuing her and the two jumping into bed. Lack of communication causes trust issues and Livy’s suspicions continue to grow because of M’s secretive behavior.  Little progress is made in their relationship and the constant back and forth quickly becomes tedious.

The premise of Promised is intriguing but it is slow-paced and repetitive. The secondary characters are a mixture of likable (Livy’s co-workers) and exasperating (Livy’s grandmother and BFF). The plot is interesting but it gets bogged down by too many insignificant details. The constant back and forth between M and Livy is irritating and predictable. The story does eventually pick up steam and Jodi Ellen Malpas ends the novel with an incredibly shocking and dramatic plot twist that will leave readers absolutely dying to read the next novel in the One Night Trilogy.

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Filed under Contemporary, Erotic, Forever, Jodi Ellen Malpas, One Night Trilogy, One Night: Promised, Rated C, Review, Romance

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.

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