Category Archives: Romance

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: 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: Sweetbriar Cottage by Denise Hunter

Title: Sweetbriar Cottage by Denise Hunter
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre: Contemporary, Christian, Women’s Fiction
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

When Noah and Josephine Mitchell discover their divorce was never actually finalized, their lives are turned upside down.

Following his divorce, Noah gave up his dream job, settling at a remote horse ranch in the Blue Ridge Mountains of northern Georgia, putting much-needed distance between himself and the former love of his life. But then Noah gets a letter from the IRS claiming he and Josephine are still married. When he confronts Josephine for the first time in months, they discover that she missed the final step in filing the paperwork and they are, in fact, still married.

Josephine is no happier about the news than Noah. Maybe the failed marriage–and okay, the botched divorce–was her fault, but her heart was shattered right alongside his, more than he would ever believe. The sooner they put this marriage behind them, the better for both of their sakes.

But when Josephine delivers the final paperwork to his ranch, the two become stranded in his cottage during the worst spring snowstorm in a decade. Being trapped with Josephine is a test of Noah’s endurance. He wrestles with resentment and an unmistakable pull to his wife–still beautiful, still brave, and still more intriguing than any woman he’s ever known.

As they find themselves confronted with each other and their shared past, old wounds surface and tempers flare. But when they are forced out into the storm, they must rely on each other in a way they never have before. Josephine finally opens up about her tragic past, and Noah realizes she’s never been loved unconditionally by anyone–including him. Will Noah accept the challenge to pursue Josephine’s heart? And can she finally find the courage to trust Noah?

Review:

With a gentle undercurrent of faith, Sweetbriar Cottage by Denise Hunter is an emotional second chance at love romance.

Noah Mitchell is stunned, dismayed and angry to learn that his divorce from his wife, Josephine, was never finalized.  The discovery stirs up all of his unresolved feelings about the demise of his marriage. Readily accepting responsibility for both the divorce and the paperwork mix-up, Josephine wants to fix the mistake as soon as possible. When an unexpected situation forces Noah and Josephine to spend time together, will they take advantage of this opportunity to heal the wounds from their past?

When Noah and Josephine first meet, neither of them is looking for a relationship.  Noah is well-adjusted with a loving family and although Josephine is new to town, she has a bit of a reputation.  Noah does not give any credence to this gossip and over the next several months, the two enjoy several sweet dates. Although his family and friends try to convince him to wait, he and Josephine marry after a bit of whirlwind courtship and there is no reason to doubt their love for one another.  While Noah does not know much about his new wife’s past, they are very happy together which is why he is so shocked when Josephine betrays him.  Devastated, Noah refuses to discuss what happened and immediately files for divorce.

Fast forward eighteen months and Noah is living on an isolated ranch where he raises horses. Josephine is still living in town but the two have managed to stay out of each other’s way since they split up. Their unexpected reunion is fraught with tension, hurt and anger. Unbeknownst to Noah, Josephine has taken steps to understand how her painful and unresolved past was still influencing her actions after she moved to town and throughout their marriage. Noah remains deeply conflicted over why their marriage ended, but is he finally ready to discuss the events that precipitated their divorce? And if he can understand what motivated Josephine’s behavior, will he, at long last, find it within his heart to forgive her? Although they make considerable progress working through their unresolved issues, is it possible for Noah and Josephine to truly leave their past behind and heal their fractured relationship?

Sweetbriar Cottage is a deeply moving story that deals with some very difficult subject matter. Denise Hunter deftly explores these complex topics with sensitivity and she never downplays the lasting effects of childhood abuse.Noah and Josephine are multi-faceted characters whose flaws, weaknesses and insecurities are easy to relate to. The storyline is richly developed with complicated and all too realistic issues that are addressed in a forthright and delicate manner. The resolution of Noah and Josephine’s problems is believable and readers will love the novel’s heartwarming conclusion.

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Filed under Christian, Contemporary, Denise Hunter, Rated B+, Review, Romance, Sweetbriar Cottage, Thomas Nelson Publishing

Review: Any Dream Will Do by Debbie Macomber

Title: Any Dream Will Do by Debbie Macomber
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Inspirational
Length: 336 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Beloved bestselling author Debbie Macomber returns with a powerful standalone novel about a woman forced to start her life anew, embarking on the most courageous journey of all—to a place where she learns what love and trust really mean.

Shay Benson adored her younger brother, Caden, and that got her into trouble. When he owed money, Shay realized she would do anything to help him avoid the men who were threatening him, and she crossed lines she never should have crossed. Now, determined to start fresh, she finds herself in search of a place to stay and wanders into a church to escape from the cold.

Pastor Drew Douglas adored his wife. But when he lost her, it was all he could do to focus on his two beautiful kids, and his flock came in a distant third. Now, as he too is thinking about a fresh start, he walks through his sanctuary and finds Shay sitting in a pew.

The pair strike up a friendship—Drew helps Shay get back on her feet, and she reignites his sense of purpose—that, over time, turns into something deeper, something soulful, spiritual, and possibly romantic. Even Drew’s two children are taken with this woman who has brought light back into their lives. Perhaps most important, Shay learns to trust again as she, in turn, proves herself trustworthy to her adopted community.

But Caden’s return to town and a disastrous secret threaten to undo the life Shay has tried so hard to rebuild. It will take the utmost courage and faith if she and Drew hope to find healing and open their hearts to a brighter future.

Review:

Any Dream Will Do by Debbie Macomber is an uplifting novel of redemption, second chances and love. This substantive story also includes an element of faith that is not just spiritual since a major part of the storyline centers around the belief that people can and will prevail as they attempt to turn their lives around after making disastrous life choices.

Drew Douglas is the pastor of a Seattle Church but after the death of his beloved wife Katie three years earlier, he is still struggling with lingering grief and a loss of faith. His surprise meeting with Shay Benson changes his life, but initially, not in a romantic sense. In helping her, he finds his way back to the friends and mentors he gradually allowed to slip out of his life after Katie’s death. As he becomes more engaged in life, Drew finally recognizes that he is battling more than just grief and a crisis of faith. Once he begins to emerge from the darkness that has shrouded him, Drew finds a renewed purpose and joy in his ministry. He occasionally sees Shay during this year of recovery and once both of their lives are back on track, the two form a surprising friendship that gradually deepens into love.

A dysfunctional and abusive childhood set Shay on a self-destructive path at a young age. Her poor choices also affected her brother Caden after she introduces him to her drug dealing and addicted boyfriend. On the brink of leaving er past behind, Shay’s loyalty to Caden and her guilt over involving him in her ill-fated choices results in a terrible decision that culminates with severe consequences for her. Three years later, Shay is once again presented with an opportunity to make a better life for herself, but can she bring herself to believe she is worthy of this second chance?

The friendship between Shay and Drew is quite sweet but there are quite a few obstacles they both must overcome before exploring the unexpected romance that springs up between them. Shay is constantly striving to quiet the little voice in her head that tries to convince her she does not deserve a better life.She is incredibly kindhearted and never hesitates to welcome those less fortunate into her life and her heart. While she is at first skeptical of letting God into her life, a newfound faith finally becomes an integral part of Shay’s life.

Drew is initially somewhat hesitant to bring Shay into both his and his children’s lives but he cannot deny he is drawn to her. Several people in his congregation question his judgment and he draws upon Scripture to gently, yet pointedly, make his case for welcoming her into their fold. A few issues crop up along the way that seem to indicate he might have made a precipitous decision to trust Shay but Drew’s faith in her does not waver. However, when a situation spirals out of control, will Drew be forced to decide between his church and Shay?

Any Dream Will Do is a truly inspiring novel that will resonate with anyone who has ever struggled to turn their life around. The romance between Shay and Drew is quite touching, but their relationship is secondary to the growth of the characters. &Shay’s journey is compelling and her emotions, regrets and doubts are realistically depicted. Drew’s struggle to regain his lost faith and overcome the loss of his wife are portrayed with stark honesty. The storyline also touches on social problems such as homelessness and addiction in a forthright and sensitive manner. This newest release by Debbie Macomber is a captivating story of hope, love and faith that will linger in readers’ hearts and minds long after the last page is turned.

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Filed under Any Dream Will Do, Ballantine Books, Contemporary, Debbie Macomber, Inspirational, Rated B+, Review, Romance

Review: Map of the Heart by Susan Wiggs

Title: Map of the Heart by Susan Wiggs
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Contemporary, Historical (WWII), Romance, Women’s Fiction
Length: 368 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

Love and family. War and secrets. Betrayal and redemption.

#1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Wiggs returns with a deeply emotional and atmospheric story that spans oceans and decades, from the present-day Delaware shore to the battlefields of WWII France.

Widowed by an unspeakable tragedy, Camille Palmer has made her peace with the past and settled into the quiet safety of life with her teenage daughter Julie in a sleepy coastal town. Then the arrival of a mysterious package breaks open the door to her family’s secret past. In uncovering a hidden history, Camille has no idea that she’s embarking on an adventure that will utterly transform her.

Camille, Julie, and Camille’s father return to the French town of his youth, sparking  unexpected memories — recollections that will lead them back to the dark days of the Second World War. And it is in the stunning Provençal countryside that they will uncover their family’s surprising history.

While Provence offers answers about the past, it also holds the key to Camille’s future. Along the way, she meets a former naval officer who stirs a passion deep within her — a feeling that she thought she’d never experience again.

Review:

Map of the Heart by Susan Wiggs is a beautifully rendered, poignant novel that mainly takes place in the present but also flips back in time to World War II in order to solve an intriguing family secret.

Camille Palmer Adams was at one time fearless and adventuresome as she embraced love and life without reservation. However, five years ago, in a heart-stopping instant, a tragic loss changed her into a woman who now refuses to take risks and rarely steps out of the sedate, safe life she has created with her fifteen year old daughter Julie. After experiencing another life-altering moment, Camille becomes aware that she has somehow overlooked some important changes in her daughter.  Will this stunning realization allow her to see past her own fears in order to allow Julie the freedom to spread her wings and enjoy life to the fullest? Or will Camille continue to let her past to shape her future?

Camille is quite close with her father, Henri Palmer, who left his small town in the French countryside to emigrate to America. As an American who romanticizes and idealizes the French, I immediately turned to my husband and asked, “why would a Frenchman abandon an idyllic life in FRANCE to permanently move to the United States?” The answer to that question stretches back to World War II and the beautiful, brave woman who refused to allow the Germans to defeat her after they invade her small country village.

In Map of the Heart, Susan Wiggs seamlessly weaves these two seemingly disparate story arcs into a heartwarming novel of healing and love. The novel’s picturesque settings spring vibrantly to life and readers will have no difficulty visualizing the coastal town of Bethany Bay or the bucolic French countryside.  The characters are multi-dimensional with true to life human frailties and foibles that make them easy to relate to as they attempt to make peace with their respective pasts.  I absolutely adored and highly recommend this captivating novel to fans of the genre.

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Filed under Contemporary, Historical, Historical (40s), Map of the Heart, Rated B+, Romance, Susan Wiggs, William Morrow, Women's Fiction