Category Archives: Romance

Review: Toughest Cowboy in Texas by Carolyn Brown

Title: Toughest Cowboy in Texas by Carolyn Brown
Happy, Texas Book One
Publisher: Forever
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: C+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

The Spark of an Old Flame

Last time Lila Harris was in Happy, Texas, she was actively earning her reputation as the resident wild child. Now, a little older and wiser, she’s back to run her mother’s café for the summer. Except something about this town has her itching to get a little reckless and rowdy, especially when she sees her old partner-in-crime, Brody Dawson. Their chemistry is just as hot as ever. But he’s still the town’s golden boy-and she’s still the wrong kind of girl.

Brody hasn’t had much time lately for anything other than ranching. Running the biggest spread in the county and taking care of his family more than keeps him busy. All that responsibility has him longing for the carefree days of high school-and Lila. She may have grown up, but he still sees that spark of mischief in her eyes. Now he’s dreaming about late-night skinny dipping and wondering how he can possibly resist the one woman he can never forget…

Review:

The first book in Carolyn Brown’s Happy, Texas series, Toughest Cowboy in Texas is an entertaining second chance at love romance.

Twelve years ago, Lila Harris left Happy, Texas with a broken heart courtesy of her secret boyfriend Brody Dawson.  Now a well-respected school teacher, Lila returns to Happy to sell her mama’s cafe but she cannot escape the town’s long memory.  Considered the town’s “wild child” because of her fun-loving, spirited antics, the townspeople still refer to her by her former nickname and she is the object of an awful lot of mean-spirited gossip. And woo whee!  Two of the Lila’s biggest detractors are Brody’s mama and Grandma and they are hoping he stays far away from her while she is in town.

Brody’s life changed direction dramatically due to circumstances beyond his control and he now has his hands full running the family ranch with his brother Jace.  He harbors quite a few regrets for the way he treated Lila while they were dating and as an adult, he is quick to apologize for his mistakes. Brody is also ready and willing to fight for her once he realizes he is still attracted to her.

The sparks fly between Brody and Lila once they are reunited but there is plenty of internal and external conflict to prevent them from acting on their attraction. With the townspeople convinced she is nothing but trouble, Lila cannot wait to leave Happy again. She is also rather reluctant to trust that Brody will not break her heart again. Brody knows that Lila is the woman for him, but his mama and grandma are dead set against them becoming a couple. Will Brody fight for Lila no matter what his family thinks? And will Lila be able to work through her reservations about living permanently in a town where she is nothing but fodder for  gossip?

Although Brody and Lila are likable characters, their relationship has a bit of an insta-love feel to it. The townspeople are rather judgmental and quick to think the worst of Lila despite the fact that they really do not know her.  It is also rather frustrating that both Lila and Brody’s families are dead set against them seeing another. The reasons are ridiculously overblown and have absolutely nothing to do with either Brody and Lila.

Toughest Cowboy in Texas  is a sweet yet steamy small town romance with a cast of eclectic but likable characters. While there are a few frustrations with some elements of the storyline, this first installment in the Happy, Texas series is an enjoyable read that I recommend to old and new fans of Carolyn Brown.

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Filed under Carolyn Brown, Contemporary, Forever, Happy Texas Series, Rated C+, Review, Romance, Toughest Cowboy in Texas

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: Someone Else’s Summer by Rachel Bateman

Title: Someone Else’s Summer by Rachel Bateman
Publisher: Running Press
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Romance
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Anna’s always idolized her older sister, Storm. So when Storm dies in a tragic car accident on the night of her high school graduation, Anna is completely lost and her family is torn apart. That is, until she finds Storm’s summer bucket list and decides to honor her sister by having the best summer ever–which includes taking an epic road trip to the coast from her sleepy Iowa town. Setting out to do everything on Storm’s list along with her sisters best friend Cameron–the boy next door–who knew that Storm’s dream summer would eventually lead to Anna’s own self-discovery?

Review:

Someone Else’s Summer by Rachel Bateman is a poignant yet heartwarming young adult novel.

Anna Holloway is absolutely gutted when her much admired older sister Storm unexpectedly dies in a car accident. Going through the motions as she resumes her regular activities within a couple of weeks, Anna is surprised when she finds her sister’s final list of things to do over the summer.  Desperately wanting to complete the list, Anna and her sister’s best (and next door neighbor) Cameron Andrews embark on a road trip in an attempt to feel closer to Storm and hopefully work through their grief over their loss. By journey’s end, Anna is stunned by a final revelation that leaves her feeling like she really did not know Storm as well as she thought.

For much of their childhood, Anna tagged along on Storm and Cameron’s many adventures. However, in recent years, Anna is busy with cheerleading and her best friends Piper and Jovani. Nevertheless, Storm’s death leaves a huge whole in Anna’s life and she is struggling to understand how everyone around her can resume their normal lives after such a devastating loss. In addition to her grief, she also regrets not spending time with her sister and the discovery of Storm’s list provides her the opportunity to feel close to her sister again.

Cameron is struggling to cope with Storm’s death and in addition to his grief, he also harbors a hefty dose of guilt for a few reasons. Anna and her parents are quick to reassure him they harbor no ill feelings for his self perceived role in her loss. He does not hesitate to agree to accompany Anna on the road trip but there are a few tense moments between them along the way. Cameron is just as surprised as Anna when their friendship takes an unanticipated romantic turn.

It is not until they have nearly completed all of the items on Storm’s list that Anna becomes curious about some of  the things her sister wanted to do that summer. When she broaches these topics with Cameron, he is forced to reveal the secrets he has been keeping for the past several months. She is stunned and extremely distraught by these revelations and she is quite angry with Cameron for not telling her the truth about Storm. Will she forgive Storm for the choices she made before she died?  Will Anna forgive Cameron for keeping such important information from her?

While Anna’s friendship and subsequent romance with Cameron is absolutely delightful, her friendship with Piper is a sadly lacking. Piper does not have much empathy for Anna’s loss and while she is more than happy to drag her to parties and out shopping,she does not provide any emotional support. Piper’s attitude when Anna returns home after the road trip is just horrible which makes Anna’s efforts to resume their friendship that much worse.

Fast-paced with a well-written storyline and an endearing cast of characters, Someone Else’s Summer  is an emotional novel of healing. Rachel Bateman perfectly balances the sadder elements of the story with the light-hearted yet meaningful road trip. Anna is a wonderful protagonist whose struggles to deal with Storm’s death are realistic. I greatly enjoyed and highly recommend this bittersweet novel to readers of all ages.

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Filed under Contemporary, Rachel Bateman, Rated B+, Review, Romance, Running Press, Someone Else's Summer, Young Adult

Review: The Girl Who Knew Too Much by Amanda Quick

Title: The Girl Who Knew Too Much by Amanda Quick
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Historical (30s), Romance, Mystery/Suspense
Length: 368 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Amanda Quick, the bestselling author of ’Til Death Do Us Part, transports readers to 1930s California, where glamour and seduction spawn a multitude of sins…

When Hollywood moguls and stars want privacy, they head to an idyllic small town on the coast, where the exclusive Burning Cove Hotel caters to their every need. It’s where reporter Irene Glasson finds herself staring down at a beautiful actress at the bottom of a pool…

The dead woman had a red-hot secret about up-and-coming leading man Nick Tremayne, a scoop that Irene couldn’t resist—especially since she’s just a rookie at a third-rate gossip rag. But now Irene’s investigation into the drowning threatens to tear down the wall of illusion that is so deftly built around the famous actor, and there are powerful men willing to do anything to protect their investment.

Seeking the truth, Irene finds herself drawn to a master of deception. Oliver Ward was once a world-famous magician—until he was mysteriously injured during his last performance. Now the owner of the Burning Cove Hotel, he can’t let scandal threaten his livelihood, even if it means trusting Irene, a woman who seems to have appeared in Los Angeles out of nowhere four months ago…

With Oliver’s help, Irene soon learns that the glamorous paradise of Burning Cove hides dark and dangerous secrets. And that the past—always just out of sight—could drag them both under…

Review:

The Girl Who Knew Too Much by Amanda Quick is a delightfully clever mystery that is set during the glamorous Golden Age of Hollywood.

After her previous job abruptly comes to a dangerous and tragic end, Irene Glasson reinvents herself upon her arrival in Los Angeles. Now an up and coming reporter at gossip rag Whispers, she is hoping her upcoming meeting with Gloria Maitland provides her with the information for a titillating article on rising star Nick Tremayne. Unfortunately, Irene finds Gloria’s lifeless body in the swimming pool at the upscale Burning Cove Hotel. Believing Gloria’s death is no accident, Irene remains in town and pairs up with the hotel’s owner (and former magician) Oliver Ward to try and uncover the truth about Gloria’s death.

Irene is a spunky young woman who does not shy away from danger. She is resourceful, confident and determined to find the truth about Gloria’s death. She is reluctant to completely trust Oliver, but once she realizes how far Nick’s studio will go to protect their star, she has no choice but to work with him.  Stubbornly convinced that Nick is connected to Gloria’s death and her co-worker Peggy Hackett’s eerily similar death,  Irene ignores the danger surrounding her and doggedly pursues every lead she finds.

Despite his previous fame, Oliver now keeps a low profile and he is a little mysterious since he refuses to discuss the accident that ended his career.  Since he is intensely protective of his guests, he is not at all pleased to discover that Irene somehow managed to  find her way onto to the hotel grounds. It goes without saying he has a vested interest in learning the truth about what happened to Gloria since the negative publicity could harm his hotel’s reputation. Oliver is stunned by the spark of interest he feels for Irene and the more time he spends in her company, the more vibrant and alive he feels. While he can be a little grumpy and close-mouthed, he is nothing but supportive of Irene throughout their investigation.

Irene’s investigation takes many surprising twists and turns as Nick tries to downplay any involvement with her death. Although Irene is a little frightened by some of the strong arm tactics employed by the studio’s hired goons, she refuses to give up digging for the truth. Will Irene and Oliver find the evidence they need to support her theory about that Nick is Gloria’s killer?

Although there is plenty of danger surrounding them, Oliver and Irene find the time to explore their unexpected attraction for each other. While their romance is a delightful addition to unfolding story, the investigation into the suspicious deaths remains the main focus of the storyline.

The Girl Who Knew Too Much is a wonderful novel with a fantastic cast of characters and intriguing mysteries to solve.  Amanda Quick deftly brings both  the time period and setting vibrantly to life. Irene is a gutsy heroine who never lets anyone or anything deter her from finding the truth about the what happened to Gloria and Peggy.  The killer’s identity and motive for the murders are carefully concealed until the novel’s dramatic conclusion.  I thoroughly enjoyed this spellbinding novel and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical mysteries.

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Filed under Amanda Quick, Berkley, Historical, Historical (30s), Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Romance, Suspense, The Girl Who Knew Too Much

Review: Peace in the Valley by Ruth Logan Herne

Title: Peace in the Valley by Ruth Logan Herne
Double S Ranch Series Book Three
Publisher: Multnomah
Genre: Contemporary, Christian, Romance
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Blogging for Vooks

Summary:

In spite of their differences, Trey Walker Stafford knows he owes his life to cowboy and legendary rancher Sam Stafford—the uncle who rescued him after his parents’ death. Trey had left the Double S Ranch to pursue music against Sam’s wishes, but returns to central Washington when he learns he’s the best match for a procedure that could save Sam’s life. Although Trey’s found country music fame and success, he’s also endured the tragic loss of his wife. He croons about love, but struggles with a yawning emptiness he can’t explain.

Overwhelmed by a growing list of challenges, but mistrustful of Stafford men, single mother Lucy Carlton reluctantly accepts Trey’s help to revive her crumbling farm when Sam instructs him to repay the overdue debt to her family.

As the two grow closer, Trey slowly begins to open his heart to this beautiful woman and strives to let go of the grief he’s held for years. Lucy has a complicated history of her own. Can Trey accept her as she is, learn to forgive the past, and find the elusive peace he’s sought for so long?

Review:

Peace in the Valley is an absolutely spellbinding novel of grace, forgiveness and trust. Although this latest release is the third installment in Ruth Logan Herne’s divine Double S Ranch series, it can easily be read as a standalone.

Trey Walker Stafford can never repay his uncle and adoptive father Sam Stafford for providing him with a loving home following his parents’ deaths from a drug overdose when he was three years old. Despite his love and respect for Sam, he could not give up his dream of becoming a musician and he now makes his home in TN. In spite of their past differences, Trey is more than willing to put his life and career on hold after discovering he is the closest match for Sam’s much needed liver transplant. Although there are risks involved with the live donor procedure, Trey knows the operation is his father’s best chance at survival. He also cannot turn down Sam’s request to help him make amends for the damage he caused on their neighbor Lucy Carlton’s farm. Trey is quite charmed by Lucy and her four children, but will learning the secrets from Lucy’s long ago past destroy their chance at happiness?

Through all of life’s tragedies and successes, Trey’s faith has remained constant. After the very public loss of his wife years earlier, he ignored the negative publicity and gossip surrounding him and worked hard to keep his career on track. However, the circumstances of her death shook Trey’s confidence that people can truly leave their pasts behind and he remains very wary and cautious about whom he trusts.

Lucy is devoted to her children and she works hard to make ends meet while also finding time to give back to those in need. She has made a few missteps in her life but she learned from her mistakes and has no intention of repeating them. Although Lucy has made peace with her past, she is quite guarded and very careful about who she trusts. She speaks honestly and openly about checkered past and she is the always willing to give people a second chance.

Trey and Lucy both share a deep faith, but their pasts make it very difficult for them trust one another. Trey is initially open to a relationship with Lucy, but he is reluctant to make promises he might not be able to keep. Once he becomes aware of Lucy’s history, Trey tries to distance himself from his growing feelings for her. Lucy’s experiences with her deceased husband naturally make her wary about becoming involved with another musician. She is also worried the unsubstantiated rumors about Trey might be true. Lucy is fiercely protective of her independence and she is quick to think the worst of Trey when he ineptly expresses some concern about an offer she is considering. Will Trey and Lucy’s respective baggage prevent them from risking their hearts?

With no shortage of valuable life lessons, Peace in the Valley is an emotionally compelling Christian romance that old and new fans of the Double S Ranch series are going to love. Trey and Lucy are vibrantly developed with imperfections, strengths and weaknesses that are very easy to relate to. Lucy and Trey’s unexpected friendship provides a firm foundation for their slow-growing romance. Ruth Logan Herne beautifully incorporates relevant scripture into the storyline in a realistic manner that will resonate with anyone who has ever struggled to let go of past hurts and mistakes in order to find peace, lasting happiness and ultimately, love.

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Filed under Christian, Contemporary, Double S Ranch Series, Multnomah Books, Peace in the Valley, Rated B+, Review, Romance, Ruth Logan Herne

Review: The Cowboy’s Accidental Baby by Marin Thomas

Title: The Cowboy’s Accidental Baby by Marin Thomas
Cowboys of Stampede, Texas Series Book One
Publisher: Harlequin Western Romance
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 224 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by the Author

Summary:

FROM PLAYBOY COWBOY TO…DADDY?

Bronc rider Gunner Hardell never plans past the next stop on the rodeo. When he’s home in Stampede, Texas, he’s part-time manager of the run-down Moonlight Motel, to get his crotchety grandpa off his back. Then he meets interior designer Lydia Canter—hired to renovate the motel—and suddenly the gig gets a whole lot more appealing…

Lydia is looking for love, but there’s nothing wrong with some Mr. Right Now while she waits for Mr. Right. But one steamy night with Gunner has unexpected consequences. And she would rather raise their baby alone than give the good-time cowboy a chance to break her heart. When Gunner learns he’s going to be a daddy, he’s determined to prove to Lydia he really is her Mr. Right!

Review:

The Cowboy’s Accidental Baby is a delightfully charming opposites attract romance. This newest release by Marin Thomas is the first installment in the Cowboys of Stampede, Texas series and centers around a trio of brothers.

Gunner Hardell  is a fun-loving bronc rider who is quite content with everything about his laidback lifestyle.  In between rodeos, he works as the part-time manager of his Grandpa Emmett’s neglected Moonlight Motel. Gunner enjoys sampling the charms of the ladies he meets at various events but he is strictly a love ’em and leave ’em kind of man. While he is very loyal to his family, his easygoing lifestyle and lack of direction are a source of contention between him and his older brother, Logan.  Gunner is not looking for love or commitment when he meets interior designer Lydia Canter, but will the focused and driven career woman change his mind?

Lydia knows exactly what she wants in life and she is willing to take whatever steps are necessary to accomplish her goals.  She is a no-nonsense, goal oriented woman who never loses sight of what she wants in a man nor does she intend to slack off on building up her business. However, when her beloved Aunt Amelia requests her help in giving the Moonlight Motel a much needed makeover, she readily agrees to assist her.  The last thing Lydia needs is a smooth-talking cowboy to distract her from the task at hand, but she makes a completely out of character decision that has stunning repercussions. Will Lydia be able to trust Gunner’s assertion that she can count on him in spite of his past?

Lydia and Gunner are an absolutely wonderful couple and although they are nothing alike, there is no denying their sizzling attraction. Of course, Gunner sees no reason not to give in to their desire but Lydia is extremely reluctant to deviate from her plans. She is charmed and exasperated by the always cheerful cowboy and she is quite uncertain that he can follow through with giving her the support she needs. Will Lydia finally believe that Gunner is serious about changing his carefree ways?

The Cowboy’s Accidental Baby is a light-hearted and incredibly sweet love story.  Lydia and Gunner are an incredibly appealing couple who are well suited despite their differences. The supporting cast of characters is quite colorful yet extremely engaging. The storyline has plenty of depth and substance and the issues that must be overcome are realistic and easy to relate to. Marin Thomas’s intriguing glimpses of Logan Hardell will leave readers impatiently the next installment in the marvelous Cowboys of Stampede, Texas series.

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Filed under Contemporary, Cowboys of Stampede Texas Series, Harlequin Western Romance, Marin Thomas, Rated B+, Review, Romance, The Cowboy's Accidental Baby