Category Archives: Berkley

Review: Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak

Title: Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: 362 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:  

A warm, wry, sharply observed debut novel about what happens when a family is forced to spend a week together in quarantine over the holidays…

It’s Christmas, and for the first time in years the entire Birch family will be under one roof. Even Emma and Andrew’s elder daughter—who is usually off saving the world—will be joining them at Weyfield Hall, their aging country estate. But Olivia, a doctor, is only coming home because she has to. Having just returned from treating an epidemic abroad, she’s been told she must stay in quarantine for a week…and so too should her family.

For the next seven days, the Birches are locked down, cut off from the rest of humanity—and even decent Wi-Fi—and forced into each other’s orbits. Younger, unabashedly frivolous daughter Phoebe is fixated on her upcoming wedding, while Olivia deals with the culture shock of being immersed in first-world problems.

As Andrew sequesters himself in his study writing scathing restaurant reviews and remembering his glory days as a war correspondent, Emma hides a secret that will turn the whole family upside down.

In close proximity, not much can stay hidden for long, and as revelations and long-held tensions come to light, nothing is more shocking than the unexpected guest who’s about to arrive…

Review:

In Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak, a seven day quarantine means the dysfunctional Birch family are sequestered together during Christmas. With each of them keeping secrets, will this tense reunion prove to be a time of healing once the revelations begin to unfold?

Oldest daughter Olivia is a doctor who spends most of her time volunteering with humanitarian agencies during health epidemics in third world countries. With her latest rotation over, she is forced into quarantine to monitor for symptoms of the deadly Haag virus. She and fellow doctor, Sean Coughlan, ignored the strict no contact rule and for the first time in her life, she has fallen in love. Olivia has zero patience for her self-centered and frivolous younger sister, Phoebe, and her relationship with her parents,  Andrew and Emma, is also quite strained. Olivia is already struggling with her reintegration into regular life when her world is rocked by possibly devastating news.

Twenty-nine and still living at home, Phoebe is happy about her recent engagement despite her disappointment with some aspects of her fiancé George’s proposal.  Now completely wrapped up in planning her upcoming nuptials, she has no interest in anything negative intruding on her excitement.  Needless to say, Phoebe is not exactly the most sympathetic family member due to her self-absorption and unhappiness when she is not the center of everyone’s attention.

Matriarch Emma is determined to make the most of Olivia’s first Christmas with the family in years so she conceals some unexpected news about herself.  Relentlessly upbeat and positive, she refuses to let anything mar their time together and it is almost comical how she acknowledges bad news yet immediately pretends it has no effect on her or her family. When she learns some very troubling information about her husband, Emma becomes quite reflective about their marriage but will she confront Andrew about this discovery?

A former war correspondent who gave up his career for his family, Andrew is a restaurant critic whose distant past unexpectedly collides with his present. As he looks back on the early years of his courtship and marriage to Emma, he barely recognizes who they used to be. He delights in Phoebe’s sparkling personality and they are quite close but his relationship with Olivia has always been distant.  Turning his back on a stunning disclosure, how will Andrew react when is forced to deal with this life-altering bit of news head on?

Despite a rather slow beginning, Seven Days of Us is ultimately an engrossing family drama that is sure to resonate with readers who can relate to imperfect family relationships. The characters are quite eclectic and diverse with relatable flaws and strengths. The storyline is refreshingly unique and Francesca Hornak bring the novel to twist-filled emotional conclusion.

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Filed under Berkley, Contemporary, Fiction, Francesca Hornak, Rated B, Review, Seven Days of Us

Review: Hide and Seek by M.J. Arlidge

Title: Hide and Seek by M.J. Arlidge
Helen Grace Series book Six
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 409 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Penguin’s First to Read Program

Summary:

Caught in a wicked game of cat and mouse, Helen Grace finds herself trapped among the hunted in the darkest thriller yet from the international bestselling author of Little Boy Blue and Eeny Meeny.

Framed for a murder she didn’t commit…

As one of HM Prison Holloway’s most high-profile new inmates, Helen Grace has a target on her back and nowhere to hide. She has made a long list of enemies over the course of her career—some are incarcerated within these very walls. When one of Helen’s fellow prisoners is found mutilated and murdered in her own locked cell, it’s clear that the killer is someone on the inside.

But time is running out for Helen as she races to expose the person who framed her, and the body count in the prison starts to climb. Helen will need to draw on all her investigative skills and instincts to catch the serial killer behind these murders and discover the truth—unless the killer finds her first.

Review:

Featuring concurrent story arcs, Hide and Seek by M.J. Arlidge is an electrifying, nail-biting addition to the DI Helen Grace series.

Picking up where Little Boy Blue left off, Helen Grace is in HM Prison Holloway awaiting trial for three murders that she insists she is not guilty of committing. Incarcerated with criminals she put behind bars, she is still struggling to adjust to prison life when one of her fellow inmates is murdered in a particularly gruesome manner. Despite her circumstances, Helen is at heart, a homicide detective so she begins her own investigation into the death. When another inmate is murdered in the same exact way, Helen knows she must stop the killer strikes again.

Outside the prison, Helen’s good friend and fellow copper, Detective Sergeant Charlie Brooks risks her career (and relationship) to clear Helen’s name. The only person on the force who believes Helen’s vehement assertion she was framed, Charlie refuses to stop searching for the man they know is responsible for the murders Helen is accused of committing. Coming very close to insubordination after defying her newly minted boss Detective Inspector Joanne Sanderson’s order to immediately cease working on the firmly closed case, Charlie manages to uncover an important lead that breaks the investigation wide open. Will Charlie manage to capture the wily and intelligent man who meticulously planned and carried out the diabolical plan to frame Helen for three brutal murders?

Back at HM Prison Holloway, Helen is painstakingly attempting to investigate the murders that one of the most sadistic guards thinks she is responsible for committing. Relying on the post-mortem reports and her finely honed instincts, a shocking theory is beginning to emerge. Certain she knows the killer’s identity, Helen tries to uncover the evidence she needs to prove her theory whilst avoiding vicious inmates with an ax to grind and the depraved guards who abuse the inmates in their charge.

Hide and Seek is an exhilarating police procedural with an exciting storyline and an brilliant cast of characters.  M.J. Arlidge breathes fresh life into the series by putting the Helen into a completely foreign and extremely dangerous environment where she is forced to use every skill in her arsenal to stay alive.  Both story arcs move at a blistering pace as the search for the serial killer inside HM Prison Holloway intensifies and Charlie desperately pursues the person responsible for framing Helen. With stunning twists and turns, the novel comes to an action-packed, adrenaline laced conclusion.

While most of the mysteries in the DI Helen Grace series can be read as standalones, I highly recommend reading Little Boy Blue in order to fully appreciate the events that unfold in Hide and Seek.

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Filed under Berkley, Contemporary, DI Helen Grace Series, Hide and Seek, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Suspense

Review: The Future She Left Behind by Marin Thomas

Title: The Future She Left Behind by Marin Thomas
Publisher: Berkely
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 332 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

One woman’s journey home gets derailed by her soon-to-be ex-mother-in-law in a novel filled with humor, small-town charm, rekindled love, and the resilient ties of family.

Cast aside by her cheating husband, Katelyn Chandler is ready to pack it all in and drive home to Little Springs, Texas. She wants a chance to regroup, reconnect with her mother, and get back to her art.

But Shirley Pratt—master manipulator, elitist snob, and Katelyn’s terror of a live-in monster-in-law—has other ideas. Shirley insists on joining Katelyn’s trip after her son tries to pack her off to a retirement community. Katelyn has no choice but to play peacekeeper between the ornery old woman and the proud matrons of Little Springs. Yet the small town seems to be changing Shirley. And as Katelyn weighs the wisdom of picking up where she left off with Jackson Mendoza, the town bad boy and her high school sweetheart, she must find a way to believe in the strength of her dreams.

Review:

The Future She Left Behind by Marin Thomas is a captivating novel of new beginnings and rediscovering one’s self in the wake of divorce.

Katelyn Chandler Pratt is absolutely stunned when her husband Don unceremoniously divorces her after nineteen years of marriage. With her disagreeable mother-in-law Shirley in tow, Katelyn returns to her small hometown in Texas to regroup and spend some long overdue time with her mom, Birdie.  Having lost touch with her own hopes and goals in the process of raising her children and helping her soon to be ex-husband rise up the corporate ladder, Katelyn hopes to reignite her long neglected dream of becoming an artist.  Returning to her small town roots, Katelyn finds a new appreciation for the small town she once could not wait to leave behind while at the same time she discovers she still has feelings for her high school boyfriend Jackson Mendoza.  With her departure date fast approaching, Katelyn remains torn about what she wants for her future.

The only child of parents who struggled to make ends meet, Katelyn could not wait to forge a life far away from her small hometown. Meeting and marrying Don fulfilled her goal of financial security and she was quite content with her marriage until the day her husband decided to divorce her. As she spends time renewing her somewhat distant relationship with Birdie, Katelyn comes to quite a few realizations about herself and her marriage.  As she encourages her mother to pursue her long abandoned dream, will Katelyn take her own advice when it comes to her own dormant goal to become an artist?

Despite their ease in renewing their friendship, Jackson is uneasy about spending time with Katelyn. His life took a somewhat difficult turn after their breakup and while he has overcome his demons, he keeps to himself in order to avoid backsliding into old habits. Will these fears prevent Jackson from pursuing a relationship with Katelyn?

The Future She Left Behind by Marin Thomas is an engaging and thought-provoking journey of self-discovery.  With a cast of colorful and entertaining characters, a realistic storyline about returning to your roots and a sweet, understated romance, this charming novel will delight readers who enjoy contemporary women’s fiction.

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Filed under Berkley, Contemporary, Marin Thomas, Rated B+, Review, The Future She Left Behind, Women's Fiction

Review: A Mother Like Mine by Kate Hewitt

Title: A Mother Like Mine by Kate Hewitt
Hartley-by-the Sea Series Book Three
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Welcome to England’s beautiful Lake District, where a reluctant reunion forges a new bond between a daughter and her wayward mother….

Abby Rhodes is just starting to get her life on track. After her fiancé’s unexpected death, she returned with her young son to the small village where she grew up and threw herself into helping her ailing grandmother run the town’s beach café. Then one evening, her mother, Laura, shows up in Hartley-by-the-Sea and announces her plan to stay. After twenty years away, she now wants to focus on the future—and has no intention, it seems, of revisiting the painful past.

Laura Rhodes has made a lot of mistakes, and many of them concern her daughter. But as Abby gets little glimpses into her mother’s life, she begins to realize there are depths to Laura she never knew. Slowly, Abby and Laura start making tentative steps toward each other, only to have life become even more complicated when an unexpected tragedy arises. Together, the two women will discover truths both sad and surprising that draw them closer to a new understanding of what it means to truly forgive someone you love.

Review:

A Mother Like Mine by Kate Hewitt is a captivating novel of healing, forgiveness and new beginnings.  Although this newest release is the third installment in the Hartley-by-the-Sea series it can easily be read as a standalone.

Abby Rhodes is a single mom to five year old Noah and she lives and works with  the grandmother who raised her after her mother, Laura, abandoned her.  So, just imagine her shock when she discovers Laura has returned after a long absence and plans to remain in Hartley-by-the-Sea permanently.  An unexpected turns of events finds mother and daughter trying repair their fractured relationship as they work together to make the family cafe a success.  Laura wants nothing more than forge a relationship with Abby, but can they repair the rift between them when she is not willing to answer her daughter’s questions about her painful past? Can Abby risk trusting Laura’s assertion that she wants to be a permanent part of her and Noah’s lives?

Abby is quite upset over Laura’s sudden reappearance and she has every reason to be skeptical that her mother will be content to stay in their small hometown. Although she tries to put aside her bitterness toward Laura for her beloved Gran’s sake, their discussions are often filled with anger and resentment. Abby really is trying to make an effort to be friendly, but with so many unresolved issues simmering between them, it is virtually impossible for her to remain cordial during their conversations. She is quick to distrust Laura’s motives and with her mother’s track record for leaving, Abby cannot bring herself to believe Laura won’t disappear if the opportunity presents itself.

Laura initially comes across as quite self-absorbed and rather superficial.  She refuses to provide Abby with her reason for abandoning her nor does she appear to realize how her desertion emotionally scarred her daugher.  Laura’s expectation to let bygones be bygones without any explanation is unrealistic and makes her appear somewhat indifferent to Abby’s very real need for answers. Laura’s expectation for Abby’s gratitude after she makes a self-serving decision is rather incredulous and highlights exactly why her daughter finds it difficult to trust her.

The changes in the relationship between Abby and Laura do not happen overnight. Abby remains skittish and doubtful Laura is sincere about staying in  Hartley-by-the-Sea. Laura is impatient with Abby’s hesitation to take chances of any kind. Abby slowly relaxes her guard where her mother is concerned but things between them remain fragile since Laura is so reluctant to discuss the past.  Will Abby and Laura’s relationship truly heal without an open and honest conversation about their unresolved issues?

A Mother Like Mine is a very moving novel of redemption, forgiveness and starting over. Kate Hewitt brings the setting and the eclectic cast of characters vividly to life. The storyline is emotionally compelling with realistic issues to overcome. An absolutely marvelous story that old and new fans of the very charming Hartley-by-the-Sea series are sure to love!

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Filed under A Mother Like Mine, Berkley, Contemporary, Harley by the Sea Series, Kate Hewitt, Rated B+, Review, Women's Fiction

Review: When I Need You by Lorelei James

Title: When I Need You by Lorelei James
Need You Series Book Four
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 365 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Rules are tossed aside when a pro football player join forces with a spitfire cheerleading coach in New York Times bestselling author Lorelei James’s brand-new romance…

Heir to Lund Industries and ladies’ man Jensen “The Rocket” Lund has three conditions when it comes to dating:
1) No single mothers
2) No cheerleaders
3) No medical personnel
So it makes no sense that he’s wildly attracted to Rowan Michaels, who breaks all three.

Rowan didn’t pass the rigorous requirements to become an athletic trainer and Vikings cheerleader in the hopes of landing a pro athlete. Been there, done that, and she has a young son as proof that football players and fidelity don’t go hand in hand. When Rowan learns her new neighbor is Jensen Lund, the smoking-hot tight end who takes being neighborly to a whole new level, she’s grateful for the team’s strict no fraternization policy because the sexy man defines temptation.

But Jensen is intent on rushing straight to the goal line to prove to Rowan he’s much more than just a player…on and off the field.

Review:

When I Need You by Lorelei James is a sweet, yet sexually charged addition to the Need You series.  Although this latest installment is the fourth in the series, it can easily be read as a standalone but I HIGHLY recommend the previous novels as well.

It has been a very tough year of surgeries and physical therapy, but football superstar Jensen Lund has finally overcome the series injuries that have sidelined him for the past year. Although his recovery has been full of frustration and worry, Jensen has arrived at a few surprising discoveries about himself. Now content to spend time on his own or with his family, Jensen has no desire to turn back into the hard partying  playboy he was before his injuries. So why is Jensen suddenly so enthusiastic about spending time with single mom Rowan Michaels and her adorable six year old son Calder?

Between her busy work schedules and raising Calder completely on her own, Rowan has no time or desire for a man in her life.  She is quite self-sufficient with a good relationship with her parents and brother.  Rowan has absolutely no desire to become involved with an athlete, so what possible explanation can there be for her eagerness to hangout with Jensen?

In spite of the very obvious chemistry between them, Rowan and Jensen agree to a platonic relationship.  They initially go into their budding friendship with a few preconceived ideas about each other, but it does not take long to dispel these erroneous assumptions.  Their friendship is refreshingly free from conflict although they do experience a few minor ups and downs as they get to know each other. With such a sizzling  hot attraction burning underneath the surface of their easygoing friendship, will Jensen and Rowan finally give into their desire? Or will Rowan’s fears ruin any chance for a real relationship with Jensen?

When I Need You is a highly entertaining and emotionally compelling novel that old and new fans of the Need You series will enjoy. The characters are vibrantly developed with easy to relate to fears and imperfections. The friendship between Jensen and Rowan is fun and flirty and Jensen’s interactions with Calder are incredibly sweet and tender. Lorelei James once again delivers a romance with plenty of heart and steam without throwing in any unnecessary angst or drama. A truly delightful addition to a much loved series that is extraordinarily heartwarming and quite captivating.

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Filed under Berkley, Contemporary, Lorelei James, Need You Series, Rated B+, Review, Romance, When I Need You

Review: Shadow Girl by Gerry Schmitt

Title: Shadow Girl by Gerry Schmitt
Afton Tangler Thriller Series Book Two
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: C+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Penguin’s First to Read Program

Summary:

The brutal murder of a business tycoon leaves Afton Tangler and the Twin Cities reeling, but that’s just the beginning of a gruesome crime spree…

Leland Odin made his fortune launching a home shopping network, but his millions can’t save his life. On the list for a transplant, the ailing businessman sees all hope lost when the helicopter carrying his donor heart is shot out of the sky.

Now with two pilots dead and dozens injured, Afton Tangler, family liaison officer for the Minneapolis Police Department, is drawn into the case. As she and her partner investigate family members and business associates, whoever wants Leland dead strikes again—and succeeds—in a brazen hospital room attack.

The supposedly squeaky clean millionaire has crossed the wrong person—and she’s not finished exacting her revenge. The case explodes into an international conspiracy of unbridled greed and violence. And as Afton gets closer to unearthing the mastermind behind it, she gets closer to becoming collateral damage…

Review:

The second installment in Gerry Schmitt’s Afton Tangler Thriller series, Shadow Girl is an intriguing police procedural about a plot to murder a home shopping network mogul.

Minneapolis Family Liaison Officer Afton Tangler and her partner Detective Max Montgomery are among the first on the scene of a horrific helicopter crash. They quickly learn the crash was no accident-someone deliberately shot the helo out of sky.  The discovery the copter was delivering a donor heart for multi-millionaire Leland Odin raises some very interesting questions about why someone wants the executive dead. Their preliminary inquiries fails to offer a motive and before their investigation has the opportunity to gain speed, the killer’s second attempt on Leland’s life is successful.  Max and Afton are soon embroiled in the hunt for the person responsible for Odin’s death but will they locate the murderer before he (or she) strikes again?

Since Afton is hoping to eventually become a full-fledged detective, she is eager to help Max with the investigation. She often acts without thinking and in this case, she puts herself right in the path of danger during a suspect chase.  Afton is given a lot of leeway as she assists Max but will her impulsivity and personal feelings cloud her judgment as they struggle to solve the case?

With no motive for the murder or a viable suspect, Afton and Max are struggling to make any progress on the case when someone closely connected to Leland disappears.  A lack of cooperation by family members and business associates impedes their investigation and they often rely on gut instinct to uncover information. Through hard work, determination and a few lucky breaks, Max and Afton are finally getting close to finding Odin’s killers but a motive for the crimes remains elusive.

Since the reader is fully aware of who the bad guys are and what their next move is going to be, there is a distinct lack of tension as Shadow Girl  slowly unfolds. Despite the initial lack of knowledge for the perpetrator’s somewhat nefarious and violent plot against Odin, it does not take much to deduce the suspect’s motive for the crime. In this newest addition to the  Afton Tangler Thriller series, the lines between Afton’s position with the police force are very blurred since she acts more like a criminal investigator than a family liaison officer.  It will be very interesting to see what Gerry Schmitt has planned for her in the future installments of the series.

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Filed under Afton Tangler Series, Berkley, Contemporary, Mystery, Rated C+, Review, Shadow Girl