Category Archives: Hachette Book Group

Review: Sweet on You by Laura Drake

on youTitle: Sweet on You by Laura Drake
Sweet On a Cowboy Series Book Three
Publisher:Hachette Book Group/Grand Central Publishing
Imprint: Forever
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 384
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

A Love as Bold as a Texas Sunset . . .

Ex-army medic Katya Smith has always healed other people’s pain. Now she has to deal with her own. Taking a job as an athletic trainer on the Pro Bull Riding circuit seems like the perfect escape from her grief-except Katya doesn’t know anything about bulls, and even less about the tough men who ride them. She doesn’t expect to fall for the sport, or for one tantalizing cowboy who tumbles her defenses.

For rodeo champion Cam Cahill, fifteen years of bucking bulls have taken their toll on his body. Before he retires, he wants a final chance at the world title-and he doesn’t need some New Age gypsy telling him how to do his job. But when the stunning trainer with the magical hands repairs more than his worn muscles, everything changes. Soon Cam finds himself trying to persuade Katya to forgive her past so she can build a future . . . with him.

The Review:

Sweet on You, the third installment in Laura Drake’s divine Sweet on a Cowboy series, is wonderful novel about healing, new beginnings and of course, love.   The professional bull riding circuit is the perfect setting for this heartwarming romance between an aging bull rider and an emotionally wounded Army medic as they both face uncertain futures.

Katya Smith finds herself in unfamiliar territory when she takes a job with the sports medicine team for the Professional Bull Riders (PBR). Katya might not understand the sport, lingo or lifestyle, but she does recognize a spoiled athlete when she sees one, and PBR rider Cam Cahill certainly appears to be no different from the other jocks she has worked with in the past. Katya does not make the best first impression on Cam either but since they have to work together week after week, they agree to put aside their animosity. Their mutual attraction leads to an unlikely romance, but will Katya’s plans for the future ruin their chance at happiness?

Katya is a warm, compassionate and caring woman and watching her struggle to overcome her PTSD is very heartrending. She is very loyal to the “family” she has created with her fellow soldiers and while this is understandable, it also causes a bit of tunnel vision when it comes to her future. In the beginning, she sees her job with the PBR as a means to an end, and she keeps both an emotional and physical distance from the cowboys on tour. It is not until Katya wants to learn more about the sport and the cowboy way of life that she takes a personal interest in the bull riders she is helping.

As a fifteen year veteran bull rider, Cam’s love of the sport has not diminished, but but his numerous injuries have begun to take a toll both in and out of the arena. Knowing this is most likely his last season, he has been trying to figure out what comes next, but so far, nothing he has considered really appeals to him. He spends a lot of time in sports medicine in an effort to stay healthy and he is surprised by his interest in Katya. Cam’s first few meetings with her are a bit rocky and although romance is the last thing on either of their minds, they begin dating. While they both agree that they are not interested in a serious or long lasting commitment, their feelings for another are anything but casual. But as both Katya and Cam soon discover, they are not exactly on the same page when it comes to their future.

One of the most appealing aspects of Sweet on You is how easily and vibrantly Laura Drake brings the world of Professional Bull Riding to life. Newcomers to the sport will have no difficulty understanding the grueling travel schedule or grasping how truly dangerous an eight second ride can be. She also provides incredible insight into what motivates the riders to participate in such an extreme sport and how reluctant they are to sit on the sidelines despite their injuries. The pulse-pounding excitement of attending live events leaps off the pages and perfectly illustrates why fans are drawn to the sport.

With Sweet on You, Laura Drake has once again written an emotionally compelling novel with complex and sympathetic characters.   True to life issues such as PTSD and survivor’s guilt are handled with sensitivity and the healing process is realistically depicted. While Cam’s issues are less serious, they are believable and easy to relate to.   The romance between Cam and Katya is sweet yet sexy and grows naturally over the course of the story. The ending is perfect; it is a little dramatic but very heartwarming.

Sweet on You is an absolutely delightful addition to the Sweet on a Cowboy series that old and new fans are going to love. It can be read as a standalone story, but I highly recommend this entire series to readers who enjoys contemporary Western romances.

Please click HERE for my reviews of the other books in the series.

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Filed under Contemporary, Forever, Grand Central Publishing, Hachette Book Group, Laura Drake, Rated B+, Review, Romance, Sweet on a Cowboy Series, Sweet on You

Review: Nothing Sweeter by Laura Drake

sweeterTitle: Nothing Sweeter by Laura Drake
Sweet on a Cowboy Book Two
Publisher: Hachette Book Group/Grand Central Publishing
Imprint: Forever
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

A Love as Wild as the West . . .

Aubrey Madison is starting over. Leaving Los Angeles and everything behind except the scars of her ruined past, Bree sets out for cowboy country. Now she has a new home, a new job-and a new worry: the ruggedly sexy rancher who makes her long for things she shouldn’t . . .

Rough and tumble cattleman Max Jameson has broken wild stallions and faced angry bulls. Yet the redheaded city cupcake who turned up at the High Heather Ranch might be his undoing. Bree has a plan to rescue the ranch from foreclosure that’s just crazy enough to work. But will Max gamble his future on a beautiful stranger?

The Review:

Nothing Sweeter is another well-written and entertaining romance by the wonderfully fabulous Laura Drake. This second installment in her charming Sweet on a Cowboy series is a compelling novel about new beginnings, self-acceptance and of course, love. It is not quite as emotional as The Sweet Spot, but it just as heartwarming and the cast of characters is just as endearing.

Aubrey “Bree” Madison is searching for a new life when her journey takes her to High Heather Ranch. The serene surroundings and low stress job provide Bree the perfect place to de-stress and just enjoy life. Her attraction to sexy cowboy and ranch owner Max Jameson catches her by surprise but she is able to keep her distance from her gruff, grumpy boss. That is until she comes up with the perfect plan to help Max and his brother Wyatt hold on to their beloved family inheritance.

Bree easily settles into her new routine as a stable hand but putting her past behind her proves to be much trickier. Plagued by nightmares, she throws herself wholeheartedly into her new job and begins to find a measure of peace. At first uneasy around the other ranch hands, she is quickly accepted by her peers. But it is Bree’s close friendship with Wyatt and Max’s cook and surrogate mother Tia Nita that she finds most soothing. She shares an easygoing rapport with Wyatt but Bree butts heads with Max right from their very first meeting. Part of their discord arises from their simmering sexual tension while Max’s stubborn cowboy pride is responsible for the rest.

Max is still reeling from his father’s unexpected death and the abrupt end to his previous romance when he first makes Bree’s acquaintance. His life is in turmoil as he fights to keep the ranch solvent while trying to smooth over his relationship with Wyatt. Max is a quintessential cowboy with long held beliefs that keep him from accepting Bree’s help. Although he and Wyatt have a decent relationship, some of Max’s convictions make it difficult for them to grow closer. Will this irascible man conquer habits of a lifetime and hold on to what is dear to his heart?

There is great chemistry between Max and Bree but the past has a pretty good hold on both of them. Max’s hurt from his failed romance colors his perception of Bree and he fights his attraction to her. His instincts tell him that she is keeping something from him and of course that assessment is spot on. Bree holds on to her secrets long after she should have revealed them and it is a waiting game to see how the truth will eventually come out. This part of the storyline is brilliantly executed and Max’s observations about Bree’s reasons for keeping them hidden are surprisingly astute.

The relationship between Max and Wyatt adds another layer to the overall plot. While they have not exactly been estranged, there is a cordial distance between them. Max’s discomfort about certain aspects of Wyatt’s life continues to come between them but Wyatt insists that Max deal with his conflicted feelings so they can fully repair the rift between them.

Nothing Sweeter is a well-plotted story with true to life characters who are flawed yet easy to like. Their problems are realistic and each of them rises to the challenges facing them. The romance between Max and Bree is slow growing but deliciously sexy. Laura Drake keeps the plot marvelously unpredictable and of course I LOVE how she incorporates the sport of bull riding into the storyline. Once again I am highly anticipating the next book in the series, Sweet on You, which will be available later this year.

While this fantastic addition to the Sweet on a Cowboy series can be read as a standalone story, you won’t want to miss the other novels in this terrific series.

You can find my review of The Sweet Spot HERE.

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Filed under Contemporary, Forever, Grand Central Publishing, Hachette Book Group, Laura Drake, Nothing Sweeter, Rated B+, Review, Romance, Sweet on a Cowboy Series

Review: Temptation Bay by Anna Sullivan

Title: Temptation Bay by Anna Sullivan
Windfall Island Book One
Publisher: Hachette Book Group
Imprint: Forever
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Mystery
Length: 372 pages
Book Rating: C+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Anna Sullivan brings us the first book in her witty new contemporary romance series set off the coast of Maine.

TEMPTATION NEVER TASTED SO SWEET . . .

Maggie Solomon has always been one of Windfall Island’s favorite daughters. A beautiful, passionate charter pilot who loves this remote Maine island, Maggie has never cared much for outsiders-until her latest passenger arouses the curiosity of the town . . . and something hot and irresistible in Maggie. With his long, lean looks and razor-sharp wit, the man is temptation itself.

Cop-turned-PI Dexter Keegan is on a covert mission to solve the case that will make his career: uncovering the identity of the Stanhope heir, kidnapped nearly a century ago. No one on this fiercely protective island can know what he’s doing, not even the spirited, blue-eyed beauty who infuriates-and excites-Dex. As the desire between them ignites, Maggie becomes the key to the case . . . and the target of an unknown enemy. Now Dex will do anything to protect the woman he’s come to love-even risk his own life.

The Review:

Anna Sullivan’s Temptation Bay is an entertaining first installment in the Windfall Island series. It is a lovely romance but I must confess it is the mystery aspect of the storyline that I found most intriguing.

At first I really was not sure if I was going to like either of the main characters. Maggie Solomon has built a successful charter service and while she is independent and fiercely loyal to her friends, she is incredibly stubborn and rather bristly. She has an extremely contentious and complicated relationship with her high ranking military father that colors her perception of herself and her self worth. Maggie’s interactions with her friends revealed the loving, softer side of her and I did wind up liking her more than I thought I would.

In the beginning, Dex Keegan was just as annoying as Maggie, but his irritating traits were fleeting and limited to his first meeting with Maggie. His background is the complete opposite of Maggie’s and he has a warm and loving relationship with his extended family. Overall, Dex is the more likable of the two but he has a few hang ups that have a major impact on their relationship later in the story.

The sparks fly between Maggie and Dex right from their first meeting but not all of those sparks are from attraction. Their first meeting is quite contentious and it takes a while for their antagonism towards one another to simmer down. However Maggie and Dex do eventually given in to their desire and wowza! Their encounters are passionate and their sex scenes are smoking hot. Although they are quite compatible in bed, out of bed, they are still fighting their respective demons. Ms. Sullivan has a few surprises in store for this volatile couple and I really enjoyed how their romance eventually played out.

The mystery portion of the plot caught my interest right away and I was on the edge of my seat throughout the investigation. Maggie is a hard sell, but once Dex finally confesses the truth about his reasons for being on the island, she does aid him in his quest to find the missing Stanhope heir. Even with Maggie’s assistance, Dex continues to run into obstacles during his search and it soon becomes clear that someone is willing to go any lengths to keep them from finding the heir.

Despite a few initial reservations, I enjoyed Temptation Bay. It is very well-written and the secondary cast of characters is outstanding. Anna Sullivan leaves a few of the storylines unresolved and I am eagerly awaiting the next Windfall Island series.

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Filed under Anna Sullivan, Contemporary, Forever, Hachette Book Group, Mystery, Rated C+, Review, Romance, Temptation Bay, Windfall Island

Review: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

Title: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick
Publisher: Hachettte Book Group
Imprint: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Fiction
Length: 278 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

In addition to the P-38, there are four gifts, one for each of my friends. I want to say good-bye to them properly. I want to give them each something to remember me by. To let them know I really cared about them and I’m sorry I couldn’t be more than I was–that I couldn’t stick around–and that what’s going to happen today isn’t their fault.

Today is Leonard Peacock’s birthday. It is also the day he hides a gun in his backpack. Because today is the day he will kill his former best friend, and then himself, with his grandfather’s P-38 pistol.

But first he must say good-bye to the four people who matter most to him: his Humphrey Bogart–obsessed next-door neighbor, Walt; his classmate Baback, a violin virtuoso; Lauren, the Christian homeschooler he has a crush on; and Herr Silverman, who teaches the high school’s class on the Holocaust. Speaking to each in turn, Leonard slowly reveals his secrets as the hours tick by and the moment of truth approaches.

In this riveting book, acclaimed author Matthew Quick unflinchingly examines the impossible choices that must be made–and the light in us all that never goes out.

The Review:

Matthew Quick’s Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is a heartbreaking and compelling character study of a teenager who is on the verge of committing two unthinkable acts: killing a classmate then himself. This insightful novel is a must read for both teenagers and their parents.

Leonard Peacock is a very intelligent young man but he does not fit in with his fellow students. His mother has checked out of his life literally and figuratively so Leonard pretty much does as he pleases. His closest (and sadly, only) friend is his octogenarian next door neighbor Walt. They pass their time together watching old Bogart films and exchanging movie quotes. The only other positive role model in Leonard’s life is his favorite teacher, Herr Silverman.

All of Leonard’s unhappiness and confusion culminate on his eighteenth birthday. With his birthday forgotten by his incredibly self-absorbed and absentee mother, Leonard methodically goes about saying a final goodbye to the important people in his life. Walt and Herr Silverman are alarmed by his behavior and while they ask probing and pointed questions about his state of mind, Leonard insists he is fine.

Mr. Quick’s characterization of Leonard is amazingly accurate. I have an eighteen year old son and I went straight to the source after reading some of Leonard’s astute observations. Much to my amazement, he agreed completely with Leonard’s viewpoint. I must confess I am a little saddened by both my son’s and Leonard’s cynical outlook about society and adulthood.

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is written in first person from Leonard’s point of view. The story is well-written and unique but a couple of things take some getting used to. The use of footnotes during the narrative was a little annoying in the beginning but I soon appreciated the insight I gleaned from them. The letters from the future came out of left field and while there is a reason for them, it would have been useful to have the explanation earlier in their story.

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is a compelling and meaningful novel that I highly recommend. Matthew Quick handles some very difficult topics with sensitivity and he ultimately delivers a powerful message that will resonate with readers of all ages.

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Filed under Contemporary, Fiction, Forgive Me Leonard Peacock, Hachette Book Group, Little Brown for Young Readers, Matthew Quick, Rated B, Review, Young Adult

Review: The Sweet Spot by Laura Drake

Title: The Sweet Spot by Laura Drake
Sweet on a Cowboy Book One
Publisher: Hachette Book Group/Grand Central Publishing
Imprint: Forever
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 324 pages
Book Rating: A

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

A Love as Big as Texas . . .

Charla Rae Denny was the perfect wife with a perfect life, content to keep the home fires burning while her husband, JB, competed as a champion bull rider. Then their son died in a tragic accident-and everything fell apart. Divorced and saddled with a hill of bills and a failing ranch, Charla must now cowboy up to put her life back together.

James “JB” Denny doesn’t stay where he isn’t welcome. So when Charla shut him out of her grieving heart-and their home-a year ago, he took comfort where he could find it. Now after seeing beautiful Charla again, he wants it all back. She can’t work the ranch alone, and deep in his heart he knows he can be the man she needs. But after so much history and heartbreak, can JB convince Charla to take a risk and give their love a second chance?

The Review:

More than a love story, Laura Drake’s The Sweet Spot is an emotional journey of forgiveness. This deeply moving novel will make you laugh, cry and ultimately rejoice as JB and Charla Rae Denny find their way back to one another after tragedy tears them apart.

Grief and loss can either bring a couple closer together or tear them apart and in the case of JB and Charla Rae, their marriage could not withstand the loss of their son, Benje. Now divorced, Charla Rae and JB’s paths still cross on a regular basis as they handle the day to day business of their bucking bull business. Still angry with JB over his affair, Charla lashes out and forbids JB to return to the ranch to take care of the bulls. With no one to lean on, will Charla find the strength she needs to keep their struggling business from failing while caring for her ailing father?

The Sweet Spot opens about a year after Benje’s death and both Charla and JB are at pretty low spots in their lives. Charla is addicted to Valium and makes it through each day in a drug induced fog. JB’s affair is long over and he is coming to the realization that he is the poster child for a middle aged crisis. When things come to a head between them, Charla and JB realize it is time to make some much needed changes in their lives.

Charla finally comes to terms with her addiction when she is forced to take care of the ranch chores and take a more active role in the bucking bull business. Always content to let life happen to her, Charla finally stands on her own two feet and faces down adversity one challenge at a time. She gradually begins to come out of her grief and as she gains confidence, Charla recognizes that she pushed JB away long before their marriage officially ended. Wary of getting hurt again, Charla continues to keep JB at arm’s length. But as time passes, Charla begins to see traces of the old JB and she slowly lets him back in her life and her heart.

JB is genuinely remorseful for hurting Charla but it takes serious introspection on his part before he realizes what motivated his affair. He is lost without Charla and her father, but he knows he is going to have to work to regain her trust. JB quickly recognizes Charla’s newfound strength but he is slow to realize their relationship will never be what it once was.

JB and Charla spend most of the novel dealing with their grief separately. Both come to realize their marriage was rocky before Benje’s death and although they still love one another, they have to work through their individual issues before contemplating a reconciliation. Charla is angry and defensive for much of the story and it takes her a while to realize that JB is still the same person she once fell in love with. Lack of communication, distrust and quick assumptions continue to plague them as they slowly mend their relationship.

The Sweet Spot is a bittersweet second chance at love romance. The characters are heartbreakingly realistic and their emotions are gut wrenchingly honest. The storyline with Charla Rae’s father is poignant and it brought me to tears on several occasions. Laura Drake’s meticulous research and love of professional bull riding is quite apparent and as a fellow fan of the sport, I was very impressed with her attention to the smallest details.

Heartfelt and engaging, The Sweet Spot will tug at readers’ heartstrings and leave them eagerly awaiting Ms. Drake’s next book pro bull riding book, Nothing Sweeter.

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Filed under Contemporary, Forever, Grand Central Publishing, Hachette Book Group, Laura Drake, Rated A, Review, Romance, Sweet on a Cowboy Series, The Sweet Spot

Review: The Pretty One by Lucinda Rosenfeld

Title: The Pretty One: A Novel about Sisters by Lucinda Rosenfeld
Publisher: Hachette Book Group
Imprint: Little, Brown and Company
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B

Review Copy Obtained from Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Perfect. Pretty. Political. For nearly forty years, The Hellinger sisters of Hastings-on-Hudson-namely, Imperia (Perri), Olympia (Pia), and Augusta (Gus)–have played the roles set down by their loving but domineering mother Carol. Perri, a mother of three, rules her four-bedroom palace in Westchester with a velvet fist, managing to fold even fitted sheets into immaculate rectangles. Pia, a gorgeous and fashionable Chelsea art gallery worker, still turns heads after becoming a single mother via sperm donation. And Gus, a fiercely independent lawyer and activist, doesn’t let her break-up from her girlfriend stop her from attending New Year’s Day protests on her way to family brunch.

But the Hellinger women aren’t pulling off their roles the way they once did. Perri, increasingly filled with rage over the lack of appreciation from her recently unemployed husband Mike, is engaging in a steamy text flirtation with a college fling. Meanwhile Pia, desperate to find someone to share in the pain and joy of raising her three-year-old daughter Lola, can’t stop fantasizing about Donor #6103. And Gus, heartbroken over the loss of her girlfriend, finds herself magnetically drawn to Jeff, Mike’s frat boy of a little brother. Each woman is unable to believe that anyone, especially her sisters, could understand what it’s like to be her. But when a freak accident lands their mother to the hospital, a chain of events is set in motion that will send each Hellinger sister rocketing out of her comfort zone, leaving her to wonder: was this the role she was truly born to play?

With The Pretty One, author Lucinda Rosenfeld does for siblings what she did for female friendship in I’m So Happy for You, turning her wickedly funny and sharply observant eye on the pleasures and punishments of lifelong sisterhood.

The Review:

Lucinda Rosenfeld ‘s The Pretty One is a fascinating novel about the sometimes complicated relationship between adult sisters.

The Pretty One raises some very interesting questions about family relationships and how family expectations and labels come into play throughout adulthood. Perri, Pia and Gus are now in their mid to late thirties and they seem stuck in the roles assigned to them as children. Oldest sister Perri is The Responsible One, middle sister Pia is The Pretty One and youngest sister Gus is The Rebellious One. The sisters’ relationship is complicated by their petty jealousies and insecurities that each of the women feels toward their sisters. They are a close knit family, but they continually undermine one another with gossip and their envy of each others’ lives.

The Pretty One is a difficult book to review. On the one hand, I found it to be mired in negativity since each of the sisters is going through their own individual crises. They are unhappy with their lives and they are extremely hypercritical of one another. No one was satisfied with what they had in their lives and all they could focus on was the negative.

But the further the novel progressed, the more reflective and self-aware each of the girls becomes. They still place way too much emphasis on their “assigned” childhood labels, but they do begin to realize that perhaps there is more to them than their perceived roles.

What saved The Pretty One for me was the fact that the sisters do finally begin to change and Lucinda Rosenfeld manages to pull off a happily ever after ending. It is an interesting and easy to read novel that is realistic and depicts the good, the bad and the ugly of family relationships.

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Filed under Contemporary, Fiction, Hachette Book Group, Little Brown and Company, Lucinda Rosenfeld, Rated B, Review