Tag: family

Book Review: Autumn Skies, by Denise Hunter

Image belongs to Thomas Nelson.

Title: Autumn Skies
Author: Denise Hunter
Genre: Romance
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

When a mysterious man turns up at Grace’s family-run inn, it’s instant attraction. But she’s already got a lot on her plate: running the Bluebell Inn, getting Blue Ridge Outfitters off the ground, and coping with a childhood event she’d thought was long past.

A gunshot wound has resurrected the past for secret service agent Wyatt Jennings, and a mandatory leave of absence lands him in Bluebell, North Carolina. There he must try and come to grips with the crisis that altered his life forever.

Grace needs experience for her new outfitters business, so when Wyatt needs a mountain guide, she’s more than happy to step up to the plate. As their journey progresses, Grace soon has an elusive Wyatt opening up, and Wyatt is unwittingly drawn to Grace’s fresh outlook and sense of humor.

There’s no doubt the two have formed a special bond, but will Wyatt’s secrets bring Grace’s world crashing down? Or will those secrets end up healing them both?

I’ve really enjoyed the Bluebell Inn Romance series, and this was no exception. I love the small-town setting, and Grace and her siblings are great characters. It was fun to see more of Molly’s and Levi’s stories, too, after reading their linked standalones.

Grace and Wyatt are a good match:  both struggling with tragedies from their past and trying to figure out where their futures are going. I loved watching these characters grow and change through the story, and I’d love to read more stories set in this small town.

Denis Hunter is a bestselling author. Autumns Skies is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Thomas Nelson in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Christmas Table, by Donna VanLiere

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title: The Christmas Table
Author:  Donna VanLiere   
Genre: Fiction, women’s fiction
Rating: 4.0 out of 5

In June 1972, John Creighton determines to build his wife Joan a kitchen table. His largest project to date had been picture frames but he promises to have the table ready for Thanksgiving dinner. Inspired to put something delicious on the table, Joan turns to her mother’s recipes she had given to Joan when she and John married.

In June 2012, Lauren Mabrey discovers she’s pregnant. Gloria, Miriam, and the rest of her friends at Glory’s Place begin to pitch in, helping Lauren prepare their home for the baby. On a visit to the local furniture builder, Lauren finds a table that he bought at a garage sale but has recently refinished. Once home, a drawer is discovered under the table which contains a stack of recipe cards. Growing up in one foster home after another, Lauren never learned to cook and is fascinated as she reads through the cards. Personal notes have been written on each one from the mother to her daughter and time and again Lauren wonders where they lived, when they lived, and in a strange way, she feels connected to this mother and her daughter and wants to make the mother proud.

The story continues to from 1972 to 2012 as Joan battles breast cancer and Lauren learns to cook, preparing for the baby’s arrival. As Christmas nears, can Lauren unlock the mystery of the table, and find the peace she’s always longed for?

This was a sweet tale of two women and their families in two separate decades and their stories. It’s also full of descriptions of delicious food!

“Sweet” is really the perfect adjective for this book:  there’s the food of course—not always desserts—but there’s also the journeys Joan and Lauren go on as they attempt to grow, learn, and thrive with the hands they’ve been dealt. Their friends and family truly surround them on their journeys, helping to get then through to their destinations.

Donna VanLiere is a bestselling author. The Christmas Table is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Don’t Look for Me, by Wendy Walker

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title: Don’t Look for Me
Author: Wendy Walker
Genre: Thriller
Rating: 4 out of 5

One night, Molly Clarke walked away from her life.

She doesn’t want to be found.

Or at least, that’s the story.

The car abandoned miles from home.

The note found at a nearby hotel.

The shattered family that couldn’t be put back together.

They called it a “walk away.”

It happens all the time.

Women disappear, desperate to leave their lives behind and start over.

But is that what really happened to Molly Clarke?

This was not what I was expecting at all, and a little odd and creepy…in a good way, I suppose. Molly has been through the worst thing she can imagine, and her family has fallen apart ever since that fateful day. Some days she wants to walk away, but she’d never actually go through with it…or would she?

There are many layers in this novel, many twists and turns and false trails, but the reader always gets the sense that something else is going on. The author does an excellent job building the suspense and keeping the identity of the person involved hidden—and there’s a bit twist at the end that I didn’t see coming. This is not a small town I’d like to visit.

Wendy Walker is a bestselling author. Don’t Look for Me is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Scandalous Secrets, by Synithia Williams

scandalous secrets
Image belongs to Harlequin/HQN.

Title: Scandalous Secrets
Author: Synithia Williams
Genre: Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5

Senatorial candidate Byron Robidoux always does the right thing. And, after years of focus and dedication, his life and campaign are going exactly to plan—until a blackmailer jeopardizes everything. No one is supposed to know that thirteen years ago, Byron told a lie to protect a college friend. And now that lie could destroy his career…and threaten the woman he never stopped loving.

Zoe Hammond hardly recognizes the refined and handsome politician Byron has become. The last time she saw him, he was the friend who saved her life by claiming to be the father of her unborn baby. For that, she’d do anything for him. Except Byron’s world of wealth, reputation and deceit isn’t a place where Zoe or her daughter belong. But when a menace from the past comes calling again, staying with Byron is best for them all. And, as the searing attraction between them builds, they soon realize some things are worth fighting for…especially love.

This was a solid read. Zoe was a strong character, although she took her independence a little too far at times, and she always thought Byron was at fault in everything, without waiting to hear his side of things (like his campaign manager releasing their photos, and Zoe had already decided Byron was the guilty culprit). This made her come across as pretty judge-y and a bit close-minded.

I loved the dynamics with the Robidoux family, although their father was a bit much. Byron himself was conflicted and contradictory. He was perfectly willing to marry someone who was the “right” choice—even though he didn’t love her—and years ago, he’d wanted to marry Zoe, even when his family thought she was wrong for him.

Synithia Williams has loved romance novels since she was 13. Scandalous Secrets is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/HQN in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour: Here to Stay, by Adriana Herrera

here to stay
Image belongs to Carina Press.

Title: Here to Stay
Author:   Adriana Herrera  
Genre:  Romance
Rating:  4 out of 5

Starting over is more about who you’re with than where you live…

Julia del Mar Ortiz is not having the best year.

She moved to Dallas with her boyfriend, who ended up ditching her and running back to New York after only a few weeks. Left with a massive—by NYC standards, anyway—apartment and a car lease in the scorching Texas heat, Julia is struggling…except that’s not completely true. Running the charitable foundation of one of the most iconic high fashion department stores in the world is serious #lifegoals.

It’s more than enough to make her want to stick it out down South.

The only monkey wrench in Julia’s plans is the blue-eyed, smart-mouthed consultant the store hired to take them public. Fellow New Yorker Rocco Quinn’s first order of business? Putting Julia’s job on the chopping block.

When Julia is tasked with making sure Rocco sees how valuable the programs she runs are, she’s caught between a rock and a very hard set of abs. Because Rocco Quinn is almost impossible to hate—and even harder to resist.

I really enjoyed the diversity in this novel—and the food descriptions alone were enough to make me drool. This was a fairly straightforward read, with no unexpected surprises. Being in Julia’s viewpoint was a lot of fun, and Rocco was a genuinely nice guy, although his personality changed from sweet, polite, and nice anytime he and Julia were intimate, and the abrupt switch seemed forced and inauthentic.

The secondary characters were all fun and vibrant, but came across more as clichés than anything else, which was disappointing to me. Still, this was a solid, easy read.

Adriana Herrera was born and raised in the Caribbean. Here to Stay is her new novel.

(Galley courtesy of Carina Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Cry of Metal & Bone, by L. Penelope

cry of metal & bone
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title: Cry of Metal & Bone
Author:  L. Penelope   
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Six weeks after the fall of the Mantle, centuries-old enemies Elsira and Lagrimar struggle to unite. The will of the goddess is that the two nations become one, but while the war may be over, peace is still elusive. As desperate Lagrimari flee their barren land for a chance at a better life in Elsira, a dangerous faction opposed to the unification rises.

 When a shadowy group with ties to the Elsiran government takes responsibility for a fatal attack and promises more, an unlikely crew is assembled to investigate. Among them are Lizvette Nirall, a disgraced socialite seeking redemption for past mistakes, and Tai Summerhawk, a foreign smuggler determined to keep a promise he made to a dead man. Powerful Earthsinger Darvyn ol-Tahlyro is sent with a secret assignment, one that Queen Jasminda can’t know about. And in a prison far away, Kyara ul-Lagrimar searches for a way to escape her captors and save a family long thought dead.

 It’s a race against time in this world of deadly magic, secret agendas and court intrigue to discover those responsible for the bombing before the next attack. And in another land a new enemy awakens—one that will strike terror into the hearts of gods and men.

I’ve enjoyed all the Earthsinger Chronicles books, and this one is no exception. The characters are the best part of this series, all of them being diverse and vividly realized. No cookie cutter characters here. Tai was probably my favorite character in this, although Lizvette was great, too.

The cultures in this series are very distinct, and I enjoy reading about them and feeling like I’m exploring the lands themselves. All the settings are detailed enough to get lost in, but not so overly detailed that there’s no room for the reader’s imagination to fill in the blanks. I love the continuing saga of these characters.

Leslye Penelope lives in Maryland. Cry of Metal & Bone is the third book in the Earthsinger Chronicles.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Last Story of Mina Lee, by Nancy Jooyoun Kim

mina lee
Image belongs to Harlequin/Park Row.

Title: The Last Story of Mina Lee
Author:     Nancy Jooyoun Kim
Genre: Fiction
Rating:4 out of 5

Margot Lee’s mother, Mina, isn’t returning her calls. It’s a mystery to twenty-six-year-old Margot, until she visits her childhood apartment in Koreatown, LA, and finds that her mother has suspiciously died. The discovery sends Margot digging through the past, unraveling the tenuous invisible strings that held together her single mother’s life as a Korean War orphan and an undocumented immigrant, only to realize how little she truly knew about her mother.

Interwoven with Margot’s present-day search is Mina’s story of her first year in Los Angeles as she navigates the promises and perils of the American myth of reinvention. While she’s barely earning a living by stocking shelves at a Korean grocery store, the last thing Mina ever expects is to fall in love. But that love story sets in motion a series of events that have consequences for years to come, leading up to the truth of what happened the night of her death.

The writing and description in this novel were compelling enough to keep me reading, despite the leisurely pace and Margot’s personality, which I didn’t care for at all. She was so hateful to her mother in her memories. Granted, Mina Lee wasn’t the most loving person, but she did manage to provide for her ungrateful daughter.

Being immersed in the culture of Koreatown was fascinating and complex, and I really enjoyed all the details. I felt so sorry for Mina Lee and everything she experienced, but Margot really made me dislike her, so it was hard to feel any sympathy for her.

Nancy Jooyoun Kim is from Los Angeles. The Last Story of Mina Lee is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/Park Row in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Dazzling Truth, by Helen Cullen

the dazzling truth
Image belongs to Harlequin/Graydon House.

Title: The Dazzling Truth
Author: Helen Cullen   
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5

In the courtyards of Trinity College, Dublin, in 1978, aspiring actress Maeve meets pottery student Murtagh Moone. As their relationship progresses, marriage and motherhood come in quick succession, but for Maeve, with the joy of children also comes the struggle to hold on to the truest parts of herself.

Decades later, on a small Irish island, the Moone family are poised for celebration but instead are struck by tragedy. Each family member must find solace in their own separate way, until one dazzling truth brings them back together. But as the Moone family confront the past, they also journey toward a future that none of them could have predicted. Except perhaps Maeve herself.

This book…is slow, atmospheric, and yes, dazzling. It’s a small family/personal story, yet it draws the reader into Maeve’s and Murtagh’s lives from the very beginning and keeps them entranced by the simple island life and experiences of the Moone family. The characters are vivid and so realistic I feel like I knew them personally. The story is engrossing, sad, magical…all at the same time, and I definitely recommend reading it.

Helen Cullen is from Ireland and lives in London. The Dazzling Truth is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/Graydon House in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Hero of Hope Springs, by Maisey Yates

the hero of hope springs
Image belongs to Harlequin/HQN.

Title: The Hero of Hope Springs
Author:   Maisey Yates  
Genre: Romance
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

For as long as brooding cowboy Ryder Daniels has known Sammy Marshall, she has been his sunshine. Her free spirit and bright smile saved him after the devastating loss of his parents and gave him the strength to care for his orphaned family. Only Ryder knows how vulnerable Sammy is, so he’s kept his attraction for his best friend under wraps for years. But what Sammy’s asking for now might be a step too far…

Something has been missing from Sammy’s life, and she thinks she knows what it is. Deciding she wants a baby is easy; realizing she wants her best friend to be the father is…complicated. Especially when a new heat between them sparks to life! When Sammy discovers she’s pregnant, Ryder makes it clear he wants it all. But having suffered the fallout of her parents’ disastrous relationship, Sammy is wary of letting Ryder too close. This cowboy will have to prove he’s proposing out of more than just honor…

I haven’t read any of the Gold Valley series, but these are all stand-alones, so that was no problem. Solid writing here and vivid scenes, but the characters didn’t keep me engaged. Sammy is a very selfish person. She really doesn’t care how her behavior affects other people or if it affects them. She just wants to do and say what she wants and expects other people to just know that’s her free spirit. I didn’t care for her or her excuses and willful obliviousness at all.

Ryder was a lot more likable, but he’s just about as clueless as Sammy when it comes to a lot of things. Pretty rigid and inflexible when it comes to a lot of things, but he does try, so there’s that.

Maisey Yates is a bestselling author. The Hero of Hope Springs is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/HQN in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: A Walk Along the Beach, by Debbie Macomber

a walk along the beach
Image belongs to Random House/Ballantine.

TitleA Walk Along the Beach
AuthorDebbie Macomber
Genre:  Romance
Rating:  5 out of 5

The Lakey sisters are perfect opposites. After their mother died and their father was lost in grief, Willa had no choice but to raise her sister, Harper, and their brother, Lucas. Then, as an adult, she put her own life on hold to nurse Harper through a terrifying illness. Now that Harper is better and the sisters are living as roommates, Willa has realized her dream of running her own bakery and coffee shop, bringing her special brand of caretaking to the whole Oceanside community.

Harper, on the other hand, is always on the go. Overcoming a terrible illness has given her a new lease on life, and she does not intend to waste it. When Harper announces her plan to summit Mount Rainier, Willa fears she may be pushing herself too far. Harper, for her part, urges Willa to stop worrying and do something outside of her comfort zone—like taking a chance on love with a handsome new customer.

Sean O’Malley is as charming as he is intriguing—a freelance photographer whose assignments take him to the ends of the earth. Soon Willa’s falling for him in a way that is both exciting and terrifying. But life has taught Willa to hedge her bets, and she wonders whether the potential heartache is worth the risk.

Life has more challenges in store for them all. But both sisters will discover that even in the darkest moments, family is everything.

I love everything Debbie Macomber writes, and this was no exception. This was such a good book—although at times I wanted to slap some sense into Sean. The sisters’ relationship is so wonderful, and I enjoyed reading it immensely. Be prepared to laugh and cry while reading this!

Debbie Macomber is a bestselling author. A Walk Along the Beach is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Random House/Ballantine in exchange for an honest review.)