Tag: romance

Book Review: Finding Balance, by Kati Gardner

finding balance
Image belongs to North Star Editions/Flux.

Title:  Finding Balance
AuthorKati Gardner
Genre:  YA
Rating:  4.2 out of 5

Jase Ellison doesn’t remember having Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia when he was three years old. His cancer diagnosis only enters his mind twice a year. Once at his yearly checkup at the oncology clinic and when he attends Camp Chemo in the summer. No one in his “real” life knows about his past, especially his friends at Atlanta West Prep.

Mari Manos has never been able to hide her cancer survivorship. She wakes every morning, grabs her pink forearm clip crutches, and starts her day. Mari loves Camp Chemo—where she’s developed a healthy crush on fellow camper Jase. At Camp, she knows that she’ll never get “the look” or have to explain her amputation to anyone.

Jase wants to move on, to never reveal his past. But when Mari transfers to his school, he knows she could blow his cover. That’s the last thing he wants, but he also cannot ignore his attraction to her. For Mari, she only wants to be looked at like a girl, a person, and not only known for her disability. But how do you move on from cancer when the world won’t let you

 

This book deals with some really tough subjects. Bad things happen sometimes—and sometimes children are the one who have to deal with it. Jase and Mari survived childhood cancer, but years later they’re still dealing with the fallout. Mari is so unbelievably strong—and I love how she doesn’t just put up with Jase’s b.s. She calls him out on it and lets him know it’s not okay.

I felt really sorry for Jase. How can anyone think it’s okay to bully someone who had cancer? I can’t imagine being the victim there, on top of having cancer! Strength in the midst of pain runs through this novel, and it was so good!

Kati Gardner calls herself a recovering actor. She lives in North Carolina and had an amputation as the result of childhood cancer. Finding Balance is her newest novel, the second book in the Brave Enough series.

(Galley courtesy of North Star Editions/Flux in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: In Case You Missed It, by Lindsey Kelk

Image belongs to HarperCollins.

Title: In Case You Missed It
Author: Lindsey Kelk    
Genre: Women’s fiction
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

When Ros steps off a plane after four years away she’s in need of a job, a flat and a phone that actually works. And, possibly, her old life back. Because everyone at home has moved on, her parents have reignited their sex life, she’s sleeping in a converted shed and she’s got a bad case of nostalgia for the way things were.

Then her new phone begins to ping with messages from people she thought were deleted for good. Including one number she knows off by heart: her ex’s.

Sometimes we’d all like the chance to see what we’ve been missing…

I don’t think I’ve read any of this author’s work before, but judging from this, she’s a solid, capable writer. I laughed a few times, I enjoyed the description of life in London, and it was a quick read. Ros’s mother’s wardrobe malfunctions were the funniest parts to me.

Ros herself was a disaster, and it’s hard for me to sympathize with a character who keeps doing stupid stuff and ignoring things. Like the behavior of her ex—who is her ex for a reason—or the fact that she looks at everything through rose-colored glasses. She’s clueless and selfish, and while I enjoyed her friend group, Ros acted like a spoiled teenager and the plot was predictable all along.

Lindsey Kelk was born in England and Lives in L.A. In Case You Missed It is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: Chance of a Lifetime, by Jude Deveraux and Tara Sheets

Image belongs to Harlequin/MIRA.

Title: Chance of a Lifetime
Author: Jude Deveraux and Tara Sheets    
Genre: Romance
Rating: 3.5  out of 5

In one century she loved him madly, and in another she wants nothing to do with him

In 1844 Ireland, Liam O’Connor, a rogue and a thief, fell madly in love with a squire’s daughter and unwittingly altered the future. Shy and naive Cora McLeod thought Liam was the answer to her prayers. But the angels disagreed and they’ve been waiting for the right moment in time to step in.

Now Liam finds himself reunited with his beloved Cora in Providence Falls, North Carolina. The angels have given Liam a task. He must make sure Cora falls in love with another man—the one she was supposed to marry before Liam interfered. But this Cora is very different from the innocent girl who fell for Liam in the past. She’s a cop and has a confidence and independence he wasn’t expecting. She doesn’t remember Liam or their past lives, nor is she impressed with his attempts to guide her in any way.

Liam wants Cora for himself, but with his soul hanging in the balance, he must choose between a stolen moment in time or an eternity of damnation.

This just didn’t work for me. There was too much that didn’t make sense. The blurb says Cora has confidence and independence, but she comes across as more of someone interested in only superficial things and pretty clueless than a tough, observant cop. And Liam, he didn’t work for me, either.

The premise and set-up didn’t really work, either. It was too erratic. The angels gave Liam knowledge of how the world works and he can use a cell phone and drive a car…but he can’t use a computer? And there didn’t seem to be a reason why he couldn’t. It didn’t make a difference to the plot. He was given law enforcement knowledge…but he still thought it was a good idea to hide the fact he was in a relationship with a murder victim’s wife? The whole idea was too clunky to make sense.

Jude Devereaux and Tara Sheets are award-winning authors. Chance of a Lifetime is the first book in the Providence Falls series.

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

Book Review: All Stirred Up, by Brianne Moore

Image belongs to Crooked Lane Books.

Title: All Stirred Up
Author: Brianne Moore    
Genre: Women’s fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5

Susan Napier’s family once lived on the success of the high-end restaurants founded by her late grandfather. But bad luck and worse management has brought the business to the edge of financial ruin. Now it’s up to Susan to save the last remaining restaurant: Elliot’s, the flagship in Edinburgh.

But what awaits Susan in the charming city of Auld Reekie is more than she bargained for. Chris Baker, her grandfather’s former protégé–and her ex-boyfriend–is also heading to the Scottish capital. After finding fame in New York as a chef and judge of a popular TV cooking competition, Chris is returning to his native Scotland to open his own restaurant. Although the storms have cleared after their intense and rocky breakup, Susan and Chris are re-drawn into each other’s orbit–and their simmering attraction inevitably boils over.

As Chris’s restaurant opens to great acclaim and Susan tries to haul Elliot’s back from the brink, the future brims with new promise. But darkness looms as they find themselves in the crosshairs of a gossip blogger eager for a juicy story–and willing to do anything to get it. Can Susan and Chris reclaim their lost love, or will the tangled past ruin their last hope for happiness?

This was a fun read. Susan’s family was awful, though, as was all the obsession with social media/appearances. That did make sense, though, as two characters are actors and a third is a famous chef.

The history between Susan and Chris was pretty bleak—and dark for more than one reason, one of which came totally out of nowhere, so it was a bit less than believable for me. But the chemistry between these two characters—not to mention the food descriptions—made this very enjoyable.

Brianne Moore was born and raised in Pennsylvania but now lives in Scotland. All Stirred Up is her newest novel.

Book Review: The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux, by Samantha Vérant

the secret french recipes
Image belongs to Berkely.

Title: The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux
Author:  Samantha Vérant   
Genre: Women’s fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

A disgraced chef rediscovers her passion for food and her roots in this stunning novel rich in culture and full of delectable recipes.

French-born American chef Sophie Valroux had one dream: to be part of the 1% of female chefs running a Michelin-starred restaurant. From spending summers with her grandmother, who taught her the power of cooking and food, to attending the Culinary Institute of America, Sophie finds herself on the cusp of getting everything she’s dreamed of.

Until her career goes up in flames.

Sabotaged by a fellow chef, Sophie is fired, leaving her reputation ruined and confidence shaken. To add fuel to the fire, Sophie learns that her grandmother has suffered a stroke and takes the red-eye to France. There, Sophie discovers the simple home she remembers from her childhood is now a luxurious château, complete with two restaurants and a vineyard. As Sophie tries to reestablish herself in the kitchen, she comes to understand the lengths people will go to for success and love, and how dreams can change.

First of all, this book made me hungry. The descriptions of the food are to die for! The author really brought the environment of a professional kitchen to life (I assume it’s realistic), and I cannot imagine the stress and pressure these people live with on the daily.

Sophie was a lot of fun. She watches her dreams go up in smoke and wallows in her grief for a while—as we all would—before deciding she’s had enough. Her missteps are believable, and her determination—once she finally finds it—is inspiring. This was an enjoyable read that kind of made me want to visit France.

Samantha Vérant lives in France. The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux is her newest novel.

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

Blog Tour: The Amish Newcomer, by Patrice Lewis

Image belongs to Harlequin/Love Inspired.

Title: The Amish Newcomer
Author: Patrice Lewis    
Genre: Romance, Christian
Rating: 4.0 out of 5

Can a modern city girl ever become one of the Plain People?

She needed a safe place to hide. Instead, she found a place to call home.

Television journalist Leah Porte never imagined her career would end with her witnessing a murder. Now she’s temporarily living among the Amish in witness protection. Instead of feeling alone and adrift, Leah is warmly welcomed by the close-knit community—and Amish bachelor Isaac Sommer. But caught between two very different worlds, choosing love would mean leaving her big city life behind forever.

This was a sweet, uplifting read. The difference between Leah’s previous life and her life with the Amish made for an interesting premise, one I cannot imagine going through. Solid writing here and a lovely community made this a wonderful comfort read.

Patrice Lewis lives in North Idaho. The Amish Newcomer is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: Secret Crush Seduction, by Jayci Lee

secret crush seduction
Image belongs to Harlequin.

Title: Secret Crush Seduction
Author: Jayci Lee
Genre: Romance
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Aspiring fashion designer Adelaide Song wants to prove she’s more than just a pampered heiress. All she needs is a little courage—and the help of deliciously sexy Michael Reynolds, her childhood crush and her brother’s best friend. But when her secret crush turns into an illicit liaison, Adelaide realizes mixing business with pleasure spells trouble for all her plans…

Actually, Adelaide comes across as 100% pampered heiress, so there’s that…I feel like this book focused on the superficial layers and never got into anything “real.” The secret Michael was hiding was, I’m sure, painful, but the idea that he didn’t think Adelaide would stay with him because of it portrays her as superficial, too.

Solid writing, but everything seemed so over-emphasized:  the fear of the paparazzi (then don’t make a fool of yourself in public), worry her grandmother thinks she’s incapable (then don’t act like you are), etc. I think maybe I just didn’t like the characters much.

Jayci Lee lives in California. Secret Crush Seduction is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin 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: A Life Once Dreamed, by Rachel Fordham

a life once dreamed
Image belongs to Revell.

Title: A Life Once Dreamed
Author: Rachel Fordham  
Genre: Historical Fiction, romance
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Six years ago, a shocking secret sent Agnes Pratt running in search of a new start. She found it in Penance, a rugged town of miners and lumberjacks in the Dakota Territory, where she became Miss Aggie, respected schoolteacher and confirmed old maid. But the past has a way of catching up with people.

When childhood friend and former sweetheart James Harris accepts a position as the town doctor, Aggie’s pleasantly predictable days suddenly become anything but. James wants to know why Agnes left behind the life they had dreamed of creating for themselves–but he is the one person who can never know.

In the shadows of the Black Hills, can a healing light be shed on the past? Or will the secret Agnes can’t seem to outrun destroy her chance at happiness?

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel! I liked seeing how Aggie went from the life she had before—just the brief glimpse we had was enough to give an idea of her well-to-do background—to the challenging life on the frontier. I enjoyed the simple small-town life and Aggie’s interactions with the children and the townspeople.

James was a lot of fun, too, as he kept slipping aback into his old teasing ways from childhood, interspersed with his Doctor personality. This was sweet and refreshing, like a drink of sweet iced tea on a summer day.

Rachel Fordham lives in Washington state. A life Once Dreamed is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Revell 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.)