Tag: romance

Book Review: Mesmerized, by Candace Camp

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Image belongs to harlequin/HQN.

Olivia Moreland, one of the “Mad Morelands”—what society names her eccentric, independent, and forward-thinking family—spends her days trying to expose mediums for the charlatans she believes them to be. She knows all their little tricks, from phosphorescent gloves to hidden music boxes playing the dearly departed’s favorite tune, and she thrives on shining a bright light on their shady practices. Until one night, Lord Stephen St. Leger accuses her of conspiring with a medium—and they both end up kicked out of the party.

Stephen’s apology means nothing to her, until, a few days later, he asks her to help him expose the medium preying on his own mother, and she finds herself in a house party at the St. Leger estate, Blackhope Hall.

Blackhope Hall has secrets dating back hundreds of years, and when Stephen and Olivia both start seeing visions from the past—visions where they are living the lives of a pair of star-crossed lovers—the skeptical pair start to question if the supernatural world really exists. Is the dark spirit that haunts the Moreland family responsible for the death of Stephen’s brother, or is the psychic who does his bidding to blame? Stephen and Olivia must work together if they are to stop their visions from the past of coming true again, and only love is strong enough to combat the darkness.

Mesmerized was a well-plotted read twining romance and paranormal together in a Regency setting. Olivia, at first too rebellious against the customs of society, learns that she can still be a smart, independent woman, even if she does her hair and wears feminine clothing. Stephen, determined to save his family from more hurt, is close-minded about anything that falls outside his realm of experience, but exposure to Olivia softens him up a bit. The secondary characters, especially the “Mad” Morelands, are vibrant and entertaining, adding depth to the story that I enjoyed.

Candance Camp lives in Austin, Texas and loves writing about the Regency era. Mesmerized is the first book in The Mad Morelands series, re-released on December 26th.

(Galley provided by Harlequin/HQN via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

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Book Review: Lilac Lane, by Sherryl Woods

lilac lane

Keira Malone raised her three kids alone when their father decided drinking was more important. When she finally allowed herself to love again, her fiancé died of a heart attack. Now she leaves Ireland behind for Maryland to spend time with her daughter and new granddaughter, and to help her son-in-law with his Irish pub.

She butts heads with Bryan Laramie, the moody chef at the pub, and more than sparks fly as the two try to decide who knows best. Once they reach a truce, Bryan’s long-lost daughter shows up, and he must deal with unresolved issues from the past, when he last saw his daughter as a baby. And Keira has her own issues:  having been so unlucky with love twice, is it even worth the effort? While the two try to sort out their problems, the rest of the town takes sides for the upcoming Fall Festival Irish Stew cook-off, where they will match up to decide who’s really best in the kitchen.

Sherryl Woods is the author of more than 100 novels. Lilac Lane is her newest novel, the 14th book in the Chesapeake Shores series.

(Galley provided by Harlequin/MIRA via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Select, by Marit Weisenberg

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Image belongs to Charlesbridge Teen.

Julia Jaynes is part of a group of highly-evolved humans living in Austin, Texas. Rich, beautiful, and powerful, they keep to themselves and try not to draw more attention to their media-popular circle. Then Julia saves her sister from drowning, and the media attention she causes makes her powerful father punish her by sending her to public high school.

There Julia meets John, a tennis prodigy and a nice, regular guy. When Julie discovers she can read his mind—sometimes—she uses the power to encourage John, and her feelings start to grow. Living with the regular humans isn’t as bad as she thought, but Julie is desperate to get back in her controlling father’s good graces, before their circle disappears from society for good.

So…the cover of this book is what caught my eye first, and the premise is fantastic. I read all of it, but Julia was a bit too erratic for me. Does she hate her father? Does she love him? Does she want to stay with the super humans? Does a life of freedom with the regular humans sound more appealing?  What is really going on with the evolved humans and Julia’s powerful father? And why did he separate the younger members and try to destroy the more powerful ones’ talents?

I don’t actually know the answers to any of these questions, and that bothers me. Julia can’t make up her mind, and a first-person narrative should have some insight into the character, but it doesn’t. (I saw several comparisons to Twilight in other reviews, and that is sadly accurate.) I loved the premise of this book, but the execution and character development was lacking.

Despite her name, Marit Weisenberg is only a quarter Norwegian. She lives in Austin, Texas. Select is the first book in the Select series.

(Galley provided by Charlesbridge Teen via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Merry and Bright, by Debbie Macomber

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Image belongs to Ballantine Books.

Merry Knight doesn’t have time for dating. Between a big project at work with her demanding boss, helping her mom, and spending time with her brother, who has time for dating? Sure, it would be nice, but she has more important things to worry about right now. Then her well-meaning mom and brother create an online dating profile for Merry, and dating looks like it just might happen.

Soon Merry is chatting online with a charming stranger, and hopes to get to know him better. Until they meet in person, and she finds out he’s the last man she could ever actually date. Now Merry is torn between the kind man she knows online—and the all-business person she knows in real life.

I’m not going to lie:  the only reason I read this was because of the author. I generally avoid Christmas tales, because the commercialism of the season disgusts me, and the fact that stores put Christmas decorations out in September drives me up the wall. But this was a very sweet, satisfying read, with some touches of humor. Merry’s family, especially her brother, add so much to the story, and I actually finished reading this in just a few hours. (I’m ashamed to say I didn’t catch the significance of the title until I finished the book.) A lovely, uplifting story, that just might get you in the Christmas spirit.

Debbie Macomber is the best-selling author of many books, including non-fiction and romance.  She loves to tell stories. Merry and Bright is her latest novel.

(Galley provided by Ballantine Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

 

 

Book Review: The Goblins of Bellwater, by Molly Ringle

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Image belongs to Central Avenue Publishing.

Kit is the local mechanic in tiny Bellwater, Washington and an artist. He’s also the liaison to the goblins who live in the woods. But Kit doesn’t talk about that. Most people have no idea the goblins even exist, much less that Kit does his best to keep them protected from the goblins and their twisted temptations.

When Sky, a barista and an artist, falls victim to a goblin curse one winter’s night, she is rendered almost mute and in danger of drifting away. Her sister Livy is desperate to find out what’s wrong with her sister, but has no idea where to turn. When she starts dating Kit, the two of them are soon drawn into a web of magic that has ensnared everyone they love. Livy is the only one with a prayer of freeing them, but she’ll have to travel a magical path of her own to do so.

Ms. Ringle wrote The Goblins of Bellwater inspired by Christina Rossetti’s poem, Goblin Market. The novel has the same spooky, sensual feel as the poem does. The setting is magical and almost dreamy, but brimming with life. Readers who ever imagined that there was something else out there—like Sky and Livy’s “Teeny-tinies”—will understand the lure of magic in the woods. This story is full of magic and mystery, wonder and love, and tinged with darkness. A must-read for anyone looking for a story about the unseen things hovering at the edge of your vision.

Molly Ringle writes novels that mix half-familiar stories from legend and fairy tales with the real word. The Goblins of Bellwater is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Central Avenue Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Hanna Who Fell from the Sky, by Christopher Meades

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Image belongs to Harlequin/Park Row.

Life in Clearhaven is all Hanna has ever known, so her father’s four wives and her fourteen siblings are normal to her. In Clearhaven, all the young men leave town, and the girls, at age 18, marry men old enough to be their fathers. In one week, Hanna will be 18, and she’ll take her place as the fifth wife of a wealthy man.

Then Hanna meets Daniel, a boy her age who makes her question her life in Clearhaven and what she wants for herself, and her mother tells her a secret—one that Hanna can scarcely believe. Hanna doesn’t want the life she sees around her, but is she strong enough to leave behind the sister she adores and the only life she’s ever known?

Clearhaven and its customs creeped me out on a lot of levels. I know there are communities/cultures like this, but I don’t want to have anything to do with them. However, they are vividly portrayed in the book, and the characters leap off the page with startling intensity. Hanna is both easy to relate to—her love for her sister, her confusion over what she wants from her life—and mysterious. I rooted for Hanna for the entire novel, eager for her to escape the future laid out for her and grasp her fate in both hands.

Christopher Meades is an award-winning author from Vancouver. Hanna Who Fell from the Sky is his newest novel.

(Galley provided by Harlequin/Park Row via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Any Dream Will Do, by Debbie Macomber

 

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Image belongs to Ballantine Books.

Shay Benson loved her younger brother, Caden, so much she would do anything for him. That “anything” landed her in prison, where Caden left her to her fate. Now, after having served her time, Shay is determined to start her life over and forge a future she can be proud of, leaving Caden—and the rest of her bad memories—behind. Homeless and with nowhere to go, Shay enters a church looking for a warm place to spend the night, and maybe some answers.

Pastor Drew is struggling to raise his children in the wake of his wife’s death three years ago. All he can feel is the pain of her loss, and everything else, including the kids and his church, takes a backseat. Desperate for a change, Drew goes to his church looking for answers, and meets Shay, another seeker. The two become friends as Drew tries to help Shay get back on her feet. Their friendship blossoms into something more, until Shay’s past and a secret threaten to end her dreams of a future for good.

I don’t typically read a lot in the romance genre, although I used to. It’s just not my favorite anymore. However, I do make an exception for Debbie Macomber, as her characters and stories are usually so engrossing. Any Dream Will Do was no exception, and Shay has a dark past that left her struggling to find herself in her present. These characters face many obstacles as they slowly grow to love each other, and their struggles are believable and realistic. If you’re looking for some light reading with a great message, Any Dream Will Do is a great choice.

Debbie Macomber is the best-selling author of many books, including non-fiction and romance.  She loves to tell stories. Any Dream Will Do is her latest novel.

(Galley provided by Ballantine Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Innkeeper’s Sister, by Linda Goodnight

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Image belongs to Harlequin.

Grayson Blake and his brother have come home to Honey Ridge, Tennessee to turn an old gristmill into one of their up-and-coming restaurants. Grayson has a strict schedule he plans to stick to, no matter what. Time is money, after all. But when an old skeleton is found in the basement of the mill, his schedule comes to a screeching halt.

Valerie Carter is a former ballet dancer and now co-owner of a charming inn in Honey Ridge. The secrets from her past haunt her, as does the love of the dance she still yearns for. Regret and memories threaten to overwhelm her, when she meets Grayson and finds herself swept into a Civil War-era mystery that ties the skeleton in the mill with her beloved Peach Orchard Inn.

I didn’t realize The Innkeeper’s Sister was part of a series when I started reading. Fortunately, it’s also a standalone, so readers who haven’t read the other books will be fine. I’m from the South, and this novel is Southern through-and-through, from the sweet iced tea to the everything-is-perfect façade put on by Valerie’s mother. Both Grayson and Valerie have faced tragedy in their lives, tragedy they are still struggling to overcome. There are two storylines here:  the modern-day one of Valerie and Grayson, and the Civil War one that tells the story of the skeleton in the mill. Both lend depth to each other, and strengthen the family bonds of the Carters. An uplifting story about characters that are flawed and struggling to find their strengths while overcoming their weaknesses.

Linda Goodnight is a best-selling and award-winning fiction writer. Her newest novel is The Innkeeper’s Sister, part of the Honey Ridge series.

(Galley provided by Harlequin via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Kissing Max Holden, by Katy Upperman

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Image belongs to Swoon Reads.

Jillian Eldridge has lived next door to Max Holden for years. They grew up together, going through life as friends who just happened to live close. But lately, they haven’t been so close. Not since Max’s dad had a stroke, and Max took a dark detour as he struggled to deal with the way his life has changed. When Max climbs through her window one night, lost and looking for a friend, Jill just can’t turn her back on him, and her dad catches them kissing.

Jillian knew it was a terrible idea even before her dad caught them. Max has issues. And a girlfriend. But the lost look in her friend’s eyes made her forget all of that. Her parents are fighting all the time and she has a new sibling on the way, so Jillian needs someone she can turn to. She’s not sure Max is the right person for that, but she’s not sure she can resist finding out.

A lot of people think YA books just deal with romance and popularity contests, but that just isn’t the case. Kissing Max Holden does have romance, of course, but it deals with deep issues:  family tragedy, troubled marriages, hard decisions. Jillian is a great character, driven and determined, who faces obstacles to her dreams that she never imagined. Max is struggling with almost losing his father and the immense changes in his family, and he copes by turning to things he knows he shouldn’t. Max and Jillian help each other with the battles they face, as their friendship turns to something more. Sweet with the spice of adversity, Kissing Max Holden is a great read that will keep you turning the pages long after you should be sleeping (ask me how I know).

Katy Upperman is a writer who loves country music and Instagram. Her debut novel is Kissing Max Holden.

(Galley provided by Swoon Reads via NetGalley.)

Book Review: All Things New, by Lauren Miller

all things new
Image belongs to Three Saints Press.

Jessa Gray is seventeen, with a boyfriend she loves, a few friends, and a place she belongs. At least, a place she looks like she belongs:  living with her mom and hanging out with her boyfriend’s crowd. But inside, Jessa is a mess, suffering horrible panic attacks that medication and therapy haven’t helped, and always feeling like an outsider. When a terrible accident leaves Jessa with a brain injury, she sees bruises and scars on everyone around her, and thinks she must be going crazy for real. The chance to move to Colorado with her dad and start over is Jessa’s lifeline.

Instead of being the haven she was looking for, the move makes Jessa’s anxiety worse, until she meets Marshall, the quirky boy with a heart defect who makes her see life a whole new way. Though Jessa starts to feel like she belongs in this new life, she still sees wounds on everyone around her, and wonders if she’ll ever be “normal” again.

I’ve never suffered from anxiety quite like Jessa did, although I do have the occasional panic attack that sends my brain into a frenzy and throws the world into chaos. All Things New captures the pandemonium of anxiety and panic attacks, and shows readers just what if feels like to live with these issues. More importantly, it shows what it’s like to survive with them, and to grow. Jessa is entirely relatable, she doesn’t think she’s normal, but she is:  everyone is dealing with something, which she eventually learns. Marshall is funny and sweet, and he helps Jessa look at the world without the veil of her anxiety. Both humorous and heart-wrenching, All Things New is an enthralling read, bursting with vivid life.

Lauren Miller grew up in Georgia, studied at Yale, and now lives in California, where she writes and works. The author of Parallel and Free to Fall, her newest novel is All Things New.

(Galley provided by Three Saints Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)