Tag: romance

Book Review: Entangled Secrets, by Pat Esden

entangled secrets

Title:   Entangled Secrets
Author Pat Esden
Genre:   Fantasy
Rating:   3 out of 5

The Northern Circle coven’s future is in question once again. But this time, hearts and souls are on the line, making the stakes higher, the magic more crucial, and the battle more fateful than ever before . . .

Pregnant and alone at twenty-one, Chandler Parrish sought refuge within the Northern Circle coven’s secluded complex. Never revealing the identity of her child’s father, Chandler has raised her now eight-year-old son, Peregrine, in peace, and used her talent as an artist and welder to become a renowned metal sculptor. But her world is shaken to the core when Peregrine shows signs of natural faerie sight—a rare and dangerous gift to see through faerie glamour and disguises that could only have come from his father’s genes. Worse yet, the boy has seen a monstrous faerie creature trailing Lionel Parker, a magic-obsessed journalist determined to expose the witching world.

But the very man who threatens the witches’ anonymity may also be key to healing Chandler’s long broken heart. As dangerous desires and shocking secrets entangle, new faerie threats and demonic foes close in on the coven and High Council. Loyalties will be tested. Fierce magics will be called upon. And Chandler will have to face her past to save all she holds dear: her coven, her child—and perhaps even her own soul.

This is the first book of the Northern Circle Coven series I’ve read…and probably the last. I loved the parts talking about the metal sculpting, because I find that fascinating, but the rest of this was just “meh” for me. I’m not a fan of insta-love, and that’s exactly what this felt like to me. This is probably a case of the book just not being a good fit for me, not an actual problem with the book, but I didn’t really care for this. I’ve gotten away from reading paranormal romances like this, so I probably should have skipped this for that reason alone.

Pat Esden lives in Northern Vermont. Entangled Secrets is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: One to Watch, by Kate Stayman-London

 

one to watch
Image belongs to Random House/Dial Press.

Title:   One to Watch
Author:   Kate Stayman-London
Genre:   Fiction, romance
Rating:   4 out of 5

Bea Schumacher is a devastatingly stylish plus-size fashion blogger who has amazing friends, a devoted family, legions of Insta followers—and a massively broken heart. Like the rest of America, Bea indulges in her weekly obsession: the hit reality show Main Squeeze. The fantasy dates! The kiss-off rejections! The surprising amount of guys named Chad! But Bea is sick and tired of the lack of body diversity on the show. Since when is being a size zero a prerequisite for getting engaged on television?

Just when Bea has sworn off dating altogether, she gets an intriguing call: Main Squeeze wants her to be its next star, surrounded by men vying for her affections. Bea agrees, on one condition—under no circumstances will she actually fall in love. She’s in this to supercharge her career, subvert harmful beauty standards, inspire women across America, and get a free hot air balloon ride. That’s it.

But when the cameras start rolling, Bea realizes things are more complicated than she anticipated. She’s in a whirlwind of sumptuous couture, Internet culture wars, sexy suitors, and an opportunity (or two, or five) to find messy, real-life love in the midst of a made-for-TV fairy tale. In this joyful, wickedly observant debut, Bea has to decide whether it might just be worth trusting these men—and herself—for a chance to live happily ever after.

I don’t like reality TV—the very idea is mind-numbing to me—but I actually enjoyed this read quite a bit. The body positivity was fantastic to see, of course and I’m sure the reaction to a plus-size women being on a Bachelor-esque show was pretty true-to-life, sadly.

I was right there with Bea’s best friend, hating on Bea’s crush and hoping Bea did not keep pining after him the entire time. I was so firmly in Bea’s head that I was just as baffled/hurt/shocked at the guys’ behavior as she was. I did love how the story ended, and thought it was very appropriate.

Kate Stayman-London lives in Los Angeles. One to Watch is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Crushing It, by Lorelei Parker

crushing it
Image belongs to Kensington Books.

Title:   Crushing It
Author:   Lorelei Parker
Genre:   Romantic comedy
Rating:   4 out of 5

To pitch her new role-playing game at a European conference, developer Sierra Reid needs to overcome her terror of public speaking. What better practice than competing in a local bar’s diary slam, regaling an audience with old journal entries about her completely humiliating college crush on gorgeous Tristan Spencer?

Until the moderator says, “Next up, Tristan Spencer . . .”

Sierra is mortified, but Tristan is flattered. Caught up in memories of her decade-old obsession as they reconnect, Sierra tries to dismiss her growing qualms about him. But it’s not so easy to ignore her deepening friendship with Alfie, the cute, supportive bar owner. She and Alfie were college classmates too, and little by little, Sierra is starting to wonder if she’s been focusing her moves on the wrong target all along, misreading every player’s motivations.

Maybe the only winning strategy is to start playing by her heart . . .

I felt a lot of second-hand embarrassment while reading this. I can’t even imagine how horrifying reading your college diary in front of a crowd would be…much less reading bits about your college crush and then realizing he’s in the audience. Kill me now. The voice in this novel was on point and had me laughing quite a bit, which definitely fits the tone of this book.

Sierra isn’t the deepest of characters, but she was fun to read and watching her grow and learn from her experiences was great. Tristan was just about what you’d expect from someone like him, but Alfie was fun to get to know. If you’re looking for something fun and funny to read, this is an excellent choice.

Lorelei Parker is a computer programmer. Crushing It is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: More Than Neighbors, by Shannon Stacey

 

more than enighbors
Image belongs to Harlequin.

Title:   More Than Neighbors
Author:   Shannon Stacey
Genre:   Romance
Rating:   4 out of 5

The only thing they have in common is a property line! Cam Maguire is in Blackberry Bay to unravel a family secret. Meredith Price has moved next door with her daughter. He’s unattached. She’s a widowed single mom. He’s owned by a cat. She’s definitely team canine. All these neighbors have in common is a property line. One they cross…over and over. And Cam thought he knew what he wanted—until his family’s secret changes everything.

My favorite parts of this novel were actually the cat and how he ruled everything—including his owner. As a cat owner/manager/servant, I can verify that those bits were pretty accurate. Cam and his introduction to the “real” word (the one where you can’t just get food delivered at two in the morning) made me laugh several times. I did not care for his family and their controlling ways. Meredith and her daughter were an enjoyable pair, and I found this an easy, quick read.

Shannon Stacey is a bestselling author. More Than Neighbors is her newest novel, the first in the Blackberry Bay series.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: A Royal Kiss and Tell, by Julia London

a royal kiss and tell
Image belongs to Harlequin/HQN.

Title:   A Royal Kiss and Tell
AuthorJulia London
Genre:   Romance
Rating:   3.5 out of 5

Every prince has his secrets. And she’s determined to unravel his…

Every young man in London’s ton is vying for Lady Caroline Hawke’s hand—except one. Handsome roué Prince Leopold of Alucia can’t quite remember Caroline’s name, and the insult is not to be tolerated. So Caroline does what any clever, resourceful lady of means would do to make sure Leo never again forgets: sees that scandalous morsels about his reputation are printed in a ladies’ gossip gazette…all while secretly setting her cap for the rakish royal.

Someone has been painting Leo as a blackguard, but who? Socially, it is ruining him. More important, it jeopardizes his investigation into a contemptible scheme that reaches the highest levels of British government. Leo needs Lady Caroline’s help to regain access to society. But this charming prince is about to discover that enlisting the deceptively sweet and sexy Lady Caroline might just cost him his heart, his soul and both their reputations…

This is probably a case of this not being the right book for me, but I had a hard time finishing this. Caroline and Leo annoyed me quite a bit, making what would otherwise have been an enjoyable read a bit of a chore. The writing was solid, and I liked the premise, but the characters were a tough sell.

Caroline came across as vapid, interested only in gossip and scandal, and getting attention—at least until the last 15% or so of the book. Then she started to mature a bit and became much more likable. Leo…well, he was pretty close to useless for the majority of the book, then he became more interesting when he started to step up some.

Julia London is a bestselling author. A Royal Kiss and Tell is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: A Study in Murder, by Callie Hutton

a study in murder
Image belongs to Crooked Lane Books.

Title:   A Study in Murder
Author:   Callie Hutton
Genre:   Mystery
Rating:   4.2 out of 5

Bath, England, 1890. Mystery author Lady Amy Lovell receives an anonymous letter containing shocking news: her fiancé, Mr. Ronald St. Vincent, has been dabbling in something illegal, which causes her to promptly break their engagement.

Two evenings later, as Lady Amy awaits a visit from Lord William Wethington, fellow member of the Bath Mystery Book Club, her former fiancé makes an unexpected and most unwelcome appearance at her house. She promptly sends him to the library to cool his heels but later discovers the room seemingly empty–until she stumbles upon a dead Mr. St. Vincent with a knife in his chest.

Lord Wethington arrives to find Lady Amy screaming and sends for the police, but the Bobbies immediately assume that she is the killer. Desperate to clear her name, Lady Amy and Lord Wethington launch their own investigation–and stir up a hornet’s nest of suspects, from the gardener who served time in prison for murder to a vengeful woman who was spurned by St. Vincent before he proposed to Lady Amy.

Can they close the book on the case before the real killer gets away with murder?

I don’t think I’ve ever read any of Callie Hutton’s novels, but I found this one charming and engrossing. Amy—and her aunt, too—is a fascinating, quirky character, independent and strong-willed, but smart enough to know sometimes she has to fulfill conventions.

I was just as invested in their unofficial murder investigation as Amy and William were, and I disliked the police just as much, too. I’ve always enjoyed characters who flout convention and society’s rules, so Amy was a great, fun character, and I recommend this delightful read.

Callie Hutton is a bestselling author. A Study in Murder is her newest novel, the first in the A Victorian Book Club Mystery series.

(Galley courtesy of Crooked Lane Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Summer House, by Lauren K. Denton

the summer house
Image belongs to Thomas Nelson.

Title:  The Summer House
AuthorLauren K. Denton
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  5 out of 5

Lily Bishop wakes one morning to find a good-bye note and divorce papers from her husband on the kitchen counter. Having moved to Alabama for his job only weeks before, Lily is devastated but forced to contemplate her next steps when she sees a flier at the grocery store for a hair stylist position in a local retirement community.

Rose Carrigan built the small retirement village of Safe Harbor years ago–just before her husband ran off with his assistant. Now she runs a tight ship, making sure the residents follow her strict rules. Rose keeps everyone at arm’s length, including her own family. But when Lily shows up asking for a job and a place to live, Rose’s cold exterior begins to thaw. Lily and Rose form an unlikely friendship, and Lily’s salon soon becomes the place where residents share town gossip, as well as a few secrets of their own. Lily even finds herself drawn to Rose’s nephew, Rawlins–a single dad and shrimper who’s had some practice at starting over, and one of the residents may be carrying a torch for Rose as well.

Neither Lily nor Rose is where they expected to be, but the summer makes them both wonder if there’s more to life and love than what they’ve lived so far. The Summer House weaves Lauren Denton’s inviting Southern charm around a woman’s journey to find herself.

I’m just going to say it:  I love Lauren K. Denton’s writing! This was another entrancing summer read! If only I’d been at the beach reading….I was glued to the page from the moment Lily woke up to find her husband gone without warning.

Rose changed the most during this novel, and her journey was wonderful to read. Despite her emotionally barricaded life, she learns to open up and trust people, just as Lily does. Even the secondary characters are wonderful, and this is definitely a book worth binge reading!

Lauren K. Denton is a bestselling author. The Summer House is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Masquerade at Middlecrest Abbey, by Abigail Wilson

madquerade at middlecrest abbey
Image belongs to Thomas Nelson.

Title:  Masquerade at Middlecrest Abbey
AuthorAbigail Wilson
Genre:  Regency, mystery, romance
Rating:  5 out of 5

When the widowed Lord Torrington agreed to spy for the crown, he never planned to impersonate a highwayman, let alone rob the wrong carriage. Stranded on the road with an unconscious young woman, he is forced to propose marriage to protect his identity, as well as his dangerous mission.

Trapped by not only the duty to her country but her limited options, Miss Elizabeth Cantrell and her illegitimate son are whisked away to Middlecrest Abbey by none other than the elder brother of her son’s absent father. She is met by Torrington’s beautiful grown daughters, a vicious murderer, and an urgent hunt for the missing intelligence that could turn the war with France. Afraid of what Lord Torrington might do if he learns of her son’s true identity, Elizabeth must remain one step ahead of her fragile heart, her uncertain future, and the relentless mystery person bent on her new family’s ruin.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this! Sometimes, Regency novels are hard for me to read, with all the rules and constrictions that women were subjected to, but Elizabeth is independent-thinking enough to have a mind of her own and enough courage to make her own choices.

Adrian Torrington was also not your typical Regency hero. He’s a bit older with a past he’s not proud of and a determination to change things for the better. I like that he allows Elizabeth to be herself—without compromising either of their values. This is the first thing I’ve read by this author, but I will definitely be reading more!

Abigail Wilson lives in Texas. Masquerade at Middlecrest Abbey is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: Her Amish Suitor’s Secret, by Carrie Lighte

LoveInspired_Banner_970x300

her amish suitor's secret
Image belongs to Harlequin/Love Inspired.

Title:  Her Amish Suitor’s Secret
AuthorCarrie Lighte
Genre:  Romance, Christian
Rating:  4.0 out of 5

Sometimes the truth comes at a cost. Can she forgive him when she learns his true identity? Posing as an Amish groundskeeper at Rose Allgyer’s lakeside cabin retreat, Englischer Caleb Miller is determined to clear his brother’s name of theft. But as he’s drawn to Rose’s good nature, the burden of his ruse gets heavier—especially after learning Rose was deceived by her ex-fiancé. Still guarded, will Rose trust Caleb with her heart when she discovers he isn’t who he claims to be?

I do love reading Amish fiction, and this was one I enjoyed a lot. It was interesting watching Caleb try to fit into the Amish community, mistakes and all. I was far more intrigued by the development of Caleb and Rose’s storyline than the mystery of the stolen coins, but there were also several other side intrigues to keep my attention as well. This was a sweet, uncomplicated read, perfect for a stressful day.

Carrie Lighte enjoys traveling to Amish communities across the United States and she hopes to visit a few in Canada soon, too. When she isn’t writing, reading or researching, she likes to hike, kayak and spend time at the beach.

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

Book Review: Carolina Breeze, by Denise Hunter

carolina breeze
Image belongs to Thomas Nelson.

Title:  Carolina Breeze
AuthorDenise Hunter
Genre:  Romance
Rating:  5 out of 5

Rising Hollywood star Mia Emerson is looking for a safe place to land in the wake of a public breakup and scandal, and she finds it in the lake town of Bluebell, North Carolina–the location of her canceled honeymoon. She wants nothing more than to hide and wait for the tabloids to die down.

Soon after her arrival at the Bluebell Inn, Mia meets Levi Bennett, who runs the inn along with his two younger sisters. Drawn to one another from the start, Mia trusts Levi to keep her location from the press, and Levi confides in Mia about the financial state of the inn–a secret he’s been keeping from his sisters.

When Mia and Levi discover an old journal that hints at a rare diamond necklace hidden in the inn, they set off on a treasure hunt to find the long-lost heirloom. What they don’t expect to surface are feelings they thought were safely locked away. Mia and Levi must decide if falling in love again is too big a risk–or if it will uncover a treasure of its own instead.

This is another wonderful read in the Bluebell Inn Romance series! I really like the setting, and the characters are so well-done I just want to hang out with them and chat. Poor Mia has been dealt a pretty raw hand, but she handles it with grace and aplomb, despite her frustrations. She demonstrates the good side of Hollywood.

Levi is kind of overbearing towards his sisters, but he’s able to learn from his mistakes and grow from them. It’s nice to see his self-awareness, as he and Mia learn to trust as they expand their horizons. This is a sweet and easy read.

Denise Hunter is a bestselling author. Carolina Breeze is her newest novel, the second Bluebell Inn Romance.

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