To recover from a horrible tragedy, Annie moves to Oceanside, the seaside town where her family vacationed when she was a teenager. She loves the small town and the people who live there.
Like Keaton, the gentle, almost-silent man who always helps her out. Mellie, her landlord and next-door-neighbor, who never sets foot outside her door and is cranky and angry. And Britt, the girl at the coffee shop who Annie suspects hides a terrible secret.
Annie feels at home in Oceanside and falls in love with Keaton, but when she’s offered the chance of a lifetime, she must choose between her dreams and her healing heart.
Debbie Macomber is a solid, consistent writer who always delivers a compelling plot, great characters, and interesting conflict. Cottage by the Sea is no exception. Annie suffered a horrific tragedy, and grief almost overwhelms her until she returns to the scene of her younger happiness. Keaton is a fascinating character, and I loved reading about him.
Debbie Macomber is an international best-selling author. Cottage by the Sea is her newest novel.
(Galley provided by Ballantine in exchange for an honest review.)
Chloe Daschle is known in Hollywood for being the actress to play a convincing death scene. But she’s tired of dying. She wants to live. When she hears about the role of Esther Kingsley in a historical film, she decides to go for it.
The script is based on a one-page love letter written by screenwriter Jesse Gates’ ancestor, Hamilton Lightfoot, but Jesse would far rather write about romance than try his hand at it…again. When Jesse and Chloe meet, they both must re-think their views on love—and their pasts.
During the Revolutionary War, Esther longs to be with Hamilton, her friend from childhood, but Hamilton is torn between his love of peace, and his desire to fight for the land he calls home. He’s afraid his thirst for revenge over the death of his father will motivate him—not the cause he wishes to fight for. And Esther must choose between her beloved father, a British Loyalist, and the rebel Hamilton, the man she loves.
I expected a light romance in The Love Letter but got so much more than that. Chloe is an intriguing character: she grew up in Hollywood and has a past as one of those behaving-badly starlets caught on tape to live down. She’s changed, and now she wants so much more out of life, but Hollywood has her in a tidy box she’s not sure she can escape. Until she meets Jesse, who does things his way, not buckling to threats or even friendly advice. With Esther and Hamilton’s story woven throughout, The Love Letter was an engrossing, lovely read.
Rachel Hauck is an award-winning and best-selling author. Her newest novel is The Love Letter.
(Galley provided by Thomas Nelson in exchange for an honest review.)
Margaret Jacobsen was on the cusp of everything she’d dreamed of: her dream job, a fiancé who’s absolutely perfect, and her wonderful life about to start. Until a plane crash leaves her burned and paralyzed, and that wonderful life disappears from view.
In the hospital, Margaret has six weeks of healing time; after that, she must go home, and the optimal healing time has passed, meaning if she can’t walk by then, she never will. So Margaret throws herself into her efforts to heal, with the help of a surly physical therapist who pushes her to do her best—and whose bad attitude is a challenge.
Along the way, Margaret must deal with heartbreak, family secrets, and the realization that life sometimes doesn’t turn out like we plan—and that’s okay.
I enjoyed this so much that I read it straight through in just a couple of hours! Margaret is an inspiring person I’d love to hang out with. What she goes through after the plane crash is captured in blistering detail, and I can relate to the mental reevaluation that’s necessary when you wake up in the hospital with your whole world changed. If you like smart fiction with a bit of romance, a heroine whose determination will inspire you, and a quirky family, this book is for you!
Katherine Center lives and writes in Houston, Texas. How to Walk Away is her newest novel.
(Galley provided by St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)
Jasminda lives in an isolated cabin in Elsira, where her Earthsong, though weak, makes her an outcast—as does her being half Elsiran and half Lagrimaran. She has no one, and she prefers it that way, as too many people have always treated her like trash. When a dangerous group of soldiers from nearby Lagrimar invade her home to escape a storm, she must convince them she’s not a danger—and that she’s one of them.
Their prisoner, Jack, captures her attention. His mission to prove that the Mantle between Elsira and Lagrimar is about to fall at the hands of the True Father almost cost him his life. Only Jasminda’s power kept him alive, and now he needs her help to escape, and to save all Elsira.
As the power of the True Father grows stronger, Jasminda and Jack must uncover the secrets of The Queen Who Sleeps if they are to stop his despotic power from overwhelming their land. But the enemies they face are not just outsiders, and they must choose between what they want and what they must do if they are to survive.
Because I choose to read books on whether the plot is appealing to me (okay, and depending on how much I like the cover), I didn’t realize going in that this book is, as the author says, “a fantasy romance about brown people.” I also didn’t really pay attention to this fact while reading it, and only noticed while reading some of the publicity surrounding it, and the author’s site. However, the truth of what it is lent the story some incredible nuances and layers that brought the entire world to vibrant, shimmering life.
I was hooked from the very first page. Jasminda is a strong character, but she’s hiding her hurts behind many protective layers because society just isn’t receptive to her existence. So, she lives alone, survives on her own, and is determined to continue living life the way she sees fit. Until fate steps in and turns her world upside down, when she meets—and saves—Jack, a soldier on an undercover mission, pursued by enemy soldiers, who turns himself in to keep Jasminda safe.
The worldbuilding is complex, and I love how the history is layered in with flashbacks. This helps to give a very real feel to the setting. I loved the diverse cast of characters and read this straight through in one sitting. Can’t wait for the second book!
Leslye (L.) Penelope is an award-winning writer. Song of Blood and Stone is her debut novel.
(Galley provided by St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)
Shy Imogene Chively hated the Season, but she had a successful one, gaining a serious suitor, Ernest Steeple. Now the aspiring artist just wishes to get to know Ernest better before he proposes. When Ernest and his brother, Ben, arrive earlier than expected for their visit, Imogene finds herself in over her head.
While Imogene and Ernest get to know one another, charming Ben reveals his dark secret: he’s an architect apprentice who can’t draw. Fortunately, Imogene is an apt teacher, and the two work together as Ben learns to draw.
But a series of suspicious accidents lead them to believe that someone is out to get Ben. The only suspects are Imogene’s friends and family, so Ben, Ernest, Imogene, and her friend, Emily do their best to uncover who means Ben harm. Along the way, Imogene realizes she has feelings for the wrong brother—feelings that could break Ernest’s heart and alienate her from her demanding family.
Suitors and Sabotage was a fun, light read full of sassiness, humor, and romance. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it! It had the feel of Jane Austen mixed with a modern romcom, but the characters showed some surprising depths and the identity of the saboteur surprised me completely.
Cindy Anstey loves to travel and write books inspired by Jane Austen. Suitors and Sabotage is her newest novel.
(Galley provided by Swoon Reads in exchange for an honest review.)
Title: The Lion of the South Author: Jessica James Genre: Fiction, historical, romance Rating: 4/5
Julia Dandridge grew up in Virginia. On the estate of her father’s friend, she ran wild, learning to ride and fish from Landon, who finally made Julia feel she was part of a family. Until she turned sixteen and Landon’s mother shipped her off to an aunt and uncle she’d never met, where she grew to adulthood in Washington society. Amid the Civil War, everything changed.
Now Julia is back, desperate to escape the prying eyes that keep tabs on her in Washington. She is also eager to see Landon, but finds the bitter, drunken man a far cry from the compassionate, noble young man she knew.
With everyone desperate for news of the Lion of the South—a heroic figure whose daring exploits bring hope to the Confederacy—Julia finds herself forced to choose between loyalty to the society she grew up in and the brother she adores.
The Lion of the South is set during the Civil War, but it leaves the issues behind the war strictly alone, focusing instead on the lives affected by war and its impact on society. This is a simple, sweet novel that reminds me rather strongly of The Scarlet Pimpernel. The book is a bit predictable but is a light and easy read nonetheless.
Jessica James is an award-winning author. The Lion of the South is her newest novel.
(Galley provided by Patriot Press in exchange for an honest review.)
Megan Jacobs spent her life being careful, being in the hospital, and watching her sister, Crystal, live life to the fullest, while Megan dreamed about the future, what she would do when she was no longer sick. Three years ago, Megan got a heart transplant, but she’s still playing it safe, living with her parents and working at the library while she yearns for more.
Then, Megan’s heart donor’s parents give her their daughter’s journal, and Megan finds someone she identifies with in the pages. She also finds an unfinished bucket list and decides to fulfill all the items on the list, pushing past her comfort zone as she fights her tendency to play it safe.
When Crystal decides to come with her, Megan hopes they can repair their fragile relationship. With Crystal at her side and her old friend Caleb—a fellow heart transplant recipient—encouraging her, Megan thinks she has all the support she needs to complete her audacious journey. But will she be able to overcome her fears and embrace her new heart?
I related to Megan so much. Her fear of change and of new things is so familiar, as is her desire to travel and to write. So familiar. She’s been through so much, and it’s easier to coast along with the status quo, than to risk failure. Even when Megan has stepped out in faith, she still falters, but the love of those around her propels her forward. This is Crystal’s story, too, the “perfect” sister who is driven by her ambitions even while her marriage is failing. Stepping out in faith and changing is just as hard for Crystal as it is for her sister, but the two don’t even realize they have this in common. I loved this book and highly recommend it!
Title: The Coincidence Makers Author: Yoav Blum Genre: A mix of several: mystery, romance, literary fiction-ish. Rating: 3.5/5
We’ve all had something happen “by coincidence,” like running into your childhood best friend on the side of the street when you have a flat tire. Or meeting someone new in a coffee shop after you knock your drink off the table onto their shoes. But what if those things don’t just happen by chance?
Guy, Emily, and Eric are Coincidence Makers: they work for a secret organization, creating the coincidences they are assigned through complex manipulations and machinations. Sometimes, they create a love match. Sometimes, they just give someone the push they need to live their dreams.
Guy used to be an Imaginary Friend, and he fell in love with another Imaginary Friend. He’s never forgotten her, and thoughts of her haunt every day, so he tries his best to ignore Emily’s overtures. But when Guy is assigned a coincidence that’s higher than anything he’s done before, he realizes even his hidden world has deeper secrets.
I liked this book. The concept is unique and fascinating—even if the “science” is sometimes a bit over my head. Guy, Emily, and Eric are characters I liked, and they would be fun to hang out with. The book is dreamy, and reading it felt like floating…or I probably would have enjoyed it more (not the right type of book for my mindset at the time), but it was a good, creative read.
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 TheMad Morelands series, re-released on December 26th.
(Galley provided by Harlequin/HQN via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)
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.)