Tag: romance

Book Review: Isabelle and Alexander, by Rebecca Anderson

Image belongs to Shadow Mountain Publishing.

TitleIsabelle and Alexander
Author:  Rebecca Anderson
Genre:  Romance
Rating:  4 out of 5

Isabelle Rackham knows she will not marry for love. Though arranged marriages have fallen out of fashion, hers has been settled for some time. Alexander Osgood is handsome, well-known, and wealthy, but he is distant and aloof, spending much of his time at his textile mill.

Moreover, Northern England is nothing like Isabelle’s home in the Lake Country, and her marriage is far from the fairy tale she expected. Conversations with Alexander are awkward, when they happen at all, and Isabelle struggles with loneliness.

Sensing his wife’s unhappiness, Alexander brings Isabelle to his country estate. During their time together, the couple begins to build a friendship, opening up to each other about the details of their lives. But when a tragic accident leaves Alexander unable to walk, their fledgling relationship is tested.

Isabelle is determined to see to her husband’s recovery, and in caring for him, she discovers within herself an untapped well of strength and courage. In learning to rely on each other, the couple has an opportunity to forge a love connection that they both have longed for but never dreamed could be.

This was a sweet read with the feel of a Jane Austen novel. Isabelle’s life and upbringing have been very limiting, so after her marriage, when she starts experiencing more of life and the world, she changes and steps into her own self. She learns who she is, what she wants, and how to stand up for it. Both Isabelle and Alexander are people who must learn how to be open with others and how to communicate, and I really enjoyed this read.

Rebecca Anderson is a high school English teacher. Isabelle and Alexander is her new novel.

(Galley courtesy of Shadow Mountain Publishing in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour: Confessions from the Quilting Circle, by Maisey Yates

Image belongs to Harlequin/HQN.

Title Confessions from the Quilting Circle
AuthorMaisey Yates
Genre:  Romance   
Rating:  2.5 out of 5

When Lark Ashwood’s beloved grandmother dies, she and her sisters discover an unfinished quilt. Finishing it could be the reason Lark’s been looking for to stop running from the past, but is she ever going to be brave enough to share her biggest secret with the people she ought to be closest to?

Hannah can’t believe she’s back in Bear Creek, the tiny town she sacrificed everything to escape from. The plan? Help her sisters renovate her grandmother’s house and leave as fast as humanly possible. Until she comes face-to-face with a man from her past. But getting close to him again might mean confessing what really drove her away…

Stay-at-home mom Avery has built a perfect life, but at a cost. She’ll need all her family around her, and all her strength, to decide if the price of perfection is one she can afford to keep paying.

This summer, the Ashwood women must lean on each other like never before, if they are to stitch their family back together, one truth at a time…

Billing this as “romance” is a bit of a stretch: this is a novel about family. The so-called romances are subplots, at best. These three sisters…aren’t the most likable characters ever. Hannah is mean and ugly to everyone, all while feeling justified to herself. Avery is the queen of denial and looks down on everyone around her. Lark is flighty and ridiculous at best—and wonders why everyone treats her like that.

There is no hint that each of the sisters are hiding secrets. None. Until maybe a few pages before the reveal of said secrets. There is also no hint that their beloved grandmother had a secret, too, until 90% of the way through the book—no joke—and then it’s resolved on the next page with no conflict. I do not recommend this book.

Maisey Yates is a bestselling author. Confessions from the Quilting Circle is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: How to Train Your Earl, by Amelia Grey

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

TitleHow to Train Your Earl
AuthorAmelia Grey
Genre:  Romance
Rating:  4 out of 5

Brina Feld has settled into a life devoted to helping others since the sinking of the Salty Dove left her widowed. She has no need for a man in her contented life. But when the notorious and handsome Lord Blacknight returns and awakens her desires, her peace and serenity vanish. If she agrees to an alliance with him, she knows she will have to battle her heart to keep from being snared under his spell.

Zane, the Earl of Blacknight, was never supposed to inherit the earldom, so he didn’t much care to lead a respectable life before then. Fistfights, card games, and drinking are the order of the day. Now he’s determined to change his rakish ways and he knows the proper lady who can help him. There’s just one problem: He’s already bet he’ll win her hand before the Season is over. With her resolve to out-scheme him, how can he show her that his love is true?

This was a solid, if unexceptional, read. I thought Zane’s out-of-nowhere wager was a bit contrived, but I went with it. I liked the characters and enjoyed the read, but it was standard romance fare, not a standout.

Amelia Grey lives in Florida. How to Train Your Earl is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Maggie Finds Her Muse, by Dee Ernst

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

TitleMaggie Finds Her Muse
AuthorDee Ernst
Genre:  Romantic comedy
Rating:  5 out of 5

All Maggie Bliss needs to do is write. Forty-eight years old and newly single (again!), she ventures to Paris in a last-ditch effort to finish her manuscript. With a marvelous apartment at her fingertips and an elegant housekeeper to meet her every need, a finished book—and her dream of finally taking her career over the top—is surely within her grasp. After all, how could she find anything except inspiration in Paris, with its sophistication, food, and romance in the air?

But the clock is running out, and between her charming ex-husband arriving in France for vacation and a handsome Frenchman appearing one morning in her bathtub, Maggie’s previously undisturbed peace goes by the wayside.

I loved this book! This is a quick, fun read with a totally relatable heroine who manages to stumble (and eat) her way through Paris as she finally figures out what she wants out of life—and love. Maggie isn’t the perfect young heroine, and her love interest isn’t a typical brawny male. She’s a bit older than me, which made her so easy for me to put myself in her shoes, and she’s still struggling to figure out things. Same, girl. This would make an excellent vacation read, or just savor it over the weekend!

Dee Ernst lives in New Jersey. Maggie Finds Her Muse is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Bookstore on the Beach, by Brenda Novak

Image belongs to Harlequin/Mira.

Title:   The Bookstore on the Beach
AuthorBrenda Novak
Genre:  Women’s fiction
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

How do you start a new chapter when you haven’t closed the book on the last one?

Eighteen months ago, Autumn Divac’s husband went missing. Her desperate search has yielded no answers—she still has no idea where he went or why. After being happily married for twenty years, she can’t imagine moving forward without him, but for the sake of their two teenage children, she has to try.

Autumn takes her kids home for the summer to the charming beachside town where she was raised. She seeks comfort by working alongside her mother and aunt at their quaint bookshop, only to learn that her daughter is facing a life change neither of them saw coming and her mother has been hiding a terrible secret for years. And when she runs into Quinn Vanderbilt—the boy who stole her heart in high school—old feelings start to bubble up again. Is she free to love him, or should she hold out hope for her husband’s return? She can only trust her heart…and hope it won’t lead her astray.

I think there was a little too much going on here to give any one thing the benefit of full development:  the missing husband, the new love interest, the mystery of Autumn’s father, what’s going on with her mother, the multiple issues with her daughter…In the end, it just came across as rather crowded and chaotic, and I couldn’t enjoy any one thing fully. Solid writing, and I loved the setting, but this ended up being just a so-so read for me.

Brenda Novak is a bestselling author. Bookstore on the Beach is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Path to Sunshine Cove, by RaeAnne Thayne

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TitleThe Path to Sunshine Cove
AuthorRaeAnne Thayne
Genre:  Romance
Rating:  4 out of 5

With a past like hers, Jessica Clayton feels safer in a life spent on the road. She’s made a career out of helping others downsize—because she’s learned the hard way that the less “stuff,” the better, a policy she applies equally to her relationships. But a new client is taking Jess back to Cape Sanctuary, a town she once called home…and that her little sister, Rachel, still does. The years apart haven’t made a dent in the guilt Jess still carries after a handgun took the lives of both their parents and changed everything between them.

While Jess couldn’t wait to put the miles between her and Cape Sanctuary, Rachel put down roots, content for the world—and her sister—to think she has a picture-perfect life. But with the demands of her youngest child’s disability, Rachel’s marriage has begun to fray at the seams. She needs her sister now more than ever, yet she’s learned from painful experience that Jessica doesn’t do family, and she shouldn’t count on her now.

Against her judgment, Jess finds herself becoming attached—to her sister and her family, even to her client’s interfering son, Nate—and it’s time to put everything on the line. Does she continue running from her painful past, or stay put and make room for the love and joy that come along with it?

This was a solid read. I’d really love to live in a house right by the ocean like this! I actually enjoyed reading about Rachel and her struggles more than Jess, although I can’t totally relate to her struggle to control everything. A solid read, but not a standout. Perfect for an easy weekend read.

RaeAnne Thayne is a bestselling and award-winning author. The Path to Sunshine Cove is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Falling Down Under, by Errin Krystal

Image belongs to Trash Dogs Media, LLC.

TitleFalling Down Under
Author Errin Krystal
Genre:  Romantic comedy
Rating:  4 out of 5

London socialite Georgia Bailey just lost everything—the estranged father who abandoned her after her mother died, the rock-star boyfriend whose career she built from nothing, and her multi-million-dollar fortune.

Now penniless, she’s forced to return to her grandparents’ vineyard in rural Australia and the waitressing job she left behind. But fitting back into her former life isn’t going to be easy, and things aren’t quite the way she left them.

Her teenage sweetheart, now barely speaking to her, is the hot, grumpy chef she has to work for. Her childhood pet is a full-grown kangaroo that won’t stop sunbathing in the parking lot. And the vineyard, as it turns out, is in serious financial trouble.

But Georgia already lost one family this year. She’s not about to lose another one—not if she can help it.

This was a quick, fun read. It’s billed as a romantic comedy, but…I’d say it’s more “light reading” than “comedic.” I had mixed feelings about Georgia:  while I felt sorry for her struggles, it was a bit hard to feel completely sympathetic, as she’d been pretty crappy to people and totally self-absorbed. I ended up liking her, as she grew into a more normal person—not just a party-girl heiress.

Her stepmom and step-sister were pretty cliched and one-dimensional, and the rest of the secondary characters—who will, I’m sure, feature in later books in this series—were likable enough. If you’re looking for a light read—or a beach read—this would be a good choice.

Errin Krystal lives and writes in Australia. Falling Down Under is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Trash Dogs Media LLC in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour: To Catch a Dream, by Audrey Carlan

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TitleTo Catch a Dream
Author: Audrey Carlan
Genre:  Romance
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

When their mother passed away, Evie Ross and her sister were each given a stack of letters, one to be opened every year on their birthday; letters their free-spirited mother hoped would inspire and guide them through adulthood. But although Evie has made a successful career, her desire for the stability and security she never had from her parents has meant she’s never experienced the best life has to offer. But the discovery of more letters hidden in a safe-deposit box points to secrets her mother held close, and possibly a new way for Evie to think about her family, her heart and her dreams.

Honestly, this just didn’t work for me, and it was the characters, not the writing. The writing was solid, the setting vivid—and made me want to visit someplace I’ve never been. But the characters…Evie was wishy washy. First, she’s been in love with this guy for years, then she doesn’t want anything to do with him. Then she falls into his arms. She wants to take it slow, then she just packs up and moves in with him. What? And the love interest. Controlling, completely ignoring anything she says, pressures her to move forward when she wants to take it slow. And, I’m sorry, but the twist at the end? That felt very clunky and convenient, not natural to the story at all.

Audrey Carlan is a bestselling author. To Catch a Dream is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Vineyard at Painted Moon, by Susan Mallery

Image belongs to Harlequin.

TitleThe Vineyard at Painted Moon
AuthorSusan Mallery
Genre:  Fiction, romance
Rating:  3.0 out of 5

MacKenzie Dienes’s life isn’t perfect, but it’s as close as she could ever hope to get. Her marriage to Rhys, her best friend’s brother, is more friendship than true love. But passion is highly overrated, right? And she loves her job as the winemaker at Bel Apres, her in-laws’ vineyard. So what if it’s a family business and, even after decades of marriage and incredible professional success, she’s still barred from the family business meetings? It’s all enough…until one last night spent together leads to an incredibly honest—and painful—conversation. Rhys suggests that they divorce. They haven’t had a marriage in a long time and, while he wants her to keep her job at Bel Apres, he doesn’t think they should be married any longer. Shocked, MacKenzie reels at the prospect of losing the only family she’s ever really known…even though she knows deep in her heart that Rhys is right.

But when MacKenzie discovers she’s pregnant, walking away to begin a new life isn’t so easy. She never could have anticipated the changes it would bring to the relationships she cherishes most: her relationship with Barbara, her mother-in-law and partner at Bel Apres, Stephanie, her sister-in-law and best friend, and Bel Apres, the company she’s worked so hard to put on the map.

MacKenzie has always dreamed of creating a vineyard of her own, a chance to leave a legacy for her unborn child. So when the opportunity arises, she jumps at it and builds the Vineyard at Painted Moon. But following her dreams will come at a high price—one that MacKenzie isn’t so sure she’s willing to pay…

Susan Mallery is an excellent writer and creates realistic and believable characters. I haven’t read too many of her novels, but I’m familiar with her work. However…I did not like this novel. For one reason:  so many of the characters were awful people. They were believable enough and consistent—no dramatic changes in heart or personality—they were just completely unlikable.

MacKenzie was likable enough and totally sympathetic, and I like Stephanie and Four (another sister-in-law) and Bruno, but Barbara was truly a terrible person, and her third daughter wasn’t far behind. Both of them were spiteful, hateful, vindictive, and petty. And Rhys ended up being not far behind them—which was a bit of a surprise, as he was perfectly nice and reasonable to begin with, then became a jerk when his freedom was threatened. It’s extremely difficult for me to read books about characters like this, so it’s a testament to the writing quality that I even finished it.

Susan Mallery is a NYT-bestselling author. The Vineyard at Painted Moon is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Happy Singles Day, by Ann Marie Walker

Image belongs to Sourcebooks Casablanca.

Title:  Happy Singles Day
Author:  Ann Marie Walker
Genre:  Romance
Rating:  4 out of 5

 As a Certified Professional Organizer, everything in Paige Parker’s world is as it should be. Perfect apartment, perfect office, perfect life. And now, the perfect vacation planned to honor Singles Day. After all, what’s better than celebrating her pride in being single? Because who needs a man anyway? They have zero taste in quality television, leave the toilet seat up, and sleep with your best friend. No thanks. Her life is fine just the way it is.

As the owner of a now-dormant bed & breakfast, Lucas Croft’s life is simple and quiet. It’s only him and his five-year-old daughter, which is just the way he likes it. Because who needs a woman anyway? They nag you to clean up your stuff, want the toilet seat put down, and expect the dishes to be done the same day the meal is cooked. No thanks. His life is fine just the way it is.

But when Paige books a room that Lucas’ well-intentioned sister listed without his knowledge, their two worlds collide. If they can survive the week together, they just might discover exactly what they’ve both been missing.

Paige is very Type-A and OCD about organization, which made me laugh. I have a bit of that, but not to her extent. Lucas is struggling and doesn’t think he needs to make any changes to his admittedly messy life. Honestly, this was a pretty standard romance. The insta-love thing doesn’t do much for me, but the writing was solid, and the characters were interesting, so it was a decent read.

Ann Marie Walker lives in Chicago. Happy Singles Day is her newest novel.

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