Tag: romance

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.)

Book Review: Capturing the Earl, by A.S. Fenichel

Image belongs to Kensington Books.

Title:  Capturing the Earl
Author: A.S. Fenichel
Genre:  Romance
Rating:  4 out of 5

 After the demise of her friend’s disastrous marriage, Mercedes Parsons isn’t about to let the widowed Wallflower of West Lane, Lady Aurora Radcliff, undertake another perilous trip to the altar. At least, not before the bridegroom-to-be is thoroughly investigated. If only Mercy could stop her uncharacteristic daydreaming about Wesley Renshaw’s charm, his intellect, his dashing good looks. After all, the earl has already set his sights on her best friend! She must keep her wits about her and avoid giving into temptation.

Wesley is both irritated and intrigued by the machinations of Mercy—He cannot let her cleverness and beauty distract him. He needs to marry her friend, Aurora, so he can reclaim his family’s ancestral home. A wrong he has hoped to right his entire life. Besides, who is penniless spinster Mercedes Parsons to decide whom he can and cannot marry? Yet while he admires her unwavering loyalty to her friends, he decides it’s high time the misguided woman had a dose of her own medicine. Two can play at this spying game. But they are both embarked on a dangerous charade. And it won’t be merely Mercy’s reputation at risk—or her heart on the line—as Wesley comes to the inescapable conclusion that he has found the right woman at exactly the wrong time.

I really enjoy The Wallflowers of West Lane series! Solid writing and vibrant characters who are always up for an adventure make these books fun to read. Mercy is probably my favorite one of the Wallflowers so far, and I loved how she went from being passive to standing up for herself in the course of this book. This is a fun read good for some laughs.

A.S. Fenichel lives in Missouri. Capturing the Earl is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Shipped, by Angie Hockman

Image belongs to Gallery Books.

Title:  Shipped
Author:  Angie Hockman
Genre:  Romance
Rating:  4 out of 5

Between taking night classes for her MBA and her demanding day job at a cruise line, marketing manager Henley Evans barely has time for herself, let alone family, friends, or dating. But when she’s shortlisted for the promotion of her dreams, all her sacrifices finally seem worth it.

The only problem? Graeme Crawford-Collins, the remote social media manager and the bane of her existence, is also up for the position. Although they’ve never met in person, their epic email battles are the stuff of office legend.

Their boss tasks each of them with drafting a proposal on how to boost bookings in the Galápagos—best proposal wins the promotion. There’s just one catch: they have to go on a company cruise to the Galápagos Islands…together. But when the two meet on the ship, Henley is shocked to discover that the real Graeme is nothing like she imagined. As they explore the Islands together, she soon finds the line between loathing and liking thinner than a postcard.

With her career dreams in her sights and a growing attraction to the competition, Henley begins questioning her life choices. Because what’s the point of working all the time if you never actually live?

This was a quick, fun read. I loved the ecotourism aspects and the descriptions of the Galápagos, although the two main characters were just kind of “meh” for me. I thought they were both fairly predictable, but that may just be me. Solid writing and a fun premise made up for some of this, so this would be a fun vacation read.

Angie Hockman lives in Ohio. Shipped is her debut novel.

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

Book Review: Fairy Godmothers, Inc., Saranna DeWylde

Image belongs to Kensington Books.

Title: Fairy Godmothers, Inc.
Author: Saranna DeWylde
Genre: Romance
Rating: 3 out of 5

If love is the source of all the magic in the universe, and the town of Ever After, Missouri, is the epicenter of enchantment, then the locals are in dire need of a reboot. At least according to resident fairy godmothers Petunia, Jonquil, and Bluebonnet. Their solution? Blow a bit of fairy dust in the direction of those in need of romance…what could possibly go wrong?

SOME KIND OF AWFUL…

Lucky Fujiki’s first name is a cosmic joke. Her luck is so bad, even the number seven steers clear of her. But when her adorable godmothers ask for a favor, Lucky can’t say no–even if she can already feel the bad juju waiting to strike. And her mission is even worse than she imagined: to promote Ever After as a wedding destination by faking a marriage to her first love and long-time ex, Ransom Payne–he of the Embarrassing Incident that neither of them will ever live down…

OR ALL KINDS OF WONDERFUL?

Ransom Payne has spent years building an impressive new reputation for himself, and now his godmothers want him to pretend to wed the one girl he’d like most to forget? Sure, weddings in Ever After could be a huge boon for his chocolate business, but risking more up-close-and-personal time with Lucky? Considering the stakes, it’s a curse he’ll have to bear, at the risk of being humiliated–or perhaps, bewitched…

I loved the idea of this:   the fairy tale setting in the modern world, and I usually enjoy second-chance love stories. But all of this felt completely unbelievable to me—and I’m not even talking about the fairy-tale-setting-hidden-in-middle-America aspect. Although let’s be real: are you really trying to tell me that no one would have noticed Ever After and its friendly wildlife? Ever, in the history of the town?

Leaving that aside, the Embarrassing Incidentwas ridiculous. It was portrayed as this big horrific incident—and don’t get me wrong, I’m sure it was embarrassing—but do you really expect me to believe the press would be hounding Ransom years later over this? Or the idea that Lucky’s transference of bad luck would actually make the real news—obviously the National Enquirer would be all over it—and bring press from everywhere? Nope, sorry, this book came across as more of a farce than anything. Even the characters’ cussing felt forced and out of place in such a setting.

Saranna DeWylde used to work as a corrections officer. Fairy Godmothers, Inc. is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Boone, by Emily March

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title: Boone
Author: Emily March
Genre: Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5

With his smooth talk, rugged good looks, and deep pockets, native Texan Boone McBride appears to be a man who has it all. Few people know about the heartbreak behind his decision to leave home, family, and career for the isolation of a small town in the Colorado Rockies. Luckily, time and life in Eternity Springs has worked its healing magic upon his wounded soul, so when he meets obviously troubled Hannah Dupree, Boone sees a chance to pay his good fortune forward. The last thing he anticipates is tumbling into love.

Tragedy has taken everything Hannah loves, and her will to keep going is failing. So when Boone strides into her life determined to save her, it’s easier to go along with him than to resist. Soon she is drawn into the fabric of life in Eternity Springs, and as her spirit begins to heal, her strength returns, and she’s able to go toe-to-toe with this hardheaded, big-hearted Texan. But just when love blooms and happiness is within their grasp, shadows from the past threaten. Hannah and Boone must stand strong and united in order to defeat old ghosts—if they are to create a brand-new life together.

I have to be honest:  Boone himself seems way too good to be true to be believable. That was my overriding thought when reading this: Yeah, he’s not real. I enjoyed the read, as I’ve enjoyed the other McBrides books, and I loved reading about the town and community. Poor Hannah has been through something truly horrible, but I enjoyed her struggle to finally heal and get past it. This was a solid, enjoyable read—and a quick one.

Emily March is a bestselling author. Boone is here newest novel.

Book Review: The Princess and the Rogue, by Kate Bateman

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title: The Princess and the Rogue
Author: Kate Bateman
Genre: Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5

Bow Street agent Sebastien Wolff, Earl of Mowbray, doesn’t believe in love―until a passionate kiss with a beautiful stranger in a brothel forces him to reconsider. When the mysterious woman is linked to an intrigue involving a missing Russian princess, however, Seb realizes her air of innocence was too good to be true.

Princess Anastasia Denisova has been hiding in London as plain ‘Anna Brown’. With a dangerous traitor hot on her trail, her best option is to accept Wolff’s offer of protection―and accommodation―at his gambling hell. But living in such close quarters, and aiding Wolff in his Bow Street cases, fans the flames of their mutual attraction. If Anya’s true identity is revealed, does their romance stand a chance? Could a princess ever marry a rogue?

I enjoyed this quick read. Anna was a lot of fun:  a princess determined to choose her own future, no matter the cost—and with the attitude and strength to carry through. Seb was kind of a jerk at first, but he grew on me a bit. I’d like to read the first two books in this series at some point. Solid writing and entertaining characters made this a fun read.

Kate Bateman is a bestselling author. The Princess and the Rogue is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Last Christmas Cowboy, by Maisey Yates

Image belongs to Harlequin.

Title: The Last Christmas Cowboy
Author: Maisey Yates
Genre: Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5

This Christmas, cowgirl Rose Daniels is determined to play matchmaker to ensure her beloved sister will meet someone under the mistletoe. She enlists the reluctant help of family friend Logan Heath, but his insistence that she doesn’t understand chemistry is exasperating. Until they share one electrifying moment that shows her exactly what chemistry is all about, and it becomes outrageously, irresistibly intriguing…

Logan hates the holidays. They are a painful reminder of the family he lost and a time of year he always wants to spend on his own. But Rose refuses to let him. Logan’s worked for years to keep his attraction to her under wraps—she’s his best friend’s youngest sister and she couldn’t be more off-limits. He’s the last cowboy that innocent Rose should ever kiss, but this Christmas, will Logan become the only cowboy she’ll ever want?

This is the second book in the Gold Valley series I’ve read. This was much better than The Hero of Hope Springs because I found the characters much less annoying and selfish. Rose seemed a lot younger than 23—not entirely surprising, considering how she grew up—but almost too naïve to be believable. I liked Logan, too, although his perceptions of what people were going to say or do were a bit unbelievable.

What bothered me:  the double standard for the men and women in the Daniels family. Rose is 23 and never even been kissed. Her sister Pansy was a virgin until her love interest swept into town, then she fell right into bed with him. Their older sister, Iris, has never been on a date. Yet, their brother, Ryder, and Logan, his best friend, have no problems with sleeping with whoever catches their eye and are definitely not okay with the sisters even thinking about sex. I am not okay with the message this sends. If it’s not okay for the women, it’s not okay for the men, either.

Maisy Yates is a bestselling author. The Last Christmas Cowboy is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: Happily This Christmas, by Susan Mallery

Image belongs to Harlequin.

Title: Happily This Christmas
Author: Susan Mallery
Genre: Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5

Wynn Beauchene has a thriving business, a great kid and a mildly embarrassing crush on the guy next door—local cop Garrick McCabe. She’s a strong, independent woman who can’t help dreaming what-if about a man she barely knows. Until he needs her help…

Garrick’s pregnant daughter will be home for Christmas, and his house needs a woman’s touch. Garrick and his little girl were tight once and he’s hoping a small-town Christmas will bring her back to him. But thawing his daughter’s frosty attitude will take more than a few twinkle lights. Maybe sharing the holiday with Wynn and her son will remind her of the joy of family.

As the season works its magic on these wounded souls, Wynn realizes it’s time to stop punishing herself for a painful secret, while Garrick remains haunted by the ghosts of past mistakes. Will he allow Wynn to open the only gift she truly wants—his heart?

I haven’t read any of the previous books in the Happily Inc series, but that isn’t an issue with these standalones. I enjoyed this read a lot! Wynn’s snark made me laugh and Garrick—usually so capable—is totally useless when it comes to dealing with his pregnant daughter. Who is, frankly, awful to everyone. I really disliked her until the last third of the book. This is a solid read with great characters, and I recommend it.

Susan Mallery is a bestselling author. Happily This Christmas is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: A Princess by Christmas, by Julia London

Image belongs to Harlequin.

Title: A Princess by Christmas
Author: Julia London
Genre: Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5

After three years of mourning—and turning her dear deceased husband’s gazette into the ton’s sauciest source of fashion and gossip—Hollis Honeycutt feels her life has been strangely bereft of late… Her sister is living abroad, and her best friend moved to the country. What must a young widow of rank and reputation do? Why, transform her society gossip sheets into serious investigative news, starting with a rumored coup…and the rather dashing, mysterious gentleman whom Hollis suspects might be the villain of her first real story, and she is the only one who can write it.

Marek Brendan is investigating terrible rumors of treachery and treason that threaten his home country of Wesloria, but he must proceed with caution. No one can discover the truth. After all, who would ever believe he is Wesloria’s lost crown prince? Only Hollis Honeycutt’s cerulean-blue eyes seem to know more than she’s letting on—and worse, Marek can’t seem to resist her curious charms. But even as betrayal threatens a nation and a throne, nothing is quite so dangerous as the lovely young widow who’s determined to find the truth…and a prince of her own.

I enjoy reading linked standalones, so this was a fun return to old characters. I feel like the blurb is a little misleading, because Hollis is not looking for a prince of her own—or any man. She just wants people to take her writing seriously.  

Hollis is fun and saucy—why are the women in this serious so wildly unconventional? You cannot tell me royalty would be able to overlook some of the stunts they pull. Royal protocol wouldn’t allow it.—and she’s struggling with how her life and the people in it are changing. Marek just wants to keep to himself, but Hollis won’t let him. She’s like being hit by a truck. This was a quick, fun read.

Julia London is a bestselling author. A Princess by Christmas is her newest novel.

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