Tag: small town life

Book Review: A California Christmas, by Brenda Novak

Image belongs to Harlequin/MIRA.

Title: A California Christmas
Author: Brenda Novak
Genre: Romance
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Up-and-coming TV anchor Emery Bliss can’t imagine anything more humiliating than the sex tape her ex revenge-posted online. That is, until it causes her to lose her job on top of her self-esteem. Seeking solace—and anonymity—in Silver Springs, Emery isn’t looking to get involved with another man anytime soon. But when she’s thrown back into contact with Dallas Turner, she sees something that his many detractors have missed.

Being home for the holidays and his adoptive mother’s wedding isn’t where mountain climber Dallas feels most comfortable. Thanks to his troubled childhood, he’d rather be on a rock face alone than trying to connect with people. Emery, however, makes him want to overcome his past…somehow.

Both Emery and Dallas had been planning on a quiet, solitary Christmas, but the sparks between them are lighting a fire strong enough to last—possibly forever.

I thought this was well-written and I enjoyed the small-town setting, but I did have some issues with the characters. Both Emery and Dallas came across as childish and petty. Emery was the victim of something awful, but her texts were manipulative and dishonest, and I didn’t care for that. Dallas…had some issues—understandable ones—but he showed zero growth during the course of this novel. None.

Again, this was well-written and I enjoyed the read, but I found the characters mostly-unlikable.

Brenda Novak is a bestselling author. A California Christmas is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Autumn Skies, by Denise Hunter

Image belongs to Thomas Nelson.

Title: Autumn Skies
Author: Denise Hunter
Genre: Romance
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

When a mysterious man turns up at Grace’s family-run inn, it’s instant attraction. But she’s already got a lot on her plate: running the Bluebell Inn, getting Blue Ridge Outfitters off the ground, and coping with a childhood event she’d thought was long past.

A gunshot wound has resurrected the past for secret service agent Wyatt Jennings, and a mandatory leave of absence lands him in Bluebell, North Carolina. There he must try and come to grips with the crisis that altered his life forever.

Grace needs experience for her new outfitters business, so when Wyatt needs a mountain guide, she’s more than happy to step up to the plate. As their journey progresses, Grace soon has an elusive Wyatt opening up, and Wyatt is unwittingly drawn to Grace’s fresh outlook and sense of humor.

There’s no doubt the two have formed a special bond, but will Wyatt’s secrets bring Grace’s world crashing down? Or will those secrets end up healing them both?

I’ve really enjoyed the Bluebell Inn Romance series, and this was no exception. I love the small-town setting, and Grace and her siblings are great characters. It was fun to see more of Molly’s and Levi’s stories, too, after reading their linked standalones.

Grace and Wyatt are a good match:  both struggling with tragedies from their past and trying to figure out where their futures are going. I loved watching these characters grow and change through the story, and I’d love to read more stories set in this small town.

Denis Hunter is a bestselling author. Autumns Skies is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: A Highlander is Coming to Town, by Laura Trentham

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title: A Highlander is Coming to Town
Author: Laura Trentham     
Genre: Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5

You better watch out. . .

Holt Pierson is dreading Christmas. His parents absconded to Florida for the season and left him to handle the family farm which will be his one day—whether he wants it or not. Driven by duty, Holt has always followed the path expected of him. But lately, he’s been questioning what he wants and where he belongs. Will assuming the responsibility of the Pierson farm make him happy or is there something—or someone—else out in the wider world calling to him?

To Claire Smythe, the Scottish lead singer of a touring band, Highland, Georgia, is the perfect place to hide . . .until a very handsome and deeply curious Holt begins to ask all the questions Claire doesn’t want to answer. As Holt draws Claire out from under and into the fabric of small-town life, can Claire put the past behind her and embrace the unexpected gifts of the season—including the new and lasting love?

I’ve really enjoyed the books in the Highland, Georgia series, and this one did not disappoint. I liked the switch to the female lead being from Scotland, not the male. Claire’s scattered issues with the differences between American slang and Scottish were amusing, too.

This is another in the list of books I’ve read recently that make small-town life sound appealing. Highland, Georgia sounds like a charming—almost magical—place, and it truly comes to life on the pages of these novels. Claire and Holt are both flawed characters, but their imperfections make them relatable, and their chemistry is believable and compelling.

Laura Trentham was born in Tennessee. A Highlander is Coming to Town is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press 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.)

Book Review: The Rome of Fall, by Chad Alan Gibbs

the rome of fall
Image belongs to Borne Back Books.

Title:  The Rome of Fall
AuthorChad Alan Gibbs
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

Twenty years ago, Marcus Brinks left Rome, Alabama behind quickly, quietly, and mysteriously. The small town worshiped its football gods—back when Marcus was in high school, that was Deacon Cassburn—and allowed them to get away with anything short of murder, including bullying Marcus and his best friends, Silas and third-string quarterback Jackson. So Marcus and his friends decide to take down Deacon—state championship on the line or not.

Now Marcus is back in Rome to care for his dying mother. Things have changed in Rome…or have they? Marcus is a teacher and former indie rock star and Jackson is the football god/coach, while Deacon and his buddies plot to take him down. Things are ugly in Rome, and Marcus just wants to keep out of the drama and maybe have a bit of romance with his high school crush. But the past has a way of shaping the future, and even in Rome, it will catch up to you.

I’m not a football fan, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying every page of this. I graduated in ’95, so all the references the author made brought that back to life for me. I’m from Texas, so I get the Friday Night Lights hoopla—even though my high school didn’t have football until just a couple of years ago, the basketball coach back then could have gotten away with murder—and it was so vivid and realistic in The Rome of Fall.

Marcus isn’t entirely likable, but he’s relatable. The whole teen angst storyline in the ‘90s was vivid, angry, and full of pain. The present-day storyline was more nostalgic, but also angry and painful. I loved how everything resolved at the end, bringing Marcus full-circle and the reader hoping he finds happiness along with his dreams.

Chad Alan Gibbs is an award-winning author. The Rome of Fall is his newest novel.

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

Book Review: Lost at Sea, by Erica Boyce

lost at sea
Image belongs to Sourcebooks Landmark.

Title:  Lost at Sea
AuthorErica Boyce
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

When fisherman John Staybrook vanishes one night during a storm, his disappearance raises questions. His daughter, Ella, is convinced he’s still alive and someone in the town is hiding secrets—and the key to his disappearance.

Her friend and former babysitter, Lacey, helps Ella investigate her father’s disappearance. Lacey is struggling with her own demons—her addiction to painkillers after a knee injury, the “beetle” in her brain that makes her question everything around her and that’s only quieted by the pills—and secrets from her own past, but she and the rest of the town also wonder why an experienced fisherman like John was out in that deadly storm.

This novel, like Boyce’s previous novel, The Fifteen Wonders of Daniel Green, has a slow, easy pace that nevertheless keeps the reader intrigued to find out just what’s going on. So many secrets—and so few answers—keep that pace alive. Lacey’s struggle is at the heart of this novel, although Ella’s pain also holds a key place. With secrets from the past spilling over into the present, this novel manages to turn what seem to be random threads into a complex tapestry.

Erica Boyce is a member of the Massachusetts bar and an editor. Lost at Sea is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: Tucker (Eternity Springs: The McBrides of Texas #2), by Emily March

tucker
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:  Tucker (Eternity Springs: The McBrides of Texas #2)
AuthorEmily March
Genre:  Romance
Rating:  4 out of 5

Gillian Thacker owns the bridal salon in Redemption, Texas. She lives for weddings—and her own is coming up soon, so she should be blissfully happy, right? But she and her fiancé can’t seem to see eye-to-eye, and a chance encounter with a handsome stranger only highlights those differences…differences Gillian intends to put firmly out of her mind, along with the stranger.

Tucker McBride just left the military and was on his way to family in Redemption when he encountered damsel in distress Gillian. Now the fiery bridal salon owner is all he can think about, but she’s happily engaged, so he keeps a respectful distance. Until Gillian finds herself single and hurting—then it’s every man for himself as Tucker steps in to try to convince Gillian to take a leap of faith—for just once in her life—with him.

I do enjoy a good series romance set in a small town, and I’m enjoying these books set in Redemption, Texas. (I’m Texas-born and raised, so I loved all the culturally accurate references and setting-details…I miss Dublin Dr. Pepper, too!) Gillian has two sides to her personality:  the independent, take-charge wedding guru, and the indecisive, unsure jilted woman, so I found myself wishing she’d just make up her mind already…but that indecision felt spot-on for her. And Tucker…well, don’t we all wish we had a Tucker?

Emily March is an award-winning author. Tucker (Eternity Springs: The McBrides of Texas #2) is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Christmas Angels, by Nancy Naigle

christmas angels
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:  Christmas Angels
Author:    Nancy Naigle
Genre:  Romance
Rating:  4 out of 5

Liz Westmoreland spent summers growing up the in the little town of Antler Creek, where her grandparents ran an inn. When they sold it, it broke her heart, although she treasured the memories. When she stumbles upon a listing for what looks like her beloved inn, she buys it sight unseen, and is horrified when she finds her new purchase in disrepair, making her wonder if the place will ever shine like it did in her childhood.

Matt Hardy missed out on buying the inn, but he just hopes the new owner won’t make thing worse like the last ones did. When he realizes his childhood crush is the new owner, he’s eager to help her restore the inn, even if she doesn’t quite remember him. But when an accident has Liz questioning if she’s even meant to turn the inn around, he and the residents of Antler Creek must come together to convince her she’s found her home.

Christmas Angels was a sweet romance read, even for someone who doesn’t like Christmas stories months early. The author captures the small-town feel well, although I wonder if places so completely uplifting and friendly even exist (I mean, everyone supported and liked her, which seems unlikely). I thought the romance resolved itself a little too quickly and seamlessly, but this was a cute read.

Nancy Naigle is a bestselling author. Christmas Angles is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: The Book Charmer, by Karen Hawkins

the book charmer
Image belongs to Gallery Books.

Title:   The Book Charmer
Author:   Karen Hawkins
Genre:   Fiction
Rating:   5 out of 5

Legend has it that when the Dove family has seven daughters, something special happens. Sarah Dove is that seventh daughter, and since she was seven years old, books have whispered to her. They tell her which person in town needs them—and the books are always  right. So when a cranky old book tells Sarah who is going to save Dove Pond, she listens.

Grace Wheeler moved to Dove Pond because dementia is encroaching on her beloved mother, and she hopes that returning to her mother’s hometown might slow its progress. She also has her niece to care for and giving up her high-powered financial job to move to a small town and take care of family wasn’t in Grace’s plans.

The town of Dove Pond is in trouble, and Grace may be the only one who can save it. But she’ll need the help of Sarah, Travis—her gruff neighbor—and everyone else in Dove Pond if she’s to pull it off.

I loved this book! I grew up in a small town (much smaller than Dove Pond) and have always been grateful that I no longer live there, but I’d move to Dove Pond. The town is such a character in this story. Its people are vibrant and quirky, and I wanted to hang out with all of them. Especially Sarah. As much as I love books and reading, she’s someone I could absolutely be friends with. And Grace is so strong. She’s like a force of nature. I cannot wait to read more of this series! This is labeled as romance, but that’s a secondary plot here, as the book is much more about friendship, family, and saving Dove Pond.

Karen Hawkins is a bestselling author. The Book Charmer, the first book in the Dove Pond series, is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Season of Wonder, by RaeAnne Thayne

seasonofwonder
Image belongs to Harlequin.

Title:  Season of Wonder
Author:  RaeAnne Thayne
Genre:   Romance
Rating:   4 out of 5

Dani Capelli desperately needed a chance to start over, so she took the job as a veterinarian at a clinic in the small town of Haven Point. With her two daughters, she leaves behind New York and the secrets of her past life. She just wants to make a safe home with no trouble.

But her oldest daughter has other ideas, and soon the deputy sheriff is knocking at her door. Dani didn’t want trouble, but she never really imagined trouble being quite so good looking, either.

Ruben never thought he’d fall for a big-city girl, but he’s attracted to Dani and her daughters. He wants to show them his family traditions to prove that life in Haven Point is all they need. No matter what secrets Dani is hiding.

Season of Wonder is a standard small-town romance. The writing is solid, and the characters are believable and likable. This is the first novel I’ve read by this author, but I would read more.

Raeanne Thayne is an award-winning author. Season of Wonder is her newest novel.

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