Monday, January 25, 2021

Book Review: Savaged by Mia Sheridan

Title: Savaged

Author: Mia Sheridan

Rating: Five out of five stars

Published: 05/27/2019

Publisher: Self-published

Genre(s): Romantic Suspense

DESCRIPTION 

A new heart-pounding, suspenseful, and supremely romantic novel from New York Times bestseller, Mia Sheridan.

When wilderness guide, Harper Ward, is summoned to the small town sheriff’s office in Helena Springs, Montana, to provide assistance on a case, she is shocked to find that their only suspect in the double murder investigation is a man described as a savage.

But the longer she watches the man known only as Lucas, on the station surveillance camera, the more intrigued she becomes. He certainly looks primitive with his unkempt appearance and animal skin attire, but she also sees intelligence in his eyes, sensitivity in his expression. Who is he? And how is it possible that he’s lived alone in the forest since he was a small child?

As secrets begin to emerge, Harper is thrust into something bigger and more diabolical than she ever could have imagined. And standing right at the center of it all, is Lucas. But is he truly the wild man he appears to be? A cold blooded killer? An innocent victim? Or a perplexing mix of all three?

Harper must find out the answers to these questions because the more time she spends with him, the more she risks losing her heart.


MY THOUGHTS 

In the acknowledgments section of Savaged the author wrote: "This story had an abundance of moving parts . . . the mystery, the romance, Jak’s language, an unusual setting where every item the characters used had to be considered..." It absolutely did have much to consider and I think Mia Sheridan did a phenomenal job with every part of the story.

Jak's and Harper's backstories were well-defined and emotionally powerful. The ways in which the author unraveled clues, wove those backstories together, and introduced us to the lives of adult Jak and Harper were extremely fulfilling.

The inexplicable connection between Jak and Harper was very transcendental. Their life stories progressed from one of tragedy to enduring to victory to adapting to discovery and finally, to a physical connection both visceral and emotive.

Savaged went well beyond being entertaining. It was absorbing, inspiring, and left me feeling SO happy for Jak and Harper's happily-ever-after!


HIGHLIGHTS 

“Dwayne tells me your father was the sheriff here before him.” For a moment Harper simply stared at him, the question taking her by surprise after she’d just literally been thinking about her dad. She gave herself an internal shake and cleared her throat. “Yes. He . . . he was. For a short time.” Mark Gallagher paused for a beat before nodding. “I’m sorry for your loss.”

~*~

The agent stared at him, but his face didn’t say anything. “So, you’ve been living out there how long?” “Fifteen winters.” So many. So much cold. So much hunger. So much loneliness. The agent was looking at him in that funny way. Lucas didn’t know what he was thinking. “Alone? All of them?” “Yes.”

~*~

“I’m sorry. I was careless and rude. I . . . I thought I recognized the locket hanging around your neck. It looks familiar and I . . . I was wondering if I could see it, just for a moment. I’ll give it back. I just . . . may I look at it? Um, Lucas. Oh, and in case you don’t remember my name, I’m Harper.”

~*~

He didn’t know if he could do it anymore, the constant suffering. The winters always coming, the hunger, the loneliness that felt like darkness carved deep into his bones. Why should he fight? For what? Why should he survive? He understood the look in the blond boy’s eyes now. The happiness that it was finally over. Jak should have died on that cliff that night, with the other two boys, maybe three. But he had fought to live. Why? He didn’t want to fight anymore, and there weren’t any pigs nearby.

~*~

She smelled like life, like sweet water, like fertile earth, and perfectly ripened berries that would take away the pain of hunger. Her woman scent was the beginning of everything and the place where he wanted to draw his final breath. She was meant for him, he knew that now. No other woman. Only her.

~*~

He was a complete dichotomy—wild and sensitive, uneducated and astute, and he fascinated her to no end.


Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Book Review: Bridgerton: The Duke & I by Julia Quinn

Title: Bridgerton: The Duke & I

Author: Julia Quinn

Rating: Five out of five stars

Published: 04/28/2015

Publisher: Avon

Genre(s): Historical Romance

DESCRIPTION 

Can there be any greater challenge to London's Ambitious Mamas than an unmarried duke?—Lady Whistledown's Society Papers, April 1813

By all accounts, Simon Basset is on the verge of proposing to his best friend's sister—the lovely and almost-on-the-shelf—Daphne Bridgerton. But the two of them know the truth—it's all an elaborate ruse to keep Simon free from marriage-minded society mothers. And as for Daphne, surely she will attract some worthy suitors now that it seems a duke has declared her desirable.

But as Daphne waltzes across ballroom after ballroom with Simon, it's hard to remember that their courtship is a sham. Maybe it's his devilish smile, certainly it's the way his eyes seem to burn every time he looks at her . . . but somehow Daphne is falling for the dashing duke . . . for real! And now she must do the impossible and convince the handsome rogue that their clever little scheme deserves a slight alteration, and that nothing makes quite as much sense as falling in love.


MY THOUGHTS 

Bridgerton: The Duke & I was a lovely entertaining story. My natural inclination leans toward contemporaries, so historicals must be introduced by attention-grabbing means. Practically the entire Netflix universe found the first season of Bridgerton to be something to talk and write about. What kind of romance reader would I be if I didn't also dive into a televised romance series (or movie) with great anticipation? I binged all eight episodes of Bridgerton on Christmas Day. Then I utilized an ancient gift card to purchase the gorgeous series tie-in edition trade paperback. I am a devoted Kindle reader but just had to have this stunning version in print. I am glad to have watched before reading. I felt the series kept the essence of the story and what details were changed did not deflect from the source. Daphne may be ignorant in some regards, but she is bright, resourceful, and feisty. Simon knows immediately how remarkably different Daphne is and subconsciously allows her to alter his rigid life plans. The repartee between them is OUTSTANDING! Daphne gains critical insights into Simon’s painful childhood but ends up letting her emotions guide her to take advantage of a situation seemingly out of Simon's control. The aftereffects offer the main conflict in the book but this is a romance and that should guarantee at least a happy-for-now ending. In this updated version Julia Quinn adds a second epilogue that proves their besotted coupledom with that much-deserved happily-ever-after! Just a side note: Simon is absolutely adorable when drunk!


HIGHLIGHTS 

“Men are sheep. Where one goes, the rest will soon follow. -Lady Whistledown”

~*~

“There were rules among friends, commandments, really, and the most important one was Thou Shalt Not Lust After Thy Friend's Sister.”

~*~

“It's the curse of motherhood. You're required to love us even when we vex you.”

~*~

“It was those eyes as much as anything that had earned him his reputation as a man to be reckoned with. When he stared at a person, clear and unwavering, men grew uncomfortable. Women positively shivered.”

~*~

“He was proud and stubborn, and all the ton looked up to him. Men curried his favor, women flirted like mad. And all the while he'd been terrified every time he'd opened his mouth.”

~*~

“Simon gave her a startled look. 'I don't believe I have ever been condescended to by a woman before.' She shrugged. 'It was probably past time.”

~*~

“All I meant to say is that a rake's humor has its basis in cruelty. He needs a victim, for he cannot imagine ever laughing at himself. You, your grace, are rather clever with the self-deprecating remark.”

~*~

“As she spoke, she turned her face toward his, and in that instant, with the wind catching her hair and painting her cheeks pink, she looked so enchantingly lovely that Simon nearly forgot to breathe.”


Friday, January 15, 2021

Audiobook Review: How to Get Lucky by Lauren Blakely & Joe Arden

Title: How to Get Lucky

Author(s): Lauren Blakely & Joe Arden

Narrator(s): Joe Arden & Maxine Mitchell   

Rating: Five out of five stars

Published: 01/14/2021

Publisher: Blakely Arden Books

Genre(s): Contemporary Romance

 DESCRIPTION 

A sexy stand-alone romance written by number one New York Times best-selling author Lauren Blakely and award-winning romance narrator Joe Arden!

Every man knows there are lines you don't cross. Like this one - don't bang your boss' little sister.

Too bad I didn't know sexy, clever, irresistible London is related to the guy who signs my paychecks. Would have been helpful to have that intel before I took her out on that first date, before I kissed her on the beach, before I made plans to take her home that night.

But now I know, and I'm going to be so damn disciplined. I'm a good guy, after all. And good guys don't break the golden rules of the bro code. I'm going to follow the heck out of all the rules. I won't break a single damn one.

Even when London asks me to help her with a work project. One that has us working late every night, all alone, in my tiny apartment.

One that tests every ounce of willpower I have. One that is driving me out of my ever loving mind. But I resist.

Until the night she issues a challenge I can't refuse.

The audiobook includes cameo appearances from Erin Mallon, Emma Wilder, and Maxine Mitchell!


MY THOUGHTS 

How to Get Lucky is another very successful collaboration between Lauren Blakely and romance audiobook narrator, Joe Arden. However, this is their first time writing together. (This is Joe’s first book as an author!) And let me tell you, they did 'good'! Exceptionally so. Joe essentially narrated the entire book but Erin Mallon, Emma Wilder, and Maxine Mitchell make appearances periodically to HYSTERICALLY voice the text message conversations between besties London, Olive, and Emery. Teddy is a disc jockey and London is a choreographer making their occupations complimentary. That's made wonderfully apparent by the clever music metaphors from both throughout the book. For a forbidden love story, I feel they kept the angst levels reasonable and concentrated on Teddy and London’s flirty and sparky connection, which was AWESOME! This book was humorous, heartfelt, and hot. I laughed so much and completely fell in love with the characters and their precious doggies! And as if the book wasn't special enough there were bonus epilogues, outtakes, and Joe answering questions submitted by readers at the end. I say, give them all the shiny rating stars for making me feel so lucky for being their reader/listener! 🥰


Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Book Review: The Widow of Rose House by Diana Biller

Title: The Widow of Rose House

Author: Diana Biller

Rating: Four out of five stars

Published: 10/08/2019

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Genre(s): Historical Romance (Gothic!)

 DESCRIPTION 

It’s 1875, and Alva Webster is ready for a fresh start. After three years of being pilloried in the presses for fleeing her abusive husband, his sudden death allows her to return to New York where she is determined to restore a dilapidated Hyde Park mansion, and hopefully her reputation at the same time. She is decidedly not supposed to fall in love.

But when a haunting at her new home threatens her careful plans, she must seek help from the eccentric and brilliant and - much to her dismay - very handsome Professor Samuel Moore. Alva doesn’t need more complications in her life, especially not a convention-flouting, scandal-raising one like Sam. Unfortunately, Sam is the only one who can help. Together, the two delve into the tragic secrets wreathing Alva’s new home while Sam attempts to unlock Alva’s history—and her heart.

Set during the Gilded Age in New York City, The Widow of Rose House is a gorgeously romantic debut by Diana Biller, with an intrepid and resilient American heroine guaranteed to delight readers as she starts over and finds true love.


MY THOUGHTS 

The Widow of Rose House is a historical paranormal romantic mystery. I enjoyed the setting, bits of intrigue, and touches of the paranormal; but I especially appreciated the protagonists, Alva and Sam. Alva maintained her core strengths after much cruelty and social snubbing. She also repeatedly proved to be a remarkable judge of character. And Sam—Professor Samuel Moore—if there is a more sweet, bumbling, handsome, brilliant, inventor hero out there in the literary world, I want to “meet” him. He is ADORABLE! Although the banter between Alva and Sam shines the brightest, I found all of the dialogue to be clever and Sam’s relationships with his family and best friend to be extremely charming. I enjoy a good ghost mystery and LOVE a gratifying romance. The Widow of Rose house was satisfying in both areas. Particularly so since it is the author’s debut novel.


HIGHLIGHTS 

The house was the basis upon which the whole mad project rested. The plan was to take a house that was on the cusp of being torn down, turn it into a showpiece of modern design ideas, and document the entire process in a book, along with photographs, illustrations, and general design principles that anyone could follow. Even now she could picture the keys to her new house sitting on her desk at the hotel, a certain imagined sheen glowing around them. They were extremely metaphorical keys.

~*~

His voice lifted in the universal tone of an older brother exasperated by a younger sister. “My knowledge of the latest fashions now rivals my knowledge of medicine.” “Well, it’s always good to have a fallback career,” Sam said, vaguely looking around for his coat before remembering he was already wearing it. “It’s better than ghost hunting,” Benedict said as they walked out of the room. “I don’t hunt ghosts,” Sam protested. “I bear them no ill will at all. I just want to make their acquaintance.” “Ghost social climber, then.”

~*~

“I’ve been in Europe for the last twelve years,” she said. “I read American news while I was there, but it’s not always in the front of my mind. You’re the Samuel Moore. The Moore Conduit. The Moore Rail System. The Moore lantern.” “Actually, I only invented two of the Moore lanterns,” Sam said. “There are four. My parents have one apiece.” “And your parents! I met them! John Moore!” Sam grimaced. “Yes, it’s a shame he’s so much more famous than she is. It’s a travesty, actually—she’s every bit as important, but no one seems to care. Does this mean you’ll let me look at your house?”

~*~

The kiss. He’d rushed it—he’d rushed her—and he didn’t know why. Sam was hardly unfamiliar with the fairer sex. He liked women enormously, both as people and as lovers, but mostly, they came to him. They indicated their interest, they set the terms of the engagement, and when the time came for them to part there were no tears and no recriminations.

~*~

He pulled the blanket up around her. “And if you’re wondering, right now falls under friendship, support, flirtation, and one category I didn’t mention, which is that you just scared about ten years off my life.”

~*~

“You’re nervous about meeting my mother. Because you’re wondering what she’s going to think about us traveling together, and you’re wondering what I’ve told her about you, and because, let’s face it, you’ve fallen for me a bit and there’s some part of you that’s trying her on for mother-in-law status.” “Why, you—” Nervousness fled in the face of outrage. “That’s the most arrogant—Samuel Moore, I swear on my life, I have never met anyone more outrageous than you.” “That’s more like it,” he said, and escorted her up the front steps and through the wide, ornate doors.

~*~

There was a silence while Sam stared down at her and tried to understand exactly how much his life had just changed. It was only when she grew tense in his arms that he remembered to speak. “Nonsense,” he said. “I’ll carry you.”


Thursday, January 7, 2021

Book Review: Return to Virgin River by Robyn Carr

Title: Return to Virgin River (Virgin River #19)

Author: Robyn Carr

Rating: Four out of five stars

Published: 10/13/2020

Publisher: MIRA

Genre(s): Contemporary Romance

 DESCRIPTION 

#1 New York Times bestselling author Robyn Carr returns to the beloved town of Virgin River with a brand-new story about fresh starts and new friends.

Now a Netflix Original Series!

Kaylee Sloan’s home in Southern California is full of wonderful memories of the woman who raised her. But the memories are prolonging her grief over her mother’s recent death. A successful author, Kaylee hoped she could pour herself into her work. Instead she has terrible writer’s block and a looming deadline.

Determined to escape distractions and avoid the holiday season, Kaylee borrows a cabin in Virgin River. She knows the isolation will help her writing, and as she drives north through the mountains and the majestic redwoods, she immediately feels inspired. Until she arrives at a building that has just gone up in flames. Devastated, she heads to Jack’s Bar to plan her next steps. The local watering hole is the heart of the town, and once she crosses the threshold, she’s surprised to be embraced by people who are more than willing to help a friend—or a stranger—in need.

Kaylee’s world is expanding in ways she never dreamed possible. And when she rescues a kitten followed by a dog with a litter of puppies, she finds her heart opening up to the animals who need her. And then there’s the dog trainer who knows exactly how to help her. As the holidays approach, Kaylee’s dread turns to wonder. Because there’s no better place to spend Christmas than Virgin River.


MY THOUGHTS 

Comfort reads. That’s what the Virgin River books are to me. After reading and listening to ALL of the previous novels and watching the two available seasons of the Netflix series, I know just how I will feel when I return to Virgin River. Spending time getting to know a new couple. Reconnecting with old friends—learning what has happened since last we caught up. This time Landry and Kaylee both learned what they needed and wanted and found with the other. They helped each other move on and heal, opening each to friendship, love, and the ideal future brought about by their willingness to compromise. Kaylee experienced firsthand that dogs bring a joy like no other when given the chance. She stepped up for Mallory with understanding and compassion through a shared grief over the loss of their beloved mothers, and she accepted the man who left her and her mother when he proved he was ready to be her dad. What’s next for Virgin River? I don’t know, but I didn’t get the feeling this was the last time we’ll be getting together. 😊


HIGHLIGHTS 

The house in Virgin River belonged to old friends of her mom’s—Gerald and Bonnie. They’d used it as a summer house for over thirty years. When she mentioned to Bonnie that she thought it would be a good idea to get away, to change the scenery and perhaps escape the constant reminders of her mother’s death, Bonnie offered her the use of the house.

~*~

Meredith had been a wonderful constant in Kaylee’s life. It was just the two of them and Kaylee’s childhood had been rich with happiness and perfectly normal. Her mother had been everything to her—her best friend, protector, cheerleader and idol.

~*~

The last thing she had any interest in was a man or a romantic encounter. She noticed that Landon spent a lot of time outdoors with his horses and his garden.

~*~

In the dark of night when Kaylee and Landry held each other, they whispered about the turn of events. “I never would have seen this coming,” Landry said.


Friday, January 1, 2021

Book Review: Waiting on the Rain by Claudia Connor

 

Title: Waiting on the Rain (The Walker Brothers #3)

Author: Claudia Connor

Rating: Five out of five stars

Published: 12/31/2020

Publisher: Self-published

Genre(s): Contemporary Romance

 DESCRIPTION 

Being blind doesn’t hold Ava Bennet back in the least. With her work, her shopping, and public transportation within walking distance, she’s totally at home in the big city. But she’s not in the city now. Temporarily back in her small home town to help her father has her struggling in a big way.

Luke Walker is done running from his troubled past. Finally home after years in the military, he’s ready to make amends with his family and set down some roots. But adapting to civilian life is way harder than he ever could’ve expected.

She has no intention of sticking around. He has no plans to run again. All they have is one month together. Will it be enough for Luke to prove he’s everything Ava needs—in light, in darkness, and most importantly, even in the rain?


MY THOUGHTS 

Waiting on the Rain was a lovely, fluent read with an admirable hero and a courageous heroine. The way they met and the way their romance proceeded had a pleasantly realistic vibe. There were many conversations had (lots of dialogue, YAY!), caring parents, loving but sarcastic sibling relationships, supportive friendships, and the women all had each other's backs. Luke treated Ava with the care, compassion, and respect she deserved. Their romantic relationship took time to build and their sexual chemistry, although very passionate, wasn't described in more pages than they spent actually talking with each other. There were some frightening scenes, which got me all emotional and disturbed, and there was an event looming that added a little bit of angst. However, there wasn't an endless amount of push and pull because the author wrote some really smart characters! I loved the entire book but the way they both compromised to resolve their "issues" was particularly beautifully done!


HIGHLIGHTS 

All these years he’d had his team, but while he’d been gone his family had been making their own connections. Making their own unit. It looked like everyone in this room belonged to someone. He was the odd man out. He drank, looking around, proving his theory. His gaze landed on the blonde again. Raucous laughter erupted from her table, the two couples sitting opposite her looked to be having a great time but she seemed apart somehow. Like him, on the outside. And why the hell was she sitting alone?

~*~

He wanted to be glad. He wanted to feel like this was right, that it was where he was supposed to be, but the truth was, he just didn’t know. He couldn’t tell his baby sister that nothing felt right and at least twenty times a day he was sure he’d made a mistake leaving the military.

~*~

Luke pulled her hand over farther to hold it in both of his. “I’m touching you now.” “I noticed.” A light breeze kissed her skin and the leaves high above her swayed with it. Her fingers itched to touch Luke’s face, to feel his cheeks against her palms. Did he shave every day or was there some scruff? “But I’m still thinking about it,” he said. “About wanting to kiss you.” He was looking at her now. She knew it, felt his breath on her face. Then Luke took her face in his hands, pulled her in until his lips hovered just over hers. “Scratch that. I need to kiss you.” He cupped her cheek, whispered her name like a question. “Okay.” She’d barely whispered the word before his lips touched hers. Her heart did that fluttery thing again and her mouth opened under his. The air was cool, Luke’s lips were warm, smooth, and firm. There was nothing hesitant about it. It was hot and hard. She gripped his shoulders and held on, not thinking of past hurts.

~*~

I’m forty–two and I’ve managed to slip around, avoid and evade any serious sort of relationship with a woman. I figured I always would. You’re making me rethink.”