Monday, September 3, 2012

The Good Woman by Jane Porter

Meg Brennan Roberts is a successful publicist, faithful wife, and doting mother who prides herself on always making the right decisions. But years of being "the good woman" have taken a toll and Meg feels burned out and empty, more disconnected than ever from her increasingly distant husband. Lonely and disheartened, she attends the London Wine Fair with her boss, ruggedly handsome vintner, Chad Hallahan. It's here, alone together in an exotic city, far from "real" life, that Chad confesses his long-standing desire for Meg. Overwhelmed, flattered, and desperately confused, Meg returns home, only to suddenly question every choice she's ever made. Fleeing her responsibilities—with consequences as reckless and irreversible as they are liberating—Meg must decide whether being the person everyone needs is worth losing the woman she was meant to be. (synopsis from www.janeporter.com)

Trade paperback, Berkley Trade, 368 pages
On the surface, Meg Roberts has it all.  She has a loving husband, three children and a job she loves doing PR for an area winery.  But Meg is feeling as though she is missing something, that her life lacks some essential thing that she can’t put her finger on.  She and her husband Jack have been married for seventeen years but she feels as though they are losing the connection between them. Meg discovers that her charismatic boss Chad has been harboring feelings for her and drifts into an affair which causes the disintegration of her life as she knows it.
Meg is an interesting character.  She has always been the good girl, the good wife, the good mother and she has a strong sense of loyalty and a need for structure. This story looks at how someone who has been so tightly controlled all of her life finds herself doing something that she knows is wrong and also knows could ruin her life. The book does not make excuses for her behavior or paint her husband in a terrible light. Yes, he is sometimes distracted and may be a little selfish in the marital bed, but does that excuse adultery? Meg’s family is an old school Irish Catholic one that is having issues of its own. Her sister Kit is getting over the breakup of her long term relationship. Her sister Sarah is married to a professional athlete who cheated on her in the past.  Needless to say, Sarah is not sympathetic to Meg’s situation.  Meg’s parents are supportive but unhappy with what she has done and they are dealing with their own problems as well. The story weaves all of their lives into Megs and gives the reader a variety of viewpoints of Meg’s situation.
When I started the book, I was concerned about the theme because I wasn’t sure I could relate to a character that cheats. However, the way the topic was handled in this book made it relatable and not uncomfortable.  The resolution of the situation is handled realistically and appropriately. Ms. Porter did not take the easy way out for the character.
This is the first book in the series about the Brennan family.  Based on the characters from this book it looks like they will all be pretty interesting. The next book is due out in February, 2013.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

False Impressions by Laura Caldwell

Chicago attorney Izzy McNeil is ready to take a break from private investigation and focus on her career in criminal law. But as a favor, she agrees to work with Madeline Saga, a beautiful art gallery owner who fears that artwork she has sold is fake. Who in Madeline's tight circle of artists and gallery owners is guilty of the forgeries?
When Madeline's life is threatened, Izzy is suddenly asking a more troublesome question: Who wants the gallery owner dead?
As the case spins out of control, there's only one person who makes Izzy feel safe—Detective Damon Vaughn. But getting close to her former nemesis is full of surprises. Astonishing truths about the glittering Chicago art scene will introduce Izzy to the deadliest art of deception.…(Synopsis from lauracaldwell.com)

Paperback, Harlequin, 320 pages
I got my first taste of the Izzy McNeal series when I went to BEA ( Book Expo America) and got autographed copies of the first two books in the series. After voraciously reading them in my hotel room, I was ready for the next one and ran to the bookstore to get it when it came out shortly after. False Impressions is book number six in this excellent murder mystery series.
 Izzy is taking a break from detecting after she has lost one fiancé and a serious boyfriend through involvement in previous cases.  She decides to concentrate on her legal career when n her old friend Mayburn asks her to take on another case as a favor. Izzy finds herself in the middle of the art world in Chicago trying to find out who has been targeting Madeline Saga and her art gallery. It's a heady world that Izzy finds herself in and she has to work to keep her wits about her.  Madeline is focused on her art collections and mentors Izzy in the appreciation of it. Madeline vacillates from friendly and focused to aloof and disoriented. Izzy finds out that there are many possible suspects, old lovers, competitors and customers who unknowingly purchased fakes. There are plenty of red herrings in the book and a final twist that works perfectly.
 During her investigation, Izzy finds herself attracted to a gallery customer involved in a messy divorce and also having run-ins with CPD's Damon Vaughn that seem to be leading down an interesting road.  She also discovers an wild side of her that she has not let loose in a long time, and finds that she enjoys letting go sometimes. She also meets a quirky group of artists and art lovers that help her add to her new self-awareness.
 One of the things I like about this series is that Izzy learns from her mistakes and listens when her experts give advice on her cases.  She has learned the hard way what can happen when you rush in unprepared. She mostly follows the law and doesn't do anything egregiously wrong. She has a difficult relationship with her father and brother and it doesn’t get whitewashed or neatly resolved.
Even though this is the sixth book in the series, it can stand alone so new readers don't need to be afraid to jump in.  I suspect that you will like it so much you will go back and read all of the prior books.  Enjoy them!


Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny


No outsiders are ever admitted to the monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups, hidden deep in the wilderness of Quebec, where two dozen cloistered monks live in peace and prayer. They grow vegetables, they tend chickens, they make chocolate. And they sing. Ironically, for a community that has taken a vow of silence, the monks have become world-famous for their glorious voices, raised in ancient chants whose effect on both singer and listener is so profound it is known as “the beautiful mystery.”

But when the renowned choir director is murdered, the lock on the monastery’s massive wooden door is drawn back to admit Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvoir of the Sûreté du Québec. There they discover disquiet beneath the silence, discord in the apparent harmony. One of the brothers, in this life of prayer and contemplation, has been contemplating murder. As the peace of the monastery crumbles, Gamache is forced to confront some of his own demons, as well as those roaming the remote corridors. Before finding the killer, before restoring peace, the Chief must first consider the divine, the human, and the cracks in between.  ( synopis from www.louisepenny.com)

Publication date 8/28/12  Hardcover, Minotaur, 373 pages
If I could rate this book 10 stars I would. When I finished the last page, all I could think was that I can’t wait for another year to see what happens with the story.  When I first started reading the book and realized that it all takes place in a monastery with no Three Pines interaction, I wondered how the emotional pull in all of Ms. Penny’s books, would happen in this book.  No worries on that score!
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his second in command Jean-Guy Beauvior have been sent to the monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups to investigate the murder of one of the monks.  The monastery is a closed one and the monks follow the vow of silence.  Hundreds of years before the monks fled France and the Inquisition and had supposedly disappeared as an order.  Two years prior to the murder, the monks had released a recording of them singing Gregorian chants and “blown their cover”.  No-one is allowed into the monastery and the resultant fame from the recording has caused dissention among the monks.  Gamache and Beauvior have to work through the stories of the men living in a closed environment and find the truth about the murder.  The isolation of the location and the certainty that the murderer is one of the monks adds to the eeriness of the situation.
The recurring theme of the book seems to me to be that the men who have come to live there regard it as their own slice of Eden.  They live for love of their God and the music.  They lead simple but fulfilled lives and the music recording meant to raise money for repairs and to maintain their way of life has actually introduced the serpent in the garden.  Gamache and Beauvior find a group living in harmony with a common bond but they  also find the cracks and need to find out what was the issue that led one of the monks to kill.  There is also an overlapping theme about the nature of the chants and the history of written music as it relates to Gregorian chants that is quite interesting.
Gamache and Beauvior have put the trauma of two years before behind them and are seemingly in a good place. Beauvior has become free of his addiction to pain killers and is secretly dating Gamache’s daughter Annie.  He is happy with his life. Gamache still carries the physical and emotional scars from that time as well  but he has made a sort of peace with it.  The two men are forced to re-evaluate their feelings when their own personal serpent arrives at the monastery and begins to spread his poison.  The ending of the book is heart wrenching and will leave the reader hungry for the next installment in the series.  Ms. Penny does a wonderful job of putting the reader into the minds of the characters so that their hurts become our hurts and we really care about what happens next. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Sweet Talk by Julie Garwood

When FBI agent Grayson Kincaid first encounters Olivia MacKenzie, she makes quite an impression.
The beautiful, tough, young attorney has stumbled into the middle of an FBI sting operation and has reduced it to chaos.  Months of surveillance and careful planning down the drain, Kincaid's partner is furious and lets Olivia know that she's ticked off the wrong guy.  After all, he's FBI.
Olivia isn't intimidated by his partner's bullying because she's something even scarier...she's IRS.  And working for the IRS isn't for the faint of heart.  She's on the trail of an elaborate Ponzi scheme, one that threatens to ruin the lives of naive and unsuspecting victims, and one she has personal reasons to be angry about.  But after she asks questions of the wrong people, her life is suddenly endangered.  She's accustomed to fighting for the underdog but being vulnerable herself is a very different story.  Smart enough to know when she need reinforcements, she looks to Grayson Kincaid.
Together they make an excellent team to fight corruption, but Olivia is also fighting the immediate and intense attraction she feels for Agent Kincaid, and that may be a battle she is bound to lose. ( synopsis from juliegarwood.com)

Hardcover, Dutton, 368 pages

Every one of Julie Garwood’s FBI themed books has been a great read and this one continues the streak. The book opens with a look back at the Four Pips, young girls all undergoing a highly experimental treatment for a life threatening illness. The girls, Samantha, Jane, Collins and Olivia, have banded together to survive the grueling treatment and Olivia is the ringleader of this band of pranksters.
Twelve years later, Olivia is having lunch with smarmy CEO, Eric Jorguson ostensibly to talk about a position with his accounting firm. She is worried about her current position as there is talk of cutbacks and she is the new kid on the block. When she tries to steer the conversation away from her famous financier father, she triggers Eric’s suspicions and he rips her blouse thinking she is wearing a wire and trying to trap him. Olivia responds by punching him and breaking his nose, only to be set upon by his thug bodyguard. Keep in mind this is all happening in full view of the other diners in the restaurant but when other people try to help the thug pulls a gun and then backhands her. All of a sudden the man is on the ground being cuffed by an FBI agent. Apparently Olivia has accidentally gotten into the middle of an FBI operation and disputed months of planning.  The best line of the book occurs when the Agent in charge threatens “I could make your life a nightmare.” He put his hand in front of her face and unfolded three fingers as he said. “I’m F...B…I.”   She smiled. It wasn’t the reaction he expected. “You want to talk nightmares?” she said. She put her hand up to his face and unfolded her three fingers.  “I’m I…R…S.”
Olivia meets FBI Agent Grayson Kincaid at this lunch debacle and the chemistry sizzles right off the page. Unfortunately, Olivia is up to her neck trying to get evidence to prove her father is a crook and it is consuming her life. Her family is distant and disapproving with the exception of her maternal aunt.  She is also getting death threats. Grayson has problems of his own.  He is raising his nephew and watching out for his ailing father.  He is also still trying to connect Jorguson to a serious crime.
Circumstances throw the two together and romance blooms. There is a lot going on in this book with death threats, attempted murder, recurring illness of one of the Pips, and lots of other mayhem.  This book cannot be put down once you start it!  The story is fast paced and the relationship between Olivia and Grayson makes your heart beat faster.  There is the sense that some of the other Pips might be featured in future books, I really hope so.   Write fast Ms. Garwood, please!

The Last Victim by Karen Robards

A sought-after expert in criminal pathology, Charlie Stone regularly sits face-to-face with madmen. Obsessed with learning what makes human monsters commit terrible crimes, Charlie desires little else from life—no doubt because when she was sixteen, she herself survived a serial killer’s bloodbath: A man butchered the family of Charlie’s best friend, Holly, then left the girl’s body on a seaside boardwalk one week later.

Because of the information Charlie gave police, the Boardwalk Killer went underground. She kept to herself her eerie postmortem visions of Holly and her mother. And even years later, knowing her contact with ghosts might undermine her credibility as a psychological expert, Charlie tells no one about the visits she gets from the spirit world.

Now all-too-handsome FBI agent Tony Bartoli is telling Charlie that a teenage girl is missing, her family slaughtered. Bartoli suspects that after fifteen years, the Boardwalk Killer—or a sick copycat with his M.O.—is back. Time is running short for an innocent, kidnapped girl, and Bartoli pleads for Charlie’s help.

This is the one case Charlie shouldn’t go near. But she also knows that she may be the one person in the world who can stop this vicious killer. For Charlie—whose good looks disguise a world of hurt, vulnerability, and potent psychic gifts—a frantic hunt for a madman soon becomes a complex test of cunning, passions, and secrets. Aiding Dr. Stone on her quest to catch a madman is a ghostly presence with bad intentions: the fiery spirit of seductive bad boy Michael Garland who refuses to be ignored, though in his cat and mouse game they may both lose their hearts. ( Synopsis from karenrobards.com)

Hardcover, Ballentine Books, 336 Pages

When I started this book, I figured it was going to be the typical former victim meets hot FBI agent and romance blossoms.  Wow, was I ever wrong!  This is a romance like no other I have read in a while.
Charlotte “Charlie” Stone is a psychologist studying serial killers for the Department of Justice.  She is uniquely qualified for this because she is the only survivor of a killer known as the Boardwalk Killer. She has dedicated her life to finding out what makes these killers do what they do.  At the present time she is working with Michael Garland who is on death row for the murder of seven women.  Garland is a handsome and charismatic man who tries to play Charlie whenever she works with him.
Her latest session is interrupted by two FBI agents who have come to ask her help on an urgent case of a missing girl whose family has been slaughtered at a beach area.  This scenario is the exact thing that happened to Charlie when her friend Holly was killed a week after her family was murdered. Charlie does not want to get involved for many reasons but eventually agrees to do so. Before she can leave, Garland is stabbed by another inmate and despite her best efforts to save him, dies on the prison floor.
This is when the book gets interesting. It turns out that Charlie has otherworldly skills that involve recently dead people who have died violently.  This is more of a curse than a blessing and causes Charlie all kinds of problems with the FBI unit when she arrives at the scene of the murder. At first it is kind of amusing reading about Charlie trying to act normal while ghostly activity is happening around her, making her seem a bit of a strange one to FBI people.   There is a budding romance with Bartoli, the handsome but solid team leader. The other two members, Crane and Kaminski, are quirky and interesting with a history between them
The major twist in the book is the continued appearance of Garland and how his appearance impacts the case and Charlie’s equilibrium.  Suffice it to say, it is unexpected to say the least. At first, I wasn’t sure how I felt about how the story played out but I found myself reading faster and faster to see what happened.   According to the end notes there will be future books with Dr. Stone in them and it will be interesting to see how this series works.  Charlie is an unusual character, a mix of strength and fears who find herself in a situation she would have never imagined.  The whole premise could have gone wrong but it works.  I am actually looking forward to reading more of the series and I wasn’t sure about that mid-way through.  My advice is keep reading and you will be surprised how the book pulls you in.



How to Romance a Rake by Manda Collins

What’s a nice girl like Miss Juliet Shelby doing in a place like Lord Deveril’s ballroom? With her shy demeanor, she’s a total stranger to the dance floor and a source of mockery for the ton. So imagine her surprise when Deveril gallantly comes to her defense—and offers to teach her to dance! Juliet can hardly believe the most handsome bachelor in London would notice her, until he takes her in his arms and sets her heart ablaze…
Lord Alec Deveril has never felt such a spark of attraction for an unmarried lady before. Unlike the “fashionable” women he’s accustomed to, Juliet possesses a generous spirit, a fiery intelligence—and an explosive secret. Deep in the London underworld, a dear friend has vanished, and Juliet fears the worst. Deveril insists on helping, escorting her through the darkest alleys in town. But he too is hiding a shocking secret—and the only way he can defeat the devil in his past is to seduce the angel in his arms …
(synopsis from Mandacollins.com)

Paperback, St. Martin's Press, 336 pages   

This is the second book in Manda Collins’ Ugly Duckling Series. The heroine of this book is Juliet Shelby a lovely young girl with two strikes against her, a limp and a viper for a mother. Juliet has long concealed the severity of her leg injury and in fact has a missing foot and makes use of prosthesis. Interestingly, Ms. Collins reveals in her forward that she herself has a “high tech above the knee prosthesis”. In Juliet’s circle such a situation would make her a pariah in society and she has kept it a secret even from her two cousins, the other Ugly Ducklings Cecily and Madeline.
Alec, Lord Deveril, has secrets of his own dating back to his childhood with an abusive and dissolute parent. He finds himself attracted to the interesting Miss Shelby and steps in to protect her from society and her mother’s vitriol.  The relationship flowers and they end up involved in the search for a missing friend of Juliet’s and Alec becomes the caretaker of the friend’s infant child, Alice.
The book is based on an interesting premise. Deveril has had to rise above his father’s terrible reputation to remain in favor with society.  Juliet had had to conceal her physical nature to do the same but with much less success.  They both have had to deal with difficult family issues and find each other to be a compassionate friend that turns into much more.  Their relationship with the characters first introduced in “How to Dance with a Duke” adds to the likeability of both characters. The shrewish Amanda and Felicity from the first book also make trouble in this book as they did in the first. 
“How to Romance a Rake” is a sweet romance between two people who have had difficult family situations and have decided that love and marriage would not be in their future. Although they could both have become mean and self-pitying, they are both kind and empathic people who find each other and fill the missing parts of their hearts.  I can’t wait to see what happens with Madeline in the next book!


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

That Thing Called Love by Susan Andersen


He’s the last man on earth she should want…
For a guy she’s fantasized about throttling, Jake Bradshaw sure is easy on the eyes. In fact, he seriously tempts inn manager Jenny Salazar to put her hands to better use. Except this is the guy who left Razor Bay—and his young son, Austin, who Jenny adores like her own—to become a globetrotting photojournalist. He can’t just waltz back and claim Austin now.

Jake was little more than a kid himself when he became a dad. Sure, he'd dreamed of escaping the resort town, but he’d also truly believed that Austin was better off with his grandparents. Now he wants—no, needs—to make up for his mistake. He intends to stay in Razor Bay only until he can convince Austin to return with him to New York. Trouble is,  with sexy, protective, utterly irresistible Jenny in his life, and his bed, he may never want to leave…
(Synopsis from susanandersen.com)


Paperback, HQN, 384 pages
This is the first book in the new Razor Bay series and it is a great start. Jenny Salazar has been the caretaker for her 13 year old “brother” Austen for several months since the deaths of his grandparents.  Austin is not related to her by blood but since Jenny worked for his grandparents since she was 16 years old, they have grown up together.   Jenny knows it is a matter of time before Austin’s father, Jake Bradshaw, comes back into Austin’s life but is surprised when he shows up unexpectedly.
Jake has not seen Austin since he was an infant.  The 18 year old Jake had gotten Austin’s mother pregnant and did the right thing by marrying her and leaving all of his college dreams behind.  When his wife died in childbirth, leaving him with a colicky baby, he panicked and took the grandparent’s offer to raise the child.  He has not seen or interacted with Austin since. He is now a famous photographer who has traveled all over the world and is based in NYC.  He lets Jenny know right from the start that he plans to take Austin to NYC with him and she convinces him to hold off telling Austin until they have developed some kind of relationship.
Needless to say, Austin does not react well to Jake’s appearance.  He wants nothing to do with Jake and thwarts his efforts to connect at every turn.  I think that Ms. Anderson does a great job of portraying the feelings of a young man who desperately wants a father but has been disappointed so many times that he is afraid to open his heart again.  I like the fact that neither Austin nor Jenny cut Jake any slack and make him work for both relationships.  I also appreciate that Austin is a typical teen with normal worries and not a bratty whiner.
What adds to the romantic tension is Jake’s long standing disdain for the life in Razor Bay and Jenny’s need for the roots and stability the town gives her.  Jenny is in a really difficult position, not only does she stands to lose Austin, but if she gives her heart to Jake, she knows he can’t give her the life she needs.  She also has to do everything she can to foster the relationship between father and son which just makes the situation have more potential for heartbreak.
I liked the character of Jake even though he should be a villain.  As written, it is easy to understand why he made the choices he did when Austin was born. However, he still needs to be held accountable for his lack of communication as he got older.  Jake matures emotionally in this book, with a few relapses but mostly with good results.  He has another relationship to work on with his half-brother Max and that is almost a source of comic relief in the way they resolve their issues.
Great beginning to the series and it is perfectly set up for the next book due in 2013 and featuring Max.



Sunday, July 29, 2012

No Way to Kill a Lady (Blackbird Sisters # 8) by Nancy Martin

Nora Blackbird, the Bucks County ex-debutante with a haute couture wardrobe, a hot job as a glamorous society columnist and a stone cold bank account, might finally have her own life just right, but everyone around her is going down in flames. Her sister Libby seems destined to be the lead character in a tabloid sex scandal.  Her sister Emma is expecting a mysterious love child.  Her best friend, Lexie Paine, is serving time in the slammer.  And now her mobbed-up boyfriend, Mick Abruzzo—who might actually be her husband—is conducting clandestine capers from Blackbird Farm while under house arrest. What’s a good girl to do? 
Find a killer, that’s what!  Word arrives that the sisters’ great aunt, Madeleine Blackbird, has died in a volcanic eruption on an Indonesian island and left her fabulous country estate, worth millions, to the three of them.  But when the Blackbird sisters show up to claim their windfall, they find the house in a state of disheartening decay and all of Madeleine’s to-die-for treasures gone. Worse, the mansion has been hiding a grisly secret: the body of a woman who died there many years ago.  All the evidence points to a high society murder... ( Synopsis from B&N.com)

Hardcover, Penguin Books, 310 pages  Release date:8/7/12


In Nancy Martin’s long awaited eighth book in the Blackbird Sisters Mysteries, it looks like things are looking up for the sisters. Forced to live in genteel poverty since their parents absconded with their trust funds, news that they inherited their Aunt Madeleine’s estate seems the answer to their prayers. Life is complicated for the sister, Nora’s lover, Michael, is in jail, Emma is pregnant with no chance of marrying the father and Libby is ….well, Libby.
When they get to the site of the mansion, they discover that the house is a wreck, all of the valuables are missing and to top it off, they find skeletal remains in the elevator. Add to the mix a smarmy cousin, Sutherland, who might contest the will, and it’s obvious that this is not going to be the answer to the sister’s problems. There is some good news, Michael is released to the Blackbird farm on supervised home release but that means his thuggish entourage also will be on the premises. Michael has another surprise for her, but it’s a big surprise for him as well.
Nora works on finding out what happened to her aunt, clearing her aunt’s name after salacious rumors surface, and finding out what happened to all of the pilfered items from the house. Nora uses her job as a society columnist to get information about her aunt’s history and finding out who would have had access to the estate. Her aunt’s lecherous lawyer seems pretty suspicious and there are a few society matrons who were very jealous of Aunt Madeleine and would have been happy to see her gone.
I have always enjoyed this series because of all the different threads that run through every story. I love the insider look at mainline society and the descriptions of the vintage outfits Nora wears to events. The contrast between that life and the mob family connections of Michael’s has led to  problems in the relationship in the past but in this book they seem to be on a pretty even keel. Emma’s pregnancy is stressing her out physically and mentally and the off/on relationship with the father does not help.  Libby is convinced her toddler son is destined for athletic superstardom and is still on the prowl for anything in pants. Nora has a full plate of craziness to deal with and Michael is her anchor even with his problems. They are perfect together even though their life is still unsettled.
If you have been a fan of this series, you will love this book. The biggest problem will be waiting for the next one to come!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Spring Fever by Mary Kay Andrews

Annajane Hudgens truly believes she is over her ex-husband, Mason Bayless.  They’ve been divorced for four years, she’s engaged to a new, terrific guy, and she’s ready to leave the small town where she and Mason had so much history.  She is so over Mason that she has absolutely no problem attending his wedding to the beautiful, intelligent, delightful Celia.  But when fate intervenes and the wedding is called to a halt as the bride is literally walking down the aisle, Annajane begins to realize that maybe she’s been given a second chance.  Maybe everything happens for a reason.  And maybe, just maybe, she wants Mason back.  But there are secrets afoot in this small southern town.  On the peaceful surface of Hideaway Lake, Annajane discovers that the past is never really gone.  Even if there are people determined to keep Annajane from getting what she wants, happiness might be hers for the taking, and the life she once had with Mason in this sleepy lake town might be in her future. ( Synopsis from Marykayandrews.com)

Hardcover, St. Martin's Press, 416 Pages

Annajane Hudgens finds herself sitting in a church pew,  next to her ex-sister in law and best friend, and watching her ex-husband, Mason, about to be remarried. She notices that he is looking decidedly nervous and ready to bolt and as the bride steps off, Annajane is about to jump out of the pew and stop the ceremony when Mason’s daughter, the adorable Sophie, gets taken ill.  Mason and Annajane end up going to the ER with Sophie and leaving the diminutive but dastardly bride, Celia to follow later.
This episode sets the tone for the book to follow. Ms. Andrews has written a story of two people who love each other but couldn’t get the timing right from the beginning of the relationship. Mason is the heir to the Quixie soda empire and Annajane is the girl who works for the company and happens to be his sister’s friend.  They come together and apart and eventually marry but it doesn’t last due to job pressures, immaturity and the possibility of cheating on Mason’s part. After the divorce, Annajane’s suspicions seem to be confirmed when Mason has a daughter after a one night stand.  Now, 5 years later she is engaged and ready to leave town, her job at Quixie and Mason for good.  The aborted wedding brings her to her senses and she realizes she still has feelings for Mason.
Although the plot is a tried and true romance plot, it gets a nice treatment in this book. Annajane and Mason are friends and co- workers who were able to put the past behind them until Celia arrives on the scene. The wedding becomes the pivotal moment for both exes to reevaluate what they want out of life and how they are going to get it.  Mason is a nice guy who is trying to save his family business.  Annajane is a strong woman who wants a family and the life she sees her best friend, Pokey, living- one with a loving husband. Annajane and Mason have to work hard and really talk about their past mistakes to put their relationship back together again. The villains of the story; Celia, Mason’s mother, and his brother Davis, all play a part in helping keep the exes apart but lose out in the long run.
I really enjoyed this book.  Ms. Andrews always shows us a slice of Southern life and tradition in a quirky but loving way and this book is no exception. There are a few moments that are a little darker than she normally has in her books but they fit into the story very well. Spring Fever is another good book from an always enjoyable writer.


Friday, July 6, 2012

Beach Colors by Shelley Noble


Beach Colors is a story of Margaux Sullivan, an up and coming New York fashion designer who after a serious loss realizes her life has become the same as her designs, stark, cutting-edge and dark.  What happened to the enthusiastic, colorful designer she was when she started in the fashion business.  The optimistic girl she had been when she lived in Crescent Cove, Connecticut, a beach town where every day was more colorful than the day before. Whether it was light glistening on the Long Island Sound, or clouds reflecting off the waves during a storm, sunrise or sunset, every day was a promise of something wonderful ahead.
Now she’s come home to rediscover those things, that person, to reconnect with her mother and her two best friends, to reinvent her life and perhaps, just perhaps, get a second chance at love. (synopsis from w.shelleynoble.com)

Trade Paperback, William Morrow, 368 pages.



Margaux Sullivan returns home to Crescent Cove, CT after her marriage, fashion business, and her life in general, have gone down the tubes thanks to her scummy husband. Being stopped for speeding as she crosses the town line is not an auspicious beginning to her plan to start over.
Police Chief Nick Prescott realizes immediately that the out of state speeder he has stopped is the girl he had a major case of unrequited love for when he was younger and going off to college. His plan to teach at the college level has been shelved as he returns to his hometown to care for his traumatized nephew Connor after the death of Jack’s brother.
Despite the unfortunate beginning to their becoming reacquainted, Margaux and Nick find themselves drawn to each other. Margaux has the seed of an idea to return to the fashion world but it will require a lot of hard work and immense amounts of time. Nick would still like to return to academia but has to put Connor’s needs above his own and that includes not getting involved with a woman who may not be around for the long haul. Margaux and Connor bond at their first meeting, however, and that adds to the tension between the two adults.
I enjoyed watching two people who have so many reasons to never fall in love again, dancing around each other and putting up walls at the same time. Lucky for them both, they have friends and family who love to interfere and provide the support and advice Margaux and Nick need to work out their relationship. Salon owner Linda becomes Margaux’s fairy godmother and Margaux’s two friends, Grace and Brianna, provide some tactful pushing. The three women, known as “The Selkies” in their childhood, have all achieved their childhood dreams but have not found the happiness they thought they would have for various reasons. Finally, the setting of the town itself becomes the creative muse for Margaux and her new designs.
Nick has friends give him a nudge toward Margaux and his mother and nephew are smitten with her. He is the one holding back because of his fears about Connor being abandoned by another mother figure. It is interesting that Connor gives Margaux his whole heart without reservation and that Nick is the fearful one.
The story is resolved in a realistic but satisfying way that is true to the personalities involved. I am hoping that we will soon see a book for Grace or Brianna and more of the wonderful town of Crescent Cove. This is the first piece of women’s fiction from this author who writes mysteries as Shelley Freydont. Kudos to Ms. Noble on her debut book.


 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

At Last ( LuckyHarbor #5) by Jill Shalvis


Amy Michaels loves her new life in Lucky Harbor. A waitress in the local diner, she’s looking forward to her first weekend hike through the mountains. But when a wrong turn takes her off the trail, she finds herself up close and personal with forest ranger Matt Bowers. And even though she’s tempted to kiss that sexy smile right off his face, she won’t make the mistake of getting involved with the town heartthrob.
A former cop whose life went south, Matt doesn’t let anyone get too close. But something about the feisty beauty caught his eye the moment he first saw her in the diner. After a hot night under a starry sky, Matt can’t deny their attraction-or the fact that for the first time in a long time, he feels the stirrings of something more. Now it’s up to Matt to help Amy see that, no matter what is in their past, together they can build a future in Lucky Harbor. ( synopsis from Jillshalvis.com)

Paperback, Forever, 345 pgs.    

Amy Michaels gets lost in the woods, alone and inappropriately dressed with no idea of how she is going to get out of the mess she is in.  She started her journey to look for a mysterious spot her grandmother wrote about in her diary. She is looking for the answer to finding peace in her life.
Matt Bowers is a forest ranger who rescues Amy when she gets lost on her trek. Having been a soldier and then a cop, he has found this new job to be perfect for him, including rescuing the occasional pretty girl. His nickname around town is “Ranger Hot Buns”.
Both Amy and Matt are attracted to each other but they both have baggage in their lives that makes it almost impossible for either one to think about a long term relationship. They dance around each other, much to the amusement of their friends, and finally decide to start a no strings relationship. This is a tried and true plot in romance novels but in this case, it seems perfectly appropriate for two people so dragged down by their past.
The addition of Riley, a teen runaway who Amy befriends, provides insight into Amy’s past and into why she acts as she does towards Matt. Her relationship with Riley also sets up a situation that could be the undoing of Matt & Amy’s fledgling relationship.
I enjoyed reading this book even though Amy could be a little exasperating at times. She and Matt have great chemistry and it was interesting to see her go from being a self-hater to a person ready for and open to love. Matt also had to move on from his broken marriage and let go of his self-blame.  The support of their friends is a big part of how they are able to do so. It was fun to see Mallory and Ty continuing in their romance from the previous book and turning the tables on Amy and Matt. I am anxiously awaiting the next book in the series!


Monday, June 25, 2012

Summer Nights ( Fool's Gold # 11) by Susan Mallery

Horse whisperer Shane Stryker is done with passion. This time around, he’s determined to meet someone who will be content with the quiet life of a rancher’s wife. And the fiery, pint-size redhead who dazzles him at the local bar definitely does not fit the bill.
Small-town librarian Annabelle Weiss has always seen herself as more of a sweetheart than a siren, so she can’t understand why Shane keeps pushing her away. Shane has formed the totally wrong impression of her but only he can help her with a special event for the next Fool’s Gold festival. And maybe while he’s at it, she can convince him to teach her a few things about kissing on hot summer nights, too—some lessons, a girl shouldn’t learn from reading a book!
Synopsis from susanmallery.com



Paperback, Harlequin, 381 pgs.

This is the second book of the latest Fool’s Gold trilogy about the Stryker brothers. Shane Stryker has come to Fool’s Gold to start a horse ranch adjacent to the property his mother and brother Rafe own. Shane is divorced, having been in a hellacious marriage, and wants his next serious romance to be with a nice, faithful woman.
Annabelle Weiss is the Fool’s Gold Librarian and is also divorced from a man who belittled and controlled her.  She is looking for someone to love her unconditionally.  Unfortunately for her, the first time Shane meets her is when she impulsively jumps upon the bar in Jo’s place to demonstrate the dance of the happy virgin from the Maa-zib. Shane immediately paints with the same brush as his ex-wife.  When Annabelle turns up at his ranch for riding lessons, Shane manages to insult her in short order. He apologizes and the riding lessons continue and they get to know each other as time goes along.  Annabelle does find immediate unconditional love from someone on the ranch- a beautiful horse named Khatar!
Both of the people in this romance have baggage from previous relationships that shapes how this one develops. Shane is definitely interested but he keeps acting like a jerk and messing things up. Annabelle has feelings for Shane but she keeps getting rebuffed and forgives him but then it happens again. Both people get lots of advice from well- meaning friends but the changes have to come from inside for the relationship to really work out.  
Fool’s Gold works its magic again with Shane and Annabelle.  Favorite characters from previous books make frequent appearances and we get to see how their lives are progressing which is always nice. We also get a hint of who the next lucky couple will be. This is a great summer romance that has a little drama, a little humor and keeps the readers interest all the way through.


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Ain't Misbehaving by Molly Cannon


Marla Jean Bandy might be down, but she's not out. Even though her no-good ex-husband left her for another woman - a Bookmobile-driving librarian twenty years her senior - Marla Jean won't settle for another lonely night. She's not ready for Mr. Right, but why not have a little fun with Mr. Right Now? The only wrench  in her plan is her childhood crush. Jake- and the memory of the one toe-curling kiss they shared on a hot summer night years ago.
 ( Synopsis from MollyCannon.com)

Paperback, Forever Press, 374 pgs.




Marla Jean is determined to move on with her life after her husband ditches her for the town librarian- a woman 20 years older. She goes out and decides she is going to have fun with local Lothario Donnie Joe, only to have her hot and heavy make out session interrupted by her childhood crush, Jake. Jake is also her brother Linc's best friend and has committed to keeping Marla Jean safe while Linc is away. Both Marla Jean and Jake fight their obvious attraction through most of the book with occasional sexy lapses.

Being a librarian of a certain age, I have to admit I was intrigued by the premise of the book but disturbed by the way it seemed that the whole town had just forgiven the two cheaters and left Marla Jean with virtually nothing- both financially and in terms of her self respect. The issue does get addressed later in the story in a way that is satisfactory for the reader. Jake is in a double bind, having feelings for Marla Jean and being the nephew of the librarian. It was interesting to read a book where you had some sympathy for the other woman because you saw her through her family's eyes.

Jake is a genuinely nice guy who takes his friendship with Marla Jean seriously and Marla Jean is a sweetie who has had a rough time and deserves someone sexy like Jake to make her see that there is still a life out there for her.

 I especially enjoyed some of Marla Jean’s creative cursing. How often do you hear a character say “ poop faced son of a dodo bird”.  This was a fun read with a nice romance and a happy ending all the way around. ( Just a note-Donnie Joe has his own book coming out April of 2013 and it looks pretty good from the excerpt.)







Monday, June 4, 2012

Paris in Love by Eloisa James

In 2009, New York Times bestselling author Eloisa James took a leap that many people dream about: she sold her house, took a sabbatical from her job as a Shakespeare professor, and moved her family to Paris. Paris in Love: A Memoir chronicles her joyful year in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

With no classes to teach, no committee meetings to attend, no lawn to mow or cars to park, Eloisa revels in the ordinary pleasures of life—discovering corner museums that tourists overlook, chronicling Frenchwomen’s sartorial triumphs, walking from one end of Paris to another. She copes with her Italian husband’s notions of quality time; her two hilarious children, ages eleven and fifteen, as they navigate schools—not to mention puberty—in a foreign language; and her mother-in-law Marina’s raised eyebrow in the kitchen (even as Marina overfeeds Milo, the family dog).

Hardcover, Random House, 272 pages

What a wonderful book this is! Eloisa James has written a memoir that is at times funny, romantic, and poignant. After a health crisis, she and her husband Allessandro both take a sabbatical from their respective teaching positions and move their family to Paris. The book is chock full of little vignettes of their life in France, adjusting to the cultural differences, finding their way around the city and even bridging the language issue. I particularly like the stories about her feisty daughter, Anna and her run- ins with a fellow classmate who eventually becomes her friend. There were so many interesting parts to the book. My heart felt sad when Ms. James wrote about a small museum of French historical treasures started by a local banker and later imparts the fact that the house was donated to the French government, his son died as a soldier for France and yet the entire family was shipped off to Auschwitz and never returned.
The American in me loved that some of the highly touted French cuisine is in fact, not so good, but the description of most of the food is simply amazing. The markets, the stores, the buildings make one want to chuck it all and head to France. The stories of the homeless man living in a tent with two little trees as his enjoyment in life make you appreciate life here. I had a good laugh with the stories about Milo, the family's part time Chihuahua who lives with Allesandro's mother in Venice and weighs 27 pounds! Mostly, I enjoyed the everyday stories of a family adjusting to change and loving being together. I read most of this book while writing a complicated grant for the library where I work and I couldn't wait to get home and start reading and feeling the stress just flow away with every page.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tangle of Need by Nalini Singh

Adria, wolf changeling and resilient soldier, has made a break with the past—one as unpredictable in love as it was in war. Now comes a new territory, and a devastating new complication: Riaz, a SnowDancer lieutenant already sworn to a desperate woman who belongs to another.
For Riaz, the primal attraction he feels for Adria is a staggering betrayal. For Adria, his dangerous lone-wolf appeal is beyond sexual. It consumes her. It terrifies her. It threatens to undermine everything she has built of her new life. But fighting their wild compulsion toward one another proves a losing battle.
Their coming together is an inferno…and a melding of two wounded souls who promise each other no commitment, no ties, no bonds. Only pleasure. Too late, they realize that they have more to lose than they ever imagined. Drawn into a cataclysmic Psy war that may alter the fate of the world itself, they must make a decision that might just break them both.  (Synopsis from B&N.com)

Hardcover, Penguin, 432 pages
Reading Tangle of Need was a good/bad experience. Good in that it was an excellent book and bad in that it's going to be a long wait until the next one comes out. The main part of the book is about Riaz and Adria, both members of the Snow Dancer pack who have incredible chemistry between them. He unfortunately has a mate named Lisette who is married to and in love with another man.  Adria has ended a long term relationship with a submissive named Martin that finished badly. Riaz is determined to live life alone and Adria wants to protect her heart at all costs.  As the relationship develops between them, both parties have to re-evaluate what they really want in their future and what are they willing to do to make that future happen.  Unlike previous couples, this one would seem to be the easiest to get together because they are both packmates and changelings, but the obstacle of the mating bond is a constant sword over both of their heads.
One of the nice things in this book is how Ms. Singh has given the reader a look at the relationship between Hawke and Sienna and how it is progressing. The level of understanding between them, the perfectness of their mating is exquisitely portrayed in this book. There are glimpses of other couples in the book as well but Hawke and Sienna really stand out without overshadowing the main couple. So much more about the pack system and how it stands or fails is explained in this book.
The tension between the changelings, the Psy and the Pure Psy people is ratcheting up and there is a lovely little cliffhanger of an ending that makes you want to scream with frustration that the next book is not in your hand immediately!

A Night Like This by Julia Quinn


Anne Wynter might not be who she says she is...
But she's managing quite well as a governess to three highborn young ladies. Her job can be a challenge— in a single week she finds herself hiding in a closet full of tubas, playing an evil queen in a play that might be a tragedy (or might be a comedy— no one is sure), and tending to the wounds of the oh-so-dashing Earl of Winstead. After years of dodging unwanted advances, he's the first man who has truly tempted her, and it's getting harder and harder to remind herself that a governess has no business flirting with a nobleman.
Daniel Smythe-Smith might be in mortal danger...
But that's not going to stop the young earl from falling in love. And when he spies a mysterious woman at his family's annual musicale, he vows to pursue her, even if that means spending his days with a ten-year-old who thinks she's a unicorn. But Daniel has an enemy, one who has vowed to see him dead. And when Anne is thrown into peril, he will stop at nothing to ensure their happy ending... ( synopsis from http://www.juliaquinn.com/)


Avon , Paperback, 384 Pages 

I have never read a Julia Quinn book that I didn't love and this is no exception. Daniel Smythe-Smith has come home after three years abroad. His exile in Italy was the result of a duel in which he accidentally shot and wounded his friend and the man's father swore to kill him. Now assured that the threat has been removed, Daniel returns home on the night of the dreaded Smythe-Smith musicale.
Anne Wynter is the governess of Daniel’s nieces and has been coerced into playing the piano for the recital after one of the girls fakes an illness.  Anne is mortified at having to perform in public, not only because she knows how horrible the group sounds but also because she does not like to be on public display. Anne has secrets in her past and she means to keep them there. Daniel spots her right away and is drawn to her but she has been burned before by the master of a house she works in and doesn’t want to lose her job.
Ms. Quinn has written a delightful tale of a man charming his way into a woman’s heart.  There is plenty of romance to be had and a good helping of suspense as well.  What always make me happiest in Ms. Quinn’s books are the little vignettes she adds that show the caring and good humor of the characters.  There is a scene where Daniel participates in a 12 act play that one of the girls wrote that is absolutely hilarious.
Daniel and Anne are both good people who have made tragic mistakes in their lives which they have paid a heavy price. Daniel has made peace with his past and is ready to move on but Anne is not there yet and has a lot of fear about her future and what could happen if she lets her guard down. As always love conquers all but it is a convoluted path to the end.  I am on pins and needles for the next Smythe-Smith installment.




Friday, April 20, 2012

Author Comments on Reviews

I am always thrilled when I get an author comment on a review I have written. My blog is still pretty small so it doesn't happen often but when it does. it's exciting. I generally only review books that I have liked although I don't hesitate to say what I have not liked about a book even though I have enjoyed it overall. So,  I hope that an author reading my review feels I have been respectful of their work and a comment from them reinforces that. I guess my basic book geek fan persona feels flattered that an author I have enjoyed appreciated my little post. or review on one of the big bookseller sites.

The first author comment was actually from one of my absolute favorite authors- Margaret Maron.  She pasted my review to FB and I was in alt! I was debating about keeping up the blog and it helped me decide to keep going.

My blog will never be one of the big blogs and I'm ok with that.  I write it primarily to inform our library patrons about Mystery and Romance books we own or will be purchasing. I have met many of the authors I review at Library Conferences or professional expositions and I have found them almost always to be friendly and open to chatting with their readers. We have had authors come to our library or Skype into our book discussions and they have been very open to all comments.  If an author had an issue with what I wrote I would want to know, especially if I had misinterpreted a story line or plot. I think if we respect them, they will respect us.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Garden of Happy Endings by Barbara O'Neal

After tragedy shatters her small community in Seattle, the reverend Elsa Montgomery has a crisis of faith. Returning to her home town of Pueblo, Colorado, she takes refuge in a local soup kitchen. Preparing nourishing meals for folks in need, she keeps her hands busy while her heart searches for understanding.

Meanwhile, her sister, Tamsin, as pretty and colorful as Elsa is unadorned and steadfast, finds her perfect life shattered when she learns her financier husband is a criminal. Enduring shock and humiliation as her beautiful house and possessions are seized, the woman who had everything now has nothing but the clothes on her back.

But when the going gets tough, the tough get growing. A community garden in the poorest, roughest part of town becomes a lifeline. Creating a place of hope and sustenance opens Elsa and Tamsin to the renewing power of rich earth, sunshine, and the warm cleansing rain of tears. While Elsa finds her heart blooming in the care of a rugged landscaper, Tamsin discovers the joy of losing herself in the act of giving—and both women discover that with time and care, happy endings flourish.(Synopsis from B&N.com)

Random House, Trade Publication, 418 pages    5/5 bookmarks

Wow, what a thought provoking book this is. Elsa is a minister in a Seattle church who finds herself questioning her calling after the murder of one of her parishioners.  Elsa has had a long history of being disappointed by God, starting with her run in with a misogynist Catholic priest in her youth.
After being told by her church council that she needs to take a sabbatical, she ends up working with her lifelong friend, Joaquin, now a priest in their home town. She has a history with Father Jack, which led to one of her breaks with God, but they have both worked through it... or so they think. Elsa finds herself working on a community garden and developing an attraction to Deacon, the landscaper who is helping the church set up the garden.
I read this book the same week a young child was killed in a horrific accident in our state. I had a discussion with two co-workers about how hard I found it to believe that God would have a plan for us that could include such a terrible thing. Elsa has the same questions in this book.  She has kept her faith in God for most of her life even when it has been hard to do so-she has turned her back on Him but came back every time. I think that Ms. O’Neal does an excellent job in portraying the anguish that a person with a religious calling would have when they question whether their own faith is strong enough to keep going.  That said the book is hopeful and positive even as Elsa is struggling.
There is a side plot involving Tamsin, Elsa’s sister, who loses everything overnight when her financier husband disappears and is subsequently discovered to have bilked people out of millions of dollars. Tamsin has a crisis of physical loss-she has no money, no home, no job and no hope of getting any of those things in the immediate future.  Her daughter is overseas and has no idea of what is happening so Tamsin has the additional burden of keeping her circumstance a secret from her own child.
As always, Ms. O’Neal gives us a story with many layers that we can relate to even if our situation is not the same as the main character. Her characters survive life’s vagaries and find their own brand of happiness.  Isn’t that what we all strive for?