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.