Category Archives: Romance
ORDER A COPY: Undertaking Love
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publishing Date: April 26, 2013
eBook: (no page numbers – approx. 275)
Rating: 3 stars
The moment love-phobic Marla Jacobs discovers that the shop next to her Little White Wedding Chapel is to become a funeral parlour, she declares all-out war.
Marla’s chapel in the sleepy Shropshire countryside has become a nation-wide sensation, but the arrival of Funeral Director Gabriel Ryan threatens everything Marla has worked for. She can picture the scene: wedding limos fighting for space in the street with hearses; brides bumping into widows; bouquets being swapped for wreaths
Marla’s not going down without a fight. She enlists a motley crew of weird and wonderful local supporters, and the battle lines are drawn. But, as soon as Marla meets her nemesis, she realises just how much trouble she’s really in. His gypsy curls and Irish lilt make her stomach fizz – how is she supposed to concentrate on destroying him, when half the time she’s struggling not to rip the shirt off his back?
Gabe Ryan thought he found the perfect place to set up shop. His family has been in the funeral business for decades, but he has moved away from his family in Ireland, and it was time to open his own business. When his friend had to wait several hours for an undertaker to arrive from a neighboring town when his grandmother died, Gabe knew that this tiny secluded village needed him. He found the perfect location in the middle of town and was finally ready to open. He hadn’t thought to take a closer look at his neighbors before a beautiful but very angry redhead shows up to tell him that he needs to pack up and move out.
Marla Jacobs has worked long and hard to make a name for The Little White Wedding Chapel. It is a novelty to have a Las Vegas type wedding chapel that will provide whatever theme you desire for your special day. After all her hard work, she is not about to lose everything because what bride wants to have her wedding pictures in front of a hearse or dash out of the chapel, rice flying, right into the arms of a crying widow. The Undertaker next door will ruin her business and she is determined to get rid of him first.
Marla’s Chapel brings in a lot of tourists for the Village which means a lot of tourist dollars for the local businesses. So she decides she will get the whole Village behind her in getting Gabe to leave Town. With the help of a local paper, it quickly turns into a media circus and Marla is getting more attention than she bargained for.
This is one of those books that calls to you and says “you want to read me.” I was very interested in reading this book, and I will confess that I was enjoying the Marla and Gabe connection and there was a lot of potential for fun and fighting between the Chapel and the Funeral Home, as well as more side stories on quirky chapel weddings.
But there were so many other things going on which distracted us from the main story, such as Marla’s friend and co-worker, Emily, who was trying to have a baby and her husband and her marriage was breaking up from the pressure of not conceiving. That added some interest. But then we also add in Marla’s jealous boyfriend who wants Gabe away from Marla and Gabe’s receptionist with a crush on Gabe who wants Marla away from Gabe. Both of those significant others realizing the pull between Gabe and Marla and are doing their best to keep the fighting going between the two businesses. Added further were some additional side characters of the overly gay friend Jonny at the Chapel, the old couple who help out around both businesses and Gabe’s best friend Dan who has an affair with Marla’s friend Emily. It was just too busy with characters it reminded me of those old movies where you look down a hallway of doors and someone is walking into one door and popping out a different one.
It was just too many extra characters and there was not enough confrontation between the two businesses, and not enough Marla and Gabe to make you understand why Gabe was declaring his love for Marla so soon. In fact most of the issues had to do with Marla trying to get support to make Gabe move. If she wasn’t fighting to send him away, they were pretty good neighbors.
I liked the elderly couple that worked for both business and who have been together for 65 years. They were a nice addition, but I think the jealous boyfriend and receptionist were too much, and the author could have chosen one over the other.
She also made Marla commitment phobic since both her parents were married over a dozen times each, and then she is surrounded by as many distressed relationships as good ones. If I was Marla, I wouldn’t be seeing anything making me want to jump into a relationship either.
It was a good story premises and good writing, but too many side characters. Someone should have told her to cut down the additional characters and focus more attention to the supposed conflicts between the businesses and/or more Marla/Gabe.
Received ARC from netgalley.com courtesy of the publisher. Thank you.
“I now pronounce you husband and wife,” Jonny declared, then threw back his hood and hurled his fake scythe to the floor to join in the thunderous applause.
The ghoulish congregation were packing the chapel almost to its spooky rafters, and from her standpoint at the side of the room, Marla had a clear view of the pure love in Alaric’s heavily kohled eyes as he pulled his new wife into his arms. The Herald photographer whizzed from position to position in the background, keen to capture the wedding from every angle. She could see why: it would certainly make an eye-catching splash. The whole production had been like Gone with the Wind crossed with The Addams Family — it throbbed with a vein of true love that challenged Marla’s mistrust of marriage in a way that few of the more conventional weddings she had organized ever had.
Outside on the chapel lawns, ghoul-faced guests posed by the fake rusty railings and blood-splattered mock headstones that Jonny had organized to create the perfect “fright night” backdrop for the photos.
“You haven’t got a coffin, have you?”
Marla shook her head at the guy who lay on top of on the fake graves. “Sorry, no.”
“I bet they would,” Alaric said, eyeing the funeral parlour.
A whoop went up around the crowd.
“I’ll ask them! They can’t turn a bride down on her wedding day.” Gelvira hitched up her scarlet velvet skirts and ran out across the pavement, hotly followed by her new husband and a motley trail of ghouls and ghosts.
Marla watched in horror, well aware that she didn’t stand a hope in hell of halting the stampede. She could only cross her fingers and pray that Gabe wouldn’t be there at this hour on a Saturday afternoon. He shouldn’t be. She knew that much, because she’d surreptitiously checked the sign on the door earlier. It was well after four, so God willing he’d be off in the pub with his jack-the-lad mate. Or sleeping in one of his coffins to avoid the sunlight. Or whatever else it was he did for kicks in his spare time.
The small flicker of hope died as Gelvira and Alaric disappeared through the black and silver doorway. Damn it! Why was he still open? Marla leaned back against the porch and groaned. Just when it had all been going so well.
Several minutes later the wedding party spilled back out onto the pavement. Gelvira’s boobs frothed over the top of her corset as she laughed and led her gothic troupe back over to the chapel.
“Man, this is the best day of my life!” Gelvira flung her arms around Marla in delight.
“He’s bringing over a couple of coffins in a minute. Can you fetch loads of those black rose petals, please? I want to lie down inside one in my wedding dress.”
Inside the chapel, Marla could have screamed with frustration as she grabbed one of Emily’s huge rose displays from the altar. She took her temper out on the flowers as she yanked the petals off, managing to prick her finger on a thorn in the process.
Bloody Gabriel Ryan. Why couldn’t he have just said no?
She sucked the blood from her finger and watched through the window as Gabe, assisted by one of the bridal party, deposited the first coffin onto the grass and strode back over to his lair to fetch a second one. He’d fit right in with this crowd, she thought, not quite able to take her eyes off the sight of his retreating demin-clad backside.
Once they’d set the second coffin on the grass, Gabe shook Alaric’s hand. His eyes flicked over the groom’s shoulder to Marla as she struggled through the doorway with a huge cardboard box in her arms. Even amongst the impressive display of gothic cleavage that surrounded him, her relatively demure back lace dress clung to her curves in a way that rendered it indecent. Gelvira giggled up and down with excitement next to him and waved her arms at Marla.
Gabe clocked Marla’s gritted teeth through her smile as she headed their way. He grinned, happy in the knowledge of how much it would grieve her that her guests had chosen to call on his help.
“Marla. This is an unexpected pleasure.”
Here eyes flashed with ill-concealed fury. “Thank you, Gabriel. For your help, I mean.”
He could see that the outwardly cordial words cost her dearly. He leaned over to lift the box from her arms and took the opportunity to whisper in her ear.
“See? I told you. Good things can happen when we work together.”
Her heard her sharp intake of breath and winked imperceptibly as he pulled back and upended the petals over the laughing Gelvira, who had climbed into the coffin.
“Bluey, no!” Emily’s frantic shout rang out across the grass as the over-enthusiastic Great Dane bounded past her out of the side doorway of the chapel to join in the festivities. He made a beeline for the coffins and jumped straight into the empty one next to Gelvira on the grass.
“Here, boy!” Marla called out, aware that the sheer size of her fur boy was enough to spook most people. Even spooks. But Alaric, thankfully, fell instantly for the big hound with his droopy jaws and comic sense of timing. He stole a top hat from one of the guests and placed it on Bluey’s huge head, as someone else unwound their black tie and place it around the dog’s neck. To everyone’s amusement, Bluey posed solemnly between the happy couple in their coffins.
“One for the album,” Gabe murmured to Jonny.
ORDER A COPY: Forget Me Not (Escape Contemporary Romance)
Publisher: Harlequin Escape
Publishing Date: May 1, 2013
eBook: approx. 166 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Claire and Stefan’s marriage was over. They’d been estranged for six months, living in separate apartments, leading separate lives. Until an unknown accident leaves Stefan with no memory of who he is, what he wants, and the wife he left behind.
Claire’s compassion leads her to caring for Stefan. Though he is back to being the thoughtful, affectionate man she fell in love with, she can’t let herself get too involved. The instant Stefan’s memory comes back, he’ll remember who he was and what he really wants– and it’s not Claire.
Or is it?
When Claire received a phone call from the hospital that Stefan was in trouble, she couldn’t ignore the fact that he needed her. Stefan had been found wandering the streets with no memory. It is not his fault that his family is back in the United States and can’t get here quick enough, or at least can’t inconvenience themselves enough to drop their social events for their son. If he has no memory, he doesn’t remember that they are separated. He doesn’t remember that he said he hated Claire, that he no longer wanted to be married to her.
Claire doesn’t understand why she was suddenly not good enough for Stefen nor why he left, and she tries not to love him anymore, but regardless of how much it will hurt her, she’ll help him try to remember his life.
She just has to remember that no matter how sweet and kind he is acting toward her, once he remembers his hate, he will leave her once again. Claire has to remember not to fall in love with Stefan again because this time if he leaves her, she just might never recover from the pain.
This was a very good, well written short story with an interesting theme. For the most part, I enjoyed the storytelling and characters.
It was interesting to watch the new Stefan meet Claire for the first time and he starts to like the woman in front of him. He is unaware of their past and he doesn’t understand why he would have walked out on Claire and he wants to stay with her and try again.
Although Claire fantasized about Stefan returning to her, she is afraid to trust new Stefan no matter what he says because she fears he will regain his memory and remember why he left to begin with and then Stefen will end up leaving Claire and breaking her heart all over again.
What started bothering me is there were things about old Stefan that made me wonder why Claire loved him so much. He was more than a little bit arrogant and selfish and not just before he walked out on her.
Worse is although new Stefan was a much more likeable character, Claire tells him that he was always a man who kept going until he got whatever he wanted. So when Claire tells new Stefan that he needs to go back to his new apartment after two weeks trying to re-acclimate him, new Stefan disagrees with Claire that they need to go back to their separate lives. New Stefan wants to stay with Claire and restart their marriage and he is determined that that is exactly what she will agree to. So even thought new Stefan is nicer and more thoughtful, underneath it all he doesn’t care that Claire is afraid he will remember why he left and leave again. He is determined that they will be together again. So deep down even new Stefan is a selfish bastard.
Another thing is that Stefan has a shaky relationship with his rich parents. They are unhappy he moved to Australia to be with Claire to begin with and they hate, hate, hate Claire with a passion because she grew up poor, the daughter of an alcoholic father. They believe Stefan married way beneath him and were so happy when Stefan walked out on Claire. Yet when Stefan needed someone, the only one who would step forward was Claire, but they feel this is just her excuse to wheedle her way back to Stefan and get her greedy claws into him again.
Although new Stefan stands up for Claire, his parents are steadfast that they will do everything to separate them once and for all. I felt this was left unfinished and I was unsatisfied that there was no final “battle” where Stefan tells his parents to F-off.
It was a good short story, but I started loosing my new found love for Stefan once I got to know him. I saw that there was some improvement but deep down he was still the same selfish guy.
Received an ARC from netgalley.com, courtesy of the publisher. Thank you.
She nodded, spinning her fork into her fettuccini. “My clients are thrilled. The other family has dropped the charges.” Frowning, she added, “I told you about them, didn’t I?”
“Wayne and his mother. Yes, you did.”
He’d remembered the boy’s name, something he’d never have done in the past. He’d always remember the cases and their legal intricacies, but the clients had meant nothing to him.
“This is excellent, by the way.” Claire pointed to the bowl in front of her, then smiled, thinking of the way the case had been resolved. “Today, I did something I’ve never done before. I took my clients to the café downstairs to celebrate with coffee and cake.”
“I don’t normally get that personal with clients but I was so pleased with the outcome of the case, and I had the time.” Also, being with Stefan had put her in a good mood. “It was nice. A good way to finish the case.”
Stefan nodded as he chewed. “I’m pleased.”
She raised her eyebrows, knowing he had something to tell her. “And you?”
“I discovered a fantastic band today.”
She flipped her thumb towards the stereo. “Nirvana?”
“They’re good, aren’t they? No, I meant a different band.”
She blinked in disbelief. “You discovered The Beatles?”
Giggling, Claire covered her mouth. If she wasn’t careful, she was going to burst into peals of laughter.
“You’ve hear of them?” Stefan asked, his voice all innocence.
“Everyone’s heard of them. They’re probably the biggest band in the history of rock and roll.”
He waited, then raised his eyebrows. “Bigger than Elvis?”
She wondered if Stefan was teasing her, if he’d got his memory back and was making up this story about ‘discovering’ The Beatles.
Resting her fork in the bowl, she asked. “How do you know about Elvis?”
“I found a heap of books on rock and roll in the spare room. Actually, I already figured The Beatles were a huge phenomenon. I could work that out from the number of books we had on them.”
He had been teasing her, but not the way Claire had imagined.
ORDER A COPY: Whisper’s Edge: A Cricket Creek Novel
Publishing Date: May 7, 2013
Paperback: 304 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Cricket Creek, Kentucky, is a sweet river town known for its theater, shopping, and cuisine. But tough times are affecting the residents of the local retirement community—until a handsome hero shows up Savannah Perry loves her job as social director of Whisper’s Edge, a retirement community on the picturesque waterfront of Cricket Creek. Raised in foster care, twenty-nine-year-old Savannah feels treasured and loved by the retired residents, who treat her as their adopted granddaughter and rotate having her over for dinner. But the community is struggling to stay afloat financially—until Tristan McMillan swoops into town, rescues a dog, and, well, saves the day Business-minded Tristan bought Whisper’s Edge from his estranged grandfather to prove his worth to the curmudgeon and to turn a quick profit. He never expected to fall for the charms of a village of crafty retirees—or to fall hard for a small town girl like Savannah. Suddenly the man who knows all about making money finds himself needing lessons in love and what really matters in life .
Hot shot lawyer Tristan McMillan is ready to show his grandfather who is the better man. He bought the run down retirement community from his financially bankrupt and emotionally bankrupt grandfather. The land is right in the middle of town, near the new baseball stadium, and right on the water, the perfect location for a new marina and fancy waterside restaurant. He has come to Town to find either an investor or someone willing to purchase the land outright for a tidy profit.
That last thing he wanted was for the residents of this little retirement community to consider him their hero. Nor did he count on the perky little redhead who runs the community center to think he’s her personal hero…actually he kinds of likes that since he can’t seemed to get Savannah Perry out of this thoughts.
This draw she has for him is not good for business. If he makes the hard decision to sell the property for profit, neither Savannah nor the residents of Whisper’s Edge will ever forgive him. He’ll need to choose between money and love, and with a lifetime of desire to show up his bitter grandfather, can love win out?
This was a nice, sweet romance. Cricket Creek gives off a quaint, small town charm that takes you back in time. We also see several of the other characters from prior books who have all been wooed by the small town charm and charming, small town girls and how they are helping the community grow strong.
You could quickly see that this was the type of book where our hero would eventually give in to the charm of the girl, the neighbors and the desire to do right by everyone and that he would find a way to save the retirement community and keep the girl.
Savannah had the usual orphan upbringing, bounced around from bad foster home to bad foster home, but nothing dark in her past, no abuse, etc. She runs out of money right when she gets to Whisper’s Edge and ends up being “adopted” by the woman in charge as well as the residents. She is perky and very appreciative of everything that has come to her since getting to Cricket Creek. She is so perky you want to hate her, but you can’t and just like Tristan you fall for her charm.
The only things that disappointed me was that I had chosen this book in hope that there would be some feisty senior citizens around with great stories or crazy antics, like a great Betty White type character. What’s the point of the senior community storyline if you don’t run with it? There were a few scenes with Miss Patty or the sexy George-Hamilton-like twins who had all the woman drooling, but these scenes were more on the mild side, but really not enough overall or with nearly enough liveliness.
If you like a sweet, simple romance, and we all do from time to time, this story and the rest of the Cricket Creek series is definitely worth looking into.
Received an ARC from netgalley.com, courtesy of the publisher. Thank you.
“So you live and work her in Whisper’s Edge?” he asked as he followed her up a brickpaved sidewalk that led to matching steps.
“I’m allowed to bypass the fifty-five-and-up rule because I’m an employee. Plus, it makes my commute to work a piece of cake.” Savannah flashed a grin and then opened the front door. “A humble home, for sure, but it’s all mine and I like it.”
Tristan took a look around. “I can see why. It’s bigger inside than I would have guessed.”
“I know.” Her smile boasted pride in ownership. “But believe me, this place sure needed some tender loving care and a whole lot of elbow grease.”
“Well worth the effort, I’d say.” The neat-as-a-pin main interior consisted of one big room that abutted a breakfast bar in front of a galley kitchen. To the right, he noticed a small hallway that he guessed must lead to a bedroom or two and a bathroom. Shiny hardwood floors gleamed against ample sunshine streaming through the front bay window. The furnishings were a mix-and-match variety that felt cozy but without too much clutter.
“So you like it?”
“Yes, I do.” Tristan found the surroundings warm and inviting. “I appreciate your sense of style.”
“Garage-sale chic?” She tossed her wavy head to the side and gave him her throaty laugh, which he didn’t think he could ever get tired of hearing.
“Call it whatever you want. I think it’s pretty cool.”
“Well, thank you. I’m guessing it’s very different from your own place. You seem like a modern-furniture kind of guy.”
“Mmm…yeah, I suppose,” he answered but had to think for a minute. What was his style? An interior decorator furnished his high-rise condo overlooking the Ohio River in Cincinnati. “Flying pigs,” he finally stated, drawing raised eyebrows from Savannah.
Tristan chuckled. “My interior decorator decided that I needed a theme throughout my condo.”
“And she chose flying pigs?”
“I asked her the same thing. She got all snooty on me and explained the Cincinnati used to be called Porkopolis because of the river farmers who used to transport pigs through the city. It was the pig capital of the country or something, and evidently herds of pigs traveled through the streets.”
“Oh wow.” The expression on her face said that she was imaging pigs wander through town. “Interesting.”
Tristan chuckled. “The history of the river and pigs remains strong in the city to this day. They even have a yearly marathon that’s called The Flying Pig.”
“Oh.” Savannah shrugged. “Well, I guess she was trying to tie in local flavor.” She grinned and said, “Everything better with bacon. Don’t you agree?”
He laughed. “Totally. Now you’re making me hungry.”
“If you had more time I’d fix you some lunch. But go on…Why the flying pigs?”
“I guess the did it because my place looks out over the river and the city but every other day I would find a new flying pig somewhere..on towels, coffee mugs, salt and pepper shakers. People started thinking I liked flying pigs, and the collection that I didn’t want kept growing. It took on a life of its own.”
Savannah laughed. “So I guess birthdays and Christmases are full of flying pigs?”
“Come here.” Tristan held out a wet sock and winced. “Look closely.”
Savannah crossed the space between them and peered at the sock. “Oh my gosh, there are little winged pigs all of your socks!” She put a hand to her chest and chuckled in delight.
“It’s not funny. I have ties, a watch…you name it.”
“Did you ever tell anyone differently?” When she looked up at him he noticed flecks of gold in her green eyes.
Tristan hesitated. He had never divulged this to anyone and he had just met Savannah. But her sweet smile and inquiring eyes made him keep talking. “No, I didn’t because my mother made it her mission to find flying pigs to add to my crazy collection.”
“Ah…” Savannah glanced at his socks and then back at him. “And you couldn’t find it in your heart to disappoint her.”
“I’m wearing boxers riddled with flying pigs,” he answered dryly. “Does that answer your question?”
ORDER A COPY: Down London Road (On Dublin Street)
Publishing Date: May 7, 2013
Paperback: 384 pages
Rating: 5 stars
It has always been up to Johanna to care for her family, particularly her younger brother, Cole. With an absent father and a useless mother, she’s been making decisions based on what’s best for Cole for as long as she can remember. She even determines what men to date by how much they can provide for her brother and her, not on whatever sparks may—or may not—fly.
But with Cameron MacCabe, the attraction is undeniable. The sexy new bartender at work gives her butterflies every time she looks at him. And for once, Jo is tempted to put her needs first. Cam is just as obsessed with getting to know Jo, but her walls are too solid to let him get close enough to even try.
Then Cam moves into the flat below Jo’s, and their blistering connection becomes impossible to ignore. Especially since Cam is determined to uncover all of Jo’s secrets even if it means taking apart her defenses piece by piece.
When we first met Johanna Walker in On Dublin Street, she comes off as a gold digger, going from one rich boyfriend to another, and even ready to jump in and grab up Bradon if Joss wasn’t interested.
In Down London Road, we learn that Johanna is the daughter of an abusive father, and an alcoholic mother, and everything she does is for the benefit of her little brother, Cole. Since her father long disappeared and her mother always in the bottle, Jo had to drop out of high school at 16 to get a job to pay the rent and buy food. Because Jo didn’t finish school, she works very hard at two part-time jobs. With her lack of education and through years of mental and physical abuse from her parents, she doesn’t believe she is worth much. She believes that the only thing going for her is her good looks, and the only way that she and Cole will do more than just survive in the poor end of Edinburg is for her to put her good looks to work and find a rich boyfriend who will bring them financial security.
Yet in always looking first at the pocket book of future dates, she is perceived in a bad light by those around her. Joss and Johanna have since become friends and Joss is aware that she misjudged Jo. When Cam MacCabe comes into Johanna’s life, he takes one look at her on the arm of her rich boyfriend, and immediately decides that she is out for all she can get. After getting a job at Club 39 working with Joss and Jo, Cam finally learns the real Johanna Walker and encourages her to believe in herself. He especially wants her to dump her rich boyfriend and give in the pull they have for each other.
With Cam in not only her life, but becoming a close friend to her brother, Cole, Jo can finally see a life worth more to her than just being arm candy to some rich guy, and she stops trying to be the perfect girlfriend, and begins to become someone she wants to be, but when you finally live the life you’ve always wanted, the risk of losing it all can be so frightening.
A brilliant follow up to On Dublin Street. Johanna doesn’t come off as a very likeable character in Book #1. We believe her to be a bimbo looking for a meal ticket, but like Joss, we get to know her better and begin to understand what her young life has been like and why she feels the need to seek out rich men. Just like us, Cam walks in to the story and misjudges Jo and is actually quite nasty to her for the first quarter of the book and we hate him for it, although when he finally apologizes for being such a jerk, it is eloquent and heartfelt. At this point, we start to root for Cam and Jo to be together.
I truly enjoyed the characters and the story in On Dublin Street, so I don’t know why like a teacher with her red pen, I started this book positive that it could not be as good as On Dublin Street, and I was ready to point out all the similarities to Book #1 or all the clichéd romance plot points. As I read, the discussion in my head was a bit like this…”This guy is an ass**le…ooo, nice apology.” “Oh, that’s the stupid mistake that’s going to ruin it all…oh, that was a smart way to deal with that.” “There is NO excuse for that…oh, yeah I see where that could be misconstrued.”
All I can say is, nicely done, Ms. Young. Nicely done. An A+ for you.
And it didn’t hurt that I could picture Jude Law bringing in an incredible Cam MacCabe performance.
I can’t wait to see who is next in this series.
Received an ARC from netgalley.com, courtesy of the publisher. Thank you.
The empty flat directly beneath my flat didn’t appear to be empty anymore.
The door to it had been thrown open, and I watched wide-eyed as two guys carried a coffee table up the last few steps and onto the landing.
“You hit the leg.” The extremely tall, dark-haired guy in a rugby shirt smirked at his companion as they leveled out on the landing.
The other guy was a little shorter, with broad shoulder and messy dark hair squashed under a beanie hat. When he turned to smile cheekily at his friend, I knew I was in the presence of a player. The guy was gorgeous and that smile told me he knew just what to do with it. “He’ll never notice.”
“There’s a bash in the wood.”
“Ach, it gives it character.”
I took another step down and my movement drew both of their gazes. I felt an uneasy squirm in my stomach as I glanced at the open door to the flat. We had a new neighbor. A new neighbor who would have to endure my mum’s wailing drunkenness.
The beanie hat guy grinned appreciatively at the sight of me, his eyes drinking me in from my boots to my head. I flicked a quick look at his friend and discovered I was under his smiling perusal too. My automatic flirt kicked in and I gave them a half smile back and a wave of my fingers. “Hey.”
Beanie Guy adjusted the weight of his side of the coffee table as he asked, ”You live here?”
“The flat above you.”
He made a huffing sound and shook his head as he stared at his friend. “Cam’s always been a lucky fucker.”
I instantly tensed at the name.
“What’s taking so long?” a deep and very familiar voice asked from inside the flat.
My mouth was already falling open when Cam stepped out of the flat to greet his friends.
“Cam?” I squeaked in disbelief.
Startled, Cam looked up at me, astonishment slackening his features. “Jo?”
“Eh…” The tall friend’s head turned form me and Cam to Beanie Guy. “The lucky fucker already knows her.”
I ignored them, my heart hammering in my chest now as my eyes pinned Cam to the landing. He stood before me in one of his worn T-shorts and jeans, his engineer boots on, his hair a mess and his eyes dark with lack of sleep. Despite his obvious tiredness, he seemed to hum with an energy that sucked me in. When he stepped into a room, you felt his vitality, his strength. There were few people in this world who had that kind of presence about them, Braden Carmichael was one. Cameron MacCabe was definitely another.
And he was moving in the flat beneath mine?
I couldn’t get my pulse to slow at the thought of Cam being so close to all my secrets and shame. “You’re moving in?”
His eyes flew past me to the floor above us. “You live here?”
The rocks settled heavily in my stomach. “The flat above you.”
“Jesus.” Cam sighed, seeming as unhappy about the revelation as I was. “Small world.”
More like small city. “Very,” I murmured. How had this happened? Did fate just hate me? Of all the coincidences in the world, why did I have to be landed with such a huge and very crap one?
“Eh, this is getting heavy,” Tall Guy complained, nodding at the coffee table.
I eyed the size of his biceps and doubted he found it at all heavy.
Cam gestured to the flat. “Take it in, guys. Thanks.”
“No, no.” Beanie Guy shook his head, smirking, his eyes still on me. “First introduce us to Miss Scotland.”
I felt my cheeks heat at the compliment, hating that it somehow added substance to Cam’s opinion of me.
Cam’s body tensed and he crossed his arms over his chest. “Just take it in the flat.”
My God, I was so unworthy that he couldn’t even introduce me to his friends. Ignoring the hurt that had gripped my chest, I smiled at Beanie Guy. “I’m Jo.”
Beanie Guy and Tall Guy’s mouths dropped open. “Jo?” they asked in surprised unison…as if they’d heard of me.
My brow puckered in confusion as I slid a questioning look at Cam. His whole body was rigid now as he gave his friends the tiniest shake of his head.
His friends didn’t take whatever hint Cam was sending them. “Jo from the bar, Jo?”
Cam had spoken about me? I shifted uneasily, not sure in what light I’d been painted. “That’s me.”
The two of them grinned and Beanie Guy gave me a nod of hello. “I’m Nate and that’s Peetie.”
I eyed the tall guy incredulously. “Peetie?” Not the kind of name you’d expect from someone of his size.
Peetie had a nice face, friendly and open. “Gregor. My surname’s Peterson.”
“Ah, I see.”
“Cam’s told us all about you, Jo.” Nate continued, avoiding Cam’s glower.
Feeling a little shaken that Cam had spoken about me to his friends and far too curious about how he’d spoken about me, I decided it was time to move along so I could wrap my head around the fact that Cam was my new neighbor.
Come to think of it, he had been speaking to Joss about finding a cheaper flat.
Again…of all places, why did it have to be in my building?
I decided to pretend like I didn’t care what Cam had said. “Well, don’t believe word of it.” I ignored Cam as I passed him, and smiled at his friends. “Cam has the unfortunate habit of forming an opinion before he really gets to know someone.”
Nate nodded, “Yeah, he told us what a remarkable dick he was to you.”
That stopped me in midstride, and I twisted around to stare at Cam.
He shrugged at me, his expression still deadpan. “I told you I was sorry.”
My eyes swung to his grinning friends and then back to him. “Well, then, I guess I might actually believe you now. Neighbor.” And with a nod of good-bye to them all, I started descending the stairs carefully.
“That’s Jo?” Nate asked loudly, as I disappeared from view, his voice carrying all the way down to me, and I couldn’t help but prick my ears up to listen.
“Shut up,” Cam hissed. “Let’s get the rest of the stuff in.”
“Christ almighty, you weren’t kidding, were you? How fucking long are those leg?”
“How can you stand it, mate? If you’re not having a crack at her, I am.”
Cam’s growl reverberated down to me. “Get in the fucking flat!”
His door slammed and I jumped, stalling on the last landing. What the hell had all that meant? What had Cam said about me?
ORDER A COPY: Fever (THE BREATHLESS TRILOGY)
Publishing Date: April 2, 2013
Paperback: 416 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Jace, Ash, and Gabe: three of the wealthiest, most powerful men in the country. They’re accustomed to getting anything they want. Anything at all. For Jace, it’s a woman whose allure takes him completely by surprise…
Jace Crestwell, Ash McIntyre, and Gabe Hamilton have been best friends and successful business partners for years. They’re powerful, they’re imposing, they’re irresistibly sexy, and Jace and Ash share everything—including their women.
When they meet Bethany, Jace begins to feel things he’s never experienced before: jealousy, and a powerful obsession that threatens him, overwhelms him—and excites him beyond control.
Jace isn’t sharing Bethany—with anyone. He’s determined to be the only man in her life, and it’s jeopardizing a lifelong friendship with Ash. Bethany will be his and his alone. Even if it means turning his back on his best friend.
Jace Crestwell is still trying to get used to his baby sister, Mia, being engaged to one of his best friends and partner, Gabe Hamilton. At their engagement party, he can’t keep his eyes off of the intriguing woman working for the caterer. When Ash, sees the woman who Jace can’t keep his eyes off of, he steps in to see if she would be interested in sharing a bed with Jace and Ash tonight. Jace and Ash have been sharing women for several years now.
Bethany is as intrigued by Jace as he is with her, and if she has to sleep with both men to spend the night with him, so be it. It wouldn’t be a first for her. But the whole thing feels off to Jace from the beginning. He doesn’t like that his friend Ash is touching her. He wants Bethany all to himself.
When she disappears the next day, Jace is frantic to find her again. He doesn’t understand the driving need to find her, but he won’t stop until he does. Yet he has a greater shock when he tracks her down to women’s shelter near Hell’s Kitchen and finds out that Bethany doesn’t volunteer there, Bethany is homeless. He’s horrified when he realizes that anything could happen to her while she was unprotected and living on the street.
When he finally finds Bethany, there is no way he will let her get away from him, but he fears that if she can’t accept Jace’s controlling nature, she will disappear back onto the streets of New York, and he’ll never find her again. Worse is knowing that his friend has touched the one woman who has Jace in a possessive frenzy and it is putting a strain on their decades long friendship.
I like the way Maya Banks writes her characters. They are very passionate and well developed. Although I generally liked the story and it was a quick read, I was uncomfortable with the opening scene with Jace, Ash and Bethany because Jace was so uncomfortable with what was happening.
In this story, Jace has some great moments but just as many when he was an ass. Every time he was in a bad mood, he jumped all over her for something or other and then spends a good deal of time terrified she will leave and then trying to console her for treating her badly.
I understood that Bethany was relieved after all her life being ignored or abused and fighting to survive, that she would enjoy having someone like Jace taking care of her and making decision for her. I could also understand Bethany’s hesitation to believe that her good fortune in meeting a man like Jace who would take care of her would last and her self-consciousness that she wasn’t good enough for a man of Jace’s wealth and education. What I couldn’t understand is that for someone who has been taking care of herself for most of her life, she didn’t try to get a job once Jace set her up in an apartment. She kept saying it wouldn’t last and he will get bored with her very soon, but she didn’t try to get herself a decent job so that when he asked her to leave, she would have some money to get her own apartment. Instead of hanging around all day waiting for Jace to come home and jump her, it would have helped her self-esteem and her fear that she would be tossed back onto the street, if she had a job and earned her own money, or maybe was taking classes so she wouldn’t feel so inferior to Jace. She had what she believed was temporary good luck, but she didn’t do anything to improve her own situation so she wouldn’t end up right back on the street if he got bored with her. That annoyed me and if I thought too much about it, it left me feeling like Jace was just taking advantage of a homeless woman with no where else to go.
With the exception of my personal annoyance at Bethany, it was a good story and I am looking forward to see what Maya has planned for Ash.
Received an ARC from netgalley.com, courtesy of the publisher. Thank you.
Kate said Bethany was injured and his mind was filled with images, none that were good. They hadn’t gotten into specifics. Jace had been too impatient to get to her. How the hell had she gotten hurt?
A woman alone on the streets…There were 1,001 ways for her to get hurt and every one of them made Jace’s gut clench.
When his car pulled up in front of the shelter, he directed his driver to wait. Hopefully he wouldn’t be long, but he was prepared for anything.
He strode toward the entrance, the wind biting through his coat. When he opened the door, his gaze immediately swept the room, searching out Bethany. Then, finally, he saw her. In the back. Off to one side. Away from the others. She was sitting in a chair, pale and looking lost. Still, he drank in the sight of her, relieved beyond words that she was here. He could see that her pants were torn at the knees and on one side. He could also see the bloodstains on her clothing and the raw scrapes on her elbows. What the ever-loving hell? Before he could start over, Kate stepped in front of him, her face creased with worry.
“Will you be taking her with you, Mr. Crestwell?”
“Oh yes,” he said quietly. “She’s coming with me. I’ll take care of her, I promise.”
Kate’s expression eased. “Good. I worry about her. About all of them.”
He started to step forward, eager to get to her and to see how badly she was hurt, but Kate stopped him once more.
“I want to thank you,” she said in a soft voice. “For everything. The heat. The food. The generous donation. Look around you, Mr. Crestwell. All these woman have a warm place to sleep and food to eat because of you.”
Jace grimaced, uncomfortable with her gratitude. He nodded briefly and then headed for Bethany. Her eyes were closed. She looked asleep sitting up. He took the opportunity to study her more closely and he swore at what he saw.
She looked even thinner if possible. There were shadows under the eyes. She was pale.
And she was hurting.
He knelt quietly in front of her. As soon as she sensed his presence, her eyes flew open and she flinched away, panic firing in her eyes.
“It’s all right, Bethany,” he murmured.
Her eyes widened and he was gratified to see that her fear disappeared, but it was quickly replaced by confusion.
His name came out a cautious whisper, almost as if she didn’t belief it was him kneeling in front of her. Then she straightened and she turned her hands inward, hiding the scrapes and the blood.
“What are you doing here?” she asked in a trembling voice.
His expression hardened and he stood. Her gaze followed him up and without saying anything, he simply reached down and plucked her slight weight from the chair. She landed softly against his chest and he cradled her possessively, determined that nothing else would hurt her. Then she stiffened and her mouth fell open with a gasp.
“What are you doing?” she hissed.
He strode toward the door, he grip tightening when she began to struggle.
“Taking you away from here,” he bit out.
She began to protest in earnest and Jace caught Kate’s worried stare. He nodded to reassure the older woman and then he tightened his hold on her further.
“Enough,” he ground out. “Don’t fight me. You’re worrying Kate. I’m not going to hurt you. I promised her I’d take care of you. Don’t make a scene. Do you want to frighten all the women?”
She bit her lip and went limp. Slowly she shook her head. “No,” she whispered. “But you can’t just carry me out of here, Jace.”
ORDER A COPY: Wrecked
Publisher: Berkley Sensation
Publishing Date: April 2, 2013
Paperback: 320 Pages
Rating: 4 stars
In the nineties, Abigale Applegate and Zach Barnes were the most beloved sitcom child stars in the world. Then they grew up and left Hollywood behind…
Whatever happened to Abigale Applegate?
She’s been wondering the same thing.
With her Hollywood dreams long gone, Abigale now has a nice, neat, uncomplicated life—until the day her perfect fiancé needs to talk. Dumped, a little more than shattered, and totally confused, Abigale turns to Zach, her best friend since forever, to help her pick up the pieces. He does it with a gift—a copy of Wreck This Journal. She can vent her frustrations, and sketch out a new plan. Zach just hopes he’s part of it. Because he’s been in love with Abigale his entire life.
When the journal falls into Zach’s hands, he discovers Abigale wants a new man. And fast. Nothing more than a hot distraction. Zach has a strategy, too. He’s going to be that man. It’s his last chance. Abigale might be out to shake up her life, but Zach’s out to reinvent it. Now, all he has to do is convince Abigale that life can go as planned.
When Abigail Applegate’s fiancé called off their wedding, she called the one person who has been there for her since they were kids, her best friend and former child co-star, Zach Barnes. Abby was surprised when Zach told her that Roger never loved her. He just wanted to be with “Kate.”
Zach believed that if Roger had loved her, “when you walked into a room, it would have shown on his face,…he’d have been so busy staring at you because he just had to see you…” What Abby never realized was that for all these years it was Zach who had been watching her every time she walked into the room.
Zach couldn’t believe his luck that Roger, that prick, walked away from Abigail before the wedding. It was one of the worst days of his life when Abby announced she was marrying that worthless bastard. Roger never loved her, but no one could ever love Abby as much as Zach does.
Abby makes a list of things she needs to do next, including having “a torrid affair.” When Zach finds out Abby’s plan, he knows he can’t keep quiet any longer and watch her with another man or worse, risk losing her to someone else. This is the chance he has been waiting for most of his life. He only needs to convince Abby that he would be the perfect man for this torrid affair, then maybe he can finally convince her to love him forever.
I’m a sucker for a good friends to lover story. You can tell that Abby and Zach had a solid friendship and you feel for Zach in his almost lifelong love for Abby and how painful it has been to support her in relationships with other men who have continually hurt the one woman he wants to worship.
Once Abby takes a good long look at her best friend, she realizes how gorgeous and sexy Zach is and how perfect he would be for her. After all their years together, they knew the best and worst of each other, but at first she feel creepy lusting after her best friend. That is until she gets up the nerve to kiss him and things quickly sizzle between them in new and exciting ways.
Poor Zach, as he finally gets the woman he has been desperate for, several “friends” who have watched him moon for Abby for years seem to try sabotage his relationship just as it is getting off the ground.
I enjoyed reading the story unfolding between them as their new romantic relationship deepens their friendship.
Received an ARC from netgalley.com, courtesy of the publisher. Thank you.
Once she left the room, Zach dropped his head down on his desk and groaned. He had to do this. He knew he did. And he wasn’t going to deny a very huge part of him wanted to do this—wanted it so bad, his hands were shaking from it, but how in the hell was he supposed to handle this without losing his damn mind?
“By doing your damn job.” She came here because she wanted some ink. So that was what he was going to do.
As he pushed back from the desk, he kicked the chair she’d dragged over and knocked her purse over. The journal fell out as he scooped up the purse. He went to dump them both back on the chair, but found himself flipping through the journal. She hadn’t done much of anything.
But then he stopped.
One page held her neat writing.
She’d titled it. That was typical Abby, although it made him a little nervous. Wreck this life. What the hell…
But the first goals had him smiling. Tell off Roger. Cool. Flip off the photographers? He’d been telling her to do that for years. Stop worrying so much. Wonderful.
The tattoo…yes. She was serious.
But the last one had the blood draining out of his head.
Snapping it closed, he dumped the book on top of her purse and shot upright. Have a fucking affair? What the hell?
Thunder crashed inside his head. At least it felt that way, although more than likely, he was having a stroke or something. His feet seemed to get in the way as he turned around and started for the door. They needed to talk.
Abby had just broken things off with that prick she’d been engaged to. She was upset and feeling a little lost, needed to do something crazy. He could understand that, he thought. And while he was completely on board with her learning to live a little, the idea of her having a fucking affair with some guy who wouldn’t give a damn about her made him want to chew glass and break things. Lots of things.
Still, that journal was her personal property and he hadn’t had any right to go rooting through it. He hadn’t expected to find anything like that and how could he explain he’d read it? He couldn’t lie to her. But did he tell her that she needed to think this through?
Following the sound of her voice, he stopped in the doorway and made himself close his eyes while she finished placing the order.
Breathe, man. Gotta breathe. Gotta think. Gotta be calm.
First he had to explain just how he’d managed to see it in the journal. He hadn’t exactly been prying…well, he had, but he was her best friend and he was nosy, and she knew that, and…
Feeling the weight of her gaze, he lifted his lashes, not looking directly at her. Not yet.
But Abby wasn’t looking at his face.
She was eyeing his arms. Catching her lower lip between her teeth, she tugged on the soft curve and he almost went to his knees at the sight. A second later, she glanced away, but then she looked back.
The thunder that had been crashing inside his head grew louder and louder.
Have a torrid affair.
Damn it, if she was dead set on that idea, she could have an affair with him, he decided.
Even as the idea slammed into him, he tried to brush it aside. He’d kept what he felt wrapped up and buried deep for years. Spilling it now?
Just wondering if you’re ever going to do anything about it.
Hell. He was lecturing Abby about living life and letting go, and here he was, afraid to grab on.
The woman he wanted like he wanted his next breath was standing right there and he was afraid to even make a move.
ORDER A COPY: After Hours: (InterMix)
Publishing Date: April 16, 2013
Paperback: 284 pages
Rating: 5 stars
A dangerous infatuation with a rough and ready man…
Erin Coffey has been a nurse for years, but nothing’s prepared her for the physical and emotional demands of her new position. Needing to move closer to her dysfunctional family, she takes a dangerous job at Larkhaven Psychiatric Hospital, where she quickly learns that she needs protection—and she meets the strong, over-confident coworker who’s more than willing to provide it.
Kelly Robak is the type of guy that Erin has sworn she’d never get involved with. She’s seen firsthand, via her mess of a sister, what chaos guys like him can bring into a woman’s life. But she finds herself drawn to him anyway, even when he shows up at her door, not eager to take no for an answer.
What Erin finds even more shocking than Kelly’s indecent proposal is how much she enjoys submitting to his every command. But he can’t play the tough guy indefinitely. If they want to have more than just an affair, both will have to open up and reveal what they truly need.
Erin Coffee is nervous about her new job. She has a shiny new nursing degree and the best job within a reasonable distance of her sister and nephew is at Larkhaven Psychiatric Hospital. Of course, the position wasn’t on a regular floor. Erin always finds a way to jump right into the deep end. She’ll be working on the locked floor with those patients with violent tendencies.
The first person she sees on her tour of the facility is a wall of a man, but thankfully he’s not a patient. Kelly Robak is there to keep the patients calm, but all he does to Erin is get her worked up thinking about what he could do with those great big hands of his. If only Kelly didn’t look like the type of man her floosy mother would have dragged home, Erin might be very tempted to check out if he was large everywhere else.
She can’t deny the obvious attraction between them and as she gets to know Kelly better, she finds he is not the cold, womanizer she keeps trying to make him out as. After a lifetime of trying to be the level headed one in the family, can she risk her heart and her trust to a man like Kelly?
This is storytelling at its best. I truly enjoyed watching this story unfold. There was no chase scene, no explosions, no serial killer, and even though I can’t point to anything specific that makes this story exception, I would say that this was simply an enjoyable, well written story. It was a story of two people meeting at work, getting to know each other both inside and outside of work and due to both of their bad childhoods, how they struggled with letting someone else into their lives and admitting they wanted more. Although the description lead me to believe that Erin will be in danger from someone at the mental facility, that wasn’t the case. So don’t waste you time waiting for the boogyman to jump from the closet like I did.
Although I was frustrated that neither Kelly nor Erin would do something as simple as ask the other if they wanted more, they stayed true to their written characters. Erin was used to being the dependable, rock for her sister and had a hard time allowing herself to lean on or trust Kelly to be there. He reminded her too much of the endless line up of men that her mother and her sister gravitated toward for Erin to believe he would want more than just the sexual conquest.
Erin has a Lizzie Bennett complex. She judges people on sight which is her fatal flaw and why she works against her own happiness. She decides what Kelly will want from her and creates shortcomings in him without giving him a chance.
This was a first person narrative, which is unusual for a romance book, so we are as much in the dark as Erin as to Kelly’s underlying feelings, and although he understands her standoffishness, you can see he was enjoying his time with her and was confused by her cold shoulder toward him.
I have been turned off by the contemporary romance selections for so long, gravitating to the more interesting paranormals and some historicals to break that up, but I am definitely enjoying this new New Adult/Intermix selection even it if is geared towards a younger crowd. The storylines have so far proven to be much more interesting than the bondage-loving billionaire and the accidental baby plotlines.
Received an ARC from netgalley.com, courtesy of the publisher.
In this scene Erin is getting basic training in restraining patients.
“You and you,” he said, pointing to a nurse and an orderly. They both looked a bit wary, but surely they didn’t share the fear that had me to unnerved—the fear of enjoying touching this brute far too much.
I watched as they ran drills with Kelly, and tried very hard not the think about getting drilled by Kelly. Then it was my turn, me and another young LPN. “Legs,” she said. We’d been taught to “call” our intended target, much like shouting “I got it!” in a baseball game to avoid colliding with one’s teammate. It meant I was on arms. Big huge scarred-up Kelly Robak arms. When the moment came to grasp them, my hands were nowhere near big enough to get a decent purchase on his obscenely thick biceps. Lordy me.
He went down pretty easy the first time, and if I wasn’t mistaken, he smiled at me. With the side of his face pressed to the mat, it was tough to tell.
“Enjoying yourself?” He asked, like he’d come upon me reading on a park bench.
“I am. Maybe I’ll order you a white wine, while you’re down there,” I said too quiet for anyone else to hear.
Now he was definitely smirking. “With a straw, I hope.”
Audra shouted her approval of our technique and we let Kelly go. We switched legs and arms, then it was time to rotate again. I was tiring, my back achy from all the bending, shoulders grinding in their sockets. This was a hard-ass job. A decent workout, though if dampened by the possibility of bodily harm.
“Let’s try some headlocks,” Audra said after a water break, some time later. We’d just rotated back into Kelly’s tutelage and I eyed his arm yet again, imagining it clamped around my windpipe.
“Trainees, attack your trainers, and trainers, break free in slo-mo.”
I swallowed as Kelly turned to me first. With me at five-three and him at least a foot taller, it was easier said than done. I’d look less like an attacker than a scarf.
“You want a stepstool?”
I rolled my eyes. “I’m not that short,” I said as I circled around him. “You’re just way too tall.” I looped my arm around his neck, having to press my chest flush to his back to reach. Goddamn, he was warm. And hard. And huge.
I felt his hand on my forearm, demonstrating for the other trainees in my group. His fingertips seemed to dawdle at my wrist as he spoke, casual as a woman might caress a garment at a store, admiring the fabric. Surely I was imagining that.
ORDER A COPY: Starting Now: A Blossom Street Novel
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publishing Date: April 2, 2013
Hardcover: 352 pages
Rating: 4 stars
For years Libby Morgan dreamed only of making partner in her competitive, high-pressure law firm. She sacrificed everything for her career—her friends, her marriage, her chance at creating a family. When her boss calls Libby into his office, she assumes it will finally be good news, but nothing can prepare her for the shocking reality: She’s been let go and must rebuild her entire life . . . starting now.
With no job prospects in sight, Libby reaches out to old friends and spends her afternoons at A Good Yarn, the local knitting store. There she forms a close bond with Lydia, the sweet-natured shop owner; Lydia’s spirited teenage daughter, Casey; and Casey’s best friend, Ava, a shy yet troubled girl who will shape Libby’s future in surprising and profound ways.
As A Good Yarn becomes a second home—and the women a new kind of family—Libby relishes the different person she’s become. She even finds time for romance with a charming and handsome doctor who seems to be her perfect match. But just as everything is coming together, Libby must make a choice that could forever change the life she holds so dear.
Warmly told and richly textured, Starting Now is filled with the promise of new beginnings and the unending delights of companionship and love.
Libby Morgan is a lawyer who is on the fast track to becoming a partner in her firm. She works day and night at the expense of a social life toward that goal. It is her only reason for existing. When she is called into her boss’s office she is sure that this is the day she will make partner. Instead, she is let go due to budget cuts. Libby is certain with her reputation all of the major firms will be offering her jobs. After many months of trying, she realizes that is not the case.
She passes the yarn store in her neighborhood and stops in. There she meets the owner, her 13-year-old daughter and her daughter’s troubled friend, Amy. Amy and her brother are being raised by their alcoholic grandmother. In time, Libby, Lydia and the girls become friends and Libby starts knitting caps for the preemies in the hospital. When Libby accompanies the girls to the hospital to deliver the hats, they meet one of the doctors, Dr. Phillip Stone. Phillip accuses Libby of allowing her young daughter to get pregnant. Libby assures him that not only does she not have a daughter, but that Amy is only 13 years old.
Coming to the hospital marks a change in Libby’s life. She starts living one instead of just existing for the next case. She volunteers at the hospital to help with the babies and start to make friends, including Dr. Stone. When it turns out that Phillip was correct and Amy is pregnant, Libby helps Amy through her pregnancy. Amy wants Libby to adopt her baby and Libby is delighted.
Just when Libby has finally decided the new path her life will take, the baby’s father comes back looking for his child, and Libby’s boss contacts her making her an offer to return to the firm. Now Libby has to make a decision to fight for her new life or return to her old one, and where will her new relationship with Phillip fit in with those decisions?
This was actually a good book. It was a typical Debbie Macomber book, and I’m sure all her fans will enjoy reading it. It was also nice to read about the people that we have met in other Blossom Street books.
Received ARC from netgalley.com courtesy of the publisher. Thank you.
“As you can see, I’m fine…I apologize for that emotional display, but I’m in control now.”
“Good.” He hesitated and then commented. “When I get upset I usually have a shot of good whiskey.”
“Not my thing,” Libby told him, cringing at the thought. She had a bottle of wine in the refrigerator, but frankly she wasn’t in the mood.
Not knowing what to say, Libby claimed the chair across from him and pressed her two hands between her knees. The silence felt awkward and strained. She was content to wait him out. Eventually he’d get bored and leave. At least that was what she hoped.
Finally Libby couldn’t stand it any longer. “Did you stop by to embarrass me even more?”
He arched his brows as though her question surprised him. “No. I came to make sure you made it home all right.”
“As you can see I…did.”
That didn’t appear to satisfy him. “You want to tell me what happened back there?”
“No.” Libby had no intention of explaining what had led to that dreadful scene. She’d embarrassed herself enough for one day and wasn’t looking to repeat the performance. Besides, she’d blurted out more than she’d intended earlier.” I believe I already told you everything…” Actually she’d told him more than she was comfortable admitting.
Leaning forward he set his elbows on his knees, and rubbed his palms together.
“I’m not normally like this.” Libby blurted out. Naturally, she’d been upset before. Losing her position with the law firm had been traumatic, too. But it hadn’t caused her to throw herself into a man’s arms and sob her heart out. “Let me put it this way. I am usually able to control my emotions; today was an exception.”
“Good to know.”
She’d been on the verge of calming down when Phillip Stone had arrived. Her pulse had returned to an even rhythm, and she’d managed to herd her thought away from the keen embarrassment. Now all her emotions threatened to burst free again. “I was doing just fine until you came along.” Her voice wobbled slightly before she regained control.
“I see. Then it’s all my fault.”
“Yes, exactly.” She smiled in spite of herself. He really was the most surprising man.
He smiled back. “I was worried about you,” he said, speaking low.
“I…I’m okay now.”
He leaned forward and reached for her hand. His touch felt cool against her heated skin.
“How did you know where I live?” she asked without looking up. Her phone number was unlisted.
“I asked Sharon. She had your volunteer form on file.”
He’d been a bit bold about tracking her down. And Sharon already seemed to think there was something romantic happening between them. Her nurse friend had probably been eager to share the information.
“Do you regret your divorce?” he asked.
Libby debated how best to answer that. “What I regret was that I didn’t try harder to save the marriage. We were both so eager to give up on each other. Joe wanted a family and I felt we should wait. Then seeing his baby today…” She paused as her throat started to tighten and she found she couldn’t complete the sentence.
“We all have regrets, Libby. I have my share too. I let someone I loved go; a woman I’d hoped to spend the rest of my life with. I just stood back and let her walk away.”
Libby looked up, amazed that he was willing to share something so personal with her.
“What happened today was clearly painful,” he continued, “but you seem like you’re willing to own your part in what caused the divorce. Don’t make the mistake of beating yourself up, especially now. You don’t have anything to feel guilty about.”
“You didn’t have regrets after your breakup?”
He laughed softly. “Oh, I had plenty. It took awhile for me to realize that I had lost perspective. I assumed the hospital would fail to function if I wasn’t there to overlook every detail.”
ORDER A COPY: You’re Still The One
Publisher: Zebra Books
Publishing Date: March 4, 2013
Paperback: 416 pages
Rating: 3 stars
A knowing wink…a smile that tugs at the heartstrings…a mind-blowing kiss. In this unforgettable collection of stories, four women have a second chance to rekindle an old spark…
The Devil and Mr. Chocolate by Janet Daily
Sebastian Cole still lives on the grounds of his ex-wife’s estate. He is an artist and his ex-wife Kitty, owns an art gallery and manages his art. Although he still has feelings for her, she has moved on and is now engaged to the heir of a Belgian chocolate family. When her fiancé announces that they will be moving to Belgium and she will have to sell her beloved art gallery, it is Sebastian that she runs to, and now he has one last chance to reclaim the woman he loves before her loses her forever.
This is the story you bought the book to read, but it is also the shortest story of the book at only 67 pages. It is a wonderful story of lost and rekindled love. The hero, as is typical, is handsome, funny and caring and of course, the polar opposite of the new fiancé which begs the question of how our heroine who is feisty and independent is drawn to two completely different men.
The Apple Orchard by Cathy Lamb
Allie has suffered a horrible childhood with an abusive and alcoholic father. Her only happiness she finds, as well as the only food she ever finds, is while hiding out in the neighbor’s Apple Orchard. Although her mother took Allie away when she was still young, Allie was returned to her father after her mother’s death. Her favorite memories of her mother include her mother’s delicious apple pies. Allie left home at 16, never having contact with her father again until she received word of his death and her inheritance of the apple orchard. When she returns to town, she once again meets her old flame and with his love and support finally works through her childhood memories.
This was my least favorite story in the book. The heroine is not a very sympathetic character. It would have been better to understand her if you knew all the details a little sooner. By the time we learn all of the details of her difficult childhood, the story is over and it is too late to feel any connection to her.
Kiss Before Midnight by Mary Carter
Rebecca is only 16 years old and her shyness has not made her very popular with her classmates. The popular girls at school play a prank on her, telling her that they were all going to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, but Rebecca finds herself there alone. As she wanders alone through New Orleans she ends going to a gypsy who warns her she will meet a stranger, but not to kiss him before midnight, ignore her advise and the price will be high.
Rebecca then meets Grant and they take a stroll through the old cemetery. Rebecca does break down and kiss him before midnight, they make love and go their separate ways. The story takes up again 19 years later, after Rebecca brings her son to college and goes off looking to find Grant again.
This story was a little better but still pretty far fetched, adding magic or voodoo to a standard contemporary story. She of course ignores the gypsy’s advise and finds herself pregnant. They go their separate ways and when her son goes off to college, she goes off looking for the father, who even though she never spoke to him after that kiss, she find him and they rekindle their love…wow, that really was some kiss.
Romeo and Juliet by Elizabeth Bass
Jane and Roy were high school sweethearts who met while playing Romeo and Juliet in the school play. They fell in love and were inseparable all through high school. After high school, they go their separate ways. Jane is now the local vet and when Roy returns to town after his mother’s death, he brings his mother’s old dog to be put to sleep. Jane refuses to put down the old, but healthy dog and brings him home instead. Although Jane is angry that Roy would treat the animal so badly, their passionate arguments bring up old feelings long since set aside.
This was a lovely and more believable story. Again, a nice story of rekindling a lost love.
Received an ARC from netgalley.com courtesy of the publisher. Thank you.
Favorite Scene (From the Devil and Mr. Chocolate):
“Everything is always whole-hog or die with you.” His voice has a smile in it. “It can be love or business; it’s always both feet. Speaking of which, who is the new love of your life?”
The hint of ridicule in his voice made Kitty loath to answer. Which was childish. After tonight, it would be public knowledge.
“My mistake.” The drollness of his voice was irritating, but the kneading pressure along the taut shoulder muscles near the base of her neck made it slightly easier to overlook. “Boulanger,” he repeated thoughtfully. “It seems as though I’ve heard that name before. What does he do?”
“His family makes chocolate. In fact, many consider it to be the finest in the world.”
“Ah,” he murmured in a dawning voice. “The strawberries.”
“Dipped in Boulanger chocolate,” Kitty confirmed, and sighed at the remembered taste of it. “Even you must admit, it’s absolutely exquisite chocolate. And it’s no wonder, either. Marcel regularly travels to Central and South America to select only the best cocoa beans.”
“I’m surprised he hasn’t been kidnapped and held for ransom.”
Kitty stiffened in instant alarm. “Don’t say that. Don’t even think it!”
“Sorry. So, when did you meet Mr. Chocolate?”
“Almost three weeks ago. He came by the gallery with the Ridgedales. He’s staying with them,” she added in explanation. “So of course, I saw him again that evening at the Ridgedale’s pre-opera cocktail party.”
“And you were smitten?” Sebastian guessed.
“Instantly.” She almost purred the word as that deliciously exciting feeling welled up inside her again.
“Love at first bite, you might say.”
“Very funny, Sebastian,” She replied without humor.
“I thought it was. Obviously, you’re in love, since you seem to have lost your sense of humor.”
“I’m very much in love,” she declared with feeling.
“And how serious is Mr. Chocolate?”
“Very. He’s asked me to marry him.”
“And you said yes, of course.”
“A man who makes chocolate—how could any woman refuse?” Sebastian murmured.
But Kitty was too wrapped up in her memory of Marcel’s proposal to pay any attention to Sebastian’s sardonic rejoinders. Besides, she was too used to them.
“It was such a romantic setting. Dinner in the courtyard, just the two of us, crystal gleaming in the candlelight, the air scented with gardenias in bloom. There at my chair was a single rose and a small gift. I opened it, and—do you know what I found inside?”
“An engagement ring. Not really very original.”
“Oh, but it was,” Kitty insisted smugly. “Maybe the ring part of it wasn’t original, but the box it came in definitely was. It was made out of chocolate. Perfect in every detail, too, right down to the slot to hold the ring.”
“Milk chocolate or dark?”
ORDER A COPY: Lucky Stiff (Mattie Winston Mysteries)
Publisher: Kensington Books
Publishing Date: March 4, 2013
Paperback: 384 pages
Rating: 4 stars
It’s Christmas Day in the sleepy town of Sorenson, Wisconsin, but instead of unwrapping presents, deputy coroner Mattie Winston is at the burnt remains of a house, where a charred body has been found. The victim is none other than Jack Allen—a paraplegic who recently won a huge casino jackpot. Upon closer inspection, Mattie and detective Steve Hurley are convinced Jack was murdered to steal his winnings, giving the phrase Black Jack a whole new meaning.
But as Mattie investigates, even her cutting-edge forensic skills keep coming up short in a case with as many suspects as twists. After her odds-on-favorite turns up dead, Mattie and Hurley must race to find a killer before another victim cashes in his chips
Deputy Coroner Mattie Winston has been re-assigned as the liaison between the ME’s office and the police. This new promotion has been a joy and a torture. She gets to work all her cases directly with Det. Steve Hurley, the one man who has gotten her hormones working overtime since her divorce. Although they are now constantly together, their respective jobs require a certain personal distance. This means simply that Mattie can’t have the one man she wants the most.
Their current case involves a paraplegic named Jack Allen whose body is found in the charred remains of his house. It’s beginning to look like a case of arson. It appears that Jack has just won a huge jackpot at the local casino and he hasn’t kept that fact a secret. So that makes just about everyone in town a suspect. When an autopsy proves that Jack didn’t die from the fire, Hurley and Mattie need to sort through the facts to narrow down their killer.
While the investigation is keeping them on their toes, so is the building attraction between them. To Mattie there is no longer a question of whether or not Hurley wants more from her, but can she give up a job she loves and which challenges her so she can be with this man that sets her body aflame.
I like the characters in this series. I like that Mattie Winston is an average, everyday woman. She’s got body issues and too much love for ice cream and pizza. She hates to exercise and she stress eats. A former RN, she now works for her friend Izzy who is the local coroner, and her medical background is a perfect compliment to Hurley’s police work.
After her husband, the local surgeon is caught cheating in the hospital where they both worked, Mattie has found herself attracted to Hurley. They have reached the point where it is no longer a of question of whether those feelings are reciprocated, but now that they have admitted their mutual desires, they are forbidden from pursuing the relationship so there isn’t any shadow of a doubt of coercion between the departments.
Now my only complaint in this series is that this is book four of the series and it is a first person narrative. We watched while Mattie drooled over Hurley with only his casual flirting with her in return so there is a lot of that “does he like me like I like him” angst. We saw a building up of the attraction toward the end of book 3 when they suddenly become direct co-workers and can’t be together personally. Now in book 4 we finally know for certain that Hurley returns Mattie’s affections but because of the rules they can’t decide what’s more important, being together or working together. From where we left off, I can guess how book 5 will leave us hanging still further and (again just me guessing) how book 6 might also continue to drag out how Hurley and Mattie can’t be together. I’m all for building the sexual tension but come on now you can still have a good story with them together as a couple. It is one thing to drag it out for as long as possible in a YA book, but we’re all adults. Let’s work this out.
Mattie is the character whose bread will never fall butter side up, (but she’ll eat it anyway) in a very “I Love Lucy” way. She’s the character who will be locked out of her house in her underwear, or do something embarrassing when she thinks she’s alone, only to find there was a camera or a two-way mirror with people watching her. It makes for a lot of entertaining situations.
This is not a heart pounding thriller, but the puzzle solving is very entertaining. If you like shows like CSI, you will enjoy the storytelling and the characters are very likeable and the situations Mattie keeps getting into will leave you laughing.
I enjoy the series, and wish it would come out more than once a year.
Received ARC from Kensington Books. Thank you.
“You seemed to be enjoying yourself,” Whitehorse says as I’m stuffing my money in my purse. “How about a one-hundred-dollar voucher so you can come back and play on us?”
Feeling like I’ve hit the proverbial jackpot, I’m about to agree when Hurley speaks up.
“Thanks for the offer, but we can’t accept any gratuities. It might be construed as a conflict of interest.”
I realize Hurley is right and pout. Whitehorse shrugs and looks at me; his dark eyes are smoking. “Perhaps you’d like to come back sometime on your own dime, then. I’d love to show you around the place. Maybe even take you out to dinner?”
I’m flattered; but before I can answer, Hurley once again pipes up.
“I’m not sure that would be wise, at least until our investigation is over.”
“Then we’ll make dinner a part of the investigation,” Whitehorse counters, undeterred. “I’ll provide you with some insight into the overall operations of the casino, and do the same with any employees of interest. I’ll even arrange some interviews for you. That way you can consider it an official part of the investigation.” He looks at me and winks. “At least for now.”
I like Joe Whitehorse. He’s handsome, witty, affable, and the smoke signals in his eyes are hinting at a possible end to my sexual drought. “Thanks,” I say, smiling at him. “That would be nice.”
Hurley shifts uncomfortably, communicating his irritation. Then he says, “Fine. Where and when should we get together?”
Joe and I both turn to stare at him.
“Well, we’re a team,” Hurley says, pointing from me to himself. “And we’ve been issued an edict to oversee one another’s investigative efforts. So if you two are going to have dinner and discuss our investigation, I need to be there.”
“I see,” Joe says.
Hurley has clearly thrown down a gauntlet and I wait, curious to see if Joe will take the challenge. It’s my own personal game of cowboys and Indians—and I’m kind of liking it.
“Okay, then,” Joe says. “Why don’t you two plan on returning here tomorrow evening and I’ll bring the employee list and some files with me and go over them with you. We can meet at the restaurant next door. Does seven sound okay?”
“Seven will be fine,” Hurley says. His eyes are the color of cold steel and he’s wearing a smug smile, which irritates me.
We part company from Joe; on the way out to Hurley’s car, I fume. As soon as we’re settled inside, I let him have it.
“You don’t think you’re fooling anyone with that whole team speech, do you?”
“What do you mean?” he says, sounding all innocent. “It’s true.”
“I think you know damn well that Joe’s original purpose for the meal wasn’t to discuss the investigation.”
“That’s what he said,” Hurley says, shrugging.
“Because you cornered him into it.”
“If that wasn’t his intent, then what was?”
“He was asking me out on a date.”
“He was? I’m sorry. I didn’t pick up on that.”
“The hell you didn’t.”