Review: The Boardwalk Bookshop

Review: The Boardwalk BookshopThe Boardwalk Bookshop by Susan Mallery
Published by MIRA on May 31, 2022
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 448
Goodreads
three-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: The story was good enough to keep me reading to find out what happens, but honestly, the endings were pretty obvious from early in the book. I did enjoy the journey as a reader, but nothing in this would encourage me to return for another read.

THE STORY:  The story of three women who have adjoining businesses. The story is how they build their friendship and also deal with their romantic relationships, which are a mess for each in different ways. Bree is wounded from a lifetime of being used and emotionally abused and is determined to never let anyone close again. Then she meets the brother of one of her business neighbors. Mikki has the perfect divorce. Her ex and she have managed to deal with everything in an adult mature manner. But when Mikki begins dating, her ex decides he wants her back. Ashley is happy with her live-in love, until she realizes that she wants marriage and he wants a commitment, but not marriage.

OPINION: I enjoyed this book overall but I really don’t like this format of books. I didn’t feel like I got to know enough about any of the three (why is it always three these days?) women. The book is more like three novellas combined in one with much of the stories kept separate from one another (with the exception of Bree and Ashley). My biggest complaint is really about the focus of the book (which is my fault and not that of the book itself). I prefer romance over women’s fiction precisely because the romance only goes so far in women’s fiction. Unfortunately, I really could have read more about Bree and about Ashley’s romances. (I thought that Mikki’s story was pretty good in this book). So while I kept reading this book to find out what happened, I wouldn’t pick it up again.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book would be properly categorized as Women’s Fiction rather than romance.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE BOARDWALK BOOKSHOP is a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.

 

three-stars

Review: Scoundrel of My Heart

Review: Scoundrel of My HeartScoundrel of My Heart (Once Upon a Dukedom, #1) by Lorraine Heath
Series: Once Upon a Dukedom #1
Published by Avon on March 30, 2021
Genres: Historical
Pages: 368
Goodreads
four-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: Heath does longing better than just about anyone. I didn’t expect to like this one and indeed had skipped reading it until I decided to read the third book in the series and started with this one. I wasn’t excited by much of the plot of this book but the angst filled longing of Kathryn and Griff made this book for me.

THE STORY: Lady Kathryn Lambert seeks to marry a title in order to gain her grandmother’s inheritance which she desperately wants. Now that a duke is seeking a wife she seeks the help of her old friend Lord Griffith Stanwick on how to appeal to the duke. Lord Griffith Stanwick has stifled his desire for Kathryn because he knows that as the “spare” he does not meet Kathryn’s requirements in a spouse and yet he is able to fulfill her wishes by helping her capture a title. Then Griff’s father is found guilty of treason and Griff loses even the “spare” designation. Even while the duke seems the only reasonable choice, Kathryn cannot forget Griff.

OPINION: This book suffers from some of the first book in a series problems. There is a lot of exposition about the upcoming characters and situations. I expect more drama and angst from the next books in the series, but at the same time, I loved how much Griffith showed his devotion to Kathryn. He is willing to give up everything — including her — to make her happy. Of course, he makes this decision without talking with her, but that is part of what makes up the drama in this book.

I began the book not really liking either the hero or the heroine but ended up loving them both. They are both opinionated and stubborn but the story demonstrated the depth of feeling that each has for the other. Some readers might be upset by the fact that both are willing to give up love for material comforts, but I felt that that better reflected the choices of women at the time. At the same time they come around at the end.

Heath writes some of the most amazing endings in romance. The longing that she builds up through the book is released at the ending in beautiful emotions. The final third of this book captivated me. I’m glad that I got through the first part of this book and I look forward to the next book in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING: There is a time jump about a third of the way through this book as this book overlaps with BEAUTY TEMPTS THE BEAST (which takes place during that time jump).

CONNECTED BOOKS: SCOUNDREL OF MY HEART is the first book in the Once Upon a Dukedom series. This series is, however, a spinoff from BEAUTY TEMPTS THE BEAST. It is not necessary to read that book, however.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

 

four-stars

Review: The Emma Project

Review: The Emma ProjectThe Emma Project (The Rajes, #4) by Sonali Dev
Series: The Rajes #4
Published by Avon on May 17, 2022
Genres: Contemporary
Goodreads
three-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: Loved the romance but wish there was more of it and less about fantasy nonprofit stuff that has many pages and little significance in the story. The book seems unfocused with too many ideas and not enough payoff. That being said the last couple of chapters of this book are amazing and almost worth the slog through the rest.

THE STORY: Vansh Raje is the youngest of the Raje family. In his mid-twenties, he is charming and seems to live a charmed life.  When he returns home, he finds a new project to dedicate himself to — homelessness in San Francisco. His new project, however, puts him in direct conflict with Naina Kohli. Naina, who is thirty-eight, has just ended a ten-year fake relationship with Vansh’s older brother. Instead, she is dedicating herself to her project to bring independence to women in South Asia. Now the two are fighting for funding even as a new relationship arises between them.

OPINION: I really love the tenor and flow of Dev’s books. She also writes very complex and interesting characters. Unfortunately, as with the last book, there was too much going on in this one. The book felt scattered and unfinished in the end because the stories did not reach a satisfying conclusion.

What I expected to really have problems with — Naina, who is almost a villain in the last book, I ended up having great sympathy for and actually began to like. I even liked the interactions with Naina and Vansh and thought that their romance could work really well. Unfortunately, this book needed more romance and less fantasy homelessness elimination. If a writer is going to focus on social problems, then the story should be seriously addressed rather than living in a fantasy where everything can be solved if people just clap their hands and wish really hard. There was just too much of the pointless charity story and not enough relationship.

Thus, while I loved Vansh and Naina, I didn’t get enough of their story to make the relationship work for me until the last couple of chapters. I absolutely loved those chapters which were emotional and deep and I was left wishing that I had gotten pages about them rather than a dull story about the nonprofit. The couple sparkled on the page in those chapters, but there wasn’t enough build-up on the page before that. I wish I could have loved this book more because I think if the focus was more on the characters rather than the plot, I could have.

WORTH MENTIONING: Younger man/older woman romance with a 12-year age difference.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE EMMA PROJECT is the fourth book in the Rajes series. This book can be read as a standalone although the series is about a family and so characters from the other books make significant appearances here.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.

 

three-stars

Review: Wicked and Forever

Review: Wicked and ForeverWicked and Forever: Trees & Laila Part 2 (Wicked & Devoted, #6) by Shayla Black
Series: Wicked & Devoted #6
on April 26, 2022
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 317
Goodreads
four-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: An enjoyable conclusion to Trees and Laila’s story. I thought that the conclusion of their story worked out better than I feared at times during the story. I thought that Trees was much less alpha-jerk than I worried.

THE STORY: This is the conclusion of the cliffhanger from WICKED AS SEDUCTION and begins right where that book ends. Tessa is confronted by the man who raped her for years. She decides that she will do everything to protect Trees — even surrender to the man she hates. At the same time, she must convince Trees to abandon his attempts to save her and thus make him hate her. But Trees is tasked to return Tessa and will do so no matter what.

OPINION: I enjoyed the story although it wasn’t particularly deep or thoughtful. It is an action adventure with a man who thinks he was tricked by the woman he has come to care about and a woman who is determined to protect the man despite himself. If I don’t look too deep into the story, I find it enjoyable. Indeed, I really love Trees who isn’t nearly as terrible to Laila as I feared as I read the book. At the same time, choices that Laila made at times annoyed me because I didn’t see the logic — except to ratchet up the angst and drama between Laila and Trees.

The book nicely wraps up the story of the series so far — although there will be more books in the series as the end discloses.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book did not resolve my concern about the severe sexual abuse that Laila endured in the first book. Everything was too neatly wrapped up and thus the abuse did not feel like it was addressed in any serious manner. That bothered me because it seemed more like a plot device than a serious issue.

CONNECTED BOOKS: WICKED AND FOREVER is the sixth book in the Wicked & Devoted series. It is also the second part of the duo about Trees and Laila. This book should only be read after WICKED AS SEDUCTION because this book assumes a reader has read that book. (It is unnecessary to read the other books in the series, although there is an overarching storyline that follows the series.)

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

 

four-stars

Review: Wicked as Seduction

Review: Wicked as SeductionWicked as Seduction (Wicked & Devoted Book 5) by Shayla Black
Series: Wicked & Devoted #5
on March 15, 2022
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 354
Goodreads
four-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: I really loved the relationship between Trees and Laila in this one (although I found the sexual assault victim portrayal less than convincing). There is a lot of suspicion in this one, but Laila is a survivor and fighter, which I enjoyed more than other women in this series. As this book ends on a cliffhanger, my final decision really rests on how the second book ends.

THE STORY: Forest “Trees” Scott is a tech wizard and new employee at EM Security who is tasked to watch over Laila Torres and protect her from the men searching for her and her sister. Laila has been in a brutal situation for years and knows that men are nothing but takers. She is also determined to escape from him and get to her sister because she doesn’t trust Trees or anyone. The two are at odds, but also there is a hot attraction between them despite what either wants.

OPINION: This story is intense. Trees is protecting Laila from the cartel that is looking for her. At the same time, she is trying to escape and forge her own path. Trees is definitely a good match for Laila. He is the kind of guy people trust with people and things important to them. He understands Laila’s problems even as he pushes her. But he always understands what “no” means.

The action and pacing of this book was really good, and I kept turning pages to find out what happened. I have read the previous books in this series and this book covers the entirety of the two books in Tessa and Zy’s story so things seem to go so much faster. That kept the story moving quickly and because I knew part of the story (dealing with Zy and Tessa) it allowed me to focus on the emotional connection between Laila and Trees which grows as the book progresses.

The only thing I am not sure about the dealing with Laila’s severe sexual abuse in this book. The subject just seems so serious, and I sometimes felt that it was a plot device rather than a real character issue for Laila. However, I’m not willing to make a final decision on the issue because things become more emotionally compelling towards the end of this book. The conclusion of the cliffhanger might move this storyline forward.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book is part one of the romance between Trees and Laila. It ends on a cliffhanger and is meant to read in combination with the second book in the series WICKED AND FOREVER.

CONNECTED BOOKS: WICKED AS SEDUCTION is the fifth book in the Wicked & Devoted series. This book is Part 1 of the romance between Trees and Laila. This book can be read apart from the series; although there is an ongoing story this book overlaps with the others in the series, and thus a reader can start here.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

 

four-stars

Review: Iron Master

Review: Iron MasterIron Master (Shifters Unbound, #12) by Jennifer Ashley
Series: Shifters Unbound #12
Published by JA / AG Publishing on February 11, 2020
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 280
Goodreads
four-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: Ashley always melds the romance with the plot and ongoing storyline in these Shifter books! I loved Peigi and Stuart and am glad that she finally got a happy ending. She is one tough bear and has been through a lot and certainly deserves her happiness.

THE STORY: Peigi is a bear Shifter who has taken on caring for cubs that are not her own. Stuart Reid is a Dark Fae Iron Master; he has the ability to manipulate iron. Peigi and Reid have a bond, but neither has been quick to move on their attraction to one another. Reid disappears when he hears the call from his people, and he and Peigi search for how he can return. But Peigi also senses danger and is determined to stay at Reid’s side to protect him.

OPINION: Peigi and Reid have built a family together and have finally moved to develop their own relationship. Both have lost family in different ways and yearn for being part of a unit. There is a sweetness between the two as the story begins and it is interesting how that turns up in heat as the story progresses.

Peigi really shines in this book as she grows and confronts her past. Reid is a darling and his devotion to Peigi really works here.

The plot of this book moves the overall storyline of the series forward. This book also revisits past storylines — especially giving more detail about Peigi and Reid.

WORTH MENTIONING: I loved that many characters from the series make appearances in this book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: IRON MASTER is the twelfth book in the Shifters Unbound series. The story here is self-contained, but this book is much better to read as part of the series. There are many characters and situations from prior books in this novel. The rules of this universe are not re-explained here so new readers will probably be confused.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

 

four-stars

Review: The Southern Side of Paradise

Review: The Southern Side of ParadiseThe Southern Side of Paradise by Kristy Woodson Harvey
Series: Peachtree Bluff #3
Published by Gallery Books on May 7, 2019
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 387
Goodreads
four-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: I really liked the relationship between the mother and her daughters. I thought the flow of the story worked well, and I especially enjoyed Ansley’s story. However, the plot of the book was too predictable. I had figured out Emerson’s storyline from start to finish by page 40. Ultimately, the whole thing was fine, but the obviousness of everything diminished this book for me a bit.

THE STORY: The story of a widow and her three adult daughters. Ansley Murphy’s life has changed as she reunites with an old lover she has never forgotten. Old secrets, however, have the possibility of upsetting what appears to be happiness in the family. Emerson, Ansley’s youngest daughter, has gotten engaged to her high school sweetheart. Yet, her career in Los Angeles conflicts with her romance and again threatens the relationship. This is the story of a family and the complexities and realities of relationships and life.

OPINION: I liked the book’s main storylines with Ansley and Emerson. Both had some complex issues.

Ansley is involved in a relationship with the man she loved years ago. There are secrets that she and Jack have kept from Ansley’s daughters. The romance between them is messy, and I did enjoy how the book turns from easy answers to the mistakes made in the past. My complaint is that some completely unnecessary outside drama bumped up the emotional complexity. Rather than going deeper into the emotions, the book turns to easily anticipated “surprises” that seem out of place in the depth of emotions.

I appreciated Emerson’s story as well, although it took way too long for the obvious ending to work out, and I felt disappointed that it took so long to get there. I liked the interaction with the sisters, and I did enjoy the overlaps between Emerson and Ansley’s stories.

I thought that the final quarter of the book was really well done. The emotion was there. As things wound up I began to think that perhaps I really did need to read the other books in the series to feel as invested in the story as I needed to.

Perhaps ultimately, there was both too much drama and not enough connection and emotional depth in this book. It is the kind of book that I enjoyed reading. The ending was especially a good payoff emotionally.

WORTH MENTIONING: Spoilers! Characters in this book are involved in cheating (although off the page), and relationships don’t last through the end of the book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE SOUTHERN SIDE OF PARADISE is the third book in the Peachtree Bluff series. This book can be read as a standalone. I have not read the others in the series and did not feel like I missed anything as to what was happening in the story — except by the end, the book began to feel like a wrap-up, and I knew that there were some emotional moments that I was missing because I hadn’t read the other books in the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

 

four-stars

Review: Wicked and True

I received this book for free from Netgalley in order to prepare an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.


Review: Wicked and TrueWicked and True: Zyron & Tessa Part 2 (Wicked & Devoted, #4) by Shayla Black
Series: Wicked & Devoted #4
on March 23, 2021
Genres: Contemporary
Goodreads
four-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: Sexy and action-packed story. I got exactly what I wanted from the story — with one exception. I was annoyed by Tessa’s actions which started the trouble with the couple. Ultimately, I was pleased that the book acknowledged her mistakes. And the couple is hot. Fun book.

THE STORY: The second part of Zy and Tessa’s story. Zy is trying to uncover the mole at the company and is now given two choices — his friend and the woman he has fallen for. Tessa is confronted with a choice that no woman should have to make, threatening her new relationship with Zy.

OPINION: The setup in the first book explodes in this book as all the tightly wound parts of the story explode in an action-packed story. Zy and Tessa are a good couple. He is protective and she really needs protection from some of her dumb choices! At the same time, she is a good person that goes with her heart rather than thinking through her choices.

This book begins with things really moving between Zy and Tessa. Then things fall apart quickly as Tessa has to make a choice that tears them apart. That was the part that bothered me about this book. She just makes a stupid decision. It annoyed me because the decision just didn’t make sense. However, I’m glad I continued with the story because she acknowledges the flaw in her reasoning by the end. While I wish she had realized it earlier, I did appreciate that the book acknowledges the mistakes that both she and Zy make in the story.

The story is really hot, and there is even quite a bit of hot angry sexy tension between Zy and Tessa in this one. Other than my complaint about Tessa’s decision-making, I really enjoyed how the story built tension and let the action play out in the story.

The book reads really fast, and everything gets resolved with Tessa and Zy by the end — although there are lingering storylines that continue with the next couple in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book’s timeline overlaps with the other books in the series so if you read them in order you already know more about the romance of One Miles and Brea and get a preview of Trees and Laila.

CONNECTED BOOKS: WICKED AND TRUE is part two of the story of Zyron and Tessa and is also the fourth book in the Wicked & Devoted series. This book should only be read after WICKED AS LIES since it is really one story. While this two-part story is part of the Wicked & Devoted series, these two books (making one story) can be read apart from the series as a whole.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

NOTE: I originally received an eARC of this book in order to provide a review. I did not review this book until after its publication and after I had purchased my own copy of this book. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.

 

four-stars

Review: When She Dreams

Review: When She DreamsWhen She Dreams (Burning Cove, #6) by Amanda Quick
Series: Burning Cove #6
Published by Berkley Books on May 3, 2022
Genres: Historical
Pages: 320
Goodreads
three-half-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: I enjoyed this book, but it is my least favorite of the series because there is so much going on in the suspense/story that I missed the moments between the hero and heroine. They and their relationship felt less well-defined and concrete and thus I had less interest in their romance.

THE STORY: Maggie Lodge hires a private investigator Sam Sage to find out who is involved in attempting to blackmail her absent employer. The two end up traveling to Burning Cove to investigate. Both have bad relationships in their background, but Maggie also fears men who have attempted to take control of her ability to lucid dream. In Burning Cove Sam and Maggie run into charlatans, doctors who claim knowledge of lucid dreaming, and a killer. At the same time, Maggie and Sam are attracted to one another and yet have reservations about risking themselves again.

OPINION: This book was okay and it delivers on the mystery/suspense, but I was much less engaged with the couple. Both of the main characters have bad relationships in their background, but nothing about it really felt like it had affected them. The whole relationship between Sam and Maggie was too simple. There was no drama and no real connection.

I’m not sure where the relationship went wrong, but I know that I really wasn’t attached to the relationship. The suspense is supposed to drive the relationship forward, and there was too much that Sam and Maggie did apart. Too many scenes where they weren’t together. All that weakened the connection between the characters.

The book wasn’t terrible. I enjoyed it. I just wanted much more. I probably won’t return to it again.

WORTH MENTIONING: Luther and Raina make an appearance in this book. The bad thing was I wanted more of their story than Sam and Maggie.

CONNECTED BOOKS: WHEN SHE DREAMS is the sixth book in the Burning Cove series. This book can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.

 

three-half-stars

Review: Blood Moon

Review: Blood MoonBlood Moon (Kate Burkholder, #13.5) by Linda Castillo
Series: Kate Burkholder #13.5
Published by Minotaur Books on April 26, 2022
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery
Pages: 64
Goodreads
four-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: The story was a bit suspense rather than a true mystery and it ended up making me smile. I love it when Kate and John get to do an investigation together even when it is a small slice of life.

THE STORY: Kate Burkholder, the Chief of Police in Painters Mill gets called out late at night when a man is attacked by something that defies description. Kate and John track the creature during the night as it wreaks havoc on Painter Mill.

OPINION: The story here is pretty thin, but it is a bit scary, suspenseful, and ultimately fun. I love these small little interludes because the stakes are pretty low compared with the big novels. Kate can be funnier. She can take John along with her just because. The story here is exactly the type one might expect that a Chief of Police for a small town would confront — when not dealing with multiple murders as in the main novels!

WORTH MENTIONING: For fans of Kate and John, I would read this story just for the last scene alone.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BLOOD MOON is book 13.5 of the Kate Burkholder series. This is a very short story/slice of life and it is not necessary to read the rest of the series for this although there is not much here except meeting Kate and John and having a small mystery solved.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars