Review: Right Where We Belong

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

Review: Right Where We BelongRight Where We Belong (Silver Springs, #4) by Brenda Novak
Series: Silver Springs #4
Published by Mira Books on October 31st 2017
Genres: Contemporary
Goodreads
three-stars

FINAL DECISION: This story was okay, but I thought it was too complicated by other relationships so that the main romance suffered. I liked the suspense aspect, but wanted more between the hero and heroine.

THE STORY: Savanna Gray has come to Silver Springs with her two young children running from her discovery that her husband was actually a rapist. He’s in jail claiming he is innocent, her mother in law blames Savanna for failing to support him, and the towns people blame Savanna for not recognizing his criminality sooner. Savanna comes to live in a house owned by her deceased father, but doesn’t realize that it needs more work than she expected. When she meets her neighbor, Gavin Turner, Savanna wants to keep her distance, but the sexy helpful man touches her heart. Gavin has his own struggles — his abandonment as a child, an ex who still wants a claim on him, and his attraction to Savanna despite her conflicts.

OPINION: There was much to like in this book. I really liked the suspense aspect of the story. The characters were good people and they had a nice connection with one another. My problem with the story was that there was just too much going on. Too many complications and side stories. As such, I thought that too much time was spent away from the central relationship and thus this book was just okay for me.

I thought that Gavin was a very nice man who was put in a difficult situation. I really disliked his conflict because it gave an additional level of complication to the relationship that really bothered me. Combined with Savanna still being married and having only months since discovering that her husband was a criminal, I couldn’t help but think that these characters really needed to stay apart for a year or so to deal with their own baggage.

I finished this book with no problem and I liked much of the conflict, but it wasn’t my favorite of the series.

WORTH MENTIONING: Readers of the series will get to see more of Eli.

CONNECTED BOOKS: RIGHT WHERE WE BELONG is the fourth book in the Silver Springs series. This book, however, can be read as a standalone as while it has some overlapping characters, the story is completely separate.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in order to provide a review. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.

three-stars

Review: Hello Again

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

Review: Hello AgainHello Again (The Evelyn Talbot Chronicles, #2) by Brenda Novak
Series: The Evelyn Talbot Chronicles #2
Published by Headline on November 2nd 2017
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 352
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: This is the best of the series so far. Mixing the romance, Evelyn’s personal demons, creepy serial killer mysteries, danger and some serious suspense, this book is satisfying in so many ways, but definitely left me desperately wanting the next book.

THE STORY:  Dr. Evelyn Talbot is continuing her work with serial killers at Hanover House in Alaska determined to uncover a way to identify the people who become serial killer. Her newest inmate is known as the Zombie Maker who defies many of the standard expectations of serial killers — but he also reminds her of her ex-boyfriend Jasper who killed her friends and almost herself and has been on the loose for two decades. When another friend of Evelyn is killed with the Zombie Maker’s signature the question arises: was the wrong man convicted of the Zombie Maker’s crimes or is Jasper hunting Evelyn again.

OPINION: I’ve been a fan of this series since I read the prequel a couple of years ago. The story was just creepy enough and had enough romance to keep me interested, but this book explodes the story. Everything feels bigger and more urgent here. The series has really hit its stride now that the setup portion has been completed. This book is the best so far.

This book takes place about a year after the events in the previous book. Evelyn is still running Hanover House and more serial killers are coming all the time. Not to give anything away, but this book deals with the question of the Zombie Maker serial killer and whether he is guilty or not and the similar murders which might indicate either that the man incarcerated at Hanover House might be innocent or that Evelyn’s personal demon is making a move on her again.

This story seamlessly blends and uses to good suspense purposes the questions of the newest killings and three possible suspects. Some is revealed here but other parts of left to the ongoing and overarching storylines. Frankly, I was frightened and creeped out by much of the last third of the book — which was exactly what I was expecting.

This book is really a suspense book with some romance — and I really liked the balance here. This is Evelyn’s personal story and the book never forgets it in service to some suspense storyline. Everything is personal and is all seen from the lens of Evelyn’s life. I like the suspense in this book but I probably wouldn’t have continued to read without the romance between Evelyn and her Alaskan trooper boyfriend Amarok. The two have been seeing one another for a year, but Evelyn still has trust issues and doubts and there are new challenges and hurdles for the two. Despite their serious difficulties, these two are so wonderful together that it manages to balance out all the darkness of the plotline. If I didn’t have the hope of their relationship really working out to a HEA in the end, I think the darkness of the story would have overwhelmed me.

This series has definitely found its footing here and I look forward to the next installment because things are getting really interesting and scary.

WORTH MENTIONING: Oh when will the next book be out!

CONNECTED BOOKS:  HELLO AGAIN is the second novel in the Evelyn Talbot Chronicles. This book has an independent story, but there are overarching storylines in the series. I think this book is better read after the prequel and first book in the series because the relationships between the characters is more clearly defined.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 5 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in order to provide a review. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review.  All opinions contained herein are my own.

five-stars

Review: Until You Loved Me

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

Review: Until You Loved MeUntil You Loved Me by Brenda Novak
Series: Silver Springs #3
Published by Mira Books on July 25th 2017
Genres: Contemporary
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: My favorite book in the series. This unexpected pregnancy story moves in a direction I did not expect and I really enjoyed the quiet and personal relationship that develops between Ellie and Hudson.

THE STORY: After the betrayal by her fiance, Ellie Fisher tosses off her normal staid scientific personality and has a one night stand with a stranger. Finding herself pregnant, Ellie finds out that the stranger is actually a famous quarterback, Hudson King.  Hudson, scarred by his abandonment as an infant and his time in foster care, at first believes that Ellie planned to “catch” him. But the reality of their baby drives him to want to be a part of his child’s life.  The two agree to live together in Silver Springs until after the baby’s birth.  As these two get to know one another, they find the passion that immediately flared between them reigniting.

OPINION:  I really enjoyed this book.  The story didn’t go in the fashion I expected and I enjoy being surprised by the direction a story goes in.  Ellie and Hudson have a personal and emotional journey and I liked the slow buildup to their happy ending.

I have become a fan of these small town romance series.  Although this book has characters who both come from the big city, there is something quiet and intimate about their relationship as it takes place in Silver Springs. The best part of this book is the day to day living where Ellie and Hudson work out and work through their relationship.

Ellie is a woman who has been concerned primarily with her work. The betrayal by her fiance tosses her into Hudson’s arms. The two have a connection that goes beyond sexual but both turn away after that first night. The unexpected pregnancy brings them back together in difficult circumstances.  Ellie’s inherent decency causes her to tell Hudson of her pregnancy.  I liked that because when she discovers who Hudson is some of the details made me think that Hudson would discover the pregnancy in another manner. I was impressed that the story didn’t go for the over-dramatic plot device but rather the personal work that has to be done between these characters.

Can I say that Hudson is adorable?  He is a man who is struggling as this book goes on.  Not only do we have the unexpected pregnancy but also Hudson’s attempts to discover his origins.  There are both interesting parallels and interesting differences between Hudson’s past and the present.  Those issues are subtexts to the story which give it depth and meaning, but don’t distract from the central story of Ellie and Hudson.  (I also love a man who cares for a sick woman).  Hudson’s commitment phobia is completely understandable considering his past.  I loved how he works through his issues and demonstrates what a decent and caring and kind man he is.

The plot in the story about Hudson’s past brought some drama to the book that really takes place on the ground of two people living together and learning about one another and building a relationship.

This is the best of the series so far.

WORTH MENTIONING: I wish we had seen more of the characters from the first two books in the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  UNTIL YOU LOVED ME is the third book in the Silver Springs series.  It can be read as a standalone because the books are only loosely connected by the location and the hero’s connection with the New Horizons Boys Ranch.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE:  I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in order to provide a review.  I was not required to write a review or write a positive review.  All opinions contained herein are my own.

four-half-stars

Review: Finding Our Forever

Review: Finding Our ForeverFinding Our Forever (Silver Springs, #1) by Brenda Novak
Series: Silver Springs #1
Published by Harlequin Special Edition on March 21st 2017
Genres: Contemporary
Goodreads
three-half-stars

FINAL DECISION:  A book with characters who are really likeable and caring but are dealing with the pain in their lives, I really liked this book because it didn’t go in the direction I would have expected for drama.

THE STORY:  Cora Kelly has come to Silver Springs searching for her birth mother who runs the New Horizons Boys Ranch.  But she decided not to reveal her identity until she determines whether she wants to.  Applying to be a teacher at the school, Cora meets Elijah Turner who is the manager of the ranch and one of the adopted sons of Cora’s birth mother. As Cora begins to build relationships with those at the ranch, the decision whether or not to reveal her secret becomes more difficult as she worries about destroying those relationships — especially the one between her and Eli.

OPINION:  I enjoyed this book because of the characters. There was a sense of reality and decency with these people.  The book didn’t feel like it was trying to tell an over dramatic adventure story.  Rather this story stayed small and focused on the characters.  Cora and Eli are a sweet couple.  They start out as a “scratching an itch” relationship but quickly they find in one another a companion and their attempts to keep things at a distance are not very successful.  I loved how their romance progressed in this manner.  It also served to explain how Cora could keep her secret for so long.  I really liked these characters who are always good people. They struggle with how to be a good person with their limitations (Cora’s deception and Eli’s fear of getting close), but they always act from a good place.

I didn’t enjoy this book quite as much as the other in the series I read, but this book was a good start to the series.

WORTH MENTIONING:  I read the second book in this series first and didn’t miss anything.  These books are very separate from one another even though they occur in the same place.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  FINDING OUR FOREVER is the first book in the Silver Springs series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3.5 stars.

three-half-stars

Review: No One But You

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

Review: No One But YouNo One But You (Silver Springs, #2) by Brenda Novak
Series: Silver Springs #2
Published by MIRA on May 30th 2017
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 448
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: Really enjoyable small town mixed with mystery and crime romance.  These are two wounded people who have no reason to open up and trust one another — and yet they do.  They have a sweet romance combined with an exciting storyline for each of them.

THE STORY: Sadie Harris is struggling.  She is separated from her husband who doesn’t want to let her go and is trying to sabotage her efforts to be self-sufficient in order to driver her back to him.  When a job opens up with helping Dawson Reed at his farm preparing for the possibility of his sister being returned to his custody.  Everything seems perfect about the job except that everyone in town knows that Dawson savagely murdered his parents but managed to be found not guilty.  With the whole town against her, Sadie agrees to take the job in order to support her son.  As Sadie and Dawson spend time together, they grow closer and find that there is something between them worth fighting against the whole town for.

OPINION:  I really enjoyed this book because it acted somewhat as a romantic suspense in ways that I didn’t expect when the book began.  The merging of the various storylines was done in a skillful manner.

There is a lot going on but the heart of this story remains Sadie and Dawson.  They are both people who have been damaged by their pasts and have no reason to trust one another.  But as the two spend time together they form a friendship, and alliance, and understanding that it is them against everyone in town.

I thought this book had some beautiful moments between Sadie and Dawson as both are willing to sacrifice for the other.  And there is a lot of action and excitement as they story threads play out.

I really enjoyed this book and now want to go back and read the first one in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING:  The premise of this series comes from men who were troubled boys at the New Horizons Boys Ranch in Silver Springs.

CONNECTED BOOKS: NO ONE BUT YOU is the second book in the Silver Springs series.  This book, however, can be read as a standalone without any problem.  (I haven’t read the first book yet and didn’t feel that I missed it.)

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

NOTE:  I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in order to provide a review.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions contained herein are my own.

four-stars

Review: Her Darkest Nightmare

Review: Her Darkest NightmareHer Darkest Nightmare (The Evelyn Talbot Chronicles, #1) by Brenda Novak
Series: The Evelyn Talbot Chronicles #1
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks on August 30th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 432
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION:  I loved this book primarily because of Evelyn and her hottie state trooper Amarok, but I also enjoyed the mystery which was twisty and creepy and kept me guessing.

THE STORY:  Dr. Evelyn Talbot was only a teenager when her world was torn apart by her psychopath boyfriend killed her best friends then imprisoned and tortured Evelyn for three days before leaving her for dead.  Twenty years later, Evelyn studies psychopaths. She is in charge of a maximum security facility which is studying serial killers. Located in a small town in Alaska, Evelyn is not the most popular person for bringing these killers to town.  It has placed her on opposite sides of State Trooper Sergeant Amarok who also tempts Evelyn as no man ever has.  Now a mutilated body of a woman seems to confirm Amarok’s deepest fears about the facility while Evelyn fears that the monster who almost killed her before may have returned.

OPINION: I am a longtime mystery and suspense reader but I prefer my books with a strong dose of romance.  I enjoyed this book because I like Evelyn with all her hangups due to her encounter as a teenager with her psychopath boyfriend.  Evelyn is damaged and while she is accomplished professionally, she is stunted in her relationships.

I love the sweetness of her reaction to Amarok and, for me, their relationship centers and makes the rest of the book worth reading.  While I enjoy a good, creepy suspense, I like to have sweeter and lighter moments as well as a reason to care about the characters.  I like these two and look forward to reading more about them.

I always find it difficult to review suspense and mystery books because I don’t want to give too much away.  That being said, I think this one kept me guessing until the end.  I thought I had it figured out and then the story would twist and go in a new direction.  Plus, there is some really creepy and messed up stuff going on.  I always admire a story that I don’t solve immediately.  There are plenty of suspects here and I didn’t guess the right one, but was satisfied that the ultimate solution was supported in the story.

The mystery/suspense story intertwines so well with Evelyn’s own personal journey that I was fully engaged during the entire book.  This book can satisfy both romantic suspense readers and those who just like a good mystery.

WORTH MENTIONING:  There are still threads of the overarching story for the series that are left at the end of this book, but the main mystery of the book is completely resolved.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  HER DARKEST NIGHTMARE is the first book in the Evelyn Talbot Chronicles series.  There is a prequel but this book can be read without having read that.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Hanover House

Review: Hanover HouseHanover House (The Evelyn Talbot Chronicles, #0.5) by Brenda Novak
Series: The Evelyn Talbot Chronicles #0.5
Published by Brenda Novak on September 1st 2015
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 200
four-half-stars

Great Start to Romantic Suspense Series

“She wasn’t often attracted to someone like she was attracted to him — and had been from the first moment she’d set eyes on him. Especially someone who didn’t particularly like her in return.”

FINAL DECISION: While nothing is ultimately resolved in this book — it is a prequel, it does its job of making me want to read more about Evelyn, her project and her relationship with Amarok. Suspenseful but also a good romance, I hope the series lives up to the prequel.

THE STORY: Evelyn Talbot is a psychiatrist who studies serial killers and criminal minds. Kidnapped and tortured as a teen by her boyfriend, Evelyn is compelled to try and understand why people do such things. As part of her work, she is coordinating the building of a mental health center/prison in Hilltop, Alaska in order to house and study notorious killers. Many of the residents around the new facility are not pleased to have it in their vicinity. One of those is Alaskan State Trooper Benjamin “Amarok” Murphy. He is unhappy about the center, but attracted like crazy to Evelyn. At the same time, Evelyn’s own past is preventing her from having any relationship including one with the younger and handsome trooper. Also, the man who killed her friends and tried to kill her is still on the loose and may still be trying to kill her twenty years later.

OPINION: This is my first book by Brenda Novak, but it won’t be my last. This book has me intrigued by Evelyn’s story. In some ways, she has recovered from the crimes committed against her when she was sixteen and in other ways she is still that terrified teenager. Her budding relationship with Amarok has the possibility of allowing her to move beyond her past — and, of course, it is precisely at that moment that the past threatens to suck her back in.

This book is creepy and suspenseful and sometimes scary which is exactly what I like in my suspense books. What pleased me the most was how much time was devoted to the relationship between Evelyn and Amarok. Admittedly, I am a romance reader first so I prefer my suspense with a hefty dose of romantic relationship. This book satisfied that requirement for me.

Evelyn and Amarok are just so cute together. She is incredibly vulnerable and he is a protector by nature. Evelyn has lots of hangups and this man who is seven years younger than her attracts her but for her a relationship seems impossible for so many reasons. Amarok’s practical and down to earth demeanor is a perfect contrast to Evelyn’s understandably neurotic behavior.

Along with the intriguing cast of evil characters (the inmates who will inhabit Hanover House), I hope that future books will have a heavy dose of Evelyn and Amarok’s developing relationship.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is the beginning of a series dealing with serial killers. The prequel introduces the overarching plotline and the romantic relationship between Evelyn and Amarok.

CONNECTED BOOKS: HANOVER HOUSE is the prequel to the Evelyn Talbot Chronicles previously known as the Hanover House Chronicles series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book via Netgalley in order to provide a review. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.

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four-half-stars