Review: Rising Tides

Review: Rising TidesRising Tides (Chesapeake Bay Saga, #2) by Nora Roberts
Series: Chesapeake Bay Saga #2
Published by Jove on August 1st 1998
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 330

FINAL DECISION: One of the best of Nora Roberts’ family dramas, this romance has a languid build between these two friends. The pace feels just right for a real relationship as these two overcome the pain of their pasts.

THE STORY: Ethan Quinn stayed at home when his other brothers roamed. Steady as the bay in which he works, Ethan hides turmoil and pain from his youth. Working with his brothers to raise the boy that their father took in before his death, Ethan plans to focus on their new business. But the woman he has known for years, Grace Monroe, won’t seem to let him go. Determined to keep his distance from the young mother to protect her, Ethan can’t seem to resist Grace’s pull.

OPINION: This book is a perfect example of the best of Nora Roberts’ work. The story has a tremendous feeling of place where I can almost smell the bay. The entire family of characters are three dimensional and interesting in their own right. They feel real and genuine. These are characters without the easy crutch of wealth and power.

This is one of my favorite books of Roberts because everything just works in this book.

Grace is a woman who is struggling but has pride in being independent and taking care of her daughter. She has flaws — the primary one being that she is incredibly stubborn.  She also fundamentally doesn’t know or understand the struggles that Ethan is going through. She makes assumptions without seeing the dark undercurrent of his life.

Ethan is a man good at hiding his pain and self-loathing. He has had his eye on Grace for years but has kept his distance because he doesn’t see himself as being worthy of her. But he is a good man. He is strong and reliable and everything that society sees as manly. Which makes the complexity of his character work so well. He is such a wonderful hero.

I loved these characters and the slow unfolding of their relationship works so well here. The book takes it time in showing their relationship and letting the crisis points come and pass with a natural and real timetable. This is my favorite book in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING: The overarching story line with Sean doesn’t progress much in this book which means that everything is set up for book three.

CONNECTED BOOKS: RISING TIDES is the second book in the Chesapeake Bay Saga. While each book has a separate couple and thus can be read on its own, there is an overarching story line dealing with the family and thus I believe it is better to read this in order as part of the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.


Review: Sea Swept

Review: Sea SweptSea Swept (Chesapeake Bay Saga, #1) by Nora Roberts
Series: Chesapeake Bay Saga #1
Published by Jove Books on January 1st 1998
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 330

FINAL DECISION: A comfortable read about a man who changes his life after the death of his father leaves him and his brothers with the responsibility for a ten year old and begins a relationship with a social worker. The story builds towards the end and offers a springboard for the series.

THE STORY: Cameron Quinn has sailed around the world racing boats and wooing women. The death of his father brings him home where he and his two brothers face decisions on what to do with the ten year old boy that their father brought into their family. The three men have to find a way of building a family in order to keep guardianship of the young boy which challenges all of the lives they have built. They also have to satisfy the watchful eyes of Anna Spinelli, a social worker, who has her doubts that the three men can build a home for a wary and damaged child.

OPINION: This book’s romance suffers a little from the introduction books. The situation and the characters all have to be set out which means that Anna and Cam get less “screen time”. Their romance was only okay for me until the last quarter of the book where things pick up and end on a high emotional note.

I enjoyed this book primarily because of the Quinn family dynamics. There is something really special in how these three men and a young boy figure make a family. The story is both inspirational and sweet. And I love watching these strong men give up whatever they have to for the love of family.

Anna and Cam are both damaged people who have triumphed through the love of others. Unfortunately, we don’t get much into their heads in this book. So while I really enjoy the story of this book, I wish the romance had been stronger.

At the same time, the comfortable nature of this story makes it one that I’ve read before and would read again on a rainy day.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book clearly is part of a series so ongoing story lines are not finished but the romance is complete here.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SEA SWEPT is the first book in the Chesapeake Bay Saga.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.


Review: On His Knees

Review: On His KneesOn His Knees (Blasphemy #4) by Laura Kaye
Series: Blasphemy #4
on February 13th 2018
Genres: Contemporary

FINAL DECISION: For a short novella, this one was surprisingly good. I enjoyed how the relationship between Jamie and Alex develops. The ending where a crisis requires a dramatic gesture, this one was emotional and dramatic. My only negative was that I didn’t get to know Alex enough as a character.

THE STORY: Attorney Jamie Fielding is at a crossroads in his life. A series of failed and unfulfilling relationships send him on a personal journey to challenge his own notions of his sexuality and sexual needs. He makes his way to the sex club Blasphemy where he meets Alex McGarrey who is one of the dominant masters of the club who also is a sadist. Alex feels a pull towards Jamie when they meet, but Alex doesn’t intend to take on someone who is just investigating being an masochist and bisexual. But there is something about Jamie and Alex just can’t resist.

OPINION: This was a book that I enjoyed more and more as it progressed. I worried that I would not be able to see how Jamie who is totally new to both masochism and bisexuality would work with the more experienced and jaded Alex. But something just clicked between these two. Their encounters are definitely on the more extreme side but there is a undercurrent of consent and respect that works better here than perhaps in any of the other books in this series.

I felt an understanding and connection with Jamie whose personal journey is central to the story. Alex’s character remains more elusive. When there is a dramatic problem towards the end of the book, I didn’t feel enough understanding of Alex’s character to feel connected to his reaction. Intellectually I understood, but there were deeper issues that I didn’t feel were fully explored.

While this book is beautifully crafted as a novella, I think that a longer book would have explored Alex’s backstory more and give better insight to his character. But that is a quibble in what is a very enjoyable read.

For fans of Kaye’s Hard Ink series there is even a cameo by a character that jump starts Jamie’s personal journey.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a m/m romance.

CONNECTED BOOKS: ON HIS KNEES is the fourth book in the Blasphemy series. These books are connected by the club and small appearances by others, but each book is independent and can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.


Review: More Than Love You

Review: More Than Love YouMore Than Love You (More Than Words, #3) by Shayla Black
Series: More Than Words #3
Published by Shelley Bradley, LLC on February 13th 2018
Genres: Contemporary

“I had no idea when I purchased my dream home that it would come with the woman straight out of my fantasies.”

FINAL DECISION: My favorite of the series. This one is hot, hot, hot. And perhaps because the character with the secrets and pain (Harlow) isn’t the narrator this time, I can understand why the character who is treated badly sometimes (Noah) stays in the relationship. Noah’s dedication and caring for Harlow is a highlight.

THE STORY: Noah Weston is transitioning from famous quarterback to retired player and arrives in Hawaii trying to decide whether or not to take a job as a commentator.. Harlow Reed is looking for fantastic sex after ending her engagement in a public manner. The two agree to a three month arrangement…but things get complicated.

OPINION: I quite enjoyed this book because although Harlow is often distant and difficult to understand, it feels like the reversal of the typical romance where the heroine is trying to understand the distant and hurt hero.

Harlow, like her brothers, is hiding a tremendous amount of pain and hurt from her childhood (her parents are terrible people). She is, however, a funny and sexy and strong woman who who has overcome much but doesn’t recognize that she deserves more than she is allowing herself.

I really liked Noah who quickly recognizes that Harlow is special to him but has to find a way to keep her from running from him. Harlow clearly fears intimacy and will take any opportunity to flee.

This book is sexy (very sexy) and yet has a sweet undertone to the relationship between Harlow and Noah. There is darkness here, but it isn’t overwhelming in the tone of the book.

WORTH MENTIONING: Book told in first person (primarily from the hero’s point of view).

CONNECTED BOOKS: MORE THAN LOVE YOU is the third book in the More Than Words series. While this book can be read as a standalone since the couple is separate from the other books, there are overlapping characters.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

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


Review: Starlight Nights

Review: Starlight NightsStarlight Nights by Stacey Kade
Published by Forge on January 9th 2018
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 384

“I’d never understood why people called it ‘falling’ in love. You either love someone or you don’t, like an on/off switch. End of story. But in that second, I get it. Because suddenly it’s not the floor tilting anymore, it’s my whole world. And I’m sliding helplessly toward feelings that are way bigger than I am.”

FINAL DECISION: Choices, mistakes, second chances. Calista and Eric do not have an easy uncomplicated path to one another and I loved it. They are flawed and struggling and they don’t figure everything out by the end of the book and that was perfectly okay with me. I loved this book almost as much as 738 DAYS.

THE STORY: Calista Beckett has lived a lot in her twenty-three years. After a wildly successful stint as a teenager on the show Starlight, she fell into a heroine addiction. Now sober, she is trying to build a new life for herself as a student at a midwestern college. Eric Stone comes back into her life wanting her to star in his new web series based on a book that Calista loves. Eric played Calista’s brother in Starlight but there has been something between them since Eric gave Calista her first kiss at her audition for Starlight. She fell in love with him that day but their relationship has ended up giving her nothing but pain.

OPINION: Sometimes books and characters just capture my attention despite flaws that might otherwise make me dislike them. Eric and Calista are definitely flawed characters. Their romance is rocky and before the epilogue, I was barely convinced that they would be able to overcome the years of mistakes that they had made with one another.

For people so young, history weighs heavily on these two. This book is all about second chances. About how choices and mistakes can overwhelm and how love is not always something positive. Yet by the end of this book, I felt the distance the characters had traveled and the welcome epilogue shows that they finally found a way to deal with one another in a positive affirming manner.

Calista is a young woman who has already made many mistakes and is threatened by an overbearing mother who uses her love to keep her under her thumb. Calista has become the breadwinner for her family and the mother is desperate to keep things together. Torn between wanting to live her own life and her responsibilities to her mother and sisters, Calista has to learn to assert herself even when she will disappoint others.

Eric also has family problems. Abandoned by his mother, dealing with a father who wants to control and crush him, Eric struggles with abandonment issues. These are a pair that seem destined to be at cross purposes: Calista fears control; Eric fears loss.

These characters are flawed and make very human mistakes. They backslide. They succumb to their fears and the easy way out. They are definitely not perfect. Some readers might find this a difficult read because the flaws and failures of these characters are on full display. They struggle and sometimes flail in their relationship with one another and with others. Yet this is the very reason that I ended up loving this book. The journey of these characters gave me a sense of their accomplishment by the end of the book.

As I began this book, I wasn’t sure that I was going to be able to like these characters. Eric, especially, seemed at times arrogant and a jerk; Calista seemed weak. But as I got to see these characters change and fail and succeed and determine their path, I found myself liking not only them but the possibilities of their relationship.

This is a book that will be on my keeper shelf and along with 738 DAYS be one that I will revisit again and again.


WORTH MENTIONING: For fans of 738 DAYS, the epilogue of this book is definitely worth reading.

CONNECTED BOOKS: STARLIGHT NIGHTS is the sequel to 738 DAYS. It is not necessary to read that book first as this operates as a standalone. However, readers of 738 DAYS will get to see what is going on with Amanda and Chase.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

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


Review: The Crown Prince’s Bride

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: The Crown Prince’s BrideThe Crown Prince's Bride (Royal Duology #2) by Donna Alward
Series: Princes of Marazur #2
Published by Swerve on January 9th 2018
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 250

FINAL DECISION: Lovely, lovely story of two adults working through their relationship. I loved how these two talked and addressed the difficulties of their relationship as adults. Sweet and sexy read.

THE STORY: Stephani loves her job as the assistant to the Crown Prince of Marazur. But she also has a secret — she has been in love with Raoul for years. Stephani was able to live with her unrequited love when Raoul was married to Stephani’s cousin. Now that Raoul is a widower, however, Stephani realizes that she cannot spend the rest of her life pining for Raoul. Raoul doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life alone, but falling in love again seems impossible. But a chance kiss with his assistant is something that he cannot stop thinking about.

OPINION: I loved this book which is a friends to lovers story and the story of how someone can learn to love again after loss. The story is about mature people making mature decisions and (apart from one dramatic plot twist) is mostly about these two talking through their problems.

In a characterization that gives one relief about who is running the governments of the world, Raoul is a mature, serious heir and father. Indeed, his problem is that he is too responsible and too concerned about things being figured out and right. Although he is attracted to Stephani, he worries a lot about every move they make in their relationship.

Stephani is also a mature adult who has a career that she is good at (her job as Raoul’s assistant isn’t just an excuse for these two to be in close contact). The book takes seriously both of these characters concerns about getting involved in a relationship.

I liked these characters and their exploration of their relationship. My one complaint is that I wish we had gotten more with Stephani and Raoul’s children. Most of the story is getting the kids of out of the way in order to progress their relationship, but I wish we could have seen more of them together rather than being told how good Stephani’s relationship is with his kids.

Enjoyable without getting too dark and serious, this book also satisfies a romantic heart.

WORTH MENTIONING: The romance is on the sweeter side as most of the sex scenes occur behind closed doors (and between chapters).

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE CROWN PRINCE’S BRIDE is the second book in the Princes of Marazur series. The books operates as a standalone but because of the overlapping characters it reads better after the first book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

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


Review: More Than Need You

Review: More Than Need YouMore Than Need You (More Than Words Book 2) by Shayla Black
Series: More Than Words #2
Published by Shelley Bradley, LLC on June 13th 2017
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 477

FINAL DECISION: A second chance at love with an messed up jerk of a hero who has to reveal everything about himself to reclaim the woman that he loves and hurt.

THE STORY: Griffin Reed has just learned that he has a son. Three years ago, he made a mistake in thinking that his brother had betrayed him and that Griffin’s girlfriend was complicit. He tossed her away. Now he wants a second chance but Britta Stone has moved on and just gotten engaged to a reliable man. Griffin has only a few short weeks to convince Britta that he is a changed man who loves her and wants her and their son to be a family.

OPINION: I overall enjoyed this book and I really like the trope of the jerk hero who has to chance everything to win back the woman he loves. I just felt, however, that the book went on too long without much changing in Britta and Griffin’s relationship. In the first half of the book, I got tired of pages and pages of him desperately wanting her and her not responding. I think I would have liked the book better if I got Britta’s point of view as well (We do get a glimpse at the end).

Once the two move in together, however, and they really started to develop their relationship, the book got much better for me. I liked that Griffin has to accept responsibility for his behavior. By the end of the book, I was totally on their side.

As the two begin to communicate, the book gets much better because Britta’s feeling are more transparent. I also really liked how Griffin is determined to make grand gestures for Britta to show his love.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book’s timeline overlaps slightly with the first book in the series MORE THAN WANT YOU.

CONNECTED BOOKS: MORE THAN NEED YOU is the second book in the More Than Words series. These books are connected by overlapping characters but can be read as standalones.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.


Review: A Distant Heart

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: A Distant HeartA Distant Heart by Sonali Dev
Series: Bollywood #4
Published by Kensington Publishing Corp. on December 26th 2017
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 352

FINAL DECISION: A challenging and beautiful story of love and loss and living life. Kimi and Rahul are destined for one another but life is complicated and sometimes the fear of loss prevents one from living.

THE STORY: Kimi and Rahul meet as children. Kimi, the only of eight children to survive birth has medical issues which require her to be isolated. Rahul comes to Kimi house when his father in murdered while protecting Kimi’s father. In order to pay the debt of his and his siblings education, Rahul insists on working. While cleaning the mansion’s windows, fourteen year old Rahul meets Kimi. The two begin a friendship that lasts to adulthood. Then things get complicated.

OPINION: This is a beautiful book that takes place in India but centers on the universal human themes of loss and love and living. A companion to A CHANGE OF HEART, this book tells the story that readers of that book got glimpses of. The book is told in varying points of view and also takes place over time and asks for some commitment from the reader. In return, the reader gets a book that is part romance, part suspense, part life drama.

Kimi and Rahul are a classic friends to lovers story mixed in with impending loss at every turn. The characters are strong and vivid. The story has a strong sense of time and place detailing the complexities of the cross-class romance in India.

I knew where the story was headed on the mystery front early on (there are quite a few clues in A CHANGE OF HEART) but I was enthralled by the intense connection between Kimi and Rahul and how their past is slowly revealed.

The depth of the story comes from how the characters deal with the possibility of loss and about letting go and when not to let go. This is not a fairy tale HEA, but rather a HEA about living ones life no matter what the outcome might be.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book is told in varying points of view over a period of years.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A DISTANT HEART is the fourth book in the Bollywood series. The books generally are loosely connected and can be read as standalones, but this book is closely connected with A CHANGE OF HEART and I recommend reading that book first (it is fabulous) because they are almost companion books.

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 to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.


Review: Crystal Cove

Review: Crystal CoveCrystal Cove by Lisa Kleypas
Series: Friday Harbor #4
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on February 5th 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Paranormal
Pages: 336

FINAL DECISION: My favorite book of the series because it works as a complete story and the magical elements blend perfectly with the romance. The intense focus on the couple made me really enjoy this one.

THE STORY: Justine Hoffman, the owner of a successful Bed and Breakfast hotel in Friday Harbor, has known that her life is missing love. What she never understood is why she can’t feel love. Then she discovers that someone cast a spell upon her to stop her from loving. When she breaks the enchantment, she doesn’t realize that something more dangerous might be in the offing. Jason Black, a successful video game creator has come to Friday Harbor to build a retreat complex — and also for his own mysterious purposes related to Justine.

OPINION: This book avoids the main issue I had with the other books in the series (apart from the first novella): this book manages to marry the personal journey of the heroine, the romance and the magical elements.

The magical elements work because the series goes full-blown into the paranormal without apology. Jason is a man without a soul and Justine is a hereditary witch. There are no conflicts between the straight contemporary story and the magic. This book goes for the magical elements with a whole heart and the book is better for it.

This book also focuses primarily on the romance between Justine and Jason and takes part in the personal journey of Justine only as a part of that story. So there are not chapters and chapters about her personal problems that have no impact on the romance. Here everything is well integrated and connected. Justine’s drama comes from her relationship with her mother and while this story is a part of this book, the focus remains on the romance.

And I loved the romance. The story was so different than what I expected when I read that Justine was going to be involved with a man without a soul. The story was well worked out and things fit in nicely that I got to focus on the characters relationship which was the highlight here. Jason had depth and humor and a sweetness that I didn’t expect.

The book goes a little stronger into the bedroom habits of the couple (and I never expected to end up reading two book about Japanese rope art in the same year) than I usually read with Kleypas’s books, but it works because there is less internal drama with the characters, so things are kept a little more spicy with the external parts of their relationship.

I had only a few small complaints about the story. First, I really thought that Justine would have made Jason pay more for his actions in the book. Or maybe, I wanted her to be more angry and make him grovel a little more. Second, this book and the series really needed something to conclude it. An epilogue or another book. I believe that there was intended to be more of the series, but since there isn’t I really missed seeing how everything worked out for all the couples.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book seemed to set up another book in the series that was not written.

CONNECTED BOOKS: CRYSTAL COVE is the fourth book in the Friday Harbor series. While there are overlapping characters, this book can be read as a complete standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.


Review: Dream Lake

Review: Dream LakeDream Lake (Friday Harbor, #3) by Lisa Kleypas
Series: Friday Harbor #3
Published by Piatkus Books on August 7th 2012
Genres: Contemporary, Paranormal
Pages: 336

FINAL DECISION: I struggled and struggled with how to rate this book because I loved the couple, but ultimately felt that the story didn’t do them justice. I would read parts of it again because some interactions were amazing, but it didn’t work for me as well as a whole.

THE STORY: Alex Nolan is the youngest son of a pair of alcoholic parents and that has made him cynical and jaded and on his way to following in his parents’ footsteps. After his divorce, Alex recognizes that he will be alone. And then he is not alone when he finds that a ghost searching for his identity and his past attaches himself to Alex. Zoe Hoffman is gentle and sweet and everything that Alex knows he will destroy if the two get involved. Zoe, however, sees something good in Alex that calls to her even as her own life has challenges dealing with her elderly grandmother.

OPINION: Some books are challenging to read and some are challenging to decide what I think of them. This book started out really slow for me and I thought it might be worse than the second book in the series which was okay but not fantastic.

But when we got into Alex’s struggle with his drinking and his relationship with Zoe begins to develop, I just fell in love with these characters and their relationship. The gentle way that Zoe overcomes Alex (who doesn’t recognize or want to acknowledge that he longs for commitment and love) was just magical. I loved their interactions which felt real and frank and some really amazing character development.

That middle third to half of the book was amazing.

But the resolution was too quick and too contrived for me. Zoe and Alex deserved something better. I just didn’t buy it. And that might have something to do with the ghost story which didn’t work that well for me.

This book was a mixed bag for me, but the characters are ones that I will continue to think about and those middle pages are ones that I will re-read. But ultimately, the whole of the book meant that I couldn’t give it more stars. I liked the book, but while the characters were amazing, the overall story was only okay.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book takes place at the same time as the second book in the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: DREAM LAKE is the third book in the Friday Harbor series. It is not really necessary to read the other books in the series to enjoy this one although the overlapping characters and timeline make this book better after reading the other two.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.