Review: On Second Thought

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: On Second ThoughtOn Second Thought by Kristan Higgins
Series: Cambry-on-Hudson #2
Published by HQN Books on January 31st 2017
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 480
Goodreads

FINAL DECISION:  A book that focuses on two sisters experiencing the ending of the relationships and the birth of new ones, this book was interesting but the romance was definitely secondary.

THE STORY:  Kate finally has everything she has ever wanted except a child.  She and her new husband have been trying since their marriage and have hopes of having a child soon — then he husband dies in a freak accident on the night her stepsister expects to get engaged. Ainsley has been with her boyfriend for eleven years and expected to be with him forever — until the death of Kate’s husband convinces him to dump her. Now Kate and Ainsley are living together and their mutual grief and anger bring them together in a way they didn’t expect. Both also have other men in their lives step up and begin to develop a different romantic relationship.

OPINION:  I’ll be honest with you, I’m not a fan of so-called “women’s fiction” because I prefer books where the romance is central to the story.  While this book has romance (two of them) in it, I was left unsatisfied because I wanted to know more about the romance between the characters than either Kate or Ainsley’s personal journey.

That doesn’t mean the book wasn’t good.  It was well written and I really did enjoy it, but I wouldn’t read it again.  The central story in this book is Kate’s loss of her husband. Because the book begins before her husband’s death and takes her through her grieving process, her husband is a central part of the book.  This is Kate’s journey and I greatly appreciated that her journey was complex and multifaceted and addressed head on how one lives again after a loss.  The book was especially refreshing in that it doesn’t judge Kate for moving on — even if other do. It is all here..the grief, the anger, the denial, the desire to be normal and live again.  The emotions are messy and much remains unresolved.

For me, however, the complexity of these emotions meant that they overshadowed any romance between her and Daniel. Things between them felt like default. I liked him and liked his character, but I didn’t feel any intensity between them. Instead, it felt like any guy who had been there for her would have garnered the same response from her. I walked away from the book wondering if the two would even be together in a couple of years.

I really liked the story of Ainsley more and I wish there had been more resolution to her story. Ainsley is suffering when her boyfriend of eleven years dumps her, but that event opens her up to the possibility of a different guy. I thought that her feelings for her ex were resolved before she got involved so the romance felt less conflicted and I really got some connection between these characters.  Her romance was funny and sweet and my only wish is that I had gotten more.

This book is billed as two sisters who resolve their relationship.  But there really isn’t much to resolve between these two.  Yes, there was distance and the two were not particularly close, but there were no serious disagreements or problems between them.  Rather than being their story, I felt that Kate’s personal journey was the heart of this story and Ainsley had a supporting role (even though the book is told in alternating first persons).

Ultimately, the book is a serious look at grief and loss and living again, but not my favorite kind of book.  (I do want to note that I read Higgins previous book in this vein, IF YOU ONLY KNEW, and liked it much better).

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book is really women’s fiction rather than romance although romance does play a part.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  This book is loosely connected to IF YOU ONLY KNEW as the two take place in the same town, Cambry-on-Hudson.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3.5 stars.

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

Review: Wyoming Brave

Review: Wyoming BraveWyoming Brave (Wyoming Men #6) by Diana Palmer
Series: Wyoming Men #6
Published by HQN Books on December 27th 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 384
Goodreads
three-stars

FINAL DECISION:  A typical Palmer romance with an experienced hero who misjudges the sweet innocent heroine and then regrets it.  I liked this book but it doesn’t elevate Palmer’s formula but rather stays strictly within its boundaries.

THE STORY:  Ren Colter has closed himself off after his fiancee’s betrayal. Everyone is therefore surprised — even Ren — that he allows Meredith Grayling to stay at his ranch. Meredith is hiding from a stalker. Nervous and afraid, Meredith is dealing not only with her current threat but past abuse as well.  The alpha male feels his protective instincts go in overdrive over the innocent Meredith and her gentleness might soothe Ren’s battered soul.

OPINION:  I’ve read Palmer’s books for over thirty years. Her readers know that she has a formula for her books. Her characters often — and almost always in recent years — live in small western towns.  There is usually an experienced but romantically betrayed man who meets up with an inexperienced woman.  He mistakes her for experienced, treats her poorly, finds out the truth and then spends the rest of the book groveling.

I know what I’m getting in one of her novels and sometimes the characters make the story fantastic.  This book was just okay for me. The characters were nice — and even the hero wasn’t too jerky — but I didn’t feel that the characters expanded the formula nor were they so compelling that I thought — “wow!  I’m like to read this again”.

Enjoyable for the time I spent reading it and ultimately forgettable as a book.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book actually is a crossover book with Palmer’s Long, Tall Texans series with appearance by characters from that series.  Seeing characters that I’ve

CONNECTED BOOKS:  WYOMING BRAVE is the sixth book in the Wyoming Men series.  It can be read as a standalone although pretty much all of Palmer’s books are connected these days with characters appearing from different books and series.  This book is most closely connected with DEFENDER.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3 stars.

three-stars

Review: Into Dust

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: Into DustInto Dust (The Montana Hamiltons, #5) by B.J. Daniels
Published by HQN Books on July 26th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 368
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION:  Action packed and very intriguing romantic suspense. There is more suspense than romance, but I enjoyed this one enough to want to read more of the series.  A warning that the story is not self-contained.

THE STORY:  When Cassidy Hamilton, youngest daughter of potential US President, is almost kidnapped off the street, she is saved by cowboy Jack Durand. The two end up on the run trying to find out who wants Cassidy.  The truth strikes close to home for both Cassidy and Jack as it appears that family might be at the heart of the danger that both are in.  The conspiracy that the two tumbled into is decades old and people will kill to bring the conspiracy to fruition.

OPINION:  I really liked that the book began with immediate action.  The book was very focused on the suspense portion of the story.  There is a romance, but I wouldn’t read the book for the romance alone because the focus of the story is the mystery suspense.

The book is filled with overlapping stories and points of view which makes the book a big puzzle.  I thought the book was filled with tension and drama and I worked to figure out who was being deceptive and who was honest.

The suspense story is definitely the highlight.  There is a lot going on here and I think it might have been even better if I had read the other books in the series.

The romance between Jack and Cassidy was pretty predictable at first but wrapped in a very tension filled and dramatic storyline.  I was completely surprised by how their romance ended up.  The story is not complete here and the twist at the end might end up disappointing those looking for a pure romance.  I ended up being completely enthralled by the story and definitely will be reading the next book to find out what happens.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This is the first book by B.J. Daniels that I have ever read, I thought it was good and I now want to read the Montana Hamiltons series from the beginning.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  INTO DUST is the fifth book in the Montana Hamiltons series. I have not read any of the other books in the series, but I was able to figure out most of what was going on. I suspect that the book would be even better if I had read the other books in the series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Trial by Desire

Review: Trial by DesireTrial by Desire (Carhart, #2) by Courtney Milan
Series: Carhart #2
Published by HQN Books on September 28th 2010
Genres: Historical
Pages: 360
Goodreads
four-stars

Unique Concept

TRIAL BY DESIRE is the second novel in the Carhart series. It is the sequel to PROOF BY SEDUCTION and fans of that book will be happy to see Ned Carhart get his happy ever after. In PERIOD BY SEDUCTION, Ned gets married after mistakenly compromising Lady Kathleen. This book takes place three years later. Ned, who is bipolar (though it is never called as such in the book) left because of his struggles with depression. He has now returned to a wife he barely knows. Kate has spent the years that Ned has been away helping women flee their abusive husbands.

This story is about two people who have secrets and yet are married. I liked how Milan makes these two characters struggle. There are no magic answers in this book. At the end, Ned still struggles, but has learned to struggle with Kate. I thought that was a wonderful and hopeful message.

The edition I read is an enhanced version that includes some additional material from the author including deleted scenes, commentary, pictures and some small audio clips. While these enhancements are not extensive, they are an interesting addition. For example, I learned how difficult this book was for Milan to write and how many problems she still had with it.

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four-stars

Review: Unclaimed

Review: UnclaimedUnclaimed (Turner, #2) by Courtney Milan
Series: Turner #2
Published by HQN Books on September 20th 2011
Genres: Historical
Pages: 422
Goodreads
five-stars

Courtesan and Virgin Trope Elevated

UNCLAIMED is the second novel in the Turner series about the three Turner brothers. This book is about Mark Turner, the youngest and a virgin (but not innocent as he tells the heroine). Mark has written a book that has taken society by storm. It is a book about chastity for men. Mark’s reputation has masse other men want to ruin him. Jessica Farleigh is a courtesan who has come to seduce Mark and ruin him publicly in order to get enough money to stop being a courtesan.

I am not a fan of this troupe, but this book is much more than that basic story plot. Milan has created real, dynamic characters who experience so much pain and growth. I loved these two together especially because Milan does not allow their happy ending to come easily.

Both of these characters have reputations that do not encompass who they really are. They are more complex than the label. Mark is not a virgin because of his moralistic principles but because he doesn’t want to cause harm. Jessica is not a poor girl ruined by a man and in need of rescue. Jessica is strong but at the same time she receives from Mark’s regard an ability to make things right for herself.

I loved this book much more than I had expected. One doesn’t have to read the prior novel and novella in this series, but UNVEILED does give the reader more information and understanding of the charger of Mark and the Turner family.

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five-stars

Review: Unveiled

Review: UnveiledUnveiled (Turner, #1) by Courtney Milan
Series: Turner #1
Published by HQN Books on January 25th 2011
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
five-stars

Unique Version of Familiar Story

UNVEILED is the first book in the Turner series. It is the story of Ash Turner who is the eldest of three brothers. Ash has managed to make himself the heir to the Duke of Parford a distant cousin by proving that the Duke’s children are illegitimate because the Duke had a secret marriage to his mistress in his youth. Margaret Dalrymple is the Duke’s daughter. She is, however, masquerading as the dude’s nurse to find out more information about Ash in order to restore her family.

The premise of this story may sound familiar but zero Milan has a way of executing these familiar story tropes in a way that is unique and empowering to her characters. Ash and Margaret are simply amazing. Ash makes Margaret see herself as empowered — as a person who makes things happen rather than having things happen to her. He gives her the confidence to see in herself the strength to make her own future.

Milan subverts the expectations of the reader and thus pulls her characters into being more real, more human.

I had read the synopsis of this book before reading it and had in fact put off reading the book because Ash sounded like a horrible person, but he is simply amazing.

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five-stars