Review: The Family Gathering

Review: The Family GatheringThe Family Gathering (Sullivan's Crossing, #3) by Robyn Carr
Series: Sullivan's Crossing #3
Published by Mira Books on April 17, 2018
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 352
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: An enjoyable and complex family drama combined with a man and a woman reinventing themselves as part of a community. This is a slow burn romance that gives the characters time to get to know one another and fall in love.

THE STORY: Dakota Jones has come to Sullivan’s Crossing after leaving the military. His brother and sister have settled there and Dakota is, for the first time (after years of keeping his distance), feeling the need to be with his family for a while. But a short visit becomes a job and a sense of place and a woman who interests Dakota from the moment that they meet. Sid is the bartender of her brother’s place and she has some serious baggage of her own. A divorce and a breakdown brought Sid to Sullivan’s Crossing and she has made a new life for herself. She’s definitely not interested in a relationship — but Dakota is not a man who gives up easily.

OPINION: What I loved most about this book was the sense of community that the story creates. The stories of the characters intertwine, the book doesn’t shy away from the hard parts of life such as abuse, betrayal, mental illness, substance abuse, divorce, death and adultery. Yet, this book isn’t a downer. Rather, it is about how characters rise above the problems in their lives and truly connect with the other people in their community.

Dakota comes to Sullivan’s Crossing to reunite with his brother and sister who have settled down in the small town. So this story is not just about Dakota finding a romance but also about family dynamics and siblings building adult relationships with one another. We get to see Dakota building a life for himself in a way that includes the possibility of true connection with one another.

Sid is a woman who has already built a new life for herself, but she is also in a limbo. She doesn’t want to risk love, but she ends up finding Dakota’s persistence and kindness irresistible.

The romance between Dakota and Sid is a gentle and slow building thing. I liked that these two really get to know one another as the book progresses. There is a sweetness and a maturity in their romance along with a deep sense of respect and commitment. This is a grown up story and I really liked that.

There are some dramatic moments dealing with family and some outside agitation, but I never felt that it overshadowed the connection and Dakota and Sid are building. It just felt like a part of life.

I really enjoyed seeing the prior couples from the series and also getting an update on Tom and Lola’s romance.

This is truly a community story and we get to see how people fit together. The story is multi-faceted and has lots of layers and complexity. I really enjoyed returning to Sullivan’s Crossing.

WORTH MENTIONING: For fans of the series, if you read ANY DAY NOW, this book gives a continuation of the story of Sierra and Connie.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE FAMILY GATHERING is the third book in the Sullivan’s Crossing series. While the main romance here is self-contained, this book has various storylines running through it which connect with prior books. I think the book is better read as part of the series although all the information needed is in this book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Shameless

Review: ShamelessShameless (The House of Rohan, #4) by Anne Stuart
Series: The House of Rohan #4
Published by Mira Books on June 21, 2011
Genres: Historical
Pages: 411
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: I loved the romance between Benedick and Melisande which is more traditional than the other books in this series (Benedick is not as rakish or as close to irredeemable as the other heroes in the series). The two are so perfect for one another from the start but are determined to resist the possibility.

THE STORY: Viscount Benedick Rohan has been exceedingly unlucky with women. He’s buried two wives and had a fiancee commit suicide. He needs an heir and this time he intends to find a woman that he can marry and then ignore while he finds his pleasure elsewhere. His attempts to find that pleasure are interrupted by Lady Melisande Carstairs who is a social reformer who has taken on protecting prostitutes as her cause. She’s called “Charity Carstairs” and she and Benedick can’t do anything but fight and bicker, but when Melisande needs Benedick’s help in foiling the Heavenly Host, the two end up striking all kinds of sparks off of one another.

OPINION: The most traditional of the series, Benedick is a man who doesn’t want to be hurt again so he’s determined to keep away from the woman who threatens his peace. I found Benedick’s desire to protect himself the most poignant part of this book. He comes from a place of hurt and that makes him strike out to protect himself. He hurts Melisande, but hurts himself during the process. He’s not the nicest or kindest hero, but compared to his sister’s husband (Lucien from BREATHLESS) he’s pretty much a choirboy.

Melisande is a woman who is incredibly strong and determined. After a marriage to an old and ill man, she has tossed convention aside in her desire to help prostitutes. It has scandalized the aristocracy and left her reputation in tatters, but she does not allow the opinions of others to keep her from doing what she believes is right. Eschewing marriage and family, Melisande insists she is content with her life.

Both Benedick and Melisande, however, hide an inner desire for love and family. And they are immediately attracted to one another. They hide and protect themselves with arguments and anger towards one another.

I loved their romance and Benedick in particular because he so desperately wants to love Melisande and is so afraid of doing so.

I also really enjoyed getting to see Miranda and Lucien again. Although we get to see their happy ending in BREATHLESS, I liked seeing how their relationship has grown and changed after several years.

Benedick is not the typical Stuart anti-hero. He’s much more traditional even if he is a jerk to the heroine for a lot of the book.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book also begins the story of Brandon and Emma. It took 7 years but Stuart finally has written their story which was painfully incomplete in this book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SHAMELESS is the fourth book in the House of Rohan series. There are overlapping characters in this series, but the romance here is self-contained and can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

 

four-half-stars

Review: As You Wish

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: As You WishAs You Wish by Jude Deveraux
Series: The Summerhouse
Published by Mira Books on March 6, 2018
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 416
Goodreads
two-stars

FINAL DECISION: This book isn’t really for me. The intertwined stories of three women combined with time travel/alternate realities was just too odd women’s fiction. Not a bad book, but not one I would pick up again.

THE STORY:  Sixty year old Oliva is a newlywed with regrets. Not over her marriage, but over the years she wasted away from the man she loves. Forty year old Kathy is married to man who is in love with someone else. Elise is married to a man who seems to want to get rid of her — in any way possible. The three end up at Summerhouse with the opportunity to change everything in their lives and make things right.

OPINION: I’m not the audience for this book because something really bothers me about the entire premise of the story. I don’t like the “let’s have a redo” on stories in general. It’s tricky because it feels to me like a cop-out on having to accept the choices one makes. I am often willing to suspend disbelief, but this premise always bothers me.

The multiple storylines also kept me disconnected from all of them. I prefer my books more emotion and this book just felt like a gimmick based on the plot. The story wasn’t bad and neither were the characters, but the resolution just didn’t work for me. I think someone who was willing to look past the plot twist might enjoy this one better.

On the positive side, I like seeing the Montgomerys.

WORTH MENTIONING: I’m not sure I like the impact of this story on THE GIRL FROM SUMMER HILL.

CONNECTED BOOKS: AS YOU WISH is the third book in the Summerhouse series, but I haven’t read those books. For me, the book is a sequel of sorts to THE GIRL FROM SUMMER HILL.

STAR RATING: I give this book 2 stars.

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

two-stars

Review: Reckless

Review: RecklessReckless (The House of Rohan, #2) by Anne Stuart
Series: The House of Rohan #2
Published by Mira Books on September 1, 2010
Genres: Historical
Pages: 408
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: I really loved this book because Adrian is never as bad as he thinks (and certainly not as dark and dangerous as his father). Charlotte and he make a great match with some suspense and drama tossed in.

THE STORY: Miss Charlotte Spenser is firmly on the shelf so she convinces her cousin to allow her to attend a meeting of the Heavenly Host to see vice and sin first hand. She also happens to want to see Viscount Adrian Rohan who Charlotte has been fascinated with for years. Adrian has been engaged in sinful activities for years and while he has kept his distance from the innocent Miss Spenser, he can’t resist her when he appears at his revelries.

OPINION: This book wanders closer to the typical rake hero. Adrian is not as dark as many of Stuart’s heroes and the romance while focusing a great deal on the sexual experiences between the hero and heroine does follow a more typical storyline.

Charlotte immediately breaks down Adrian’s walls. He struggles for a while, but he doesn’t have a strong reason to avoid her. In fact, the real drama in this story ends up being mostly external.

I really liked the heat between these two. Adrian is a little bit of a jerk, but Charlotte is strong and willing to put him in his place. I loved watching her gain strength and determination as the story progresses.

The funny thing is that these two end up being pretty sweet as a couple.

WORTH MENTIONING: There is a secondary romance in this book that I enjoyed but wish we had gotten a whole book about because they are that interesting.

CONNECTED BOOKS: RECKLESS is the second book in the House of Rohan series. This book is about the son of the couple from book 1 so this book can be read as a standalone but also has some overlapping characters.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Right Where We Belong

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: 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: Until You Loved Me

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: 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: Any Day Now

Review: Any Day NowAny Day Now (Sullivan's Crossing, #2) by Robyn Carr
Series: Sullivan's Crossing #2
Published by Mira Books on April 18th 2017
Genres: Commentary
Pages: 384
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION:  Serious but not dark look at a woman who is trying to rebuild her life and the man she meets who helps her look to the future.  Enjoyable and soul enriching story that focuses on hope and redemption.

THE STORY:  Sierra Jones has come to Sullivan’s Crossing as part of the beginning of her new life.  She comes to be close to her brother (Cal from WHAT WE FIND) as she works on her recovery from addiction.  As she moves day to day in building a new life, she finds herself becoming part of the community and meeting Conrad (Connie) Boyle, a local firefighter with whom she begins spending time.  But even as the future begins to unfold, darkness from Sierra’s part threatens her future.

OPINION:  This is a serious and thoughtful look at a woman who is struggling to rebuild her life and the sweet man who doesn’t want complicated, but can’t help but be attracted to it.

Sierra is a woman who is working hard to recover from her addiction.  This book is unflinching in its portrayal but this isn’t a downer book.  Indeed, this book is about triumph and recovery and hope.  I liked her as a person and I admired her determination to overcome her illness.  I also admire this book for giving Sierra an addiction where there is still stigma.  I can’t help but cringe at reviews which complain about having a main romance character with an addiction — as if such people are not deserving of a happy ending.  I enjoyed flawed characters making their journey through the world.  This book is serious, but not dark.

I great deal of the lightness in this book surrounds Connie who is a gentle, giving soul.  He is an uncomplicated man in that he just wants a happy ending and a family.  Of course, Sierra upends those dreams but he is a good contrast to her and a great support.  (Plus who can resist a sexy firefighter?)

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book takes a serious look at addiction and recovery.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  ANY DAY NOW is the second book in the Sullivan’s Crossing series.  While there are overlapping characters, this book reads as a complete standalone.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars