Review: When Snow Falls

Review: When Snow FallsWhen Snow Falls (Whiskey Creek, #2) by Brenda Novak
Series: Whiskey Creek #2
Published by MIRA on October 23, 2012
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 446
Goodreads
three-stars

FINAL DECISION: Mixed feelings on this one. I really loved the blue collar romance between Cheyenne and Dylan. I didn’t like almost everything else around the romance. The story of the sister’s drug addiction was over the top. The mystery woman story was only a mystery to Cheyenne so it wasn’t a mystery at all. The friend and other man story wasn’t convincing.

THE STORY: Cheyenne Christensen is struggling caring for her mother who is dying from cancer. Cheyenne also seems to have childhood memories about a caring woman who is not her mother. On top of this, her best friend has decided to ask out the man who Cheyenne has secretly been in love with for years. Determined not to interfere with her friend’s potential romance, Cheyenne finds herself in the company of Dylan Amos, the oldest of the troublemaking brothers. Even the possibility of the man of her dreams can’t seem to get Cheyenne’s mind off the bad boy.

OPINION: This book was made up of so many different plot lines that it felt disjointed to me. I wanted more of the Cheyenne and Dylan romance and less of the 50 other side stories. The first half of the book makes such a big deal of the Cheyenne/Dylan/Joe/Eve plot and then it just dropped.

I really liked the Cheyenne and Dylan romance. It was nice reading a blue collar couple for a change. I really liked how Cheyenne begins to see that Dylan is more than what he did in his past. While I thought the beginning of their romance was strange because it occurred so quickly and without any real connection between the characters, I quickly enjoyed their growing and complicated relationship.

I wanted to like this book more because I liked the romance, but I thought that the book lost focus and kept diverting from a good romance to cover a bunch of other stories that just weren’t that interesting to me.

WORTH MENTIONING: I don’t really like that the heroine keeps secrets from the hero even at the end of the book. It’s not a good start for their marriage.

CONNECTED BOOKS: WHEN SNOW FALLS is the second book in the Whiskey Creek series. Although there are characters from the town in each book, this book can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.

three-stars

Review: To Win Her Heart

Review: To Win Her HeartTo Win Her Heart by Brenda Novak
Published by Harlequin Books Genres: Contemporary
Goodreads
two-stars

FINAL DECISION: This story didn’t work for me because I really didn’t see any relationship between April and Gunner. Having both their relationship and the parents in the same short story was just too much ground to cover and not enough development for either.

THE STORY: April Ashton wants to help get her separated parents back together again. So she schemes to bring her mother to the company getaway, but part of that plan ends up being Gunner Stevens, a former race car driver who wants to buy her father’s business. But the scheme necessitates April and Gunner to pretend to be in a relationship.

OPINION: There was nothing horribly wrong with this story, it was just that the short nature of the novella combined with the two romances in the story overloaded the story and meant that I just didn’t get the development of the April and Gunner romance. The beginning of the story between them was really good, but once the time came for them to get emotionally close, I thought the story faltered. Things happened too quickly and without any real development between them. Gunner fell too fast and I just didn’t buy that part of the story.

WORTH MENTIONING: This story was originally published under the title WHAT A GIRL WANTS in the MOTHER, PLEASE! anthology.

CONNECTED BOOKS: This book is a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 2 stars.

two-stars

Review: When Lightning Strikes

Review: When Lightning StrikesWhen Lightning Strikes (Whiskey Creek, #1) by Brenda Novak
Series: Whiskey Creek #1
Published by Harlequin MIRA on August 28, 2012
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 448
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: This book grew on me as it progressed. The star here is the growing relationship between Gail and Simon who talk to one another like adults. The book avoids so many of the expected relationship pitfalls that it constantly surprised me.

THE STORY: Gail DeMarco left Whiskey Creek to form her own public relations firm. But she managed to torpedo her own business when she dropped Hollywood superstar actor Simon O’Neal because he is self-destructing after his divorce. Simon’s revenge is using his star power to strip Gail of her clients. Desperate to save her business, Gail decides to sacrifice her pride and apologize to Simon. As part of the plan to help Simon regain custody of his son by improving his image, Simon needs a upright wife — and Gail fits the bill. A marriage of convenience quickly turns into something more as Simon tries to right his life and Gail finds herself caring too much for her difficult client.

OPINION: What I really loved about this book is that even with a bunch of crazy Hollywood tabloid stuff going on, the real center of this book is the time that Gail and Simon spend together talking and relating to one another.

When the book began, I worried that the book would be about the crazy drama and I didn’t like the idea of Simon much. But that is exactly the place the book wants the reader to be in the beginning. Gail begins to learn about Simon as the reader does. The time they spend together gave this book heart. I loved them as they bantered and revealed themselves emotionally to one another. And I especially loved that all the cliches of how they could be pulled apart melted under adult conversation and trust.

WORTH MENTIONING: I love the group of friends that are the basis of this series. The relationships between them add dimension to the characters in the story.

CONNECTED BOOKS: WHEN LIGHTNING STRIKES is the first book in the Whiskey Creek series (although there is a prequel that is not necessary to read).

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: When We Touch

Review: When We TouchWhen We Touch (Whiskey Creek, #0.5) by Brenda Novak
Series: Whiskey Creek #0.5
Published by MIRA on August 1, 2012
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 102
Goodreads
three-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: An enjoyable novella. I really liked the connection between Olivia and Brandon although I was frustrated by the setup for the story. The execution of the story was well done despite the short length.

THE STORY: Olivia Arnold has returned to Whiskey Creek to plan and attend her sister’s wedding. Unfortunately, the wedding is to Olivia’s ex-boyfriend who ended up getting involved with and impregnating her sister which he wasn’t really her “ex”. Because she owns a wedding planning business, Olivia reluctantly gives in to her parent’s pleas to handle the wedding. While in Whiskey Creek, Olivia runs into her ex’s stepbrother, Brandon who offers her refuge from the family drama.

OPINION: This was an enjoyable novella. The setup is very dramatic and I was really angry at how poorly Olivia is treated by her family. Interestingly, Brandon is also second best in his blended family so the two have something in common. I did think that the dramatic situation with Olivia being forced to organize her sister’s wedding helped focus the story and thus made everything work better. By compressing and pumping up the drama, it allowed Olivia and Brandon’s relationship to work in the compressed time period.  Olivia and Brandon’s relationship was sweet and sexy and I was touched by how everything worked together.

WORTH MENTIONING: This novella introduces many of the characters who appear in the Whiskey Creek series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: WHEN WE TOUCH is the prequel novella to the Whiskey Creek series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.

 

three-half-stars

Review: Before We Were Strangers

Review: Before We Were StrangersBefore We Were Strangers by Brenda Novak
Published by MIRA on December 4, 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 384
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: A good romantic suspense. I enjoyed the combination of the relationship with the suspense/mystery. I really loved Micah (who is a sweetie) and eventually understood Sloan although I didn’t like her actions which seemed reckless and not well thought out at times.

THE STORY: Sloan McBride fled her hometown a decade ago to free herself from her oppressive father. Now she has returned to find out what happened to her mother who disappeared when she was five. Sloan, however, not only has to face the questions from her parents’ past, but also what she left behind when she left. She had abandoned her best friend and her boyfriend, Micah Evans who turned to one another, married, had a child and divorced. Sloan’s return brings complications in these relationships as well.

OPINION: This was an enjoyable romantic suspense. The scariness factor isn’t too high and there is plenty of romance. Indeed, while the mystery is central to the plot of the book, I enjoyed the second chance at romance the best.

Sloan is completely determined and that makes her reckless at times. She annoyed me at her willingness to do stupid things and keep telling people what is going on when there were people who could betray her. That being said, her character was interesting because of her flaws. I liked that her recklessness and impulsiveness is something that is consistent about her character.

Now Micah I adored. He is incredibly kind and responsible and if I have a complaint it is that he forgives Sloan very quickly for her abandoning him a decade ago. I just didn’t buy her reasons for not contacting him at all and it seemed pretty cruel.

I thought that the book described well the difficulties of the relationship between Sloan, Micah and Paige (Sloan’s best friend and Micah’s ex wife). I liked that the characters had complexity and good and bad traits.

I didn’t enjoy this book as much as the Evelyn Talbot books which I found to be a much more suspenseful story, but this one was a good read.

WORTH MENTIONING: I liked that there was an epilogue that wrapped up the story.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BEFORE WE WERE STRANGERS is a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

 

four-stars

Review: The Secrets She Kept

Review: The Secrets She KeptThe Secrets She Kept (Fairham Island, #2) by Brenda Novak
Series: Fairham Island #2
Published by MIRA on July 26, 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 394
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: I really liked this one which had a twisty mystery combined with a nice romance. My only real negative is that I think that Nancy should have made Keith grovel much more before taking him back. Their relationship needed a little more to be truly satisfying as a conclusion.

THE STORY: The beautiful, rich and selfish Josephine Lazarow is found dead from an apparent suicide. But her son, Keith, doesn’t believe that his mother would have committed suicide so he returns to Fairham Island five years after he left and begins to poke his nose into the secrets of his mother. But those secrets might destroy Keith’s family. Keith’s return to the island also rekindles his relationship with Nancy Dellinger who Keith had a relationship five years ago and left.

OPINION: This one had a twisty mystery and in interesting romance. Towards the end of the book, I thought I was going to be very happy with the romance but only marginally happy with the mystery, but then a twist came and I was surprised by the twist and then felt that the romance needed some more resolution to be truly satisfying.

Keith’s mother was a pretty terrible person. This book explores many of her secrets which combined with what we found out in THE SECRET SISTER made it difficult to feel sorry for her. I did like that she wasn’t a complete villain and we get to see some good things about her, which make her complicated but not sympathetic. The revelations of secrets put this book into the I just kept reading category.

Keith and Nancy have a history. They were involved in a relationship five years ago when Keith was taking drugs. He left soon after and managed to reinvent himself and get clean. Now that he has returned, the two resume a relationship. I really liked the connection between Keith and Nancy, but considering the complications in their pasts, I expected a better resolution. Keith and Nancy needed either to get some counseling together or there needed to be more of a recognition on Keith’s part as to the hurt he inflicted on Nancy. He needed to grovel and be passionate about his love for Nancy, and I just didn’t get that from this book.

But I really enjoyed this book and thought it was a good read. I also thought that it was better than the first book in the series (which I did like) because it had a deeper suspense and romance story.

What I really needed was a really good epilogue wrapping up all the siblings stories or there to be another book in this series.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book completes the circle from THE SECRET SISTER and is especially satisfying read with that book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE SECRETS SHE KEPT is the second book in the Fairham Island series. This book can be read as a standalone, but is better if you already know the cast of characters.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: The Secret Sister

Review: The Secret SisterThe Secret Sister (Fairham Island, #1) by Brenda Novak
Series: Fairham Island #1
Published by MIRA on July 28, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 400
Goodreads
three-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: I enjoyed the romance more than the mystery here which is okay with me, but I expected more suspense while I had things pretty much figured out early.

THE STORY: Maisey Lazarow comes back to Fairham Island to help her drug addicted brother after a tragedy in her own life and divorce have sent her reeling in her own life. But coming home means also dealing with her difficult mother which sends Maisey to the other side of the island to stay and puts her next door to Rafe Romero. Maisey and Rafe have a history, and Maisey is determined to keep her distance. But when a discovery of photographs raises questions about what Maisey knows about her family and what happened in the past, Maisey struggles with what secrets her family is hiding.

OPINION: This was an enjoyable story. I really liked Maisey and Rafe as characters. I did feel that the suspense/mystery of the story was not particularly complex and suspenseful, but it was enough to keep me interested in the story where I really liked the romance.

What I really enjoyed in this book was Maisey’s personal journey. The transformation she makes in her life as she emerges from her grief and disappointment to building relationships with her family and with Rafe and his daughter and with those on the island was the most compelling part of this story to me.

I think for readers who want some suspense, but not a too scary or intense book this one would work quite well.

WORTH MENTIONING: I loved Rafe’s daughter and it would be great if she got her own book someday.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE SECRET SISTER is the first book in the Fairham Island series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.

three-half-stars

Review: Face Off

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: Face OffFace Off (The Evelyn Talbot Chronicles, #3) by Brenda Novak
Series: The Evelyn Talbot Chronicles #3
Published by Headline on November 29, 2018
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 416
Goodreads
five-stars

 

“He’s put in the time, done the work. He was almost ready to make his move.”

FINAL DECISION: Simply fabulous! A book that pays off the suspense promises of the prior books in the series and adds character development and a complicated and delicious romance.

THE STORY: Dr. Evelyn Talbot finds that the stable life she is building in Alaska is crumbling as she is getting pressure from her family to return to the safety of Boston, her boyfriend wants her to make a commitment to him, and the demon from her past has apparently arrived in Alaska to finish what he started when he tried to murder her when she was sixteen. When the bodies of two women are discovered, both Evelyn and Amarok realize that the confrontation they have been expecting may have finally arrived.

OPINION: I’m so happy that this book didn’t disappoint. It’s always my fear when I read these books that build upon one another that I might find that the series does not live up to its potential or that it will squander all of the buildup. I’m happy that this book actually was better than I expected.

In approaching this book, I had two things that I wanted: (1) some resolution on the Jasper storyline (since he has been stalking Evelyn throughout the series); and (2) some development with the relationship between Evelyn and Amarok. Happily, this book satisfied these two and gave me more.

In a story that makes me jump at noises at night, the suspense is ratcheted up in this book. There are plenty of twists and turns and scares in this story. Readers of the series know that by the end of the prior book in the series, Evelyn’s high school boyfriend, attempted murderer, and serial killer, Jasper now is working at the serial killer prison that Evelyn spearheaded. Having undergone extensive plastic surgery and the passage of twenty years has allowed Jasper (now using an alias) to infiltrate Evelyn’s world without her being aware of who he actually is. The scenes with Evelyn and Jasper together were creepy and filled with tension.

There are dead ends and dead bodies and plenty of tension and enough fearful possibilities to make me want to put the book down to get an emotional break while at the same time wanting to turn page after page to find out what happens. This book was especially good because things happened that I did not expect and the lack of predictability kept me interested in every twist along the way.

And that is all I’m going to write on the suspense plot because I don’t want to give anything away.

On the romance front things are finally coming to a crisis point between Evelyn and Amarok. For the first time since the early days of their relationship, all the pressures are finally threatening their relationship. Jasper’s continual and looming threat, Evelyn’s family wanting her to return home, Evelyn’s relationship fears, Amarok’s ex-girlfriend, and the increasing number of murders that have occurred in relation to Hanover House are finally weighing down on the couple. This crisis point begins tearing at the fabric that has kept Evelyn and Amarok comfortable in recent months. Now they have to change and grow together or apart. I loved the examination of the fracturing of their relationship and this ended up being my favorite part of the book.

WORTH MENTIONING: I was concerned that this book might be the end of the series, but I was excited to see that there is more planned.

CONNECTED BOOKS: FACE OFF is the third book in the Evelyn Talbot Chronicles. This book focuses on the story between Evelyn and the serial killer who tried to kill her when she was sixteen. While that story has been a part of all the books to this point, this book brings that story to the forefront. While it is not necessary to have read the other book in the series to enjoy this one (the prior events are summarized for the reader), I think that reading the prior books makes this book much deeper and enjoyable.

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.

 

five-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: Hello Again

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: 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