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.


Review: Rugged Texas Cowboy

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: Rugged Texas CowboyRugged Texas Cowboy (Cowboys and Captives, #1-2) by Lora Leigh
Published by St. Martin's Press on December 5th 2017
Genres: Contemporary

This is an anthology of two separate novellas that have overlapping characters although the stories are separate.

COWBOY AND THE CAPTIVE: Melina is the “good” twin who is constantly seeking her parents approval in the face of their preference for the “bad” twin who is always in trouble. Now Melina has been kidnapped by Luc Jardin who is seeking revenge against Melina’s twin — and doesn’t realize that Melina is not her.

This is a very sexy story. I enjoyed the relationship between the main characters, but I have to admit the story of Melina being intimidated to taking punishment in place of her sister is a thin story in a modern context. I also was a bit annoyed with Luc in his continued willful ignorance of Melina’s identity.  I wish he had had to grovel more for his treatment of Melina. But this was a quick and easy read.

Rating: 3.5 stars.


Angel Manning is furious when the family heirloom that is supposed to lead her to the man for her is sold by her father to Jack Riley. She is determined to get back what is her destiny and certainly has no intention on becoming attached to a playboy like Jack. She’s been that way before and knows to protect her heart.

This story felt a bit disjointed and I never really became attached to the characters. For me, I felt there was something missing in their interaction and not enough drama. I didn’t feel the emotional connection and even the sexual tension wasn’t that exciting. I certainly didn’t think that this book was as good as the first in this anthology.

Rating: 2 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: Rainshadow Road

Review: Rainshadow RoadRainshadow Road (Friday Harbor, #2) by Lisa Kleypas
Series: Friday Harbor #2
Published by Piatkus Books on February 28th 2012
Genres: Contemporary, Paranormal
Pages: 308

FINAL DECISION: This was a fine story and parts were really good, but I thought the first half was better than the conclusion and nothing about it was really memorable.

THE STORY: Lucy Marinn discovers that her live-in boyfriend of two years has dumped her for her younger sister. Lucy asks herself why she keeps getting involved with the wrong kind of man. When she meets Sam Nolan, owner of a local vineyard, she knows she bad man streak continues. Sam is a nice man but he is upfront that he never intends to marry and any relationship with him can only be physical. The two cannot seem to avoid one another, however, as accidents, matchmaking and coincidences keep bringing them together.

OPINION: I wanted to really love this book, but I only ended up liking it and that was primarily because of the characters. In some ways this felt like a book made up of jumbled genres. Contemporary romance, women’s fiction, and paranormal just didn’t work together in this book.

I loved the characters and wish this was more like a true contemporary romance. Instead, this book has a women’s fiction feel where the story is more about Lucy’s personal growth than the romance. We don’t get enough about Sam and Lucy together. In fact, much of their story ends up taking place in the space of a couple of paragraphs noting that they spent months together as a couple.

I liked the characters and the story, but I thought the romance ended up a bit disconnected even though it had great potential.

The book also has paranormal elements that seemed to have no real purpose in the story. They were weirdly placed and didn’t really contribute to the story. They were neither fully integrated into the characters nor significant enough to the story to make their placement worth breaking the contemporary romance rules.

Parts of the book were really good. I loved the parts where the deep emotions between Lucy and Sam are allowed to be the focus, but those moments were only enough to make the overall book likable.

The book feels like an experiment that I didn’t find entirely successful.

WORTH MENTIONING: I think the blurb for this book doesn’t really describe the story in this book as it suggests that Sam and Lucy get together because of her ex’s interference. That is just not true.

CONNECTED BOOKS: RAINSHADOW ROAD is the second book in the Friday Harbor series. It can be read as a standalone although there are overlapping characters.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.


Review: Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor

Review: Christmas Eve at Friday HarborChristmas Eve at Friday Harbor (Friday Harbor, #1) by Lisa Kleypas
Series: Friday Harbor #1
Published by St. Martin's Press on October 26th 2010
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 221

FINAL DECISION: A good Christmas story if a bit simplistic and lacking the emotional depth and humor of other Kleypas books. I enjoyed this book but I’ll keep it in my holiday reads rather than my keepers.

THE STORY: The last thing Mark Nolan expects is to take on raising his niece Holly, but when his sister dies in an accident, Mark realizes that no one else will do it. Even as he and his brother take on caring for Holly, Mark realizes that Holly wants and needs a woman’s presence so he thinks about getting engaged to the woman he is dating, but he can’t stop thinking about Maggie Collins. Maggie has come to Friday Harbor after the death of her husband and she plans never to love so much again because it almost destroyed her before. But the sweet Holly and her uncle are something she can’t resist.

OPINION: I enjoyed this book, but it certainly reads more like a shorter holiday novel than the complex romance I expect from Kleypas. This story started out incredibly well but just at the time that Mark and Maggie recognize their feelings for one another, the remained of the story becomes simple and easily resolved.  The truth is that there is not enough conflict between these characters or the situation in the beginning. So when the situation with Mark’s current girlfriend is resolved, there is really nothing keeping them apart and all that is required is the happy ending.

I thought the book was well written and enjoyable as a simple holiday read. The characters are well constructed and I enjoyed seeing Mark become a father to Holly. There was nothing that I didn’t like about this book, it just wasn’t a particularly deep or complex story.

WORTH MENTIONING: There was a television movie made of this book entitled CHRISTMAS WITH HOLLY.

CONNECTED BOOKS: CHRISTMAS EVE AT FRIDAY HARBOR is the first book in the Friday Harbor series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.


Review: Cowboy’s Legacy

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: Cowboy’s LegacyCowboy's Legacy (Cahill Ranch #3) by B.J. Daniels
Series: Cahill Ranch #3
Published by Harlequin Books on November 28th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Romantic Suspense

FINAL DECISION: This might be my favorite B.J. Daniels book I’ve read. I really liked the combination of the romance and the suspense story. This book is more suspense than romance, but I really liked the “romance in review” way of going through Flint and Maggie’s story.

THE STORY: Sheriff Flint Cahill’s girlfriend Maggie disappears just as the two are moving in together. Flint knows that his crazy ex-wife must be involved, but Flint is forbidden from being involved in the case. The question is whether or not Maggie will be found in time.

OPINION: This book covers the kidnapping of Maggie. The focus is primarily on the search for what happened to Maggie and Flint trying desperately to find her. As might be expected with B.J. Daniels’ stories, there is a strong focus on the suspense and mystery aspects of the story.

But there is also an interesting method of exploring how much Flint and Maggie mean to one another as they are separated. Through flashbacks, thoughts and explanations, the relationship between Flint and Maggie is explored and experienced by the reader. I don’t think I’ve ever read a romance I liked so much where the main characters spend so much time apart.

The drama and suspense works really well here and for readers of the series, quite a few stories are nicely wrapped up by the end.

As a matter of full disclosure, this book isn’t a romance in the sense that most people might expect. While the story explores Flint and Maggie’s story, they are already together as the book begins and there is quite a bit of their story in the prior books in the series (although reviewed here for new readers).

I just liked the whole sense of the book. It’s construction felt different than others I’ve read and I liked that about it.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book seems to wrap up the overarching storylines from the series so it seems in some way as the end of the series. However, there are a number of characters who are available for their own stories so I hope we see more of them in the future.

CONNECTED BOOKS: COWBOY’S LEGACY is the third book in the Cahill Ranch series. This book can be read as a standalone, but this story has been percolating in the prior two books so reading those will give the background to this one. I think that this book should be read as part of the series to get all the nuances.

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: Shadow Reaper

Review: Shadow ReaperShadow Reaper (Shadow, #2) by Christine Feehan
Series: Shadow, #2
Published by Jove on May 30th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Paranormal
Pages: 480

FINAL DECISION: This was really enjoyable — perhaps more for the suspense and action part of the story than the romance. Nevertheless, I think this is a fun (not funny) action story with an intense “fated” romance.

THE STORY: Ricco Ferraro is a shadow rider. The shadow riders are assassins who do justice by using their ability to travel via shadows to do their work. Ricco has been becoming more reckless and that worries his family. When he meets Mariko Majo, Ricco instantly knows that she is a woman who is special because she is one of the few women who can mate with a shadow rider and produce children. Mariko’s mysterious background intrigues Ricco, but the question is why has Mariko come to Ricco and what danger has she brought to the Ferraro family?

OPINION: This was an adventurous story as the Ferraro family is under attack and the question is why and who is behind it. I thought the pacing and depictions of the family was a highlight of the story. The story is suspenseful and also a bit graphic at times because this family is not sitting around doing knitting. The story is gritty and dark at times with a lot of violence.

Ricco is a playboy who has gotten bored with his own life: fast women and fast cars. When he meet Mariko, things begin to change for him. I do like that Ricco is certainly a family man who loves and cares for his family. That quality is important especially because the family verges on being an organized crime family (or at least that is the way they are viewed by outsiders).

Mariko is a woman who has been ground down by everyone around her for most of her life. Yet she is a woman of integrity. Like many of Feehan’s heroines, she is sexually inexperienced and sometimes quite a bit naive about her sexuality. There is quite a bit of dominant alpha male and submissive woman in this book although the book acknowledges a sense where the roles are reversed — even though Ricco is ostensibly in charge, he is only responding to Mariko’s wishes. This is most clearly expressed in the Japanese rope bondage that the two engage in. This was a kink that I haven’t read about before in romance books and I thought it was well explained and used through the book especially because it is clear that there is an artistic side and a sexual side and the book explores the characters moving from one vision to another.

WORTH MENTIONING: I’m still waiting for the Romeo and Juliet story that has to be coming later in the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SHADOW REAPER is the second book in the Shadow series. This book can be read as a standalone although the world building descriptions are in the first book so a reader would have to figure that part out.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.


Review: Misadventures of a Virgin

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: Misadventures of a VirginMisadventures of a Virgin (Misadventures, #14) by Meredith Wild
Series: Misadventures #14
Published by Waterhouse Press, LLC on November 21st 2017
Genres: Contemporary

FINAL DECISION: I really enjoyed this second chance at love story. The story is sweet and its depth reflects its short length, but I liked the characters and found the story interesting.

THE STORY: June Bell has spent her life helping her father in his hotel. His plans to expand in the small town have been stymied by the McCasker family with whom June’s father has had a feud with for years. Now Kase McCasker has returned to town. Four years ago he left after a scorching kiss between June and Kase and the revelation of a secret that sent Kase’s world spinning. Kase has returned and June might be the only reason that Kase is willing to consider her father’s deal.

OPINION: This was an enjoyable and easy to read story. I thought that the connection between these two was good and there was some drama as to what Kase’s motives are. I liked the progress of the story and there was enough plot twists to keep the story interesting. The connection between Kase and June pre-exists the beginning of this story so this is really about these two rediscovering one another.  There is a sweetness to the story combined with some real heat in the sexual encounters. That combination makes a good story. This book is one of my favorites in the series so far.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a short novella.

CONNECTED BOOKS: MISADVENTURES OF A VIRGIN is the fourteenth book in the Misadventures series. The series books are complete standalones with no overlapping characters or places.

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


Review: Cowboy’s Reckoning

Review: Cowboy’s ReckoningCowboy's Reckoning (Cahill Ranch, #2.5) by B.J. Daniels
Series: Cahill Ranch #2.5
Published by Harlequin Books on October 1st 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery
Pages: 70

FINAL DECISION: I liked these characters and their interaction. I just wish the story was longer because I found these characters very interesting.

THE STORY: Billie Dee Rhodes has come to Montana from Texas running from her past and looking for a new start (and maybe a cowboy). Taking the job as the cook for the Stagecoach Saloon, Billie Dee has enjoyed her daily talks with Henry Larson, a retired rancher. When danger from Billie Dee’s past comes to town, it is a question whether they will have time to have anything else develop between them.

OPINION: I loved these characters. It is rare for there to be a good romance with more mature characters. My biggest disappointment with this story is that it is too short. I could have read an entire full length book with these two. They are sweet and funny together.

Henry is a widower with three grown children and the scene where he is getting ready for his first date with Billie Dee was so funny. I loved seeing them get to know one another and also begin to reveal their secrets.

There is a short suspense plot incorporated in this story which worked very well. I really liked how Billie Dee and Henry start out their romance. I only wish we had some heat in the story and for things to go further than it did in this book.

I would definitely read another “part two” novella about these two and I wish there had been more pages to read.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a short novella.

CONNECTED BOOKS: COWBOY’S RECKONING is book 2.5 in the Cahill Ranch series.  While there are small appearances by characters from the series, this novella can be read on its own.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.


Review: Born in Shame

Review: Born in ShameBorn in Shame (Born In trilogy #3) by Nora Roberts
Series: Born in Trilogy #3
Published by Paw Prints on April 9th 2009
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 368

FINAL DECISION: I’m split on this book. I loved so much of it because I loved the first two books of the series, but I thought the romance here wasn’t nearly as developed or as good as the others in the series.

THE STORY: New York graphic artist Shannon Bodine has her life turned upside down when her mother reveals that Shannon is the result of an affair with a married man. Losing both parents in a year and discovering that her entire history was a lie, Shannon feels adrift in her life. When her half sisters in Ireland reach out to her, Shannon decides to travel to Ireland to meet them and see if she can recover her sense of balance in her life. In Ireland, Shannon meets Murphy Muldoon, a man wedded to the land his family has farmed for generations. The attraction between them is immediate although Shannon does not want to get involved in a temporary relationship that she knows will end when she returns to New York.

OPINION: This book frustrates me in many ways. I loved so much about it. As a continuation of the series, I would give the book a very high rating. I loved seeing the couples from the previous books and I enjoyed the resolution of the three sisters’ story. That familial part of the book was incredibly satisfying as their relationship developed in this book.

But in many ways the time spent on the developing relationship between Maggie, Brianna and Shannon was robbed from the romance between Shannon and Murphy. Indeed, I think that is why there is an “insta-love” destined element to their romance — the book couldn’t both develop their relationship in a deep fashion and also the sisters’ relationship.

The relationships between the couples in the first two books took place over months and thus the sacrifices they agreed to make felt reasonable and natural. Here, Shannon is in Ireland for just over a month but is willing to toss everything away — it just didn’t feel as natural as the other books. Instead, I think the book relied on its paranormal crutch too much to explain the intensity of the relationship.

I loved Murphy — who is just adorable. A gentle and talented and completely centered man. He knows who he is and is satisfied with his life. He also knows exactly what he wants when he sees Shannon.  Shannon was more prickly and more difficult to like (she is similar to Maggie in that sense), but by the end of the book I understood her and even liked her. I especially liked seeing her relationships develop in this book.

The best part of this book is the relationships between the six main characters in the series. Whether it is the women bonding or the men drinking themselves silly or the caring “sister”-“brother” relationships between the men and the women, I loved seeing this family be created. That is the highlight of this series as a whole. This is the creation of the next generation.

But I still find the relationship between Murphy and Shannon to be more shallowly explored than the other two books.

WORTH MENTIONING: Small spoiler that this book has some paranormal elements although it is not the main part of the story.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BORN IN SHAME is the third and final book in the Born in Trilogy. This book should only be read after the first two in the series because it resolves the overarching story in the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.


Review: Born in Ice

Review: Born in IceBorn in Ice (Born In Trilogy, #2) by Nora Roberts
Series: Born in Trilogy #2
Published by Berkley on November 1st 1996
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 384

FINAL DECISION: My favorite book of the trilogy, BORN IN ICE has two characters whose past has kept them from moving forward with their lives. I loved how Brianna wins over the wandering Gray with a quiet simplicity.

THE STORY: Brianna Concannon has made a life for herself after converting her family home into a bed and breakfast inn. The younger sister, the dutiful daughter and the one always seeking to make peace in her family, Brianna is looking forward to a quieter winter with only one scheduled guest. Grayson Thane is a famous mystery writer who has come to Ireland seeking peace and quiet and inspiration for his next novel. Gray enjoys his gypsy life traveling from place to place working on his writing. Attracted to Brianna, he wants her but knows that things will end and he will move on.

OPINION: This is my favorite book in the series because I loved both the hero and the heroine in this book from the start.

Brianna is the peacemaker in the family. She has always tried to smooth over the difficulties in her family and yet this book shows how she has been effected by the discord between her parents and the resulting familial difficulties. Despite or perhaps because of this, Brianna has sought to make a peaceful domestic atmosphere that she has translated into her small business of her inn. I loved how Brianna uses the domestic arts to make a “home” for travelers. She is the “ice” in the story because of her place in her family and also because of her quiet personality. This book reveals secrets in her past which result her re-evaluating her life. Into that disruption comes Gray who pushes Brianna from her safe space.

Gray is a man who is so scarred by his past that he has built a great life, but one of a nomad with few personal connections. He sees this as a kind of freedom, but he is challenged by Brianna and the town where she lives. A man who insists that he will not stay when he starts an affair might seem callous, but Gray is so open and honest and caring that I understood him as a character rather than thinking he was a jerk. This book also delves deep into the writing process (something the author certainly understands) and I loved the depictions of how Gray works as an artist.

When I think of this series, I always think about the characters sense of place in Ireland and also how they all connect to the artistic process. There is such an expansive understanding of artistry in this book. Gray is the obvious artist because of his writing, but Brianna is an artist in her own right as she cooks and knits and gardens. The appreciation for these arts is something that I appreciate in this book because such great talent is something that is often overlooked.

This book has a small subplot of mystery which fits the story because of Gray’s profession, but this book is really focused on the relationship between Brianna and Gray. The subplots only serve the purpose of the romance which is exactly how I like my romance books.

WORTH MENTIONING: Readers of the first book in the series will get a nice update on Maggie and Rogan.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BORN IN ICE is the second book in the Born in Trilogy. While the romance here is self-contained and thus can be read as a standalone, this series is meant to be read together as there are overlaps in characters and an overarching storyline.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.