Review: Inheritance

Review: InheritanceInheritance (The Lost Bride Trilogy, #1) by Nora Roberts
Series: The Lost Bride Trilogy #1
Published by St. Martin's Press on November 21, 2023
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 448
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: INHERITANCE by Nora Roberts is a spellbinding start to the Lost Bride Trilogy. It was impossible for me to put down. It is a supernatural romance and mystery centered around a multi-generational tragedy set in a haunted mansion, well-paced and cleverly written.

THE STORY: Graphic designer Sonya MacTavish’s life takes an unexpected turn when she learns that her late father had a twin brother she never knew about. Her newly discovered uncle, Collin Poole, has left her almost everything he owned, including a majestic Victorian house on the Maine coast. The catch? She must live in the house for at least three years. As Sonya begins to unravel the secrets of her family’s past, she discovers that she has inherited far more than just a house – she has also become the key to solving a centuries-old curse.

OPINION: I was absolutely captivated by this story from beginning to end. Roberts created a rich, atmospheric setting in Lost Bride Manor, and I felt as though I was right there with Sonya, experiencing ghostly happenings and unraveling the mystery alongside her. The characters are well-drawn and relatable, particularly the strong bond of sisterhood between Sonya and her best friend Cleo.

The supernatural elements are woven seamlessly into the plot, adding an extra layer of intrigue and suspense. The ghosts that inhabit Lost Bride Manor are not merely there for scares; they each have distinct personalities and roles to play in the unfolding story. From the helpful spirit who tidies up after Sonya to the malevolent presence on the third floor, these otherworldly characters are just as integral to the tale as their living counterparts.

I also really enjoyed the developing romances in this book — yes, there are more than one. Roberts, as always, is amazing at her craft and after reading some rather unsatisfying books, it was great having such a well-written book to read. The story never drags, despite its length, and the cliffhanger ending left me desperately eager for the next installment. I can’t wait to see what awaits Sonya and her newfound family as they continue to unravel the secrets of the past.

WORTH MENTIONING: The book ends on a cliffhanger, so if you prefer a more conclusive ending, you may want to wait until the following two books in the series are published and read them consecutively.

CONNECTED BOOKS: INHERITANCE is the first book in the Lost Bride Trilogy.

STAR RATING: I give this book an 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: Ice Planet Barbarians

Review: Ice Planet BarbariansIce Planet Barbarians (Ice Planet Barbarians, #1) by Ruby Dixon
Series: Ice Planet Barbarians #1
Published by Berkley on April 3, 2015
Genres: Paranormal, Sci-Fi
Pages: 188
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: A unique and steamy sci-fi romance that transports readers to a distant ice planet where human women and alien barbarian men forge unexpected connections. Ruby Dixon’s imaginative world-building and sizzling chemistry between the characters make for an entertaining read.

THE STORY: Georgie Carruthers, along with a group of other human women, finds herself abducted by alien slavers and stranded on a desolate ice planet. Struggling to survive in the harsh environment, Georgie encounters Vektal, the leader of a primitive tribe of alien barbarian men. As Vektal helps Georgie adapt to life on the ice planet, the two discover a powerful attraction that transcends their differences. But with danger lurking around every corner and cultural misunderstandings threatening their budding relationship,

OPINION: Ice Planet Barbarians is a delightful escapist story. Dixon’s creative premise and attention to detail in crafting the Ice Planet setting drew me in from the start. The contrast between the human women and the alien barbarian men creates a dynamic that allows for both humor and heart.

Georgie is a relatable and resilient heroine, adapting to her new surroundings while maintaining her sense of self. Vektal, though initially intimidating, proves to be a protective and caring partner, learning to understand and appreciate Georgie’s human quirks. The chemistry between them is scorching hot, with Dixon balancing the steamy scenes with moments of tenderness and emotional connection.

The supporting cast of characters, including the other human women and the members of Vektal’s tribe, add depth and richness to the story. (And plenty of future couples).

WORTH MENTIONING: The unique “resonance” concept between the alien barbarians and their mates adds an intriguing layer to the romantic relationships in the story, raising questions about fate versus choice.

CONNECTED BOOKS: ICE PLANET BARBARIANS is the first book in the Ice Planet Barbarians series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars for its inventive premise, engaging characters, and steamy romance.

four-stars

Review: People in Glass Houses

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: People in Glass HousesPeople in Glass Houses (Ghost Hunters, #16) by Jayne Castle
Series: Ghost Hunters/Harmony #16
Published by Berkley on May 7, 2024
Genres: Paranormal, Futuristic
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: PEOPLE IN GLASS HOUSES is a very enjoyable entry in the Ghost Hunters series, offering a well-balanced mix of romance, mystery, and paranormal elements. Castle’s engaging characters, intricate plot, and unique setting make for an enjoyable read that will satisfy fans of the series and attract new readers to the world of Harmony.

THE STORY: Joshua Knight, the disgraced explorer now known as the Tarnished Knight, seeks refuge in a remote, mirror-filled mansion after a disastrous expedition in the Underworld’s Glass House sector. With his psychic senses shattered and memories lost, he is determined to uncover the truth behind his team’s disappearance.

Molly Griffin, a gifted crystal artist, believes Josh holds the key to finding her missing sister, Leona, who was part of the ill-fated expedition. She arrives at the mansion, ready to help Josh regain control of his abilities, but she must abide by his rules: stay away from the basement and leave the draped mirrors undisturbed.

OPINION: Castle’s masterful world-building and skillful storytelling create an immersive experience from the very first page. The author knows the rules of this world well, and thus, it feels as real as her contemporary books. The plot, filled with secrets and supernatural elements, keeps readers engaged and guessing until the end.

One of the greatest strengths of this novel lies in its characters. Molly and Josh are both incredibly likable and relatable, each with their own unique personalities, flaws, and motivations. As they spend nearly the entire book together, Castle allows ample time for their relationship to develop organically. The initial tension between them gradually transforms into a deep, genuine connection that feels both earned and satisfying.

The dynamic between Molly and Josh is electric, their personalities clashing and complementing each other in equal measure. Castle expertly weaves together their individual struggles and shared goals, creating a compelling and emotionally resonant relationship.

The presence of Newton, Molly’s loyal and adorable dust bunny companion, adds a delightful touch of humor and warmth to the story, as dust bunnies always do.

WORTH MENTIONING: Gabriel Jones and Lucy Bell, characters from the previous book GUILD BOSS, make an appearance as Molly works on their wedding celebration. This nice tie-in rewards longtime readers and adds depth to the interconnected world of Harmony.

CONNECTED BOOKS: PEOPLE IN GLASS HOUSES is the sixteenth book in the Ghost Hunters/Harmony series. While it can be enjoyed as a standalone novel, starting from earlier books is recommended to provide a richer understanding of the Harmony universe and its inhabitants.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

NOTE: I received an eARC of this book 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: Tourist Season

Review: Tourist SeasonTourist Season by Brenda Novak
Published by MIRA on April 23, 2024
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 352
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: This well-paced story about a woman’s growing doubts about the men in her life is a good read despite an ending that may not fully satisfy.

THE STORY: Ismay Chalmers decides to spend her summer at her fiancé Remy’s family’s opulent cottage on Mariners Island. However, her plans for a tranquil getaway are disrupted when a hurricane strikes the island before Remy’s arrival. As Ismay weathers the storm alone in the spacious house, she stumbles upon an unsettling secret hidden in Remy’s childhood closet. Amidst the chaos, the estate’s caretaker, Bo, comes to Ismay’s aid, repairing the cottage and providing a sense of security during the tumultuous weather. With his own home damaged, Bo temporarily moves in with Ismay, and an unexpected bond begins to form between them. Ismay starts to question her feelings for Remy as she finds herself drawn to Bo’s quiet strength and genuine nature. Just when she thinks she can trust Bo, she finds out that he has secrets, too.

OPINION: TOURIST SEASON is a suspenseful contemporary romance that keeps readers on the edge of their seats and the pages turning. While the cover may suggest a light, romantic read, the novel delves into darker territory as Ismay finds herself questioning the motives of the men she encounters and whether they might pose a danger to her.

Throughout the story, Ismay’s discoveries and interactions with the characters, particularly her fiancé Remy and the enigmatic caretaker Bo, lead her to question the trust she has placed in them. As secrets are unveiled and the plot thickens, Ismay’s suspicions grow, and she begins to wonder if anyone is truly who they seem to be. This element of suspense adds a layer of tension to the story, keeping readers engaged and eager to uncover the truth alongside Ismay.

Novak’s pacing is well-executed, with a gradual buildup that allows readers to become invested in the characters and their struggles. The luxurious beachfront cottage on Mariners Island serves as an atmospheric backdrop.

While the ending may not fully live up to the potential established by the story’s buildup, TOURIST SEASON remains an engaging read and a good choice for a summer read. Novak’s ability to craft relatable characters and explore the complexities of relationships, particularly in the face of doubt and potential danger, makes this novel a satisfying choice.

WORTH MENTIONING: The cover of this book is deceiving. It is a great suspense/mystery and pretty creepy for quite a bit of the story.

CONNECTED BOOKS: TOURIST SEASON is a standalone. It takes place on Mariners Island, the same as BOOKSTORE ON THE BEACH, but the books are not connected otherwise.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Archangel’s Lineage

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: Archangel’s LineageArchangel's Lineage (Guild Hunter, #16) by Nalini Singh
Series: Guild Hunter #16
Published by Berkley on April 23, 2024
Genres: Paranormal
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: ARCHANGEL’S LINEAGE feels like the end of an era, wrapping up major storylines while leaving the door open for potential future developments. Nalini Singh has crafted an emotionally charged and gripping tale that will leave fans of the series both satisfied and eager for more.

THE STORY: Raphael and Elena are finally experiencing a year of true peace, free from the horrors of war and archangelic power. However, their tranquility is shattered when the earth beneath the Refuge begins to tremble, endangering the fragile young of angelkind and the sanctuary that has kept them safe for eons.

Amidst the chaos, Elena’s father suffers a violent heart attack, threatening to extinguish their last chance to heal the wounds of their shared past. As Elena battles grief, Raphael is torn from her side by the sudden disappearance of an archangel. To make matters worse, an ancient Ancestor awakens from his slumber to warn the Cadre of a darkness so terrible that it causes empires to fall and civilizations to vanish.

OPINION: ARCHANGEL’S LINEAGE is a fitting return to Raphael and Elena’s story and feels like it could possibly serve as the series’ conclusion. The world is unsettled, with quakes and natural disasters plaguing the globe, and the couple must strive to protect their people and the failing natural barrier of the Aire.

Nalini Singh masterfully blends action, suspense, and character development, creating a riveting story that keeps readers engaged until the very end. The exploration of Elena’s mortality and her relationships with her human family adds depth and emotional weight to the narrative.

The introduction of new characters, such as the enigmatic Ancestor, and the emergence of a secondary story involving a former Guild character and a mysterious vampire add fresh elements to the well-established world.

This book really feels like a conclusion to the initial story of the series. In Singh’s skilled hands, the narrative ties up loose ends and provides a sense of closure for the characters and their arcs while still leaving room for potential future developments. In Singh’s Psy-Changeling series, she made a deliberate pivot to end the initial “Season” and move into new stories. This book can operate in the same way. It feels like much is resolved. If she intends to continue the series, I hope this opens new stories and characters for exploration.

WORTH MENTIONING: The book provides satisfying updates on couples from previous books, such as Titus and Lady Sharine, and offers glimpses into the lives of the growing children in the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: ARCHANGEL’S LINEAGE is the sixteenth book in the Guild Hunters series. To fully appreciate the character development, story arcs, and satisfying wrap-ups provided in this installment, it is essential to read the previous books in the series. While ARCHANGEL’S LINEAGE offers some context, the emotional impact and the significance of the resolutions will be most keenly felt by those who have followed the series from the beginning.

STAR RATING:  I give this book a well-deserved 5 stars for its perfect blend of action, romance, and emotional depth and for the satisfying resolution it offers to the series’ fans.

NOTE: I received an eARC 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

My Season of Scandal

My Season of ScandalMy Season of Scandal (The Palace of Rogues, #7) by Julie Anne Long
Series: The Palace of Rogues #7
Published by Avon Books on April 23, 2024
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: A captivating and emotionally charged tale of an unlikely love between a world-weary man and an innocent country girl. Long’s signature wit, lyrical prose, and masterful relationship-building are on full display in this seventh installment of the Palace of Rogues series.

THE STORY: Catherine Keating arrives in London for her first season, determined to find a suitable husband. However, the glittering ballrooms and societal expectations prove more daunting than she anticipated. When a chance encounter leads her to the Grand Palace on the Thames, Catherine finds herself drawn to the enigmatic Lord Dominic Kirke, a man known for his fiery speeches in Parliament and his ability to captivate any woman he chooses. As they navigate the season together, attending balls and sharing secret moments, Catherine and Dominic discover a connection that goes beyond mere attraction. But with Dominic’s tragic past and Catherine’s innocence, their love seems doomed from the start. Dominic must decide whether to protect his battered heart or risk everything for the woman who has captured it so completely.

OPINION: Once again, Julie Anne Long has crafted a delightful romance in returning to the Grand Palace on the Thames. The pairing of an older, cynical man and a young, optimistic woman is an unlikely combination that surprises even the characters themselves. Long’s incredible use of language elevates the story, while cameos from beloved characters add depth and continuity to the series.

The emotional journey between Catherine and Dominic is the heart of this book. Their conversations are emotionally resonant, allowing them to understand each other on a profound level. The love they share brings out the best in both of them, a testament to Long’s skill in building relationships. The “tragic past” trope is handled with a fresh perspective, making Dominic’s story compelling and relatable.

The yearning and angst between Catherine and Dominic is palpable, creating a delicious tension that keeps the pages turning. Their secret meetings and desperate attempts to resist their feelings only heighten the slow-burn romance. Watching them navigate their big, scary feelings and put each other’s hearts back together is a beautiful and rewarding experience.

Dominic, usually so eloquent in Parliament, finds himself tongue-tied and baffled by Catherine, who slips under his defenses like water through a leak. Catherine, in turn, refuses to let Dominic hide away from his pain and hurt. The result is a love story that is both tender and passionate, with a satisfying ending that will leave readers sighing with contentment.

WORTH MENTIONING: The secret alcove run-ins and rendezvous add a delightful touch of forbidden romance to the story.

CONNECTED BOOKS: MY SEASON OF SCANDAL is the seventh book in the Palace of Rogues series. While the romance stands alone, reading the series in order provides a richer experience and allows readers to fully appreciate the cameos and connections to previous characters.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: The Messy Life of Jane Tanner

Review: The Messy Life of Jane TannerThe Messy Life of Jane Tanner (Coyote Canyon, #3) by Brenda Novak
Series: Coyote Canyon #3
on February 20, 2024
Genres: Contemporary
Goodreads
two-stars

FINAL DECISION: Disappointing in both the relationship and in engagement in the story.

THE STORY: Jane Tanner, a small-town vintage gift shop owner, longs for adventure and motherhood while caring for her ailing grandfather. She drunkenly propositions Kurt Elway, her younger sister’s ex-boyfriend and the man secretly pining for her, to father her baby. As they navigate their complicated relationship, Jane and Kurt must determine what they really want from life and one another.

OPINION: THE MESSY LIFE OF JANE TANNER, the final installment in the Coyote Canyon trilogy, fails to be charming or even particularly romantic. Jane Tanner’s character is frustratingly inconsistent, with her desire to move to San Francisco and have a baby seeming poorly thought out and illogical. The romance between Jane and Kurt lacks the spark and depth needed to make their relationship believable, as their entire relationship feels immature. While the book attempts to tackle themes of friendship, family, and embracing life’s messiness, it ultimately falls flat in its execution. Fans of Brenda Novak may find this book disappointing compared to her usual standard.

WORTH MENTIONING: I was disappointed that the book really didn’t wrap up the series as much as I would have liked. If it is a series, I think there should be some resolution of the secondary stories brought up in the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE MESSY LIFE OF JANE TANNER is the third book in the Coyote Canyon series. It can be read as a standalone, although there are characters from the prior books in the series and some secondary stories that continue during the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 2 stars.

two-stars

Review: Preferential Treatment

Review: Preferential TreatmentPreferential Treatment (Indecent Proposals #2) by Heather Guerre
Series: Indecent Proposals #2
on August 21, 2022
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 254
Goodreads
one-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: I would have DNF’d this book if it wasn’t so short.

THE STORY: Mikhail Volkov, once an orphan in poverty, is now a wealthy tech CEO who yearns for a strong woman to conquer him. Kate Pasternak, struggling to make ends meet, encounters Mikhail, who offers to help her financially in exchange for companionship. This is a femdom story.

OPINION: The entire story is described in one sentence. A submissive male whom the heroine gets to be “socially responsible” and give away all his money. It was a dumb story, and the characters had no connection. She was using him the whole time and never seemed to care about him. She also has the nerve to complain about him being a billionaire, and yet she constantly demands that he buy her things. Bleh.

Not for me, but I’m sure that for the right person this book would be perfect.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a shorter book at about 250 pages.

CONNECTED BOOKS: This is the second book in the Indecent Proposals series. I haven’t read the first book and didn’t even realize there was a prior book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 1.5 star.

one-half-stars

Review: A Dish Best Served Hot

Review: A Dish Best Served HotA Dish Best Served Hot (Vega Family Love Stories #2) by Natalie Caña
Series: Vega Family Love Stories #2
on June 27, 2023
Genres: Contemporary
Goodreads

FINAL DECISION: Liked Saint but really didn’t end up liking Lola. That’s a problem with a romance in my opinion.

THE STORY: High school sweethearts Santiago “Saint” Vega and Lola León separated years ago. Saint joined the military. Years later, the two meet up in their old neighborhood. Lola is a substitute teacher, caring for a family member, and working at a local community center. She discovers that Saint’s family construction business now threatens the future of this community center. Although on opposite sides, Saint and Lola still have feelings for each other. They must work together to find a way to save the community center, bring their arguing families together, and deal with their unresolved emotions from the past.

OPINION: This book promises a second-chance romance but does not deliver. There are too many characters and side stories that bury the love story between Saint and Lola. Their high school romance is lost among all the other drama.

The author tells more than shows when it comes to Saint and Lola getting back together. It feels like big moments happen suddenly between chapters instead of on the pages. There is not much dialogue between them either. Because of this, their relationship does not feel emotional or real.

It is also hard to understand why Saint and Lola broke up in high school because their reasons are not clear. The intellectual reasons are given, but there is nothing heartfelt about this book. There is just too much going on and the characters suffer as a result even as I wanted to like them. I did like Saint as he tries hard to be a good, single father. Lola is not as easy to sympathize with in her aggressively stubborn activism and for someone who claims to accept herself she is pretty shrill and insists her view is the only one that matters.

The other characters like Saint’s daughter seem only created to move the messy plot along. They have no real personalities. This book reads more like a story about community issues than a believable second chance at love.

I only give this book 2 stars because there are parts of this book that I enjoyed, including Saint’s as a character, and Lola and Saint’s romance as teenagers, but it feels like an amateurish effort in many aspects.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book seems directed towards a 20s audience.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A DISH BEST SERVED HOT is the second book in the Vega Family Love Stories series. There are a lot of characters that I suspect are introduced in the first book in the series, and this book doesn’t really explain who they are. I haven’t read the first book in the series and this book made me feel like I should have started there.

STAR RATING: I give this book 2 stars.

Review: Simply the Best

Review: Simply the BestSimply the Best (Chicago Stars, #10) by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Series: Chicago Stars #10
Published by Avon on February 13, 2024
Genres: Contemporary
Goodreads

FINAL DECISION: With two characters who have more in common than at first glance, this messy and sexy story with some mystery was really enjoyable.

THE STORY: Brett Rivers is a cutthroat sports agent known as “The River” who is devoted to his job when a costly mistake involving his top client puts his career at risk. Rory Garrett is struggling to launch her chocolate business after having a drunken misunderstanding with Brett that makes her feel like a failure yet again. But when an unexpected event happens involving Rory’s celebrity footballer brother and his ex-girlfriend, she and Brett reluctantly join forces, both wanting to find Rory’s brother – Rory to help her brother and Brett to save his career. Despite their mutual attraction, their differences threaten to undermine their goals…unless they can work together to unravel the mystery, confront their personal demons, and maybe even find an unlikely happy ending.

OPINION: Phillips’ latest Chicago Stars romance is classic SEP fun. Rory dreams of having her own chocolate shop, but she’s broke. Her half-brother Clint is a famous football player with a lot of money. Brett is Clint’s agent who helps manage his career. Rory and Brett don’t like each other at first. (Well, actually they kind of do, but I’ll leave that surprise for readers) But then something happens with Clint and the two have to work together.

As Rory and Brett spend more time together, they start to enjoy each other’s company. Rory is messy and disorganized but super creative. Brett is very organized and responsible. Opposites attract, and the chemistry between these two is hot. What I loved best is that as the book goes on, Brett is shown to be more of an emotional mess than expected and Rory has responsibility and maturity in different ways. This is not a true “enemies to lovers” but comes pretty close. Watching them go from antagonism to deep love is what SEP excels at. You just know they are perfect for each other even when they fight.

There are also some funny side stories with Rory’s stepmom Kristin. I loved that SEP did not make her a caricature as she first appeared.

This book has everything great about SEP’s writing: humor, steamy romance, interesting mystery, and characters who are at their core decent people. Rory and Brett have their flaws as humans but end up balancing each other out nicely.

WORTH MENTIONING: I want Clint’s book now. He’s much more interesting now with some darkness and baggage.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SIMPLY THE BEST is the tenth book in the Chicago Stars series. This book can be read as a standalone. While there are mentions and cameos from other characters in the series, they are limited, and there is no overarching plot. Brett works for Heath Champion, so we get some glimpses of Heath and Annabelle from MATCH ME IF YOU CAN (Chicago Stars book 6).

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.