About Sheila

I am an attorney and a lifelong reader. I voraciously consumed Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys and Judy Blume as a child. By the time I was 11 years old I had moved on to Agatha Christie and Rex Stout. When I was thirteen I read Gone with the Wind for the first time and I became a lover of romances. For over twenty-five years, I have been reading all kinds of romances -- many of them multiple times. In college, I majored in Political Science minored in American literature and covered all types of political histories and political theory books, the classics of literature and the modern touchstones of literature, but for pleasure I still gravitate to romances. I read every day and usually finish a book in a day or two. My favorite book is the Great Gatsby but a close second is Gentle Rogue by Johanna Lindsey.

Review: Sapphire Flames

Review: Sapphire FlamesSapphire Flames (Hidden Legacy, #4) by Ilona Andrews
Series: Hidden Legacy #4
Published by Avon on August 27, 2019
Genres: Paranormal, Fantasy
Pages: 359
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: Sapphire Flames is an absolute gem, a captivating installment in the Hidden Legacy series that left me utterly thrilled from start to finish. Catalina’s journey as she embraces her siren powers, teams up with the enigmatic Alessandro, and faces dangerous challenges is a rollercoaster of surprises and excitement.

THE STORY: SAPPHIRE FLAMES is the fourth book in the Hidden Legacy series and follows the story of Catalina Baylor, Nevada’s younger sister. Set in a world where magic determines power and wealth, Catalina is a Prime, the highest rank of magic user, and now the Head of House Baylor. Catalina has always been afraid to use her unique powers, which allow her to persuade and manipulate others. However, when the mother and sister of a woman who previously helped Nevada and the Baylor House are murdered, Catalina decides to risk her reputation and safety to unravel the mystery behind their deaths. Little does she know that powerful forces are at work, and one of them is Alessandro Sagredo, an Italian Prime, and Catalina’s former teenage crush. Alessandro is dangerous and unpredictable, and his true motives remain unclear. Yet, he is inexplicably drawn to Catalina. As they join forces to investigate the murders, Catalina must push the limits of her extraordinary powers. However, her actions may not only cost her House Baylor, but also her heart.

OPINION: This is an absolute gem of a book that left me utterly thrilled and exhilarated from start to finish. It’s a five-star, must-read, and I can’t contain my enthusiasm for this captivating installment in the Hidden Legacy series.

From the moment I delved into the pages, I was swept away by the magic and charm of Catalina and her journey. She has come into her own as a 21-year-old, fully embracing her siren powers since we first met her. And let me tell you, it’s a sight to behold! The rest of the Baylor family is back, including the vivacious crazy grandma Frida, the semi-scary Arabella, the super funny Leon, and of course, the indomitable sniper mom and Bern.

Let’s not forget Alessandro, who defies all expectations. He’s not your typical charming pretty boy; he’s a man of secrets, talents, and a personal vendetta. His dynamic with Catalina is electric, and the sparks fly as they team up to take down the bad guys. And don’t even get me started on Linus Duncan and his awe-inspiring power.

The plot is a rollercoaster of surprises and danger, keeping you on the edge of your seat. The three-year grace period is coming to an end for House Baylor, and the stakes have never been higher. Immunity is about to expire, and Catalina finds herself entangled in a case that everyone warns her against. But of course, she dives headfirst into the challenge, pushing herself to the limits.

What makes this book truly exceptional is the trademark Ilona Andrews blend of humor, danger, and that slow-burn romance that sets your heart ablaze. I devoured every page, unable to put it down. While I missed seeing more of Rogan and Nevada, Catalina and her crew carry the story with unwavering brilliance. Plus, the stage is set for some exciting future books with Catalina at the helm—a prospect that has me eagerly anticipating reading the next chapters in this extraordinary series.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book ends on a cliffhanger of sorts. The romance definitely is in flux at the end of this book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SAPPHIRE FLAMES is the fourth book in the Hidden Legacy Series, but it is also the first book in the trilogy that is Catalina’s story. This series is better read in order, even though a reader could start here and get most of the story.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: A California Christmas

Review: A California ChristmasA California Christmas (Silver Springs, #7) by Brenda Novak
Series: Silver Springs #7
Published by Harlequin MIRA on October 13, 2020
Pages: 322
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: This charming holiday romance showcases the heartfelt connection between Emery and Dallas, making it a pleasant and worthwhile read, especially for fans of the Silver Springs series. While the handling of sensitive themes and predictable plot twists may fall short of expectations, the book still manages to deliver an enjoyable and satisfying story.

THE STORY: Emery Bliss is an up-and-coming TV anchor whose ex posts a humiliating sex tape of her online, causing her to lose her job and self-esteem. Seeking solace and anonymity in Silver Springs, she meets Dallas Turner, a mountain climber who is back home for the holidays for his adoptive mother’s wedding. Despite their initial reluctance to get involved with another person, Emery, and Dallas are thrown back into contact with each other, and sparks start to fly between them. Dallas’ troubled past and Emery’s recent humiliation makes it difficult for them to connect with people, but their growing attraction makes them want to overcome their past and take a chance on love.

OPINION: Overall, I enjoyed this book. The charming holiday romance novel has a lot to offer, including a heartwarming romantic connection between the main characters, Emery and Dallas. Their chemistry is palpable, and their emotional journey is both engaging and satisfying. I also appreciated the depiction of the small town of Silver Springs, which adds depth and richness to the story.

That being said, the book does have its flaws. While the handling of sensitive topics such as revenge porn and childhood trauma is admirable, it can come across as somewhat superficial and lacking in nuance. Additionally, some of the plot twists can feel predictable and formulaic, and the pacing can be a bit slow and meandering at times.

Despite these issues, “A California Christmas” is still a solid and enjoyable romance novel that captures the magic and warmth of the holiday season. Fans of Brenda Novak will appreciate the well-developed romantic connection between Emery and Dallas, as well as the sense of community and camaraderie that permeates the book. While it may not be perfect, it is still a worthwhile read for anyone looking for a heartwarming holiday romance.

WORTH MENTIONING: Something that really bothered me was the heroine taping her phone calls with her ex. That is illegal in California, which is easy to find out.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A CALIFORNIA CHRISTMAS is the seventh book in the Silver Springs series. It can be read as a standalone, although there are some supporting characters who have continuing storylines.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Identity

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: IdentityIdentity by Nora Roberts
Published by St. Martin's Press on May 23, 2023
Genres: Contemporary, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 448
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: This book has a captivating and suspenseful narrative that immerses readers in the resilient journey of Morgan as she faces dangers and pursues her dreams. While the identity theft plot had some minor flaws, Roberts’ storytelling prowess shines through well-developed characters, gripping drama, and surprising twists, leaving readers craving more.

THE STORY: Former Army brat Morgan Albright has found stability in a friendly neighborhood near Baltimore. With the help of her roommate Nina and her job as a bartender, Morgan is making ends meet. However, their lives take a horrifying turn when Luke, a charming IT guy Morgan met at the bar, attends their dinner party. The house is robbed, Nina is murdered, and Morgan’s car is stolen. Morgan soon learns that Luke is actually a con artist named Gavin, who targets women, steals their assets and identities, and ultimately kills them. Devastated, Morgan is forced to flee to her mother’s home in Vermont. She meets Miles, a genuine and unassuming man, who provides some solace as she tries to rebuild her life. Meanwhile, Gavin continues his hunt for new victims, and Morgan lives in constant fear that she is the victim Gavin is hunting.

OPINION: This book had me completely immersed in its captivating and suspenseful narrative. From the very beginning, the story drew me in, introducing me to the resilient and determined heroine, Morgan, and the dangers that surrounded her. While the pacing might not be as fast-paced as some romantic suspense novels, Roberts masterfully built suspense throughout, keeping me on the edge of my seat.

I couldn’t help but cheer for Morgan, with her upbeat attitude and relentless pursuit of her dreams. Her interactions within the generational household she found herself in showcased the strong bonds and love between the women, providing heartfelt and entertaining dialogue.

The romance aspect of the story was equally compelling. Miles, the captivating hero, won me over with his actions and the chemistry he shared with Morgan. Their relationship added depth to the narrative, bringing moments of warmth and tenderness amidst the looming danger. There were moments between Morgan and Miles that just made me sigh and love these two together — along with a very amusing dog named Howl at stole the show at times.

Roberts expertly wove the cat-and-mouse suspense plot between Morgan and the chilling villain, Gavin. I found myself turning the pages rapidly, eager to unravel the outcome of their intense and dangerous game. The blend of family, romance, and murder created a multi-dimensional story that kept me fully engaged.

However, there was one minor flaw that I couldn’t overlook. The identity theft portion of the story had some plot holes and inconsistencies, which occasionally made me second-guess the credibility of the plot. These moments pulled me out of the story, preventing it from being a five-star read.

Nevertheless, IDENTITY showcased Nora Roberts’ storytelling prowess, with well-developed characters, gripping drama, and surprising twists. Despite the minor flaw, the book remained unputdownable, leaving me craving more.

WORTH MENTIONING: There is a nice secondary romance here.

CONNECTED BOOKS: IDENTITY is a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

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.

four-half-stars

Review: The Heiress Bride

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: The Heiress BrideThe Heiress Bride (A Duke's Heiress, #3) by Madeline Hunter
Series: A Duke's Heiress #3
Published by Zebra on May 23, 2023
Genres: Historical
Pages: 318
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: This is a delightful historical romance. Nicholas and Iris’s relationship crackles with flirtation and intense chemistry. The story concludes satisfactorily, but I wanted more time for the couples to savor their happy endings at the end of the series. Still, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable and engaging read.

THE STORY: In the final installment of the trilogy, “The Duke’s Mysterious Heiress,” Nicholas Radnor finds himself in a precarious situation as the new Duke of Hollinburgh. Despite his handsome appearance and charm, Nicholas is burdened with financial difficulties due to his land-poor status. More difficulties arise when Iris Barrington, the last of the three enigmatic women named in the duke’s will, unexpectedly arrives at Nicholas’ doorstep. Nicholas should be skeptical of Iris as she is clearly hiding something, and her story and history are suspicious. Nevertheless, Nicholas is an honorable man, and he works to help determine whether she is the rightful heiress, which is complicated by his immediate and intense attraction to Iris. Iris, an independent and unconventional woman, is a rare book dealer who enjoys a sophisticated and adventurous lifestyle. While she possesses secrets she must protect, she finds it difficult to resist Nicholas’ curiosity and amorous advances. Although she should keep him at arm’s length, his seductive skills make it challenging to maintain her resolve. As the two interact, their mutual attraction complicates matters, but they soon realize that personal gains are not their sole concerns. Nicholas must navigate his newfound responsibilities as the duke, unravel the mystery surrounding Iris’ inheritance, and determine whether their family legacies make them enemies or allies.

OPINION: This is a delightful story that kept me reading to the end in one sitting. One of the standout aspects of the book is the enchanting relationship between Nicholas and Iris, which is both flirty and simmering with intense chemistry. From the very beginning, their connection is palpable, and it’s clear that they are drawn to each other. Despite their undeniable attraction, the characters’ honor and the weight of their secrets prevent them from complicating their relationship, adding a layer of tension and anticipation that kept me eagerly turning the pages.

The book skillfully weaves together the ongoing story surrounding the death of the prior duke, providing a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. The mysteries and secrets that have been built throughout the series are tied up nicely, offering a sense of closure and fulfillment. Hunter’s ability to seamlessly connect the threads of the overarching plot is commendable, leaving no loose ends and leaving readers satisfied with the resolution.

While there is much to love about this book, the ending left something to be desired by me. The absence of an epilogue where all three couples from the series come together is a missed opportunity. It would have been a joy to see them all in one place, celebrating their love and the triumphs they’ve experienced. Additionally, Nicholas and Iris deserved more time to savor their happy ending, allowing readers to revel in their love story and witness the growth of their relationship.

Despite this slight disappointment, the book remains a highly enjoyable read. The captivating romance between Nicholas and Iris, the well-crafted plot, and the satisfying resolution of the overarching story make it a worthwhile journey. This book left me with a warm and fuzzy feeling, even if I ended up craving just a little more time with the characters.

WORTH MENTIONING: I really enjoyed the foray into book collecting depicted here.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE HEIRESS BRIDE is the third book in A Duke’s Heiress series. The romance is self-contained in this book, however, there is an overarching mystery about the death of the duke that continues through all three books and is easier to understand if the books are read in order.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

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

four-half-stars

Review: Her Best Worst Mistake

Review: Her Best Worst MistakeHer Best Worst Mistake by Sarah Mayberry
Series: Elizabeth & Violet #2
Published by Small Cow Productions on May 3, 2012
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 169
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: A fun, steamy, and engaging enemies-to-lovers romance novel that explores the complexities of relationships. I enjoyed this very much.

THE STORY: Violet Sutcliffe has always believed that Martin St. Clair, her best friend’s fiancé, is not right for her. Martin is conservative and stuffy, and the two of them have never gotten along. However, when her friend unexpectedly leaves Martin just weeks before their wedding, Violet begins to feel sorry for him. As she spends more time with Martin, she discovers a strong sexual attraction between them that is both intense and all-consuming. But their relationship is complicated by the fact that Martin was once involved with her best friend, and Violet is afraid of damaging their friendship.

OPINION: This is a great enemies-to-lovers romance novel that delivers a satisfying blend of tension, humor, and steamy passion. Violet and Martin have always been at odds with each other. Violet finds Martin too conservative and stuffy, while Martin finds Violet to be too provocative with a messy life.

When Violet’s best friend, Elizabeth, suddenly leaves Martin just weeks before their wedding, Violet finds herself spending more time with Martin when she should be happy to never spend time with him again. It turns out that they have a sizzling sexual attraction that they can’t ignore.

The book does an excellent job of exploring the complexities of relationships, particularly the fear of losing a friend. The characters are well-developed, and their banter is witty and entertaining. Mayberry’s writing style is engaging, making it easy to become invested in the story.

One of the novel’s strengths is the way it presents the classic enemies-to-lovers trope. The tension between Violet and Martin is palpable, I enjoyed watching their relationship evolve as they began to see each other in a new light.

Overall, HER BEST WORST MISTAKE kept me entertained from beginning to end.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a novella, but the story is constructed to fit perfectly in that space. It didn’t feel rushed or superficial to me.

CONNECTED BOOKS: HER BEST WORTH MISTAKE is part of a duology with HOT ISLAND NIGHTS. This book can be read apart from that book as both books happen at the same time.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: From the Grave

Review: From the GraveFrom the Grave (The Arcana Chronicles, #6) by Kresley Cole
Series: The Arcana Chronicles #6
Published by Valkyrie Press on April 18, 2023
Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult
Pages: 356
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: I loved this book. I cried and laughed. The story ends just perfectly and much better than I expected.

THE STORY: This book begins right where the previous book ends. This is the conclusion of the Arcana series. Evie, the Empress, is soon to have her child and has returned to Death to try and repair their relationship. There is an alliance that is attempting to manipulate the ending of the game. With Jack and her alliance, Evie wants to save her friends and reverse the curse on the earth.

OPINION: This book is an unforgettable emotional journey that left me both satisfied and yearning for more. As a reader who had genuinely mixed feelings about the previous books in the series, I can say that this book exceeded all my expectations.

The book starts right where The Dark Calling left off, with Evie and Aric trying to rebuild their broken relationship while Jack and Gabriel embark on a perilous mission to put an end to the game and save humanity. The story took twists and turns that left me on the edge of my seat as the stakes were higher than ever before. I couldn’t put the book down once I started the first page.

One of the greatest strengths of this book is its characters. Kresley Cole has masterfully crafted complex and multi-dimensional characters that feel like real people. Both Aric and Jack demonstrate the qualities that made Evie fall in love with them both, and the relationship between them is authentic and heartwarming. Even when some of the characters meet tragic ends, their journeys are all the more impactful for it.

The emotional impact of this book cannot be overstated. From the very first page, readers will feel a range of emotions as they accompany the characters on their journey. You will laugh, cry, and experience heartache like never before. The story is so well-crafted that you will feel like you are right there with the characters, living through their pain and triumphs.

The book’s ending is both satisfying and bittersweet, offering closure to the series while leaving enough room to imagine what could come next. It answers important questions, but still leaves enough mystery that I continue to ponder the events and ending. It is an epic conclusion to an incredible series that will leave you breathless and emotionally drained in the best way possible. This book leaves a lasting impact long after the final page has been turned.

WORTH MENTIONING: I keep thinking this series became darker, but it has been pretty dark from the beginning. The series became more emotional as we got to know the characters. I had a hard time with the books in the middle because I really did not like the triangle, but this book ended well.

CONNECTED BOOKS: FROM THE GRAVE is the sixth and final book in the Arcana Chronicles series. This book should NOT be read out of order. It is the conclusion of a series that builds on the prior books.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

The Bride Wore White by Amanda Quick

We are excited to offer you an excerpt from THE BRIDE WORE WHITE by Amanda Quick, releasing today!

Author photo (c) Marc von Borstel

Excerpt from THE BRIDE WORE WHITE by Amanda Quick

Tapson stiffened violently as if he had touched a live electrical wire.

In a sense, that was exactly what had happened.

Tapson stared at her in disbelief and mounting horror. He began to tremble. The tremors became spasms. The knife fell to the carpet, landing with a soft plop.

“No,” he said. “You can’t do this to me.”

His eyes rolled back in his head. His right hand went limp. He no longer had a death grip on the rim of the bowl—he was incapable of gripping anything. He collapsed on the floor and lay still.

She took a shaky breath and yanked her hand off the crystal. The pain of the psychic burn wasn’t from a physical injury—her fingertips had not actually been singed—but her nerves were severely rattled.

She could not afford to succumb to an anxiety attack, not now. She needed to stay focused on survival, because it was obvious her entire world had just been turned upside down.

“Damn you, Tapson,” she whispered to the unconscious man. “I hope you are trapped in a nightmare.

I hope you are locked in it for the rest of your life.”

She had to think. She had to concentrate on the next move.

She took a step and then stopped and put a hand on the table to keep from losing her balance. When she had her nerves under control, she made her way around the table. Crouching beside Tapson, she groped for and found a faint, erratic pulse. He was alive, but she was sure he would never be the same.

There was no way to calculate how much damage she had done to his nerves and his senses. The technique of channeling energy through crystal with enough force to destabilize the source of a person’s dreams was highly unpredictable. It was hardly the sort of skill one could easily practice and refine, at least not in an ethical way.

The talent for doing what she had just done was rare, even in a family with a long history of psychics who could read dreams. But the few accounts left by her ancestors who had possessed the ability had been clear on one point—disrupting an individual’s dream energy was guaranteed to cause considerable damage.

First things first. Her own survival was at stake. She had to get rid of Tapson. She could not let him continue to lie there on the floor of her reading room. What if he woke up and was still capable of killing her? What if he never woke up at all?

She briefly considered trying to hide the unconscious man. Even if she could manage the process—doubtful, because Tapson was large and powerfully built—there was no practical way to haul him any significant distance in the busy city.

There was really only one solution to her problem. She would call an ambulance and explain that Tapson had suffered a stroke during a reading. If or when he woke up, there was a good chance he would not remember exactly what had happened. Even if he did remember what she had done to him, he would have a hard time convincing the police she had tried to murder him with psychic energy.

For her part, she had no way to prove that he had tried to murder her, let alone that he had killed others.

Regardless of what happened to Tapson, her reputation would be destroyed if the press got hold of the story. The rumors alone would ruin her. Clients would certainly not be eager to book appointments with a psychic known to have had a client collapse during a reading. That sort of thing did not make for successful marketing.

She did not believe in omens and portents, but this situation was about as close as one could get to a sign from the universe informing her that it was time to move on.

Excerpted from The Bride Wore White by Amanda Quick Copyright © 2023 by Amanda Quick. Excerpted by permission of Berkley. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Review: The Bride Wore White

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: The Bride Wore WhiteThe Bride Wore White by Amanda Quick
Series: Burning Cove #7
Published by Berkley on May 2, 2023
Genres: Historical, Paranormal, Romantic Suspense
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: I loved this book. It is an enjoyable and satisfying read, with witty dialogue, engaging characters, and a well-developed paranormal element. the romance between Prudence and Jack was a highlight as I loved their prickly interactions. I especially was excited about the more prominent nods to the Arcane Society, and I hope there is more in this vein to come in the future of this series.

THE STORY: Prudence Ryland is a dream reader and psychic consultant who finds herself in danger when her latest client intends to kill her. When she uses her abilities to save herself, she decides to flee and make another life for herself. She changes her career becoming a librarian and moves to a new home, hoping to start fresh. However, she is kidnapped and wakes up in a bloodstained wedding dress next to a corpse, leading to her being framed for the murder. Prudence comes to Luther Pell in Burning Cove to ask for his assistance in proving her innocence. Luther assigns her case to his associate, Jack Wingate. Jack, who is scarred and grim-faced, initially believes Prudence to be a fraud or a murderer, but eventually agrees to help her. However, his idea of helping involves using her as bait for the killer. As the danger to Prudence increases, she finds herself struggling with her growing fascination with Jack.

OPINION: The Bride Wore White is a delightful addition to Amanda Quick’s Burning Cove series, blending elements of historical romance, mystery, and paranormal fiction to create a truly engaging and entertaining read. As the seventh book in the series, it continues the story of the eponymous seaside town and its colorful cast of characters, while also introducing new players and deepening existing relationships.

One of the standout features of Quick’s books is the way she incorporates paranormal elements into her storytelling. The Bride Wore White is no exception, featuring a variety of psychic abilities and supernatural phenomena that add an extra layer of intrigue and excitement to the narrative. From Prudence’s psychic dream consultations to the mysterious chimes that only Jack can hear, there’s always something otherworldly happening just beneath the surface.

I especially loved the relationship between Prudence and Jack. They are two individuals who have lived through emotional isolation and loneliness, and watching them slowly open up and connect with each other is deeply satisfying. The snappy and witty dialogue between them adds another layer of enjoyment to their interactions. Quick is a master at crafting sharp and clever banter between her characters, and it’s no different in this book.

Another highlight of this book is the ongoing development of Luther and Raina’s relationship. Fans of the series will remember these two characters from earlier installments, and it’s been fascinating to see their connection deepen and evolve over time. Their interactions in THE BRIDE WORE WHITE are particularly enjoyable, adding a sense of warmth and familiarity to the overall story.

Perhaps most excitingly for longtime fans, this book features numerous references to the Arcane Society, a secret organization that has appeared throughout Quick’s/Krentz’s/Castle’s various series. For readers who have followed the paranormal threads woven throughout these books, THE BRIDE WORE WHITE is a veritable treasure trove of easter eggs and allusions. It’s clear that Quick has a huge history of the Arcane Society at her disposal and it’s immensely satisfying to see those pieces return and come together in this latest installment.

Overall, The Bride Wore White is one of my favorites in the Burning Cove series, boasting Quick’s signature blend of romance, mystery, and the paranormal. With engaging characters, an intriguing plot, and plenty of nods to Quick’s larger body of work, it’s a must-read for fans of the author.

WORTH MENTIONING: I don’t want to give away spoilers, but I wonder if someone has a matchmaking talent that we might see more of in the future.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE BRIDE WORE WHITE is the seventh book in the Burning Cove series. It is not necessary to read the other books to understand the events in this one since the romance and mystery stand alone. However, readers of the series will know more about the characters who appear in the book. The heroine appeared previously in CLOSE UP.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

NOTE: I received an eARC of this book via Netgalley in order to prepare this 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: Hallowed Ground

Review: Hallowed GroundHallowed Ground (Kate Burkholder #14.5) by Linda Castillo
Series: Kate Burkholder #14.5
Published by Minotaur Books on April 25, 2023
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery
Pages: 75
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: Low-stakes short story/vignette with Kate and John investigating grave robbers. I judge this differently than a full novel, and I really enjoyed this small slice of Kate’s life. I always want more romance with Kate and John, and this one has some nice moments.

THE STORY: Chief of Police Kate Burkholder is called when a human bone is brought home by a family dog. Kate and John have to figure out the origin of the bone and what is going on in a small graveyard.

OPINION: I enjoyed this story because I simply love Kate and John working together. While Kate is certainly capable on her own and it doesn’t often make sense for the two of them to be in one another’s pockets during the serious crimes that Kate investigates in the novels. This story was short and closed definitively at the end. I like that it is part of Kate’s job that isn’t angst-filled and violent. Instead, it ended up being a little spooky and then resolved some community tensions. Fun little read.

WORTH MENTIONING: This story, like others in the series between the larger novels, is really just a slice-of-life promotion for the next book (as it includes a preview of the novel). That being said, I do enjoy these stories.

CONNECTED BOOKS: HALLOWED GROUND is book 14.5 of the Kate Burkholder series. I think this should be read by those who have read at least one book in the series to get the characters and situation.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-stars

Review: The Seaside Library

Review: The Seaside LibraryThe Seaside Library by Brenda Novak
Published by MIRA on April 11, 2023
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 398
Goodreads
three-stars

FINAL DECISION: The book has an interesting premise, but the characters are somewhat unlikeable, the central mystery is too easily solved, and the romance is unconvincing. However, the setting is well-crafted, and the exploration of the characters’ past is intriguing. Overall, it may be worth a read for those interested in complicated friendships, and keeping in mind this is more mystery than anything else.

THE STORY: As teenagers, Mariners Island played a significant role in the lives of Ivy, Ariana, and Cam, who shared a deep friendship. The island’s stunning beaches and iconic lighthouse were a source of joy for them. Ivy’s family owned an ancient property on the island that created a strong attachment for her as an adult. However, the memories of the town were too painful for Ariana, including unrequited feelings for Cam and a tragic event that left a scar on the community. When a young girl disappeared, Cam was accused of murder, but Ariana and Ivy believed in his innocence and promised to defend him, even if it meant lying. Twenty years later, Ariana returns to Mariners, and the trio uncovers the truth about their pasts, futures, and their enduring bond. However, someone is determined to prove Cam’s guilt, and even Ariana and Ivy begin to question whether he is truly innocent.

OPINION: This novel presents an interesting premise, but unfortunately falls short in several areas. One of the most significant drawbacks of the story is the characterization. The characters are not particularly likable, which can make it challenging to become invested in their storylines. In particular, Ariana, Cam, and Ivy are flawed individuals with deep-seated issues that can make it difficult to sympathize with them. In particular, Cam’s marriage feels more like a plot device and invented obstacle to the romance rather than a real issue to work through.

Additionally, the resolution of the central mystery of the book becomes apparent far too early on, which robs the story of much of its suspense. While there are some red herrings and twists along the way, it is not enough to make up for the lack of mystery. The ending feels anticlimactic, and it is hard to be invested in a resolution that is all but inevitable.

The romance between Ariana and Cam is another element that leaves something to be desired. It is difficult to understand why the two characters are drawn to each other, and their chemistry is not particularly compelling. The romantic storyline feels tacked on and does not add much to the overall narrative.

Despite these criticisms, the book does have some redeeming qualities. The setting of Mariners Island is well-crafted, and the descriptions of the town and surrounding area are vivid and engaging. The exploration of the three friends’ past and the traumatic events that shaped them is also intriguing and provides some depth to the characters.

WORTH MENTIONING: I think this book is not well represented by its cover, title, or description. There is nothing significant about the “Seaside Library” justifying the title, and this is more mystery than a summer beach read.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE SEASIDE LIBRARY is a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.

three-stars