Review: One Perfect Summer

Review: One Perfect SummerOne Perfect Summer by Brenda Novak
Published by MIRA on April 7, 2020
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 400
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: A solid summer read. This book has plenty of self-discovery and relationship building between the newly discovered sisters. I enjoyed this, but women’s fiction is not my favorite.

THE STORY: When using a DNA test, Serenity Alston discovers two half sisters. As three meet for the first time, each of them is facing a crisis in their lives. Serenity has testified against her own husbands for crimes he committed which has caused conflicts in her family along with her questioning her own judgment.  Lorelei’s marriage has crumbled when her husband had an affair with her best friend. Reagan has had an affair with a married co-worker. Each of these women is struggling even as they are trying to see what relationship they can have with their newly discovered biological half-sisters.

OPINION: I liked this book as these three women try to create a relationship between them as their lives are complicated by men and children. There is quite a bit of drama and an attempt at an overarching mystery of how these three ended up related.  That part of the book didn’t work for me as well as the relationship building between these characters. The ending of the book really seemed to switch the mood of the story.

For me, the best part of the relationship between these sisters is how they come to accept one another. None of them is perfect and the acceptance is important to the story.

There is a lot of issues with men in this book and at times I just wanted to say — figure out your own life and worry about men later. I prefer romances and even though I knew that this was women’s fiction, I enjoy the author so I gave this one a chance. It was certainly a good and different read that is a perfect summer beach read.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a woman’s fiction book not a romance even though relationships with men are involved in the book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: ONE PERFECT SUMMER is a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Christmas in Silver Springs

Review: Christmas in Silver SpringsChristmas in Silver Springs (Silver Springs, #6) by Brenda Novak
Series: Silver Springs #6
Published by MIRA on October 29, 2019
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 432
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: This is a book about rebuilding. Both Tobias and Harper are starting new lives. I found their struggle emotionally satisfying although I really didn’t like that Tobias kept his secret for so long. That was a bit annoying even though I understood his character’s motivation. I just think that they needed more time to process the truth so I docked the book a little.

THE STORY: Tobias Richardson has just been released from prison after serving a long sentence for shooting someone when he was seventeen. Tobias is determined to turn his life around and moves to Silver Springs to be with his brother. When he spots a woman he is instantly attracted to, he notices that she seems sad and gives her a rose. Harper Devlin is on the verge of having her divorce from her rock star husband finalized. After a decade of marriage, he wants his freedom to explore his superstar life and has left Harper and their two children. But Tobias can’t bear to tell Harper the truth about his past and Harper isn’t sure her marriage is over which complicates the relationship these two keep wanted to explore.

OPINION: A book about forgiveness and starting over, I thought that the multitude of relationships that were about forgiveness worked tremendously well for me.

Tobias is a man literally starting his life again after spending all of his adult life in prison. While he is strong, he also has a soft heart. I loved how kind he is to Harper even when she was hurting him with her behavior. He is always concerned about her feelings even to his own detriment because he wants her to be happy. He also doesn’t really feel that he deserves happiness.

This book is about layers and various types of forgiveness. Ultimately, Tobias must forgive himself in order to seize his own happiness.

Harper is having to find her own footing after her husband asked for a divorce in order to live the good life of a rock star. He’d rather sleep with groupies than spend time with his wife and children. We meet her right as her divorce is becoming finalized and her relationship with Tobias helps her find herself. Things are complicated by the tug and pull of her ex-husband who wants another chance. Harper is torn between a new relationship and keeping her family together.

I found her bouncing back and forth frustratingly realistic, but I was annoyed by her because she really was hurting Tobias with her actions.

The only part of this book that bothered me is that Tobias waits too long to tell Harper about his past. That might have been okay, but I didn’t really feel like the reality of his past was confronted by these two as they get together in the end. I needed more exploration of their relationship when they are together and honest with one another. But that was a small complaint about what was overall a satisfying story.

This book has a beautiful ending which stayed with me long after I finished the book.

WORTH MENTIONING: I didn’t like Atticus much after UNFORGETTABLE YOU, but he has been redeemed for me in this book. I hope we get his story soon.

CONNECTED BOOKS: CHRISTMAS IN SILVER SPRINGS is the sixth book in the Silver Springs series. It operates as a standalone although I think there is more depth to the story (involving the side characters) if the reader has read UNFORGETTABLE YOU (which is about the hero in this book’s brother).

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Blind Spot

Review: Blind SpotBlind Spot (The Evelyn Talbot Chronicles, #4) by Brenda Novak
Series: The Evelyn Talbot Chronicles #4
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks on August 27, 2019
Genres: Contemporary, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 384
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: This book is really a coda wrap up of the series after the resolution of the Jasper story line. I liked this one but it was my least favorite of the series because I missed the Evelyn and Amarok relationship here.

THE STORY: Evelyn and Amarok finally look to have their happy ending. Preparing for the birth of their child and their upcoming marriage, the two believe that with the incarceration of Jasper, the serial killer who has stalked Evelyn for years, they can relax. Just at that moment, Evelyn is kidnapped.

OPINION: This book is organized as having three points of view as others in the series: Evelyn, Amarok, and Jasper. The characters are placed in a new situation so their viewpoints are fresh here. I didn’t like this book as much as others in the series because I missed Evelyn being an active driver of the story rather than being the victim. It’s an interesting perspective solving the issues from the “victim” but I didn’t think Evelyn was as compelling here. Also, I missed Evelyn and Amarok together which was my favorite part of the series. Too much time apart that could have used a few extra scenes at the end of the book to resolve. I did like that this book wrapped up a bunch of loose ends from the series. I also thought this book was scary, but not too graphic. I am sorry to see the series end.

WORTH MENTIONING: Amarok was my favorite part of this book. I thought we got more insight into him here than in any of the other books in the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BLIND SPOT is the fourth and final book in the Evelyn Talbot Chronicles. This book can be read as a standalone as the story is self-contained but the story is a continuation of plots from the prior books.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Unforgettable You

Review: Unforgettable YouUnforgettable You (Silver Springs, #5) by Brenda Novak
Series: Silver Springs #5
Published by MIRA on February 26, 2019
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 416
Goodreads
three-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: I liked a lot about this book, but I felt the heroine was a weak personality. It took too long for her to take control of her life from her manipulative mother, by the time she did, I wanted a grander gesture.

THE STORY: Jada Brooks returns to Silver Springs with her daughter after her divorce. Twelve years after a youthful mistake tore apart her world and her family’s, Jada is trying to do penance by caring for her ill mother and her disabled younger brother. What she doesn’t expect is the return to town of Maddox Richardson — the man she loved whose decisions helped destroy her family’s world, and the man who unknowingly left her pregnant. Maddox has returned to Silver Springs as the head of the new girl’s school in town. The decisions that led to the injuries to Jada’s brother are something he still regrets and he doesn’t want to bring any more pain to that family, but he has never been able to forget Jada.

OPINION: First what I liked about this book. There is a great message here about forgiveness and healing. Apart from the issues with the heroine that I discuss below, I would have really loved how these two have a second chance at love and are able to move beyond the past to grab it.

The hero in this book is amazing. Maddox is a kind man who is working hard to make up for one mistake in his life that had serious and lifelong consequences. He has turned his life to something good and yet manages to care for his drug addicted mother and his brother who is getting out of prison. I found him caring and adult and sweet.

Which made the heroine even harder to take at times.

The heroine really annoyed me at times in this book. Her decision to keep the truth about her daughter’s father from her and then state that she is doing it because she worried about her daughter rejecting her if she told the truth made me almost actively dislike her. She should care about what is best for her daughter. And that is the truth — not what makes Jada’s own life more convenient. In fact, Jada seems pretty week as a person. She is not a child; she is thirty years old and has a twelve year old. No matter her guilt over what happened, she doesn’t seem to be able to be concerned about anything other than herself. It’s like she is saying “Oh, please mom, please forgive me. I will sacrifice my life and my daughter’s life if you will just love me more.” I don’t really respect her and it takes too long in this book for her to make any changes. By that time, I just didn’t care anymore. I could only hope that Maddox found out the truth and would be able to show his daughter that people can care about their dysfunctional family and still have limits.

I wanted to like this book more but I needed more from the heroine.

WORTH MENTIONING: There is an Easter Egg for fans of the Evelyn Talbot series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: UNFORGETTABLE YOU is the fifth book in the Silver Springs series. The romance is self-contained and thus this can be read as a standalone. There are some overlapping characters, but they are only background in this book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.

 

three-half-stars

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