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: 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: The Best of Us

Review: The Best of UsThe Best of Us (Sullivan's Crossing, #4) by Robyn Carr
Series: Sullivan's Crossing #4
Published by MIRA on January 8, 2019
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 384
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: A triple romance, I loved the sense of community in this book. The stories feel so normal and what happens with each couple upends a lot of expectations of what will happen with the stories. Heartwarming romances.

THE STORY: Dr. Leigh Carver enjoys the more relaxed pace of her medical practice in Colorado after leaving her big city practice. She starts a small romance with Rob, a widower with two teenage sons. Leigh’s beloved aunt comes to visit. The two of them have always been one another’s family. But the new men in their lives bring compromises and questions regarding what each really wants.

OPINION: I really loved this book. The characters have real and complex problems and there are no magic solutions. Things have to dealt with in an adult manner and require compromise on all sides.

One of the things I really loved about this book is the three generations of romance. We have a teen romance, a thirties romance and a senior romance. Each of them defies stereotypes. Sometimes multiple storylines mean that something gets shorted, but not here. Each of these stories felt appropriate and well done.

The central story is Leigh and Rob. Each of whom is a successful adult who has lived a bit of their life. There is an attraction between the two complicated by their current life states (Rob has raised two boys alone for years and is done with children; Leigh has a demanding career).  Around them working out whether they want to be together and how the pieces of their lives will fit, there are the other two romances which expand and even complicate their own romance.

There was nothing in this story that was so exciting that it just grabbed me. Rather I slowly sank into these characters, this town, ad this story. There is a real sense of community that makes me think about abandoning everything and moving to a small town.

WORTH MENTIONING: There are some nice updates on the characters from the series so far.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE BEST OF US is the fourth book in the Sullivan’s Crossing series. The story here is self-contained and so it is not necessary to read the prior books in the series. However, there are appearances by characters from the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-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: Ice Storm

Review: Ice StormIce Storm (Ice, #4) by Anne Stuart
Series: Ice #4
Published by MIRA on November 1, 2007
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 347
Goodreads
five-stars

Great Adventure Romance With Intrigue and Unexpected Twists

“But she had killed him once. She wouldn’t hesitate to kill him again.”

THE STORY: Isobel Lambert is the head of the Committee, a group based in Britain which attempts to thwart terrorist groups. Isobel is known as a sleek, cold, dangerous professional. She is reaching the limit of her tolerance of this life, however, and the young, vulnerable girl she was keeps showing through. Seventeen years ago, that young girl killed the man she spent two weeks in France with. Unknown to her, he survived and became the terrorist Serafin who makes a deal with her bosses at the Comnmittee. She has to save him and thus discovers that he is man she loved and hated and thought she had killed.

OPINION: I am a big fan of Stuart’s anti-heroes who are always on the edge of being the villain. Here, Isobel and Killian are both anti-heroes of a sort. They are a danger to one another even as they rely upon one another to reach safety. Both are dark characters who have killed and live in a shadowy world. The moral line of what is right and wrong is complicated and blurry here. I especially liked the interweaving of the past and present stories such that secrets are revealed in the past which illuminate the present. Isobel and Killian are an interesting combination. The constant danger and lack of truth between them makes their story fascinating and complex. I also especially like the softening of Isobel without making her weak. She remains a professional and yet readers are allowed to see her deep caring for her comrades and eventually also for Killian. As a fan of the Ice series, I also really liked seeing past characters (I won’t spoil who) and this time we get an update on their lives which was satisfying.

WORTH MENTIONING: Reno!

FINAL DECISION: The story of two people who both lead deadly lives, I loved how the book is romantic and yet not at all sentimental. I loved the interactions between Isobel and Killian.

CONNECTED BOOKS: ICE STORM is the fourth book in the Ice series. It can be read as a standalone although I think because it deals with and includes characters from the entire series, it will be better appreciated when read after the other books of the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: Black Ice

Review: Black IceBlack Ice (Ice, #1) by Anne Stuart
Series: Ice #1
Published by MIRA on April 26, 2005
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 377
Goodreads
five-stars

Fabulous: Action Packed Dark and Romantic Thriller

“What she needed was a little more sex and violence in her own life.”

“Be careful what you wish for…”

THE STORY: Chloe Underwood is an American in Paris. She is a rebel in her family of doctors. Chloe cooks and learns languages. She is working as a book translator when her roommate asks her to cover for her as a translator for a business meeting. Chloe ends up in a house full of international business people. There she meets Bastian Toussaint who she is immediately attracted to. Bastian, however, is a married womanizer and not matter what her attraction, Chloe is determined to avoid him. Bastian, however, has no intention of avoiding Chloe. Bastian is an agent with The Committee, an anti-terrorist organization. In Bastian’s world, there is little difference between the “good guys” and the “bad guys”. He wonders who Chloe is working for and intends to find out her secrets. Then he will decide whether or not he will have to kill her.

OPINION: BLACK ICE is a romantic thriller. There is serious danger for the main characters throughout the novel. Bastian is a dangerous man. He has a dark past and present and has no use for Chloe. The truth is, however, that he is unable to resist her even though she is not trying to capture him. Their romance is raw and dark and yet there is something incredibly attractive and sweet about how the light of Chloe seeps into Bastian and changes him. I love this book. It is one of those books that I read so quickly because it is action packed. The balance between the action and the romance is well done. The book is also hot as Chloe and Bastian burn up the pages together.

WORTH MENTIONING: I am a great fan of the type of deadly dark heroes that Stuart writes. Admittedly, such a hero who walks the edge of loving and killing the heroine is not for everyone.

FINAL DECISION: I adore this book. Bastian is the type of dark tortured hero that a woman might not want in real life, but who is fantastic to read about.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BLACK ICE is the first book in the Ice series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

five-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