Review: The Talk of Coyote Canyon

Review: The Talk of Coyote CanyonThe Talk of Coyote Canyon (Coyote Canyon, #2) by Brenda Novak
Series: Coyote Canyon #2
Published by MIRA on November 28, 2023
Genres: Contemporary
Goodreads
two-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: Sets up an intriguing small-town family feud and budding romance that ultimately disappoints due to a lack of meaningful chemistry between the couple.

THE STORY: With her piercings, tattoos, and bleached spikes, Ellen Truesdale sticks out in small-town Coyote Canyon. But blending in was never her goal. Ellen’s here to undermine her estranged father’s well-drilling company, still bitter that he abandoned her as a child. Running a rival business in this male-dominated industry proves tough for a single woman, though. When an important job goes wrong, her dad’s business partner, Hendrix Durrant, comes to help. Hendrix begins to question events from the past. He realizes his aunt and Ellen’s dad did her wrong. As he advocates for Ellen, tensions with his family intensify. Feelings develop between the two former rivals. Opening up to Hendrix helps Ellen release her anger and rediscover the loving family she always longed for.

OPINION: The Talk of Coyote Canyon offers some interesting initial dynamics between Ellen and her estranged father and stepfamily. Novak does a decent job developing Ellen’s character and her trust issues stemming from childhood.

The setup also establishes a promising romantic tension between Ellen and Hendrix early on. The book choses to be a slow-burn which would work if the characters were deep and complex. However, the relationship falters later on as the two lack chemistry, making their interactions ring hollow.

Additionally, while much time is spent exploring the family and romance arcs, the endings feel rushed. The resolution of the story with Ellen’s father happens abruptly after establishing lasting conflict. Ellen’s father remains one-dimensionally unlikeable for most of the book before his jarring change of heart. Likewise, Ellen and Hendrix’s union wraps up too suddenly.

The mystery plot twist is also dissatisfying as the resolution is abrupt and completely pointless.

Overall, Novak sets up an interesting family drama and romance that ultimately disappoints in the execution and payoff. Despite potential, the lack of meaningful connection or resolution leaves something to be desired.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book is a slow burn. It takes a while for the romance to get started.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE TALK OF COYOTE CANYON is the second book in the Coyote Canyon series. This book can be read as a standalone. This is a small-town series, so characters from the first book appear, and a new reader can quickly catch up on the relationships.

STAR RATING: I give this book 2.5 stars.

two-half-stars

Review: Talulah’s Back in Town

Review: Talulah’s Back in TownTalulah's Back in Town (Coyote Canyon, #1) by Brenda Novak
Series: Coyote Canyon #1
Published by MIRA on August 22, 2023
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 400
Goodreads
three-stars

FINAL DECISION: The book was okay, but I didn’t end up feeling the connection between these characters as strongly as I wanted. The story worked, but Talulah felt like a mess.

THE STORY: Talulah Barclay has returned to her hometown of Coyote Canyon fourteen years after being a runaway bride. She now has a successful restaurant and a budding relationship with her partner. The death of her great-aunt brings Talulah back to a place where it seems like everyone has an opinion of her actions. Unfortunately, Talulah’s runaway tendencies did not end with leaving her teenage sweetheart at the altar — she’s done it three times in total. Talulah doesn’t like confrontations and hates disappointing people. This leads to her relationships getting messy, and she ends up running away in panic. Brant, her ex-fiancé’s best friend, greets Talulah soon after she returns to town, and there is a definite attraction between them even though it makes everything even more complicated.

OPINION: I admit that parts of this book I really didn’t like. One thing is that Talulah is dating and sleeping with someone else and yet has sex with Brant. My morality did not like that, and thus I lost a lot of respect for her as a character. Other reader’s mileage may vary.

Except for that, I really liked how the relationship between Talulah and Brant develops. Everyone in Coyote Canyon seems to be against their relationship, and yet the attraction (first) and then the emotional/intellectual relationship (second) begins to develop. Talulah is a people pleaser who keeps trying to put others above her interests. I really liked that Brant pushes back and won’t allow Talulah to sacrifice herself for him.

By the end of the book, however, I wanted more of their relationship. Perhaps there was too much going on in this book and Brant and Talulah ended up getting lost in the drama.

WORTH MENTIONING: There are a lot of characters being introduced in this book for the series — perhaps too many characters at once.

CONNECTED BOOKS: TALULAH’S BACK IN TOWN is the first book in the Coyote Canyon series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.

three-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

Review: The Boardwalk Bookshop

Review: The Boardwalk BookshopThe Boardwalk Bookshop by Susan Mallery
Published by MIRA on May 31, 2022
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 448
Goodreads
three-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: The story was good enough to keep me reading to find out what happens, but honestly, the endings were pretty obvious from early in the book. I did enjoy the journey as a reader, but nothing in this would encourage me to return for another read.

THE STORY:  The story of three women who have adjoining businesses. The story is how they build their friendship and also deal with their romantic relationships, which are a mess for each in different ways. Bree is wounded from a lifetime of being used and emotionally abused and is determined to never let anyone close again. Then she meets the brother of one of her business neighbors. Mikki has the perfect divorce. Her ex and she have managed to deal with everything in an adult mature manner. But when Mikki begins dating, her ex decides he wants her back. Ashley is happy with her live-in love, until she realizes that she wants marriage and he wants a commitment, but not marriage.

OPINION: I enjoyed this book overall but I really don’t like this format of books. I didn’t feel like I got to know enough about any of the three (why is it always three these days?) women. The book is more like three novellas combined in one with much of the stories kept separate from one another (with the exception of Bree and Ashley). My biggest complaint is really about the focus of the book (which is my fault and not that of the book itself). I prefer romance over women’s fiction precisely because the romance only goes so far in women’s fiction. Unfortunately, I really could have read more about Bree and about Ashley’s romances. (I thought that Mikki’s story was pretty good in this book). So while I kept reading this book to find out what happened, I wouldn’t pick it up again.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book would be properly categorized as Women’s Fiction rather than romance.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE BOARDWALK BOOKSHOP is a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.

 

three-stars

Review: Summer on the Island

Review: Summer on the IslandSummer on the Island by Brenda Novak
Published by MIRA on April 5, 2022
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 389
Goodreads
four-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: With plenty of drama but little real angst, this book follows three (or perhaps five) women visiting a beach island as they confront their lives and the men who have played a part in those lives. I really enjoyed the bonding between the women and the actual romance in the story.

THE STORY: Marlow Madsen, a divorce attorney, returns to the island where she spent her summers in her youth. Returning to visit her mother, Marlow is accompanied by two women friends. The three women are all at crossroads in their lives. For Marlow, her return to the island results in her finding out that much of what she believed about her family and childhood was untrue. As she questions her life, Marlow and her friends are all struggling with life, romance, and their futures.

OPINION: This is a book filled with “family” drama — although not everyone is officially part of the family. All of the main characters have dramatic turns in their stories. I enjoyed the interwoven stories. The book has a lot of drama, but isn’t really angsty and thus is a good candidate for a beach read — a page-turner that is definitely binge-able.

Marlow’s story was my favorite and definitely the dominant story in the book. Her return to the island explores her professional life, her friend relationships, her family relationships, her past, and her romantic relationships. She has determination, but I also liked her humor and her ability to recognize her own faults. Her relationship just worked for me in this book and kept me reading the book as the other stories unfold. While I didn’t take the story too seriously, I thought that Marlow’s story grounded the book and because I really liked her character, I accepted all the other stories on their face.

There are plenty of twists here that keeps the pages turning and the romance here worked for me. The characters have difficult intertwined lives and problems so everything seemed really complicated until the knot becomes untied at the end.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a great beach read.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SUMMER ON THE ISLAND is a standalone book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

 

four-stars

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