Review: It All Comes Down to This

Review: It All Comes Down to ThisIt All Comes Down to This by Therese Anne Fowler
Published by St. Martin's Press on June 7, 2022
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 352
Goodreads
two-stars

FINAL DECISION: The book is well constructed from a technical standpoint, but I think I am exhausted with these three women at a change of life women’s fiction books. Nothing about this book was exciting or extraordinary to me. Just banal from the first page to the last, with the exception that part of the story was just terrible in my estimation. If it was an attempt at a happy ending, it was entirely unbelievable and demonstrates selfishness rather than love and caring.

THE STORY: The death of their mother brings a surprise for three sisters when a provision of her will states that the family’s summer house in Maine is to be sold with each sister getting an equal share. Each sister is facing something significant in their lives. Beck, the oldest, is a journalist jolted by the news because she had a vague idea that she would use the summer house to write the novel she has been thinking of writing. She also is having trouble in her marriage. The middle sister, Claire, is a doctor who is divorced and has a thing for the wrong man. The youngest sister Sophie has a glamorous life that masks her financial woes. A stranger also comes into their lives at this same moment when things are falling apart for each sister.

OPINION: I found almost all of these characters uninteresting and unlikeable. In committing to a book like this, I like to find some people I enjoy reading about. Instead, there are a bunch of awful people who do really bad things, and somehow, the book wants to explain their bad behavior. I don’t really think that I would like to know these people and thus, I don’t really want to read about them.

Because the book can’t express the emotional depth of these characters (indeed, most of them are pretty shallow and selfish people who are quite satisfied to harm even their closest relatives), it instead tries to keep secrets from the reader from saying nevermind and putting down the book. Because to be honest, if the reader knew from the beginning how amoral and unlikeable these people are, they wouldn’t continue with the story. The story drags because it ultimately relies on a “keeping secrets from the reader” premise instead of exploring the depths of the characters.

Definitely not worth my time in reading.

WORTH MENTIONING: I read this book as part of a book club, so it wasn’t something I would have chosen myself. Judge my opinion accordingly.

CONNECTED BOOKS: IT ALL COMES DOWN TO THIS is a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 2 stars.

two-stars

Review: Legacy

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: LegacyLegacy by Nora Roberts
Published by St. Martin's Press on May 25, 2021
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 435
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: The mystery wasn’t that strong for me, but I loved the relationship between these characters and the glimpse of these lives that we learn about. Adrian is a great heroine, and Raylan is just adorable. Very enjoyable read even if not perfect.

THE STORY: Adrian Rizzo met her father on the day he tried to kill her and her mother.
In the aftermath, her mother Lina brought her to her grandparents who live in a small town in Maryland. Adrian enjoyed that summer and met her best friend — and her older brother, Raylan. Decades later, Adrian and Raylan are living in the same town and things seem to bring them together. At the same time, Adrian is dealing with a stalker who has sent her threatening poems for years. Her stalker is escalating, however, and is taken with murdering women as he zeros in on Adrian.

OPINION: This was quite an enjoyable journey with these characters. I really loved Adrian and Raylan, who are both such caring people. Their story was very compelling, and their life as they grow together was engaging to me. I liked that the two of them had complete lives apart, but then their lives begin to overlap.

Roberts does such a great job of building these towns with characters who are interesting in their own right and yet don’t overwhelm the story. What she also does so well is create stories where the romance is essential to the story, and yet this is the story of a woman who has managed to build her own life with friends and family. The man adds to her existence, but she has a pretty good life even without him.

I’ve been reading a lot of women’s fiction these days, and this book demonstrates what I find missing from those stories. This book has complex characters and never seems to scream — I’m a powerful woman. Instead, the characters are so good, and I am interested in their lives. Even without the drama of the mystery in the story, I would have been satisfied reading how these characters manage to find one another and create the possibility of sharing a life together. I supposed I should go back and read more of Robert’s standalone romances.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book has significant violence, including abuse, murders, and a school shooting. Most, but not all, of the violence occurs off-screen.

CONNECTED BOOKS: LEGACY is a standalone book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE: I received an eARC of this book via Netgalley. 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: Nightwork

Review: NightworkNightwork by Nora Roberts
Published by St. Martin's Press on May 24, 2022
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 437
Goodreads
four-half-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: Roberts has written several thief stories over the years and while this one is not my favorite of the bunch, it is still amazing. I especially liked that it focused on the hero and his story. It is a long-haul epic story, but the romance here ended up being really good.

THE STORY: Harry Booth became a thief as a child to help his mother who suffered from cancer. He honed his craft for years. As an adult, he adopted a number of identities as he continued to steal but also get a college education (in an unorthodox manner). He meets a professor’s daughter, Miranda Emerson to who he has an immediate attraction, but he also knows that she is special. Just when things seem to be changing, a man from his past wants to use him as his own tool. The danger causes Harry to purposely abandon Miranda and start a new chapter in his life. Time passes and Harry must confront his past and the man who endangers his future. [Anything more will give away the twists in the story!]

OPINION: I slowly fell in love with this one. Roberts has written many thieves as heroes, but this one so sincerely wants something small and normal that I just adored him. I especially liked that Miranda is such a great fit for him and the book eliminated much of the interpersonal angst that I had expected. Instead, this is a deep dive into the hero’s life from being a young boy to his 30s. Like many of Roberts’ stand-alone books, the romance is a significant part, but not on the page for quite a while. Everything about this book worked for me. I loved the story of how Harry begins and takes control of his life. The romance was sweet and yet not too perfect. These two have a lot to work through, but there is always the sense that the connection between them was important and lasting. I also really loved the turn that Harry’s life takes in the book. It was unexpected but made him more complex as a character.

This book has a bunch of twists and turns, and even reading reviews can give away secrets revealed. This book was definitely worth my time and immediately went into my save and re-read in the future pile.

WORTH MENTIONING: Many of the characters have flexible moral compasses…though for me, it was all in the service of an overarching good.

CONNECTED BOOKS: NIGHTWORK is a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

 

four-half-stars

Review: The Look-Alike

Review: The Look-AlikeThe Look-Alike by Erica Spindler
Published by St. Martin's Press on January 28, 2020
Genres: Thriller
Pages: 311
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: Very creepy, twisty book. This was enjoyable although I found the ending not as dramatic as I would have expected. The journey in this one was better than the destination…but it was a good journey.

THE STORY: Sienna Scott discovers a murdered girl one night at college and knows that it could have been her. Even worse, maybe it was supposed to be her. Ten years later, the murder is still unsolved. Sienna returns home to a mother with psychological problems and a fear that she might be subject to the same paranoid persecution delusions as her mother.  Is Sienna delusional or is someone trying to kill her?

OPINION: This one is certainly better if a reader doesn’t know what will happen. As soon as I had it figured out, I didn’t find the book as compelling. I really did enjoy the twisting and suspense of the story until close to the ending. This was an enjoyable read and even if the ending wasn’t as good as I had expected, I thought the journey was definitely worth the time I took to read it.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book is a thriller but there are romantic elements.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE LOOK-ALIKE is a a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Connections in Death

Review: Connections in DeathConnections in Death (In Death, #48) by J.D. Robb
Series: In Death #48
Published by St. Martin's Press on February 5, 2019
Genres: Futuristic, Mystery
Pages: 384
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: A solid entry in the series. I especially enjoyed the interaction between Eve and Roarke in this one as the two have become comfortable with one another in their marriage.

THE STORY: Eve and Roarke are working on their new school and youth center intended for children like they were growing up. When the brother of the new head psychologist is found dead, it at first seems that his troubles with addiction have resulted in his death, but Eve soon recognizes it as a disguised murder.

OPINION: I’m a big fan of this series. Most of the books are really good and a few are middling. This one is a solid entry. It has some of the aspects that I enjoy most about this series: a personal connection for Eve, a lot of interaction between Eve and Roarke, and appearances by Eve’s friends and coworkers.

I also admit that I am always more interested in these relationships than the mystery. There isn’t a tremendous amount of mystery here as the crime is quickly solved, but Eve has to put the evidence together to get the criminals. That worked well here. This book was more like a crime procedural than a mystery.

What I enjoyed the most was the continued maturing of Eve and Roarke’s relationship. Readers who have followed the entire breadth of the series will see a deepening and the two dealing with one another in a positive manner. I love watching these characters move beyond their painful pasts.

There is also a nice smattering of the other people in Eve’s life. She has a whole menagerie of people in her life now and we get a glimpse of many of them. I enjoy seeing Eve connect with others. Her growth has been amazing from the woman who was so alone in the first book in this series to someone who knows how to ask for and receive help from others.

This is a good entry in the series. Not one of the most compelling, but quite enjoyable.

WORTH MENTIONING: Although there have been 48 books in this series, just about 3 years have passed in the series itself so a lot has happened in those years.

CONNECTED BOOKS: CONNECTIONS IN DEATH is the forty-eighth book in the In Death series. This one can be read pretty much as a standalone although I think a casual reader misses a lot of character development.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

 

four-stars

Review: A Wallflower Christmas

Review: A Wallflower ChristmasA Wallflower Christmas (Wallflowers, #4.5) by Lisa Kleypas
Published by St. Martin's Press on October 14, 2008
Genres: Historical
Pages: 225
Goodreads
four-stars

Festive Followup to the Wallflowers Series

This novella is a followup to Kleypas’ successful Wildflowers series. It tells the story of Rafe Bowman, oldest brother of the wallflower Lillian and Daisy. Rafe has come to England because his father has found him an aristocratic woman to marry. Of course, Rafe is immediately attracted to his potential bride’s companion, Hannah.

The story takes place at Christmas and Kleypas has incorporated some historical information about celebration Christmas in the mid 1800s.

I enjoyed best getting an update on the Wallflowers. The main story was sweet, but certainly not as good as the main books in the series. The original wallflowers and their men just seem to be bigger than this story and I was almost more interested in the peek into their lives than anything else. I would recommend the novella, however, to fans of the series because the update was worth the price of the book.

four-stars

Review: Leverage in Death

Review: Leverage in DeathLeverage in Death (In Death, #47) by J.D. Robb
Series: In Death #47
Published by St. Martin's Press on September 4, 2018
Genres: Futuristic, Mystery
Pages: 385
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: Eve is surrounded by her supporting cast and this one really worked for me. Books where Eve and Roarke get to work together are always better in my opinion. This one is really about Eve and those around her with an intriguing mystery.

THE STORY: A man walks into a conference room wearing a suicide vest and kills his colleagues. Lieutenant Eve Dallas is called to the scene and soon discovers that there is more than a disgruntled employee involved. Someone held his wife and child hostage to compel is actions. To discover who and what was the motive, Eve gets some help from her husband Roarke.

OPINION: I really enjoyed this book. Honestly, the “mystery” wasn’t as intense as others in the series, but this book really sold the relationships in the series well. There is good stuff with Eve and Roarke, Eve and Peabody, Eve and Nadine. The book also closes off some of the lingering storylines in the series.

I did like the mystery even though it felt less important to this book than in others. The crimes were pretty dramatic and the motives and methods intriguing and murky. That I really enjoyed.

But my favorite part of this book is that we get to see Eve and Roarke working together. I read these books because I love seeing these two together and I liked this book so much more because the two of them spent most of the story interacting with one another.

WORTH MENTIONING: Sometimes I am shocked into thinking of how little time has passed in the In Death world. The Oscars where the Icove movie is nominated is just happening.

CONNECTED BOOKS: LEVERAGE IN DEATH is the forty-seventh book in the In Death series. The mystery here is self-contained but a reader is tossed immediately into the characters with no re-introduction for new readers.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Kiss Me at Christmas

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: Kiss Me at ChristmasKiss Me at Christmas (Playful Brides, #10) by Valerie Bowman
Series: Playful Brides #10
Published by St. Martin's Press on October 30, 2018
Genres: Historical
Pages: 320
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: The romance was the highlight here. There is a danger/threat story that was just okay for me, but the characters and their relationship was sweet and intelligent and quite enjoyable. I especially like these cross-class stories and this one had good intelligent characters.

THE STORY: Lady Regina is facing a marriage to a man who she doesn’t love. She decides that she wants something for herself since it appears that the love of her life isn’t going to arrive. She decides to settle for making the decision of who to give her virginity to. And Regina has decided on Bow Street Runner Daffin Oakleaf with whom she has a flirtation while he was investigating a murder. When someone seems to be threatening Regina, Daffin is hired to help protect her allowing the two to get closer.

OPINION: I enjoyed this book primarily because of the interactions between Regina and Daffin.

Regina is a woman challenged by the times she lives in. She would rather be a spinster, but her family wants her to be settled and married to an aristocrat. She is about to give in to her uncle’s choice but wants to experience her own rebellion first. Regina is intelligent and thoughtful and willing to take responsibility for herself. Her acceding to her family’s wishes comes from a place of love and caring and responsibility rather than weakness. I liked that she is lively and clever.

Daffin is a good man with a past that makes him feel unworthy of Regina even as the two get closer. He is accomplished in his profession and has good friends, but Daffin only can see the past. And part of his past is his dislike for Christmas. As he spends time with Regina, however, Daffin begins to recognize that Regina is not anything like the stereotype his has about aristocratic women. And that makes things even more complicated for him.

I really liked that Daffin and Regina’s relationship is built upon talking and friendship. Their connection was obvious from the beginning of the story. The only things really keeping them apart are Daffin’s doubts and the difference in their social status.

What didn’t work as well for me was the danger aspect of the story. The villain didn’t feel as necessary as the pages it took up. Fortunately, Regina and Daffin were wonderful and I ended up only being vaguely interested in the other parts of the story. Thankfully this is a romance and I much prefer that the romance be great!

WORTH MENTIONING: We get a small glimpse into the final book in the series towards the end.

CONNECTED BOOKS: KISS ME AT CHRISTMAS is the tenth book in the Playful Brides series. This book can be read as a standalone although there are characters from prior books in the series. The romance here is self-contained.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in order to help 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-stars

Review: Shelter in Place

Review: Shelter in PlaceShelter in Place by Nora Roberts
Published by St. Martin's Press on May 29, 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 439
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: A difficult and timely subject. A mass shooting alters the lives of everyone connected to the events. Simone and Reed alter and rebuild their lives and eventually find one another. A nice romance combined with the suspense of someone who wants to continue the body count.

THE STORY: On a summer’s evening, three young men execute a horrible crime in a mall and theater in Maine. Simone Knox, a teenager, ends up hiding in the bathroom at the theater calling 911. Reed Quartermaine, a college student, is in the mall when the shooting takes place. That event changes both of their lives. Their struggles eventually bring them in orbit of one another while someone else is eliminating survivors.

OPINION: I generally prefer my books heavy on the romance with some suspense thrown in. This book is much more a suspense and story of rebirth after a tragedy, but the story works so well in bringing Reed and Simone together that I really enjoyed this one.

I enjoyed seeing these characters build their lives and find one another. The story between them was sweet and sexy (even if they don’t meet until well into the story), and I was intrigued for every page and turn of their story.

The characters were well drawn. The varying reactions to the tragedy not only for Reed and Simone but also for their friends, family and even strangers kept the story grounded and compelling.

The suspense story worked well for me but I really appreciated that while it was important, it did not overshadow for me the relationships of the characters. The book ends up being about hope, about overcoming tragedy. The violence ends up being a part of the story, but not the most important part.

It’s been a long time since one of Roberts’ standalone books has interested me so much. This one will be on my keeper shelf.

WORTH MENTIONING: Although the book deals with a violent subject, I thought the depiction of violence was not gratuitous or overly graphic.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SHELTER IN PLACE is a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

 

five-stars

Review: Collision Point

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: Collision PointCollision Point (Brute Force, #1) by Lora Leigh
Series: Brute Force #1
Published by St. Martin's Press on February 27th 2018
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 336
Goodreads
three-stars

FINAL DECISION: The suspense and mystery really worked for most of the story, but the solution was a bit of a disappointment. I also wanted the connection between Amara and Riordan to be stronger but since they had a past, their relationship did not feel as immediate.

THE STORY: Amara Resnova has been having dreams and nightmares. Six months ago she was kidnapped by enemies of her father but she cannot remember anything that happened in the last year. But she dreams about Riordan Malone and knows that he was her bodyguard and her lover. Now fearing that someone is trying to kill her again, Amara turns to Riordan for help.

OPINION: This was a decent book that had the possibility to be much more. I really enjoyed the suspense in the story as Amara doesn’t remember what has happened and she has much of the solution in her mind.

For about eighty-five percent of the story, I really was engaged in the suspense of the story, but the resolution disappointed me because there was no way to guess what had happened. While the resolution made sense and was in keeping with the rest of the story, I had thought there would be something more interesting or dramatic to explain Amara’s abduction.

While I am perfectly willing to accept a less exciting personal story with a great suspense story, my disappointment with the suspense story also reflected a romance that was okay but not fantastic. The story had plenty of sex scenes, but lacked some of the excitement between Amara and Riordan. While I thought that everything was worked up well for most of the book, the ending was merely okay.

I would read the next book in the series because this book was okay even if it wasn’t superlative.

WORTH MENTIONING: Nathan Malone from WILD CARD makes a significant appearance here.

CONNECTED BOOKS: COLLISION POINT is the first book in the Brute Force series. This series is a spin-off from Leigh’s Elite Ops series and there are overlapping characters.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC 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.

 

three-stars