2011 Challenge Wrap Up

Each year I’ve participated in few challenges. In 2011 I signed on to:

The 2011 Reading From My Shelves Project

The Reagan Arthur Books Challenge

The War & Peace Read Along

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So these were very relaxed challenges.If you click on The Reagan Arthur Challenge link above you’ll see I read only two books this year. One was sent to me by the publisher and the other I bought. I enjoyed both books.

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The War & Peace Challenge was supposed to end today but several weeks ago I received an email saying it would be extended to mid-2012. That’s all I needed to hear! Since I’m on page 1061 of 1215 I hope to finish it well before June.

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Now lets talk about the 2011 Reading From My Shelves Project. I’ve joined the past couple of years and was content with the 20+ books I cleared off my shelves each year. Silly me. I think for every book I cleared off the shelves four more appeared. How does that happen?!! That is the reason I’ve decided to make 2012 the year of reading mostly from my shelves. I’ll read a few review books but only books I really, really want to read.

That’s my plan. Thank you so much for visiting Bookfan this year. I love your comments and book suggestions, etc.

I wish you all a New Year filled with good health, good friends, and good books to read.

Happy New Year!

Trouble at the Wedding by Laura Lee Guhrke

Title:  Trouble at the Wedding

Author:  Laura Lee Guhrke

Genre:  Historical Romance (series)

Published:  December 2011 – Avon

About:  (back of the book) Annabel is about to marry the perfect man… The last thing Miss Annabel Wheaton desires is true love. She learned the hard way that love makes a woman foolish and leads only to heartache. That’s why she agreed to marry an earl who needs her money. He’s got a pedigree and a country estate, and he won’t ever break her heart. There’s only one problem…

Christian isn’t about to let her marry that pompous prig… Christian Du Quesne, Duke of Scarborough, thinks the stubborn heiress is about to make the biggest mistake of her life, and he’s determined to stop her. Tempting beautiful women is Christian’s forte, after all. When her family offers him a nice sum of money to stop the wedding, he’s happy to accept. Falling in love with Annabel was never supposed to be part of the bargain…

My take:  Trouble at the Wedding is the third book in the Abandoned at the Altar series. If you haven’t read the first two books don’t worry – this can be a stand alone novel. The primary characters are all new. I do recommend you read the other books just because they are so good.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I love the 1904 time period and it was fun reading a historical romance with an American heroine. Annabel is beautiful and has a strength of spirit and will that charms the reader. That said, she does suffer from the wish to be accepted by old money New Yorkers. She’s a “new money, Mississippi nobody” – and they don’t let her forget it. So when she has a chance to move up in the social world by marrying an English earl she grabs it. She doesn’t want to marry for love anyway. Her father never loved her mother which made her mother miserable. Annabel refuses to make that mistake. What she didn’t count on was meeting Christian…

Laura Lee Guhrke has a gift for creating strong yet flawed characters. I enjoyed how Christian and Annabel worked through their challenges. There are a few scenes that made me laugh out loud and one or two that were quite emotional. It’s a historical romance so you know there’s a HEA. The fun is in how they get there.

Recommended to fans of historical romance and the author. I look forward to reading more of Laura Lee Guhrke’s books.

Source:  Avon

Disclaimer:  See sidebar. I was not compensated for my review.

Mailbox Monday – December 26



Hosted in December at Let Them Read Books

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The Book of Holiday Awesome by Neil Pasricha – a giveaway win from the publisher via Jenny at Take Me Away. Thanks, Jenny!

Charlotte Figg Takes Over Paradise by Joyce Magnin (Kindle freebie)

Murder of a Bookstore Babe by Denise Swanson (I bought it)

Angel’s Rest by Emily March (giveaway win from the publisher)

What was in your mailbox?

The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt: A Novel in Pictures by Caroline Preston

Title:  The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt: A Novel in Pictures

Author:  Caroline Preston

Genre:  Sequential Art; Historical Fiction

Published:  October 2011 – Ecco

About:  (from the book flap):  For her graduation from high school in 1920, Frankie Pratt receives a scrapbook and her father’s old Corona typewriter. Despite Frankie’s dreams of becoming a writer, she must forgo a college scholarship to help her widowed mother. But when a mysterious Captain James sweeps her off her feet, her mother finds a way to protect Frankie from the less-than-noble intentions of her unsuitable beau.

My take:  I’ll just start by saying The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt is one of my favorite books of 2011. It is Frances Pratt’s story told through her scrapbook. Caroline Preston compiled a wonderful array of 1920s memorabilia from the US and France. Each page is a feast for the eyes that conveys Frankie’s story as she moves from high school graduation to Vassar to New York City to Paris and back home again.

I was surprised by the emotional connection I felt to Frankie given the unusual style of this novel. Frankie’s notes, photos, souvenirs, etc. tell a personal and complete story of the first part of her adult life that demands re-reading just to take it all in. I love that! This is definitely one for my keeper shelf. Recommended.

Source:  I bought it.

Disclaimer:  See sidebar. I was not compensated for my review.

Book Blogger Holiday Swap – Secret Santa gifts

Several days ago I received a package from my Book Blogger Holiday Swap Secret Santa. Inside I found three books that have been on my wish list for a while. I’m really looking forward to reading them in the new year.

Click each cover for more information.


Thank you to my Secret Santa: Barbara.

I also want to thank the coordinators of the BBHS:


Mailbox Monday – December 19



Hosted in December at Let Them Read Books

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The Shell Keeper by Robin P. Nolet : I bought it after reading this review. Thanks to Dar for bringing it to my attention.

Unraveled by Courtney Milan: It’s the third in a series – can’t wait to read it!

Hometown Girl by Mariah Stewart: Giveaway win from the publisher and Kaye at PudgyPenguinPerusals. Thanks, Kaye.

Lady of the English by Elizabeth Chadwick: a Christmas exchange gift from my friend Sherri.

The Misremembered Man by Christina McKenna: a Kindle Daily Deal, one of the few I’ve picked up but couldn’t resist the Ireland setting.

What was in your mailbox?

Weekend Cooking – Dec. 17 (Reindeer cupcakes edition)

My daughter Meg wanted to make a kid-friendly dessert for Thanksgiving so she used Google to look for ideas and found this adorable recipe at With Sprinkles On Top. It’s a great blog – you should check it out!

Meg used a cake mix, store-bought chocolate frosting, a tube of black icing and white York Peppermint Pieces for the eyes, peanut butter M&M on a Nilla Wafer (held in place with a dab of frosting) for the nose.

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Meg – almost finished and pleased with the results.

These were a hit with kids and adults alike!

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You can find more Weekend Cooking posts at Beth Fish Reads

Bring Me Home For Christmas by Robyn Carr

Title: Bring Me Home For Christmas

Virgin River series #16

Author: Robyn Carr

Genre: Romance; Christmas

Published: October 2011 – Mira

About: (from Goodreads synopsis) This year, Becca Timm knows the number one item on her Christmas wish list: getting over Denny Cutler. Three years ago Denny broke her heart before heading off to war. It’s time she got over her silly college relationship and moved on.

So she takes matters into her own hands and heads up to Virgin River, the rugged little mountain town that Denny calls home, as an uninvited guest on her brother’s men-only hunting weekend. But when an accident turns her impromptu visit into an extended stay, Becca finds herself stranded in Virgin River.

My brief take: Robyn Carr takes us back to Virgin River, CA for a Christmas story. We got to know Denny in the most recent books and now we see the reason why he ended up in the small mountain town – Becca. He is taken by surprise when she shows up for the hunting weekend with her brother and friends. Denny thought it would be just the guys he served with in ‘the sandbox’. Becca’s appearance changes everything – including the rest of his life.

If you’re looking for a romance with a heartwarming Christmas theme and a hopeful and happy ending you may enjoy Take Me Home For Christmas. I recommend it to fans of Robyn Carr and the Virgin River series.

Source: I bought it.

Disclaimer: See sidebar. I was not compensated for my review.

Mailbox Monday – December 12


Hosted in December at Let Them Read Books

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Only one book in my mailbox last week (and it’s really an ebook). Cathy @ KittlingBooks tipped me off to it. I’ve wanted to read J.A. Jance and this looks like a good place to start. It’s a collection of short stories.

I’ve wanted to read Marcia Evanick’s Misty Harbor (Maine) series for a while. When I saw the first book was available at Audible I decided to give it a listen. Sounds like a good one for the new year.


The J.A. Jance Casebook

Catch of the Day

What was in your mailbox?

1225 Christmas Tree Lane by Debbie Macomber

Title:  1225 Christmas Tree Lane

A Cedar Cove Novel

Author:  Debbie Macomber

Genre:  Christmas; Series Romance

Published:  September 2011 – Mira

About:  (Goodreads synopsis) The people of Cedar Cove know how to celebrate Christmas. Like Grace and Olivia and everyone else, Beth Morehouse expects this Christmas to be one of her best. Her small Christmas-tree farm is prospering, her daughters and her dogs are happy and well, and her new relationship with local vet Ted Reynolds is showing plenty of romantic promise.

But …someone recently left a basket filled with puppies on her doorstep, puppies she’s determined to place in good homes. That’s complication number one. And number two is that her daughters Bailey and Sophie have invited their dad, Beth’s ex-husband, Kent, to Cedar Cove for Christmas. The girls have visions of a mom-and-dad reunion dancing in their heads.

As always in life— and in Cedar Cove —there are surprises, too. More than one family’s going to have a puppy under the tree. More than one scheme will go awry. And more than one romance will have a happy ending!

My brief take:  I’ve enjoyed Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove series. 1225 Christmas Tree Lane is book 12 and the final novel in the series. We get to know Beth Morehouse, her daughters, and her ex-husband. The synopsis above explains their story. The puppies serve as a way to bring back characters from previous books. They adopt the puppies and the reader gets caught up on what’s new in their lives.

You’ll have to read the book to see if Beth’s daughters get their Christmas wish. As you might expect Debbie Macomber gives all of the Cedar Cove residents a fond farewell in this satisfying series finale. I smiled as I turned the last page.

Recommended to fans of small town fiction, the author, and the Cedar Cove series.

Source:  Library book.

Disclaimer:  See sidebar. I was not compensated for my review.

The Arrivals by Meg Mitchell Moore

Title:  The Arrivals

Author:  Meg Mitchell Moore

Genre:  Fiction

Published:  May 2011 – Reagan Arthur Books/Little, Brown & Company

My take:  It’s summer and the three adult Owen children return to their parents’ home in Vermont. The eldest, Lillian, has her two small children with her. She’s left her husband after an unforgivable act. Middle child Stephen and his pregnant wife want to visit for a couple of days but a health scare forces them to extend the visit for weeks. Youngest child Rachel arrives wanting to forget about recent happenings in her life. Parents Ginny and William, both in their mid-60s, see their summer change from a quiet one to one that’s pretty much out of their control.

Meg Mitchell Moore’s character driven novel rang true for me. In fact, it made me think of how my own parents must have felt when my siblings and I (and our families) all gathered for vacations, holidays, etc. in their home. I can’t believe they still have their sanity! It was interesting to see Lillian, Stephen and Rachel move from normally capable adults to almost needy children in their parents’ home. I guess what the Owen children were seeking was a bit of security and grounding. Each was dealing with issues a bit out of their control and they needed to be taken care of by their parents – if only for a short time.

I think there’s a lot to relate to in The Arrivals. After all, we all have parents and many of us have children. My husband and I have recently moved into the roles of parents of married adult children. We’ve experienced our own ‘Arrivals‘.  The cycle continues. I enjoyed this debut novel and look forward to reading more by Meg Mitchell Moore.

Source:  I bought it.

Disclaimer:  See sidebar. I was not compensated for my review.

Audiobook: Trading Christmas by Debbie Macomber

Title:  Trading Christmas (audiobook)

Author:  Debbie Macomber

Narrator:  Renee Raudman

Genre:  Christmas Romance

Published:  October 2011 – Brilliance Audio (previously titled When Christmas Comes – 2004)

About:  (Goodreads synopsis) Emily Springer widowed mother of one, decides to leave her hometown of Leavenworth, Washington, to spend Christmas with her daughter in Boston. Charles Brewster, history professor, seasoned curmudgeon and resident of Boston, wants to avoid Christmas altogether.

Through an Internet site, they arrange to swap houses for the holiday. So Emily goes to Boston–and discovers that her daughter has gone to Florida. And Charles arrives in Leavenworth to discover a town that looks like Santa’s village, full of Christmas trees, Christmas music and elves.

Meanwhile, Emily’s friend Faith Kerrigan travels to Leavenworth to visit her–and finds Charles the grouch. . .whose brother, Ray, shows up at Charles’s place, to find Emily living there.

Through all the mix-ups and misunderstandings, amid the chaos and confusion, romance begins to emerge in unexpected ways. Because when Christmas comes, so does love. . .

My brief take:  Debbie Macomber’s Christmas novels are cute and heartwarming. Trading Christmas is no different. It’s a comedy of errors that involves three story lines. The romance is light and the humor borders on corny at times but I didn’t mind that. Narrator Renee Raudman gave a fine performance. I listened to the audiobook while I knitted a Christmas gift. It was perfect entertainment. The Hallmark Channel is airing the movie version of this novel. It’s new this year and I hope to watch it soon. If you enjoy cute Christmas themed novels you may like Trading Christmas.

Source:  I bought it.

Disclaimer:  See sidebar. I was not compensated for my review.

Lucky Stiff by Deborah Coonts

Title:  Lucky Stiff

A Lucky O’Toole Vegas Adventure

Author:  Deborah Coonts

Published:  February 2011, Forge Books

Genre:  Mystery

About:  (from the book flap) Lucky O’Toole – head of Customer Relations at premier megaresort the Babylon – thinks it’s just another night in Las Vegas. A tractor-trailer has spilled its load of a million honeybees, blocking not only the Strip but the entrance to her hotel. . . . The district attorney for Clark County – apparently the odd man out of a threesome on the twelfth floor – is hiding in the buff in one of the hotel’s laundry rooms. . . . And Numbers Neidermeyer  – one of Vegas’s less-than-savory oddsmakers – is throwing some major attitude at Las Vegas’s ace private investigator, the beautiful Jeremy Whitlock.

The next day, Lucky discovers Ms. Neidermeyer has been tossed into the shark tank at the Mandalay Bay Resort as a snack for the tiger shark.  When the police show up at the Babylon with a hastily prepared search warrant, applied for by the district attorney himself, and Jeremy lands in the hot seat, Lucky realizes her previous night was far from routine. . . .

My take:  If you haven’t read the first book in the series, Wanna Get Lucky?, I recommend you do just to get the full story on several characters. Many of them are back in action in Lucky Stiff  and I was happy to see them again. This time there’s a murder to solve, a wacky scheme for Lucky’s mom to make money, the boxing match of the year at the Babylon as well as a convention of entomologists – Lucky’s life is never dull.

Deborah Coonts described a vibrant Las Vegas. From the pulsing music in the clubs and the sounds of the slots in the casino to the sultry desert air – I felt immersed in the Vegas experience. I also had fun trying to figure out who fed Numbers Neidermeyer to the sharks and how it was done.

Lucky Stiff is an entertaining Vegas romp. Lucky O’Toole is a plucky girl who loves her job, her friends and family, and hopes she’s found her true love in Teddie. I hope she has too and I can’t wait to read more in the Lucky O’Toole Vegas Adventure series.

Source:  FSB Associates

Disclosure Policy:  see sidebar

Mailbox Monday – November 28


Hosted in November at  Mailbox Monday

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Last week I used a credit at Audible.com to buy Trading Christmas by Debbie Macomber. The movie version is being shown on the Hallmark channel this season but I also wanted to read it. Macomber Christmas themed books are heartwarming. A few days later I received an email from Audible announcing a sale – 100 books priced at $4.95 each (it may still be going on). That was hard to pass up especially when one of the books offered was one I’ve always meant to read but never got around to:  Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl (narrated by Simon Vance). I also picked up Debbie Macomber’s Christmas Cookbook. My hubby recently won an iPad 2 at work and gave it to me. I’ve been tempted to buy this cookbook and thought I’d try it on the iPad. I’ll let you know what I think in a few weeks. Hm, interesting mix of books, wouldn’t you say? 😉


Then I ventured out for a little shopping on Small Business Saturday. The local indie bookstore was my destination. I picked up two copies of The Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn. Those are Christmas gifts – and they’re signed! I also found a book for my Book Blogger Swap-ee (to remain a secret – I bought the same book for me). And I had to pick up The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt  by Caroline Preston because of all the book blogger rave reviews. Merry Christmas to me 🙂


So what was in your mailbox last week?

Guest Post: by Deborah Coonts

Today I welcome author Deborah Coonts to Bookfan. I read Deborah’s book Wanna Get Lucky? a few months ago and really enjoyed it. Next week I’ll review the second book in the series: Lucky Stiff. I asked Deborah to write about her inspiration for the Lucky series.
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Inspiration for the Lucky Series: A Sinful Escape
By Deborah Coonts,
Author of Lucky Stiff

When my then fifteen-year-old son suggested a family relocation to Las Vegas, my then husband and I started packing. Okay, maybe we didn’t think it through, but after five years in suburban Maryland we had yet to find our niche, so we were ready for a change. Little did I know, the story I had been looking for was lurking in Sin City. In retrospect, perhaps it should’ve been obvious, but back then I was pretty naive.

With bags packed and good wishes ringing in our ears (The one I remember the best was: You’re going to finish raising a hormonal teenage male in Las Vegas? Are you on drugs? I’m still thankful those ‘friends’ didn’t call Social Services), we packed two cars and a moving van and headed toward the bright lights.

A lot of people say Vegas is an acquired taste — not for me.

Where else outside of maybe New York City can you watch an everchanging cross-section of the world parade past and still go home and sleep in your own bed? Absolute heaven for a storyteller.

However, it is true that everyone sees something different in Vegas.

I see magic.

And this is the Vegas I wanted to write about. The fun stuff. Not bodies buried in the desert. Not mobsters. Not fools losing everything. But the real Vegas. The forty-five million visitors a year — each of whom are on a mission of mischief, the celebrities, the singers, the shows, the amazing shopping — that Vegas.

My Vegas.

Wanna Get Lucky? is the beginning of the story. Of course, the story had to be set in a huge strip casino/resort, and since I’m a storyteller, not a reporter, I created my own — The Babylon. And who better to tell the story than a woman in her early thirties (old enough to know better, but young enough to ignore it) who is the Head of Customer Relations?

On a roll, I wrote the first sentence of the story — I’m big on beginnings — then came to a screeching halt.

Great, forty-three words into the next Great American Novel and I had writer’s block. This was going to be harder than I thought.

That’s when I started hearing voices.

At first, I thought maybe this ought to worry me, but then I remembered an interview with P. D. James. When asked how she came up with her stories, she said something to the effect that she sat in a room with her characters, listened to what they had to say, then wrote it down. I was so there. And, by all accounts, Ms. James did all right. So, if it was good enough for her, it was fine for little ol’ me.

Lucky, my protagonist, was the first character to speak to me. Apparently fed-up with my waffling, she spoke up loud and clear — she told me her name — while I was minding my own business sitting on the porch at the Grand Lake Lodge in Colorado. Vacation interrupts. Two women and one man (my then husband) do not make a great vacation. Of course, if we’d been in Vegas, that would’ve been just an interesting evening . . . or so I’ve been told.

But I digress. Being given my protagonist’s name was a good start, but I was hoping for more. Lucky didn’t disappoint — she introduced me to her friends: The Great Teddie Divine (Las Vegas’ premier female impersonator who is straight and, understandably, has a tough time picking up women), Miss Patterson (Lucky’s plucky assistant and a cougar), the Beautiful Jeremy Whitlock (a private investigator and prime cougar bait), The Big Boss, and Mona (Lucky’s bordelloowning mother).

The whole female impersonator thing sort of opened the door for me. I mean, some of the impersonators in this town are amazing. And then I started wondering . . . well, anyway, I finally ended-up wondering what would a straight guy do if he spent his professional life sheathed in Oscar de la Renta? How would he do with women? Of course, this being my fantasy, I decided he might do all right. Think about it. A man who can speak Jimmy Choo? A man who can help me with make-up (I’m not a girly-girly.) A man who would not only know who Rodgers and Hammerstein were, but who could even hum a few bars of I’m Gonna Wash that Man Right Outta My Hair. All this and sex too? Hey, a girl can dream, can’t she? So, Teddie was born.

The cougar thing . . . well, I’m of a certain age — old enough to find that concept interesting. Enough said.

And who wouldn’t wonder what it would be like to have a mother in ‘the business’? This is Vegas after all.

The cast set, I actually had to come up with a story. Porn stars and spouse swappers?

The genesis for the porn star angle was a chapter of a book, Skin City by Jack Sheehan. Jack is a Vegas author and quite wonderful. The vignette he wrote that inspired me was a recitation of his attendance at the real adult film awards held in Vegas each January. I laughed so hard I had tears rolling down my face. So, of course, I had to have porn stars — of my own creation, of course.

And the spouse swappers — that idea came right out of Sixty Minutes.

Put the two together, along with a young woman who falls out of a tour helicopter, landing in the middle of the Pirate Show in front of Treasure Island, add some Vegas magic, and romance . . .

So, do you Wanna Get Lucky?

© 2011 Deborah Coonts, author of The Lucky O’Toole Vegas adventure series

Author Bio
Deborah Coonts, author of Lucky Stiff, says her mother tells her she was born in Texas a very long time ago, though she’s not totally sure — her mother can’t be trusted. But she was definitely raised in Texas on barbeque, Mexican food and beer. She currently resides in Las Vegas, where family and friends tell her she can’t get into too much trouble. Silly people. Coonts has built her own business, practiced law, flown airplanes, written a humor column for a national magazine, and survived a teenager. She is the author of the Lucky O’Toole Las Vegas adventure series.

Her first book, Wanna Get Lucky?, was released in 2010.

For more information please visit http://www.deborahcoonts.com, and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter

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Thank you, Deborah. I love that Lucky named herself 🙂 I hope she introduces you to many more characters! I can’t wait for her next adventure.

Bonjour 40: A Paris Travel Log by Karen A. Chase

Title:  Bonjour 40: A Paris Travel Log (40 years. 40 days. 40 seconds)

Author:  Karen A. Chase

Genre:  Travel Memoir

Published:  October 2011

My take:  Karen A. Chase celebrated her 40th birthday by treating herself to a month in Paris. She immersed herself in all things French by living in a rented apartment, riding a bike or walking most of the time, shopping the markets, and enjoying the cafes. Well, really, much more than that!

Chase shares her experiences (mostly good) of living among Parisians. If you are looking for the courage to live in another country for an extended period look no further than Bonjour 40. Of course, her circumstances were perfect: a job that allowed her to take the time off; no childcare arrangements to make; and a partner who promised to meet her for the final week of her holiday. Even so, reading this short memoir made me feel it would be possible to do the same. Where there’s a will. . . right?

One more thing. I loved all the photos scattered throughout. They made me feel like I was looking through a travel scrapbook.

Source:  I bought it.

Disclosure Policy:  see sidebar

NOTE: This book is available as an eBook. I read it on a device using e-ink. A few weeks after I wrote this review I read Bonjour 40 again but this time on an iPad. The photos look clear and crisp – superior to the e-ink experience. That said, either version is recommended.


Making Waves by Tawna Fenske

Title:  Making Waves

Author:  Tawna Fenske

Genre:  Contemporary Romance

Published:  August 2011 – Sourcebooks Casablanca

About:  (Goodreads synopsis) When Alex Bradshaw’s unscrupulous boss kicks him to the curb after 20 faithful years as an executive with the world’s largest shipping company, he sets out to reclaim his dignity and his pension. Assembling a team of fellow corporate castoffs, he sails to the Caribbean to intercept an illegal diamond shipment. None of them counted on quirky blonde stowaway Juli Flynn, who has a perplexing array of talents, a few big secrets, and an intoxicating romantic chemistry with Alex…

My take:  I first heard about Making Waves at The Debutant Ball. Tawna Fenske was one of the Debs of 2011. I like Romance and I like it funny. Fenske did not disappoint! Juli is a charming and quirky heroine. She becomes an unwitting stowaway on a ship that happens to be manned by first-time pirates. Let the hilarity begin. And it does. I read it quickly because the pages almost turned themselves – and I giggled a lot. It’s a funny and sexy romp filled with memorable characters in wacky situations.

If you enjoy Contemporary Romance that makes you laugh you might like Making Waves. I really did and I look forward to reading Tawna Fenske’s next book.

Source:  I bought it.

Disclaimer:  See sidebar.