The Bet by Darlene Panzera

Title:  The Bet

Author:  Darlene Panzera

Genre:  Romance; Novella

Published:  June 2012 – Avon Books

Synopsis:  Jenny is about to lose the ranch that’s been in her family for generations. It looks like she’ll have to marry someone with money in order to save it. Most of the town is placing bets on who she’ll marry and then a stranger shows up and bets $10,000 she’ll marry him within five weeks. Who is this mysterious man? Could he be a knight in shining armor or does he have an ulterior motive?

My take:  This was a fun story – a real page turner! The Bet could easily have been a full length book. I enjoyed the fast pace and how the drama, humor and light romance combined to make an entertaining story.

Given the short form it was easy to accept the brief secondary character descriptions and quick turns in the plot. I was amazed by how much Panzera packed into her story –  that’s why I think it could be a full length novel. I would enjoy learning most of the characters’ back stories and it would be nice to see the story play out more slowly.

I can see why Debbie Macomber named The Bet the winner of the Readers’ Story Contest. I think fans of Macomber will enjoy it and I’ll definitely look for more books by Darlene Panzera.

Note:  You can find The Bet as a bonus story included with Debbie Macomber’s Family Affair (there are a few editions so look for the one with the pink sticker on the cover).

Disclosure:  I received a review copy from the publisher for the TLC Book Tour. I was not compensated for my review.

♦  ♦  ♦

About Darlene Panzera

A graduate of the Writer’s Digest Advanced Novel Writing School and The Christian Writer’s Guild apprentice program, Darlene is an active member of Romance Writers of America’s Greater Seattle and Peninsula Chapters. She’s attended numerous conferences and classes, served five years on the board of RWA’s Peninsula Chapter and in 2011 served as chapter president.

Darlene is the winner of the “Make Your Dreams Come True” contest sponsored by Avon Books which led her novella, The Bet, to be published with Debbie Macomber’sFamily Affair released June 2012. She received a second contract with Avon Books, a division of HarperCollins, for the full length manuscript of The Bet, and is currently working on her next novel.

She’s also published several short stories and  A Look of Love was a top finalist for Writer’s Digest Popular Fiction Awards Contest.

Born and raised in New Jersey, Darlene now lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and three  children. When not writing, she enjoys camping, hiking, photography, horseback riding, crafts, music, and lazy days at the lake.

Find Darlene at her website, You can also connect with Darlene on Facebook and Twitter.

Darlene’s Tour Stops

Thursday, July 12th: All-Consuming Media – guest post

Wednesday, July 18th: Deco My Heart

Thursday, July 19th: Joyfully Retired

Monday, July 23rd: …the bookworm…

Tuesday, July 24th: Take Me Away

Wednesday, July 25th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Thursday, July 26th: Tiffany’s Bookshelf

Friday, July 27th: WV Stitcher

Monday, July 30th: Bookfan

Wednesday, August 1st: Silver & Grace

Tuesday, August 7th: Creative Madness Mama

Monday, August 13th: Book Reviews by Molly

The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty

Title:  The Chaperone

Author:  Laura Moriarty

Published:  June 2012 – Riverhead

Narrator:  Elizabeth McGovern

Audiobook:  Penguin Audiobooks: 13 hours 14 minutes

Genre:  Fiction

My take:  In the summer of 1922 Cora Carlisle agreed to chaperone fifteen-year-old Louise Brook from Kansas to New York City where she would study dance for one month with two prominent instructors. One would think this novel might be about Louise but it’s definitely Cora’s story. There is a reason she was so willing to chaperone Louise. As the story unfolds we learn a lot about Cora. The novel, and Cora’s life, really take off in New York.

She would owe this understanding to her time in New York, and even more to Louise. That’s what spending time with the young can do – it’s the big payoff for all the pain. The young can exasperate, of course, and frighten, and condescend, and insult, and cut you with their still unrounded edges. But they can also drag you, as you protest and scold and try to pull away, right up to the window of the future, and even push you through.

The Chaperone, page 156

The Chaperone is an interesting story that spans Cora’s life – a style of novel that appeals to me. Given her start in life it was easy to sympathize with her. But I also liked her pluck. She refused to let Louise steamroll over her. She also knew if things were going to happen in her life she had to assert herself. And that she did!

I loved Elizabeth McGovern’s performance. She just seemed the perfect person to voice the 1920s characters – maybe because I’m a fan of Downton Abbey. I listened to the audio while reading the print edition. I’m finding that combination really works for some books. Although the audio would be great on its own I enjoyed reading along.

Source:  I bought the audiobook and the book.

Secrets of the Lost Summer by Carla Neggers (audio)

Title:  Secrets of the Lost Summer

Author:  Carla Neggers

Narrator:  Susan Boyce

Genre:  Romance

Published:  2012 – AudioGO

(9 cds – 10 hrs. 13 min.)

Synopsis: A wave of hope carries Olivia Frost back to her small New England hometown nestled in the beautiful Swift River Valley. She’s transforming a historic home into an idyllic getaway. Picturesque and perfect, if only the absentee owner will fix up the eyesore next door. . .

Dylan McCaffrey’s ramshackle house is an inheritance he never counted on. It also holds the key to a generations-old lost treasure he can’t resist. . .any more than he can resist his new neighbor. Against this breathtaking landscape, Dylan and Olivia pursue long-buried secrets and discover a mystery wrapped in a love story. . . past and present.

My take:  Secrets of the Lost Summer is the first book by Carla Neggers that I’ve read and I won’t hesitate to pick up another. I like her style. She fleshed out her characters in a rather minimalist way that worked for me. I understood them without having to learn every little detail. I like that.

I also liked the mystery and love story that connects the past to the present. It made me smile while listening. Speaking of listening, Susan Boyce’s narration is rather even (some might say flat) – to the point that in the beginning my mind wandered a bit. Once I was used to listening to her voice, that issue cleared up. I enjoyed her the most when she voiced the older women characters. But overall she did a fine job.

The theme that stood out most for me is one of people finding the courage to reach for their dreams – no matter how small or large the dream might be. Sometimes it’s just finding the courage to do what’s right when the possibility of pursuing a dream is impossible.

Recommended to fans of the author and readers who enjoy a quiet mystery/love story.

Source: AudioGO; Audiobook Jukebox

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

When In Doubt, Add Butter by Beth Harbison

Title:  When In Doubt, Add Butter

Author:  Beth Harbison

Genre:  Chick Lit

Published:  July 2012 – St. Martin’s Press

Synopsis:  (from the back of the ARC) Gemma Craig has spent her career as a private chef taking care of other people. From Lex, the fussy department store owner straight out of a movie from the thirties; to grossly overweight Willa who must radically change her eating habits or die; to the strange Oleksei family, with a constant parade of mysterious people coming and going; to the hideously demanding Angela who is “allergic to everything” and foists her tastes on her hapless family; to the man Gemma thinks of only as “Mr. Tuesday” because they’ve never met. Everyone relies on Gemma, even while she goes home alone each night and feasts on cereal and quick meals. But when life takes an unexpected turn on a road Gemma always thought was straight and narrow, she must face her past and learn to move on in ways she never imagined.

My take:  When In Doubt, Add Butter is a light and enjoyable novel – just what I wanted at this particular time. It reminded me of Hallmark channel chick lit movies.
I loved Gemma, the main character. She’s a personal chef whose clients are mostly oddballs. And then they start to get even stranger! There’s one, though, who leaves notes for Gemma – very witty notes to which she responds in kind. I loved that aspect.
The author ties things up quite neatly by the end – and I was glad she did. I would definitely read another Beth Harbison novel (this was my first). Recommended to fans of the author and Chick Lit. A perfect beach read!

Source:  The publisher via Goodreads First Reads

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

Mailbox Monday



July host: Mrs. Q Book Addict
♦  ♦  ♦

For review:

A Girl Like You by Maria Geraci (Berkley)

I received this book (thank you, Avon and TLC book tours!) but not for the Debbie Macomber story (although I’ll read it at some point). Also included is the winning novella in a contest judged by Macomber: The Bet by Darlene Panzera. That’s the novella I’ll read and review.

This was a giveaway win from Dar at Peeking Between the Pages

(and the publisher):

Sea Change by Karen White

Thanks, Dar!

Audible had a sale – I bought two audiobooks:

Murder By Mocha by Cleo Coyle

The Dark Enquiry by Deanna Raybourn

What was in your mailbox?

Sunday Post #15

After a brief hiatus the Sunday Post is back. We celebrated Grace’s first birthday last week at a party hosted by her parents. Relatives and friends came from near and far – including her new cousin (and our second grandchild) two month old Jack. He came all the way from Maine! Here’s a pic taken a few days after the party:

♦  ♦  ♦

Don’t forget to enter the giveaway for one copy of Brand New Human Being by Emily Jeanne Miller. Giveaway ends Thursday.

♦  ♦  ♦

Books I’m reading this week:

The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty

The Bet a short story by Darlene Panzera

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

 Have a great week!

Thin Rich Bitches by Janet Eve Josselyn

Title:  Thin Rich Bitches

Author:  Janet Eve Josselyn

Genre:  Chick Lit

Published:  March 2012 – Amazon

Synopsis:  Leaving her cheating husband in Boston with the paralegal he impregnated, Pippin Snowe and her son move to a ramshackle farmhouse that she inherited in the exclusive community of Dover, Massachusetts. Pippin finds employment with a local architect, designing kitchen renovations for wealthy Dover women who treat her as they treat the rest of the hired help. Concluding that social climbing is just another sport that she is no good at, Pippin opens a country club for dogs that offers services that the Dover women didn’t know they wanted until they found out that admission was required and spaces were limited.

My take:  Janet Eve Josselyn’s peek inside the lives of people with (some would say) too much money is entertaining, snarky, and had me cheering Pippin on as she learned the ropes of her new world. About a third of the way in I was wishing I’d started a character list but, little by little, the characters distinguished themselves.

If snark bothers you then this may not be the book for you. Most of the time it made me laugh. The pace of the book was pretty good. I thought the first half was mostly explaining the characters and setting up the story but the second half of the book picked up steam and I was kind of sorry to turn the final page. There’s definitely reasons for a sequel – and I’d read that book!

This was a fun summer read – a good one to read poolside or on the beach.

Source:  Thanks to the author for sending me a review copy!

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

Brand New Human Being by Emily Jeanne Miller – and a giveaway

Title:  Brand New Human Being

Author:  Emily Jeanne Miller

Genre:  Fiction

Published:  June 2012 – Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

272 pages

My take:  Brand New Human Being is one of those novels I wished I had a friend who’d also read it so we could compare notes right away. I wanted to talk about Logan and Julie and Bennie and the rest of the characters. I wanted to talk about how differently we all handle grief especially when the center of the universe, in this case Logan’s father, has died.

Logan left grad school when his father was diagnosed with cancer. He’d met Julie several weeks earlier on a trip home. They spent every night together until Logan returned to school. Their son Owen was conceived during those two weeks. When Logan got the call about his dad he left school, married Julie and they both moved in with his dad Gus and Bennie.

Fast-forward a few years and Logan finds himself a stay-at-home dad with a 4-year-old son who seems to be reverting to a baby, and a wife who seems very unhappy. He also hasn’t finished his dissertation and feels the pressure of having less than a year to do so. On top of that there are other issues and people who are putting pressure on him. At times Logan made me think of a tea kettle building to a full whistle.

I can see where some readers might get annoyed with Logan and complain about his first world problems but really he’s a guy of a certain age (mid 30s) getting tired of letting life happen to him. He starts to take control of the things only he can. When even that seems impossible Logan does some things he almost immediately regrets. His father’s widow Bennie gets him to talk and she listens (and talks some sense into him). She seems to be about the only person who validates his feelings.

I liked Brand New Human Being and recommend it to readers who like books about imperfect people dealing with grief and trying to move forward.

Source: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for TLC Book Tour

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

♦  ♦  ♦

You can find out more about the novel and author Emily Jeanne Miller at her website. You’ll find a link to discussion questions there as well.

Click the TLC button to see the complete tour schedule

♦  ♦  ♦

And now for the giveaway!

One lucky winner from the US or Canada will win a copy of

Brand New Human Being by Emily Jeanne Miller

Details can be found here.

Good luck!

Giveaway now closed

Mailbox Monday



July host: Mrs. Q Book Addict
♦  ♦  ♦

I found one review book in my mailbox last week – it looks like a good one!

The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian (from Doubleday)

I bought one I’ve been wanting to read:

 The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty

And after reading Gilion’s review I bought:

 The Hapless Valet by Lenhardt Stevens. I’m not certain when I’ll get a chance to read it but when I do I’ll be sure to let you know here! Isn’t that a great cover?

What was in your mailbox?

Lady Alexandra’s Excellent Adventure by Sophie Barnes

Title:  Lady Alexandra’s Excellent Adventure – Summersby #1

Author:  Sophie Barnes

Genre:  Historical Romance

Published:  May 2012 – Avon Impulse

Synopsis: Lady Alexandra Summersby is not your average society miss. Not only is she more likely to climb a tree than she is to wear a dress, but she has also sworn off marriage. Alex loves taking chances, which is how she finds herself embroiled in a secret mission as she races across the country with the Earl of Trenton. But Alexandra is about to discover that the real danger lies not in duels, but in her completely unexpected reaction to Lord Trenton’s company.

Michael Ashford, Earl of Trenton, is a man of duty. Honorable, charming, and a hit with the ladies, he’s never had trouble staying focused-until now. Lady Alexandra is like no other woman he’s ever met, and suddenly the prospect of marriage seems far more appealing. Now, to convince Alexandra that a life together could be an adventure like no other . . .

My take:  This historical romance is different from any I’ve read. It’s full of adventure, lacks the proper etiquette of the ton – at least where Alex is concerned, and then at nearly the last moment takes on the form of a fairy tale (think duckling turns into swan). It’s an entertaining story.

At it’s very core I found it to be the story of a young woman with commitment issues because of the loss of her mother at an early age. Alex resolved never to marry so she’d never feel the grief she witnessed in her father when her mother died. I thought Sophie Barnes’s treatment of this issue was honest and believable. With the rest of the story being somewhat larger than life I thought it was interesting to address that sensitive issue.

This is the first in the Summersby series with the second due out in the Fall (2012). Lady Alexandra’s Excellent Adventure might be a good one to take to the beach this summer. I enjoyed it.

Source:  Avon Impulse

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

Spotlight on HOME BY NIGHTFALL by Alexis Harrington

HOME BY NIGHTFALL returns readers to the small Oregon town of Powell Springs, the setting of Harrington’s highly praised Home by Morning, which introduced the Braddock family and others in the town struggling on the home front at the end of WWI as the flu pandemic rages around the world. There, Susannah Braddock has made peace with the loss of her soldier husband, Riley, who died in France. She’s been looking after Riley’s father and running the family’s horse farm with the help of hired hand Tanner Grenfell.  When their turns to love, they marry, committing their lives to running the farm and raising Tanner’s two young nephews.

Their happiness is short lived.  Two years after being reported dead, Riley Braddock returns home, shell-shocked and with no memory of his life before the war. All he can remember is Veronique, the French woman who rescued him and nursed him back to health. Plagued by memories and nightmares of the War, he has returned to a life and a wife he no longer knows. The joy his family is not enough to heal his wounds. For Susannah,  the best intentions of her brother and sister-in-law and the outright resentment  and animosity of the old man she’s cared for of her the irascible old man she tries to care only bring more anguish as she is torn between her love for Tanner and her loyalty to Riley.

Once again, Alexis Harrington presents a story of individuals facing extraordinary circumstances and the healing power of love.

♦  ♦  ♦

Historical novelist Alexis Harrington has entertained readers since her first book was published in 1994. She has been spinning tales of characters and situations that include mail order brides, the Yukon Gold Rush, seafaring, ranching, and protagonists heading west ever since.  Her latest, HOME BY NIGHTFALL was published July 3, 2012. It follows Home by Morning the first of her books published as an e-book and print original.

Since that first novel, Homeward Hearts, was published Alexis has written and published twelve more books, all historical romances. They include Homeward HeartsA Light for My LoveA Taste of HeavenDesperate Hearts, and Harper’s Bride, originally published by New American Library (NAL).  Her novels Allie’s MoonMontana Born and BredThe Bridal Veil and The Irish Bride were published by St. Martin’s Press.  Alexis self-published Home by Morning, which was then acquired along with HOME BY NIGHTFALL by Montlake Romance.

Alexis lives in the Pacific Northwest near the Columbia River within ten miles of her old high school.  She has numerous pets, including three chickens.  In addition to being a writer for the past twenty years, she makes jewelry, is a fine needlework artist specializing in embroidery, thread crochet and sewing. She enjoys cooking, reading, entertaining, and decorating, and is a lover of all things Victorian. She is currently at work on her next book.


Alexis Harrington

Montlake Romance/Fiction/eBook and Trade Paperback/Original

On sale 7-3-12/$3.99 e-book ● $12.95

ISBN-10: 1612182062  978-1612182063