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, www.darlenepanzera.com. 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

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Mailbox Monday

July host: Mrs. Q Book Addict
♦  ♦  ♦

For Review:

Wild Texas Rose by Jodi Thomas (Penguin/Berkley)

I bought:

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry  by Rachel Joyce (audiobook)

To Heaven and Back by Mary C. Neal, MD

I saw an interview with the author on morning tv and was moved to buy the book.

That almost never happens!

What was in your mailbox?

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.