A Novel Proposal

A Novel Proposal by Denise Hunter

Expected publication: March 21, 2023 – Thomas Nelson

Review book courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

My take:

When novelist Sadie Goodwin’s latest Western book is rejected by her publisher she’s directed to change genres and, adding insult to injury, return the advance for the rejected book. She’s in financial dire straits so when she is offered a place to live free of charge while she writes in a new direction she accepts. Did I mention the house is on the North Carolina shore? Her neighbor Sam is an attractive man who seems a bit gruff yet intriguing. Turns out he’s licking some emotional wounds and just wants to be left alone for a while. These two eventually get to know each other and bond over trying to find the owner of a found object from a Little Free Library book. Add in a road trip to a destination wedding, some emotional drama, and a satisfying HEA and you have a romantic story that is exactly the kind I love to read.


Publisher’s description:

When novelist Sadie Goodwin is forced to stop writing westerns and charged with penning a contemporary romance novel to rescue her lackluster sales, there’s only one tiny problem: She’s never been in love.

Desperate to salvage her career, Sadie begins devouring romance novels. Knowing she must devote herself to this confounding genre, she accepts an invitation to hole up at her friend’s beach duplex for the summer. Where better to witness love in bloom than on the beautiful North Carolina shore?

However, once ensconced in the charming ocean-front home with her sweet maltipoo Rio, she finds many ways to procrastinate. First there’s the beach, right outside her backdoor, with all its interesting visitors (research). Then there’s the free library she decides to build and set up by the back deck (She has to do something with all those romance novels). To say nothing of Sam Ford, the grumpy neighbor on the other side of the duplex . . . who she can’t seem to stop annoying.

A social butterfly by nature, Sadie soon gets to know all the beach regulars—sunbathers, walkers, and surfers alike. The free books draw a crowd right up to the house for nice little book chats, which further irritates her reclusive neighbor, to break up her “writing.” But things take an unexpected turn when Sadie opens a recently-placed novel to find a secret compartment—and tucked inside is a beautiful engagement ring. To whom does the ring belong? Sadie is convinced she needs to find the owner and save the man’s proposal from certain doom.

She draws a reluctant Sam into the project, and slowly their connection begins to develop. Are these weird fluttery feelings the first stirrings of love? Has Sadie managed to stumble upon the very subject about which she must write—and wouldn’t Sam make the perfect alpha hero?

Will Sadie find the ring’s rightful owner? And will she manage to pen a career-saving romance novel by summer’s end?


 

All Is Bright

All Is Bright by RaeAnne Thayne

Published:  September 20, 2022 – HQN

Digital review copy courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

Return to Hope’s Crossing this Christmas in New York Times bestselling author RaeAnne Thayne’s latest heartwarming story of matchmaking at the holidays!

Sage McKnight is an ambitious young architect working at her father’s firm who takes on her most challenging client in Mason Tucker. The former pro baseball player is still healing from the physical and emotional scars after a plane crash left him a wheelchair-using single dad, and he’s determined not to let anyone breach his emotional defenses. Sage knows her work on Mason’s new home in Hope’s Crossing is her best work yet, and she won’t let her grumpy client prevent her from showcasing her work personally.

With Sage’s gift for taking broken things and making them better, the matchmaking talent of the quirky locals and a generous sprinkling of Christmas cheer, Mason doesn’t stand a chance against the power of this magical holiday season. (publisher)

My take:

I’ll say right up front All Is Bright is going to be one of my favorite Christmas themed books in the CR genre. The trope of grumpy hero meets optimistic and unstoppable heroine doesn’t alway work for me but in Thayne’s hands it was a win. Sage and Mason have separately faced very difficult emotional and physical challenges but are at the point of moving forward in their lives.

There are sub-plots involving interesting secondary characters, complicated families, and regular daily life. I enjoyed it all and especially appreciated the epilogue that put the bow on this gift of a novel.

If you’re a fan of author RaeAnne Thayne, contemporary romance with a Christmas theme, and a mountain town setting you’ll want to read All Is Bright.


About the author:

RaeAnne Thayne is the #1 Publisher’s Weekly, New York Times, and USA TODAY bestselling author of nearly seventy books. Her books have been described as “poirgnant and sweet,” with “beautiful, honest storytelling that goes straight to the heart.” She finds inspiration from the beautiful northern Utah mountains, where she lives with her family. She loves to hear from readers and can be reach through her webiste at raeannethayne.com.

Author Website: https://www.raeannethayne.com/ 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorRaeAnneThayne/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/raeannethayne 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/raeannethayne 

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/116118.RaeAnne_Thayne


 

Coming Home by Shelley Shepard Gray

Coming Home by Shelley Shepard Gray

Expected publication date:  Nov. 29, 2022 – Berkley

Digital galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

In Woodland Park, a small town nestled in the foothills of Pikes Peak, Anderson Kelly and Chelsea Davis were once the high school “it” couple—the star quarterback and the valedictorian. They broke up when Anderson joined the army and one poor decision at a fraternity party changed Chelsea’s life. Now, she works long shifts in a senior center to support her nine-year-old son, Jack.

After multiple tours in Afghanistan, Anderson has changed, too—physically scarred but mentally strong—and he decides to move back to Woodland Park. Anderson and Chelsea steer clear of each other to avoid reopening old wounds, until they are forced to reconnect through the senior center. They soon discover that the love they once shared never completely vanished. But it will take a fire, a dangerous collision, and the love of one little boy to help Anderson and Chelsea see that the future they’ve always yearned for is in sight… (publisher)

My take:

Coming Home is a lovely second chance contemporary romance. Anderson and Chelsea were very much in love as high school students but went their separate ways after graduation – his path to the Army and hers to college. Ten years later they are back living in their hometown where their paths cross once again. Anderson now works at the fire department as a paramedic and Chelsea works at the local senior center. Both were profoundly changed by the experiences in their time apart. Will they give themselves the chance to know each other again?

I loved how author Shelley Shepard Gray’s story played out and especially appreciated the subplot involving older characters. It was nice to see them play more of a role than simply background filler. I look forward to seeing where Gray’s series goes in the second book (due out in 2023).


About the author:

Shelley Shepard Gray is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, a finalist for the American Christian Fiction Writers prestigious Carol Award, and a two-time HOLT Medallion winner. She lives in southern Ohio, where she writes full-time, bakes too much, and can often be found walking her dachshunds on her town’s bike trail.


 

Bend Toward the Sun

Bend Toward the Sun by Jen Devon

Expected publication:  August 9, 2022 – St. Martin’s Griffin

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

Description:

Rowan McKinnon believes love isn’t real. With a botany PhD, two best friends who embrace her social quirkiness, and some occasional no-strings sex, she thinks she has everything she needs. But she hides deep wounds from the past—from an emotionally negligent mother, and a fiancé who treated her like a pawn in a game. The only love she’s ever known came from her grandmother Edie, who taught her to care for all things that grow.

After a chance encounter at a future winery, Rowan takes on the restoration of the property’s abandoned vineyard, immersing herself in nurturing the grapes back to their former glory—and trying not to think about Harrison Brady.

An obstetrician profoundly struggling after losing a patient, Harry Brady no longer believes he is capable of keeping people safe. Reeling from the loss and his crumbled romantic relationship, Harry leaves Los Angeles to emotionally recover at his parents’ new vineyard in Pennsylvania. He’ll work to get the place ready to open, and try to pick up the pieces of his heart.

As soon as he meets Rowan, sunlight begins to crack through the darkness smothering Harry’s soul. He’s compelled to explore the undeniable pull between them. After spending a lifetime protecting herself from feeling anything, for anyone, Rowan tries to keep things casual.

But even she can’t ignore their explosive connection. (publisher)

My take:

Bend Toward the Sun is a heartfelt, emotional novel that ultimately felt too angsty for me. I’m in the minority if you take a look at Goodreads ratings so I encourage readers to take in the publisher’s synopsis and decide for yourself.

What I loved: the setting, Harry’s complex family, and the final scene of the novel. What I wasn’t a fan of: characters in need of therapy who apparently never considered it. That is always a major distraction for me. I also didn’t need the “door wide open” intimate scenes. That’s a personal quibble, I realize. I prefer “slightly ajar” LOL.

Overall, I think I just wasn’t the right reader (if that is a thing). There was a point about half-way in that I was considering DNF-ing but I’m glad I hung in there. Because the final scene brought it all home – and I was good with that.


About the author:

Jen Devon wrote her first romance when she was eight. Now she writes vivid, cinematic love stories about imperfect people finding their perfect match. A former biology academic and lecturer, she currently works in the tech industry and dreams of writing full-time. She’s an avid gardener, photographer, and boardgamer, a thrift store enthusiast and unapologetic nerd. She’s a mom of six (three kids, three rescue mutts) and lives in central Ohio with her engineer husband.


Praise for Bend Toward the Sun

 

“All my favorite tropes in a heart-warming, sensual, beautifully written package. Jen Devon has given us a steamy romance about humans’ ability to grow and heal, and about the power of love. I cannot wait to laugh, cry, lose myself in her future books.” 

Ali HazelwoodNew York Times bestselling author of The Love Hypothesis

“This is a book to be savored. Bend Toward the Sun is a lushly drawn portrait of two people with a magnetic, soul-deep connection, wrapped up in a gorgeous story of hope and healing. It’s the kind of romance that made me fall in love with the genre all over again―and I never wanted it to end. Consider me a Jen Devon fan for life.” 

Rachel Lynn Solomon, bestselling author of The Ex Talk

“Devon’s debut, Bend Toward the Sun, is a gorgeous love story full of lyrical writing and raw emotion. I fell in love with these two broken characters who begin to heal one another. Definitely an author to watch!” 

Jennifer ProbstNew York Times & USA Today Bestselling Author, of Our Italian Summer

“Sometimes a book comes along that contains everything you want: romance, tenderness, humor, passion, and a hint of sadness that makes the other emotions feel earned. BEND TOWARD THE SUN hits all the perfect notes.”

 – Trish Doller, author of Float Plan

“An achingly beautiful romance between two broken people struggling to heal each other’s hearts and a neglected vineyard over a season. Soul satisfying, sensual, and unforgettable.”

 – Libby Hubscher, author of Meet Me in Paradise

“Intoxicatingly sensual and undeniably sexy, Bend Toward the Sun stole my heart from page one and never let go. With tender explorations of passion, mental health, and belonging, this book has a permanent place in my heart and on my bookshelf.”

 – Mazey Eddings, author of A Brush with Love



“Sweeping and lush, Bend Toward the Sun is one of my favorite kinds of books, where the setting is just as integral to the story as the main characters. Getting to know the warm, lovable Brady family feels like a hug, and I am thoroughly annoyed I can’t visit their vineyard in real life. Harry and Rowen’s road to happily-ever-after as they each battle their own demons is deeply emotional and hard-won.” 

Anita Kelly, author of Love & Other Disasters

“A smart and riveting love story about two imperfect people who may just be perfect for each other, Bend Toward the Sun is a delicious debut. Jen Devon knows her way around the human heart.”

 –Camille Pagán, bestselling author of Everything Must Go

“A breathtaking, beautiful debut! Rich with emotion and unforgettable characters in a lush setting so vividly described that you’ll long to visit!”
Priscilla Oliveras, USA Today bestselling author of Anchored Hearts

“Bend Toward the Sun is an inspiring tale of love that sweeps you into a world you’ll never want to leave, with achingly beautiful scenery and characters who take root in your heart.” 

Brooke Burroughs, author of The Marriage Code

“Jen Devon has crafted a masterpiece that is as soul nourishing as it is romantic. An emotional story about two people with undeniable chemistry, yet opposing views on love, Bend Toward the Sun is unapologetically vulnerable and beautifully complex. This book will make your heart ache and give you hope in the way only the best romances can.” 

Sonia Hartl, author of Heartbreak For Hire

“Hands down, one of the best contemporary romances I’ve read in years.” 

Elizabeth Everett, author of A Lady’s Formula for Love and A Perfect Equation




Dog Friendly

Dog Friendly by Victoria Schade

Published: June 28, 2022 – Berkley

Digital galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

A burned-out veterinarian takes a much-needed beach vacation, where a charming surfer makes waves in her love life, and a unique foster pup renews her passion for her work.
 
Exhausted veterinarian Morgan Pearce is feeling overworked and under-thanked, so when two favorite clients ask her to watch their special needs senior dog in their Nantucket home, she jumps at the chance for a summer break. She hopes her time on the island will be a reset from the stress of her everyday life, but her chill vacation vibe takes a hit when she gets roped into fostering a challenging, anxious dog and helping plan the local rescue group’s glittery annual fundraiser.
 
Her trip starts to feel more like a vacation when Morgan begins falling for Nathan Keating, an irresistible entrepreneur who thinks every problem can be solved on a surfboard. Just as the summer is shaping up to be the magical refresh she needs, thanks to a fling that feels like the beginning of something real and Hudson, the foster dog who reminds her how much she loves her job, a visit from her estranged brother and the discovery of who Nathan really is changes everything. Morgan finds herself at a crossroads, trying to determine if mistakes from the past must define the future, or if she should forgive, forget, and grab hold of a chance to finally rescue herself. (publication)

My take:

Morgan Pearce is a veterinarian who heads to Nantucket for a couple of months to recover from major anxiety. She will stay at the home of friends and watch their dog at the same time. As can happen she meets other dog people and then some – including the handsome Nathan. So there’s some romance, some family dynamics and more than a few emotional issues.

Fans of beach reads, dogs, and a Nantucket setting will find all that and more in Victoria Schade’s new novel.


 

The Little Cornish House

The Little Cornish House by Donna Ashcroft

Release Date:  June 30, 2022 – Dreamscape Media

Review audio from Dreamscape and NetGalley Audio

Description: (please read)

Thirty-year-old Ruby is done with love: no more drama, no more complications, no more men. She’s living life for herself, and that’s the way she likes it. But her whole world is turned upside down when her grandmother calls to say her beloved pottery business is failing, and she might lose her beautiful little Cornish house by the sea. She needs Ruby to come back to Cornwall and save the day…

Returning to Indigo Cove stirs up memories Ruby would rather forget, but she’s determined to save her grandmother’s home. As the summer heats up, so does the pressure on Ruby, and she’s in need of a distraction. Although quite literally walking into Gabe Roskilly, the sexy and brooding owner of the local brewery, wasn’t part of her game plan.

Ruby tries to ignore her attraction to Gabe, but it’s impossible to avoid the tall, dark, handsome stranger as Gabe is at the center of village life. And when Ruby’s plans for the little Cornish house start to fall apart, she discovers Gabe might be the one person who can help her. Ruby’s promise to stay single is tested to the limit. But are Gabe’s intentions all good, or is Ruby about to get her heart broken again?

Can Ruby save her grandmother’s cottage and find true happiness this summer? Or will secrets from the past ruin everything? (publisher)

My take:

I loved the Cornwall setting, the various characters and even the complicated family dynamics. The Little Cornish House is for fans of multi-generational women’s fiction. There’s a mystery or two to be solved and enough light humor to make it my kind of a summer escape. I thought the main characters Ruby and Gabe had wonderful chemistry. I wasn’t expecting their detailed love scenes but also wasn’t bothered by them. I only mention because I know some readers are sensitive to that. I was happy by the personal growth they individually experienced when they took the necessary courageous steps.

I liked the audio narration by Helen Johns. She made listening to the novel such an enjoyable experience. She voiced each character with just enough nuance to make distinguishing between characters easy for me. I look forward to hearing more of her audiobook performances.



					

Sunday at the Sunflower Inn

Sunday at the Sunflower Inn by Jodi Thomas

Published:  April 26, 2022 – Zebra Books/Kensington

Review galley from the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

Jessica Ann McKenzie—“Jam” to everyone in Honey Creek—has fulfilled her dream of owning the best restaurant for miles around. Serving candlelit dinners to every couple in town on Valentine’s Day is a reminder of another dream, one she’s just about given up on. Until, that very night, Sergeant Tucson Smith clambers out of the muddy river and onto her land, bringing the promise of something they’ve both been searching for.
 
When McCoy Mason crashes on Interstate 45, he doesn’t just bust up his Mustang, his leg, and his relationship. He also loses his prospects of a job and apartment in Houston. Honey Creek, home to his estranged grandfather, offers a temporary respite, a place to recover before moving on again. After all, what permanent use could a town so picture-perfect have for a man like him?
 
At sixty-seven, Charles H. Winston III lives by order and routine. One of his most cherished rituals is a regular lunch date with three lovely ladies at the Honey Creek Café, including the very proper Miss Lilly Lambert. But it’s not too late to surprise the whole town—or himself—by seizing a chance for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. And there’s no better season than spring, when the warm breeze blowing in from the Brazos River brings fresh hope and second chances to those who need them most . . . (publisher)

My take:

With her new novel, Sunday at the Sunflower Inn, Jodi Thomas proves why she is on my favorite  authors list. This is book four in the series but easily stands alone. That said, if you love a good comfort read I highly recommend any of her books.

As usual, Jodi Thomas writes relatable (on one level or another) characters and situations. I won’t rehash the synopsis included above. I enjoy that she always includes characters of different generations in a way that isn’t caricature. In this book there is young love between a teen couple, love in the 30s for a few people, and love at last for a couple who thought it might have passed them by.

Told with the warmth and humor I’ve come to expect this was a book with characters I wasn’t ready to leave by the last page. Recommended to fans of Jodi Thomas and contemporary women’s romantic fiction.


 

Spotlight on: Celebration at Christmas Cove

Celebration at Christmas Cove by Carrie Jansen

Published:  Oct. 26, 2021 – Berkley Trade Paperback Original

Content courtesy of the publisher

Description:

Travel magazine writer Celeste Bell is in a terrible mood. Not only was her flight to the Caribbean diverted to a Massachusetts island, now it looks like she’ll have to spend Christmas there. Single and still mourning the loss of her mother a year earlier, Celeste is desperate to avoid any emotional entanglements and all holiday festivities. She just doesn’t feel like celebrating.
 
But that’s exactly what community center director Nathan White and his young daughter Abigail want to do. Nathan is entirely focused on making sure that his daughter has a happy Christmas, especially with the knowledge that if he can’t raise money for the community center soon, it will close and they’ll have to leave the island. When he meets Celeste, Nathan begins to feel a connection and wonders if he’s brave enough to risk his heart once more.

Thawing their frozen hearts, and saving the community center will require a Christmas miracle. But tis’ the season… (publisher)

About the author:

Carrie Jansen earned an MFA in creative writing and published many poems and short stories before becoming a novelist. An avid bodyboarder and beach walker, she spends as much of the year as she can on Cape Cod, where she draws inspiration for her contemporary romances. She also writes Amish romance novels under her pseudonym, Carrie Lighte. Learn more online at carriejansen.com.


 

Sleigh Bells Ring

Sleigh Bells Ring by RaeAnne Thayne

Expected publication date:  Oct. 26, 2021 – HQN

Review galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

Angel’s View Ranch has always been special to Annelise McCade. Once upon a time, it was her family’s land, until her grandfather sold it to billionaire Wallace Sheridan. Now employed as the live-in caretaker, Annie is just trying to make it through the holidays with both her sanity and her niece’s and nephew’s faith in the magic of Christmas intact.

The six-year-old twins recently lost their mother, so Annie tells herself it wouldn’t be a problem to bring them to Angel’s View. Why should it be? The Sheridans haven’t visited in years, not since Wallace died. They would never know the twins were there…until Tate Sheridan shows up out of the blue two weeks before Christmas.

Crushed to learn that Tate is there to sell his grandfather’s property—and mortified that her secret guests have been discovered—Annie offers her resignation. But Tate asks them to stay and help him get the house ready for one last family Christmas before it’s put on the market.

Annie and Tate have three days to work their magic before the Sheridan clan arrives—and to work through the growing attraction between them. But Annie simply can’t fall for the man who will put her out of a job and a home. Still, the sparkle of the season is impossible to deny…and this Christmas has surprises in store for everyone. (publisher)

My take:

RaeAnne Thayne delivers everything I want in a Christmas Romance. It’s a heartwarming story about people in various stages of grief just hoping to get through this joyous time of year.

I loved every moment spent reading this book. That’s what makes Thayne one of my go-to authors. She speaks to my heart.

Highly recommended to fans of Contemporary Romance, the author, and touching stories.

Now I’m tempted to dig out the Christmas decorations – I’m inspired to go over and above this year!



					

Keep Me Warm at Christmas

Keep Me Warm at Christmas by Brenda Novak

Expected pub. date:  September 28, 2021 – MIRA

Digital galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

Maybe this Christmas can thaw his frozen heart—and heal hers.

Hollywood starlet Tia Beckett knows one moment can change your life. Her career had been on the fast track before a near-fatal accident left her with a debilitating facial scar. Certain her A-lister dreams are over, she agrees to house-sit at her producer’s secluded estate in Silver Springs. It’s the escape from the limelight Tia’s been craving, until she discovers she’s not the only houseguest for the holidays. And her handsome new roomie is impossible to ignore.

Artist Seth Turner has good reason to keep his distance. Losing his wife after only a few years of marriage has left a deep scar, even if he is still happy to spend a semester teaching art classes at the New Horizons Boys Ranch for troubled teens. Despite nursing her own wounds, Tia finds her curiosity piqued by enigmatic Seth, whom she recognizes as something of a kindred soul. Maybe spending Christmas together could be another game changer for both of them—this time, for good. (publisher)

My take:

It’s Christmastime in Silver Springs. Seth Taylor, a talented artist and one of Aiyana’s adopted sons, is staying at the home of his biggest benefactor – a Hollywood producer. It’s a tough time of year for him because his wife and love of his life died just three years earlier. Now her parents need another financial bailout and he feels their emotional blackmail.

Also staying on the grounds (in the guesthouse) is a young actress and friend of the homeowner. She has one hit movie and then an accident ended her dream of more roles. Her face was disfigured and now the paparazzi are after the first pic of her post-accident.

With challenges like those Seth and Tia try to get through each day while everyone else is caught up in the season. Can these two find the courage to reimagine their future? It’s definitely not a Hallmarkesque Christmas story and I’m okay with that. There’s a grittier feel to the Silver Springs series and yet Brenda Novak always makes me care about her characters. Keep Me Warm at Christmas is another good book in the series. It can stand alone but I’m glad I got in with book 1.



 

Riverbend Gap

Riverbend Gap by Denise Hunter

Expected pub. date:  October 19, 2021

Thomas Nelson

Description:

She came in search of the family she’d always wanted—and found the kind of love she’d never dared to imagine.

When Katelyn Loveland’s car veered off a winding Appalachian Mountain road, she thought she was done for. That is until Cooper Robinson, local sheriff’s deputy, came to her rescue. And though Katie narrowly escaped her brush with death, she still fell. Hard.

She wasn’t the only one. But soon Cooper learns that the woman he’s more attracted to than any he’s ever met is his brother’s new girlfriend—and therefore unquestionably off limits. Yet, despite his best efforts, Cooper and Katie can’t seem to avoid running into each other. Or ignore the undeniable chemistry between them.

As they grow closer, Katie shares the secrets of her past and the real reason she moved to their small North Carolina town. She also wins over Cooper’s welcoming and bighearted family. But they don’t know that her feelings for Cooper keep growing—all while she’s dating his brother. Soon the stakes of their emotional connection become higher than either of them could have imagined. Katie stands to lose the first family she’s ever had, and a scandal could doom Cooper’s campaign for sheriff’s office. Suddenly they find themselves on the edge of another precipice—and they’re forced to make a decision that could change their lives forever. (publisher)

My take:

I thoroughly enjoyed Denise Hunter’s newest book, Riverbend Gap. From the opening scene I was captivated by Cooper and Kate. Instead of a “meet-cute” they experienced a “meet-exciting”. These two engaging characters come from very different upbringings. Cooper comes from a strong family but not without drama. Kate was pretty much abandoned as a child and grew up in foster care. Having experienced a recent devastating loss she’s looking for a fresh start in Riverbend Gap. I love stories about family and the need to belong to one – be it the one you’re born into or one you’ve become part of over time. This is the first in a new series and I look forward to Cooper’s siblings’ books. There was a bit of foreshadowing but that’s all I’ll say.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher and NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.



Home To Texas

Description:

Lieutenant KD Whitcomb had mapped out her career from West Point to the Pentagon. But when an injury under questionable circumstances forces her to leave the army, her dreams fall dead at her feet. Feeling lost and needing to rediscover the tough woman beneath the uniform, she heads back to the family ranch in Rough Creek. Only two things get her through the nightmares and sleepless nights: the support of her family and the CID officer investigating the incident in Afghanistan. He infuriates her. Makes her laugh. Gives her hope.
 
Richard Murdock is struggling, too. There’s something fishy about this last case…and the threats coming from Afghanistan aimed at both him and KD. He’s ready to leave the army and make a new start. But how will he protect KD? And what should he do about the growing attraction between them? He’s been burned before. But there’s something about KD’s vulnerability and strength that calls to him, and he’ll do whatever it takes to protect her and give her a chance to build new dreams…including helping her start a PTSD equine therapy program at the Texas ranch.
 
If they can overcome the threats against them and heal old wounds, this second chance might be better than they ever dreamed. (publisher)

My take:

When Lt. KD Whitcomb survives a horrendous event in Afghanistan she finds herself without the future she’d dreamed of with the army. She heads home to her family’s ranch in Texas with lots of questions and no answers. She also meets up with the CID officer who investigated the incident that send KD home. He’s also found himself figuring out his future – but he’s ready for a change. These two had chemistry from the get-go. If ever there were two people suited for each other it’s them. I enjoyed their story which became quite suspenseful when the past catches up with them in Texas. This is the second book in a series about the Whitcomb family. It can stand alone but I recommend reading the first! If you enjoy romantic suspense you’ll want to give this series a try. I’m looking forward to the third book.

About the author:

Kaki Warner is a RITA-winning author and longtime resident of the Pacific Northwest. Although she now lives in the eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountains in Washington, Kaki grew up in the Southwest and is a proud graduate of the University of Texas. She spends her time gardening, reading, writing, and making lists of stuff for her husband to do, all while soaking in the view from the deck of her hilltop cabin.

Spotlight: Match Made in Paradise

Match Made in Paradise by Barbara Dunlop

Congratulations to author Barbara Dunlop! Her new book publishes on May 25th. I thought it was a cute fish-out-of-water contemporary romance. I envisioned a movie version from the first page. If Hallmark movies are your thing give this book a try!

Description:

Supermodel Mia Westberg finds herself on the run from the paparazzi after the death of her much older husband. In order to stay out of the public eye until the fate of her late husband’s fashion house is decided, Mia leaves behind her lavish Los Angeles lifestyle for the wilderness of Alaska—a place where no reporter would follow. It’s immediately clear that Mia isn’t ready for everything Paradise, Alaska has in store for her: the wild animals, insanely harsh weather, and a gorgeous no-nonsense bush pilot who is immune to her charms.

When pilot Silas Burke flies a beautiful blonde into town, he thinks he has her all figured out from the jump. She’s a city girl who has no business in the rough Alaskan terrain. Silas decides against his better judgment to help Mia acclimate to life in Paradise after seeing her struggle. But he’s an impatient teacher and she’s a frustrated pupil—and nothing gets them more fired up than each other. Can these two polar opposites find common ground and let their hearts soar? (publisher)

About the author:

Photo credit: archbould.com

Barbara Dunlop is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author who has published more than fifty novels. Her stories have ranged from lighthearted comedies to family sagas. Barbara is a four-time finalist for the RWA RITA award, and her Tule novel His Jingle Bell Princess has been optioned by Motion Picture Corporation of America for a Hallmark movie. Barbara resides in Yukon, Canada with her bush pilot husband. You can find her at www.barbaradunlop.com.

Spotlight on: One Snowy Night

One Snowy Night by Patience Griffin

Published:  February 2021 – Berkley

Content from the publisher

Description:

A woman struggling to raise her daughter alone in a small Alaskan town finds her simple existence upended when the father of her child returns. . . .
 
Sweet Home, Alaska, was once a thriving, idyllic town, where A Stone’s Throw Hardware and Haberdashery and the Sisterhood of the Quilt were the cornerstones of the community. Then, in one fatal moment, two young lives were cut short, and everything changed. Now the Stone family businesses have closed, the diner is in the red, and the population has dwindled to 573.
 
After the tragic accident that took her sister’s life, Hope McKnight discovered she was pregnant, and gave up her dreams of college to raise her daughter. When Donovan Stone returns to sell his family’s properties and to cut final ties with Sweet Home, he’s shocked to find Hope still there–and a single mother. The pull between Hope and Donovan is as powerful as ever. But so are the secrets and lies stemming from that long-ago tragedy. Will they be able to overcome the past, or will the heartbreak of bygone days destroy their love again? 

About the author:

Patience Griffin is the award-winning author of the Kilts and Quilts series of contemporary romances. She grew up in a small town along the Mississippi River, enjoying life in a close-knit community. She loves to quilt and has gained national recognition with her September 11 Story Quilt, which has toured the country as the property of the Pentagon, and her extensive collection of commercially available quilting fabrics.

Photo credit:  Berkley Jove


 

Forget About Me

Forget About Me by Karen Grey

Narrated by:  Emma Wilder and Brian Pallino

Published:  November 2020 – Home Cooked Books

Review audio courtesy of Karen Grey

Description:

Ben Porter may be living the dream, but it’s not his.

His dad’s health scare might not be the ideal reason to come home for the summer, but it’s a welcome break from the stellar glitz of Ben’s life in Los Angeles. Even if modeling has him rivaling Marky Mark’s fame, posing isn’t his passion. Landing a role with a Boston Shakespeare theater brings him closer to fulfilling his dreams of being a real actor.

Facing the reason he went west in the first place? That’s another story.

Lucy Minola’s dreams were shattered seven years ago when a drunk driver smashed into her brother’s car. She knows it was her fault. So as penance, she works hard to care for her family, goes to confession faithfully, and buries all the feelings she had for the person who left when she needed him most: her brother’s best friend.

When an injured dog brings them back together, Lucy’s good-girl façade begins to crack. Women everywhere are obsessed with the rad bod they see in magazines, but she’s the only one Ben seems to notice.

She can’t trust herself with the man who walked away…but can she let him go a second time?

This bittersweet romance, book 2 in Karen Grey’s 1980s Boston Classics series, proves that everyone deserves a second chance in love and in life. (publisher)

My take:  I enjoyed the first book in The Boston Classics series, What I’m Looking For, so I happily signed on for the second book. This is the wistful story of Lucy and Ben. Tragedy cut their relationship short but 8 years later they are back in the same neighborhood they grew up in. A second chance? Perhaps but they’ll need to work through the reasons they went their separate ways years ago. Karen Grey titled each chapter with an ’80s tune and, like the first book, worked Shakespeare and an adorable dog into the plot. Fans of the 1980s and contemporary romance are sure to enjoy this novel!

I loved the audiobook narrators. Emma Wilder and Brian Pallino were perfectly cast and kept me listening to “one more chapter” each time I listened. I was sorry to learn that Brian Pallino passed away after completing work on this project. His voice will be missed.

About the author:

Karen Grey is the pen name for award-winning narrator Karen White. A stage, screen and radio drama actor in Boston, New York and Los Angeles in the late 20th century, she started recording books in 1999. Now back in her home state of North Carolina, she shares a home with her family and probably too many pets, where she continues to narrate audiobooks as well as make up stories. Her first novel What I’m Looking For released in June 2020.


About the narrators:

Emma Wilder is a classically trained actor and narrator who has worked all over the world on everything from steamy romance novels to Shakespeare. When she isn’t behind a mic, she can be found rescuing and training animals, sipping fine bourbon, and watching home renovation shows.

Brian Pallino is a highly sought-after narrator of contemporary adult and romance books. He has voiced series for multiple award-winning authors, including Lauren Blakely, CD Reiss, and Meredith Wild.  He lives in NYC and is an unabashed fan of both the Yankees AND the Mets.  Brian is also a musician, and particularly loves playing audiobook characters who are musicians themselves or have musical backgrounds.  With a versatile range, Brian is a storyteller who strives to bring books to life and move his listeners.

Sadly, Brian recently passed away. His prodigious musical talent, which included arranging, composing and performing jazz and classical music, co-existed with his skill as an award-winning and prolific audiobooks narrator and voice actor.

“Angelo was passionate, intense, obviously talented, fiercely loyal and loving, very faithful in Christ,” said his mother, Martha A. Di Loreto. “But Angelo lived with the illness of anxiety and depression, and in his final moments the disease took hold of him.”

His mother and his father, Domenic Di Loreto, stressed that their son “lived a full life until the disease overtook him,” with close relationships with his family and many friends.

https://buffalonews.com/obituaries/features/angelo-di-loreto-30-award-winning-pianist-composer-narrator-and-actor/article_328bd322-13ba-11eb-9343-0f4e58387126.html


 

 

 

 

Wrapped Up In Christmas Joy

Wrapped Up In Christmas Joy by Janice Lynn

Narrated by Alexander Cendese and Rachel L. Jacobs

Published:  October 2020 – Dreamscape Media

Review audiobook courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

When a quilt shop owner finds a former Marine’s journal, she longs to heal his heart…


When Sophie Davis sorts through a box of donated books to her church, she’s surprised to discover a soldier’s journal. As the daughter of a veteran who watched her father struggle over the years, she feels a deep connection to the man who wrote the emotional entries. Former Marine Cole Aaron battled to find peace after returning to civilian life. He’s always needed to protect others. Now, fighting fires in Pine Hill, Kentucky helps him put out the demons within him. When Sophie shows up at the fire hall with his journal from when he’d first returned stateside, Cole can’t believe it was in the box he’d donated. Not wanting to face painful memories, he tells her to trash it. Sophie and Cole are drawn together as they both volunteer for their community, but it’s hard for Cole to let down his guard, and he doesn’t need anyone’s pity. After all he’s been through in the past, can he find faith in a more hopeful future…one touched by joy?
This heartwarming romance includes a free Hallmark original recipe for Dilly Duchess Potatoes. (publisher)

My take:  Wrapped Up in Christmas Joy is a heartfelt Christmas romance about Cole, a veteran, and Sophie, a young woman with a heart of gold. He is a firefighter who also fights his war memories. When Sophie discovers (and then reads) his journal in a box of donated things at her church’s sale she decides to involve him in holiday related activities. He’s reluctant but has a hard time saying no to Sophie. Saying yes could make all the difference. This is a sweet story for the season that fans of Hallmark movies are sure to enjoy!

Narration:  I thought, overall, Rachel Jacobs and Alexander Cendese did a good job. However, there was one thing that struck me. When Jacobs voiced Sophie and Cole I was totally invested in the story. When Cendese did both I was distracted by Sophie’s voice. I’ve found I usually feel the same when any male narrator voices a female character. I guess it’s personal preference.


 

Eternity Springs: The McBrides of Texas – Boone

Eternity Springs: The McBrides of Texas – Boone by Emily March

Expected publication:  December 29, 2020 – St. Martin’s Paperbacks

Review galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:  With his smooth talk, rugged good looks, and deep pockets, native Texan Boone McBride appears to be a man who has it all. Few people know about the heartbreak behind his decision to leave home, family, and career for the isolation of a small town in the Colorado Rockies. Luckily, time and life in Eternity Springs has worked its healing magic upon his wounded soul, so when he meets obviously troubled Hannah Dupree, Boone sees a chance to pay his good fortune forward. The last thing he anticipates is tumbling into love.

Tragedy has taken everything Hannah loves, and her will to keep going is failing. So when Boone strides into her life determined to save her, it’s easier to go along with him than to resist. Soon she is drawn into the fabric of life in Eternity Springs, and as her spirit begins to heal, her strength returns, and she’s able to go toe-to-toe with this hardheaded, big-hearted Texan. But just when love blooms and happiness is within their grasp, shadows from the past threaten. Hannah and Boone must stand strong and united in order to defeat old ghosts—if they are to create a brand-new life together. (Publisher)

My take: Two people who’ve experienced unthinkable loss meet by chance. Boone and Hannah are at different points in their grief when they meet. They recognize a unique connection that turns quickly to attraction. I’m not a fan of ‘insta-love’  but as the novel progressed I got on board and enjoyed how their story developed. This is a story of loss, forgiveness and finding the courage to live and love. It was fun to see what was new in the lives of Boone’s cousins and friends and visit the town of Eternity Springs. Fans of Emily March’s McBrides of Texas trilogy will want to read this wrap to the series but for new readers, it can stand alone.


About the author:

EMILY MARCH is the New York Times, Publishers Weekly, and USA Today bestselling author of over thirty novels, including the critically acclaimed Eternity Springs series. Publishers Weekly calls March a “master of delightful banter,” and her heartwarming, emotionally charged stories have been named to Best of the Year lists by Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and Romance Writers of America. A graduate of Texas A&M University, Emily is an avid fan of Aggie sports and her recipe for jalapeño relish has made her a tailgating legend.

https://emilymarch.com


 

Autumn Skies

Autumn Skies by Denise Hunter

Published:  October 20, 2020 – Thomas Nelson

Courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

Facing the past is easier if you don’t have to face it alone.

The Bluebell Inn is turning a profit, and it’s time for the Bennett siblings to sell it and move on. Only Grace has plans to stay in the small lake town of Bluebell, North Carolina, where she hopes her growing outfitters business will save her from the loneliness of her siblings’ departure and the persistent sense of unworthiness in her life.

A gunshot wound resurrects the past for Secret Service agent Wyatt Jennings, and a mandatory leave of absence lands him in Bluebell. There he must come to grips with the tragedy that altered his life fourteen years ago.

When Wyatt books a room at the Bluebell Inn, sparks fly between him and Grace. She volunteers to be his mountain guide, and he soon opens up to her, drawn to her strength and sense of humor. But both are reticent to talk about the survivor’s guilt they each carry, and when their pasts finally collide, their budding romance might not survive the truth.

From the bestselling author of The Convenient Groom and A December Bride (now beloved Hallmark Original movies) comes the third and final novel in the Bluebell Inn series. (publisher)

My take: (I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.)

It’s a time of big change at the Bluebell Inn. The owner-siblings are planning to sell the Inn and move on to their individual dreams. Youngest sister Grace is the only one planning to stay in town in a new venture. When Wyatt Jennings books a room at the Inn he plans to stay for a short time and then return to work. Neither had planned for the spark of attraction they felt. It was fun to see their relationship take shape. They had more in common than they knew. With themes of loss, survivor’s guilt, and following your dreams, Autumn Skies kept me engaged and turning the pages. It was a one day read for me. Fans of author Denise Hunter will want to read this third book in the Bluebell Inn series. It’s the first one I read and I felt it could stand alone.


 

Christmas At Holiday House

Christmas at Holiday House by RaeAnne Thayne

Expected pub. date:  October 6, 2020 – HQN

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description: A widowed young mother’s search for the perfect Christmas for her little boy leads her to Silver Bells, Colorado. Abby Powell becomes enamored with the heartwarming small-town community—with snow!—but not so much with her new client’s less-than-jolly son, Ethan Lancaster.

Ethan, a single-minded businessman, has learned the hard way that love and family are not for him. But he never counted on the lovely newcomer to town—or the emotional pull she and her son, Christopher, would have over him. As Ethan and Abby work together to restore Holiday House, the Lancaster’s historic family mansion, in time for Christmas, Ethan’s heart begins to open along with his home. (publisher)

My take:  When Abby Powell is contacted by Lucy, her former college roommate, she’s in the middle of packing up her Arizona home to move to Texas. Lucy’s grandmother fell and needs assistance in her home until Lucy can get home from abroad. Abby agrees to help and heads to Colorado with her young son for a few weeks. When she arrives she meets her client’s grandson Ethan who thinks his grandmother should be at a rehab center instead of in her home with a stranger. Abby is in an uncomfortable situation but will stay until Lucy arrives.

A little backstory: Abby’s life changed in a heartbeat by an event that made her a widow. She has an adorable son and is looking toward the future. Lucy and her brother Ethan had an unconventional upbringing by their parents, both narcissists, that left them with a screwed up view of relationships and an inability to have normal ones. It was easy to sympathize with them.

Christmas at Holiday House is set in a charming mountain resort town during the holidays. It’s a heartwarming tale about finding the courage to not allow fear to stand in the way of happiness. Fans of contemporary romance and RaeAnne Thayne are sure to love it. Recommended!


A Highlander is Coming to Town

A Highlander is Coming to Town by Laura Trentham

Published:  September 29, 2020 – St. Martin’s Press

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

The third book in the Highland, Georgia romantic comedy series from Laura Trentham, A Highlander is Coming to Town, full of love, laughs…and highlanders!

You better watch out. . .

Holt Pierson is dreading Christmas. His parents absconded to Florida for the season and left him to handle the family farm which will be his one day—whether he wants it or not. Driven by duty, Holt has always followed the path expected of him. But lately, he’s been questioning what he wants and where he belongs. Will assuming the responsibility of the Pierson farm make him happy or is there something—or someone—else out in the wider world calling to him?

To Claire Smythe, the Scottish lead singer of a touring band, Highland, Georgia, is the perfect place to hide . . .until a very handsome and deeply curious Holt begins to ask all the questions Claire doesn’t want to answer. As Holt draws Claire out from under and into the fabric of small-town life, can Claire put the past behind her and embrace the unexpected gifts of the season—including the new and lasting love? (publisher)

My take:  This was cute! The Highlander who came to town is actually a Highlander who doesn’t want to leave the small town of Highland, Georgia. That’s about as complicated as it gets in this book – unless you count feelings and emotions. Claire was part of a band that played a festival in Highland. She stayed behind at the end of the gig and took a job as a home aid to an elderly woman. She has reasons for not wanting to return to Scotland. Add one more reason in the form of Holt, owner of the farm next door to the elderly lady. This is a story of two people who aren’t looking for love but isn’t that just when it finds you? Laura Trentham’s story is filled with heart. It’s about finding what’s truly important and finding the courage to go for it. If you enjoy small-town contemporary romance series you should check this one out!

A Highlander Is Coming To Town is book 3 in the Highland, Georgia series. I didn’t feel lost despite not reading the previous books and I look forward to reading those.