Finish the Series 2016 Challenge Wrap-Up

I’ve been working toward reading three series for a few years. In 2016 I managed to finish reading the Brothers Sinister series by Courtney Milan:

the-governess-affair  the-duchess-war  a-kiss-for-midwinter  the-heiress-effect  the-countess-conspiracy  the-suffragette-scandal  talk-sweetly-to-me

 

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The Holiday Gift by RaeAnne Thayne

  • holiday-giftTitle:  The Holiday Gift
  • Series:  The Cowboys of Cold Creek
  • Author:  RaeAnne Thayne
  • Pages:  224
  • Genre:  Contemporary Romance; Christmas
  • Published:  November 2016 – Harlequin
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

Description:  With two kids and an active life, widow Faith Dustin only wants peace and quiet for Christmas. But her snowy Pine Gulch ranch is nothing but chaotic. All that keeps Faith going is her helpful neighbor, cowboy Chase Brannon. He’s always been “good ol’ Chase,” her faithful friend. Until he kisses her under the mistletoe… 

Years ago Chase blew his chance with the woman he’s loved since childhood. Now he’s determined to step out of the friend zone…and into the role of husband. But the scared and stubborn Faith won’t let herself fall. With Christmas just days away, Chase will need all the magic of the season—and the help of her two matchmaking children—to unwrap a second chance at love.  (publisher)

My take: The Holiday Gift is the third of the Nichols sisters’ books within the Cowboys of Cold Creek series. It can stand alone but I think you’d enjoy it a bit more if you read the previous two books ( The Christmas Ranch and A Cold Creek Christmas Story).

I love a good Christmas romance and this one didn’t disappoint – even despite Faith’s frustrating denial of her true feelings for Chase. But I trusted RaeAnne Thayne to bring her characters to a HEA and she didn’t let me down. The Idaho mountain ranch setting as described by Thayne is wonderfully inviting. It was fun to read about all the happenings at The Christmas Ranch and with Faith’s sisters.

The Holiday Gift is a lovely story and a satisfying completion to the Nichols sisters’ trilogy. Recommended to fans of the author, novels about families, and a nice Christmas romance.

A Lowcountry Christmas by Mary Alice Monroe

  • a-lowcountry-christmas-tandem-litTitle:  A Lowcountry Christmas
  • Series:  Lowcountry Summer #5
  • Author:  Mary Alice Monroe
  • Genre:  Fiction; Christmas
  • Pages:  384
  • Published:  October 2016 – Gallery Books
  • Source:  Publisher; Tandem Literary

Description:  As far as ten-year-old Miller McClellan is concerned, it’s the worst Christmas ever. His father’s shrimp boat is docked, his mother is working two jobs, and with finances strained, Miller is told they can’t afford the dog he desperately wants. “Your brother’s return from war is our family’s gift,” his parents tell him. But when Taylor returns with PTSD, family tensions darken the holidays.

Heartbreak and financial stress threaten to destroy the spirit of the season until the miraculous gift of a service dog leads Taylor, his family, and their community on a healing journey to discover the true meaning of Christmas.  (publisher)

My take:  A Lowcountry Christmas is the first of Mary Alice Monroe’s books I’ve read. I thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend it to anyone looking for a special Christmas book to read this year. It’s the fifth book in a series but I can say, not having read the previous books, it can stand alone.

The McClellan family has welcomed home their son, a veteran with PTSD, and are all getting used to a new normal. On top of that, finances are strained which adds tension to the relationships between parents and children, spouses, and siblings. I loved how Monroe took her characters through their challenges and brought them to a satisfying result: mainly the true meaning of Christmas and what matters most.

A Lowcountry Christmas is truly lovely and I can see it becoming an annual read for me. I can think of a few people on my gift list who will love it. Highly recommended!


About the author:

Known for her intimate portrayals of women’s lives, Mary Alice Monroe is the New York Times bestselling author of more than a dozen novels, including The Summer Girls, The Summer Wind, The Summer’s  End, Last Light Over Carolina, Time is a River, Sweetgrass, Skyward, The Beach House, Beach House Memories, Swimming Lessons, The Four Seasons, and The Book Club. Her books have received numerous awards, including the 2008 South Carolina Center for the Book Award for Writing, the 2014 South Carolina Award for Literary Excellence, the 2015 SW Florida Author of Distinction Award, the RT Lifetime Achievement Award, and the International Book Award for Green Fiction.

An active conservationist, Monroe draws themes for her novels from nature and the parallels with human nature, thus drawing attention to various endangered species and the human connection to the natural world. Mary Alice is involved with several environmental groups and is on the board of the South Carolina Aquarium, the Leatherback Trust, and Charleston Volunteers for Literacy. She lives in the lowcountry of South Carolina. Visit her at MaryAliceMonroe.com and at Facebook.com/MaryAliceMonroe.

Snowfall on Haven Point by RaeAnne Thayne plus a US Giveaway

  • SnowfallOnHavenPoint_BookCoverTitle:  Snowfall on Haven Point
  • Author:  RaeAnne Thayne
  • Series:  Haven Point #5
  • Pages:  384
  • Genre:  Contemporary Romance
  • Published:  September 2016 – HQN Books
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley; Little Bird Publicity

Description:  It’s been two rough years since Andrea Montgomery lost her husband, and all she wants is for her children to enjoy their first Christmas in Haven Point. But then Andie’s friend asks a favor—to keep an eye on her brother, Sheriff Marshall Bailey, who’s recovering from a hit and run. Andie will do anything for Wyn, even park her own misgivings to check on her grouchy, wounded bear of a brother. 

Marshall hates feeling defenseless and resents the protective impulses that Andie brings out in him. But when a blizzard forces them together for the holidays, something in Marshall begins to thaw. Andie’s gentle nature is a salve, and her kids’ excitement for the holidays makes him forget why he never wanted a family. If only he and Andie can admit what they really want—each other—their Christmas wishes might come true after all.  (publisher)

My take: Readers met Andrea Montgomery (Andie) in Riverbend Road, book 4 in the Haven Point series. She’s been to hell and back and just wants to live a normal life with her two young children in the town they recently moved to. When the local sheriff is run down by a hit-and-run driver his sister Wyn, Andie’s good friend, asks her to look in on him until she can get home.

As you might expect, Andie and Marshall’s friendship grows into something more. The thing is, Andie doesn’t want to be involved with anyone in law enforcement. Her first husband was killed in the line of duty and she just can’t put herself or her children through that again. Marshall never liked kids and certainly never wanted any of his own. Then why does he think Andie’s kids are so sweet? Changes are in the air.

Snowfall on Haven Point is an enjoyable Christmas romance. Along with the issues between Andie and Marshall there’s the mystery of the hit-and-run, some missing money at the Sheriff’s Department, and the next-door neighbors may be more than just neighbors. I liked it all and recommend it to fans of RaeAnne Thayne and contemporary Christmas romance novels.


Best-selling author RaeAnne ThayneNew York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author RaeAnne Thayne loves words. Her love affair started as soon as she learned to read, when she used to devour anything she could get her hands on: cereal boxes, encyclopedias, the phone book, you name it! She loves the way words sound, the way they look on the page and the amazing way they can be jumbled together in so many combinations to tell a story.

Her love of reading and writing those words led her to a fifteen-year career in journalism as a newspaper reporter and editor.

Through it all, she dreamed of writing the kind of stories she loved best. She sold her first book in 1995 and since then she’s published more than 40 titles. Her books have won many honors, including three RITA® Award nominations from the Romance Writers of America and a Career Achievement Award from RT Book Reviews.

RaeAnne finds inspiration in the rugged northern Utah mountains where she lives with her hero of a husband and their children. She loves to hear from readers and can be reached through her website at http://www.raeannethayne.com.


US Giveaway

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Giveaway ends on November 1, 2016

Sweet Tomorrows by Debbie Macomber

  • sweet tomorrows (8:2)Title:  Sweet Tomorrows
  • Series:  Rose Harbor #5
  • Author:  Debbie Macomber
  • Genre:  Women’s Fiction
  • Pages:  352
  • Published:  August 2016 – Ballantine Books
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

My take:  When Jo Marie Rose purchased what became known as the Rose Harbor Inn a few years ago she was heartbroken from the loss of her husband Paul. Somehow she felt he’d led her to Cedar Cove and the charming inn and eventually she started to live again. The inn became a place of healing and she met many interesting people: Cedar Cove residents, guests at the inn, and one often infuriating handyman named Mark Taylor.

Over the years not only did Mark get under Jo Marie’s skin from time to time but he became a friend and then much more. Jo Marie also learned that Mark was much more than a handyman. In the previous novel Mark told Jo Marie to move on with her life – without him, and abruptly left Cedar Cove. He’s been gone for a year and Jo Marie has about given up hope that she’d see him again when things change.

Emily Gaffney is a teacher who accepted a new job in Cedar Cove. She needs a fresh start in a new town after a second broken engagement. She’ll stay at the inn while searching for a house. This turns out to be a blessing for Jo Marie. The two become friends and Emily helps out at the inn when Jo Marie is needed elsewhere. Emily has had to give up on some dreams and doubts the inn will work its magic on her but Jo Marie knows otherwise – especially when it comes to Emily and the difficult owner of the house she’d like to buy.

Sweet Tomorrows is the final installment in the Rose Harbor series. It’s about people at a low point who’ve almost given up on themselves, life and those close to them. Ultimately, in true Debbie Macomber fashion, it’s an uplifting story that brings the series to a close. I’m going to miss Jo Marie and the rest of the Cedar Cove family.

The Secrets She Kept by Brenda Novak

  • the secrets she kept (7:26)Title:  The Secrets She Kept
  • Series:  Fairham Island #2
  • Author:  Brenda Novak
  • Pages:  400
  • Genre:  Romantic Suspense
  • Published:  July 2016 – Mira
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

Description:  The rich and powerful Josephine Lazarow, matriarch of Fairham Island, is dead. The police say it’s suicide, but Keith, her estranged son, doesn’t believe it. 

Keith bears scars—both physical and emotional—from his childhood, but he’s worked hard to overcome the past. After walking away from his mother and her controlling ways five years ago, he’s built a new life in LA. He’s also accumulated a fortune of his own. But as soon as he learns of his mother’s death, he returns to Fairham. He feels he owes it to his grandfather to put the family empire together again—and he’s determined to find his mother’s killer. 

Problem is…coming home to Fairham puts him back in contact with Nancy Dellinger, the woman he hurt so badly when he left before. And digging that deep into his mother’s final days and hours entails a very real risk. Because the person who killed her could be someone he loves…  (publisher)

My take:  The Secrets She Kept is book 2 in the Fairham Island series. In book 1 we were introduced to the wealthy matriarch Josephine Lazarow. She was a complicated woman (a narcissist) who had to have control over everything and everyone in her life.

In this book a murder (or a suicide?) has taken place. The Lazarow family experiences changes they never anticipated. Josephine’s estranged son Keith returns home to find out what exactly happened to his mother. He also reconnects with Nancy, his love interest from five years earlier.  That’s not all though. Will he be able to prove that his sister couldn’t have had anything to do with their mother’s death?

This is a novel about secrets, lies, betrayals and love – and ultimately, forgiveness. I think fans of Brenda Novak and romantic suspense will enjoy The Secrets She Kept.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author has written more than fifty books, with more than four million copies in print. This four-time RITA® Award nominee has won many awards, including the National Readers’ Choice, the Booksellers’ Best, the Book Buyer’s Best, the Daphne, and the Holt Medallion. She also runs an annual online auction for diabetes research every May at www.brendanovak.com (her youngest son has this disease). To date she’s raised $2.7 million.


Praise for the first book in the Fairham Island series: The Secret Sister
“This emotional novel showcases Novak’s exceptional talent at creating genuine characters and real-life situations we sometimes try to dodge. The power of family is strong, and the element of mystery is stable throughout this romance. Fairham Island is painted as a picturesque seaside town, but the debut to this series could have readers believing there are a lot of buried secrets and stories to be told surrounding the residents’ wishes for peace and quiet. Completely engrossing with a twist at the end you wouldn’t dare dream of!”—RT Book Reviews (4.5 Star Top Pick)

The Secret Sister is a sweet story that touches on the trials of life and illustrates how death, loss, abuse, despair, and unexpected trials can make us stronger, but also points out that it is perfectly acceptable to find someone to lean on when you really need the help. This is a great book that romance readers and fans of general fiction are bound to enjoy.”—Portland Book Review

“Skillful plotting, well-developed characters (a blind little girl is adorable), a delightful romance, toxic family dynamics, and a puzzling mystery make this story a rewarding read that will appeal to both romance and women’s fiction fans.”—Library Journal

“In her latest, Novak neatly entwines contemporary romance and women’s fiction by delivering the emotionally compelling romance readers expect while at the same time thoughtfully exploring the other relationships every woman has in her life. Add a gothic-tinged plot, and you have a book with wide reader appeal.”— Booklist

The Secret Sister by Brenda Novak is indeed the best romantic thriller I have read… Brenda Novak has a raw talent for bringing her novels to life. Realistic, suspenseful, and an edge of your seat romance that will have readers coming back for more.”—The San Francisco Book Review

Sweet Little Lies by Jill Shalvis (audiobook)

  • sweet little lies - audio (6:28)Title:  Sweet Little Lies
  • Series:  Heartbreaker Bay #1
  • Author:  Jill Shalvis
  • Genre:  Contemporary Romance
  • Narrator:  Karen White
  • Time:  9 hrs. 35 mins.
  • Published:  June 2016 – Harper Audio
  • Source:  Publisher

Publisher’s description: Choose the one guy you can’t have….

As captain of a San Francisco Bay tour boat, Pru can handle rough seas – the hard part is life on dry land. Pru loves her new apartment and her neighbors; problem is, she’s in danger of stumbling into love with Mr. Right for Anybody but Her. 

Fall for him – hard…

Pub owner Finn O’Riley is six-foot-plus of hardworking hottie who always makes time for his friends. When Pru becomes one of them, she discovers how amazing it feels to be on the receiving end of that deep green gaze. But when a freak accident involving darts (don’t ask) leads to shirtless first aid, things rush way past the friend zone. Fast. 

And then tell him the truth.

Pru only wants Finn to be happy; it’s what she wishes for at the historic fountain that’s supposed to grant her heart’s desire. But wanting him for herself is a different story – because Pru’s been keeping a secret that could change everything….

My take:   Sweet Little Lies is book one in the Heartbreaker Bay series by Jill Shalvis. It is set in San Francisco, more specifically an apartment building (a renovated warehouse) with a ground floor pub and a courtyard fountain that just might grant wishes. We’re introduced to several characters who live in the building or frequent the pub so it’s easy to imagine possible future books in the series. This book is about Pru, a tour boat captain, and Finn, owner of the pub.

Pru and Finn strike up an instant friendship that escalates quickly. The reader discovers that Pru has a secret – a big one – and the longer she waits, the harder it will be to tell Finn.

Finn gave up a lot several years ago when he was left to raise his little brother. Now the two of them own the pub but it seems Finn does most of the work. Pru is a welcome distraction for Finn.

I enjoyed the story even though the “big secret” trope is not a favorite. Jill Shalvis used humor and her usual fun dialogue along with a dose of drama to form a good start to her new series. It’s a sweet, sexy (you might want to use ear buds for some scenes) and funny novel. I look forward to the next book in the series.

Karen White did a fine job with the narration. I liked how she voiced each character and I had no trouble determining who was speaking. One particular scene involving a character who experienced possible food-poisoning had me laughing – all thanks to White’s delivery and Shalvis’s words, of course.

Recommended to fans of Jill Shalvis, contemporary romance and Karen White.