Piper’s aunt disappeared without a trace when Piper was just a teenager, so she’s shocked when she finds out her aunt has now passed and left her a sizeable inheritance. But that’s nothing compared to the shock (and fear) that sets in when a notorious loan shark and his enforcer show up at her door and demand the money.
The Verdict: If I hadn’t already read the previous books in the series, I probably wouldn’t have grabbed this one. Frankly, the synopsis would have sounded a bit far-fetched to me (which, admittedly, is ridiculous, considering the number of happily ever afters I read about each year), and I would have gone for something more conventional romance instead. However, having met the people of Covendale already, and having more than a little interest in the scrumptious Dawson brothers, I really didn’t care what it was about, so long as it served up another dish of Dawson. Surprisingly (to me and my ridiculous pre-judgment), the plot didn’t seem so over-the-top once I got to reading. After all, we’ve already been made to understand that Jonah is into some seedy shit, and finding out more about his not so legal employment just makes him — not to mention the town’s opinion of him — make more sense.
When tragedy struck the Dawson siblings back when most of them were still just kids, Jonah stepped up and did what was necessary to take care of his family. Unfortunately, what was necessary was also horribly violent and illegal, and since that day, he’s been the kneecap breaking enforcer for a vile loan shark. He’s been able to remain somewhat emotionally removed from the unlucky borrowers he’s sent after, but the one thing he could never do was hit a woman.
Piper has been through some kind of hell. Abandoned by her mother, she was left to be raised by her aunt, a woman she thought the world of. But then her aunt came home terribly hurt and clearly hiding something. And before Piper knew what was going on, her aunt simply disappeared. It’s been forever since Piper was left on her own, but the aunt she assumed had forgotten about her has now left her a huge inheritance — and a huge problem.
I think it’s safe to say that Dawson’s Honor is my favorite book in the Welcome to Covendale series so far. Jonah, whom we met in previous books, is a darker character than the other siblings. He’s not some innocent who’s been coerced into doing something bad, either, though his enforcer job is much more ruthless than he would have chosen, had another option been available. He’s hurt plenty of people, but he won’t hurt a woman, so when he’s faced with no other choice, he runs off with Piper, trying to stay ahead of his boss and keep both himself and Piper alive. But their growing attraction is complicating things, and a steamy relationship soon develops in the midst of all that danger.
Dawson’s Honor has tons of action, incredibly hot romance, and a heavy dose of mystery, and it’s easily the most entertaining book of the series. I was so caught up in the drama that I didn’t even pause to mark any syntax issues, which is saying a lot. If you like your men hot and your stories exciting, this one is a wonderful, quick read.
With the encouragement of a friend and a few too many drinks at a masquerade party, Livi finds herself grabbing a quickie with a stranger in a closet. Running off without his name — or her underwear — she assumes she'll never see him again. But strapped for cash under crushing student loan payments, she hits up a bar for a part-time job, only to discover that the owner is no stranger.
The Verdict: Livi's life hasn't been easy since graduating college. Finding a steady job in her area of expertise isn't an issue; it's the student loan payments that are killing her. Add in a car that needs repair, overdue bills, and no other options, she makes the rounds at local bars, looking for a job that will help her catch up financially while working around her day job. When a local dive bar gives her a shot, she's determined to prove herself. She just never expected the man behind the bar to be the very same man she shared a few hot minutes with in a closet.
Hendrix and his brothers are still grieving the loss of their mother and dealing with the father who never really gave a damn. But they're doing okay for themselves, and Hendrix is fixing up the they own and beginning to show a decent profit. Uninterested in a serious relationship, he has one hot tryst in a closet at a party with a girl he never expects to see again, but he soon learns that the very same woman he hired to help out on busy nights is the one he hasn't been able to get off his mind.
To be honest, when I got to this book in my TBR list, I was having second thoughts. It looked like it might be a bit dark for my taste, and I expected it to be rather formulaic. To my surprise, it wasn't long before Hendrix turned all the usual tropes upside down and delivered something refreshingly different. Aside from the hot and heavy one-night-stand, there was so much to the story and the way the characters behaved that I rarely get enough of in this genre.
Hendrix is definitely a rough around the edges kind of guy. He's all alpha male, heavily tattooed, not above throwing a few punches, and certainly not inclined to engage in any committed relationships. But he's an all-around decent guy, up front with women about his intention to stay unattached, and immediately willing to step up when someone needs help. He's also enamored with Livi, the funny, sexy, hilarously awkward girl who comes into his bar looking for a job.
Livi surprised me. There were so many things about her character that could have turned her into a cookie-cutter romance novel heroine. Yes, she was down on her luck financially, a hard worker, and opposed to taking handouts. But she laughed when least expected, had faith that she could take care of herself, and didn't let her rather traumatic past get in the way of living her life. She wasn't looking for a relationship and didn't exactly trust men, but she was surprisingly open to the new feelings developing the more she got to know Hendrix.
Their relationship was just as unpredictable as Hendrix and Livi were. When I expected her to overreact to a conveniently misleading scene, she did just the opposite. When I expected Hendrix to deny his feelings for Livi and push her away, he did the opposite. When I just knew that everything was going to blow up in their faces, the way it always does in romance novels before the happily ever after is served up, Livi and Hendrix were generally open and honest with each other, and they didn't fall into the same cliched trap. Even the cause of Livi's adolescent trauma surprised me, and while it would have been easy to label all the characters with the same stereotypical pen, nothing about them fit the tired old standard.
Their romance, of course, was crazy hot. But instead of heading into gratuitously obscene territory, Livi and Hendrix's sexier moments were punctuated by laughter and a great deal of consideration for each other. Now that I think about it, it's kind of sad that I now expect every romance novel I read to follow the same boring plot, but Hendrix proves that there are still authors out there willing to give us readers stories that are both classic and unconventional. Hendrix is everything I didn't know I was looking for in a romance, and I can't wait to see what's next in the series!
***FicCentral received this book from Random House LLC (via NetGalley) for free in exchange for an honest review
When elementary school teacher Sunny's neighbor disappears and a strange man takes up residence in the empty house next door, she and her book club friends have plenty to gossip about. He's mysterious and sexy, and Edna swears she saw him carrying a gun, but no one can figure out why he's really there — or what happened to Walter. Despite her friends' best efforts to resurrect her love life with blind dates, Sunny can't keep her eyes off the man next door, but giving into her attraction might lead to happily ever after, or it might just pair her up with a killer.
The Verdict: Another Saturday Night and I Ain't Got No Body just might be the most fun I've had reading in years.
Sunny's been in a dating rut for far too long, but while she'd love to find that special someone, she's not too worried about it. Her book club friends, on the other hand, have their own opinions on the matter. Sunny reluctantly agrees to let them set her up on a series of blind dates, and in no time, Sunny's dull summer turns slapstick crazy.
We're first introduced to the best secondary character in fiction history. Edna is one of Sunny's neighbors, a meddlesome, elderly woman who isn't exactly known for her tact. She watches the comings and goings on their street like an amateur detective, coming up with all kinds of screwball theories, but she's got a heart of gold. It's Edna who first notices the mysterious man who moves into their missing neighbor's house in the middle of the night. Sunny notices him, too, but while she's aware of Edna's suspicions, it's not Jake's gun that catches her eye first.
Jake seems like a nice enough guy, and he's more than a little easy on the eyes, but there's too much Sunny doesn't know about him. So while Sunny enjoys the view, she and the Pleasant Valley Page Turners book club do a little snooping and try to figure him out — and fix Sunny's dating life while they're at it. Their fix, however, is practically a comedy of errors, and I was so busy laughing at the scrapes Sunny found herself in that I didn't have time to wish she and Jake would just get to it already.
Another Saturday Night and I Ain't Got No Body plays out like an awesome movie centered around a group of women friends who have no real boundaries. Through it all, Edna provides constant shock and hilarity, there are some rather tender “true friendship” moments wrapped up in lots of lively fun, and the mystery surrounding Jake just gets deeper. Throw in some romance, more sleuthing, a possible stalker, and poor Sunny's dates falling apart, and you've got yourself an incredibly entertaining read.
***FicCentral received this book from The Romance Reviews for free in exchange for an honest review.
Well, to be honest, I didn’t even read the synopsis before downloading this book from my local library. I went searching for more books by authors whose work I love, saw some by Maisey Yates, and hit the button. Best blind pick ever!
I’ve read a couple of books in which there’s a mix-up at the fertility clinic, but this just might be the freshest take on it I’ve seen. Instead of following the romance novel formula, the characters in Unexpected acted very much like I might expect from real people simply trying to deal with a very messed up situation, and as soon as I caught on that these fictional characters weren’t acting terribly… well, fictional, I was all in!
Kelsey’s like a lot of women whose biological clock is ticking with no man in sight. But thanks to her successful career, she’s got the means to do something about it. With months of careful planning behind her, she sets off to conceive a child via artificial insemination. The last thing she expects is for some cowboy to show up at her door, claiming to be the father of her unborn child.
When Cole finds out the sperm he banked has been inadvertently given to some random woman hoping to conceive a child, he’s confused and furious. But unlike what I expected from him, he didn’t lay into Kelsey about it. His conflicting feelings didn’t override his compassion for the woman who was, like him, a victim of circumstance, and it showed in the way he approached her and his gentle determination to be in his child’s life.
Having read enough romance novels to predict a lot of plot turns, I was surprised (pleasantly so!) that Cole reacted the way he did. It was obvious that he had no idea how to handle what life had now thrown at him, but he didn’t go all “I’m gonna call my lawyer!” the way I thought he would. In fact, he never once threatened to fight for custody or throw any more of a wrench in Kelsey’s plans than the mix-up already had. He also didn’t immediately fall in love with her or begin demanding that she change her plans to include him. He simply worried about her and asked for a chance to be a part of his kid’s life.
Kelsey’s reaction to Cole is both sad and comical. She’s suffering through morning/noon/night sickness, and she reacts almost robotically to his sudden presence. She’s sick, looks like death warmed over, and has virtually no interest at all in anything past keeping some food down. That introduction set the tone for Kelsey and Cole for the rest of the story.
Of course, these two had to spend some time together if they were ever to fall in love, so Cole invites Kelsey to his family’s sprawling ranch. It’s the perfect solution, since it’s a tourist destination, giving Kelsey some privacy in a guest cabin while putting them within walking distance of each other. Neither is really willing to give love a shot, though, despite the fact that they begin to get along great and have some pretty strong chemistry.
It always bothers me a bit when a potential couple simply writes each other off because someone long ago screwed them over. For Cole, it was his ex-wife, the same one he initially banked the sperm for in an effort to keep her happy. For Kelsey, it was a cheating ex. I can certainly understand their both wanting to be cautious rather than dive in with blinders on, but they both allowed single past experiences to get in the way of a great chance at a new relationship. Fortunately, their friendship bloomed, and it was clear that these two belonged together.
I loved the way Cole, even though the news of a child was not welcome, didn’t fly off the handle or try to make things difficult for Kelsey. In fact, short of promising his eternal love (till the end, at least), he was only interested in Kelsey’s comfort and happiness. He wasn’t willing to put his heart on the line, but he also wasn’t going to walk away from Kelsey when she clearly needed someone. I also liked the way things played out with respect to her parents. Coming from a very traditional family, Kelsey knew her parents would give her grief upon learning of her decision to be a single mother, and while I can’t understand any parents who act that way, it lent another bit of realism to the story. Parental approval is huge in just about anyone’s life.
Unexpected was exactly that — unexpected. It was unexpectedly funny, sweet, and even steamy without going over the top. The plot, while not original, have the author plenty of room to play with originality, and she created two awesome characters (and a host of awesome secondary characters) who were incredibly intriguing. If you like your romance with a side of Stetson and Wranglers, Unexpected is the book for you.
With no warning, the world as ten year old Beatrice knows it ends. After weeks spent in a bunker her parents fortunately had the foresight to build into their home, it’s clear that everything has changed. Now they must make their own way, grow their own food, and defend themselves against roving nomadic scavengers who would take what little they have left to survive.
The Verdict: I’m not sure what I was expecting when I picked this one up; I think I just wanted something different. And The Blast is different in the very best way.
Beatrice is just a child when she spots the giant mushroom cloud that announces the end of American society. Rushed into a concrete bunker by her parents, she hides out with her family and a couple of neighbors, not fully understanding just what has happened. When they emerge, their entire world has changed, and the threat is no longer nuclear bombs but random strangers against whom they must defend their lives and their resources.
In The Blast we see Beatrice lose her childhood overnight, and then we watch her grow up into a resourceful young woman in a changed world. It’s interesting to see things unfold through her eyes; she’s just old enough to see clearly what’s happening around her but just young enough that she’s still completely reliant on her parents to interpret the world for her. Her parents weren’t what I would call Doomsday Preppers. While they had a bunker and some ways to provide for themselves, they didn’t have a whole underground mansion outfitted for years of survival. Fortunately, they had guns, first to defend themselves and then to hunt, and they were more than capable of growing a garden and maintaining the basics for survival.
Unlike other post-apocalyptic stories I’ve read, Beatrice’s family doesn’t set out for parts unknown or wait for the government to rescue them. They just sort of hunker down and continue their lives on their property just outside of town. In this way, we see more of the normal day-to-day life after the bombs, with threats coming in the form of armed and violent scavengers as opposed to makeshift militias, zombies, or plague victims. Over time, they find other survivors like themselves, some lost and still alive thanks to nothing but dumb luck and circumstance, and together they become a small circle of makeshift families.
Beatrice’s initial coming of age destroys her innocence in an instant. Not only does she find herself killing in defense of herself and her family, but she also watches someone she loves die because there is simply no medical help available. These two events in fairly quick succession send her mind to a dark place, but she eventually emerges as a strong, capable teen. Of course, no story of growing up would be complete without the bickering between friends, a crush, and wondering what the future will bring. It’s nearly impossible for her to dream of a happily ever after, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t grow into wanting someone for herself.
I feel like if I list out all the things that were so wonderful about this story, I’ll end up spoiling it. It’s heartbreaking, hopeful, and so damned terrifying all at once, and scenes play out as simply and as poignantly as they do in the non-fiction world. In Beatrice’s mind, we struggle to comprehend the sudden absence of civilization, seek normalcy in the remnants of society, and press on in an effort to survive and perhaps thrive. I would imagine this is the most realistic post-apocalyptic story I’ve ever read, though I hope I never get to confirm that. With life, loss, and eventually love, The Blast quite frankly blew me away.
Carly Denton's background is questionable at best, but she's made something of herself, despite her parents' worst efforts. Raised by a philandering father and a mother who couldn't bring herself to leave him, she's used to her family being the subject of small town gossip and tear-drenched scenes, so she conducts herself with careful decisions and all the dignity she can muster. But there's one cowboy who gets under her skin like no other.
But... For a final copy (assuming my library hasn't started packing ARCs), Unbuttoned had a surprising number of typos and syntax mistakes. Most of them were just obviously typing errors, like he instead of her, and sentences where you could tell something had been reworded because they left one of the wrong words in. It didn't ruin the story, but it does show a lack of attention to detail, and if Maisey Yates weren't such a great storyteller, I probably would have passed early judgement and bailed.
The Verdict: Having loved some of Maisey Yates's more recent books, I couldn't pass this series up when I found it at my local library. I half-expected it to be a little disappointing, given that it's a few years old, but as it turns out, I had no reason to worry.
Carly's childhood was spent watching the shameful behavior of her parents, a father who made no secret of his affairs and a mother who thew crying tantrums about them for the whole town to see. Determined to avoid that same fate, she's changed from the little girl who played in the dirt and become a woman whose suits are always perfectly pressed, whose hair is never out of place, and whose emotions will never attract the attention of the town busybodies. It seems that only Lucas, the cowboy who reminds her too much of her father, can ruffle her feathers.
Lucas remembers the Carly as his best friend's little sister, but she's almost someone completely different now. He knows where she came from, who her parents were, and that's never bothered him. In fact, his home life was even worse, which is why he practically grew up in Carly's house when they were all kids together. But now when he sees her, she acts like a shrew, like he's the last person in the world she wants to see, and he figures that can only mean two things. Either she truly can't stand him, or she feels a lot more for him than he wants to admit.
In many ways, Carly is stuck in the past, while Lucas is just trying to move forward with his life. But he soon realizes that the frosty looks Carly gives him have some heat behind them, and he can't help but push her buttons. While they have undeniable chemistry, though, getting Carly to stop worrying about what everyone else thinks and start worrying about what she wants for herself is the real challenge. And it certainly doesn't help that she watched him go through a string of girlfriends when they were younger. In her mind, he might be just as bad as her father.
While Lucas didn't have a grand old childhood, it seems that Carly has suffered more from hers. Watching her begin to give in, and seeing how genuine Lucas was about his feelings for her, is the stuff of great romance. The plot's pretty simple — two people trying to deny their attraction and growing feelings for one another — but the story itself is lots of fun. Equal parts funny, hot, sad, and romantic, Unbuttoned was a nice surprise and a great, quick romance read.
When Andrew and Emma meet as lonely, somewhat awkward teenagers, a sweet infatuation begins. Within a few classes and a few weeks, the sparks of first love glow brightly, and it seems they have, at this young age, found the road to happily ever after. But problems bigger than any teenager can bear and one tragic decision change the course of their lives forever. Split apart and left to move on, neither is prepared for the path on which Fate leads them when they come face to face five years later.
The Verdict: I have a unique problem whenever I get read to another of Ginger Scott's books. You see, I know that no matter what the story is about or where the characters take me, every single book I read afterward will be disappointing. So I find myself rushing through the other books on my virtual shelf, trying to get them out of the way before I open the book that I know will outshine them all. And Wicked Restless is most certainly that book.
I've never been a fan of stories in which I'm introduced to the characters when they are young and somewhat innocent, and then thrown forward several years when they are reunited, older, and usually bitter. It's always an odd shift for me, and I end up feeling like I've had something taken away from the story I anticipated reading. However, I didn't even glance at the summary before grabbing this book, and even if I had, it wouldn't have mattered. Andrew and Emma's story was just as amazing as everything else Ginger Scott writes.
When we first meet Emma, she's leading a complicated and sheltered life, though we don't get the real details of it until later. Her parents are more protective than one might expect, and Emma is careful not to break any rules or stray from their guidance. But then she meets Andrew, the sweet and handsome boy in her P.E. class, and their sweetly innocent love for each other blooms. Their relationship is as adorable as they are, youthfully unblemished and beautiful. But one tragic night, the kind of thing that could happen to anyone throws everything into turmoil, and before they can even digest what's happened, Andrew is taking the blame, and they find themselves separated.
When tragedy struck, Andrew stepped up to protect Emma, though he really didn't know what he was protecting her from. That sacrifice was brutal, though, sending him away from his family and into a youth reform system as dark as any prison. And though he tried to keep in touch, she never responded, disappearing from his life almost as if she'd never existed. Five years later, though, he gets the shock of his life when he finds her laughing and dancing in a club not far from where he's now enrolled in college.
Andrew and Emma's story is beautiful and heartbreaking, and while the situation is complicated, it never feels contrived. Consumed by bitterness over her apparent abandonment of him, Andrew reacts without thinking, intent only on hurting Emma the way she hurt him. Driven by the need for revenge, he strikes up a relationship with Emma's roommate Lindsay, using their friendship to paint Emma into a corner and forcing her to see him with another girl. Needless to say, that doesn't go well, and everyone gets hurt in the process.
Emma is as confused and hurt as Andrew is, but not for the reasons he thinks. As far as she knows, he disappeared, and watching him now romance her best friend is excruciating. This sort of scenario would probably have driven me nuts in any other book, but Ginger Scott has a way of laying it out in which you can't help but understand and feel for everyone, even when they're acting irrationally and emotionally, and you know it won't end happily.
It takes a while, since neither of them is really willing to lay their hearts out there, but the pieces slowly begin to fall into place, and Emma and Andrew start to realize that the circumstances of their past were absolutely out of their control. They still have that bond from their younger years, and as messy as Andrew's vengeful actions have made things, they're unable to stay away from each other. Watching them let go of the past and open up to a possible future together is the epitome of angsty, sweet romance.
Wicked Restless is an incredible journey through the innocence of first love, the pain of abandonment and judgement, and the bittersweet tenderness of reconciliation. Andrew and Emma's story is complex, and their ways of handling adversity are realistically immature. I'm not sure I've ever been so heartbroken over and invested in a couple, and my only disappointment is that their story didn't continue for another thousand or so pages. I realize my review is a bit vague, skipping over the major details and plot twists, but there's simply no way I can portray them with the depth that Ginger Scott does. Whether you're a fiend for angst or a fan of innocent love, Wicked Restless is the perfect love story. And quite frankly, if you've never read a romance by Ginger Scott, you're missing out an everything that makes the genre so addictive.
***FicCentral received this book from Wordsmith Publicity for free in exchange for an honest review.
The last thing Leda is looking for is a man in her life. Been there, done that, has the baby to prove it. Young and single, Leda's determined to take care of her daughter on her own, and so far, she's managing well. But when an old dog keeps wandering over to the neighbor's property, she has little choice but to get to know the handsome cowboy next door.
The Verdict: I have to say that this story surprised me. I think I went in expecting something more standard, but Leda is certainly not your typical country romance heroine, and while Eric might want to be her white knight, she's more than capable of handling things on her own. It was certainly a welcome departure from the typical stories I read.
At twenty-one, Leda has found herself trying to raise her infant daughter on her own. Thinking she was making a smart, pretty responsible decision, she fell head over heels for an older, stable man who wasn't nearly as committed as she thought he was. Now on her own, she's determined to give her daughter a wonderful life without any help or interference from the man who didn't bother to stick around.
Eric isn't looking for a relationship, either. But he's amused by and fascinated with Leda immediately upon meeting her. She's unlike anyone he's ever met, and he's certainly attracted to her, but she's got more baggage than he bargained for. A former bull rider, Eric's now an agent, used to getting the best options for his clients. And when he realizes Leda's not only lacking in moral support from her ex but also financial support, he wants to step up and help. That, of course, is when these two start becoming more involved than either of them intended.
While I never fully warmed to Leda, she was definitely one of the more interesting characters I've met in a story. She's spunky, capable, and — even though she's got some self-confidence issues as a result of her previous relationship — stronger than you'd expect. She's also managing rather well on her own, having worked out a good place to live, loyal friends, and a way to make her own way in the world. Eric is a good deal older than she is, though not enough that it's scandalous. And almost as soon as he realizes that she has no help from the ex, he wants to step in and fix it. However, Leda's not looking for someone to “magically” make things better, and it's not just because she's stubborn. She's actually doing just fine, even if things are a bit harder than they should be, and she'd rather forget her ex even exists than allow him into her daughter's life.
Their relationship starts out just as unconventional as the characters are, and without any contrived angst or unnecessary drama, they're a lot of fun. Leda's constantly throwing out ridiculous phrases in an effort to keep her language clean around her daughter, and I think I was just as amused as Eric was by her approach to things. Instead of the desperate, destitute, exhausted single mother one might expect, Leda finds joy in motherhood and making the best of what others would find an unfortunate situation.
The romance is instant attraction coupled with a subtle build of trust, and Leda's insecurities get in the way for a while, but the wait is both entertaining and well worth it. Their fun banter and often opposing headstrong ways makes for an interesting dynamic that makes their eventual romance seem more genuine that what I normally find in books. All in all, The Cowboy Next Door, is a great read, with characters that defy the tired old standard and deliver the kind of happily ever after you can imagine happening in real life.
***FicCentral received this book from The Romance Reviews for free in exchange for an honest review.
Trent and Reese fell in love on Rockwell Island and thought the world was theirs for the taking. Caught up in their faith in love and dreams of their future, they set off to New York, only to fall apart within just six months. It's been years, but Trent has never gotten over the woman he lost, and despite all the moving forward she's done, Reese's heart hasn't been able to move on. But now Trent's back, and in a place this small, there's no way they'll be able to avoid each other.
The Verdict: Just buy it. Buy it now and read it and love it as much as I did. Reading this review is simply wasting time you could be spending with Trent and Reese and romance at its best. But if you must…
Trent and Reese had a bit of a whirlwind romance, but they knew love when they found it, and marriage seemed like the perfect next step. They were young, and their adult lives were really just getting started. Trent was determined to succeed as an attorney in New York, and while Reese wasn't entirely comfortable leaving the island for the big city, she would have followed him anywhere. But six months of a strange new place, away from her home and with a husband who was more interested in his job than his wife, Reese threw in the towel and returned home. And they've both been hurting ever since.
It was with the best of intentions that Trent pursued his career to the detriment of everything else. He thought he was proving that he could make his own way, that he was securing the perfect future for him and his bride, that their love could see them through anything — even his never being around. And Reese was just lost, lost in a new city and lost without her husband's presence. Just six months later, she packed her bags, left a note, and returned home to Rockwell Island without him.
Years have gone by, but the pain hasn't really diminished, and now Trent is back on Rockwell Island to take on the family business, a move that puts him in Reese's path almost immediately. The instant they run into each other, sparks fly, and their hearts break all over again. Trent's become the law world success he set out to be, but it's an empty achievement. And Reese has established herself as a local artist, but she, too, is still drowning in what could have been.
It's impossible not to relate to them in some way. I think we all know what it's like to fall so fast, especially when we're young and convinced that happily ever after is just one white picket fence away. But too soon we're faced with the reality of adult life — responsibilities and deadlines and differing ideas of just what constitutes happily ever after. It's so easy to lose sight of what's important, to take for granted that everything will always work out in the end, to assume that we're on the same page with our partner. But Trent and Reese, just like every other couple in history, soon learned differently, and their marriage didn't survive it.
Their re-connection is bittersweet and feels incredibly real. There's an almost overwhelming sense of loss, even after so much time has passed, but for every bit of regret over the past, there is an equally strong and still very present love for each other. It doesn't take long for Trent to decide that he's going to prove himself worthy of another chance, and as much as Reese wants to protect her heart, she knows that Trent has had it all along. And within a matter of days, they're both in too deep, even without having decided to give each other another shot, to really stay away from each other. Not that their friends and family are surprised. What follows is a slow burn toward surrendering to feelings that haven't diminished and working through the things that tore them apart in the first place.
Normally, this is where I'd get bored. Something about a divorced couple coming together again usually loses me, and I'm not really sure why. Perhaps it's because they know each other too well for it to feel new and exciting to me. Or maybe it's just that most books seem to rush that kind of reunion. But Melissa Foster and Bella Andre put this one together perfectly. I soaked up every scene, dwelled on every word, and died a little with every new bit of angst the characters suffered as they tried to reconcile the past and trust each other enough to seek a future together. Their story was beautifully sad but still hopeful, and even as I wanted them to just throw caution to the wind, I absolutely loved the way none of the characters' feelings were glossed over in favor of a rushed ending. Cape Cod Promises perfectly captures the frightening vulnerability and incredible love necessary to give happily ever after with someone a second try.
***FicCentral received this book from Tasty Book Tours for free in exchange for an honest review.
Seeking to better her lot in life, Shannon responds to an advertisement for a mail order bride and soon finds herself on the train to Texas. Expecting to marry a rancher, she’s horrified to learn that her intended is a depraved brothel owner. Refusing his offer of marriage seems like the only safe option, but he doesn’t take her rejection well, pulling a knife and leaving her bleeding in the street. But before he can make good on his vile promises, a handsome cowboy steps in…
But... As much as I enjoyed the story, there were a few not so great things that jumped out at me. First, there’s that apostrophe issue in the title, though that’s probably the fault of middle school English teachers. I suppose it would be difficult to get students to understand punctuation that has become a permanent replacement for letters no longer used in our language, but they’re just perpetuating mistakes like this one. The thing that nearly ran me off, though, was the synopsis. Instead of piquing interest, it reads like the author (or whoever put it together) is trying to condense the whole story into a couple of paragraphs, much like my niece does when she’s rambling about a movie she saw. It doesn’t reflect the story quality at all, and you have no idea how badly I want to rewrite it. As for the story itself, it felt like there were some loose ends when all was said and done. Did Hardy ever face any consequences for his ongoing deceit? Did the townspeople ever truly get past their misconceptions? It felt like everything on the ranch was resolved, while things outside their property were left completely up in the air. But perhaps those ropes will be tied off in the coming books.
(E.T.A. - As it turns out, the author was following the advice of a style guide that discards certain punctuation requirements and suggests that they are a matter of personal preference, so middle school English teachers are off the hook. That style guide, however, should be burned.)
Judging Covers: It was actually the cover that drew me in. I’m a glutton for romances, especially anything with a cowboy/western theme, and huge bonus points if it’s historical. But most of my searches for new reads in this particular genre come up empty, primarily because so many of the covers are just awful. As much as I know it’s what’s on the pages that really counts, it’s hard to get me to take a closer look when what’s on front is a weird paste job with modern hairstyles and bad fonts. The cover for Cinders’ Bride is truly one of the best I’ve come across in a while — a great modern layout for a story from another time.
The Verdict: I think Cinders’ Bride has ruined me for a while. It’s been a long time since I found a historical western romance that I enjoyed this much, and as much as I want to tell everyone how great it is, I’m also itching to find more great reads in this genre now!
Shannon’s life has been one long struggle, but it wasn’t without its bright moments. Raised by parents who taught her the value of hard work, she’s been making her way on her own in the city, working in a factory since they passed away. But the big city is no place for a young woman on her own, so she responds to an advertisement by a man seeking a bride. But her dreams of making a family out West are dashed when she arrives in Texas to discover that her would-be husband is not the man he pretended to be. Faced with a saloon and brothel owner instead of the rancher she came to meet, she refuses marriage, only to be viciously attacked, with no way back home and no one to turn to for help.
Cinders never planned on marrying again, not after losing his first wife in childbirth. But when he sees a scared and bleeding woman in town, he feels compelled to step up and help her. Knowing that taking a single woman to stay at his ranch would incite cruel gossip and ruin her in the eyes of the town, he pays off her travel expenses, offers marriage, and soon returns to his ranch with his new, unexpected bride.
Their relationship starts out much like you’d expect. With a marriage in name only, Cinders goes about running his ranch as usual, and Shannon is determined to earn her keep and pay her debt. Cinders hardly seems affected by the change, save for having to share the one bed in the house. Shannon, however, feels like a burden, and her confidence is further lowered by the scar she’s sure to have once her stitches are healed. Any chance at a real marriage is complicated by Cinders’s fear of losing another wife and Shannon’s insecurity about her appearance and place in his life.
For all her meek ways, though, Shannon’s got a silently strong side. She demands nothing, is considerate of everyone around her, and soon wins over not just the hardened cook at the ranch but Cinders himself. She also knows what people think of her, that the man who falsely advertised for a bride has lied about her to everyone in town, and that even Cinders assumes her background includes work in a brothel. At first, I really wanted her to stand up for herself, to insist that everyone know the truth and see with clarity that she was decent and virtuous, but then it dawned on me that it wouldn’t have really fit her character. She’s more the type to prove her goodness through deeds than words.
As hoped, Cinders begins to have feelings for Shannon, though it pains him to think about putting his heart on the line again. And with the lack of any real communication between these two, forging ahead with a true marriage isn’t something easily done. But danger, judgement, and a cattle drive all lead to some chivalrous and romantic moments that combine their fates. It all adds up to an incredibly romantic story, pretty true to the time period, and perfect for readers who like to revisit times past.
Cinders’ Bride is everything I look for in a historical western romance, with classic characters who somehow defy cliches, a surprisingly complex plot, and a truly sweet love story. My only real disappointment is that I have to find something else to read until the next book in the series is released.
***FicCentral received this book from The Romance Reviews for free in exchange for an honest review.
Widowed Kate is once again at the mercy of her father's match-making, and her prospects aren't very promising. If only she could marry her father's steward, a gentle young man who seems smitten with her.
Rafe has his sights on Kate as soon as he learns who she is. Her father's sworn enemy, he's determined to marry her and reclaim the lands that were stolen from his family. But Kate has feelings for another, and getting her out from under the watchful eye of her father isn't going to be easy.
The Verdict: While I enjoy historical romances, I especially like those that take place in some time other than the last couple hundred years, which is why I thought I'd give this one a shot.
Like was common for women in her time, Kate is looked upon as property, someone to marry off to a good match as a favor, a way of advancing the family, or means of gaining something. Still young but newly widowed, she's back under her father's care, and there's not much care to be found in him. He's not the least bit interested in her happiness; he simply wants to find her a husband that suits him, and so far it looks like he's about to make a terrible choice for her.
Meanwhile, Kate is completely smitten with Warin, her father's steward. He's good-looking, well-mannered, and kind to her, and while she knows that match will never happen, she fantasizes about the kind of romance all women want. Rafe is determined to have her for himself, a means to getting her property back for his family, and while she's certainly intrigued by him, she's not entirely swayed. She can't deny her rather passionate feelings for him, though. What follows is drama, intrigue, and a bit of adventure as Kate learns that Rafe is really the only one invested in her happiness, and Rafe finds himself falling for her, despite his initial intentions.
While some things were certainly romanticized (which is exactly why we read romances, right?), the story also felt accurate to the medieval time period. Women were entirely at the whims of fathers, brothers, and husbands, and anyone with status was married off for profit and favor rather than love or happiness. Kate's experience with her first marriage wasn't altogether horrible, but it wasn't about love, and from that marriage she learned that intimacy is an uncomfortable burden at best for women. Of course, by the happily ever after, she learns differently.
Since there's some intrigue and a swift twist in plot partway through, it's really impossible to say more about the story without giving everything away, but I will say that The Warrior's Wife has just about everything I look for in historical romances. It's dramatic, fun, and certainly romantic, and it offers a heroine that, while true to the era, has a will of her own. If you love your romance back in time, you won't want to put this one down.
At twenty years old, Jennifer's still a virgin, though not necessarily by choice or for lack of trying. Determined to ditch that label by her twenty-first birthday, she's on the lookout for that special guy with whom to take the next step. Add in one hot guy who is more than interested, crazy roommates, and Luke, the friend who's acting differently around her, and the next couple of months are going to be an emotional roller coaster.
The Verdict: Wow. I picked up this book on a whim. The college age girl trying to lose her virginity isn't exactly a new plotline, but it's generally a fun one, so I figured I would read this when I was all out of scheduled reviews and looking for something simple. But V-Card is sooooooooooooo much better than I expected.
Jennifer's not proud of her virgin status. In fact, she only has that distinction thanks to a series of mishaps over the years. At the same time, she's not looking to lose the label via a meaningless one-night stand, so really she's simply a college student who wants a real relationship that will lead to sex. Completely understandable, right? Then she meets Dain.
Dain is a friend of a friend, and he really seems like the perfect guy. He's sweet and kind and patient, and when he finds out she's a virgin, he doesn't push her. He drops in when he misses her, brings her flowers for no reason at all, and spends time with her the way only the most perfect boyfriend will. But while Dain is romancing Jennifer, her friend Luke is acting strange. He makes no secret of his dislike for Dain, and something seems to be happening between him and Jennifer. There's a new bit of heat between them that catches Jennifer off guard, but it's not something she's willing to explore, since she knows all about his player status. After all, they live in the same house, so she sees just how often that revolving door to his bedroom welcomes a different girl.
V-Card is surprisingly fun read, complete with all the usual college hijinks and drama, and a dose of harsh reality when least expected. Jennifer is an easy character to love, since she's neither a wallflower nor a wild child, and I'm betting most women can relate to her simply wanting the happy relationship status she sees others having. I have to say that twist in the plot really caught me off guard, too, just as it did Jennifer, and I think that says a lot about Alicia Michaels's writing. Where most authors throw in such heavy hints that I just want to slap the heroine for not noticing the obvious, Michaels keeps readers in the moment, seeing things completely from the heroine's perspective, and it makes for a powerful story. V-Card is fun, sweet, sad, and often hilarious, and it's definitely a must-read for any die-hard romance fan. You can bet I'm grabbing the rest of this series!