Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Review: Sanctuary Island by Lily Everett

When Ella’s sister decides to reunite with their estranged mother, Ella goes along for the ride—it’s always been the two Preston girls against the world. But Sanctuary Island, a tiny refuge for wild horses tucked off the Atlantic coast, is more inviting than she ever imagined. And it holds more than one last opportunity to repair their broken family—if Ella can open her carefully guarded heart, there is also the chance for new beginnings.

Grady Wilkes is a handyman who can fix anything…except the scars of his own past. When he accepts the task of showing Ella the simple beauties of the island that healed him, he discovers a deep sense of comfort he thought he’d lost. But now he must convince the woman who never intended to stay that on Sanctuary Island, anything is possible—forgiving past mistakes, rediscovering the simple joys of life, and maybe even falling in love.

I will admit, I was skeptical.  I don't typically go for women's fiction books, mainly because I end up crying.  When I found out Lily Everett was also Louisa Edwards, whose romances I have more often than not enjoyed, I was willing to take the chance.  

And I'm so glad I did.  

The world of Sanctuary Island that's presented in this book doesn't really lend itself well to the novellas which Ms. Everette previously released.  Sanctuary Island is lush and rich in characters and heritage, and while, yes, at its heart is a woman struggling to reconcile her past and her relationship with her mother and sister to her future, Sanctuary Island is also about love, about forgiveness, and about moving on in the face of heartbreak.    

I inhaled this book.  I lived every moment with Ella Preston, and when Taylor burst in to Grady's house to reveal Ella's "plan" for the island, I almost screamed at the top of my lungs for Grady to slow down and think things through.  

I am so looking forward to learning more about Ella and Merry and Jo and how these three woman coexist on the island and with one another. 

(A very special thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of Sanctuary Island.)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Review: Wedding Belles by Beth Albright

The Sassy Belles are back… and this time, wedding bells are ringing!

Seven months pregnant and head over heels in love, Vivi Ann McFadden is busy pulling together the final details for her wedding to Lewis Heart, famous play-by-play announcer for the Crimson Tide. But with two wedding-planners-gone-wild, a psychic giving her advice, and the ceremony happening on the same day as the wildly popular Crimson Tide kickoff game, chaos reigns supreme. Luckily, maid of honor Blake O'Hara Heart is on the job. She'll tackle this wedding if it's the last thing she does!

But not everyone is cheering for the happy couple. News of the upcoming nuptials has brought Lewis's old flame back to Tuscaloosa—and she's got a secret that could mean the end of Lewis's marriage… before it even begins.

Blake O'Hara Heart's best friend, Vivi Ann McFadden, is pregnant and engaged, but that doesn't stop plans for a marriage and a birth from going awry.  When Vivi and Lewis apply for their wedding license, the couple are shocked to learn Lewis is married.  Blake agrees to help get to the bottom of this mystery. 

Unfortunately, Blake is also pretending her marriage to Lewis's brother, Harry, is fine as Harry continues his senate campaign; she's sneaking around with Sonny, falling back in love with him; and she's trying to help Sonny and Belinda solve a murder.  

Wedding Belles ends with a cliffhanger concerning Blake and Sonny's relationship, but it makes a nice segue for Sleigh Belles (October 2013), the final book of this trilogy.  I've really enjoyed this little piece of Tuscaloosa and glimpse into Blake's life, and I'll be sad to see our journey together end. 

(A very special thank you to Harlequin and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of Wedding Belles.)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Review: Girl Least Likely to Marry by Amy Andrews

Samuel Tucker is absolutely the last person scientist Cassie Barclay would ever date. Yes, he's gorgeous, but he's also far too cocky for his own good and thinks that Pi is a tasty afternoon treat. So when he asks her to dance at her friend Reese's non-wedding she's wondering why on earth she says yes!

Tuck is used to people assuming he's all brawn and no brain, and amuses himself by winding Cassie up. But when he finally takes her to bed, suddenly it's Tuck who can show Cassie a thing or two! Can he convince her that love and sex have nothing to do with logic and everything to do with chemistry?

Cassie is a woman who doesn't let her physical needs overtake her brain.  She has a plan and goals for her life, and isn't about to drop what she wants to fall in love. 

Tuck is a former professional athlete, who enjoys the limelight and all the strings that came with it.  He's getting a bit tired of the groupies and hangers-on, true, but he's still having fun and making the best of the situation he's been given. 

Cassie and Tuck meet at the wedding reception of Reese Michael.  Cassie and Reese were college roommates, and Tuck is one of Reese's cousins.  When Gina, another roommate, dares Tuck he cannot get Cassie to dance with him, the groundwork is laid.  And suddenly, that's not the only thing getting laid. 

Cassie and Tuck are cute together, though the nerdy girl and jock boy trope can be a bit stale.  Ms. Andrews made them lively and fun.  Tuck shows Cassie a good time, much more than a good time, in fact, which alters both of their plans.  Girls Least Likely to Marry is the second book of The Wedding Series, though I don't believe it's necessary to have read the first book, The Unexpected Wedding Guest.  

(A very special thank you to Harlequin and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of Girl Least Likely to Marry.)

Friday, July 19, 2013

Review: Karma by Carly Phillips

New York Times bestselling author Carly Phillips presents her third novel set in the quaint upstate New York town of Serendipity, where fate, fortune and love intertwine…

Officer Dare Barron has had a crush on Liza McKnight ever since he was a teenager. But despite his lifelong attraction, the closest he’s ever come to interacting with her is watching Liza regularly bail out her brother at the police station.

Dare’s dark past with Liza’s brother, Brian, has always kept him from pursuing her. But suddenly Liza finds herself in need of protection and Dare appoints himself as the man for the job. And while the sizzling attraction between Dare and Liza draws them together, the past threatens to keep the two apart forever.

Karma is the third and final book in the Serendipity trilogy featuring the Barron brothers.   Through the two previous books, Serendipity and Destiny, we've learned that Dare has struggled growing up without his older brothers.  We finally learn what happened that has haunted Dare and also determined the path his adult life would take.  

Liza McKnight has been the object of Dare's affections since they were both in high school, but because of the night Stuart Rossman died and who Liza's brother is, Dare has a hard time reconciling his feelings for her.  Liza doesn't want to be her brother Brian's enabler, yet she's taken over the responsibility from their parents and consistently bails Brian out of jail or trouble in general when she's able.  

Both Dare and Liza have chips on their respective shoulders -- for different reasons, of course -- though that does nothing to stop their chemistry once they finally give in to temptation.   

Karma wasn't my favorite book of the trilogy, but I have enjoyed getting to know each of the Barron brothers separately and collectively throughout this series. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Firefly Cafe by Lily Everett

Pull up a seat at The Firefly Café and fall in love with the first novella in Lily Everett’s heart-tugging “Billionaire Brothers” trilogy!

For years, the Harrington family has dominated the business world.  Gorgeous billionaire brothers Dylan, Logan and Miles Harrington command the family empire, which has given them everything they could ever want…except the one thing that matters most.  Now they’re about to travel to the windswept refuge of Sanctuary Island, where they’ll discover that fortune, fame and power don’t mean a thing without someone to share it with.

Dubbed “the Bad Boy Billionaire” by the tabloids, Dylan Harrison’s playboy lifestyle is starting to lose its appeal. When he hops on his motorcycle and drives to Sanctuary Island, he’s looking for time alone to get his head on straight. Instead, he gets pulled into the warm friendliness of the island—and an intense attraction to Penny Little, waitress at the Firefly Café and caretaker of his family’s vacation home.  Trouble is, Penny doesn’t realize he’s a Harrington brother…and he wants to keep it that way until he’s sure he can trust her with his heart. But Penny has a secret of her own, and when the truth comes to light, will they still have a chance at love?

The Firefly Cafe is the first of a three-part series of novellas concerning the Harrington brothers.  The novellas are set in and around Sanctuary Island, Virginia, and tie-in (a bit) to the new series by Ms. Everett.  As I loved the majority of Ms. Everett's novels under the name Louisa Edwards, I decided to give this novella a try.

I should note that I received an ARC of Sanctuary Island and read it prior to reading The Firefly Cafe.

Because of my above disclaimer, I didn't like The Firefly Cafe as much as I had hoped.  It's still a good story, one that has the usual romance cliches/tropes, but it didn't affect me as much as the characters of Sanctuary Island.  It's not necessary to have read The Firefly Cafe or any of these novellas to understand Sanctuary Island.

I think it may have been the tropes -- billionaire brothers, unsuspecting and unknowing maid, etc. -- that took me out of the story for a little while.  There is one piece of dialogue, however, that sucked me right back in.

"You dummy. Don't you get it? What's left is all that matters." 

If you are looking for a sweet story about a billionaire who wants to mend his fences and learns the importance of people rather than the importance of things, and the maid who changed him, The Firefly Cafe is for you.  It also sets up the second novella,  The Summer Cottage, quite nicely. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Review: One Sweet Ride by Jaci Burton

Gray Preston was born into money, but he’s built his racing empire on hard work and muscle. And now that Gray has millions of fans, his senator father sends one of his aides, Evelyn Hill, to elicit Gray’s help in garnering votes for the upcoming national election. Gray wants nothing to do with his estranged father’s campaign, but Evelyn can be pretty persuasive. She’s willing to learn about racing, and maybe even get a little dirty.

Evelyn’s number-one goal is politics, which makes working with Gray difficult, because his only passion is fast cars. As she and Gray spend time together, he teaches her about the sport he loves, and she learns a lot about the man behind the wheel. The more she learns, the more she wants him. But any desire that threatens to derail the carefully laid plans for her future is a dangerous one.

With the passion Gray and Evelyn share running hotter than either imagined, one of them is going to have to compromise, or else run the risk of losing more than their hearts.

One Sweet Ride continues the Play by Play series Ms. Burton began with The Perfect Play.  This book, however, is the first not to feature a Riley as the hero or heroine.  There's a different feel to the story because of that, but it's still a typical Jaci Burton romance. 

Gray Preston and his father do not get along.  His father had one idea of Gray's future, and Gray had another.  Because of this, the two men don't speak or have a relationship.  Evelyn Hill works for Gray's father in Washington, D.C.  She has been tasked with bringing Gray into his father's campaign for vice president in the hopes Gray's fans will support his choice of political candidate.  Of course, sparks fly between Gray and Evelyn as she learns more about him and tells him how his father has changed. 

I liked One Sweet Ride because it is a Jaci Burton romance, and I know what to expect from those.  I did miss the camaraderie and family involvement as portrayed by the Rileys in the previous installments.  Perhaps that is the reason I couldn't connect with Gray and Evelyn as much as I wanted to.  Gray's sister, Carolina, and Gray's college roommate Drew will be featured in Melting the Ice (February 2014). 

Monday, July 8, 2013

Review: The Unexpected Wedding Guest by Aimee Carson

"Surprised to see me?"

Getting caught in her wedding dress by her drop-dead-gorgeous ex-husband is Reese Michael's worst nightmare. Especially when her perfect-on-paper fiancé then cancels their wedding!

Reese has spent years trying to forget how her marriage to Mason Hicks crashed and burned—yes, their chemistry was incredible, but a girl can't live on lust alone! And what's a jilted bride supposed to do when the one man she could never forget is back in her life, as irresistible as ever? Mason might be her own personal brand of Kryptonite, but surely life is meant to be lived a little dangerously…?

The Unexpected Wedding Guest is the first full-length novel in The Wedding Season miniseries.  This is the first of the series that I read, and the first book by Ms. Carson that I've read. 

As far as setting the scene for the forthcoming three books, the remaining Awesome Foursome's male partners are to be determined, though I think one could trace the paper trail and connect the couples based on the men mentioned within The Unexpected Wedding Guest.  That might make a fun game! 

Reese Michael married young -- at 19.  She had smoking chemistry with her husband, Mason Hicks, but when it came time to discuss any problems, Reese didn't (or couldn't).  She would turn to her parents for help, perhaps not realizing how that made Mason feel.  And Mason found it easier to shut Reese out, so it's no wonder they grew apart and their marriage ended.  Ten years later, Reese believes she's found her true love in Dylan, a lifelong friend who seems to be the perfect man.  What Reese doesn't realize -- until Mason shows up at the wedding site -- is that she might not be in love with Dylan.  

Reese and Mason's chemistry is off the charts.  It's easy to see why Reese was swept away by it when she was 19.  And while once Mason makes Reese question if she still has feelings for him or not, I found myself wondering if they would fall into their old patterns once they decide to give their love another try.  I hope we see glimpses of them as the miniseries progresses as I don't want them to just jump into marriage without having learned something from their past mistakes.  

(A very special thank you to Harlequin and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of The Unexpected Wedding Guest.)

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Fourth of July!

Happy Independence Day, America!  Too bad it's raining here, so we won't be enjoying fireworks.  Good day to catch up on some reading though!!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Review: The Sassy Belles by Beth Albright

Meet the Sassy Belles

They're strong as a mint julep, sweet as peach cobbler, and no matter what, they stick together.

There are only two seasons in Tuscaloosa—football and waiting-for-football. When Lewis Heart, football announcer and voice of the Crimson Tide, vanishes after an impromptu romp with Vivi Ann McFadden at the Fountain Mist Motel, Vivi does what any Southern woman would do: call her best friend, Blake O'Hara Heart, attorney-at-law.

With the town gossip swirling around them, Vivi and Blake are determined to find out what happened to Lewis and clear Vivi's reputation. Because after all, men may come and go, but the Sassy Belles are forever.

Not since Steel Magnolias have we fallen in love with such sexy, strong and hilarious Southern women. So grab your best girlfriends and join these Belles on the first of many joyrides through the Deep South….

Though The Sassy Belles is published by Harlequin, I don't consider it a true romance; I would label The Sassy Belles as women's fiction -- there's a declining romance, a new romance beginning, and a bit of a mystery.  

Told by narrator Blake O'Hara Heart, we are treated with life in Blake's small social circle of Tuscaloosa, Alabama: her lifelong best friend, Vivi; her husband, Henry; Henry's brother and Vivi's love interest, Lewis; Blake's mother and grandmother, Kitty and Meridee; and Blake's former stepsister, Dallas.  The crux of the story revolves around Lewis's disappearance and Blake's attempts to siphon out the mystery. 

The Sassy Belles is a fun start to what's certain to be a fun series, and I'm looking forward to Wedding Belles (July 2013) and Sleigh Belles (October 2013). 

(A very special thank you to Harlequin and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of The Sassy Belles.)

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Review: If The Shoe Fits by Megan Mulry

The only thing worse than being in the spotlight is being kept in the dark...

With paparazzi nipping at his heels, Devon Heyworth, rakish brother of the Duke of Northrop, spends his whole life hiding his intelligence and flaunting his playboy persona. Fast cars and faster women give the tabloids plenty to talk about.

American entrepreneur Sarah James is singularly unimpressed with "The Earl" when she meets him at a wedding. But she's made quite an impression on him. When he pursues her all the way across the pond, he discovers that Miss James has no intention of being won over by glitz and glamor—she's got real issues to deal with, and the last thing she needs is larger-than-life royalty mucking about her business...

The pairing of Sarah and Devon was hinted at in Ms. Mulry's first book, A Royal Pain, so I was interested to read how Sarah and Devon would conquer the Atlantic Ocean and achieve their happily ever after.  Unfortunately, If the Shoe Fits missed the mark for me.  

Sarah and Devon have great chemistry, so I wanted to see their relationship work.  Watching it unfold on the page, however, was not a pleasurable experience.  Sarah, while she is a successful businesswoman, appears to have come from money via her father and her maternal grandmother, who lives in France.  Devon, of course, is "The Earl".   It wasn't their money and the jet-setter lifestyle that bothered me, though; it was their personalities, especially once they decided to move their relationship forward.  When Devon's jealousy reared its ugly head in a moment that could have quickly turned very sour and Sarah simply closed her eyes, that's when they lost me as a couple.   

It's a shame I won't be continuing this series because I really would have liked to see how Ms. Mulry paired Devon and Max's younger sister, Abby (who has seemingly been in a lesbian relationship for ten years) with Eliot Cranbrook in R is for Rebel (November 2013).
(A very special thank you to Sourcebooks and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of If the Shoe Fits.)

Monday, July 1, 2013

Eagerly Anticipating -- July 2013


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