Book Review: The Good Father by Tara Taylor Quinn

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Confession: I almost always read the Dear Reader letter before I dive into a book. The Good Father was no different. Once I read Tara Taylor Quinn’s Dear Reader letter telling me to give the hero, Brett Ackerman, a chance, I sort of dismissed it. I like my hero’s a little damaged; it makes them more realistic. I should have heeded this warning a bit more. 

Summary: Brett Ackerman has gotten his life to the point where, if he’s not exactly thrilled with it, it’s at least fulfilling and predictable. He spends his days sitting on charity boards and making sure they are operating above board. He flies from one end of the country to the other as charities and non-profits seek his stamp of approval. His work is also his penance for the darkness lurking within him. He’s managed to quell all desire for a normal family life; he can’t risk getting that close to anyone, can’t risk his darker nature coming out.

Ella knows all too well what type of man Brett Ackerman is, but when she needs her ex’s help with a family crisis that one of his charities deals with, she has to put her feelings aside and reach out to him. This is the perfect time for her to face him and move on. But there’s still a strong attraction simmering between them, and when it ignites into a passionate encounter, Ella finds herself with a constant reminder of her not-so-ex.

Can these two put the past behind them for the future that could await them?

 Review: The Good Father is an emotional read. The Lemonade Stand that Brett founded and where Ella volunteers is a shelter for women and children who are victims of domestic violence. Domestic violence is a tough backdrop to a romance, but Ms. Quinn handles it well here. It’s easy to see the motivations of the characters and the conflict, but it doesn’t glamorize, over-dramatize, or play down the dire situations of those affected by domestic violence. It also doesn’t paint the hero or heroine in the light of perfection or complete corruption. Both Ella and Brett have their flaws as well as their redeeming qualities.

That being said, Brett Ackerman made me want to jump into the book and punch him in the face shake him give him a stern talking to. It turns out that admonition to give Brett a chance was well advised, because in the beginning, though I understood the whys and wherefores of his logic and actions, they made me want to throw my kindle a few times. Brett was like the friend you have that you just want to help but have no idea how to do it except to be there for them. I was invested in Brett. I wanted him to overcome his demons and be the man that Ella and the reader could see under all the baggage burying him.

Ella was just as complex. Determined and strong-willed, yet with a vulnerability that made her relatable, Ella was a heroine I could root for and just the type of woman Brett needed in his life. I love that as much as Ella loves Brett, she’s determined to do what she needs to in order to protect herself and help her family.

The supporting characters here were multi-layered and really added to the story. The parallel story that mirrors Ella and Brett’s relationship added so much depth to the main romance. As I was reading about the people at The Lemonade Stand and the other couple in the book, I fell in love with them. I haven’t read the other books in this series, but they’ve been added to my to-be-read pile.

The one thing that I keep coming back to with this book is investment. It’s not every day that a book can hook me and not let go until the end. It’s also not every day that I’m genuinely invested in the outcome for the characters–not curious, or scandalized, or titillated or intrigued by the characters and what might happen, but truly invested. I wanted that happily ever after for them as much as I would for friends of mine.

Tara Taylor Quinn weaves a story here that grabs you and doesn’t let go until well after you turn the last page. The characters are compelling and realistic, their motives clear, and the conflict is high stakes and seems insurmountable. Ms. Quinn doesn’t shortchange the reader by giving us a pat ending that doesn’t take into account all that has gone on before, but gives the reader both a satisfying and realistic ending that makes the ride worth it–just like she promised.

5* (out of 5) for well developed characterizations, a complicated and emotionally tense conflict, a textured and pertinent sub-plot and multi-layered supporting characters, and exceptional writing that pulls the reader in and gets them to invest in two broken characters’ healing and HEA.

The Good FatherThe Good Father
(Where Secrets Are Safe #6)
by Tara Taylor Quinn
Adult Romance
Paperback & ebook, 384 pages
June 1st 2015 by Harlequin

Starting over…again

It seems a lifetime ago that Brett Ackerman wanted to share his life with Ella Wales. He really believed he could put his abusive family history behind him…until he realized it would always be part of him. Then he pushed her away. Hard.

Now Ella’s back as part of the High Risk Team at The Lemonade Stand, the unique women’s shelter Brett founded. And she needs his help with a family crisis. But even now, Brett can’t admit he still loves her. Until one night of passion with Ella turns Brett into the one thing he fears the most—a father.

Also in the Series

Tara Taylor Quinn

The author of more than 70 original novels, in twenty languages, Tara Taylor Quinn is a USA Today bestseller with over six million copies sold. She is known for delivering deeply emotional and psychologically astute novels of suspense and romance. Tara is a recipient of the Reader’s Choice Award, a five time finalist for the RWA Rita Award, the Reviewer’s Choice Award, the Bookseller’s Best Award and appears frequently on bestseller lists, including #1 placement on Amazon lists. Tara is the past-president of Romance Writers of America and served eight years on that board of directors. She has appeared on national and local TV across the country, including CBS Sunday Morning and is a frequent guest speaker. In her spare time Tara likes to travel, climb Arizona mountains, and inline skate.

Tara is a supporter of the National Domestic Violence Hotline. If you or someone you know might be a victim of domestic violence in the United States, please contact 1-800-799-7233.

Website – Goodreads – Facebook – Twitter – Pinterest – Instagram

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As part of Spend the Summer with Tara Taylor Quinn, Tara is holding a contest for those who share on social media about how they love life during the summer! Each day you can share an image, picture, or quote, linking to her events’ landing page (http://www.tarataylorquinn.com/Summer%20With%20ttq.html) to enter to win ONE BIG SUMMER BASKET!!! We’ll be pulling the best submissions and voting for the top one during her Facebook Party on July 16th. Pull out your creative juices and share your joy of summer, be it with friends, family, or the love of your life!

Beach-themed basket will include: shell wind chime, shell choker and matching bracelet, beach/flip flop note cards, picture frame, 4×6 picture album, plus some surprise print copies of Tara’s books (including Once Upon a Friendship).

Share must be public to be eligible. Can enter once each day. US only. Giveaway ends July 16th.

Tour Giveaways

(All to one winner – US only.)
$10 VISA Gift Card
Copies of all five books on Tara’s Summer Tour
Spend the Summer with TTQ T-Shirt
Ends July 16th

$10 VISA Gift Card & ebook of The Good Father (INT)
Print copy of The Good Father & a Spend the Summer with TTQ T-shirt (US only)
ebook of The Good Father (INT)
Ends June 18th

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Two for Tuesday: The Fairy Tale Bride and Finally His Bride

The Fairy Tale BrideWelcome to my first two for Tuesday. I’ve fallen a bit behind on my reviews, but I promise I have a ton of new books to suggest to you that will take you on an emotional roller coaster and leave you sighing in Happily Ever After (HEA) bliss. To begin, I have two books, the first and the fourth in Tule Publishing’s new Montana Born Brides Series, The Fairy Tale Bride by Scarlet Wilson, and Finally His Bride by Maisey Yates. First, let me say the covers for these books are to die for! I love everything about them–the dresses, the couples, the backdrops–they look so summery and perfect. I’m also a little jealous that they beat me to writing a series centered around one character’s impending wedding and those involved falling in love (I’m not tossing my series idea, though. There’s plenty of room for more books based on brides. Who doesn’t love a good wedding story?) Now, to the reviews!

The Fairy Tale Bride

Lisa Renee loves fairy tales and weddings–even though her own fairy tale romance ended in disaster. She indulges her love of weddings by owning her own bridal salon, and uses her love of fairytales to brighten up the days of patients at the local hospital where she volunteers. When a celebrity wedding brings a media circus and cantankerous bridesmaids to town, Lisa finds solace in her volunteer work, and may just find love with the new doctor in town…

Adam Brady loves the small town life he’s found in Marietta, Montana. He fled the big city seeking anonymnity and a hospital where he didn’t have to specialize. He’s found a circle of friends, a job he loves, and no one knows about his past. When hospital volunteer Lisa breezes into his path, it seems as if his life is finally falling into place. But the media swarming the town threaten the life he’s come to enjoy, and Lisa Renee and her shop are right at the center of it. As there attraction grows and their secrets come to light, can they let go of the past and grab on to the love they could have with each other?

I thought this was a really fun read. I just wish it was a little longer. I thought Ms. Wilson did a great job balancing the budding romance, the difficult bridal party, and both the hero and heroine’s pasts to strike the right chord with the reader, but a few parts felt rushed. It was like an amusement park rollercoaster: fun and over way to quickly.

Also like a rollercoaster, I didn’t appreciate all the elements that Ms. Wilson wove together until I reflected on it later. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a fun, romantic beach read that showcases two people trying to outrun their past when what they really need is the right partner to help them face it head on.

B+/4* (of 5) for a fun and funny read with surprisingly sweet and sexy moments and a swoon worthy HEA

Finally His Bride Finally his Bride

Melanie Richards has decided to stop pining for the man she can’t have and let go of the hurts of the past by losing her virginity. It’s been far too long in coming, and she sees it as the perfect way to get over her tragic past and embrace normal life. Her best friend, Luke Shuller, is already raging mad when he sees Mel in Grey’s trying to pick up a drunk cowboy. He yanks her out and takes her to his hotel to sober up. When Mel insists on going through with her cockamamie plan to lose her virginity to be normal, Luke offers to let her practice her feminine wiles on him. Being temporarily coupled up with Mel helps him with a family problem and allows him to keep Mel safe at the same time. Both soon realize that they’ve rung a bell that can’t be unrung. As the line between friends with benefits and a real relationshp begins to blur, will they be able to part as friends, or will Luke finally make Mel’s closest held dream come true and make her his bride?

I love Maisey Yates’ writing style. Her voice is at turns funny and saucy as well as heavy with weighty emotional baggage. Ms. Yates has a way with angst that most writers don’t. She neither downplays nor belabors the real emotional gravity of a story. I found both Melanie and Luke to be complex characters with emotional resonance that I truly felt invested in. I wanted their relationship to work even though they were both messed up and coming at it all wrong. Most writers can’t do both humor and angst without ending up campy or a caricature of the genre, but somehow Ms. Yates manages to strike just the right balance. The black moments are black, and the emotional work requires some heavy lifting, but the HEA is all the more satisfying for it. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves a strong heroine who knows how to be vulnerable, a complex hero you want to strangle and snuggle at the same time, gratuitous use of cake, sizzling sexy times, and an HEA that is happy sigh inducing.

A+/5* for snappy dialogue, fun sexy times, more angst than an emo teen, and a hero and heroine who are all jacked up and just right at the same time.

Book Review: From the Start by Melissa Tagg

From the Start Confession,: this is not my first Melissa Tagg book. I was also given Made to Last a long time ago and still haven’t finished it. After reading From the Start, though, I plan to start it over and read it all the way through.

From the Start is the story of screenwriter Kate Walker. Kaye hasn’t sold a script in a long time and believes that maybe this is her opportunity to finally write something meaningful. At the same time, Colton Greene is having to accept his football career and his relationship with his almost fiancée is over. While his agent is strategizing on air commentator positions and book deals, Colton is adrift and handling his early retirement badly.

A devastating tornado in Maple Valley Iowa brings Kate home to help her father and Colton arrives to help an old friend’s family. When Colton discovers Kate is a writer, he hires her to help him write his book. Colton’s offer to write his story will give Kate the money she needs to go on a trip to Africa and write about the work her late mother’s foundation is doing for grants–the meaningful writing she’s been longing to do. It seems like a perfect solution for both of them. But it seems God has other plans for them.

I loved the story between Kate and Colton. Ms. Tagg does a wonderful job of making both Kate and Colton the kind of people you can root for and want to see succeed. The supporting characters were well rounded and added to the story for the most part. At times, there seemed to be a few too many, but Ms. Tagg was able to show what each one was necessary and tie up the loose ends for a satisfactory ending.

I fell in love with Maple Valley. The small town really came to life on the page. I could see the spirit of resilience and community that Ms. Tagg created as if it were a real place. I can’t wait to see more stories based around my favorite supporting characters.

I would recommend From the Start to anyone looking for a longer Christian romance read filled with the best aspects of small town Midwestern life–faith, family and football, who loves stories of starting over and finding what you didn’t know to look for.

4*/B+

Friday Feature: A Love Like Ours by Becky Wade

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A Love Like Ours by Becky Wade, Published by Bethany House.

A Love Like Ours is the third Porter Family book by Becky Wade and the second that I’ve read. It released on Tuesday, May 5th. Part of the proceeds of sales of the book now until May 17th will be given to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, an organization that helps veterans with physical and psychological injuries.

Lyndie James and Jake Porter were childhood best friends until her family moved from Texas to California and they lost touch. Now that her family has moved back to Texas, Lyndie is eager to work for her former best friend at Whispering Creek exercising the thoroughbreds he trains as well as rekindling their friendship. There’s only one problem: Jake Porter is nothing like the boy she used to know. Jake’s been broken by PTSD and survivor’s guilt in ways he thinks can never be repaired. The last thing he wants is to have Lyndie and her optimistic, unwavering faith around. He doesn’t want to see her hurt, either by the horses or by him.

Jake agrees to hire Lyndie despite his reservations. Lyndie is determined to show Jake that he’s not broken beyond repair, that God can fix him. She believes the boy she used to know and love is still in there, and that God wants to use her to heal him. But is she letting her attraction to Jake lead her into falling for the man she thinks God wants her to save? With Jake’s PTSD and lack of faith in God, is she setting herself up to be one of those girls that falls in love with a man and ends up heartbroken when she can’t change or fix him?

I. LOVED. THIS. STORY! There was very little not to like about this book. Becky Wade’s writing is so descriptive, it pulls you right in to the story and doesn’t let go. I could clearly see every character and understand them. Lyndie is optimistic and a believer in the impossible being possible without being annoying or irritating. Jake is tall, dark and brooding without being maudlin. Wade doesn’t downplay the seriousness of the issues faced by Jake and Lyndie to get to the happily every after, a fact which I appreciated. She shows the ugly realities or Cerebral Palsy, PTSD, Survivor’s guilt, and lost faith without sugar coating it. This makes the happily ever after even more satisfying because she doesn’t cheat or short change  the reader with a tidy ending. This story says sometimes life sucks, and it scars us in ways that may never fully heal, but we can keep living and living in love and abundance. God is good.

One thing I enjoy about reading a longer contemporary inspirational romance is the opportunity to have secondary characters and subplots to invest in. I especially love when it’s a book in a series and I can revisit beloved characters from previous books. One of the things that sets Becky Wade’s books apart is the well drawn secondary characters. I loved getting to see Celia and Ty again (from Meant to be Mine, book 2), as well as Uncle Danny and Bo and Meg. I also loved the subplot with Amber looking for love. None of this took away from the central plot. Everything worked together to show how God loves us and wants to give us good gifts no matter how unworthy we feel or how far we have strayed.

I would recommend A Love Like Ours to anyone looking for a longer inspirational romance filled with rich descriptive writing, fun and fully fleshed out secondary characters and subplots, a hero in serious need of God and love and a faith-filled, fantasy land dwelling, feisty heroine with more than enough courage to love a stubborn man back to life.

5*/A+

Book Review: Meant to Be Mine by Becky Wade

Meant to Be Mine COVERToday, it is my pleasure to review Meant to Be Mine by Becky Wade, the second Porter Family Novel, by Becky Wade. This book is published by Christian publisher Bethany House and is available beginning this month.

Confession: I haven’t read the first book in this series, Undeniably Yours. I hate starting a series in media reas. Also, I haven’t read too many contemporary Christian romances from Bethany House. I tend to stay with what’s familiar and branch out when I get opportunities to review books or find new authors through familiar publishers. This is why reviewing is perfect for me; it stretches my horizons a bit. Lastly, I’m a sucker for a story that gives you an almighty mess to untangle and really makes the characters work for their happily ever after.

The Short Version: Ty Porter and Celia Parker got married in Vegas after dating four days. It shouldn’t have worked, and for a long time, it didn’t. But God had a plan to save the bull rider and the baker’s marriage, and He carried it out despite their stubbornness, bitterness, and inability to forgive. This reader really enjoyed being along for the ride.

The Long Version: Celia Parker has been infatuated with Ty Porter since he sat beside her in Ceramics class her first year of high school. They  became good friends, but not the more Celia longed for. Several years later, Celia meets up with Ty in Las Vegas after a bull riding competition, and for the next four days the two become nearly inseparable. They decide to get married after this whirlwind courtship and have a perfect wedding night. But in the morning, Ty shatters Celia’s happily ever after:

“You…you didn’t force me into marrying you, if that’s what’s upsetting you. I made my own decision.”

“Without all the facts.”

“What do you mean–”

“I’m in love with someone else.”

Heartbroken, Celia returns to real life and struggles through. She’s determined to put Ty Porter behind her and pursue her dream of opening a bakery/coffee shop–until she finds out that their wedding night resulted in a baby.

Meanwhile, Ty Porter goes on to have a successful rodeo career and waits around for the woman he thinks he’s meant to be with, Tawny. Five and a half years after his marriage, Ty returns to Vegas and passes the corny chapel where he married Celia and feels a sudden need to track her down and close that chapter of his life once and for all. He meets her and thinks everything is done–until he meets his little girl, Addie.

Once Ty knows about Addie, he’s determined to be a good father to her. Celia is just as determined to protect her daughter’s heart, and her own, from the charming man who fooled her once into giving her heart to him and then breaking it. The more time Ty spends with Celia, the more his attraction to her grows. But with two stubborn people, it takes a lot of divine intervention to get them on the right path to happily ever after.

Meant to Be Mine by Becky Wade is a book filled with classic romantic themes–friends to lovers, a secret baby, a marriage of inconvenience–and classic biblical themes–forgiveness, sacrifice, repentance, prodigal son (or daughter). Ms. Wade does a wonderful job of blending together the tropes of contemporary romance and the tenets of faith here. Ty and Celia’s story, while the circumstances might not be as common, is a common story: two people, in the middle of the first throes of infatuation, do something they both come to bitterly regret and spend a long time either punishing themselves for or paying for. Yet, God is still able to use those things to accomplish His purposes.

I thought the characters in Meant to Be Mine were well written. Even though there were times I wanted to shake both Ty and Celia, I could see where both of them were coming from. They felt like real people grappling with a difficult situation. The supporting characters, particularly their daughter Addie and Uncle Danny, were well written and added to the story. I loved Addie’s obsession with civic minded princesses who found their princes, and Uncle Danny’s surfer mentality and pursuit of a foreign bride brought much needed levity.

The only character I didn’t like was Tawny. I couldn’t get a good read on her. I knew what both Ty and Celia thought of her, but her motivations were completely lost on me. Whenever I see a character that is somehow in play for a main character’s affection, I think of My Best Friend’s Wedding and 2 Dresses. I either expect to like the character and feel a bit bad for her (MBFW) or I really don’t like them (27D). Every now and then, I know they are spoiled and conniving, but they have some good characteristics under there somewhere (a la The Wedding Date). I got none of those from Tawny. She felt more like a plot device, which was noticeable more because everyone else was so clearly depicted.

Ms. Wade did a good job of interweaving the faith element and making God’s footprints visible in the story. I liked how we saw how both Ty and Celia felt about faith in their lives, and that their relationships with God weren’t perfect, but a work in progress. The supporting characters who impacted their faith showed how God uses others to reach us and demonstrate His love to us. I really enjoyed this aspect of the story.

I would recommend Meant to Be Mine to anyone who likes to see two characters who get themselves into a hopeless tangled mess that only the Lord can get them out of, with the help of a little girl, an old surfer, a crotchety donut shop owner, and a whole lot of Porters.

Meant to be Mine: A- for strong faith element, compelling story, and wonderful characters, outside of Tawny.

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Book Review: Stealing the Groom by Sonya Weiss

Stealing the GroomThe Summary: Chad Walker and Amelia Snyder have been friends since they were kids. When Chad decides to enter into a business marriage with former high school mean girl Claire, Amelia knows she has to save her best friend from making the biggest mistake of his life. As kids, they’d promised they would only marry for love. Besides “friends did not allow friends to marry the wrong woman.” So Amelia does what any rational woman would do when logic and pleading won’t do the trick: she hijacks his limo with him in the back seat and whisks him away to a remote cabin to make him see sense.

The only thing that planning obsessed Chad sees is that impulsive Amelia has caused chaos in his life again. But a small part of him acknowledges his business marriage with Claire was a bad idea, and he allows himself to be kidnapped. That doesn’t change the fact he needs to marry to inherit his shares of the family business from his grandfather, but he believes he can convince Claire to move their wedding back a couple days.

After a serious of unfortunate events, Chad and Amelia are forced to marry to get the shares. Being married to your best friend for six months shouldn’t be that big of a hardship, except that Chad and Amelia have been feeling something other than friendship growing between them ever since she kidnapped him. Can an impulsive commitment phobe and a planning obsessed man who believes love destroys ever live happily ever after?

The Review: As soon as I read the premise of Stealing the Groom, I knew that if it was written well, I would love it. It’s been a while since I’ve read a good marriage of convenience story, and having a friends to lovers hook as well places Stealing the Groom right in my romance novel wheelhouse. Both friends to lovers and marriage of convenience stories hinge on the characters. If the characters don’t pull you into the story and keep you flipping the pages, the plot won’t be believable and will feel manufactured.

Sonya Weiss strikes just the right note with Amelia Snyder. Amelia is an impulsive woman with a good heart. She has the best of intentions, but her lack of foresight causes her “plans” to devolve into chaos. Chad Walker is her perfect foil. He is man never without a plan. He tries to plan things that you just can’t plan for and it bites him in the butt. It’s clear very early on that Amelia can benefit from Chad’s ability to think things through, and Chad can benefit from embracing a bit of Amelia’s spontaneity.

The supporting cast of characters also shines and adds to this delightful read. Amelia’s sisters, Abby and Ann, Chad’s friends, Nick and Eric, and their meddling grandfathers, Henry Walker and Noah Snyder all add to the mêlée surrounding these two. Their well meaning loved one are more hindrance than help, but all with the best motives.

This book hits every single criterion I have for a good romance novel:

1. I care about the characters. See gushing above.

2. A believable impediment to them being together: commitment phobia, believing that love destroys, other things I won’t ruin for you.

3. Unique way of getting them together. She steals a limo and whisks him away to a cabin in the woods.

4. A sweet reveal of their feelings for each other. Chad steals the show with what he’s willing to do to show Amelia that he loves her.

5. Make me feel as if I haven’t missed the best part of the journey. If this book had ended after I love you, I don’t know that I’d trust these two not to muck things up. The fact that Ms. Weiss gave me a little bit more put my mind at rest.

The Short Version: Stealing the Groom by Sonya Weiss is a fun read propelled by compelling characters, witty dialogue, familial meddling and hindrances, and enough sexual tension to power a locomotive. I would recommend Stealing the Groom to any romance reader who loves friends to lovers, marriages of convenience, skeptics, cynics, commitment phobes, grand theft auto and a little accidental arson with their happily ever afters.

Stealing the Groom: * * * * 1/2  of  * * * * * (4 1/2 of 5 stars)

PS. As of today, Stealing the Groom is still on sale for $.99! Get it while it’s hot!

Book Review: Between the Sheets by Genie Davis & Linda Marr

Between the SheetsThe Summary: Jenna Brooks writes grants for her parents’ research by day and erotic romances under the name Jade Johnson. Her life is nothing like the hot stories she writes–until someone tries to run her over. Luckily she’s saved by Riley Stone. Riley is working as a consultant with the FBI investigating Jenna’s new neighbor. He gets himself invited back to her apartment to plant a wire so he can hear what the neighbor’s corrupt associates are planning. This was supposed to be the end of his association with Jenna, but when the wire reveals his target, Evan, has an inordinate interest in Jenna, Riley must continue seeing the sexy writer, keeping her safe while he figures out what she has to do with Evan and his boss’ plans. The more time they spend together, the more attached they become to one another. But once Riley’s real reasons for getting close to her are revealed, can Jenna trust that their relationship means more to Riley than just a cover and a means to solve a case?

The short review: Hold on to your seats and your underwear! Genie Davis & Linda Marr has created a funny, sexy caper that will keep you turning the pages to see what happens next!

The long version: A romantic suspense that can balance the romance and suspense in a way that keeps you turning the pages to see more of both isn’t as easy to come across as you would imagine. Some have too much downtime from the action and some don’t leave enough time for the romance to develop. This is not an easy style to write. Between the Sheets by Genie Davis & Linda Marr does a good job of balancing the action and the romance. Both the danger and the desire gets your blood racing in this suspenseful offering.

Jenna is the perfect type of heroine for this story and for Riley. She’s a smart woman with good instincts who makes smart decisions–most of the time. She knows when something isn’t quite what it seems to be, even if she can’t exactly put her finger on it. She doesn’t always listen to her gut, but her gut is usually right.

Riley tries to maintain some distance from Jenna and complete his job, but he’s completely captivated by both the warm woman he’s “dating” and her secret identity as an erotic writer. He’s so enamored with Jade Johnson’s books that he accidently quotes them to Jenna while on dates with her. He’s trying not to let his growing feelings for Jenna ruin his focus on the case.

While the suspense element of the story is strong and compelling, it’s really the characters of Jenna and Riley that drive the heart of Between the Sheets. I would recommend Between the Sheets to anyone looking for romantic suspense with a high octane romance and pulse pounding suspense with a practical heroine and an alpha hero with a sensitive streak (or maybe just a sensual/romantic one?).

Between the Sheets: * * * */5 stars

Book Review: High Heeled Wonder by Avery Flynn

High Heeled WonderA disclaimer: I know next to nothing about fashion that couldn’t be found in The Devil Wears Prada (and, despite reading and loving the book, a LOT that’s in the book) or overhead on the Fashion Police show with Joan Rivers and the gang. I’m happy to report as one non-fashionista to any others that may be reading this, any knowledge or hardcore interest in fashion is not a requirement for this TV crime dramedy style whodunit by Avery Flynn. In High Heeled Wonder, Ms. Flynn does all the heavy world building behind the text, placing the reader in a fully formed world where fashion is king and backstabbing his queen.

Summary: Sylvie Bissette is the adopted daughter of two of the hottest designers in Harbor City, the owners of BC. Beyond her elevated position as the offspring of fashion royalty, Sylvie is also the anonymous blogger behind High Heeled Wonder, a fashion blog that lampoons some of the people her family associates with on a regular basis while touting the virtues of fashion for everyone. She’s used to getting nasty emails from angry readers over some of the articles she posts, but when the threats escalate, her fathers decide to call on Tony Falcon and Maltese Security for help.

At first, Sylvie is reluctant to accept Tony’s help. But after narrowly escaping being mowed down in broad daylight and realizing that the police aren’t going to take the threat to her life seriously, she agrees to hire Maltese Security on one condition: Tony must go undercover as her boyfriend so no one gets suspicious. Tony isn’t exactly thrilled with this arrangement; he’s already having trouble keeping his hands off the tempting Sylvie and doesn’t know if being in such close proximity under the guise of a relationship is the best idea. But for reasons of  his own, he’s determined to figure out who is behind the threat to Sylvie’s life. The question isn’t just whodunit, but whether the attraction between the stoic bodyguard and the curvy fashionista will be able to survive beyond the threat.

You guys! I LOVED High Heeled Wonder. Avery Flynn is adept at drawing the reader into the dog eat dog world of fashion she’s created in all of its self-serving glory. There are so many people who stand to gain from outing Sylvie as the creator of High Heeled Wonder and who would benefit from the site being taken down that it’s easy to lose sight of who it really is behind the threats. All of the characters that populate this book are fully formed, if not three dimensional. As in real life, some people don’t have redeeming qualities that we would get to see as people who don’t live in their heads, but even these characters are more than puppets to drive the plot along.

In the characters of Sylvie and Tony, Ms. Flynn has created a perfect storm of opposites attracting. Sylvie’s character is no shrinking violet. She knows how to infiltrate the fashion world and sniff out information on her stalker without giving anything away. Tony is an OCD-level planner with a singular focus on finding a killer, and isn’t afraid to use borderline illegal methods to get the job done. I loved their interactions together, and the attraction between them has the same magnetic affect on the reader.

I loved the twists and curves that Ms. Flynn through into the book. Every time you thought you knew something, some further complication was thrown into the mix. No one gets away scot free in this one; all of the characters that could have done it have some secrets and predilections that ensure you can’t love them, even if you can understand them.

The genre of romantic suspense walks a fine line. It’s hard to balance the characters and their romance with the need to keep pushing the plot forward. Usually, one or the other element falls short of the reader’s expectations. I think that High Heeled Wonder does a great job of balancing the two. I would recommend High Heeled Wonder to anyone looking for a fast paced read that will keep you guessing with a heroine you can’t help but root for and a hero torn between loyalty to a fallen friend and his feelings for an off-limits client. Also, a hero whose toes itch as an indication of danger (which was probably the funniest thing in the book to me).

* * * */ * * * * * (4 out of 5 stars for compelling characters, plot twists and combustible attraction)

XOXO,

Erica

Romance Review: Molly Gets Her Man by Julie Rowe

Molly Gets Her ManPublishing today from Entangled Ignite, Molly Gets Her Man by Julie Rowe was not what I was expecting from the Goodreads description. I’m going to be honest with you all (because that’s what they provide me the free books for), this book isn’t one where you get your brain all involved with the ins and outs of politics and probability. This is a book that carries you along on a rollercoaster ride of drama, emotion, a bit of hilarity and a potent sexual chemistry that singes the pages. But that’s getting ahead of myself.

Summary: Molly McLaren is a Vegas Hairdresser looking to turn her luck around. In fact, she’s interviewing for a position in her real line of work in less than a week. Then she overhears a plot to kill a US Congressman and contacts the police. Only she suspects someone in the police department is dirty, because the Russian mobster she overheard is after her. She calls her brother for help, and he sends his old army buddy, Grey Wilson.

Grey is a cop on administrative leave while he recuperates from an injury–and the task force he once worked on investigates his possible involvement in an operation that went bad. Suffering from an injured leg, more than a slight amount of PTSD and a need to clear his name, the last thing he wants to do is help his old army buddy’s sister. Once he meets the typical Vegas Molly–with her big bleach blonde hair and bigger boobs–she reminds him of the woman that caused most of his recent troubles. He is more than anxious to drop her off and resume his unauthorized investigation.

But when it becomes apparent that Molly has stumbled into something big–something possibly connected to the case that got him dismissed–Grey is forced to keep her at his side and under his protection. As they close in on a dangerous mobster who seems to elude police at every turn, they get closer to being consumed by the burning attraction that smolders between them. Can Molly save the day and get her man?

Using my four criteria for rating romance novels, here’s how Molly Gets Her Man scores:

  • Main characters I care about. I really liked Molly and Grey. Molly wasn’t the ditz she appeared to be at first glance, and her ability to wield words as a weapon was admirable. She was spunky and feisty and determined, all of those buzz words for the heroines of today. Grey was just the right amount of large, gorgeous and damaged male with a past to do any romance proud, and his consideration of Molly was a nice foil to his rather ruthless side. That being said, I didn’t LOVE them. I don’t need to be able to visit them in the background of another book. They didn’t linger with me for days as some do. They were equally matched and worth a read, but not in the canon of romantic couples for me.
  • A believable impediment to them being together. Given the slightly dramatic nature of the story, the impediments to Molly and Grey’s relationship are surprisingly believable. Past experiences with lovers that didn’t end so well and living in different states are very believable impediments to their being together. Not to mention that Molly is Grey’s best friend’s baby sister.
  • Unique ways of throwing the main characters together. This book certainly had a unique premise for getting these characters in the same place, and for keeping them there. When Grey would have dropped Molly off and moved on…well, suffice it to say, things didn’t go according to plan. At. All.
  • A sweet reveal of their true feelings for one another. I knew a few pages in that Grey Wilson wasn’t going to be the guy that delved deep and came up with a verbal bouquet of flowery prose; that just isn’t his style. And Molly would overthink the whole thing and talk herself out of any relationship that they could have. While I didn’t get sweet, I got true to the couple, and I can be satisfied with that.
  • Make me feel as if I haven’t missed out on the best part of the journey. I can say I was pretty satisfied with where they chose to end the story. Most of the loose ends were tied up and I felt confident that Molly and Grey wouldn’t make a big mess of their relationship. That’s really all I ask for.

I would recommend Molly Gets Her Man to anyone who is looking for a well-written romantic suspense that offers an escape from reality, a large helping of sexual tension and chemistry, and two damaged people who manage to find love and untangle a large criminal network’s plot to kill a congressman at the same time. The heat level on this one is high, so be prepared sexy smexy times that happen on the page with this one.

XOXO,

Erica

Ignite is Entangled Press’ romantic suspense/mystery/thriller imprint. I received a galley copy of Molly Gets Her Man, but I was not compensated for this review.

 

 

I’m Kind of a Big Deal…On Paper

It’s been a long time since I’ve been here, mostly because I’ve been trying to get my website set up and make it a one stop shop for all of my blogging. That didn’t work out so well. Actually, that blew up in my face. I have the domain name, hosting, header/banner, logo, twitter, Facebook pages, a workshop presentation, and the opportunity to write book reviews for publishers, but still no site. Why, you ask? Well, that’s a long story involving choosing a website builder that I didn’t love, not being able to remove it, not being able to utilize it the way I want to, and resolving to let that ground lie fallow until I can figure out what to plant there that will actually grow.

But this is not a complaint post; this is a post to share some good news. I signed up for Net Galley to review books, and I’ve been approved for some titles that I am excited about reading. I’ve completed two reviews so far, and I have many more books to read and review. Of course, this is the most appropriate place for me to review books; after all, this is my writing and reading blog. The readership here has always been supportive of my endeavors in writing. I love the support I get here.

Going forward, I am still a split personality, online-wise. I will place excerpts and links to reviews here in case any of you, Dear Readers, would be interested in reading more about the titles that I am reviewing.

So you can get a feel of what I have in store (and this is the ONLY site where I am giving a sneak peak):

Kissing the Maid of Honor by Robin Bielman: This is an Entangled Publishing Romance I reviewed here.

My So-Called Life as a Submissive Wife by Sara Horn is a Harvest House Publishers book written by a Christian Woman seeking to live out Biblical submission in her marriage. You can read my review of this book here.

Upcoming titles include: Who Asked You? Terry McMillan’s newest book (to be released this fall; so excited about this one!); Cut It Out, a book about the increase in C-Sections and what this means for women’s health; Confessions of a Latter Day Virgin, a book about a member of the LDS church who is seeking to find a mate in the strict guidelines of her religion (it’s a memoir); Waking Up in Vegas, and; a book on being a Christian and being a writer that looks promising. There are more, but these are the ones I will be reading first.

I am working on my book as well. I took some time off to work on my presentation, Getting Serious About Who You are in Christ. This presentation went over well. I was shocked how well it was received by everyone in attendance.  I would like to release a little eBook of it, a free download possibly, at some point in time. I wish that I was able to capitalize on that presentation by passing out business cards or directing people to a working website address, but it’s a lesson learned. The book is going really well. It has expanded to cover more topics than I intended to cover when I first began writing. I know that when I get to the revision stage, I will have a lot of work to do to give it the right tone and style, but my main focus now is on getting it all down on paper. I’m thinking of a major change to the structure in a few areas, but I’m holding off until the revision stage so I don’t slow myself down.

How has the writing been going for you? Read any good books lately? Are you anticipating any of the review coming up?