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

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!

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?

Book Report: Please Stop Laughing at Me, by Jodee Blanco

Physical bullying at school, as depicted in th...

Image via Wikipedia

Last week, Writer’s Digest kept tweeting me about nine free books to download in celebration of school starting back. I finally decided to check it out and download a few things. One that stood out was a memoir on school bullying by Jodee Blanco called Please Stop Laughing at Me. In the memoir, Jodee Blanco describes her adolescent years from fourth grade through high school, which were plagued with teasing, taunting, pranks, physical abuse, and the struggle to fit in somewhere. Now a successful woman in the PR and publishing industries who has interviewed celebrities, organized celebrity appearances, and launched successful books and movies, she writes about attending her twenty-year high school reunion to book-end the tale. Sitting in her rental outside of the reunion, she relives these memories again.

If I hadn’t read the preface and learned of her speaking engagements and all day bullying awareness/prevention seminars, it would be hard to tell that the message of the book was how to prevent or overcome school bullying. Most of the book is spent on the things that are done to her, the lack of help her parents and teachers were, and the fact that even those that weren’t cruel to her were afraid to help her or speak up for fear of the same treatment. In short, she outlined a lot of the problems faced by those being bullied, but this book didn’t offer many solutions (maybe the sequel does). The unnerving thing seemed to be that instead of anything actually helping her, she…just grew up and moved on with life, which is what adults were telling her would happen.

To be fair, there were people in her life and things that she did that provided momentary relief from the torment while she was going through it, and she glazes over good periods in time to related more bullying, but the effect is that this all seems unrelenting. Add to this Blanco’s theater background, and it’s easy to see how after a while, I became a little numb to much of the teasing and abuse myself (I feel ashamed to admit it, but it’s true). Blanco constantly had to up the horror factor to pull me back in after long passages of how depressed it all made her, which I don’t doubt happened.

Overall, I think it’s a most read for anyone who has children, works with children, was/is a victim of bullying, or who bullies people. I think it’s important to understand the psychological impact these things have on a child’s psyche that reach far into adulthood, whether you’re the abused or the abuser. It’s important to note not everyone grows out of bullying behavior, nor does everyone “get over” being teased.

New Book Club Book

For the months of May & June, my book club gave us the option of reading one of two books (or both): Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen or I Heart Paris by Lindsey Kelk. Since I’ve been up to my ears in Lindsey Kelk (the first two selections were Lindsey Kelk’s first two books in the series) and I have had Water for Elephants on my shelf and to be read list a while, I chose Water for Elephants.

I just started to read the book on my lunch break today, and so far, I love it. Jacob’s narration is cantankerous and funny. Even though Gruen is building a world, you don’t see any of the heavy lifting in the language. The introspective and wisened speech fits an older person perfectly, whereas in another book with another narrator, she couldn’t get away with imparing such wisdom and reflection without any real catalyst.  Suffice it to say I like the narrator.

There are so many little vignettes in the first few pages, jaggedly put together pieces like watching footage from a shaky camera, you’re just as disoriented as the narrator. It’s been a while since I’ve read something that employed its structure to convey feeling along with its words. Kudos to you, Gruen.

The characterization is believable and done with flair. In the first few sentences introducing a character, you instantly get a feel for who he or she is: the retired barrister, the old ladies, the nurses, the tease, the police superintendent–all distinct and clearly drawn by their introductions. It’s hard to say how the characterization will go as characters continue to be introduced, but so far, I like how this is shaping up.

In short, I was hooked from the first page. I can’t wait to crawl back under the big top! 

***

Needless to say, The Help has been moved down a space or two in the two be read list. I’m thinking of posting my reading list so you can read along with me. Research reading for the Marriage Kit project has been slow going lately. I don’t know if the book I am reading is going to help me along any, anyway. Our church has an upcoming gospel meeting/marriage seminar that may prove to be more indispensable.

***

I’ve been asked by a woman at church to help her with English. We tutor the children on the second and fourth Saturdays in their school work right now, and have extended the offer to anyone interested. She wants help with business writing, vocabulary building, grammar. I can’t tell you how excited I am about this. I rarely have anyone to talk to about writing, let alone grammar, punctuation and vocabulary. I’ve been mentally going through what resources I have at hand and what resources I still need to get.

The other day, I was talking to my boyfriend and used a word he didn’t know. I don’t know if this happens to anyone else, but I always feel a little…embarrassed when this happens, as if I’m not supposed to know words that other people don’t know. Certainly, the last thing I want to do is beat people over the head with my vocabulary. I try to keep my conversational vocabulary toned down to everyday words, but I have a hard time with this when I know a better word for something. Sometimes I use words that people don’t know even without trying. Odd predicament to have, I’m sure.

Have any of your read any good books lately? What are your book clubs reading? Anyone want to read Water for Elephants with me?

The Secret History

My copy does not look like this

Image by MatHampson via Flickr

I’ve just finished reading The Secret History by Donna Tartt. I must admit that I read it under pretentious and self-serving pretenses: she was given an obscenely large advance for it, it was critically acclaimed and a New York Times bestseller, and she was hailed by all of the literary world. Then she disappeared for ten years before she published her next book–and that was a success as well. I had to see for myself if she was really that good, and whether I could learn anything from reading her works.

The best thing about the book is that Tartt chose the best way to tell the story, which can make or break a book. Also, though she follows many genre rules/restrictions, she completely ignores others. She weaves so much of Greek culture and the structure of a Greek tragedy into the story, that you can almost forget it’s taking place in modern day America.

The Secret History is the story of a group of five Greek scholars at Hampden University (a ficticious school in Vermont) who kill their classmate. You know from the opening pages who gets killed and who did it, yet Tartt manages to make this the least important aspect of the story. What you come to find is that, like the best epic Greek stories, this one has begun in medius reas, in the beginning, not at the ending, as it seems.  

The story is told by Richard Papen, the newest student in the Greek class. He is, in effect, an outsider to the story; he only knows slightly more than the reader at the time of the events. Told from the perspective of some years after the events in Richard’s first person narration, the reader has the best view of the story–the slow unfolding of some of its biggest horrors and the complete blindsiding of others, as well as the suspense and tension of the moment.

The story was, by necessity, slow to start. The location and major characters had to be established. However, it took me quite a few pages to begin to distinguish Francis from Henry. There were also some things she borrowed from the Greek culture that didn’t seem to fit in overmuch with the story–not that they were interesting angles, but they weren’t necessary or particularly enlightening when all was said and done. The Greek teacher himself, though he figured quite a bit in the story, seemed superfluous and forgetable. I never drew any conclusions about him, mostly because I didn’t care after a while.

Overall, it was a well-written book that told an interesting story. The climax felt appropriate for the story, the only way I could be satisfied with the story ending, but the actually ending of the book was…well, a letdown. The fact that this was a debut novel is astounding. It’s rare to find a beginning author with this defined a voice and making POV and narration choices that are this perfect.