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.

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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

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: 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