Ours by Angela Christina Archer

For those of you looking for an emotionally gut-wrenching read that will leave you in a mess of tears, this is the series for you.

What’s it About?

No one knows when it will end or if it will ever end. It seems like the whole world is in fire and nothing is going to put out the flames.

The promise to go on.

Another two years at war and coming into winter with scarcely any rations to be had, Evelyn and Henry along with everyone they know and love deal the pains of starvation. With the birth of their second child approaching, the couple celebrates with apprehension. Not knowing how much longer the war will last, they also live in fear—fear of the Germans and fear of death. Can they survive? Or will the end of the war come a little too late?

The promise to come home.

After swearing off the notion of ever returning home to Guernsey, Amelia continues her education and lands an internship for a up and coming newspaper. With her life finally laid out before her, fate decides to throw her another devastating blow, shattering her world into pieces. Can she overcome what the war has taken from her? And will an unexpected trip back home, a place she never thought she’d go, be exactly what she needs? Or will it only lead her to more heartbreak and loss?

Two sisters. Two promises. One bloody war that changes their lives forever.

First Impressions

Every once in a blue moon, I can sympathize with the desire to be in a sad or melancholy mood. It can be hard to explain to people, but sometimes you just wanna listen to a sad song, or watch a depressing move to get the tears flowing. Something like The Notebook, or The Land Before Time that will leave you a gasping mess of tears. However, I can’t say I’ve ever craved that same thing when it comes to a book. Sure, maybe I’ll be mid-read and come across a sad scene that will leave me in tears, and I can appreciate the emotional impact it can lend to the story as a whole. But I can’t say I’ve ever sought out a book or series that I know would be primarily sad like I might with a song or movie, probably because with a book you know you’ll be dealing with it for days, or even weeks. Therefore, whenever I do come across a read that is overwhelmingly sad, it can actually result in it being tricky to want to pick up, and you almost have to force yourself to read it. This was sort of my overall journey with this series. It’s a saga of love, family and friends, but it’s also about how all of that is torn apart by the ravages of war. Ultimately, it can only somewhat be patch-worked back together at the end.

The End is Near

Time has been such an important part of this entire series from the get-go. In the first two books our characters constantly wondered how much time was left in this terrible war: weeks, months, years, or was this their new normal? We as the reader always knew there were years of arduous occupation and turmoil still to come. This third book sort of presents us with the opposite. The bulk of the story takes place in the autumn of 1944, and with every turn of the page I kept whispering under my breath, “Just a few more months, don’t give up now. You can make it!” Some do…and some don’t. And cue the tears. This series then transports us to the end of the war and we see where our characters have ended up following the conclusion of the events form the past six years. We even come full circle back to how the series kicked off, with some of our characters standing on the docks of Guernsey together, which is where they first said goodbye all the way back at the start of book one.

While I could appreciate the poetic beauty of having the series come completely full circle, unfortunately I can’t say I was thrilled with how everything else came together at the end. It’s a bit hard to describe without giving away too many spoilers, but essentially what some of our characters spent the last 2-3 books convincing us of was completely flipped on its head in the last half or so of this final novel. Some may argue that the characters were just trying to convince themselves all this time that something wasn’t true, but it honestly didn’t really feel that way when were in the thick of the story. I guess I couldn’t help but feel that after all of this forward momentum, some of our lead characters ultimately ended up back where they started, and it was such a quick and almost jarring 180 degree turn of events that I wasn’t 100% convinced they ended up where they belonged. Or perhaps they did, but we simply didn’t get enough description to justify this turn.

*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: The Promises Between Us, book 3. This was the final book in the series.

Final Impressions: This was an interesting and unique saga, but consider yourself warned that it is an emotionally devastating read. Reading book one will put you on the path where you need to see the series through to the end. You’ll fall in love with and subsequently mourn a slew of characters along the way. Ultimately I can’t say I was pleased with how the series all came together by the end, but it was certainly a journey to get there which will keep you guessing and crying from start to finish.

Smut Level: Any sexually suggestive scenes all fade to black.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. 191 Pages.

Mine by Angela Christina Archer

This historical romance will have you turn to any friends, family or loved ones nearby to gather up into your arms, and hold them tightly for as long as you can.

What’s it About? 

War continues to rage in Europe, with no end in sight, people in the occupied countries are suffering and starving. One of those places is one of the Channel Islands off the coast of France. A part of the United Kingdom, the residents of Guernsey are the only British citizens facing occupation by the Deutsches Heer.

The promise of love.

Deep in the middle of the German occupation, life for Evelyn and Henry is nothing but a perilous journey, as though walking a tightrope, between survival and starvation. Through the trials of every day, they also find joy, marriage, and the notion of starting a family. But having children during war and while under German rule can be complicated, and Evelyn must face a few hard choices when it comes to keeping those she loves safe and alive.

The promise of beginning again.

Newly wed, and still working on Halifax Farms as a land girl, Amelia comes face to face with a loss of her own. With her husband off to war and the discovery she’s carrying a child, she follows the tugging feeling to continue her education and dreams of becoming a journalist. When tragedy strikes, not once, but twice, however, Amelia must head down a path she never thought she’d take, and one she doesn’t know if she’s ready for or truly desires.
Two sisters. Two promises. One bloody war that changes their lives forever.

First Impressions

This was another emotional addition to The Promises Between Us series. In my review of book one I mentioned how nobody was off limits when it came to the travesties of war. This second novel certainly underscores the truth of that reality, but we just have to wait around a bit longer for the tragedies to hit. For so much of the book I was just waiting around in agonized anticipation for the other shoe to drop, and sure enough! We see a domino effect of people being impacted and torn apart by war, and one scene in particular left me a bubbling mess of tears. Here’s to hoping the other folks lounging around my apartment’s pool simply thought I had sunscreen in my eyes.

From Guernsey to Halifax Farms

Once again, the principle pathway of this book presents us with alternating scenes of life for the Ashton sisters as they try to find love in the midst of war. An interesting break with book one is that where Amelia once provided a sense of movement and changing scenery compared to her sister trapped on Guernsey, Amelia instead spends most of this second book in one location. Her travel from Guernsey across the English Channel, and multiple train rides to different places in England has now landed her working as a land girl at a country farm. Most of this read involves long stints regaling us with Amelia’s daily chores on the farm compared to Evelyn’s daily life in occupied Guernsey. The fact both sisters are essentially stuck in one place with such limited opportunities for movement left this sequel feeling somewhat linear in terms of plot.

That is of course until we reach the latter half of the book when developments once again start impacting our characters. These sisters are finally successful in sending word to each other about how their lives have changed so much since they last said farewell years before at the Guernsey port, and how love has brought a small glimmer of happiness to their existence. It’s also the first definitive confirmation for Henry to realize that Amelia moved on with someone else after leaving him, and Amelia discovers that her sister and former beau have fallen in love. I don’t want to spoil what comes of these discoveries, but let’s just say their reactions couldn’t have been more different. We can’t help but question if these two sisters and their husbands will survive this terrible war, and if they do what kind of greeting will they have upon seeing each other again?

*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: The Promises Between Us, book 2. I’m eager to see how everything will come together for the third and final book.

Final Impressions: While this series certainly highlights the fragility of life, it also does a fantastic job of demonstrating why it’s important to take chances to live every day to the fullest. What struck me most was seeing how true this was for our characters, as they had no idea how much longer this war would last. We as the readers certainly have the end date constantly in the forefront of our minds, but our characters don’t know if the war will end in a month, or if German occupation will be their new reality forever. Some choose to give up amidst such uncertainty, but others live by the mantra to seize the day.

Smut Level: These young ladies have become married women, and enjoy moments of passion with their respective husbands. However, we only see a few kisses before the scenes fade to black, and never witness their bedroom antics in full detail.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. 269 Pages. 

Yours by Angela Christina Archer

War might tear some friends and families apart, but this read highlights how it can also pull others together.

What’s it About? 

After France surrenders to the Nazis, all eyes turn to the Channel Islands off the coast. Knowing the Germans could invade their quiet home the resident children of Guernsey are evacuated. Among them are Amelia Ashton, and her older sister Evelyn.

The promise to stay safe.

Forced onto the boat by her older sister, seventeen-year-old Amelia Ashton arrives in Weymouth with hundreds of other children. Although she is placed with a kind and loving foster family in Derbyshire, her world is torn apart. With all her communication cut off from her family, and the boys at school joining to fight in the war, Amelia struggles with her own desire to help. On a whim, she lies about her age and boards a train headed to volunteer with the Women’s Land Army. Finding solace in the work of farm life, she reconnects with William, a young man from Derbyshire, and who doesn’t waste any time asking for her hand in marriage. Can Amelia start a new life without looking over her shoulder at what she left behind in Guernsey or will the war change everything?

The promise to survive.

Fearing for her parents’ lives, nineteen-year-old, Evelyn Ashton stays behind, living through the German occupation plaguing her once beautiful home—the island of Guernsey. Living under German rule, the residents find a new meaning of desperation and despair, trying to survive on rations and evade the threats of being sent off to a death camp. After her parents die in a bombing, Evelyn is left alone to fend for herself against her enemy, and when German soldiers take over her house, she seeks refuge in the only family she believes she has left—Henry—the man once interested in her sister. Can they find comfort in each other or will the occupation claim not only their love but also their lives?

Two sisters. Two promises. One bloody war that changes their lives forever.

First Impressions

After completing the first few chapters of this book I was surprised to admit how much it reminded me of Game of Thrones. Bare with me for a second. Sure, there might not be any fire-breathing dragons, paranormal elements or gratuitous sex scenes. And while we can probably take a far reach to compare the impending arrival of Nazi forces on this small island to the terrifying Night Walkers traversing a wall, that wasn’t exactly the similarity I had in mind. Rather, outside of our two primary sister main characters, you really shouldn’t try to become emotionally attached to anyone else in this book, as they are all fair game to become a victim of the horrors of war. This read might have romance weaved into the plot, but don’t let that fool you into thinking you’ll be given a romanticized view of war. We aren’t presented with any scenes of battle on the frontlines between soldiers, but we do see the devastating effects for those back “at home”. Consider yourself warned you might want to have a box of Kleenex nearby when you pick this one up.

It’s a captivating, albeit oftentimes emotionally devastating read, but alas that is merely the reality of war. We must commend the author for successfully capturing the loss, uncertainties and hopes of those left behind. I’ll admit, I sometimes had to take a few breaks in between my stints of reading this one, as it was so reminiscent of the stories my Oma used to share with my sister and I about what it was like growing up in Nazi Germany with her own sister. From bombs landing in their family attic, to a Jewish classmate who stopped showing up to school one day. She even regaled us with the story of how an American soldier crash landed in a plane outside her village, and she was the only one who could speak a few sentences to him in English before German soldiers came and took him away. I’m sure there was plenty my Oma didn’t tell us about what it took to survive the war with her sister, but reading this tale about another pair of sisters trying to survive each day became quite emotional for me, especially as I tried to envision my sister and I in their shoes.

My Oma, Renate, with her sister, Elfriede.

Sisterhood

This might be a tale of romance, war and survival, but it’s also a tale of sisters. Amelia is sent off to England on her own, while Evelyn remains behind on the island of Guernsey as the Nazis invade. While we’re immediately swept up in the emotional roller coaster this read has to portray, one thing I would have liked to see a bit more of was a connection, yet also a distinction, between these two heroines as sisters. Aside from their goals for the future, these two ladies are rather similar in personality and demeanor that it almost felt like either one could have been present in either part of the story. This is where more distinction would have been welcome. As far as connection, the novel opens with Evelyn pushing Amelia onto a boat for the safety of England, and we sort of missed out on any experience of them together as sisters. It seemed like we didn’t get a full glimpse of their sibling dynamic, and maybe a flashback or two could have helped set the scene of what it was like for them to suddenly be separated by the distance of war.

*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: The Promises Between Us, book 1. I’m officially fully invested in seeing what happens to these sisters, and am committed to seeing it through to the end.

Final Impressions: This first novel is definitely setting the scene of our primary characters, including our sisters and their respective beaus whom they unexpectedly found in the midst of unimaginable tragedy. While I was initially hesitant to see Evelyn start to fall for her sister’s former flame, the situation is presented and explained in a way where you can only root for them to survive this war linked arm in arm. Amelia also finds a burgeoning romance where she wasn’t looking for one, and we must simply hold our breath in anticipation to see how the next few years of this war will unfold for the Ashton sisters.

Smut Level: A few breathtaking kisses, but nothing overtly explicit.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. 323 Pages. 

In the Shadow of the Hawthorn by D.M. Porters

A tale of childhood crushes, friendship, romance, greed and murder. In the Shadow of the Hawthorn takes us on a journey of discovery, and the realization that love can be one of the most powerful things of all.

What’s it About? 

“I am only a man, Emma.”

“Then be a man with me.”

Beautiful Emma Mason was an illegitimate child who should have landed on the streets of London. A twist of fate would spare the girl from having to sell her body or beg for her next meal. Instead, Emma grew up in Lord and Lady Drake’s lavish home, working happily in their kitchen with her ever-grateful mother, Julia.

Through the years, Emma would never want for anything – that is until she met Theo Barnett, the son of a wealthy landowner. Friends of the Drakes, Lord Elliott Barnett, and his wife Sylvia had high expectations for their only child. A good match was vital, but they knew their handsome son would have no problems attracting the right woman one day. A chance encounter between Theo and Emma would change everything.

Though wrong, Theo could not stop his attraction to the young baker. Desires burned, and their love was pure, but Emma knew it could not be. They would never be allowed to be together. Refusing to have Theo lose everything for her, Emma would push away the man she loves. Their lives apart would be filled with tragedy, deception, and pain, all fueled by insatiable greed. Can Emma and Theo look beyond the misery and find their way back to each other? Could they go on after losing so much?

First Impressions

When I first started reading this novel, it almost felt like I was coming in at the end of a story. A young woman left alone and pregnant, Julia is a talented baker of delicious confections in an upscale London eatery. She’s about to be forced out because of her delicate condition when she’s discovered and brought into the home of a loving older woman and her devoted husband. They treat her like the daughter they never had, and dote upon her and her newborn child as though finally realizing the happily ever after this woman has been waiting for her entire life. However, we soon discover that this isn’t Julia’s story. Instead it will revolve around her daughter, Emma, who follows in her mother’s culinary talents. But what will society permit when this lowly kitchen servant and a wealthy gentleman fall in love? And more importantly, how will one man’s greed come to shatter the perfect world this happy family has created for themselves?

Wait For It…

Not only does this novel seemingly commence with a happily ever after montage, but it takes some time for us to work our way through Emma’s youth into adulthood before we ultimately get to the crux of the story. I constantly felt as though I was waiting around for the other shoe to drop! Although we have to wait a bit before we come across the real turning point of the novel with a tragic crime, something I really appreciated as we proceeded along this journey was that the author manages to avoid some of the more common trappings and tropes you might initially expect to encounter with this kind of read.

For example, Emma and Theo are initially hesitant to give into their obvious feelings for each other. Especially Emma! While they engage in one steamy moment of indulgence, she tries to shut it down almost immediately following their afternoon tryst. After this seemingly final declaration, there was still quite a bit of novel remaining, so I assumed we’d encounter some kind of continual back and forth of we should…no wait we shouldn’t. Rinse and repeat. Or perhaps a misunderstanding where one of them might be tempted to give up on the other as they wait for the perfect timing of when they can finally be together. Instead we are granted with some interesting twists and turns to the plot that result in tragedy, surprise decisions and unexpected discoveries, but thankfully we never really encounter sheer frustration at the choices or actions of our protagonists. It was utterly refreshing!

Beyond the Romance

While this might be a tale of romance, there are two additional complementary themes which play major roles in how the events of this tale evolve: greed and class status. Our primary villain, as well as a few other minor supporting characters, carry out some shockingly dastardly deeds as a result of these motivations. Initially I found it hard to believe what depths some people would go to simply because of money. From denying a son true happiness, to a case of murder and abuse, all due to greed. At one point I thought, well this seems a tad outlandish and over-the-top in terms of a response. As the conclusion of the novel approached however, I had this moment of epiphany where I simply had to remind myself, “well of course this is plausible!!” Countless moments throughout history have been impacted because of these exact trivial impulses, and we still see cases of it to this very day. Honestly, it was a rather sobering realization. And yet, when you see the love and devotion this family and this couple feels for each other it seemingly allows for a ray of sunshine to break through the shadows.

*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: Stand-Alone

Final Impressions: This was sort of a deceptive read at the beginning in that it presents itself as a seemingly happy familial tale that manages to hide away from the rules and cruelties of the outside world. However, eventually we see the shadows of tragedy encroach upon these selfless and caring people. While initially hesitant to pursue a relationship, it was refreshing and inspiring to see Emma and Theo stand by each other through it all, never giving up hope that one day they’d be able to come together in a loving embrace. There are a slew of entertaining characters presented in this read, and honestly I’d love if we had the chance to explore their individual stories further in subsequent novels. At times this fabulous supporting cast did detract too much attention away from our lead couple, but overall we have a unique historical romance which proves family is what you make it.

Smut Level: This was surprisingly steamy for a historical read!! Not only do we get a romantic hotel getaway, but we also have a mouth-watering scene in a rustic shed on Theo’s property.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Denise Portugaise. 220 Pages. 

Upon Your Honor by Marie Lavender

A tale of romance on the high seas. When Chloe stows away on a ship in order to escape a foreboding fiancé, the last thing she expects is to find safety in the arms of a dashing sailor. When her fiancé refuses to give up in getting her back, Chloe questions if her sailor will succeed in keeping her safe forever.

What’s it About?

New York City, August, 1891 – Orphaned after the death of her father, Chloe Waverly stows away on La Voyageur to escape the clutches of her cruel fiancé, Lamonte Beckett. Gabriel Hill, a strange and compelling gentleman, comes upon Chloe and promises to protect her without knowing the true circumstances of why she is running away. During their journey, Gabriel doesn’t bargain on being distracted by her fair beauty or succumbing to her many charms. As their attraction to each other grows, so does the danger and Gabriel suspects things are not as they should be. Both are determined to get to New Orleans, where she can start a new life. But, once they reach their destination, events spin out of their control and Chloe is captured by the fiancé she escaped. Gabriel is left wondering if he can overlook her betrayal. Soon he finds himself in a race against time, to reach her before Beckett can exact revenge.

First Impressions

Well, I must say I found this second installment in the Heiress in Love trilogy, and the lead couple presented, to be a vast improvement from book one! The primary contributing factor to this success was that where we saw our book one couple separated by the vast ocean for years at a time, Chloe and Gabriel spend most of this sequel traveling together on the same boat. While there may be several scenes which see them separated by Gabriel’s workings either above or below deck, they can’t help but be thrown together amidst a tumultuous storm, during a walk on deck beneath the night sky, or even during an attempted mutiny by hired assassins. Gabriel serves as the protector on whom Chloe desperately depends, and she evokes a feeling of “home” that Gabriel didn’t realize he needed so badly.

Hiding the Truth

Overall this second novel presented us with likable characters that we hoped would find a happily ever after together, but we do also see some themes carry over from book one which were less than stellar. Most discerningly was the fact that while Chloe and Gabe are clearly smitten with each other and on the verge of falling head over heels in love, neither believes the other could feel anything momentous towards them, and neither is willing to admit how much they truly care. It was a markedly frustrating aspect of the read which lent itself to some rather unnecessary drama. For Gabe, he believes Chloe deserves someone better than a sailor who spends lengthy amounts of time at sea. When he finally realizes how much he loves Chloe, and that he’d love nothing more than to spend the rest of his life with her, he still chooses to remain close-lipped about it for a long time. If the romance of his parents (who were the focus of book one and whose love story he summarizes to Chloe) taught us anything, it’s that keeping that kind of admission to yourself can only lead to misunderstanding and heartache.

As for Chloe, the silence about her true feelings and the details of her past was a bit more confusing. Chloe is on the run from a seemingly diabolical fiancé her father promised her to on his deathbed. This fiancé refuses to allow Chloe to say no to his proposal, and when she runs away he hires a group of ruthless men to get her back. The scenes involving Chloe being set upon, kidnapped, tied up and almost violated are too numerous to count, yet she refuses to reveal to Gabe that all of these incidents are at the hands of her maniacal fiancé. She believes telling him would only put Gabe in more danger, and he might even feel required to send her back to this crazy man. Darling, the man has been in countless sword fights since you came along because of confrontations with the men trying to retrieve you, I think telling him the truth behind their determination could only help matters!

*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: Heiresses in Love, book 2.

Final Impressions: This was definitely an improvement upon the romance related in book one. However, I do wish this second book had opened with at least one scene involving Chloe and her supposedly unbearable fiancé. He is absent for so much of the read, and we primarily deal with his henchmen throughout the book, so I would have appreciated an initial glimpse into our overarching villain before diving right into the story. It was also somewhat unbelievable that Gabe wouldn’t have demanded an explanation from Chloe about the danger seemingly following her everywhere since she came onto his father’s ship. However, you can’t help but appreciate the progression of watching Chloe see Gabe as her foe, to protector, to the love of her life.

Smut Level: There’s a few moments of passionate kissing which eventually build up to some beautifully tender lovemaking.

View it on Amazon: Click Here. Summer Solstice Publishing. 361 Pages.

Shot Through the Heart by Andrea Downing

This is definitely a meet-cute for the record books. After all, how often does a female lead meet the man of her dreams by having to pull glass shards out of his finely-toned bum?

What’s it About? 

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Gunslinger Shiloh Coltrane has returned home to work the family’s Wyoming ranch, only to find there’s still violence ahead. His sister and nephew have been murdered, and the killers are at large.

Dr. Sydney Cantrell has come west to start her medical practice, aiming to treat the people of a small town. As she tries to help and heal, she finds disapproval and cruelty the payment in kind.

When the two meet, it’s an attraction of opposites. As Shiloh seeks revenge, Sydney seeks to do what’s right. Each wants a new life, but will trouble or love find them first?

First Impressions

These two definitely have chemistry that is off the charts! Even though neither was actively looking for love, once they find each other they discover it’s darn near impossible to stop thinking about the other. Something that I truly appreciated about this read was that while their attraction and connection was practically immediate, we’re really taken on a journey for Sydney and Shiloh to accept the other into their lives. Sydney especially has the most difficulty in acknowledging her feelings for this gunslinger.

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After all, she’s a doctor dedicated to saving lives, whereas he’s seemingly an expert at ending them. How can she align herself with such a man when their very morals are so out of sync? Shiloh also finds himself on a journey of acceptance when it comes to Sydney, ultimately coming to understand and appreciate the fact that she’s a female doctor. Considering the time period our novel is set in, men accepting women into the medical profession was less than standard, and Shiloh has his initial hesitancies upon first meeting this beautiful newcomer. However, he quickly comes to admire and commend her intelligence, as well as her dedication to saving others. He’s the first to admit that he wants this woman in his life forever, but he’ll have to exercise patience for her to realize the same.

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From One Part to the Next

The most compelling aspect of this read, other than the chemistry of our two lead characters, was the format. We’re presented with a story of love, revenge, and suspense, and what initially seems like the climax of the entire book is actually just the end of Part 1, falling at the halfway point of the overall story. There was so much more to come! The first part of the book really focused on Shiloh and Sydney coming together. Part 2 features Sydney figuring out her place in life and acknowledging that what is most important to her was vastly different than what she ever could have conceived. The third and final part features Shiloh’s ultimate revenge in seeking out his sister’s killer.

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Each section of the novel was just as intriguing and engaging as the one which came before it. The only disappointing feature of the format was the fact that for the two latter sections we see how Shiloh and Sydney spend most of the time separated from each other in a physical sense. Their connection was so strong in part 1, and while we get to see a few explosive instances of it in parts 2 and 3, the fact they were so far apart meant we noticed their lack of proximity even more fully. Throughout so much of the last half of the book I was craving their eventual reunion with every turn of the page.

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*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: Stand-alone

Final Impressions: The characters in this historical western romance were an absolute treat, even though by the end you just wanted to push them both into a room and lock the door so they could resolve their differences once and for all. Beyond the characters you also have to appreciate the descriptive scenes of the wilds of Wyoming and Colorado. The land practically became another character, and it was easy to envision the scenes laid out before us any time we closed our eyes.

Smut Level: The flirtations between Shiloh and Sydney will keep you blushing, and this read is all about the build-up to their eventual physical connection.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 241. Pages

Always, Almond Fudge by Charlotte O’Shay

“It’s never a bad time to tell someone you love them.” This novella is as short and sweet as a scoop or two of your favorite ice cream.

What’s it About?

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On a lengthy car ride to their annual seaside vacation, a mother recounts the true story of a sweet family tradition.

It’s the summer of 1941 in the seaside town of Langford, Rhode Island, and seventeen-year-old Meredith Franklin works as a server at Seymore’s Ice Cream Shoppe. When aspiring baseball player Anthony Fanelli strolls into the ice cream shop, his teasing banter leads to romantic sparks and dreams of forever love. Their whirlwind courtship comes to an abrupt halt on December 7, 1941, when America enters World War Two, forcing the couple to put their future on hold.

Decades later, a treasure trove of wartime letters details the romance of Merry and Anthony and the sacrifices of a generation.

First Impressions

How does one keep their bored teenage son entertained during a lengthy traffic jam in the midst of their summer road trip? Easy! There’s nothing better than sharing a family tale of summer love that takes place in the shadow of war. The bulk of this novella plays out during the summer of 1941, but it is juxtaposed against a mother telling her son, Sebastian, this story of romance during the present day. I must say these few brief scenes involving the mother and son were a delightful comedic break, especially when Sebastian requests that his mother gloss over the kissing parts of the tale to instead focus on the exciting baseball prowess of his great-grandfather. It was almost a fond call-back to the young boy in the Princess Bride who solemnly asks, “Is this a kissing book?”. As it turns out, the scenes involving Anthony and Merry weren’t filled too heavily with smooches, but it was a sweet tale that will put a cheesy grin on your face from their meet-cute over ice cream, to their letters of love exchanged during wartime.

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The Events of December

Anthony and Merry’s story of romance begins during the steamy summer months of 1941. Their attraction was instant, with zings of electricity felt throughout the small ice cream shop where they first met. As their relationship progresses we see their romance extend beyond the heat of the summer into fall. When they celebrate Thanksgiving together we sigh at how their summer fling seems to be turning into a forever kind of love. However, with the progression of the seasons, we increasingly start to hold our breath in anticipation of the tragic events of December which we know are lying in wait just around the corner. This novella might be brief, but you can’t help but commend Charlotte O’Shay for her ability to capture our attention from the get-go, and instill such a wide-range of emotions throughout the pages, from infatuation to suspense and an overall captivating level of enjoyment. If you’re looking for a quick, sweet summer read that has a hint of drama, then this is the story for you!

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*A copy of this novella was provided for an honest review*

Series: One Scoop or Two. I would actually love to see this novella turned into a full-length novel. There is such strong content filled throughout this short novella that I could see myself becoming even more invested in their story the more time I spent with these characters.

Final Impressions: When I first received this novella I had every intention of saving it for the beach. However, I ended up finishing the whole thing before I could even get there! It only takes about 30 minutes to read, and has a little bit of everything you could possibly want in a summer romance. A small seaside town, sweet ice cream treats, a charming tale of love, a tad of wartime suspense, the importance of family, and a happily ever after that is simply the perfect cherry on top of the whole thing.

Smut Level: This is a clean read from start to finish. There are a few exchanges of blushing glances, a stroke of the arm, and a gentle kiss or two to make you sigh with appreciation.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $1.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 53 Pages.

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Another Yesterday by Angela Christina Archer

Be sure to have a box of tissues at the ready when you pick up this romance. It left me a blubbering mess of emotion by the end!

What’s it About? 

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Two lives. Two stories. One fateful afternoon family secrets are uncovered from the hidden depths of the past.

Maggie ~ 1966: “I never thought my life would fall apart in the way that it did. Nineteen, alone, and with a baby on my hip, I fled from all I knew–the city I lived in, my friends, my parents, and him. It was the only thing I could do. And that’s when I found Shadow Brook, a tiny town in Maine with a beautiful inn, and a place where I could forget about my past, locking the memories away along with the secrets that could shatter my daughters’ world. Secrets, I left in the attic where they belong, hidden far away from her.”

Rachel ~ 1996: “I never wanted my mother’s life or her run down inn in nowhere Maine. I wanted my life in New York. The one with my handsome husband, fantastic career, and the bustle of city life. Isn’t that when life likes to throw you to the wolves? After finding my husband in bed with another woman and my mother passed away, I found myself not only the new owner of the inn, but also back in Shadow Brook, and face to face with old my high-school boyfriend, Luke. At least I can distract myself with the renovations, and I can finally clear out all of my mother’s things. Including an old box of journals and letters found in the corner of the attic.”

Each story in the Seashells and Second Chances Collection is about a strong woman overcoming hardships and finding her own second chance. Each story is a standalone novel and can be read and enjoyed separately from the others. If you love sweet and sensual contemporary romance with a dash of humor, you will love the stories in the Seashells and Second Chances Collection. Unlock this story and the others today.

First Impressions

The format of how this story was laid out is truly commendable, and ultimately contributed to our emotional connection with each and every character presented in the novel. Throughout the book, we alternate between the stories of a mother and her daughter taking place in two different time periods. Part of the book is set in the late 1960s with Maggie, a young widow who moves to a small New England town with her baby daughter, Rachel. She’s trying to start life over following the untimely death of her husband, and is also avoiding going back home to her overbearing conservative parents. Maggie finds herself in this small town where she starts working at an Inn, and begins falling for one of the locals. If I didn’t know any better I’d think we’d stumbled into the early years of a Gilmore Girls episode!

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After focusing on Maggie for a few chapters we then alternate to her daughter Rachel’s story which takes place in the mid 1990s. I really appreciated that we would see several chapters in a row focusing on each woman rather than having each and every chapter alternate back and forth. I think the latter situation would have given me whiplash! Instead, we’re allowed to lose ourselves for a few chapters within their tales of woe and love, becoming more invested in their character. I remember in the beginning feeling a bit more connected to Maggie’s story, as we see her learn to trust and love again following the tragedy of her first husband’s death. It seemed more engaging than Rachel’s travails of getting a divorce and moving back home following the death of her mother. However, by the end of the book this sentiment was completely flipped on its head, where I didn’t want to leave Rachel’s journey of self-discovery and unveiling of family secrets for another flash-back to the past. Each story sucks you in fully at some point, and there’s an overarching theme that is shared between them.

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Seize the Day

Within the opening monologue of the book, we’re presented with an extremely poignant and philosophical outlook on life which really resonated with me. This is also a theme which we see carried out through both Maggie and Rachel’s stories. They go through struggle and strife to realize the truth of the sentiment, but in the end it helps them lead fuller lives. Essentially, when everything is going well in life, we look forward to what tomorrow might bring with an extra bounce in our step.

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When something goes wrong though, this is when we long for the yesterdays that now seem so idyllic. In a way, it reminds me of a quote from The Office finale, “I wish there was a way to know you were in the good old days before you actually left them.” As the novel progresses, we see this idea of never getting “another yesterday” as a reason to take advantage of every day while you can. You’ll only regret the things you don’t do, or don’t say in the moment, and you don’t want to risk the possibility of never being able to experience those moments at all. And this brings us to the other standout feature of this book.

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Can I Get Some Tissues Over Here?!?!

Lemme tell ya, this book left me as a blubbering mess of tears by the last page. The entire impetus for Rachel returning home following her divorce is revealed in the synopsis, her mother Maggie dies. However, this isn’t the only sad point of the book! Rachel slowly discovers the truth surrounding her mother’s sad past which was kept a secret for so many years, and she’s also presented with additional obstacles which threaten to crush her spirit (they certainly crushed mine!). It’s really at the halfway point of the novel where we can start to see the pathway being laid out for how the rest of the story will progress, and you just know it’s going to be an emotional doozy! We get a slow build to all the different pieces of the puzzle coming together, and once it does? My God I spent the last quarter of this book balling my eyes out. We’re talking full on gasps and sniffles here. For me, it all tied back to the format of the story, which has allowed us to connect with every single character, both past and present. We mourn and celebrate with them. We lament their lost yesterdays, yet also look forward to their happy tomorrows. Aaaaand I need another tissue please!

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*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: Seashells and Second Chances Collection, book 2. While I haven’t read the first book in this series, I have read several other works by this author, and they’re all fantastic. If you’re looking for a read featuring a strong-willed, admirable female lead, be sure to pick up a book by Angela Christina Archer.

Final Impressions: My goodness this was an emotional read. It’s not just a romance, but also reflects the importance of family, friendship, and shares a message of making the most of every day while you still can. The start of the novel begins somewhat slowly as we’re introduced to characters living in two different time periods, but it all comes together into one cohesive story that will make you keep turning every page for more. We see a daughter learning the truth about her mother, learning to live without grudges, and learning from her mother’s past to make the most of her own future.

Smut Level: Nothing too detailed or steamy. There’s a few make-out sessions, but nothing over the top.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $5.99 Kindle Price. Long Valley Press, LLC. 417 Pages.

Always on My Mind by Andrea Downing

Unfortunate circumstances and misunderstandings separate Cooper and Cassie just when they’re on the cusp of admitting their love. Will they ever manage to find their way back to each other?

What’s it About? 

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1972 – Vietnam, the pill, upheaval, hippies. Wyoming rancher Cooper Byrnes, deeply attached to the land and his way of life, surprises everyone when he falls for vagabond hippie Cassie Halliday. Fascinated and baffled, he cannot comprehend his attraction—or say the words she wants to hear.

Cassie finds Coop intriguingly different. As she keeps house for him and warms his bed at night, she admits to herself she loves him but she misinterprets Coop’s inability to express his feelings.

Parted, each continues to think of the other, but how can either of them reach out to say, “You were ‘always on my mind’?”

First Impressions

Typically, one of the most difficult parts of writing any review is the starting point. Where do you want to begin the analysis? How do you want to present the characters? Surprisingly, when it came to this read I encountered a much more difficult dilemma, and that was how to categorize this romance. Primarily, whether or not to tag it as a historical read. The setting of our book is 1972, and I realize a good portion of readers out there probably just gasped at the prospect that I would even contemplate filtering this as a historical read. What can I say? I was born in the last year of the 80’s, anything prior to that seems like history 😉 However, I must say that the question of historical or contemporary also made this one of my favorite aspects of the novel, in that it’s not your typical setting for a romance. If we’re ever presented with a tale of love obviously not set in the present day, we might see a far distant historical, regency, nineteenth century, or prohibition era if we really want to mix things up. But to set something in the early 70’s, and in Jackson Hole, Wyoming on top of it, makes this unique amalgamation of factors completely unexpected and exciting.

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To Be or Not to Be? 

The Vietnam War is raging. The era of the sexual revolution, feminism, and civil rights is well-established. In the midst of all this change, we find a conservative cowboy start to fall for a free-spirited hippie. It’s hard to think of two more unlikely characters in a romance.  While Cooper and Cassie differ in so many ways, from their lifestyles to their political views, it was fascinating to see these two polar opposites manage to push aside their differences to come together into each other’s arms. They’re able to provide a sense of solace and comfort as the rest of the world trespasses around the bubble they’ve built around them. And yet, we see that things aren’t always smooth sailing between them, and eventually their doubts and fears regarding their relationship risk tearing apart these two lovebirds forever.

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I’ll admit, upon first meeting, and for a rather large portion of the time they spent together, I questioned if Cassie and Cooper even liked each other. They obviously come from different backgrounds, and rarely agree on things. More than once Cassie admits to herself that Cooper’s behavior scares her, and yet his ability to turn sweet following an argument keeps her coming back for more. Borderline…mentally abusive in a way. It’s only when she completely misinterprets his commitment to their relationship does she run for the hills. The fact we’re in the period of the early 70’s, when the time of cell phones and emails are nonexistent, do we see it’s practically impossible for Cooper to go after her. We seriously question if they’ll manage to find their happily ever after, and desperately hope they’ll succeed in doing so. There were many times that I wished we could have seen a few more moments of affection and sweetness between Cooper and Cassie, so that I could be convinced these two were meant to be together. However, I could simultaneously appreciate the fact that if we had been presented with more of these moments, Cassie probably never would have doubted Cooper’s affections to flee in the first place.

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*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: Stand-alone

Final Impressions: The outline of a heart-wrenching romance was definitely there, but I felt some areas could have been fleshed out more fully. Some of the first moments involving Cassie and Cooper’s interactions were somewhat uncomfortable, especially considering how often Cooper resulted to yelling and berating Cassie for the fact she didn’t fit seamlessly into his life. However, I’d have to say that one of the most compelling features of this romance was the fact that we were presented with a love story that was far from perfect. Our characters had flaws, and acted in ways that were often hard to differentiate right from wrong. But that’s what made it real and relatable. The fact our tale was set in the early 70’s, when war raged from afar, birth control was something to be debated/judged, and those who were more conservative clashed with those who were more liberal, we find ourselves confronted with a time that feels simultaneously foreign…yet achingly familiar.

Smut Level: Cassie and Cooper’s first time together in the bedroom actually seemed far from perfect, but practice certainly makes perfect. There’s not too much detail involved in their lovemaking, but we eventually find their awkwardness transform into tenderness.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 252 Pages

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Taken From Love by D.M. Porters

Gabriella and Gil venture out onto the high seas in search of adventure. Little did they know that love would be the greatest adventure they’d encounter.

What’s it About? 

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You may take my body, but you will never take my soul. At twenty-two years of age, beautiful Gabriella Taylor felt as if life was passing her by. She feared, in the end, she would be forced to settle for a man she did not love. Would such a man understand her adventurous nature and allow her the freedom she so needed? Highly unlikely. An unexpected voyage to the French Coast would change everything.

Lord Gilbert Ramsay rarely paid attention to the many women who would look his way. Eager to follow in his father’s political footsteps, Gil’s focus was on understanding the plight of the common man hoping to one day represent them. He would trade his London fineries and join the crew of a merchant ship, his identity hidden from the others, of course. Never did he expect to meet the likes of Gabriella Taylor.

Knowing it was wrong, Gabriella was drawn to the handsome but irritating crewman. He was like no man she had ever met. Gil, although initially annoyed with the spirited girl, could not help but be intrigued. What began as an exciting journey of emotional awakenings for Gabriella, would turn into a harrowing ordeal. Taken by ruthless pirates, she would face the challenge of her life, wondering if she would ever see her family or Gil again. It would seem her wish for adventure had become painfully true. Oceans from home, she would need all her courage and that of a gorgeous sailor to help her make it back to the life she so wants.

First Impressions

Gabriella has grown up surrounded by love. Her parents are the guiding force to demonstrate that true love is not only possible, but also long-lasting. Her brother William has also found his own romance with his wife, Alexa, showing that love can be full of passion and excitement. Being in the presence of such loving couples is an inspiration to Gabriella, yet ironically also fills her with melancholy as she wonders why she hasn’t fallen in love yet herself. Surely if she hasn’t found romance yet, it couldn’t possibly be meant for her, right? Her wise mother knows that Gabriella is simply longing for more from life, and thinks a trip across the sea is just what she needs. Little did she know that she’d be sending Gabriella into the arms of the future love of her life, not to mention the arms of some cutthroat pirates. Even though it takes some time before Gabriella and Gil cross paths on this ill-fated journey across the English Channel, once they do it becomes nearly impossible to put this book down.

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You can’t help but wonder how everything will proceed following Gabriella’s abduction. Will she be violated by the wealthy foreigner who has purchased her? Will Gil succeed in rescuing her from the Moroccan harem she’s found herself in? And most importantly, will these two young lovers ever admit how much they truly care about each other? It’s an enchanting read, but one thing I wish we could have seen more of was the journey of Gabriella and Gil falling in love. After meeting on the ship, they have an initial animosity towards each other which isn’t fully explained, but is delightful nonetheless. They try to convince themselves they can’t stand to be around each other, but we all know that’s far from the truth. After spending one evening staring at the starry night sky together it seems as though they suddenly fall head over heels. As the story progresses we don’t doubt their devotion to each other, but it feels like we missed a bit of their romantic tale.

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Another Side of the Story

When we look beyond the romance between Gabriella and Gil, we notice some other interesting aspects of the story which bring an emotional depth to the plot. Perhaps most fascinating was when Gabriella found herself trapped in the harem of the man who purchased her from her pirate captors. She’s desperate to escape, and hopes that the many wives of her new captor will assist her in finding her way back to Gil. Surprisingly though, she discovers that these women are actually happy to be where they are, and try to convince her how lucky she is to have been brought into this world.

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For Gabriella, and even for us as the reader, it seems like a barbaric land she’s found herself in, yet for these women they live like queens, and are pleased nightly by their handsome and sexually talented master. They don’t seek rescue like she does, and instead view the outside world as a cruel place with no one to protect them. It was an eye-opening juxtaposition that presented us with a situation we didn’t necessarily have to agree with, but rather could appreciate that some people are happy in the different lives they lead.

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*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: Taylor series, book 3. It’s sad to see this series end!

Final Impressions: This novel proves to be a sweet, final conclusion to a series which has taken us on a journey across time. I love how this third book incorporates the couples from the first two books, and at the very end we manage to come full circle back to how the series first started all the way back in book one. We might see the most exciting plot in this final story, what with pirates and exotic foreign lands for our characters to encounter, but when all is said and done I think the romance from book one still remains my favorite. The author succeeds to combine heartfelt sentiment with painful loss in each novel, and I can’t help but let the tears flow every time. Again, I wish we could have seen a bit more focus on Gabriella and Gil falling in love, but at the end of the day it was a fun and sweet read that has you on the edge of your seat, yet also sighing in delight.

Smut Level: There may not be many love scenes in this historical romance, but the ones we do get are delightfully steamy. Let’s just say Gabriella picks up a few pointers from the ladies of the Moroccan harem, and Gil is eventually quite thankful that Gabriella was such a dedicated student. .

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Self-Published. 361 Pages