The Artisan Heart by Dean Mayes

Dr. Hayden Lushcombe is a dedicated pediatrician, a loving (albeit preoccupied) husband, and he certainly knows how to handle his wood! For…woodworking…that is. Sorry, was that not clear?

What’s it About?

the artisan heart

Hayden Luschcombe is a brilliant paediatrician living in Adelaide with his wife Bernadette, an ambitious event planner. His life consists of soul-wrenching days at the hospital and tedious evenings attending the lavish parties organized by Bernadette. When an act of betrayal coincides with a traumatic confrontation, Hayden flees Adelaide, his life in ruins. His destination is Walhalla, nestled in Australia’s southern mountains, where he finds his childhood home falling apart. With nothing to return to, he stays, and begins to pick up the pieces of his life by fixing up the house his parents left behind.

A chance encounter with a precocious and deaf young girl introduces Hayden to Isabelle Sampi, a struggling artisan baker. While single-handedly raising her daughter, and trying to resurrect a bakery, Isabelle has no time for matters of the heart. Yet the presence of the handsome doctor challenges her resolve. Likewise, Hayden, protective of his own fractured heart, finds something in Isabelle that awakens dormant feelings of his own. As their attraction grows, and the past threatens their chance at happiness, both Hayden and Isabelle will have to confront long-buried truths if they are ever to embrace a future.

First Impression

For the first few chapters, it was kind of hard to connect with the story as we witness the disintegration of a marriage. It makes it difficult to want to pick it up and read when you know the inevitable split is just around the corner! In the end though, it was definitely a necessary introduction, as all of the seemingly inconspicuous details of the beginning come back full circle in the end. The story truly comes alive though once Hayden travels to his childhood country home in Walhalla. It might be a small town, but it’s brimming with personality and memories from Hayden’s past, both good and tragic. It’s the one place he can escape to, and ultimately he is re-enveloped in its charm.

walhalla_gipp_deals_1150x863

While the town of Walhalla was charming, it’s residents were a pure delight. This is one of those small towns where everybody knows everybody, which also means that it doesn’t take long before they all know Hayden’s business. But rather than sit back and judge, or gossip away in the shadows (which can be common of small town novels), instead we see an incredibly supportive group of townsfolk. I wouldn’t necessarily say they pity him, but rather they are saddened that something traumatic has impacted one of their own. Especially considering they all know about the sad fate which befell his parents, whom they all knew and loved.

539w

Mothers and Fathers

Apart from the romantic aspect of the novel, we see that parental relationships are another key feature of the story. Hayden had always been close with his mother, but when he couldn’t make it home in time to say goodbye before she died of cancer, it ultimately strained his relationship with his father. Just three years later his father died of a broken heart. Hayden has been able to push aside the tragic details of his parent’s deaths by hiding away in Adelaide with his wife. However, upon his return to Walhalla he discovers he must inevitably confront the past, and try to remedy his relationship with his father even though he’s passed away. It’s a sad, yet touching exploration of the last few years between a father and son. Hayden doesn’t come to the eventual realization on his own though that his father loved him until the end. Isabelle and the other townsfolk help him realize it as well.

foxtel-cry-600-28458

The other unique parental interactions we’re presented with in this book revolve around Isabelle and her daughter Genevieve. Whenever we have a romance where one of the lead characters has a kid, I get slightly nervous since the tendency is often to push them to the background. What I loved about this read though was that Genevieve was incorporated perfectly front and center. She’s an adorably curious child who manages to stay upbeat in spite of being deaf. Her mother was her savior, as they escaped from an abusive situation with Isabelle’s husband. They fled to the small town of Walhalla where they were greeted with open arms by the townsfolk who have become their family. When Hayden rolls into town he is wary at first of the headstrong lass playing with stuffed bears in his tool shed, but he eventually takes her under his wing. The fact his own mother was deaf means he is well versed in Auslan, and doesn’t shy away from actually speaking with Genevieve. In a way he becomes a pseudo father figure, which draws him and Isabelle together even more.

maxresdefault

Full Circle

What’s clearly evident in this read is that every detail serves a purpose to the story, and we’re presented with an extremely well thought-out sequence of events. We start with the end of a marriage, then see Hayden become reacquainted with his home town, followed by a romance with Isabelle, a suspenseful encounter with her ex-husband Mitchell, and finally the drama with his wife comes back full circle. There’s a little bit of everything! When the shady characters of Isabelle and Hayden’s pasts come to town, we question if these outside forces will succeed in breaking apart this new family we’ve come to love.

65901851-0_57890d3adbe5d

I will say the culmination of events at the end was slightly predictable, but I appreciated that the suspense was drawn out over a few intense chapters rather than having a quick, two-page glimpse of drama at the end. What’s truly commendable though is that we once again see this community rally together to safeguard one of their own. Rather than it feeling contrived or cheesy, their instinct to protect felt completely natural. As an adult I’ve always striven to live in a big city with a lot of people, but this was definitely the idyllic representation of a small town I’d love to live in!

6794770155_85c25c27ee_b.jpg

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

Series: A fantastic stand-alone!

Final Impression: The novel had a bit of a rocky start as Hayden’s relationship with his wife Bernadette slowly dissolved before ending in a fiery crash and burn situation. Once he escapes to his hometown though this is when the novel truly comes alive and becomes something special. It’s a great read, with a perfect combination of romance, suspense, and starting life over after hitting rock bottom. We see this for both Hayden and Isabelle, and what makes them such strong and lovable characters was their ability to bounce back and rise up in the face of adversity. They’re admirable individuals, but as a family unit with Isabelle’s daughter, Genevieve, they are unbreakable. A great beach read for sure once you push through the somewhat depressing start.

Smut Level: The great thing about a supportive small town? Babysitters at the ready who are willing to keep Genevieve over for a sleepover so that Hayden and Isabelle can have some more intimate time together. Nothing too graphic, but we do get the delectable detail of Isabelle drawing Hayden’s boxers down with her toe. That’s talent right there.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $6.99 Kindle Price. Central Avenue Publishing. 384 Pages.

 

Advertisements

Another Five Minutes by Destiny Booze

Do you know how many times this book almost made me late for work because I couldn’t put it down?! Ok…only once. I started it one night before bed and finished it the next night at about 2:00am, but you get my point!

What’s it About?

40814689

Loving him is easy.

Fearing him is necessary.

Trusting him could be a deadly mistake.

Born deaf and living with an anxiety disorder, Brooke Hartley manages life in five-minute intervals. It’s all she can do to get out of bed each morning. She’s hidden inside her sister’s apartment for over a year. Everything changes when Brooke’s sister goes missing. Her fragile world crashes. She is desperate to find her, and she’ll need help.

Haunted by a past he needs to forget, Scott Derrico keeps to himself until his gallery manager, Autumn Hartley, suddenly disappears. He is forced out of his isolation to help a woman that needs him with a terrifying intensity. Scott tries to deny his attraction to Brooke. He doesn’t want to get emotionally involved but he craves her like nothing else. And, for her, he is a dark and sexy diversion to overcome her fear.

With a genuinely flawed and relatable heroine and a mysterious and protective hero, you won’t want this love story to end. You’ll beg…for another five minutes…

First Impression

This book quite literally pulls you in from the opening bell, and doesn’t let you go until you cross the finish line. This is the perfect definition of a beach read, because it’s one you’ll want to finish in one sitting when you have nowhere else to be. There’s a continual sense of anticipation and suspense throughout the majority of the book which is highlighted by the fact that almost every chapter ends on a mini cliffhanger. Normally this technique gets on my nerves, but I must say it was executed quite well with this one. Our characters are so intriguing that just when you think you’ll be able to take a break at the end of the chapter, you’ll find yourself being pulled into the next one.

so relax when reading

Suffering through the Panic

Another aspect which heightens the intensity level of the book is Brooke’s own anxiety. This is a troubled, deaf woman who has survived both physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her brother throughout her entire childhood. The prologue provides us with a minor glimpse at what she suffered, and I must say just these first few pages were difficult to get through. Imagining Brooke having to endure such torture for years with no reprieve is truly heartbreaking. Because of this abuse she suffers from extreme anxiety as an adult, including debilitating panic attacks, constantly needing her back to be at a wall to minimize the likelihood of surprise, and an intense fear of ever leaving the apartment she shares with her sister, Autumn. Her twin has been her one solace and companion in life, and when Autumn mysteriously disappears one day without a trace, we are right there with Brooke as her entire world spins out of control.

1522336827_238_27-powerful-portraits-of-londons-identical-twins-by-peter-zelewski

One feature of the novel that I wish had been incorporated a bit more fully was the “five minute” element. The concept of getting through one day is often too overwhelming for Brooke to take in all at once. Instead, she tries to just get through the next five minutes. When Autumn goes missing, the number of times that Brooke has to calm herself down through just another five minutes increases about tenfold. It was definitely an interesting concept, but I just wish there was a way that we as the audience could have felt the pressure of those five minute countdowns even more. Definitely easier said than done, and I still haven’t completely determined how I would have liked to see it play out.

25850-abused-woman-crying-1200.1200w.tn

If it were a movie, I can definitely see a countdown timer in my head, almost like 24. In written form it’s a bit more difficult, but maybe when one of those panic attacks happened we could have started out a chapter with a “five minute” heading at the top. Two pages later we get “four minutes”, and so on and so on until we end the chapter with what’s happening in that final minute. Instead it seemed like we were presented with a rushed 5 minutes in just a few paragraphs. Overall, a really fascinating concept that was executed well, but if it had been pushed just a bit more I think it really could have been something super special and unique.

0_lVX6

Nowhere to Turn

We have this woman who is deaf and suddenly alone in the world, her sister nowhere to be found. Brooke finds there is only one man she can turn to, and that’s Scott, Autumn’s boss. Scott has a troubled past of his own, and lives every day feeling guilty and unable to escape from the tragedies of his past. But when Autumn first introduces him to her sister, Brooke, there is suddenly a light and beauty in his life that he hasn’t seen in years. He’s aware of her anxieties in life, but when Autumn goes missing he becomes her protector, and one of the only people willing to take the time to figure out what she’s saying. The police assume she’s overreacting, or that Autumn simply needed a break from being the caregiver for such a seemingly helpless sister. But Scott recognizes the severity of the situation in this case, and will do anything he can to bring Autumn back safe, and try to keep Brooke calm in the meantime.

CourageousBlueGoosefish-small.gif

What surprised me here is that the emotional bond between these characters never seemed rushed or ill-timed, even though we’re searching for a missing person here. It felt real, natural, and all encompassing. Neither character can quite explain it or understand it. Brooke herself refuses to believe someone like Scott could ever have true feelings for a “freak” like her. And yet, you can see how naturally comfortable and at peace these two characters are with one another. Brooke finds her anxiety lessen when she’s with Scott, and even being in his apartment surrounds her with a sense of calm. As for Scott, spending more time with Brooke makes him consider leaving the ghosts of his past behind him. It was really quite touching.

641831648

What…Happened?!?!

The mystery component of this novel was very clever. Autumn’s disappearance happens so suddenly and so early on in the book that we as the audience have no possible guess as to what might have happened. Could she have really left her sister behind, fed up with looking after her? Or did something more sinister happen. We uncover the clues right along with Brooke and Scott, and throughout the whole book I was surprised to find I had very little guesses as to what might have happened. The lack of predictability was quite refreshing. As the novel progresses the anticipation continues to increase until the ultimate climactic final act when everything finally comes together.

Girl-Walking-in-Dry-Grain-Field-Sunlights-HD-Wallpaper--NatureWallBase.Blogspot.Com

I won’t give anything away, but I will say it goes in a surprising direction that I definitely didn’t see coming. Unfortunately, I can’t say it totally came together in a cohesive manner for me. To put this in a way that I think my readers will appreciate, the foreplay was significantly more enjoyable and entertaining than the climax 😉 That’s not to say I didn’t find the ultimate big reveal to be interesting, but rather I think there could have been a few more pages to fully explain why everything played out the way it did. It seemed as though some questions weren’t fully answered as to the why, what, who, how does this all connect exactly?

tenor

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

Series: I know this novel is designed as a stand-alone, but my goodness I would absolutely love to see a sequel. I have zero clue what the story concept would be, but I was just so drawn in by Brooke and Scott that I want to see more from them.

Final Impression: This novel reminded me of a jigsaw puzzle. I had an absolute blast piecing it all together, and while I wasn’t sure what the final image would be, you simply can’t walk away until it’s complete. While there may have been a missing piece or two when all was said and done, in the end you can’t help but feel as though you finished something that was unique, and one-of-a kind. Mkay, that’s about all I can get out of my puzzle metaphor there. While the mystery of Autumn’s disappearance is the catalyst for the plot, I found that what kept me turning the pages one after the other was Brooke and Scott. Their connection was electrifying, and you keep your fingers crossed that they’ll be able to make it through this drama together.

Smut Level: Brooke doesn’t believe that she’s good enough, or enticing enough, for a man like Scott. He’ll do anything he can to demonstrate that she has become an ultimate shining light in his life. We don’t get an inordinate amount of detail to their love scenes, which I think was appropriate considering all the other stuff going on in their lives right now.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 187 Pages.

large

Craving My Costar by Maura Rose

There’s nothing quite like simulated sex with your co-star to awaken the true desires lying just underneath the surface.

What’s it About?

36459994

Robin’s a big star in Hollywood, and with his handsome face, hot body, and lengthy resume of blockbusters, he’s going nowhere but up. He’s cocky for a good reason, and he lives by the code “it’s not bragging if it’s true.” He’s made a name for himself, and he feels like he deserves every ounce of fame and fortune he’s got. The women chasing after him are just icing on the cake.

Lindsay’s a woman with daring dreams, high hopes, and a mouth that sometimes gets her into trouble. She’s got a heap of acting talent, but there’s just one problem: she’s a no-name. When she gets an audition for the film that’s destined to be the next big hit, her hopes and dreams finally become a reality when she nails it and lands the role.

When Lindsay and Robin first meet on set, she can’t stand his arrogance and he can’t believe her insolence. The two hate each other—but now that they’ve both been cast in the lead roles in the film, they have to work together…as lovers.

First Impressions

This is a sweet, quick read, with some definite sexiness thrown in there as well. It has a delightfully strong start, with a premise to die for. Who doesn’t love a tale of romance that starts out with enemies who become friends, and eventually even something more? At the start, you’d assume that Lindsay and Robin would get along fairly well, as they both have a clear passion for acting. They live for it, and are clearly dedicated to their craft. But it’s really more about their journey to this film they’re shooting together which causes the tension between them. For Robin, he’s always been a committed student, going to the finest drama and film schools in the world. It may have taken money for him to enroll in these places, but his raw talent is what helped him excel into a star of screen and stage. It may have also boosted his ego a bit to where he has too much pep in his step.

friends-hgcaps-3x19-just-because-she-went-to-yale-drama-27153167

As for Lindsay, this film is her first big break. She’s fought hard to get where she is, and has scrimped, saved, and clawed her way through countless failed auditions to finally be given the role of a lifetime. You can’t help but admire Lindsay’s tenacity and spunk. When she first meets Robin on set and he mistakes her for a lowly assistant, demanding she fetch him some coffee, she has no problem standing up for herself with a good ole oh hell to the no! Unlike her cast-mates, she refuses to be star-struck by the leading man on set, and what results is a delightfully entertaining clash of talent. Lindsay’s vulnerability and inexperience also shines through though, and this makes her an even more endearing character. The fact she tries to help the stagehands with the set setup? Love her!

Sasha_Eisenman

A Quick, Yet Slow Development

As I mentioned earlier, this is a nice quick read. However, I almost wonder if it was too quick, especially considering we were dealing with the huge production of a full-length, Oscar-buzz film here. I wouldn’t necessarily say it felt rushed, but instead we got more of a surface glimpse of things. And who knows? Maybe it really doesn’t take as long as you’d think to put together a high-budget film, but as a movie buff I would have loved if we were privy to some more of the behind the scenes elements involved in making a movie.

Oscar+Statuette

What wasn’t rushed though was the development of Robin and Lindsay’s relationship from enemies to friends. Due to the initial clash between our lead actors, Lindsay is feeling rather isolated on set, as everyone else stands behind Robin considering he’s the big star. She can’t help but feel depressed, as she’s finally made it to where she’s always wanted to be, yet has discovered the reality of it might not be as wonderful as she’d predicted. Sure, she loves working with the director, and engrossing herself in her character, but the frustration of working with such an annoying co-star, not to mention being ostracized by her other co-stars has her in tears.

tumblr_n9cm4lmAiE1r4ueyro1_500

When Robin catches a true glimpse of the sadness which was lying underneath all the anger she directed his way, Robin vows to turn things around. A friendship slowly starts to develop between them, and he even takes her under his wing by showing her the ropes of acting. He keeps an eye out for her, and pulls her into his circle of friends and cast-mates. Hell, the man even helps her shop. Umm, where can I get me a man like this?? I just loved how we got to see a true closeness develop between them, and show that sometimes initial bad impressions can eventually be remedied.

giphy

No Hiding the Passion

While they start as enemies, one thing is for certain. The passion of the scenes they film together is undeniable! They dive right in by filming the most awkward scenes first: sexxx. Lindsay and Robin start out hating each other, but once the director calls action on their kissing scenes, they feel an incomparable draw to one another. Their scenes are no longer scripted, and they can’t help but explore each other. What’s funny is that while our lead couple never actually has sex, they certainly simulate it pretty damn well for the cameras. In those moments they put their hatred aside and give in to the passion, and even start to look forward to their amorous scenes. After they start to develop a friendship with each other, the scenes take on a whole other level of complexity.

memorable-kisses-throughout-history-29-638

They don’t want the other to know how much they desire the other, as it straddles the line of professionalism. It could also compromise their friendship. Then the studio demands they ramp things up even more, and unfortunately that’s when we see both of them cross that line. This was my one and only disappointment with the story, but you can tell the characters regretted it too. Let’s just say things get a bit out of control when Robin realizes whilst filming how real Lindsay’s moans actually are. They start to indulge in their desires, and it results in both of them coming for real in front of a room full of people. I wish their first and only real romp in the whole book could have played out a bit differently. Perhaps they could have put their lust on hold for just a few minutes more until they could let it out in their trailer, away from watchful eyes.

maxresdefault-1

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

Series: Stand-alone. I almost wish this was a series. I’d love a sequel where we see Lindsay and Robin dealing with their celebrity romance with the paparazzi, obsessed fans, and the stresses of filming. In this book we see the lengths Robin goes to in order to avoid having Lindsay deal with the paparazzi, and while it was refreshing to not have it be a main focus at all in this novel, it seems like an inevitable reality which could impact their relationship.

Final Impression: This novel definitely starts strong, but did not have my favorite…climax, if you know what I mean 😉 We wait so long for Lindsay and Robin to come together, and when they finally do it’s pretty unprofessional. I did enjoy the scenes of them really getting into their characters, and the friendship which blossomed between them. Some details could have been fine-tuned, but overall an enjoyable read. I liked that it was a quick read, but I think if it’d been a smidge longer some more details could have been fleshed out further, perhaps having the lovable supporting characters play a more prominent role in the story.  We do get an adorable final scene though which will make you go “awwww”.

Smut Level: These two may have hated each other at the start, but they couldn’t deny the pleasure they both felt at filming scenes of passionate kissing, foreplay, and intimacy. Hell, even I started looking forward to the moments they’d have to film one.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. TNA Publishing. 252 Pages.

The Milanese Stars by Pamela Q. Fernandes

It would appear that Vita and her co-conspirators may have just gotten away with the jewel heist of the century. But when a sexy investigator comes to town, Vita realizes she might not escape from Milan so easily with the jewels intact…or her heart for that matter.

What’s it About?

40490078

The heist of the decade and yet, no one would have guessed… it was her. The Milanese stars are missing from the famous Buccatino boutique. When American insurance investigator, Samuel Keane is called in to liaise with the polizia, he finds the whole heist odd. Not only are the Milanese stars, a set of five pink diamonds, not listed in the inventory of stolen items, worse, none of the surrounding owners or passersby witnessed a thing.

Samuel is anxious to solve the case and partners with local café owner, Vita, who has a very good vantage point to watch Buccatino. Vita herself has quite the interest in Samuel. He’s a decent man, not to mention delicious, and he’s smart. But the last thing she wants is to be caught. After all, Vita has planned the heist for years. Five to be exact. The only thing she didn’t plan is falling in love with the young American.

As Samuel digs further into the history of the stars, he discovers Vita’s friends and her physically challenged sister are all connected to them. He learns of Vita’s past and the loneliness she’s resigned herself to in an effort to protect herself from loss. Samuel also learns Don Giovanni, proprietor of Buccatino, is no ordinary man. He’s a local Mafioso and will stop at nothing till he gets the stars. The more Samuel investigates, the more dangers he and Vita face. Can he solve the case and what will happen with Vita? What will he do when we learns the heist of the decade isn’t about stealing pink diamonds… it’s about settling the score.

First Impressions

Vita can’t deny the desire simmering between her and Samuel. There’s just one problem. He’s only in town for a short time to investigate a jewel heist worth millions. And Vita just happens to be the thief responsible. Okay…so that might be more than just one problem now that I think about it. One of the best parts of this novel is Vita’s inner turmoil of whether or not to pursue anything with Samuel. Why would she possibly risk inviting a wolf in sheep’s clothing into her life and home? He is investigating the heist after all, and she’s directly responsible for it. But considering the heat passing between them, to push him off would be even more suspicious than inviting him in. She doesn’t want to draw unnecessary attention to herself, and ironically enough the best way to do that is to go on a few dates with the man. At the same time she’s helping to coordinate the sale of the stolen jewels and plotting her own escape from the city. Who would have thought she’d have time to fall in love with all that drama going on?

Cullinan_major_diamonds.jpg

The Heist

So, first things first. Honestly I feel the synopsis gives away a bit too much of the plot. I think I almost would have preferred if we didn’t know going in that Vita was involved in the heist. It could have been such an interesting twist to uncover maybe a few chapters in. After all, Vita has such a sweet and inviting personality, I don’t think I would have suspected her right away. Samuel obviously doesn’t! In my opinion, it was a missed opportunity to have some fun with the audience, and keep us all on our toes!

giphy

As for the heist itself, I must say it was a good one. I don’t want to give away all the details, although again the synopsis does hint at some things. Even though we know immediately that Vita was responsible for the heist, you do sort of question throughout the novel the backstory involved to carrying out such a crime. You also can’t help but wonder if Vita and her co-conspirators will get away with it all. About halfway through the book you can start piecing all of the links and ties together, but it isn’t until the very end that we get one final explanation of the why, how, who, and what now? When all of these pieces ultimately come together you can’t help but smirk and think, “Well I’ll be damned!”.

Capture

Sisterly Love

While everything does eventually come together full circle in the end, I do feel that we missed out along the way with some key details which really could have made this story a home-run. Firstly, Vita’s relationship with her sister, Tecla. This is one aspect of the novel that I just wish would have had more focus. Their dynamic is a major influencing factor to so many of Vita’s decisions, but I wanted more development regarding Tecla’s side of the story.

loyal-sister

Throughout the book we understand Vita’s driving force behind this heist was directly linked with wanting to take care of her sister, and yet at times you can sense some bitterness emanating from Tecla regarding how Vita treats her. Is it because Tecla doesn’t want to feel like a cripple who must be fawned over? Is it because she wants Vita to not miss out on all that life has to offer? Honestly, I’m not really sure, and I wish we could have had a few more scenes which just centered on sister and sister.

26bb2f0103423aac3ab5ed6f34ec4a13--wheelchair-girl-wheelchair-photography.jpg

The Don

Another important feature of the novel that was somewhat glossed over was the character of the Don. He’s the proprietor of the boutique from which the jewels were stolen, and a well-known mafioso. Understandably so, he’s a presence which sort of lurks in the shadows; a villain not to be trifled with or confronted. And yet, I guess I was surprised to find that Vita and her co-thieves don’t seem as wary of him as they probably should? While they all plan to leave town shortly after selling off the jewels, they don’t seem to discuss much of a plan regarding ensuring that this criminal Don never finds them again.

godfather

Let’s face it, the fact that they all plan to leave town at basically the same time guarantees he’ll know they’re responsible, but they never really discuss going into hiding, changing their names, appearance, etc. Heck, even Vita’s plan is to flee to the town of Fusine. Sure, it’s gorgeous, not to mention a 5 hour drive from Milan, but it’s still in Italy for crying out loud! There may not be any direct evidence linking Vita to the heist, but the Don also seems like the type of guy who doesn’t bother with silly things like the law, or proof. He seems like the type of guy who would put a bullet in you if he suspected you of making him look the fool, and then ask questions later.

2880171

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

Series: Stand-alone

Should you read it? The base of the story is all here, and it’s one with great bones. That being said, I think it also could have used with a bit more description, and some embellishment here and there to give us a fully robust story. It’s a quick read, but almost too quick if you know what I mean. The details of the heist were awesome, and it’s great when you have a book that can have you rooting for a bunch of jewel thieves to succeed. The relationships of the story also could have been expanded upon more, including the sisterly dynamic between Vita and Tecla, as well as the romance between Samuel and Vita. I will say though, be prepared to want to book a flight to Italy pretty much as soon as you finish this one!

Smut Level: No hanky panky here. But at least we are warned straight off from the get-go that we won’t have any sex scenes. Honestly, I prefer that situation to being relentlessly teased throughout the whole thing wondering if we’ll have more. We do get some passionate kissing scenes, but nothing to make you blush too hard.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $6.99 Kindle Price. TouchPoint Press. 152 Pages.

Winds of Time by Lilly Gayle

A vicious tornado whisks our heroine through the winds of time to unexpectedly drop her back in 1872. We’re definitely not in Kansas anymore Toto! Or at least…not in modern day Texas anymore.

What’s it About?

40207097

The past is her future, the future, her past, but can she save an innocent man’s life before history repeats itself? As long as Selena Tillman dreams of her ancestor, Mary, who disappeared without a trace in 1872, she’ll never find peace. As long as she dreams of the half-Native American army scout accused of killing Mary, she’ll never find love. Hoping to end the dreams and learn the truth, Selena goes to Texas where Mary and the scout died and sees more than ghosts. She sees a tornado kill Mary in real time before it jumps to the twenty-first century to pull Selena into its vortex and send her back to the nineteenth century. Selena believes she’s fated to prove Dylan’s innocence and save his life, but Dylan isn’t just the man of her dreams; he’s her destiny.

Fed up with the army, bigotry, and women—especially white women, Captain Dylan Casey dedicates himself to solving the mystery of Mary’s disappearance, proving his innocence, and trying to stop a war between the whites and the Indians. Then Mary’s cousin shows up, claiming a tornado killed Mary. Dylan doesn’t trust Selena, but she’s his only ally in Canyon Creek. Yet despite their common goal, growing mutual attraction, and a Comanche shaman’s prophecy of a white woman who will change his destiny and foretell the fate of the Indian Nation, Dylan refuses to take a chance on another spoiled, white woman—until fate changes his mind.

First Impressions

Yes, we are dealing with a time travel historical romance here. But more than that we are exploring some inherently deep-rooted and devastatingly tragic instances of racism in late nineteenth-century Texas. The supposed superiority of the white man over the “savage” Indian, and the downfall of the great Indian Nation at the greed of the white man. What I love about any Lilly Gayle historical romance is that we always learn about a unique chapter of history, and in most cases they are lessons which I never really had the opportunity to study fully in school. In each instance my interest is spurned to learn more! You can tell a lot of time and effort was spent researching this topic in an attempt to give an accurate portrayal of what it would have been like for a “half-breed” to live at this moment in history, not to mention the obstacles involved by falling in love with a white woman. After finishing this read I must say I’m inspired to visit the National Museum of the American Indian, especially considering it’s just a 15 minute drive from my apartment!

downloads_filename_119

Traveling the Winds of Time

One of my favorite aspects of any time travel story is discovering the rules of time travel which the author has chosen for their world. Will it be like Outlander, in which the events of the past are firmly set in stone? In these works we usually find the attempts of our characters to change certain events will instead directly cement the circumstances of history. Or will we maybe see something along the lines of Back to the Future where practically everything you do has a direct impact and influence on changing the outcomes of the future? In this novel we see an interesting blend of both.

outlander.jpg;w=630back-future-2

After being dropped in 1872 by a wayward tornado, Selena seems stuck in the past with no possibility of traveling back to her own time. She knows the history surrounding the fate of Dylan Casey, who stands accused of murdering her ancestor Mary. However, she’s just seen that the same tornado which carried her through time is responsible for Mary’s death, not Dylan. Can Selena possibly alter the events of history to prevent Dylan’s own murder which she has seen play out in visions since she was 10? Is Dylan fated to die, or is it Selena’s destiny to save his life? You simply never know what the rules of time travel might be in any given romance.

tornado

An Argumentative Romance

Race is an extremely important discussion in this novel, especially in how it relates to Selena and Dylan exploring a romantic relationship. Living in a small Texas town, Dylan experiences hateful glances and racial slurs practically every day. He’s had friends and lovers desert him upon discovery of his mixed heritage. He once thought Mary (Selena’s ancestor) was the woman for him, but in the end the fact he was a “half-breed” proved to be reason enough for her to give up on them. When Selena drops into town she’s unlike any other woman Dylan has ever met. She has no hesitancy about exploring a physical relationship with Dylan, which is something he simply can’t wrap his head around. Why would a white woman risk her reputation pursuing a half-breed like him?

sean000

All in all I’d have to say that my one complaint with this book is how much of Selena and Dylan’s time together is spent arguing. I feel like Selena had a closer connection to Dylan because of the visions she’d experienced of him throughout her life rather than from their interactions with each other. The fact that Dylan is a scout for the army also means that he and Selena spend pretty long periods of time apart from each other. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, but I couldn’t help but feel there was some disconnect between the feelings garnered from Selena’s visions to her actual interactions with the man.

Dr-Quinn-Aerztin-Aus-Leidenschaft

Selena has literally been dreaming of this man forever, and when she finally has the opportunity to meet him in person he’s…well…a bit surly. She continuously reiterates the fact that his race is of no consequence to her. Selena’s actions also speak towards her dedication, especially when she gives up the luxurious comforts of his parent’s house to instead make a home for them in Dylan’s small ranch house. And yet, it still doesn’t seem to be enough to convince Dylan that she’s serious when she says his Indian heritage doesn’t bother her. He insists she could never love a “dirty savage” such as him.

Vctorian woman's toilette

Continue reading

Gull Harbor by Kathryn Knight

This small coastal town harbors a deadly secret that one woman is determined to uncover. In order to do so she’ll need the help of a beloved local, her ex-boyfriend…and a ghost. Nobody ever said being a medium was easy!

What’s it About?

17413213

When Claire Linden’s job sends her to the sleepy town of Gull Harbor, she never expects to encounter her ex-boyfriend. As a medium, the prospect of tackling a haunted house is less daunting than seeing Max Baron again. Throughout their passionate college relationship, he promised to love her forever. Then, without explanation, he abandoned her on graduation day.

Max never intended to break Claire’s heart–a cruel ultimatum forced him to disappear from her life. While he’s shocked to find her in Gull Harbor, he isn’t surprised by the bitter resentment she feels for him…or the fiery attraction that remains between them. Claire is determined to rid her temporary home of its aggressive ghost, but Max soon realizes she’s facing a danger beyond the paranormal. When Claire risks everything to help a desperate spirit, Max must race to save her–before another tragedy tears them apart forever.

First Impressions

This novel blends together a second chance romance with a supernatural murder mystery. Claire has traveled to Gull Harbor to rid a beautiful home of the spirit of a young woman who met a tragic fate within the house at the hands of a drug dealer. As if that wasn’t a trying enough itinerary, Claire quickly discovers that this quaint town also contains her ex-boyfriend, Max, who deserted her years before with no explanation. Upon first reading, you immediately assume that in addition to dealing with the awkward end to their relationship, Max and Claire must also butt heads over her supposed supernatural abilities to communicate with spirits. However, something which I found to be rather refreshing when it came to this novel is the fact that we don’t really encounter any characters who doubt Claire’s ghostly abilities. We never come across a scene where Claire must desperately try to convince someone of her morbid gift, and I must say I absolutely loved this feature. From the beloved coffee shop owner, to the devastatingly handsome Max, and eventually even the murderer of our sad ghost, it really doesn’t take much for all of them to believe in her abilities. These characters have enough drama to deal with, we don’t need to add on another element of questioning doubt to the story.

cbs-CBS_GHOST_W_S04-Full-Image_GalleryBackground-en-US-1504715409077._RI_SX940_

A Meddling Father

From the opening scene of the book, we are presented with two separate mysteries. The first revolves around the complicated history between Max and Claire. The two were inseparable towards the end of their collegiate careers, and yet for some inexplicable reason Max left her just when their lives together were about to start. What reason could Max possibly have for leaving town without a word, and will Claire ever be able to forgive him when the truth is eventually revealed? Only time will tell. The fact that Max can serenade the lass with a soothing voice, avid guitar skills, and a healthy sexual appetite…well let’s just say I’m confident the two will work it out.

8632f877dd2c4c95c23f80f8d2531380

We quickly discover that Claire’s father played a meddling role in ridding her life of Max all those years ago. There’s also an additional interesting ultra-side story involving Claire’s mother who has been stuck in a coma for years. While interesting, I couldn’t help but feel as though this drama revolving around her mother didn’t really fit in with the rest of the story. On the one hand I do wish we’d learned more about the dynamic between Claire and her father, but at the same time I feel like any more attention on this side story would have made the novel as a whole feel more disjointed. As it stands it’s sort of a weird limbo of not knowing enough, wanting to learn more, yet also wanting to get back to our ghostly haunting.

maxresdefault

A Tale of Woe

The second mystery of our novel is significantly more tragic, in that it deals with our mournful ghost with unfinished business. We discover the heartbreaking tale of a young woman named Maria who fled Mexico in the attempt to earn money which she could send to her family back home. Rather than find a land of opportunity, she is quickly used, abused, and pays the ultimate price with her life. The reality of the scenario is difficult to deal with at times, and yet I must say some of the best and most heartbreaking scenes of the entire novel deal with Maria sharing with Claire the experiences which led up to her death. The hopelessness, the fear, and even the moment when her spirit floats away to stare down at her lifeless body. But who was responsible for Maria’s death?

Szokeveny-szerelem--90101

Maria’s murderer is a sleazy drug dealer who once inhabited the home that Claire is now investigating. I must say, it seemed like a rather strange place for a drug dealer to be based. A cozy house in a small harbor town? It just seemed like he would have risked drawing unwanted attention to his nefarious activities seeing as he’s living in a quaint town where everybody knows everybody. Sure, access to the coast would be convenient when getting a drug delivery, or even the delivery of a young woman who unknowingly got caught up in human trafficking. At the same time though, it seems like the last thing he’d want is to possibly have a nosy neighbor coming by to deliver a pie.

02_EL_6_Art_of_pie_002

He Is Here!

This novel starts off particularly strong with the immediate tension between Max and Claire meeting again after so many years apart, especially considering their awkward end. Plus, you have the supernatural element on top of this where Claire is trying to connect with Maria so she can move on to a better place. While they encounter some communication difficulties at the beginning, eventually Claire discovers that Maria is lamenting the details of her death in Spanish. Once this language barrier is discovered the two ladies reach an understanding in that Claire is just trying to help Maria find peace. However, this is also the moment when the momentum of the story starts to slow down a bit.

Habla-Espanol-Spanish-Language-848x478

You’d think that once they figure out how to communicate, the truth surrounding Maria’s death would come to light fairly quickly. Instead we end up waiting around a bit for the final showdown of when Maria’s killer inevitably returns to town to try and shut up Claire’s snooping. A rather frustrating feature of the story is when the drug dealer sneaks into the house, and is momentarily scared away by Maria’s ghost. Maria proceeds to tell Claire just once in Spanish that “he is here”, and of course it had to be at a point when Claire wasn’t really paying attention. Maria then switches focus to urging Claire to find the location of her buried body, and the whole time you’re sort of yelling at Maria to re-warn Claire that the bad man is back in town.

woods_fine_picture_165852

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

Series: Stand-alone

Should you read it? In hindsight I think I almost would have preferred if Max and Claire didn’t know each other upon meeting in Gull Harbor. While I did enjoy certain aspects of their history, it did open up additional side stories involving Claire’s mother and father that weren’t really fully explored. If Max was just a sexy bartender in town who helped Claire get to the bottom of the ghostly mystery haunting this old house, I think it could have lessened some of those moments where the romance and supernatural aspects seemed disjointed. That being said, I found Maria’s story to be really interesting, and while I wish Maria had been more forceful in warning Claire of the reappearance of her murderer, it did result in an exciting and worthwhile climax to the novel.

Smut Level: Max and Claire usually get intimate at his place…or even in his office! Can’t blame them for wanting to avoid a ghostly audience!!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.82. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 270 Pages.

Love Comes in the Mourning by Erin Bevan

A big city girl in a small Georgia town. When house renovations are involved, you just know fun mayhem is bound to happen.

What’s it About?

40131908

Recently divorced and down on her luck, Lesley DeLoach is determined to make a new life for herself. When she inherits her great aunt’s estate, Rosalyn Manor, her future seems to be heading in the right direction—until she sees the home’s crumbling skeleton.

Widower John Hambrice is barely keeping his construction company afloat and his children fed, so when he’s offered a job restoring the Rosalyn Manor he can’t turn it down. But the big city client with the high falutin lifestyle reminds him too much of the last time he was burned by big money.

As the summer temperatures rise, so does their attraction. He learns there’s more to the city girl than he expected, while she learns the country boy’s gruff exterior hides a heart of gold. But each has lost so much in love already…is the chance of another broken heart worth the risk?

First Impressions

My goodness ladies and gents if I have one piece of advice for you, it’s be sure to have the tissues ready before you attempt this one. Little did I know that by reading the short prologue I’d be going on an emotional roller coaster that would basically have me ugly crying by the time I got to the first chapter. This is what I get for thinking I can just nonchalantly start a new novel 15 minutes before bedtime. We open on a hospital room where John is saying his final goodbyes to his wife as she dies from cancer.

izzie and alex

My God, the waterworks are coming again just thinking about this scene! Definitely a sad start, but believe me when I say this book actually has some funny shenanigans thrown in as well! Those begin a year later when Lesley moves to town following her divorce, and starts renovations on the old mansion she inherited from her Aunt Myrtle. And just who do you think is selected as the contractor for this huge project? Why John of course! It’s a tale of second chances at love and starting over, even if you didn’t think you’re ready for it.

5519359801_bc399f7c2f_b.jpg

Moving On

Lesley has moved to Georgia in an attempt to start her life over for herself. To live independently for the first time in her life following the separation from her cheating ass-hat of an ex-husband. People think she’s crazy for putting so much time and money into the decrepit old house her Aunt Myrtle left her, but she sees this potential to run her own B&B as a way to take back control in her life. She seemingly doesn’t have time for love, but upon her first consultation meeting with John it’s undeniable that something is pulling them together. Should she take a chance on this man so soon after the end of her marriage?

jasper-georgia-seventyfourranch-lodging

As for John, he too is contemplating this immediate attraction he has towards Lesley. Not only is the woman a complete and total klutz, but John has already found and lost the love of his life to a terrible sickness. He also has his two children to think about. Getting involved with a big city girl who might give up on these crazy renovations before the week is out isn’t something he can take a chance on. Or is it? The more time these two spend together fixing up her aunt’s house, the more difficulty John has at staying away. But is he betraying the memory of his wife by essentially moving on with someone else? To quote his own inner turmoil, “…thinking about Sandra and Lesley in the same thought just seemed wrong. Completely wrong. Like he disrespected both women without even trying”. This poor man! Can I have the chance to give him a hug please?

man-crying-in-tomb-of-a-cemetery-and-then-leaves_rqzlb0tg__S0000

The Renovations From Hell

Although this novel has a decidedly sad prologue, I was surprised at the abundant amount of humor we get injected into the story line as well. Lesley is far from a HGTV star, and seemingly trips over everything. That being said, this woman has dedication, and she’s no quitter. John quickly recognizes the fight in her, and he becomes determined as well to help her through this renovation.

9658

A large portion of the novel is spent focusing on John and Lesley within the confines of the house, working and sweating away on getting the house in tip-top shape. However, every once in a while we also get to see the various personalities of the locals, and they added just as much hilarity to the story as the bickering between John and Lesley. Heck, they even hold town hall meetings à la Gilmore Girls. What’s not to love here? And although the novel starts off with Lesley as an outsider to this small little corner of the world, with time we see how they start to adopt her as one of their own. It’s pretty touching to see this whole town rally together to support someone they once saw as an outsider.

grid-cell-32620-1439935448-8

An Unexpected Romance

They tried to fight it as much as possible, but we all knew that eventually John and Lesley would end up in bed together. And it’s so delightful when they do. However, something I wasn’t expecting is that this novel also presents us with a little historical romance as well. Soon after arriving in the house, Lesley locates some journal entries from when her Aunt Myrtle was a teenager which recount a passionate romance she had with a poor artist who was traveling through town. I must say the author did an amazing job at weaving together these two romances; one contemporary and one historical. We see that there are corresponding themes between the romances, such as learning to take a risk in life, as well as opening up and taking a chance on a stranger.

abc593a2b73c9c23ad94c79ca99dc4a3

Unfortunately, things are a bit more depressing when it comes to the aunt’s story, mainly because we know from the get-go that she won’t get her happily ever after, no matter how much we cross our fingers in the hopes that she will. When the story opens we are told that Aunt Myrtle lived her life as a recluse, never marrying or having any children. In addition, as Lesley researches more about this artist Myrtle fell in love with, she mentions early on that he only became famous after his untimely death. Sooooo…we all know this won’t end well! That being said, having these brief journal entries interspersed throughout the novel still created a sense of anticipation in that you wondered how it would all come together, even though in a way we knew how it was going to end.

Large-Oak-Tree-in-Field-of-Grass.jpg

The Warm and…Depressies?

Although I really really enjoyed this unique inclusion of a historical romantic story line, I must say I wasn’t thrilled with the timing of how it all ended. Essentially, the novel ends with a happily ever after between John and Lesley, and then in the epilogue we read one last sad journal entry which ultimately closes the book on our historical romance. It’s quite a jarring juxtaposition to see that while John and Lesley took a chance on finding new love after their first loves ended, Aunt Myrtle took no such chance. She chose to live out the rest of her life with just the memory of this one great love.

e54e670445422157233c6a6ec5c59cc7

I almost wish these journal entries had provided us with the conclusion to aunt Myrtle’s story at maybe the halfway or 3/4 point in the novel. Instead, our book closes on both an incredible high and rather depressing low. Get the tissues out again folks! I found myself thinking about this ending a few days after finishing the book, as you’re sort of caught in an emotional limbo. You want to celebrate the fact that John and Lesley found happiness with each other, but at the same time you’re stuck thinking about poor Aunt Myrtle and her artist. Instead of ending the book with the warm and fuzzies, it sort of felt like the warm and…depressies.

llorando2.gif

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

Series: A beautiful stand-alone.

Should you read it? This book will have you experiencing almost every range of the emotional spectrum. From a devastatingly sad start, to a quirky and funny middle, and a romantic finish at the end. While slightly predictable, there’s moments of suspense and the exploration of faith. It’s a great read if you’re debating between a contemporary or historical romance, as you sort of get both mixed in together! My one piece of advice would be to start this book when you have enough time to get a few chapters into it so that you can get beyond the initial sadness of the death of John’s wife. It’s an emotionally heartbreaking start, but you’ll soon find yourself smiling at the sexy flirtations between John and Lesley. Trust me!

Smut Level: When a hurricane is blowing into town you just know what that means. Sex in the rain!!! Or at least, sex starting in the rain before stumbling indoors. And we get some delightful moments of being pushed up against a wall of course. Classic!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $5.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 300 Pages.