Enshrine by Chelle Bliss

As far as the premise for a romance novel goes, this one definitely presents us with a rather unexpected theme.

What’s it About? 

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Everyone knew Bruno.
Devilishly handsome.
Ruthless criminal.
Cut-throat businessman.

When a phone call changed my life, I refused to let anyone in. Helpless, my best friends went to the only man in town she knew would help…Bruno, the notorious mobster who’s feared by everyone, including me.

And he had no problem breaking down my door.
Scooping me into his strong, capable arms.
Whispering soothing words in my ear.
Chasing away the fear threatened to swallow me.

But then he did the one thing I never expected him to do…he stayed.

Can the man who’s only spoken about in whispers become my greatest savior and my deepest love?

First Impressions

Based on the rather brief synopsis we’re presented with for this romance, I gotta say this was not what I thought the book would be about. We’re provided with an intentionally vague mention of the female lead receiving an unexpected, yet crushing phone call. We then find out she has to rely on a dangerous man to help her; a man who obviously isn’t good for her. What can I say, based on the set up here I thought maybe we’d be dealing with Bruno having to save Callie from some kind of perilous situation. Perhaps an abusive ex-lover? Some kind of unfortunate run in with the law? Loan sharks coming to collect on a debt? Yeah nooooo. I never would have guessed this novel would revolve around Callie finding out she has cancer, and Bruno needing to save her by helping her realize that life is still worth fighting for. I realize some of you might see this as a spoiler alert, but personally I feel like it’s a necessity for people to know as this can really hit close to home for many folks out there.

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A Monumental Impact

I listened to this novel as an audiobook, which I always tend to reserve for listening as I get ready in the morning before work, or when I do some sewing on the weekends. Considering the heavy subject matter we’re dealing with here I must say those were some pretty depressing starts to the day, and rather somber sewing sessions. The impact of cancer upon Callie’s life was monumental and life-changing in so many ways. Firstly, she gets a crash course on finally realizing what’s truly important in life. Prior to that tragic phone call, she loved her shoes, designer clothes, picture-perfect hair, etc. Those are the things which brought happiness to Callie’s somewhat lonely life. After that phone call? It really makes her observe the world around her to acknowledge what actually matters, and what might be missing in her life.

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Cancer is also what finally brings Bruno into her life. Callie has noticed and salivated over him from afar for quite some time. However, she never acted upon her desire for him. He was known throughout the neighborhood as the dangerous man with a mysterious job, and she didn’t want to get mixed up in that. After her diagnosis she acknowledges that while he might be dangerous, she has something far more dangerous living within her. So why not indulge in the man who has always intrigued her, and cross something off her bucket list? Another unique impact of her cancer is that upon hearing the news, she has essentially killed herself off within her own mind. She has no hope for the future, and sees the diagnosis as a death sentence. Bruno is the one who helps her learn to fight, and get angry at cancer rather than see it as an inevitably tragic fate which has befallen her.

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Series: Stand-alone

Final Impressions: If you’re looking for a fun and light-hearted beach read…this might not be the best thing to pick up. There are certainly some very inspiring themes regarding fighting for life and love, but at the same time it’s definitely an emotionally loaded read. There were some other aspects of the novel that I wasn’t a huge fan of, such as the mystery surrounding Bruno’s job which turns out to be rather predictable, as well as the fact they spent a drunken night together which Callie has absolutely zero memory of. That being said, overall you’re really rooting for these two to succeed, and for Callie to win in her battle against cancer.

Smut Level: The cover alone should have you fanning yourself from the steam.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Bliss Ink Publishing. 354 Pages.

Train Station Bride by Holly Bush

I’ve said it once before. God knows I never thought I’d have the occasion to say it twice, but only a romance novel can make the mail-order bride process sound enchanting.

train station brideWhat’s it About?

1887 Debutante, Julia Crawford endures a lifetime of subtle ridicule as the plump, silly daughter of a premiere Boston family. Julia strikes out on her own to gain independence, traveling to the Midwest to marry an aging shopkeeper and care for his mother. Julia finds her new home rough and uncivilized after the sophistication of a big city, while closely held secrets threaten to ruin Julia’s one chance at love. Jake Shelling was sixteen and grew up quick when his parents died from influenza on the South Dakota prairie. Left with a half-cleared farm and two young sisters, he spent little time on his own needs . .till now. At thirty-five, he figured it was high time to have some sons and a mail order bride would suit him just fine. No expectations of love, just a helpmate from sturdy stock, ready for farm life. Will fate and chance play a trick on Julia and Jake?

First Impressions

This entire novel revolves around a case of mistaken identity. Well, make that two cases of mistaken identity. Julia arrives at the train station in South Dakota thinking she’s going to marry a 50-year-old shopkeeper, and Jake is expecting his Swedish mail-order bride. However, throw in a noisy train station and a priest, and Jake and Julia find themselves married to each other within about 5 minutes of her arrival in town. Although it’s pretty hard to believe that the priest wouldn’t annul their marriage after such an obvious mix-up, I’m sure as hell glad he didn’t. It lets us enjoy all of the fun consequences.

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What’s the Rush? 

Jake was initially quite persistent to try to have the priest annul his marriage to Julia. After all, he was expecting a 6 foot Swedish woman who could cook for him; not the unskilled debutante he was left with. That being said, he quickly comes to view Julia as his, and refuses to let any man take her away from him. Julia was also a bit hesitant to stay married to this farmer, but after realizing she’s stuck in this situation, she’s determined to consummate their marriage as soon as possible so that her parents won’t be able to take her back to Boston. Let’s just say Jake doesn’t put up much of a fight on that account.

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I must say that although I was happy to see Jake and Julia come together in the bedroom, I was rather disappointed that it happened so quickly. I was kind of hoping for a longer period of awkwardness, where they need to learn to love each other. Instead, they basically fall in love after their first romp in the sack. I was looking forward to them sharing longing looks, perhaps their hands would brush together a few times before they could no longer deny their sexual attraction to each other. Nope! They get it all over with on the first freakin’ day!

No Wonder She Ran Away

Alright, I need to have a serious convasation with this woman’s family. They are all ridiculously embarrassed by Julia, and not just because she ran off to the Midwest to marry someone she’d never met. She has a secret past of her own, and her family treats her like an acquaintance rather than a family member because of it. Don’t you worry girl, I’ve got your back! Sure, your sexy as all get out husband has your back too, but let me at ’em, let me at ’em!

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Narration

This is the second audiobook I’ve listened to by narrator Meghan Kelly. I’ll say, she definitely does a good job with the female lead character, but the supplemental ones have some room for improvement. The other female characters all came out sounding extremely whiney. I mean, sure, her mother and sisters were pretty bitchy, but Jake’s sisters were supposed to be strong and supportive characters. Instead, they came out sounding like 13-year-old brats. The male voices are also too deep, which makes their rhetoric sound cheesy and forced.

*A copy of this audio book was provided by the narrator for an honest review*

Series: Crawford Family, book 1.

Should you read it? You’ll experience a wide range of emotions with this novel. It will make you laugh, utter a few “oh snaps”, and even a couple “ermahgerds”.

Smut Level: There aren’t really any descriptive sex scenes, but there are a few scandalous scenarios for a historical romance.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here for $3.99 Kindle version. Click Here for $17.95 Audible version. Holly Bush Books. 257 Pages or 5 hours and 45 minutes.

A Reason to Stay by June Stevens

You’ve just got to love a male lead who is a fireman. It means he’s strong enough to throw the female lead over his shoulder, and quickly run upstairs for some sweet, sweet lovin’.

reasonWhat’s it About? 

Ellie loves her hometown, job, and best friend Jake. But Jake is a ladies man that will never settle down. Ellie can’t stand to see him with other women anymore, so she is packing up and leaving Oak Hollow and everything she loves to start over. A night of unexpected passion makes her start to think maybe things can work out between them, until she happens upon a secret Jake has been keeping for more than a year. Will their friendship be forever torn apart? Or will Ellie find A Reason to Stay?

First Impressions

Ah, this is one of my absolute most favorite themes in all of romance novel land: friends who become more. Ellie and Jake have secretly been pining for each other for years, although neither is aware of the other’s feelings. It’s Ellie’s last night in her hometown before leaving for Chicago to move on from what she believes are her unrequited feelings for Jake. Both realize this is their last chance to lay it all out on the table, and my goodness do they decide to take full advantage of this opportunity. They hold absolutely nothing back, and spend a passion-filled evening together doing all sorts of naughty things.

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The Morning After

Something I really liked about this novel was that after Ellie and Jake did the deed, they don’t have that awkward “what did we just do” moment. Nope! They just go at it again…and again. They understand that this sexual chemistry isn’t something they want to give up.

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There is an introduction of drama at the very end of this novel which I personally thought was a bit ridiculous. Ellie finds a ring in Jake’s desk drawer, and assumes that he was intending to give it to someone else. Girl please! Did all of that delicious sex knock off a few of your brain cells or something?

Narration

I was lucky enough to receive this book in audio format, which was a great way to pass the time during a recent drive from Atlanta to Tuscaloosa. Overall I’d say the narration wasn’t too bad, but it could use some improvement, specifically with the male voice. It just went too deep, which made it sound rather phony. The female voice was much better, but at times their sexual banter back and forth sounded like cheesy phone sex.

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*This audiobook was provided by the narrator for an honest review*

Series: Oak Hollow, book 1. I’d probably read the next one.

Should you read it? It was short and predictable, but it’s also sweet and sexy.

Smut Level: Let’s just say Ellie thinks of a rather creative way to wake Jake up the next morning.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here for $0.99 Kindle version. Click Here for $5.95 Audible version by Meghan Kelly. Self-published. 116 Pages or 1 hour and 26 minutes.