Meant to be Kept by Amelia Foster

The story of how one man tries to rectify a mistake to keep the most important woman in his life: his wife.

What’s it About? 

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One night. One too many drinks. One mistake. That’s all it took to derail my marriage. Now, all I can do is beg for a second chance. To try and redeem myself in a bid not to lose the love of my life. I’m determined to use every second, every moment I have to show my wife how much she means to me—to rebuild the trust I shattered. But the harder I try, the more I start to realize our marriage had fallen into a routine of complacency and misplaced priorities long before my indiscretion. Isabelle is a strong, passionate, beautiful woman—a wife who has sacrificed so much for me. I just hope it’s not too late for us, and that I’ll be able to convince her that our love is meant to be kept.

First Impressions

I’m not going to sugar coat this one folks, this romance blew me away in the best way possible. It’s a beautiful, smart read which is focused around the concept of fighting for love. One of the main ways this book stopped me in my tracks was that it tackled all of the preconceived notions I thought I’d have, and twisted them on their head. Prime example: our male lead, Tanner. Based on the synopsis and the first few pages, I was determined that I was not going to like this guy. We discover in the opening scene that during a guy’s weekend away with his brother, he gets borderline black-out drunk and starts making out with a woman who isn’t his wife. Gee, alcohol and cheating? What an absolute gem. I thought the author would have a hell of time trying to convince me that this guy was worth giving a second chance to. Lo and behold, simply by the end of the first chapter I found myself rooting for Tanner to succeed in winning back the trust of his wife, Isabelle. That’s no easy feat ladies and gents, and yet it was done so effortlessly that it draws in your attention where you can’t turn away until we get to “The End”.

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Totally Upfront

While we don’t necessarily get the very best first impression of Tanner, it barely takes any time at all before we sympathize with the man, and hope against hope that Isabelle will be able to forgive him for a seemingly unforgivable transgression. There are a few key features that the author weaves in to get us to love Tanner. First and foremost, we must look at the transgression itself. Yes, in a drunken stupor he kissed another woman. Downright stupid. And yet, our opening scene presents us with a broken man who is fully aware of the error of his ways, and is filled with nothing but regret. At no point do we see him try to hide this from his wife, or lessen the gravity of his mistake. Instead we see him come home right away to admit to her what he did, and he vows that he’ll do whatever he can to make it up to her. He even sets a deadline, begging that she find the strength within her to forgive him, allow him to prove how much he still wants her and only her by their next anniversary which is just 43 days away.

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The second clever move on the part of the author was the use of flashbacks throughout the entirety of the novel. On the one hand these flashbacks help demonstrate that Tanner has always been a romantic, and that Isabelle was always meant to be his one and only. Even though this first chapter starts off with a rather negative portrayal of Tanner getting up close and personal with another woman, by the end we feel like we’ve seen who the true Tanner is through a flashback, and it’s far from a womanizing cheater. He has a soft and romantic side which has revolved around Isabelle since the first moment the two met. I for one was shocked that within this first chapter alone I could so quickly go from an initial determination of wanting to hate this guy, to recognizing by the end of it that he simply made a stupid mistake that he is fully willing to atone for.

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Forgiveness

When Isabelle first hears the confession of how Tanner kissed someone else, she is understandably distraught. Even though we’re rooting for Tanner to succeed in all of his various romantic attempts to win back his wife, we can also sympathize with the difficulty she faces in letting him back into her life. At times you almost want to scream at her, “He obviously didn’t mean to do it! He clearly loves you! Just forgive him already!”. But, let’s be honest, that would simply be too easy, not to mention rather unrealistic.

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Something that the author captures so brilliantly when it comes to Isabelle contemplating her relationship with Tanner is that it was never a question of love. Isabelle will always love him. He’s been her best friend and partner for 12 years, not to mention the father of her children. It’s not possible for her to fall out of love with him that quickly. No, instead we see that it’s actually a question of trust. If she agrees to let him back into her life, she’ll obviously still love him, but will she ever be able to trust him as fully as she did before that disastrous weekend? If she can’t, then is it really worth bringing him back into her life at all?

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An Imperfect Marriage

In addition to utilizing flashbacks to show us the sweet side of Tanner’s character, these flashbacks also serve a few other key purposes. First, they demonstrate that for the past three years or so Tanner and Isabelle’s marriage hasn’t been as idyllic as we the audience, or even Tanner himself, thought it to be. We see through so many flashbacks how Isabelle was always the light of Tanner’s life, and he was devoted and committed to her in every way possible. We just assumed that this kiss with the other woman was the first and only indicator of how Tanner failed in an aspect of his marriage.

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However, as the anniversary deadline approaches, and Tanner tries to think up various romantic dates to go on with Isabelle, he simultaneously realizes how his focus on work these last few years has created a certain distance between him and his family. The little things he used to do with them, such as movie nights, weekend breakfasts, etc. had fallen by the wayside. He was still a loving father and husband throughout that time, and his affection for Isabelle never wavered, but he can’t help but acknowledge that he wasn’t putting as much of an effort into his family as he did in the beginning. It’s a realization that I think would speak true to many couples out there. Just because you’ve finally found your one true love doesn’t mean you can stop demonstrating how much you love them.

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Where Past Meets Present

Another important purpose of the continual use of flashbacks was that it brought Tanner and Isabelle’s entire relationship full circle. By this point you might be getting tired of my repeated mention of these flashback scenes, but I think I can say with 100% confidence that never before have I seen a more brilliant and polished inclusion of flashbacks to tell a story in my life. And I’ve read a crap ton of books. Each and every chapter within the book is divided into two parts: past and present. The present always details the various ways that Tanner is attempting to win back the trust of his wife, and we then see how those attempts correspond to a certain moment from their past through the flashback scene.

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At the start of the novel, the present scene involves Tanner admitting to Isabelle how he kissed another woman, while the scene in the past shows the initial moment when Tanner and Isabelle first met in college. Throughout the rest of the book the flashback moments move in a linear progression throughout Tanner and Isabelle’s relationship from their first meeting to their first date, kiss, sexual encounter, meeting with the parents, living together, marriage, kids, etc. By the last chapter we see in the present that we’re at the final deadline of Tanner and Isabelle’s anniversary, the moment when Isabelle must decide if she’s ready and willing to accept Tanner back into her life. And as for our flashback scene? By the end the flashbacks have taken us right up to the very moment when Tanner went away with his brother for the guy’s weekend where the initial transgression first occurred at the beginning of the book. I mean…WOW! The beauty of how everything came together full circle so seamlessly from start to finish cannot be overstated.

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*An advanced reader copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: I want this to be a series soooooo bad. I would 100% read a sequel involving one of Tanner’s brothers.

Final Impressions: Simply put, this is a beautiful book. It’s not every day you come across a second chance romance that involves a husband and wife, but it’s definitely one worth reading. It highlights the power of family, and the importance of still putting forth an effort in your relationship, even after you’ve said “I do”. You can’t get lazy in regards to demonstrating affection to your partner. I’m sure my love for the use of flashbacks throughout this novel is clearly evident at this point, so I won’t go into even more detail about it! Again though…they’re pretty amazing!

Smut Level: Nothing dirty, but we do get a few scenes, both past and present, which demonstrate the physical connection these two have always shared.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Limitless Publishing, LLC. 228 Pages.

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Come Home to Me by Peggy L. Henderson

This book seriously makes me wanna play the Oregon Trail computer game. We’ve got river crossings with wagons and animals, cholera sickness, and warnings not to kill too many bison or else it will spoil. Man, that was always the worst part of the game, rotting meat!

What’s it About?

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Jake Owens is tired of life on his parents’ Montana ranch, catering to city folk who want a taste of old-fashioned country living. He enjoys life in the fast lane, with fast cars and even faster women. When he falls in with the wrong crowd and is accused of murder, a stranger’s bizarre offer at a second chance might be his only hope to clear his name.

Rachel Parker is highly devoted to her family. A tragedy prompts a daring move to the Oregon Territory for a fresh start in a new land. After meeting the wagon train’s scout, the meaning of a fresh start may be more than she ever imagined.

Jake can’t believe he’s been sent back in time to act as scout for a wagon train headed for Oregon, and given the added burden of keeping one emigrant woman safe during the journey. He and Rachel are confused by their attraction to each other. Jake’s ill-mannered, unconventional ways are overshadowed only by his notorious reputation. Rachel’s traditional values and quiet, responsible character are the complete opposite of what attracts Jake to a woman. When their forbidden attraction turns to love, what will happen at the end of the trail?

First Impression

The set up to this second chance romance was superb. Jake Owens is a rancher who fell in with the wrong kind of city girl, and has now been framed for murder. He’s basically given up any hope of ever being free when a mysterious man disguised as his lawyer provides him with an opportunity too good to pass up. If he guides a group of families in a wagon train along the Oregon Trail, all of his misdeeds will be wiped clean. Sounds too good to be true right? Well, this mystery man failed to mention that the wagon train is actually taking place 150 years in the past, so imagine Jake’s surprise when he wakes up in a different time.

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Normally the time travel discovery moment is my favorite in these types of romances, not to mention the difficulties of transitioning to a different way of life in another time. However, I was slightly disappointed that for the most part Jake settles into his frontier life rather quickly and seamlessly after an initial mini freak-out. I guess traveling via horse across great distances out west hasn’t changed much in the last 150 years. It definitely made sense that Jake would be chosen as the scout for this expedition considering his previous background as a rancher. If he’d had no wilderness skills to speak of I probably would have questioned why he was selected in the first place. It was just kind of disappointing that for the rest of the novel I had to remind myself that he was from the future. If anything it’s like he’s now in his natural habitat.

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And You Thought That Was Complicated!

Something which threw me for a bit of a loop with this read was the complexity behind Rachel and Jake’s relationship. Sure, he’s from the future. You could see how that might complicate things slightly, what with being born centuries apart and all that. But hey, we’ve all seen this before with time travel romances! An added complication we get though in this instance is when Jake first sets his sights on Rachel. His loins start to burn, some verbal sparring is exchanged, but he is ultimately made aware of the fact that she is Mrs. Rachel Parker. That’s right, Mrs. She’s not alone in traveling the trail, having a drunk husband and a couple of boys in tow as well. Now for all of you who cringe slightly at the idea of our main romance involving a married woman, let me tell you you’re not alone. I had the same reservations when this little tidbit came to light. However, let me just tell you that all is not necessarily as it seems in this situation. That’s all I’m gonna say!

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Back to the Future

While some aspects of traveling the trail were slightly repetitious, the story really came together for me in the end, and culminated on a high note. Most of us know how time travel romances progress. At the start, our time traveler feels completely lost and shocked at having ended up in a time so different than their own. They usually have one goal in mind throughout the majority of the novel, which is to somehow get back to their own time. There is some kind of end point, some sort of landmark which serves as their window home. Whether it be standing stones in the Highlands, or traversing the Oregon Trail with a wagon train full of emigrants, there is something which our lead character is focused on with the intent of returning to their own time.

What undoubtedly happens at some point in the story is they meet a certain special someone who convinces them to give up their present in order to remain in the past. So romantic. And that is also the case here, although Jake also seems torn between remaining in the past with Rachel, or somehow convincing the man who sent him back in time to transfer Rachel and her children back to the future with him. However, what happens when we realize that end result isn’t possible? How do we resolve a situation where Jake can’t remain in the past, and Rachel is unable to travel to the future? I must admit, it was certainly an interesting twis. Normally the main conflicting feature is when our lead admits to their lover the fact that they are from the future, but in this instance we get the situation where our lead will have no choice but to return to the future without Rachel by his side. Is it possible our lovers won’t find their happily ever after? Seems blasphemous, no?!

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Series: Second Chances Time Travel, book 1. Throughout most of the novel I kept thinking to myself, mkay this is enjoyable, but probably not a series I need to continue with. However, seeing how it all came together at the end, and with the epilogue especially I gotta say I’m pretty intrigued to see what might come next.

Final Impression: I wish there had been more of a history lesson involved throughout the novel. One of my favorite things about historical romances is learning more about the time period being featured. There wasn’t really anything covered I couldn’t have gathered from playing the Oregon Trail game for 20 minutes. There was also a missed opportunity when it came to interacting with the Native Americans along the trail. However, overall it was really a fun start to the series, with a final climactic build-up that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Smut Level: You’d think it would be tricky to find any alone time for intimacy on a wagon train with about 30 other families around you all the time. But you can’t help but love all the stops along a lonely river where Rachel and Jake just happen to find themselves alone and separated from the rest of the group.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. FREE. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 253 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?

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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*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.