Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Hating Game: A Novel by Sally Thorne


Nemesis (n.) 1) An opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome.
2) A person’s undoing
3) Joshua Templeman

Lucy Hutton has always been certain that the nice girl can get the corner office. She’s charming and accommodating and prides herself on being loved by everyone at Bexley & Gamin. Everyone except for coldly efficient, impeccably attired, physically intimidating Joshua Templeman. And the feeling is mutual.

Trapped in a shared office together 40 (OK, 50 or 60) hours a week, they’ve become entrenched in an addictive, ridiculous never-ending game of one-upmanship. There’s the Staring Game. The Mirror Game. The HR Game. Lucy can’t let Joshua beat her at anything—especially when a huge new promotion goes up for the taking.

If Lucy wins this game, she’ll be Joshua’s boss. If she loses, she’ll resign. So why is she suddenly having steamy dreams about Joshua, and dressing for work like she’s got a hot date? After a perfectly innocent elevator ride ends with an earth shattering kiss, Lucy starts to wonder whether she’s got Joshua Templeman all wrong.

Maybe Lucy Hutton doesn’t hate Joshua Templeman. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game.

When Nancy, a friend from the Avon Addicts Group, couldn't stop raving about The Hating Game, I knew I had to give it a try, even though the angst-ridden, bitter rival stories seldom work for me because...well...they're angst-ridden. And bitter. I know a lot of people love this in their romance reading, but I'm not one of them. That said, The Hating Game definitely was all kinds of angsty, but in a fun, snicker-out-loud sort of way.

Josh and Lucy are both amazing characters, each flawed in a way that makes them the perfect match. And rather than choosing sides, I found myself happily cheering them both on in their quest to annoy each other. Their conniving and plotting and their many versions of "The Game" made this a story I couldn't put down. They bring one-upmanship to a whole new level, a level that had me smiling my way through their story. And the romance? Charming! Steamy, funny, unhurried... I loved it!

What a fantastic debut novel!!

An ARC was provided by Avon Books/William Morrow. In appreciation I'm giving them an honest review.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Dukes Prefer Blondes (Dressmakers #4) by Loretta Chase


Just this time, can the beast tame the beauty?

Biweekly marriage proposals from men who can't see beyond her (admittedly breathtaking) looks are starting to get on Lady Clara Fairfax's nerves. Desperate to be something more than ornamental, she escapes to her favorite charity. When a child is in trouble, she turns to tall, dark, and annoying barrister Oliver Radford.

Though he's unexpectedly found himself in line to inherit a dukedom, Radford's never been part of fashionable society, and the blonde beauty, though not entirely bereft of brains, isn't part of his plans. But Clara overwhelms even his infallible logic, and when wedlock looms, all he can do is try not to lose his head over her.

It's an inconvenient marriage by ordinary standards, but these two are far from ordinary. Can the ton's most adored heiress and London's most difficult bachelor fall victim to their own unruly desires?

See, it's books like this that made me fall in love with Loretta Chase's stories years ago when I read Lord of Scoundrels and was swept off my feet. She knows how to write characters so wonderfully that they become living, breathing people who I want to know better. And the story plots are intriguing, compelling, and always leave me wanting more. She is, without a doubt, one of the very best historical romance authors out there.

Clara Fairfax is a force to be reckoned with which is one of the things I love most about this book. She's strong, intelligent, clever, and witty, and kept me on my toes because I never know what she might do next!

Oliver Radford, also known as Raven... what a great man. I really fell hard for him and enjoyed watching him come to terms with his feelings for Clara - and what those feelings would mean for his future. He, too, is strong, intelligent, clever, and witty, but he's also sexy, and passionate.

The bottom line: Even though it did start a bit slow, I really enjoyed this story, so much so I'm going to go back and read the first books in the series because I'm not ready to leave The Dressmakers world.

An ARC was provided by AvonBooks via Edelweiss. In appreciation I'm giving them an honest review.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Perks of Loving a Scoundrel (Seduction Diaries #3) by Jennifer McQuiston


Every girl dreams of a hero . . .

No one loves books more than Miss Mary Channing. Perhaps that’s why she’s reached the ripe old age of six-and-twenty without ever being kissed. Her future may be as bland as milk toast, but Mary is content to simply dream about the heroes and adventures she reads about in her books. That way she won’t end up with a villain instead.

But sometimes only a scoundrel will do.

When she unexpectedly finds herself in the arms of Geoffrey Westmore, London’s most notorious scoundrel, it feels a bit like a plot from one of her favorite novels. Suddenly, Mary understands why even the smartest heroines can fall prey to a handsome face. And Westmore is more handsome than most. But far worse than the damage to her reputation, the moment’s indiscretion uncovers an assassination plot that reaches to the highest levels of society and threatens the course of the entire country.

When a tight-laced miss and a scoundrel of epic proportions put their minds together, nothing can stand in their way. But unless they put their hearts together as well, a happy ending is anything but assured.

It’s no surprise that Ms. McQuiston has a loyal following of readers, and it’s the way she brings her characters to life and draws us into their world that keeps us coming back for more – and what a world it is! The tales she tells are not your run-of-the-mill historical romances, they are unique, compelling, exciting, and sure to entertain, first page to the last.

The entire supporting cast is a delight, but Mary and West are wonderful! Each has a strong, independent determination (AKA stubbornness) about them that had me not only laughing and sighing, but also falling in love with them and cheering them onto their happily ever after!

Note: If you love historical romance but haven’t yet tried this author’s writing, you’re missing out and need to take the plunge. Even though The Perks of Loving a Scoundrel is the 3rd in the Seduction Diaries series, I can assure you it can easily be read as a standalone.

An ARC was provided by Avon Books. In appreciation I’m giving them an honest review.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Family Tree: A Novel by Susan Wiggs


Sometimes the greatest dream starts with the smallest element. A single cell, joining with another. And then dividing. And just like that, the world changes.

Annie Harlow knows how lucky she is. The producer of a popular television cooking show, she loves her handsome husband and the beautiful Manhattan home they share. And now, she’s pregnant with their first child.

But in an instant, her life is shattered. And when Annie awakes from a year-long coma, she discovers that time isn’t the only thing she's lost.

Grieving and wounded, Annie retreats to her old family home in Switchback, Vermont, a maple farm generations old. There, surrounded by her free-spirited brother, their divorced mother, and four young nieces and nephews, Annie slowly emerges into a world she left behind years ago: the town where she grew up, the people she knew before, the high-school boyfriend turned ex-cop. And with the discovery of a cookbook her grandmother wrote in the distant past, Annie unearths an age-old mystery that might prove the salvation of the family farm.

Family Tree is the story of one woman’s triumph over betrayal, and how she eventually comes to terms with her past. It is the story of joys unrealized and opportunities regained. Complex, clear-eyed and big-hearted, funny, sad, and wise, it is a novel to cherish and to remember.

This is a thought provoking story of one woman's journey to reclaim her dreams, her heart, and her life. It's more women's fiction than contemporary romance or chick-lit, but the romance is there and it's sweet. I enjoyed getting to know Annie and Fletcher and the rest of Switchback, Vermont's residents, but I have to admit that I had a problem with Annie who I found rather selfish in the relationship department. I get needing to focus on your career but too often, it seemed, Fletcher played second fiddle to Annie's. One last thing; this isn't a light read. It's actually quite emotional, and even a bit depressing at times, though understandably so. However, there is also humor, poignancy, and so much foodie talk that all I could think about was snacking!

Overall, Family Tree is compelling and entertaining, and I'm looking forward to reading more by Susan Wiggs.

An ARC was provided by William Morrow publishing. In appreciation I'm giving them an honest review.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

A Sister's Wish (Charmed Amish Life #3) by Shelley Shepard Gray


Amelia Kinsinger is the perfect Amish woman—at least according to her neighbors. And while Amelia takes pride in her role as homemaker, she’s also harboring a secret: She’s been in love with bad boy Simon Hochstetler for as long as she can remember. Too bad he’s about as far from “perfect” as an Amish man could get… but that’s exactly why she’s so drawn to him.

Life hasn’t been kind to Simon. He ran away from an abusive home at fifteen and things went downhill from there. Eventually, Simon landed in prison. But the experience changed him. Now back in Charm as a grown man, he’s determined to make a new life for himself and not think too much about his wild past…unless it pertains to Amelia.

He’s loved Amelia for years. To him, she represents everything good and kind in the world. When he realizes that she returns his affections, he starts calling on her in secret, even though her older brother Lukas—who just happens to be Simon’s best friend—has made it perfectly clear that Amelia deserves better. Simon disagrees and believes he’s the only one who can truly make her happy.

But when Amelia gets hurt, it sets off a chain of events that forces them to consider their future together—and face their past mistakes. There’s a chance for love… but only if Simon dares to trust Amelia with the secrets of his past.

Life stops when you stop dreaming. Hope ends when you stop believing. Love ends when you stop caring. Friendship ends when you stop sharing. —AMISH PROVERB

Oh, I didn't want this to end! A Sister’s Wish is a beautiful, poignant story about forgiveness, both given and received. It’s about never giving up on those you love, and cherishing the time you have with them.

From the start I was pulled in, cheering for Amy and Simon to find their way to each other, even though it wasn’t going to be an easy journey. Any Christian knows that it’s not for us to decide who is worthy of forgiveness, so I was appalled at Lukas and Rebecca’s interference and heartbroken by their judgment of Simon. To be honest, I shed a few tears reading about Simon's past and how that past is affecting his and Amelia's future because of ‘well meaning’ Christians. But they held fast to their love, listening to their hearts and making their happily ever after a well deserved thing of beauty!

With her Charmed Amish Life series, Shelley Shepard Gray gives us moving stories about people of faith searching for happiness and love with others who share that faith. I’ll mention this again – while this is a contemporary Christian romance, it has a bit of a historical feel thanks to the simple life these amazing people are living.

The bottom line - this series is absolutely wonderful and perfect for Christians and anyone else looking for a feel good romance without explicit sex or the kind of drama inherent in the secular world. I hope we'll get to spend more time in Charm, Ohio because there are many there whose stories need to be told.

An ARC was provided by Avon Inspire, an imprint of Avon Books. In appreciation I’m giving them an honest review.

The Trouble With Mistletoe (Heartbreaker Bay #2) by Jill Shalvis


If she has her way . . .

Willa Davis is wrangling puppies when Keane Winters stalks into her pet shop with frustration in his chocolate-brown eyes and a pink bedazzled cat carrier in his hand. He needs a kitty sitter, stat. But the last thing Willa needs is to rescue a guy who doesn’t even remember her . . .

He’ll get nothing but coal in his stocking.

Saddled with his great-aunt’s Feline from Hell, Keane is desperate to leave her in someone else’s capable hands. But in spite of the fact that he’s sure he’s never seen the drop-dead-gorgeous pet shop owner before, she seems to be mad at him . . .

Unless he tempers “naughty” with a special kind of nice . . .

Willa can’t deny that Keane’s changed since high school: he’s less arrogant, for one thing—but can she trust him not to break her heart again? It’s time to throw a coin in the fountain, make a Christmas wish—and let the mistletoe do its work . . .

Jill Shalvis is one of the best contemporary romance authors out there and her stories are fun, poignant, sexy, and always, always leave me wanting more. Whether we're in Lucky Harbor, Cedar Ridge, or Heartbreaker Bay, I never, ever want to leave!

Willa Davis is an awesome woman! She's caring, selfless, compassionate... but she can hold a grudge like nobody's business, which she does against Keane Winters, the jock who stood her up the night of her first highschool dance (years earlier, mind you). But when he shows up at her pet salon, desperate for her help, she just can't say no...well, she can easily say no to Keane (remember she's a grudge holder) but she can't say no to that poor pitiful cat he needs to board.

Keane is in a pickle and needs Willa's boarding services, but the woman seems to have something against him and he has no idea what it is. But beggars can't be choosers so he decides to ignore her attitude and just be grateful she's agreed to watch the cat! It's not like this is about anything other than business, afterall....

Until, (there's always an 'until' in romance novels!) until the attraction between them becomes undeniable. They quickly learn that, if there's any hope at all for them to be together, they need to let go of their pasts, open their eyes and their hearts, and take a chance.

Sometimes in romance novels one of the main characters will have issues while the other is solid...grounded. What I love most about the story is that Willa and Keane are both...damaged. They accept that they both have issues and understand that they can lean on each other to overcome those issues, if they hope to have a life filled with love, laughter, and a happily ever after.

Oh, how I'm looking forward to the next installment. It's going to be a hum-dinger, that's for sure!

An ARC was provided by Avon Books via Edelweiss. In appreciation I'm giving them an honest review.

Do You Want to Start a Scandal? (Spindle Cove #5) by Tessa Dare


On the night of the Parkhurst ball, someone had a scandalous tryst in the library.

~Was it Lord Canby, with the maid, on the divan?
~Or Miss Fairchild, with a rake, against the wall?
~Perhaps the butler did it.

All Charlotte Highwood knows is this: it wasn’t her. But rumors to the contrary are buzzing. Unless she can discover the lovers’ true identity, she’ll be forced to marry Piers Brandon, Lord Granville—the coldest, most arrogantly handsome gentleman she’s ever had the misfortune to embrace. When it comes to emotion, the man hasn’t got a clue.

But as they set about finding the mystery lovers, Piers reveals a few secrets of his own. The oh-so-proper marquess can pick locks, land punches, tease with sly wit … and melt a woman’s knees with a single kiss. The only thing he guards more fiercely than Charlotte’s safety is the truth about his dark past.

Their passion is intense. The danger is real. Soon Charlotte’s feeling torn. Will she risk all to prove her innocence? Or surrender it to a man who’s sworn to never love?

I don't often squee when I hear about a new book release, but I always do when it's a book by Tessa Dare who makes historical romance fun, exciting, and passionate!

Do You Want to Start a Scandal is not only a wonderful romance, it's also a great mystery. The way it all unfolds is brilliantly told and oh, how I loved it! When it comes to historical romance, Tessa Dare always delivers the very best! I adore Charlotte and Piers, and watching them obtain their scandalous happily ever after was comical, and suited them perfectly!!

An ARC was provided by Avon Books and in appreciation I'm giving them an honest review.