Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Truly, Madly, Deeply (Barefoot Bay Kindle World) by Jeannie Moon

Truly, Madly, Deeply by Jeannie Moon

Kick off your shoes, stick your toes in the sand and indulge yourself in a sweet second chance romance on the island of Mimosa Key.  Nick DeMarco is back in Barefoot Bay and is hoping for Lila Novak's forgiveness. Little does he know, he'll get a whole lot more than that. Fans of Roxanne St. Claire’s Barefoot Bay will love meeting new visitors and residents of Mimosa Key in this Kindle Worlds Barefoot Bay romance by Jeannie Moon.

Release Date: 08/23/16
Publisher: Kindle Worlds
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Format: Digital

Nick DeMarco was a covert operative who breezed in and out of the lives of the people he cared about often without warning. This included his sister Josie’s best friend, Lila Novak.
Nick and Lila had a torrid affair the last time he dropped into Barefoot Bay, and now that he’s back, possibly for the long haul, he hopes she’ll forgive him for disappearing without a word.
Lila loves her life as a teacher at Mimosa High School, but her affair with Nick has thrown her a curveball she never expected. Carrying his baby, she’s faced with the loss of her job unless she agrees to do the last thing she wants to do – marry him.
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Jeannie Moon has always been a romantic. When she's not spinning tales of her own, Jeannie works as a school librarian, thankful she has a job that allows her to immerse herself in books. Married to her high school sweetheart, Jeannie has three kids, three lovable dogs, and resides on Long Island, NY. If she's more than ten miles away from salt water for any longer than a week, she gets twitchy.
Connect with Jeannie at: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | GoodReads| Amazon

here were few things that ticked off Lila Novak more than busybodies. And when said busybodies were making her life difficult, that really chapped her ass.
She sat at the district office, having been summoned from Mimosa High School by the superintendent of schools, and while she waited she saw a parade of people enter the conference room. Her principal, the vice principal, the personnel director, and her department chair were all part of the group that was going to see her. This wasn’t good.
Nothing like kicking a girl when she was down.
Her department chair, Mary Chavez, poked her head out and motioned to Lila. “We’re ready for you. Don’t let them upset you, and don’t lose your temper.”
Mary was a sweet woman, a joy to work for. Because of her, the math department at Mimosa was a fun place to be. Her colleagues were friendly, and unlike some departments, they all liked each other. However, Mary knew Lila could have a smart mouth, and this wasn’t the time for wit. Even if some people deserved her wit shoved up their butts.
The superintendent sat at the far end of the table, and the other administrators flanked him left and right. This wasn’t going to be easy.
Lila stood at the other end of the large oval table. Alone.
“Lila, have a seat,” the big guy said.
“Thank you,” she replied. That was a load of shit. She had no reason to thank them.
“So,” he began. “We hear you’ve gotten yourself in a bad spot.”
This was really making him uncomfortable, and based on the scowls from a few others in the room, she was in more than a bad spot.
“Sir, I am pregnant, yes.” Lila took a deep breath before continuing. “I’ve tried to keep it private, but that’s hard to do in such a…close knit community.” It’s full of nosy women with nothing else to do, is what she wanted to say. But Lila held her tongue, knowing that sassing the superintendent and his minions wouldn’t help her cause. “While I’m sure it might make some people uncomfortable, it isn’t something I want to talk about.”
“Unfortunately, that’s not an option,” the personnel director broke in. She was new to the district, and Lila didn’t catch her first name, but her last name was Smith. “You have to talk about it. There is a clause in your contract regarding morality…”
Bile stuck in her throat. Sweet baby jeebus. A morality clause. It was the 21st century, wasn’t it? “I don’t understand.”
“We hold our teachers in very high regard,” the woman drawled. “And we’ve gotten a number of complaints about the situation. Parents are extremely upset about having an unwed, pregnant teacher in front of the classroom.”
A knot formed in Lila’s chest. Crushing breathlessness made her audibly suck in air, but she didn’t cry. No, she wouldn’t give this pit of vipers the satisfaction, but there was no hiding how this was affecting her.
No one seemed to care that she was in distress. They were all sitting very still, apparently awaiting Lila’s response.
“I see y’all staring at me, but I don’t know what you want me to say.”
“We thought you could offer some clarification, or explanation, so we can better understand how this all came about,” the nameless personnel director shot at her.
“Ma’am, if you want an explanation for my pregnancy, may I suggest you speak to a health teacher.” Yep. She just snapped at someone who held her fate in her hands.
“There’s no need to get snippy, young lady.”
“I’m sorry, but I believe there is.” Lila wasn’t going to be intimidated. “This is a private matter.”
“Who is the baby’s father?” Ms. Smith blurted out.
BOOM. There it was. That’s what they were driving at. There had been an ugly rumor about her and the father of one of her students. He’d made some unwanted advances in a bar. It didn’t matter that Lila had told him to buzz off; people had talked.
“I haven’t told the baby’s father yet, and I’m not comfortable telling you before I tell him.”
“Lila,” her chair began, “taking a hard line here isn’t going to help.”
“I’m sorry, but he’s overseas on assignment.” That was all Lila could come up with, and it might or might not have been true. She didn’t know where Nick DeMarco was. She hadn’t heard from him in months. “That’s all I can say.”
When she said he was overseas, everyone came to attention.
“Is he in the service of our country?” the superintendent asked.
Lila nodded. She didn’t know what Nick was doing, but he did work for the government. “I think I should tell him first, don’t you?”
“Lila, I don’t like this any more than you do, but something must be done. I have parents calling for your job.”
“Well, sir, with all due respect, you can tell them this is none of their business. I’m sure you’re aware that I am a very good teacher. My students are engaged and do very well.”
“I am. Your reputation in the classroom is excellent, but regardless of how accepting society has become of single parents, our teachers are held to a different standard. Parents are very upset.”
“Am I being dismissed?” There was no use in beating around the bush. If the decision had already been made, the time would be better spent polishing her resumé.
“I don’t want to do that, but I am in a difficult position.”
Of course. His contract was up for renewal. The last thing he needed was a bunch of parents complaining that he wasn’t responsive. If they started calling for his head, who knew how the board of education would respond? Lila didn’t know what she was expected to do. The baby was already in the picture.
“I guess you’ll let me know if I have a job, then?”
She started to get up from the chair when her department chair came to her defense. “Lila is one of our best teachers. Surely there’s a way for this to work out.”
Silence settled over the room, because no one seemed to have any answers. They were looking everywhere but at each other. Glancing off into space or keeping their eyes trained at the table. Except for Ms. Smith, who was staring at Lila. Now she didn’t know if she should leave or stay.
“Lila?” Her principal, Joe Alex, broke the quiet. “How is the clean-up from the fire going?”
That got everyone’s attention. Being a pity case wasn’t her first choice, but Lila would take it. She couldn’t be without a job. Especially not now.
The superintendent’s face dropped. He wasn’t a bad person, but he was a puppet. Now his conscience was getting to him. Lila just hoped it worked in her favor. “I’ll be in touch,” he said flatly. Then he stood and left the room, leaving Lila in the same place as she’d been before, without any answers.

“Motherfucker, that hurts.” Over the course of his career, Nick had been shot, stabbed, beaten, and thrown off the roof of the building. But the searing pain from the injection into his injured shoulder was like nothing he’d ever felt. Of course, he’d been unconscious after the stabbing, and the shooting, and during the beating he managed to throw a few punches himself. Getting thrown off a building? Not something he would recommend.
But he’d recovered from every injury. He’d come back to duty stronger than ever, almost like he had to prove himself. Rumor was some people wondered if he was even human. Nick had to laugh at that. Of course he was human, he just took his work seriously. There were a lot of bad people out in the world, and it was Nick’s job to make sure they didn’t hurt anyone.
This time, however, his shoulder had been almost completely ripped out of the socket. The damage had been repaired as much as it could be, but for the first time in his career, Nick didn’t know if he was going to be able to do his job like he had before.
There had been mutterings about a desk job. A fucking desk job. He couldn’t see himself settling into a regular routine, making assignments, even if it did carry a promotion. He was an adrenaline junkie, pure and simple, and if he wasn’t out in the field chasing bad guys, he didn’t know what he was going to do.
“So will the cortisone fix what ails me?”
The doctor shrugged. It was another resident, another no-name who didn’t know anything about him. To the guy in the scrubs, Nick was just another case. He didn’t understand that Nick’s life as he knew it was on the line.
“Dr. O’Neill will be in in a minute. He has more details about your next step.” Without another word, the drone doc left the room. At least he would get to talk to the guy who did the surgery. Maybe he would finally give Nick a straight answer.
His cell phone beeped, and he glanced at the screen. His sister. The text was short. Are you alive?
Nick smiled. Josie, as always, got to the point. This time, he answered. Sent back a simple: yes. But that was all she was gonna get for now.
He was still figuring out how he felt about her relationship with Tony. Never in his life had he suspected his best friend and his sister had been having an affair. Now, Josie was going to be a queen. An honest to God, crown-wearing, scepter-wielding queen. Okay, maybe that was too dramatic. But she would have a crown. His little sister would have a crown.
Nick lay back on the table, knees bent, arm folded over his eyes. Jesus. What if he couldn’t go back in the field? He’d never thought about life after fieldwork, but now it was the only thing on his mind.
He tried to focus on something good, something positive, and immediately Lila Novak’s face flashed in his memory. Talk about secrets. The four days he’d spent in bed with Josie’s best friend had been just what he needed. The woman was a contradiction; on one hand she was full of piss and vinegar, but on the other she was beautiful, smart, sweet, and the sex had been a friggin’ miracle. Nick thought about her a lot, probably too much.
Still, he wanted to see her. He figured whatever the doctor said, he’d head to Florida for some R&R. His grandparents’ house was empty, and while he was there he was sure he could get Lila to see him. As long as she wasn’t too pissed off. He’d left without saying goodbye, and in his experience women really hated that.
He expected Lila was no different.
The door burst open and Dr. O’Neill entered the space. A big man, career Army, Nick peeked out from under his arm and the doctor tossed a wry grin in his direction.
“Hiding, Colonel?”
Colonel. He wasn’t used to being called by his rank. “Just trying to figure out what kind of bullshit you’ll be feeding me about my shoulder.”
“No bullshit,” the doctor said. “Truth only. Your shoulder was a hot mess. I was able to do some repair on the ligaments and tendons, but at this point it’s not stable. I can’t recommend you be allowed to go back to fieldwork at this time.”
“So, I’m going to be a desk jockey? I can’t do that. I’ll go crazy.” Nick’s fear of desk work was what drove him to volunteer for a special covert ops unit. He went where he was needed, working sometimes for the CIA, the NSA, or different branches of the military. When people asked what he did, he said he was a “security consultant”. It wasn’t a lie.
“You can stay in the Corps,” the doctor reassured him. “There are plenty of things a man with your knowledge and talents can do. You’re just not going to be swinging from trees or jumping off buildings anymore.”
“Should I retire? I mean, if I can’t do the work…”
“I didn’t say never, but not now. There’s a lot you can still do. Hell, with all your experience, you’ll be running the Joint Chiefs inside of six months. But you aren’t indestructible. You may recover enough to get back to the insanity you call a job, but I don’t recommend it.”
That particular statement made him think—and the conclusion wasn’t good. Lately, every injury meant a tougher recovery. He knew he was getting older, but his body was finally telling him what that meant. “Shit.”
The doctor took a seat across from him. “Nick, I’ve treated your last two orthopedic injuries. Your missions are more dangerous because that’s the way of the world right now, but even you have limits; you’re almost forty.”
“Thanks for the reminder.” Forty was still a couple of years away, but one thing Nick couldn’t deny was that he was feeling it.
Nick wasn’t a quitter, but he also wasn’t stupid. He knew when there was no point in arguing. He placed his feet solidly on the floor, stood, and extended his hand to O’Neill. “Thanks, Doc. I appreciate it.”
Shaking his hand, the older man wore an expression that told Nick he wasn’t the first to possibly have his career cut short and he wouldn’t be the last. But it still sucked.
Leaving the exam room, he took the stairs five flights down. He didn’t talk to anyone; it was raining, but he didn’t hail a cab, hoping the walk would clear his head. Finally, soaked to the bone, Nick jumped on the Metro. He was sure he looked sketchy, but he didn’t care. It would keep people away. He got off in Foggy Bottom, walked past the White House and down the mall, ending up on the steps of The Capitol. A security guard gave him the eye, suspicious. As he should be.
Nick was a dangerous man.
He was lighter—leaner—than he’d been before the injury. Not surprising, and probably a good thing.
It was pouring now, reminding him of an op that had dropped his team in the middle of a South American jungle.
God, what he wouldn’t give to be back there again.
Looking up, he felt like the heavens were taunting him.
He had to get out of town. He had a couple of options. He could head to an island and decompress in a tiki hut over a lagoon in Fiji. He had a friend with a chalet in the Alps. It was beautiful and secluded, but there would be no skiing or climbing.
The last idea was the one that really appealed to him. Barefoot Bay. He’d head to his grandparents’ house in Florida to regroup and figure out what to do next.
Sure, people knew him, but most of them wouldn’t ask questions, and the tiny coastal island of Mimosa Key was about as far away from work as he could possibly get. Sure, there might be nosy neighbors, but no one would be shooting at him.
And he’d try to see Lila. If she was still speaking to him.
Yeah, no doubt about it. Thoughts of Lila alone made Florida a very good idea.

My Review:

In Truly, Madly, Deeply by Jeannie Moon,  an unforgettable weekend with Nick leaves Lila with a lot more than just memories.  Nick disappeared after that though, and Lila hasn't heard from him since.  Nick's work is top-secret.  No one knows where he is or what he really does.  His last mission took a toll on him mentally and physically.  With an uncertain future, Nick returns to Mimosa Bay to recover...and to finally see the woman who he can't stop thinking about.  Upon his return to Mimosa Bay, Nick soon finds out his life is going to change in more ways that one, and so is Lila's.  Unprepared for this particular curve life has thrown him and Lila, they struggle individually and together to do the right thing.  What will that be?  There is definitely a connection between them, but is that enough?

Truly, Madly, Deeply is a well paced book about the emotional journey Nick and Lila find themselves on.  They both really struggle on this journey to find what's right for them and the baby, and what will work for them.  A little angsty at times on Lila's part, watching these two characters grow and find strength was touching.  I liked Lila, and I felt some outrage on her part for how she was treated at work (people still think like that?!).  I liked how she stood her ground even when she was hurting inside.  I did like how she handled herself, that she was waiting to tell the father of her baby, that she was going to tell him, before anyone else.  I liked Nick too.  He is so used to keeping everything to himself and not really letting anyone in.  I could feel his struggles and his uncertainties.  It was really heart felt watching these two struggle to articulate and comes to terms with their feelings.  They definitely have feelings for each other, but how deep and lasting they could be was not as definite, and I liked this part of their character and relationship growth.  I felt like Nick and Lila were meant to be together, but for them it was more difficult than that even if the caring between them is obvious.

Truly, Madly, Deeply also shows the good and the bad of living in a small town.  It isn't always pleasant despite the beautiful setting!

Truly, Madly, Deeply is part of the Barefoot Bay Kindle World, but can definitely be read as a solid stand alone that I'd recommend to any romance reader.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Review: Fatal Courage (Shadow Force International #3) by Misty Evans

Book Blurb:

He ruined her career…

In twenty-one missions, CIA golden girl Ruby McKellen has failed only once. Thanks to Navy SEAL Jaxon Sloan, the man who stole her heart and forced her to choose between him and her partner Elliot, she’s on probation and Elliot is in prison for national security crimes. To prove Elliot’s innocence and save her damaged career, Ruby is running an unsanctioned mission—but the only way to get the proof she needs is to go to Jax with her tail between her legs.

She wrecked his heart…

Jaxon left the Navy after the mission with Ruby in Morocco went south, but that one hot, unbelievable night with her will haunt him forever. Working for Shadow Force International now, his new assignment has brought him full circle—the CIA operative Jax’s testimony sent to prison has escaped and Jax has been ordered to hunt him down. Just like in Morocco, the one thing standing in his way is Ruby.

A second chance at love could prove fatal…

When Ruby’s life is threatened and Jax stumbles on information that might prove Elliot is innocent, guilt over putting the man in prison compels him to join her unsanctioned mission. What really happened that night six months ago? Is Elliot an honorable spy or a mastermind at manipulation? Ruby is the only one who can help Jax navigate the world of undercover lies and betrayal to find the truth.

In a battle of wills—and of hearts—Jax and Ruby must have the courage to face the truth about themselves, their past, and what it really means to betray someone you love.

My Review:

In Fatal Courage by Misty Evans, I was taken into a complex, political, multilevel plot filled with unknowns and danger.  At it's center is Ruby, a CIA agent on probation, and Jax, a former Navy SEAL, now operative for Shadow Force International.  Ruby and Jax have a very brief past together, but it's one that's shaped how each of their world has become.  Now the past is part of the present as they are brought together again...but nothing is obvious or what it seems.  Ruby and Jax are both on a mission, but their goals and believes are very different.  Soon though, Ruby is in real danger, Jax is guarding her, and they are reluctantly working together.   Trust is hard to have for Ruby, but as the danger to her increases and the obvious attraction that still remains between Ruby and Jax simmers, she cautiously starts to trust not only Jax, but his SFI colleagues.  Can they keep her safe from the unknown as Ruby and Jax race against time to uncover a plot no one should know about?

There is a great mix of romance, suspense, danger, and politics in Fatal Courage.  The plot is intricate and detailed, but at times was a little difficult to follow in the beginning.  As the story progressed and the plot thickened, it was easier to fall into and become very intrigued in.  I found the plot to be believable, and that was intense!

Ruby is quite single minded in her focus to start, but as she and Jax slowly form an alliance, I liked that she was able to look at what had happened and what was happening from different angles.  She is not used to trusting many people, and the slow build of trust as well as a relationship was interesting to be a part of.  Ruby wants to fly solo, but Jax is determined to be there for any way he can.  I liked both of these characters, but it was Jax who pulled me in the most.  With who he was, his history, his feelings, and actions, he felt so real.

There are a lot of secondary characters in Fatal Courage.  The majority of them are also with SFI, and they all play a relevant role in the plot.  I really liked what they brought to the story and getting to know them all just a little bit better.  Beatrice is a strong secondary character who I can't wait to find out more about!

Fatal Courage is part of Misty Evans' Shadow Force International series, and while the story stands alone, reading the previous books in this series will help you understand the SFI group as a whole.  I'd recommend Fatal Courage to romantic suspense readers.

4/5 stars

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Friday, August 19, 2016

Review: In the Barren Ground by Loreth Anne White

Book Blurb:

In the Barrens, a vast wilderness in northern Canada bordering the Arctic Circle, night consumes every hour of the winter. Humans are scarce; ferocious predators roam freely. Locals say spirits do, too.

Rookie cop Tana Larsson doesn’t mind the dark and quiet. Five months pregnant and hoping to escape the mistakes of her past, she takes a post in Twin Rivers, population 320. Maybe here she can find peace and community for her child.

But with her superior out of commission, Tana becomes the sole police officer in 17,500 square miles. One bitter night, she gets a call about the fatal wolf mauling of two students, and the only way to reach the remote scene is to enlist the help of the arrogant, irritatingly handsome Cameron “Crash” O’Halloran, a local bush pilot with a shady reputation for smuggling and a past cloaked in shadow.

When the macabre scene they uncover suggests violence much more sinister than animal, Tana must trust Crash if she wants to protect the town—and herself—from the evil that lurks in the frozen dark.

IN THE BARREN GROUND, a dark, atmospheric romance and police procedural with gothic/horror overtones set in a remote fly-in community just south of the arctic circle ...

My Review:

In In the Barren Ground by Loreth Anne White, Tana is the lone RCMP officer in Twin Rivers.  Isolated and far up north, she has come here to start over and look to the future.  When a wolf mauling suddenly starts to look like so much more, Tana finds her investigation leading her down a dangerous, dark path with few people to trust.  Crash is someone she doesn't want to trust, but she might not have a much as she doesn't like to admit it, Tana needs help.  As more questions, evil, and twists in her investigation emerge, will Tana be able to keep herself and her town safe?

In The Barren Ground was an enthralling, scary story that I couldn't put down!  Loreth Anne White had me intrigued from the start, and the chills as the plot progressed made me a little afraid to go outside at night!  I loved the fast pace of In The Barren Ground, and as creepy as it was at times it felt like it could be real.   As the plot progressed so do the unknowns, the who,  and the whys.  With meticulous attention to detail and vivid descriptions, it was easy to feel like I was right there with Tana (except that I was probably more scared than she was!).

Tana is a great heroine.  She is so brave, independent, strong, and determined.  Crash is a strong hero.  He is the unknown, and I felt like there was a lot more to him than what met the eye.  I liked getting to know these two as their layers were peeled away and there characters fully developed through out In the Barren Ground.  The relationship between them is cautious, and the hint of romance is a slow building background to the terrorizing plot!  I liked how they were together, and the tension at times was palpable.  I felt like Tana and Crash worked well together, their characters really balanced each other well.

Loreth writes smoothly with great flow, and the incredible unease I felt at times led to a very unexpected climax of In the Barren Ground.  I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to any reader who wants to be captivated, thrilled, and a little bit terrified!

5/5 stars

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Friday, August 5, 2016

Review: Barefoot at Moonrise (Barefoot Bay Timeless #2) by Roxanne St. Claire

Book Blurb:

As a firefighter, Captain Ken Cavanaugh knows his way around dangerous situations—but he'd rather run into a burning building than help plan his 25th high school reunion in Barefoot Bay. Unfortunately, it's his best chance of finally putting things right with Beth Endicott two and a half decades after they ended so badly. But the instant they see each other again, the years blow away like ashes in the heat of their combustible chemistry. For one single night, they let their incendiary passion consume them...but in the morning, they're still left with the smoldering wreckage of a relationship that ended in tragedy.

Raised under the thumb of a rich and controlling man, Beth has spent her adult years craving freedom. Now that she's finally managed to carve out an independent life, is she ready to risk her heart on the first man she ever loved—a man who blames her family for his father's death? With so much painful history between them, Beth can't see a way to have a future with Ken. But one stunning surprise will turn everything they ever believed upside down and send them straight into each other's arms.

Ken is willing to put everything on the line for the family he’s always wanted, but Beth knows the past that ruined them could flare into heartache again. It will take all her newfound courage to prove she would walk through fire for this second chance with the love of her life.

My Review:

In Barefoot at Moon rise by Roxanne St. Claire, teenage loves Ken and Beth reunite years later at a high school reunion.  Ken has the chance to finally apologize to Beth for how things ended between them, something he's regretted for a long time.  Finding themselves alone in a beach cabana, they also find the desire they felt for each other as teenagers has not faded with time.  With so much history between them, even after night of sizzling passion together, Beth is convinced that they can have no type of future together even now, no matter how much Ken might want to try.  They go their separate ways again, but an unexpected event brings them together again...can they have a future after all or is there way too much in the way?

I really enjoyed the multi-focal plot of Barefoot at Moonrise.  The story starts off in an expected way as two people who have an unresolved past meet again, but it quickly builds into so much more as a dynamic plot unfolds.  I liked Ken and Beth's story.  I liked that they are mature characters whose life experiences have shaped them into who they are today and how they react to and deal with situations.  There are so many parts to them and so much is driving them, they are both strong characters.  I liked seeing them come together again, feeling their struggles, and watching them work for and against what they are feeling.  Beth is very independent, almost frustratingly so, she keeps her walls up and at times tries hard to push Ken away.  As I got to know Beth's character better I could understand her and why she might be like this.  As circumstances unfold though, at times I felt like she was being more selfish than independent, and at times it was a little annoying!  This made Beth who she was though, and made her real, because neither her nor Ken are perfect.  I liked Ken, and I could feel his struggles.  I liked how he was with Beth, that he wasn't going to let her push him away easily.  Roxanne really brings Ken and Beth to life and really made me care for them and about what happened to them - because if they are going to have a future they are going to have to work for it.

Family dynamics, trust, secrets, misunderstandings and assumptions play a big part in the plot of Barefoot at Moonrise, and I liked how Roxanne wrote these all in and how they related to the main plot.  They made the plot exciting and unsettled enough to keep me guessing how things would turn out.

Barefoot at Moonrise is about second chances in more ways than one, that it's never too late!  With a great pace and flow, I was immersed in the story and almost sad to see it end!  I'd recommend Barefoot at Moonrise to any romance reader.

5/5 stars

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Friday, July 29, 2016

Review: Love to Win (Fireflies #3) by Lisa Ricard Claro

I could spend hours in that gazebo!

Book Blurb:

She hates to lose . . . Competitive barista Brenna Kinkaid loves a challenge, and she’ll do whatever it takes to win, especially when it comes to her nemesis, Dante Caravicci. But when forced to team up to save their best friends’ wedding, Brenna recognizes that Dante might just be her ultimate win.

He plays to win . . . Restaurateur Dante Caravicci won’t quit anything until he can claim success. He’s bided his time, but he’s used to taking big risks and surviving, so he figures he’s got nothing to lose by playing for Brenna.

Hearts at risk . . . These two fall fast, and it looks like a win-win—until a competition pits them head-to-head and one of them goes way too far. A nudge from an improbable source may be the only way these two competitors will ever admit that the only way to win is to lose their hearts.

My Review:

In Love To Win by Lisa Ricard Claro, Brenna took an instant dislike to Dante from the first time they met and has never looked any deeper at the man.  Dante doesn't know why Brenna dislikes him so much, but he definitely likes her and has decided she's worth trying to know much better.  Living in a small town with mutual friends means they do have to see each other sometimes, and there is that one time that changes everything.  Slowly, and not without bumps, their relationship changes and grows.  Things are looking really good for them, but Brenna plays to win too, and not just Dante's heart.  Soon she might go too far and risk everything they've got together.

I had really mixed feelings about Brenna.  She was realistic mostly, smart, driven and loyal to family and friends...but when it came to Dante, she seemed to turn into someone else.  Someone I wasn't sure I'd enjoy being around.  Having said that, Lisa writes her character so well that she is believable.  Everyone has their flaws.  If Brenna was perfect the plot, what Dante and Brenna go through just wouldn't have the same feel.  I really loved Dante!  From the start he struck me as a man who had so many hidden depths, and I loved getting to know him as Lisa peeled away his layers and developed his strong character.  I felt for him and admired him.  He has worked hard to get where he is today, and he is strong, smart, and talented.  He keeps a lot to himself, and he has his reasons for this.  I felt that this was ok, it was how he was.  Brenna's very poor judgement was all on her, it shouldn't have mattered what had happened in Dante's past, but what was happening with them in the present.  I couldn't believe what she did, and the fall out was heart breaking for both Brenna and Dante.  Forgiveness is a powerful thing, but also a difficult thing at times, and I hoped that they could both forgive and move on to a relationship that feels like it was meant to be!

I really enjoyed all of the secondary characters in Love To Win, most of whom were in the previous Fireflies books.  They play strong roles in Dante and Brenna's story, and the connection they all have felt so good, like something everyone should have.  It was good to see where these characters were now, but Love To Win can be read as a stand alone without feeling lost.  (I do highly recommend reading the other books in this series though because they are all fantastic!)

Love To Win was entertaining, emotional, and a great book to lose myself in.  I thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself for a little while in Dante and Brenna's world, and feeling like I was part of it.  With tension, conflict, hurt, love, and a little bit of push from an unexpected source, I'd highly recommend Love To Win by Lisa Ricard Claro to any romance reader.

5/5 stars

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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Review: Brody's Vow (Colebrook Siblings Trilogy #1) by Kaylea Cross

Book Blurb:

A trained assassin on the run.

Trinity Durant isn’t accustomed to relying on anyone for help. She’s the deadliest of all her Valkyrie sisters, getting up close and personal for her kills. But this time, it’s different. When she’s injured on a job, she has no one to turn to except the handsome stranger holding a weapon on her. Since she needs to escape the city, she reluctantly accepts his help. Too late she realizes that he poses the biggest danger to her of all, by making her question everything about her life—and threatening her jaded heart.

A man unwilling to walk away.

When HRT sniper team leader Brody Colebrook heads home on medical leave for a well-deserved break, the last thing he expects is to stumble upon a mysterious woman in danger. She may be a stranger to him, but she’s a friend of his commander’s and now that Brody knows she’s in trouble, he can’t just leave her to be hunted down and executed. The moment he puts her in his truck it places them both in the crosshairs of a killer bent on revenge. She might trust Brody to have her back, but he wants far more than that. He wants everything she has to give, and he’ll do whatever it takes to get it.

My Review:

Brody's Vow by Kaylea Cross pulled me into the plot quickly and kept me there in an intriguing plot full of possibilities.  Trinity is an unusual heroine because it's not often I've come across a heroine who does what she does.  Her story fascinated me because it felt believable, like something that really could happen.  I really liked her, and liked being privy to her inner thoughts and feelings.  What she does has defined her for so long and I couldn't wait to see what would happen after this job she's managed to carry out but not escape from.  Brody is pulled into Trinity's world very unexpectedly, and once the connection is made he doesn't want to let go or let Trinity face danger herself...even if it puts him in the cross-hairs too.  The attraction is fast and it felt real because I do believe things can happen that fast, especially in Brody and Trinity's world.  Danger is a constant threat in the few days Brody and Trinity find themselves together for, and if they can put an end to the danger where will that leave them?

I really enjoyed this very fast paced book by Kaylea Cross.  Trinity and Brody are both strong, determined characters who are very different and yet in some ways so similar.  I really felt like I got to know them.  I felt for both of them for what they've both been through, but in particular Trinity.  I really hoped they could find a way to make things work in all ways.

Wyatt, Brody's brother, is a secondary character who really stood out for me and I hope to read more about him in future books in this series.

Descriptive and mesmerizing,  the intensely suspenseful plot kept me on edge and the romance kept me hopeful.  I'd recommend Brody's Vow to any romantic suspense reader!

4/5 stars

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Sunday, July 24, 2016

Review: The Lost Sheenan's Bride (Taming of the Sheenans #6) by Jane Porter

Book Blurb:

Trying to get over a broken heart, twenty-four year old teacher Jet Diekerhof takes a gap year to travel and have an adventure. Her practical farming family is horrified until Jet's older sister Harley gets her a long term sub position at a one room school house in Montana’s Paradise Valley. Jet's grateful it’s 775 miles from her overly involved family—and the guy who broke her heart. She’s also sworn off men until meeting darkly handsome Shane Swan changes everything... 

Thirty-four year old Shane Swan has been an outsider since birth. Raised by his maternal grandmother near Flathead Lake, Montana, until her death when he was four, meant he ended up in foster care. But ever smart, determined, and ambitious, Shane has become one of the most successful writers in America. Yet none of his success has answered the burning question: why was he the one given away, and his brothers kept? Now Shane has moved to Marietta to unravel the secrets and lies and what it means to be a Sheenan, and nobody is closer to the Sheenans than Brock’s young sister-in-law, Jet. 

Normally Shane would never use a woman, but if Jet can connect him with the keys to his past, he doesn't seem to have choice. Until he begins to fall for her. Can two strangers, who were never meant to be, believe in love again? 

My Review:

In The Lost Sheenan's Bride by Jane Porter, Jet has found a place to heal her heart in Paradise Valley.   Shane, a successful writer, hopes to find answers in Paradise Valley.  He's in town to write about a long ago mystery that makes him very unwelcome...but he's there for another reason no one knows.  He's hoping to find answers to his past he's searching for.

The Lost Sheenan's Bride was a well paced, intriguing read filled with strong characters and mystery.  I liked Jet.  I liked who she was, that she stood up for herself and what she felt.  The Sheenan's are a close knit family, but they are not above trying to force their way.  Instead of meekly going along with whatever they wanted, I really liked how Jet was herself even if it caused some friction at times.  I liked watching Jet grow stronger and find the unexpected with Shane.  Shane has ulterior motives with Jet, but soon he finds himself more entranced by her than he thought possible.  As Shane searches for answers, he and Jet become closer and I was very interested to see how Shane's quest for missing pieces would turn out and if what Jet and he would work, because I really felt like they were a great fit.  At times I was frustrated with Shane and his big secret, but the family dynamics are well played in The Lost Sheenan's Bride.  I liked how Shane finally dealt with things, it worked well with the plot.

Jane brings not only Shane and Jet to life, but numerous secondary characters also.  I liked seeing the characters from previous Taming of the Sheenan's books and catching up with them.  I liked the family connections in this series and this book. 

I would recommend reading the other books in this series before this one, and would recommend them all to any romance reader looking for well written stories that flow off the pages.

4/5 stars

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