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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Allie and Bea: A Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Setting: California
Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: Lake Union
Release Date: May 23, 2017

Allie and Bea: A Novel is as different as you'll get from Catherine Ryan Hyde's bestseller Pay It Forward. Yet, I found this novel to be just as powerful as that introduction to Hyde's writing. 

Bea is a widower who gets sucked into one of those obnoxious IRS phone scams. She'd barely been getting by after her husband died, but now with scammers taking every penny she owns, she has nothing left. Checks that were written to cover bills are bouncing, she can't afford groceries let alone the rent, and she has nothing left. Fleeing with her cat, Bea gets into her husband's old work van and starts driving up the coast. Her only goal is to live in a world where $700ish in Social Security payments is enough to get by. Bea's angry with the world and situation and wants to take back what she feels she is owed.

Allie's world is torn out from under her. Her parents are arrested, she's whisked away from her affluent coastal home, and put in a group home where her roommate is either busy stealing her stuff or threatening her. At 15, Allie is not used to having nothing. Desperate to stay alive, she trusts another girl and winds up in a human trafficking ring. She manages to escape, but she has nothing but the clothes on her back.

Bea comes across Allie as Allie is escaping her captor. Bea is convinced the girl is trying to carjack her but soon realizes Allie is not a threat. She agrees to drive Allie to the next town but soon ends up with a companion on a trip that will change Bea's life in ways she never dreamed possible.

I really liked Bea. She's a bit of a curmudgeon, but I get it. She'd been married for decades, isolated from many people, and was scammed in the worst possible way. I got her desire to be left alone, just her and her cat seeking a place of refuge where no electricity bills, water bills, rent, etc. were hanging over her head. I also got her sense of desperation to steal and lie her way into money.

Allie is a little naive, but she's also 15 and has lived a very pampered life. I got that and really loved watching her innocence and stubborn side start to change Bea. I loved seeing the teen be the one to teach the older adult that her methods for getting what she needed were just plain wrong. For that reason, I found myself thinking of Trevor (Pay It Forward) from time to time. 

My problem with Allie and Bea is that it ended. Honestly, I wanted more. I wasn't ready to say goodbye to this pairing. They made me laugh, cry, and simply enjoy all that life has given me, even when I've taken my own blows in the past few months. For that, I thank the author.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Any Time, Any Place by Jennifer Probst

Setting: Connecticut
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Gallery
Release Date: January 21, 2017

Any Time, Any Place is the second book in the Billionaire Builders series. It's a story of hidden secrets, a determined heroine, and an equally determined hero.

Raven is happy owning her bustling restaurant and bar called My Place. She'll never get past her father's death, however. He died in a car crash running away with Diana Pierce, the heiress to Pierce Construction.

Dalton Pierce has never gotten past his mother's death. How could a woman so loving with her children abandon them all to run away? While he and his brothers are at a local bar, he spies Raven and admits he falls pretty hard with both her and her antique mahogany bar.

When Raven's asked to be in a magazine, she can't refuse the publicity. At the same time, she needs the bar refinished and Dalton is the right man for the job. She cannot fraternize with the enemy, so how's she supposed to fighting her attraction. As sparks fly, the truth about her past may end everything she's starting to feel makes her whole.

Jennifer Probst's novel caught my interest from the start. I really liked Dalton, and even Raven was an enjoyable character. She's a bit of a spitfire, yet she also has an emotional side that makes her seem genuine. My issue is that the secret about their connection dragged on and on. I couldn't figure out why not just tell him. It's not like she was behind the wheel.

Despite that little niggle, and it's really nothing that hasn't been used as a conflict in romance before, I loved this book. I loved the characters, setting, and wish I could be at the bar. I also would love to return and see more about the kitchen staff. The chef at My Place warmed my heart.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

No One But You by Brenda Novak

Setting: Silver Springs, California.
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: MIRA
Release Date: May 30, 2017

After escaping an abusive marriage to a police officer, Sadie Harris works as many hours as she can at a local diner, but it's not enough. She stumbles across an ad looking for an assistant. The job pays far more than Sadie currently makes. The problem is Dawson Reed, a man recently released from prison for murdering his parents, is the person in need of help. Sadie's just gotten out of one cruel relationship, she's very nervous about working for a man who was charged with murder.

Now that Dawson is out of prison, he's determined to find who really killed his parents. He also needs to get his sister out of the facility where she was placed and bring her back home. To do that, he needs someone who can be his sister's caregiver. Sadie is the perfect woman for the job.

As Sadie and Dawson get to know each other, the chemistry is obvious. However, Sadie's soon-to-be ex-husband is not about to let her go. Especially not when the person she's working with is a criminal. Sadie and Dawson may be trying to escape their pasts, but their pasts don't want to let them forget so easily.

I've always loved Brenda Novak's romances. The settings are charming. Characters come to life and make you wish they were friends. In No One But You, there's also the touch of mystery that you do want to see how it plays out.

Dawson and Sadie are a great couple. There's definitely chemistry that sizzles, but the added involvement of her pain in the behind ex does make you want to reach into the book. I hated him and couldn't wait to see him get some kind of comeuppance. I wasn't disappointed at all with Brenda Novak's latest.