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Saturday, October 14, 2017

Hope at Christmas by Nancy Naigle

Setting: Hopewell, North Carolina
Genre: Holiday Romance
Publisher: St. Martins Griffin
Release Date: October 10, 2017

For Sydney Ragsdale, this Christmas is shaping up to be a difficult one. Valentine's Day came and went with her favorite chocolates and a note from her husband that he'd met someone else and wanted a divorce. Sydney refuses to have him controlling her finances, so she packs up their 10-year-old daughter and moves to her grandparent's farmhouse in Hopewell, North Carolina. There, she gets a temporary position working in the bookstore she cherished as a child.

Kevin MacAlea, Mac for short, has been a single parent since his wife walked out on him and their son. She never looked back. Mac's determined to make sure the boy knows how much he's loved. As the town's mysterious Santa, Mac brings Christmas to life. When a young girl sits on his lap and tells him how she doesn't want her mom to be sad anymore, he makes it his goal to make sure Sydney knows she has friends in town. Little does he know the magic of the holiday may open his heart to more than friendship.

Strengths and Weaknesses

There's a lot that happens in Hope at Christmas. Therefore, I'd call this a multi-layered read. You have Sydney and her daughter. They're both handling the emotions of the divorce, moving to a new town, and settling into an older farmhouse. You have Mac who is doing everything possible to be the best single parent possible. There's Bea who knows she's getting older and ready to retire, but her passion for her bookstore has her longing for someone who will take over.

While there are a few things going on, the book is cohesive and doesn't jump around and lose the reader. I found myself involved deeply in each character and hoping for that magical happily-ever-after moment that comes with most romance novels.

RTR's Bottom Line

Of all the holiday romances I've read this year, I think I liked this one the most. It is a romance, but it's equal parts women's fiction. It didn't rush into the romance. Instead, it built up the relationships between Sydney and the rest of the small town. I felt like part of the town and loved getting to know the characters. Hope at Christmas was a win for me.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Murder Over Mochas: A Java Jive Mystery by Caroline Fardig

Setting: Nashville, TN
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Publisher: Random House
Release Date: October 24, 2017

Now that she's a private investigator, Juliet Langley tries to leave murder investigations to the murder investigators in Nashville. This time it's tough. Juliet and her boss and best friend, Pete, are prime suspects. She doesn't believe the police are doing enough to investigate the crime. The lead detective is determined to pin the murder on her.

You may be wondering why Juliet and Pete are the prime suspects. This time, the victim is Juliet's swindling thief of an ex-fiance. He dropped dead of a what appears to be a poisoning in Java Jive.

Juliet and Pete dive into an investigation together in order to clear their names. The problem is that the more they investigate, the more it appears that the real killer isn't going to let them uncover the truth.

Strengths and Weaknesses

I've been a fan of cozy mysteries for years. Diane Mott Davidson kicked things off, and I've followed many series over the years. I've come to adore Caroline Fardig's A Java Jive Mystery series. Murder Over Mochas is especially intriguing as you get to see more of the notorious Scott, for as long as he lasts.

There's always just enough action, a few twists, and settings that draw me in. I have been in Juliet's corner from the start. As she's met potential love interests, I've grown to like them very much, too. This book took a bit of a step away from her work as a PI, but the coffee shop details were still there and made me wish I was there.

RTR's Bottom Line

Buy it. If you're new to the series start at the beginning and catch up. I love how the romances in this book have taken unexpected turns. While other series seem to drag things out, I'm always pleasantly surprised by the way romances work out in this series. Murder Over Mochas is another satisfying entry in this delightful series.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Spinster Wife by Christina McKenna

Setting: Northern Ireland
Genre: Suspense/Mystery
Publisher: Lake Union
Release Date: October 12, 2017

Rita-Mae's reached the last straw with her husband. She's had enough and wants out before he kills her. When she spies an ad for a rental cottage in a remote village in Northern Ireland, she feels it's the perfect time to escape.

Dorrie wakes up on a bed and breakfast with no idea how she got there or where she is. She struggles to find any clues that might help her remember more than snippets of her past.

There's also Bram, Rita-Mae's landlord. He lives under the shadow of his domineering mother. He'd love nothing more but to find his soulmate, but so far it's all been a wash. Rita-Mae may be secretive, but she's caught his eye.

Both women have no idea who to trust as they start new lives. Rita-Mae has other looming troubles as it appears a stalker is after her and determined to make her life a living hell. Is Bram someone she can trust or not? Will they be able to find peace in their temporary new homes or are they doomed to misery?

Strengths  and Weaknesses

There was a lot going on in The Spinster Wife. You have Rita-Mae, a woman whose cruel husband forced her to flee. There's Dorrie, a woman who has no idea who she is or how she got there. There's the cottage where Rita-Mae moves to that seems to have its own secrets. Then, there's Rita-Mae's landlord who comes off as creepy one minute and protective and sweet the next. Those all work together to create a puzzling mystery.

The issue is that the story flipped between people so often that I found it distracting. Things would be heating up with one character's story and suddenly you're into another location and mysterious aspect. I had a hard time adjusting to the switches and grew tired of them.

RTR's Bottom Line

While I loved the premise and intrigue found within The Spinster Wife, the story dragged at times. I found it too easy to lose focus and not want to continue. Many times, this was the direct result of the switches between the women and the landlord that rents to one of the women.

This is one of those books where I wanted to keep reading to find out what was really going on. Getting there was harder than I wish it had been.