Saturday, September 17, 2022

The Road to Christmas: A Sweet Holiday Romance Novel by Sheila Roberts

Release Date - September 20, 2022 

Sit down and explore the holiday season through four sets of eyes in Sheila Roberts' latest holiday romance. Michelle and Max know their marriage is over. It had a long run, but personal disappointments has destroyed what's left. They put together one last Thanksgiving for their daughters, but Julia can't make it as she lives in Idaho and it's a bit much to travel with a baby.

While trying to hide their failing marriage from their other two daughters and Max's parents, they's dismayed when Julia announces she wants everyone to travel from Washington and California to stay with her for Christmas. It means a road trip for all, and a difficult road trip especially for Michelle and Max as they'd have to be in a car together for far too many hours.

Warren and Hazel, Max's dad and mom, have the shortest trip, but they're also the oldest. Warren has heart disease and no one is sure the trip is really a good idea for them, but they're insistent on making Julia's holiday wish a reality.

That leaves Audrey and Shyla. While Shyla has met her soulmate, Audrey moved to California for a guy who broke her heart. Shyla's determined to turn their road trip into a quest to find the right guy for Audrey.

As each pair hits the road, they have surprises in store. Holiday miracles are about to take place in more than one way, and it could shape up to be the greatest Christmas ever.

This is the second of the holiday romances I've picked up. I liked Max and Michelle a lot. Having been married now for three decades, I feel I could understand them a bit more than the younger or older pair. I did feel it all came together a little too easily, but it's a romance and holiday miracles and all, so it made sense.

Warren and Hazel are a tough pair. Something does happen along the way and then there was a second surprise. That second surprise wasn't something I felt was really essential to the plot and I'm trying to figure out exactly why it happened. It did show just how kick-butt Hazel is.

I loved the developing romance between Audrey and the guy Shyla finds for her. Part of me, however, wishes it hadn't been so rushed towards the end. I'd like to see them have their own book.

Granted, this was a holiday romance carrying four different story lines. With so much going on, it's hard for it to not feel rushed at times. What's most important is that I fell in love with the setting and characters and didn't want it to end.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Snowed in for Christmas - Sarah Morgan

 Release Date - September 20, 2022

Let's talk cover art for a minute. I LOVE the color of the door on the front of Snowed In For Christmas. It's so inviting and drew me immediately to the book. If I was currently on a purple door and trim kick to #ENDALZ, I'd see about having this shade of blue. It's like the sky and ocean rolled into one.

Graphic design aside, the book is just as warm and inviting. I want to be part of the Miller family please. Ross, Clemmie, and Alice all dread the questions they'll get from their mum and grammy when they make the return home for a Scottish Christmas together. It's always talk about marriage, finding their soulmate, and grandchildren.

This year, Clemmie joking proposes that they create an imaginary girlfriend for Ross. She even chooses the woman for a job, a marketing executive, Lucy, who appears on the cover of one of Ross's marketing magazines. That should keep them from prying into Alice's relationship woes and Clemmie's lack of a beau. In a moment of desperation, Clemmie even tells her grammy and mum that Ross has a girlfriend, putting the pressure fully on him for a change.

There's a big problem, the imaginary girlfriend that Clemmie spies on the front of a marketing magazine happens to show up at the Miller home. Lucy's there in person and taken into the home believing she's really Ross's girlfriend. Worse, an unexpected storm hits and no one can leave. Even better, their granny wrote a letter to Santa asking for great-grandchildren for Christmas, and she really believes Santa will come through.

Snowed In For Christmas is a delight. I love this time of year. The weather bounces from 90 F one day to 60 F the next, putting me back in long pants and cardigans as my body adjusts. Curling up with a cup of coffee or Earl Gray and a cozy holiday romance is just my ideal way to spend a few hours. 

I loved the family, including the sassy granny, and want to be part of them. I'll join them for an afternoon of snowball fights, tea, and whiskey shortbread. In fact, the only thing missing that would have made this perfect is a recipe for that shortbread! I was hooked and am so glad I read it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

A Taste of Murder by Jo Grossman and Robert Weibezahl

 Release Date - 2003

I pulled this one out recently and feel it deserves a review, even though it's from my personal collection. It's a fun look at recipes that popular mystery authors share from their kitchens.  What's inside? Here are the different sections and a sampling of recipes.

First Instincts:

Maureen Tan's Armadillo Eggs

Choose Your Poison:

Rick Riordan's Tres Navarre's South Texas Margarita

The Pot Thickens:

Connie Shelton's Green Chile Stew

Dressed to Kill:

William Murran's Insalata Caprese

Kneadless Violence:

Gillian Roberts' Crusty Fat-Free Bread (One of my favorites!)

Quick and Painless:

Sue Graton's The Kinsey Millhone Famous Peanut Butter and Pickle Sandwich

Pasta Mortem:

Bill Moody's Piano Man Pasta with Shrimp and Asparagus

Something's Fishy:

Richard North Patterson's Sea Bass in Orange Sauce

Fowl Play:

Carolyn G. Hart's Sarah's Easy Mexican Chicken Casserole

Secret Meat-ings:

Sherlock Holmes Public House & Restaurant's Victoria Regina Chicken Pie

No Place to Meat:

Ellen Hart's The Lyme House Shepherd's Pie

Faithful Sidekicks:

Charlaine Harris's Best Fried Green Tomatoes

Revenge is Sweet:

Susan Wittig Albert's Lavender and Old Malice Cookies

That's just a small selection of the recipes within this book. Each author gets a few paragraphs detailing what they write about and who their characters are. You'll know many of them, but you might find yourself building a substantial list of books you want to read. That's what makes it so great!

In my household, we have one family member who cannot have dairy due to sensitivities to milk proteins. A Taste of Murder has great selections for everyone, vegan, vegetarian, pescetarian, or omnivore. Plus, it's easy to adapt many of them to fit your needs. I've made Brown's Hotel Afternoon Tea Scones with spread made from almond oil and almond milk and added dried cranberries instead of the raisins, and they became a household favorite.

It's getting harder to find this cookbook, but there are used copies available and it's well worth it!

Monday, September 12, 2022

This Is Why We Lie - Gabriella Lepore

 Release Date - September 2021

When Adam Cole and Jenna Dallas find Jenna's friend's body floating in the sound, they're immediately questions and suspicions arise. Jenna's aunt is the lead detective on the case, and Jenna's best friend becomes the prime suspect pretty quickly.

Jenna is certain Hollie didn't do it, and Adam seems to be hiding something tied to the school for troubled teen boys that he goes to. What really happened and how can Jenna prove it and save her friend from being charged with murder?

I read any mystery as an armchair sleuth, trying to put together the pieces and figure it out before the big reveal in the novel. That's always been my goal while reading mysteries. I have to say I had the solution pegged in This Is Why We Lie pretty early on.

The boys' big secrets that lead to all the lying in the first place. Not sure I felt those big secrets were really all that big or necessary to hide. They seemed kind of minor to me. 

But, the pacing and dialogue were great. I didn't love all of the characters, but it didn't matter. The story kept me engaged until the end due to the pacing and dialogue that made it an engaging read.

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Mr. Perfect on Paper by Jean Meltzer

 Release Date - August 9, 2022

It's during a live broadcast that Dara Rabinowitz's Bubbe Miriam blurts to the world that the organized founder of the Jewish dating app, J-Mate, even has a list of her "Perfect Jewish Husband." For Chris Steadfast, it could be exactly what he needs to save his job. He's just learned that the news channel is about to pull his show, and after uprooting his daughter to NYC following her mother's tragic death, he cannot go through another move.

It's for that reason that Chris and his producer take all of the social media buzz to heart and ask Dara to let them find the guy that checks ever item on her wish list. They'll broadcast each date on the way to finding Mr. Perfect. A man who...

  • Is a doctor or lawyer
  • Not previously married and doesn't have kids
  • And is Jewish and, most importantly, one who who follows Jewish laws, especially the Kosher diet

It's proving harder than Chris first imagined. Each date keeps falling victim to unexpected, and completely unplanned situations (think a honey bee stuck in Dara's hair). The bigger issue, Chris is falling for Dara, but he doesn't check any of her boxes, so he knows it's a moot point.

I loved Jean Meltzer's The Matzah Ball. Mr. Perfect on Paper is just as warm and inviting. It's packed with humorous touches and likable characters, even if Dara was a little blind to true love at times. Still, I couldn't put it down and was delighted as the romance played out in delightfully unexpected ways. It's been cooler and rainy here in Vermont, and this was the perfect romance to curl up with over a hot cup of tea.

Monday, August 29, 2022

The Girl Made of Clay by Nicole Meier

 Release Date - September 25, 2018

TR Harlow is badly burned, and it's a call his daughter, Sara, never expected or even wanted to receive. She hasn't seen him in years, not after he abandoned his family for fame in the art world. Yet, now all of these years later, he needs a carer and Sara's the only one on his list.

Despite her hesitation, Sara takes him in. It's adding strain to her marriage, but her son is bonding with his grandfather, and that makes her wonder if it's time to forgive old hurts and move on with the years that are left.

The Girl Made of Clay is a very emotional, touching story. It tugs at the heartstrings and keeps you engaged from the start. Sara's lack of connection with her dad is apparent, and I felt it also fed a lot into the distance between her and her husband. She simply had a tough time connecting with men in her life. Her son, Sam, was a joy and made the book.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Lucy Checks In by Dee Ernst

 Release Date - August 16, 2022

Lucy's built a grand career in hotel management and rebranding and was nearing the retirement she dreamed of, but it all fell apart when her boyfriend/hotel mogul took off with every penny of the retirement and pension funds and hotel savings. Two years later, she's been cleared of the crime, but suspicions remain high that she knew what he was doing. She cannot get a job in the industry in the U.S., but she's offered the chance to help a French inn and takes it.

In a quaint French city, Lucy learns the job is far more hands-on than she realized. The inn needs serious upgrading if it's going to draw visitors, and there are several live-ins who don't want to lose their private lifestyles to the hustle and bustle of a hotel. But, Lucy doesn't have many other options, so she dives in and soon finds herself enamored with the different lifestyle. The question remains though - does she have what it takes to fully restore a rundown estate and turn it into a thriving French inn.

As I'm around Lucy's age, I find the thought of starting over in a French village very appealing. For that reason, I was rooting for her from the start. Imagine getting to move to a location where the food, people, and atmosphere are so very different to what we're experiencing in the U.S. Part of me wishes I could be her.

The story has touches of romance, but there is a lot more to it than that. There are the relationships the characters build as they learn to trust this American who comes in with grand plans to uproot everything they're accustomed to. There's also Lucy's vision and shifts as she realizes her way may not always be the right way. 

It was a charming women's fiction that made me want to be part of Rennes. I loved the setting and most of the characters, though there is one character that really bugged me and I never was happy with how that character's life played out, but I'll keep those details to myself and let the readers experience it and decide what they think.

The Road to Christmas: A Sweet Holiday Romance Novel by Sheila Roberts

Release Date - September 20, 2022  Sit down and explore the holiday season through four sets of eyes in Sheila Roberts' latest holiday...