Friday, February 21, 2020

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

Release Date - February 18, 2020

Part of me found The Sun Down Motel to be a very sad story. It's also pretty haunting and held my interest from the start.

On her way to New York City, Viv Delaney is dropped off in the remote town of Fell. She's ready for something bigger and better than the left she left behind, but money is an issue. She takes a job as the night desk clerk at a seedy little motel in Fell. Little does she know that the Sun Down Motel will change her life.

After her mother's death, Carly Kirk feels lost. She's also always been curious as to what happened to her Aunt Viv. She never knew her and the family rarely talked about her. All that's known is that Viv disappeared from her shift at the Sun Down Motel and was never seen of or heard from again. Carly's going to travel to Fell and see if she can't uncover the truth.

In Fell, Carly finds herself landing the exact same job Viv held. It's the same shift, too. Soon, she realizes that this motel has one hell of a story to tell and the secrets could help her solve Viv's disappearance if they don't claim Carly first.

At heart, The Sun Down Motel is a solid mix of ghost story and mystery. It's told by both Viv and Carly. Viv's story is set in the 1980s when she moved to Fell and took the job. Carly is present day. Chapters switch back and forth and tell the story in a seamless manner that leaves you on the edge of your seat.

As the story is revealed, I found myself sad for the women. You'll see what I mean. I did, however, love how it resolved even if there was one part of the story I felt was unnecessary to the plot. I read this one in one sitting and highly recommend it.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Only One Life by Ashley Farley

Release Date - April 2019

Just yesterday morning, I'd given up on this book. I had marked it as unable to finish. The book I chose instead of it wasn't grabbing me, so I went back and gave it one more try. Why I was never able to finish it in the past is truly beyond me. It turned out to be an emotional read.

Julia Martin was kicked from her family's manor when she announced she was getting married, pregnant, and dropping out of college. Expecting her parents' support, she received a very cold dismissal. Fifteen years have passed. She's just had her first child after years of miscarriages. Her husband died tragically in an accident hours before their son was born.

It's been a struggle, but her husband's death has made it impossible for Julia to survive. The bank is foreclosing on her home and she has no choice but to go home. There, she's surprised by her mom's warm welcome, but her father and sister treat her just as horridly as they did in the past.

As secrets are revealed, it becomes clear that this is Julia and her mother's turn to reexamine their choices. It's time for them to decide what to make of their future.

I know why I kept stopping this book. Julia's dad and sister are jerks and I couldn't imagine putting up with their behavior. The story goes back in time to look at how Iris met her husband and why she's put up with him for so many years. From that moment, the story seamlessly switches back and forth between Iris's past and present and Julia's present. I was hooked and hoped that all would be okay between these two as they learned to embrace the future and lean on each other.

Am I totally happy with every moment of the book? No, but that's okay. I never did like Julia's dad or her sister. I did love the growing bond between mother and daughter that made this book so touching. It ended up being a winner.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Spotlight on Harlequin March 2020 Releases

Welcome to a sneak peek into Harlequin's March 2020 releases. Each month, readers find dozens of new books to indulge in. From princesses to missing children, there's a lot in store for readers who want to curl up and get lost in an engaging story this March. For this month, my standout picks are:

  • Reese Ryan's Secret Heir Seduction
  • Debra Webb's Before He Vanished
  • Annie West's Revelations of a Secret Princess

Starting with Secret Heir Seduction, Reese Ryan's story takes you on a sizzling journey to Texas where sportswear fashion mogul Darius Taylor-Pratt is in town hoping to land a partnership. Things go awry when he learns his birth father was a very, very wealthy man and that he's really the man's long-lost heir. He's also not amused as he's never heard from or even of this man.

Worse, or maybe that's better, Darius' rental home neighbor is his ex-flame. He broke her heart for reasons known only to him. The sparks between them cannot be ignored, and he doesn't want to mess things up this time.

There's a lot to like with Secret Heir Seduction. The sparks between Darius and jewelry designer Audra create fantastic romantic tension. Romances need conflict, but I saw this conflict coming way too early. As I could see exactly where things were going, I found myself almost annoyed when it reached that point. All was good, however, as the conflict didn't get drawn out for long.

Oh how I loved this story. Of the three, this one was clearly my favorite. Twenty-five years ago, seven-year-old Halle Lane's best friend disappeared. He walked home from school and was never seen again. Fast forward a quarter of a century. Halle is a reporter and asks to do a look back at his disappearance. This includes getting his mom to talk, which could be a problem since his mom refuses to talk to reporters.

Liam Hart is happy at his family's vineyard. When he gets Halle's story in the mail, he cannot figure out why anyone would have sent it to him. He lives on the other side of the country to Winchester, Tennessee. It's the photo of the young boy in Halle's story. That young boy could be his twin.

In this Harlequin Intrigue release, you have Halle who has very clear memories of her friend. You have Liam who cannot ignore the similarities between this boy and his own childhood photos, but he's never been to or visited Tennessee. That leads him to question everything Halle suggests. Despite it all, the pair can't help but ignore the connection they feel. The combination of those romantic feelings, the mystery regarding the young boy's disappearance, and the present day mysteries that keep popping up as Halle digs deeper turned this into a story I could not put down.  Before He Vanished had me hooked.

The final pick this month is Annie West's Revelations of a Secret Princess. My heart broke a little for Caro/Princess Carolina. She finds herself at Jake Maynard's doorstep. She'll do anything to get hired to be the nanny for his young niece. Her parents were killed in a tragic accident, so the young girl has been uprooted from her home.

What Jake doesn't know is that "Caro" is a princess. She's come across proof that the baby she was told died during birth survived. She will do anything to be close to her daughter, but she also knows that Jake will do anything for his niece. Convincing him otherwise will never happen.

I cannot imagine going through all that Caro endured. I loved that this story never really focused on adding too much extra conflict to an already conflicted set of characters. They had a lot to process, many feelings to explore, and watching their choices and interactions play out was a dreamy ride I am so glad I got to take.

All About Harlequin

Are you new to Harlequin? Get ready for memorable series and standalone stories that are all just the right length for that lazy afternoon, bubble bath relaxation time, or those moments when you need to kill time before an appointment. They've always been my pick for light, romantic, satisfying stories that stick with me.

Thanks so much to Harlequin for letting me be part of this tour. Here are a few more things to know about this publisher.

Harlequin Series celebrates 70 years of feel-good entertainment! Founded in May 1949 and a pioneer of the category Series romance model, Harlequin is a globally recognized brand with offices all over the world.  
Unique to Harlequin are the category romance novels, which are short romance novels, usually no more than 200 pages, and about 55,000 words. That means you can finish a book in 2-4 hours, making them perfect binge-reading! Plus, they’re great for the budget-conscious reader, with print prices starting at $4.99 and ebook prices starting at $1.99. 
Many well-known authors have written for Harlequin Series, including Nora Roberts, Brenda Jackson, Jeannie Lin, Sarah Morgan, Farrah Rochon, Debbie Macomber, Jayne Ann Krentz, Robyn Carr, Heather Graham, Susan Mallery, RaeAnne Thayne, and the list goes on! 
Harlequin Series has twelve lines, with 66 brand new novels available each month. Turn the page to discover your favorite Harlequin Series line!
Did you know?

  • Over 720,000 romance novels were given out at checkpoints during the fall of the Berlin Wall, books that were previously banned in East Berlin, as a symbol of freedom
  • Harlequin was the first traditional publisher to release 100% of its new titles as ebook
  • Harlequin Series hosted the first group date with The Bachelor star Sean Lowe
  • Harlequin Series has had book-themed partnerships with Nascar and the Professional Bull Riders, complete with celebrity cover appearances of people from each sport
  • Harlequin had The Kardashian’s patent their kiss in the Patent Your Kiss campaign
  • Based on popular Harlequin Series novels, we will be releasing 30+ movies in the 2-3 years

Friday, February 7, 2020

Foul is Fair by Hannah Capin

Release Date - February 18, 2020

Foul is Fair is a violent, honest, and very, very satisfying revenge tale. I will warn that rape, rape culture, and murderous revenge are some of the themes you'll come across.

Along with her friends, Jade is one of her school's elite. On her 16th birthday, the Los Angeles teen is attacked by a group of golden boys from St. Andrew's Prep. She will not let the brutal assault tear her down. She's going to reestablish herself and get revenge.

This means Jade switches school and enters St. Andrew's Prep with the goal of taking down those boys and their circle. They may be the golden boys, but they're human and just as capable as suffering as Jade was the night they assaulted her.

This isn't my typical read, but I am so glad I gave it a try. The writing is brutally honest. Imagine being 16 and raped by a group with far too much power. The desire to get even in just as brutal a manner is understandable. I cheered her on as she built and enacted her plan.

I get that some may be turned off by the topic of rape and murder, but it's real. While it may not be socially accepted, it's a real emotion. I recommend it for the brutal reality that some who are raped don't want to stay silent. An eye for an eye and all... and that's what makes this story so addicting.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Been There, Married That by Gigi Levangie

Release Date - February 11, 2020

One thing is certain of Been There, Married That. The "husband" in this book is an obnoxious turd. I couldn't stand his character, which is probably for the best given that I found very little to connect to when it came to Agnes Murphy Nash.

Agnes (Aggie if you will) is married to a powerful producer and has her own career as an author. She has bundles of friends, a gorgeous house with more than a dozen bathrooms, and a lifestyle that most would kill to have. Her daughter is not as easy to please, but then she's nearing her pre-teen years. After arriving home one day, she finds herself locked out of their estate. Worse, she's hit with a taser when she tries to enter anyway. Her husband has decided he wants a divorce.

With her credit cards all frozen, a daughter who seems to hate her, and a husband who is busy sleeping but not "sleeping" with the household manager, Aggie isn't sure what to do. One thing is for certain, with her sister's help, she's not just going to sit back and let him take what he wants. She'll fight him until the bitter end.

Trevor is scum. I cannot believe how easily manipulated people were by this scum. It was clear from the start that he had no interest in his daughter. He didn't seem to have interest in anything besides himself. Given that, I had a clear path for Aggie to take when enacting her revenge, except she never seemed to take that route. Her sister was far more up for the type of punishment I felt he deserved.

I think that was my issue. I liked Aggie's sister better. Aggie spent so much time moaning about poor pitiful, pre-menopausal her that I never connected with her. I had to keep reading hoping that the revenge I'd plotted would happen. Otherwise, I would have given up after a few chapters. It ended up being a story that was just not my cup of tea.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

An Everyday Hero by Laura Trentham

Release Date - February 4, 2020

Book covers sometimes catch my eye and draw me in. That's exactly what happened with An Everyday Hero. The title didn't do much for me, but that cover most certainly did. Then, I read the blurb and knew it sounded like it would be a book that tugs at the heartstrings. Laura Trentham doesn't ever disappoint when it comes to hitting the emotions.

Greer Hadley's returned to Madison, Tennessee, a little shaken. Her career as a Nashville songwriter didn't hit the mark she'd hoped. Her romance is over. Plus, she's gotten herself into a bit of a situation that's going to require her to perform community service for a bit. Her community service puts her into the tough position of helping others through music at Music Tree Foundation. Her first troubled souls are a teen and a wounded veteran.

The vet, Emmett, is a former classmate who was injured in battle and doesn't seem himself as the man he once was. Greer can deal with him. It's the troubled teen that's a little harder to handle. Ally's mom is an addict and her military father was killed overseas just four months ago. Green and Ally share a passion in songwriting that may be exactly what's needed to help reach Ally.

Greer's in a new position of being a counselor through her passion for music. It seems a little odd to her given her own life being a mess, but she has no choice. It may also change her life as she, Emmett, and Ally start to bond in ways she'd never imagine.

Greer's snarky responses to Ally's temperamental outbursts was comedy gold. I found myself snickering more than once. I also loved the progression of the feelings between Emmett and Greer. I wanted them to find that happily ever and couldn't stop reading until I knew how it would turn out. This book was delightful and exactly the change of pace I needed.

If you read the first book in the Heart of a Hero series, this really doesn't carry on the former book. It's new and stands on its own very well. It's the hero in all of the characters that makes this a stellar addition to the series.

Monday, February 3, 2020

An Optimist's Guide to Letting Go by Amy E. Reichart

Release Date - May 18, 2018

This is another book I struggled to get into. I'm glad I tried again. It was a lovely read that was ideal for a cold, dreary winter's day.

Gina Zoberski is a struggling single mom. Her husband and true love died two years ago, and she has a hard time moving on. Her teen daughter's becoming moody and difficult to be around. Her mother is demanding and almost insulting at times. It's her food truck, "Grilled G's," and her clientele that keep her sane.

Gina's sister doesn't have any easier a time with her mom than Gina does. Regardless, Gina stops by to check on her mom and finds her on the floor following a stroke. While searching for the paperwork the hospital needs, she comes across a shocking secret that has the power to change the sisters' lives.

An Optimist's Guide to Letting Go was a tearjerker. Gina's easy to connect with. Her mother bugged me, so I could understand exactly why her Gina and her sister weren't thrilled. That aspect fit the story well. As the characters grew, I found myself rooting for all four of them.

This is a feel-good story about a semi-dysfunctional family who has to figure out a way to keep going after a health scare. Read it. It's got a touch of romance with several characters as you work your way from Gina's point of view to her mom's and back.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

By Reservation Only (Deerbourne Inn) - Barbara Edwards

Release Date - October 8, 2018

Here's a book I started and lost interest in. Tried again and still couldn't get into it. I gave it one more shot more than a year later, and this time I met with success. Unfortunately, I did also find myself frustrated that I did.

Welcome to Willow Spring, Vermont. Chef Nathan Harte was given a historic inn by a favorite client. He's spent months restoring it, and work is coming to an end. A short time prior to the opening, Emily Harrington arrives hoping to go through the inn's historic documents. As Nathan's been injured and could use an extra pair of hands, he reluctantly agrees.

Emily is in Vermont for reasons she doesn't want to share. She finds herself falling for Nathan, but she can't let that attraction keep her from her goals. Plus, Willow Spring has a lot going on. There's an arsonist on the loose, too.

I liked the setting. I found certain things to be unrealistic. This really isn't a romance. It's more a cozy mystery, but Nathan really isn't a sleuth. He's just a witness to the world around him. That arsonist mystery definitely got tied up too quickly and really didn't make much sense to me. I didn't feel it added to the story at all.

I live in Vermont. I've grown up here. I can tell you that the only poisonous snake you might stumble across is a timber rattlesnake. They also were put on the state's endangered list when I was a teen. I haven't seen one in my life, and I've never heard of one being encountered in a field. Some people think there are spotted adders. They're actually milksnake and aren't harmful at all. I find water snakes are the most aggressive snake I've ever encountered and even then, they're not poisonous and would rather slither away than confront a person. If you're coming to Vermont, I'd be more worried of getting a deer tick than I would any poisonous snake. Even a deer tick isn't dangerous if you remove it within a day.

The story ends abruptly. I won't give away any spoilers, but it's clear that this is the first in a series. As other authors wrote the other stories in the series, I'm not sure the untied ends get the treatment they need. I'd have to read the rest of the series to know anything, and I just wasn't engrossed enough to bother.

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...