Thursday, December 30, 2021

Christmas in Rose Bend by Naima Simone

 Release Date - October 26, 2021

Naima Simone's Christmas in Rose Bend was my introduction to Rose Bend. The charming town drew me in and made me wish I was there. It's a quintessential New England village filled with characters you want to become friends with.

Nessa Hunt takes a leave of absence from her work as an ER nurse. The only man she's ever known for a father is dead, and she's now the guardian to a pre-teen sister she's spent little time with. Ivy isn't happy to be with Nessa, and it's proving to be challenging from the start. 

For Nessa, his death is equally bittersweet as her mother's death a short while back also left her reeling. She learned during her mom's death bed confession that the man she thought was her father isn't her father at all. Despite the internal and sibling conflicts, Nessa is going to do what her "dad" asked of her and take Ivy to a small town called Rose Bend for the holidays.

Upon arriving at the inn, Nessa is immediately enamored with the owners' son, Wolfgang. He's sexy and seems to be the perfect guy for her. However, the last thing Nessa needs is to get involved with another man. The last one in her life didn't leave her with warm, fuzzy feelings. 

In many ways, Rose Bend reminded me a lot of Stowe, a village about 45 minutes from me. The scenery seemed pretty similar, and that made the setting familiar. I loved watching Nessa and Ivy find their way from the hurt they felt to a strong bond. I also loved the developing romance with Wolfgang. It's a charming holiday romance that warms the heart.

The Christmas Wedding Guest by Susan Mallery

 Release Date - September 28, 2021

Enjoy a two-for-one romance novel that's set during the holidays, but it's really a fantastic read for any moment that you need something positive and uplifting. The Christmas Wedding Guest is about sisters, one local and one who moved away. They're spending the holidays helping their parents get ready for their wedding.

Reggie hasn't been back in a year. She left town with no plans to return after her fiance dumped her the same weekend he proposed. Dena's given up finding Mr. Right and decides to have a baby on her own. Both sisters are in for surprises. Reggie's former high school love is also back in town and can't deny the attraction between them is still strong. Dena has a celebrity guest at her inn, and it's hard to ignore their attraction.

While they're supposed to be focused on their parents' vow renewals, romance is in the air. The holidays could lead to more joy than anyone had planned.

I loved this story. There's not a lot of conflict. It's just fun, happy, and exactly what I needed. I'd been struggling to read since my mom's death a few weeks ago. While it was a long time coming, Alzheimer's took a lot from her and from the rest of us, too. I thank Susan Mallery for making me laugh, smile, and feel warm and cozy by the end of the story.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

The Secret of Snow by Viola Shipman

 Release Date - October 31, 2021

Many years ago, Sonny Dunes traded her life in Michigan for a new one in Southern California. She's never looked back. That is until her job is taken from her and she's replaced by a virtual meteorologist. Her drunken meltdown on the set goes viral. With that, Sonny's former college friend-of-sorts offers her a job back in their hometown. Sonny has no choice but to return. After all, she's in her 50s now, which isn't exactly a desirable age in the world of TV.

In Michigan, Sonny moves back in with her mom and does what she can to start over. Meeting a widower, a very handsome one at that, is not what Sonny has in mind for a fresh start, yet she can't help herself. Her heart has set its sights on Mason, and maybe the chilly Michigan weather isn't as unappealing as she first thought. Maybe it's time to give herself a chance at love and family.

The Secret of Snow is penned by Viola Shipman, a pseudonym for Wade Rouse. Like other books, I was instantly mesmerized. I love that the heroines are closer to my age and usually flawed yet ever so likable because of their flaws. 

I get the bitter cold chill of winter that plays a big part in this story. I'm used to it, but I have friends who have moved to Vermont from the south and have no idea how to get prepared or even used to the deep freeze and storms that can bring feet of snow overnight. I could relate to the town's amusement with Sonny's transformation back into a winter person.

Overall, this is a heartwarming read that's easy to get hooked in. Curl up with it. You won't be disappointed.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

The Starlight Mint Surprise Murder by Marla A. White

 Release Date - November 2021

When I was pregnant for the third time, my mom introduced me to Goldie Bear, Diane Mott Davidson, and the world of culinary mysteries. I've loved them ever since. The Starlight Mint Surprise Murder is new for me, though there seem to be many more books in the Christmas Cookies series. 

Mel O'Rourke was injured on the job and is now in a new location with a brand new career. This former cop and her siblings bought an inn in a snowy mountain town, and Mel will become an innkeeper. Things get off to a hairy start when one of her guests turns up dead.

She's not delighted by the sheriff's announcement that he'll get there when he can. Roads are impassable, and it's up to Mel to keep the body in a freezer for now. As his death appears to be of natural causes, she's okay with waiting, but then another guest ends up dead. Again, it looks like an accident, but she's not convinced. As a former cop, her job skills have her diving into these deaths. Mel needs to know if a killer is staying at her inn and stop any additional casualties.

This novella is a light, quick read. I read a galley provided by Netgalley, and recipes were not included. Hopefully, they are for everyone else. 

I enjoyed the main characters and the love triangle that's building. I hope the author has more, possibly longer, books up her sleeve. I'm eager to see what happens next.

Given my mood and the weather, The Starlight Mint Surprise Murder was precisely what I needed. It made me laugh periodically, and it also whets my appetite. I'm in the mood for holiday baking now, so I have Marla A. White to thank for that.

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Right After the Weather by Carol Anshaw

 Release Date - October 2019

I have a folder of books that I tried to get into and just couldn't. Every now and then, I like to circle back to them and see if I have better luck. Right After the Weather is one of those books.

Chicagoan Cate is a Chicago set designer ready for a change. Her ex-husband currently lives with her, she's designing the set for a production she cannot see being a success, and she's trying to make the most of her current relationship. She's ready to stop depending on her parents and finally grow up, even if she's in her 40s. 

Neale is Cate's best friend. She's a yoga instructor with a teen son and a life Cate would love to have.  And then the unimaginable hits and Cate is forced to do things she never imagined doing. She arrives at Neale's home to find Neale being assaulted. She takes immediate and drastic actions, actions that leave a man dead.

Cate and her closest friends now realize she's capable of extreme violence. It shifts their dynamics and leaves their world changed. Getting back to the way things used to be may not be possible, so how do they move on?

While I loved the premise in Right After the Weather, the delivery came off as disjointed to me. The choppiness distracted me, and that's why it took me so long to finish it. 

The other aspect I struggled with was how long it takes to get to the heart of the story. The assault doesn't happen early into the book. About half of the book is spent building up Cate's life and relationships. That led to a very slow pace that kept losing me. I struggled to stay interested, which ended up being a letdown. 

While the writing is strong, the pacing and choppiness distracted me. It ended up being a miss for that reason.

Friday, December 3, 2021

One Christmas Wish by Brenda Jackson

 Release Date - October 26, 2021

One Christmas Wish is the fifth book in the Catalina Cove romance series. I've read a couple other books in this series. I adored Vashti and Sawyer's rebudding romance. I loved watching Ashley get to know her husband all over again. I had high hopes for the latest book for that reason. 

Vaughn Miller's been released from prison following a wrongful conviction. He's back in Catalina Cove to start over. Two years in prison taught him who his true friends are. 

Sierra Crane suffered two blows at once. At the same time, her best friend was losing her battle against cancer, Sierra learned her husband was unfaithful. Worse, he wanted nothing to do with Sierra's goddaughter, a young girl Sierra vowed to take care of when her friend died. After her divorce, Sierra moved herself and Teryn back to her hometown, Catalina Cove, to start a new life running a cafe. 

It's at her cafe that Sierra meets Vaughn. She knew of him as he was a few years ahead of her in high school, but she never gave him a second thought. Her attraction to him is hard to resist, but she's sworn off men for good, so she cannot let that distract her from the goal of being the best replacement mom possible.

I wanted to love One Christmas Wish as much as I did the other two books. I never felt the same pull. Sierra was a bit unlikeable to me. She's focused so much on her hatred of her husband that she lets it spill over into an "all men must be jerks" fixation.

I never loved Vaughn either. Sierra makes it clear that she wants little to do with him, but he keeps pushing. But all the while, he's constantly doing an "only if you really want me, but you really need to want me..." deal that turned me off. I didn't like them together for that reason and that made for a challenging read.

As much as I've loved Catalina Cove and its residents, this book ended up being a miss for me.

You Can Go Your Own Way by Eric Smith

 Release Date - October 25, 2022 After his dad's death, Adam Stillwater and his mom do everything in their power to keep the family...