Reunion for the First Time by K. M Daughters

Reunion for the First Time by K. M Daughters
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (257 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

Lizzie Moran is desperate to help her best friend’s husband recover from grief-stricken despair after her friend passes away. But their love was unlike anything Lizzie has ever seen. A love she knows will never happen for her, considering the bad choices she’s made.

Jack Clark is ready to take whatever measures necessary to yank his brother out of the abyss he’s fallen into after his wife’s death. And when he meets the lovely Lizzie who has the same goal, he is perfectly willing to put aside their differences, for the sake of his brother.

Tensions escalate when Jack and Lizzie are forced to attend a reunion together—and the fact that Lizzie’s former fiancé, the man who dumped her the same day her parents died, will be there doesn’t help. But an unlikely matchmaker has a plan—and if it succeeds, Jack and Lizzie might just realize they are meant for each other.

Elizabeth Moran is set up for a momentous emotional journey, a journey that a romance reader would not want to miss. With well-developed characters, emotions running high, and high-tension conflicts, this story captivates from the very first page.

Elizabeth, a compassionate philanthropist, Pulitzer Prize winning photographer, and former Peace Corp worker is a friend to treasure. Because a special friend needs her there, she is attending the tenth reunion of her college class, something she has avoided up to now. The memories of things that happened, at her graduation time, still hurt beyond belief.

Her friend Charlie, the still grieving husband of Elizabeth’s dear friend Mariposa, who died of Leukemia, agrees to be her escort during reunion.

I’m convinced, sweet, caring Mariposa whispered from Heaven that he should complete the matchmaking she had started. Charlie, unbeknownst to Elizabeth, sends his brother Jack P. Clark in his place. Elizabeth is furious, but when her one-time fiancé, Wallace Prescott, shows up, Jack outmaneuvers him at every turn. Held close in Jack’s arms as they dance, Elizabeth feels safe, protected from the man she had given her heart and virginity to only to have disappeared from her life.

How Wallace acts and his deceptiveness is hair-raising.

Reunion for the First Time grabs and holds one’s attention with simmering love, twists, surprises emotional obstacles, and an antagonist who really raises one’s ire. Emotions run the gamut from sorrow and anger to ecstasy in this very readable story.

Camp Wedding by Kay Springsteen

Camp Wedding by Kay Springsteen
Publisher: EsKape Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (120 pgs)
Heat: Sweet
Rated: 4 stars
Reviewed by Snapdragon

A blind Marine, a nervous bride, and an adorable child with Down syndrome who loves them both is an equation for another tug on the heartstrings in the story behind the Heartsight nuptials. Is Trish ready for life as a military wife? Is Dan ready for the challenges of being a father to a precocious 6-year-old? How will Bella add her special brand of magic to the day?

Wedding jitters magnify every little thing that seems to be going wrong right before Trish’s wedding. She’s even more frustrated at how her husband-to-be handles those small ‘bumps in the road.’ Readers become conscious, early on, that these are two very different people. However, Springsteen does a wonderful job building our belief in their mutual and heartfelt feelings. This only makes us more impatient as even more ‘bumps’ appear. Right from the start, the characters carry this wonderful little story. Subtle humor lightens some conversations…as does the odd embarrassing predicament.

There are too-sweet moments, and abrupt changes in point-of-view disturb the flow of the story. However, these are small complaints in what is overall an engaging, heartwarming tale.

Although this is a continuation from the story ‘Heartsight,’ it is a story unto itself and reading the precursor isn’t necessary. Camp Wedding is utterly charming on its own:

The Woman He Married by Julie N. Ford

The Woman He Married by Julie N. Ford
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (429 pgs)
Rating: 5 stars
Review by Rose

Once an aspiring young attorney, Josie looked forward to taking on the injustices of the world—one case at a time. Eleven years later, she’s a stay-at-home mom and battling demons that don’t require a law degree. Only keeping up pretenses proves more than she can bear when a bracelet that should have been hers shows up on the wrist of another woman. Her marriage slowly begins to unravel as an ex-lover comes back into her life. When he offers her the dreams she thought she’d lost, Josie must chose between the man she married and the one she let get away.

John has always known exactly what he wanted. A career as a high-powered attorney, followed by the perfect family of six, and then elected public service. So it was no surprise that the first time he laid his eyes on Josie, he knew she was the one he’d share his dreams with. More than a decade, and one tragic miscalculation later, all he has worked for is slipping through his fingers. Powerless to stem the flow, the one thing he remains certain of: he can’t lose the woman he married.

I really enjoyed this book and it may be partly because I feel like I know these people. The characters could have been friends of mine and I can see the conflicts these characters are going through. The actions rang true to me—and you might want to reach out and shake both John and Josie, but that’s because you can see what they are going through and how they are each sabotaging each other and their marriage.

There was a lot of growth on both sides as the characters strive to see if their marriage can be saved.

The book is very well written—the characters are fully rounded. The story is told from both John and Josie’s POVs so we can see how they have arrived at the place they are now. I was drawn into the story and wanted to know what was going to happen because, since this is not a romance, there was not necessarily going to be a HEA at the end.

I also liked the secondary characters, especially Josie’s best friend, and would love to see more of her in the series.

Note: this book may not be for everyone—there are a lot of strong feelings about infidelity in books, but unfortunately, it can be a part of life and this book depicts a marriage that badly needs fixing and does it in a very realistic and compelling way. I’m definitely going to be on the lookout for more books by this author.

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Cowboy After Five by Fleeta Cunningham

Cowboy After Five by Fleeta Cunningham
Publisher: Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (183 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 stars
Review by Fern

Mickey Brandt’s heart is in his nightclub, but the sudden death of his father burdens him with Brandt Enterprises until he can get an administrator. To help manage Mickey’s Place and trace irregularities in the nightclub’s books, he hires Leanne Young as assistant manager.

Leanne is glad of the additional income so she can afford care for her grandmother, once a well-known singer. As she tidies Mickey’s haphazard bookkeeping, she discovers the cause of the club’s financial difficulties and alerts him to the illegal activities going on behind his back. Meanwhile her beloved grandmother shares a secret with Mickey that jeopardizes his budding relationship with Leanne.

Caught between his promise to the grandmother, his admiration for the granddaughter, and an illegal operation threatening the business he built, Mickey realizes he could lose it all—his club, his father’s business, and that strawberry blonde who thinks she has a calculator in place of a heart.

Mickey was stretching himself thin. Between helping out at his father’s office and working at his own club – Mickey’s Bar – Mickey doesn’t have a lot of spare time on his hands. He does love his after-hours sing-alongs at the old people’s home, though, where he becomes a singing cowboy after five. When he meets the granddaughter of one of his favourite ladies, Leanne, Mickey just knows here is a lady he wants to get to know better.

I really enjoyed this full length story. I found the characters were interesting, layered and vibrant – I particularly liked some of the people at the old folks’ home, Miss Cordelia was a delight! Leanne and Mickey were clearly the main hero and heroine, and I greatly enjoyed their slow, sweet drop into love with each other. There was also plenty of interesting and really well written plot to keep me turning the pages. Between the nefarious happenings at Mickey’s club, Mickey working office hours where possible for his dad at his business and Mickey’s moonlighting as a singer there is more than enough action happening I feel to keep most readers interested.

I found this to be a wholesome, really well paced and lovely story to read. Very romantically sweet, it’s the sort of story I’d happily share not just with my friends, but also my mother or younger women just beginning to explore sweet romances. While there’s certainly romance to it, the happiness and sweet spark is something that lends itself to being shared with family and friends. While I was a little disappointed that much of the plot was fairly predictable, that in itself was rather like a cosy, warm blanket to wrap myself in. The fact nothing too outrageous or crazy happened is sometimes exactly the sort of romance story one wants to read.

A delicious, sweet romance full of good plot and excellent characters.

Kiss Me Like a Stranger by Gene Wilder

Kiss Me Like a Stranger by Gene Wilder
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre: Contemporary, Biography
Length: Full Length (261 pages)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Gene Wilder was one of the great comic actors who defined the 1970’s and 1980’s in movies. From his early work with Woody Allen to the rich group of movies he made with Mel Brooks to his partnership on screen with Richard Pryor, Wilder’s performances are still discussed and celebrated today. Kiss Me Like A Stranger is an intimate glimpse of the man behind the image on the screen.

In this book, Wilder talks about everything from his experiences in psychoanalysis to why he got into acting (and later comedy-his first goal was to be a Shakespearean actor) to how a Midwestern childhood with a sick mother changed him. He writes about the creative process on stage and on screen, and divulges moments from life on the sets of the some of the most iconic movies of our time. He also opens up about his love affairs and marriages, including his marriage to comedian Gilda Radner. But the core of Kiss Me Like A Stranger is an actor’s search for truth and a thoughtful analysis of why the choices he made-some of them so serendipitous they were practically accidental-changed the course of his life.

There’s so much I didn’t know, but I do now… since I’ve read the rest of the story.

Gene Wilder is more than just a mildly eccentric comic with fantastic timing. There’s the cynical side and the manic side, but he’s more dimensional. This book showed the good, the bad and the human side of him.

I’d loved the work of Gene Wilder since I watched Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory as a child. For the longest time, I thought of him as Willy Wonka and the man who helped Gilda Radner while she battled cancer. Trust me, there is so much more to him.

I loved how he told the stories of his childhood. It wasn’t all roses and comedy. He spent time in a military school and worked hard to make his parents proud. He dealt with the death of his mother and trying to find his way as an actor. Talk about taking the long road…he certainly did.

He shows his human side as well in this book. Some actors don’t want their past revealed. He talks about his struggles with women, his adopted daughter, balancing his acting life with his inner demons and finding real love in his life. Wilder holds nothing back. I could relate to some of his experiences and respected him more as an actor.

The stories about his movies injected a human quality to them, as well. He’s not just an image on the silver screen but a person. I gained a lot of respect for him.

If you want a book that will make you laugh, cry, think and love…then this might be the book for you.

Stillwell by Michael Phillip Cash

Stillwell by Michael Phillip Cash
Publisher: Red Feather Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (172 pgs)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

Paul Russo’s wife just died. While trying to get his family’s life back in order, Paul is being tormented by a demon who is holding his wife’s spirit hostage on the other side. His fate is intertwined with an old haunted mansion on the north shore of Long Island called Stillwell Manor. Paul must find clues dating back hundreds of years to set his wife’s soul free.

This is the third book I’ve read by this author and like the previous two this was a fun and spooky read. Mr. Cash is an author who clearly loves writing in this genre and it shows on every page.

If you’re looking for true horror than this book isn’t for you but if like me, you can’t resist a great ghost story then I think this fits the bill.

What I enjoy most about this author’s work is while there’s a meaty paranormal plot going on he doesn’t shortchange the reader with the characters. Each one is carefully crafted and the lead one is always someone you like and cheer for. For me that’s what makes paranormal and horror books so good, it’s not just me being scared, but being scared about something bad happening to a great character and that’s what this book was all about.

The pacing on this story was spot on too and I found myself reading it in just two sittings. I loved the setting and I could imagine Stillwell and the wishing well clearly in my mind. There’s nothing like an older house with a reputation of sorts to make your skin tingle.

It’s almost Halloween and if you’re in the mood for something creepy, I’d say check out Stillwell.

The Survivor’s Guide to Family Happiness by Maddie Dawson

The Survivor’s Guide to Family Happiness by Maddie Dawson
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: Full Length (400 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

Three women, three lives, and one chance to become a family…whether they want to or not.

Newly orphaned, recently divorced, and semiadrift, Nina Popkin is on a search for her birth mother. She’s spent her life looking into strangers’ faces, fantasizing they’re related to her, and now, at thirty-five, she’s ready for answers.

Meanwhile, the last thing Lindy McIntyre wants is someone like Nina bursting into her life, announcing that they’re sisters and campaigning to track down their mother. She’s too busy with her successful salon, three children, beautiful home, and…oh yes, some pesky little anxiety attacks.

But Nina is determined to reassemble her birth family. Her search turns up Phoebe Mullen, a guarded, hard-talking woman convinced she has nothing to offer. Gradually sharing stories and secrets, the three women make for a messy, unpredictable family that looks nothing like Nina pictured…but may be exactly what she needs. Nina’s moving, ridiculous, tragic, and transcendent journey becomes a love story proving that real family has nothing to do with DNA.

One of the perks of being a book reviewer is stumbling upon new authors you might not have found on your own. And yes, I hit pay dirt with this one.

Some of my favorite books are those that are both bittersweet and funny at the same time. Sounds like an oxymoron but those are the stories that pull on your emotions and make you think what you’re reading is actually real.

While I didn’t like all the characters at the very beginning…and yes, I did cheer for Nina from the first page, I did end up wanting all good things for the three women featured in this story. None of them are perfect but it’s those imperfections that made them come across as people I meet on any given day.

The story, as the name suggests, is very family centric and while not all us search for our birth parents or have children we gave up for adoption, show up one day, we call can relate to what family really means. The dialogue is wonderful and the pacing spot on. Even though this is a 400 plus page book, you find yourself easily gliding through it.

What I took away from this book is that we’re all work in progress and to coin the cliché, that no man is an island. I’ll definitely be reading more books by this author and recommend this family drama as ideal fall reading.

Mending Fences by Sherryl Woods

Mending Fences by Sherryl Woods
Publisher: Mira
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (377 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

For ten years Emily Dobbs and Marcie Carter have been the closest of friends. They’ve raised their kids together, shared joy and heartache, exchanged neighborhood gossip over tea. But when Marcie’s son, now a college freshman sports star, is arrested for date rape, the bond between the families could be shattered forever.

As the Carters try to deal with the unthinkable, Emily discovers her daughter has been hiding a terrible secret…a secret that threatens the futures of both families. Recently divorced, Emily struggles to keep it all together—to support her terrified daughter, to maintain her friendship with Evan’s mother and to have faith in the detective who could change all of their lives.

When things seem darkest, both she and Marcie discover that sometimes the first step toward a better future is mending fences with the past.

A whole lot of angst and emotion wrapped up in one story.

I hadn’t read a book by Sherryl Woods…until now. Talk about starting with a whopper! Oh my! This book is ripe with emotion, sadness and strength in the face of adversity. It’s well written and kept me in my seat througout. I had to know how the tale would shake out.

Two friends, two families entwined and lots of secrets. Marcie’s son has been accused of doing a horrible thing–date rape. I appreciated how Ms. Woods tackled a hard topic, especially in this day and age. Sports stars sometimes think they are above the law. Ms. Woods handles this topic well, but a little easily. Still, the author tugged at my emotions. I didn’t like Evan at all. Then there is Marcie and Emily–the mothers. Marcie definitely grows through the story. She starts off meek and put down. While this might seem like fluff to some readers, it might be a little tough for other readers. It definitely made her more human to me. I rooted for her. Emily grated on my nerves. I could understand her hesitancy to admit the truth–we’re human and we make mistakes–but I’m not sure I could take the same path Emily did. The ending seemed a little too neat for my taste, but that doesn’t make this book a pass. It’s enjoyable and breezy in spots.

There’s a touch of romance to this book, but the angst and mystery portion is the bigger part of the story.

If you want a book that will make you think and characters that are interesting, then this might be the book for you.

Death by Lila Rose & Justine Littleton

Death by Lila Rose & Justine Littleton
The Horsemen Series, #1
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (166 Pages)
Other: M/F
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Tulip

Here’s the problem with myths and legends; they’re fiction. At one time, they may have been stories of real people, but over time, the story was passed from person to person, so what was once fact, becomes the written fables of those long ago.

This is the true story of Death and the five horsemen.

Quitting her teaching career and working full time on her fledgling editing business, Julie Michaels isn’t prepared for the shedload of changes heading her way. To be precise, it’s just one screeching stop on the crazy train away.

Dean “Death” Apocalos never imagined change would come so swiftly in the form of love, chaos, and Decay. Dean and his three brothers are about to see their worst fear come to light; their forgotten brother and the fifth horseman, Decay.

Previously entombed, someone has let the loon loose on LA. It’s now up to the horsemen to put him back in his box… before he upsets the balance once more.

This book jumpstarts a brand new paranormal series for Lila Rose and Justine Littleton. Death is a fantastic read that put an entertaining spin on the legend of the four horsemen. It’s romantic, imaginative and funny. I was hooked from the first page.

The first thing that caught my interest was the vibrant characters that are a part of every Lila Rose story. I love her Hawkes MC series and this one promises to be just as addictive. The characters absolutely stuck in my mind. Julie was so strong and Dean (aka Death) was sexy and over the top possessive. I loved each of the brothers, and can’t help wondering which one will be next to find his mate. I feel that it’s probably the key to stopping Kayne / Decay. It’s to the authors’ credit for showing Kayne’s vulnerable side that I also really need for him to find his own redemption, as well. A mate perhaps for our villain too, I just wish it could be Fallon. Oh yes, in this one, even the secondary characters were interesting. This entire world is incredibly imaginative and there is an engrossing mystery and super hot sex.

So from beginning to end this story was pure entertainment. I loved it so much that it flew by with ease. I really didn’t want it to end so soon because now I’m left waiting for the next book that can’t come too soon. This series is a great paranormal escape that I feel everyone will enjoy.

The Trouble with Mistletoe by Jill Shalvis

The Trouble with Mistletoe by Jill Shalvis
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Full Length (384 Pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Sorrel

If she has her way . . .

Willa Davis is wrangling puppies when Keane Winters stalks into her pet shop with frustration in his chocolate-brown eyes and a pink bedazzled cat carrier in his hand. He needs a kitty sitter, stat. But the last thing Willa needs is to rescue a guy who doesn’t even remember her . . .

He’ll get nothing but coal in his stocking.

Saddled with his great-aunt’s Feline from Hell, Keane is desperate to leave her in someone else’s capable hands. But in spite of the fact that he’s sure he’s never seen the drop-dead-gorgeous pet shop owner before, she seems to be mad at him . . .

Unless he tempers “naughty” with a special kind of nice . . .

Willa can’t deny that Keane’s changed since high school: he’s less arrogant, for one thing—but can she trust him not to break her heart again? It’s time to throw a coin in the fountain, make a Christmas wish—and let the mistletoe do its work . . .

Jill Shalvis always brings a story that captures and holds this reader captive until I read to the last page.  This story is about trust and letting go of the past.

Willa and Keane have a history, though Keane doesn’t realize why Willa is being almost rude to him when she is completely opposite with any other customer. What he does know is that he likes her, and she intrigues him. He picks up on the fact that he should know her but doesn’t seem to remember when or how he met her. In contrast, she seems to remember, in vivid detail, who he is and how they met and parted.

The secondary characters, like the people she works with are very interesting and worth the mention. They show a side to Willa that would not have been evident if these characters were not present. For example, Willa put Christmas decorations on the wall of the street where a homeless man sleeps. That told me a lot about her true character.

Maybe in the future books one of these secondary characters could star in their own story.

The plot is simple but it was how the story and the characters were portrayed and how it was written that held my interest to the end. I never got bored with their story and Ms. Shalvis didn’t overwhelm me with back story that could have slowed down the pace.

The Trouble with Mistletoe is a perfect read for a cold night and a coffee.