Back to Your Love by Kianna Alexander

Back to Your Love by Kianna Alexander
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (348 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

What would you give for a second chance?

Xavier Whitted has a lot on his plate. As a hardworking businessman, mentor to troubled teens, and aspiring politician in his Southern hometown, the daily demands never let up. A weekend at the beach for his best friend’s wedding is exactly what he needs. What he doesn’t need is to run into the woman who broke his heart ten years ago.

Imani Grant is more beautiful, confident and intelligent than ever, and their connection is still sizzling. But Imani harbors a secret that could destroy both their blossoming careers. She knows she has to keep her distance, but Xavier is determined to win back her heart–consequences be damned.

Back to Your Love is a gentle story with flawed but still admirable characters. The friendships and kinships are supportive and strong.

Imani Grant, now a doctor of dermatology, left home after high school graduation with determination to pursue her goals. She’d left with a broken heart that had never healed. Now, ten years later, she is home with a successful practice.

She and Xavier Whitted, who dumped her instead of proposing to her when they graduated high school, still have undeniable chemistry and caring that bring them together in a way that sends the blood racing.

Xavier, a CPA by profession and an avid social worker, sets in to regain Imani’s trust, not an easy task. He knows he handled a life-changing situation very poorly ten years ago. He is determined to correct that mistake.

Kianna Alexander filters in back-story and slips in foreshadowing that keep the reader intrigued. However, the internal conflicts Imani struggles with drive the story along a obstacle strewn path. While she tells herself, “The truth will set you free,” she can’t come to terms with guilt she carries.

For this reader, the love scenes crop up more often than needed. They are explicit but well-written. They just lose some impact by repetition.

Kianna Alexander does a beautiful job of writing about how the bad characters’ and the good characters’ lives get mixed up and influence both Imani’s and Xavier’s professional and personal lives. She does a masterful job of bringing all things together for that happy-ever-after.

Smooth enjoyable reading!

Valor Under Siege by Elizabeth Boyce

Valor Under Siege by Elizabeth Boyce
Publisher: Crimson Romance
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (224 pgs)
Heat Level: Hot
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Snapdragon

All’s fair in love and politics…

When ambitious solicitor Norman Wynford-Scott is ousted from his legal studies due to a holiday revel spun out of control, he adapts a new plan of running for the Parliament seat of a local village. Only trouble is, the same irresistible woman who ruined his good name is thwarting his campaign at every turn.

Widowed and drink-addicted, Lady Elsa Fay has retreated to the family village of Fleck to regain her sobriety. She’s distracting herself from her troubles—and her memories of the one passionate night she shared with Norman—by organizing the Parliament campaign of her husband’s cousin. Until Norman arrives intent on winning the seat for himself.

Shamed and determined, Elsa will do all she can to send her former friend and now adversary packing—even if it means breaking her own heart in the process.

1817 London … and the punch catches fire. Yes, the party punch. On fire. Elizabeth Boyce’s new historical Valor Under Siege sets off in a surprising manner, and if curiosity did not at once envelope the reader, her style would undoubtedly beguile them.

If flouncing gowns, sharp-heeled shoes and wandering flames do not do-in poor old Norman Wynford-Scott, his urge to ‘leave a mark’ on the school might well.

Wynford-Scott captures the readers’ sympathies at once. Events, intended to be enjoyable Christmas revels, have gotten out of hand. Though we’ve scarcely met our main character, he’s plainly being pushed out of his comfort zone.

Lady Fay is quite a different character, all in all. She might feel shame, but she knew what she was about. We readers are still back, feeling for poor Norman. Lady Fay’s predicament seems well-deserved. We’re thinking maybe he should have … but no giveaways here! Valor Under Siege is full of the quirk-ily unexpected, and I don’t want to spoil a minute of it. Although there are laugh-out-loud moments, there is the surprisingly heartfelt as well. Occasionally the book might wallow in Lady Fay’s outlook a tad more than strictly required; my one and only complaint.

Hot moments are indescribably hot, thoroughly described but not overdone, not out-of-place. The backdrop is perfect; from Gray’s Inn to the grand home, Norman’s preference for riding to traveling in the carriage, and Fay’s trust in and reliance on her servant. The historical setting is well done but not intrusive.

Valor Under Siege is a clever, quick, unexpected and genuinely hot . Its a case of drawing-room valor to be certain, but valor nonetheless.

The Congressman’s Wife by Charlene Keel and Arie Pavlou

The Congressman’s Wife by Charlene Keel and Arie Pavlou
Publisher: Red Sky Presents
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full (277 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3.5 stars
Review by Rose

All Eden Bancroft has ever been to her high-profile politician husband is a trophy wife, born and bred for the part. She believes she has no choice but to play it—until she meets a talented chef and restaurant heir who shows her the real meaning of love.

The more her husband uses and belittles her, the more deeply Eden falls for Kaleb. Even with Mitchell’s congressional campaign in full swing, the lovers manage to find brief stolen moments together. When her husband is wounded by a bullet from an angry lobbyist, Eden must stay by his side. What she learns can set her free, if she has the courage to take a stand.

This is a well-written story that revolves around Eden Bancroft and Kaleb Stravos and their relationship. Throw in a bit of suspense surrounding her husband and his campaign and the story was interesting enough to hold this reader’s attention.

However, the beginning of the book I had issues with and it took me a while to warm up to Kaleb. I have an issue with the whole falling in love at one glance trope to start with, and Kaleb’s actions at the beginning of the story came across, to me, as a bit stalkerish. I didn’t care for him at all. However, I have to admit that he grew on me. And, he can cook… I was hungry through most of the book because of the amazing foods he would cook. I do wish the authors had spent more time developing their relationship, though. That is my main problem with the book.

Eden—I loved her and, although I am definitely not a fan of the whole infidelity storyline, if there ever were a case where it was okay, this is it. Her reaction to Kaleb was a bit more believable. She admittedly had an attraction to him, but it took her more than one glance to fall in love.

One of the best parts of the book was the election shenanigans. I’m a fan of the TV show Scandal and, at times, I was reminded of that, albeit on a milder note. It was interesting to see how all that played out.

I could see this as a movie—there were some really neat locations. If you don’t have an issue with love at first sight, you will probably really enjoy this book. There are some neat things going on and the writing is good.

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Size Matters by Robyn Peterman

Size Matters by Robyn Peterman
Publisher: Kensington
Genre: Contemporary, Comedy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (290 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

A few hard truths…Don’t bet on Hasselhoff, Bigfoot might actually exist, and searching for the impossible may lead you to your heart’s desire…

It’s a big fat hairy deal when I lose yet another bet to my best friend, Rena. Not only do I end up attending Bigfoot meetings with her kooky Aunt Phyllis, I find myself traveling with a band of reality TV, Sasquatch-hunting nut-jobs! Not to mention a suspiciously shady film crew. As if those little nuggets weren’t enough to send me on the express-train to Crazytown…I stupidly swore off men!

Clearly all this would mess up any gal’s social life, but the worst part of the story? The minute I send my libido on vacation, I meet Mitch. Yep, Mitch, the sexiest cop ev-ah. The hottest, best kissing, finest tushied, SINGLE guy I’ve ever laid eyes on. I’d rather be hot on his trail than anything that involves the word Big or Foot. But sometimes what you’re hunting for has been right in front of you all along …

I was looking for a book that could make me laugh, one that entertained and one that has a romance that worked. Size Matters is the first book written by Ms. Peterman that I’ve ever read. I can assure you that it won’t be the last. I was shopping for a quick read and the blurb caught my eye. I sneaked a peek at some of the reviews and every one I looked at mentioned laughter, hilarity and an HEA. So, I took a chance. This novel exceeded my wildest expectations and was a reading experience unlike any other in recent memory. Ms. Peterman is going on my list of “Newly Discovered Addicting Authors” of which there are only a handful and a half.

The primary charm of Size Matters is the dialogue. The story is first person point of view of Kristy, the heroine. She has an unusual way of expressing herself. Profanity has never been so colorful, inventive or fun. The two secondary characters that give the heroine a run for her money in the potty mouth department are two old ladies that are as salty as sardines. Add in some short jaw dropping, eye popping, giggle inducing chapters from Pirate Dave and His Randy Adventures and a reader is hard pressed not to laugh out loud in an embarrassingly boisterous way. What that means is, hope you don’t read this in a public place unless you are okay with people looking at you funny while you are snorting, giggling and turning beet red. I did all three – but in the safety of my own home.

Even though I did figure out who was who much earlier than the heroine, it didn’t detract from my enjoyment. It was entertaining to see how long and in what way Kristy figured things out. It got emotional at one point, but I took to heart Boo’s prediction.

Speaking of Boo – the cast of secondary characters are gems in this novel’s treasure chest of personalities. Every single person is unique and has strengths of their own that contribute to the overall success of this book. Did I say unique? That’s an understatement.

The hero in the book is Mitch. Every time he shows up with Kristy, I get the biggest kick out of her reaction. If anyone doesn’t believe that it’s possible to react as described when Kristy claps eyes on Mitch, they should watch the interaction between Heath Ledger and Sharon Strzelecki before the AFI awards in 2006. THAT is how I envision the heroine’s level of response to Mitch. It’s satisfactorily grin worthy.

As for the plot, it’s starts off zany and turns dicey but it never turns dark. The suspense is compacted into the culmination of all the clues coming together in the final exciting chapters. At that point the suspense is nail-biting, dramatic, intense and effective. The mystery of the mysterious goings on gets solved in a powerful wrap up.

The sparks singe a reader when Kristy and Mitch get physical. Now, when I think of handcuffs, I’ll think of Mitch. That scene was so seductive, if I wasn’t sitting while reading, I’d have been on the floor. Too bad it was short lived. It did, however, illustrate just how combustible and perfect the heroine and hero are for each other.

Seriously, Size Matters is an example of a spectacular storytelling style that is as addicting, entertaining and romantic as one could wish. Ms. Peterman has garnered herself a new fan. I. am. wowed.

I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi

I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (272 pgs)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

Maddy is a devoted stay-at-home wife and mother, host of excellent parties, giver of thoughtful gifts, and bestower of a searingly perceptive piece of advice or two. She is the cornerstone of her family, a true matriarch…until she commits suicide, leaving her husband Brady and teenage daughter Eve heartbroken and reeling, wondering what happened. How could the exuberant, exacting woman they loved disappear so abruptly, seemingly without reason, from their lives? How they can possibly continue without her? As they sift through details of her last days, trying to understand the woman they thought they knew, Brady and Eve are forced to come to terms with unsettling truths.

Maddy, however, isn’t ready to leave her family forever. Watching from beyond, she tries to find the perfect replacement for herself. Along comes Rory: pretty, caring, and spontaneous, with just the right bit of edge…but who also harbors a tragedy of her own. Will the mystery of Maddy ever come to rest? And can her family make peace with their history and begin to heal?

Maddy Starling had it all. A beautiful house, fulfilling volunteer work, a successful husband and a beautiful daughter. She is the glue that holds her family’s world together. But when she commits suicide unexpectedly, everyone’s world is rocked to its core, leaving her family to wonder what they missed. How could they not have known she was so unhappy?

I Liked My Life is told through three alternating points of view – those of Maddy, the deceased mother who isn’t ready to let go of her family, Eve, the almost seventeen-year-old daughter, and Brady, the devoted if absent husband. Sometimes I’m wary of being in so many characters’ heads at one time, but this really works as you get a more complete view of how the family worked prior to Maddy’s suicide and the obstacles they now have to overcome.

This novel touched me in several ways. First, as the mother of two teenaged girls, I saw a lot of them in Eve. In her rebellion, her sarcasm, and her pain. I could also related to Eve’s situation as a daughter myself. I’m lucky enough to still have my mother in my life and couldn’t imagine what would have become of me if I’d lost her in my teens. I could also relate to Maddy’s view on her relationship both with her daughter and her husband. It’s such a fine balance between giving them a little leeway and letting them run all over you. Maddy seemed to have found the balance of power that worked for them all, even if she wasn’t always completely satisfied with the outcome.

I Liked My Life is a rollercoaster of emotions. There are moments that tug at your heartstrings, others that make you laugh or rage in anger. In the end, it’s a story of a life cut short and those that are left behind wondering what happened. It’s also a story about how life goes on and that through the pain, you can find happiness again.

When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James

When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James
Publisher: HarperCollins
Genre: Historical
Length; Full Length (270 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Miss Linnet Berry Thrynne is a Beauty . . . Naturally, she’s betrothed to a Beast.

Piers Yelverton, Earl of Marchant, lives in a castle in Wales where, it is rumored, his bad temper flays everyone he crosses. And rumor also has it that a wound has left the earl immune to the charms of any woman.

Linnet is not just any woman.

She is more than merely lovely: her wit and charm brought a prince to his knees. She estimates the earl will fall madly in love—in just two weeks.

Yet Linnet has no idea of the danger posed to her own heart by a man who may never love her in return.

If she decides to be very wicked indeed . . . what price will she pay for taming his wild heart?

I like this version on the theme of Beauty and the Beast because it’s not so much about the outside, but the inside of a person. Believe it or not Piers and Linnet took turns at being both beauties and beasts. It wasn’t all about personalities as it was about emotional scars from their past. They both took different paths in dealing with the adversity that life threw at them. The hero’s was to be sarcastic, cutting and grumpy, the heroine’s was to don an emotional mask, wielding flirtation like a sword in order to keep her heart protected. They are more similar than not but different enough to make things interesting.

I actually enjoyed watching their relationship grow – their dialogue, their exchanges of personal information, their conflicts and their resolutions. I especially liked when Piers finally seduced Linnet because the heat and passion was off the charts. I relished the idea of her lust being awakened to the point that it overpowered Piers’ resistance to her and he succumbed as well. It was rather beautiful to see. It wasn’t all sunshine and flowers, however. There was a dark side to the relationship which was exacerbated by an external conflict that really tested their fledging association.

This novel is told in the third person from both Piers’ and Linnet’s point of view. There is a small section that tells part of the story from one of the secondary characters POV but it is sort of a resolution of a secondary romance. It was rather sweet and it tied in perfectly to the main love story.

I despaired of Piers ever getting out of his own way though. I liked him, I truly did but sometimes he was just too sarcastic and afraid. Yes, for all his brave talk and manliness, he was fallible. I guess that made him approachable in a way but a few times, not.

There is a very intense and emotionally nerve wracking chapter or two that completely engaged me and had me at the edge of my seat. I’m happy to say that I survived the reading but what an effective bit of writing! It was at that point that Piers showed how much of a true hero he was.

When Beauty Tamed the Beast is a wonderful historical romance that satisfied me because the happily ever after was perfect and thorough. I was entertained, engaged and I turned the last page with a smile on my face. I have no problem recommending this novel to other historical romance readers. It’s a treat.

Everything Bundt the Truth by Karen C. Whalen

Everything Bundt the Truth by Karen C. Whalen
Publisher: Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (320 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Recent widow, Jane Marsh, is determined to recapture a rich, full life. She strives for youthful fun by riding a bicycle downtown on her lunch hour in a suit and heels, smoking cigars, eating at hipster restaurants, and re-entering the dating scene, even if her dates prove to be peculiar.

Her most fervent desire, though, is to join an exclusive dinner club. She auditions, but is barred when her housekeeper is found murdered, and she and her guest list become the suspect list. Her, a killer? So what if her two late husbands died under suspicious circumstances. It doesn’t make her a killer.

Having passed off a store bought Bundt cake as her own creation, she may have committed a culinary crime, but never murder!

Jane is getting ready for a dinner party and she wants everything perfect. She’s made special dishes, has laid out the table and is going down her list checking off everything that needs to be done. When she finds that she forgot the creamer, she asks her girlfriend to go pick it up for her. She’s worried about her house cleaner who hasn’t arrived on time. It’s her first visit, and Jane is hoping she’s good at what she does. She was recommended by her girlfriend who assures her she’ll be there in time to get the work done and she’ll be happy with it. She’s pleased to see her show up and start on her job and she tells her to finish up by a certain time and that she will be back with her Bundt cake in a bit. She leaves and returns to an empty house. Empty except for the body in the basement…

This is a cozy mystery and, of course, Jane becomes a suspect. When the police aren’t finding the killer and the dinner club won’t approve her membership until the killer is found, Jane has a new mission: Find the killer herself.

There are a lot of shady characters in the past of the woman. Jane is sure one of the dinner club members wouldn’t have done it. But it takes a lot of time weeding through the facts and reading between the lines. In the meantime, the murdered woman’s son dies.

The story read well, the author made you feel Jane’s fear and uncertainty, and she threw in some humor, too. Stronger characters would have enhanced the story. There are almost too many events going on; it tends to shade the mystery story. The way it ended was pleasing and it would be easy to walk into another story from here. Jane appears to be settling down and another story about her would be fun to read.

Submerged by Dani Pettrey

Submerged by Dani Pettrey
Publisher: Bethany House
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense, Inspirational
Length: Full Length (322 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

Bailey Craig vowed never to set foot in Yancey again. She has a past, and a reputation–and Yancey’s a small town. She’s returned to bury a loved one killed in the plane crash and is determined not to stay even an hour more than necessary. But then dark evidence emerges and Bailey’s own expertise becomes invaluable for the case.

Cole McKenna can handle the deep-sea dives and helping the police recover evidence. He can even handle the fact that a murderer has settled in his town and doesn’t appear to be moving on. But dealing with the reality of Bailey’s reappearance is a tougher challenge. She broke his heart, but she is not the same girl who left Yancey. He let her down, but he’s not the same guy she left behind. Can they move beyond the hurts of their pasts and find a future together?

Dani Pettrey is a new to me author and I stumbled upon this book while browsing the free books you can read with your Amazon Prime membership and the tag “romantic suspense” drew me in. I’m happy to say, so did the book. The opening was riveting. There’s nothing like a plane crash to get your pulse racing and force you to turn the pages.

It’s set in small town Alaska and the two main characters, Bailey and Cole seemed to jump off the page as real life characters. Baily is determined not to return to Alaska but when her aunt is one of the victims of the plane crash she has no alternative.

Cole is a deep sea diving expert and has a soft spot in his heart for Bailey who at first comes across as someone with both a broken heart and spirit but I liked the way the author handled the character development. By the end of the story, Bailey was someone who was stronger and it was great to see her evolve and find peace with her past.

The action is literally non-stop, some strange things begin to happen to Bailey and the deep sea diving scenes to recover evidence from the crash, really puts you on the edge of your seat.

This is an enjoyable romantic suspense that will have you guessing until the very end and has made me want to check out more books by this author.

Crimes Against a Book Club by Kathy Cooperman

Crimes Against a Book Club by Kathy Cooperman
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (320 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

Best friends Annie and Sarah need cash—fast. Sarah, a beautiful, successful lawyer, wants nothing more than to have a baby. But balancing IVF treatments with a grueling eighty-hour workweek is no walk in the park. Meanwhile, Annie, a Harvard-grad chemist recently transplanted to Southern California, is cutting coupons to afford her young autistic son’s expensive therapy.

Desperate, the two friends come up with a brilliant plan: they’ll combine Sarah’s looks and Annie’s brains to sell a “luxury” antiaging face cream to the wealthy, fading beauties in Annie’s La Jolla book club. The scheme seems innocent enough, until Annie decides to add a special—and oh-so-illegal—ingredient that could bring their whole operation crashing to the ground.

Hilarious, intelligent, and warm, Crimes Against a Book Club is a delightful look at the lengths women will go to fend for their families and for one another.

A mother will do anything for her child, that much is a given. So when it becomes clear that Annie’s autistic son needs expensive therapy, she turns to her best friend, Sarah, for help. Since Sarah, desperate for a baby of her own, needs some quick cash of her own for pricey IVF treatments, they put their heads together and come up with a plan. Although a crazy, outrageous plan that might just land them in the hottest water of their lives, it’s the only shot they have.

Crimes Against a Book Club hit me right where I live – my kids. Even though I can’t relate to Sarah’s plight with infertility, I can relate to how Annie was willing to go to jail to get her son the treatments he so desperately needed. I loved her relationship with Sarah, and it reminded me of my best friend who is also named Sarah. She’d never think twice to help me or one of my kids out in a time of need. Annie and Sarah have their ups and downs during the course of the story, but in the fashion of true, lifelong friends, they always find a way to meet on common ground.

Funny, heartwarming and a little left of center, Crimes Against a Book Club is a story about real life struggles tackled in an unconventional manner. The characters are real and relatable, even the upper crust members of the book club that Sarah and Annie target with their scam. It’s a story that proves the old saying that necessity is the mother of invention. My only complaint is that I wish there was a follow up novel telling us about Sarah and Annie’s life post book club, but I’m quite happy with what I got in the end. For a first novel, I’m impressed and cannot wait to see where the author takes us next.

The Part That Doesn’t Burn by Sam Poling

The Part That Doesn’t Burn by Sam Poling
Publisher: Tirgearr Publishing
Genre: Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full (319 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Review by Rose

In an overpopulated city-state where technology and magic are forbidden by the corrupt church, young witch, Mirabel Fairfax, plots the creation of a deadly plague to cull the burdensome rabble. That is, until she falls in love with the very alchemist she has been deceiving. Now, with soul-hungry geists flooding the city, the church scrambling for their prey, and her own mind at war with itself, Mirabel must decide what she’s fighting for before she loses everything to the evils of Autumnfall.

The Part that Doesn’t Burn is a fun romp filled with adventures as Mirabel Fairfax and Felix Eggland travel across the country…and, in the meantime, learn more about each other and are changed by each other.

The story is mostly Mirabel and Felix’s story, although we do also get the POV of the church through the eyes of the young priestess who is chasing them—I actually liked her and found her surprisingly sympathetic as she tried to do what she thought was the right thing to do. Ultimately, though, the person most changed throughout the story was Mirabel.

There were times during the first part of the story that I wanted to slap her –she was grating on my last nerve with her self-absorbtionism. However, the longer the story went on, the more I started to like her and realize that her attitude had more of a veneer of self-protectionism on it than true shallowness.

Felix is a bumbling scientific nerd who comes into his own during the course of the story and, even though this is not a romance, still made this reader’s heart fall a little in love with him.

There are some definite twists and turns in this story, keeping the reader on her toes to keep up. To me, however, it didn’t have the feel of a dark fantasy—it put me more in mind of The Wild Wild West (the old TV show) with magic instead of the steampunk elements.

I really enjoyed the world that Mr. Poling built for this story and would like to revisit it—there was a reveal at the end that came as a surprise to me and I really hope he has some other stories in mind.

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