True Believer by Nicholas Sparks

TRUE
True Believer by Nicholas Sparks
Publisher: Hachette Publishing Group
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (322 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Jeremy Marsh is the ultimate New Yorker: handsome, almost always dressed in black, and part of the media elite. An expert on debunking the supernatural with a regular column in “Scientific American,” he’s just made his first appearance on national TV. When he receives a letter from the tiny town of Boone Creek, North Carolina, about ghostly lights that appear in a legend-shrouded cemetery, he can’t resist driving down to investigate. Here, in this tightly knit community, Lexie Darnell runs the town’s library, just as her mother did before the accident that left Lexie an orphan. Disappointed by past relationships, including one that lured her away from home, she is sure of one thing: her future is in Boone Creek, close to her grandmother and all the other people she loves. Jeremy expects to spend a quick week in “the sticks” before speeding back to the city. But from the moment he sets eyes on Lexie, he is intrigued and attracted to this beautiful woman who speaks with a soft drawl and confounding honesty. And Lexie, while hesitating to trust this outsider, finds herself thinking of Jeremy more than she cares to admit. Now, if they are to be together, Jeremy Marsh must make a difficult choice: return to the life he knows, or do something he’s never done before–take a giant leap of faith. A story about taking chances and following your heart, True Believer will make you, too, believe in the miracle of love.

Can opposites really attract? Can a skeptic be persuaded to change his or her mind?

In True Believer, Nicholas Sparks asks those questions. Lexie and Jeremy are certainly different. She buys into the psychic and be;ieves that one can speak with the dead. He doesn’t believe any of it. Can these two make things work? Can they even get a relationship off of the ground?

The writing is interesting, but the story moved rather slowly. I hate to admit I lost interest a couple of times. It was just a little too easy to walk away from Lexie and Jeremy. They were okay characters, but at times I wasn’t thrilled with them. I didn’t have the connection with them I would have liked. I never really warmed to Lexie. It seemed like she had almost too much to hide. She needed to make up her mind, too. Jeremy was a little different. I liked him. I could even picture him and rooted for him. I mean, he has a plan and knows what he knows… I even kind of liked him pursuing Lexie. However, near the end, I didn’t understand his choices. The ending felt rushed and I see the story is continued in At First Sight. Maybe this would’ve been a better read had I known there was a second story. I’m not sure.

Things between Lexie and Jeremy happen rather fast. While this didn’t bother me, it might be problematic for some readers.

I do have to say this is a light read. It’s breezy and once I decided to keep going, it did flow. I had to keep reading because I wanted to see how this book would end. I liked the idea of people seeing lights in the sky and Jeremy going to Boone Creek to figure the lights out. It was an intriguing part of the storyline. I appreciated how the skepticism didn’t come off as foolishness and the total belief didn’t come off silly, either. There’s nothing wrong with believing or not and I liked that.

If you want a book that will take you away for a few hours, then this might be the book for you.

Once Upon a Moonlit Night by Elizabeth Hoyt

MOONLIT
Once Upon a Moonlit Night by Elizabeth Hoyt
Publisher: Hachette Book Group
Genre: Historical
Length: Short Story (91 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Hippolyta Royle is running for her life. Pursued by hounds on a cold rainy night, the heiress flags down a passing carriage and throws herself at the mercy of the coach’s occupant. Whoever this handsome traveler may be, he is her only hope to escape a terrible fate. But should he agree to escort her to safety, he’s in for much more than he bargained for.

At first Matthew Mortimer doesn’t believe Hippolyta’s story, that she’s a fabulously wealthy heiress who’s been kidnapped. He assumes she’s a beggar, an actress, or worse. But once his new travel companion washes the mud from her surprisingly lovely face, and they share a breathtaking kiss, there is no turning back.

This is a must read especially for those readers who enjoyed the Duke of Sin because this novella answers the question, ‘did Hippolyta Royle actually escape?’

In this case, she went from the fat to the fire. This is a fun story because no one believes she is who she says she is, and the man who finds her doesn’t let her know who he is either. So, they both end up falling in love with who they thought they were. The conflict then switches to dealing with their shock in discovering who they really are and how they feel about it.

I adored the introduction of Tommy Teacup and the mad cap Lady Whimple and her wicked enjoyment of scandals. I also liked the additional conflict of reintroducing a damaging secret from Duke of Sin and seeing it resolved quite cleverly in Once Upon a Moonlit Night. I was very proud of both Hippolyta and Matthew.

There’s romance, seduction, fascinating dialogue and a lovely and perfect happy ever after in store for readers of this endearing novella. It’s a fast read, it’s entertaining and I enjoyed every moment. Even if a reader hasn’t had a chance to read the previous book that this novella is spun from, it’s a tale that can stand on its own. Once Upon a Moonlit Night is a treat to read and I heartily recommend it.

Happy Ever After in Christmas by Debbie Mason

EVER
Happy Ever After in Christmas by Debbie Mason
Publisher: Forever – Hachette Book Group
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (333 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

It’s beginning to look a lot like love . . .

As her thirtieth birthday approaches, deputy Jill Flaherty decides it’s time to live a little. When she walks into Sawyer Anderson’s bar in her sexiest dress, she’s not thinking that he’s her brother’s best friend or about the many women he dated during his years as a pro hockey player. All she’s thinking is that it’s finally time to confess to her longtime crush how she truly feels.

Sawyer is done being a player on and off the ice. Yet no one in the small town of Christmas seems to believe he’s ready to settle down, not Jill, and certainly not Jack, who is determined to keep Sawyer from breaking his little sister’s heart. But as Sawyer and Jill’s relationship heats up, can he prove that he’s her happy ever after?

Looking for a heartwarming romance? A story that engages all your senses and makes you feel like you are there? A love story about a man who can’t resist the attraction of his best friend’s ‘not so baby’ baby sister’? A heroine who is strong in many ways but vulnerable when it comes to her heart? All this and more is in store for readers in the wonderful novel that is Happy Ever After in Christmas.

Jill is a sheriff’s deputy and she’s quite good at her job. A reader learns just how good she is during one of the books exciting plot climaxes. Before that though, readers are treated to a woman with hopes, dreams, insecurities and an untapped passion. The only person that comes close to breaching her heart’s protections is the hero, Sawyer. He’s an addiction she just can’t resist. I give her credit, she surely gives it the ol’ college try.

Sawyer has some huge hurdles to overcome to reach his happy ever after with the woman he comes to love, Jill. Some will tug on a reader’s heartstrings to the point that putting the book down isn’t an option. There is so much emotion being tapped that it’s hard for guy to know what to do. Thing is, Sawyer shows his love in a hundred different ways, he’s creative, dogged and earnest. When he wants something, he goes after it. But what happens when what he does isn’t working? Poor guy is put through the wringer, not the least of which is being the target of an angry villain.

Secondary characters abound to help the two lovebirds find their way. I guess this book is the culmination of a series but I never read the others, and yet, I never felt lost or that I was missing out on key elements. This novel is about Jill and Sawyer; the things that draw them apart and the things that bring them together, the joys of dating and the pain of parting and loss. It’s the sweet and simple way they come together again that embodies the best of what romance has to offer readers. Falling in love makes more than two people happy, it brings joy to all who love them as well. Happy Ever After in Christmas is a true delight of the heart. There’s so many things that I can share in this review but my words can’t do them justice.

The chemistry between Jill and Sawyer is very sensual and passionate. The spice is gentle yet powerful and very well written.

Happy Ever After in Christmas is a story not to be missed. Fans of the series should be plenty pleased if this final book is any indication of the stories before. New readers will find so much to like, it wouldn’t surprise me if they checked out Ms. Mason’s back list just to meet some of the other characters who helped on Jill and Sawyer in this novel. This is a wonderful read and an easy recommend.

The Billionaire Bachelor by Jessica Lemmon

BACHELOR
The Billionaire Bachelor by Jessica Lemmon
Publisher: Forever (imprint of Hachette Book Group)
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (255 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Indecent Proposal

Manwhore. That’s what the board of directors-and the tabloids-thinks of billionaire bachelor Reese Crane. Ordinarily he couldn’t care less, but his playboy past is preventing the board from naming him CEO of Crane Hotels. Nothing-and no one-will keep him from his life’s legacy. They want a settled man to lead the company? Then that’s exactly what he’ll give them.

Merina Van Heusen will do anything to get her parents’ funky boutique hotel back-even marry cold-as-ice-but-sexy-as-hell Reese Crane. It’s a simple business contract-six months of marriage, absolute secrecy, and the Van Heusen is all hers again. But when sparks fly between them, their passion quickly moves from the boardroom to the bedroom. And soon Merina is living her worst nightmare: falling in love with her husband . . .

If readers enjoy the marriage of convenience theme then this is the romance for you. I like the fact that Merina and Reese were actually very well matched. Perceptions, assumptions, laser focused goals and passionate explosions of dialogue were effective walls between the two, but it was the passionate speech with the door knob that set the stage for knocking down all those walls. What follows allows readers and each protagonist to get to know one another. The results, though shocking, disconcerting and surprisingly sexy to Merina and Reese, were pure entertainment for me. The Billionaire Bachelor is a fun spin on a well-loved theme.

This novel is quite the see-saw. Reese is broken, Merina isn’t, sort of. Then Merina gets really broken and Reese has to step up and take the scariest risk of his life. How it all comes about, from learning what broke the hero, to what makes a confident Merina into a woman uncertain of her womanhood, to forging a bond that takes both hero and heroine by surprise and actually makes them better people, is why this story is so compelling. I didn’t find any slow paced scenes in the book; the author kept this character driven romance rolling right along. Reese is complicated, with pride and shame coloring his stubbornness. Merina is loving, mostly open and the first one willing to take a chance on making this marriage deception into something real and forever. As with any good romance, the conflict makes that a bum decision, at first. I like how the author resolved it.

I enjoyed meeting the secondary characters that populated the novel in support of Reese and Merina. I found that Reese’s dad and brother were more developed as characters than Merina’s parents or her best friend. I have an idea that it was a planned decision since Tag’s character, Reese’s brother, seems like a likely potential hero. Who is going to make this seemingly happy go lucky man turn serious about love? That’s a good question I hope someday to see answered. I just have to wait for what will seem like forever for the next book. And, I found Penelope to be quite the dragon, even though well intentioned and doing what she was hired to do. I would love to see her as a main character someday. She’d be fun to fluster because in this book she seemed much too perfect at her job.

Another reason that I enjoyed the novel was because of Merina. I loved the way she was written regarding her openness and joy of life. She knew that she could get hurt along the way, but her nature would not allow her to shy away from grabbing every moment of bliss that she found in Reese’s arms. The way she melted for him was so romantic. And the tie thing she had going on? How the author used Merina’s fascination with Reese’s ties was incredibly sultry and sexy. Of all the imagery the author used, those scenes were some of the best.

Ms. Lemmon’s The Billionaire Bachelor is not only entertaining but well written. There’s a lot of emotion, heart, love and optimism written into its pages so when the happy ever after finally came about it was satisfying and left me feeling quite cheerful. When a book leaves me in an upbeat mood in the end, for sure I’ll be recommending it to other romance readers. After all, one can never get too much of the ‘happy’ in a happy ever after.

Dearest Rogue by Elizabeth Hoyt

ROGUE
Dearest Rogue by Elizabeth Hoyt
Publisher: Hachette Book Group
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (240 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

HE CAN GUARD HER

Lady Phoebe Batten is pretty, vivacious, and yearning for a social life befitting the sister of a powerful duke. But because she is almost completely blind, her overprotective brother insists that she have an armed bodyguard by her side at all times-the very irritating Captain Trevillion.

FROM EVERY DANGER

Captain James Trevillion is proud, brooding, and cursed with a leg injury from his service in the King’s dragoons. Yet he can still shoot and ride like the devil, so watching over the distracting Lady Phoebe should be no problem at all-until she’s targeted by kidnappers.

BUT PASSION ITSELF

Caught in a deadly web of deceit, James must risk life and limb to save his charge from the lowest of cads-one who would force Lady Phoebe into a loveless marriage. But while they’re confined to close quarters for her safekeeping, Phoebe begins to see the tender man beneath the soldier’s hard exterior . . . and the possibility of a life-and love-she never imagined possible.

If ever there was a challenging point of view to write, none could be as daunting as writing from the perspective of a blind heroine. I commend Ms. Hoyt for penning such a convincing novel. Not only did I respect Phoebe, but I believed in her senses, her independence and her capabilities. That’s all due to the wonderful descriptive way in which Ms. Hoyt shows what and how Phoebe ‘sees’ in the world around her. It’s wonderfully done.

Blindness notwithstanding, the most dangerous thing to happen to the heroine was someone’s tenacity in trying to kidnap her. Even though it wasn’t’ meant to be funny, after a while I was amused because it seems that every time Trevillion or Wakefield were distracted, or thought the coast was clear, they were proven wrong and one or the other had to scramble and rescue her. Talk about action, suspense and enough intrigue to keep the pages flipping!

I liked how the relationship grew and warmed between Phoebe and James a/k/a Trevillion. I enjoyed watching James take matters in his own hands and the result is exactly what one would expect, no matter how he tried to delude himself. He was a goner. Eventually, they both were openly besotted with the other – true romance.

My favorite surprise was the smoothing over of troubled waters and the removal of a longstanding threat. It was bittersweet but it left me with a feeling of hope. It certainly played well into the plot because it showcased a depth of emotion and honor in the hero.

I enjoyed the dialogue, the mystery that surrounded Miss Dinwoody and her role, and meeting James’s niece. I liked the romance, the dynamics between Phoebe and her brother, Maximus, and the other secondary characters that populated the novel. There’s so much to like, except for the person who has a unique scent. That one is a whacko genius who reminded me of another villain in a series that liked to ‘collect’ certain somethings. It certainly made for effective conflict motivation.

All in all, Dearest Rogue has everything I look for in an engaging historical romance. This novel is so well done, it’s a must read. I’ve followed the series but this is a solid standalone read and I highly recommend it to new and established fans.

A Chance of a Lifetime by Marilyn Pappano

chance
A Chance of a Lifetime by Marilyn Pappano
Publisher: Hachette Book Group
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (400 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Myrtle

Sometimes love finds you when you least expect it…

To Benita Ford, Tallgrass, Oklahoma, will always be home. It’s where her beloved grandmother raised her and where she rode bikes with her two best friends—the man who became her husband and Calvin. And Tallgrass is where she stayed, even after her husband died while serving his country. Now Calvin is home from that same war, and the sensitive, mischievous boy she once knew is today a man scarred by wounds no one else can see. Falling in love with him is something Bennie never imagined.

Tallgrass still haunts Captain Calvin Sweet. Yet it’s where he must go to see Bennie—the one woman he always loved but could never have. Calvin regrets so much about what happened years ago. Still he can’t deny being with Bennie makes his future feel bright, like anything is possible. But the demons of his past won’t be quieted that easily. As old hurts linger, threatening to pull them apart, Calvin and Bennie must take the ultimate risk for the love of a lifetime.

When love slips into the darkness of death, sometimes friendship is the only salvation.

Benita “Bennie” Ford is a member of the Margarita Club in Tallgrass, Oklahoma, a circle of recently widowed women, including her friend Lucy, who have come to rely on each other while trying to redesign their husbandless lives.

J’Myel Ford and Calvin Sweet grew up as Bennie’s two best friends. The three had been inseparable as children. After high school, both men enlisted in the military and were inducted and stationed together, but shortly after Bennie fell in love and married J’Myel, a mysterious falling out occurred between the two men. J’Myel and Bennie allowed their friendship with Calvin to drift away. When J’Myel was killed in action, Calvin never contacted Bennie, breaking her heart even more. She had somehow lost them both. Diagnosed with PTSD, the Army sent Calvin back home to Tallgrass, the very place he couldn’t face, hiding secrets he didn’t want known.

Bennie and her grandmother “Mama” have a beautiful relationship, strong enough to hold the whole story together by itself, but just down the street is the Sweet home, where Calvin’s family lives. The two families are fabulous in their own right. Enter Dietz, a fourteen-year-old boy with his own reason for being in Tallgrass, and you’ve got a nearly unbeatable story. Adding to the rounding out of this story is Lucy and Joe and their love of animals.

Bennie and Calvin are the central characters to this book and they are strong enough to carry this entire story on their own. Although I loved hearing about the lives of Lucy and Joe, I felt like they were an intrusion into the “real” story. I would have preferred to leave them in the background and perhaps let them have the next story in the Tallgrass books.

My biggest criticism of this story was not the story itself, but the story’s format. The novel has eighteen chapters, but rarely did the chapters divide where needed. Instead, an inordinate amount of “breaks” were used throughout the book, which made it difficult to absorb the events. My reader’s brain needed a rest, but was never given one at the right times. I ended up stopping mid-chapter so many times that when I returned to the book I felt I did not have a grasp on the events leading up to my stopping point, so I was continually re-reading whole sections before moving onward. That made for a long, often frustrating, read. Still, the story itself is terrific and gives the reader a true view of PTSD in a realistic, yet rewarding voice.

Anyone looking for a deep, thought-provoking story of life and love will enjoy this book.

Ride Steady by Kristen Ashley – Spotlight and Giveaway

6_30 ashley Ride-Steady-Blog-Tour

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by the publisher as Ride Steady is released today. Enter to win one set of the Chaos series: FIRE INSIDE, OWN THE WIND, and RIDE STEADY via the Rafflecopter below.

6_30 Ashley_Ride Steady_MMThe ride of her life . . .
Once upon a time, Carissa Teodoro believed in happy endings. Money, marriage, motherhood: everything came easy—until she woke up to the ugly truth about her Prince Charming. Now a struggling, single mom and stranded by a flat tire, Carissa’s pondering her mistakes when a vaguely familiar knight rides to her rescue on a ton of horsepower.

Climb on and hold tight . . .
In high school, Carson Steele was a bad boy loner who put Carissa on a pedestal where she stayed far beyond his reach. Today, he’s the hard-bodied biker known only as Joker, and from the way Carissa’s acting, it’s clear she’s falling fast. While catching her is irresistible, knowing what to do with her is a different story. A good girl like Carissa is the least likely fit with the Chaos Motorcycle Club. Too bad holding back is so damned hard. Now, as Joker’s secrets are revealed and an outside threat endangers the club, Joker must decide whether to ride steady with Carissa—or ride away forever . . .

Enjoy an excerpt:

“Yo!” I heard Snapper call and I looked to him to see he was looking beyond me. I turned around and saw Tabby was heading toward me and Snapper. “I’m takin’ Carissa out on my bike. You wanna look after her purse or put it in Shy’s room or somethin’?”
At his request, Tabby’s gaze immediately cut to the pool tables. When she took them in, for some reason, her face got hard before she softened it and looked back toward us.
“Not a problem,” she said, stopping at us. “Go. Ride.”
“Never been on a bike,” I told her and her face split in a big smile.
“Then go. Ride.” She leaned in to me. “Beware, wind in your hair, moon on your skin, you’ll fall in love.”

I wasn’t sure that was a good thing. I’d fallen in love with something I couldn’t have, and if I fell in love with the wind in my hair and the moon on my skin, without someone to give that to me, I couldn’t have that either.

But to heck with it.

Maybe this would be the only bike ride I’d I’d have in my life.

And maybe the kiss Joker gave me was the only fabulous kiss I’d ever get.

And maybe my dream of having a family or the other dream of getting behind the steel guarding Joker’s eyes was lost to me.

But I was still breathing.

So I’d take what I could get.

Tabby put her hand on my purse, which was lying on the bar. “Got this. Have fun.”

“Thanks,” I whispered.

She winked at me.

I looked to Snapper. “Let’s go.”

“Meet you at the end of the bar, babe.”

“Right!” I chirped, jumped off my stool, threw Tabby a smile, nabbed my jacket that I was sitting on and bounced to the end of the bar.

When I got there, Snapper had pulled on his leather jacket. He grabbed my hand and guided me out the door and to his bike. Then he got on his bike before instructing me on how to do the same.

The bike roared, he backed out on an angle, and we glided over the tarmac of Ride.

He pulled out onto Broadway and I got it.

The wind in my hair.

The moon on my skin.

The leather of his jacket in my nostrils.

The solidness of him under my hands at his waist.

We got close to the onramp of I‑25 and he shouted, “Hold on!”

“Sorry?” I shouted back.

“Hold on!” he yelled, taking one hand off the grip and using it to pull my hand from his waist and around to his stomach.

He put his hand back on the grip and we turned up the ramp, going faster, faster, faster, the wind whipping my hair and biting into my skin. I curved my other arm around him, put my chin to his shoulder, drew in air and leather, and I got it.

Instantly.

That it being why this was the life for a biker.

No encumbrances. You wanted to smoke pot, you smoked it. You wanted to wear a tube top, you wore it. You wanted to drink shots, you drank them. You wanted to make out hot and heavy on a couch in a room filled with people, you did it.

You wanted to live, you lived.

You wanted to be free, you got on your bike and rode in the moonlight.

You did not drink martinis you didn’t like. You did not take a job your mother‑in‑law thought you should have. You did not take guff from your ex, not ever.

You did what you wanted.

You were free.

In all that was happening to me, all that I was feeling, all the disappointment of that night and the bizarre devastation I felt that the first time this happened, me on the back of a bike, I would have preferred it be with Joker . . . right then, for that moment, I let it all go.

I let it go, held on to Snapper and I let myself feel it.

Feel something rare and beautiful and overwhelming.

Feel something I knew for certain I hadn’t felt in my whole life.

Free.

About the Author:6_30 AshleyKristen Ashley grew up in Brownsburg, Indiana, and has lived in Denver, Colorado, and the West Country of England. Thus she has been blessed to have friends and family around the globe. Her posse is loopy (to say the least) but loopy is good when you want to write. Kristen was raised in a house with a large and multigenerational family. They lived on a very small farm in a small town in the heartland, and Kristen grew up listening to the strains of Glenn Miller, The Everly Brothers, REO Speedwagon, and Whitesnake. Needless to say, growing up in a house full of music and love was a good way to grow up. And as she keeps growing up, it keeps getting better.

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Bringing Home the Bad Boy by Jessica Lemmon

BAD
Bringing Home the Bad Boy by Jessica Lemmon
Publisher: Forever (Hachette Book Group)
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (278 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Hawthorn

The Bad Boy Is Back

Evan Downey needs a new beginning. Since the death of his wife five years ago, the brilliant tattoo artist has shut himself away in a prison of grief that not even his work can break him out of-and what’s worse, Evan knows his son Lyon is bearing the brunt of his seclusion. Moving back to the lake town of Evergreen Cove where he spent his childhood summers is his last chance for a fresh start.

Charlotte Harris knows she owes it to her best friend’s memory to help Evan and his son find their way again, but she can’t stop her traitorous heart from skipping a beat every time she looks into Evan’s mesmerizing eyes. Charlotte is determined to stay strictly in the Friend Zone-until a mind-blowing night knocks that plan by the wayside. Now, if they’re brave enough to let it, Charlotte and Evan might just find a love capable of healing their broken hearts . . .

Jessica Lemmon has a knack for character portrayal. The characters in Bringing Home the Bad Boy come to life on the page. Even Rae, who died four years prior to the opening pages of the novel, felt alive and still very present, albeit only in the minds of the other characters. She was like a shadow between Evan and Charlie.

I really liked how Evan, unlike Charlie, had reached an inner peace that allowed him to pursue Charlie. He didn’t obsess over his deceased wife and the fact that she had been Charlie’s best friend. He honored her memory by being the best dad he could be to their son Lyon, but he didn’t let his past stop him from trying to be happy and to create a good, safe family environment for Lyon.

Charlie on the other hand was, understandably to a point, more hesitant and more riddled with guilt. A large part of that, I felt, was due to her having had a crush on Evan back when they were all just teenagers. But her indecisiveness reached a point where her guilt and insecurity bordered on obsession with Rae and how Charlie had no right to be happy. This was a result of how her ex boyfriend Russell had treated her, and it made a lot of sense, but I think the way he and his current wife were portrayed as entirely negative characters was too simplistic.

A very positive aspect of the story was the ending. This portrayed her as a smart and emotionally mature woman. She was also great in her interactions with Lyon. But the truly wonderful scenes were the ones with Lyon and his father. The author presented Evan as a truly great dad: flawed, but well-meaning and wonderfully loving and dedicated. I don’t think I’ve seen such a wonderful father figure in a book in a very long time.

Bringing Home the Bad Boy is an emotional read, with plenty of angst, but also filled with hot romance and tender emotions that grow into a strong, passionate love.

Never Surrender to a Scoundrel by Lily Dalton

 

SCOUNDREL
Never Surrender to a Scoundrel by Lily Dalton
Publisher: Forever (Hachette Book Group)
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (284 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Hawthorn

A Reckless Desire…

Lady Clarissa Bevington is in trouble. A reckless indiscretion has left her with two choices: ruin her family with the scandal of the Season, or marry Mr. Kincraig, the notorious scoundrel mistaken as her lover. Desperate and disgraced, Clarissa vows to love and cherish a veritable stranger, a man whose eyes smolder with danger—and undeniable desire…

An Unexpected Arrangement

As an agent for the Crown, Lord Donovan Blackmer has spent the last two years guarding Clarissa’s grandfather from an unknown assassin while disguised as the rakehell Kincraig. His mission may now be over, but his duty has just begun. Salvaging his beautiful, impetuous wife’s virtue will cost him his fortune and his position as an officer—but it might save him from the ghosts that haunt his own past. When their marriage “in name only” leads to exquisite seduction, Donovan must risk the only thing he has left to lose . . . his heart.

An agent of the Crown and a spoiled girl could never work together, could they? They come from two different worlds, right? Wrong. Lily Dalton makes them work, and work beautifully.

The plot is intense and there are a few twists that spice it up along the way. But the main attraction of the novel by far were the two main characters. The way Dominick acts honorably towards Clarissa despite losing everything because of the situation, and how Clarissa grows up into a determined and fair woman after making a huge mistake was a wonderful insight into their personalities. At first it seems they couldn’t be more different, but through mutually deciding to make the marriage work they become far more alike and compatible.

I especially liked the first part of the novel in which Clarissa and Dominick were thrust into an unwanted marriage and the conflict between them is tangible. Unlike in other historical romances, their union started off with no attraction between them and no desire on either of their parts to be married. Clarissa was even portrayed as a rather frivolous, spoiled girl. But as the story developed and their marriage progressed, we got to see a different picture. The fact that their union started off inauspiciously but they were both strong enough to accept it and make it successful told of the strengths of their characters and made me love them so much more.

I felt the long epilogue was redundant and it spoiled the whole effect by tying up all loose ends rather too neatly. Other than that, the narrative was engaging, the characters as well, even though I haven’t read the previous two novels in the series and I didn’t know anything about them and their histories. But now I want to know all about them and I’ll be sure to read their stories too.

Never Surrender to a Scoundrel was a delightful read with lovable characters and an inventive storyline. The narrative will grip you and pull you into the story until you will sigh with satisfaction at the sweet ending.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

GO
Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
Publisher: Hachette Book Group
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: Full Length (330 pages)
Rating: 2.5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she’s a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she’s a disgrace; to design mavens, she’s a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.

Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette’s intensifying allergy to Seattle—and people in general—has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.

To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence—creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter’s role in an absurd world.

There are some books that stay with the reader far after the last page…and this is one of those books.

I picked up a copy of Where’d You Go, Bernadette at the urging of my book club. They all raved about this novel, so I figured it must be something I needed to read. I’m glad I got the chance to delve into Bernadette’s world. She’s definitely an interesting character. If there was ever a case-study in eccentricity, then she should be near the top of the list. She’s very complex and took a while to understand. I’ll get back to her in a moment.

I have to admit, by looking at the cover and listening to the feedback from friends, I thought this would be a breezy beach-type read. It’s not. The style of writing takes the form of letters and emails and is told through the perspective of Bernadette’s daughter. At times, it’s confusing and at other times, well, I wanted to pitch the book across the room.

Why? For being so smart and eccentric, Bernadette is a mess. I rather liked her, though. She’s been through some read crud in her life and she deals with in her own way. I could empathize with her frustrations with the world. She claims to be agoraphobic to the point of needing a personal assistant she doesn’t have to see in order to get through her day. In reality, she just doesn’t like people. She’s been frustrated so much in her life that she’s shut down. Haven’t we all had moments where we want to throw our hands in the air in defeat? As much as I liked her messiness and her issues, I got a tad tired of them.

Then there is the husband. He’s a piece of work. He’s ridiculously smart and compartmentalizes…everything. I liked that he had some issues–like not seeing Bernadette’s issues much earlier on–but again, I tired of him being so self-centered. He’s got a woman on the side, which I didn’t appreciate. If cheaters in the book aren’t well liked, then this might be a book to take a pass on. But more than that, when the husband does realize there’s an issue, he goes overboard.

I guess that’s my biggest issue with this book. Yes, it’s a satire, but it’s so far overboard that sometimes I couldn’t suspend my disbelief enough to keep reading. I walked away from this book quite a few times before I actually finished it. I only finished it because I had to know what the ultimate outcome was–which I thought came rather abruptly and with little closure.

This might not have been the right book for me, but if you’re interested in a book that takes place vividly in Seattle and want to read about characters that are a little off the mark, then this might be the novel for you.