Second Chance Romance by Jill Weatherholt


Second Chance Romance by Jill Weatherholt
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (224 Pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Myrtle

Small-Town Daddy

Jackson Daughtry’s jobs as a paramedic and part-owner of a local café keep him busy—but the single dad’s number one priority is raising his little girl with love and small-town values. And when his business partner’s hotshot lawyer niece comes to town planning to disrupt their lives by moving her aunt away, Jackson has to set Melanie Harper straight. When circumstances force them to work side by side in the coffee shop, Jackson slowly discovers what put the sadness in Melanie’s pretty brown eyes. Now it’ll take all his faith—and a hopeful five-year-old—to show the city gal that she’s already home.

Love has a way of working its way into life, sometimes slow and easy, other times by crashing in head-on. Either way, a sensible seatbelt for your heart is a must!

Melanie Harper is a Washington D.C. big city lawyer who knows how to get things done. She’s smart, pretty, hardworking, and she loves her aunt Phoebe enough to drive all the way to the small town of Sweet Gum to convince her she would be better off living with her in D.C. Aunt Phoebe, however, is perfectly happy in Sweet Gum no matter what her loving niece believes.

When Melanie, who “never takes a vacation,” decides to visit, Aunt Phoebe is delighted. Phoebe co-owns The Coffee Bean, a breakfast and lunch diner, with Jackson Daughtry, a local paramedic. Jackson is a single father who dotes on his little daughter, Rebecca. He is the kind of dad every little girl deserves. His faith is strong, both in the Lord and in people, but the story is never preachy.

Lovely Melanie has strong values, too, but her past could shake a person to their very core, perhaps beyond repair. When Melanie has a car crash, Jackson has to make the call to Phoebe.

Author Jill Weatherholt has created a cast of characters every reader will appreciate. They are each very different with their own strong beliefs and opinions—they are each very real people. I expected this story to be a run-of-the-mill romance, and when I first started reading, I wasn’t bowled over by any uniqueness, although the writing was good. But before long, I found myself over-the-moon surprised by the strength of its wonderful characters and its fabulous storyline, which shanghaied me for the duration.

Second Chance Romance is a story that allows you to settle in and get comfortable before it consumes you in the most wonderful way. This is a must-read for real-life romance lovers!

Invincible by Diana Palmer


Invincible by Diana Palmer
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (302 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

He’s everything she fears…and everything she wants

Mercenary by name and by nature, Carson is a Lakota Sioux who stays to himself and never keeps women around long enough for anything emotional to develop. But working with his friend Cash Grier on a complex murder investigation provides Carson with another kind of fun—shocking Cash’s sweet but traditional secretary, Carlie Blair, with tales of his latest conquests.

Then Carlie lands in deep trouble. She saw something she shouldn’t have, and now the face of a criminal is stored permanently in her photographic memory…and Carlie is the key piece of evidence that could implicate a popular politician in the murder case.

Her only protection is Carson—the man she once despised. But when she learns that Carson is more than just a tough guy, Carlie realizes she’s endangered herself further. Because now her only chance to live means losing her heart to the most dangerous kind of man….

Ahhh! That’s the sweet sound of vindication. The overall story arc of the bad guy messing with the alpha guys of Wyoming is concluded after the end of the very satisfying journey in Invincible.

If a reader has read Wyoming Bold then they might remember meeting Carson then because that’s where Merissa had a vision about him. It comes to pass in this novel and what’s amazing is, it’s not the truth. I mean it is, but it’s not. I didn’t find out which until almost the end of this novel. It’s pretty cool!

In this novel I found out a lot about Carson and it’s fascinating. The story is told mostly from the heroine’s point of view. When Carlie found out about stuff, then so did I but where I only thought ‘wow’, she reacted with lots of emotion depending on the subject matter.

Carson was a tough nut to crack but the men in Carlie’s life, from her dad to Cash to Rourke, all knew where the hero was coming from because they had various levels of the same experience. They gave him advice as only guys could. It would have been too easy if Carson took the advice. The hero had to work things out for himself. And, while taking his time to process things, had numerous opportunities for heart attacks because of events that affected Carlie. One of them eventually was his wake-up call.

Carlie is a morally strong, faith-filled young woman with a demanding job, a loving father and an unrequited love for Carson. She finds out that she’s not above temptation when it comes to the hero, that her dad isn’t quite as quiet and unassuming as she first believed and Carson isn’t as unaffected by her as she thinks. For all her strengths she has a few flaws. She’s forgetful which allows for some suspenseful moments, and she expresses her emotions easily and profusely. Most times it’s endearing and helpful to the plot, but there are a couple of times they were a bit over-the-top and irritating. And what’s the deal behind all that harping about her ‘ratty’ coat? Don’t they have a Goodwill or Salvation Army in the area or within driving distance? If I can find a suit jacket for $3 at a regular store’s end of season blowout clearance sale (I didn’t get it because it was a purple plaid) why couldn’t she find a better cheap coat? Her financial situation didn’t jive with the purchase of her dress or other things I noted during the novel. There’s something off when a father has the type of vehicle Carlie’s dad has and what he leaves her to drive.

I really did like the suspense, drama and mild action that came from chasing down the bad guys and figuring out who was in danger by whom. Those scenes were effectively and powerfully written.

The novel is mostly sensual. There’s lots of heat and pent up sexual frustration and passion between Carlie and Carson but it’s only towards the end that readers get a peek behind the bedroom door. It’s enough to know that the hero and heroine are a satisfyingly combustible mix.

Invincible was a one day, don’t want to leave my chair don’t bother me, read. I even passed on watching my favorite Heath Ledger movie, A Knight’s Tale, so I could finish reading the last few intense and action packed dramatic chapters of Invincible. That’s about the best endorsement a book can get. I enjoyed myself immensely, I adored the happy ever after and I truly believe a lot of other readers will like this book too.

Wyoming Brave by Diana Palmer


Wyoming Brave by Diana Palmer
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (301 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

The Wyoming men are back! In their quest for true love on the range, are these ranchers bold enough to open their hearts to the women under their protection?

Ren Colter may own an enormous ranch in Wyoming, but he scorns his wealth. He’s closed himself off since his fiancée left him years ago, so he’s shocked when he allows Meredith Grayling to stay with him. He tells himself it’s only to protect the blonde beauty from a stalker, but Ren’s alpha instincts soon kick in.

The last thing Merrie wants is a devastatingly handsome man like Ren lurking around her. He’s too experienced, too appealing for her already shot nerves. What she needs is just to get away from it all: the man haunting her waking dreams and the one hunting her like an animal. But no woman escapes this Colter cowboy!

There’s nothing like watching an ornery rancher and a tenderhearted lady find common ground amidst chaos, some of which they create themselves. Then there is the chaos from being prey to a contracted killer – just how safe can Ren keep Merrie? Seeking the answer is one of the reasons that kept me flipping the pages of Wyoming Brave.

I missed reading the story about Merrie’s sister, Sari, but this book about Merrie has made me want to know more especially seeing how hard it was for the heroine to not only find love but to feel as if there really was a future in store for her. After reading about how Merrie was treated by her father, it’s a wonder she didn’t have even more trust issues than she did. As the novel unfolded, I experienced various levels of horror as I realized just how cruel and scary the heroine’s childhood was. It explained how a woman in her early twenties could be so untouched and vulnerable, yet strong in unusual ways. What I mean is that Merrie had a knack, a gift, and a remarkable talent with animals. I suspect that pain recognized pain and her empathy as well as her deep well of untapped love was sensed by all the furred and feathered characters in the book.

Ren is initially a grumpy bug. He’s scowly, prickly and hard to get along with at first. You see, the hero has had a huge blow to his self-esteem, his trust and his heart. He’s gotten used to a certain type of woman in his life so Merrie, who should have been a breath of fresh air, got under his skin and made him act more growly than normal. Not that being contrary is normal, it’s really not for Ren, but he’s hurting and he wants to keep the heroine at arm’s length. Yeah, you know how well that works, right? Ren can’t help himself because every time the heroine does something unexpected she inadvertently gets past the barriers around his heart. She makes him want to trust again, to feel, to have hope and that gets him mad all over again. Good thing slow and steady wins the race. I’m not saying the story is slow, it’s not. Merrie is a gentle force of nature but one to be reckoned with. Ren didn’t stand a chance.

I am pretty sure I caught a glitch in the book about Merrie’s dancing ability. There’s an unnecessary repeat and I was surprised it wasn’t fixed. Another thing that didn’t jive with me 100% was the slippery smoothness of conflict resolution. What should have been bumpy, scary or at least viewed with wariness and caution somehow turns sunny, positive and everything turns out fairytale perfect. I guess for readers who are in the mood for light drama but want to stay away from truly dark themes, then this book reaches a good balance. For others who want the depth of the main characters to grow through detailed and focused adversity that they overcome, they’ll be left wanting. For all the potential for action and adventure based on the skill set of the alpha men that Merrie and Sari are surrounded with, the violence is understated and mostly inferred, not actual. So, depending on your mood, this book could really be a perfect read.

I know that I rated Wyoming Brave as spicy for the heat level but it’s more spicy-lite. Their physical expression of their passion was clear but muted. It was not graphic with lots of intimate detail; their touching and loving was more sensual, seductive and romantic but with just a tad of purple prose, if you know what I mean. It’s like I was peeking around the bedroom door to satisfy my belief that their chemistry was combustible but didn’t come all the way into the room to watch. I was fine with that level of heat.

The secondary characters that surrounded Ren and Merrie sure were colorful. They contributed important elements in the novel that made it work. Not surprisingly, Merrie endeared herself to a villain by finding within him that spark of decency and she reaped unexpected rewards. If any reader has seen Disney’s movie Pollyanna then they’ll have an idea of Merrie’s effect on the people around her. It’s like that.

Wyoming Brave was a one day read for me. I settled down into a comfortable chair and lost myself within its pages. It’s a nice story with some sharp edges to sink your teeth into. I liked Ren and Merrie together. The final chapter acted like one giant epilogue that wrapped up the HEA to perfection. This was a fine book and enjoyable. It’s a recommended read especially for fans of Ms. Palmer.

Reining in the Billionaire by Dani Wade


Reining in the Billionaire by Dani Wade
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (217 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

An instant billionaire wants revenge…and more!

Mason Harrington grew up as a rough-and-tumble stable boy. But a shocking inheritance enables him and his brothers to return to their hometown and settle some scores. First on the agenda: take over the elite horse farm belonging to the woman who once broke Mason’s heart when her daddy said he wasn’t good enough.

Despite Mason’s motives, EvaMarie Hyatt has no choice but to stay on at the ranch and work for him. Soon it becomes clear Mason wants more than revenge. Even more surprising: EvaMarie’s willingness to succumb. But will new misunderstandings derail their renewed passion, or will this second chance lead to forever?

He’s hot, rich and looking for revenge…until she walks in the door.

I haven’t read anything else by Dani Wade and this was a great introduction to her work. The writing flowed well and drew me right in. I cared about the characters and wanted to know more.

This is a fairly simplistic storyline. Mason has inherited a bunch of money and is back home to buy the ranch belonging to the woman he once had to let go. He’s a complex man with demons, but he’s determined. I liked him and rooted for him to get what he wanted–the horses and the girl. I liked how he wasn’t sure he wanted her to begin with. That twinge of “will they, won’t they” was good. Then there’s EvaMarie. She’s more than I thought and I’m glad. I had sort of a picture of her in my mind and as I kept going through the story, she grew. I loved how she came into her own.

If you want a story that’s hot, but sweet and has horses, then this might be the book for you. It’s light reading, but sure to satisfy!

The Ruthless Billionaire’s Virgin by Susan Stephens


The Ruthless Billionaire’s Virgin by Susan Stephens
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (185 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Handsome but brutally scarred, elusive billionaire Ethan Alexander shuns the limelight. So when his gallant rescue of Savannah Ross forces him into the media’s glare, he’s less than thrilled.Savannah’s buxom figure belies her inexperience–she’s not quite sure how to handle her fierce protector! But when he whisks her to his palace deep in the Tuscan hills, she sees a glimpse of the magnificence beneath his flaws. This is a man with a darkened heart in need of salvation–and only an innocent in his bed can unlock it….

The premise of a last minute replacement for a sick singer ending up a star is a favorite type of story. I like it when an unknown talent wows people when they least expect it and the new vocalist ends up realizing her dreams. It kind of reminds me of Susan Boyle from Britain’s Got Talent. In this novel, Savannah is the soon-to-be star and Ethan Alexander, the hero, is a scarier prospect than Simon Cowell.

When the story opens, a reader is introduced to Savannah and learns about her insecurities, her current dilemma and her dreams. Then Ethan is on stage and I learned why he’s feared but I only get hints about why he is the way he is. That gets revealed much, much later. It was like pulling a very stubborn tooth to get the hero to open up but Savannah is persistent, even to the point of incurring the hero’s wrath. A wrath that is quite formidable. His reticence to talk about his scars and the anger and/or coldness he responds with to deflect any inquiries is typical of an over-the-top Harlequin alpha.

Both hero and heroine took turns throughout the story being entertaining, sexy, annoying, grumpy and sometimes very romantic and insightful. The locations were exotic and intriguing and made the read enjoyable. The race from the media/paparazzi was a bit unrealistic but fun. Ethan fought the good fight against admitting he had fallen in love with Savannah, of course, and it dragged out until almost the very end. There’s a reason he’s called, The Bear, stubborn to the last. The happy ever after wrap up was satisfying and complete made all the sweeter with a wonderful epilogue.

On the whole The Ruthless Billionaire’s Virgin is an easy, quick and fast flowing read. It has solid entertainment value and I had fun.

Hotly Bedded, Conveniently Wedded by Kate Hardy


Hotly Bedded, Conveniently Wedded by Kate Hardy
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (186 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

THE PASSIONATE PLAYBOY’S CONVENIENT WIFE

Alex Richardson has the ultimate playboy lifestyle, moving from one luscious, long-legged woman to the next. So why would he want Isobel, his short, curvaceous friend who loves him from afar?

Alex needs a convenient wife — and Bel is his first-choice bride! Shocked at his proposal, Bel has doubts about his crazy plan. Then Alex gives her a taste of just how hot they can be together, leaving Bel begging him to finish what he started — on their wedding night!

If you feel the need of a cotton candy fix for the brain, then Hotly Bedded, Conveniently Wedded should satisfy the urge. It’s romantic, sweet and perfect for a stress-free, enjoyable experience. This is also good for fans of the ‘friends to lovers’ theme.

Alex has the perfect plan to land the perfect job; find a lady to be his wife so he’ll be viewed as dependable and capable of following through with commitment. What bigger commitment is there than marriage? It’s a risky venture so who’s the perfect candidate? His best friend, Bel. She’s been there for him when life was challenging, and he’s been there for her when life threw her some very big lemons. It should work right?

The one word that was overused during most of the book was ‘perfect’. Alex could do no wrong, make a bad choice or act like a typical self-absorbed male. He was a practically perfect romantic lead. The only person with a bona fide conflict is the heroine. It doesn’t make waves until later in the novel but it’s fairly effective. It does get resolved and the joy commences.

On the whole, Hotly Bedded, Conveniently Wedded is a happy book. It’s full of optimism, heart, love and lightness. Even when the bad stuff happens, it’s mitigated by their love and Alex proves to be the man every woman wants on planet Earth. When I read his dialogue and how he reacted, the author effectively showed me a man who I’d want at my side when life is at its hardest. That for me, made this book worth reading and glad to have read it.

Through A Magnolia Filter by Nan Dixon


Through A Magnolia Filter by Nan Dixon
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (384 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

Home is where his heart is…but what about hers?

Family was always a foreign concept to Liam Delaney. Until research into one of his documentary films brings him to Savannah and Dolley Fitzgerald’s B and B. Dolley’s passion for life and photography is infectious. When she becomes his apprentice, they’re the perfect team in every way. He’s finally found the home he’s always wanted, and it’s all because of her.

The only problem is that his dream is of a home and family, while Dolley craves adventure. They may be at odds, but Liam knows they can make both of their dreams come true together. He just needs to convince her…

All throughout Through a Magnolia Filter I found a heartwarming story that showcased the importance of family, following your dreams, and true love. I thoroughly enjoyed this tender heartwarming story.

Liam Delaney, the hero, was a sweetheart. He’s the kind of man you’d want your daughter to bring home and marry. I found him to be a tad bit nerdy with a dash of hot but so was the heroine, Dolley. They truly did bring out the best in each other. Their chemistry was anything but awkward. Together they were “sigh worthy”.

The writing was impeccable. I felt sympathy for Liam’s upbringing. I felt just as confused as Dolley did when she couldn’t make a decision. I was intrigued with the tips and suggestions Liam gave Dolley to improve her photography skills. I can’t wait to implement some of those tips the next time I’m taking pictures. The story flowed with such smoothness it was as if I was watching a movie in my head with all the sights and sounds. I had clear visions in my head of the pictures they were taking as if I was there with them.

The plot was original which was absolutely refreshing. Bravo to Nan Dixon! Through a Magnolia Filter also had a brilliant storyline. I loved the ‘cat and mouse’ back and forth over who thought who was using whom. The novel was great in toying with my emotions between Liam and Dolley. I appreciated the unpredictability.

In the end I was completely satisfied with the happy ever after and appreciated the reminder that “Home is where the heart is”. I highly recommend this book for a pleasant easy read that will leave a reader feeling fully satisfied.

Married for the Boss’s Baby by Susan Carlisle

married
Married for the Boss’s Baby by Susan Carlisle
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full length (190 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

An unexpected baby…

When successful surgeon Grant Smythe’s baby half sister is orphaned, Grant is determined to be there for little Lily—unlike his own father.

A convenient proposal…

But a challenge for custody means Grant needs a wife, too! New nanny Sara Marcum is the ideal candidate…

A wife forever?

It might be temporary, but soon warmhearted Sara completes more than just Grant’s family. Can he convince his bride-for-now to become his forever wife?

Fans of the ‘nanny and the boss’ romance trope should give Married for the Boss’s Baby a try because it’s fun and a delightful example of why this theme is so popular. It was a pleasure to read.

Grant, the hero, was in a pickle when I first met him. The poor guy was stressed to the max because he had a liver to deliver via surgery but he couldn’t leave his baby sister but he had to get to the hospital but the nanny was late and his sister, Lily, was fussy and he had no idea what to do! Get the picture? The hero needed an intervention. Thing is, there’s more going on with Grant than being the sudden caregiver to a baby sister. It’s why I liked him as a character; the hero had depth and a humanity about him that appealed to me.

Enter Sara, a woman who has a heart of gold but no financial wealth to speak of. A reader can easily recognize a heroine with a lot of love to give because of how she treats her dad, and how baby Lily quickly accepts her. Sara also has some issues to deal with but they are actually honorable and notable; they have also emotionally traumatized her. Now, she’s afraid to take a chance on feeling affection for anyone. It’s rather sad, and an effective reason for a reader to care for and feel sympathy for, the heroine.

The reason Grant and Sara joined forces is a typical romance book reason but it worked for me. I enjoyed how Ms. Carlisle had her characters navigate their attraction. I also liked the scenes that showcased their medical professionalism in moments of crisis. Some of the items Sara gave Grant during one of those dramatic moments made me giggle because it was so unexpected. They really did make a great team.

I was so happy when Grant finally made a move on Sarah. There was a lot of smoldering early on and they both tried to fight it, but as with all fun romance novels, their capitulation was inevitable. Their loving moments were well written, effective and contributed to their growing relationship; they were mildly spicy.

The reason for their decision and urgency finally arrived but the author sort of glossed over it in favor of showing its effect on both Grant and Sara. It caused a predictable rockiness to the romance but no less effective in getting them where they emotionally needed to be. I actually liked how the author wrote it.

Married for the Boss’s Baby was a fun read. I devoured the story in one sitting and enjoyed every minute of it. I have no problem recommending this book to romance readers. It’s thoroughly engaging.

Her Festive Baby Bombshell by Jennifer Faye


Her Festive Baby Bombshell by Jennifer Faye
Publisher: Harlequin Romance
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Full Length (256 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

Life-changing news this Christmas!

Since their spontaneous and magical night together, Holly Abrams has avoided her boss, CEO Finn Lockwood. Neither of these two damaged hearts was looking for a relationship—least of all with a colleague!

When they’re thrown together on a charity project aboard Finn’s luxury yacht, the tension between them skyrockets. When Holly starts to feel unwell, she puts it down to seasickness, until the doctor confirms that Holly and Finn can expect two unplanned gifts this Christmas—Holly is pregnant with twins…!

I really enjoyed escaping into the story Her Festive Baby Bombshell. It was a light, fluffy, sweet and easy read. It captured my interest immediately and kept me entertained until the very last page. After reading this story I was filled with the holiday spirit.

Holly Abrams, the heroine, and Finn Lockwood, the hero, both had to deal with their own past hurts that resulted in insecurities and fears that interfered in the relationship. Together with their budding romance they brought out the best in each other ,aiding each other to let go of their issues in order to move forward. It was a positive and encourage read that left me filled with hope and love not to mention a nice warm and fuzzy feeling.

I am glad that I read this novel and I encourage anyone who is looking for a sweet and sensual Christmas love story to pick up this book.

The Doctor’s Baby Secret by Scarlet Wilson

baby
The Doctor’s Baby Secret by Scarlet Wilson
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (187 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Expecting the astronaut’s baby!

Dr. Corinne Carter’s job as medical adviser heats up when daredevil Austin Mitchell joins the astronaut training program. And it’s soon clear their chemistry is hotter than a Texas summer!

For all his cheeky self-confidence, gorgeous Austin makes this relationship-shy doctor feel out of this world. So when their sizzling fling has an unexpected consequence, does Corrine dare to dream of a home and a future with her star-bound pilot?

Sometimes we are our own worst enemy because we place a yoke of expectations heavily upon our shoulders without examining the cost. It’s even worse when you try to live up to someone else’s expectations of you while not realizing it. The cost for that could be even higher. What happens when you figure it out? What do you do? Those questions and more provide the perfect internal conflict for the hero, Austin Mitchell.

For the heroine, Corrine, she needs to be in control because it makes her feel safe. Why would someone go to such lengths to insure that control? How is she going to react when someone has a knack for making her lose the very thing she holds dear? Because Austin pushes every button she has and she’s trying to resist him.

Both Austin and Corrine have some pretty convincing internal conflicts to overcome. Also, a reader is taken on an in depth exploration of the challenges to becoming an astronaut. The trials and tribulations are daunting. Those that make it have earned it, with interest. The author even throws in some external calamities that show readers the strengths and weaknesses of the main characters. Those crises were short in duration but effective.

I realize that Austin is hard on himself. He pushes his limits and has to ace everything, and I do mean everything, in order to make the program. I guess that is what bothers me about this story – he’s too perfect. He never slips up. He’s so confident and savvy consistently that I had a hard time believing in his perfection. Does that make sense? It took a while for the author to bring up something that made him seem more approachable and believable. It works for the most part but I would have enjoyed a bigger tug on my emotions by his character.

The one thing I totally enjoyed was their blossoming romance and how they really were good together. I liked how they brought out the best in each other, of course that’s after they figure out that they ARE better together than apart.

The Doctor’s Baby Secret has a satisfying happy ending and the novel was entertaining. I liked that they found a dream they could pursue together while being true to themselves. This is a nice story and worth checking out.