Secret Valentine by Cherry Christensen


Secret Valentine by Cherry Christensen
Publisher: EsKape Press
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday, Inspirational
Length: Short story (77 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Professor Hannah Wagganer spends her days teaching and her nights dating Glen Arbor’s new mail carrier, Jasper Morgan. Not only does he spark Hannah’s heart, but he has become best friends with her cat, Jingles.

As Hannah prepares for the church Valentine’s Day potluck and makes cards for local veterans, her relationship with Jasper takes a detour when a snowstorm hits town and she seeks refuge at his cottage. While there, Jasper is a warm and gracious host, but at the same time, he’s turned as cold as the February wind. Doubt creeps in, leaving Hannah worrying that she’ll end up spending another holiday alone.

Once again, blessings and suspicions abound when an anonymous donor pays to have the church pipes repaired and other locals suddenly find solutions to their problems. Is it coincidental or the work of a secret valentine?

Hannah is in love with Jasper and is willing to keep his secret past from the rest of Glen Arbor. Valentine’s Day is approaching and she wants to make it a day for them to remember.

As with all good romances there is some misunderstanding which brings doubt to Hannah regarding Jasper’s feelings for her.

The book is definitely inspirational, although I usually enjoy inspirational books I found the references and phrases from the Bible tended to take over the story and these interrupted the flow to the point where it became irritating. On the whole this was a nice tale of love and belief which could be a really good inspirational book had it been just a little less heavy handed.

The storyline is good and their evolving love for each other is well handled as is the developing attachment of their two best friends. The characters are well rounded and Jingles the cat adds a bit of humor to the story.

The Bachelor’s Unexpected Family by Lisa Carter


The Bachelor’s Unexpected Family by Lisa Carter
Publisher: Harlequin Love Inspired
Genre: Contemporary, Inspirational
Length: Full length (220 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Second Chance Family

Young widow Kristina Montgomery moves to Kiptohanock, Virginia, hoping it will give her and her teenage son, Gray, a fresh start. She longs for the peace and quiet only a small town can provide. But her plans are thwarted by her new neighbor, Canyon Collier, a former Coast Guard pilot and a crop duster. Gray is instantly drawn to the pilot and his teenage niece, Jade—and Kristina’s not far behind. She and Canyon are soon bonding over parenting their charges and their spark becomes undeniable. Could it be that the spirited pilot is just what Kristina needs to teach her heart to soar again?

Love is being thwarted by the past; a widow’s grief and guilt, and a man’s burden from his family’s reputation. One needs to let go and the other needs to believe he’s not defined by the choices of others. The thread woven throughout The Bachelor’s Unexpected Family is faith. Faith in dreams, in neighbors, in love and in God, can work miracles even when they are no bigger than a bouquet of flowers.

This is a very sweet romance between Kristina and Canyon. I enjoyed watching them when they were together. When it was just them away from everything else; when they forgot about their hang-ups, worries and their tendency to overthink things; I got the solid sense that they truly would be perfect and wonderful for each other. Their easy camaraderie and playful banter was engaging.

I liked how Canyon took to the role of being a parent and how Kristina’s son, Gray, made her realize the rut she had gotten them both in. Jade, Canyon’s niece, and Gray are great secondary characters. As for the hero and heroine, they each had a gaping hole in their hearts that needed healing. The heroine lost her first husband and couldn’t find a reason to move forward, and Canyon never had a healthy family role model so it left him feeling like he was on the outside looking in. How could he be a good father figure to Jade? After seeing the love of a mother for her son, as Kris is to Gray, he felt his insecurity more keenly. Those levels of heartache aren’t a good thing and the author made that very clear. Ms. Carter also made it quite apparent that God has some definite plans and he is working through the townspeople of Kiptohanock. There were some wonderful people there including Kris’s brother, but Margaret especially so.

The one moment where I felt the book didn’t reach me is the moment supposedly where Kris has this great epiphany. It sounded so powerful and firm, and there was this great moment of opportunity, and then … dud. Seriously? She choked? All that and she couldn’t say the words? Grrrr. It’s a good thing there was at least one little kiss in the story that showed me that the chemistry is strong enough to stir their passions so they’d work harder at getting together.

There’s a little drama to spice things up; again showcasing the strong points in each of the main characters as they face their worst fears. It was a relatable plot conflict because high school kids do get into that type of trouble. It was well written and effective.

I’m quite satisfied with the story, the romance and the happily ever after that I found within the pages of The Bachelor’s Unexpected Family. I liked that all the plot threads were tied up, and Kris finally got to touch Canyon’s hair as she’d been wanting to all through the book. Heck, I actually had the itch to do that myself, the writing was that convincing. All in all, this is a really nice romance to spend an afternoon with.

Autumn Falls by Delia Latham


Autumn Falls by Delia Latham
Paradise Pines #3
Publisher: Pelican Book Group
Genre: Contemporary, Inspirational
Length: Full Length (243 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

Autumn Warren and her friend Cecily determine to have one last hurrah before the crazy whirl of planning Cecily’s wedding. Autumn reluctantly agrees to lay off the barbed comments about her friend’s imminent move to Italy (for no better reason than that Cecily fell in love) and the girls rent an apartment at Cambria’s Paradise Pines Lodge for the entire fall season.Autumn’s reluctant agreement to remain silent regarding her friend’s upcoming marriage, in no way indicates a change of heart about letting a man into her own life. She’s watched enough friends get married and divorced to sour her on the subject of love and the sanctity of marriage. (Autumn isn’t exactly a religious person, but she doesn’t believe in divorce, and seriously…given the current divorce statistics, why even risk it?)But when she meets Russ Amundsen and his adorable daughter, Dalynn, she finds herself in danger of losing her carefully guarded heart. And what is it about the mysterious Miss Angelina Love—who may or may not own Paradise Pines—that makes Autumn believe her heart never stood a chance once she set foot inside the lodge?

Autumn doesn’t believe in love.

Autumn spent her youth watching marriages fall apart, and she vowed never to give her heart to a man. With her friend Cecily by her side, Autumn has avoided any serious romantic relationships. Now everything is changing. Cecily is engaged and planning on moving to Italy. Autumn can’t believe her best friend is about to fall into the trap of love and sets out to talk her friend out of marriage by going on one last vacation together. However, all Autumn’s plans go out the window once the pair arrive in Paradise Pines.

Autumn and Cecily have a close friendship and they’ve clearly spent years making great memories. I can understand why Autumn would be afraid of losing that. Though I have to say that Autumn’s plan of talking Cecily out of her marriage always struck me as selfish. Autumn didn’t seem to have any specific objections to Cecily’s fiancé. In fact, I’m not sure she’s bothered to find out much about him. Autumn isn’t trying to save Cecily from a bad marriage. Deep down, I think Autumn is just afraid of her relationship with her best friend changing.

Things begin to change the moment Autumn arrives at Paradise Pines and runs into Russ. Their first encounter is far from pleasant, but it isn’t long before the two find themselves drawn to each other. Unfortunately, Russ hasn’t had much luck in the romance department either. His divorce has left him with control issues that he struggles with daily. With Russ’ stony persona and Autumn’s skewed view of romance, they don’t appear to be a likely couple at first. However, I enjoyed watching them gradually break down each other’s barriers as they fell in love.

Miss Angie, the proprietor of Paradise Pines, is a wonderful person. She exudes gentleness and kindness and is very easy to talk to. She shares her Christian faith freely but never forces it on Autumn. I must say I truly enjoyed watching Autumn come to know God. The moment when Autumn finally opens her heart is simply beautiful.

I really enjoyed reading Autumn Falls. It is the third book in the Paradise Pines series, but it stands alone very well. It is a sweet, uplifting novel sure to delight fans of inspirational romance.

Heartfelt by Kay Springsteen


Heartfelt by Kay Springsteen
Publisher: esKape Press
Genre: Contemporary, Inspirational
Length: Full Length (205 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Orchid

The story that began on a North Carolina beach with a blind marine, a divorced mother, and a child with Down syndrome continues as the young family struggles to adapt to a new addition. Now eight months pregnant, Trish worries about her baby, her daughter, and her husband. But maybe she should be more concerned with herself. Dan struggles to prove himself at work in the face of what others consider his disability. As he wrestles with his job, he is also concerned with life at home and the impending birth of his son. How will he connect with a son when he’ll never even be able to play a game of catch with him?

A truly lovely story regarding love in almost impossible circumstances. Both hero and heroine, Trish and Dan, have things in their past, and lurking under the surface in the present, which make both hesitate to take the final step into a relationship.

Dan is blind due to an explosion in Afghanistan, while Trish has a daughter with Downs Syndrome. Her daughter Bella, is gorgeous. She is the pivot around which the story revolves. A lovely young girl who is stubborn and determined, but who is loved by both her mother and Dan.

Living near the beach means life by the sea plays a big part in the story especially toward the end. Both Dan and Trish must decide what they want for the future, not what they know they should do, but what they want to do. Once this is decided they can then work out if there is a future for them together, although of course Bella has already made up her mind what she wants to happen.

A wonderful book with a warm and fuzzy story although at times it becomes a tear jerker. Great read.

The Last Detective by Brian Cohn


The Last Detective by Brian Cohn
Publisher: Pandamoon Publishing
Genre: Inspirational, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (232 pgs)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Stargazer

It’s been two years since the invasion.

Two years since the slicks came to our planet and herded humanity together like cattle, placing us under constant watch in the few cities that remain. The lucky ones are left to their own devices. The unlucky few are rounded up and carted off to labor camps to face an unknown fate.

Former homicide detective Adrian Grace was cut off from his family, but has somehow managed to survive. When one of the slicks is murdered, they ask him to find the killer. He reluctantly agrees, and in the course of his investigation witnesses the best, and the worst, that humanity has to offer: a plot to escape the labor camps; a pending war between an in-your-face councilwoman and the corrupt city mayor; and a priest who claims to have befriended the dead alien. But worst of all, he stumbles onto a conspiracy that puts the fate of the entire city in jeopardy. In the end, Detective Grace discovers that the killer might just be the last person he would have suspected.

A story about betrayal, redemption, faith, fear, and hope, The Last Detective is a thrilling look at what happens to humanity when our world crumbles around us.

Humans, by nature are very adaptable- unfortunately this can be good and bad.

Since the aliens conquered humanity, daily existence is just that-existing and surviving. There are no goals, and no real jobs unless you are unlucky enough to be chosen for the labor camps or if you choose to work for the aliens policing the rest of humanity. Adrian Grace used to be a homicide detective, but not anymore. That is, until he is asked to undertake an investigation into the death of one of the aliens.

The Last Detective is a stunning in-depth story that looks at life after the destruction of civilization; and not where many stories try to pick up with the rise of the underdog-but a true look at what happens when there is no impending insurrection, when there is no hope. The Last Detective is an amazing look at the rivers of humanity that flow between the islands of despair in the darkest depths of loss.

Brian Cohn draws the reader into a world that has given up. The plot of The Last Detective is not sadness or the bleakness of reality, but what humanity can and will do to survive. I love how the author took the perspective of Adrian Grace as an individual not set on “fixing” the world, but with a realistic view of the society. While working the case, turn after turn, things change and hidden agendas are revealed.

I love a good mystery and Brian delivers. I was sure I had everything figured out, and then suddenly I was wrong. Not only that, the evidence to the contrary was sitting in front of me the whole time! The dark schemes and the intense dialogue and plot make this one of the best Science Fiction Mysteries that I have read in some time.

I highly recommend reading The Last Detective! It will give you a new view and a very real understanding of human nature!

Going to the Chapel by Mary Jane Morgan


Going to the Chapel by Mary Jane Morgan
Publisher: Self-Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Inspirational
Length: Full Length (217 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Alstroemeria

Claire Coleman is mortified when a handsome stranger discovers her crying in a quiet country chapel—the very chapel where she was supposed to have married her high school sweetheart, and the place where she now hopes to feel her mother’s presence.

Custom builder, Sam McGinnis, has sworn off rescuing women in need. That is, until he finds a beautiful blonde sobbing her heart out in his almost-finished chapel. The woman is obviously in a world of hurt, and no way can he walk away from the heart-broken lady.

But will rescuing Claire put Sam’s own heart in jeopardy?

Going to the Chapel by Mary Jane Morgan was a very quick and easy read. Claire Coleman is your typical jilted lover who finds solace in Sam McGinnis, your typical bad boy who doesn’t want to settle down but has a heart of gold.

After Claire is dumped by her fiance’ and best friend, fate would lead her to the chapel where she would have been married, in which she meets Sam, the custom builder for the chapel. The reader can already see where this is going, but it doesn’t make it any less enjoyable to read.

The writing is steamy, without too much conflict. The scenes are realistic but not graphic, which keeps the reader quickly flipping the pages. I also enjoyed the other characters in the book, but wished there was more interaction with them.

I wish there was more conflict between the main characters. From my understanding there were at least a couple weeks of conflict where the characters would not see each other, but that was kind of described in a quick paragraph before it was mostly forgotten and the issues were resolved without much work.

I think tension is one of the main qualities of a romance novel. It was built up really great with restriction at the beginning, but a little more follow through with the rest of the story could have added a whole layer of depth that any reader would have eaten up.

I enjoyed how quickly I read this book. I didn’t beat my brains out waiting for the main characters to notice each other, and I also LOVED the back and forth change in perspective. It is interesting to get the perspective of both characters, instead of just being in the mind of one.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants a fast read that satisfies a taste for a fun romance story. It was light and heartwarming, with just a bit of sexy. A very nice combination.

Life in A Supermarket Basket by Michael Evanichko


Life in A Supermarket Basket by Michael Evanichko
Publisher: Crimson Cloak Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Inspirational
Length: Full Length (176 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Alstroemeria

Vincent fidgeted as he waited in the ten-items-or-less lane, for he clearly had more than ten items in his dainty, little basket. As the line of impatient shoppers grew he was sure he’d be publicly humiliated for the sin of supermarket disobedience. The practice of stoning would resurface, only frozen Cornish-hens would be launched at his large frame instead of stones. If only he knew in a mere 7.34 minutes he’d be visiting the afterlife after being hit by a car, he would’ve checked his minor anxiety attack at the customer service counter.

As Vincent’s spirit rose above the mayhem, so too, did each of his purchased items, as each of them triggered a remarkable and occasionally embarrassing memory of his past. He was forced to examine his current state of unhappiness as he awaited answers to the lingering questions: Would his life end in the parking lot of his favorite grocer? Would he be accurate in the belief that heaven was non-existent?

Life in a Supermarket Basket contains elements of drama, suspense, romance and mystery, while narrated with sarcastic, comedic undertones by the protagonist, Vincent. It has elements of a Mitch Albom novel with touches of Augusten Burroughs-like humor. Each chapter is named after one of the grocery items, and begins with an illustration that foreshadows the events within the chapter. Life in a Supermarket Basket creates an environment completely relatable to a mainstream audience. Who hasn’t tried to sneak through the express lane with more items than allowed? Are heaven and the afterlife for real? And finally, we all have poignant food memories that piece our lives together like a puzzle.

Life in a Supermarket Basket follows the main character Vincent on his journey away from his average and sad middle aged life. After an accident at his local grocer, Vincent is forced to look back on his life in this humorous novel through the ghosts of grocery lists past.

The main character Vincent is a relatable man in his 40’s who has lost sight of what he really wants in life. As the reader travels with Vincent through his epiphanies of the past, an interesting picture is painted of a man who wants so much more.

Though the editing was a bit off at times, it did not take away from this oddly inspirational journey. References to religious beliefs were realistic and not at all preachy. This is not a conventional story about life and life after death, but rather it urges the reader to continue the journey through many strange and exciting twists.

The humorous quality of this fiction novel is definitely found within the pages. With Vincent there is no hiding the gritty details of life, and it is refreshing to see that one man’s discovery of soy milk can be another man’s discovery of self-worth.

A puzzle that comes together piece by piece, Life In A Supermarket Basket lived up to it’s excellent description. I would recommend this novel to anyone who wants a witty read that wraps up eloquently. No ends are left untied and it may just give readers their own grocery store epiphanies.

Sight Unseen in the City by Ruth Zavitsanos


Sight Unseen in the City by Ruth Zavitsanos
Publisher: CiaoSummer Press
Genre: Contemporary, Inspirational
Length: Short Story (78 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

It’s July 13th 1977 and New York City is languishing during a record-breaking heat wave. Linda Martinez is trying to succeed in her career while holding on to her Puerto Rican heritage she was raised to respect in the multicultural streets of the Bronx.

Linda meets Gabe when she enters a bookstore to escape the sweltering heat. Gabe is a distinguished, handsome man who helps Linda understand the death of her brother, Michael, who was killed in action five years earlier in Vietnam.

The time Linda spends with Gabe is nothing short of heavenly, and with Gabe’s encouragement, Linda finds herself thinking less about the scorching heat that all but suffocates a city held in darkness during an electrical outage, and more about fulfilling her life’s dream. At the dawning of a new day, Linda’s life, and her brother’s memory will take on a whole new meaning.

Linda is melting in the New York heat when she is rescued by young man who she feels a liking for. He tells her he knew her dead brother and they talk about Michael. When she tries to catch a train home he talks her into waiting for the next one, then the electricity throughout the city goes out. They sit and talk and this leads to a different future for Linda.

I liked the way this book was laid out. I thought I knew who Gabe was, but I wasn’t sure until two thirds of the way through the book. Well written and definitely caught my imagination. This is the type of life, aims and success most young women would like, but few have the determination to see it through.

Nice touch of her brother looking down from heaven and I particularly liked where he became confused by what to him was the future with clothes and manners very different to when he was alive.

Summer Dreams by Delia Latham


Summer Dreams by Delia Latham
Publisher: White Rose Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Inspirational
Length: Full Length (173 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

The Getaway Of A Lifetime…Kinda.

Summer Callihan isn’t in Cambria for the beach or the ocean or the pine-scented air around Paradise Pines Lodge. She’s there as a companion to her flighty cousin, Deah–with the understanding that they will have separate agendas the entire time. Summer just wants to be left alone to dream up the romance novels she writes under a pseudonym.

A Real-life Hero Who Rivals a Romance Novel…Really!

But never in Summer’s wildest writer’s imagination does she dream of being caught in an undertow and almost drowning, only to be rescued by a wealthy artist. And when Logan Bullard proves hard to shake, Summer fears for her heart–especially when Deah sets her sights on Logan.

A Cupid to pull it all together…?

But at Paradise Pines Lodge, what’s meant to be has a way of happening…at the best time and in the best way. Miss Angelina Love–who may or may not own the place–has an “in” with Heaven’s own “department of romance.” And she’s determined to see Summer and Logan together.

Logan, an artist, has been dreaming of an unknown woman who he longs to meet. In his dreams she dances before the ocean but is swept away by a huge wave. At this point he usually wakes up, but he’s aware this event will happen, he doesn’t know when, but it will happen.

Summer, an author, and her cousin Deah are on holiday at the Paradise Pines Lodge. Summer has a niche above the beach where she loves to write in peace. At the end of one session she decides to praise dance on the beach. This is when Logan’s dream comes true and he acts the hero and rescues her.

This book is inspirational in many ways more than religion. This story gave a feeling of warmth and love. The Lodge owner Miss Angie provided the right amount of stability in the background and Deah provided the conflict. This book was well written and a lovely read. The only problem I had was I felt at times the religious aspect was told not shown. Miss Angie’s Bible quotes were good and in context, Summer’s praise dance was visually wonderful, but when Logan and Summer talked to one another every other sentence seemed to have mention of God, which is not a natural way to speak in every day life. While religious talk is to be expected in an inspirational book, it seemed to be a little over the top.

This is an enjoyable read and provided the warmth, conflict and resolution to make it excellent.

Red Door Inn by Liz Johnson


Red Door Inn by Liz Johnson
Publisher: Revell
Genre: Contemporary, Inspirational
Length: Full Length (354 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

Marie Carrington is running from a host of bad memories. Broke and desperate, she’s hoping to find safety and sanctuary on Prince Edward Island, where she reluctantly agrees to help decorate a renovated bed-and-breakfast before it opens for prime tourist season.

Seth Sloane didn’t move three thousand miles to work on his uncle’s B&B so he could babysit a woman with a taste for expensive antiques and a bewildering habit of jumping every time he brushes past her. He came to help restore the old Victorian–and to forget about the fiancée who broke his heart.
The only thing Marie and Seth agree on is that getting the Red Door Inn ready to open in just three months will take everything they’ve got. Can these two wounded souls find hope, healing, and perhaps a bit of romance on this beautiful island?

Step into the Red Door Inn, a lovely home away from home tucked along the north shore of fabled Prince Edward Island. It’s a place where the wounded come to heal, the broken find forgiveness, and the lonely find a family. Won’t you stay for the season?

A One-Click that was totally worth the risk.

The story starts with Marie who is down to her last few dollars and needs to buy a ferry ticket to go to Prince Edward Island. While waiting she meets, an older man, Jack who just so happens to be in need of someone to help him pick colors for an inn he’s just purchased. While at the inn Marie meets with a few of the local residents, Aretha and Caden and things seem to be going okay for her until Jack’s nephew, Seth enters the picture and things begin to get rocky.

I loved all the characters in this book. They came across as lifelike and loveable and I found myself cheering each of them. What I enjoyed the most was the speed at which the author revealed why Marie was running so far from home. Nothing was dumped too soon into the story which I felt added to its appeal. Seth too has his own demons to bear and as they slowly begin to trust one another you find yourself wanting to read more at each sitting.

There’s a second romance weaved into this story which was also enjoyable and that’s the one between Aretha and Jack. The conflict was believable and just when you thought they’d turned a corner there was something else that got in the way and made you want to read on.

I can’t remember ever reading a book set on Prince Edward Island but Ms. Johnson did such a good job describing it, I think I’d like to see it for myself. If you like sweet romances with lovable characters, a realistic plot and an island setting, then I’d definitely check this one out.