An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole


An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole
Publisher: Kensington
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (320 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

As the Civil War rages between the states, a courageous pair of spies plunge fearlessly into a maelstrom of ignorance, deceit, and danger, combining their unique skills to alter the course of history and break the chains of the past . . .

Elle Burns is a former slave with a passion for justice and an eidetic memory. Trading in her life of freedom in Massachusetts, she returns to the indignity of slavery in the South—to spy for the Union Army.

Malcolm McCall is a detective for Pinkerton’s Secret Service. Subterfuge is his calling, but he’s facing his deadliest mission yet—risking his life to infiltrate a Rebel enclave in Virginia.

Two undercover agents who share a common cause—and an undeniable attraction—Malcolm and Elle join forces when they discover a plot that could turn the tide of the war in the Confederacy’s favor. Caught in a tightening web of wartime intrigue, and fighting a fiery and forbidden love, Malcolm and Elle must make their boldest move to preserve the Union at any cost—even if it means losing each other . . .

Adventure, romance, sex… perfect for escape reading. What free woman would trade in her freedom to carry out her passion for justice?

This is a well written book with a unique plot. Elle Burn is a unique woman by a lot of means. Courageous is the word that I would use to describe her. Elle is a freed slave going undercover to get information to the Union to help defeat the Confederates and she also has the ability to remember everything that she read and see. So her gift helps in the service that she does for the Union. This isn’t a book where I found myself necessarily liking a particular character or even connecting with one but if I had to pick one it would be Elle. She is courageous, she is selfless and for her to face the dangers in the fight to end slavery as well as becoming involved in forbidden love is a woman that is truly bold.

While undercover Elle meets Malcolm McCall. They both have a lot in common. Malcolm has his personal reasons for helping the Union. During their mission to help the Union Malcolm happens to see Elle and finds himself attracted to her. As the story goes on their attraction and passion for each other grows. Another thing they both have in common is that they read and quote Shakespeare and Sun Tzu. I like that they have similar things to share and draw closeness on.

The story is summarized and told so well but it seems there is more telling than showing. I enjoy a good historical read but I felt this storyline center more around Elle and Malcolm’s growth into a relationship as well as their active sex life. Their personal relationship took away from the story line. There wasn’t a balance of romance and historical events. Even though Elle and Malcolm didn’t have it easy in trying to be with each other, the story doesn’t offer much as to the suspense of the outcome. I could predict that the outcome would be in the best interest of Elle and Malcolm. I think this would have been a good story without the sex-capade.

This is an extraordinary story, but probably doesn’t offer a realistic historical outcome.  For this reason I would recommend this to readers that enjoy an escape but aren’t exceptionally choosy about historical accuracy.  It also offers readers a sensual romance with a happy ending.

How Hard Can It Be? by Robyn Peterman


How Hard Can It Be? by Robyn Peterman
Publisher: Kensington Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspsense
Length: Full Length (278 pgs)
Other: M/F
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

One happy ending coming right up…

What happens when an accountant decides to grab life by the horns and try something new? Apparently a pirate named Dave, a lot of pastel fleece, and blackmail—just to start with…

Visualize and succeed, Oprah said. I was sure as hell trying, even if my campaign to score a job as the local weather girl had ended in a restraining order. Okay, TV was not my strength. But a lack of talent has never stopped me before. Which is why I’ve embarked on a writing career. I mean, how hard can it be to come up with a sexy romance?

Leave it to me to wind up in a group of grandmotherly porno writers who discuss sex toys and apple cobbler in the same breath. Also leave it to me to leak an outlandish plot idea to a bestselling author with the morals of a rabid squirrel. And only I could get arrested for a jewelry heist I didn’t commit—by a hunky cop whose handcuffs just might tempt me to sign up for a life of crime. Maybe I’ve found my calling after all…

I had a hard time starting off writing this review because I just didn’t know quite where to start. Do I mention the cringe-worthy giggles, the bust-a-gut laughter, the blushing snickers, the eye-popping ‘I Can’t Believe I Just Read That!’ shock or I need a tray of ice cubes because the sex is so hot while alternating to giggling at the ridiculous snafus the heroine gets herself into? My emotions were all over the place while reading How Hard Can It Be?. I can say with all confidence that I have never, ever, in all my years of reading come across a villain as … colorful, creepy, coarse, corrupt and comical as the one in this novel. I could not believe my eyes. The villain also inspires awesome alliteration.

Seriously though, I can’t be serious. Yes there is the mystery of what kind of information the villain has on Rena’s new writer friends that they’ve been blackmailed for almost twenty years; yes there is the fact the heroine has to be arrested for violating a restraining order; yes there are mysteries that abound that though different in nature are the binding that holds the book together and allows for all the hijinks and hilarity to have reason to exist. Even with all those potentially heavy and dire conflicts, Ms. Peterman kept me on the edge of my seat with suspense. Not for something bad to happen, but for the next madcap adventure, over-the-top description or comment, or Rena’s internal dialogue as she tries to make sense of the alien world of writers that she’s stumbled upon. Don’t EVEN get me started on the book, Pirate Dave and His Randy Adventures I’d fall off of my chair and never get up.

I had to classify this book under the erotic genre only because it overwhelmed me with sexual weirdness. How does a person use a garden gnome or garden tools for sex? BDSM references and jokes bounded off my eyeballs like ping pong balls. And please don’t ever mention silly putty to me – I’ll never look at it the same way ever again. But handcuffs are definitely all right, even more than alright if Jack is the one wielding them because he is so sexy and hot and he knows what he’s doing. Oh my!

If a reader is uncomfortable with the F-bomb being used as a verb, noun and adjective, then be warned. The F-bomb practically does calisthenics in this story.

There are a ton of surprises in store for readers because most every character in the novel isn’t quite what they seem. Nothing is as they believed and the truth is just as bizarre. But not as bizarre as the villain’s decorating taste. That has to be read to be believed.

How Hard Can It Be? is a solid romance because there is a happy ever after that is as grin inducing as the rest of the novel. Ms. Peterman has a wild imagination that is stunning. I guess this is book one of a trilogy; the other two involve Rena’s friend and Kristy’s eventual love’s sister. I’d read the second book first so it’s a safe bet that the three novels can be read in any order. However, now that I’ve read all of them, the little innuendos and subtext in the other two books make so much more sense that I feel like I should read them all in order to get the full effect. That would not be a hardship. I just need to make sure that I leave myself plenty of time for my reading pleasure. If readers are in the mood for hilarious kinkiness woven through a fun romance, then this is the book to try. Just watch out for the aliens in Aunt Phyllis’ toaster.

Size Matters by Robyn Peterman


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Comes Desire by Tina Donahue


First Comes Desire by Tina Donahue
Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corp.
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (173 pgs)
Other: M/F, Anal Play, Forced Seduction,
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

On a lush, secluded island, one passionate adventure leads to another….
Diana Fletcher means business. The beautiful, innocent, reverend’s daughter has traveled all the way to a tropical island off Madagascar on a mission: To find her brother—and to punish the man who drove him to a life of piracy. But when she comes face to face with the enemy in question, the handsome, powerfully seductive man is not at all what Diana expected…

Tristan Kent never intended to harm Diana’s brother. A man of humble origins, Tristan claims he tried to save him from another ruthless captain. Diana is desperate to believe he is telling the truth…and that the intoxicating desire that escalates between them is true as well. But can she trust him? Or is Tristan’s story—and his heart—nothing more than fool’s gold? Amid the haze of sensual delights and soaring ecstasy Tristan has in store for her, all will be revealed…

Pirates, plantations, exotic locales, seduction and sensual delights are all in store for a reader in Ms. Donahue’s latest historical, First Comes Desire.

The premise of a sister looking for her brother and willing to do what needs to be done at all costs is a noble introduction to the conflict. Diana’s surprise comes from underestimating a pirate, especially if he’s highly intelligent, cunning, canny and astonishingly handsome. Tristan is all that plus more. The fact that he disconcerts, flusters and unnerves her makes Diana all the more determined to see Tristan hang for abducting her little brother. The fun comes from the hero’s point of view. Diana has no idea what plans he has for her and the lengths he’ll go to seduce her but, as a reader is seeing into both their heads, the outcome is quite apparent. The heroine is about to be delightfully and thoroughly compromised in a way only a pirate can get away with.

Erotic romance readers will find the usual array of sensual attacks on Diana’s senses effective, titillating and well written. There is some light bondage but I don’t classify it as BDSM, it’s just Tristan being a pirate and subduing the heroine’s feisty, contrary behavior. He utilizes every part of Diana’s body in an erotic attack that leaves the heroine breathless and awakened and aware of her body as never before. Readers know once that happens, once passion is unleashed, there’s no going back. Get ready to be satisfied.

Now comes the tough part, explaining the difference between me, a long time romance reader, and a newbie just dipping their toes into erotic romance. For new readers, this book should be a solid winner because it covers a favorite topic – pirates. It allows a woman to feel okay with a dominate man who does forceful and decadent things to get his way just because he is a pirate. The Dom/Sub aspect is definitely there even though this isn’t that kind of subgenre; it’s just Tristan’s nature to want to subdue a worthy opponent but wanting something far more, her trust and willingness to concede. There is an exciting conflict and a suspenseful, action filled conclusion that had a surprising resolution for some of the combatants. All of that works. However, from my perspective, I was disappointed because I recognized every pirate trope I’ve ever read crammed into this novel. I knew what was going to happen and who was going to cause trouble and how it was going to play out and a general idea as to who would get their comeuppance and even how it would happen just because of how those characters were written. In that, the book was predictable, formulaic and a trial to get through and I was disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, this novel is very well written and put together, and the erotic scenes definitely worked, but I’m too jaded by years of reading to be surprised at any of the plot/conflict points explored here because I had the feeling of been there/read that, and bought the book one too many times to get amazed by the turn of events. So please take this paragraph as an endorsement for fresh new eyes to the romance genre because I think they’ll enjoy First Comes Desire tremendously. For readers like me, unless you have a craving for manly pirates, and are in the mood for a predictable format, this might be a nice bit of sexy escapism to pass the time with but doesn’t come with any intriguing twists, shocks or unusual kinks.

All that being said, the author took some time to write a lengthy, meaty plot to couch the sex within and I found that to be a strong plus for this novel. I also appreciated how Diana had to come to grips with all the changes in her little brother, who wasn’t little any longer. I liked the solid friendship between Tristan and his friend, James. I also think that the author did an excellent job of depicted the pirates as nasty villains and effective stirrers of the plot conflict. Ms. Donahue convinced me that they were decidedly distasteful beings.

On the whole, First Comes Desire has a lot to offer readers who adore saucy, virile pirate heroes who lust after women who eventually bring out the noble men inside of them, much to their astonishment and consternation. Diana smooths Tristan’s rough edges as much as he unleashes the sensual, wild and passionate woman inside of her. The two of them are good together and the novel does conclude with a satisfying happy-ever-after that ties into the book’s title quite cleverly. I suspect a lot of readers are going to really enjoy this story and be happy they read it.

Unwanted Girl by MK Schiller

MediaKit_BookCover_UnwantedGirl
Unwanted Girl by MK Schiller
Publisher: Lyrical/Kensington
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full (316 pgs)
Heat level: Spicy
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

When a man loves a woman

Recovering addict Nick Dorsey finds solace in his regimented life. That is until he meets Shyla Metha. Something about the shy Indian beauty who delivers take-out to his Greenwich Village loft inspires the reclusive writer. And when Shyla reveals her desire to write a book of her own, he agrees to help her. The tale of a young Indian girl growing up against a landscape of brutal choices isn’t Nick’s usual territory, but something about the story, and the beautiful storyteller, draws him in deep.

Shyla is drawn to Nick, but she never imagines falling for him. Like Nick, Shyla hails from a village, too…a rural village in India. They have nothing in common, yet he makes her feel alive for the first time in her life. She is not ready for their journey to end, but the plans she’s made cannot be broken…not even by him. Can they find a way to rewrite the next chapter?

This book drew me in to the point where I read it in one sitting. In a way, you get double the content for your money, because there is a story within the story. First, you have the love story between Nick and Shyla—from their first tentative outreaches of friendship to a deeply passionate love. Second, you have the story they write together – the story of the Indian woman Asha and the horrors she went through.

There are obstacles for Nick and Shyla to overcome on their journey, not the least of which are the differences in their background, the secrets they both hide, and the fact that they know their time together is limited due to the time on Shyla’s student visa soon running out.

Ms. Schiller does an excellent job with the characters—though they both have flaws, they are very likable. She also does a great job with the two different “voices”—the elements of the Nick’s stories that are shared are so different from Shyla’s story that are shared about Asha. Good job there!

I don’t want to say too much about the plot, because I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I will certainly be looking for more of this author’s work.

Plaid Tidings by Mia Marlowe

plaid
Plaid Tidings by Mia Marlowe
Publisher: Zebra Books/Kensington Publishing Corp.
Genre: Historical, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (264 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Christmas in the Highlands…

Not any dashing English lord’s idea of a good time. But now that Lord Alexander Mallory has won a Scottish estate in a hand of cards, he is the unlikely laird of the wild, snowy Bonniebroch. Worse yet, the ancient pile of stones comes with a betrothal. To a fiery red-headed virgin. And a curse.

Alex will have his hands full honoring the first, seducing the second and breaking the third…all by Twelfth Night.

If you like ghosts, quests, impossible curses and a Scottish romance then pull up a comfy chair and settle in with Plaid Tidings because a fun read is heading your way. Alexander Mallory is a hero who must face the impossible and Lucinda is the heroine who must help him, but she has secrets of her own. How a man who refused to allow himself to love comes to terms with falling in love for the first time while battling a waiting evil is the stuff great stories are made of. Ms. Marlowe does not disappoint – she does her plot justice. It’s great entertainment.

I liked watching Alexander initially fight his Scottish heritage. It was really clever of the author to show a reader how the hero slowly but surely, in bits and pieces of dialogue and habits, turned his back on his English side to eventually embrace the man he really is, the man he was meant to be. It was endearing and fascinating to watch unfold. The charm of Scotland lives within Alexander Mallory.

It was only at one part that the plot had a predictable progression. The villain’s scene moved awfully fast so it felt like a bandage being ripped off to let all the icky stuff get out so the clean, healed skin could be revealed. It was nasty; the description of the final demise reminded me of some classic horror films so that was cool. However, if a reader is looking for some seriously dark drama they won’t find it here. Plaid Tidings is first and foremost a romance and the bad guy was the foil that was used to give the right amount of tension and adrenaline without undermining the true focus. It sure did showcase Lucinda’s fortitude and pluckiness. She’s an unusual heroine and it was fun to get to see her in action.

Alexander’s seduction of Lucinda is quite entertaining and well written. Readers should find plenty to enjoy between the pages. There’s no doubt that the hero and heroine are quite compatible. I enjoyed watching the heroine discover just how effective a woman can be in seducing her own husband to get her way. What a clever minx.

There are quite a few surprises and other types of action interspersed throughout the novel and it definitely kept my interest all the way through. I heartily recommend readers giving Plaid Tidings a try. It’s filled with quirky charm and a delightful romance that worked because Alexander and Lucinda were so fun together. I’m glad I read this book and got to meet them.

Choked Up by Janey Mack

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Choked Up by Janey Mack
Publisher: Kensington
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (354 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

She’s working undercover–and she’s in way over her head.

Scrappy Traffic Enforcement agent Maisie McGrane has finally landed her dream job as a Chicago police officer. There’s just one catch. She must remain undercover as a meter maid to gather evidence against Stannislav Renko, a charismatic Serbian mobster running a brutal multi-million dollar mobile chop-shop operation.

When Maisie is targeted by a killer who leaves a body slumped against her car, Renko comes to her rescue and takes her under his wing. From her perch inside the crime boss’s inner circle, Maisie sets up a daring sting operation to take down Renko once and for all. But can she pull it off before her family of overprotective Irish cops and her sexy ex-Army Ranger boyfriend blow her cover?

Maisie absolutely hates being a meter maid. Absolutely! She could have been part of Mayor’s elite team but she turned it down. He’s crooked and cruel and an asshole in general. She’d do meter reading rather than work for him. Her dad has blocked her from police work by making her psych test teacher mark her not suited to the job. Life is not as happy as she would like it, but she does have Hank.

This author has a lot of similarities to Janet Evanovich. She makes her female character strong on the outside with some weak points inside and throws her in situations no one would like to be in. It’s a good thing Maisie can think on her feet and lies so well. Of course, with a house mix of brothers and a dad who are cops and the rest of the family are lawyers, it shouldn’t be so surprising.

When Maisie gets a chance to go undercover, she’s excited! Here’s the opportunity to excel at something her father can’t stop. It’s also easy to keep it a secret because she’s still working as a meter maid during the day. Her only concern was that Hank said he wouldn’t sleep with a cop and she’s not sure how long she can hide it from him.

Only Maisie could be the target of a hitman and get saved by gangster. The Serbian man is involved in a lot of schemes but he likes her spirit. When she has to spy on him, she hates it. She likes him a lot. He’s gay, so it’s no threat to her relationship with Hank. Then a photographer puts their picture on Facebook and her brothers see it and forward it to Hank.

There’s a lot going on that Maisie doesn’t understand. A lot of Hank’s life is a secret. It’s a good thing he’s working on saving her, because she needs it.

This author writes well and keeps your interest all the way through the story. Her characters are unforgettable. There’s another book in this series coming out in 2016 and I’ll be watching for it. Maisie’s life is getting more and more interesting and I want to see what’s going to happen next.

Time’s Up by Janey Mack

TIME
Time’s Up by Janey Mack
Publisher: Kensington
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (356 pgs)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

The police academy gave her the boot—and she knows how to use it.
All her life, Maisie McGrane dreamed of following in her father and older brothers’ footsteps and joining the force. But when she’s expelled from the police academy, she’s reduced to taking a job as a meter maid. Now, instead of chasing down perps, she’s booting people’s cars and taking abuse from every lowlife who can’t scrape together enough change to feed the meter.

McGranes weren’t put on this earth to quit, however. When Maisie stumbles across the body of a City Hall staffer with two bullets in his chest, her badge-wielding brothers try to warn her off the case. But with the help of her secret crush, shadowy ex-Army Ranger Hank Bannon, Maisie’s determined to follow the trail of conspiracy no matter where it leads. And that could put her in the crosshairs of a killer—and all she’s packing is a ticket gun.

All Maisie wants to do is become a cop like her father and her brothers. Her mother is a lawyer, but that’s not for Maisie. So all her hopes and dreams come down around like a collapsed air balloon when she’s told she has flunked the academy because of her psychological test. She wants people to like her and that’s impossible when you’re a cop. Now what will she do?

This author wanted to be a cop and her father wouldn’t allow her to do so. This book is a story that’s based on that premise but Maisie refuses to give up. She’s an easily likeable character because she’s so determined and focused on her goals she’s almost not protecting herself from political or physical danger. It’s a good thing she has lots of brothers to protect her and a very supportive family (for the most part).

Ms. Mack has the tone and quality of writing that reminds me of Janet Evanovich. I enjoyed the story and the style it was written in.

Maisie is almost in despair when she comes up with the idea of going into the world of parking enforcement. Her brother, Cash, gave her that idea and she’s going to run with it. She does and it doesn’t take long until she’s cross-wise with the Mayor. That’s not a good start for her…

There’s murder, a bomb, hot politicking and a family trying to warn her off, but Maisie is her own person and she muddles her way through.

The best part, though, is her hot boyfriend. He reminds me of Ranger in the Evanovich books. He’s a mean human weapon who has taught her skills that come in handy in this story and he’s determined to take care of her. What more could you want? Thoroughly enjoyable.

One Year by Mary McDonough

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One Year by Mary McDonough
Publisher: Kensington
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (405 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

In a heartfelt story set in a picturesque small town in Virginia, Mary McDonough portrays three generations of women in a modern Irish-American family as they navigate marriage, motherhood, and independence. . .

The Fitzgibbons–especially the women–have long been the backbone of Oliver’s Well, Virginia. Matriarch Mary Bernadette is still striking and tireless at seventy-five, with a generous heart that belies her sometimes sharp tongue. Her husband, Paddy, owns the local landscaping business, daughter Grace is a nun, and son Pat and his wife Megan are successful lawyers. Her grandson, PJ, and his new wife, Alexis, live in a charming cottage behind the main house. Church, family, tradition, and the local historical society–everything Mary Bernadette cherishes is in Oliver’s Well. But below the surface, there are fractures.

Megan sees the strained relationship between her husband and Mary Bernadette, who has never quite recovered from the painful loss of her first-born son. Megan too is torn between gaining her mother-in-law’s approval and living life on her own terms. Alexis loves PJ deeply yet chafes against his grandmother’s influence in their marriage. Then a looming scandal brings unexpected tragedy, compelling the Fitzgibbons to determine the depth of their loyalty, find their strength–and repair the bonds that have held a town, and a family, together for so long.

With warmth and an abundance of insight, Mary McDonough artfully captures the shifting dynamics of family life–and the revelations they may bear just in time.

One Year sets emotions skittering about in all directions.

A family, of intelligent, industrious people ruled by an unbending matriarch in a small town with lots of history, lures the reader. I found myself reading just one more chapter then just one more and on and on, as I empathized with the characters, even the ones I wanted to “tell a few home truths to.”

Mary Bernadette Fitzgibbon, now past seventy, lives in a time warp and seems to have walled off her heart. Her stern, uncompromising influence on her family and the town of Oliver’s Well, where she heads up the Oliver’s Well Historical Association, permeates the story. Her husband Paddy, while not often seen, has a unique strength to be admired.

P. J., Mary Bernadette’s grandson, and his new wife Alexis live in the cottage near the grandparents and P. J. runs the family business. This young couple’s relationship hits some scary spots as they learn how to deal with the domineering matriarch. How I wanted to give that young man a good talking-to about the wedding vow he made in the church.

Grace and Pat, the children of Mary Bernadette and Paddy, deal with their mother in different styles, but each of them is woven into the story in a way that makes them seems so like living, breathing humans who struggle mightily to stay connected to family.

Megan, Pat’s wife, is different. Her quiet, never-give-up strength is like a golden thread running through the story. She relies on “make me an instrument of peace” to find her center when the going gets rough, but she made me laugh once at a stressful time, when she said to herself “I’m going to kill her if she dies.” Her courage inspires.

The Seven Deadly Sins rear their ugly heads and get stomped down from time to time, while Wynston Meadows, a wealth newcomer to Oliver’s Well, proves to be a lot harder to stomp. How he is dealt with creates more than a little anxiety.

William, whom I’ll let you find out about, is like the elephant-in-the-room throughout the unfolding of the story, probably a lesson to be learned here.

Mary McDonough creates a memorable story that is written in a charming style that keeps the reader in the middle of the action.

A Good Time by Shannyn Schroeder

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A Good Time by Shannyn Schroeder
Publisher: Kensington
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (291 pgs)
Heat: Spicy
Rated: 4 stars
Reviewed by Poppy

A passionate free spirit and a sweet-talking playboy sound like a match made in heaven—until life gets in the way of all the fun and games…

Indy Adams values her freedom above all else. She works hard to support herself, moonlighting as a waitress while she fights for her first big sale in the Chicago real estate market. The last thing she needs is to be tied down, so she doesn’t think twice about declining her philandering boyfriend’s marriage proposal. Besides, she just landed a new client, a wealthy lothario—exactly the kind of guy who would understand her no-strings approach…

Handsome, rich, and charitable, most women jump at the chance to even talk to video game developer Griffin Walker, let alone date him. So he can’t understand why Indy wants nothing more than a few steamy nights together. Despite his romantic track record, Griffin longs for real love—complete with a home and family—and he wants it with Indy. But a blessing in disguise may lead them both to a life they never expected, and give Griffin a chance to show Indy that it’s okay to want more than a good time…

Looking for a hot hero, some steamy time between the sheets and plenty of fun? A Good Time might be right up your alley.

Ms. Schroeder has created an entertaining cast of characters in this book. I understand it’s book two in a series but, while I was aware in a peripheral was that there were some things that had happened before (there’s a wedding being planned during the book, and I’m guessing the bride and groom were from book one), I never felt lost. And I loved the secondary characters so much in this story, I can’t wait to read more with them (including going back and reading the first book).

The author also has some pretty amazing skill with words. The story itself is amazingly well constructed. It flows easily from sentence to sentence, and completely engaged me.

I loved our hero, Griffin, as well. I think he was supposed to come across as the one who was completely anti-committment, but he didn’t. Sure, at first he figured this was just the usual “good time” fling and made an effort to keep Indy out of the important parts of his life. He just wanted her in bed, right? But from the time early on when he invites Indy to a particular lunch, I knew it was all over for him.

Indy was another story. I liked her when the story started. She was fun, irreverent and did what she pleased. My kind of gal … and then midway through when the “blessing in disguise” occurs, she completely unravels. And she became someone I did not like. Her behavior felt out of character and she became selfish and sometimes unkind. I struggled to understand why Griffin still wanted her. I mean, he does a couple things that made me want to smack him, but ultimately he was still the same good guy he was all along. Indy wasn’t — she did this change that made little sense to me.

Still, I pressed through because I had to know what happened and how they resolved their issues. And I’m glad I did, because thankfully, Indy’s crazy wore off and she finally became the girl I loved at the beginning. I was completely satisfied with the ending, and honestly, I loved the majority of the book. And, above all, I was completely impressed with the author’s wordsmithing — that alone is enough to keep me checking out whatever she writes.