Married for His Convenience by Eleanor Webster

Married for His Convenience by Eleanor Webster
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (288 pgs)
Heat: Sweet
Rated: 4 stars
Reviewed by Snapdragon

A plain countess…

Tainted by illegitimacy, plain Sarah Martin has no illusions of a grand marriage. So when the Earl of Langford makes her a proposal that will take her one step closer to finding her half sister, she can’t refuse!

Sebastian’s dreams of romance died with his late wife’s affair, so now he needs a convenient wife to act as governess for his silent daughter. Yet Sarah continues to surprise and challenge him, and soon Sebastian can’t deny the joy his new bride could bring to his life—and into his bed!

France, in the time when the guillotine ruled…the reality seems a harsh world for the nobility, and for Earls like Sebastien Hastings. He’s caught in a terrible, but secret, predicament.

Sarah Martin’s life is more a matter of dreams and hopes than reality. She dreams of London, of fashion and, as she says herself, she is not ‘of hysterical disposition.’ She acts on what she believes, which can cause her to plop into the most unlikely of places. The earl finds himself telling her that he finds her peculiar…which seems to delight this odd gal! He certainly needs some help…and she certainly needs direction…but marriage?

Married for His Convenience (which seems like it should be entirely predictable, given the title) is entirely unpredictable and a delight to read, besides.

Clever conversations and unpredictable situations make this novel a bit of a standout and fun to read. The characters keep us reading: the earl is unexpectedly compassionate, and Miss Martin’s take on life is quite unexpected in every way. In fact her life and actions are not always entirely believable, but this is a small matter in what is largely a great read.

Descriptions, especially of the English countryside, are just-right; never overdone or intrusive: “His mount stopped at its summit and he found himself looking into a picturesque valley, interrupted by a silver stream threading through its base…” One can almost see the valley.

Intriguing yet heartfelt, Married for His Convenience is also quirky and fun. Do put it right on top of your reading list.

Abbey’s Tale by Katherine McDermott

Abbey’s Tale by Katherine McDermott
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (202 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

An immigrant from Ireland, Jeremy McKetcheon took the place of a wealthy New Englander drafted into the Union Army during the Civil War. Jeremy, terribly scarred by a shell that set fire to his tent, is now a reclusive lighthouse keeper on an island off the coast of Maine. He is haunted by flashbacks of the war, and never expects to find love, understanding, or acceptance.

Beautiful but blind from birth, Abigail Morrison sees the world through the intricate carvings her father brings back from Lighthouse Island when he takes supplies there. She wonders about the artistic carver and why he hides from the world. But when the opportunity arises for her to visit the island, she and her father are tossed overboard in a raging storm. Having seen their distress from the lighthouse, Jeremy attempts a rescue in the frigid waters, and all their lives are changed forever.

Abbey’s Tale was a sweet, endearing love story between Jeremy and Abbey. Jeremy, whose face was scarred while fighting in the Civil War, and Abbey who was born blind, were given a chance at love. While together they learned about inner beauty. They both helped each other to overcome their insecurities. Jeremy felt his face was repulsive and would rather be a recluse. Abbey worried no one would fall in love with a blind woman because they’d think she was a burden. From the moment Jeremy and Abbey met their lives changed for the better. If you add an amazing dog named Bailey, meddling relatives, crashing ships, and a criminal who threatens, robs and lies, then you have a recipe for a 5 star book. Oh! Let’s not forget Jeremy’s Irish accent, it was completely irresistible.

In a world that is full of judgmental people it was nice to read how Jeremy and Abbey showed the community what true love is. The plot thread with the criminal added an interesting twist with a bit of suspense throughout the story. I’d like to point out the plot thread when Abbey’s aunt and uncle meddled in Jeremy and Abbey’s relationship. It was well intended meddling and as a parent I understood, but I understood how Abbey felt as a child. As a wife I understood how Jeremy felt. I was all emotionally mixed up but then realized that is what family is about. It all worked out for the good. It’s a perfect example and lesson of why the young should respect and listen to their elders.

This was a well written story that progressed nicely and held my interest from the beginning to the end. I’m glad I chose Abbey’s Tale to read by the pool on my weekend. It was a wonderful, heartwarming love story. There was so much more to this tale that you just have to read it for yourself.

It definitely was a quality read that I’d recommend to others, especially to a reading club because there are thought provoking discussion questions at the end. I could see this book being turned into a movie in the theaters with a young Mel Gibson playing the hero and Julia Roberts playing Abbey. I’d love to see the lighthouse scenery that Katherine McDermott described come to life. I do think this novel would make a beautiful historical romance movie. Abbey’s Tale is a must read!

I Wish For Your Kiss by Cynthia Moore

I Wish For Your Kiss by Cynthia Moore
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Historical, Holiday
Length: Short Story (69 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Justin Wexley, Marquess of Rockton has decided he doesn’t want to be married. He has come to this conclusion after many uncomfortable experiences with young women who were thrust upon him by their domineering mothers as possible candidates for the position of his future wife and Marchioness. He is tired of discussing the weather with these silly, nitwitted girls. He is perfectly happy taking care of his large estate with the knowledge that one day his cousin, a smart and diligent young man, will one day inherit his title and property.

Miss Catherine Simms arrives at her friend’s home in the country to celebrate Christmas with her and her family. She discovers that the Marquess of Rockton has also been included in the invitation. Catherine has heard the rumors about Lord Rockton’s aversion to marriage. She finds him to be intelligent as well as handsome and greatly enjoys the time spent with him. Regrettably, they part under less than ideal circumstances on Christmas day.

Fate works its magic and the two of them meet again two years later. Can Justin and Catherine forget about their less than ideal experiences from the past and begin to make lovely, happy moments together in the present?

Justin Wexley – the Marquess of Rockton – was spending the Christmas holidays with his friend from Eton – Edward Teague, the Earl of Norton. Justin was surprised at how another guest – Miss Catherine Simms, a childhood friend of the Earl’s wife – somehow managed to flummox him. Finding the vibrant and engaging young woman constantly on his mind, Justin is uncertain if his previously held notions on remaining unmarried might have been a little precipitous. Can Justin and Catherine both get their fondest wish for Christmas?

This is a very different and oddly interesting Regency romance story. Far from the usual tales of ballrooms and dalliances, discreet affairs or sneaking around the corridors at a house party, I really enjoyed how both Justin and Catherine came to Edward and Mary’s home to celebrate Christmas quietly with their respective friends. Also refreshingly I loved how neither Edward nor Mary tried to set up Catherine and Justin. In many respects I found this a really different, fresh perspective on a Regency story.

I enjoyed how Catherine was quite knowledgeable on many topics – architecture and farming, as well as general court and ton style gossip – but didn’t appear overly bookish or like a know-it-all. I have to admit that although the author gave an exceptional explanation as to why Catherine was so knowledgeable about farming practices, it still felt a little unrealistic to me. Women – even avid readers who were single children and close to their parents – were kept strictly kept away from the “men’s business” of things like agriculture and farming. Also, far more selfishly, while it was lovely to see Catherine talk so knowingly on such a variety of subjects, the number of pages talking about farming and such did grow old for me quite quickly. I enjoyed seeing Catherine charm Justin in such a novel way, and it absolutely proved how strong their connection was and gave a really good basis for them emotional connection and a strong basis for their chemistry, but it struck me as just a little far-fetched.

I greatly enjoyed all four main characters. I liked how there were layers to them and how all the usual traps of a Regency Romance weren’t really present here. I felt this was a fresh take on a Regency Christmas story and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I also enjoyed how the conflict, while not completely original, nevertheless didn’t feel stilted to me and wasn’t the dreaded “we had a miscommunication and parted angry” style of play that’s massively overused to my mind. Perfectly sweet, there are a few chaste kisses, but I found all other romance is kept inside the interactions between the characters and in the chemistry that builds slowly but wonderfully between Catherine and Justin.

A sweet and wonderful Regency Christmas short story, I found this a lovely tale with great characters and tons of plot. A brilliant story.

When Hearts Fly by Tanya Hanson

When Hearts Fly by Tanya Hanson
Help Wanted series
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press, Inc.
Genre: Historical
Length: Short Story (106 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Myrtle

Cordy Meeker can’t wait to sell her Paradise, Nebraska, inn and move to the mountains of Colorado. All she wants is a cowboy to call her own. But her late twin has gotten her in trouble at the bank. She needs a moneymaking scheme and fast. When she falls into Hawk Shockley’s arms, she believes her troubles are over.

The second son of a British nobleman, Hawk finds himself broke and alone in Paradise on his way to his family’s Colorado holdings. He guards his heart against the beautiful innkeeper—women have gotten him into fixes before—but needs quick money, too. He posts a Help Wanted advertisement seeking riders to pay to prove horses can fly. But can he resist Cordy while the two of them pull off the impossible?

Anything can happen in Paradise.

The security of owning a boardinghouse in 1888, willed by a loving aunt, is as good as the promise of a prosperous future, unless of course, a dead brother mortgages it right out from under you!

Cordy Meeker loved her brother, Clancy, but that doesn’t wipe away her anger at him, dead or not, when the local banker shows up threatening to foreclose on her previously free and clear property. How could Clancy mortgage their boardinghouse without her approval? In 1888, a man often had more rights than brains.

All seems doomed until handsome Keaton “Hawk” Shockly arrives with a plan to prove horses can fly! He seems to be Cordy’s dream man, a real Wild West cowboy-type who turns out to be the son of an English Earl. Both he and Cordy need money fast, so she helps him set up a contest that draws entrants from miles around their little town. The “Horses Can Fly!” event, which happens to be based on an actual 1800s experiment, starts bringing in money, barely in the nick of time. Unfortunately, it also puts Hawk in a position to be killed—and just as he starts falling in love with Cordy.

This storyline started well, but it quickly became disjointed by new circumstances that came out of nowhere. It seemed even the story itself had a hard time focusing on the plot. Romantic thoughts popped up throughout the story without any benefit of emotion, reason, or clarity. Other scenes and sentences simply made no sense, i.e., “And, he smiled, much money. Which reminded him, and heat brushed him. He owed her, too. Well, he was practically barefooted; the half-eagle was in his boot upstairs.” Or, “Like melting butter, her golden hair streamed over her shoulders and begged for his mouth.”

However, this western storyline is unique—flying horses! And the methods for proving the theory, worked for me. If you enjoy westerns with a unique slant, this story might be a good one for your next reading weekend.

A Symphony of Heart Strings by T.E. Hodden

A Symphony of Heart Strings by T.E. Hodden
Publisher: Roane Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (50 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Meet Bob. Bob is the guy between the lines of every love story you ever met. The lucky chance, the twist of fate, the astounding coincidence that sets sparks flying. Never seen, but always there.

Today Bob is assigned to help Jenny find love. But there is something more than bad luck working against the quirky librarian. Bob might have to save her life, before he can help her find love.

And he can’t do that from the shadows…

You don’t need luck to fall in love. You need Bob.

The world-building was amazing. It honestly felt more like a chapter out of a full-length novel because of how complex and logical it all was. Everything the main character explained about his world made perfect sense, but it also left me yearning for more. I had never stopped to wonder what it would be like to be the entity who makes people fall in love, but now I can’t stop thinking about how such a system would have first been set up or what might happen to Bob next.

I would have liked to see a little more time spent developing Bob and Jenny’s personalities. I loved the shy and sweet parts of their personalities that were revealed, but I finished this book with a few lingering questions about how they behaved in general. There was so much time spent on creating the incredible world that they lived in and moving the plot forward that this part of the storyline didn’t get quite enough attention. With that being said, I still deeply enjoyed this tale. This is only a minor criticism.

The descriptions of the places Bob went and the people he met were so vivid. I especially enjoyed his descriptions of how humans are connected to each other and how he figured out which folks should be gently encouraged to get to know each other better. While I can’t say much more about this without giving away spoilers, there was some gorgeous writing in these passages that got Bob’s point across perfectly.

A Symphony of Heart Strings was both a beautiful love story and a thrilling urban fantasy. I’d heartily recommend it to fans of either of these genres.

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.

Touching Water by Viola Grace

Touching Water by Viola Grace
Publisher: Devine Destinies
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (58 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Lydra wanted to live a life as a researcher and focus on solving mysteries of genetics. She never intended to become one of those mysteries.

Trapped in an experiment gone wrong, she ends up blue and powerless on her own world, so she decides to be a freak amongst freaks elsewhere.

Locals populate guardian Base Vidiaro, but Lydra gets by by doing her crime scene analysis until the day that the experiment that started on her own world takes its course. She goes from an anomaly to a hero and isn’t sure which she really wants to be.

Not every superpower is created equally.

Lydra was such an interesting main character. I was fascinated by the fact that she was so embarrassed over the color her skin after the science experiment she was participating in didn’t end the way she was expecting it to. It was knowing this fact about her that made her courage later on on the tale even more remarkable that it might have otherwise been. Facing what you perceive to be a weakness is never easy, but the way she handled it only made me like her twice as much as I did before.

The romantic subplot didn’t work for me at all. While I liked both of the characters involved in it quite a bit, I had trouble imagining them as a couple. The chemistry between them also never felt quite right. I could have seen them possibly becoming friends by the end, but I would have preferred to see more time spent developing their relationship before anything other than a completely platonic friendship was on the table. With that being said, I love romances that begin with a genuine and solid friendship, so I would have happily rooted for them if I could have seen more examples of why they’d make a good match.

The battles were nicely written. I especially enjoyed the fact that Ms. Grace spent so much time keeping them moving along smoothly. There was a lot going on during some of them, but I always remained on top of what everyone was doing and which science fiction or high tech devices were currently being used.

I’d recommend Touching Water to anyone who likes science fiction with a side of romance.

Today’s Special by Jonathan Dimmig

Today’s Special by Jonathan Dimmig
Publisher: Rogue Phoenix Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (77 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

What’s your version of an ordinary day?

For Thomas Danielson, it’s the constant strain of keeping the restaurant he owns from going under. His friends and family depend upon his success but the outlook is dismal. It demands his entire focus until tragedy strikes and his soul-mate is ripped from his arms.

Can Tom recover from the absolute worst event that could possibly happen?

A twist of fate crushes Tom’s world and sends him on a journey of discovery for what’s truly important in life. With guidance from friends, loved ones, and an unassuming chalkboard there just may be some hope in his struggles.

Nothing in life is guaranteed and we are sometimes forced to face the impossible. Tom’s story shows how, even in the darkest times, there is a ray of light shining though the clouds.

Food nourishes the body, but sometimes it also feeds the soul.

Thomas was such a kindhearted man. His character development was so nicely done that I felt like I knew him by the time the first scene ended. It came as a surprise to me, then, to discover how many other layers there were to his personality as the plot moved forward. Yes, he had his fair share of faults as well, but they only made me like him more than I already did because of how naturally they fit into what I already knew about him. He was such a well-developed character that I wish I could meet him in real life.

There were pacing issues in the beginning. As much as I enjoyed getting to know the characters so well, all of those introductions did slow down the development of the plot. This pacing would have been perfect for a full length book, but at times it felt uneven for a short story.

One of my favorite parts of this tale were the friendships all of the characters had developed in it. They had their shares of conflicts like anyone else, but their core relationships were strong and loving. The romance was sweet, but the friendships were the heart and soul of the storyline. There are some relatives that people are born having, but one can also become family through choice. This was a beautiful example of how that can happen.

If you’re looking for something sentimental and a little bittersweet, Today’s Special is a good place to start.

A Match Made in Texas by Margaret Brownley

A Match Made in Texas by Margaret Brownley
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Action/Adventure, Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (369 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Welcome to Two-Time Texas:
Where tempers burn hot
Love runs deep
And a single woman can change the course of history:
There’s a new sheriff in town.

Amanda Lockwood gets more than she bargained for when she’s elected Two-Time Texas’s first female sheriff. Anxious to prove herself, she sets out to stop crime in its tracks—taking down wanted man Rick Barrett in the process. But there’s something special about the charming outlaw. Common sense says he must be guilty…but her heart keeps telling her otherwise.

So what’s a sheriff to do? Gather an all-female posse and ride to save the day.

Things sure don’t look good for Rick. If he doesn’t convince the pretty sheriff to let him go, he’ll soon be pushing up daisies. But his plan to woo her to his side backfires when he’s the one who falls head over heels. Now he must choose between freedom or saving the woman he loves…and the clock is ticking.

Who knew A Match Made in Texas could be such sweet, clean, madcap fun?

She’s a young, independent woman. She’s fighting for women’s right to vote and has been in jail a few times. She’s not interested in marrying. She’s also her parent’s despair…

She’s traveling back home on the stage and the driver is running the team like a demon. She cusses him out, he throws her and her baggage off the stage and leaves her in the middle of nowhere. This is not a good start at getting back home. When a cowboy pulls up in his wagon and offers her a ride, she’s not sure she trusts him. However, there’s no other way to town because she can’t pull her hope chest all that way. She says yes.

This was a very cute story with danger, robberies, a house burning down and a sudden interest on Amanda’s part with this particular cowboy. She decides to forget him but she can’t. It gets even worse when she says she’ll run for Sheriff to further support women’s rights. The men protest but they can’t stop her. It’s even worse when she gets the most votes.

The story moves well, the snappy conversation between Amanda and Rick will make you laugh, and her deputy is a joke but she does her best. Rick even tells the men that she hit what she was aiming at chest level. He didn’t mention it was her hope chest.

When Rick gets thrown in jail for murder, it really makes her worry. How can she prove he didn’t do it without witnesses? Luckily she has a woman posse (which all the men are mad about) who can help her. There’s no way not to enjoy a book where the Sheriff can’t shoot straight, her deputy wants to shoot everyone, and her posse runs around in carriages. Enough silly stuff happens to make it a fun read and it ends well. This was a very enjoyable read.

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.