*The Best is Yet to Come by Debbie Macomber

*The Best is Yet to Come by Debbie Macomber
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine Ballantine Books
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Larkspur

A new beginning in charming Oceanside, Washington, is exactly what Hope Godwin needs after the death of her twin brother. There are plenty of distractions, like her cozy cottage with the slightly nosy landlords next door, and a brewing drama among her students at the local high school.

Even having settled quickly into the community, Hope still feels something is still missing. That is, until her landlords convince her to volunteer at their animal shelter. There she meets Shadow, a rescue dog that everyone has given up on. But true to her name, Hope believes he’s worth saving.

Like Shadow, shelter volunteer Cade Lincoln Jr. is suffering with injuries most can’t see. A wounded ex-marine, Cade identifies with Shadow, assuming they are both beyond help. Hope senses that what they each need is someone to believe in them, and she has a lot of love to give. As she gains Shadow’s trust, Hope notices Cade begins to open up as well. Finding the courage to be vulnerable again, Cade and Hope take steps toward a relationship, and Hope finally begins to feel at peace in her new home.

But Hope’s happiness is put to the test when Cade’s past conflicts resurface, and Hope becomes embroiled in the escalating situation at the high school. Love and compassion are supposed to heal all wounds, but are they enough to help Hope and Cade overcome the pain of their past and the obstacles in the way of a better future?

If you like sweet stories about small town life, you will enjoy, The Best is Yet to Come. Debbie Macomber does a wonderful job of capturing small town life in Oceanside, Washington. In Oceanside, having a winning high school football team is everything and the entire town is always there to cheer the team to victory.

The two main characters, Cade and Hope are easy to like and connect with. They both have baggage from their pasts and are in emotional pain. They know how painful losing someone close to you can be. Until Cade and Hope meet, they are two lost souls just surviving. These two are perfect for each other as they slowly heal and fall in love.

Cade and Hope meet when they volunteer at a dog shelter. Cade has finished his military service, which has left him with scars both physically and mentally. Cade has built up walls around his heart and is happy to live by himself with little human interaction. Hope helps Cade open up and learn to enjoy life again.

This heartwarming story left me with a good feeling. It is emotional, has an interesting plot, good pacing and has a realistic portrayal of the two main characters that are layered and easy to connect with. This poignant story captured my heart.

*Grace Under Fire by Julie Garwood

*Grace Under Fire by Julie Garwood
Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group
Genre: Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Larkspur

Grace Isabel MacKenna has a hundred things to do today. Killing someone isn’t one of them. It is supposed to be a quick visit to Boston for the Buchanan anniversary party, then on to Scotland to collect an inheritance. She checks into her hotel and then decides to go for a brisk walk. But after getting lost, she ends up with a wounded man stumbling into her arms—and his shooter coming after them both. When she fires back in self-defense, she doesn’t expect him to drop dead. After Isabel endures an interrogation by police, she is free to go, thanks to the Buchanans dispatching former Navy SEAL and now lawyer Michael Buchanan to assist her.

Isabel knows she should be grateful for Michael’s help, but since she’s harbored an extreme dislike for him for years, gratitude is difficult to muster. Michael has appointed himself her de facto guardian, and she’s stuck with him despite their constant bickering and sizzling attraction. Even when Isabel goes to Scotland to claim her inheritance, Michael follows her—but he isn’t the only thing she can’t shake. Mysterious threats against Isabel surface, and before they can deal with their growing feelings for each other, Michael and Isabel must first survive.

Grace Under Fire is an intriguing story filled with romance and suspense. Even though the two main characters, Michael and Isabel, are very different from each other, they find it impossible to ignore the chemistry flowing between.

This is another engaging story centering on the Buchanan family. I love reading about this big, boisterous family, because they add so much entertainment and I especially enjoy all of the banter between all of them.

Michael, a former Navy Seal, is now an attorney. He is a high achiever, who is meticulous, organized, goal oriented and always knows exactly what he wants, and he goes after it with a single-minded focus. Even though Michael is so rigid, I still found him endearing.

I enjoyed how Michael and Isabel played off of each other. They are so different from one another that they have a hard time understanding how the other one thinks. Michael intimidates Isabel because he has achieved so much in his life, whereas Isobel has taken a more relaxed approach to her life.

Isabel and Michael are meant for each other, but it takes them a while to figure it out. It is fun watching them try to fight their attraction to each other, while everyone around them is placing bets on how long it will take them to get together.

Even though Isabel has her head in the clouds, she is immediately liked by everyone. She is sweet and innocent, and she takes an interest in everyone she meets. Isabel doesn’t give a thought to her safety and takes some unnecessary risks, which drives Michael crazy, because he is protective by nature. When someone is after Isabel, Michael takes protecting her very seriously. In fact, his whole family gets involved in trying to keep Isabel safe. I enjoyed this engaging story. It has entertaining characters, suspense and also some light and funny moments.

Cold Case Killer Profile by Jessica R. Patch

Cold Case Killer Profile by Jessica R. Patch
Quantico Profilers, Book 2
Publisher: Love Inspired Suspense
Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

The desert can hide many secrets…including murder.

Searching for the perfect morning landscape to paint leads forensic artist Brigitte Linsey straight to a dead body—and a narrow escape from the Sunrise Serial Killer still on the scene. Now she’s become unfinished business and new prey. Working with FBI special agent Duke Jericho could mean putting the murderer away for good. However, it’s just a matter of time before this diabolically clever predator turns his hunters into the hunted…

From Love Inspired Suspense: Courage. Danger. Faith.

I didn’t realize it was book two of three in the Quantico Profilers series until I finished it. It’s safe to say that it can be read as a standalone.

I’m not new to reading suspense/murder/mystery romances but I can say this was my first inspirational one. Surprisingly, the author made it work. Cold Case Killer Profile really was filled with “Courage, Danger and Faith”.

This is my first Jessica R. Patch book and it’s safe to say that it won’t be my last. I was engaged from the first chapter to the last. I couldn’t wait to get to the end to find out who the “Sunrise Serial Killer” was. There were many suspects in my mind. This story was filled with plot twists and unpredictable outcomes.

The heroine, Brigitte was a strong, independent character with some vulnerable moments which were justified.

The hero, Duke, was dream worthy. I loved how he protected Brigitte and was there to save the day. The chemistry between them was sweet. They were attracted to each other, but they were a little bit busy trying to stay alive. Fortunately, they had faith to keep them strong.

This book was an entertaining read. Happy Reading!

Junior Willis by Richard Natale

Junior Willis by Richard Natale
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Romance, Historical, LGBTQ
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

The journey from self-loathing to self-acceptance takes Midwesterner Tom Larson through the Korean War, pre-Castro Havana and, finally, Hollywood, where he is befriended by the elusive and charismatic Junior Willis and must decide whether he’s prepared for genuine commitment.

Romance comes in many different forms, and some of them will gently sneak up on you if you allow them to.

Living in the closet was necessary for survival in previous generations, and it’s still the only option for some members of the LGBTQ+ community today. Some of my favorite scenes were the ones that showed the emotional toll this took on Tom and Junior. As friendly as many of their friends and relatives were, neither of these protagonists could ever be entirely sure how those folks would respond if they knew that Junior and Tom were both attracted to men. The descriptions of the steps they took to avoid arousing any suspicions were just as interesting as the passages that showed what happened when some of their loved ones were accidentally given peeks at a subculture heterosexual people knew almost nothing about back then.

I had trouble keeping track of all of the characters in this novella. Many of the people Tom and Junior met during their lives were only mentioned in passing, and the ones that stuck around weren’t always developed well enough for me to recall who they were when they were mentioned again later. It would have been helpful to either have more information about the personalities and backstories of the folks the main characters met or for the narrator to focus on a smaller supporting cast in general.

One of the other themes of this tale that I loved had to do with how Tom’s past affected his daily life as he left his 20s behind and settled into stable habits and a good job. Attempting to heal is difficult, especially for someone who was facing such high stakes and who only had a small number of people in his inner circle he could be his true self around. A memory might be decades old but still feel as fresh as the day it was made. I don’t want to share any spoilers about how Tom approached his difficult memories, but they did make me want to learn more about him. He demonstrated a great deal of courage in these moments. That is an admirable thing to do without a doubt.

Junior Willis was a thought-provoking and encouraging read.

*Remember Love by Mary Balogh

* Remember Love by Mary Balogh
Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group
Genre: Historical, Romance
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Larkspur

The handsome and charismatic Earl of Stratton, Caleb Ware, has been exposed to the ton for his clandestine affairs—by his own son.

As a child, Devlin Ware thought his family stood for all that was right and good in the world. They were kind, gracious, and shared the beauty of Ravenwood, their grand country estate, by hosting lavish parties for the entire countryside. But at twenty-two, he discovered his whole world was an elaborate illusion, and when Devlin publicly called his family to account for it, he was exiled as a traitor.

So be it. He enlisted in the fight against Napoleon and didn’t look back for six years. But now his father is dead, the Ware family is broken, and as the heir he is being called home. It’s only when Gwyneth Rhys—the woman he loved and then lost after his family banished him—holds out her hand to help him that he is able make the difficult journey and try to piece together his fractured family.

It is Gwyneth’s loyalty, patience, and love that he needs. But is Devlin’s war-hardened heart even capable of offering her love in return?

Being honest changes the course of many people’s lives in Mary Balogh’s newest book, Remember Love. I loved everything about this heartbreakingly beautiful story. It immediately drew me in and all the characters are realistic and easy to connect with, including the two main characters, Dev and Gwyneth. Mary Barlogh is a wonderful storyteller and she writes an emotional story set in the 1800’s. I felt as though I was right there with the characters, and I never wanted this story to end.

Dev is the perfect hero, and he goes through many changes in this story as he grows into a man. He is devastated when he discovers the people he loves aren’t perfect. Dev is serious, honorable and he can be inflexible. He is honest and expects honesty from everyone else. Unfortunately, he discovers the world isn’t always good or bad or black and white. Things aren’t always as they seem and people don’t always want to acknowledge the truth.

Dev and Gweneth have been neighbors for years and just when they finally admit their feelings for each other, they are torn apart. Both Dev and Gwyneth are so easy to like. They are perfect for each other and all their interactions are filled with yearning. Their story is emotional, heartbreaking and wonderful and it also has light and funny moments.

There are many entertaining characters in this story, including the townspeople and Dev’s family. Dev comes from a large family and each one of them has a unique personality. I’m hoping MB’s future stories will be about them. This is a passionate story filled with intrigue and complex and entertaining characters. I really enjoyed reading this one.

*Tight Ends & Tiaras by Lex Martin

*Tight Ends & Tiaras by Lex Martin
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Larkspur

Football is one hundred percent the focus of my life—until a squawking toddler, with a temper to rival my own, lands in my lap and flips my life upside down.

I’ll never be Dad of the Year. Anyone will tell you that. Except maybe Sienna, my sister’s former roommate, who somehow manages to make my broody ass laugh and sees something in me no one else does.

When Sienna offers to let me and my little princess move in with her, I’m not sure if it’s to help or because she wants revenge on my teammate and long-time rival, who broke her heart.

Either way, I’m game. Because I need to get my ex off my back, and Sienna doesn’t mind pretending to be my girlfriend.

Only neither of us is ready for the sparks that fly between us or the consequences when they do.

I love everything Lex Martin writes, so I was excited to read her newest book in the Varsity Dads series. Tight Ends & Tiaras, is heartwarming and so much fun to read. I was quickly turning the pages to find out what would happen next.

I love stories about college athletes and this one is about Ben, a sensitive football player, who is surprised to find out he is a father. Ben is smart, charming and an all around good guy. He easily captured my heart and I loved the way he treats Sienna.

Sienna is also easy to connect with. She is strong, compassionate and always sees the best in everyone.

Ben and Sienna are wonderful together and I enjoyed all of their interactions. They have so much chemistry, it literally jumps off the pages. Unfortunately, they both have jealous, conniving ex’s who like to cause trouble.

This is a well written, intoxicating story that immediately pulled me in. It has realistic character development and a plot that held my interest. Lex Martin made this story come alive and I devoured every word.

His Heart’s Home by Susan Carlisle

His Heart’s Home by Susan Carlisle
Modern Masters of Their Castle, Book 3
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

When opposites attract…sparks ignite!

Historical architect Jordan Glass moves to rural England in her continued effort to escape an affair gone wrong that included losing a baby while in college. Eight years later still vowing to steer clear of relationships, she takes on a job rebuilding a damaged manor knowing it’s the perfect place to live in solitude. What she doesn’t plan on is Craig Lewis the owner arriving before the work is finished. Worse he brings his daughter along and they must share temporary lodging with Jordon.

Craig is shocked when his ex-wife drops their pre-teen daughter on his doorstep – permanently. He struggles to relate to his angry child and desperately wants to gain her trust. To give her a secure place to live he decides to renovate a wing of his family home Llywelyn Hall. Life is further complicated by him being sexually drawn to the beautiful architect. Equally frustrating is Jordon communicates with his daughter far better than he.
Craig’s family struggle tugs at Jordon’s heartstrings. Against her better judgement, Jordon is pulled deeper into their lives, tipping friendship over into desire.

A world of hurt, lots of money, but lots of love…if they’re willing to take it.

I love the books of Susan Carlisle and this one didn’t disappoint. I think it’s my new favorite. I loved the characters, loved the writing and loved getting swept up in the story. It was a great escape for a few hours.

Jordon isn’t looking to get involved with anyone and Craig has tons of his own problems–including now being a single father. I liked the way the author wrote the push-pull between father and daughter. It was easy to see the characters and know they loved each other, even when they had a hard time of showing it. I liked the wait Jordon helped the situation, too. She’s the perfect ointment. Plus, the chemistry between her and Craig is great.

If you’re looking for a wonderful romance read, then this is the one for you. Recommended.

Paws For Christmas by Anna Swann

Paws For Christmas by Anna Swann
Publisher: Champagne Books
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday, Romance
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

Emily Saint-Claire has one Christmas wish: to take a few weeks off from her demanding job as co-CEO of Bow-Wow Enterprises, an international nonprofit organization that matches rescue dogs with people who need rescuing. She is just hours away from hopping into the car with her pup, Gracie, and driving to her parents’ home in the mountains when a series of disasters strike.

First, a text from her ex. Next, a humiliating TV interview, in which she tearfully reveals she wants a new job. And the worst blow of all: A surprise work assignment that will take her to the picturesque country of Marisol to cover the prestigious Royal International Canine Invitation dog show. Yes, it’s a dream assignment, but she’s exhausted and homesick.

Emily cancels her vacation plans and reluctantly flies to Marisol, convinced Christmas is ruined. But is it?

When she meets a disheveled stranger, she assumes he’s a freelance photographer. Wrong. He’s the prince of Marisol. Emily is beyond embarrassed, but the prince is intrigued and extends a gracious apology—she must be his guest at the palace, where she can work without interruption.

Yet, instead of peace and quiet, Emily finds happy chaos, thanks to frequent visits by the widowed prince’s two curious children and their shoe-munching dog. Increasingly, she finds herself anticipating their visits. And increasingly, she finds herself attracted to Prince Alexander, who shares her love for animals. In a season of surprises, Emily learns that love comes when we least expect it.

This was a really cute book. I was in the mood to read a Christmas story in the summer heat and this one satisfied my craving. While the synopsis reveals most of the story it’s still worth the time to read the story in action. The effort that was put forward in developing the cast of characters was impressive.

The reader is presented with the opportunity to get to know the heroine, Emily, long before the hero, Alexander is ever introduced. Emily is a woman who works too hard and wants more than just work in her life. A reality all too real for many women in today’s world. It’s a struggle to find that happy balance. I bonded with Emily immediately as we share a love for dogs.

I got a giggle when Emily did finally meet Alexander in a mistaken identity scene. It was a pleasure to turn the pages as their romance budded and bloomed until the last page with a happily-ever-after love.

Alexander was kind, generous and compassionate. It was relaxing to read his pursuit of Emily. Together they were entertaining especially when Emily was learning to dance. The chemistry between them was sensual and irresistible.

This was my first Anna Swann romance book, and I would consider another book by her. I treasured the inspirational message that was threaded through out the story that “sometimes life’s biggest disappointments lead to its greatest joys.” Anna Swann wrote that quote in her “Dear Reader” note in the beginning of the story. It makes me think of Garth Brooks’ song “Unanswered Prayers” where he sings “Cuz some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers”.

Paws for Christmas left me feeling full of hope and joy. Definitely pick this book up if you are craving a holiday romance.

From Florida Fling to Forever by Susan Carlisle / Secret from Their LA Night by Julie Danvers

From Florida Fling to Forever by Susan Carlisle / Secret from Their LA Night by Julie Danvers
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

From Florida Fling to Forever by Susan Carlisle

Soak up the Floridian sun with Susan Carlisle’s latest Harlequin Medical Romance as two surgeons try to resist their greatest temptation: each other!

Rule number one? Forget their fling
If only it was that easy! Pioneering transplant surgeon Lily Evans is always cool under pressure. So why does the idea of working with ex-fling Max James have her so hot under the collar? Max is just passing through Florida, after all, and maintaining a professional relationship is top of their agenda. Yet Lily’s sensible head is being overruled by her unusually reckless heart as she begins to fall for more than just Max’s roguish charms…

Secret from Their LA Night by Julie Danvers

It started with one night…
…and led to a nine-month secret!
Dr. Emily Archer would rather be anywhere than Los Angeles! Arriving to offer her sports medicine expertise to an international dance team, she’s immediately confronted by the memories of her turbulent childhood in the spotlight. Fortunately, on her first night, she finds the perfect distraction—charismatic Dr. Daniel Labarr. Neither can resist when instant passion takes over… And neither realize that their passion has been life changing!

Two great stories to warm the heart.

I love a good romance and these two stories deliver. I already knew I liked Susan Carlisle’s books and now I’ve discovered Julie Danvers. Both books made me happy, left me satisfied and I can’t recommend these enough.

In Susan Carlisle’s From Florida Fling to Forever, Dr Lily and Dr Max have a fling. They should work out and be together, but that’s too easy. I liked how the author wrote the twists and turns for this couple and had me rooting for them right away. They’re both likable characters and easy to envision. I also felt like I was there in the sweltering Florida heat. Kudos.

In Julie Danvers’ Secret from Their LA Night, Dr Emily and Dr Daniel have a one-night stand that results in a pregnancy. I liked that Emily is flawed. She’s been through a lot and wants someone to take care of her. Is that Daniel? Well, this is a one-night stand and those don’t always work out. Now throw in the pregnancy. Things get sticky, but also adorable. I rooted for these two, too. I liked the way the author wrote the characters and will look for more by this author.

If you want something great for a couple afternoons of reading and packed with heart, then this is the pair of books for you.

Book of the Month Poll Winner ~ Unlock My Heart by Jennifer Wilck

Unlock My Heart by Jennifer Wilck
Scarred Hearts, Book Two
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Abby Marlow, computer security expert, lands a job at the best IT security firm in the country. Her sole focus is financial independence so she never has to rely on others again, especially a man. But why does her boss make her wires short circuit?

Ted Endicott, CEO and founder of the IT security firm, is hard of hearing. Although an expert in his field, he’s still uncomfortable admitting his hearing problem to clients or employees. So why is he willing to accept Abby’s help?

As Ted and Abby work together, barriers fall away, and the lines blur between colleagues and lovers. But a security glitch in a client’s system shows one of Ted’s employees is the hacker, and all signs point to Abby. Can they get past the suspicion and find a future together?