*Nora Goes Off Script by Annabel Monaghan

*Nora Goes Off Script by Annabel Monaghan
Publisher: Penguin Group Putnam, G. P. Putnam Sons
Genre: Romance, Women’s fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Larkspur

Nora’s life is about to get a rewrite…

Nora Hamilton knows the formula for love better than anyone. As a romance channel screenwriter, it’s her job. But when her too-good-to work husband leaves her and their two kids, Nora turns her marriage’s collapse into cash and writes the best script of her life. No one is more surprised than her when it’s picked up for the big screen and set to film on location at her 100-year-old-home. When former Sexiest Man Alive, Leo Vance, is cast as her ne’er do well husband Nora’s life will never be the same.

The morning after shooting wraps and the crew leaves, Nora finds Leo on her porch with a half-empty bottle of tequila and a proposition. He’ll pay a thousand dollars a day to stay for a week. The extra seven grand would give Nora breathing room, but it’s the need in his eyes that makes her say yes. Seven days: it’s the blink of an eye or an eternity depending on how you look at it. Enough time to fall in love. Enough time to break your heart.

Filled with warmth, wit, and wisdom, Nora Goes Off Script is the best kind of love story—the real kind where love is complicated by work, kids, and the emotional baggage that comes with life. For Nora and Leo, this kind of love is bigger than the big screen.

Is it possible for a movie star to fall for a small town, single mom?

Nora Goes Off Script is a beautifully written, poignant story. It is realistic and the characters have an intense connection that literally jumps off the pages.

Leo and Nora meet when Nora writes a successful book that is being made into a movie and Leo is a high-profile movie star playing the male lead in the movie. When Leo comes into town, Nora discovers he is going to be staying in a trailer on her property. She is surprised to find Leo constantly underfoot. Leo seems content to spend time in Nora’s house and he enjoys learning to do small everyday tasks.

I love how unaffected Nora is by Leo. She treats him like she would anyone else and I think that is what Leo finds so alluring about her. Nora is strong and brave but doesn’t know her worth because her ex continually put her down.

Leo is nothing like Nora imagined he would be. Underneath Leo’s movie star persona he is just a regular guy. Leo has many wonderful qualities and he is easy to like. He is easy going and laid back and he misses being normal and having a regular life.

Leo and Nora are wonderful together. They have incredible chemistry and I enjoyed all their interactions. I liked Leo and Nora individually and loved them together. Nora and Leo are both going through an emotional time in their lives. Their lives are changing and they are trying to figure out their next steps. There are also a lot of entertaining and interesting secondary characters in this story. This story sparkled and left me with a good feeling.

Wylder Bride by Amey Zeigler

Wylder Bride by Amey Zeigler
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Historical, Romance
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Hibiscus

Maisie Brinley rejected every bachelor in the Boston elite put forth by her social-climbing mother. Then Mother issues an ultimatum to marry a family friend—but he’s twice Maisie’s age. After corresponding with a stranger whose letters connect with her heart, Maisie crosses the continent for his love. When they meet, will he live up to her expectations, or will her escape be in vain?

Living in Wylder, Wyoming Territory—where men outnumber women ten to one—gunsmith Cyrus Haddock hides his disfigured face to avoid romantic rejection. Out of pity, he helps a friend woo a woman through letter writing. But his success backfires when Cyrus falls in love with the Easterner’s words. When they meet, will Cyrus hide his feelings or confess his love?

Normally it is a book’s blurb that will help me to decide whether or not to read it. Wylder Bride was no different. When the blurb mentions Wyoming, I always think cowboy or rancher. The blurb also describes Cyrus as having a disfigured face, which turns out to be different than I imagined.

The heroine said, ” I want a real man—one with gumption, grit, and passion.” While we all have a different idea as to what traits are in a real man, this declaration makes Maisie relatable, and I hoped she’d find what she was looking for.

All of the historical romance books I have read took place in England. All of the western romance books were contemporary. This is the first historical romance book I have read that took place in America and it didn’t disappoint me.

I did wish for an epilogue in this book, as many historical romances have. The reader is left to make their own conclusion. I loved these characters so much; I just wanted a little more and to see how their lives had panned out. However, even without an epilogue, this story was a great read.

Everything else I want to share about Wylder Bride leads to spoilers and I don’t want to ruin anyone’s fun. I really enjoyed reading this story and I highly recommend it.

Little Pig Saves the Ship by David Hyde Costello

Little Pig Saves the Ship by David Hyde Costello
Publisher: Charlesbridge
Genre: Children’s (0 – 6 y.o.), LGBTQ, Contemporary
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Little Pig is back in Little Pig Saves the Ship! When the sea-faring pigs go a-sailing! Intrepid Little Pig — still the littlest pig in the family — is too little to go to summer camp with his older brothers and sisters. He is left behind with Grandpa and Poppy. Little Pig and Poppy make and sail a toy ship all week, but on Saturday a gusty wind takes the ship into the current, and Little Pig has to use his newfound knot-tying skills to save the day.

A sweetly told intergenerational story about how even the littlest can make a big difference.

It’s never easy to be left behind.

Little Pig was such a sweet main character. I empathized with his dismay at not being old enough to join his siblings on their exciting trip. He wanted so badly to be included and would have done anything to go with them. Seeing how he chose to spend his time once they left made me smile. The adults in his life had clearly put some work into finding fun activities that he was currently big enough to do. These scenes made me wonder how he’d describe this part of his childhood when he grew up. He was having a wonderful time, but he was also in such a hurry to become big and independent like his sisters and brothers!

There are a lot of picture books out there about LGBTQ+ parents these days, but I haven’t seen as many about LGBTQ+ grandparents or other relatives. The subtle inclusion of Grandpa and Poppy made me smile. They clearly loved their grandchildren and had spent a lot of time developing a close relationship with them. I enjoyed watching them cheer Little Pig up with games and other diversions as he counted down the days until his older siblings would return home from summer camp.

As much as I enjoyed the beginning and middle of this tale, the ending was what convinced me that this was a five-star reading. It was exciting in some scenes and sentimental in others. I also appreciated the references it made to the first scene that described Little Pig’s disappointment. While I can’t say much else without giving away spoilers, seeing everything tied together so perfectly made this a must-read in my opinion.

Little Pig Saves the Ship was a heartwarming snapshot of family life in the summertime.

Omniscience by Janine Frances

Omniscience by Janine Frances
Publisher: Green Gables Publishing
Genre: Dystopian, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 5 stars
Review by Poppy

A family seek refuge in the Australian outback as tyranny takes hold, but who can they trust?

The world is at war and an authoritarian government has taken control in Australia. A terrorist group known as Day One is attempting to destroy civilisation so humanity can start again.

Shareen Miller gets caught up in a bureaucratic nightmare when she’s detained by an Auto-Enforcer for not having the right travel permit on the way to a job interview. Shareen’s detention sets off a chain of events that lead to her five-year-old twins being taken by the government.

With her husband Daniel, grandmother Alma, and sister Layla, Shareen seizes her children and escapes from the city. On the road, she reveals a secret about her missing mother Veronica that she’s been hiding from her family for five years.

What follows is an intense journey into the harsh Australian outback where nothing is as it seems, and no one can be trusted.

As they fight for survival, Veronica’s family finally learn the truth about why she left them. The stakes couldn’t be higher as the future of humanity hangs in the balance.

I know it’s a bit cliched to say this, but honestly–this book grabbed me from the first page and just didn’t let go. And that was a big deal to me. I’ve been in a bit of a reading rut lately, where the books I’ve picked have been a little “meh”. Not bad, but just not that great or memorable. So, to finally find a book that I didn’t want to put down, one I thought about when I wasn’t reading it and couldn’t wait to get back to it? Yeah, that was huge.

The author writes her descriptions vividly, and from the first moment I could see the world I was reading about. The oppression and non-stop oversight by the government is a bit terrifying, and I rooted for Shareen and her family from the start. I also really enjoyed that this wasn’t a book about a teenager who saves the world. Because the plot revolved around adults and family, it felt a bit more real and possible, which also made it that much more terrifying.

The plot is filling with twists and turns I didn’t see coming, which isn’t typical for me. I love that I wasn’t several steps ahead of the characters in the book, and that I was basically living the story right along with them.

Truthfully, one of the better books I’ve read this year. The author has a vivid, unique and talented way of telling a story that I greatly appreciated and crafted a world and characters that felt real, and she made me care about them. I’m very glad I was able to read this book and I recommend it to any fans of the genre.

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Making Your Mark, Leaving A Legacy, And Then . . . A Grand Exit That’ll Have Their Tongues Waggin’ by Peter Davidson

Making Your Mark, Leaving A Legacy, And Then . . . A Grand Exit That’ll Have Their Tongues Waggin’ by Peter Davidson
Publisher: Sweet Memories Publishing
Genre: Non-Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

If you want your life to amount to more than just anonymously passing through this world unnoticed, this book is for you. It describes how you can make your mark on your family, friends, and society and how you can create a legacy that will benefit future generations.

When the time comes for you to leave this world, you can go out with class, style, and pizzazz, just like you lived your life, There are many options, possibilities, and decisions involved in planning a final farewell as we will see as we watch the Grand Exit of Timothy A.B. Smythe. Timothy’s Grand Exit will have people’s tongues waggin’ for a long time and it can serve as an inspiration for your final farewell, when the time comes.

Much of the information in the book is presented in true stories, scenarios, and examples that are upbeat, often humorous, and fun to read.

Who says that the end of life has to be a somber affair?

Some of the most touching ideas were ones that talked about writing memoirs, autobiographies, or other works. I have several ancestors who wrote down the stories of their lives, and those memoirs have been cherished for multiple generations in our family. There are so many small but fascinating details about the lives of regular people that are generally not recorded in history textbooks. It’s incredibly important to preserve them for the future in my opinion.

I appreciated the wide variety of suggestions here in general. The author was careful not to make any assumptions about how much disposable income his readers had or what kind of legacy they’d want to leave. Plenty of his ideas didn’t require spending any money at all, and many others could be scaled up with repeated modest investments if needed. This was something I’d feel perfectly content to recommend to people from any background or social class. There truly was something here for everyone.

Mr. Davidson had a playful sense of humor that was woven into every chapter of this book. For example, some people might be remembered for the flamboyant clothing they wear or the funny quips they were known to make under all sorts of circumstances. The author even mentioned funny ways that someone can be remembered for their personal shortcomings like the guy who ate a burrito and then attempted to light his flatulence on fire. While I certainly wouldn’t recommend that anyone else attempted it, that was definitely the sort of story that would be passed down to future generations.

Making Your Mark, Leaving A Legacy, And Then . . . A Grand Exit That’ll Have Their Tongues Waggin’ was a thought-provoking read that I’d recommend to everyone.

Blowin’ My Mind Like a Summer Breeze by Benjamin Roech

Blowin’ My Mind Like a Summer Breeze by Benjamin Roech
Publisher: Deep Hearts YA
Genre: Young Adult (14 – 18 y.o.), Romance, LGBTQ, Contemporary
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Fifteen-year-old Rainey Cobb never thought meeting someone could actually change her life. But, then again, she’s never met anyone like Juliet.

It’s 1995 and The Cobb Family Band, led by Rainey’s rock star parents, has arrived for a week-long gig at the Midwestern resort owned by Juliet’s family. Dazzled by Juliet’s carpe diem attitude, DIY tattoos, and passion for grunge, Rainey falls hard. And when Juliet gives Rainey a mixtape that unlocks her heart’s secret yearnings, Rainey starts seeing herself-and her vagabond, show-biz life-through new eyes.

If Rainey quits the band, her parents’ fading career might never recover. But if she doesn’t leap now, she might be stuck forever in a life she didn’t choose…and always wonder who she could have been.

One summer really can change everything.

Some of the most memorable scenes were the ones that addressed Rainey’s summer romance. She and her love interest were both so young and still unsure of where they might land on the LGBTQ+ spectrum. It was interesting to see how they addressed their feelings as they both explored their identities and tried to figure out what they wanted out of life. I don’t want to give away any spoilers here, but this was nicely written and felt very realistic for their ages and for the era they lived in.

I also enjoyed the subplots about Rainey’s complex relationships with her parents. She was beginning to grow up, and her mother, Tracy, wasn’t always ready for all of the changes that was going to bring to their band and to their lives in general. While there were a few times when I shook my head at how much effort Tracy was putting into preserving traditions that were not necessarily working so well as her children asserted their independence, even these moments were genuine and necessary for what was to come. Adjusting to change isn’t easy, especially for parents who have given their children such unconventional upbringings so far.

The character development was handled beautifully. Every member of the Cobb family was three dimensional and well written, and this was especially true for Rainey. I found myself wishing that she were a real person so we could talk about poetry and make mixtapes for each other all summer long. It was delightful to see how she, her brother, and their parents all grew as individuals over the year that this novel covered. If the author ever decides to write a sequel, I’d love to find out what happened to these characters next!

Blowin’ My Mind Like a Summer Breeze was utterly perfect.

Sister Mother Warrior by Vanessa Riley

Sister Mother Warrior by Vanessa Riley
Publisher: William Morrow an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers
Genre: Historical
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

Gran Toya: Born in West Africa, Abdaraya Toya was one of the legendary minos—women called “Dahomeyan Amazons” by the Europeans—who were specially chosen female warriors consecrated to the King of Dahomey. Betrayed by an enemy, kidnapped, and sold into slavery, Toya wound up in the French colony of Saint Domingue, where she became a force to be reckoned with on its sugar plantations: a healer and an authority figure among the enslaved. Among the motherless children she helped raise was a man who would become the revolutionary Jean-Jacques Dessalines. When the enslaved people rose up, Toya, ever the warrior, was at the forefront of the rebellion that changed the course of history.

Marie-Claire: A free woman of color, Marie-Claire Bonheur was raised in an air of privilege and security because of her wealthy white grandfather. With a passion for charitable work, she grew up looking for ways to help those oppressed by a society steeped in racial and economic injustices. Falling in love with Jean-Jacques Dessalines, an enslaved man, was never the plan, yet their paths continued to cross and intertwine, and despite a marriage of convenience to a Frenchman, she and Dessalines had several children.

When war breaks out on Saint Domingue, pitting the French, Spanish, and enslaved people against one another in turn, Marie-Claire and Toya finally meet, and despite their deep differences, they both play pivotal roles in the revolution that will eventually lead to full independence for Haiti and its people.

Both an emotionally palpable love story and a detail-rich historical novel, Sister Mother Warrior tells the often-overlooked history of the most successful Black uprising in history. Riley celebrates the tremendous courage and resilience of the revolutionaries, and the formidable strength and intelligence of Toya, Marie-Claire, and the countless other women who fought for freedom.

This wonderful novel tells the story of a very successful slave uprising. History often tells us of how men changed the course of events. In a refreshing viewpoint, readers are treated to a life-changing situation through the eyes of two women.

Gran Toya, a West African woman, was a warrior. Sadly, she was sold and became a slave. Marie-Claire was a free woman of color who had a good life. They were involved with Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Gran Toya as a mother figure, and Marie Claire as a wife. Dessalines was a former slave who became a general and led people to fight against slavery. Eventually the people of Haiti fought their colonizers and won, after decades.

The characters are layered and complex and often battle with difficult decisions. Their world is a challenge, and readers can see this through well-written words. Sights, scents, tastes, touch, and sounds come alive in this novel that depicts true events. The author fills in the blanks smoothly, making this an enjoyable story to read. The bonus is learning something about history. Readers will get much from reading this book.

*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.