The Secret of Snow by Viola Shipman

The Secret of Snow by Viola Shipman
Publisher: Graydon House
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Women’s Fiction
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

The forecast is calling for a reluctant homecoming and regrettable decisions with a strong chance of romance…

When Sonny Dunes, a SoCal meteorologist whose job is all sunshine and seventy-two-degree days, is replaced by a virtual meteorologist that will never age, gain weight or renegotiate its contract, the only station willing to give the fifty-year-old another shot is the very place Sonny’s been avoiding since the day she left for college—her northern Michigan hometown.

Sonny grudgingly returns to the long, cold, snowy winters of her childhood…with the added humiliation of moving back in with her mother. Not quite an outsider but no longer a local, Sonny finds her past blindsiding her everywhere: from the high school friends she ghosted, to the former journalism classmate and mortal frenemy who’s now her boss, to, most keenly, the death years ago of her younger sister, who loved the snow.

To distract herself from the memories she’s spent her life trying to outrun, Sonny throws herself headfirst into covering every small-town winter event to woo a new audience, made more bearable by a handsome widower with optimism to spare. But with someone trying to undermine her efforts to rebuild her career, Sonny must make peace with who she used to be and allow her heart to thaw if she’s ever going to find a place she can truly call home.

Sonny is a middle-aged meteorologist who has a great job and a great home in a warm climate. Suddenly she finds herself out of work but takes up an old colleague on her offer to work for her. The trouble is, Sonny will have to go across the country, back to her childhood home, where it is cold and snows a lot. Sonny dreads going back. Her sister was killed there. But she needs the job at the small station.

Sonny’s mother is awesome, and Sonny meets other great people who all have issues, like her. She is troubled, but her experiences will help her grow and learn things. She will work through her pain.

Setting is important in this story and has a great impact on the plot and characterization. The charming winter wonderland scenes add much to the book. Themes of family, friendship, and facing tragedy help bring this tale to life.

This is a very engaging book with a message and plenty of entertainment. I highly recommend it.

From Rags to Kisses by Shana Galen

From Rags to Kisses by Shana Galen
The Survivors, #11
Publisher: Self-published
Genre: Historical, Romance
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

She’s poor as a church mouse.

When young Jenny Tate stumbles over the beaten body of a boy in the streets of the London slums, her only intention is to rifle through his pockets. But the bruised lad charms her into helping him, and the next thing she knows, Aidan Sterling and she are fast friends, navigating life on the streets with all its dangers together. Jenny has learned never to trust or love anyone, but as the two grow up, they learn to rely on other. And then Aidan betrays her in the worst way possible.

He’s rich as a king.

Aidan Sterling is one of the richest men in England. He has everything he wants and no one to share it with. After risking his life in the army, he returned to England and made a fortune. Now he keeps his loneliness at bay by focusing on what he’s good at—making money. And then Jenny Tate steps unexpectedly back into his life. He’s never forgotten her and never stopped loving her. Jenny hasn’t forgotten him either, and she hasn’t forgiven him. She’s betrothed to a viscount and has a new life and wants nothing to do with Aidan. But the discovery of an ancient trunk, a hunt for a street urchin, and the interference of homing pigeons might just be enough to bring these two back together.

This is a delightful romance that has a surprising depth to it that I could related to. I enjoyed watching how two kids who started out with nothing except each other go their separate ways, and through life’s convoluted capriciousness, meet again on relatively the same playing field, but this time, it’s in the upper rungs of society. One accomplished it through sheer grit and determination, the other made the most of an opportunity dropped in their lap. Basically, grabbing onto it with both hands and utilizing a different type of determination, jumped right in and never looked back. The how’s and whys of it is what kept me turning the pages. Rags to Kisses is a very apt title.

The reason I say I could relate to these characters, especially Aiden, is the lasting psychological effects of having food, shelter and/or financial insecurity. It’s nothing new – poverty has plagued the human race for many millennia – but understanding its effects on how one lives one’s life is a complicated endeavor. The author had each of her protagonists deal with it in different ways. Aiden’s choices make the most sense to me. One of the choices can be considered hoarding – keeping everything because ‘just in case’. In the hero’s case, it was making money, hoarding it, pursuing it, spending on the best to make up for his early years. Thing is, it’s a bitter cycle because unless something happens to kick them in the pants, and help them understand their drive, it can cause problems in relationships. They don’t understand that their drive would never allow them to feel ‘it’s enough’. It’s kind of sad. So, yeah, I felt for Aiden in a big way.

Jenny’s solution falls into a gray area. Again, it can be compared to real life when one person takes an interest in helping another person down on their luck at just the right time, and opens opportunities that otherwise would have been closed doors. What that person does with those opportunities depends on the drive, intelligence and work ethic they may have – it just needed a chance to thrive. That’s how I saw Jenny’s opportunity. The heroine was smart, not just street smart, but had an intuitive nature that when shaped and guided could produce someone with an acute acumen for business, finance and good deals or high-payoff opportunities. Jenny was given that chance from a most unlikely circumstance, yet, the person who reaches out to her isn’t exactly a cookie-cutter peer. I think that’s why it worked. The quirkiness of how everything played out fascinated me.

I realize that the scheme concocted between Jenny and Lord Chamberlayne is a trope that I’ve read about many, many times. I was a little concerned on how it would play out because it could have sunk this story if I didn’t like the way it was handled. I am happy to report that I truly felt Ms. Galen chose very well. The resolution, though not perfect, was perfect for the times and for their situation. It allowed a happy ever after for everyone concerned and I was content with Lord Chamberlayne’s decisions. In fact, I respected his character. Oscar, on the other hand, was simply charming, adorable and very easy to like. I can see why Jenny adored them so much – it wasn’t just gratitude for their taking a chance on her – the respect was mutual, and the friendship real and solid.

Now, the romance between Aiden and Jenny had many ups and downs. Their chemistry was hot, their feelings powerful and their initial wariness towards each other once they met again, was palpable yet understandable. Readers who like to be in the bedroom a bit to see if the fires burn as hot as they think, should be satisfied with the heat level. There’s no doubt that time has not dimmed their passions; I think they’re more pronounced because both Jenny and Aiden have matured and know what they want.

There was humor woven throughout the novel, like the scene with the pigeons, and Oscar was fun comic relief. There was also more character development in store for Aiden and that stems from his decision help his friend, FitzRoy find a character called Harley. I do believe Harley was in a previous story, so if fans of Ms. Galen remember then they can be assured of a wonderful resolution for the young scamp.

On the whole, Rags to Kisses is a great read, thoroughly entertaining and a wonderful addition to the series. This is an easy book to recommend because I didn’t stop reading until I reached the end. When I did turn the final page, I was surprised. Done, already? That’s the mark of a great read.