Going Home, At Your Age? A Better Late Romance by Jacqueline Diamond

Going Home, At Your Age? A Better Late Romance by Jacqueline Diamond
Sisters, Lovers & Second Chances Book 3
Publisher: K. Loren Wilson
Genre: Romance, Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Her hidden past is about to explode!

Sara returns to her hometown for Christmas, to face her sisters—and the man she left behind—with a stunning secret. The baby she gave up for adoption years ago is having her own baby, and wants her to be the grandma.

Young, pregnant and feeling abandoned, Sara rebelled against everyone she knew, including the man she secretly loved. Now, about to celebrate her 50th birthday, can she finally claim the family that should have been hers, right old wrongs, and find the home she believed lost forever?

It’s never too late to fall in love.

I loved the realistic and nuanced way the narrator handled the adoption storyline. Adoption can be a complex topic even under the best circumstances. Some of the most interesting scenes to me were the ones that explored Sara’s memories of the past and the lifelong grief she felt at not being able to raise her daughter while still believing that choosing adoption was ultimately the right decision for both of them. It was also fascinating to see how Sara and Melina created their relationship once they were reunited. Of course sharing DNA with someone is part of what makes a family, but the emotional intimacy and deep bonds between a parent and child need to be slowly built up over time in cases such as these.

There were some times when I struggled to keep track of the large cast of characters even though I was already familiar with the majority of them. It would have been helpful for me as a reader to dive more deeply into the lives of a smaller number of characters instead of getting brief updates on everyone. In my opinion, there simply wasn’t enough space to show character development in most cases due to how many folks the narrator needed to reintroduce to the audience and explain what, if anything, had changed in their lives since she’d last seen them.

Just like in Don’t Be Silly! At My Age?, Ms. Diamond once again captured the essence of small-town life perfectly. Most of the characters had known each other for decades, and their shared histories popped up in all sorts of delightful ways. Sometimes old grudges resurfaced, while in other scenes they briefly remembered funny or touching moments from their youth that still affected how they interacted with each other in the present. I also appreciated the author’s willingness to explore the difficult portions of being surrounded by folks who have known each other since childhood. For example, it’s more difficult for people to reinvent themselves when they are constantly reminded of choices, they made many years ago. This is one of many reasons why I enjoy these characters so much, and I’m curious to see what might happen to them next if more is written about them.

This is the third instalment in a series. It can be read as a standalone work, but I’d wholeheartedly recommend going back and checking out the first two books if you enjoy this one and want to dig deeper into the backstory.

Going Home, At Your Age? was a heartwarming read.

*Catching Quinn by Jennifer Bonds

*Catching Quinn by Jennifer Bonds
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Romance, Contemporary
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Larkspur

What’s a girl have to do to lose her virginity around here?

When I decided to ditch my V-card, I figured Greek Row was a sure thing.

I didn’t count on Cooper-the-cockblocking-jockhole-DeLaurentis or his misguided sense of bro code putting an embarrassing end to my hookup. After all, Waverly’s star wide receiver is the most notorious player on campus.

He’s arrogant. Infuriating. Sexy as hell.

Just ask him.

Worse? He’s made it his personal mission to scare off every guy who shows an interest in me. But I’m not about to be outwitted by a hypocritical baller with more ego than sense. I may be a hot mess, but I’m no pushover.

Two can play this game, and I’m playing to win.

This is a delightful story and I thought Jennifer Bonds did a wonderful job of capturing college life. I felt as though I was right there with Cooper and Quinn and I had so much fun being along for the ride.

While Cooper and Quinn attend the same college, their experiences are very different. Cooper is a star athlete on the football team and enjoys all the perks that come with that status. On the other hand, Quinn is studious, enjoys writing and isn’t into the party lifestyle. Even though Cooper and Quinn are so different from each other, they are perfect together, but they have to go through some ups and downs before everything works out.

This story is about growing up and learning to make important decisions in life that will affect the future. It is well written, I easily connected with the characters, and it held my interest from beginning to end. I enjoyed all the banter between all the characters and the dialogue was spot on. Cooper and Quinn have incredible chemistry, are great together and I enjoyed all of their interactions. This is another wonderful story by Jennifer Bonds.

Wild About Violet by Sara Blackard

Wild About Violet by Sara Blackard
Wild Hearts of Alaska Book 2
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Falling for my fake fiancée? Nope. Not gonna happen. I’m not about to ruin a great friendship with her over a pretend relationship.

Honestly, I had no idea the whole fake relationship front was a thing. When my biggest sponsor for my snowboarding career wanted to partner me up with my stalker teammate for a race around the world, I panicked and claimed my fiancée wouldn’t approve of me teaming up with the lunatic. Normally, I’m not big on lying, but, seriously …the psycho snuck into my hotel room during last winter’s Xtreme Games! Totally creeped me out.

My friend Violet didn’t bat an eye when I begged her to go along with the farce. She’s cool like that, willing to help out, even if it’s something ridiculous like pretending to be engaged. Probably because it gives her a break from the dating game.

You see, Violet hasn’t had the best luck with men lately. I’m betting it’s because of her silly notion that with one kiss, she’ll know if the guy is her one true love. I have no idea how she came up with that idea, but she’s determined it’s foolproof.

So, now we’re racing the globe together, doing insane stunts and puzzles, trying to win ten million dollars for my sponsor’s nonprofit. We’re having a blast, but I’ve got a major problem. I don’t think I want my fake fiancée to be fake anymore. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’m wild about Violet. But how do I convince her that her one kiss rule needs to be broken?

I thought the first book in the series was good, but this one is even better! Wild About Violet is not what I was expecting based on the blurb – it’s so much more!

Violet and Kemp are best of friends. They support each other, they have a history of enjoying sports adventures together and they think the world of each other. Their relationship is positive, wonderful and enjoyable. Sounds too good to be true, right? That’s the surface view. The story delves into some fascinating issues when it comes to Violet, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

Violet’s family basically welcomed Kemp into their fold because they are that kind of loving, generous and giving people, whereas Kemp’s family was rich, snobby, controlling and judgmental. Not that readers will have to slog through any scenes showing that level of dysfunction – its aftereffects on the hero’s upbringing comes into play during the telling of the story. The author felt no need to add scenes creating unnecessary angst and I have to agree; the story is much better off without it. But knowing about it was helpful. It explains some of Kemp’s choices.

Now, Violet is the most interesting heroine I’ve ever read about. Her career in search and rescue is something to be respected. Her art is as unusual as she is, and just as beautiful. But there is a personal issue she has that is something she keeps close to her vest. Even some of the people you would expect to know, don’t know about it. I’m going to switch gears, and I hope this won’t be considered a spoiler. There’s this paranormal romance series I’ve been following for many years. There’s a character named Ethan who has this paranormal ability to memorize things at a glance down to the nth degree. You want to know how many shower tiles are in your bathroom? He can tell you, all he needs to do is glance at it once and he ‘knows’. He can remember everything in all its details down to the time, the colors, smells, what was said and what multiple people wore in that memory. I am sharing all of this because I thought such a thing didn’t exist, that it was truly a ‘paranormal thing’. Guess what? There’s FACT to back up the fiction! How it truly manifests in regular people and how it can affect their lives is at once fascinating and scary/sad at the same time. Ms. Blackard took this unknown-to-me ability and humanized it and made a reader feel the rollercoaster of emotions that such an ability creates in the person who has it. I won’t give the condition a name because Violet has her own reference to it that is unique. But I felt I had to share this in the review because it’s what makes the heroine’s character stand out from most heroines I’ve read about in the past couple of years. It’s also a contributing factor in the momentum of the story. So, yeah, it’s quite effective and important.

This is a sensual, closed-door romance. Lots of kissing and yearning, and close calls. The reasons they both resist taking the next step made perfect sense and made me respect them all the more. The whole plot of the story would have been compromised if the author took the easy path and used bed scenes as fillers. Instead, the main characters had to work through their differences, worries and doubts all while trying to win a race that took them through many countries and cultures.

Speaking of the race. That’s another thing I appreciated about Ms. Blackard’s approach to storytelling. She didn’t overdo, or info dump, nor skimp on the important things. She targeted her descriptions to create the atmosphere of the locales without diverting a reader’s attention from the romance, the focus of the story. It’s a fine line to walk and this author does it with ease. There are humorous encounters with the locals. There are many times I smiled, (chickens) and a few made me glassy-eyed, and one scene of extreme suspense and worry. I really felt for both Kemp and Violet and I not only wanted them to win the race, but I wanted them to win with their romance too. It’s true what the description says about Wild About Violet, it is a rom-com, it is fun and funny and it is heartwarming. But it only works because the author is a strong wordsmith who knows what her audience wants, and she delivers.

The story is told in first person point of view, but it takes turns telling it from Kemp’s side, and then from Violet’s. For me, it worked and I had a great time reading this novel. In fact, I can’t believe how fast I read it. Thank goodness there was an epilogue. Then again, the epilogue once again set me up for impatience. I met the hero for the next book and I can’t wait. One thing’s for sure, this guy is starting from zero in the opinion department because he wasn’t a nice guy back when they were all in school together. It’ll be very interesting to see how he not only wins the heroine over, but her whole family. This is going to be good.

Wild About Violet is a romance worth reading and I highly recommend it. It’s great entertainment, an awesome way to spend an afternoon and it made me feel really happy at the end.

*Quarter to Midnight by Karen Rose

*Quarter to Midnight by Karen Rose
Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Contemporary, Romance
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Larkspur

Good cops. Bad cops. Only one will win.

After completing her tours with the Marines in Iraq, Molly Sutton knew she could take down any bad guy she met. But when a family tragedy exposes the dark side of her local police, she joined up with her former CO Burke Broussard, who left New Orleans PD to set up a private investigative service for people who couldn’t find justice elsewhere.

Gabe Hebert saw the toll that working for the NOPD took on his dad and decided instead to make a name for himself as one of the best young chefs in the French Quarter. But when his father’s death is ruled a suicide after a deliberately botched investigation by his former captain, Gabe knows his dad stumbled onto a truth that someone wants silenced.

Gabe goes to his father’s best friend, Burke, for help. Burke assigns the toughest member of his team, Molly, to the case. Molly can’t believe she’s being asked to work with the smoking hot chef whose chocolate cake is not the only thing that makes her mouth water. Sparks fly as they follow the leads Gabe’s dad left them, unraveling a web of crimes, corruption, and murder that runs all the way to the top.

New Orleans is a hotbed of intrigue in this suspenseful and delightful story. There are dirty cops, many unanswered questions and so many people dying that it’s hard to know who to trust. The two main characters, Gabe and Molly, are realistic and literally jump off the page in this wonderfully written story.

Gabe finds it impossible to believe his father has committed suicide and Gabe and Molly are brought together when he hires Molly to investigate his father’s death. Sparks immediately fly between these two from the moment they meet. Neither Gabe nor Molly has been lucky in love, until they meet. Unfortunately, they are so busy trying to solve this case they have little time for romance or getting to know each other. Gabe and Molly are running for their lives while they try to solve a crime and find the mastermind behind all the killings happening every time they turn around.

I loved everything about this story. It has suspense and romance, which is my favorite trope and Karen Rose did a wonderful job of keeping me on the edge of my seat. This story was intriguing and had me quickly turning the pages to find out what would happen next.

*Thank You for Listening by Julia Whelan

*Thank You for Listening by Julia Whelan
Publisher: Avon and Harper Voyager
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Women’s fiction
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Larkspur

For Sewanee Chester, being an audiobook narrator is a long way from her old dreams, but the days of being a star on film sets are long behind her. She’s found success and satisfaction from the inside of a sound booth and it allows her to care for her beloved, ailing grandmother. When she arrives in Las Vegas last-minute for a book convention, Sewanee unexpectedly spends a whirlwind night with a charming stranger.

On her return home, Sewanee discovers one of the world’s most beloved romance novelists wanted her to perform her last book—with Brock McNight, the industry’s hottest, most secretive voice. Sewanee doesn’t buy what romance novels are selling—not after her own dreams were tragically cut short—and she stopped narrating them years ago. But her admiration of the late author, and the opportunity to get her grandmother more help, makes her decision for her.

As Sewanee begins work on the book, resurrecting her old romance pseudonym, she and Brock forge a real connection, hidden behind the comfort of anonymity. Soon, she is dreaming again, but secrets are revealed, and the realities of life come crashing down around her once more.

If she can learn to risk everything for desires she has long buried, she will discover a world of intimacy and acceptance she never believed would be hers.

Thank you for Listening took me on an emotional journey.

You have to be open to the possibilities.

I loved reading Sewanee and Nick’s story. They are two realistic, flawed and complicated characters. They are both stuck in a life they aren’t happy with after their lives moved in an unexpected direction. They are vulnerable and afraid to take a chance.

This is an intriguing story that had me quickly turning the pages to find out what would happen next because I was never quite sure what direction it would go. It held me captive from start to finish. This story took me through many emotions: falling in love, family dysfunction and losing your dreams.

There are also some interesting and colorful secondary characters included in the story. I especially loved Sewanee’s grandmother, she was a hoot. Julie Whelan writes a beautiful and touching story.

*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.

*Coming into Focus by Eagan Daniels

*Coming into Focus by Eagan Daniels
Publisher: Champagne books
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Women’s Fiction
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Larkspur

Given the choice between being an overpaid assistant to a famous British rock band on the verge of making it huge in America, or staying home to work three menial jobs to take care of a brother who has outgrown the need for her, Willa Reynolds’s decision is obvious: her brother might need her again eventually, and she’ll stick around until that happens.

When you love someone, you don’t leave. She learned that the hard way from her mom. Granted, her dream of being hired as a photographer for music magazine Offstage is a long shot when the only people she mingles with are the customers that come into the coffee shop, but she’ll think of something.

But when her brother announces he’s going to college and practically shoves her out the door, and the rock star in question sweetens the deal by offering to pay her even more and giving her the opportunity to build her photography portfolio in the process . . . Willa has to admit that it seems like the universe is sending her a message.

If you enjoy reading stories about hot musicians, this is the book for you. Willa is a struggling photographer when she meets an up-and-coming British band. This chance meeting changes her life.

This story has a slow start but the more I read, the more invested I became with the two main characters, Oliver and Willa. It’s fascinating to read about Willa as she becomes the person she is meant to be. She is always taking care of everyone, and I love how she learns how to put herself first and to fight for what she wants.

The guys in the band are all British and Willa is American and it’s hilarious when the guys in the band use British slang and Willa has no idea what they are saying. Then, when Willa uses American slang, the guys are equally dumbfounded.

I liked everything about Oliver, he is the drummer in the band and he and Willa are perfect together. He is a good guy. He is low key and very cool and cares about Willa from the moment he meets her.

This is a beautiful love story, and I enjoyed the relationship Willa has with the entire band. The guys are fun loving and entertaining and easily accept Willa into their group. This is definitely a recommended read.

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.

*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.