Book Review: Hold ‘Em: A Gambling Hearts Romance by Jacquie Biggar

RATING: 5 out of 5 Stars

HOLD ‘EM: A GAMBLING HEARTS ROMANCE by Jacquie Biggar is a contemporary romance that has a cast of characters that are heartwarming, caring, funny and just all around wonderful! The hero and heroine find they have an instant attraction and even though they are opposites, they both have caring hearts and strong family attachments.

Matthew “Matt” Shaughnessy is a high-stakes poker player winning his way up to the World Series of Poker. Just when he thinks he may have lost a huge stakes game, his opponent cannot cover his makers. What Matt needs is a fiancée to make his dying grandmother happy so a deal is struck.  Gardner offers in payment his daughter’s heirloom wedding ring and one week of Cassandra playing his fiancée on his family’s Texas ranch.

Cassandra Gardner knows her father has a gambling problem, but she never imagined it would lead to her playing the part of a finance on a ranch with a stranger, when she is supposed to be getting married in two weeks in Las Vegas to someone else. She is a city girl through and through and knows nothing about ranching or the great outdoors. She also has very strong feelings against lying to Matt’s grandmother, family and friends who accept her on sight.

Matt has one week to convince his grandmother he is settling down and found the love of his life, which if he keeps enjoying Cassandra’s looks and spirit may be true in reality, but can he keep her on the ranch? Cassandra cannot believe the intense feelings that started as annoyance and now are so much more for this cowboy, but she has a fiancée waiting in Vegas.

Ms. Biggar has written an easy to read, heartwarming, sexy and funny, opposites attract hero and heroine that could walk right off the page and into your heart. There is sexual tension throughout, but Cassandra never breaks her promise to her real fiancée and there is no sex in the story. Matt’s grandmother, brother and sister and his care of them all and the ranch at a young age shows the depth of his character, while they are all interesting characters on their own.

Right now this book is a standalone, but the story definitely is set up for Matt’s brother and sister to have their own stories in the future. I really hope they get them because this is a family that I want to check back in with in the future.

Written for and posted first on The Romance Reviews.com.

Book Review: One Wrong Turn by Deanna Lynn Sletten

RATING: 5 out of 5 Stars

Sometimes an author can take the simplest plot and it will pack an emotional punch that resonates with the reader to their core. You follow normal, flawed people and you cry, get mad, become disappointed, have empathy, have sympathy, laugh and feel joy. That was the journey I took with Deanna Lynn Sletten’s novel ONE WRONG TURN.

Jess Connors is renovating her grandparent’s old home into a B&B as she raises her two daughters, Madison “Maddie”, age twelve and Jilly, age seven. She has become a friend to many in the community over the last two years, but all it took was one wrong turn of her steering wheel as she was rushing to pick up her daughters after school to change all of their lives. Now Jess lies in the hospital in a coma.

Clay Connors has been estranged from his wife and daughters for two years until he receives the call notifying him of his wife’s accident. Clay is a talented studio and live musician, but he also let his alcohol addiction destroy his family and his own personal belief in himself. After this third try at rehab and AA, Clay knew it was his last chance to prove himself to Jess. He was afraid to join them at the B&B and lose them forever, so he kept convincing himself to put it off for another day. Now he has to earn the trust of his oldest daughter once again, reintroduce himself to his youngest and remain sober under this stress while reuniting his family and waiting for Jess to wake from her coma, if she does.

The author writes Clay and Jess’ meeting, courtship and family life up to their separation in flashbacks told by Clay interspersed throughout the story. Clay’s alcohol addiction is written with truth and empathy. All his fears and failings are exposed, along with his daily battle to remain sober. The interactions between Clay and Maddie are extremely emotional because she was so close to her father and yet she was too young to understand what addiction is and so she has a severe lack of trust and a huge feeling of abandonment in regards to her father. The author offsets the difficulties with her father, with the care and understanding she shows her younger sister. Jilly is lovable, happy child who is trying to deal with all that is happening.

This book has the story of a couple that has always loved each other, but addiction divides them. For me though, the main characters that I empathized with and cheered to a happy ending were Clay and his daughter, Maddie. The dialogue is realistic as well as the emotions. All of the secondary characters were perfectly placed to add to the story, but never took the main focus off of Clay, his sobriety and/or his daughters as they dealt with their family in crisis.

This book is an emotional roller coaster that is beautifully written. The strength, love, perseverance and forgiveness of the characters will stay with me long after I finish this review. I am looking forward to reading more of Ms. Sletten’s books in the future.

Book Review: A Drop of Paradise by Alex L. Michaels

RATING: 3 out of 5 Stars

A DROP OF PARADISE by Alex L. Michaels is a contemporary romance that has a fun premise and is set in paradise, but also has a few problems that some may not be able to ignore.

Jessica Slade is a librarian turned successful romance writer. After ten books, she is having trouble finishing her current book and believes that maybe taking herself out of her comfort zone will help. A Drop of Paradise was supposed to give her quiet and island beauty, but it turns out to be a crowded resort.

Mike Stone looks like a romance cover model brought to life. He moved to the island and stayed as captain on his own ship that transports tourists around the other islands for day trips. When he sees Jessica, he knows he has to have her.

On a group day trip that Jessica gets coerced into taking, she and Mike end up stranded on a deserted island and the battle begins between these two. Mike likes to rile Jessica and Jessica thinks Mike is nothing, but a muscle bound, overbearing jerk. Can these two see beyond the surface and turn anger and lust into love?

The first portion of this book has a lot of fun banter and quips between Mike and Jessica. Think Taming of the Shrew or War of the Roses. It was fun and entertaining, but for me lasted a little too long before transitioning into the next portion of the book even when you find out why Jessica was holding out for so long. No sex in this part of the book. Then it suddenly turns into an erotica romance that is all about explicit sex scenes with no emotional investment or discussion.

Throughout this book there are quite a few grammar, word usage and spelling errors. Even with these problems, it was a fun read. I feel it would be an even better read if it was proofread and/or edited again and transitioned more smoothly between the battling and sex portions of the book. The H/h and the secondary characters saved this from receiving a lower rating.

Written for and posted first on The Romance Reviews.com.

Book Review: Second Chance Cowboy by Joanne Rock

RATING: 4 out of 5 Stars

SECOND CHANCE COWBOY (Road to Romance Book, #2) by Joanne Rock is a second chance contemporary romance that demonstrates this author’s seamless ability to immediately allow you to become emotionally invested in her characters and immerse you in the beauty and uniqueness of her settings. Even though this is the second book in this series, it is easily read as a standalone.

Larissa Martine left Cheyenne, Wyoming eight years ago for the bright lights of Broadway and a career in dance. It was a promise she made to her dying mother. But as she leaves, she also devastates the boy she loves in a text message.

After a possible career ending injury and on her way to an audition in Los Vegas, Larissa is detouring to her hometown to honor a pact between girlfriends, to make peace with past wrongs and hopefully clear the future to turn bad luck to good.

Matt Briggs thought he had it all. He purchased Split Fork Ranch next to his family spread and was ready to move ahead with the girl he loved. That was not how it worked out. Now Larissa is back and he does not want to hear about her regrets, but he does want her stay for his sister’s wedding next week. The intense attraction is still there and maybe if they have one more night together it will give them both the peace with the past they seek, or they could repeat past mistakes all over again.

Larissa and Matt are both trying to live up to what they perceive that others wanted for them. The love and attraction has always been an easy part of their relationship, but the emotional communication between the two is difficult and lacking. Even though eight years has passed, they almost repeat their past and the author leads them towards their HEA in a realistic and believable way. The sex scenes are steamy and also emotional. The secondary characters where as well fleshed out and entertaining as the H/h. This is a quick read packed with emotion and what I expect when I read a book by this author.

Written for and posted first on The Romance Reviews.com.

Book Review: Prossers Bay Boxed Set (Books 1-4) by Cheryl Phipps

RATING: 4 out of 5 Stars

I really enjoy getting to know characters and towns over a book series.  PROSSERS BAY BOXED SET (Books 1-4) by Cheryl Phipps consists of one short story and three contemporary romances set in the small town of Prossers Bay, New Zealand. The romances revolve around a group of three girlfriends with the short story being an introduction to the series’ main characters. These romances are all entertaining in their own right and are fast and easy reads.

Book 1 is the short story ‘Doc’s Town’ and is an introduction to Doc Morris, the town doctor. All the characters watch out for Doc now that he is a widower and his only son is away working on his own career. The main female characters of the three romances in books 2-4 are introduced as well as someone who wants more than friendship with Doc and that is basically all this short story involves.

Book 2 ‘Finding Liam’ is Abby and Max’s story. Abby owns her own cleaning service. Megan and Stephanie work for her and are also her best friends who have helped her through her several miscarriages and depression. As Abby and Max try to find their way back to a physical and loving relationship that has dissolved during Abby’s depression, Abby finds a child left alone in one of the beach homes she is cleaning. Liam’s story will break your heart and have you reading until the end to make sure this little boy finds his happily ever after as well as Abby and Max. (I have to say this was my favorite of the three full length romances.)

Book 3 ‘Seducing Megan’ takes us into struggling, single mom, Megan’s life with twin girls, Mia and Cody. John Lambert owns and runs the upscale resort just outside of town and he wants Megan to work for him. He makes Megan an offer that she just cannot refuse monetarily, but what he does not know is that Megan has been burned before by a rich man and no matter how attracted she may be to John, she refuses to make the same mistake again. Megan is sassy and talented, but John knows she is a mom first and he has never considered being a dad.

Book 4 ‘Saving Stephanie’ has Doc’s son, Jamie, and Stephanie’s old boyfriend returning to Prossers Bay to care for his dad after a minor heart attack. The flame is still there, but so are the problems that separated them. Both have dreams they want to fulfill and unless a compromise can be found they will both be going their separate ways once again.

The three contemporary romances are all entertaining and all are different types of stories that are not repetitive. They can easily be read as standalone books, but when read in order or in this box set, they build on each other and make you feel as if you are a part of the Prossers Bay community. This is a good box set for an enjoyable and easy summer read.

Written for and posted first on The Romance Reviews.com.

Book Review: Jack & Gill by Cheryl Phipps

RATING: 4 out of 5 Stars

JACK & GILL (Sycamore Springs #1) by Cheryl Phipps

Jack and Gill live side by side at the bottom of the hill. Best friends forever, but one has always wanted more. A contemporary story that is well written in the first person with alternating points of view between Jack and Gill. Ms. Phipps gives a you a fun, fast and easy to read HEA.

Gill has always lived in her parent’s home next door to Jack. They went to school together, although Jack was a grade ahead and since the first grade Gill has secretly loved Jack. She is a successful business owner of her own landscaping firm now, but during high school and college she never felt she fit in. At 28, she doesn’t see Jack ever loving her as more than a friend, so she starts seriously dating Adam.

Jack looks out for Gill, like a little sister. Life and relationships are easy for him as the star high school quarterback and later a career as a successful developer in Sycamore Springs. He moved back home after a short, bad marriage and now lives for his little girl, Katie. Together Jack and Gill provide Katie with a loving home environment and Jack doesn’t want that to change, but Gill has announced her engagement to Adam and Jack needs to decide what he really feels about his best friend.

I finished this story in one sitting. I felt Gill’s frustration and pain at hiding her feelings for so long. There were times I wanted to slap Jack upside his clueless head. The characters felt very real to me and the story flowed from their points of view. Just one warning, if you are a traditional romance reader and don’t want your H/h having sex with someone else in the story, this is not the book for you.

Written for and posted first on The Romance Reviews.com.