Book Review: It Happened at the Park by Ryan Jo Summers

RATING: 4 out of 5 Stars

IT HAPPENED AT THE PARK by Ryan Jo Summers is a contemporary romance that gives all your emotions a workout. The workaholic heroine inherits her deceased sister’s dogs. The hero prefers his dog and laidback lifestyle over women at this point in his life for a good reason. Adorable dogs, grief, secrets and a witty love story all come together in this realistic romance.

Cassidy Grant is always the consummate professional. A workaholic city planner who is structured, career-oriented and polished. When Cassidy’s sister dies, Cassidy inherits her two dogs, Tessa and Remi. Her world is thrown into turmoil, not just by the doggie invasion, but also the realization that her loving younger sister is gone and she feels guilty for not spending more time with her.

Ethan Sheppard and his best friend, Jake run in to Cassidy at the dog park. Cassidy realizes this easy-going, handsome guy knows how to handle dogs and makes an offer to Ethan for help learning about her new charges. Ethan is intrigued that this woman is the first to interest him since his ex and agrees to help.

Their feelings grow, but their careers may stop this romance before it begins. Cassidy is told by her boss in the city planners office that she has to uncover the secret identity of the newspaper cartoonist, The Salty Kid, who keeps lampooning the mayor and could jeopardize his reelection. The Salty Kid is closer than Cassidy can imagine and has to make a choice between the girl or his career.

The H/h are very realistic. Both have to go through some very tough soul searching. I had a little trouble with how Cassidy could lose her career over not finding out who The Salty Kid was and her devotion to a mayor who seemed very dictatorial, but the author made it work out in the end. The dogs were all great secondary characters that I loved. This is a sweet and smart contemporary romance with no sex scenes.

Reviewed for and posted first on The Romance Reviews.

Book Review: The Santa Bargain by Robin Michaela

RATING: 4 out of 5 Stars

If you want a quick to read, feel good, contemporary Christmas romance, then you have to read THE SANTA BARGAIN: A Small Town Christmas Romance by a new-to-me author Robin Michaela. It is festive, sweet, funny, sad and steamy all wrapped up to a HEA in just 257 pages.

Maria Thompson is starting over in a small Colorado town of Copper River. She is starting her own coffee shop, raising her 5 year old son, Zach and has sworn off all men after her son’s father walked out on them two years ago. Maria is talked into organizing the first Christmas festival to bring tourists to town after devastating wildfires nearly destroyed it. When the sexy carpenter working on the town’s shops runs into Maria, she may just have to rethink her no men policy.

Joe Sinclair was raised in the foster care system after the death of his parents. He learned never to get attached to anyone because they all just left you. There seems to be something different about the coffee shop owner though that attracts him against his better judgement. She is smart, curvy and loves Christmas. She has a small child. He should be running in the other direction, but he just cannot stay away.

Maria makes Joe a promise that if he will play Santa for the Christmas festival, she will be his naughty elf afterwards. Their pasts may get in the way of their new relationship unless Santa can bring them together for a Merry Christmas.

Maria, Joe and Zach are wonderfully real characters that worm their ways into your heart. The sex is hot and steamy, but never gratuitous. There is nothing new in this plot, but the characters and dialogue make it memorable. An enjoyable standalone read for the holiday romance lover.

Written for and posted first on The Romance Reviews.

Book Review: Last Rights by Ava Bradley

RATING: 5 out of 5 Stars

I have just finished a story by another fabulous new-to-me author who had me on the edge of my seat in suspense, crying and laughing, morally debating cloning and hot and twitchy with short, but steamy sex scenes.

LAST RIGHTS by Ava Bradley was a romantic suspense set in the future that starts from the very first page at jet speed and does not let up.

P.I. Fallon Monroe is sent by her sister to retrieve her nephew’s clone for life saving heart transplant surgery. Fallon soon comes to realize this clone is not just a lump of cells, but an exceptionally gifted little boy who calls himself, Jamie. The cloning company does not want people to know the true reality of the clones and a terrorist group wants to set this child up as a symbol to get the country to change the cloning laws.

Special Ops Lieutenant John White is awakened from a medically induced healing coma as Fallon and Jamie burst into his hospital room attempting escape. He does not know why, but he knows he has to protect these two above all else. John and Fallon will do anything to protect Jamie, but each is also harboring a secret that they fear could change the feelings that are beginning to blossom between them.

I did not want to put this book down. The chase and suspense were always constant. Fallon, John and Jamie are wonderfully realistic characters that I fell in love with. Cloning is debated, not just in the hypothetical, but by making you fall in love with characters it effects and makes you think about what you would do and how you feel. I never felt it was preachy because the author made you feel Fallon’s heart wrenching decisions as she made them.

This story had everything I am looking for in a romantic suspense and more. I highly recommend this story and I will definitely be looking for more from this author.

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

 

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: The Saboteur by Andrew Gross

RATING: 5 out of 5 Stars

THE SABOTEUR by Andrew Gross is an intense historical fiction based on the true life stories of the Norwegian Freedom Fighters assigned the seemingly impossible task of destroying the Nazis’ supply of heavy water before it could be used to produce an atomic bomb.

Kurt Nordstrum was an engineering student in Oslo in 1940 when the Nazis invaded. His whole life changes as he fights with his friends in the Norwegian resistance. The friendships, bravery and strength of these men and women is highlighted in this story.

Dieter Lund is a Captain in the Quisling, which is an arm of the Gestapo made up of Norwegian collaborators. Kurt and Dieter attended school together in their small hometown. With the murder of another Quisling onboard a ferry, the long resentment and envy that Dieter feels towards Kurt manifests itself and the chase is on. Good versus evil, protagonist versus antagonist.

In 1943, Kurt and his highly trained fellow Norwegian teammates are parachuted back into Norway from England for the specific purpose of destroying a heavily fortified hydro plant’s capability of producing heavy water and destroying any already produced. They must also stop any from leaving Norway and making it to Germany.

Between the seemingly impossible missions that this team takes on and the continual chase of the Quisling it was hard to put this book down.  The tragedies and triumphs of ordinary people during a horrific world war are highlighted in this book. As the author notes in the end, this story is based on real people, which makes it all the more amazing.

*(I want to make one personal comment on this book and other reviews I have read. I agree with everyone that this author’s previous book “The One Man” was an exceptional historical thriller. I feel that any comparisons to this book though short changes this book. This book is based on true people and is a historical fiction novel. Yes, it has thrills and suspense throughout, but there is a difference between the two types of books. I did not compare the two when I rated my review.)

Thank you very much to St. Martin’s Press, Minotaur Books and Net Galley for allowing me to read this eARC.