Review: The Doctor’s Fake Fiancée by Victoria James

 

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

When Victoria James asked if I wanted to review her latest release, I had to think about it for all of about 2 seconds.  I have read and enjoyed the other Red River books, so I was eager to jump into The Doctor’s Fake Fiancée.  I’ll admit that I’m always nervous to accept requests from authors, because what if I don’t like their book?  I’m happy to report that once I started this one, I wasn’t concerned about that any longer.  While not every aspect of the story worked for me, most of it pushed all the right buttons.

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Review: He’s So Fine by Jill Shalvis

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

While I’ve read a few other Jill Shalvis titles, He’s So Fine is the first in the Lucky Harbor series that I’ve picked up.  I’m wondering why I waited so long.  Like Olivia, I was charmed by Lucky Harbor and the people living there.  Cole is a great hero, and his buddies Sam and Tanner kept him humble.  Mr. Fix It, Cole seems able to repair everything but the tattered remains of his heart.  Or was it his pride that needed a patch job?  Whatever it was, he didn’t have enough pockets on his cargo pants to mend the damage.  He needed a little help from Olivia to get the job done.

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Review: Magnolia by Kristi Cook

 

 

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

Magnolia is a hard book to rate.  For the most part, I really enjoyed this Shakespeare inspired YA romance.  It’s Romeo and Juliet in reverse.  Jemma and Ryder have been at odds ever since the 8th grade, when a misunderstanding drives them apart.  Too bad their families keep pushing them together!  Nothing would make their parents more happy than if they became a couple, and their mothers have been doing everything in their power to make that happen.  From the time they were babies, they have shared cribs, vacations, and countless meals, but Jemma’s had enough.  While once Ryder lit up her world, his cruel words have driven them apart, and Jemma can’t wait to get away from tiny Magnolia Branch so she doesn’t have to deal with him anymore.

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Spotlight and Giveaway: Love for Beginners & Hometown Love Boxed Set

Book Title: Love For Beginners

Author: Sally Clements

Book Synopsis:

She needs a lesson in love, and he’s the perfect teacher.

Mechanic Melody Swan is looking for a man who can share her hopes and dreams, but she swore she would never lose herself to passion. When sexy Heath Starr agrees to temporarily sub in the Under the Hood garage for his sister, Mel sees the perfect opportunity to enjoy being with a man without becoming attached.

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Spotlight and Giveaway: Lucky Harbor by Jill Shalvis

This morning I have some excerpts and an awesome giveaway for Lucky Harbor, a new bind-up of not one, not two, but THREE Jill Shalvis novels.  This is a great bargain if you are just discovering her books! 

LUCKY HARBOR (May 20, 2014; Grand Central Publishing Trade Paperback; $15.00)

Spend the Summer in Lucky Harbor!

Lucky in Love
Mallory Quinn has had enough of playing it safe. As the local good girl, she’s expected to date Mr. Right. But for once, she’d like to take a risk on Mr. Wrong. And who could be more wrong than Ty Garrison? The mysterious new guy in town has made it clear that he’s only passing through, which suits Mallory just fine. Besides, his lean, hard body and sexy smile will give her plenty to remember once he’s gone . . .

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Review: A Candence Creek Christmas by Donna Alward

 

A Cadence Creek Christmas (Cadence Creek Cowboys)

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I really enjoy Donna Alward’s Harlequin Romances, so I was looking forward to reading A Cadence Creek Christmas.  I love cowboys and small town romances, and most of Alward’s books have both.  This is a winning combination for me, probably because, like most people crammed into a metro area, there is too much traffic, too much rushing around, and too much stress.  Small town romances leave me feeling a little more relaxed, and I wonder if I would actually be able to live in a small town.  I hate shopping, especially lately, and Amazon delivers everywhere, so as long as a cable modem was available, I think I’d get on famously.  And cowboys? I just can’t resist a cowboy story.  These guys actually ride horses and like doing it!  My guy has been to the barn one time, and that’s when I was dropping something off – he wouldn’t even come look at my horses!  Though as long as he doesn’t complain that I’m there so often, I guess I can’t complain too much about that…

Taylor Shepard is in Cadence Creek, organizing her brother’s wedding to Avery (the protagonists from Little Cowgirl on His Doorstep).  She’s also going to stay in Cadence Creek over the Christmas holidays to decompress.  The owner of successful event planning company, she’s been run ragged by her wealthy clients and their outrageous requests.  While the money is good, she isn’t finding much satisfaction from her work, especially after meeting Rhys, the somber cowboy who is a friend of Callum’s and a member of the wedding party.  As Taylor spends more time with Rhys and gets to know him better, she can no longer hide her attraction to him.  She doesn’t want to get involved with him, though, because she’ll be leaving town soon and heading back to her life in the big city.

A Cadence Creek Christmas is a sweet read about two people searching for the happiness that’s lacking in their lives.  Neither Taylor nor Rhys is miserable, but they both feel that something is lacking and keeping them from finding true happiness.  Rhys has moved back to town after losing his own business, and now he’s wary about small businesses and small business owners.  He feels that he let a lot of people down when he was forced to close up shop, and he never wants to feel like that again.  Now he’s working a steady job for a steady paycheck, and he’s content with that.  He’s also helping his mother run the local diner, and though he’s a silent partner, he doesn’t want anyone to know about his involvement.  His  father was a terrible businessman, and Rhys doesn’t want to follow in his footsteps anymore than he already has.  He is now completely risk adverse, and when Taylor blows into town with the winter cold, he knows he’s in trouble.  Taylor is trouble with a capital T!

Taylor can’t understand why a man as smart and capable as Rhys is content working for others.  He could easily be his own boss, instead of punching a clock.  Taylor’s family is filled with one success story after another, so she feels a lot of pressure to succeed as well.  There is no other option for her.  Her relationship with her father is strained because she feels that he looks down at her work.  Her brothers are both very successful, and they are the apple of her father’s eye.  She is struggling to gain his acceptance, and this need to strive to be the best all hinges around her father’s less than stellar opinion of her.  She just wants the same approval that he lavishes on her brothers, but she despairs that she will never receive it.

Because Taylor is so driven, and also so outspoken, she and Rhys hit it off at first as well as oil and water.  There is no middle ground for them, but because they are so different, they aren’t willing to look for any, either.  As she gets to know him, Taylor begins to see his strengths; his loyalty, his truthfulness, his steadiness.  This is what I loved about this book – even though Rhys and Taylor are so very different, they both begin to see the other as the anchor that’s been missing from their lives.  They both need a rock to lean on, to be what the other needs.  They are a natural fit; it just takes them a long time to figure it out.  I was worried that I wouldn’t like the resolution to their greatest conflict, but I needn’t have.  Everything works out neatly, and neither character is forced to change who they are to make the other happy.  Rhys can continue to be the calming influence that Taylor needs, while she is free to hustle for her business, but in a new, more meaningful way for her.  Perfect!

A Cadence Creek Christmas will fill your need for a sweet holiday romance.

Grade: B

Review copy provided by author – Thank you!

From Amazon:

It’s Christmas in Donna Alward’s Cadence Creek…

Taylor Shepard has come to Cadence Creek to organize her brother’s Christmas wedding. Organizing such a special event might be a little bit stressful—but she can’t deny she’s swept away by the town’s holiday charm…and by brooding rancher Rhys Bullock.

Loner Rhys has been burned far too many times in the past. He’s sure he has city girl Taylor all figured out—she’ll be hightailing it straight back to the city in a few days! But as the snow starts to fall, Rhys and Taylor embark on a tentative winter romance. Could Taylor be the Christmas present Rhys never even knew he wanted?

Interview with J. Arlene Culiner, Author of All About Charming Alice

Please welcome J Arlene Culiner to the virtual offices today! She’s here to chat about her book All About Charming Alice.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Please tell us a little about yourself.

[J. Arlene Culiner] I was born in New York, raised in Toronto, but for most of my life, I’ve been living in England, Germany, Holland, Turkey, France, Greece, Hungary and the Sahara. At the moment I’m in a very dull French village, in a 300-year-old former inn that I open to the public on Heritage Day. My wildlife garden is a reserve for butterflies and birds and, like my heroine in All About Charming Alice, I also protect spiders, snakes, any living creature. As far as character goes, I’m suppose I’m rather unconventional. I do love well-written books of any genre, rousing discussions, and having a roaring great laugh, but I’ve never owned or wanted a television and, aside from the very occasional documentary, never go to see films. And I’d far rather walk from village to village than drive there.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about All About Charming Alice?

[J. Arlene Culiner] All About Charming Alice, is the story of two warm, rather wary but intelligent people falling in love. Both lead interesting lives, both are passionate, idealistic, and both are somewhat older than the usual romance heroes and heroines. My heroine, Alice, because of a past she’d rather forget, has to learn how to trust again, whereas my hero Jace has to become flexible. And although the budding – and sometimes hopeless-sounding – romance is the main story, quite a few quirky, often amusing, secondary characters also make their appearance. And there’s even some fascinating but little-known history of the American far west.

Here’s the blurb:  

Alice Treemont has given up hope of meeting the right man and falling in love. Living in depopulated Blake’s Folly, a quirky community of rusting cars, old trailers, clapboard shacks and thirsty weeds, she spends her time cooking vegetarian meals, rescuing unwanted dogs and protecting the most unloved creatures on earth: snakes. What man would share those interests? Certainly not Jace Constant whose life in Chicago includes elegant women, fine dining and contemporary art.
Jace has come to Nevada to research the new book he’s writing, but he won’t be staying; as far as he’s concerned, Blake’s Folly is hell on earth. He’s disgusted by desert dust on his fine Italian shoes, dog hair on his cashmere sweaters and by desert bleakness. As for snakes, he doesn’t only despise them: they terrify him.
So how is it possible that each time Alice and Jace meet, the air sizzles? That she’s as fascinated by him as he is by her? That they know their feelings go deeper than raw desire? Still, it looks like this relationship is doomed before it starts: Jace won’t be around for long, and Alice wants to avoid the heartbreak of a short fling.

In need of some juicy romantic gossip, the other 52 residents of Blake’s Folly have decided Alice has been alone for long enough. The attraction between her and Jace is obvious to everyone, so why worry about essential differences? If you trust in love, solutions do appear. But don’t those solutions call for too many compromises, too much self-sacrifice? 

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[J. Arlene Culiner] Many years ago, I spent a few days in a crumbling Nevada community of shacks, old trailers, and one dilapidated old hotel/bar/restaurant. I loved the place, and the atmosphere has stayed with me throughout my rather itinerant life. I have, of course, gone back to Nevada and looked for that community but, strangely enough, I’ve never found it. Therefore, I decided to recreate it in my book, All About Charming Alice, to name it Blake’s Folly, and to populate it with all the original and strange folk you’d find in out-of-the-way places. Of course, my heroine Alice is also a rather strange character – you’d have to be if you lived in Blake’s Folly -  but she’s endearing as well.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Alice?

[J. Arlene Culiner] Alice is definitely determined. And a giving sort of person, one who wants to please – despite her prickly exterior and her need to protect herself. And she respects all living creatures.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If Jace had a theme song, what would it be?

[J. Arlene Culiner] I’m certainly not good at naming theme songs, however, one morning, my hero Jace tells Alice he’s going walking in the desert with her. Desperate to keep some distance between them, Alice refuses, although she knows Jace is a pretty determined guy and he’ll win in the end. And as she furiously storms back into her house, she hears Jace whistling: You’ll Never Walk Alone.  

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name one thing Alice is never without.

[J. Arlene Culiner] A camera

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things will you never find in Jace’s bedroom?

[J Arlene] You’ll never, ever, find men’s perfume or aftershave or cologne of any kind; you’ll never find hair gel; and you’ll certainly never find Viagra.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is Alice’s greatest regret?

[J. Arlene Culiner] She regrets that she allowed herself – many years before – to be dominated by her unfaithful, ambitious and manipulative first husband. He bullied her into an acting career she’d never wanted, into a Hollywood lifestyle she hated, and forced her to spend her energy hiding his infidelities from the press. After much scandal and losing a baby, she eventually ran away, started doing what she really wanted – working as a herpetologist in the desert. But she is sorry she compromised for so long.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[J. Arlene Culiner] Hearing new ideas, finding new ways of looking at things. Social criticism particularly stimulates me, but so do landscapes – especially lonely, out-of-the-way places like deserts or flat plains, or groves, or sleepy old towns with their original architecture. All these things inspire me to create, work, think.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[J. Arlene Culiner] 1. Solitude. I can’t be sitting next to someone I know. I need the peace of my own work space. But I can – and do – also write in train stations, on trains or in cafés. Yes, sure there are other people all around me in such places, but I don’t know them so the solitude is definitely there.

2. A need to communicate with the world: I want to share a good story, amuse people, make them weepy or get them chuckling.

3. My inner voice: it wakes me up in the early morning; it has dialogue racing through my head; it sends me bright images, sly characters and snappy tales. It’s a strange kind of electricity, that inner voice.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What was your biggest distraction while working on All About Charming Alice?

[J. Arlene Culiner] I suppose my dogs are always a terrible distraction. Dogs are forever lying around at your feet, watching your every move. You know that all they want is to be touched, talked to, taken out for a walk. You are their whole life, and you certainly have to get up from time to time, give in to their wishes – even if you’d much rather stay put and keep writing. And then there are the cats… They come strutting by, and if you ignore them, they’ll roll over the computer keyboard, bump and rub against you until you pay attention to them and give them some love.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[J. Arlene Culiner]]  Limonov by the French writer Emmanuel Carrère. This brilliantly written book is not only the portrait of a Russian dissident, one of society’s rebels, it also presents 20th-21st century Russia, is an analysis of Russian literature and Russian authors. Limonov is even more than a book: it’s a whole journey.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[J. Arlene Culiner] I  can’t think of one book only. There were several that, as a child, opened the window to life, gave it another dimension. One, Magic by the Lake, had a turtle that granted wishes, and ever after I always hoped I’d find the right lake so that adventure would come to me too. Then there was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis in which, by simply walking into a closet, four children find themselves in an alternate world. Believe me, after devouring that, I tried out every wardrobe, closet and closed door in every single house I passed through. But perhaps it was those Trixie Belden books that taught me that there were adventures and mysteries to be found in even the most boring, domestic settings.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[J. Arlene Culiner] I’m an amateur musician. I play the oboe, English horn, oboe d’amore, flute, piccolo and bombarde, and I play every chance I get – with four different bands, two orchestras, two chamber music groups and a double reed group. I go on workshops, travel all over France to play with different musicians and give concerts. If that isn’t an obsession, I don’t know what is.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[J. Arlene Culiner] They can come visit my site and write to me there: www.j-arleneculiner.com

They can come see my blog, read the – sometimes provocative – articles I write, and tell me what they think: j-arleneculiner.over-blog.com

And they can also write to me at jarleneculiner@gmail.com

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

Purchase link

About the book:

Alice Treemont has given up hope of meeting the right man and falling in love. Living in depopulated Blake’s Folly, a quirky community of rusting cars, old trailers, clapboard shacks and thirsty weeds, she spends her time cooking vegetarian meals, rescuing unwanted dogs and protecting the most unloved creatures on earth: snakes. What man would share those interests? Certainly not Jace Constant whose life in Chicago includes elegant women, fine dining and contemporary art.

Jace has come to Nevada to research the new book he’s writing, but he won’t be staying; as far as he’s concerned, Blake’s Folly is hell on earth. He’s disgusted by desert dust on his fine Italian shoes, dog hair on his cashmere sweaters and by desert bleakness. As for snakes, he doesn’t only despise them: they terrify him.

So how is it possible that each time Alice and Jace meet, the air sizzles? That she’s as fascinated by him as he is by her? That they know their feelings go deeper than raw desire? Still, it looks like this relationship is doomed before it starts: Jace won’t be around for long, and Alice wants to avoid the heartbreak of a short fling.

In need of some juicy romantic gossip, the other 52 residents of Blake’s Folly have decided Alice has been alone for long enough. The attraction between her and Jace is obvious to everyone, so why worry about essential differences? If you trust in love, solutions do appear. But don’t those solutions call for too many compromises, too much self-sacrifice

Review: Big Sky Summer by Linda Lael Miller

 

Title: Big Sky Summer

Author: Linda Lael Miller

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

 

The "First Lady of the West," #1 New York Times bestselling author Linda Lael Miller, welcomes you home to Parable, Montana—where love awaits.

With his father’s rodeo legacy to continue and a prosperous spread to run, Walker Parrish has no time to dwell on wrecked relationships. But country-western sweetheart Casey Elder is out of the spotlight and back in Parable, Montana. And Walker can’t ignore that his "act now, think later" passion for Casey has had consequences. Two teenage consequences!

Keeping her children’s paternity under wraps has always been part of Casey’s plan to give them normal, uncomplicated lives. Now the best way to hold her family together seems to be to let Walker be a part of it—as her husband of convenience. Or will some secrets—like Casey’s desire to be the rancher’s wife in every way—unravel, with unforeseen results?


Review:

I haven’t read a book by Linda Lael Miller in a long while, so when I saw this on Netgalley, I grabbed it.  The premise sounded interesting, and I was curious as to how everything would pan out for rancher protagonist Walker.  He has two teens that don’t know he’s their father. Now that superstar Casey Elder has settled down in town, Walker is going to see a lot more of those kids of his, but he can’t tell them that he’s their dad!  I had a hard time sympathizing with Casey, because she expected him to stay silent about his kids, and because she was denying them all a chance to  be a family.

I loved Walker, even though he’s a go with the flow kind of guy.  He appreciates the simple things in life; a good horse, his land, the beauty surrounding him.  He is lonely and doesn’t easily make connections with others.  His on again off again mess of a relationship with Casey is like a train wreck.  They met  on the rodeo circuit just as Casey’s music career was about to take off, and after she discovers she’s pregnant, she lies and tells him that the baby isn’t his.  She’s worked long and hard to make it to the big time, and she’ not about to become some rancher’s wife. 

After Walker gets her pregnant again (!) she has to fess up.  She insists that Walker’s participation in her strange little family remain a secret, and shame on him, he agrees.  This is the one less than noble decision that he makes, and he spends the rest of the book regretting it with every breath he breathes.  He realizes how much he is hurting both his kids and himself by obeying Casey’s demands, and as he is torn up over it.  He has missed out on watching his kids grow up, and he’s become resentful of Casey for locking him out of so much of their childhoods.  When she settles down in Parable, he begins to see just how much of their lives he has missed out on, and it doesn’t make him happy.

This is the fourth book in the Swoon-Worthy Cowboys series, and other than the first confusing chapter, where we are reintroduced to previous couples in the series, I didn’t have any trouble diving in to this installment.  I did go back and grab the rest of the books because I enjoyed this one so much.  The writing is engaging, and I enjoyed all of the characters, though it took a while to warm up to Casey.  If I have to pick one aspect of the story that didn’t work for me, it’s that Walker is a baby-making machine, and every single time he and Casey hook up, she ended up pregnant.  Even though they used protection.  Somebody needs to sue the condom company for so many quality control failures!

If you are looking for a quick and surprisingly emotional read, Big Sky Summer is a perfect title to pack up in your beach bag.   It even gets some extra brownie points for featuring some many dogs so prominently. 

Check back later today for a chance to win a copy of  Big Sky Summer!

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher