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review 2015-09-20 00:00
Silver Belles and Stetsons
Silver Belles and Stetsons - Caroline Cl... Silver Belles and Stetsons - Caroline Clemmons,Margaret Tanner,Kathleen Ball,Cait Braxton,Carra Copelin,Kristin Holt,Lyn Horner,Susan Horsnell,Paty Jager,Hebby Roman I had the pleasure of reading an ARC of Marshal Mistletoe by Susan Horsnell.
If that's the standard of the rest of the stories it's going to be a wonderful collection and some new authors for me to follow.
This story is a western romance with action, drama, weddings, funerals and a kidnapping and beneath it all love. There was a lot going on but it all connected well and kept me engrossed. It's a favourite era of mine to read about in a country that's not native to me. The characters were real and I was there with them the whole way, hoping their luck would change and they could have their HEA. The author didn't disappoint me at all. I loved how it all came together in the end and I could see how their lives would continue on. 5 stars for this story.
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review SPOILER ALERT! 2015-06-26 07:00
Review: Bluebonnet Bride
Bluebonnet Bride - Caroline Clemmons

Title: Bluebonnet Bride [Men of Stone Mountain Book 3]

Author: Caroline Clemmons

Genre: Historical, Western, Romance

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis: He’s a by-the-book Texas sheriff; she’s on the run from a murder conviction...

 

When a tornado provides Rosalyn with the opportunity to escape the gallows, she collects her daughter Lucy and flees. They travel far enough West that Rosalyn believes she’s gone to the ends of the earth. She hopes she and Lucy will be safe in this remote North Texas town where she embarks on a new life as a dressmaker. If only she could avoid contact with people, especially the handsome sheriff who pops up every time she turns around. She fears either she or her chatterbox daughter may slip and reveal too much.

 

Joel Stone has been content with his life, even if it’s not the one he’d dreamed. His younger brothers are married and living nearby, his aunts have moved to Radford Springs, and he is respected for the efficient job he does as sheriff. When he meets the new widow in town, his instant attraction staggers him. She appears uninterested, but he is determined to win her hand in marriage.

 

But life doesn’t turn out the way either Rosalyn or Joel plan. They overcome temporary obstacles, but what of the secret she protects? Can he save her from the gallows?

 

WARNING - SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT - REVIEW BELOW

 

Once again, let's start with the cover:  it's another cut and paste job, only this time it's super-obvious. The white background behind the model can still be found like a halo around her head. Unfortunately, she's also a completely different model (and much older) than the one represented on the back cover.... and despite the fact that they're supposed to be living in historical times, they both have massive amounts of makeup on. Sigh.

 

That being said, like the book before it, I found this one to be a bit of a mixed bag. It's clear, easy to follow, and interesting... the plot is a good one: woman escapes from nearly being hung for a crime she didn't commit, and finds herself fleeing to the middle of nowhere and falling in love with a member of the law who at any moment may discover her deep dark secret. It's a good premise. Unfortunately, like the other books in the series, the characters lacked a sense of depth, and the events in the book were a little too convenient to be believable.

 

I think my least favorite character was probably Joel. Here's this guy who's a Texas sheriff, seems to have his life pretty much well in order - he takes care of his brothers, he's good in the community, and he has a big ole house he's working on renovating. He obviously had all his ducks in a row and was a responsible, level-headed guy. Right? Except nearly the moment he meets Rosalyn and her daughter Lucy, he's smitten. We're talking full-out puppy-love where he practically invites himself into her company and goes all gooey-eyed. He acted like a 40-yr-old virgin, desperate for affection. It wasn't endearing, and it wasn't sweet, it was roll-your-eyes "are you serious?".

 

Rosalyn, on the other hand, was probably one of my favorite characters, because she looked at Joel pretty much the same way I did "Really? Back off dude." All she wanted to do was raise her daughter in anonymity, and run her struggling dress-shop. She was a hard worker, practical, and cautious. It fit her situation, and I loved her for it.  Unfortunately, circumstances were against her, and it seemed that at every turn, something drastically awful was happening to her. It started with a hurricane that leveled the jail she was waiting in (though didn't harm her), then the fire... that burned her dress shop and endangered her daughter's room, but didn't harm anyone in the family, and she was able to salvage some of her shop-equipment/materials, thereby forcing her to move in with the sheriff. Like I said, it all seemed just a little too convenient.

 

Also, I think the secondary characters were a bit too much like props and too little like actual people. They all either seemed to love Rosalyn and Lucy or they hated their guts and wanted them crushed. They showed up for brief mentions here and there, but really didn't have much impact on the story (even when it was obvious the author was using them to drive the plot... like the angry school teacher that burned down Rosalyn's house). I found their hatred of her to be very manufactured.  It was a convenient way to make events happen, but the attempt at tension fell flat for me.

 

So did I like the story? Yah. I did. It was a fun afternoon read, and while it wasn't "great writing", it did hold my interest, and there's something to be said for that. Would I recommend it to other people? Maybe if they needed a book to read at the doctor's office... but I don't think I'd be shoving the book in their hands shouting "READ THIS!". If you like sweet, happy ending historical romances, then give this a try. It's cute, and it's a great afternoon read.

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review 2015-06-25 07:00
Review: High Stakes Bride
High Stakes Bride - Caroline Clemmons

Title: High Stakes Bride [Men of Stone Mountain 2]

Author: Caroline Clemmons

Genre: Historical, Western, Romance

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis: Mary Alice Price is on the run from dangerous men. She had known that when her stepfather died, she would have to hurriedly escape her stepbrothers. Hadn’t she heard them promise her to the meanest man in Texas as payment for high stakes gambling losses?


One misfortune after another devils her until she links up with Zach Stone. He looks sturdy as his last name and invites her to his ranch where his two aunts will chaperone them. She figures life finally dealt her a winning hand.

 

Zach Stone has the sweetest ranch in all of Texas, at least he thinks he does. All he needs is a wife to build his family of boys and girls to carry on his ranch and name. He’s been jilted and vows he will never even speak to a woman again unless she's a relative.


Then he comes across Alice Price and comes up with a crazy plan. He’s figured everything out, and is sure nothing can go wrong with his plan.


But life holds many surprises for Alice and Zach...

 

WARNING - SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT - REVIEW BELOW

 

First off, let's start with the cover: It's not that the cover was bad--considering the multitude of really awful covers I've seen on self-published book this past year, this one was actually decent (other than the huge amount of text)... that is until I got to the back cover. Someone had the ingenious idea to copy and paste completely unrelated photos of a model and a little boy dressed up in a cowboy costume, and his little dog. I know that as a writer, we all need our little "headshots" of models to use as reference for our characters. I love the practice, but it'd be nice if those random photos weren't used in lieu of an actually planned cover. It came across as cheap and home-made. I would have preferred a blank back cover with only a synopsis to what amounted to clipart.

 

As for the story...it was a mixed bag--and don't get me wrong, this isn't a bad book. Like the previous of the series that I read, the writing was clear, fast-flowing, and engaging. Unfortunately, it was also convenient.

 

 Things just seemed too easy for the characters, and it lacked a lot of the tension that I loved about the first book in the series. Here's this man who need a bride, and poof! There's one available (though the author did try to make it seem as if the main male lead wasn't ever going to consider her). He wants a family? Poof! There was a orphaned boy who needs a home and just happened to be living on his property. 

 

Do you see where I'm going with this? The characters didn't seem to have to work hard to get to any of the main points of the story. Things just fell into place around them, and while that was cute and endearing at times, it lacked the active punch and draw of having struggled to get those things. Also, the use of the term "forever home" really irritated me. It's a very modern, fluffy way of saying "permanent home" that I'm 100% sure wasn't used in historical times. To hear the characters use it... well, it stuck out as sloppy. If you're going to write a historical story, I honestly believe the lingo of the day and age (however non-politically correct we find it now) should be used. It adds a level of depth to the storytelling that is sorely needed in this type of book and was absent in this one.

 

The romance, at least, was much better in this book, I felt than the previous book. There was a definite attraction to the main characters, and it was fun watching them struggle to fit together despite their circumstances. In the end, was it my favorite western historical romance? Not by a long shot, but it was a good one, and I'd still recommend it to anyone looking for a light afternoon read with loveable characters.

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review 2015-06-23 07:00
Review: Brazos Bride
Brazos Bride - Caroline Clemmons

Title: Brazos Bride [Men of Stone Mountain 1]

Author: Caroline Clemmons

Genre: Historical, Romance, Suspense

Rating: 4 Stars (rounded up from a 3.7)

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Description/Synopsis: Hope Montoya knows someone is poisoning her, but who? She suspects her mother was also poisoned and knows her father was murdered. Who wants her family eliminated? She vows to fight! She realizes she won’t last the eight months until she turns twenty-five and her uncle no longer controls her or her estate. Never will she be dominated by a man as she was by her father, as she has seen her mother and grandmothers dominated. If she marries, she gains control now, but only if she weds a man she can trust. Only one man meets her requirements. Can she trust him to protect her and capture the killer...but then to leave?

 

Micah Stone has been in love with Hope since the first time he saw her. But he was accused of her father’s murder and surely would have hung if not for his two brothers’ aid. Most in the community still believe him guilty. But the drought has him too worried about water for his dying cattle to care about his neighbors’ opinions. When Hope proposes a paper marriage in exchange for land on the Brazos River and much-needed cash, her offer rubs his pride raw. His name may be Stone, but he’s not made of it. He can’t refuse her for long, and so their adventure begins.

 

WARNING - SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT - REVIEW BELOW

 

I was lucky enough to get a chance to read three books of this series all in a row, and I have to say that out of the group, this one was my favorite. The story is a romantic, western, suspense story about Hope Montoya, a woman who's been poisoned, and fears for her life. In an attempt to escape the person who's trying to murder her, and may have already murdered her mother and father, she propositions a neighboring rancher (Micah Stone) into marrying her. Marriage signs over the entirety of her family's estate to herself - and is the only way she can think of to gain control of a situation that is quickly spiraling downward.

 

Now, I'm a huge romance fan and a mediocre suspense fan. It's not that I don't like mysteries, thrillers, or suspense novels, they just aren't my favorite genre's. However, I actually preferred the suspense portion of this book to the romance. It was fun trying to guess who was really poisoning Hope, and right up until the very end, I really didn't have a clue. It was a nice change of pace to go into a story where I couldn't guess the outcome. On the other side of the coin though, the romance was rather lack-luster. The kindest way to describe Micah Stone is "lost puppy syndrome". He was completely smitten by Hope, and had been for years when the story started- but that was all about her beauty. He wasn't in love with her for her personality, he hardly even knew her. I can understand someone being in lust with a beautiful woman... but to really truly love her without really knowing her? I found it hard to believe, and it made him come across as a bit of a weak character.

 

Hope, sadly, was also a weak character. She was literally too weak to take care of herself when the story started, which was understandable considering she'd been poisoned for months, but on top of that, her personality didn't balance out the weakness like I'd expected. She was your typical historical heroine that was doe-eyed and naive. Frankly, as a couple, Hope and Micah were meant for each other, in a sappy, almost too sweet to stand it sort of way.

 

So why did I give it four stars? Because other than the romantic bits, the writing was good. I felt engaged with the story. It read through quickly, and I didn't feel the need to skim or re-read passages. That's not to say that the writing didn't have its faults (I'll get to that), but it was clear and interesting, and those are qualities that I always look for in good books. The plot itself was also well done. I liked the mystery and murder, and I liked the concept of the two main characters joining in a marriage of convenience. These sorts of romances are usually highly entertaining - mostly because the characters usually don't want to be married, and this creates all kind of tension and conflict. At the core, this was a good book. I enjoyed reading it.

 

Unfortunately, for being categorized as a Romance above all else, the Romance fell flat. It was odd, but every time a romantic scene came up, the dialog suddenly became very forced and unnatural--it was almost comical. It felt as if the author was almost embarrassed to write the romantic bits. The story would go from strong, clear narrative to stiff and unnatural the moment the main characters started getting romantic. Here's an example for you:

"Are you sure? I want what we shared once before. I won't be able to hold you and not ask for more."

"I want more, too." She extinguished the lamp and slid her arms around his waist.

"I've needed you more than you can imagine. I can't rein in my desire much longer." He wrapped her in his embrace.

"Whatever control I had, it is gone." Hope pressed her face against his bare chest.

It doesn't sound natural. He says something, she mimics him. He says something else, she mimics him again. It's not romantic, and it's not convincing. This is the main reason I marked this down from 5 stars. Overall, I liked the story. I was entertained, and I enjoyed the characters as individuals. I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a light afternoon read and enjoys murder mysteries. I just don't know that I'd recommend it for the romance.

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review 2014-06-29 17:43
Brazos Bride by Caroline Clemons
Brazos Bride - Caroline Clemmons

Synopsis:

 

Hope Montoya knows someone is poisoning her, but who? She suspects her mother was also poisoned and knows her father was murdered. Who wants her family eliminated? She vows to fight! She realizes she won’t last the eight months until she turns twenty-five and her uncle no longer controls her or her estate. Never will she be dominated by a man as she was by her father, as she has seen her mother and grandmothers dominated. If she marries, she gains control now, but only if she weds a man she can trust. Only one man meets her requirements. Can she trust him to protect her and capture the killer...but then to leave?

Micah Stone has been in love with Hope since the first time he saw her. But he was accused of her father’s murder and surely would have hung if not for his two brothers’ aid. Most in the community still believe him guilty. But the drought has him too worried about water for his dying cattle to care about his neighbors’ opinions. When Hope proposes a paper marriage in exchange for land on the Brazos River and much needed cash, her offer rubs his pride raw. His name may be Stone, but he’s not made of it. He can’t refuse her for long, and so their adventure begins.

 

This is the first historical western romance I have read in a while.  I use to only read historical romances, but then I branched out...I think it was after Jurassic Park (the movie) came out and I loved the it so much that I decided to read the book, then I started reading all kinds of genre's.  Anywhere from John Grisham to Suzanne Brockmann.  When Twilight came out, I started reading Paranormal/Fantasy and now since The Hunger Games came out,  I read a lot of Apocalyptic/Dystopian.  I'm rambling now...so back to this book.  

 

Brazos Bride made me realize I still really like historical romances.  You always know there will be HEA at the end.  

 

I had decided to give this 4 stars, until the ending.  It was a little too corny for me, so I deducted a half a star.  There were also a lot of "digital errors" in this book, especially towards the end.

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