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review 2017-10-18 05:55
Review: Wed to a Spy (All the Queen's Spies #1) by Sharon Cullen
Wed to a Spy: An All the Queen's Spies Novel - Sharon Cullen

Simon and Aimee are pretty much set to spy on each other and before they knew it, they are married. I am a super fan of the marriage of convenience and forced marriage genre so I was happy that I had the chance to read this story. Sadly it was not what I expected, not in the romance sense anyway. 

The romance between Aimee and Simon was too forced. I get that they had to marry because it was an order by the queen but their relationship was only beginning to simmer when the story was over. Clearly, there was a mutual attraction at the start of their marriage and what supposedly was a fondness for each other but where was that fondness even coming from as they were strangers? Simon sounded like a real character with personal commitments and frustrations. Aimee in comparison sounded like a lost puppy looking for a new owner. 

There are lost of intrigue since the story takes place at court so there is suspense and drama. If anything that intrigue was the most engrossing aspect of the story. When one of the characters at court is murdered, Simon and Aimee had to learn to trust each other in order to survive the rebellion that takes place at the castle. All of this happens in a relative short period of time and while interesting it still lacked that WOW effect that I would have loved to find in a novel about spies. It wasn’t a terrible read but it definitely needed more, specially in the romantic department.

** I received this book at no cost to me and I volunteered to read it; this is my honest opinion and given without any influence by the author or publisher.***
 

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review 2017-10-18 04:58
Review: With This Christmas Ring by Manda Collins
With This Christmas Ring - Manda Collins

Sweet yet emotional and passionate story. Tie-in for both of the author’s Studies in Scandal and Lords of Anarchy however it can definitely be read as a stand alone. 

The last person Merry wanted to see was her former fiancé however she was willing to do everything within her power to give her dead friend’s child the family she deserved. Alex never understood the reason Merry jilted him and when she appeared at his door seeking his cousin, he knew that was the perfect opportunity to find answers and perhaps ask for a second chance at love. 

I very much liked that the story started with Merry as a take-charge, brave, and intelligent woman however as the story progressed her attitude sort of changed and she started to sound meek, or perhaps insecure, and that gave me a"what-happened-to-her?" kind of sense. It wasn’t too bad but it still took away from the overall enjoyment of the story. 
Her chemistry with Alex was nonetheless well-balanced. He was sweet, honorable, and passionate. He was a man of his word who respected family and friends immensely, particularly his grandmother given that she was the one who had taken care of him since he was a child. He never pushed Merry to do anything she didn’t want and allowed her time to think and answer all of his questions. I think both their characters were well rounded in the sense that we get to understand what got them to be where they are and how much they deserved their HEA. 
I’m not so sure what to think about the villains, though. One of the arcs sounded inconclusive and even implausible and the other one, well, I’m still wondering about that one. Still, the main romantic arc was what made this story worth my time and I do recommend it to anyone looking for a Christmas romantic story. 

** I received this book from the author at no cost to me and I volunteered to read it; this is my honest opinion and given without any influence by the author or publisher.***

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review 2017-10-17 21:33
Little Secrets
Little Secrets - Anna Snoekstra

By: Anna Snoekstra

ISBN: 9780778331094

Publisher: MIRA

Publication Date:  10/17/2017 

Format:  Paperback 

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

 

Anna Snoekstra returns following her dark and edgy debut, Only Daughter, with her second psychological suspense thriller, LITTLE SECRETS — an arsonist, a cop, porcelain dolls, a stranger, dark secrets, mystery, and a journalist are all part of a dying town. 

Rose Blakey is living in the small town of Colmstock, Australia. a small town. She is tired of the dead-end job at the Eamon’s Tavern Hotel and her dead-end life. 

After the car factory shut down the town had quickly lost its sense of purpose. Small enough to have a strong community, but big enough that you could walk down the street without recognizing every person you passed.

Everything and everyone seemed broken and ugly. People were not friendly. Crime was up. People had meth habits. She wanted out. She is a journalist. 

The local paper had closed with all the setbacks. She was still on a list for a larger national paper. It had been a wealthy town with its grand buildings. Now cracked and weathered. 

The mines closed in the eighties. The newspaper closing, had been the worst for her. 

A boy had died. Ben Riley. He had been only thirteen and was brain damaged. He acted like a kid instead of a teen but everyone liked him. His parents owned the local grocery store. 

A fire at the courthouse. Bored teens or a psycho? Since the high school had been closed down, the crime was worse. 

Then there was Senior Sergent Frank Ghirardello. He was hot for Rose since she started working there. His partner Bazza was a good looking buy. Frank could picture them double dating. Mia, Rose’s friend with Bazza and he with Rose.

She had written about everything including the search for the arsonist. Regardless of the topic, there were endless rejections. 

Rose wonders about the mysterious newcomer, Will. 

Then someone was leaving porcelain dolls on the doorsteps of houses. Plus the dolls looked like the little girls in the respective home. Creepy. 

 



If she does not get a good paying job, she will never escape this dark town. She was living on borrowed time. Most people in the town had given up, trying to escape. She would not give up on her dreams. 

She would write about the “Porcelain Terror in Colmstock.”After all, everyone loved a good mystery. Is there a link to child molesters and pedophiles?

There is also the mum, stepfather, and the younger siblings. If she could learn more about the fire and person behind the dolls, it would help her stories.

Rose gets caught up in the stories. She may be making things worse. She needs to dramatize the stories for flair. The person who had left the dolls was marking his victims. Some monster had her sister.

“Hack journalist wanting their piece of the pie, religious groups looking for a cause, children’s groups trying to find a new level of outrage, they were all here.”

The entire town felt changed, paranoid and suspicious. It was her fault. Did the truth matter? 

. . . "People didn’t care about human life like she’d thoughts they did. People cared about purity, they cared when something unexpected happened, something that confirmed the deep-seated fears they already held. They wanted black and white, someone was good or someone was bad and nothing in between."

If something didn’t sound good in a headline, it wasn’t news. 

From a bleak remote town pulled down by its economic misfortunes and crime, there is a sense of ongoing claustrophobic darkness infiltrating the town. 

Gloom and doom. A town of devastation. From police misconduct, an old mine, desperation, drug trafficking, as well as being overwhelmed by arson attacked and the highly publicized porcelain doll case. 

On an emotional level, there is betrayal, dark secrets, revenge, tension, domestic abuse, anger, rage, friendship, menace, evil, lust, unhappy families, and envy. A need to protect. A means of survival. Fear. Coverups. 

The author creates Rose, a complex woman who wants nothing more than to escape this Aussie town. She is desperate. However, how far will she go? 

Not a "feel good" kind of book; however, some intriguing twists and turns you do not see coming. Several of the characters had plans, with good intentions in the beginning, but their plans unravel and ignite a spark which spirals out of control. Creating havoc for many. The butterfly effect. 

The author does a good job of creating that “Noir” feeling and a sense of dark foreboding lurking with mystery, suspense, and tragedy — throughout the book. 

A lot of tug-and-pull between characters; at war, with one another and themselves. The characters are deeply flawed and everyone seems to wear a mask. A good pick for Halloween. 

A town full of little secrets and big lies. For those who enjoyed Big Little Lies and The Blackbird Season,  in a rural darker Australian remote setting. 

A special thank you to MIRA and NetGalley for an advanced reading copy. 

I also purchased the audiobook, narrated by Saskia Maarleveld(love her accent) for an engaging listening experience.

JDCMustReadBooks

Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2017/09/11/Little-Secrets
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review 2017-10-17 08:30
Cardinal Cabin
Cardinal Cabin - Joanne DeMaio

By:  Joanne  DeMaio

ISBN:  B074DZSDFS

Publisher: Joanne Demaio

Publication Date: 9/12/2017

Format: Kindle 

My Rating: 5 Stars  

Blog Tour Host Oct 18  

 

Congrats, the author's 10th Novel! 

 

CARDINAL CABIN A magical nostalgic holiday escape —with an ideal New England snowy rustic storybook setting! Great to catch up with familiar characters from DeMaio's previous books.  Join me Oct 18 Blog Tour Host. 

Bestselling author, Joanne Demaio returns to magical New England following The Beach Inn (summer) and her famous Christmas editions: Wishing on Snowflakes, a holiday collection of two books—Snowflakes and Coffee Cakes and Snow Deer and Cocoa Cheer with her latest holiday getaway to CARDINAL CABIN — another enchanting holiday adventure of unexpected love and humor, surrounded by a magical snowy rustic setting.

"Making the birds even more special, folklore has it that cardinals grant wishes . . . When you see a cardinal, make a wish. But the important part. . . After making the wish, close your eyes, tight. . . If the cardinal is still there when you open your eyes, legend has it your wish will come true."

Frank Lombardo (33) and his sister Gina own Addison Boathouse, the crown jewel of Addison. Serving a dual purpose, the summer months it is the main attraction for outdoor events with kayaks and canoes. 

During the winter months, it is known for its weddings and Christmas party season as a premier waterfront venue at Snowflake Lake. With weeks of decorating the final touches are being completed. The brother-sister team carry out the legacy of their dad's business, turning it over to them to carry on. 

Gina is married with a son and wants her brother to find love. He does not like discussing his single-status with his prying sister. He has purchased the large English Tudor home from his parents and she is bugging him about not decorating it for Christmas. Why bother? What for? 

In addition to this business, he also is a part-time lumberjack at the cabin rentals. 

Gus Haynes, the owner in his seventies, and getting older and with his wife’s passing, needs help with the rustic cabins nestled in the snowy woods among the silver and sugar maples, willows, birch and elm trees. 

From splitting logs to keep the wood burning stoves, snow clearing, and the seasonal chores of the property.

Of course, his sister reminds him he is taking himself "off the market" by working out in the woods for Gus on the weekends. After all, “who do you ever expect to meet out in the woods?” She urges him to be spontaneous. “Find yourself a girl for the holidays.” 

The last thing Frank wants is holidays and weddings. He enjoys escaping in the woods to keep his mind occupied away from match-making and his sister pushing him into a romance. 

Little does Frank know he may stumble upon the girl of his dreams in these same woods.

Penny Hart has never ridden on a snowtorcycle before; however, appears this is the only way around in the woods to her rented cabin, driven by Gus. 

Cardinal Cabin is among the small little charming rustic A-frame cabins and bungalows surrounding a secluded lake. She is here for a two-week stay and no one knows her whereabouts, except for Gus, the driver.

Penny Hart, (33) is single and in marketing with a travel company— Addison’s Suitcase Escapes. She is hiding out for two weeks for a merry mystery. A secret undisclosed destination even to her coworkers. 

She must furnish clues and people will need to guess her location. The winner will receive a getaway to the respective location. She must keep a low profile while here so her secret stays safe during the promotion. 

“Guess Travel Agent’s Holiday Hideaway for a Chance to Win the Getaway.” On Christmas Eve one lucky entrant will be drawn to win an all expense weekend getaway at Hart’s secret New England locale. 

‘Tis the season for adventure and Yuletide surprises, plus an unexpected romance. 

As much as she treasures her own cozy apartment, she is excited when she sees her cabin all decorated for Christmas with even a tree. She has the feeling she has stepped into a woodland fairy tale. 

The true beauty and magic were the many cardinals. . . "Each one looked like pretty red ornaments on the soft, snow-laden pines." 

Then she spots a handsome lumberjack. Just like an old-fashioned movie or a nostalgic wintry postcard. She slips and falls on the ice and her cocoa travel mug and journal goes flying along with her blanket. Guess who spots her and picks her up?

Frank even kisses her before he thinks about what he is doing. Spontaneity? All he knows is that her name is Penny and she fell in the snow. They both are shocked and delighted at the same time. A mystery woman? A mystery man? They are embarrassed but excited. However, both decide they will get back to work and pretend this never happened. But can they? 

Penny has to start with clues. She needs to keep her mind on her work, not a romance with a man she just met. She has to be creative with photos so as not to give too much away. 

In the meantime, readers get to reacquaint themselves with characters from previous books at Whole Latte Life coffee shop and catch up with Wes and Jane and their upcoming wedding, among others.

Frank soon learns Penny’s identity as well as Gus. Gus is a true romantic at heart and his wife loved the Cardinal Cabin. With a little "added help" and creative planning from Gus (he reminds me of Santa), the two lovebirds are pushed towards one another. 

We also catch up with Greg (Wes' brother from a previous book) the doctor, which is not a welcome visit from Frank’s perspective. He always is after the ladies. 

However, pictures are worth a thousand words. Appears there is a spark of romance in the woods. But can the magic of this quaint New England town keep these snowy sweethearts together? Will cardinal wishes come true?

. . . "The magic of travel isn't always about how far you roam. It's about keeping your curiosity and sense of adventure even while close to home. Life can then take you in new and surprising directions." 

 

 



From the hush of the woods, soft and calming, to the sparkling white snow, twinkling lights, and crackling fire, Joanne transports readers to a picturesque setting for her annual holiday edition with vivid imagery, descriptive holiday delights, and lovable characters. 

With a little magic, romance, nostalgia, silver bells, and holiday cheer another heartwarming story! (loved Gus's character)

Being from South Florida, where it is sunny and warm year round, I look forward to my annual trip to wintry New England without the costly travel expense and extensive planning. Just turn down the A/C, close the shutters, grab a throw and a cup of tea or espresso and the author takes you on a magical adventure from the comfort of your own home. 

I am especially fond of rustic, and miss my log cabin in Big Canoe, GA surrounded by deer, trees, lakes, and blankets of snow. This charming story took me back to those fond memories of past Christmases in the mountains.

If you have not read Joanne Demaio books, you are missing a rare treat. I have read all her books and anxiously await the next. I continue to say, her series are prime for the Hallmark Channel! Still looking forward to each of them "coming alive" on the big screen.

JDCMustReadBooks

Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2017/07/04/Cardinal-Cabin
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review 2017-10-17 05:42
Tricky
Off the Ice (Hat Trick) - Avon Gale

Tristan is a hockey player who knows he cannot play the sport forever.  He makes plans for the future.  Going back to school is the best solution.  Being attracted to his teacher, is just not an option.

 

Sebastian does not want to be attracted to his student.  He needs to stop dreaming and thinking of the one man he cannot have.  But, it seems like it might be mutual....

 

These characters were just such a joy to read.  I am not a fan of the teacher or forbidden trope.  In this story, it just works.  I will not spoil it for you - but I really am looking forward to reading more in this Hat Trick series.  These authors never disappoint.  I give this book a 4/5 Kitty's Paws UP!

 

 

*** This ARC copy was given in exchange for an honest review from Netgalley and its publishers.

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