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review 2020-03-07 23:39
Starting Over at Blueberry Creek by Annie Rains
Starting Over at Blueberry Creek: Includes a bonus novella (Sweetwater Springs) - Annie Rains

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

After Brenna's parents were killed in car accident, she gave up college and lost her fiance to take care of her younger sister. Running her mother's bakery has made her a nice living but it is not her dream. After her sister moves out and starts her dream job, Brenna can't help but think it is time for her to get a second chance at her dreams.

Luke is new to Sweetwater Springs but he's already acting fire chief, finding himself in the middle of a sister fight, and falling for his neighbor.

Brenna and Luke think they know what they want in life but they're going to find out what they need.

 

So we agree. Neither of us is kissing the other,” he said.

 

New to the Sweetwater Springs series, others could start comfortably here, like I did, and not feel lost in the series. I enjoyed the easy pace and lead in to this small town and Brenna and Luke's lives. These two have been neighbors for a couple months but Luke has been a bit standoffish because of a relationship that went sour that he had with his previous neighbor in a different town. I thought there could have been more background on this relationship as I didn't really grasp the emotional importance of it and why it made it so Luke didn't want to even become friends with Brenna. His reservations don't last very long though and he finds himself with Brenna pretty soon.

 

They were taking things slow but his racing heart had somehow missed the message.

 

Brenna's character had a quiet composure, even when she snaps a bit and throws banana pieces at her sister. She came off solid as she stepped up to take care of Eve, her sister, even while Eve acts immature and bratty to her. I would have liked to have more scenes with her aunt and friends to draw her character personality out more. Brenna and Luke were pleasant together, this was a kissing but bedroom door closed story, so their friendship on the road to love was highlighted more than their physical relationship. They have some hurdles to get over, Brenna thinking a long distance relationship would never work and Luke not wanting to open up about the burns on his back that he received in a fire that killed his brother, but for some ending quick dramatic fighting, they were a pretty relaxed couple.

 

He leaned toward her, pinning her with his gaze. “So what is it you want in this moment, Brenna?”

You,” she said simply.

 

I thought the story could have benefited from utilizing of the setting, involving the town and townspeople more, the most shown secondary character was Eve and she was more irritating with her immaturity than young growing pains. The fire station scenes didn't provide a lot for Luke's character as most involved Eve and another firefighter who disrespected Luke, to the point that they mouth-off when Luke catches them about to make-out at work, the scenarios lacked a feeling of professionalism, thus realness. The characters also seemed to jump from point A to point B, without a connecting thread between. Brenna was at work then home, Luke was at work then home, the writing flow was fine but substance that makes a story fulfilling was missing for me.

 

The bedroom door closed and more low-key story and couple could be elements others would enjoy. If you're a reader of the Sweetwater Springs series then you'd probably enjoy revisiting the town and residents more than a new to the series reader like me.

 

 

 

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review 2020-02-25 23:09
Overruled
The Two-Date Rule - Tawna Fenske

Willa meets the hunk of a lifetime while her friends are enjoying strippers.  She assumes he is one of them.  Instead he has a solid job, and a sexy body, and moves she has never before seen.

 

Grady cannot believe he bargained a date with the most beautiful woman he has ever seen over a trip to the bathroom for three women.  He only knows he cannot wait to see her again.  He is rethinking all of his own ideas about dating after meeting Willa.

 

Such a sexy and fun story!  Just what I have come to enjoy from this author.  These characters made me laugh.  That is always welcome in a romance book.  I found this one had a lot of surprises and the best one you must read this book for.  I give this read a 5/5 Kitty's Paws UP!

 

 

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

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review 2020-02-24 00:46
Unforgiven by Jay Crownover
Unforgiven (Loveless) - Jay Crownover

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

Kody and Hill have history, the kind where Kody was engaged to Hill's brother and Hill harbored a secret love for her. Kody resented Hill for taking a step back from her and his brother and after his brother killed himself, Kody barely wanted to speak to Hill.

Now that they're older and Hill is assisting in the investigation into Kody's father's murder, there is no escaping each other.

They've had a painful past but maybe there's love in their future.

 

I never want to see you again, Hill Gamble. I hate you.”

 

Second in the Loveless, Texas series, Unforgiven gives us Kody Lawton and Hill Gamble's story. A novella and first in the series starred Kody's brothers, Case and Crew, while giving reader's glimpses at the pain and unresolved feelings between Kody and Hill. The author does a great job of recapping anything you might need to know from the series and I would say you could comfortably pick this up without reading the rest in the series.

 

Half the time I don't know if I'm helping or hurting things where you're concerned. I'm always trying my best to do right by you, Kody, trying to be all the different things you need me to be. I failed at that task once before. I don't want to let you down again.”

 

Hill is back in town to help assist in the murder investigation for Kody's father. He was an abusive alcoholic who made Kody and her brother's childhood miserable and while he was sheriff, he committed many corrupt acts; due to this, the murder suspects could be endless. While the murder investigation is the reason to keep Hill in town, the majority of the story is focused on the relationship between Kody and Hill.

 

I thought the author did a good job showing the emotional struggle of Hill feeling guilty for having feelings for Kody and distancing himself from her and his brother because of it and how Kody not realizing his feelings, being angry with how she felt he abandoned them. I thought there was some repetitiveness with Kody going over and over how Hill wasn't there for her and how she had always saw him as her protector only to have him cut her off, in the first half. However, I did think it gave some emotional heft to the story and Kody's character when Kody works through why she pushed away her feelings for Hill in the beginning and accepted, transferred them to Hill's brother.

 

He kissed me back in a way that made me wonder if he'd been secretly fantasizing about this moment for as long as I had.

 

Kody had her frustrating immature moments at times, due to age and/or simply impulsive personality type but our Texas Ranger Hill was the perfect calm, cool, and collected hero who burned hot for her. I thought the war he battled with himself in wanting to help his brother with his issues of bipolar and depression but not being able to be around Kody when he felt so deeply for her were expressed emotionally through the writing.

 

Could a guy like him, controlled, concise...and, more importantly, honest and law-abiding, even have feelings for someone as messy and reckless as I was?

 

The murder mystery involving Kody's father is only half-way solved, in that it is revealed who was most likely responsible but that the person isn't caught. The whole murder mystery comes off as its sole purpose was to bring in the character Presley, who turns out to be a secret half-sister to Kody and her brothers. She looks to be the heroine in the next book along with Kody's friend Shot, the President of a motorcycle club called the Son's of Sorrow. If you're looking for more of focus on a friends-enemies-lovers with second chance-ish romance, this would be it. Internal character dialogue with emotional searching and growth that slowly changes into external between Kody and Hill is most of this book rather than outside plot threads driving the show.

 

I enjoyed the return to Loveless and liked how the author has interwoven the characters, loved how Kody and the two past heroines have invited Presley to their girl's night. I'm definitely looking forward to reading how Presley and Shot get together.

 

You. My entire world looks like you.”

It was about time, because mine had always looked like her.

 

 

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review 2020-01-31 19:56
Wicked Sinner by Stacey Kennedy
Wicked Sinner - Stacey Kennedy

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Asher broke Remy's heart when he abruptly broke up with her and now years later, he's been trying to be her friend but she doesn't know if her heart can take it. When he objects at her wedding, she can't stop the flutter of her heart. Unfortunately, it's to arrest her almost husband, turns out he was a conman just out for her inheritance.
When she finds what could be a fortuitous gift left behind by her scam artist ex, she jumps at the chance to start her dream business. However, Remy's luck might not be changing as a shady maybe tied to the mob guy shows up and the only one who can help her is Asher.

“One chance to be friends, Asher. That’s it. Mess this up, and we’re done. Forever.”

A second chance romance in the Dangerous Love series, Remy and Asher have quite the past. They were madly in love while Remy was in highschool and Asher graduated and went onto the Police Academy. Asher gets recruited by the FBI and after his mother commits suicide, he decides that all the dark emotion inside of him should be kept away from Remy and he leaves her behind in Maine while he goes to D.C. I didn't read the first in the series and I felt like I missed background emotion between these two. There was a good flashback scene to their breakup and then a quick recap of how Asher's been back for five years, Remy ignored him for the first couple and the last year has just started talking to him. This story starts with Asher claiming to just want to be friends with Remy and her thinking maybe she can but nervous that she still loves him.

This angst could have worked for me but Asher's thoughts and emotions constantly contradicted the “just friends”, one moment he was spouting how he only wanted friendship because of the darkness in him and then there were scenes where he is wanting to spend all day in bed with Remy and basically acting like he wanted a relationship with her. He wasn't warring internally with himself, just the writing ignoring the character conflict in favor of having them together.

No one made her laugh like Asher. No one made her feel as alive as Asher had. In that empty hollowness of her chest, a part of her wanted to feel a little piece of that again.

Remy's interest in New Age things gave her an interesting hook but the catalyst for the danger she gets put in, using money she found in her house that she assumed was her conman ex-fiance's, to start her dream business, gave her an aggravating clueless personality as the story went on. It's obvious from early on that she should tell Asher, who is a cop or any of her other two friends who are cops, that a maybe mob guy is after her because of the money she used. The group of friends the series seems to follow provided some good friendships for Remy. I liked how the other two women, Peyton (heroine from first book) and Kinsley (bestfriend of Remy and sister to hero from book one) supported and laughed with one another.

He cupped her face, then brought his mouth close to hers, and before he claimed the kiss, he said, “I’m here and I’m not going anywhere.”

This book seemed to have a little too much going on, the heavy issues Asher personally had to deal with (his mother's suicide, alcoholic father), Remy being in possible danger from the mob, and their healing from a painful past while trying to build a current romance; these threads never had focus or time enough to go into the depth I needed to get me emotionally involved. The ending was more anticlimactic for me as the have to marry for inheritance forced these two together at around the 85% mark and then gave a quick “oh I guess I do want to be married to you” turn around that provided no emotional fulfillment. Basically, Remy and Asher's journey didn't flow for me, they had some sweet moments but emotions, thoughts, and actions contradicted for sake of dragging the story out. There was a secondary romance teased between Kinsley and Rhett (Kinsley's brother's bestfriend and fellow cop) that might have me checking out the third in the series.

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review 2020-01-24 01:32
A Madness of Sunshine by Nalini Singh
A Madness of Sunshine - Nalini Singh

4.7 stars

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Anahera is going back to her hometown, a place that she never wanted to return to but somehow finds she needs the comfort of. While there, Miriama, a young beautiful girl disappears while out jogging and Anahera finds herself helping the new town cop, Will, uncover the secrets of Golden Cove and it's residents.

She returned home two hundred and seventeen days after burying her husband while his pregnant mistress sobbed so hard that she made herself sick.

In this standalone, Singh has written an intoxicating mystery suspense. The writing was smooth in a way that sucked me in and wouldn't let me go; I was lost in the beautifully dark atmosphere. Readers are pulled in with the character of Anahera, a woman who grew-up in Golden Cove. Her father was an abusive alcoholic who her mother didn't kick out until he began to turn his abuse on Anahera. While she still has friends that live in Golden Cove, it's not a place of happy memories for her. The background Singh creates for Anahera, abusive father, widowhood that surprises her with a husband who cheated on her, and a miscarriage, all perfectly shapes the character we see on the pages, steely contained, strong, and heartfelt willing.

“Everyone has secrets,” he repeated after completing the maneuver. “It's often the people who look like they have no secrets at all who turn out to have the biggest ones.”

While we're led into the story by Anahera, she gives us the lay of the land and townspeople, the emotional aspect, the new town cop Will leads the technical, murder mystery part that takes over the middle of the story. As a reader, I was emotionally locked in the story because of how Singh quickly and thoroughly created a web spun with the townspeople from Anahera's experiences and feelings about them. This made me eager to follow along with Will as he gathered evidence and tries to piece together the how and why about Miriama's disappearance. While I didn't connect as much with Will, he had his own layered backstory of how he ended up in Golden Cove and gave credence to his feelings and actions. The focus of the story is the mystery of Miriama's disappearance but for those looking for it, the bonding relationship that develops between Anahera and Will, infuses the story with a slow burn romance.

That was the thing with this town---the way the gossip flowed, you'd think you knew everything. But there were secrets here, a thick tide of lava beneath the surface.

Along with the atmosphere and emotions evoked, the details that Singh includes made this story a cut above for me. How Will goes about the investigation and the facts and alluding he finds or is told along the way kept my eyes on everyone. When Will finds out that three woman hikers disappeared from the Golden Cove area fourteen years ago too, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. If you weren't feeling the atmosphere as much as I, I could see how the middle could drag a touch, as there might be considered one too many red-herring dancing to and away reasons given out. I also thought the villain(s) reveal started to creep into info dump reveal as it went on a beat too long. The ending also felt abrupt but it could be me just not wanting to say goodbye to these characters. A Madness of Sunshine was a small town mystery suspense that showcased the good, bad, and ugly of a small New Zealand town while chilling me to the soul at times and at others, having me smile through the tears.

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