Showing posts with label 4 stars. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 4 stars. Show all posts

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Review: The Pathways to the Heart by Mandi Ellsworth, Paula Kremser, E.B. Wheeler



My rating: 4 stars / I really liked it

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Synopsis

Finding love is a journey in these Regency and Western romance novellas.

The Courtship Cure
Mary Worthington has been raised in sheltered circumstances by her grandfather the duke, but now that her brother has inherited the title, he wishes her to marry well. Doctor Tyndale, a recently made baronet, is intrigued by elusive Mary, but he assumes she is the same social level as his patients and therefore not high enough to meet his father's approval. Can the two discover the truth - and love - in this Regency comedy of errors?

Hiding Gems
Matthew just wants to live in peace on his Oregon ranch. Pearl is seeking shelter for herself and two Chinese children after the 1886 riots drive them out of Seattle. The two are drawn together by their gentle hearts, but they will have to decide if they are willing to stand up and fight against fear and prejudice to find love.

Bootleggers and Basil
Helen Botsari arrives in 1920s Utah as a Greek picture bride, excited for a new life in a land of opportunity. When she discovers that her prospective groom was killed in a railroad accident, she finds herself alone in a foreign land that is increasingly hostile to immigrants. It is up to fellow immigrant Dimitrios Nikolaidis to convince her that America still holds a bright future for her.


My Review

I really enjoyed these stories! I'm always up for a good Regency, and it was fun to have a lady and a baronet both hiding their status while they serve in the local village. The second story was my favorite, and while it was a bit jarring to go from the manners of England to the backwoods of Oregon, with a switch to first person POV, I quickly grew to love Matthew, a gentle giant, and Pearl, the compassionate pillar of strength. Their friendship and romance bloomed naturally as they cared for the two young children and experienced the love of a family. They had such sweet chemistry! The last story shared a bit of history that I was unaware of- the Greek immigrants in the Salt Lake Valley of Utah. They experienced discrimination from a small part of the community, but I appreciated that the author pointed out that the Mormons also knew what it was like to be outsiders and didn't condone the racism. The two main characters are each feisty in their own ways, but learn to overcome their differences.

(I received a complimentary copy of the book; all opinions in this review are my own)


Monday, August 17, 2020

Review & Giveaway: The Gentleman Spy by Erica Vetsch


 
My rating: 4 stars / I really liked it

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Synopsis

He only wanted a duchess for a day―but she's determined to make it a marriage for life

When his father and older brother suddenly pass away, the new Duke of Haverly is saddled with a title he never expected to bear. To thwart the plans of his scheming family, the duke impulsively marries a wallflower. After all, she's meek and mild; it should be easy to sequester her in the country and get on with his life―as a secret agent for the Crown.

But his bride has other ideas. She's determined to take her place not only as his duchess but as his wife. As a duchess, she can use her position to help the lowest of society―the women forced into prostitution because they have no skills or hope. Her endeavors are not met favorably in society, nor by her husband who wishes she'd remain in the background as he ordered.

Can the duke succeed in relegating her to the sidelines of his life? When his secrets are threatened with exposure, will his new wife be an asset or a liability?



My Review

Charlotte is the kind of character that I find easy to relate to in fiction. She loves reading, wants to do what is right but also speaks up, even when it is unpopular, and is compassionate and sacrificial. I loved her newfound passion for helping unfortunate women and the way she developed confidence in herself and in her new role. Marcus has quite a bit on his plate being an unexpected duke, an undercover agent, and new groom. I wish we knew more about his emotions in the early stages of his relationship with Charlotte, but he was just too good at repressing and compartmentalizing. The intrigue of the mystery he is trying to solve comes and goes throughout the book and seems to slow the pace rather than increase it. I enjoyed the focus on Charlotte and the way she navigates the new relationships in her life- husband, difficult mother-in-law, genuine friends, secret half sister, and converted former madam. There is a faith element woven in that is not often emphasized in Regency fiction, and I appreciated the way it gave hope and inspiration to the characters. I hope there will continue to be more in this series!

(I received a complimentary copy of the book; all opinions in this review are my own)

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Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Review: A Well-Trained Lady by Jess Heileman



My rating: 4 stars / I really liked it

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Synopsis

Arabella Godwin is an Incomparable in London Society—elegant, wealthy, and meticulously trained. Yet, she has nothing to show for her efforts aside from her pretentious reputation and a collection of disappointed suitors. When her plan to secure a promising offer of marriage is temporarily delayed, she must bide her time in the company of an estranged childhood friend—the much-too-endearing, but regrettably untitled, Augustus Brundage.

As the friends’ tattered relationship returns to familiarity, Arabella must prevent herself from fully regressing into the carefree, impressionable young lady who once foolishly trusted Augustus with her heart. To make the same mistake again would ruin everything she has worked for—and certainly more.

But, can a heart be so easily trained?

My Review

Arabella drove me a just little crazy! Once she slowly sheds the insincere society persona she had embraced due to her mother's influence, she becomes actually likeable, and I could see why Augustus had fallen in love with her and was willing to give her another chance. She reminds me a bit of Jane Austen's Emma as she gives lessons to Ruth, trying to help improve her manners, when really Ruth has the important characteristics Arabella would do well to emulate. Augustus and Arabella have such fun banter, which were my favorite parts. Family secrets come to light and complicate Arabella's future, right when she was so close to grasping happiness. I was all tied in a knot as Arabella is caught between her parents and their own private agendas. This book had plenty of ups, downs, and twists leading to a perfectly satisfying happily-ever-after.

(I received a complimentary copy of the book; all opinions in this review are my own)



Don't miss the other books in the Seasons of Change series . . .











Review: Love's Mountain Quest by Misty M. Beller

My rating: 4 stars / I really liked it

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Synopsis

Young widow Joanna Watson is struggling to make a new home for her five-year-old son, Samuel, in the little mountain town of Settler's Fort. When she returns home from work to find Samuel and the woman watching him missing, with no lawman in town, she enlists a man she prays has enough experience in this rugged country to help.

Isaac Bowen wants nothing more than a quiet, invisible life in these mountains, far away from the bad decisions of his past. But he has a strong suspicion of who's behind the kidnapping, and if he's right, he knows all too well the evil they're chasing.

As they press on against the elements, Joanna fights to hold on to hope, while Isaac knows a reckoning is coming. They find encouragement in the tentative trust that grows between them, but whether it can withstand the danger and coming confrontation is far from certain in this wild, unpredictable land.


My Review

Boy, this one jumped right into the action! I felt like I quickly got to know Joanna and Isaac quickly through their actions and thoughts as they desperately search for her kidnapped son and friend. We experience the author's trademark perilous journey through the wilderness with various dangers and trying conditions. I was surprised that tracking the outlaws took up so much of the book, but it turned out that this was a long game situation since Isaac had a secret past that gave them an advantage in the pursuit. It's a mixed blessing since it brings more issues for Joanna to deal with after she's fallen for the rugged mountain man- overcoming mistrust and relying on the good man he is now. The scenes with the outlaws and Laura, the young woman they are holding captive, are a bit disturbing, which heightens the tension and suspense. I appreciated the spiritual message of turning to God in faith during our darkest hours, and also the theme of redemption and forgiveness. I'm glad that the next book in the series is about Laura so we can see her healing process from all she went through.

(I received a complimentary copy of the book; all opinions in this review are my own)



Don't miss the other books in the Hearts of Montana series . . .









Monday, July 6, 2020

Review: A Secret Arrangement by Heather B. Moore


My rating: 4 stars / I really liked it

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Synopsis

What happens when two women race to spend their inheritance? An epic Grand Tour.

Evelyn Tucker has finally graduated from finishing school, but dreads living with her widowed aunt. On the appointed day, Aunt Margaret comes to collect Evelyn, and Margaret informs her that they’re going on a Grand Tour to spend as much of the estate money they can before a distant cousin inherits all. When Henry Gaiman discovers he’s inherited his distant uncle’s estate, he loathes the thought of returning to England since he’d rather continue with his archaeology dig in Egypt. Return he must, and there, he meets Evelyn, a woman who will change his world in more ways than one.

(This novella was previously published in Timeless Victorian Collection: A Grand Tour)

My Review

This was a fun and exciting adventure that took us from the trains of England to the camels of Giza. Evelyn has been pretty sheltered and doesn't want to leave her best friend Beatrice at the boarding school. She gets quite the surprise to find her aunt so changed, and does her best to take the spontaneous travel plans in stride. Evelyn seems like the type where not much ruffles her, but she has so many feelings about the unexpected opportunities placed in her lap. I loved that she was such a history buff and surprises Henry with her knowledge of the ancient Egyptians. They are a perfect match, but Henry's fear of offending the woman bankrolling his dig leads him to make a surprising announcement about his relationship with Evelyn. The new complicated dynamics bring light drama to Evelyn's adventure and anxiety to Henry's hopes for the future. I enjoyed the characters in this novella and hope that the author will write Beatrice's story in a future Timeless Victorian Collection.

(I received a complimentary copy of the book; all opinions in this review are my own)


Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Review: The Danger with Fireworks by Robin Daniels



My rating: 4 stars / I really liked it

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Synopsis

Garland's love life took a rocky ride when his roommate started dating the girl he liked. It was inevitable, really. Somehow he always makes friends with "that guy"--the one who can get any girl he wants. It sucks, always feeling like the third wheel. So, when he's offered a position as a summer camp counselor, he jumps at the opportunity. It's the perfect chance to escape... in a place where he's not tied to best-friendship with a chick magnet.

However, from the moment he arrives, Garland realizes that the grass won't be any greener. He meets Chloe, a beautiful, energetic co-worker and they hit it off right away. Naturally, her ex--who's desperate to win her back--happens to be "that guy". Except this time it's different because there's nothing likable about Chloe's ex. And since there's no rule saying Garland has to be best buds with the resident lady bait, he decides it's time to challenge the status quo. For once, he's going to get the girl.

NOTE: This story can be read as a standalone, but it's better if the series is read in order.


My Review

Summer camp. So many words, feelings, stereotypes associated with it! I was surprised it was the setting for Garland’s story, but it was so fun. It definitely gave a summer vibe! There's a great cast of characters, and it was great to see Garland come into his own. The story is told from his perspective only, and I feel like the author nails the male mindset. Chloe is a bit of a spaz and I didn't really know how to take her at first, but she quickly grew on me as she and Garland get to know each other and have fun banter and chemistry. Some misperceptions keep Garland from acting on his feelings, bringing  angst and drama to the friendly dynamic. There's a good balance and steady pace as the antics of the campers and counselors provide a reading experience that is just plain fun.

(I received a complimentary copy of the book; all opinions in this review are my own)



Don't miss the previous books in the Holiday Romance series . . .







Review: The Reunion by Amy Matayo



My rating: 4 stars / I really liked it

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Synopsis

It’s been quite the year for the Hayes/Gamble family, but now things are looking up. When you’ve survived a tornado, a concert shooting, and being stranded on a deserted island, what else can possibly go wrong? After all, isn’t that the rule—three strikes, and you’re out?

That should totally be the rule.

Dillon Hayes has dreamed of her wedding day since childhood. Now, after months of planning, the chapel is booked, the invitations are sent, and the dress is ready and waiting. In only a few days’ time, Dillon will become Mrs. Liam Gamble in front of God, Tennessee, and everyone she loves.

But when a rare blizzard dumps piles of snow on Nashville and the entire southern region three days before the wedding, all that planning goes up in, well…snow. Businesses close. Flights are grounded. Roads are nearly impassible. Even the chapel now has a gaping hole in the middle of the roof and a giant mound of white powder blocking the aisle.

Dillon can feel her dreams dying one by one…and there’s nothing she can do to stop it. A year filled with one mishap after another can wear a person down. But what Dillon soon discovers is this: the death of one dream isn’t necessarily the end.

Sometimes it can lead to an even better beginning.


My Review

This final book in the Love in Chaos series brings us full circle as Dillon and Liam are just days away from walking down the aisle... and chaos ensues. It was great to revisit the couples from each book in the series as they are trying to support and get ready for the wedding while battling the elements. I especially enjoyed the parts with Riley and Chad since they were my favorite couple. She's in charge of baking the wedding cake then transporting it several hours as they drive to the wedding location. Nothing could go wrong there, could it? ;) Dillon's mom is drama as usual and Dillon has to find the strength in herself to stand up for what she really wants and what's most important... which is to be married to Liam. A great concluding novella to this exciting series!

(I received a complimentary copy of the book; all opinions in this review are my own)



Don't miss the previous books in the Love in Chaos series . . .






Sunday, June 28, 2020

Review: The Heiress's Convenient Husband by Regina Scott



My rating: 4 stars / I really liked it

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Synopsis

Grace-by-the-Sea: Where romance and adventure come home.

The magistrate over a little Regency coastal village, James Howland, takes pride in protecting Grace-by-the-Sea from ne’er-do-wells, including his distant cousin, the Earl of Howland. So, when he discovers a young lady hiding in the family’s castle, his heart cannot decide which comes first—her rescue or his duty.

Outspoken Eva Faraday has been exiled to the castle for refusing to marry the man the earl picked for her. Her late father appointed the earl trustee over her considerable inheritance, which she cannot access until she turns twenty-five or marries. And if she marries, her husband controls the money. She’s not about to trust any Howland, but James seems ripe for rebellion. To thwart the earl’s power, the two agree to a marriage of convenience, only to discover there are others intent on using the earl’s castle for nefarious purposes. Eva and James must work together to solve the mystery and stop the earl once and for all so they can make a marriage that is far more than convenient.


My Review

I love the contrasts in the close-knit community of Grace-by-the-Sea. There's a definite small village vibe, but the visitors to the spa and castle bring in fresh blood and new personalities. The excitement continues in this second book in the series (which can easily be read on its own) with a controlling and threatening earl, mysterious visitors to the castle, and the possibility of a French invasion. James has a history of placating the earl, until he established a local militia from the villagers in the last book. Eva is confidently defiant, and gives James what for as she takes up residence at the castle he is protecting and also investigating for use by nefarious spies or smugglers. It was fun to see Eva get to know the villagers and James when she was supposed to be on lockdown. Her genuine friendship with quirky chaperone/companion Aunt Maudie was heartwarming, and she easily develops strong feelings for James as together they rebel against the earl. James is empowered by her support and they face the earl together. The pace of the book is steady as their romance is woven in with a new doctor taking over the spa, displacing Jess as hostess, solving a dangerous mystery, and coming to terms with their future. I'm excited for more in this series!

(I received a complimentary copy of the book; all opinions in this review are my own)



Excerpt from The Heiress's Convenient Husband

He crossed his arms over his impressive chest. “Nevertheless, I must insist that you leave.”

Was every Howland this pig-headed? If only she could wash her hands of the lot of them! But the earl was trustee over her funds, and he would give her nothing unless she bent to his will. This man might find it acceptable to live like that. She didn’t.

“And I must insist that we stay,” she said. “I promise to disturb as little as possible. I’ll need a bedchamber, a withdrawing room, the dining room and kitchen, and quarters for the staff. From what I can tell, that’s less than a quarter of the space in this pile.”

She thought she caught a sigh. “The castle hasn’t been used as a long-term habitation in years. You’ll need coal, candles, food. How do you intend to pay for them?”

She smiled. “I intend to put them on the earl’s credit. He sent me here. He can pay for the privilege.”

“No,” he said, tone as solid as his chin. “The budget here doesn’t allow for such expenses.”

She waved a hand. “Then send the bill directly to the earl.”

He caught her hand mid-air and held it, gaze fastened on hers. “Have a care, Miss Faraday. I’m only trying to protect you. This castle is more dangerous than you can know. It isn’t safe for you here.”

If he was trying to frighten her off, he was doing a good job. She could almost believe the concern in his voice.

But the earl could sound concerned too, even as he tried to steal her future.

She yanked her hand from his grip. “Then make it safe. Tell me what dangers to avoid. This is apparently to be my home until I earn my inheritance in ten months. Help me survive my imprisonment.”

He eyed her a moment, and she steeled herself to keep fighting. Truly, what else was she to do? If her father had guessed the depths to which the Earl of Howland would sink to get his hands on her inheritance, he would never have made the man trustee and expected him to care for her. In the last six months since her father had died, she had learned to fight for what was best for her and her servants. James Howland would simply have to accustom himself to the fact.

“Very well, Miss Faraday,” he said. “I’ll help you. You may stay in the castle until I hear from the earl.”

Best not to let him see her relief. “How very sensible of you.”

He inclined his head. “But you must allow me to do my duty as well. I am responsible for safeguarding the earl’s interests in Dorset.”

And she would try not to despise him for it. “Of course. Shall I send you a report each week of what furniture I’ve moved? Which dishes we used?”

That smile could have frozen the waves on the Channel. “No need. I’ll be able to verify all that on my own. I’ll be moving into the castle with you, Miss Faraday.”



Don't miss the other books in the Grace-by-the-Sea series . . .

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