#BlogTour: A Dish Best Served Hot by Natalie Cana

For this blog tour, we’re looking at the spicy second entry in Natalie Cana’s series of family, friends,… and a meddling grandfather. For this blog tour, we’re looking at A Dish Best Served Hot by Natalie Cana.

Here’s what I had to say on the review sites (Hardcover.app, TheStoryGraph, BookHype, Goodreads):

Slow Burn Second Chance Romance With Quite A Bit Of Political Commentary Baked In. Straight up, just from the nature of the work of our female MC in particular, this book has *quite* a bit of left leaning politics baked in. That noted, if you can accept that this is simply this character… it actually isn’t overly preachy. I’ve certainly seen *far* more preachy books given similar characters in other works by other authors before, so, truly – don’t let that scare you too much, just know your eyes may roll a bit if you disagree with the politics being espoused.

Beyond that though, this really is a solid and remarkably deep second chance/ single dad romance showing the power of love… and meddling grandfathers and saccharine sweet young daughters. But it *is* a *very* slow burn, almost with more focus on everything *other* than the romance itself. Like, our MCs met in HS and had this instant chemistry, broke it off, went their separate ways, and yet the flame never died… so it is never really *shown* in the book so much as *told* that it is there (with the *occasional* view of it, often seeming more to remind the reader that this *is* intended to be a romance novel).

And yet… the story really does work quite well. There’s nothing definitively *wrong* with it, and the world created here is remarkably “real” and one of the more fully fleshed out communities I’ve encountered in all of my reading. It just may not be *exactly* the kind of book various readers are looking for for various reasons. Including pissing off the sweet/ clean crowd with its in-the-room sex scenes.

Still, ultimately this *was* a really good book. I *am* looking forward to Book 3. And this *is* very much recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt from the book followed by the “publisher details” – book excerpt, book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
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#BookReview: The Haven by Nicola Marsh

Sold Short Sychological Sequel. (Yes, the alliteration didn’t work with “psychological”, so I had to misspell it. :D) This is one of those sequels where you actually really need to read its prior book, in this case The Retreat, first. But since both are actually perfect for when you want a spooky read (such as during Halloween, when this book releases)… that is actually a great thing in this case.

This one is perhaps a bit less gothic, though it certainly has the creepy old mansion. It also has an even deeper tangle of secrets, as characters from the first book come back to play roles in this book as well – though certainly not all of them, and even in nearly every horror tale out there, at least one person survives. So the prior bit isn’t really a spoiler of anything. 😀 But *does* point to *why* you need to read The Retreat first.

In both cases though, you get quite a bit of tale packed into relatively short (here, 260 ish pages) books – making them a bigger bang for your buck than longer, slower tales. And making them overall better for when life is busy and/ or you are doing other things, but also want to read some books.

And as explosive as the ending was in The Retreat… here, while the explosions are of a different type… they may be even bigger and more devastating…

Very much recommended.

This review of The Haven by Nicola Marsh was originally written on October 11, 2023.

#BookReview: Big Trouble On Sullivan’s Island by Susan M. Boyer

If Jimmy Buffett’s Secrets Had Secrets. Seriously, if you take the classic line from The Avengers where Tony Stark says about Nick Fury, “his secrets have secrets”, and add an equal part Jimmy Buffett coastal/ tropical “WTF” kind of vibe… this book is a pretty solid idea of what you would get there. Set primarily in and around the general Charleston, SC area, we also get a jaunt into the Upcountry around Greenville as well for a scene or two (while completely ignoring the Midlands area of South Carolina, around Columbia and Aiken, where I once lived for a few years).

But the mysteries (yes, there are actually several – the “secrets have secrets” I was referring to above) are compelling, and our heroine is both remarkable and remarkably flawed, making for a greatly relatable story even as the more fantastical elements of it play out.

Overall the book truly works well, particularly as a series starter. We get a complete tale with no obvious lingering threads, but in a way that the reader *wants* to come back to this world and see what happens next. Very much recommended.

This review of Big Trouble On Sullivan’s Island by Susan M. Boyer was originally written on April 11, 2023.

#BookReview: The Drowning Woman by Robyn Harding

Innovative Use Of Multi-Perspective. This is one of those tales that repeats itself a decent amount – something like 50-60% or so of the text is the same events through two different perspectives, each providing their own wrinkles. It is within the back third that the overall tale really begins to take off, and is quite explosive in its own right. Quite a few twists and turns – some even bigger than the ones we’ve already experienced to this point – occur through this section, and indeed at times it feels like we may be going a much darker direction (of a couple of different variants) than we ultimately do. Indeed, the ending itself is quite reminiscent of a particular 90s era movie, but revealing which movie would likely be a significant spoiler, so I’ll just point the reader of the review in that direction and allow them to figure it out for themselves. Ultimately a fun book that raises some challenging points without ever being preachy about them. Very much recommended.

This review of The Drowning Woman by Robyn Harding was originally written on December 23, 2022.

#BookReview: Exiles by Ashley Saunders and Leslie Saunders

Solid Setup But With Slight Torture Of English Language. This is a tale that manages to tell its own complete tale… and yet also manages to setup a new trilogy for the Saunders twins that is perhaps at least as compelling as their debut trilogy had been. Once again, these twins writing together focus on twin primary characters, and once again having that real world dynamic really helps with the in-world dynamic. Reading the author note about their extreme aversion to twin studies as teens and seeing what they put the twins through here was particularly relevatory, but the social commentary on homeless camps here was also thought provoking and compelling, without coming across as overly preachy in real-world terms. The *one* irritating thing about this read was the presence of the trans character and the torture of using the singular “they” repeatedly – showing in novel form why a completely different and new pronoun really is needed there (perhaps “ze” instead, as some promote?). Note that the trans character itself wasn’t the problem, the singular “they” was, particularly as often as was used here – to the level of almost reading more as a sudden dose of dialect rather than the usual tone of the writing. Overall another great book from the Saunders Twins, and I for one am looking forward to the next entry in the trilogy. Very much recommended.

This review of Exiles by Ashley Saunders and Leslie Saunders was originally written on August 28, 2022.

#BookReview: Such Big Dreams by Reema Patel

Big Lift That Mostly Hits. This is going to be a very different book for most American/ Western readers, as it is essentially an “Annie” tale from a century ago or so in the US, but in modern India. As an American currently charged with “leading” a pair of teams of Indian developers, this was particularly eye opening to me to see just what still can happen over there. (And admittedly, there are quite a few parallels re: Eminent Domain in the US right this second.)

Between Rakhi’s struggles as an orphan essentially growing up on the streets before being abandoned in an orphanage to the slums she lives in to the (Indian) “White Knight” that “saves” her – yet expects slavish devotion because of it, Rakhi’s tale has quite a bit in and of itself. Then the back third really gets into a discussion-without-saying-the-words of urban redevelopment and the havoc it can wreak on those “least” able to handle havoc. And of course “least” has to be in quotes in the prior sentence because the tale through this section actually does a great job of showing just how resilient those people are – and how fragile those that think themselves resilient can be.

Overall a strong book that could have used a touch better editing – the flashbacks to Rakhi’s childhood and back to the current timeline were a bit jarring – but that certainly has more depth than is readily apparent to a casual reader. Very much recommended.

This review of Such Big Dreams by Reema Patel was originally written on May 8, 2022.

#TwelveDaysOfRomance #BlogTour: His Road To Redemption by Lisa Jordan

For this next entry in the Twelve Days of Romance blog tour series, we’re looking at a solid romance in its own right that seems to be the conclusion, and likely significant payoff in various ways, of a four book The Waltons type saga where each book focuses on a different brother. For this blog tour, we’re looking at His Road To Redemption by Lisa Jordan.

Conclusion Of Modern Day Waltons Saga. If you’re a fan of the old-school Waltons or Little House on the Prairie or the newer shows like Heartland, this book is absolutely right up your alley. These IPs show that the market for this kind of tale is strong, so it is actually great to find a book that fits in fairly perfectly with them. Just be warned that although this isn’t (currently?) marked as Book 4 of a series, it actually *is* Book 4, following Season of Hope (Book 1), A Love Redeemed (Book 2), and The Father He Deserves (Book 3), and seems to serve as a finale for this series. Thus, all three brothers from the first three books show up, as Micah (our hero here) seems to have been at least introduced in Book 1 and is now being brought forth to claim his destiny as a romance hero in his own right here. Having not read the other three books, it clearly seems as though there are significant payoffs for potentially series-running plot threads here – I just don’t know. So the long and short of this review is that while this book is a strong Waltons-type romance in its own right, featuring newer, more modern plotlines (including animals-as-therapy and group homes for homeless veterans)… I actually do recommend reading the first three books of this series before reading this one, which isn’t something I usually say about such tales but truly is fairly critical here. And I’m sure that by the time you’ve finished those other three, you’re going to want this one anyway. Very much recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt followed by the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
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#BookReview: The Secrets of Lost Stones by Melissa Payne

Loose Threads Come Together Quickly. And Explosively. The front half of this book is very much setup for the back half, but it is intriguing in a very mysterious way in its own right. But then at around the halfway point, Payne inserts a “Holy Hell!!!” moment that explosively changes everything and sets in motion the back half of the book – with some explosive revelations of its own, up to almost literally the last page of the tale. Truly excellent book, and I’ll very much be looking for future books from this new author. Very much recommended.

This review of The Secrets of Lost Stones by Melissa Payne was originally written on August 27, 2019.