#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.

#BlogTour: For Butter Or Worse by Erin La Rosa

For this blog tour we’re looking at a romantic comedy that deals with more serious topics than most of its genre do. For this blog tour we’re looking at For Butter Or Worse by Erin La Rosa.

Here’s what I had to say on Goodreads:

Deeper Than Usual Rom-Com. This is one of those rom-coms that starts out light and fluffy and fun – even in an “I’m gonna kill you for that!” way – and then hits on several more substantive issues along the way. And yet, it never feels overly weighed down by any of them, though as with the comedy itself it is very likely that your mileage will vary there. For me, I loved the “behind the scenes” look at the “real-life” stresses of being a TV food show host/ judge… while also running your own restaurant empire off camera. And the constant twitter / google/ other social media feeds were an interesting spin as well, particularly used how they were. Great for foodies or really anyone just looking for a good time – though on *that* note… maybe not so much for the “clean” / “sweet” romance crowd. Very much recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt from the book followed by the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
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Featured New Release Of The Week: This Place Of Wonder by Barbara O’Neal

For the fifth straight year, Barbara O’Neal‘s annual release is the Featured New Release on this blog. This tradition began in 2018 with The Art Of Inheriting Secrets, which was the very *first* FNR post, and continues this week with This Place Of Wonder.

Here’s what I had to say on Goodreads:

O’Neal Delivers Yet Another Solid Family Drama. O’Neal’s solid 2018 book The Art of Inheriting Secrets was the very first Featured New Release on my blog, and I have kept up that tradition every year since – and 2022 is no exception there. Her 2019 book When We Believed In Mermaids continues to be one of my most “liked” reviews on Goodreads to this day, and continues to garner attention seemingly every few days.

All that to note that I have a rich if recent history with O’Neal’s work, and this is yet another truly solid and sensual tale of family secrets and drama. In this particular work, we get four women struggling with the sudden death of one man that all were connected to – his ex-wife and mom of his step-daughter and step-mother to his daughter, his most recent girlfriend, and both of the daughters in question, though we only “hear” from the two elder ladies + his biological daughter.

While this tale “hits” a few solid blows emotionally, it doesn’t really land the haymakers that Mermaids did – this is more in line with most of her other books, including Secrets, on that level. This noted, it is ultimately a very satisfying tale that has several great moments not always seen in novels, including the daughter’s actions in the prologue and the elder ladies’ blend of pragmatism and romanticism. Several issues from alcoholism to rape to child abuse are touched on, so be prepared for that if one needs to be. Overall truly an excellent tale, and yet another wonderful read from O’Neal. Very much recommended.

#BookReview: When It Falls Apart by Catherine Bybee

Solid Bybee Romance. Bybee is a fairly prolific romance author and IIRC a former President (or whatever the top title was) of the Romance Writers of America (RWA) – or maybe just on their board? High ranking in the “official” gatekeeper of “romance” books, regardless. Point being, she knows her genre well, and she is a solid storyteller. Thus, for romance fans… you get a solid romance book. For the clean/ sweet crowd… eh, there is no “fade to black” here, but it also isn’t erotica either. Solid, middle of the road romance that doesn’t really offer anything new to anyone who may be averse to the genre but willing to try it if there is some extra hook, but also works quite well for those who already enjoy the genre and are looking for a new book to read. Not *quite* Hallmarkie level, but if you generally enjoy that style of romance, you’ll likely enjoy this one as well. And as a series starter, it works well in introducing the whole family and offering a few hints as to where the next book/ series will go in subsequent books. Very much recommended.

This review of When It Falls Apart by Catherine Bybee was originally written on July 3, 2022.

Featured New Release Of The Week: Anchored Hearts by Priscilla Oliveras

Solid Slow Burn Second Chance Finding Yourself Prodigal Son Story. Think I got enough tropes in that title? ๐Ÿ˜‰ But seriously, this was the second book in Oliveras’ hyper-sensual stories of established adults finding love in the Florida Keys (Key West, specifically) while being bound by their Cuban immigrant parents and siblings. Here, we get the sister of our male lead from Book 1 (Island Affair) and the boy we already know she let go a decade ago from that story. Now, we get a lot more details of what happened according to each of them – and they don’t exactly remember things the same way. Oliveras executes this dynamic well, with having the meddling mothers (seemingly a commonality among *many* cultures, let’s face it ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) conniving to get the two together when the now-man finds himself stranded at home with a shattered leg. As they help each other with their respective issues in their current lives, old wounds get reexamined, sparks begin to fly, etc etc etc… this *is* a romance novel, y’all. That alone tells you where this thing is going. ๐Ÿ™‚

But Oliveras also executes the Prodigal Son angle particularly well, at least from the son’s side. Which I know at least a bit about, having lived my adult life hundreds of miles away from my own parents. (Somewhat interestingly as it relates to this book, while Alejandro grew up in Key West and fled to Atlanta as an adult, this reviewer grew up outside of Atlanta and currently finds himself in Florida – Jacksonville – in what will this year become the longest single place he’s stayed since leaving Atlanta. :D) To be clear, I don’t have *exactly* the same issues Ale does – my dad (and entire immediate family) and I actually get along great. But I know the general feelings and disappointments pretty damn well, well enough to truly sing Oliveras’ praises on this particular storyline.

Finally, to address one criticism that seems common in the lower starred reviews: saying something in Spanish and then explaining it in English: I’m a native American that grew up in land still literally scarred by the American Civil War. While I took a few Spanish classes in high school, I was never even truly conversant, much less fluent. But I’ve studied a lot about a lot, and it is my understanding that such mixtures of languages are common in second generation Americans, as both Annamaria and Alejandro are here. Further, from a “real world” perspective of trying to sell as many copies of a book as possible, English is the most commonly spoken language in the world, for better or for worse. While Spanish is frequent and indeed dominant in certain regions, even many in those regions *also* speak English to some degree or another. And in most of the globe, more people are more familiar with English than Spanish. These are also simple, stone cold, undeniable *facts* – whether or not you like them or the reason they came to be. Thus, from a *business* side, explaining the Spanish in English – and in particular the way Oliveras does it in this series, more as a natural storytelling technique than a “Habla Espanol?” “Do you speak Spanish?” style common in at least some books I’ve read over the years, it makes complete sense. And for this reader that barely knows Spanish at all – the above sentence was a decent part of what I can easily recall, though there is likely a fair amount beyond that that I could comprehend in a situation where I’m surrounded by the language – it is helpful, appreciated, and *necessary*, as there would be large segments of the tale that would be completely unintelligible without the translation. Indeed, from a business side Oliveras’ only other real options would be to 1) limit herself to only Spanish speakers and thus lose overall sales or 2) eliminate the Spanish completely and lose at least a fair degree of the authenticity she really excels in bringing out here.

And as others have noted, this reader too is hoping that the one female character introduced late in the book is truly the fit for the one remaining single Navarro sibling – and that we get to read that tale as well. Given the year spacing between Island Affair and this book, perhaps this time 2022? Until then…

Very much recommended.

#BlogTour: The Secret Ingredient by KD Fisher


Once again we come to a Carina Adores Blog Tour, which are always awesome. Seriously, I haven’t encountered a bad book in this program yet, and I’ve found several authors doing this that have taken me to places I’d never been before – and that is always awesome. ๐Ÿ™‚

This time, we’re looking at The Secret Inredient by KD Fisher.

Here’s what I had to say about it on Goodreads:

Fun Foodie FF Romance. This is a lesbian romance where the two ladies are about as opposite as it gets – one is a trained chef working for a corporate restaurant group, the other is a legacy baker who took over and revitalized her mom’s shop. As a short romance, it works well in that it hits all the requirements of the genre (yes, including sex) and executes each solidly – but you’re not going to get the conflict and growth of a 100 page longer book. Though there are still significant, more complicated than Hallmarkie, conflicts here. Ultimately a fun book that hits all the right notes and even manages to highlight the particular region it features very well. Very much recommended.

And below the jump, a page-ish excerpt from near the front of the book (Chapter 2, IIRC):
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