#BookReview: The Seaside Library by Brenda Novak

More Mystery Than Romance. This is apparently Novak’s 75 book, and while I’ve only read a handful of those prior books – mostly a few of her most recent ones – this seems to be a bit of a departure from her usual style. At least in my own experience with her, she tends to write more women’s fiction/ romance blends… and this is pretty far from that. This is more of a Catherine McKenzie / Kimberly Belle / Leah Mercer style mystery that also includes a romance than the more usual Novak style, though still set in an idyllic small town island. It is specifically because the title and cover don’t really match the overall tone and substance of the tale told here that it lost a star for me, and admittedly this is something that can easily be corrected in the nearly five months between when I write this review and the book’s actual publication date.

For what it actually is, this story is pretty solid and well told – if you like your mysteries to also include a romance, you’re going to love this book. If you enjoy a tale that meets all known RWA criteria for being a “romance book” but the story is more about the mystery than the romance, you’re going to enjoy this book. But if you’re looking for more of a “classic Novak” women’s fiction/ drama on an island… eh, read this book and see what you think. I personally think it is a bit darker than her usual and thus is a fairly significant departure, but again, I’ve only read her last few books. For all I know this is where she built her fan base and is *returning* to this rather than this being an entirely new thing for her. Again, what she does do here, she does in fact do quite well indeed, so there is that at least.

Overall this was an excellent tale that was told well – it just doesn’t match its title (which has only the most tangential of connections to the tale) or cover imagery. Very much recommended.

This review of The Seaside Library by Brenda Novak was originally written on December 18, 2022.

#BookReview: Snap Out Of It by Maddie Dawson

Perfect Example Of A ‘Maddie Dawson Book’. This book really is a perfect exemplar of Maddie Dawson’s tales and style of storytelling. You’ve got a perfectly imperfect character, this time pushing Senior Discount age. You’ve got the dose of magic. You’ve got the hilarious and zany “wtf” moments. You’ve got the various family and friend and business dynamics that are all wholesome yet with their own dramas. In a real world so full of so much death and strife and destruction and turmoil, Dawson’s books are always a great escape and a solid respite from all of that, and this one is no exception to this rule. That it is timed to release at the New Year is perfect with its particular themes and actions. Overall truly an excellent departure from so much of both reality and even many books, and very much recommended.

This review of Snap Out Of It by Maddie Dawson was originally written on December 17, 2022.

#BookReview: Marlowe Banks, Redesigned by Jacqueline Firkins

Fish Out Of Water Romance That Shows That Not Everything Is As It Seems. This is a fish out of water romance between a barely-has-a-job clothing designer assistant for a TV show… and one of said show’s stars. It is very much a slow burn, enemies to lovers type and yet still meets every RWA requirement. This noted, it does get a touch preachy about the differences between the characters actors portray and the actor themselves, though it *does* manage to keep much of this preachiness within the context of the story being told here – so that is good at least. ๐Ÿ™‚ Yet another romance where honest communication from the get-go could probably have saved about 80%+ of the overall friction/ drama between the couple, this one is still fairly light and funny despite its at-times heavy handedness noted above. Overall a fun look at a side of Hollywood not often seen, and written by someone with seemingly at least some knowledge of that particular setting. Very much recommended.

This review of Marlowe Banks, Redesigned by Jacqueline Firkins was originally written on October 23, 2022.

#BookReview: Built To Last by Erin Hahn

Hallmarkie Romcom Within HGTV model. This is a Hallmark type romantic comedy where 90 min+ of movie (or, in this case, 300+ pages) could probably be condensed to about 15 (min or pages) if the characters would just *be honest with each other*. So if that kind of thing irritates the Hades out of you… know up front that this is the kind of story you’re getting into here.

For everyone else, this is actually a smart and fun (and yes, steamy – again, if you don’t like being in the room with characters having sex… not the book for you either) tale that name drops quite a bit from real-world Hollywood, including National Geographic, Chip and JoAnna Gaines, and several other HGTV home reno type couples. If you enjoy those types of shows and wish you could see more “behind the scenes”, particularly as the couple first got together… this is going to be pretty much your ideal romance tale.

Overall this really was quite an enjoyable read, and seemed to read faster than its 300+ page count would generally indicate. Very much recommended.

This review of Built To Last by Erin Hahn was originally written on October 15, 2022.

#BookReview: Mistakes Were Made by Meryl Wilsner

Dang Near Erotica Level MILF Lesbian* RomCom. Seriously: Read the title of this review. If that type of book isn’t for you for any reason at all… save yourself the time and the author the 1* review and just find something else to read. The sex scenes start in Chapter 1 and are fairly frequent throughout the book – and *far* from closed door. XXX “on screen”, in fact. And all the sex is between a 40 something woman whose daughter is in college and a 21yo female college senior. Again, if that isn’t your thing… just move on. Finally, there are f-bombs and other curse words quite heavily as well (not sailor/ programmer level, but also not Independent Baptist Church level either). So yet again, not your thing… just move on. Please.

For anyone else that is still here… this is a somewhat slow ish angsty romcom, but the resolution comes perhaps a bit too quickly once it finally gets to that point. Still, there actually is a decent amount of drama here, and a seemingly realistic (enough) portrayal of people actually in these types of situations. The comedy part of the “romcom” label is mostly in the initial few scenes between the leading couple, but there are laughs to be had throughout the book and the romance itself picks up when the comedy wanes, so it works. Really the only quibble for those still here is the flash-forward epilogue, which is one of those things your mileage may vary on but which does add a bit of humor to the tail end of the tale.

Overall this was a solid tale well told, and the characters themselves are rare enough that anyone seeking “something different” will find this quite refreshing indeed. Very much recommended.

*Note: While the characterization of the leading couple is *actually* bisexual, according to the text here, and one has even been married and had a kid (and the other had a boyfriend before the events of the book), the only romantic/ sexual relationships actually in the book are all of the sapphic nature, and thus for actual purposes of review would be considered lesbian in at least some circles.

This review of Mistakes Were Made by Meryl Wilsner was originally written on October 8, 2022.

#BlogTour: The Road To Christmas by Sheila Roberts

For this blog tour we’re looking at a somewhat innovative “shotgun road trip” approach to a somewhat standard-type Hallmark Christmas tale. For this blog tour we’re looking at The Road To Christmas by Sheila Roberts.

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

Hallmarkie If Hallmark Did Road Trips. This is one of those almost 80s-cartoon feeling… “interesting”… blends of road trip tale and Hallmark Christmas tale. There are three separate road trips going on here – grandparents, parents, and siblings – all going their own routes and having their own adventures along the way to joining up with youngest sister and her husband and newborn for Christmas. There’s some hilarity, some heart strings being pulled, some solid road trip fun, some solid Christmas fun, a lot of small town charm – in multiple small towns, also in departure from pure Hallmark format – and a healthy dose of moralizing/ preaching about the joys of family and the sacrifices we sometimes make for them. (Which is where the “almost 80s-cartoon feeling” comes in.) Ultimately a solid blend of a few different popular formats, and the “shotgun” approach also works quite well and is fairly innovative. Ultimately this is a solid tale well told, and is 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.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: The Road To Christmas by Sheila Roberts”

#BlogTour: Snowed In For Christmas by Sarah Morgan

For this blog tour we’re looking at Sarah Morgan’s seeming annual Christmas story, this time a Hallmarkie type tale set primarily in Scotland. For this blog tour we’re looking at Snowed In For Christmas by Sarah Morgan.

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

Hallmark Scottish Christmas. Let’s be real here, this book is essentially a Hallmark Christmas movie set in Scotland. How you feel about the entire tale will likely be pretty close to how you feel about the sentence prior to this one in this review. There are three different romance tales at play here, between each of three siblings – Ross being the sacrificial lamb with a made up girlfriend to distract his parents from his sisters’ issues but who becomes all too real, Alice with an all too real fiancee, and Clemmie with plans of her own… who then has her own story from there. Along the way we also get to see the conflict between Ross and his dad, both of them successful businessmen who love to talk about anything *other* than business with each other. Ultimately, Morgan weaves her magic and makes all of this work quite well – if pretty much exactly within the Hallmarkie mold. Still, this is yet another solid hit for Morgan, and exactly how good of a hit really depends on exactly what the reader themselves feel about this type of story – Morgan’s bread and butter. I happened to think it worked quite well, and it is 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.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: Snowed In For Christmas by Sarah Morgan”

#BookReview: Bet On It by Jodie Slaughter

Gen Z Mental Health Dang Near Erotica… Romantic Comedy? Up front, there was nothing technically wrong about this story – hence the five stars here. There is nothing for me to hang a star deduction on as objectively wrong here, and indeed there are several things to actively like. Such as the interracial romance in the South, where neither character tries to bring in bygone eras that were dead long before either of them were alive. As a Xennial / elder Millenial Southerner, this was genuinely refreshing to see in novel form, since so many try to depict the South as some racial tension hotbed that isn’t actually present in reality. Or at least that’s not what the *entire* South is, nor any that I’ve ever experienced in a lifetime of living here. So for fellow Southerners tired of so many novels looking down on us and trying to force depictions of us that aren’t always accurate… give this one a try, I think you’ll like it. ๐Ÿ™‚

Now, onto the stuff that those same fellow Southerners might actually have more of an issue with.

For one, if you don’t like hot and heavy, dang near erotica level sex in a book… this one isn’t for you, no matter where you’re from. If you prefer “sweet” / “clean” romances where the couple barely kisses or where anything beyond maybe heavy kissing is “behind closed doors”… this book isn’t going to be something you enjoy. There are two sex acts performed essentially in public – one in a car in a parking lot, the other inside the Mayor’s Mansion during a town festival (and on a couch in a room, rather than in some closet!). Along these lines, there was much talk of condoms and STI testing (at least at first), and again, these are some issues that I know some will LOVE being included but others will wish had not been, so either way you now know to expect them and can proceed according to your own attitudes on the subject. ๐Ÿ™‚

For another, and this is absolutely one where your mileage may vary depending on any number of factors, there is a LOT of talk about mental health here, to the level of being fairly preachy at times – particularly in espousing a more Gen Z view of the field. Both of our leads suffer from anxiety, and at times it feels the focus of the book is on these issues rather than anything remotely romantic or even comedic. While it is absolutely refreshing to see these issues discussed so openly, and I absolutely love that a book featuring this is on the market, I also realize that it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. So hey, better to skip the book because I warned you than to read it and leave a 1 star review complaining about all the “pansy ass whiny bullcrap” or some such that I know several people personally would absolutely complain about. ๐Ÿ™‚

In the end though, this *was* a mostly fun, relatively light (particularly given its subject matter) romantic comedy, and it *does* work within that genre, just far from your typical entry there. As someone who constantly seeks new wrinkles I hadn’t seen before, I enjoyed it from that side in particular. Very much recommended.

This review of Bet On It by Jodie Slaughter was originally written on July 6, 2022.

#BookReview: The Bodyguard by Katherine Center

Ninja Cows! I picked up this book on July 4th because I was reading a book set in the UK at the time, and that just would NOT do on that particular day. ๐Ÿ˜€ And I’m glad I got to have some fun with this book, because it takes Center out of her more usual tale and brings her into a bit of a less serious while still dealing with serious things kind of tale, which allows both her as the author and us as the readers to have more fun and still enjoy the work of a great storyteller. There is enough drama here to be compelling without overwhelming, enough comedy to keep things light and fresh without being distracting, and ultimately a solid love tale of an unconventional couple in a fake relationship. And yes, ninja cows. Seriously, the only negative of this book is that the ninja cows should have had more screen time. ๐Ÿ™‚ Very much recommended.

This review of The Bodyguard by Katherine Center was originally written on July 5, 2022.

#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.