Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Big Sky Secrets

Monday, November 11th, 2013

Big Sky Secrets (Hqn) [Kindle Edition]
Linda Lael Miller
Publisher: Harlequin, December 2013
384 pages
Price: $7.99 (eBook only at this time)

Publisher’s Synopsis: Self-made tycoon Landry Sutton heads to Hangman Bend’s Ranch to sell his land to his brother Zane. Though he’s got cowboy in his blood, Landry plans to return to city life before the dust even settles on his boots. Of course, he didn’t count on falling for Big Sky Country…or Ria Manning.

Ria’s starting to settle into country life herself…until she has a close encounter of the terrifying kind with a buffalo. Turns out the peeping monster belongs to the cowboy next door—and he has her running even more scared than his bison. She wants a home where the buffalo don’t roam, and the men don’t either. Could Landry’s homecoming be her heart’s undoing?

My Take: Has there ever been a bad Linda Lael Miller book? All of her books, while seemingly creating larger than life characters, are such a happy read. I think comforting is the term I’m looking for, because she has a wonderful way of creating situations and people that we relate to and long to know. This one is number __ in the Big Sky series and you really need to read all of them. The first three are the best, but the last two: this one and the previous one about the hero‘s brother, are still great.

My Rating: 5 out of 5

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

Bride Wanted

By Renee Andrews

Harlequin Love Inspired, 2013

ISBN: 9780373878338

Price: $5.99/ Paperback;  $4.99 / eBook

Genre: Inspirational Romance


Synopsis: Troy Lee’s grandma is not happy that he has a reputation of being fickle with the girls in town. She wants him to settle down, choose a girl, and marry. Todd Lee’s not happy that his grandma decided to help him find that girl by taking letters he’s written to his “someday wife” over a span of ten years and submit them to Southern Love magazine – without his permission.

He has definite ideas about the girl he is sure God will bring into his life and has, since he was a teenager, written letters to her about his goals, dreams, and the life he hopes they will share.

Enter “Southern Love” magazine’s editor, Destiny Porter. She has traveled to Claremont, Alabama to meet Troy and convince him to allow the letters to be published in her magazine. Because she doesn’t want to give away who she really is, she masquerades as a writer in search of material about love in small towns. Troy offers to be her guide in getting to know the townspeople.

When you add in Troy’s distress at suddenly being attracted to two women when he hadn’t found any desirable before, and Destiny’s struggle with wanting to write something her mother would be proud of, they become more endearing and you find yourself rooting for their happy ending.

My Take: In many ways this is a slap-stick comedy about misunderstandings and two people attracted to each other and trying not to acknowledge it. The story is charming and light-hearted and a definite feel-good read.

My Rating: 5 out of 5

Re-released Amorelle is an updated version of the classic

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013


Grace Livingston Hill
Barbour Books
Genre: Christian Romance
Pub Date   May 1 2013
Price12.99, Paperback

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Young pastor’s daughter, Amorelle Dean, is left alone when her father dies. When interfering church biddies offer advice on her future, even suggesting men who make a suitable husband, she feels pressured to accept her uncle’s invitation to go live with his family. Once she arrives she realizes her step-aunt only agreed to have her live with them because the second maid had quit and she needed an unpaid drudge.

In her grief and vulnerability, Arielle becomes engaged to George Horton, a family friend. Despite glaring differences, she is positive she will learn to love him.  When events prove how incompatible she and George are, Amorelle  returns to her home town to stay with a friend. There Amorelle meets Russell Garrison, a young man who respects her and treasurers her for her unworldly beliefs. Their shared love for Christ proves to be the foundation for the marriage she had hoped for.

Reading Grace Livingston Hill puts me in a time warp because we had every copy of her romances in our home library, and I spent many lazy hours devouring her stories as a young teen. Like all of Grace Livingston Hill’s books Amorelle has an otherworldly air about it. Reading any of Hill’s books is like catching a glimpse of a genteel lady in hat and white gloves sipping tea on the veranda. She requires a frame of mine far removed from our present-day pace. However, if you can adjust to the old-fashioned flavor, her books are like a cool drink of refreshing water.

What sets this book apart from other books by this author is the heroine allows herself to become engaged to an unbeliever. I don’t remember this happening in any other of her books.

Now being re-released, the publisher attempts to make readers believe this book is set in the 21stcentury, yet the references to maids and housekeepers reflects a lifestyle of the author’s early 20thcentury. I found this stories exactly as I remembered, simply with updated vocabulary for frock androadster.

Rating: 4 out of 5. A hard genre to grade, because the story is a 5, however, the readability is a 3

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Blame it on Texas

Friday, May 24th, 2013

Christie Craig
Paperback: $7.19
eBook: $6.64
Publisher: Forever, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-13: 978-0446582834
Genre: Mystery / Romance

Zoe Adams is aware that her loneliness doesn’t simply come from the death of her parents, but because of unanswered questions she has about her childhood. When watching an unsolved mystery show on TV old memories surface about being locked in a closet at a child. Unable to explain them, she decides to go to Texas and pursue a twenty-year-old story of a kidnapped child, she feels may be her. Her search leads her to one of Texas’ richest families and she enlists the help of PI Tyler Lopez to unlock the secrets.

Tyler has sworn off women, especially redheads with killer curves who poke their noses into his clients’ private lives. Still, he can’t deny the attraction any more than he can deny that Zoe’s crazy story makes sense. But when she becomes a hit man’s target, this cold case starts heating up. Suddenly, Tyler will do anything to protect Zoe-even risk his heart.

My Take: The great thing about fiction is the fictional truth always plays, even when outlandish. I enjoy all of Christie Craig’s Texas series, however, the believability of this one pushed the limit. I know that males are “visual” but when a story is built around the male’s attraction to the heroine based solely on the size of her bust line, I am disappointed. It sadly may be a normal criteria for today’s males for choosing a mate, however, even in a book where reality is suspended, I expected a higher bar.

Also, the “I don’t usually go to bed with guys on the first date” talk by Zoe dims when she climbs onto his lap with the first kiss and it explodes into sex. Hmmm…methinks she’s not being truthful.
However, I’m great at overlooking lapses in book characters and so the story was fast-paced, well-written and fun, so I enjoyed the read.

My Rating: 4 out of 5

Cowboy’s Texas Rescue

Friday, May 24th, 2013

Beth Cornelison
Harlequin Romantic Suspense
ISBN: 9780373278169
Price: $5.50 / paperback
$3.82 / eBook

Description: “It’s nice to have someone with your…um, skill set…around when there’s a killer on the loose.”
Taking out bad guys is in Jake Connelly’s DNA as much as strength, fearlessness and Greek-god good looks. So is rescuing women like Chelsea Harris, who’s kidnapped by a brutal escaped convict. What isn’t in the cowboy hunk’s DNA, Chelsea fears, is an interest in relationships-especially with a jilted size-fourteen plain Jane like herself.
With the killer on the loose and a Texas-size blizzard raging, Jake and Chelsea take refuge in an icy farmhouse. Sudden sparks between them turn on plenty of heat! But Jake has sworn to put his black ops career before distracting emotions. He needs to stay focused to stop the convict’s reign of terror… and protect Chelsea from the danger of falling for him….

My take: The tension in the book between the characters was well written. The bad guy was truly bad and kept his evil persona through the end. Beth Carnelison built the drama and relationships into a crescendo that kept my interest throughout the book. I found the slow-paced romance a nice break from the usual and felt the story was great.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Author captures essence of struggling in faith

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

Winds of Wyoming (A Kate Neilson Novel)

Rebecca Carey Lyles
Stonehouse Ink, 2012
eBook: $2.99
Paperback: $13.27

Publisher Synopsis: Fresh out of a Pennsylvania penitentiary armed with a marketing degree, Kate Neilson heads to Wyoming anticipating an anonymous new beginning as a guest-ranch employee. A typical twenty-five-year-old woman might be looking to lasso a cowboy, but her only desire is to get on with life on the outside—despite her growing interest in the ranch owner. When she discovers a violent ex-lover followed her west, she fears the past she hoped to hide will imprison her once again.

My Take: This book began on a rush – ex-con trying to steal from a church – and didn’t slow down until the end. What I thought was another nice romance, jolted me with yet another unexpected twist time and again. The recurring theme is forgiveness, and as a new Christian, Kate struggles with forgiving herself and believing she is worthy of a new life. When she meets Mike Duncan, a life-long Christian, she is surprised to discover that he also struggles with forgiving himself for being (he thinks) the cause of his older brother’s death almost two decades before. Both Mike and Kate learn a lot about God’s grace and facing their fears while God weaves their futures together.

If one of your complaints about Inspirational Romance is that they are too dull, you no longer have that to fall back on. Becky Lyles has taken Christian romance to a new level. She creates believable people who have messed up their lives and find their walk with God a struggle in faith, but continue on, discovering that God is faithful just as they had been promised.

Winds of Wyoming is an authentic representation on following Christ – accepting grace, failing, repenting and accepting grace again. Lyle’s depiction of real people with real flaws discovering God’s grace, not once, but each time they failed, drew me more than any other aspect of her story.

My Rating: A great  book. It’s a 5

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Author teeters between believable / unbelievable

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

Something to Believe In
Kimberly Van Meter

  • Publisher: Harlequin (January 2, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0373718268
  • ISBN-13: 978-0373718269

Publishers Description: It’s time to get her life back. Lilah Bell isn’t asking for much-just a normal life. A future that’s different from her shadowed, traumatic past. Maybe even a chance to start over. Instead, all she gets is the suffocating attention of her overprotective sisters, who seem to be waiting for her to break again. They don’t get that helping save her family’s beautiful Virgin Islands resort is definitely a challenge she can handle. But what she can’t handle is a serious relationship with carefree visitor Justin Cales. After all, wanting a man who isn’t planning to stick around isn’t smart.

Problem is, falling for Justin is too easy. And now life is more complicated than ever. When the truth unravels, they’ll either be brought together in unexpected ways…or torn apart for good.

My Take: This romance scores and several ways and lacks in a couple of others. The depiction of the Bell family and their determination to remain close and not allow their resort to fail is a strong part of the story. The sisters are not shown as always doing everything right and their individual struggles contributes to the storyline.

Unfortunately, I did not find Justin the same light as Lilah Bell does. The reformed playboy becoming model husband doesn’t logically follow the book. While he does exhibit mature behavior in the end when he discovers that Lilah is pregnant, in the rest of the book he  does not come across any way but as a deceitful good-time Charlie. If Kimberly Van Meter wanted him to come across as a misunderstood good guy, she failed. He came across as manipulative and shallow.

My Rating: 3 out of 5

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A Fool’s Gold Christmas

Monday, October 1st, 2012

   Susan Mallery

Harlequin, 2012

   Synopsis: Fool’s Gold is a great little matriarchal town whose dearth of males has resulted in the leadership, from the mayor to the fire chief, being female. Evie Stryker is new to town, coming as a result of her brothers’ coaxing to recuperate from an injury. She is not only worn out physically, but emotionally, and not happy about living near her mother with whom she has a dysfunctional relationship. Ms. Mallery puts a twist on this family’s dynamics in a way that makes Evie a double-loser: bad enough to be at odds with her mother, but her brothers have enjoyed a great relationship with same mother.

Evie has a lot going on with her brothers and mother pushing for reconciliation, plus dealing with the loss of her dream to be a professional ballet dancer. As a stop gap, she becomes the temporary director of the local dance studio. To her surprise she enjoys imparting her gift with her students and helping them gain self-confidence and grace as they study dance.

The only dark spot is the tenant above the dance studio who vehemently dislikes hearing her students during his working hours, and who turns out to be her brother’s attorney and her next-door neighbor. Neither Evie nor Dante are interested in a relationship – both are wounded from previous loves and their childhoods – but they find themselves thrown together because of their solitary lifestyles. An unlikely friendship deepens into an affair. Aware of their growing feelings for each other, they each must face the demons from their past before forging a new relationship.

My Take: I liked Fools Gold Christmas. This feel-good story is great escapism. The problems were genuinely serious and yet solved in a way that made sense for the characters. As Evie and Dante faced the scars from their childhoods they emerge stronger and more able to engage in a mature lasting relationship.

My Rating: 5 out of 5. Give yourself an early Christmas present and read it.

I love words

Friday, September 28th, 2012

I love words. The fascinating possibilities that lie within the order of words on a page are endless.  Take a group of words, assemble them into a sentence, then stand back and ask What would it look like if started it with this word or ended it with that phrase? Before you know it, you’ve rewritten a piece five or six times and still see wonderful arrangements yet to be tried.

Friends are perplexed because I re-read books; especially when learning there are favorites I’ve read literally hundreds of times. For myself, I didn’t understand why a book would only be worth reading once, until I realized that some read books for the story line, whereas the story line is fine, but what captures my attention is the specific words chosen and how they are arranged.

In the eighth grade a friend gave me a copy of This Rough Magic, by Mary Stewart.  She wrote: “…the cat turned and lazily swarmed up the vine …” and I was riveted. She had used a word that belonged with bee and attributed it to the action of the cat – and it worked! It made me realize the power a writer had to enable the reader capture a scene in their mind’s eye.

In English 101 the first thing the professors warn you against is the use of big words.  “Write like you talk,” they encourage.  But my work-day vocabulary is so dull compared to the plethora of fascinating words just waiting to be utilized. I don’t use big words to impress, rather because they’re different, fascinating, unusual, and interesting.

I am currently reading Bad Religion, by New York Times op-ed  columnist, Ross Douthat.  I am especially fascinated by his command of the English language. I’m harvesting a wealth of new words to add to my vocabulary stockpile.  Words like numinous and fissiparous. How well they’ll transfer over to romance writing remains to be seen.

I have a poster hanging above my desk sent by a fellow writer. It shows a cat stretched across an open book, looking up at the viewer and the caption says, “You realize it’s just the same 26 letters being rearranged don’t you?”

Yes, I do, thank you. I believe I’ll go rearrange a few right now.

V is for Vengeance

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

V is For Vengeance – A Kinsey Millhone Mystery

Sue Grafton

G.P. Putnam, 2012 [Penguin]

416 pages


Summary of V is for Vengeance

A spider web of dangerous relationships lies at the heart of V is for Vengeance, Sue Grafton’s daring new Kinsey Millhone novel. A woman with a murky past who kills herself-or was it murder? A spoiled kid awash in gambling debt who thinks he can beat the system. A lovely woman whose life is about to splinter into a thousand fragments. A professional shoplifting ring working for the Mob, racking up millions from stolen goods. A wandering husband, rich and ruthless. A dirty cop so entrenched on the force he is immune to exposure. A sinister gangster, conscienceless and brutal. A lonely widower mourning the death of his lover, desperate for answers, which may be worse than the pain of his loss. A private detective, Kinsey Millhone, whose thirty-eighth-birthday gift is a punch in the face that leaves her with two black eyes and a busted nose.

And an elegant and powerful businessman whose dealings are definitely outside the law: the magus at the center of the web.

V: Victim. Violence. Vengeance.

My Take:

V is for Vengeance is a superb example of Grafton’s best writing which, given her previous book, U is for Undertow, had me worrying her writing was in a decline. This is one of her best in a formidable list of 22 alphabet books. Kinsey remains her best independent, stubborn, intractable self, still stuck in the ‘80s without a cell phone, the internet, or a computer. She still uses a Smith-Corona typewriter for goodness sake.

The book begins innocently with Kinsey doing her civic duty and foiling a shoplifter but quickly careens into a deadly game of underworld stolen goods.

As always, she battles evil on her own. Her skewed belief  that most people are naturally venal was something she established in her first book, A is for Alibi: “Except for cases that clearly involve a homicidal maniac, the police like to believe murders are committed by those we know and love, and most of the time they’re right – a chilling thought when you sit down to dinner with a family of five. All those potential killers passing their plates.”  You can see that she is morosely satisfied to be proven right time and again, which does not make her the life of any party and contributes to her isolation.  In this book even her customary occasional friends are noticeably missing: no boyfriend cop, none of her on-again, off again Lompoc relatives make an appearance, and even her debonair 80-something landlord Henry is out of town. I confess I begin each book hoping this time she will find her soul mate, but am resigned that she will break up and revert to her familiar detached existence.

Nevertheless, I love Sue Grafton’s writing. She captures the essence of Kinsey’s character in pithy sentences like: “I generally frequent the low-end chain stores, where aisles are jammed with racks of identical garments, suggesting cheap manufacture in a country unfettered by child labor laws. Nordstrom’s was a palace by comparison…”.  I hope her books are mandatory reading in Writing 101 classes.

My Rating: As always for Grafton this is a 5 out of 5. U is for Undertow is the only one of the alphabet books I wouldn’t rate a 5 (probably a 3.5).

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