Friday, November 21, 2014

Signed, Sealed, Delivered by Sandy James - Review

Signed, Sealed, Delivered
(The Ladies Who Lunch #2)
by Sandy James
Published by: Forever Yours

When life gets tough and love is hard to find, four friends take their troubles to lunch. High school teacher Juliana Kelley tells the Ladies Who Lunch that her life needs an overhaul . . . and gets a whole lot more than she wished for.

Juliana has spent thirteen years in the same teaching job. She’s ready to dive into a new career with both feet . . . when a run-in with the hottest man she’s ever seen knocks her head over heels. But with her failed marriage to a fellow teacher fresh on her mind, Jules can’t afford to lose herself in a relationship—no matter how perfect it may seem.

Connor Wilson has hit rock bottom when he loses his career as a top-notch Realtor because of a large gambling debt. Now, in a small town he finds a fresh start—and a gorgeous redhead who sparks new life into him. Together they start a successful real estate company, but when pleasure sneaks into the business, they’ll have to decide what they can let go . . . and what they can’t live without.



My review:    
Juliana is ready for a change. She is tired of being a teacher and certainly tired of working at the same school as her ex-husband. When she goes to a real estate seminar with a fellow teacher, a chance encounter leads to what she thinks is a very hot one-night stand but ends up turning into a real estate partnership. Juliana is insistent that the partnership with Connor remain business only, but both find it hard to work so closely together while keeping their hands off each other.

I was intrigued by Juliana's supporting character in the first book, The Bottom Line, and I really liked reading this one to get to know her more. Juliana still guards her heart even though her divorce was years ago. She isn't still interested in having a relationship with her ex but working with him has kept her from being able to be fully open to love again. She is sensitive and vulnerable even though all that is covered by her feisty and sassy personality. Connor still feels like a failure after losing everything due to gambling. He doesn't feel he has anything to offer any woman and thinks he isn't ready for a relationship until he can't keep his mind off Juliana.

A great romance with two broken individuals trying to piece themselves back together enough to love again and, ultimately, needing each other to piece themselves back together. I would recommend this book and this series to anyone who enjoys contemporary romance.

A copy was provided for an honest review.

Also see my review of The Bottom Line (The Ladies Who Lunch #1) by Sandy James.
 
About the author:
Sandy lives in a quiet suburb of Indianapolis with her husband of thirty years and is a high school social studies teacher. She and her husband own a small stable of harness racehorses and enjoy spending time at the two Indiana racetracks.

She is published through Forever Yours, Carina Press, and BookStrand, as well as self-published. She has been an Amazon Bestseller many times and has won numerous awards, including two HOLT Medallions.


Find out more at SandyJames.com.   

The Bottom Line by Sandy James - Review

The Bottom Line
(The Ladies Who Lunch #1)
by Sandy James
Published by: Forever Yours

When life gets tough and love is hard to find, four friends take their troubles to lunch. Surviving a failed marriage and an illness that almost takes her life, high school teacher Mallory Hamilton needs the Ladies Who Lunch more than ever . . .

After a year of upheaval, Mallory has had her fill of change—with one exception. Her house is a disaster, and she wants it fixed. Hiring a contractor to finish the projects her ex-husband started will help her banish the past so she can return to the life she had before everything went awry. But her contractor is sexy, sweet, and single, which threatens the peaceful, solitary life Mallory has planned for herself.

Ben Carpenter has had a hard time raising his daughter without his ex-wife’s help. His new client’s projects will give him the extra income he needs, not to mention afternoons alone with a gorgeous woman. Though their attraction is undeniable, Ben sees the fear and pain hiding in Mallory’s beautiful eyes. But how can he help her if she won’t let him in? Ben can fix just about anything—but can he fix Mallory’s broken heart?



My review:
I think this is the first time that I have read a romance novel where the main character is a cancer survivor and is dealing with breast reconstruction. It was certainly a nice change from the normal almost-perfect heroines.

Mallory's past year has been a real struggle. Her husband left her as soon as she found out she had cancer. Her three best friends were the ones who were there for her during her terrible low times. Now that she is feeling better and recovering from the fog of illness, she is ready to move forward, and part of this process includes renovating the home where she lived with her husband to make it her own. But Ben, the sexy contractor who shows up to work on her house, may just help her in more ways than she imagined.

The characters in this book are amazing. Mallory is a strong, mostly independent cancer survivor. She certainly needs her three best friends, but she thinks she doesn't need anyone else and has kept her cancer a secret from others. However, on the inside, she is vulnerable and still reeling from her ex-husband's rejection at a time when she needed him the most. Ben is hard-working and caring. I think the most sexy thing about him, however, is his true determination to do whatever it takes to take care of his daughter, Amber. Ben makes a bad decision regarding Mallory, which almost made me stop liking him, but it all came down to him being concerned for Amber. Out of Mallory's three best friends, the one we see the most is Juliana. I think Juliana is actually my favorite character in this book. She is sassy and strong-willed on the outside but sensitive on the inside. Reading about Juliana made me want to read the next book in the series just to get to know her more.

The love story in this book was certainly a new one for me. The characters were falling in love while dealing with the issues and pain of breast reconstruction and the fear of relapse. I think it was a great idea to bring this struggle in as the central plot, and Ms. James handled it beautifully. I would recommend this book and this series to anyone who enjoys contemporary romance.

A copy was provided for an honest review.

About the author:
Sandy lives in a quiet suburb of Indianapolis with her husband of thirty years and is a high school social studies teacher. She and her husband own a small stable of harness racehorses and enjoy spending time at the two Indiana racetracks.

She is published through Forever Yours, Carina Press, and BookStrand, as well as self-published. She has been an Amazon Bestseller many times and has won numerous awards, including two HOLT Medallions.

Find out more at SandyJames.com.        

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Christmas at Tiffany's by Karen Swan - Review

Christmas at Tiffany's
by Karen Swan
Published: October 28, 2014 by William Morrow (first published 2011)

What do you do when the man you pledged your life to breaks your heart and shatters your dreams? You pack your bags and travel the big, wide world to find your destiny--and your true love . . .

Ten years ago, a young and naive Cassie married her first serious boyfriend, believing he would be with her forever. Now her marriage is in tatters and Cassie has no career or home of her own. Though she feels betrayed and confused, Cassie isn't giving up. She's going to take control of her life. But first she has to find out where she belongs . . . and who she wants to be.

Over the course of one year, Cassie leaves her sheltered life in rural Scotland to stay with her best friends living in the most glamorous cities in the world: New York, Paris, and London. Exchanging comfort food and mousy hair for a low-carb diet and a gorgeous new look, Cassie tries each city on for size as she searches for the life she's meant to have . . . and the man she's meant to love.



My review:
Don't be fooled by the title; this is not a "Christmas" book. Cassie discovers that her husband of ten years has been cheating on her and immediately leaves him and her old life. The plan is to spend the next year with her three best friends, 4 months with each, in three very different cities, discovering herself and deciding where she wants to start over. 

I had mixed feelings about this book. I love the plot, and I think it had a lot of potential. However, it ended up very unrealistic. Cassie really has no money of her own, which is the main reason the plan is to stay with her three best friends. Lucky for her that these three friends have very prestigious jobs with lots of powerful connections. She is rubbing elbows with the cream of the crop, is given a job at Dior in Paris just because of her friend's connections, and definitely lives a lifestyle that is way more extravagant than she should be able to afford simply because she is so lucky to have these friends in high places. I really would have liked this book so much better if she had lived an ordinary life and the author would have avoided the over-the-top lifestyle.

The relationships she had with this group of women were not all that great for me either. These four women had really grown up together; friends since birth, and the mothers were friends even before their birth. They went to boarding school together and were always there for each other. Unfortunately, this rock-solid friendship showed big cracks almost as soon as Cassie begins staying with them. Yes, real-life friendships have these problems too, but I just didn't feel as if these friendships came across as being as strong as they were supposed to be. 

On the other hand, I did enjoy seeing the changes in Cassie throughout the book as she found herself. And for me, the best part was Henry and the lists of things to experience that he gave her for each city. I would recommend this to readers who enjoy slower-paced women's fiction. You may not like this if you prefer story lines that are more down-to-earth.

I won a copy on Goodreads. I was not required to write a review.

About the author:
Karen Swan worked as a fashion editor before moving into writing fiction. She is married with three children and lives in the Ashdown Forest in East Sussex, writing her books in a treehouse overlooking the South Downs. She is the author of the novels The Summer Without You, Christmas at Claridges, and The Perfect Present.

Find out more at KarenSwan.wix.com     

Friday, November 7, 2014

Christmas in Snow Valley (A Christmas Romance Anthology) - Review


Christmas in Snow Valley
(A Christmas Romance Anthology)
by Cindy Roland Anderson, Jeanette Lewis, Cami Checketts, Taylor Hart, Kimberly Montpetit, Lucy McConnell
Published: November 3, 2014

Christmas in Snow Valley is packed with six wonderful Christmas novellas sure to bring romance into your holiday season.

Snow Valley, Montana, is a small community with the tradition of doing Christmas big. Festivities begin with tree lighting in the town square the day after Thanksgiving and continue until the culminating romantic Christmas Ball. From the Polar Express to a Winter Carnival, there’s something for every wonder-filled child—and every couple who’s in love—or about to be.

An Unexpected Kiss by Cindy Roland Anderson
Lucy Phillips doesn’t want to spend her Christmas vacation dodging her ex-boyfriend, so when he turns up at the airport to give her a ride home, Lucy panics and asks a complete stranger to kiss her. Although the kiss is incredible, Lucy never expects to see the guy again. Is it bad luck or destiny when Lucy comes down with a sore throat and the new doctor in Snow Valley is none other than the guy she kissed at the airport?

Feels Like Love by Jeanette Lewis
Christmas in Snow Valley is the perfect way for April Winston to introduce her city slicker fiancĂ©, Scott Mecham, to life on a farm. If only Wade Hadley, hometown boy and high school sweetheart, will cooperate! But Wade has no intention of letting April go without a fight. This Christmas, Wade is determined to overcome their painful past and show April that she already has what she’s been seeking all along.

Full Court Devotion by Cami Checketts
Kazlyn is too busy with her schooling and future plans to enjoy life, let alone fall in love with a man who has heartbreak written all over him. Tyrese Hamilton, a college basketball star and major heartthrob, is intrigued when Kazlyn doesn’t pursue him or even seem interested. Ty’s career is in jeopardy, and he needs a miracle and Kazlyn to save him.

The Christmas Eve Kiss by Taylor Hart
When Molly O’Hare gets a prediction that she will kiss her true love on Christmas Eve, she thinks it’s utterly ridiculous. But when she gets teamed up with Kevin Snow, aka her ex-boyfriend, to decorate a Christmas tree, things start to change. Too bad getting over the past is hard and seeing him kiss another girl is even harder. Now Molly is left with a choice—run away from home and heartbreak or let Christmas work out a miracle all of its own.

Risking it all for Love by Kimberley Montpetit
Succumbing to family pressure, Jessica Mason reluctantly comes home for Christmas. Ever since her high school boyfriend’s death from a car accident three years earlier, Jessica and religion have not been compatible. So, when she visits Michael’s grave, she’s surprised to meet the handsome James Douglas, Pastor John’s nephew, who’s studying for the ministry. James can not only dish back Jessica’s finely-tuned sarcasm but understands grief all too well, turning Jessica’s world upside down. Is she ready to take another risk on love?

Blue Christmas by Lucy McConnell
As head of Snow Valley hospital’s fundraising effort, Paisley Hackett barely has time to organize the craft show, cookie decorating party, and the annual Christmas Ball. What she doesn’t have time for is falling in love with Clay Jett, the incredibly handsome bass player who sweeps into town. She’s been burned by a tourist romance before and, with everything going on, Paisley will have to work overtime to protect her heart from Clay and his swoon-worthy ballads.



My short and sweet review:
Christmas in Snow Valley is a group of sweet, clean romance novellas all set in Snow Valley, Montana. Each author wrote the love story of a different set of characters. Some of these stories tied in with the rest of them better than others, but they all had some of the same elements. I would recommend reading these novellas in this box set, although they would be good separately too, because it definitely adds a richness to the reading experience when you consider how these stories are all set at the same time and in the same place. 

This is a great set of clean Christmas romances to read to get you in the holiday spirit. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys clean romances.

A copy was provided for an honest review.   

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Presumption of Guilt by Marti Green - Review

Presumption of Guilt
(Innocent Prisoners Project)
by Marti Green
Published: November 4, 2014
by Thomas & Mercer

Twelve years ago, teenager Molly Singer was tried and convicted for murdering her parents. She was sentenced to two consecutive life terms in prison, torn away from her newborn daughter, and forsaken by those closest to her. But now, a series of anonymous letters proclaim her innocence-and point a finger at a deadly conspiracy.

Attorney Dani Trumball specializes in defending the wrongfully imprisoned at the Help Innocent Prisoners Project. But taking Molly's case means taking on a hard-hearted justice system that doesn't like do-overs-and a merciless killer who will do anything to keep a secret history of dirty deals buried. Only the truth will set Molly free and reunite her broken family. And only Dani has any chance of finding it in a showdown that will push her legal talents-and her survival skills-to the very edge.
 



My review:
Molly Singer came home late one night after a date with her boyfriend and was too hyped up to sleep without taking some Ambien. The next morning, she discovered her parents had been murdered while she slept. Molly was convicted of their murders even though there was no physical evidence, when she was just 17 years old. At the time of her conviction, Molly was pregnant. She had her baby in prison and had to give her up after her daughter's first year. Finn, her ex-boyfriend and the baby's father, feels that it is harmful for Sophie to visit her mom in prison, so Molly loses all contact with her daughter. Molly also loses the only other family she now has, her sister, because her sister initially believes that Molly was guilty. However, now Molly's sister believes she may be innocent, mostly based on some anonymous letters she has received, and she convinces the Help Innocent Prisoners Project to take the case.

Presumption of Guilt is an amazing look at our flawed criminal justice system. I think most people would be shocked to discover how many times innocent people are convicted. This story of Molly and Dani, the attorney working to free her, gives a nod to the cracks in the justice system. The characters, especially Molly and Dani, are amazing. Dani is compassionate and determined. She gives everything she can to help those wrongly convicted. I really wish there were more people in the world like Dani. As a reader, you can't help but feel your heart go out to Molly, especially when she sees her daughter for the first time in years but can't even hug her because she is behind the glass in the prison visiting area. The plot and the writing are magnificent, and this novel is easy to read and engaging. Even as parts of the mystery start to fall into place, the reader is still left trying to piece together the whole puzzle until the end.

I loved this story, and Marti Green has been added to my list of authors to watch. If you enjoy mystery/legal thrillers, I would recommend you read this.

A copy was provided for an honest review.

About the author:
After receiving her master of science degree and her professional certificate, both in school psychology, Marti Green realized her true passion was the law. She went on to receive her law degree from Hofstra University and worked as an in-house counsel for a major cable television operator for twenty-three years, specializing in contracts, intellectual property law, and regulatory issues. She is the author of the legal thrillers Presumption of Guilt and Unintended Consequences. A passionate traveler, mother to two adult sons, and grandmother to five grandchildren, she now lives in central Florida with her husband, Lenny, and cat, Howie.

Find out more at MartiGreen.net.     

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