The Twin Test by Rula Sinara – (To Kenya, with Love series – book 5)

💚💚💚💚💚 – 5 hearts

Dax Calder is in over his head. He’s taken a job in Kenya, far from the U.S., where he lives with his eleven-year-old identical twin girls, Ivy and Fern. While in Kenya, Dax is desperate to find someone to look after his girls while he works on a new project for the oil company that’s employed him. Upon observing a young, attractive woman, Pippa Harper, patiently giving a tour to six children, he makes her an offer she can’t refuse. He’ll pay her an inflated wage if she’ll watch his girls until he can find a nanny to replace the one who just quit. Did I mention she is nanny number seven (or eight)? Pippa is no fool. The money will help her to expand and accelerate the education program she provides to village children who wouldn’t otherwise be given an opportunity to learn how to read. But these twin girls are no ray of sunshine in the behavior category. They’re starving for attention, as Pippa will soon learn.

Having grown up in Kenya with her mom on the Busara Elephant Research and Rescue Camp, Pippa’s all about preservation and environmental conservation and all that. Meanwhile, Dax is selling his soul by abandoning his true love of researching seismic activity in exchange for the large paycheck he’ll receive developing subterranean maps so that the oil company can drill or frack in Kenya’s wilderness, which could stir up earthquakes. Dax is cautiously withholding that information from Pippa, but his heart is another matter. What will she think of him if she finds out who he’s working for and what he’s doing? Can feelings supersede principles?

I loved this book!! Rula Sinara is an amazing storyteller who knows how to develop a convincing love story. The evolution of Dax and Pippa’s relationship was so beautifully orchestrated. Ms. Sinara is also very good at educating us about foreign affairs and unfamiliar cultures. I am always enlightened and fulfilled by her stories.

There is only one book left in this series beyond The Twin Test, and I will be so sad to see it end. The first book in the series, The Promise of Rain, was the first Harlequin Heartwarming book I ever read and I haven’t looked back since.

I highly recommend this book, and the entire series. I look forward to the sixth and final book, The Marine’s Return.

Have a great week everyone!! And thanks for reading. ☺️

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The Child Next Door by Shalini Boland – (Audiobook)

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 – 4.5 stars

Kirsty Rawlings is beside herself with fear. She overheard something on her child’s baby monitor that horrified her. She summons the police and informs her husband of her suspicions. But her fears seem unfounded.

Kirsty is feeling a bit insecure. After their baby, Daisy, came along, her relationship with her husband, Dominic, has become mostly platonic and less romantic. Money is tight, and her nerves are on edge after a mess of strange, unexplained occurrences have happened. Paranoia grips her. She’s always harried and suspicious of everyone around her. Neighbors regard her cautiously. Do they think she’s crazy? Is somebody trying to take her baby? Is her husband involved with someone else? Has her best friend betrayed her? Is she delusional?

This book!! I have to admit that when I first started it I thought it was going to be just another predictable psychological thriller. I was wrong. I did not anticipate the twists and turns that left my mouth agape and my mind whirling. And that epilogue!!

This was my first Shalini Boland book and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I purchased this audiobook from Audible. The narrator, Katie Villa, was excellent and contributed to my enjoyment of the book. Recommended.

Blanche on the Lam by Barbara Neely – (Audiobook – Tantor Audio)

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 – 4.5 stars

When four of her employers go out of town without informing her, or paying her, sassy domestic worker, Blanche White, is forced to write a few bad checks that land her in hot water. She might be headed off to prison. Fortunately, a commotion surrounding an unfortunate event involving the county commissioner enables Blanche to make her escape from the courthouse without notice. What will she do? Where will she go? She finds herself in the home of a wealthy family, disguised as a former worker. Blanche figures she can make some money in the meantime before she’s found out and then move on with her life. But she’s chosen the wrong house to get lost in. Things are not what they appear to be in the household. So when two murders happen within her short stay at this hideout home, Blanche will need her quick wits to get away safe, and to uncover who did away with her newfound friend.

This book immediately drew me in. It was creative right from the start, which hooked me. And then Blanche’s personality, which mimicked some women I’ve encountered in real life and in the movies, entertained me. How can I explain her character? 🤔 It was a little like a mix of Octavia Spencer’s character, Minnie, from The Help, and Madea from one of Tyler Perry’s movies. One of my favorite characters was Mumsfield, a mentally challenged man with a big heart, a love of cars, and an instant attachment to and wholesome affection for Blanche. Mumsfield, although autistic, was very keen in many ways, and there was just so much to love about him.

I would not characterize this book as a cozy mystery because it contains some mature themes and serious subject matter; material that’s best suited for adult readers. It was not the comedic mystery that I thought it would be based on the cover. The setting was the Deep South, and if you are particularly sensitive about outspokenness regarding racial inequalities and prejudice, I’d think twice before picking up this one. Blanche can be a bit salty with her tongue, and other characters are not shy about expressing their feelings about minorities and using condescension in their tones. Nonetheless, the mystery aspect was top-notch, and I was both impressed and surprised by the outcome.

The audible narrator’s performance given by Lisa Reneé Pitts was OUTSTANDING!! She imitates male and female voices, dialects and accents with ease. As the villain, her maniacal laugh was priceless. I look forward to listening to other books she’s narrated.

Thank you, Tantor Audio, for a complimentary audio download of Blanche on the Lam. All opinions expressed about it are my own.