Review: Home to Stay


Home to Stay by Kate James
My rating:            5 of 5 stars

💚💚💚💚💚

Home to Stay is San Diego K-9 Unit Book 4.

Sawyer Evans’s four-year-old son, Dylan, was kidnapped from their campsite while vacationing with family.  San Diego K-9 unit officer, Shannon Clemens, is called upon with her search and rescue dog, Darwin, to try to locate the missing child. The initial search is unsuccessful and Sawyer is livid. Shannon’s emotions are stirred by Sawyer’s deep agony over his son’s disappearance, and because of her own prior personal experience with loss, she feels compelled to help Sawyer find Dylan. In time, the distraught father and caring, compassionate officer develop feelings for one another. But when another incident causes tension between the couple, their connection is strained. Will the feelings they’ve developed be enough to overcome the obstacles they’re currently facing?

Home to Stay was thoroughly engrossing from the start.  As new developments in the abduction case surfaced, the suspense and intensity continued to build, keeping me interested and engaged in the story. The intriguing mystery surrounding Dylan’s disappearance propelled the plot forward. I was put in the mind of a romantic suspense novel—albeit a milder approach to the romance and suspense elements, making it suitable for a wholesome romance book. The relationship and dialog between Sawyer and his son was endearing—so sweet and pleasant to read. Dylan was a darling little boy, and I looked forward to scenes where he was present. The relationship between Sawyer and Shannon was at times complex because of surrounding circumstances and I kept trying to envision how things would turn out for the two of them.

Riveting and imaginative, I enjoyed this book immensely. An intriguing mystery, suspense, police procedurals, a strained romance and HEA, are some of what you’ll get in Home to Stay. Very highly recommended.

I received a free copy of this book from the author. In exchange I have provided an honest review.

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Review: Recipe for Redemption

Recipe for Redemption
💚💚💚💚💚 Recipe for Redemption by Anna J. Stewart
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jason Corwin’s life is in a shambles when he arrives at the Flutterby Inn in Butterfly Harbor, a California coastal town, where he’s been sent to clear his head from the recent misfortunes that have befallen him. After having lost his twin brother, his career as a renowned chef and his reputation, Jason has convinced himself that walking away from his former life, instead of fighting to reclaim it, is the best option. That’s until he meets Abby Manning, the beautiful, young and feisty Flutterby Inn Manager who can’t cook if her life depended on it. So why on earth did she join a cooking contest? Abby could use Jason’s help in the kitchen if she has any chance at winning the prize money that she desperately needs to save the inn that’s been her grandmother’s home for decades. But Jason is uppity, reticent and judgmental, and he grates on her nerves. That is until Abby’s playful nature gradually peels away the layers of Jason’s scarred heart to reveal the sensitive, charming man underneath. Soon they are working together amiably, healing each other. But will a bombshell threaten everything they’ve managed to accomplish together and destroy the strong feelings they both share for one another?

I loved this sweet romance novel. The pacing impressed me as it built gradually and then gained impetus to the very last page. Sometimes a book starts strong and then wanes. This was not the case with Recipe for Redemption. It reached a point where I was flipping pages so fast I couldn’t believe I was at the end already. There are many things that I enjoyed about this book. I loved the relationship between Abby and her grandmother. There are tender, heartwarming moments between them that touched my heart. There are two very precocious kids that had me laughing out loud at their antics. Even the town, Butterfly Harbor, had much to recommend itself with its picturesqueness and supportive neighbors that rallied round Abby despite their knowledge of her inept cooking skills. A semi-eccentric character, a villain and the presence of butterflies all add to the endearing quality of this story.
Anna Stewart’s writing is emotive, funny and definitely worth investing time in. A most delightful read. Highly recommended.

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Review: The Husband’s Secret

The Husband's Secret
The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ What would you do if your husband left you a letter that he didn’t intend for you to find and open until after his death, but that you mistakenly found while he was still alive and well? Would you defy his wishes and open it? This is the dilemma facing Cecelia Fitzpatrick in The Husband’s Secret.

Riveting. I actually gasped when I found out what the secret was. I was transfixed. I didn’t expect to find out what the secret was at the time it was revealed in the book, nor did I ever come close to guessing what it would be. The clever way this tale was told, combining three narratives into one, ratcheted up my interest and enjoyment of the book. It’s difficult to review The Husband’s Secret without giving too much away, so suffice to say it was worth every minute I spent on it. The epilogue was very unique and was a story unto itself. Again, I don’t want to give too much away but I highly recommend this book. Secrets can transform lives, and in The Husband’s Secret, lives will be changed in many ways. After reading this book I will surely look into more of Liane Moriarty’s books. An excellent page-turner that I never wanted to put down.

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Review: The Secret Sister

The Secret Sister
The Secret Sister by Brenda Novak
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Brenda Novak tricked me!! Just when I thought I had it all figured out she blindsided me with a twist I didn’t see coming, and it was clever. As the title suggests, there could very well have been a secret sister that protagonist, Maisey Lazarow, didn’t know about. When a metal box that was keenly hidden emerges, the photographs inside incite vague memories of a girl she may have once been acquainted with. But how could that be? Keith and Maisey are the only two children of Malcolm and Josephine Lazarow. Or are they? Maisey doesn’t dare broach that subject with her mother. Josephine is an odious, overbearing and austere woman who exerts her power and influence on Fairham Island, the place where Maisey grew up and has now returned to help her brother, a weak and broken soul who can’t get his life together. Maisey’s relationship with her mother is so shallow that she refuses to stay in the family home, Coldiron House, preferring to take up residence on the far side of the island where her family owns a number of bungalows that are in desperate need of repair. Even a crumbling cottage is better than living in the same house with her mother. But when Maisey finds out that the contractor who’s been hired to do the renovations on the bungalows is none other that Rafael “Rafe” Romano, a guy she had a fling with in her younger days, and who now owns and lives in one of the bungalows nearby with his adorable young daughter, Laney, Maisey wonders how she’ll be able to divert her attention away from the alluringly attractive man that her mother would never approve of for her daughter. Bad enough she’s recently divorced from Jack, a man who her mother had advised her not to marry; a fact that Josephine will not let her forget. And now, finding the pictures of the young girl in that box raises many questions. Who is she, and why hadn’t her parents told her and Keith about her? Why aren’t there any police records about her, or small-town rumors circulating that she’s heard about? Could her mother have anything to do with the child’s disappearance? The implications of that thought alone are unnerving. Aside from trying to find answers to these lingering questions, she’ll have to make a decision about who she wants to have in her life romantically, Jack or Rafe; straighten out her careless, irresponsible brother, revitalize her writing career, heal from a personal tragedy, and put forth her best effort to mend the rift with her mother that’s been intensified by her reluctance to break things off with Rafe.
The mystery/romance combination of this story really worked for me. I love mysteries, and I love romance, so when they work in tandem I’m contented. This method of storytelling also gives more space to the plot rather than the bedroom scenes. That’s a plus for me because I prefer wholesome romance where heavy sexual content is non-existent. As was the case with The Secret Sister, my attention was drawn more to the mystery of the unidentified girl than it was to Rafe and Maisey’s relationship drama, although I was interested in knowing if their feelings for each other would overcome any obstacles that threatened to keep them apart. In the end, I had to suspend disbelief just a bit to come to terms with the rapid progression of their love, but isn’t that what enjoying fiction is all about sometimes? In conclusion, The Secret Sister was a tantalizing mystery that pulled a fast one on me, along with a romance made up of two unlikely, but very likeable adults, and secondary characters that consisted of all the traits that make for an interesting and absorbing read. I look forward to finding out more about the Lazarow family in Fairham Island book 2, The Secrets She Kept. Highly recommended.

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Review: Now and Then Friends

Now and Then Friends
Now and Then Friends by Kate Hewitt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Now and Then Friends can be summed up in one word:  BRILLIANT!!  Book 2 in the Hartley-by-The-Sea series, it has become my favorite book thus far in 2016.  It’s the first book this year to make me cry intermittently, and one in which I was sincerely disappointed to see end.  I have loved all of Kate Hewitt’s books, but she really outdid herself with this one. All of the characters, main and secondary, were so well developed and beautifully flawed with such admirable, redeeming qualities, that I was majorly interested in each of their stories.

In it we find two women, Rachel Campell and Claire West, best friends in primary school but who after four years drifted apart when Claire, the shy but financially privileged one, seemingly abandoned Rachel for the “in” crowd of girls that embraced her. It’s about 16 years later and Rachel stumbles upon Claire in her parent’s house, which Rachel cleans, presenting a very awkward reunion between the two.  Claire has been living and working in Portugal with her now ex-fiancé, Hugh, but has returned to her childhood home in Hartley-by-The-Sea to reclaim her life and start over on her own terms, without everyone else’s interference as to what’s the best course for her to take.  Rachel’s dreams of procuring a University education dissolved after a mere two weeks when her mother had an accident while on a cleaning job rendering her bedridden, and relegating Rachel to the tasks of caring for her, the cleaning business and her two younger sisters since her father took off shortly after their mum became incapacitated. These are the predicaments of the two women when they come face to face after 16 years. What ensues after that is stubborn pride, resentments, and misunderstandings that initially hinder a proper reconciliation.  However, as circumstances in life cause both women to converge and grow, there’s the hope that with some compromise everyone involved can see a brighter future.

The vivid setting, superb depth of characters, deeply emotional dialogue, complex relationships and wry humor kept me planted to my seat in eager expectation of each pursuant chapter. There are so many astonishing moments to relive in my mind’s eye that this book will have a lasting favorable impact on me for many days, weeks or even months to come. I await Book 3 in the series with eager anticipation.

Thank you Penguin Random House for a free copy of this amazing book in exchange for an honest review which I have given.

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Review: Discovering You

Discovering You
Discovering You by Brenda Novak
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

💜💜💜💜💜 Upon completing Discovering You, book 10 in the Whiskey Creek series, I could see how Brenda Novak acquired her best-selling author status. This book was ALWAYS hard to put down, and NEVER hard to pick up.  Ms. Novak’s story struck a chord with me. It was chock-full of everything that would keep a person fully absorbed in the story; a seemingly inappropriate relationship, obsession, rivalry, intrigue, suspense and of course, romance. (Uhh….this is not a wholesome romance book. There were a few, not a lot, of sexy scenes, which I preferred to gloss over.)  I was fully invested in the suspenseful parts of the book since I love romance with a bit of suspense. Ms. Novak handled this beautifully. I was on the edge of my seat, wondering how bad-boy Rod Amos was going to keep himself from being killed by his girlfriend’s (India Sommers) husband’s murderer; but he felt compelled to protect her, despite it meaning he might have to put himself in harm’s way. Rod and India certainly had many challenges to face in order to be a couple – India’s husband’s somewhat recent murder, her judgmental ex in-laws, Rod’s bad-boy image and blue-collar status, India’s guilt, her young child….  I really felt for Rod’s character. He was tough because of having lost his mother to suicide, and his father to prison. Fortunately he could depend on the love of his oldest brother, Dylan, who practically raised him. That’s another part of the book I loved, the brothers’ (five, including Rod) dialogue among themselves. It was portrayed in such a way that you cared about those men and their lives. Their affection for one another was palpable, even under the tough exterior, and this was endearing.

In a nutshell, Brenda Novak without question knows how to write a story. And even though I typically don’t comment on various errors I find in books, I noted that I didn’t catch even a spelling error in Discovering You.  It was flawless.

Aside from the fact that I prefer my romance sweet, this book, depicting modern-day relationships and contemporary life, was excellently executed and I thoroughly enjoyed the story.  Phenomenal.

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Review: The House on Primrose Pond

The House on Primrose Pond
The House on Primrose Pond by Yona Zeldis McDonough
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**#1 RECOMMENDED READ**  🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 Compelling.  Intriguing.  Evocative. Enthralling. Captivating. These are the words that come to mind to describe my feelings about The House on Primrose Pond. Seriously, I never wanted to put the book down. It was so well constructed and comprised of so many riveting elements that I found myself glued to the pages, anxiously awaiting the next development. I was fully invested in the story, which actually consisted of two stories in one since the protagonist was a novelist who was writing a book.  I loved how the author incorporated a secondary story into the main one, giving you two tantalizing stories in one fascinating book.  And now, a little about the book…..
Susannah Gilmore experiences a tragedy in her life, upending it and taking her from her home in Brooklyn, New York to the small town of Eastwood, New Hampshire.  This is a prudent move given the circumstances, but one that her teenage daughter, Calista, struggles to embrace. The home that Susannah and her two children settle into in N.H. belonged to her now deceased parents, although technically they hardly ever lived there, having moved from the house before Susannah was born.  Her only memorable recollection of time spent there was one summer when she was about 17.  She recalls that her mother didn’t seem happy that summer.  That memory resurfaces when while moving in she finds what appears to be a love note to her mother that was not from her father.  Why was some other man giving her mother notes and writing her poems?  As Susannah uncovers more pieces to the puzzle her mother left behind, will she be able to accept the consequences that might result from her quest to find the truth.
Every once in a while a book comes along that seems especially written for you. It just speaks to your soul in a way that you understand.  It astounds you and you can’t stop thinking or talking about it.  That was my experience with The House on Primrose Pond. I just loved so many things about it – the tragic events, an old summer crush, a mystery poet, grief, human imperfection, a little romance, widowhood, presumed infidelity, a pristine setting, lovable animals and fascinating wildlife.  It was a gem with so many brilliant facets that kept me longing for the next revelation.

Yona Zeldis McDonough is a phenomenal storyteller and I am so glad I discovered her as an author along with her book, The House on Primrose Pond. I enjoyed this book immensely, and can’t recommend it highly enough.  It was an extraordinary read that easily ranks among one of my all-time favorites.  Now I’m off to investigate what else she’s written…..

Thank you so much to Penguin Random House and Yona Zeldis McDonough for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review which I have given.

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