Painting the Moon by Traci Borum

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⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 – 4.5 stars

Noelle Cooke has just received word that her reclusive great aunt has died and left her Primrose Cottage and her art gallery, in a little village called Chilton Crosse in England. Settled in a beach house in California and relatively content, Noelle still can’t help but to recall the fond memories of spending time as a young girl with her Great Aunt Joy and grandmother, “Gram,” in the bucolic, tranquil setting of the English countryside. The memories prompt her to immediately arrange a trip to England to settle details regarding her aunt’s estate. Being back in the familiar surroundings of summers spent during adolescence is a welcome respite for Noelle. Having not been in contact with her aunt for several years after many attempts, Noelle is hoping she will uncover why her Aunt Joy suffered a meltdown during a gallery event and retreated to her cottage for nearly a decade. As Noelle navigates Primrose Cottage she discovers a room with a locked door.  Could the contents of that room hold the answers to what happened to her?

Not long after returning to England to claim her inheritance, Noelle is reacquainted with two old friends, both of whom she spent time with when she visited during the summers. Her friend Jill, a sassy, outspoken and generally lovely person is now married and faring well domestically and financially. Her other friend, Adam Spencer, is now a very handsome Architect. Noelle is dismayed to learn that Adam, her childhood sweetheart that got away before things developed romantically between them, is engaged to a woman named Laurel. But if Adam and Laurel’s relationship is solid, why does Adam seem to find so much pleasure in Noelle’s company?

Painting the Moon was a delightful read. I enjoyed getting acquainted with both the primary and secondary characters— particularly Mac, the gardener, who proved to be an asset in many ways to Noelle. I liked the steady progression of the story, and wondering what had happened to aunt Joy to cause her to become a recluse. And what, if anything, would become of Adam and Noelle. There’s also secrets and hidden treasures that added a bit of intrigue to the story.

I enjoyed this book and recommend it highly. Thank you Kathy of Katie’s Cottage Books for reviewing this book on your blog. As a result I have found another great author. And thank you, Traci Borum, for providing me with an e-copy of your book.

 

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Review: Come Sundown

Come Sundown
Come Sundown by Nora Roberts
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ A member of the Bodine family, Alice Bodine, has been missing for 25 years prior to the opening of the story. During the time she’s been gone, The Bodine Ranch and Resort, resided on by four generations, has grown into a thriving enterprise. Alice Bodine’s name is scarcely mentioned by the family because of the differing opinions regarding her hasty departure from their Montana home. On the day she left at age 18, leaving behind no more than a scribbled goodbye note, it was her sister’s wedding day. The family heard from her from time to time at first, and then nothing for decades. Little do they know that Alice was on her way back to Bodine Ranch three years after she left, but was abducted and held captive for 25 years. When she’s found, the entire family welcomes her back, sympathetic to her plight, and does everything in their power to help rehabilitate Alice. While her progress is slow initially, she begins to gradually come around and relief is felt by everyone. But the mystery of who abducted and brutally mistreated Alice for so many years still remains. Could the individual who took her be responsible for the deaths of two other young women who were found on Bodine property? Will Alice’s abductor be back to exact revenge on her for getting away from him?

Come Sundown was outstanding!! The parallel plot structure, excellent character development and amazing Northwest setting kept me engaged in the story. Getting a peek into life on a working ranch and resort in Montana was an educational experience that I enjoyed because it was formerly unfamiliar to me, and I loved learning so much about it, as well as the western part of the U.S.—the recreational activities there, the lingo, cowboys, horses, the humor and attire were all fascinating and fun lessons that will stay with me for a long time. The close-knit Bodine family and the camaraderie they shared was a true highlight, and anyone who reads this book is sure to be taken in by the endearing characters, especially the cowboy, Callen Skinner, whose gentlemanly ways and boyish charm won me over. By the time I was finished with the book I was ready to take a trip to Montana.

I highly recommend this book to those who would enjoy a romance/thriller. Excellently written and difficult to put down, Nora Roberts delivers with Come Sundown. This was my first Nora Roberts book, and now I know what all the hoopla’s about. She’s an amazing storyteller.

I received a free ARC of this book from the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, and in exchange I have provided an honest review. The free ARC in no way influenced my thoughts or opinions of the book.

 

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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: Sam’s Letters to Jennifer

Sam's Letters to Jennifer
Sam’s Letters to Jennifer by James Patterson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

⭐⭐⭐⭐ Sometimes things are not always what they appear to be….

Samantha, “Sam”, is Jennifer’s beloved grandmother. The two are very close since Jennifer’s mother died when she was 12. Now an adult and in the process of trying to cope from a more recent loss, Jennifer learns that her grandmother has taken a fall and is in critical condition. It doesn’t look good. Jennifer leaves her apartment in Chicago and moves into her grandmother’s house on Lake Geneva so she can visit her daily at the hospital. Upon moving in she finds well over a hundred letters detailing her grandmother’s life that she left for Jennifer to read a few at a time. She begins to do so and learns that her grandmother’s 50 year marriage to her grandfather wasn’t what it appeared to be. Meanwhile, Jennifer reconnects with an old friend she grew up with. Brendan, a doctor, has taken a leave from his practice and is staying with his uncle near her grandmother’s lakefront house. Things begin to get cozy between the two of them when Jennifer is shocked to learn of a devastating secret that Brendan has just revealed to her. Can Jennifer find happiness amid all the heartbreak?
Before I saw the movie version of Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas, I had no idea that James Patterson wrote the book. It was such a beautiful romance story that when I came across Sam’s Letters to Jennifer, also written by James Patterson, I knew I had to read it. I was not disappointed. I can confidently say that James Patterson knows how to write tender and effecting love stories. Sam’s Letter’s to Jennifer is a poignant story about finding love, losing it, and then holding on to the prospect of loving again when it doesn’t seem possible. There’s more than one love story playing out in this book, and the ways in which several lives converge and hope is renewed is beautifully told. This one’s a tearjerker. You’ve been warned. Recommended.

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Review: The Secrets She Kept

The Secrets She Kept
The Secrets She Kept by Brenda Novak
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Josephine Lazarow had a lot of secrets….

The Secrets She Kept, book 2 in the Fairham Island series, picks up 5 years after The Secret Sister. Josephine Lazarow is dead. Her death has been ruled a suicide, but her son, Keith Lazarow, is not convinced. His mother would never take her own life, he insists. Once a down and out addict, Keith has turned over a new leaf. Turns out he has a knack for real estate and operates a multimillion dollar company in California. His newfound wealth gives him the means to delve deeper into his mother’s death. After consulting with his sister Maisey regarding the mysterious circumstances surrounding their mother’s death, she supports Keith’s decision to pursue a more thorough investigation. If only he could persuade the beautiful, highly intelligent and efficient Chief of Police, Harper Underwood, to get on board. Keith realizes that his negative reputation precedes him, and that it will take great effort on his part to reverse others’ preconceived notions of him, including the police chief’s. Meanwhile, Keith is trying to contain his feelings for the woman whose heart he broke 5 years earlier before he got clean, Nancy Dellinger. Realizing he made a tremendous mistake in taking her for granted, he desperately wants to start over with her. But Nancy has continually resisted his attempts and Keith is having a difficult time accepting her rejections. Will these distressing circumstances in his life push Keith over the edge and back to the drugs he’s worked so hard to put behind him? Did Josephine take her own life or did someone murder her?

The Secrets She Kept was every bit as good as The Secret Sister, which was a 5-star read for me. In it we find a great mystery alongside a solid, second-chance romance story. Brenda Novak is very adept at conveying human emotion. Her characters’ feelings and expressions are authentic and relatable. I also appreciate how there’s a purpose for every one of her characters. At the conclusion of the book the reader is not left wondering “whatever happened to so and so?”. Everything comes together at the end, neat and tidy, with each person accounted for. Some of the characters that we were introduced to in The Secret Sister have evolved and matured in The Secrets She kept, and for that reason I recommend reading the books in order. If I had to list any cons for this book there would only be one. I wish it was free of the heavy petting and sensual scenes since I prefer wholesome romance. Just my own personal preference. Brenda Novak’s writing is so good it doesn’t even seem necessary. Being that the romance aspect shared space with the mystery, these scenes were few and I did my best to skip over them. Had everything remained the same, and the romance been strictly sweet, it would be a 5++ read for me.

Overall, The Secrets She Kept was an excellent read with a thoroughly satisfying mystery and a HEA that will melt your heart.

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Review: Little Beach Street Bakery

Little Beach Street Bakery
Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Polly Waterford is starting anew. Her boyfriend’s graphic design consultancy business, of which she was business manager, has foundered and they’ve been forced to file bankruptcy. With the business dissolved, along with most of her material possessions and her relationship with Chris, Polly will have to leave their expensive flat and find a more affordable dwelling. Mount Polbearne, a tidal island 50 miles away from their home in Plymouth, and only accessible by a causeway that washes over twice a day, has an available flat that’s in her price range. The place is a dump. Polly’s posh friend Kerensa is appalled that she would choose such an abhorrent place to settle, but Polly’s determined to make a go of it, assuring Kerensa that it’s only temporary until she can reestablish. With few job prospects on the island and employment on the mainland impossible due to the causeway’s preventing convenient access, Polly does the only thing that she knows how; she bakes. This undertaking infuriates her landlord, Mrs. Gillian Manse, a brusque and menacing older woman whose lone bakery on the island serves stale sandwiches derived from inferior products. Mrs. Manse resents Polly’s baking expertise because the whole town is gravitating to her delectable breads. The two women eventually reach a compromise and soon Polly is coming into her own in the little forsaken town of Mount Polbearne. At times lonesome, she befriends a fisherman and his crew and they quickly become a regular part of her daily life. Polly even begins to have feelings for the fisherman, Tarnie, but will come to learn of a secret he’s harboring. There’s an adorable little puffling (a baby puffin) that slams into the window pane of the abandoned shop beneath Polly’s flat and breaks his wing. Polly cares for the bird and is warned by the vet not to name him or she’ll get too attached and won’t want to release him when he’s convalesced. Ignoring his suggestion she names the little bird Neil and the two become inseparable. When it’s time to take Neil to the puffin sanctuary Polly is crushed, but her beekeeper friend who makes delicious honey, Huckle, lends his support and accompanies her to the sanctuary. Huckle is sweet and handsome, with his own story to tell, and Polly is soon smitten by his affections. Meanwhile, her boyfriend Chris re-enters her life, wanting to pick up where they left off and Polly has a decision to make. Which life will she choose? Never expecting to stay long in Mount Polbearne, she’s made the shabby place with the gorgeous views her home. Even her friend Kerensa has come to see the beauty and potential of the place, visiting often and catching the eye of a very wealthy resident there. Polly has become content with her thriving bakery business, her love interests and pet puffin. But will she take the easy way out, abandon her newfound friends and business and return to the executive lifestyle with Chris?

Little Beach Street Bakery was a delightful read. I became immersed in Polly’s life, wanting to know who she’d wind up with, what would happen to the sweet little puffling, whether or not her bakery business would take off and sustain her, and if she would choose to make Mount Polbearne her permanent home. The story satisfies all of these questions and takes us on an adventure and into the lives of some of the other residents, showing us how with a little determination and the willingness to follow your dreams, happiness can be achieved, even in an unfashionable little place like Mount Polbearne, Cornwall. Enjoyable read.

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Review: The Lost Garden

The Lost Garden
The Lost Garden by Katharine Swartz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

💜💜💜💜💜 The Lost Garden is Book 2 in the Tales from Goswell series, and like the first in the series, The Vicar’s Wife, it is set in England. (The Vicar’s Wife was my favorite book of 2013.)  Although The Lost Garden is book 2 in the series, it can be read as a stand-alone.

I relished The Lost Garden!  I shrieked with delight when characters from The Vicar’s wife appeared. It was like catching up with beloved old friends. The Lost Garden covered two time periods, the present day and the early 1900’s. Both stories were poignant and involved women who were affected by loss, guilt, and unrequited love, along with the desire to reinvigorate a garden that had been neglected and abandoned as a way to bring a little bit of joy into their grief-stricken lives. The garden is the same in both stories.  Marin Ellis, the woman of the present day, is trying to start a new life as guardian to her 15-year old half-sister, Rebecca. Their father and Rebecca’s mother were killed in a car accident. Having had no previous relationship, the two are trying to adjust to one another while struggling with feelings they secretly harbor against their respective parents.  While on holiday they fall in love with a little house on a vicarage property, called Bower House, and Rebecca convinces her half-sister to purchase it. They soon begin to settle in to their new lives and in time Marin becomes mystified by a photograph she sees of a young, unidentified woman who was standing in her little home’s walled garden with a butterfly on her fingertips, a yearning man in the background.  Who were these two people of over a century ago with the odd expressions, she wonders, and what was going on in their lives?

Eleanor Sanderson has lost her brother to war and she’s devastated. She so loved her brother Walter, and the news of his death is almost too much for her to bear.  Her brother’s friend James has returned physically unharmed by the war, but emotionally he’s a different man, a man who no longer seems interested in her sister, who he’s promised to marry.  Injured soldiers and dashed hopes permeate everyone’s existence in Cumberland, and Eleanor struggles with feelings of hopelessness. She makes up her mind to have the vicarage garden recultivated, along with the walled garden by the little house on the property where her grandmother Elizabeth resides, Bower House, to especially inspire blind soldiers with fragrant blooms that will hopefully lift their spirits; and the gardener, Jack Taylor, is just the man to help her do it. Jack has experience with the war, but Eleanor is intrigued by the way he seems able to cope, not like her brother-in-law James.  As a forbidden relationship begins to develop, secrets are uncovered and Eleanor’s life will change even further.

The two stories ultimately converge since the houses in both time periods are the same. This is referred to as a time slip novel, and I don’t know how Katharine Swartz does it every time, but she’s masterful at writing this type of novel.  I’ve enjoyed all of her stories in this particular format, and The Lost Garden was no exception. Both stories held my interest and the setting was one that I always enjoy, England.  I highly recommend The Lost Garden, and I hope there will be a book 3 in the Tales from Goswell series.

Thank you Library Thing and Lion Fiction for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review which I have given.

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