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: 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: When the Right One Comes Along

When the Right One Comes Along
When the Right One Comes Along by Kate James
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

💚💚💚💚💚 When the Right One Comes Along immediately raises your pulse with the opening scene of an earthquake. First response officer Calen (“Cal”) Palmer and his search and rescue K-9 partner, Scout, have just recovered 5 yr. old Kayla from earthquake wreckage, narrowly escaping with their lives. Palmer is wounded and trauma surgeon Jessica Hansen is mending his badly gashed leg. But why, Jessica wonders, is this man who is fortunate to be alive so irascible, and why does his bad attitude appear to be directed towards her?
Cal and Jessica couldn’t be more right for each other, but both are scarred from life-altering incidents in their past that prevent them from exposing themselves totally to one another, and this creates misunderstandings that cause a rift in their developing relationship. But there is so much more to this romance novel, including a child who could use a loving home and the clever German Shepherd, Scout, that will capture your heart.  There are action scenes and a glimpse into the lives of police dogs and their trainer/partners that I found particularly interesting and informative; and there was a carefully and beautifully crafted ending that brought all of the straggling pieces together into a neatly packaged HEA ending.
I loved this book so much and it was constructed so well that the flow kept me engrossed and interested from beginning to end.  Very, very well written and highly recommended.
Thank you so much Kate James for this copy of When the Right One Comes Along in exchange for an honest review which I have given.

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Review: Now She’s Back

Now She's Back
Now She’s Back by Anna Adams
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫  Stubborn, unyielding and proud Noah Gage possesses more of his father’s undesirable character traits than he realizes or would care to admit.  His family’s a mess, but he seems to have made a commitment to caring for and protecting his mother and siblings from his abusive father for a lifetime at the expense of his relationship with his fiancé, Emma Candler. Emma is fed up with Noah’s guarded reserve, and the way he puts his family’s needs ahead of hers. This is the last straw, so after an altercation involving Noah’s father and some members of her family, Emma leaves Bliss, TN without Noah.  Fast forward four years and Emma is back in Bliss to make repairs to her deceased grandmother’s house, which has been left to her. Now that she’s back, will Noah and Emma bury the hatchet and rekindle the flame that may still burn within them for each other?

This sweet romance kept me engaged and in the end warmed my heart. The setting was very appealing since I am familiar with the beautiful Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.  I relished the descriptions of the scenery, and enjoyed wondering how Noah and Emma would mend their broken relationship. The secondary characters were interesting and added flavor to the story.  Overall I thought Now She’s Back was a gratifying read and I recommend it to those looking for a sweet, satisfying romance book.

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Review: The Bluebird Bet

The Bluebird Bet
The Bluebird Bet by Cheryl Harper

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

💙💙💙💙💙 Elaine Watson, Tall Pines doctor, is determined to purchase the neglected Bluebird Inn from a patient and owner of the Inn, Robert Collins. Robert’s beloved wife, Martha Collins, took pride in The Bluebird Inn and her labor of love was a beautiful place that Elaine fondly remembers visiting with her parents when she was just a girl. Martha is gone now and along with her went the meticulous efforts of maintaining the Inn. When a health crisis nearly takes Robert’s life, save the good doctor Elaine’s diligent care, he decides not to continue taking life for granted by heading out on his own travel adventures. What will become of the Bluebird Inn?  Elaine refuses to acknowledge her childhood place of contentment being lost forever, so she offers to purchase and restore it. Only problem is Robert’s son Dean is just as determined and wants to turn the Inn into a fishing camp. Who ultimately wins this battle of wills, and what will become of the old Bluebird Inn?  Will the good doctor employ her instinctively caring nature and physician’s training to help a wounded man heal, or is this war at all costs to obtain the Inn she wants to call her own?

I loved, loved, loved this Heartwarming story!  The Bluebird Bet is Book #2 in the Welcome To Tall Pines series; A Minute On The Lips was the first (which was also great). Cheryl Harper’s fluid storytelling skills and sense of humor pulled me into the narrative and I felt immediately connected to the characters, setting and the story overall. Devouring 100+ pages in one sitting without stirring is a great feat for me and means that I am thoroughly enjoying the writer’s style.  This was my experience with The Bluebird Bet. Great story, fun and endearing characters, lovely setting, familiar friends and a convincing love story with a happy ending. Would you like those elements in your sweet romance story? Then you’re sure to love The Bluebird Bet.

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Hazardous Homecoming by Dana Mentink

IMG_3410.JPG ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️   Oooohhh….this was a good one, a great love-inspired suspense story. The suspense aspect kept me guessing to the very end, and I was both shocked and surprised by the outcome. Ruby’s friend goes missing and 20 years later she finds key evidence that could lead to what actually happened to her. However, this finding has the potential to negatively impact the lives of cherished loved ones, and in the midst of it all could ulimately shatter and destroy the bond of love between Ruby and Cooper, who seem destined to be together. I enjoyed this story of love and loss; and Ruby’s struggle to exercise faith in God was both moving and realistic given the trials she was faced with. More often than not I am hesitant to read inspirational fiction, not because I am not a believer, but because I AM. Oftentimes I find this particular genre of books to be too preachy, with the spiritual message often forced into the dialogue at seemingly inopportune times, and in an unnatural way. I can be happily reading along and suddently I’m barraged with a heavy dose of scripture and the author’s interpretation thereof. Isn’t that what inspirational fiction is? Perhaps to some, but not all. For those of us who are religious and possess scriptural knowledge interpretations are taken quite seriously, and if the reader perceives it as incorrect or misinterpreted the reaction can be one of annoyance rather than satisfying. The inspirational fiction category can be tricky in this regard. A writer may be attempting to upbuild readers when in actuality they may be accomplishing the opposite effect, offending the readers’s own cherished belief system and doctrinal interpretations. Dana Mentink handled this superbly in Hazardous Homecoming. She used just enough inspiration to render the book encouraging. It was not overly saturated or laced with scriptural doctrine so as to conflict with my own Christian beliefs. It was for this reason, and the fact that the story was suspenseful and intriguing that I gave Hazardous Homecoming 5 stars. I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review which I have given.