16 September 2017

His Runaway Son (Harlequin Superromance No. 699)

WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS INFORMATION THAT MAY BE CONSIDERED SPOILERS.

DEE HOLMES

Synopsis from Goodreads: Burke Wheeler. Undercover cop. Devoted father. Ex-husband. For the past few years Burke's had very little to do with his ex-wife, Abbie except insofar as she's the mother of his sixteen-year-old son, Justin. Then comes a day every parent fears and dreads. Something Burke's faced as a cop but never as a father. Justin is missing. A runaway. Burke and Abbie know they have to confront their own conflicts, lay aside old animosities, if they're going to find their son. In the process of looking for Justin, they find each other, too.They find each other all over again.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Harlequin Enterprised, Limited, 1996.

How acquired: From a BookCrossing member.

First line: “Mrs. Wheeler, I know you're upset, but if we're going to find your son, I need a few questions answered.”

My thoughts: Not the best Harlequin I've read, not the worst. Didn't really care much for the heroine. During the marriage she wanted the hero to give up being a cop. Now they're divorced, and she still wants him to give up being a cop. Not that he was blameless in the marriage falling apart, but he went through a character transformation and realized where he'd gone wrong and I felt like he grew as a person and would not make the same mistakes. She, on the other hand, is still basically the same person she was when the book started, though less naive about what her teenage son has been up to. At the end he never said he was going to give up being a cop, so I'm not sure how long the new remarriage will last before she starts in again about that.

01 September 2017

Summer Doctor

CHARLES H. KNICKERBOCKER

Synopsis from Goodreads: This is a novel about a very unusual kind of a doctor. Daniel van Dine, M.D., is inclined to wear coveralls, a flannel shirt, and hip-length fisherman’s boots, and he has a sense of humor. He is a nonconformist and a humanist with a keen sense of history. His religious inclinations are rather strong. He is constantly seeking the reason for human suffering and pain. He feels that a deeply personal doctor-patient relationship is more important than the glamor of medical progress.

Dr. Dan decides to locate on a remote island off the cost of Maine. Here, he will be very busy ten weeks out of every year, for Juniper Island is a summer resort. Here, also, he will be lonely, for the conditions in the winter are primitive and the island is inhabited then only by stubborn and cantankerous fishermen.

This is Dr. Dan’s own story of his first three years on Juniper Island. He treats his patients with compassion and individual understanding. He discovers that a doctor can learn more from his patients than he is ever taught in medical school.

Among his patients and neighbors are a much-married millionaire, a fisherman with a curious sense of ethics, a gloomy anthropologist, a violent artist, and a displaced cleric. Among the women who influence him are a city fashion editor, an ex-chorus girl, a spinster librarian, a gin-loving Indian midwife, and an unusual adolescent. One of these manages to marry him. Also, he owns a dog, a mangy hound answering to the unlikely name of Slob.

Dr. Dan tells his story with wit and wisdom. His career is one of growth, and he reaches certain conclusions of interest to doctors and patients alike.

Stats for my copy: Hardback, Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1963.

How acquired: From my mom.

First line: “Where is this Juniper Island?”

My thoughtsYoung doctor is discharged from military service after serving as a medic in the Korean war, and finds he has no desire to begin his civilian life practicing medicine in a big city where doctors and patients maintain a purely professional relationship and don't actually get to know each other. He remembers vacationing on Juniper Island as a child one summer, and decides to relocate, showing up on the island with no plans in place, nowhere to stay, and no way to actually get back and forth between the island and the mainland since the only bridge was washed away. But with the help of an local he quickly finds himself trading his brand new Thunderbird for an old rusty boat and a fixer upper of a house.

Dr. Daniel van Vine, or Doc as he becomes known, didn't really know what he was getting into, but I loved the way he just barged ahead practically on a whim and set up shop, or rather practice, in his new home on the island. The locals are all pretty colorful characters, and Dan's first person narrative about his interactions and exploits with them are amusing, and filled with lots of slightly philosophical ruminations on life. Some of the conversations about women and their role in society were quaint and antiquated, but the book was written over fifty years ago, so it didn't bother me. I am glad, however, that doctors today do not share Dan's belief that:
...far too much attention is paid, by doctors and patients alike, to the problem of high blood pressure. I could practice just as good medicine, and my patients would live just as long, and more happily, if I threw away my blood pressure machine, but I don't dare.”

When my prescription for my blood pressure medication expired and I wasn't able to get it renewed right away I went off my medication for almost two weeks, and by the end of that second week I felt like I was going to have a heart attack if I did anything that required the least exertion!


Overall I really enjoyed this chatty and engaging book, and I think I'll look around for the author's other books.

15 August 2017

The Art of Hiding


Synopsis from Goodreads: What would you do if you learned that the life you lived was a lie?

Nina McCarrick lives the perfect life, until her husband, Finn, is killed in a car accident and everything Nina thought she could rely on unravels.

Alone, bereft and faced with a mountain of debt, Nina quickly loses her life of luxury and she begins to question whether she ever really knew the man she married. Forced to move out of her family home, Nina returns to the rundown Southampton council estate—and the sister—she thought she had left far behind.

But Nina can’t let herself be overwhelmed—her boys need her. To save them, and herself, she will have to do what her husband discouraged for so long: pursue a career of her own. Torn between the life she thought she knew and the reality she now faces, Nina finally must learn what it means to take control of her life.

Bestselling author Amanda Prowse once again plumbs the depths of human experience in this stirring and empowering tale of one woman’s loss and love.

Stats for my copy: Kindle edition, Lake Union Publishing, 2017.

How acquired: NetGalley.

My thoughts: After reading, or starting and giving up on, too many not good books, I stepped back from accepting review books for awhile. Granted, most of those not good books did not come to me via NetGalley, but were offered directly from the author or his/her representative. I felt so soured on the experience that I stayed off NetGalley for quite some time, and instead devoted my reading to books that were already in my massive TBR pile. But when I received a notification from NetGalley that I was auto approved for this book, I thought it sounded intriguing, so I accepted it. And I'm glad I did. 

It's a bit depressing at times, but ultimately quite uplifting. Nina's perfect life comes crashing down around her when her husband is killed in an auto accident. As if losing her husband wasn't enough, she soon learns that his business was in financial ruin, and before she has time to prepare she and her two sons are suddenly homeless and broke. She transitions from living in a huge house of splendor, ferrying her sons back and forth to their exclusive private school and spending her days mindlessly spending money left and right to living in a tiny flat in a bad neighborhood, getting a job, walking to work, and learning to live on a tight budget. It's hard on her, and hard on the boys. But along the way Nina learns to appreciate life and the small joys that come with it if you can keep your mind from being closed off. I enjoyed taking the journey with her, and watching her blossom from pampered housewife to confident working woman. The characters were all well written, with the boys being realistic kids. I loved how Nina and her sister reconnected, and there were a few times when I laughed out loud at their conversations. 

A really nice story about loss and love and learning to pick yourself up and find happiness in everyday life. 

23 July 2017

Honeymoon Baby (Do Not Disturb No. 2; Harlequin Presents No. 1985)

SUSAN NAPIER

Synopsis from Goodreads: Jennifer had taken drastic measures to become pregnant, and she was saving every ounce of love she had for her baby. There was no room in her life for marriage -- only now the father of her unborn child had turned up on her doorstep.

Jennifer's first problem was that her entire family believed Raphael Jordan was actually her husband -- and that, at last, the happy couple could have a honeymoon! Her second was that Raphael was delighted with the idea -- and suddenly Jennifer found herself sharing a bed with her gorgeous, sexy, pretend husband!

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Harlequin Enterprises Limited, 1998.

How acquired: Via BookCrossing.

First line: Jennifer was filling a vase at the kitchen sink when the sleek, low-slung dark green car came gunning around the tree-lined curve of the driveway, almost fish-tailing into a bank of ferns as the driver belatedly realised the bend was a lot sharper than it looked.

My thoughts:  A convoluted plot that slowly unfolds, revealing secret after secret. A recently widowed and pregnant heroine, running a B&B with her mother in the shadow of a once dormant but now awakening volcano. An angry stepson who barges in and, upon being mistaken for her husband by the heroine's mother and other household members (who did not know she was widowed), smoothly steps into that role, forcing the heroine to follow along or tell her family she lied to them. There's so much going on in this book, while not a lot actually happens for a good part of it. Jennifer is likable, but Rafe stole the show, despite the majority of the book being from Jennifer's POV. I was glad I started this book on a Saturday so I had the time to pretty much read nonstop. Sometimes you have to suspend belief and just enjoy the ride, and for me this was one of those times. 

10 July 2017

Girl Trouble (Harlequin Presents No. 1964; Man Talk No. 2)

SANDRA FIELD

Synopsis from Goodreads: He wanted a lover...

Cade McInnes had fallen in love with Lori when she was sixteen and he was old enough to know better. But he hadn't known better. They had parted bitterly.

Not a family!

Now it was ten years later. Lori had a bad marriage behind her and two adorable daughters, Liddy and Rachel. Except they didn't seem all that adorable to Cade. Liddy had taken an instant dislike to Cade. Which was fine with him--he wanted only one blond in his life, not three. But getting Lori into his bed meant accepting two little girls into his heart!

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Harlequin Enterprises Limited, 1998.

How acquired: Via BookCrossing.

First line: Two shocks in one day.

My thoughts:  The first chapter opens with Cade MacInnis (while it's spelled McInnes in the synopsis, inside the book it's spelled MacInnis) standing outside a photography studio, staring at a picture of Lorraine Cartwright, and remembering the past. The second chapter opens with Cade going to the gym. The third chapter opens with Cade calling his mother. Do you see the pattern here?

GIRL TROUBLE is part of a multi-author series titled “Man Talk”. The entire book is told from Cade's point of view. We never see anything from the heroine's point of view, are never privy to her inner thoughts. And I gotta tell you, I loved that. Back in the day they were all from the heroine's point of view. Then we started getting books told from alternating points of view, and while I still love the old romance books, I loved also getting inside the hero's head. But this is the first romance I've read that is entirely from the hero's point of view, and I would gladly read many more.

Now that I've gotten that out of the way, let's get back to the book. I very much liked Cade, though there were a couple of times when I wanted to tell him to stop being childish. (Of course Lori, as she's now called, doesn't want you to come over when her young daughter, who doesn't like you, by the way, has just learned her father was an abusive jerk. What possible good could you do by inserting yourself into that situation?) I loved the girls, Rachel and Liddy. Loved that Rachel, the older of the two, quickly accepted Cade, while five year old Liddy made no secret of her disdain for him. Usually it's the younger child who attaches herself to the new man in mom's life and the older one who holds him at arm's length. I liked Lori well enough, and that was well enough for me.
He hadn't wanted to leave. And he was hurt by Liddy's attitude. Hurt that a five-year-old didn't like him.
The conflict with Lori's father was resolved ridiculously fast, and her reaction the first time things start to get a little sexual with Cade was a bit over the top, setting up Cade to become quite angsty, which I didn't mind. I got really tired of hearing the ex-husband's name and was glad he did not make an appearance. I really expected him to show up at some point, and maybe even show Liddy his true colors, leading to her opening up to Cade, so I was very happy (and relieved) that the story didn't play out that way.

This is the first book I've read by Sandra Field. But as much as I liked it, I don't feel compelled to seek out more of her books. I suspect a small part of my enjoyment was the novelty of the point of the view. But whatever the reason, I really enjoyed this book.

29 June 2017

Sure of You (Tales of the City, Book 6)

ARMISTEAD MAUPIN

Synopsis from Goodreads: A fiercely ambitious TV talk show host finds she must choose between national stardom in New York and a husband and child in San Francisco. Caught in the middle is their longtime friend, a gay man whose own future is even more uncertain. Wistful and compassionate, yet subversively funny, Sure of You could only come from Armistead Maupin.

Stats for my copy: Trade paperback, HarperPerennial, A Division of HarperCollins Publishers, 1990.

How acquired: Via Book Mooch.

First line: There was something different about his wife's face, Brian Hawkins had decided.

My thoughts:  I have loved all of the books in this series so far, until now. In the previous book, I was disappointed in the person Mary Ann had become. Being a local celebrity had gone to her head. And it's stayed there. I did not like her at all in this book. The blurb on the back of the book says she “must choose between national stardom in New York and a husband and child in San Francisco.” She didn't have to choose. The choice was made the minute a chance at stardom in New York was offered to her. She couldn't wait to shake Brian and Shawna off her coattails and leave them behind. And good riddance. She doesn't show any maternal love to Shawna, and Shawna seems a bit indifferent about her.

The blurb also says this is the author's “most enthralling tale yet”, but I respectfully beg to disagree. I was more bored than enthralled. Michael and Thack are still together, but there wasn't particularly any chemistry coming off the page, and they seemed more discontented than happy. Mrs. Madrigal takes a vacation to Lesbos with daughter Mona, and those sections, though more about Mona than her mother, were the best parts of the book. My heart broke for Brian, but as much as he loved Mary Ann, Shawna deserved better and I can only believe her life will be happier with just the two of them.


I'll continue with the series, despite being a bit disappointed with this entry, and I already have Book 7, MICHAEL TOLLIVER LIVES, which I'm still looking forward to, and Book 8, MARY ANN IN AUTUMN, which at this point I think I'll approach with a little trepidation, but I still have hope that she will get the stars out of her eyes and make me love her again. 

11 June 2017

A Virgin River Christmas (Virgin River, Book 4)


Synopsis from Goodreads: Last Christmas Marcie Sullivan said a final goodbye to her husband, Bobby. This Christmas she's come to Virgin River to find the man who saved his life and gave her three more years to love him.

Fellow marine Ian Buchanan dragged Bobby's shattered body onto a medical transport in Fallujah four years ago, then disappeared as soon as their unit arrived stateside. Since then, Marcie's letters to Ian have gone unanswered.

Marcie tracks Ian to the tiny mountain town of Virgin River and finds a man as wounded emotionally as Bobby was physically. But she is not easily scared off. As Marcie pushes her way into his rugged and reclusive life, she discovers a sweet but damaged soul beneath a rough exterior.

Ian doesn't know what to make of the determined young widow who forces him to look into the painful past and, what's worse, the uncertain future. But it is, after all, a season of miracles and maybe, just maybe, it's time to banish the ghosts and open his heart.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Mira Books, 2009.

How acquired: Via Book Mooch.

First line: Marcie stood beside her lime-green Volkswagen, shivering in the November chill, the morning sun barely over the horizon.

My thoughts: So many feels. I loved Marcie. I loved Ian. I loved Marcie's devotion to her late husband, and to the man who brought him home and then fell off the map. I loved her determination to find Ian. To tell Ian his father was dying so he could try to see him one more time, and then to promptly switch her allegiance and stand behind Ian's reasons for not wanting to see his father. For not trying to change Ian, for accepting him exactly as he was. 

I cried a lot during this short book. Not because it was sad, but because it was just so emotional. So good. So very very good.