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. 

10 June 2017

This Charming Man

MARIAN KEYES

Synopsis from Goodreads: Ireland's debonair politician Paddy de Courcy -- the "John F. Kennedy Jr. of Dublin" -- has captured tabloid headlines and the imagination of his country with his charm and charisma. But the crushed hearts he's left behind him reveal more about his character than his winning, vote-getting smile. Lola, Grace, Marnie, and Alicia have all suffered from his selfishness and cruelty. But with Paddy's political star ascending, the time is finally ripe for redemption...and perhaps a bit of revenge.

Stats for my copy: Trade paperback, Avon, 2010.

How acquired: Received from another Bookcrossing member.

My thoughts:  Between chapters were little snippets of narration describing a domestic abuse scene, but without providing any names, and each one filled me with a sense of dread and foreboding, wondering which of the women whose stories are contained in the book was the woman being abused.

Four women, all with some connection to golden boy politician Paddy de Courcy. The narration switches around between the women's viewpoints. We start with Lola, whose connection is obvious – she was romantically involved with him until she learned, via the news, that he was engaged to Alicia. While I liked Lola's story, I did not like her narration. Told in first person POV, diary format, it put me in mind of Bridget Jones, but not in a good way. Short, choppy sentences, not only in her narrative, but even when she is quoting conversations. I know the characters did not actually speak the way she depicted it, but at times it was agonizing to read.
What you like to do?” he asked. “You hungry?”
No, not really. Is a bit early.”

There was a scene in Buffy the Vampire Slayer when a certain beer was turning frat boys into Neanderthals, and Buffy got drunk with them, and they all grunted and talked like cave men. And after awhile in my head I was picturing Lola and her friends as grunting Neanderthal cavemen people.

Lola mentions a journalist, Grace, who keeps calling her, wanting to interview her about Paddy's surprise engagement. And Grace is who we meet next. Her chapters are also told in first person POV, but not diary style, and I very much enjoyed her story. There are hints of a connection to Paddy but we don't know what that connection is. Grace has a live in boyfriend, Damien, who I very much liked.

Then we meet Marnie, Grace's twin sister. Her chapters are told in third person point of view. Marnie is a mystery. Depressed, withdrawn, she seems to be just existing without really living. Marnie's story is the most unpredictable. You think you know where she's coming from, what's going on with her, and then you learn something that changes that thinking. I felt sorry for her, while slightly despising her for being weak and malleable.

We also get a bit of time with Alicia, but compared to the other girls her sections make up maybe ten percent of the book.

Ms. Keyes definitely does a great job of creating characters who stand out from each other, with their own distinct personalities. I've heard her described as a chick lit author, and while she does fit that category somewhat, she also touches on serious subjects. In addition to the domestic abuse I mentioned earlier, we get alcoholism and a very touching storyline about cross-dressers. Throw in some revenge, heartbreaking confessions, a new love for one of the girls, and another's relationship almost being lost, and (once you make yourself barrel through Lola's frustrating narration style) this was an enjoyable and satisfying read. 

31 May 2017

Positively Pippa (Ghost Falls, Book 1)


Synopsis from Goodreads: From author Sarah Hegger comes an exciting new series set in small-town Utah, where secrets don’t keep for long—and love turns up in the most unexpected places.

For Pippa Turner there’s only one place to go when her life self-destructs on national TV—home to Ghost Falls, and her heavily perfumed, overly dramatic, but supremely loving grandmother, Philomene. If anyone will understand how Pippa’s hit makeover show was sabotaged by her vengeful ex, it’s Phi. But she’s not the only one who’s happy to see her—and Pippa can’t help but wonder if Matt Evans, her gorgeous high-school crush turned Phi’s contractor, is game for a steamy close-up…

Matt owes his whole career to Phi and her constant demands to embellish the gothically ridiculous house he built for her. Getting to see red-headed, red-hot Pippa is a bonus, especially now that she’s no longer the troublesome teenager he remembers. He’s willing to stay behind the scenes while she gives her own life a much-needed makeover, but not forever. As far as he’s concerned, their connection is too electric to ignore. And the chance to build something lasting between them—before she can high-tail it back to Hollywood—is going to the top of his to-do list…

Stats for my copy: ARC paperback, Zebra Books, 2017.

How acquired: Won in a Goodreads giveaway.

My thoughts:  Pippa and Matt are both hitting crossroads in their lives. Pippa's man done her wrong, big time, plunging her career into the toilet. She's run home to Ghost Falls and her over the top diva grandmother to lick her wounds. Matt has spent the last seventeen years taking care of everyone else, giving up his dreams for his own future. Now he has an opportunity to break away from the mountain of responsibility that shouldn't have been his to bear in the first place. They're quickly thrown together, thanks to her conniving grandmother, but then it's such a small town they would've crossed paths eventually anyway. Matt's been crushing on Pippa since they were teenagers, and sparks fly between them.

Phi, the diva grandmother, was a hoot. I loved both Pippa and Matt, but maybe Matt a little more. What's not to like? He's good-looking, charming, rugged, can fix anything, and will do just about anything for his family. He's a bit tied to his mother's apron strings, and he could have come across as a mama's boy, but since we get his story told from his point of view we can sympathize with him despite wanting to slap his mother upside the head. And when Pippa finally made a decision about her future, I loved Matt's (unexpected by her) reaction, which just drove home what a wonderful and decent man he is.

The romance between Pippa and Matt seemed to build up slowly, but the story takes place over a short period of time, so they actually fall into bed together pretty quickly. But since they've known half their lives it didn't feel rushed or unnatural like instalove sometimes does.

This was a fun, sweet romance, with a couple of hot scenes, and a side of quirk. And such a cute cover! I'm already looking forward to the next Ghost Falls book, and definitely want to check out the author's other work, especially her Willow Park series.