18 July 2016

Only Daughter


Synopsis from Goodreads: In 2003, sixteen-year-old Rebecca Winter disappeared.

She'd been enjoying her teenage summer break: working at a fast-food restaurant, crushing on an older boy and shoplifting with her best friend. Mysteriously ominous things began to happen—blood in the bed, periods of blackouts, a feeling of being watched—though Bec remained oblivious of what was to come.

Eleven years later she is replaced.

A young woman, desperate after being arrested, claims to be the decade-missing Bec.

Soon the impostor is living Bec's life. Sleeping in her bed. Hugging her mother and father. Learning her best friends' names. Playing with her twin brothers.

But Bec's welcoming family and enthusiastic friends are not quite as they seem. As the impostor dodges the detective investigating her case, she begins to delve into the life of the real Bec Winter—and soon realizes that whoever took Bec is still at large, and that she is in imminent danger.

Stats for my copy: Trade paperback, Mira Books, per the cover it goes on sale October 2016; per Goodreads the expected publication date is September 20, 2016.

How acquired: Won in a Goodreads giveaway.

My thoughts:  Normally I'm not a fan of first person present tense narration, but I barely even noticed it here, which I assume is a testament to the author's writing. ONLY DAUGHTER opens with the narrator getting busted for shoplifting, and then announcing to the police that she is Rebecca Winters, and was abducted eleven years ago. The narration then switches back and forth between our first person narrator telling us her story in 2014, and third person narration giving us Bec's story in 2003, shortly before she disappeared. The writing flows and I bounced through this book quickly. Bec's disappearance, of course, was never solved, and still haunts the detective in charge of the investigation, as well as her family and friends.

As the impostor settles into Rebecca's life, her home, her old bedroom, her family, she teeters between staying one step ahead of the detective and convincing everyone she is Bec, and the growing feeling that someone is watching her, that whoever took Bec is going to try to take her also. We, the reader, think we are figuring out what happened to Rebecca, how she disappeared, but then some new little tidbit of information will come to light, pointing us in another direction.

Even knowing that the impostor is not the real Rebecca, she becomes a sympathetic character. She may be lying to everyone around her, but she is still a reliable narrator, and I began rooting for her, while very much wanting to know what became of the real Rebecca.

I think I saw somewhere that ONLY DAUGHTER is a Young Adult book, and it reads quite easily without any dumbing down. It was interesting the see the contrast between the supporting character's personalities (Bec's family, her best friend Lizzie) in 2003 and then eleven years later in the wake of Bec's disappearance, and how it affected some of them. It's grim, and I cant even imagine how horrible it would be to have your child suddenly gone and to never know where to or why.


And as the end of the book looms, the tension ramps up. Following the real Rebecca in the days and hours leading up to her disappearance, following the impostor as she becomes more afraid for her own life. And then a twist, followed by another twist, which I never saw coming. A truly gripping and captivating book. 

17 July 2016

A Distant Tomorrow (World of Hetar, Book 2)

BERTRICE SMALL

Synopsis from Goodreads: Five years have now passed since the Winter War between the Outlands and Hetar. But Gaius Prospero has not given up his scheme to become emperor, and unexpected tragedy causes Lara to once again heed the pull of her destiny. Finding herself across the sea in a secret new world known as Terah, she discovers that her magical abilities grow greater with each passing day. Using her newfound powers, Lara lifts an ancient curse from the men of Terah, earning its ruler's gratitude and his deep and passionate love.

Stats for my copy: Trade paperback, Harlequin Books, 2006.

How acquired: From a BookCrossing member.

First line: Vartan, Lord of the Fiacre and head of the Outlands High Council was dead.

My thoughts:  I think I liked this a bit more than the first book in the series, LARA. In this entry, Lara's destiny calls to her again, telling her it's time to get a move on. Her husband has just been murdered by his brother, and Lara leaves her young children with his cousin and his wife, and begins her travels once more. She winds up in the Coastal Kingdoms, where she learns about another land across the sea, called Terah, whose goods the Coastal Kingdoms trade for and then sell in Hetar. Next thing you know she's been drugged and handed over as a slave to the Dominus, who rules Terah. Of course she's not about to be any man's slave, and soon has the Dominus wrapped around her little finger. That exquisite fairy beauty, you know.

I really enjoyed this part of the story, where she's arrived in Terah and gets to know the inhabitants there. She's told that women in Terah do not speak. Not because they don't want to or are down-trodden by their men, but because of an ancient curse placed on them. They are physically incapable of speech. Once she's alone with the women, however, she discovers that they can indeed speak – the curse was actually placed on the men, rendering them incapable of hearing their women. So now she sets out to remove the curse. That's not her destiny though. Her beloved Outlands people are in danger from Hetar, and she must also find a way to save them.

The conversations between the characters often felt stilted or wooden, slightly monotonous with short bursts of emotion thrown in here and there. Lara's son is six or seven, and her younger brother a year older, but both spoke and held conversations with her like adults. I was quite happy to not read as many references to “man roots” in this book as in the first one, though there were several mentions of “seed sacs” and way too many mentions of “love juices”. I don't think there was quite as much sex on the page this time around, but as with the first book, those scenes weren't particularly sexy.


I don't have the third or fourth books in the series, and while I won't knock myself out looking for them, should I come across them I probably will read them. Like Lara, I'm very curious as to who or what may reside in another distant land that she spots while riding her flying horse one day. The world building is what kept me interested in the first book, and that interest still continues. 

12 July 2016

Trouble at Lone Spur (Harlequin Superromance, No. 716)

ROZ DENNY FOX

Synopsis from Goodreads: Lizbeth Robbins has been following the rodeo circuit for the past six years, learning the farrier's trade, dragging her little girl from town to town. But now her daughter's in school and Lizbeth needs a more permanent job. She's relieved to find one at the Lone Spur, shoeing Gil Spencer's quarter horses; even if it was his foreman who hired her and the man himself doesn't want her anywhere near his ranch! Gil Spencer hates rodeos mainly because his ex wife loves them. While he was busy pulling his ranch out of the red, she was busy pursuing a career as a champion barrel racer. Worse yet the ex Mrs Spencer abandoned her husband and their twin sons for the dubious charms of some bronco rider. So the last person Gil wants on the Lone Spur is a former rodeo employee. Even if Lizbeth Robbins is the most attractive woman he's met in years. Especially then...

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

First line: In the two weeks since Lizbeth Robbins had hired on as farrier at Gilman Spencer's ranch, she hadn't laid eyes on the man.

My thoughts:  TROUBLE AT LONE SPUR reminded me of how much I love Roz Denny Fox. It's been awhile since I devoured a book in two days, staying up until midnight two nights in a row (and paying for it with a massive book hangover this morning, not to mention oversleeping and getting up an hour late).

Liz is a farrier who recently left the rodeo circuit in hopes of providing a more permanent, stable home for her six-year-old daughter, Melody. Getting hired on at the Lone Spur ranch as resident farrier is a dream come true. She still has nightmares about the bull who killed her husband before Melody was born, but they live in a cottage instead of a trailer, Melody has a cat, and she's a happy little girl.

Gil is the owner of the ranch, and when he comes back from a trip and finds out his ranch foreman has a woman shoeing his horses he has a fit and promptly fires her. He's sure that having a woman around the hands will distract them from their work, and ever since his wife left him to pursue her barrel racing career – and a bronc rider - he hates anything and everything to do with rodeos, so Lizbeth's background does not impress him.

I loved Liz. I loved Gil. They were both well rounded characters, each fighting their own inner demons, and trying to do the best they can for their kids. Gil has nine-year-old twin boys who run amuck when he's not around, playing pranks on Liz and creating havoc. Liz and Gil were constantly at odds with each other, while fighting their mutual attraction. One of the twins took to Liz, but the other waged an all out war against her, trying to keep her and his dad away from each other.

I learned more about horseshoeing than I ever thought I'd want to know, and more about the drama and work that goes into well rescues than I'd ever dreamed of, and I really appreciate the research Ms. Fox put into both subjects to bring realism to her story. The kids were also integral, and actual supporting characters rather than just plot moppets. There were some scenes that made me laugh, and the last quarter of the book got a bit tense and made me emotional. Not to mention the cute cover picture!


Romance done right. 

10 July 2016

The Lyon Legacy (The Lyon Legacy, Book 1; Harlequin Superromance, #847)

PEG SUTHERLAND, ROZ DENNY FOX, and RUTH JEAN DALE

Synopsis from Goodreads: It's fifty years since the Lyon family of New Orleans ventured into what was then an exciting new business - television. Despite objections from some in the family, Margaret Hollander Lyon believed it was the wave of the future...and the past fifty years have certainly proven her right!

The Lyons created a legacy for their children and grandchildren - a legacy of business success and family loyalty.

But the Lyon Legacy is also a history of feuding, betrayal, deceptions. Every family has its secrets, and the Lyons have more than most.

Margaret, Andre, Leslie - three generations of the Lyon family. Three stories about the power of family bonds...and the life-changing power of love.
Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Harlequin Books, 1999.

How acquired: I've had this book for a couple of years, but do not remember where or how I got it.

THE LYON LEGACY is actually three stories. The first story is "Beginning", by Peg Sutherland, a new to me author. Margaret and her seven year old son, André, reside in the Lyon mansion with her in-laws and her husband's siblings, but not her husband. Paul Lyon went off to fight in the war, and when it was over he lost himself in the bayous, leaving behind his illustrious career as a radio broadcaster, and the son who he was convinced was not his child. When the story opens, Margaret is pushing for the company to start a TV station, but she is getting a lot of dissent from the Lyon family, who think television is a fad that will eventually fade out. She needs an ally, so she tracks down Paul and drags him back into everyone's lives, where he finds himself intrigued with the idea of television, and of course still wildly attracted to the wife he'd tried to forget.

I really enjoyed this well-written novella. The characters were quickly established and fleshed out. Margaret is a strong-willed woman who refused to sit back and be a society wife. She wanted to go to college and she wanted a career with Lyon Broadcasting, a company her father was a partner in. The narrative jumps back and forth between the "present" day, which for this story is 1949, and 1941, when Margaret was a teenager hanging out at the studio, falling in love with the radio station. And with Paul.

After reading the short prologue, and then getting a few pages into the story, I was very confused about some things that just seemed inconsistent time wise. So much so that I reread passages in a desperate attempt to get things straight in my head, to no avail. I finally just had to let it go so I could enjoy the story. And then at the end, secrets were revealed that explained it all away. I was also a little surprised when the story ended, just because of the length. It was so good that I'd forgotten it wasn't a novel in itself until I reached the last page. And have tissues handy for those last pages, because I cried. My favorite passage:
He slugged back the last of his coffee and stood. "Nobody gets me, sweetheart. And if I want anything you've got, you'll know the minute I come after it. 
The second story is Silver Anniversary, by Roz Denny Fox, an author I'm already a fan of. It's now 1974, and the Lyons' television station, WDIX-TV, is about to celebrate it's 25th anniversary. André is all grown up now, and after a lonely childhood spent in the Lyon mansion he's now living in a rented shack in the bayou, where he and a partner run a swamp tour business. Margaret shows up at his door one morning, and demands that move back home and take his rightful place at the station. Paul had recently had a heart attack, and has had to cut down on the number of hours he puts in at work, and Margaret needs to cut down as well so she can spend time with her husband. It's time for André to learn the business so he can be ready to take over the reins after the anniversary celebration. He grudgingly agrees to do so, but requests that his parents also take in Rachel, a young neighbor girl who has a bad home life.

Gabrielle's mother and Margaret were close friends, and when Gabrielle's husband was killed, leaving her pregnant and alone, she sought Margaret's help. She's lived at the Lyon mansion ever since. She's Margaret's right hand at the tv station, and now that Margaret and Paul are cutting back, Gabrielle has assumed more responsibility. She thrives on the job, putting in long hours and is hoping with Paul and Margaret cutting back that after the anniversary celebration they'll put her in charge. She's not happy when Margaret announces her son is coming to work and Gabrielle will be training him.

It was a little disconcerting, after the first story and knowing how much Margaret loved young André and was so devoted to him, to now find out that he had a lonely and not always happy childhood. Margaret was so driven in her desire to make the tv station a success that she spent long hours at work rather than with her son. At one point Margaret muses that she sees Gaby doing the same with her daughter, and she hopes that one of the benefits of bringing André on board will be Gaby being able to slow down and spend more time at home with Leslie.

I loved André. He was a bit colorful, and while he did dive head first into learning all he could about running the station, he wasn't prepared to slave away his whole life. In Leslie he saw a kindred spirit, and he became determined to get Gaby to slow down and spend more time with her daughter. Of course part of what endeared him to me was his interactions with both Leslie and Rachel. I liked Gabrielle well enough, but for me André drove the story.

The third story is Golden Anniversary, by Ruth Jean Dale, another new to me author. It's now December 1998, and Leslie is a librarian. The station will be celebrating it's 50th anniversary in July, and Leslie has taken a leave of absence from her job to compile a history of the station. While not exactly shy, Leslie is a little awkward and out of place at the station. She has a phobia of public speaking, which her parents and grandparents think she's overcome or grown out of, when in reality she's just learned to avoid being put in situations where public speaking is required. But with the anniversary coming up, she's expected to be there with all the family for the press conference. When she panics in front of the cameras, Michael, the director of human resources, catches her eye and helps her focus and get through the ordeal. Leslie already has a crush on Michael, and get's tongue tied and embarrassed around him.

When the job opportunity at WDIX-TV came up, Michael, a widower, moved himself and his young daughter from New York. His mother-in-law is upset at not being able to see her granddaughter all the time, and has been threatening to sue Michael for custody on the grounds that his live in housekeeper has to raise the child while he works. She has a boatload of money, and Michael is worried about how that could all turn out. And then his housekeeper has to move away for family reasons, and he's really worried about his mother-in-law's reaction.

While I liked Michael well enough, I had a hard time connecting with Leslie. The women in the first two stories were such strong women, and then here was the shrinking violet Leslie, mooning over Michael like a love sick teenager. Where the first two stories moved quickly, this one seemed to drag a bit. And again, it was a little disconcerting to see how Margaret and Gabrielle both seemed to dismiss Leslie's feelings and steamroll her into doing what they wanted. Though I loved the scene where Michael cornered them and got in their faces about it.

The rest of the books in the series are full length novels, one by each of the three authors. I've already read the Fox book, FAMILY FORTUNE. Since it's a multi author series, I wasn't worried about reading them out of order, but after FAMILY FORTUNE I wanted to go back and read the other books. I'm really looking forward to Sutherland's book, FAMILY REUNION, although I have to find a copy of it first. And despite my lukewarm feelings about Dale's story, I will read her book, FAMILY SECRETS, which is the second book, and which I already have in my TBR pile.



07 July 2016

Selling Grace (Art of Grace, Book 1)

SAMANTHA WESTLAKE

Synopsis from Goodreads: I felt the man’s hand resting on my hip, his skin radiating heat into me. “A divine piece of art,” he murmured into my ear…”

Becca Grace is ready for her life to turn around.

Her disastrous one-year marriage is finally behind her, and all she needs to get her ex-husband Barry out of her life is make one last payment. Unfortunately, that payment (ten grand!) is a little beyond Becca’s already-strained bank account. With the deadline looming, she’s gotten a job working at her Uncle Preston’s art gallery, selling overpriced art to tourists on vacation - but at least she gets paid on commission. She just needs one big sale.

The art gallery, however, comes with its own distractions - Carter James, a gorgeously warm real estate agent, keeps on dropping in and catching Becca at embarrassing moments. In addition, one of the gallery’s featured artists, a tall taste of dark chocolate named Onyx, keeps on inviting Becca back to his private studio for some one-on-one modeling…

Despite the interests of both sexy men, Becca’s determined to pay off Barry and put her past behind her before moving on to a new romance. But can she manage to get her hands on the money - and resist falling into bed with either of these muscled, sculpture-ready men?

The first in an exciting new series, SELLING GRACE is more than 50,000 words, filled with twists, turns, and with a happy ending that’s guaranteed to satisfy every urge - yet still leave you clamoring for the next book in the series! There’s even a bonus novel, TOMCAT, included! Does love have nine lives? Find out for yourself!

Content warning: This novel contains explicit scenes, and is intended only for adult romance lovers.

Stats for my copy: Kindle edition, 2016.

How acquired: Received from eBook Itch ARC Group for review.

My thoughts:  It's billed as a “Light Romance Novel”, and it was light. So light that for almost the entire book I kept waiting for the build up to end and for the story to actually begin, for something to happen.

Becca is recently divorced, and somehow, by signing papers without bothering to read them when she got married, she's now on the hook for the mortgage on the marital home. As part of the divorce settlement, she has to pay her ex $10,000.00, and the deadline for payment is looming. Her uncle gives her a job managing his art gallery, despite the fact she has no knowledge of art, no sales or management experience, no qualifications for the job. But since the gallery doesn't seem to get a lot of customers, I guess she can handle it.

At the gallery she meets two men. Carter James is a very successful real estate agent who often purchases pieces from the gallery to put in the various buildings he owns/manages/sells. Onyx, no last name, is one of the artists whose work is exhibited in the gallery. He's dark and brooding, and spends his time carving penises out of stone or black marble. I don't think he carves anything else, and I'm not sure what that says about him.
Becca is nice enough and a little interesting. Her friend Portia is more interesting, and the scenes with the two women were some of my favorites. I liked Carter. He's fun and has a lot of charisma, and he and Becca seemed to have some real chemistry. Onyx, no last name, is dark and brooding, maybe a little bit dangerous, a bit stereotypical.

Altogether, the story was pleasant enough, if a little mundane (when Becca answered her phone I didn't really need her to explain that she did so by flipping it over and swiping across it). There is some amusing bantering back and forth between Becca and Portia and Becca and Carter. I find it a little hard to believe that a judge would agree to making her pay her ex $10,000 on a short deadline when she obviously didn't even have a job at the time the order came down. And when she approached the ex to ask him for more time or to accept monthly payments, he threatened to sue her, and then to sue her parents, which freaked Becca out, though I can't even imagine what grounds he could have to sue her parents. For not providing a large dowry?


Light, a little breezy, and a quick read, with an HFN leading into the next installment of the series.  

04 July 2016

Scandal's Bride (Cynster, Book 3)

STEPHANIE LAURENS

Synopsis from back cover: Catriona is aghast to learn that her guardian's will decrees that she must marry Richard Cynster...within the week! How could the proud Scottish lass possibly consent to a union with the English rake they call “Scandal”, a masterful man with a deplorable reputation? It is true his commanding presence charms her, his heated kisses excite her --- and the mysterious Lady of the Vale whom she serves has prophesied that they will wed. But Catriona will never give up her independence!

Richard is equally stunned by the will's command, since marriage was not on his agenda. But lately he's been feeling strangely restless –- and perhaps taming the exquisite lady is just the challenge he needs. He burns for Catriona – but can he entice her into the marriage bed without making any binding and revealing promises of love?

And when passion and love are truly destined, can even the most stubborn of hearts resist?

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Avon Books, 1999.

How acquiredBook Mooch

First line: She'd never had a vision like it before.

My thoughts: From the very beginning I was a little thrown by the slight supernatural aspect. The heroine, Catriona, is a healer, and mistress of a small vale, that apparently is so remote it's existence isn't even known to many. Catriona and her mentor, Algaria, are disciples of the mystical Lady of the Vale, whom she and her tenants all worship. The vale and its lands have always been held and ruled by a woman, and therefore the mistress cannot marry a strong man who will try to take over. When Catriona has a disturbing vision of a man, it occurs to her he might be the man the Lady intends for her to wed.

Catriona's guardian, Seamus, passes away, and she is summoned to his estate for the reading of his will. Richard Cynster, aka Scandal, has also been summoned to the estate, his connection being that his birth mother was the deceased wife of Catriona's guardian. Catriona is shocked to recognize him from her vision, and distressed when, after appealing to the Lady for further guidance, she is told “He will father your children”.

Then comes the next shock. The will states that Richard must agree to marry Catriona, or the entire estate will be left to the church, leaving Seamus' own children and grandchildren homeless and penniless. The solicitor informs them that he will return in one week for Richard's answer.

I'm not sure why that supernatural aspect with the divine Lady bothered me. Maybe because the first two books had nothing of the sort in them, so it just kind of came out of left field for me.

I liked Richard well enough. Once he decided he wanted Catriona, he went after her singlemindedly. She, on the other hand, fought hard to avoid him. She decided that since the Lady only told her he would father her children and did not specifically say he would be her husband, she could simply get with child, and then go back to her vale and leave Richard none the wiser. How to do that? Drug him three nights in a row, slip into his room, have sex with him, and slip out before he awakens the next morning. It was, in my opinion, a stupid idea, and while it initially worked well enough, of course Richard was smart enough to figure out something was going on.

Once they are married and settled back in Catriona's vale, there was a Huge Misunderstanding, since neither of them could talk openly and honestly to the other. Catriona was determined that she would continue to run the vale by herself, leaving Richard to wander around and be bored. He had vowed that he would not interfere with her duties, so even when he was sure he could help her with something that she struggled with, he kept his thoughts to himself, afraid to say anything without being asked lest she interpret his intentions the wrong way. It was one of those typical situations where you want to slap both of them and yell “talk to each other!”.


I'm not sure if I like this entry in the series more or less than the the first book, but the second book is definitely still my favorite so far. And while I didn't love this, I have collected almost the entire series, and will continue with the next book, eventually. 

02 July 2016

Acquisitions

When the thrift store calls out to you, "why haven't you come in? I have books you need!", you have to respond, right? 

I did good, I only went through the paperbacks/soft covers, which are forty-nine cents each, and I stayed away from the $1.98 hardbacks. 


Rev It Up, by Julie Ann Walker
Death is Disposable, by Evan Marshall
Cruel and Unusual Puns, by Don Hauptman
Masques, by Patricia Briggs
Madhouse, by Rob Thurman
The Baby Quest, by Pat Warren
Lookin' for Luv, by Carl Weber
Shoot Him if He Runs, by Stuart Woods
Cats in the Parsonage, by Clair Shaffer, Jr.
The Yonahlossee Riding Campt for Girls, by Anton Disclafani