Contemporary Romance

bookcover: 
Author: 
Gagnon, Jilly
Publisher: 
RandomHouse Publishing Group
Genre: 
Rating: 
6
ISBN/ASIN: 

978-0593722961

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Ellie Greco left the nest but spent the last five years back home in Milborough running the Greco’s Deli, keeping it alive for its third generation. She's a little bitter about giving up her New York dream to make theater costumes, but she's determined to keep the deli alive. She's modernized it slightly into a gourmet deli, and is eking out a living, but there's a rumor that competition will be coming to town brought by the wealthy family of a peer, Theo Taylor, whom Ellie believes is a snob.

She reaches out to Theo to ask him to not bring competition to town, but an accident during their meeting renders him with amnesia. When the dust clears, Ellie finds herself masquerading—somewhat reluctantly—as his fiancée. The truth comes out, and Ellie and Theo join forces to fake the engagement.

The story is a romance, a mix of romance subgenres and tropes. There are some cute moments, no characters that really sucked me in to the story.

bookcover: 
Author: 
Novak, Brenda
Series: 
Whiskey Creek Book 2
Publisher: 
Harlequin Mira
Genre: 
Rating: 
8
ISBN/ASIN: 

‎ B08D7Q79Q6

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When Cheyenne, her sister, Presley and her mother, Anita arrived in Whiskey Creek, Cheyenne was home for the first time in her life. Before Whiskey Creek, they had gone hungry and cold, begged at street corners, and lived just ahead of the law. Their mother did what she had to do, whatever it was, to get by. Life was on the edge, and anything but respectable. When Cheyenne was fourteen, they arrived in Whiskey Creek. It had been home ever since. Miraculously, they were still there as Cheyenne made it through high school. They might live in the river bottoms, but Cheyenne she has real friends in Whiskey Creek. Life is pretty good.

Presley works in a casino, Cheyenne works at a bed-and-breakfast, and Anita is dying. There is the memory of a blond woman alive in Cheyenne’s head, and Cheyenne is afraid she will never know who the blonde woman is, or if she is just a fantasy she’d dreamed up. There are questions Cheyenne is afraid will never be answered.

When Snow Falls is my introduction to Brenda Novak’s Whiskey Creek series. The setting is a unique small town populated by lots of fully-fleshed characters, plenty of small town drama, and lots of stories behind the scenes. Although she has such a miserable start in life and a disreputable mother, Cheyenne is remarkably well balanced, and has a cadre of well-balanced, well-meaning, loving friends, at least two potential love interests (more than what you’d expect for a virgin in her mid thirties) and everything in life looks bright and shiny—as long as she doesn’t look at her mother and their tumultuous past. There might be a few little complications to be navigated, like the private investigator, Eugene Crouch hunting for Anita; Eve Harmon, Cheyenne’s best friend expressing interest in Joe DiMarco, the guy Cheyenne has been crazy about secretly, since she was fourteen; and running into Dylan Amos in the park. Some girls have all the luck.  

Highly recommended.

I found When Snow Falls a charming read. One of the best things about a series is that there are lots of characters with their own established realities. Beneath the surface stories, there are more stories lurking. Lucky for me, a reader with a short attention span, I didn’t have to memorize the whole cast, because Brenda sent Cheyenne’s friends on a trip, getting them out of the way so that Cheyenne could deal with the ethical consideration of her infatuation with Joe on her own. Only instead she…

but no! Can’t give away the story! 

bookcover: 
Best of My Love
Author: 
Susan Mallery
Series: 
Fools Gold #20
Publisher: 
Harlequin
Rating: 
6
ISBN/ASIN: 

9780373789191

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Review: 

Best of my love by Susan Mallery is number 20 in the Fools Gold series, so readers should have a pretty good idea what they're going to get when they open the book. Here's the premise: Susan has lost at love, and is looking for a man she can trust.

The story begins in Aidan's point of view, as he is sitting in a cafe with a hang-over, recuperating from a bad experience with the opposite sex. He had already decided to handle his life by not getting into a relationship with a local woman, and to keep his sexual adventures to tourists. His history now is a bunch of one-night-stands with tourists. But his strategy had backfired when confronted by a tourist who had come back wanting more—and he couldn't even recall her name. He decides to resolve the problem by eliminating relationships with women, all-together. He doesn't want to be in a relationship, but also, he does not want to be "that guy."

Shelby is a local baker. The town is on the verge of a festival; and the festivals provide a key market for Shelby's cookies. Like Aidan, Shelby is living with unhappy baggage. Her mother died of cancer the year before. Her father had beaten her mother and her. She'd grown to adulthood unable to pick men who would commit. So now, after conferring with a friend, she decides that she is going to try testing male waters by having a friendship with a man. The man she picks is Aidan. So they have their (first of many) talk, and she floats the idea that they could learn to be friends. She could learn from him not to be afraid, and he could learn to see a woman as more than a booty call. He accepts the deal.

The rest of the story is the development of that friendship.

I am sure that for those who have kept up with the Fools Gold series, they are familiar with the landscape, and the characters. As a newcomer, I can't say if this is like visiting old friends, or if the series has worn thin. Being new to the series, I found it entertaining enough. It was obvious when there were snapshots of characters from other books called back to show off a pregnancy or other development—the retrospective tour of Fools Gold (the town and characters) for series fans.

I think what annoys me most about so many books is that there's some stupid decision that a character could have, should have and if possessing a single grain of sense, would have avoided. There was none of that stupidity here, so that is good. And I also enjoyed Charlie, the bichon frise. I am a sucker for a dog character. Best of my love is not written badly, and is a good representative example of the genre. Shelby and Aidan encounter some atypical events, confrontations, social games, and not to mention an intervention. They are both good sports and resilient of spirit. There were no serious complications. I'd even be willing to read the next book if only to see what is going to happen next-which is saying a lot when you look at the stack of books I'm supposed to be reading.

bookcover: 
Author: 
Jill Marie Landis
Series: 
Tiki Goddess Mystery Series
Publisher: 
Belle Books
Rating: 
9
ISBN/ASIN: 

:978-1-61194-131-9

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Review: 

Here it is the end of winter, and we're caught up in a cold snap. My heat is turned up, and I'm walking around the house in furry slippers and two layers of clothes with a mug of hot coffee in hand—but I feel like I've just gotten back from Hawaii, a good trick considering I've never been.

My warm and cozy suntanned glow arises thanks to Jill Marie Landis, and her Tiki Goddess series. I just reluctantly put down Two to Mango with the same let down as when arriving home after a sunny vacation in the tropics, though I've never encountered a group of vacation friends quite as eccentric and extraordinary as the Hula Maidens who further the cause of justice by competing in the Kukui Nut Festival Hula Competition. If the Keystone Cops had been elderly ladies in grass skirts, they'd be Hula Maidens.

Two to Mango is a cozy mystery, which centers around an elderly hula troupe directed by Kiki Godwin. The hula-challenged troupe can barely get gigs at all, and their dim booking prospects are even dimmer after an accidental nipple exposure at the Happy Days Long Term Care Center. The motley collection is just part of the cast of suspects after an unpleasant neighbor's body is found in the bar's luau pit.

Lured by the maidens, Em Johnson relocated from the mainland to help her uncle Louie Marshall manage his Tiki Goddess bar on Kauai. Em is something of an amateur investigator whom Detective Roland Sharpe has reined in before; but now he asks for her help. He has his hands full with the investigation, and also, hopefully full of Em as well.

Don't come in to this book expecting depth or angst or page-turning sex. No dark and brooding, deeply flawed historical romance heroes in want of saving here. This is a fun read, a contemporary cozy chock-full of nuts, authentic Hawaiian lingo and lively characters like Uncle Louie's parrot Dave Letterman, who taste tests all of Uncle Louie's drink concoctions; Jackie Loo Tong, one of the hula competitors; Lillian owner of the rogue exposed nipple; Marilyn Lockhart, former Hula Maiden turned gold-digger, I mean, romantic interest for Uncle Louie. Fans of Stephanie Plum will enjoy this series, a colorful, entertaining, light and playful read.

bookcover: 
Author: 
Kat Martin
Series: 
Book Nine of The Raines of Wind Canyon
Publisher: 
Harlequin MIRA/Harlequin Digital
Rating: 
6
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Review: 

Against the Mark by Kat Martin, book nine of The Raines of Wind Canyon series, is the romance between Ty Brodie and his client Haley Warren who suspects that her father died under suspicious circumstances. Ty is a private investigator, and a good ol' Alpha former Marine, long legs and movie-star handsome, survivor of previous novels in this series. Haley is a former socialite from Chicago, the daughter of an artistic mother and Haley's athletic father James. At the beginning of the story, Hayley is still stinging from her parent's divorce, and the marriage of her father to his second wife, pudgy, warm-hearted Betty Jean; and she's also aching from the pain of being estranged from her father at the time of his death.

I have read Kat Martin before, but not this series. I can vouch for the story standing on its own feet; I did not feel the need to read other stories to fill out the gaps in the story. That said, maybe someone who had been reading the series would have gotten into it faster or would have cared more about the characters. Perhaps I had a harder time getting interested in the story than someone who had a vested interest in Ty and his cousins. It just seemed to take a long time to get past the set-up. I was hooked by neither by the characters nor their investigation as much as I should have been. The set up had a lot of information linking back to secondary characters I assume were elsewhere in the series, none of whom do I have the inclination to pursue.

The characters seem drawn well, if somewhat stereotypical. Initially, the mystery-suspense is the search to discover if Hayley's father was murdered by his second wife Betty Jean. Ty's investigation uncovers that James had been looking into an art theft, so the question turns to a query into whether Jimmy's investigation uncovered too much about the art theft, or if he was actually involved. Ty's interest in his client seems kind of smarmy to me, and Haley comes across as shallow; but if you like the genre and Kat Martin in particular, this book might still be your cup of tea. It wasn't mine.

bookcover: 
Author: 
Lanie Kinkaid
Publisher: 
Griffyn Ink
Genre: 
Rating: 
8
ISBN/ASIN: 

9780983587743

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out of print: see used
Review: 

America has no King. Our founding father's insured us that, and hopefully we will remain "unkinged" and our constitution will hold out. But it's a fact of our times that, politics notwithstanding, celebrity is king. We might even take it one step farther: Rock is King. From the sixties on, hordes of screaming fans have been falling in and out of obsession with the rock star of the moment, and there are even some who hold their own long after any fifteen minutes of fame has long since evaporated. And as much as music consumers feel that someone becomes an overnight star, such a thing is never overnight. Before the moment when John Q Public realizes the person on the stage, at the mike, on the television, on the screen, on the radio, in the youtube, in the itunes library has a gift, that entertainer has spent long hours, months, years, sometimes decades developing what may be a flash in the pan, or G-d's own gift. It is something fans do not consider: that behind every gifted artist is a boatload of time spent developing that gift. So when a writer chooses to write the story of a rock wannabe from the point of view in the trenches rather than from the audience, it is an angle that feels new to us. And yet not completely new, because of how many fans are themselves frustrated artists who had some talent and some dreams and either gave up before their time, didn't have the grit or talent, or maybe just didn't have the Kelsey to do it.

Yes, Kelsey. Every artist needs a Kelsey. I'm referring to Kelsey Conklin, the protagonist of Lanie Kincaid'sKelsey's Song. I may have picked up this book thinking that Kelsey was going to be a Susan Boyle; but I soon figured out that Kelsey, having grown up as the only sensible manager in an exceptionally dysfunctional home, has an entirely different talent from singing. She has a gift for management. And her new neighbor, JD Hewlitt, the scruffy guy with band pipe dreams, needs some of that management to rub off on him and his daughter Andie.

JD is new to parenting, and has come into his daughter in much the same way as Diane Keaton's character in Baby Boom: from out of the blue. JD's new daughter a is six year old handful who is completely out of control and does not want anything to do with a father. It is sheer luck and proximity that bring together JD and Kelsey, in the same way that two distinct drops of water touch, and suddenly they're just one bigger drop, and there's no demarkation where the lines might have once been drawn.

Everything about this story rings true. Proximity brings together couples (yes, I read somewhere that a high percentage of weddings occur just because people live near each other). Yet the success of their relationship has a lot to do with what lies beneath the surface. Both JD and Kelsey are icebergs, with most of their secret past underwater. With buried secrets to negotiate, JD and Kelsey are both off on life quests that are completely different in nature in ways that would simply not intersect—except that in the process of solving a multitude of life-problems for each other, and developing a friendship, they manage to fall in love AND solve each other's problems.

Why does it work? Because the characters are so complete. JD and Kelsey live on the page, and beyond the page. They are not cookie cutter characters, but have lives that are bigger and grittier in dimension than those of most characters in simple romance. This book is a little charmer, even if you haven't dreamed of being the girl "with the band," whether or not you worship music and bands (but might be even more fun if you do.) Kelsey's Songwas an enjoyable read which I heartily recommend.