Friday, November 16, 2018

Stone Cold Sparks by Cami Checketts

From Goodreads:
A stone cold firefighter, lifelong secrets, and the vivacious woman who won’t give up. Abi Newell is feisty, fun, beautiful, and has date offers every night of the week. She gave her heart away to Stone Ryland when they were teenagers and that was the stupidest decision of her life. Though Stone is the perfect fit for her—kind, patient, and steady—he’s also shut himself off to everyone, including her. She’s accomplished best-friend status with her dream man, but winning his heart may be a hopeless quest.

Stone has been deemed Stone Cold by his firefighting buddies for good reason—he has the remarkable ability to put his feelings on the shelf while dispassionately dealing with the situation at hand. Too bad Stone’s buddies don’t know the truth. A truth Stone will fight tooth and nail to keep hidden. Abi is his one weakness, but Stone can’t let anyone into his heart or his well-protected secrets will be discovered and destroy not only Abi, but his deceased wife’s memory as well. Can Abi break through the ice surrounding Stone Cold’s heart, or will she be forced to give up on her lifelong love?

My Take:

This was a quick easy read that only took a couple hours one day. Checketts takes us back to Park City for another one of the firefighter's stories. Stone has a reputation for being cold as ice, but Abi knows better. She can see through to his pain even if she doesn't know the true source. Abi thinks Stone still hasn't gotten over the death of his wife seven years earlier. He'd only been married for six short months, but he lost his wife and their child in a car accident.

What Abi doesn't know could also ruin Stone's chance of finally being with the one woman he's always loved. No spoilers, because the reader knows fairly early that Stone married their mutual friend Virginia to save her from her father's wrath because the fourth friend in their group, Jace, abandoned her when he learned she was pregnant with his baby. All his misguided attempts at doing the right thing, at keeping promises for the dead for the sake of integrity almost drives away Abi for good.

I loved Abi's persistence, but I also felt her heartache. Every time she tried to save herself by walking away but returned because she couldn't live without Stone in her life. Stone's pain is real too, even if you want to smack him up side the head.

Checketts does a wonderful job tugging at emotions until you finally get to exhale with the happily ever after. A wonderful journey through the pain of love.

I give Stone Cold Sparks a 4 and a Clean rating.

1-5 scale and what it means:
1: I couldn’t even finish it / just plain bad
2: I hope I didn’t pay for this / disappointing
3: I didn’t hate it, but it was still missing something / forgettable but inoffensive
3.5: On the line between good and ok / like, not love
4: Solid mind candy / worth reading
4.5: So very close to perfection! / must read
5: I could not put it down and I’m still thinking about it! / a true treasure

Movie Ratings in relation to my review:
Clean--Hallmark movies, some kissing, no nudity, no sex on or off "screen"
PG--Some innuendo but nothing kids don't hear every day, sex is all closed door
PG-13--some language (swear words not related to sex), more talk about sex, heavy petting, removal of clothing on screen, but sex is closed door.
PG-14—somewhere between PG-13 and R. Not erotica, but at least a paragraph of on screen sex

R--swearing (F bomb, on “screen” sex, sometimes feels like the whole story is about the sex and not the relationship or some other plot, but not always

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Christmas Girlfriend: A Return to Snow Valley by Taylor Hart

From Goodreads:
He needs a date for Christmas. She needs money for a dream. Maybe they'll both get a Christmas miracle!

The handsome and kind, Mike Hamilton, doesn't want to go back to his hometown, Snow Valley, to attend his sister's wedding and spend Christmas, especially since he didn't tell anyone he got dumped two weeks ago. So when he discovers a girl standing on a roof praying, running to the top to join her doesn't feel that desperate. Too bad they both fall and she accuses him of trying to kill her.

Aspiring singer and songwriter, Zoey Harper, doesn't know who this guy is -- but she doesn't need his help. When he offers to pay her to be his FAKE girlfriend to get him out of a little situation, she immediately says no. But when she finds herself without a job, without a car, and with no money to go try out for The Voice and fulfill a life-long dream, she agrees! But ONLY kissing. And only pecks on the cheek!

She doesn't know how she finds herself making out with him to keep his ex-girlfriend at bay, then cannonballing into the hot springs on his property and spilling all of her secrets. And who would have guessed that her favorite person would be his grumpy grandpa? Her lonely heart doesn't know when things started to change between she and Mike--when he ran up on the roof to save her or when she finds herself singing a song for him in front of his whole family.

When their lies fall apart, they are left with a choice--forget the past five days or get the Christmas miracle that could change their lives forever.

My Take:
I've missed several Snow Valley stories, so it was wonderful to return. Years have passed since Janet Snow got her second chance by marrying Michael Hamilton. This story is about their son Mike who is attending Harvard law because he feels he needs to prove himself. He's miserable and lonely, but he's about to meet the best thing to ever happen to him. Zoey's more than down on her luck. She's clinging to the past and a supposed broken heart from losing her husband a year earlier.

Here's what I liked:
~Even though this is a story where one person was married before, they didn't come out of a bad marriage. I also liked that Zoey loved her husband and all the potential of their future, but in the end, they only knew each other and were married a short time--most of which they weren't even together. In a way, this makes it easier for me to believe in her falling in love again quickly and so deeply.
~I loved Zoey's spunk. Even when she felt so broken and defeated inside that spark kept her moving forward.
~I loved that Mike really did have a hero complex. He wanted to help Zoey from the moment he ran up that snow mound to the roof to the very end.
~It was a joy revisiting Snow Valley and some of my favorite places--Big C's, the hot springs, remembering the tree lighting at the hospital, it was all a fun trip down memory lane like returning home after being away too long.

I thoroughly enjoyed this quick read. I give The Christmas Girlfriend a Clean rating and solid 4 stars.

1-5 scale and what it means:
1: I couldn’t even finish it / just plain bad
2: I hope I didn’t pay for this / disappointing
3: I didn’t hate it, but it was still missing something / forgettable but inoffensive
3.5: On the line between good and ok / like, not love
4: Solid mind candy / worth reading
4.5: So very close to perfection! / must read
5: I could not put it down and I’m still thinking about it! / a true treasure

Movie Ratings in relation to my review:
Clean--Hallmark movies, some kissing, no nudity, no sex on or off "screen"
PG--Some innuendo but nothing kids don't hear every day, sex is all closed door
PG-13--some language (swear words not related to sex), more talk about sex, heavy petting, removal of clothing on screen, but sex is closed door.
PG-14—somewhere between PG-13 and R. Not erotica, but at least a paragraph of on-screen sex
R--swearing (F-bomb, on “screen” sex, sometimes feels like the whole story is about the sex and not the relationship or some other plot, but not always

Monday, July 9, 2018

The World Around the Corner by Rick Ellrod

A new novella coming August 22nd from Wild Rose Press.

From Rick's Website:
Flirting with the lively rogue Rosmara is the best part of Jeff Stanton’s favorite online role-playing game, even though he doesn’t know her in the flesh. She’s much better company than Dana Roland, the sharp-tongued mechanic who keeps his balky car running—just as Dana would rather banter with Badon the warrior online than with a man she sees as a stuffy professor.

When a young teammate from the game goes missing in real life, Jeff and Dana end up on a road trip together. In a real-life quest, they discover more about each other than either one expected—and new kinds of sparks begin to fly!

My Take:
This was a lot more fun than I anticipated. It's not my normal kind of thing, which might sound strange since I used to love video games. However, I agreed to read this because I have two friends who love online role play games and I was curious to see if this would give me a glimpse into what they liked about it.

I thought Rick Ellrod did a great job helping me see the camaraderie of this team of players and how they worked together. He also did a great job with the back and forth of the characters in their real-life interactions. It was fun to see them before and after they realized their double connection. I always love when pre-conceived notions are stripped away and people have to see each other for who they really are. The romance was sweet and realistic. The search for Evanesce was also interesting in its own right. And Pendragon? Let's just say it's good to have a sneaky match-making leader like that on your side.

This is a short and easy read. I never felt lost or confused with the game world, and the real world scenes were just that--real and believable.

I give The World Around the Corner a solid 4.5 and Clean rating. Check out Rick's website for links when the book is available.

1-5 scale and what it means:
1: I couldn’t even finish it / just plain bad
2: I hope I didn’t pay for this / disappointing
3: I didn’t hate it, but it was still missing something / forgettable but inoffensive
3.5: On the line between good and ok / like, not love
4: Solid mind candy / worth reading
4.5: So very close to perfection! / must read
5: I could not put it down and I’m still thinking about it! / a true treasure

Movie Ratings in relation to my review:
Clean--Hallmark movies, some kissing, no nudity, no sex on or off "screen"
PG--Some innuendo but nothing kids don't hear every day, sex is all closed door
PG-13--some language (swear words not related to sex), more talk about sex, heavy petting, removal of clothing on screen, but sex is closed door.
PG-14—somewhere between PG-13 and R. Not erotica, but at least a paragraph of on-screen sex
R--swearing (F-bomb, on “screen” sex, sometimes feels like the whole story is about the sex and not the relationship or some other plot, but not always

Thursday, June 28, 2018

A Change of Plans by Donna K Weaver

From Goodreads:

When Lyn sets off on her supposedly uncomplicated and unromantic cruise, she never dreams it will include pirates. All the 25-year-old Colorado high school teacher wants is to forget that her dead fiancĂ© was a cheating scumbag. What she plans is a vacation diversion; what fate provides is Braedon, an intriguing surgeon. She finds herself drawn to him: his gentle humor, his love of music, and even his willingness to let her take him down during morning karate practices. Against the backdrop of the ship’s make-believe world and its temporary friendships, her emotions come alive.

However, fear is an emotion, too. Unaware of the sensitive waters he navigates, Braedon moves to take their relationship beyond friendship--on the very anniversary Lyn came on the cruise to forget. But Lyn's painful memories are too powerful, and she runs off in a panic.

Things are bad enough when the pair finds themselves on one of the cruise’s snorkeling excursions in American Samoa. However, paradise turns to piracy when their party is kidnapped. Lyn’s fear of a fairytale turns grim. Now she must fight alongside the man she rejected, first for their freedom and then against storms, sharks, and shipwreck.

My Take:
Oh my gosh, I don't even know where to start! This is going to be a hard review to write without giving away spoilers. Let's just all accept the fact that a romance has to have an HEA (happily ever after) but this one had me worrying I'd have to accept a different version of the standard form of HEA. So, here we go...

Weaver is a talented writer who knows how to pull the emotion straight from your soul. Her characters were real from page one. Never once did they feel cliche or like stock people that needed to be there to fulfill a plot device. For a moment, I thought Jori might be a stock character, but even he was his own person with a unique role to fill in the story.

I'm not going to go into a play by play summary or list the qualities of the two main characters. Just know that I cried for at least the last hour of reading. This is a good thing for me. It shows how invested I was with Lyn and Braedon's lives, not just their romance. I love romance, but this was so much more. The suspense elements and the daily struggle of surviving added such depth to the story. I can't say much more than that without giving too much away.

This was a beautifully written, tender, and heartwrenching story. I almost never give romance a 5-star rating, but this one gets it without a seconds hesitation. I'd like to give it two 5-stars for doing it while staying clean on top of it all.

1-5 scale and what it means:
1: I couldn’t even finish it / just plain bad
2: I hope I didn’t pay for this / disappointing
3: I didn’t hate it, but it was still missing something / forgettable but inoffensive
3.5: On the line between good and ok / like, not love
4: Solid mind candy / worth reading
4.5: So very close to perfection! / must read
5: I could not put it down and I’m still thinking about it! / a true treasure

Movie Ratings in relation to my review:
Clean--Hallmark movies, some kissing, no nudity, no sex on or off "screen"
PG--Some innuendo but nothing kids don't hear every day, sex is all closed door
PG-13--some language (swear words not related to sex), more talk about sex, heavy petting, removal of clothing on screen, but sex is closed door.
PG-14—somewhere between PG-13 and R. Not erotica, but at least a paragraph of on-screen sex

R--swearing (F-bomb, on “screen” sex, sometimes feels like the whole story is about the sex and not the relationship or some other plot, but not always

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Always a Bridesmaid by Lizzie Shane

From Goodreads:
She's all heart. He's all business.

Parvati Jai knows better than to pin any romantic hopes on Max Dewitt. She may have had a crush on her best friend's older brother since she figured out what boys were good for, but she's looking for Mister Forever - not a workaholic entrepreneur with a romantic attention span that tops out at two weeks. Yet with her business failing, her newly-engaged best friend vanishing into a love bubble, and even her teenage niece announcing she's getting married, Max becomes the one person she can rely on - and the idea of a little fling with him becomes even more tempting.

Max knows his little sister's best friend is off-limits...until Parvati confesses she once had a crush on him and he can't help seeing her in a new - and very intriguing - light. He's never been good at letting people past his charming facade, but something about Parvati makes him want to let down his defenses.

But even if he lets himself fall for her, how can he convince a woman who knows all about his love-'em-and-leave-'em ways that he finally wants forever?

My Take:
This was a pleasant surprise. I found myself sick and spending a lot of time in bed, so I binge read my TBR kindle pile. I think I'd put this more in the love story category than romance, and I think I needed that. This simply means there were chapters that weren't just about the two people falling in love. We really get to know Parvati and Max as individuals without each other before, during, and after they get together. It makes their relationship mean even more.

Parv. *sigh* I felt for her. Her whole world was falling apart. It really was kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy that she talks about two-thirds into the book, but that doesn't make it any less painful. She's trying to be something and someone she isn't to impress her family, her friends, herself, and of course, that's going to implode. The fact she's never told Max she's been in love with him for over a decade is just icing on the cake. And, a note on her best friend Sydney, Parv is WAY to easy on her. Just saying!

Okay, Max is an awesome type A over-achiever alpha male personality. He didn't have a great role model growing up for a loving father figure but in his own way, Max isn't doing as bad as everyone tells him. I love that Parv finally goes for what she wants and is willing to give Max a chance. Unfortunately, before the end, she starts to doubt everything because she listens to Sydney. Why!!?? I love Max even more because he gives Parv exactly what she needs. He needed bonus points because he was going to do it before she runs. I'd like to point that out.

I give Always a Bridesmaid a 4.5 for everyday realism without being too stupid (thank you!). It's got real heartache, real problems, and real solutions. It gets a PG-13 rating for talk about sex and off-screen scenes.

NOTE: I'm not 100% sure on the swear words used so sorry if the F-bomb is in there without warning. I've kind of forgotten since reading.

1-5 scale and what it means:
1: I couldn’t even finish it / just plain bad
2: I hope I didn’t pay for this / disappointing
3: I didn’t hate it, but it was still missing something / forgettable but inoffensive
3.5: On the line between good and ok / like, not love
4: Solid mind candy / worth reading
4.5: So very close to perfection! / must read
5: I could not put it down and I’m still thinking about it! / a true treasure

Movie Ratings in relation to my review:
Clean--Hallmark movies, some kissing, no nudity, no sex on or off "screen"
PG--Some innuendo but nothing kids don't hear every day, sex is all closed door
PG-13--some language (swear words not related to sex), more talk about sex, heavy petting, removal of clothing on screen, but sex is closed door.
PG-14—somewhere between PG-13 and R. Not erotica, but at least a paragraph of on-screen sex
R--swearing (F-bomb, on “screen” sex, sometimes feels like the whole story is about the sex and not the relationship or some other plot, but not always

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Love in Alaska by Tina Scott

From Goodreads:Can facing down a bear and tackling the Alaskan wilderness tame the storm in Marcia Williams’s heart?

After a painful breakup, Marcia prescribes herself a two-week vacation to Homer. Time with her friend Traci John is all that’s on the agenda, not falling for the first guy she meets.

Storm Gaige is handsome, kind, and polite. He’s an educator, like her, and he wants kids, like her. For Marcia, it’s an instant attraction. The problem is, there are over 2,140 reasons for her not to like Storm, give or take a few miles. But, distance isn’t the only issue.

My Take:
I received this story in exchange for an honest review.
First, I enjoyed the story, however, I thought it was too short. I liked Marcia from the very beginning when she struggled to walk into the pawn shop with her engagement ring. It represented all the wasted years and all that she had hoped for, so she did sell it for the chance to spend a few weeks with her best friend. It was easy to cheer for her after that and to understand her insecurities.

When she reaches Alaska she feels an instant connection with Storm, even though she doesn't know why. I didn't have a problem with that. This is where I thought the story was too short though. Although we see Storm doing nice things for Marcia, she's kind of clueless. And since we don't see anything from his point of view we have to fill in the gaps when she zones out. And she zones out every time she gets insecure. That in itself wouldn't be a problem if we had a few more chapters of Storm drawing her out of her shell, talking to her, telling her point blank how he feels about her. Because that's what she needs. She's not good at picking up the clues.

All in all I liked the story though and see a lot of potential in the writing. I'd give another story by Tina Scott a chance based on this one.

I give Love in Alaska a 3.8-4 and a clean rating. It's sweet and hopeful, and I enjoyed glimpses of life in Alaska.

1-5 scale and what it means:
1: I couldn’t even finish it / just plain bad
2: I hope I didn’t pay for this / disappointing
3: I didn’t hate it, but it was still missing something / forgettable but inoffensive
3.5: On the line between good and ok / like, not love
4: Solid mind candy / worth reading
4.5: So very close to perfection! / must read
5: I could not put it down and I’m still thinking about it! / a true treasure

Movie Ratings in relation to my review:
Clean--Hallmark movies, some kissing, no nudity, no sex on or off "screen"
PG--Some innuendo but nothing kids don't hear every day, sex is all closed door
PG-13--some language (swear words not related to sex), more talk about sex, heavy petting, removal of clothing on screen, but sex is closed door.
PG-14—somewhere between PG-13 and R. Not erotica, but at least a paragraph of on screen sex

R--swearing (F bomb, on “screen” sex, sometimes feels like the whole story is about the sex and not the relationship or some other plot, but not always
SaveSave

Monday, June 25, 2018

The Counterfeit Date by Cami Checketts

From Goodreads:

To capture Lolly's heart, Mason tricks her into helping him get ready for his dream date ... with her. Mason Turner only has eyes for Lolly Honeymiller. She's vivacious and hilarious and unfortunately thinks of him as her best friend's ex. Lolly's friends cook up a scheme: pretending Lolly is making him over for a special date with his dream girl. The more time he and Lolly spend together, the harder it is to keep his feelings a secret.

Lolly offers to help Mason Turner prepare for a date with his dream girl. Through makeovers, shopping, and practice kissing, she tries to keep her distance but finds herself falling for a man she can never have. As the date approaches, both wonder if they can keep things fake or if the farce will implode and shred both of their hearts.

My Take:
What fun! It took me a chapter to realize that Mason was high school Mason from way back in Christmas Makeover from the first Echo Ridge anthology. It seems like I missed the story where he and his high school sweetheart Kaitlyn broke up in college (or where she meets and falls in love with Axel). Now they're all grown up and Kaitlyn is married. She's still friends with Mason who also gets along with her husband Axel.

Okay, got all of that straight? Enter Kaitlyn's other best friend, Lolly, who hasn't seen Mason in about three years. Throw in some sparks and some mistaken thoughts that it would be disloyal to like her best friend's ex and you've got a fun rom com. Lolly is determined to help Mason get ready for his dream date, not knowing it's with her! Kaitlyn keeps telling Mason to play hard to get, but all he wants to do is tell Lolly the truth and kiss her senseless.

It was so fun to see the good guy catch the girl in the end. I give The Counterfeit Date a 4 and Clean rating.

1-5 scale and what it means:
1: I couldn’t even finish it / just plain bad
2: I hope I didn’t pay for this / disappointing
3: I didn’t hate it, but it was still missing something / forgettable but inoffensive
3.5: On the line between good and ok / like, not love
4: Solid mind candy / worth reading
4.5: So very close to perfection! / must read
5: I could not put it down and I’m still thinking about it! / a true treasure

Movie Ratings in relation to my review:
Clean--Hallmark movies, some kissing, no nudity, no sex on or off "screen"
PG--Some innuendo but nothing kids don't hear every day, sex is all closed door
PG-13--some language (swear words not related to sex), more talk about sex, heavy petting, removal of clothing on screen, but sex is closed door.
PG-14—somewhere between PG-13 and R. Not erotica, but at least a paragraph of on screen sex

R--swearing (F bomb, on “screen” sex, sometimes feels like the whole story is about the sex and not the relationship or some other plot, but not always