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Love Disregarded, Rachel Blaufeld

Love Disregarded, Rachel Blaufeld

Love Disregarded by [Rachel Blaufeld, Pam Berehulke]

Genre: Romance|R

I’ve mixed feelings about this book. I loved Bex, but when it came to Aston she was a bit of a doormat. I loved Aston too, it was clear how he felt about Bex but…he let money and revenge guide him. That was OK ish when they were young, we all make mistakes, especially when young. We haven’t yet had enough life to assess whats important. When they reconnected though that first time Aston did it again, without the excuse of age. Then after years he decides he wants her and now….and she really just rolls over. Yes, I got that they had a Grand Passion, but the hurts of the past were still there. They had that passion then, this time they’ve both got others to consider, not just themselves. If I was Bex I’d have made him work Much Much harder the third time.
I felt for Seth, he was just there. Used TBH and though Bex came to love him – sort of – it wasn’t the passion she had for Aston. Poor Seth could never live up to that. Never the less he’s a good guy, really steps up even when faced with unwanted surprises. He got a hard time IMO.
Milly and Mike, loved them. Hope things worked out for them.
The kids, all of them, were great. Really well balanced considering all they went through.
Aston’s parents, weak mother, vicious and cruel father. It kind of excuses his actions a little IMO, but only a little and only when he was younger.

Overall its a mixed book for me. I loved the passion, the so strong feelings between Bex and Aston. I loved the angst, I can never get too much of that, and would have liked it to last a bit longer. I hated that she let him get away with so much, and even up to the end he was just steamrollering his way through, expecting everyone to fall in line with his plans. It doesn’t matter if they were good plans, I felt for a solid future Bex needed to make him understand they were a partnership, she had equal say, not just let him carry on as before.

Stars: Three and a half, a good read but I had quite a few reservations about parts.

Arc via netgalley and publishers

Side Trip, Kerry Lonsdale

Side Trip, Kerry Lonsdale

Side Trip by [Kerry Lonsdale]

Genre: General Fiction (adult), Women’s Fiction.

* sign * Women’s fiction again, oh how I hate that outdated category. Its 2020, an outdated category.

Anyway, I love Kerry’s stories, and was keen to see where this would take me. It was incredibly emotional, heartbreaking for both the young Joy and the person she is now. She’s doing her dead sister’s bucket list, mirroring what she thinks her sister wanted in life. Joy has her life planned to Judy’s lists for her future, and they are pretty fixed but Joy feels she needs to follow them. I felt she was so entrenched in Judy’s would-be life she has repressed her own wants and needs, its clear that she isn’t enjoying things in the way she expected. There’s no room for spontaneity in her life, its only whats on one of Judy’s lists that’s allowed. So what on earth happened to let Dylan on the trip with her? Well, blame Judy’s list for that :-), fortunately it has things that push Joy out of her familiar zone and having Dylan along helps her cross things off the list.
Dylan is totally opposite to joy, on his own private trip, he’s all for free spirit, no plans, spontaneity, his views are so opposite to Joys, and yet the two get on so well. I loved Dylan, was intrigued by his reasons for making the journey when it was so clear he hated what he was doing.

Both Joy and Dylan are in a way escaping from their pasts, affected by what happened then, even to the current day. The novel breaks into time periods, the past, the present and the future ( which is of course also the present). I don’t usually like stories set out like this. I find it frustrating, as just as I’m desperate to know more then time zones jump, but here Kerry keeps it short so it works – and works well. I was in tears more than once, and towards the end I was devastated. Gutted. Ugly crying. I really didn’t think that was coming, I almost stopped reading. I’m so glad I continued to the epilogue though – it was perfect. Wonderful. Satisfying. And cleverly done.

Its something I again don’t usually like, have only seen it done as a kind of escape effect when writer seemed desperate to get the H out of a situation that seemed to have no answer. Here though, I should have kept in mind the plots premise of fate v the what if’s.
“ What if Joy and Dylan had exchanged last names? What if he’d told her she made him believe love was worth the risk? And what if they hadn’t made that second deal when they couldn’t say goodbye?”
Its so important to bear that in mind and keep reading. I didn’t and it wasn’t until I re-read the description just before writing my review that I realised how intentional it was, and it made sense. Its a plot device I’m still not a fan of, but it works here. For me though it did mean I dropped half a star, as even though it works I just don’t like that kind of mechanism for a story. Maybe if I’d realised at the time I was reading, rather than next day just prior to review. If I’d not been reviewing I wouldn’t have read the description and realised that it was intentional, part of the “what if” premise that’s integral to the story. That’s my personal issues though, and of course others will feel very differently. A really emotional read.

Stars: four and a half. I’m being picky but I can’t get past how easily I could have missed that a huge part of the story was intentional, and not just the plot device I’ve seen before and disliked.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

One To Watch, Kate Stayman-London

One To Watch, Kate Stayman-London

One To Watch: real love . . . as seen on TV by [Kate Stayman-London]

Genre: Women’s fiction, Romance,

Arghhh, Women’s fiction again. Why? Why assume men won’t read this? Men write romance, men read romance.

This was a real treat to read. Somehow Kate brings in so many minority groups, plus size, black/coloured/LGBT/even asexual, and that rarely crops up. You missed my group though Kate ;-( Disabled. Wheelchair users very rarely crop up in romance, yet we want love too.
Still, it was wonderful to see so many groups here and brought in as part of the story, everyday stuff, not a triumphal “ wow!! look! A minority person!” I so hate the token folk – usually LGBT – that are the stereotyped lip service to inclusion in so many novels.

Anyway, the writing was sharp and funny, very on-point, I loved it. I really felt for Bea. She’s the odd one out in a happily married family, and knows her parents love her but inside she misses what the rest of the family have. She’s successful, loves her work, has good friends and yet still there’s that tiny bit that you can feel she misses, will she get love? Is she doomed to forever reminisce about her lost love?
Why don’t programmes like so many people’s secret addiction reality shows have people like her, minority groups, she wonders. So after her diatribe on exactly that, when the programme wants her to be their next star, she stipulates she does not want 25 of the usual, white, well muscled males but a group that represents reality.

There were some fabulously funny moments, and some emotional ones that made me almost tearful. Surprises? They are there in spades, this was a totally unpredictable novel and I loved that I just didn’t know what would happen next. The clothes she got – I know nothing really about fashion, so the names went over my head but the descriptions sounded so perfect. I want a clock like that first one!
I loved the mix of men, guessing who really meant what they said, who was just there for publicity, who was secretly thinking about Bea’s weight in an unpleasant way. ( Way to go Tim! Bea’s brothers certainly teach an excellent lesson in respecting their sister! )
Then there’s the wonderful dates, so enjoyed reading about them. Balloon trips, museums and art, Marrakesh and camel rides, just wonderful.

The ending? TBH I’m not wholly convinced by how it played out. I want to be, but after all the things she’s been through I’m not entirely certain its a HEA, but its certainly HFN.
I’ve seen some criticism of the way its laid out, tech style, and that made me cautious. I’ve tried – and failed – to enjoy books written in film script style, and was concerned this might be. Its not. There are a lot of email/twitter posts but that was fine. I use those everyday so embraced it, and it gave a way of the story connecting to the outside ( of the tv prog) world easily. I’m 62, its not a book just for the young, tech savvy people.

Stars: Difficult, I’d say five but I’m not entirely happy about the ending. So four and a half, the rest is just perfect and well done for all that inclusivity but fitting the characters in so naturally. Real world.

Arc via netgalley and publishers

Just Saying, Sophie Ranald

Just Saying, Sophie Ranald

Just Saying: An absolutely perfect and feel-good romantic comedy by [Sophie Ranald]

Genre: Humour, Romance,

My first Sophie Ranald read, and what fun it was. I really enjoyed this, laughed at parts and had tears at others. Its a very apt book with the #metoo still causing notice, and of course stories from the Windrush generation. .

I loved Alice, she was like so many people I know, internalising hurts, showing one face to the world while feeling very different inside. I think what I found so, so sad was her reaction to what happened, to blaming herself for not doing anything to stop it. That doesn’t make her complicit, its a natural reaction to shock, and yet still something used as a defence far too often. Victim blaming – despicable defence.

When Alice met Joe it was a perfect match. Joe is wonderful, solid, dependable, a true support to Alice, and when she loses her job and starts at the pub he’s very supportive. It means though that their work hours conflict and they see little of each other, just at the time their new, gorgeous lodger, Zoe, Joe’s ex, the girl he says he loved and broke his heart, has moved in. Zoe is stunningly attractive, a great chef, and Joe loves to cook. Alice enjoys eating but cooking isn’t her thing. Slowly it feels like its Joe and Zoe, rather than Joe and Alice, she’s always there, laughing with Joe over their shared past, reminiscing over old mates, singing along as they cook, and of course enjoying the garden. The one Joe and Alice had such plans for but never found the time to do so. Poor Alice, Joe assures her they’re just friends when she moves in, but its hard seeing that toned body parading around in sexy, skimpy nightwear. Does she want Joe back ? That’s what Alice fears, and feels “less” in comparison to the gorgeous, talented Zoe.

Then there’s the pub ( and that picture – I could just visualise it!! I loved Shirley’s poem too, Princess Diana has that reaction for some people…). There’s Alice’s brother Drew, her best friend Heather, landlady Shirley and the locals, and of course handsome Archie, who owns the craft brew shop next door to the pub. They all form a tale that’s is cleverly woven together, along with a secret burden poor Alice has been carrying for far too long. Its a fabulous read, well written, paced out just right and

Stars: Five. A great read. Has a perfect blend of romance and jealousy, topical issues, things that affect real people, us with our imperfect lives. And of course a HEA, a romance isn’t right without that for me.

Arc via netgalley and publishers

Something Like Perfect, S.C. Stephens

Something Like Perfect, S.C. Stephens

Something Like Perfect by [S.C. Stephens]

Genre: | General Fiction (Adult), Romance

Well, Thoughtless, S.C.Stephens debut book was one of my earliest kindle reads, and I loved it. Even then though the cheating aspect made me a little uncomfortable, I know its fiction, but I’m pretty strong on cheating – don’t do it. In real life that is 😉 In a novel I can excuse it if the characters at least try to avoid it, make some real effort. So, seeing this book included it made me pause, but I decided she’s such a great writer it was worth trying. After all I loved Thoughtless and the other stories that followed.
Its a quick easy read, sweeping the reader along with a host of emotions. I could feel the connection between Valerie and Jake from that first coffee shop meeting, and could imagine her shock at that family dinner. What a nightmare.
It puts them both in a difficult position but wisely they both decide to do the right thing and really do make a solid effort. And then….something huge happens that changes things. I wasn’t expecting that, and I can see that its got its lovers and haters. Yes, it is a little far fetched, but things like this do happen in reality, life can be far fetched at times and I just went with the flow and enjoyed it. I understood what happened and why, I think in those circumstances most folk would have acted the same.
Then of course comes the later part of the story where they’re both struggling in their lives, Val loves her sister, Jake feels guilty and doesn’t want to hurt his girlfriend and it looks like a story where no-one will be happy. I feel this was one of the best parts of the novel, drama abounds, emotions and tensions are high and I felt for all three of them. They were all heartbroken, and it looked like none would get a happy ending. I liked that this took some time to resolve, I hate reads where characters are heartbroken one page and all over it by the next page. I want the characters to hit bottom, I want to wallow in their pain….and then when it comes right I am so happy.

Stars: Five, its a quick, light read, a wash of emotion. Its not one I’m likely to re-read but I really enjoyed it.

Arc via netgalley and publishers

Party of Two, The brilliant opposites-attract rom-com from the author of The Proposal!, Jasmine Guillory

Party of Two, The brilliant opposites-attract rom-com from the author of The Proposal!, Jasmine Guillory

Party of Two: The brilliant opposites-attract rom-com from the author of The Proposal! by [Jasmine Guillory]

Genre: Romance,

I didn’t realise this was book 5 in a connected series til I’d finished it, so you can read and enjoy without having read earlier ones. Like most character connected books though I suspect it will read even better if you’ve knowledge of some of the side characters from earlier reads.

I really enjoyed this, it wasn’t a five star for me, but a solid four. I loved Max and Olivia, I understood why she was a planner, not a spontaneous jump right in with both feet character. She puts it down to her life experiences as a black lady, but some of us are just that way without any real reasons. I did feel her reactions were very deeply entrenched, and I understood the fear that she felt about being in the spotlight with Max. That’s his life though, not just his job but his passion, so how are they to get round things?
Max was just adorable, loved his impulsiveness, even though, like Olivia, that would scare me. I can’t understand how people can just make decisions on the fly like that. He was so in love with Olivia, that came over really well, but were the differences between them insurmountable or could there be a way through.

When things come to a crux I felt for both of them, I understood Olivia’s horror but at the same time could see exactly why Max did what he did. He just wanted to help someone, and it seemed to him putting two folk together could do that. And maybe if there weren’t a few hundred eyes on them at the time it would have been fine…..

I can see the author is in a position to understand racial issues more than me, though being naturally dark skinned I was bullied as a kid because folk assumed I was coloured, and then when I married a Zelos…..that assumption became more prevalent. However for me I felt I didn’t need the constant reminder Olivia was black, I’m interested in her as a person, and of course being black affects that but its not all she is. She’s an intelligent, talented businesswoman, a good sister, a great friend. She’s more than *just* black, and I felt that the reminders all the way through that being black had affected her was a bit OTT for me. That’s just a personal feeling though. I guess its a book where the race issue counted but when I’m reading I don’t really think of people as being black or white, blonde or dark, fat or thin, they’re just people to me.

When things went wrong – perfect, I loved that drama, and they seem to be in a position where I couldn’t see how they could meet. Sometimes Love just isn’t enough, but thankfully Jasmine found a way through, saw what could change where I couldn’t see how they could get there.

The food – oh wow, loved all that, though being UK not US I have never had yellow cake with chocolate frosting? Unless yellow cake is just some kind of Victoria sponge? Sometimes English as a language used by different countries can be very confusing. And pie. Strawberry rhubarb sounds horrible to me, give me apple, apricot, blackberry, raspberry but not strawberry/rhubarb. (Rhubarb, my late husband loved it. I once made a crumble for him and a friend of mine who was also a rhubarb addict, but forgot the sugar….. My poor friend said it was really eye watering)

Stars: Four a fun read, good story with real issues between the couple that I wondered how the author could resolve. Good job I’m a reader not a writer as I couldn’t see a way through.

Arc via netgalley and publishers

The Widow’s Secret, Katharine Swartz

The Widow’s Secret, Katharine Swartz

The Widow's Secret by [Katharine Swartz]

Genre: General Fiction (adult), Historical fiction

A dual POV novel, in the present Rachel is researching the history of a wreck, a ship she believes to be a slave ship, and then we see the past, where Abigail Fenton is the wife of the ship’s owner.

Its an interesting story, Rachel isn’t just learning about the ship’s history but examining her own. She loves her husband, he loves her, but its a tense relationship, with Rachel not understanding her actions so how on earth can her husband?
I got the feeling this was a tipping point in their marriage, that Rachel had always been a prickly, closed off person, and we see from her relationship with her mother that she doesn’t exactly have a loving role model there. It seems to stem from when her adored father died when she was young, but its spilled over and now her marriage is in danger. She doesn’t want that but doesn’t know how to be the person she wants, open, friendly, loving.
Then back in the past we’ve Abigail, lovely young lady, adores her husband and he loves her. Typical of the time though they are restricted by society and what’s deemed correct. Abigail is unsure of the belief commonly held that slaves are more like animals, her own experiences make her doubt that, putting her in a hard position with her husband and contemporaries. Can she speak out? What about the effect on her family? If she doesn’t though what does that make her?

Its a good story, and Rachel is escaping to the past rather than face up to the issues in her present life. It hits back though, events make it so that she needs to take action or lose everything. In a strange parallel Abigail too has to pick a side, contemporaries, friendship, marriage and the accepted view of slaves, or can she voice her opinions, and maybe hope to bring about change in a small way, but risking her marriage and her position in society?

There’s a thread of Christianity running through the past, but not in an overbearing way – its something I avoid, but here it fits the story and isn’t dominating it. Its was interesting reading about the past, the slaves ( awful trade. One wonders how many really felt as Rachel did inside) and wondering what the future held for the characters involved.
I really felt for James, a good man, but carried along with accepted beliefs until confronted with the harsh truth. For anyone with a conscience that makes things tough, and I felt his struggle. Its easier to think everyone involved in that trade was awful, bigoted, a bully, but James was a gentle man, adored Abigail but initially really didn’t see wrong in what he did. Then as facts began to solidify in his mind he was struggling, what to do? Risk everything he had earned? Leave things as they were and live with his conscience? What about Abigail, he can see her actions in a different light now.
Its very complex, being horrified at his actions and then seeing them for his POV.

I loved Antony, Rachel’s husband, such an incredibly patient and understanding man and yet eventually he feels he’s tried and tried, and needs Rachel to make an effort too. I did feel that for such huge issues as they have, the ending was a little slick, very quickly all those issues were put behind them, when really I felt they would need a huge amount of work. Of course this is bookland, where problems can have quick situations leading to a HEA, but I would have liked a bit more time for them, a little more delving into the issues, and how they were going to get past them. Its simply not possible to have a blinding revelation and say all will be well……

Stars: Four, an interesting read, the abhorrent slave trade looked at through eyes of the time, and of course through Rachel’s current day view. I enjoyed the story, just felt the ending was a little too easily fixed and settled.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher

The Little Teashop in Tokyo, Julie Caplin

The Little Teashop in Tokyo, Julie Caplin

The Little Teashop in Tokyo: A feel-good, romantic comedy to make you smile and fall in love! (Romantic Escapes, Book 6) by [Julie Caplin]

Genre: General Fiction (adult), Romance.

Well, wow, I adored this story. I didn’t realise it was one of those complete stories, but connected books series, so I’m off to find the rest when I’ve time. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t read the others, but I can see for those who have, getting snippets of the characters in their updated lives will be fun.

Fiona, what a lovely lady. Lives with her widowed mum, its been just the two of them for so long, her dad dying when she was small. Her mum is clearly a bit of a hypochondriac, and even though Fiona is 28 still treats her as if she’s 8 much of the time. Fiona understands, chafes at it sometimes, but has found a way to manage her mum’s anxieties. Of course now she’s off to Japan for two weeks her mum is terrified for her. Fiona is determined not to be put off though and bravely marches in. this could be the makings of a whole new career for her, and will work well with her travel blog.

What she doesn’t expect though is Gabe. The man who’d been booked has had to cancel and Gabe is taking his place. He’s a well known man, top photographer, and certainly no second rate substitute but……Fiona has a history with him, from when she was 18 and he was taking a half term class at her school. Its didn’t go well, she’s been affected by the events ever since, and this throws her. Gabe doesn’t recognise her, and she’s not sure how she feels. That incident affected her ever since, changed her whole way of life and yet he seems t have forgotten it….how, she thinks, can something that was so big for her be nothing, forgettable to him.
,
Gabe was such an obnoxious man to begin, clearly not happy about mentoring her and it shows. Slowly though he changes and became a man I fell in love with a bit too.
The ladies she’s staying with are amazing, and teach her so much, taking her in as part of them, showing her some of the traditional Japanese way of life. I loved those parts, could taste the food, smell the teas, see the beautiful kimonos, and the wonderful relaxing garden. It sounded magical, and Fiona really grew in her confidence with their help. She was like a different person at the end, more confident but still with her amazing fascination and enthusiasm for life.

I hated a Certain Person but was so glad she was in the book, I love that sort of character.
I loved that when things fell apart it wasn’t a quick solution, that it lasted for some time. I hate when its all off one page, and all on again the next.
I guess my only minor criticism would be the time span, its just two weeks and for the first couple of days they really don’t like each other, but then if I take into account the history and how things were then, it makes up for it. A bit. I just have trouble with insta love. Lust I can believe in, love takes a bit longer IMO

Stars: Five. A wonderful, engaging read, transporting me to a country I’ve always wanted to visit.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

The Wedding, A Cruise Control Novel, Sian Ceinwen

The Wedding, A Cruise Control Novel, Sian Ceinwen

Genre: Romance,

I loved book one, The Album, and this one catches up with Gabriel and Ariana, while focusing on Heather and Harrison, and is another riveting read.

I loved that Heather and Sebastian gave Ariana a hard time when she came back. Hayden and Harrison are content in that Gabriel’s happy, but Heather and Sebastian can’t get past the hurt and damage she caused so easily. Heather thought they were close friends, and Ariana just dropped her, ghosted her, didn’t answer her calls or texts. Plus of course they had a ringside seat to Gabriel’s heartbreak and devastation. That felt so very true, the anger and loss came over very realistically. Heather, Sebastian and the Yoko convo 😉 that felt very real and I could picture it.
In the middle of Ariana’s return its Harrison’s birthday, and he proposes to Heather, his long time girl. They’re like an institution, nothing can shake them and marriage – well its just icing on the cake. Until it isn’t, something terrible happens that affects the whole band, and causes a massive, humongous rift between the two.

This kind of angst and heartbreak is what make a romance novel so special to me. I love this kind of plot, where someone does something totally unexpected, and that causes issues. Very big issues, and I was sucked in to the drama, the unhappiness, the problems, the heartache that befell them all. In the midst of all this poor Heather is running her new and incredibly successful fashion line.
I loved this story, loved that the problems set in quite early which left lots of time to explore them thoroughly, see what could work, what would work, what and who is behind the issues, and whether given time they could be overcome. For a while, even though this is book-land and its going to be a HEA, I really felt that it was possible that actually Love couldn’t conquer all, that perhaps some things are just too devastating to get past, to forget.

Its handled wonderfully, and the solutions are not quick fix, instant everything’s OK now, type answers. That we see them working so hard, and yet still there are problems. Real life is like that, there are no magic fixes, its a slog getting past something like this and not everyone can do it.
I especially liked that when things are finally resolved, there’s another person that got caught in the crossfire and had their life turned upside down, but they weren’t forgotten, they were helped to resolution too.
I can just imagine how vicious the fans were, in this day of instant tweets and posts things spread like wildfire, and some folk hide behind anonymity to say the most appalling, cruel things. We – and I’m one – often blame the media for the intrusion in people’s lives, but if we -as the public- didn’t buy the papers and magazines, didn’t salivate over the photos, there wouldn’t be a demand for them. Its a two pronged fault, the papers and media for chasing and intruding, but the general public for creating the demand.

Stars: Five, a wonderful follow up and I can’t wait for the next book.

Arc via author

The Return, A Second Chance Flower Shop Novel, Noelle Adams

The Return, A Second Chance Flower Shop Novel, Noelle Adams

The Return (Second Chance Flower Shop Book 1) by [Noelle Adams]

Genre: Romance,

For me this book was a well written story but just lacked any drama to make it what I enjoy reading. Most romances hit a spot about three quarters through where there’s a hiccup, things go wrong etc and then get resolved. This book though didn’t do that, there was a faint possibility that things might go wrong but it didn’t.
Ria and Jacob were both pleasant characters, but though there were some sensual scenes TBH I just didn’t feel that strong romance between them, certainly not a passion thats lasted all these years. I had a hard time believing Mia could just put all those years of hurt aside so easily, ignore how broken hearted she was just because Jacob is back now. Its as if he says “this is why….” and she’s all “oh, OK then” kiss kiss. I just wanted more, more drama, more tension, and a bigger reason for him leaving in the first place. I just didn’t see why he wouldn’t have told Ria why he was going.

Stars: Two and a half, I didn’t hate it, it just wasn’t a book I could really engage with. I’m a drama fan, essential for me in a romance. Not everyone loves it though, many like this kind of sweet, easy read better. Horses for courses.

Arc via netgalley and publishers

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