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Sugar and Spice And All Those Lies, Evy Journey

Sugar and Spice And All Those Lies,  Evy Journey

Sugar and Spice and All Those Lies by [Journey, Evy]

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction

Gah! Women’s Fiction roll eyes I hate that classification, I won’t do my usual rant except to say why shouldn’t a man enjoy this?

I wasn’t sure what to expect here, but its a mix of romance, riches, and resolution.

Gina is from (her words) a white trash background, though I don’t think I’d describe it as such. She decides to go for what she really wants after deciding that she wants more than to just marry and have a family. Cooking is her love, nurtured by her mother, and originated from her grandfather.
She’s working in a Michelin starred restaurant as a line cook when she meets Leon. Her workmate and friend Marcia tells her a little of his history, he’s a true Ladies man, going out for a brief while with them and treating them really well, but finishing within a couple of months. Payoff is good though, diamonds, jewellry, meals out, flowers… Marcia says go for it when he shows an interest in her, but he’s dating Gina’s long time friend who isn’t happy that he’s asking about Gina.

She meets Brent and he seems interested in her, but she’s not sure if he’s being polite or not, Leon is still pressing her to go out and she’s uncertain what to do. Brent seems to be keen on her but hasn’t asked her out, Leon asks her out almost daily.

I loved Brent, wasn’t sure about Leon, but he seemed to be open about what he wanted, and what he would do even if I didn’t agree with his ends, felt a bit shallow to me, I couldn’t respect someone that made that choice. I wasn’t sure about Marcia, she seemed friendly and open, and was really helpful to Gina. Gina herself I admired to begin, and felt for her when her friend was upset with her, she couldn’t help what happened, it wasn’t anything she could control. Her family were lovely, very supportive even if her mum really hoped Gina would just live close, get married and have a family. Somehow though I didn’t really warm to her, I felt she was swayed too much by Leon’s money, even though initially she held out against him. I wanted her to see poor Brent was attracted to her as more than just a friend.

Its kind of a mixed romance and suspense/thriller read. I did like the food/restaurant part, an interesting world where people pay more for a meal than many earn in a month. That happens, and always stuns me ;-(

Stars: Three and a half, a fun read but the romance side was pretty much a side issue.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

 

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What Happens at Christmas, Evonne Wareham

What Happens at Christmas,  Evonne Wareham

What Happens at Christmas (Choc Lit) by [Wareham, Evonne]

Genre: Mystery and Thrillers, Women’s Fiction

A mixed read here, it being a Choc-lit read I didn’t notice the genre, ( I adore Cho-lit romances) and was expecting more romance. There is some, but its tied up in the mystery, kind of equal parts.

It was a fun read, and I loved the section where Lori, Misty and Drew were having Christmas in the barn. That was just magical, and felt so right for this time of year, had me hankering for some snow and crisp, bright days. That was my favourite part of the story, I felt “there” with them, sharing their Christmas. Sometimes its so commercialised we forget how simplicity can make it special.

Misty was a real star, poor kid had a flake of a mother, Lori’s actress sister, and was just dropped off with random friends while her mum swanned off being Actress and Film Star….thank goodness for Lori, and for Misty’s dad Dan, also a film star but not so concerned about image, aging and having a growing daughter.
I loved Lori, a real heart of gold person, ready to help anyone, wanting to be a writer but lacking in self confidence, so determined though that if she was a success it was going to be on her own merits and not by way of her famous family.
Drew, what a sad tale, and even sadder when he reveals the full details. Twenty years of carrying that around, what a burden. I was so glad he found Lori, and the fact they kept things secret and then he was tied up with work, and couldn’t trace her fitted perfectly. Fate though brought them together again, but the mystery of how they met and the repercussions weren’t over, and we got a gripping action finale.
I hadn’t guessed who was behind things, and the motive and that was a perfect surprise. I had a slight idea but couldn’t see how it would fit, so it was satisfying finding out how everything joined together.

Stars: Four, a little slow to pull me in, but once they found drew and had those magic days in the barn I was hooked.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Haunted, Shari Nichols

Haunted,  Shari Nichols

Haunted by [Nichols, Shari]

Genre: Romance, Sci Fi & Fantasy

A stand alone story, which sounded fun. I enjoyed it, didn’t love it but was a quick escape from the real world.

I felt for Karly, and her sister after the recent issues they face. Their shop is struggling after a recent reading led to lots of bad publicity….I could see that happening exactly as it went down!
Then on a night out she meets Thayne. Nothing happens except for some very heated kisses and an offer to go back to his room. Karly says yes, but ducks out so when she goes to a new job next day, one arranged very quickly they’re both shocked to see each other.

Thayne is a bit of a skeptic but the events that have frightened his staff can’t easily be explained away, and when Karly and her sister get to work he cant deny the Inn is being haunted by a young lady called Emily – and She Is Angry. That’s the last thing he needs with the opening just a few weeks away.
The sizzle between Karly and Thayne can be felt, its scorching and they have some incredibly heated, erotic encounters. Nether seem able to leave the other alone.
She made me so cross though, blaming Thayne for his past, letting hers dictate her actions. She was all over him one moment and pushing him away the next. Over and over again, no wonder he was getting whiplash.
He can’t change his past, its the now and the future that count, and he shouldn’t be blamed for things others in Karly’s past have done. She was too ready to believe the worst of him even when he’d done nothing or had a good explanation.

I was really hoping more would be made of the Jennifer angle, it was good, but for me could have been deeper,better, more satifying. I love a “good” bad person, a jealous man or woman, they really make a story sometimes.

The suspense, the haunting angle was interesting but like the romance I felt that the issues raised, the problems caused by Emily treated almost lightly , sort of “wow, she’s created a heck of a storm. Look at that tree, look at that damage…Ah well, who’s for coffee?” Well, it wasn’t quite like that 😉 but that’s how it felt to me.
Then there’s the problems Thayne has with his family, his father, his angst over his brother, not to mention someone else with a grudge against him playing a part in the story.
There was so much going on, so many different story lines that I felt none of them really got treated with the respect they deserved, didn’t get the expansion they needed, just a light fluffy kind of treatment.
That’s a shame as they were some terrific ideas. If the book had been twice the length ( its just over 3500 kindle locations so pretty short) then those plots could really have been made the most of, and this would have been a five star read for me, but as it is I felt I liked it but nothing really stood out about the book, nothing special.

Stars: three and a half, so much potential if either less plots used, with a deeper treatment for them, or longer book that let them really get made the most of.
Still, others will love it as it is, that’s the nature of reading, everyone wants something different.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Love on the Tracks, Tamsen Parker

Love on the Tracks, Tamsen Parker

Love on the Tracks (Snow & Ice Games) by [Parker, Tamsen]

Genre:  Romance

Well, I adore Tamsen’s Compass series so when I saw this was keen to read. Its a very different style though, and felt very much more NA to me.
That’s fine, I do read and enjoy some NA, but somehow this one never really hooked me.

It was a Good read, Tamsen’s usual impeccable writing style where characters and scenes feel so real, but for me it wasn’t a Great read, and that’s what I was expecting. A case more of reader wrong expectations more than anything wrong with the story.

I did like both characters, enjoyed Zane’s songwriting, the way he and the band wanted to move forward but the label wants to keep on with the current successful format. I reckon that’s pretty true to life, those in charge of expenses are risk averse, they want to stay with a sure thing regardless of how bands/individuals feel.
Rowan was a good lead, loved the way her and her father had become such a close unit, enjoyed seeing how she came into Luge, a niche sport. On that note the whole SIG was really interesting, and unusual slant and one that worked well.

Having said all that somehow though the book failed to gel into a story that kept me hooked, I read it, enjoyed it but could have put it aside, and when a story is a great read that’s something I struggle with. When I find I can put it aside and read something else I know that for me its not a winner.

As ever though this is just my opinion, you decide for yourself if its one you’ll like. Its well written, no plot holes, good characters so will have many who love it as it is, just not me 😦

Stars: Three, a good start to a new series, but wasn’t a must-keep-reading novel for me.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Heartbeat, Hollywood Hearts: Book 3, Belinda Williams

Heartbeat, Hollywood Hearts: Book 3, Belinda Williams

Heartbeat (Hollywood Hearts Book 3) by [Williams, Belinda]

Genre:  Romance, Women’s Fiction

I loved the first book, with Ally and Jake, enjoyed the second with Lena and Marc and looked forward to this. Ally and Jake are still my favorites ( in fact I’m just having a reread after finishing this one…) but this comes a close second.

Chloe is a real star, lovely girl, over protective mama and at 21 trying to take some control over her life without upsetting anyone. Its interesting reading her back in book one after having read this one, in fact its put a whole slant on all of the characters now I know more about them.
Its her 21st and she’s having a party, arranged by mama, with her favorite band playing. She’s gobsmacked to meet them, awed at meeting Gabriel, the drummer who she’s admired for so long.
Through a culmination of circumstances she gets caught on video with the lead singer that night. Its not what it looks like but can she convince anyone? Will Gabe believe her, and who did it anyway? And why? And what happens next?
Gabe accepts her explanation, and things seem to be going well until more images get revealed, along with some information that makes it clear she has a stalker. What now? The tone of the messages is quite threatening.

Chloe is lovely, and handles events so well. Gabe too is a real strength to her, she needs that. I loved him, a real gentleman.
We meet Ally, Lena, Faith, Jake and Marc again. The group have become close friends and she needs their support, as events go further and put pressure on her and Gabe’s relationship. Can they come through, as the secrets that come out are ever more more complicated.
I was shocked at some of the revelations, certainly didn’t see those coming and it makes for an action packed complex romance that was just perfect. Its one that will, like the first book, become a re-reader for me.
I loved that we got the real Hollywood setting, the action and dramas of filming, and the difficulties of merging a Hollywood relationship with the odd hours of filming, that comes with a Rock star touring schedule. I like books to reflect the realities of the settings and all three of these have done that beautifully.

Stars: Five, a perfect Hollywood romance, with a solid story backing it.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

A Marchioness Below Stairs, Alissa Baxter

A Marchioness Below Stairs,  Alissa Baxter

A Marchioness Below Stairs by [Baxter, Alissa]

Genre:  Romance, historical
Poor Isobel, married off to an elderly man, forced to break her engagement because her father wanted the money. Now she’s widowed and still holds Lord Fenmore in her heart. She’s hoping that maybe he could still have feelings for her, that if she can explain he may forgive her and they could have a fresh start. She’s in for a shock though, he’s just become betrothed to Miss Hamilton.
She’s with her mother when they visit cousin George, and everything goes wrong. Snow hits, staff are ill or can’t get in, Lord Fenmore and his fiancee arrive having had their journey curtailed by the weather and Mr Bateman seems determined to poke at her needling her constantly. She’s aware of his reputation, and yet as she comes to know the man she sees that maybe he’s been misjudged.

Its a typical Regency romance, all manners and front, hiding anything that could cause scandal, but with the added extra of Isobel not being a simpering miss, but someone determined to use her position and finances to help stop the slave trade.
There are some interesting discussions about how she can do this, why she can’t just wade in and distribute pamphlets, and the politics of the day added some gravitas to what could have been just a flippant, sweet romance.

The authors notes at the end are well worth reading, giving some interesting facts about the events in the book, and I really enjoyed learning more about them. Its easy to dismiss things as “just fiction” but good to remember they had their roots grounded in true events, which should still shock, should force us to ensure we treat everyone with respect.

Stars: four, a fun read with a serious side adding some depth to the story.

ARC supplied for review purposes by author.

A Winter’s Tale, (Shakespeare Sisters), Carrie Elks

A Winter’s Tale, (Shakespeare Sisters), Carrie Elks

A Winter's Tale: the perfect feel good Christmas romance (Shakespeare Sisters) by [Elks, Carrie]

Genre:  General fiction

I love Carrie Elks writing, started with the wonderful Fix You, followed by Love in London and its sequel, and then the first book of the Shakespeare sisters – all were perfect reads for me.
I love the UK links, though the Shakespeare sisters one isn’t featured heavily in UK, but its still referenced. Sometimes I think authors forget there are countries outside the US 😉

Kitty struggles so hard, a perfect student, first class work but she needs an internship and interviews fluster her to the point she fails, always, despite her excellent record academically. By a roundabout route she ends up nannying over the xmas break for a top producer, hoping that this may give her a chance somehow to get the fabled intern position.

The family are staying with Everett’s parents over Xmas, with his brother Adam staying in a cabin close by. He and Everett had a major falling out the previous year and its something everyone is very tight lipped about, with Adam still doing his best to avoid Everett. Difficult though when they’re so close, staying with the parents.
Kitty and Adam don’t get on well at first, nor at second meeting, but when he looks at why he’s so antagonistic to her he can see the fault was all his. He tries to be friends with her as he wants to make amends, well that’s what he’s kidding himself, really he just finds it hard to stay away. Of course friendship isn’t going to work, not when he’s so attracted to Kitty and she to him….

Adam is gorgeous, and I understood why he and Everett fell out when the secret was revealed, and he and Kitty were perfect together.
Everett – I thought he was a jerk, but there’s things about him I didn’t know, and I ended up by – well – not exactly liking him but understanding him a bit more.His wife Mia was a typical self absorbed Hollywood type.
Jonas, Kitty’s 7 year old charge is wonderful, he’s such a friendly kid, so open and loving. considering how neglectful and selfish his parents appear that’s pretty much a miracle.
Annie the housekeeper was lovely, I felt sad though that she was so alone, she deserves her own story Carrie 😉

Of course just when all’s going well its not….you know, how at the peak of being happy disaster strikes and poor Kitty, poor Adam. I was so heartbroken for them.
As always though Carrie pulls the rabbit out of the hat, changes the way I feel about some people, turns what I thought was the story completely on his head to give a different meaning to it and everything works out well. I love a HEA.

Terrific read – and don’t forget about poor annie Carrie, languishing away there all on her own. She deserves a love life too.

Stars: five, classic Carrie read, humour, pathos, angst, drama, happiness, more humour – the subtle British kind that I loved, not the force fed type found in too many novels, and of course, a fabulous story

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Her Frozen Heart, Lulu Taylor

  #HerFrozenHeart  @panmacmillan

Her Frozen Heart, Lulu Taylor

Her Frozen Heart by [Taylor, Lulu]

Genre: Women’s fiction, Romance

My first read from Lulu Taylor and though the writing style was perfect for me I did think to begin that I wasn’t going to enjoy this story.
It seemed each time I got into what was happening in the life of Caitlyn or Tommy the chapter would leave them and go to the other one. It took a while before the two stories seemed to gel for me, I couldn’t see the connection and frustrated myself trying to work it out.

Once I really got into it though I loved it and slowly I found myself drawn into the main characters lives.
Loved Caitlyn, and so felt for her when her so called friend Sara began to stir up her memories of the past. she really was a first class bitch, and she was very true to type – I’ve met people like her, emotional vampires, always desperate for approbation and attention from their freinds, but never really happy, ready to use, discard, seduce anyone who can get them on the next rung of what they see as their right, regardless of who gets hurt.
Poor Tommy found someone like that intruding in her life, not by choice but foisted upon her, when her good nature made it impossible to say No.
I loved Tommy, she’d been through so much. I wanted to know Why was her mother so sniping, so sneering of Tommy’s past.
I admired her so much for her determination, her hard work in protecting those she saw as hers, her family and close freinds, she had a very hard job keeping things run during the war when everyone was facing shortages.

Its like another world reading about how they lived during the war and yet it happened, and that’s exactly how people managed to get by.
Talking to my grandkids recently we touched on the 3 day week, electricity rationing, petrol rationing during the 70s and they were astonished. Seems incredible to think of it now but that’s how it was, and like Tommy and family we just got on with life, managed as best we can.
I think its hard for those who haven’t experienced that kind of mass shortages, the time when flicking a switch doesn’t bring lights on, TV on etc.

Its a great read, not a heart stopping must-keep-reading book, but one where you can put it to one side, pick up a day later and within a few lines you’re back immersed in the world of the characters within the book. Now I know the story I don’t think its one I’d reread but its definately a five star read.
I loved the way the stories got closer to the end and then the surprises revealed when everything comes to a head.

Stars: five, a really enjoyable, satisfying read.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

A Crazy Kind of Love, Mary Ann Marlowe. Van, A Cold Fury Hockey Novel, Sawyer Bennett

A Crazy Kind of Love, Mary Ann Marlowe

A Crazy Kind of Love (Flirting with Fame) by [Marlowe, Mary Ann]

Genre:  Romance, Women’s fiction.

I loved Mary Ann’s first book, and this one covers Eden’s brother Micah, who we met in book one.
That book was such a treat to read, humour that wasn’t forced, drama, real emotions and scenes I felt actually could play out in real life. I was really looking forward to this second book, and it was another terrific read.

Poor Jo, curious family background that’s left her feeling a little bit chip-on-the-shoulder about herself, and means she second guesses so much of what goes on around her. That comes over really well in this book where she’s wondering does Micah want her for herself, or just her publicity contacts.
Micah is also a great lead, funny, kind, caring and so very open. He appears to court publicity but is it because he wants fame at any price, or as he says, if he doesn’t hide anything there’s no story. He’s not sure if Jo wants to be with him for himself or to give her career a leg up…..poor confused couple, and as a reader its so easy to see how actions from both of them can be taken either way.
Throw in Jo’s best friend Zion ( loved him), her awful boss, Micah’s sister Eden, Adam her fiancee and Micah’s friend, and a few others and its a novel that’s a real treat to read. Its one I’ll definitely re-read and it may be time for a repeat look at Eden and Adam’s story 😉

Its chic lit – but with that bit extra, a little seriousness that grounds the story at times, doesn’t have the sheer silliness that has me eye rolling at so many of this genre.
Its a story for those of us who don’t need every facet of humour force fed to us, who want to read and work out where the story is going ourselves.
It seems to be well-researched too as regards Diabetes type 1. I only know a little of that, more about type 2, but it was good to see someone with this condition having to work it into their daily lives, good to see just how frightening hypos can be for others. My late husband had one at around 2a.m. once, I thought he’d had a stroke, he got up, collapsed flat out and could only speak in slurs. Very very frightening, and I can see how others may think someone is drunk…Mary Ann brought that part to life really well.
I love it when an author takes care over little details like this.

Stars: five, another fabulous read from a talented author. I look forward to more.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Van, A Cold Fury Hockey Novel, Sawyer Bennett

Van: A Cold Fury Hockey Novel (Carolina Cold Fury Hockey) by [Bennett, Sawyer]

Genre:  Romance, sports

I’ve read lots of Sawyers novels, and enjoyed most very much, but a few haven’t quite cut it for me, and this is one of them.

Poor Van, what a horrific past and no wonder he’s as emotionally fragile and seems an ar se. That’s his way of protecting himself from the world, of dealing with his anger. Hockey is a great outlet for that rage, lets him release his feelings on the ice, and he’s done well in the sport. women though….absoloutely no-one, male or female, except his aunt, gets close to him.
Simone, urgh. I just did not like her and its my main reason for disliking the story. there’s an attraction in a woman with self confidence, Simone though was simply arrogant, rude, uncaring of what anyone else wanted, her feelings were all that counted and I really disliked her.
I think what got me is we’re always saying “no means no” and that’s a great message, but it applies to both sexes and she just didn’t respect Van when he said no. There’s one scene that if it was the other way round people would be outraged, horrified, claiming it borders on rape/abuse and just because its a female doing the pushing doesn’t mean its right 😦

She really coloured my whole view of the book, my dislike of her meant I couldn’t enjoy the story, I wanted to shout at her to have respect for Van’s feelings, stop just steamrollering her way through because she wanted something.
Its a sex overtakes the story novel too – and for me that isn’t good.

Stars: 2.5/3. Sorry Sawyer, there were bits I liked but overall this one’s a fail for me.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

 

Infamous, Jenny Holiday

Infamous, Jenny Holiday

Infamous by [Holiday, Jenny]

Genre:  Romance, LBGTQIA

I really enjoyed this read, I love romances which have the issue of fame to contend with.
It has to be hard, trying to meet someone when the media are out to catch every possible hint of scandal, and happy to make up what isn’t happening, to put a spin on an innocent photo.

Jesse got caught in just that when his band was starting out, and promised their new manager he’d take more care in future.
The band has risen to heights they only dreamed of since then and Jesse has done everything his manager asked, dated whoever he was told, made up and broken up on demand.
Its a shallow life though, he doesn’t think he’s unhappy, thinks he has what he dreamed of until he meets Hunter….

Hunter has just come out of a relationship where he had to play room-mate not partner to his lover. He finally realised that contrary to what was promised when they met, that’s all he’ll ever be. He’s heartbroken but determined not to live in someone’s shadow, not to hide who he is.

He and Jesse get closer through his work and Jesse’s charity meetings at the hospital, and a friendship develops. Hunter thinks Jesse is straight, but one night…well, leads to some changes. He tells Jesse though he’s not hiding who he is, not ever again.
Jesse is stuck, be with the man he’s come to love and lose his career, let his bandmates down or keep his career and lose Hunter.
Tough one and the way it played out was wonderful. No two page drama but chapters of it, lots of angst, lots of wondering”can they? Will they? How can…?” and I adore books that make me feel like that.

Stars: Five, great read, real situation, not a one plot story but one with some real substance to it.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

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