Mona Lisas and Little White Lies, John Herrick
Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Women’s Fiction.
Well, this is written by a man and Still classified as Women’s Fiction – I just don’t understand why we try to exclude men we should be encouraging readers not discouraging them 😦
Anyway, my first read by this author. It was well written, and the story flowed well but…..maybe In was just over-expecting. I love the fame/non fame romance trope and with the famous lead being an artist, ( such a change from the usual rock/film star leads), and being an artist myself I was hooked. Throw in that Lily isn’t a primped and pampered lady but one that works as a mechanic and I thought I’d love this.
So what went wrong? Well. Its not the writing but the story-line. I didn’t understand why the first 30% Lily and Ryder had barely met, and she was involved with Evan. Unless maybe it was to showcase her insecurity in her looks? Lily is lovely but not bursting with confidence, even though her friends tell her she is beautiful, she just can’t see it. And of course her job isn’t one that springs to mind as feminine even though she’s good at it and loves it.
I loved that Ryder inserted himself and Lily into so many paintings after only meeting her once, though I’m dubious that he could paint her so exactly without and reference pics ;-). still, artistic licence all round! Once his paintings start becoming famous and seen everywhere though the hunt is on, who is the mysterious lady in his work. They meet after Lily sees one of these works….and it doesn’t go too well. Ryder isn’t letting her go though, six years he’s been thinking of her and now he’s found her he’s not letting her disappear again. I guess this is where my expectations and the book parted ways. I expected more of the fame aspect, more of the hounding the media do to people.
The breakup was a shock, it just didn’t seem real even though I suspected it would happen that way. I felt they needed more of a reason to part, and that Ryder was wrong. I did like that it wasn’t one of those break up and two pages later make up books. I like my drama to wallow, to really feel “will they get back, or has too long passed?” A side effect of the break up was a revelation about someone that caught me out, and yet looking back all the clues were there but I missed them. I love that kind of surprise, clever planning.
I’m not sure why its billed as comedy though? That has me mystified, and I had to go back and check the description but yes, comedy is there in the blurb. I didn’t find it though…..
Stars: three a half, a fun read but a one off only for me.
ARC via Netgalley and publishers
The Wrong Kind of Love, The Boys of Jackson Harbor, Lexi Ryan
I’ve read a couple of books from Lexi, one I loved, the other not so much but I really liked the sound of this one…
I love the writing style, love the way the story unfolded, and of course the Jackson family and the folk of the town…there’s something about small town romances that calls to me. Sadly though I didn’t like either of the main protagonists and that coloured the book for me.
Nic, how much more of a wimp could she be? I understood why, felt for her past but at some point you have to make changes, but she just keeps on making the same mistake over and over, letting useless men walk all over her while she gives up everything. It seems she’s been like this since school, falling in love with men who let her down, and of course having given up all dreams of education she’s kind of lost. She thinks she’s found love once more with Marcus, who asked her to marry him after two months, and six months on its her wedding day…and then THAT happens. How can your twin DO that? Seems Ronnie has done that all her life though, Nic gives and Ronnie takes.
She doesn’t stop being like that though when she meets Ethan, lets him take from her, and then when she discovers he’s her boss she still lets him take. Ethan was a real jerk to her, I kind of understood his reactions but he needed to suck it up, take responsibility for his actions. Instead he’s laying blame with Nic.
Given she’s supposedly heartbroken from Marcus I found it hard that she fell in love with Ethan so quickly, and that he fell for her. If there had been more time, say several months I might have believed in it but this all happens in a few short weeks, about a month I think, and it was just too insta-love for me, given Nic’s past inst-loves and Ethan’s determination not to get into a relationship, certainly not with his daughter’s nanny.
The denouement is pretty much expected, and I understood the anger, but once more its over so quickly. And Ronnie…really? Nic’s still playing sucker?
The story is good, the characters great, but its the timing that’s the big struggle for me, I find it hard to believe Nic is really in love given her history of falling in love at the drop of a hat. Ethan, part of me loved him, part of me hated him, he really was an obnoxious jerk to Nic and she just took it….
I do want to read more in the series, I’m hoping its just this book, these characters and the whole time issue that’s not worked for me. I’m keen to read Teague’s story ( hopefully?) and some of the Jackson family’s futures, but not Ronnie. I don’t want to read a story that will make me like her 😉 She’s just done too much to Nic for me to get past.
Stars: Three, potentially great read for me IF the timing had changed, events took longer, and if I could be certain Nic had developed some self respect.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
A Guarded Heart, Heidi Kimball
Genre: Romance, Historical fiction.
This is a gentle read, veering from present to three years past, no great surprises, and the plot lines are a little cliched. The characters were OK, the way Society and the attitude to scandal works was spot on, but I wasn’t really invested in the couple enough.
I’d guessed pretty quickly what had happened, and as usual in stories instead of talking, Edmund goes off in a righteous huff. Stuff like this happens, but it makes me question just how strong feeling are if you believe someone could do that- and equally, how is it possible to just put it behind you once the truth is revealed.
I liked Eleanor and Edmund, hoped for a little more nastiness from the woman he’s currently courting, the claws came out occasionally but were pretty much sheathed. The story line involving Eleanor’s brother added a little extra to the last half of the story.
Overall though it was one I enjoyed but wouldn’t read again.
Stars: Three, a story that was a gentle read, but I wasn’t convinced of their True Passion, anyone that can drop someone that easily doesn’t deserve forgiveness so quickly.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
Holeshot, Motocrossed Book 1, M.A. Parker
I love books like this, a bit of fame element and all the jealousies that brings. I enjoyed this book, well written plots that fall into place easily and characters that felt real. Somehow though it didn’t grip me in a can’t-put-down way, and I did actually put aside a couple of times for something else.
Though its a potentially real story I felt the drama in it fell short for me and maybe that’s why I put it down, I just didn’t feel the barriers were strong enough for the plot, that there was really a reason for them not to be together.
Then the ending, that felt very rushed after the long set up, over in a few short pages of fait accompli, when I want the drama and the answers to really fit the length of the story. I felt as if I’d got to last part of the book and suddenly it was bam, bam, bam, everything neatly sorted and boxed up.
As always we all want different things and the parts where I felt it fell short could be what makes it perfect for you.
Stars: Three, a fun read but not a keeper.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
The Pieces of You and Me, Rachel Burton
Ah Darn, women’s fiction again – and why assume men don’t want romance 😦
I loved Rachel’s The Things We Need To say, and really expected to love this one too. I didn’t. though its beautifully written and tackles some tough subjects. As someone who has CFS myself I understood how ill Jess felt at times, and how others simply can’t understand that overpowering fatigue.
I loved Jess and Rupert as people, and indeed there were some great secondary characters. It was just the main thrust of the story, the break up and getting together, that didn’t work for me.
I didn’t really understand why they parted, and felt when they resumed their relationship they still didn’t understand themselves what went wrong. I felt like I had all these questions about it, and I was waiting all through for answers but never really got them. In contrast to TTWNTS I felt there wasn’t any real focus for me in this story, that it just didn’t have anything I could grip, any hopes of solutions, just unanswered questions. Without those answers I wasn’t sure if the same thing would happen all over again to them.
Relationships take work, and somehow I felt for these two to have a permanent HEA they needed to do so much more.
Stars: Three, a well written story, but it just didn’t work for me. Could be just what you want though, reading is incredibly subjective.
ARC via netgalley
Never Forget, Pamela Q. Fernandes
Genre: General fiction (adult), Romance.
This is one of those stories I thought I’d like, but which I found a struggle to connect with. It started well, and despite too many irritating grammar/spelling errors I thought it was going to become one I’d love. Sadly it wasn’t, far from it 😦
I love the rich, arrogant hero who discovers another side to himself, love the under dog woman who’s got a core of steel, is able to pull herself up, love books with a supernatural side and this seemed all that.
Sadly Malachus has no redeeming features, I didn’t really understand him, didn’t know why he married Dara. It seems to be a combination of obligation to her brother and his father, and of course her wealth which he seems to have needed. Having married her he dumps her off at his semi derelict country home, and swans back to the city and his mistresses…nice man! Sadly he never really got any better, one moment he wants Dara, next she’s getting the cold shoulder for no apparent reason, and that continues again and again….
Dara, she’s 23 when she’s left at the country house, but somehow with her business degree and no money manages to transform the house, modernising and upgrading it, and make the falling apart business into a thriving profitable one.
Three years on and she needs more money to expand the business, comes to the city and decides she wants to be a proper wife while she’s at it. I cringed for her when she just took all the verbal abuse, the ignoring, the flaunting his infidelity. He says he wants a divorce but she decides she doesn’t so keeps on and on, trying to seduce him, persuade him they should stay married. He gives in and kisses her senseless ( not that she appears to have much) on several occasions then once more starts the verbal flaying, and she takes it. Once, just once, when she’s been drinking does she say a few words back, and fling a drink at him. By now I’d have the ink drying on those divorce papers and be dust.
It just didn’t make sense, why after three years did she want him, why didn’t she speak to him, try to do something before.? Why when she knows he has other lovers, and one consistently does she still hope to change his mind? I just felt she had no self respect, was a complete doormat.
I had such high hopes for this story, but it was just a constant will he won’t he, with a few odd supernatural elements thrown in that didn’t really add anything. The turnaround at the end could just as easily be one of his moments when maybe he does want her and then doesn’t, there was no real reason for the change, and I felt it all happened far to quickly. I felt that there wasn’t any real plot, no characters I could get behind, and for me the whole book was wrong.
It could be what someone else wants, but for me this is clearly an author to miss, her writing style and my tastes just don’t mesh. Sad, I was so hooked by the description 😦 and really disappointed it didn’t work out for me.
Stars: Two. Starts well, but soon fizzles out.
Arc via netgalley and publishers.
Coming Home to Holly Close Farm, Julie Houston
Genre: general fiction (adult), women’s fiction
Once more, women’s fiction. Why, why alienate men? They read books like this too.
Anyway, I’ve loved all Julie’s past stories, but this one wasn’t a great fit for me. It could well be living circumstances, I’m between homes, living in my daughter’s conservatory so getting “lost” in a book hasn’t been easy. I may reread this at a later day and feel very differently.
Its full of the usual realistic characters and events, and peppered with Julie’s trademark subtle humour. I’m always nervous when a book promises to make me “laugh out loud” as too often I fond that really means the forced, very unfunny humour I hate. Julie’s style isn’t that, is much more soft and clever humour, not pushed-in-your-face stuff .
So, the story, its kind of in two parts, and I found I loved Madge and her backstory more than I enjoyed the current time romance. Madge had such a tragic past, I loved her stoic, never give in mindset, but found it hard to believe no-one knew about Holly Close Farm, how a property so valuable would have no evidence that family would have picked up on linking her to it. No bills from the council? No demands for utilities etc? It’s possible but a bit hard to believe given that now I seem to get bills from the council in numerous duplicates constantly! Her daughter Nancy was a bit weird, and I couldn’t see her missing out on any stray info that would lead to reward for her.
I wanted to like Charlie, felt so much for her over Dominic, sadly things like that happen, and people can be horribly plausible about absences. I just found it hard to really feel for her after that, she’s a little too me, me , me for my taste. Like I said, maybe its my mindset, and I’ll feel differently at a later date.
Stars: Three, a good story, great characters, but fell a bit short for me of Julie’s others five star reads.
Arc via Netgalley
Enchantée, Gita Trelease
Genre: Teens & YA, Sci Fi & Fantasy
I really enjoyed this, its a fabulous debut read, with a very polished writing style. I was absorbed into the story very quickly and felt as if I was there with the characters.
The magic part of the story felt genuine, as if it could be real. I liked that magic has a cost, the user needs to pay. I was really sympathetic to Camille and Sophie, they found themselves without parents, without money, without employment and with a drunkard brother, through no fault of their own. In real life, things like that do happen, and Camille reluctantly employs her small magic skills to buy them food and pay the rent.
Its not enough though, and faced with losing their home Camille uses a darker magic to create a persona who can gamble ( and use her magic to win) in the court of Versailles.
There were some wonderfully descriptive scenes there, and characters who were sometimes more than they seemed. Along the way there’s the puzzle of Lazare. He too may be more than a simple balloonist. Camille has a scary, dangerous path to follow. Will they have a romance or won’t it happen?
Its all set against the backdrop of the French Revolution, making a perfect setting.
There are more books planned but this one ends well, no cliffhangers but a neat closure. I don’t know it he next book will be about Camille, Sophie or possibly some of the other characters we’ve met but I’ll be keen to read it.
Stars: Five, Romance, mystery, history and Magic, all in one cleverly written story.
Arc via Netgalley
Any Old Diamonds, K.J. Charles
Genre: LGBTQIA, Romance
I love KJ Charles writing style, very typically British gentle, self effacing humour, subtle and understated clues to plots, and a rich, realistic historical setting. I don’t want in-your-face novels, I want to explore characters, work out scenes, pick up insinuated clues to what’s going to happen, try to work things out myself.
I loved the connection to some past novels, though you don’t need to read those. I enjoyed seeing those characters some twenty years on.
I adored Alec, so felt for him. He wanted to do what was right by his siblings, avenge his sister’s death, but when its your father, however awful he is, its a tough thing to face. The Lillywhite Boys, are commissioned by Alec to work the sting, with Jerry, one half of the duo, working closely with Alec, as his friend so that he can be in the right place at the right time.
I loved the slow developing romance between Alec and Jerry, the wondering from Alec is this is just a pleasant interlude for Jerry or could he dare hope he means more to him.? Jerry is such an enigma its difficult to feel how he thinks, work out what he really wants from Alec, and I wasn’t certain either until I was blown away by that magical, unexpected declaration.
As always historical novels bring the dangers to M/M romances to the fore, and Oscar Wilde and his stint in prison gets a mention – as does the fact that he was prosecuted but the Wealthy Society Gentleman also involved wasn’t. That links to the main plot here, how Lord Alec’s father, the Duke of Ilvar, literally got away with murder, being both wealthy and having the position to take out any repercussions. Old Boys Network at its finest. Its fiction here, but things like that did – and to a degree still do – happen all too often 😦
I thought I’d followed the clues, worked plots and answers out, but as usual KJ has surprises, events don’t go as I’d planned and everything changes in an instant. Its cleverly done, the way I’d thought it would go would have left severe repercussions whereas of course the way it actually happens works well for everyone. Well, apart from the Duke and Duchess of course!!
Stars: Five, another cracking read,. Romance, mystery, history all in one cleverly written story.
Arc via author
Always With You, Indigo: Book 3, Kate McBrien
Well, a very climatic, drama filled finish to the trilogy. TBH it felt – cough- a little too drama filled. I love action, intensity and drama but there was so much here that I felt it became almost wearying to the senses, took away from the actual events. Having said that its still and amazing read, and a fabulous trilogy for a debut writer. Very well written, full of excellent plots and very polished overall.
Lucy; at times I want to say to her “what are you doing!!” when she dithers. She’s grown in confidence though, and there’s a lot less of that in this final part. Justin, well, he’s just fabulous, so very solid in his love, so very protective and I enjoyed how the past events affected him in this life. I loved Lucy and Justin together, but did feel they got a little lost in the other events that filled this story. Sometimes Less is More, and for me less additional plots ( the Russian connection) and more of Lucy and Justin would have worked better. That’s just me though, others will love it as it is.
Edward…Gah, I hate that guy, but I love characters like his. He played a terrific part in the story, very believable. I wasn’t so convinced on the Rachel story-line, especially with how things ended. I disliked her intensely, didn’t want to change my stance on that and though events could have proved otherwise I’m holding fast to my dislike 😉
I would have liked to have seen a bit more connection between Justin and Lucy’s nightmares and the past, maybe snippets of what they were dreaming or something? The past in each book is really kept to just beginning and end, which makes for a wonderful ending, where we see just what did play out, but I’d have enjoyed a bit more linking through the story.
I love the way the Cross links past and present Justin and Lucy, and how its creation from Love held fast, and meant so much to them when they touched in in the present. I enjoyed the history, past and present story of Lapis Lazuli and the issues behind it. Everyone has heard of Blood diamonds, but I’d never connected this stone with terrorism financing.
From the book blurb, and important. Note to readers: This book contains scenes which may be triggering to survivors of sexual violence
Stars: Four and a half, a great trilogy, but I wasn’t quite as gripped by this part as by parts one and two, especially part one, which I loved.
ARC via Netgalley and publishers