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What Becomes of the Broken Hearted, Lisa Hobman

What Becomes of the Broken Hearted, The most heartwarming and feelgood novel you’ll read this year,  Lisa Hobman

What Becomes of the Broken Hearted: The most heartwarming and feelgood novel you'll read this year by [Hobman, Lisa]

Genre:  Women’s Fiction, Romance

Gah! Once more “women’s fiction”, and as usual I have to have a quick moan – why do we do this – cut off potential readers? Who says men won’t/don’t read romance, they certainly write it, so why exclude them this way?

So, this story…I’d loved Lisa’s A Year of finding Happiness, the only other book of hers I’d read, and was hoping for something similar, romance, with a solid story and some drama. I did get it but…in a much more muted way.
I couldn’t see why Cassie ever thought she was in love with Seth in the first place, he was clearly so arrogant and supercilious, and when he’s caught out his reaction is exactly as you’d expect. I also wondered why Seth was with Cassie. Did he ever love her or did he just want a complaisant wife he could mould, as he clearly was already shaping Cassie’s day to day behaviour. I like to think he loved her at the start at least, and just maybe it was Cassie’s low self esteem that let her stay with him when clearly he was trying to change her.

Then That happens, and Cassie’s off. Wow girl, you go! I was cheering her on even while I could feel her heartbreak, and up til now things kind of went as I expected.
When she reaches the new home though she’s really a first class b itch to Mac, she’s hurting I know, but it wasn’t Mac that hurt her. They have a few not so good interactions, but slowly she opens up, and Mac tries for a fresh start and to help her. He’s a genuinely kind man, one of the good guys, and for all Cassie’s rudeness he sees she’s hurt and still looks out for her. I loved Mac. And his uncle Rab, they felt like people I’d love to know. Cassie – well, I so felt for her at first but she was so outright rude to Mac I got cross with her. I hate plain rudeness.

Looking back at A Year of ….I can see what I enjoyed about that, and its the drama and the unpleasant ex that topped the story for me. We’ve both of those here, but Seth somehow didn’t engender the same feelings. I guess I felt the drama in the later part of the book just didn’t fit the character I felt he was, whereas in A Year of it was exactly what I would expect Alice to do. The actual drama itself was fine, added to the story, and worked to move things forward.

I adored Rab, was so emotional over him, the village setting and characters were perfect, Mac was just wonderful, Cliff gets a special mention, and an extra helping of imaginary dogs treats 😉 I guess its just the Cassie/Seth relationship and the actions that sprung from it that didn’t work so well here for me. Its a good read, but unlike a Year of, it was one I could, and did, put aside at times for other things. I did love the ending, kitsch, but still just perfect and left me feeling a little choked. The magic moment all we romantics dream of!

Its a perfect beach read, or one for those times when you need a story you can pick up and put down for a while, but it wasn’t a must-keep-reading five star for me.

Stars: Three and a half, some really great elements let down for me but a few things that felt out of place. As ever though, that’s just one opinion, it will be perfect for others.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers

 

 

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Lawbreaker,  Kat Bastion with Stone Bastion

Lawbreaker,  Kat Bastion with Stone Bastion

Lawbreaker (Unbreakable Book 3) by [Bastion, Kat, Bastion, Stone]

Genre:, New Adult , Romance

I got caught out by this book, I’ve loved every other one in both series, adore the characters and usually get quickly sucked into the story and settings. This time though it didn’t work like that.

It started well, that antagonistic confrontation, that stand off, battle of wills between Ben and Shay promised so much. After that though I just felt a bit lost, not really convinced by the story that was unfolding in front of me. Somehow it seemed to be more about what wasn’t said than what was, that I needed to read between the plot lines, and I just felt I was drifting through the story confused.

It was great to catch up with the earlier characters, and see how their lives were progressing. I loved Ben, full on but not afraid to say when he’s wrong. I wanted so much to like Shay, I felt so sad for her, so sorry that she had a childhood like that. I just didn’t feel her story was plausible though, to be a runaway at such a young age, and in truth I admired her but didn’t really like her.

Once we got on to the big con, well, I was lost, hadn’t a clue how they did it, even the why was a bit out of reach. Was it really a good thing, the right thing? How could they be sure they had the right people? I couldn’t really see that working out in real life, couldn’t see hacking skills getting into that kind of security, and along with Shay’s implausible teen years I felt this book was just a story that wasn’t right for me. I’m sure others will love it, I was shocked that I didn’t , given how much I’ve enjoyed the others in the series.

Stars: Three, parts I really enjoyed, but as a whole it wasn’t a book that worked for me.

ARC supplied by netgalley and publishers

Laurel’s Choices, Exie Wilde Henson

Laurel’s Choices, Exie Wilde Henson

Laurel's Choices by [Henson, Exie Wilde]

Genre:, Women’s fiction, General fiction
* sigh..* Once more women’s fiction. Why? Men read books like this too.

Every now and then I like to dip into a historical read, especially ones like this where folk are living with nature. I really thought I’d enjoy this, and I did, but with reservations.

I loved the contrast of Laurel and Justin, two people in love who wanted such different things for their family, saw their futures in different ways. Laurel was an amazing woman for the time, very forward thinking, not content to let life just evolve around her, but wanting to fight for not just women’s rights, but for what was morally right every time. She wanted a stable home base, Justin wants travel and adventure, but he respected her in a way many men of the time wouldn’t, and together they do an amazing amount of good for so many people.

Laurel’s faith is very strong and often bring god into a story irritates me, depends how its done. Here’s its necessary, part of Laurels character, and of course back then people faith often was stronger than today, life was tough and they needed to believe in some form of higher power I think. I felt in that context, even though the religious parts got stronger as the novel continued it was necessary as its was so much a part of Laurel.

Where the book fell down for me was that it lagged in parts. I know it can’t be adventure and suspense all the while, and I do love day to day minutiae, but there were times here when I just felt disconnected and put the book aside.
I’m not really sure why, there were plenty of events that brought the “what now?” questions to the fore, the dangers of living in a rural situation, the differences of opinion in folk living so closely together, the medical catastrophes when there’s no hospital nearby…I liked the characters too, it just seemed to be a little flat for me. Still, as ever its perfect for others and its a well written novel that certainly brings forward all the dangers and hardship of living in those times.

Stars: Three and a half, parts I really enjoyed, the roughness of rural life, the difficulties they faced but its a one off read for me.

ARC supplied by netgalley and publishers

True Colours, Elly Redding

True Colours,  Elly Redding

True Colours by [Redding, Elly]

Genre: General Fiction (adult), Romance

I liked the sound of this, I love a second chance romance so dived in eagerly but it wasn’t a great fit for me. Amazon describes it as 224 pages but its just under 2600K kindle locations and felt far shorter than 224 pages. Those usually come out about 4K+. I think that brevity is one reason it didn’t work for me, it seemed as if they were enemies one moment lovers the next with no real build up. It felt quite disjointed in that one moment I was reading about the present and then we were back in the past and it wasn’t always obvious which was which. I’m a fan of past and present sides to a story, but they need clear definition.
I didn’t understand why Kate wouldn’t listen to Saul either time, why she just looked at ran. That’s always (almost) going to be most folks’ reaction but once emotions cool we usually want to know the how and the why. It seemed weird that Kate didn’t. Then there’s the long gap, and why is Saul still in love. Why not try harder earlier to get her to listen. Of course this story wouldn’t exist then but for me I needed some kind of explanation, some reasons for these gaps.
As ever though this is just how I feel and of course its a perfect read for others, and may be exactly what you want. Reading taste is very subjective.

Stars:Two, one of those that looked a great fit for me but proved not to be 😦

ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers

Home to McCarron’s Corner, Lily’s Story,  Sharon K. Middleton

Home to McCarron’s Corner, Lily’s Story,  Sharon K. Middleton

Home to McCarron's Corner: Lily's Story by [Middleton, Sharon K.]

Genre:  Historical Fiction, Romance

I love this kind of novel, one which has day to day minutiae of life in times long past and was eager to get started.
I found a number of things that bothered me though. Lily takes going back in time in her stride, to the point where she acts as if its perfectly normal, and those back in the past act as if her appearance is an everyday thing. I know they’ve the advantage of superstition and a prophecy but it felt kind of wrong somehow that everyone was so open and accepting. Then there’s the stuff she just happens to ave on her that play such an important part in the story. Does she really always carry stuff like that around with her. The blood cards in particular, just how many of them did she have? The way people in the past just happily let her test them in a time when anything out of the ordinary was viewed with suspicion was a little weird too for me.
Then there are the many parallels with the Diana Gabaldon Outlander stories. Having read those books several times over I noticed a number of themes that crop up in both…..nothing in fiction is every really unique, but sometimes there were parts that for me felt a little too close. The language and idioms used, I accept Lily would use 21st century speech but the way so often no one queried it? And even used expressions themselves felt a bit wrong.
The story itself was interesting, but I wished there was more from the McCarron’s Corner and the prophecy in it. The first part of the story is there but it seemed to move on to town very quickly.
If you can get past these barriers then its a story you may love, there are some inviting parts but for me the quirks were more than just a minor irritation and the story fell short because of it.

Stars: Two and a half, a story with great potential but which was let down for me by the things I’ve mentioned.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers

Love at First Hate J.L. Merrow

Love at First Hate  J.L. Merrow

Love at First Hate (Porthkennack Book 11) by [Merrow, JL]

Genre:  Romance, LGBTQIA

Porthkennack and Garret Leigh – real treat to read.

Like the Bluewater Bay series, also from Riptide, Porthkennack covers books written by different authors about the same place.

For me it means even when books are approaching double figures they still retain that freshness first books in a series have, as each author puts their own ideas and spin to the stories.

I didn’t connect this book with Wake-Up Call at first, Dev and his story rang a bell when it was mentioned, and I had to flick back and look it up. Its really interesting to see it from the other side, and I understood so much more about bran’s awful reaction to Dev in that book.

I felt for Bran here, he’d had a tough upbringing, just duty, duty, duty really, and he comes over as quite aggressive almost, very taciturn, and not an easy man to get along with. Yet when we learn more of him I felt I understood him, and that the front he presented too often was just that, almost as if that he makes himself dislikeable then he’s controlling others reactions, not them disliking him when he’s trying to be nice, but in an almost unconscious way. Well, that’s how I see him, garbled though that explantation is…

The plots were as always very intriguing and multi layered. The romance though, well, here it fell short for me. Bran and Sam don’t even meet til a good way into the book, and its as the title says, hate at first sight, and second and third. Slowly though that changes, but I found the slip from dislike to lets get together didn’t really give me the feelings they were invested in more, they could have just been a one night hook up, and then suddenly there’s indications for a future…possibly…maybe…when the stars align, then a big blow-up and its all off.

They do get past that and have a possibly HFN but I didn’t ever get that sense of passion, of emotions other than lust, and I needed that for the five.

Stars: four, fabulous plot(s) but somewhat understated on the romance side

ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers

Pushing Arlo M.V. Ellis

Pushing Arlo M.V. Ellis

Pushing Arlo: A Rock Star Romance (Heartless Few Book 3) by [Ellis, MV]

Genre: Romance,

I’ve just read back my reviews of parts one and two of this series, and what stands out is I love Arlo, he’s thoughtless with Marnie, selfish at times, very focused when it comes to music and business, and thinks he’s always right. There’s no room for doubt in his life. Then he meets London…
London. I felt for her in book one, she had a tough backstory, and was one of those work through it folk, determined to get there however hard it was. Arlo was a wrench in her plans, and she so annoyed me on books one and two with her back and forth feelings. Poor Arlo must have had whiplash.
Finally they’re on the cusp of agreement, finally Arlo has broken through London’s tough barriers, and then – the proverbial sh it hits the fan and its back to basics, actually worse than that, Arlo really does have a fight on his hands if he wants London.
I got really annoyed at her in this book. She holds Arlo to blame for events that happened before they met, clinging to this idea he’s in control of his fame, she wants him but not the notoriety he brings. She’s kidding herself though, he’s falling over backwards to do his best, but he can’t change the past, and Fame – well, that’s part of who he is, what makes him the man she loves and I was so angry at her knee jerk reactions. Well, I guess to begin I understood, it was a shock, but she holds onto anger like some kind of puritan. I just kept thinking “hasn’t she ever done things she regrets? Is she really going to throw everything away – or threaten to anyway – yet again” There’s only so many times someone can say sorry, try to make things better and Arlo really was a saint here IMO. London behaves in a really callous way a couple of times here and I so felt for Arlo. Usually I’d be the other way, all for the girl, angry at the heart-breaker rocker, but he’s really trying his best and he just gets rammed back every time. Gah, was I annoyed at the woman. Arlo must feel dealing with her is like walking on eggshells.
I really struggled at times with how Arlo felt about her because she was so horrible to him, judgmental, callous, blaming him for his fame, when she’s known all along who he is…

Stars: Four. I think London’s attitude is one of the things that stopped this being a five star for me. The other is the lack of real band connection, the touring, the mayhem, the groupies, the concerts. All those make a rock star book special and TBH Arlo could be any rich famous guy here, as all those trappings were missing. Overall though its been an exciting trio, and Arlo was just perfect.

ARC supplied by Author

The Artisan Heart, Dean Mayes

The Artisan Heart, Dean Mayes

The Artisan Heart by [Mayes, Dean]

Genre:Woman’s fiction, romance

First a quick rant – why “women’s” fiction? Why exclude 50% or readers….this categorisation makes me so cross. Who’s to say sex determines what we enjoy reading?

Its a great story, written so intelligently, not dumbed down as so many are now. No grunting heroes here, no page after page of repetitive sex, but a romance in the truest sense for me, where the characters really spend time getting to know each other. Having said all that there were times when I floundered a bit within the story, where I got a bit bored with the pacing – but that’s my issue, my problem not the book.
There are some terrific characters here, Hayden and Isabelle, and Isabelle’s little daughter whose a real star. Max and Annette, friends of Hayden’s parents, Chas, one of those characters that makes a village, eccentric,at times careless but so full of life, so joyful he brightens others day. I had hoped for a bit more unpleasantness from Bernadette, she’s pretty ambitious and will stop at nothing to get ahead, and her plans and Hayden’s don’t necessarily match. All the things I love from a “nasty” character but she really wasn’t in the story that much, enough to throw a few spanners but nothing more.
Its an interesting read, Hayden’s initial issues really felt so genuine, its something I could see playing out all too easily and as he says, that could end his career. All that hard work, years of study, gone in a moment. I loved Isabelle and her determination, adored little Genie, so irrepressible and entertaining, loved the way the village rallied round its inhabitants. I really wanted to give this book five stars and yet…I kept putting it aside, losing interest and I’m really not sure why. It had everything I love, intelligent writing, real characters, excellent plots, not just a sweet, simple romance but a more involved one but for whatever reason it didn’t pull me in to a cant-stop-reading mood.

Stars: Four, a good story, well written with terrific characters, but not quite the magic five for me.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Stripped,  Zoey Castile

Stripped,  Zoey Castile

Stripped (Happy Endings) by [Castile, Zoey]

Genre: Romance

Its one of those conundrums isn’t it? That ladies and gents love to go to stripper shows, love to look ( and touch!) and yet date one of those strippers? Reminds me of the old Fools and horses episode where Del finds out Raquel is a stripper….but its a job, they are people just like us.

Anyway poor Robyn gets a shock at her friends party when her new hot neighbour, who she’s just shared a meal with and hopes for more, is one of the stars in front of her. She doesn’t react well. Still, there’s something between them neither can deny.
Its a sensual read, some real steam between the two, problems to the romance, sub plots involving others, and side issues that rounded the story and made it more than just a boy meets girl standard tale. I like that, when stories have an extra interest to them. Life is like that, full of tangled threads that connect and knot us up.
I loved Zac, wasn’t so sure about Robyn at first, but as the story unfolded I got to really like her and understand her more. Its a fun read, some real humour, some genuine issues we all face, and a couple of characters I just knew were more than they seemed 😉 The secondary characters were interesting too, and added a lot to the story. The only thing I didn’t like was the short time span of the events, its barely a month from when they first meet to the Big Decisions at the end. I struggle a bit with characters that can make such huge changes when they barely know people. Had it been six months or so I’d have been more convinced.

Stars: Four, a fun story, some spicy steam and an unusual slant with the male stripper theme, which brought up some thoughts for me about how hypocritical we can be over jobs like that.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers.

 

One Thousand Stars and You, Isabelle Broom

One Thousand Stars and You, Isabelle Broom

Genre: Women’s fiction, Romance.

Usual moan, women’s fiction – why? Why alienate half a potential readership?

So, my first read by this author and what a fabulous story it was. A solid romance, though more in the building stage, that first breathless does (s)he or doesn’t (s)he….the gorgeous slow burn of attraction rather than full on sex fest. If you want that this isn’t your book, but for me it was perfect, fitted the story so well.
I loved the characters, flawed and so very real I felt I was with them, experiencing what they did, the descriptions of the places, the food, the history were so vivid.

Alice, poor Alice. We can see just how she’s subjugated herself to fit the mould that keeps everyone else happy, she’s squashed Real Alice down until she’s simply a pastiche of the girl she should be. That’s so sad, happens so often though, when we want to please others and in this case Alice feels guilt for the accident when she was a child. It wasn’t her fault though, she was a kid, and accidents do happen. Now her parents and her boyfriend want her safe, all day, every day, and she’s reduced to sneaking out every now and then to dive off the highest board at the local pool, just to let some of the repression out. If they knew she knows they’d be horrified so it stays another guilty secret. I wanted to dislike Richard, but he wasn’t dis-likable, just that he and Alice really weren’t a compatible couple, what they wanted from life were different things.

Then on holiday Alice and her two friends meet a couple of men also out for fun and adventure, and the spark between Alice and Max is there right from day one.
It isn’t a cheating book though, Alice is open about Richard but the attraction they both feel has them pulling together constantly and it does get noticed by their friends.

Max is an amputee, and as an amputee myself ( I have no left leg) it was a real treat to see Max’s issues, and I so understood what he was feeling. The sores, the sweaty skin issues, the fitting of the prosthesis, how hard it is to actually walk, the stress it puts on the body, I’ve had all of those issues. Even the dreaded sex gets a mention – and why not? It is important, and we do wonder what its going to be like, how we’ll manage.
I want to say a huge Hurrah to Isabelle for researching properly and making Max someone so real, too often disabled people in stories either are figures of sympathy – the Poor You, life is over type, or are portrayed in totally unrealistic ways. ( The horse whisperer – as a horse rider what happened there is not physically possible, I know, I tried ) You think its a matter of a missing leg, but in fact its so much more, the whole body becomes involved and for poor Max he had PTSD to contend with too.

It was a story that was a real treat, I adored the settings, the descriptions, the characters and the very real circumstances, From Alice’ issues awith her parents, boyfriend and brother, to Max and his problems. I love a story where I feel events could have happened, where its fiction but could be true and this one was just perfect. One I will re-read.

Stars: five, a real cracker of a story, so real, with great characters and settings.
ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

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