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Happiness for Beginners, One broken family. Two hearts meeting. Dozens of naughty animals! Carole Matthews

Happiness for Beginners, One broken family. Two hearts meeting. Dozens of naughty animals! Carole Matthews

Happiness for Beginners: One broken family. Two hearts meeting. Dozens of naughty animals! by [Matthews, Carole]

Genre: romance
Hmnn, I liked the sound of this, could relate to Molly – I too love animals, often find them easier to get along with than people. I just found the MC, Shelby, to be shallow, putting himself way ahead of his son, supposedly grieving for his wife who died a year back and yet out on the town, deep in a romance with someone who his son dislikes, who’s really only interested in her own image. I found that hard to take, and it coloured my view of him. I didn’t really feel this was a romance, given most of the book little happens between the two MCs and he’s with Scarlett. I felt so, so sorry for his son, poor Lucas. I was so glad he ended up with Molly and crew.
I loved the animals, the idea of the students, though the way it was run was pretty ad hoc, I did feel that in real life it would need to be more formalised, look more at the actual safety of the students around the animals, and the actual education they were receiving.
I did get irritated at the constant harping of Ringo’s ( I think it was him) skin issues. We keep hearing he’s got sweet itch, an allergy to his own hair. I’ve had horses for many years, one was an Icelandic, a breed prevalent to sweet itch so I’ve read a lot about it. Its caused by a sensitivity to midge bites, not an allergy to own hair, and is best treated by rugs covering tender areas. Cutting his hair short would make it easier for them to bite, though easier to clean the broken skin caused by rubbing as it’s intensely itchy. If you’re going to use specifics like this authors, please check you have it right.
Its a story I enjoyed but it was incredibly slow to start and I kind of felt there was a lot going on but not much happening, if you understand that 😉 It meant I got bored and skim read the last third of the story.

Stars: three, an ok read. Its a pleasant story, but I guess feeling Shelby was arrogant and selfish kind of coloured it for me.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

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Smitten by the Brit, Melonie Johnson

Smitten by the Brit, Melonie Johnson

Smitten by the Brit: A Sometimes in Love Novel by [Johnson, Melonie]

Genre: Romance

I really thought this sounded perfect for me, but I feel conflicted, ambivalent about it. It was well written, just didn’t wow me, didn’t make me feel I couldn’t put it down.

I wasn’t really gripped by either character, they were Nice. That’s it. No real character to either of them. Bonnie was a sweet girl, but I’d have thought she’d be more upset over her breakup considering how long they’d been together. Years, years after being childhood friends. That’s not something you can move from even though he was an ar- se, even though it was clear they’d actually drifted apart some while back. Yet within days she’s got the hots for Theo.
I think she’s the sort of person who would grieve losing the idea of the relationship you thought she had even if she didn’t grieve the man.

Theo, he made me so cross, a real mummy’s boy. I could see the issue with his family, understand the problems but really? The solution his mother proposed wasn’t something you’d pull from a hat, the issues weren’t something that sudden;ly cropped up and the solution – if hers wasn’t what he wanted – should have been worked out years ago.

Its that lack of practicality, the reaching for quick and easy solutions combined with the blandness of the characters that let this story down for me. You may feel differently, I can see others love it so clearly the issues I struggle with don’t affect other readers. Melonie is a new to me author, I will try another book before deciding she’s not for me, I like her writing style, just not the plot and characters in this book. Could be a one off and I’ll love others. Won’t be the first time that’s happened, and I’m always looking for some well written romance.

Stars: Two and a half, I enjoyed Melonie’s style of writing but sadly not this book.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Summer at the Lakeside Resort,(Lakeside Resort Book 2), Susan Schild.

Summer at the Lakeside Resort,(Lakeside Resort Book 2), Susan Schild.

Genre: romance

I loved the previous book, and enjoyed this. I’ve had a couple of follow-on books recently, and I guess I’m coming round to the idea that actually what I want, what I enjoy best is the pre-romance, the story and struggles that gets folk together. Once they are together, sometimes I enjoy a sneak into what comes next but more often I just don’t seem to get so engaged in the story.
I enjoyed seeing The Boys, Jenny feels her boys are family, exactly the way I’ve always thought about my pets. ( My dog, Roxy, is now shrieking “A Pet!! You think I’m a pet??” I swear she thinks she’s human. ) The resort is progressing, not without problems of course, and that made it so lifelike. Things do go wrong, I know, I’m still in temp accommodation because the 8-10 week renovation is now into about week 14 with another three or four to go. Uncover one issue, and three more pop up. I so felt for Jenny in the first book when this seemed to happen to her all the time. Now she’s laid out all that money she needs to get the bookings in, but to do that she needs to spend more cash on attractions….cash she doesn’t have.
I didn’t really feel the Luke issue, he’s a good guy at heart and the commitment worry felt a bit forced, though of course there is his workaholic dad for history. People do often follow the role model set by parents rather than learn from it.
It was a fun read, a light one but cemented my opinion that for me follow on books aren’t really what I like best.

Stars: three, I enjoyed reading about Jenny and co, and seeing the resort progressing and for those who like reading follow on stories it will be a five, just a case of its me not the book. Reading tastes are so subjective.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Ever After With You, (Indigo Trilogy 3.5), Kate McBrien

Ever After With You, (Indigo Trilogy 3.5), Kate McBrien

Ever After With You (Indigo Book 4) by [McBrien, Kate]

Genre: Romance,

I rarely read novellas, only when as with this one they are part of a connected series. I find they just don’t have the length to get into the detail I need in a story, but when we already know the bones of it and the characters it works well. This was the perfect wrap up to the full trilogy, showing us a sneak into Justin and Lucy’s future, and just how its not always so easy to make the HEA come true. Life, real life, has a way of throwing up roadblocks, and they find jealousies in Lucy’s profession and for Justin that working solo isn’t the same as with the band. . Can they make it through them? Well, after all they’ve been through I certainly wanted them to. Fortunately Kate knows them well enough to help them through the trials, though they are quite eventful.

Stars: Four and a half. I enjoyed this wrap up, seeing how they coped with the practicalities of life, of the pettiness of others, of how working solo is so different, and of course how to integrate two separate people into one new couple successfully. Sometimes love isn’t enough, it takes hard work too!
Its not a five simply because though its a perfect ending to their story after the drama filled escapades of the other books it felt a bit too easy, but that’s just me. I know, I felt book three has a little too much drama and now this book hasn’t quite enough….some people are never pleased are they 😉 Of course that’s what will make it a perfect five for other readers.
Note: as Kate says this is NOT a standalone, you’ll need to read the first three to get the full enjoyment from this story.

Arc via author

A Summer to Remember, Sue Moorcroft

A Summer to Remember, Sue Moorcroft

Genre: general fiction (Adult), women’s fiction

Ah no….usual moan 😦 Why, why do we have women’s fiction as a category? Why assume men won’t/don’t read romance – they do, they write it and read it.

With that off my chest, on to the book. I loved it, fabulous read full of incredible characters, I do like some that I can dislike, realistic scenes, I live in North Norfolk and it was easy to picture things playing out as they did. What I enjoy best in a story, a book with not just one main plot but some genuine and heartfelt subplots, and here they worked so well and kept me engrossed.

I loved Clancy, and understood why she was so devastated at what happened. What a blow, to lose your fiance, home and job all in one, and I’d have been just as…difficult isn’t really the right word, but her actions that tied up others, yes, I’d have done that – I feel they were incredibly unfair to her.
Aaron, I kind of understand why he’s the way he is, her cousin Alice caused such disaster by her actions to his brother, and the family are afraid for Lee and his mental stability. It took him a long time to recover, and they are very protective of him. Clancy isn’t Alice though, she’s had to pay for her ex’s mistakes, its not fair to punish her for Alice’s too.

Anyway, the story plays out well, plenty of events and action, lots of emotion, people who aren’t as they seem, family issues and jealousies, and a real touch of teen drama with Harry and Rory, and a very topical point there that was so well done. I like to read books to escape but I want them to be real, to reflect genuine issues and this one is perfect, and delivers my always needed HEA.

Stars: Five, another great read from Sue, and one to keep for re-reading. Perfect holiday read or one for when you want to escape into another world for a while.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

American Witch, American Witch: Book 1, Thea Harrison

American Witch, American Witch: Book 1, Thea Harrison

American Witch by [Harrison, Thea]

Genre: Romance, Sci-fi and Fantasy

I love Thea’s writing, have read many ( but not all) of the Elder Races series, and I loved the tie in here. Its very subtle, not a direct link, more a reference to the world setting.
I enjoyed the story, had me hooked very quickly and loved Molly and Josiah separately, but I wasn’t so convinced about them as a couple. There was certainly intense lust, but they seemed to flow from that to a full fledged relationship very quickly, and it just didn’t feel right. I felt cheated of the relationship growth, especially as for much of the time they were separated, for Molly’s safety.
The dangers facing Molly were twofold, first externally via her cheating husband and his machinations and secondly from her newly emerged and totally unexpected witch power. I loved Molly as a person, and cheered her on when she announced at the party just what Austin had been doing. He really was a typical selfish cheating husband. I had my thoughts early on about who the other party ( this time) was, and really felt for Molly when she discovered who it was.
Josiah seemed pretty cold, single minded about his quest when we first meet him, and he doesn’t realise Molly is unaware of her Powers. There are some terrific scenes between them, and TBH he was a character I thought I’d dislike. Sometimes its more interesting that way, than having the main leads be wonderful, likable characters right from the start. When I discovered his history, the reasons behind his quest I understood it. Its bring him and those around him into danger though, and I was full of respect for Molly when she said – for specific reasons) that she couldn’t be around that danger, and removed herself temporarily until he’d sorted it, even though it was heartbreaking for both of them. That brings me back to the turnaround in feelings though, where they’ve gone from 0-60, from disliking each other intensely to full on togetherness. It was just too quick, and I felt a bit cheated.
Its an interesting story, with some great characters. I couldn’t recall if it was a standalone or the start of new series as I was reading, but am so pleased it is a series. This book ends completely but leaves lots of threads open for more stories, and I’ll be lining up to read them.

Stars: four, a great start, just a few small reservations that stopped it from being a five.

Arc via Netgalley

The Last Loyalty, Bernadette Lyons.

The Last Loyalty, Bernadette Lyons.

The Last Loyalty

Genre: Romance, Sci-fi and Fantasy

What an incredible debut read! I was blown away by this story, moved to tears by the ending, but satisfied by the way it was done even so. It was the perfect finale for this book (even if it did make me cry).

I wasn’t sure when I read synopsis if it would be a story for me, but it sounded a bit like Jean M Auel series, of which I read and loved the first book years ago. ( I might have to search the rest out now!) It does share a few characteristics via The People and the way they live, very primitively, but I feel they share more with historical Native Indians in their outlook, reverence for nature, the way they follow the horse herd, as the Native Indians followed the bison etc at different times of year.

Jessa, a classic under-dog, talented and respected as a healer, and yet ridiculed at times for her eye colour, brown, unlike the rest of the People who have blue eyes.
Hers is a lonely life, not for her the popularity among the men of the other ladies, and she’s kind of apart from the rest, few real friends, always on the fringes.
Then she gets a new patient and although he’s a stranger, a potential danger to The People, she is fierce in her defence of him. Malcolm’s uniform bears marks the People associate with Gods, and when he does open his eyes they are gray – another sign from the Gods.
Malcolm finds it hard to believe his situation, is desperate to escape and get back to his duty with the army. It’s when he looks out at night though, early on, and sees two moons and many more stars than on Earth that he realises its not going to be easy. He has no idea where he is or if its possible to return.
As time goes on and he becomes accepted among The People his desire to get back, his duty to return vies with his situation of a life he’s come to enjoy, a woman he loves, a people he respects.
And then come The Others…..and Malcolm realises that maybe he is here for a reason, that the People need him and his command of tactics to survive the upcoming battle.

Its a fabulous read, I really enjoyed seeing the day to day life of how the People live, the way the horses are so important, the way the tribe is run, the respect for nature. When Malcolm goes on his first hunt and the prayer of thanks to the Gods is said over the animal that dies, the prayer respecting and venerating its sacrifice of life, it reminded me very much of the Native Indians who did the same, and of the Scots who had their own prayers of thanks when hunting. I’ve no doubt other groups that live off the land have similar rituals, and this made the hunt feel very real.
I liked too that they didn’t just slay at random, but chose older, weaker targets, never a pregnant or nursing animal, and when the leader decided they had enough meat for survival they stopped.
All that made the People feel real to me, I loved their rituals, the way nothing was wasted, their whole way of life, tough but fair in the main. There’s a hierarchy that works, where everyone knows their place.

Malcolm slowly finds his place, and he was a man I adored, he saw in Jessa what her eye colour blinded the others to. Once he treated her with respect, as a desired woman, other men of the People saw her differently too. I was so happy at what transpired between them, at the way she and Malcolm became one unit, that he didn’t follow the Peoples custom of sleeping with any woman that invited them, but stayed true to Jessa only.
I felt I knew many of the tribe, knew them as people, as real individuals and understood their reactions. I liked that not all were good, that sometimes behind a pretty or handsome face lay an unpleasant nature. There’s a slow build up of tension between some of the characters, things that all come to a climax towards the end.
And the end- oh I really wanted a different ending, but TBH it wouldn’t have been near as good done my way. The way it happened broke my heart, made me cry but was so perfect, and among the sadness there is also happiness, not just for Jessa but for others of the People.

Stars: five, its an incredible, amazing, riveting first novel and I’m so looking forward to more from this author.

Arc via Netgalley

Persistent Intruder, Kay Brooks

Persistent Intruder, Kay Brooks

Persistent Intruder by [Brooks, Kay]

Genre: Romance

I saw the romance tag, didn’t realise it was also suspense, but that’s fine, I like romantic suspense for an occasional read. I enjoyed this story, though I felt the actual romance side wasn’t particularly strong.

Brian, well, when we first meet him and learn of his plans for a child I thought he was pretty cold, didn’t really like him. I know he’s had a problematic past with women but even so, he seemed so clinical about the whole thing.
Its back to my personal feelings about how children show be welcomed to be loved, not to be an accessory or simply an heir for someones genes, and I got the impression that heir was what Brian really wanted, not a child to love.
Still, there’s a quick burst of passion between him and Natalie, and of course the pregnancy that results. There isn’t a relationship though, will Brian just want the child and not her, if she tells him she’s pregnant? He has the money to do what he wants. Can she take that risk?
Then of course there’s that passion that they both thought would be easy to leave behind after the weekend, but feelings aren’t that easy, don’t fall in with our plans do they?
Of course that’s all complicated by the deranged stalker Brian has, and that suspense angle was excellent in the main, even though I did feel actions from all of them stretched credulity at times.

It was a fun read, interesting but I felt the romance side wasn’t as well worked as the suspense. For me I prefer the romance to be the stronger part of the story and I wasn’t totally convinced in Brian and Natalie.

 

Stars: Four, an easy read, but I would have liked more emphasis on relationship building, the romance side, to balance the very cold Brian we first met. I wasn’t convinced he could change that easily.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

 

Touch of Smoke, Karissa Laurel

Touch of Smoke, Karissa Laurel

Touch of Smoke by [Laurel, Karissa]

Genre: Romance, Sci-fi and Fantasy.

I loved Karissa’s Norse Chronicles, a really unusual supernatural series in a genre that’s dominated by vampires and werewolves. I was hoping she’d put that same unique spin on this book, and wasn’t disappointed.

This story is told in a past/present format, with a three year gap between the two time periods. I really enjoyed the way the tension is built, that we know something supernatural is happening, but not what or why.
I could see how Rikki felt that events were strange and yet like most of us, she dismissed her feelings as wrong. Well, who really believes in a supernatural answer, we’re creatures who believe in the obvious answer, and not the spooky one that we can’t really believe in.
I loved the characters, from Rikki and Mina, Owen and Luke, diner owner Rose, and Rikki’s mum who’s the town sheriff. Rikki wasn’t expecting to fall for Owen, being focused on escaping the town, but her friend Luke returns bringing Owen with him and they both seem set to settle in the town. That poses a problem for Rikki, who wants to do her training in a place four hours away….
And then the big mystery, huge events, Mina dies, Rikki can’t quite believe what she saw, what terrified her, what gives her nightmares still. She finds it hard to believe Owen could do what she remembers, but now three years later she’s ready – maybe – to face up to what she ran from, to seek answers.

I love the way it all slowly falls into place, how once more Karissa has turned to a more unusual form of supernatural entity for her story.
I loved Owen from the start, but could see how the secrets were wearing on Rikki, how she was struggling to convince herself about what she’d seen, whether it was real or her imagination, but those nightmares and Mina’s death were certainly real. And scary!
I enjoyed the way it wrapped up, it was a very satisfying ending. I hate when there are unanswered questions or solutions that come too easily and with supernatural stories I feel too often a slip of magic is used as answer and it feels too slick. I want my solutions to be hard won, to require energy, effort, sacrifice, not just a metaphorical wave of a hand. This ending was perfect.

Stars: Five, another fabulous read from Karissa.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Amazing Grace, A heart warming feel good romantic comedy, Kim Nash

Amazing Grace, A heart warming feel good romantic comedy, Kim Nash

Amazing Grace: A heart warming, feel good romantic comedy by [Nash, Kim]

Genre: Romance, Women’s fiction

Gah, once more, Women’s Fiction – just why? Men read and write romance, don’t lets exclude them.
Anyway, this proved to be a fun read, I wouldn’t call it comedic, but it certainly had some lighthearted moments. The characters felt very real, like people I could know, and that’s important for me to enjoy a story.
Mark, what a complete ar se. Sadly there’s a few like him, think their job, their needs take precedence over everything, and like a fifties throwback they assume their wives and kids should take a back seat. He cheats, gets caught and thankfully Grace gives him the heave-ho.
I found it a bit slick how easily a woman years out of the job market swept into a perfect job, and can manage a mortgage too on the perfect house. Real life is a bit tougher than that, at least here in UK it is. She’s picking herself up though, and building a new life for her and Archie.
Monica, her friend, encourages her out of her safe zone of job, Archie and home into a new look and updated wardrobe, and signs her up for internet dating. I loved the dating experiences, could see them being very accurate. Of course romance when it comes is from an entirely coincidental contact, via Vinnie who comes to see her trees that need cutting back.
I loved Vinnie, a perfect gentleman and so good for Grace. He was a real treasure, genuine, kind, good to Archie and perfect for Grace. The garden transformation made me so jealous, even though its fictional!

Its a cute story, predictably once Grace has someone Mark gets jealous and tries to interfere. Fat club, been to them like many ladies and Kim is spot on. I gave up on one where a huge discussion evolved over whether a tin of tuna was half a fat gram or quarter of a fat gram. Life is just far too short! A club like the one Grace and ruth started would be perfect.
I didn’t like the snippets from beyond, where her deceased mum is talking, didn’t see the relevance at first, and later when it became relevant it still jarred on me a bit. Its not that I don’t believe, more it just didn’t feel right to me.
I guess my biggest disappointment was the ending though, its a huge drama, and that was great and then…next page and wham, we’ve moved waay forward. I wanted a bit more wrapping up of that drama.
Also there’s a secret Vinnie is holding which is taunted all the way through, brought up at relevant times and seems something that could be big, huge, a deal breaker, but when we get to last few pages it almost feels like the author though “oh, what shall I do about xxx? Oh I know, this will do…” the big reveal, the answer, just didn’t fit the mystery and secrecy of it for me, I expected something much bigger, much better.

Stars: Three and a half, its a fun read, very easy to follow and at times very real but there were a few minor points that didn’t feel right to me.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

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