Saying I Do (Stewart Island Book 8) by Tracey Alvarez

Saying I Do (Stewart Island Book 8) by Tracey Alvarez

Saying I Do Cover

5 out of 5 Stars

MacKenna Jones has been designing wedding gowns since she was a little girl, but for other people. Mac isn’t the marrying type. She got close once, but she now knows that forever is not for her. Yet there’s something about Oban’s sexy doctor, Joe Whelan, that keeps her coming back for more. Too bad Joe hates her for ruining his chance at happily ever after.

Left by his fiancée a week before his wedding, Doctor Joe Whelan has no interest in holy matrimony. He should hate MacKenna for causing the breakup, but he can’t seem to stay away from her now that their orbits have crossed. Since Mac so successfully broke up his wedding several years ago, it should be no problem for her to break up Joe’s sister’s wedding, because no tattooed bus driver could be good enough for his little sister. Never mind that his diabolical plan forces him and Mac together. Shouldn’t be a problem since they’re both allergic to marriage.

Saying I Do is book 8 in the Stewart Island series, and like all other novels in this series, it can comfortably be read as a standalone book. Of course, if you’re already a fan of the series, some of everyone’s favorite characters make reappearances. Good old Mrs. Taylor, Oban’s resident octogenarian matchmaker, is back for another book, and this time she’s pointed her walking stick at Dr. Joe. No one has yet escaped Mrs. Taylor’s matchmaking!

One thing I love about every book written by Ms. Alvarez is that the story always goes beyond the romance. This one is no different. Both Mac and Joe are nuptially-challenged, and they each have good reason to stay away from the institution, in addition to good reason to stay away from each other. The plot is driven forward as much by their family situations and need for growth as it is by their lust. And in typical Tracey Alvarez style, the heat is turned up between the two, and the romance blooms in vivid color across the pages of the book. Attraction turns to love in a natural pace, making the reader fall in love with the characters right along with them.

Another thing I always enjoy in this author’s books is the taste of New Zealand I get by reading them. Descriptions of the weather and scenery are naturally integrated, painting a picture for me of a place I likely won’t ever be able to travel to. This book also had the benefit of including Joe’s Irish slang for added culture, as well as a trip to Las Vegas and the dry desert heat.

Saying I Do was as witty and enjoyable as every other book I’ve read by this author. Although I tend to tire of a series after a few books, Ms. Alvarez somehow keeps me coming back for more … eagerly!

All of my reviews of this author’s work can be found on the Author Spotlight tab.

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Rach

SCOTUS (A Powerplay Novel) by Selena Laurence

SCOTUS (A Powerplay Novel) by Selena Laurence

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5 out of 5 Stars

*I was provided a copy of SCOTUS by the author in exchange for an honest review. I am not compensated for my honest opinion.*

If you’re looking for a romance you can really sink your teeth into, look no further than Selena Laurence’s SCOTUS. This Powerplay novel is a standalone political romance that truly packs a punch, dealing with some serious current issues like racism and political scandals and featuring an interracial couple. It’s an emotional second-chance romance that will keep you turning the pages right up to the end.

Teague Roberts has had his eye on becoming a Supreme Court Justice since he was a little kid growing up in a neighborhood filled with gangs and violence. All his life he’s been trying to get out of the shadow of his upbringing, but he’ll never really be able to forget where he’s from. Just as he’s on the cusp of getting everything he’s ever wanted, a blast from his past shows up and threatens to ruin it all.

Deanna Forbes was once engaged to Teague, but now she’s assigned to report on him as the president’s Supreme Court nominee. Her boss wants her to find a scandal, but Teague appears squeaky clean on the outside. She’s the only person who knows his darkest secret and could ruin his entire career. Deanna already has sins of the past to atone for. Despite having never stopped loving Teague, she’ll never be able to forgive herself for what she did to him twelve years ago.

The way the author handled the racial issues in this book was both heartbreaking and brilliant. The reader gets both perspectives, with Deanna having been raised by parents who wouldn’t accept a black man for their son-in-law and Teague struggling to overcome every racial roadblock thrown in front of him.

Teague’s character was so complex I couldn’t help but love him right from the start. On the outside, he was a successful attorney wearing power suits and working eighty hours a week. On the inside, he was still the kid who grew up in a rough neighborhood and was used to defending himself, sometimes for no other reason than the color of his skin. No power suit would change the perception of some people, and throughout the story Teague had to accept this and find ways to overcome it.

Deanna was intriguing on her own as well. It wasn’t long after letting go of Teague the first time that she realized it was the mistake of a lifetime. She spent the next twelve years trying to make up for it any way she could. And once Teague was back in her life, she was going to do whatever she could to right her past wrongs.

The emotion in this book was off the charts, and it ran the gamut of heartfelt to heartbreaking and everything in between. I was so emotionally connected to these characters that I hurt for them and could feel every bit of their pain. Even a secondary character brought me to tears several times.

I have read quite a few books by Ms. Laurence and truly enjoy her writing, but this one is her absolute best. The present-day issues and emotional journey will stay with me for a long time to come.

You can find more of my reviews of Ms. Laurence’s books under the Author Spotlight tab.

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Rach

Inappropriately Yours by Cara Dee – Guest Review by Judi Wile

Inappropriately Yours by Cara Dee

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Guest review by Judi Wile

5 out of 5 Stars

*I was provided a copy of Inappropriately Yours by the author in exchange for an honest review. I am not compensated for my honest opinion.*

Inappropriately Yours makes me wonder if Ms. Dee felt this way as Isla did when she started writing her first books. Both father and daughter find love in Camassia Cove. I really enjoyed getting to read 2 parts, one with Jack and Isla’s love story and one with Isla’s father Aiden and Chloe’s love story. I also loved getting points of view from each character involved.

A beautiful heart-warming story of love and devotion, of family and compassion, of understanding and acceptance with a HEA. Great story-line and characters. The angst in this book is low, sometimes you just need to read a mushy love story that makes you swoon. The ending just gives you this goofy smile.

Ms. Dee’s writing has always been incredible to me for years. She seems to just know how to keep the reader excited to read the next chapter until the end. I can’t wait to read more about the characters in Camassia Cove.

Thanks to Rach for giving me the opportunity to read this amazing book.

You can find more reviews of Ms. Dee’s books under the Author Spotlight tab.

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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

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5 out of 5 Stars

Kaz Brekker is known as Dirtyhands because he’s not afraid to do what’s necessary to achieve his goal. When he’s offered a job that will make him wealthy beyond his dreams, he can’t turn down the chance, especially if in the process he can settle an old vendetta. But the job just might be a suicide mission. His team is made up of other misfits like himself, each bringing a particular strength to the table, but they all have plenty to lose.

Six of Crows is not the kind of book I normally would choose for myself, but based on a friend’s suggestion, I gave it a shot. I’ll admit it took me a little while to get into the story as there is a lot to learn about the world Kaz and his team live in. But once I got to the meat of the story, I absolutely couldn’t put it down. It’s the kind of book that keeps you on the edge of your seat until the very end.

All of the characters were well thought out, and I enjoyed the way the author gave us little peeks into their lives, unveiling a new layer to a character yet leaving the reader yearning for more. I was so attached to each of the characters on the team; I couldn’t stand any one of them being in peril. They each had their own demons to face, adding even more depth to the plot.

I enjoyed this so much I immediately checked out the next book in the series from my library.

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Rach

The Idea of You by Amanda Prowse

The Idea of You by Amanda Prowse

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5 out of 5 Stars

*I was provided a copy of The Idea of You through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I am not compensated for my honest opinion.*

To an outside observer, Lucy Carpenter has it all. She’s been promoted through the ranks at work and other women aspire to be like her in their professional careers. She’s finally found a wonderful man, and they’re happily married. But what no one else can see is the baby-shaped hole in Lucy’s heart. It’s what she wants more than anything in the world—to be a mother. And it’s the one thing that constantly eludes her. Her stepdaughter’s presence puts a strain on Lucy and Jonah’s marriage, in addition to being a constant reminder of what Lucy doesn’t have. And suddenly, Lucy’s on the verge of losing everything.

The Idea of You is a powerful, emotional book that had me turning pages late into the night. Lucy’s story drew me in immediately, and its hold never lessened. The format was interesting and different, keeping the reader somewhat guessing for a while but with enough information to feel Lucy’s despair and pain right along with her. Parts of the story were difficult to read, but only because the author made me feel like I was in the story with Lucy. I hurt for her, I cried with her, and I laughed and loved with her. Watching her knit so many baby items was heart-wrenching, and seeing her finally bond with her stepdaughter was inspirational.

This is the second book I’ve ready by Ms. Prowse, and it definitely won’t be the last. She has a way of presenting everyday human issues and taking you on a poignant journey through the lives of her characters. Having only been in Lucy’s shoes to a very slight degree, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to relate to her situation or the book, but that couldn’t have been farther from the truth. Sometimes I wanted to hit Jonah over the head and tell him to take a good look at his wife, and other times I was sure Lucy was going through life with blinders on thinking of nobody but herself. Regardless of who was right or wrong in any particular situation, the story was about the journey, the ups and downs life takes us on in finding our path to happiness. And sometimes, that path doesn’t end up where you thought it would.

I look forward to reading more by this author and highly recommend this book.

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Rach

Cade’s Loss (California Cowboys Book 1) by Selena Laurence

Cade’s Loss (California Cowboys Book 1) by Selena Laurence

Cade’s Loss Cover

5 out of 5 Stars

*I was provided a copy of Cade’s Loss by the author in exchange for an honest review. I am not compensated for my honest opinion.*

Cade Jenkins had to give up his whole life at only twenty-five years old. After his parents’ sudden death, he became the guardian of two younger brothers and was responsible for a large California ranch, putting his dreams of a professional surfing championship on hold indefinitely. Years later, he still feels responsible for keeping the ranch running and his brothers in line. When his brothers want to ride the ranch wave of the future—organic ranching—Cade can’t seem to move forward without feeling like he’s forgetting his past.

Organic consultant Nina Cline values her independence just slightly above the environment. She will never again be beholden to a man for her happiness. Meeting Cade in a bar was only a bit of fun for the night, but when he turns up at the ranch as her next client, the sparks begin flying thanks to their opposing outlooks. Cade becomes Nina’s biggest stumbling block. He not only wants to resist every change Nina suggests for the ranch, but she’s also in danger of losing her heart to him.

Cade’s Loss is a remarkable story about family, love, and letting go of the past. It’s a wonderful start to the California Cowboys series, drawing the reader in to the entire Jenkins family even though it’s a standalone book. And what could be sexier than a surfing cowboy with a tortured soul?

Cade’s personality made him easy to love right off the bat. He was a family man through and through, but he’d yet to realize his love for his family had become misguided. He still saw his brothers as needing guidance when they were not only capable of taking care of themselves but also more than qualified to run the ranch.

Nina was a strong woman who had been burned in her career by a man and wasn’t willing to let it happen a second time. Her strong convictions toward herself and the environment made her an endearing character, and her relationship with Cade made her a better person. The relationship between the characters occurred at a natural pace, with plenty of time to actually get to know the other person before falling in love.

The Jenkins brothers were an intriguing family, and I felt connected to the secondary characters and am looking forward to the rest of this series to read more about them.

Other reviews of Ms. Laurence’s books can be found on the Author Spotlight tab.

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Rach

Southern Fried Blues (The Officers’ Ex-Wives Club Book 1) by Jamie Farrell

Southern Fried Blues (The Officers’ Ex-Wives Club Book 1) by Jamie Farrell

Southern Fried Blues Cover

5 out of 5 Stars

*I was gifted a copy of Southern Fried Blues by the author. I am not compensated for my honest opinion.*

When her husband divorces her out of the blue, Anna Martin finds herself a thousand miles from home in a job she doesn’t love and lacking the education she was never able to complete. She’s uprooted her life too many times for a military man, and vows to never do it again. But finding herself and figuring out what she really wants in life might be pushing her toward a sexy man in a uniform after all.

Jackson Davis is a Southern gentleman through and through. Despite his jokes about his mama, it was really his daddy who taught him everything he knows about being a gentleman. And if the best man he’s ever known couldn’t keep a woman happy, Jackson doesn’t hold out much hope for himself. Yet there’s something about Anna Grace that makes him want to try.

Any relationship between Anna and Jackson comes with an expiration date—deployment—so it should be safe for them to spend some time together while they have the chance. But when their hearts get involved, things could get ugly.

Southern Fried Blues is book 1 in The Officers’ Ex-Wives Club series and it can comfortably be read as a standalone. This witty contemporary romance is full of Southern slang and banter that kept me amused throughout the entire story. Jackson had a habit of playing the dumb redneck when he didn’t want to show his true colors. Thankfully, his Anna Grace saw the man underneath and called him on it every time.

The characterizations of the main characters were interesting and consistent. Anna was a Yankee with OCD tendencies. She loved her label maker more than anything else, and organization was her life. Jackson’s appreciation for her idiosyncrasies made their relationship that much more solid. He watched her sort her potato chips, figured out which pile contained her favorites, and then offered his up just to make her happy.

Jackson’s Southern upbringing made him a true gentleman. Every man could take lessons from him on how to treat a lady. Although he had a wonderful relationship with his mamie, his relationship with his sister and his mama needed some work. With Anna’s help, Jackson was able to make great strides in those relationships.

This book didn’t lack secondary characters, and they were all well-developed and entertaining, keeping the story interesting on all levels. I thoroughly enjoyed this entire book and would definitely read more by this author.

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Rach

POTUS: A Powerplay Novel by Selena Laurence

POTUS: A Powerplay Novel by Selena Laurence

POTUS Cover

5 out of 5 Stars

*I was provided a copy of POTUS by the author in exchange for an honest review. I am not compensated for my honest opinion.*

The first female President of the United States is beloved by her nation. After more than two years in office, the country already knows they want Jessica Hampton back for a second term. But what does Jessica want? She’s spent the last six years fulfilling someone else’s legacy, and although she loved her late husband and still loves his family, Jessica’s ready to move on with the rest of her life.

Egyptian Ambassador to the United States Kamal Masri has had demands placed on him from a very young age. In his culture, family comes before all else, and you never disobey your father. Having spent so much of his life outside Egypt, Kamal begins to question these ethics—especially when his father’s request goes against everything he’s been working toward in his career.

The attraction between Jessica and Kamal is undeniable, but their situations make a relationship impossible. Family issues and politics just add to the chaos surrounding them. Each will have to make their own decisions about what’s right for their country … and what’s right for their hearts.

POTUS is part of the Powerplay series, but it is a standalone story. It can easily be read without having read the previous books in the series. The most appealing factor of this book is how both main characters are older and more mature, and their choices have life and death consequences. They each need to make decisions based on not only what is best for themselves but also what is best for their country, and those scenarios rarely overlap.

Aside from the differences between Jessica and Kamal’s goals for their respective countries, the most appealing layer of the story was the differences in their cultures. As an Egyptian, Kamal was raised to believe that men should protect women, yet he was falling in love with the most powerful woman in the world. His protectiveness was not always completely misguided, but he still had to learn to let go and allow Jessica to take care of herself. It amused me to see his friends laughing at him about some of his beliefs.

The plot itself was complex and woven together tightly, creating plenty of intrigue to keep me turning page after page. Every action had a consequence, politically and personally, and no choice could be made in a vacuum. Jessica and Kamal’s relationship grew at a believable pace, and their feelings for each other evoked every one of my own emotions.

I would have liked to see a bit more wrap-up about Kamal’s father, but overall the story left me enthralled and satisfied. I have yet to find a book by Ms. Laurence I didn’t thoroughly enjoy, and I look forward to future additions to this series.

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Rach

Teach Your Heart (Far North Book 3) by Tracey Alvarez

Teach Your Heart (Far North Book 3) by Tracey Alvarez

Teach Your Heart Cover

5 out of 5 Stars

*I was provided a copy of Teach Your Heart by the author in exchange for an honest review. I am not compensated for my honest opinion.*

Gracie Cooper has been wandering Europe since her mother’s death four years ago, but now it’s time to return home to New Zealand. That, unfortunately, means once again being under her father’s microscope and having him point out all the ways her life has fallen short of his expectations. Gracie needs a job, because she’s still got plenty of student debt to pay back, but also to fund her next adventure—far away from her father in the United States.

Dr. Owen Bennett is so focused on his career since the death of his sister that he essentially lives a solitary life even when surrounded by people. That will all have to change when his nieces and nephew come to stay with him for a few months while his mother—their guardian—recovers her own health.

It’s serendipity when Gracie runs into the misfit kids. They need a nanny; she needs a job. Everyone’s happy. Except this darn attraction zipping through her every time she sees her new employer could be a problem. He’s so far from her type. She doesn’t stay put long enough to have relationships. How in the world could this ever work? Maybe some lessons need to be learned the hard way.

Teach Your Heart is book 3 in the Far North series but is completely standalone. If you’ve read the first two, you’ll enjoy the updates on the characters from those books, but you won’t be missing any pertinent information if you start with book 3. As usual, Ms. Alvarez has created a believable, well-paced romance that encompasses more than just the relationship of the main characters. One of the reasons I continue to come back to her stories is because I can always depend on their being something more, something that gives the story and the characters depth.

In this book, both main characters had family issues to solve. While they were somewhat predictable issues, in no way was the growth of the characters predictable or boring. Even when I could feel how things were going to play out, I still couldn’t put the book down because I wanted to see it and get the emotions that went with it.

Owen Bennett had immersed himself in work at the hospital, so when his parents could no longer care for his orphaned nieces and nephew and he was nominated for the job, things became complete chaos. He wanted to do right by his sister’s kids, but the situation was only temporary so how could he make life decisions for them, and especially decisions he knew went against her wishes? With little nudges in the right direction from Gracie, his new nanny who had a free spirit like his sister, Owen began to understand there were more important things than his job, and loving these three kids wasn’t temporary, nor was loving Gracie.

Gracie Cooper was restless and didn’t plan on returning home for long, mostly to stay off the radar of her overbearing father. Finding the nanny job with Owen’s kids would allow her to pay back her student loans and still have travelling money. She didn’t bank on making friends, finding a career she actually enjoyed, loving those crazy kids, and of course loving her boss.

Combined with the enjoyable pace of the relationship and growth of the characters was a nice dose of humor. I loved the kids and all their antics, as well as Owen’s rules and how they changed throughout the story.

Another abundantly entertaining read from Ms. Alvarez. I will continue to read more books in this series. All of my reviews of her work can be found under the Author Spotlight tab.

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Rach

An Exaltation of Larks by Suanne Laqueur

An Exaltation of Larks by Suanne Laqueur

An Exaltation of Larks Cover

5 out of 5 Stars

*I was provided a copy of An Exaltation of Larks by the author in exchange for an honest review. I am not compensated for my honest opinion.*

Alex Penda’s life is forever changed at the age of eleven, and though these changes will haunt him for years to come, he makes the best of it. A new country, new friends, ultimately a new family, and eventually a wife.

Valerie Lark comes from a prominent family in a quiet town, but Alex shakes up her world when she’s only twelve years old. They live their lives separately but connected until the time is right for them to be together.

Javier Landes is one of New York City’s top male escorts. Disowned from his family at the age of seventeen, Jav is unapologetic about the life he leads in order to make ends meet. He’s good at what he does, but love is no friend of Jav’s.

Lives cross paths and bonds are formed and strengthened. Everyone has something that shapes their life, and it dictates who we are and how we respond. An Exaltation of Larks follows the journeys of three seemingly different but strangely bonded people through life, love, hardships, and loyalty.

This novel takes you through three decades and across two continents, an intricately woven look at the lives of Alex, Valerie, and Jav. It’s an amazingly different type of story, showing us the events that formed the characters into who they become. Their lives intersect and diverge, but it’s in the divergence where the intersections make the most sense.

Ms. Laqueur’s fifth novel is a masterpiece of life. It’s brutally honest; life isn’t always pretty, and this author doesn’t withhold the ugly parts. Sometimes we make wrong decisions, but our mistakes are ours to own. The characters in this book are perfectly flawed—real human beings who have been molded by their circumstances and relationships. How they interact and the story they create made for one of the most fascinating books I’ve ever read.

Each main character is interesting in their own right, and there is no rooting for any one person to come out ahead. Life is not always filled with simple choices, and loving each character equally made it all the more heart-wrenching to witness their ups and downs. I was fully engaged in the world the author created, feeling like a fly on the wall in every scene. I laughed and cried right along with Alex, Val, and Jav.

And if the story of the three main characters isn’t enough, Ms. Laqueur has a way of incorporating secondary characters into the plot that makes you love them too and want to know more. If she were to write a book about any of the secondary characters in this book, I have no doubt I’d be hanging on every word of it just the same as I did with this book.

Suanne Laqueur is a must-read author, and this latest book is no exception. It deserves more than 5 stars.

An Exaltation of Larks will be released on November 22, 2016 but can be pre-ordered from your favorite retailer now. All of my reviews of Ms. Laqueur’s works can be found by selecting her name from the Author Spotlight tab.

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Rach