Ty’s Heart (California Cowboys #3) by Selena Laurence

 

Ty’s Heart (California Cowboys #3) by Selena Laurence

Ty’s Heart Cover

4 out of 5 Stars

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

Ty Jenkins has spent the last five years devoted to two things: his daughter Katie and the ranch he and his brothers inherited after their parents’ death. When Katie’s mother decided she couldn’t raise their baby, Ty didn’t hesitate to take on the responsibility of being a single father. And now his life revolves around doing what’s best for the precocious little girl.

Jodi Morgan’s childhood left her ill-prepared to be a mother, so she did what was best for her child. She walked away, leaving the infant in the hands of the young man she was only just getting to know. But the hole in her heart could not be filled by a promising career or any other man she met. With a plan laid out, Jodi moves back to Big Sur with the hope she can get to know her daughter.

Five years ago, Ty and Jodi’s relationship was cut short by the unplanned pregnancy. They both want what’s best for Katie, but long-buried feelings for each other could get in the way of the little girl’s happiness if they’re not careful.

Ty’s Heart is the third standalone book in the California Cowboys series and revolves around the middle Jenkins brother and his adorable daughter. It was easy to fall in love with Ty and Katie in this book, and I always love a story that revolves around more than just the budding romance. Ms. Laurence did not disappoint, keeping Katie and her need for a mother front and center in the story line.

Every parent struggles to know what’s best for their child, and Ty’s character was realistic in that manner. Just because Jodi came back was no guarantee she would stick around this time, and a mother who blew in and out of Katie’s life could do more damage than good. Ty had to get to know Jodi, and he also had to take a chance on her if he wanted Katie to have that one thing he couldn’t give her.

In the course of getting to know Jodi again, the reasons they’d been attracted to each other in the first place stirred up all the feelings that got buried five years ago. Their attraction and the ups and downs of their relationship kept me turning pages long into the night.

The one thing holding this book back from being a 5-star read for me was that the climax felt a little manufactured. I won’t give any details to spoil it for others, but it just fell a bit short for me. By no means did it ruin the story though. It was still a thoroughly enjoyable ride with a satisfying conclusion, and I’ll continue to read Ms. Laurence’s books because I can always count on a captivating, sexy story.

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

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Rach

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Mend Your Heart (Bounty Bay Book 4) by Tracey Alvarez

 

Mend Your Heart (Bounty Bay Book 4) by Tracey Alvarez

 Mend Your Heart Cover

5 out of 5 Stars

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

For the past five years, Isaac Ngata has stayed out of the public’s eye and out of Natalie Fisher’s way. The former All Black rugby star prefers to keep an eye on his best mate’s widow from afar. The accident that took Natalie’s husband and Isaac’s teammate’s life also left Isaac as a celebrity pariah. When he’s asked to coach the girls’ rugby team so Natalie’s daughter can have her chance to play, Isaac’s long-buried feelings for Nat resurface with a vengeance.

Natalie Fisher has resolved herself to life as a single mother and would be happy to put the sport that took her husband behind her for good. But her daughter’s desire to play rugby has put Nat in the direct path of the one man she’d be happy to avoid forever—Isaac Ngata. With Isaac’s reputation in question, Nat has no choice but to help him with practices, and suddenly the sullen man is something more than her husband’s best friend.

Both Nat and Isaac will have to get beyond the past if they want to see what the future holds for them.

Mend Your Heart is book four of the Bounty Bay series, but like all books in this series it can be read as a standalone. And also like all books in this series, it takes romance a step beyond the standard. I can always count on Ms. Alvarez to give me a little something more. In this case, both main characters have to deal with the same issue—the death of Jackson Fisher, who was Natalie’s husband and Isaac’s best friend—but different aspects of the issue. Isaac has always loved Natalie, and his guilt will eat him alive if he can’t let it go. Natalie doesn’t think anyone could love her the way Jackson did, and she has to fight to keep from going back to the girl who made herself invisible in order to survive in the foster care system.

All of the characters in this book, including thirteen-year-old Olivia, were easy to love. One of the things I appreciated most about this story was the gradual change in relationships and characters. The book started with clear examples of Isaac’s miserable life, including his cluelessness in talking to teenagers. Bit by bit, and with a little help from Natalie, he was able to smile again and not only relate to the girls but also coach them to be better people and a better team. Natalie would have preferred to hide from her problems and be invisible once again, but she fought her way back to the strong, assertive woman she’s supposed to be.

Another aspect of this book I truly loved was that the conflict between the characters was mostly internal yet it wasn’t forced or manufactured. The death of a loved one affects people in different ways. Natalie and Isaac both loved Jackson, and they both needed to find a way to move on from their residual feelings five years later. There was plenty of emotion along the way, and like always, this author also knows how to turn up the heat between her characters.

Ms. Alvarez is the queen of happily ever after, providing well-rounded characters, an intriguing plot, and a polished story every time.

All of my reviews of Ms. Alvarez’s books can be found on the Author Spotlight tab.

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Rach

Vaughn’s Pride (California Cowboys #2) by Selena Laurence

Vaughn’s Pride (California Cowboys #2) by Selena Laurence

Vaughn’s Pride Cover

5 out of 5 Stars

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

Everyone in Big Sur knows Vaughn Jenkins and T.J. Brisco are meant to be together, but life has a way of slapping a man down and putting him in his place. First was the death of Vaughn’s parents when he was seventeen, and now the loss of part of his leg once again pushes him away from the love of his life. Vaughn will never be the man T.J. deserves to have by her side.

T.J.’s loved only one man her whole life—Vaughn. She’d do anything for him. Anything except get pushed away yet again and be expected to sit around and wait for Vaughn to realize he’s worth her love. The sensible head on her shoulders says it’s time to move on. If only her heart would fall in line with that plan.

Vaughn’s Pride is the second book in the California Cowboys series and can be read as a standalone, but book one was so good you might want to read Cade’s Loss first anyway. The stories surround three brothers who tragically lost their parents and inherited one of the biggest ranches in California. Vaughn is the youngest brother and lives his life working the land. Someday he wants to be able to have a farm of his own for himself and T.J., but when an accident takes part of his lower leg and he’s unable to lead the active life he once led, he has nothing left to give her. Pride keeps him from letting her back into his life.

I loved these characters, both past and present versions of them. The author gave glimpses of their history at the beginning of each chapter, which added to the connection I felt to them and their relationship. Vaughn’s pride might’ve felt misplaced at times, but having witnessed their history of best friends turned lovers and their ultimate childhood downfall gave clearer insight into just how devoted he was to T.J. and why he couldn’t let her love him when he didn’t feel he had anything to offer her.

Seeing things from T.J.’s perspective made it even harder to watch him push her away, but character growth continually fueled their connection. Watching them recognize the changes in themselves and each other brought a warm satisfaction you don’t find in every second chance romance.

One of the key factors in any 5-star read for me is the ability of the author to draw me in immediately and keep me invested in the lives of the characters. Ms. Laurence delivered in spades. I hurt for and loved both Vaughn and T.J., turning page after page right up until the end. And having been the second book in the series I couldn’t put down, I’m highly anticipating the final book about the middle Jenkins brother, Ty.

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

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Rach

Flutter by Olivia Evans – Review

Flutter by Olivia Evans

Flutter Cover

4 out of 5 Stars

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

When Dylan Walker lost the love of his life, he dedicated his life to helping others like her. After six years, he’s finally ready to start over, and that includes moving to the other side of the country where he doesn’t have memories of his past. But his path to helping others puts him in the direct path of a ghost. Not only is Presley Cooper supposed to be dead, but judging by the blank way she stares straight through Dylan, she won’t be any help in figuring out how she ended up there. Now he needs to make her remember not only her life but also her love for him.

Flutter is a standalone romantic suspense novel that had interesting aspects of mental illness woven into the story. As a doctor, the main character worked with patients in an in-patient mental illness facility, which provided the reader with glimpses of the suffering from various mental illnesses. The author presented the information in a way that was sophisticated enough to be coming from a doctor yet plain enough for the reader to understand, which increased my enjoyment of the story.

The book has aspects of both romance and suspense, but it leaned heavier on the suspense plot. The romance between Dylan and Presley was more of a given, with information provided to prove how much they loved each other rather than the process of falling in love. The story goes back and forth between the past and the present, which isn’t my favorite way to read, but it does work in this book to provide more information on the history between the characters and explain aspects of the plot going forward.

As for the suspense, it was interesting to watch Dylan trying to help Presley and another patient, and the suspenseful parts of the story were wrapped up nicely without leaving a bunch of loose ends. I especially appreciated that Presley’s mental issues were not immediately solved at the climax of the story, making it more realistic.

There were other parts that didn’t ring true for me, but not enough to take me out of the story. I also wasn’t immediately drawn into the story at the start, but glad I kept reading because it was well-written and enjoyable in the end.

If you enjoy suspenseful romance, this book is worth the read. I’ll definitely read more by this author.

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Rach

Sugar & Gold (Dreamcatchers Book 2) by Emma Scott

Sugar & Gold (Dreamcatchers Book 2) by Emma Scott

Sugar & Gold Cover

5 out of 5 Stars

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

Sugar & Gold is the second book in Emma Scott’s Dreamcatchers series, but as a standalone novel, you can comfortably read this amazing book without having read the first in the series (although I highly recommend reading How to Save a Life anyway—my review can be found here). Like the first book, this one contains what I’d categorize as a touch of paranormal. It’s so well-incorporated into the characterization that it doesn’t feel like a paranormal story though, so definitely don’t let that scare you off from reading if you’re not a fan of paranormal romance.

Nikolai Young was born with a gift he’d rather not have. His ability to know people’s emotions set him apart from a young age and caused his father to leave and his mother to think he had the devil inside him. He spends his life running from his ability, crisscrossing the country to keep his gift from overwhelming him. He plays poker to win just enough money to live off of and then moves on. Until he meets Fiona, the woman who calms the chaos of his gift.

Fiona Starling has a dream of moving to Costa Rica. The bright colors and lush greenery will help her escape her ugly past. She’s already begun rebuilding her life on her own terms, and a one-night stand with a tattooed stranger fits the bill of doing whatever she wants in the moment. Their physical connection is so strong right from the start that Fiona and Nik can’t seem to stay away from each other. But both of them have inner demons to deal with before they can find peace with each other.

I have yet to read a book by Ms. Scott I didn’t love, and this one was no different. It captured my heart right from the start with Nik’s poor, tortured soul just trying to find a little peace. I also loved sweet Fiona, so happy and carefree on the outside but with a difficult past she kept buried inside. The character growth in this book was a joy to watch. Nik and Fiona each had issues to come to grips with, and they knew they couldn’t depend on the other as their sole resource.

As with all of Ms. Scott’s books I’ve read so far, this story is full of passion and emotion. The author has a way of making you feel everything right along with the characters. I am a fan for life of Ms. Scott’s work and will be eagerly awaiting each of her new releases.

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Rach

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

Title Cover

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

Inappropriately Yours Cover

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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One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

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4 out of 5 Stars

Real people. Real struggles. Very real emotion. Jojo Moyes delivers all of that in spades in the novel One Plus One.

Jess is a single mother. Since her husband left she’s barely making ends meet. Her sixteen-year-old stepson Nicky is being bullied, and her ten-year-old daughter Tanzie is a genius at math. One math competition could allow Tanzie to go to a better school, get a better education, get out of their horrible neighborhood. But without even enough money to get Tanzie to the competition, there’s no hope of getting ahead in this world.

Ed Nicholls may be a rich software developer, but he has problems of his own. He’s facing the possibility of prison for just trying to let a woman down easy. When he crosses paths with Jess and offers to drive her family to the math competition, it should be a simple trip and something to take his mind off his own problems. Falling in love certainly wasn’t on the agenda.

This book caught me up in the lives of its characters and kept me enthralled throughout. One of the most immediate things that drew me in was that the main characters did not even like each other at the start. Jess was “the help.” She cleaned Ed’s house, he didn’t have a clue who she was or what her situation was, and he literally slammed a door in her face. Ed was just another rich guy who didn’t know how good he had it. And once the two got into a car together, they got even more prickly toward each other. Such an awkward situation that had no choice but to turn into some kind of friendship.

The character growth was amazing on all fronts. Jess needed to learn to accept help. Ed needed to realize his situation wasn’t the worst thing out there. But even Nicky and Tanzie had much to learn, and I loved that Nicky and Ed formed a bit of a friendship that allowed Nicky to grow beyond his little neighborhood and find his place in the world.

The reasons for only 4 out of 5 stars were somewhat minor but enough of a drawback for me. Overall, I loved the book and was filled with emotion while reading it. But there were a few inconsistencies in the story, like the dog being in two places at once, which tend to draw me out of the story. The other thing for me was that while Ed was a loveable character as he was written, it wasn’t exactly the way it was depicted in the summary of the book. I expected some more quirks, or that he’d be a little more insecure. He was certainly uninformed about financial matters, but for the most part his character seemed to be fairly confident. He was no pushover with his ex-wife, and never seemed to doubt why women were attracted to him.

This was an enjoyable and emotional journey, and I will definitely read more by this author.

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Rach

The Czar (A Standalone Hockey Billionaire Romance) by Selena Laurence

The Czar (A Standalone Hockey Billionaire Romance) by Selena Laurence

The Czar Cover

4 out of 5 Stars

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

Mick Petrovich’s life has been built around playing professional hockey and enjoying no-strings-attached time with the puck bunnies. When an injury puts him out of hockey for good, it throws everything he’s lived for into turmoil. His father’s pressure to join the family business only makes matters worse. Mick has very personal reasons for wanting to stay as far away from the vodka business as possible.

Solana Werner has just landed her dream job in the marketing department of Petrovich Vodka. She’ll let nothing stand in the way of proving herself in the corporate world, and she may have something to prove in her personal life as well. Her growing attraction to the heir-apparent of Petrovich Vodka, Mick, is dangerous in more ways than she ever imagined. Both Mick and Solana need to figure out what they really want out of life before it’s too late to have it all.

The Czar is a standalone romance from trusted romance author Selena Laurence. Ms. Laurence can always be counted on to deliver a solid plot and well-developed characters, and this book is no exception. Ever the playboy, Mick’s career-ending injury forced him to wake up and take a hard look at his life. From the beginning of the story to the end, Mick worked his way through a life-changing journey to figure out what came next. In addition to the romance between Mick and Solana, Mick also had to choose a new career path and resolve relationship conflicts with his father over the family business.

One of the things that drew me to Mick beyond the sexy hockey player persona was his Russian heritage. It was incorporated into many aspects of the story, from the food to his nickname for Solana, and gave more depth to his character. I also enjoyed reading about Solana’s Hispanic background and how each character respected where the other came from.

The relationship developed at a nice pace with both Solana and Mick having to come to terms with their feelings for each other in their own time. The only minor drawback from this story for me was that the problems in their relationship could have been avoided, but the growth of each character kept me engaged and turning pages.

Overall, it this was another enjoyable book, and I will continue to read Ms. Laurence’s work as I can always count on an appealing story. All of my reviews of Ms. Laurence’s books can be found under the Author Spotlight tab.

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Rach