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 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

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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Happy reading!

Rach

Hinged (Soul Mate Rescued Book 2) by Char Sharp

Hinged (Soul Mate Rescued Book 2) by Char Sharp

Hinged Cover

3 out of 5 Stars

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

Seven years ago, Cooper Baron lost the love of his life. Robin Finch disappeared, and no matter how hard Coop tried to find her, it was like she no longer existed. But he didn’t give up, and he won’t until his soul mate is back in his arms.

Robin Finch has no memory of her life prior to seven years ago. She’s been living with Dr. Ramsey Gunn, as his wife, but deep down she knows he’s not the love of her life. Robin and Ram have been on the run, hiding in the shadows with Ram erasing any electronic evidence of their existence before it can be found by those hunting them. Until the day Robin runs into Cooper Baron, and something in her mind—and her heart—is unlocked.

What should be a sweet reunion is in actuality confusing and life-threatening. Cooper will need to bring down the person who is trying to kill Robin before they can move on with their lives.

Hinged is book two in the Soul Mate Rescued series and can comfortably be read as a standalone book. It is a romantic suspense story with technology thriller aspects. The author’s style brings out a nice amount of emotion between the characters, and it’s easy to feel their love and despair right along with them. The idea of soul mates physically feeling the presence of their other half, though slightly farfetched for my taste, transferred well in this story. Robin’s amnesia and the subsequent recovery of her memory was handled in what seemed to be a realistic fashion.

The plot of the story focused more on the romance than the suspense or thriller aspects. It seemed to be missing vital pieces of information regarding the investigation into the threat against Robin, focusing instead on Robin’s life once she was rescued. Since it was told from both Robin and Cooper’s point of view, I would have liked to see what Cooper was doing behind the scenes to locate and take down the threat. Even after the climax, I wanted to know more about how the climax occurred since the reader wasn’t provided the information prior to that.

Overall, this was a good romance story, and if you enjoy reading a straight romance it could be worth your while. I would have liked to see it a little more rounded with the information that was brought into the plot, but I would probably still try another book by this author.

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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

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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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Happy reading!

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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Happy reading!

Rach

POTUS: A Powerplay Novel by Selena Laurence

POTUS: A Powerplay Novel by Selena Laurence

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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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Happy reading!

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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Happy reading!

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

Full Tilt (Full Tilt #1) by Emma Scott

Full Tilt (Full Tilt #1) by Emma Scott

Full Tilt Cover

5 out of 5 Stars

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

Jonah Fletcher knows his time is short, but he’s vowed to leave an impression behind and focuses all his waning energy on completing his masterpiece—a glass installation. He didn’t count on the drunk guitarist storming into his life and changing all his priorities. Kacey Dawson’s impulsiveness has landed her in a world of trouble, but it’s also put her at a crossroads. Continuing on with the band the way she has is self-destructive, and ultimately it’s not what she really wants to do with her life. But her demons chase her and she has nowhere to escape.

Until she wakes up on Jonah’s couch with no recollection of how she got there.

An unlikely friendship blossoms into something more, but life doesn’t always give you what you want. Sometimes it gives you exactly what you need.

There are few words I can use to describe Emma Scott’s Full Tilt. Heartbreakingly beautiful are the main words that come to mind. This is the type of story that will keep you reading late into the night, and then have you lying awake for hours after, unable to sleep because of the impression it leaves.

I was immediately sucked into the lives of Jonah and Kacey, both characters with depth and intrigue. Jonah doesn’t allow people to get close. What’s the point when he knows his time is short? He wants to be remembered for doing something amazing, not mourned or pitied. But when Kacey crosses his path, he can’t help but be drawn out of his comfort zone, out of his routine. The attraction is undeniable and real, but Kacey has to go into it with eyes wide open. She knows how this will end, but is she strong enough to enjoy it while it’s here? Her life can only change for the better by letting Jonah be a part of it.

I’ve now read a few of Ms. Scott’s books and enjoyed them all, but I can say with absolute certainty that this one will remain high on my favorites list for years to come. I’m not typically a fan of this kind of story, but the emotions Ms. Scott is able to draw out made the story worth every minute of lost sleep.

Although this is book one of two, it can comfortably be read as a standalone, but don’t be surprised if you find yourself clamoring for book two as soon as you turn the last page.

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Rach