Monday, November 19, 2018

Cowboy Honor by Carolyn Brown

Patience was never one of her virtues. After her SUV runs off the road in the middle of a Texas blizzard and her cell stops working, Claire Mason is about to snap. Getting back home to Oklahoma with her four-year-old niece is top priority. And lucky for her, help comes in the form of a true Texas cowboy...

Levi Jackson has always been a sucker for strays. So he can't help getting involved when he comes across Claire and her little niece shivering in the cold. By offering them a place to stay until her car is fixed, he can make sure the two are taken care of - and get to know the sassy Claire better.

What starts as something awkward and temporary starts feeling cozier by the minute. And soon Levi is hoping he can convince Claire she has a permanent place in his heart.
Series: Longhorn Canyon Series #2| Publisher: Forever |  Genre: Contemporary Romance | Source: Publisher | Rating: 5 Cups

Challenges Read For: Literary Pickers  - Mixing Bowl
A snowstorm, a cowboy, and a woman with a gun make for an amazing Christmas read you’ll want to cozy up with.
When Levi walks into the cabin to take shelter from a snowstorm, he never imagined he’d encounter a woman pointing a gun at him or a little girl hiding under a blanket. Once he realizes that she’s run her car off the road and is now stranded, his urge to rescue kicks in. Although Claire’s not the type of woman to let herself be rescued. She’s used to being independent and she has her young niece, Zaylie, to care for but the longer she stays on the ranch and sees how Levi treats Zaylie and how close he is to those he was raised with she’s starting to realize being rescued isn’t so bad. She soon starts to realize there’s no point in denying her attraction and connection to Levi.
When I pick up a Carolyn Brown romance, I know that I’m in for a treat. She knows how to evoke that warm, small town charm that makes me feel like I’m visiting old friends. I just cannot get enough.
Levi is my favorite Carolyn Brown hero thus far. His mother left him with his adoptive parents at a young age so while he’s part of an amazing family, there’s still a part of him that questions if he fits in or not. He’s sort of missing that blood connection. While he has these questions, he hasn’t let that make him bitter. In fact, it’s sort of made him the opposite, he’s become someone who’s willing to fight for the strays be it people of animals. He has such a big heart and is so caring.
Claire’s upbringing has made her independent. From an early age, she was the one everyone relied on and it’s been drilled into to the point she doesn’t know how to ask for help or really how to accept it once it’s given. It’s a big adjustment for her to have to rely on Levi and his extended family but she’s also smart enough to know that she can’t keep on doing all of it on her own. I liked that she was willing to let Levi into her life.
The romance was so realistic. The attraction and chemistry was off the charts but I’m glad that they took their time figuring out what they wanted before acting on it. They got to know each other and themselves before hopping into bed and it made it believable.
I have to say that Zaylie was the cutest kid ever and I loved that she kept her age appropriate. Often times when authors throw a kid into the plot they tend to act ten times their age so it was nice to see a four-year-old actually act like a four-year-old. She really livened up the book.
Another thing I liked about this book was that Claire’s a quilter and I love how she’s expresses herself through her quilts and I felt like Carolyn did such an amazing job at showing the passion that goes into crafting a quilt. It also made me eager to get back into the quilts that I’ve been working on.
Hands down, this is my favorite romance of 2018. It has everything that I love about romance novels: heart, heat, trust, family, humor, and cheer. I could not put this down and ended up reading it in one sitting. This is a let-your-tea-go-cold type of read.

Bonus Story: O Little Town of Bramble by Katie Lane

All Ethan Miller wants for Christmas is to celebrate in Bramble, Texas, with family and friends. But when his childhood neighbor comes home for the holiday, Ethan realizes that the girl-next-door could be the girl of his dreams.

Longhorn Canyon Series
#1 Cowboy Bold
#2 Cowboy Honor
#3 Cowboy Brave (coming 2019)

Friday, November 16, 2018

The Royal Runaway by Lindsay Emory

Princess Theodora Isabella Victoria of Drieden of the Royal House Laurent is so over this princess thing.

After her fiancé jilted her on their wedding day, she’s finally back home after spending four months in exile—aka it’s back to press conferences, public appearances, and putting on a show for the Driedish nation as the perfect princess they expect her to be. But Thea’s sick of duty. After all, that’s what got her into this mess in the first place.

So when she sneaks out of the palace and meets a sexy Scot named Nick in a local bar, she relishes the chance to be a normal woman for a change. But just as she thinks she’s found her Prince Charming for the night, he reveals his intentions are less than honorable: he’s the brother of her former fiancé, a British spy, and he’s not above blackmail. As Thea reluctantly joins forces with Nick to find out what happened the day her fiancé disappeared, together they discover a secret that could destroy a centuries-old monarchy and change life as they know it.

Publisher: Gallery | Genre: Suspense/Romance/Humor | Source:Publisher | Rating: 4 Cups

Challenges Read For: Literary Pickers  - Curtains/Drapes
I had a lot of fun with this one. Imagine The Princess Diaries meeting MI-5 (Spooks) and that’s what you get with The Royal Runaway.
After a runaway groom and four months in exile, Princess Thea is back in Drieden but still feeling trapped by her royal life. Determined to escape for just an hour or so, she slips out to a local bar where she encounters Nick, a sexy Scot with a hint of danger who she seems to have a connection with. Pretty soon she learns that Nick’s not who he says he is and he’s now blackmailing her into helping him find his brother who just so happens to be Thea’s runaway groom. Now Thea wants answers although not only will they lead her and Nick into danger, they also threaten to destroy her family and the monarchy.
Thea was an interesting character. She’s royalty, second in-line to the throne (or first if they bypass her father as they want to do), so she’s feeling the pressure especially since her wedding went up in flames. And now that she’s learned that there was more to the disappearance of her groom, she’s not going to stop until she figures out what’s been going on around her. To further complicate matters, this new man in her life, Nick, is not only her former fiancé’s brother he’s also a British spy digging into her family’s possibly shady past.
The romance while it was good could have been better if Nick’s perspective had been included. Given that he had so many secrets and could have just been using Thea to uncover the info he needed, I felt like I needed to see where he was coming from just to be able to believe him a bit more. I needed to know what was going on in his head. I really wish authors would start including both perspectives because only including one makes the plot off kilter.  
I was caught up in the suspense from the beginning and I enjoyed watching this one unravel. It’s not one of those edge-of-your-seat plots but it was enough to keep me turning the page.
While the Kingdom of Drieden is a fictional country, Emory does an amazing job of filling in the countries backstory, it’s history, the feel of the land and created a believable world.
Overall, I enjoyed this one. It was a little suspense, a little romance, a little fluff, and a whole lot of fun. I really liked how this one came to life.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Wild on My Mind by Laurel Kerr

When Katie Underwood discovers a litter of newborn cougar cubs, the last person she expects to come to the rescue is her former crush―and high school nemesis―Bowie Wilson. The worst part? He doesn't seem to remember the trouble he caused her.

As a single father and owner of a cash-strapped zoo, Bowie struggles to balance budgets while raising his pre-teen daughter and a host of rascally animals. He considers himself lucky when Katie agrees to lend her talents to a publicity campaign in support of the zoo's animal rehabilitation programs―until he learns just what she's planning...

This time, Katie is determined to resist Bowie's charm. But a lovelorn camel, a matchmaking honey badger, and a nursemaid capybara have different plans. Can they and the rest of the zoo's menagerie help Bowie break through the barriers surrounding Katie's heart?
Series: Where the Wild Hearts Are | Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca | Genre: Contemporary Romance | Source: Publisher | Rating: 4.5 Cups

Challenges Read For:  Literary Pickers  Handcuffs
I was not expecting this one to have as much substance as it had and I was pleasantly surprised. I guess because of the cute and cuddly animals on the cover I was expecting this to be a bit fluffy but it had weight to it and delved into a serious matter. So yeah…it was definitely surprising.  


Here’s what’s going on. When Katie stumbles upon three abandoned cougar cubs, she didn’t expect her high school tormentor to be the one to rescue them and, oddly enough, he doesn’t seem to remember her. When Katie finds herself working with him to raise money for the zoo, she’s determined to keep him at an arm’s length while getting a little payback of her own. Although the longer they work together and the more she seems him care for his daughter the more her heart starts to melt but will it be enough to put the past behind her.


When I discovered that Bowie was Katie’s high school bully, I worried that I wouldn’t be able to warm up to him and I worried that I wouldn’t be able to believe that he’s a changed man. Thankfully, that worry was for naught because I really ended up liking Bowie and, as his story progressed, I understood where was coming from and I believed he changed. He ended up being a solid guy.


I also worried that Katie would hold a grudge. While that could make for interesting reading, I find that it often holds the plot captive and makes the character seem cold. Katie was completely different than I was expecting her to be. I mean, she was leery and wounded from her treatment but she didn’t let that take over her life and turn her into a shrew. She was willing to forgive Bowie and let him into her life.


Their relationship had some obstacles to overcome and I liked the way it played it out—it showed that they both had grown and matured.


While this book had some heavy stuff in it, it was also adorable. The animals stole my heart from the start, especially Fluffy, the match matching honey badger who lends his own POV to the story.


The one thing I could have done without was Bowie’s ex showing back up. It felt a little odd like something that was thrown in just to add a bit of external conflict.


Overall, this is one not to miss. I think this is the first book I’ve seen that’s had a zoo keeper as the hero, so it was unique. I also liked that Bowie was a Byronic hero—he wasn’t perfect but he was realistic. Plus, he adores his daughter. This one’s unique, heartwarming, a tad bit heavy at times, humorous, and just an all-around good romance.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Love and Other Wild Things by Molly Harper

Welcome to Mystic Bayou, a tiny town hidden in the swamp where shape-shifters, vampires, witches, and dragons live alongside humans. The town formed around the mysterious energy rift in the bayou, which helps keep the town’s magic in balance. But lately the rift has been widening and destabilizing - threatening to send the town’s magical population into chaos.

Energy witch Danica Teel has been sent by the League to figure out what’s going on, with the help of bear-shifter Mayor Zed. While working on the case, Zed falls head over paws for Dani, but she’s reluctant to engage in anything beyond a roll in his cave. Dani’s family is counting on her to get the job done, and she has no time for distractions. But when an ominous presence begins stalking Dani through the bayou, they’ll need to band together to make it out alive.
Series: Mystic Bayou #2 | Publisher: Audible | Narrator: Jonathan Davis, Amanda Ronconi  | Length: | Release Date: | Genre: Paranormal Romance | Source: Publisher | Rating: 4.5 Cups

Challenges Read For:  Literary Pickers  - Hammer
I’m such a sucker for Molly Harper’s paranormal romances. I can’t get enough of them. They pull me in and keep me entertained. And they have me gigglesnorting in public places, which has earned me a few rather peculiar looks from random strangers.
Sparks fly when Dani, an energy witch, and Zed, a bear shifter, meet.
When the League sends Dani to Mystic Bayou to mend the energy rift, she never thought she’d fall for the town’s mayor who also happens to be a bear shifter. Although Dani plainly informs Zed she’s not interested in more than sex, they both know she’s lying and Zed’s determined to make her his, especially now that someone or something is out to harm them.
I liked Dani and it seemed to me she had a bit of all of Harper’s characters wound into her. She’s very independent and determined to make right the wrongs her father did to her grandfather. Zed, I loved him in book one and I love him more now. He was such a zany man and it was interesting seeing what he was going to say next.
Dani and Zed were brilliant together. I loved their banter; they knew just the right buttons to push without going too far. Neither was willingly to back down and neither was afraid to stand up to other, which made for some entertaining situations.
The romance was nice. Of course it was all lusty-lusty from the start but I didn’t mind that seeing as their relationship grew as the book progressed.
As always, Amanda Ronconi is a genius when narrating a Molly Harper book—she truly brings the characters to life. While I felt like Jonathan Davis did a good job narrating the first book in this series, I felt like he was better suited for this one.
Overall, another great addition to this fun and unique series.

Mystic Bayou Series
#3 Selkies are a Girl’s Best Friend

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Crowned and Moldering by Kate Carlisle

In the New York Times best-selling Fixer-Upper mysteries, contractor Shannon Hammer can repair even the most distressed building. But clearing out the cobwebs from her current project may distress death.

When Mac Sullivan - famous thriller writer and Shannon's new beau - first moved to Lighthouse Cove, California, he bought the historic lighthouse mansion that the town is named after. Mac needs help cleaning up the place, and Shannon is more than happy to get her handywoman hands on the run-down Victorian. But during demolition, a grisly discovery is made among the debris - the bones of a teenage girl who went missing 15 years ago.

Locals had always assumed Lily Brogan ran away from her difficult life, but it seems her troubles followed her to the grave. If Shannon has any chance of getting her renovation back on track, she'll need to tackle the cold case. But with new suspects coming out of the woodwork every day, she'll have to be careful to pry the right secrets and clues from the poor girl's problematic past....
Series: Fixer-Upper Mystery #30 | Publisher: Audible | Narrator: Angela Starling  | Length: 8 hours and 18 minutes | Genre: Contemporary Cozy | Source: Publisher | Rating: 4 Cups

We’re back with Shannon Hammer as she fixes up another Victorian house and discovers yet another skeleton hiding in the closet.
Shannon expected to encounter a lot of things while fixing up the house Mac purchased but a skeleton in the dumbwaiter wasn’t one of them. Things go from bad to worse when she discovers the skeleton was that of Lily Brogan, a friend of Shannon’s and sister of one of her employees, who went missing back in high school.  Shannon’s determined to crack this cold case and get justice for Lily although Shannon finds herself in hot water when a business rival ends up dead and she’s just threatened him.
There’s a few different mystery strands going on in this one, which I liked. Each one just adds another layer of the story without making it too bogged down. I also liked that there’s a few red herrings thrown into Lily’s mystery. I couldn’t figure this one out at first because there were a few suspicious looking characters. The death of Shannon’s business rival also brought an interesting edge to the book.
Unlike the first books where there’s a love triangle going on, Shannons dating Mac (the writer) and starting to grow closer to him while she finds herself unexpectedly helping care for his teenage niece. Although there’s still an attraction and a bit of flirtation with Eric (the police chief) and I still find myself rooting for him.

I’m still struggling with the whole ‘mean girl’ thing she has going on with Whitney. It’s a bit too much high school drama for me. I mean, when you’re successfully running your own business you’re old enough to let all that high school stuff go. I tend to ignore this part of the story.
Overall, this one was actually one of my favorites in this series so far. It left me wondering whom the murderer was and had me sifting through clues until the very end.

Fixer Upper Series
Eaves of Destruction (Fixer-Upper Mystery #5) 
A Wrench in the Works (Fixer-Upper Mystery #6)

Monday, November 12, 2018

Truly, Madly, Whiskey by Melissa Foster

A new, emotionally riveting, sexy standalone romance by New York Times best-selling author Melissa Foster. Watch mysteriously sexy Bear Whiskey claw his way to his happily-ever-after with sassy, rebellious Crystal Moon.


Eight months is a long damn time to have the hots for a woman who keeps a guy at arm's length. But Crystal Moon is no ordinary woman. She's a sinfully sexy, sass-mouthed badass, and the subject of Bear Whiskey's midnight fantasies. She's also one of his closest friends.

Just when Crystal thinks she has her life under control, scorching-hot, possessive, aggressive, and fiercely loyal Bear pushes all her sexual buttons, relentless in his pursuit to make her his.  

The more Bear pushes, the hotter their passion burns, unearthing memories for Crystal that are best kept buried. But there's no stopping the collision of her past and present, catapulting the two lovers down an emotional and sexually charged road that has them questioning all they thought they knew.  

Series: The Whiskeys #2 | Publisher Melissa Foster | Narrated by: Paul Woodson | Length: 9 hrs and 41 mins | Genre: Contemporary Romance | Source: Author | Rating: 4 Cups

Challenges Read For: - Blogger ShameLiterary Pickers Skirt

I really loved Bear in Tru Blue and couldn’t wait to finally dive into his story to see if he finally convinced Crystal to give him a try.
There’s been an attraction between Crystal and Bear from the start but she keeps pushing him away due to an event from her past. When Bear finally convinces her to give him a chance, she realizes that there’s more to their relationship than just attraction. Although she’s worried this connection won’t be enough to overcome the hurt from her past.
Bear’s such an amazing guy. He’s loyal, steadfast, and determined. I enjoyed watching how he slowly built up trust with Crystal without pushing her into something she doesn’t want. I also liked how he interacted with Tru’s kids. Crystal’s been hurt before and hasn’t had anyone to rely on so when Bear walks into her life she’s a bit confused. On one hand, she knows she can trust him but on the other, she’s afraid he’ll hurt her again so she had some things she had to figure out.
The romance was interesting. It was a bit of a slow burn romance and I thought it worked for this one. They got to know each other before jumping into anything.
Overall, I enjoyed this one. It was a quick listen with heart, heat, and very little drama. Parts were a bit intense but not overwhelmingly so. I’m eager to get more of the Whiskey family.

The Whiskeys
Truly, Madly, Whiskey #2
Driving Whiskey Wild #3

Monday, November 5, 2018

We All Love the Beautiful Girls by Joanne Proulx

One frigid winter night, Mia and Michael Slate's comfortable world dissolves in an instant when they discover that their best friend has cheated them out of their life savings. At the same time, a few doors down, their teenaged son passes out in the snow at a party--a mistake whose consequences will shatter not just their family, but an entire community.  

In this arresting, masterful page-turner shot through with fierce, clear-eyed compassion and a sublime insight into human fragility, award-winning novelist Proulx explores the savage underpinnings of betrayal, infidelity, and revenge--and a multilayered portrait of love, in all its glory, that no reader will soon forget.

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing | Genre: Literary Fiction | Source: Publisher | Rating: 1 Cup
I wanted to like this book—and I thought I would—but this one, sadly, was one of those nails down a chalkboard books. If I would have been able to care about just one of the characters, things might have been different but I couldn’t find anything I liked about any of them.
The book’s basically about two couples and their children unraveling due to their own stupidity. Michael’s allowed his best friend and business partner, Peter, to steal his company out from under him because he was too stupid to read the paperwork before he signed it. Mia’s now working to get some of the business back while carrying out an affair. All the while, they’re so wrapped up in their own lives that they have no idea what their children are up to—which, mainly involves getting stoned, getting drunk, and sleeping around with each other—and now Finn will bear the consequences for the rest of his life prompting his father, Michael, to take revenge.
I thought this book would be dark and angst-driven where I would feel the emotion of the characters but it ended up being rather lackluster.
I was pretty much done with this book by the third chapter but I kept reading hoping it would get better or I would find a spark of something to care about but it ended up being a futile effort. It was hard to feel sorry for a group of people who were caught in webs of their own making.
Overall, I didn’t really find anything in this book to recommend it. It was a lot of people making stupid choices that led to even stupider results.