Review: The next best thing by Kristan Higgins

The Next Best Thing is an absolute gem. It’s slightly different than the other Kristan Higgins books I have read and the differences are all good. It’s still got her fantastic humour and great characters but this one has a little bit more. I had to read it in one go. There was no way I could put this one down, I read it and I cried and laughed. It was just incredible.

The Next Best Thing tells the story of Lucy who is a widow while being in her early twenties. Her late husband was Jimmy and we get to know him well in the book, because Lucy still adores him.

Lucy met Jimmy through his brother Ethan, a friend she knew at cooking school. They met, saw each other and that was it. One look was all it took. They were married not long after and Jimmy died only months after that.

To say Lucy was devastated by the loss is to put it mildly. The book picks up the story five and a half years after Jimmy’s death when Lucy decides to start moving on but her heart has other ideas. She has panic attacks and crying bouts. It’s not easy to leave behind the love of your life.

Helping her through the entire mess is Ethan. He’s like a rock for her. Over and over, she insists that she and Ethan can’t take things to another level because she’s not ready and he respects that. It takes Lucy a long time to figure out what her heart has been waiting for and to find the courage to act on it.

Being happily married myself, I can’t imagine the sort of loss that Lucy bravely faces. I cried for her broken heart and the pieces that were gone. I truly believed someone would go through the grief and dark places that Lucy goes through. I understood her stumbling attempts at trying to put her life back together. Grief isn’t neat and orderly, it’s gripping and devastating. People don’t emerge from that sort of loss complete and without scars.

But the moving, incredible part of the story, was Ethan. Solidly supportive, he hides his own feelings in order to be there for her. And, though I was pretty ready to not like Ethan for taking Lucy away from Jimmy, by the end of the book, I adored this hero, who had stood by her for years waiting for his happily ever after.

There are also great secondary characters here, in Lucy’s family and friends. I won’t spoil the book by giving away too many details, but I will say that they were warm, funny and inviting. I would have loved to visit and meet them all.

There are twists and turns in the story. Things are revealed at the end that made me stare at my dogs in awe and get goosebumps up and down my arms. I cried and laughed and rejoiced when the book arrived at the ending. I couldn’t wait for Ethan and Lucy to get together.

I can tell this is one story where Kristan Higgins has put a lot of work. It’s not just a happy, go lucky contemporary book. This is one that would definitely win awards.

If you haven’t already realized it, I would strongly recommend this book to anyone. I really believe this is an example of romance writing at it’s best. Not simple fluffy story, this is a true love story in all its glory. It’s one to treasure.

(credit: kristanhiggins.com)

(credit: kristanhiggins.com)

Note: click on cover to go to site.

 

Review: Breath of Scandal

I picked up Breath of Scandal because the back intrigued me and Sandra Brown is a reliable bet. The book tells the story of Jade, a girl who leaves a small southern town after a horrible incident and comes back to face her attackers and find her happy ending. It seemed like a great read and it was thick enough at 500 plus pages, to keep me happy for a while. I wasn’t disappointed and thought I’d share this one with you.

One of the best parts of the book is the slow introduction of the characters. The book retells most of their lives, from an impactful beginning to the present, when Jade comes back to the town. It was delicious to see them emerge, slowly and hear about their lives. It made them fully fleshed, complete persons for me and all the more impactful when they spoke and acted.

The back explains the story happened this way: “On a rainy Southern night, Jade Sperry endured a young woman’s worst nightmare at the hands of three local hell-raisers.” The details of what happened were difficult to read, though I should add that I’m particularly sensitive to violence. Thankfully, Sandra Brown treats the topic with due respect and doesn’t dismiss it or play it down. In fact, the horrible incident is crucial to understanding Jade and her personality, so I could bear the difficulty of reading it because I knew it was pivotal to the story.

And that one night isn’t the entire story. Jade leaves the town but returns and…sure enough, like the book says, ‘all hell breaks loose’.

Hearing Jade’s story, like that of the other characters was amazing. I loved seeing and understanding the choices she made and how she moved up, through life until she was a competent professional with a tough attitude towards work that ensured her success.

I also loved seeing Dillon develop slowly. We hear about his life before Jade, what he did and who he was. Like her, the past doesn’t leave him unscathed but his story explains just why he huffs and leaves a scene or why he doesn’t say much in an argument. We know where he has come from and what’s going on in his head without the author having to tell us.

Dillon and Jade’s love story unfurls slowly while she’s trying to find peace to the demons from the past and he’s trying to find peace in his life. I won’t ruin it by revealing it but I will say that it was both believable and beautiful.

The story has many threads but they’re all carefully tied neatly at the end. There are, of course, some twists and turns but there is a happy ending–and a believable one. It was an ending that justified the long journey it took the reader to get there and that was just yummy.

I would obviously recommend this book. It’s a story of triumph over tragedy from an underdog and I love that concept. But I would say that the best part is the slow, rich tapestry it weaves, telling us a story that began with horrible trauma but ends in a happy resolution. If you’re a fan of Sandra Brown or would like a lovely story to read on a summer night, this one is for you.

(credit:goodreads.com)

(credit:goodreads.com)

Note: To go to site, click on cover.

Review: The Next Always

I always love reading a book by Nora Roberts and certainly this one wasn’t an exception. She’s got a gift with the written word, for certain but it’s the timing in her writing that impresses me the most. Her stories always feel slow and lazy and not rushed. It’s a beautiful, slow, elegant introduction into the characters and scene. Yet, she can do it somehow with a few words. And this one was particularly beautiful.

The Next Always is the first in a trilogy that I somehow missed reading when they came out. It tells the story of Beckett and Clare. Beckett is the eldest of the three Montgomery men and the architect. He’s helping his family of brothers and mother, restore an old inn and transform it into a beautiful Bed and Breakfast.

Beckett is easy going on the eyes, gentle yet determined in the best of ways. He had already fallen for Clare back when they were teens so it doesn’t take much for him to rekindle the romance. Clare is a widow now, with three delightful little boys and runs a bookstore. She’s kind, motherly and just sweet.

Clare and Beckett are both busy, one with the inn and the other with work and her little boys and, unlike other romances, these two don’t magically lose their business to give way to romance. The romance happens around their busy lives. Clare continues to kiss scraped knees, stop wars and tend to sick boys and Beckett has to answer his phone, curse at delays and run to fix issues on the build. They do find each other, but it’s a realistic, organic build that creates the same realistic, organic feelings of wonder–at least it did in this reader.

I have to add some other things that I absolutely adored about this book. The three little boys weren’t just minor secondary characters, they were delightfully real and absolutely adorable. I loved each and all of them. The same can be said of the dogs in the story and the other secondary characters. Nora Roberts nails it with them.

The other thing I adored was the cheerful banter between the brothers. Nora Roberts does dialogue like a pro and she nailed it in this book. The three brothers are realistically male, joking around much like guys do without becoming bullies or ignorant, which takes a lot of finesse as a writer.

Add in a beautiful love story, and I was a goner. I had to get the second and third book to gobble them up. If you’re a fan of contemporary fiction, don’t do what I did and wait. Pick this one up. It’s fantastic.

(credit: goodreads.com)

(credit: goodreads.com)

Review: The Shadows

The Shadows by J.R. Ward is number 14 in the BDB series. Certainly not the book to start your way into this world. Still, if you do end up with this one and find that you have nothing else to read, you might not find it that hard to navigate. Most things are explained and the premise, vampires, are certainly not unknown.

The Shadows is the story of iAm and Trez, brothers who are members of the s’Hive, a subsection of the vampire world. Don’t panic at this category. It’s not an entire new world, rather a small group of a larger one who follow most of the regular vampire-rules.

So, no panic and here we go. Trey is destined to become something among his people that he absolutely dreads and hates. So he’s hiding and trying to avoid his fate. On the other hand, iAm is at his side, faithfully trying to keep his brother alive and avoiding that dreaded destiny.

I don’t like to reveal too much because it destroys the book, so I have to be vague. The Shadows is the story of both brothers, how they find love and the twists and turns that happen for them along the way. We also get to revisit old characters but, in fantastic fashion, JR Ward doesn’t let them take over the series. They were awesome smaller characters and I was delighted to see them.

I loved the many stories threaded together. J. R. Ward weaves them in to each other like a master. I can’t explain how she does it, I can only vouch that they kept my interest and I couldn’t wait to turn the pages and read on. There were many cliffhangers, twists and turns but not the unbelievable, fake kind, rather the awesome, I-never-saw-it coming type. And the romance is so tender and amazing, I cried…and cried. And there was company over.

Though not everything is resolved, this book did many amazing things. It gave me a heads up as to where everyone is, without becoming boring. It continued the saga with class. It gave me not one but two great love stories. And it set up the series to continue (I have tons of curiosity about it still–and after 14 books that says a lot).

Among 14 books, there are favourites and not so favourites. This one is a definite keeper and one that I’ll go back to again and again to relive those highs and lows. I definitely couldn’t recommend J.R. Ward more highly and, though you might want to start the series at the start, this is one you don’t want to miss.

(credit: goodreads.com)

(credit: goodreads.com)

Note: click on cover to go to site.

Review: Ride Steady

Ride Steady is the latest in the Chaos series by Kristen Ashley. Chaos is the name of the bike club where all the stories take place. The heroes are tough as nails bikers who fall for some pretty awesome heroines. They’re edgy stories with just the right amount of romance.

In Ride Steady, our heroine is Carissa, a really kind, nice woman who came from the right side of the tracks but has ended up on tough times. At just about the worst possible moment in her life, she meets a tough, mean-looking biker known as Joker and things start to change for her. She’s pretty skeptical of the help offered at first, not surprising considering the betrayal in her background, but soon starts to see Joker in a new light.

Life might have given Joker a tough set of cards, but he’s made good choices with them and now has Chaos as a family that supports him. Not only that, he’s got raw talent that starts to shine and help both him and the club. To add to that, he knew Carissa way, way back in the day and meeting her again just seems to be the icing on the cake of his story. He fell for her as a kid and the years haven’t changed those feelings one iota.

Both Carissa and Joker have to learn to trust each other. Carissa because of her past, doesn’t trust easily and Joker, because he thinks he doesn’t deserve her, has to see that she’s the right woman for him. Along the way, we get to see old favourites from other books and learn a bit about the on-going issue with a nasty enemy of the club but the main story is about Carissa and Joker and we get lots of lovely time with them both.

At over 600 pages, the books by Kristen Ashley are all nice, long reads and I love finding a new one by her. I can’t imagine the hours and hours of editing she must do on these mammoth-creations but I love her for it because when I pick up one up, I know I’ll have a good long read ahead. Ride Steady didn’t disappoint and I would highly recommend it for having both great characters, tons of chemistry, smoking romance and an edgy story I don’t want to give up. For those of you who read contemporary romance, if you haven’t tried Kristen Ashley, I would encourage you to pick one of hers up.

(credit: goodreads)

(credit: goodreads)

Note: to go to site, click on cover.

Review: Only a promise

How I love Mary Balogh, let me count the ways. One, Mary Balogh has incredibly authentic historical narrative and dialogue. When I read her books, I truly feel like I’m hearing true, British dialogue from that time period. Two, her premises always catch my interest and promise a great read. And finally, the books always, always deliver.

She’s just awesome. I hadn’t read a book of hers in a while and this one was so good, I want to start re-reading all her books again. Only a promise is the latest book by this author and it’s definitely one not to miss.

This is the story of Chloe Muirhead, a spinster at the tender age of 27 (back then, anything over 25 was ancient). She’s staying with her mother’s godmother trying to figure out what to do with her life since marriage is already passed her by. Back in the time period, a woman who didn’t marry had few if any choices available to her. In spite of that, Chloe is courageous, determined and level-headed. I liked her immensely.

Ralph, our hero, arrives at the same location to visit his grandparents and try to reassure his grandmother that he’s looking for a wife. He’s the only living heir to his grandfather’s dukedom and marriage is a ducal responsibility he’s been avoiding. Ralph is a survivor from war with scars on his face to prove it but there are others, not any less painful, in his soul and those are the ones that stop him from risking marriage.

I don’t think I’m disclosing any secrets because it’s written on the jacket but I’ll say the warning nonetheless. If you hate reveals, skip the next paragraph.

Chloe proposes to Ralph, something quite outrageous for a woman of that time. So much so, that she loses her nerve half way through the speech and tells him to forget it. He doesn’t though and pursues her until they do marry. This takes place at the early part of the book but, instead of losing steam, this is when things become interesting.

The book is really the story of how they adjusted to their marriage, to each other and to their new position in society. Along the way, they have to face old fears, enemies and accept themselves. Only Mary Balogh could make their struggles both realistic and challenging without going over the top. I loved that this story had plenty of villains but none with guns or weapons. I loved that Chloe and Ralph had to grow and challenge their darkest fears but those weren’t necessarily outside themselves. I adored most of all, their love story because it grew gradually and seemed so natural that I never once doubted they were meant for each other.

This book captivated me from the very start and didn’t let go. The proof is that we had a storm while I was reading and lost power. Desperate, I got an old camping lantern to read by because I couldn’t put this one down. My husband had trouble getting home because of the storm but, truth be told, I barely noticed. I was in the book, hanging on to every turn in the story. And it was such a beautiful love story, I know I’ll go back and re-read it again and again.

I want to add a little quote to this review. It’s the first paragraph, so it won’t disclose any secrets. My hope is that you get a taste of the great writing I found in this book.

“There could surely be nothing worse than having been born a woman, Chloe Moorhead thought with unabashed self-pity as she sucked a globule of blood off her left forefinger and looked to see if any more was about to bubble up and threaten to ruin the strip of delicate lace she was sewing back onto one of the Duchess of Worthingham’s best afternoon caps. Unless, perhaps, one had the good fortune to be a duchess. Or else a single lady in possession of forty thousand pounds a year and the freedom to set up one’s own independent establishment.” Pg. 1

One more thought. If you’re interested in the book but would like a different review, check out this one by the All About Romance site. They are impartial and loved the book like I did.

(credit:goodreads.com)

(credit:goodreads.com)

Note: Click on the cover to go to site.

Review: The accidental Duchess

Madeline Hunter is one of my favourite authors for historical romance. She’s truly a pro and that genre is all that she writes. The Accidental Duchess was no exception. Check it out at her site: madelinehunter.com.

Lady Lydia Alfreton is in a fix. Once upon a time she wrote a work of fiction and a nasty man is blackmailing her for money in order to get it back. Desperate to obtain the manuscript and keep her virtue (something really important back then to a Lady of the ton), she agrees to an old wager against the Duke of Penthurst.

Now, Lydia is no fool. She only agreed to the wager because she’s incredibly lucky at cards and knows she’s going to win but the impossible happens and she loses. Now, her fix has doubled. She has that horrid blackmailer on her tail and a Duke at her elbow determined to collect the winnings of the bet.

No worries, it all works out in the end, it is romance after all, but there are more than a couple of twists and turns. This is a very active version of historical romance. Lydia is pretty smart and she comes up with all sorts of ways to keep her pursuers at bay (some quite funny) but one in particular ends up catching up with her.

The Accidental Duchess was a delight in many ways. There’s humour, something that doesn’t often happen in historical romance. The characters are awesome and very credible. The dialogue is definitely a slice of the time period and completely transported me back there. We have a strong, alpha hero and an intelligent, determined heroine. It’s like having a taste of Regent history without leaving your home. Delicious.

I would certainly recommend it to fans of historical romance. And, if you’re one and haven’t discovered Madeline Hunter, give her a shot. She’s really one of the best in the genre.

Note: click on the link to go to site.

 

Review: Heartbreaker

I picked out Heartbreaker on the recommendation of the store clerk in the used book store. I was heading for a flight and I needed something to read. I had never read Karen Robards but with those waiting lines at the airport facing me, I grabbed the book and dove in.

Heartbreaker is non-stop action, which is the best sort of book to have while you’re waiting to board a plane. I couldn’t care less that the person behind me just jumped ahead of me in line because I just kept reading. And it’s got humour weaved in, which is one of my favourite things in romance. It was awesome.

I loved Lynn from the start. I don’t smoke, but I could relate to everything else about her. She was trying to fit in with a bunch of outdoor enthusiasts and she was failing miserably. Lynn is going along with the group hoping to bond with Rory her teenage daughter.

Rory is a very realistic teen and I was desperately glad that she was authentic. There’s little worse than ‘perfect’ children in books. Kids who respect adults, obey, speak only in complete sentences and listen to their elders. Please! Rory was difficult with her mom, moody, defiant and moody. A completely credible teen.

Lynn has a tough time in the outdoors and her reactions to the other happy-go, enthusiastic members of the group are hilarious. Poor woman, things don’t get better for her. She and her daughter have an accident and end up pretty much stranded and hurt. Jess, one of the guides, drops down to help them and the adventure takes off from there.

With Jess along, they have to make it out of the mountains alive. Easier said than done in this mountain though. A group of cult members happens to also be there and they quickly decide that the trio must die.

It’s a pretty roller-coaster ride that had me moaning at the end of more than one chapter with dismay. I had no idea what was going to happen next and I was visiting relatives, which meant I couldn’t ignore them and keep reading. Closing this book was absolutely painful.

I would highly recommend Heartbreaker, especially if you’re going on a plane but certainly as a great summer read. It’s easy, fast, has great dialogue and witty humour. Best of all, it’s romance, so that fits me like a glove. Only one caution, relatives might not understand it if you bring the book along when you visit. 😀

(credit:goodreads.com)

(credit:goodreads.com)

Note: click on book to go to site.

Review: Fools Rush In

Fools Rush In is the first book I’ve ever read from Kristan Higgins and you might wonder what hole I’ve been living in because she’s quite a well known author and has more than a few titles to her name. Nevertheless, this one was my first. Still, this won’t be my last read of hers. The book was awesome.

The story has a set up that I loved immediately. Millie Barnes is a doctor coming back home to a small sea-side town. She has her own little house, a wonderful job and is trying to get in shape. She even adopts a friendly doggie from the pound. I adored her. Even better, she’s funny and her humour kept me glued to the book.

Now Millie is a dear but she’s blind as a bat because she’s determined to get a former crush of hers to fall in love with her no matter what and she won’t see reason. Meanwhile, the reader knows that the right guy for her is Sam, the police officer who’s just a sweetie and good-looking to boot but Millie just keeps trying, poor thing.

I had a wonderful time reading this one. It’s written in the first person which feels both intimate and funny. The writing is light with subtle references to TV that ground it and the love story is beautiful. Due to our heroine’s blindness, the attraction between Millie and Sam grows slowly. I didn’t mind that. I thought it felt organic and natural.

If you enjoy contemporary romance with a dash of humour, this one is a great read. A lot like Rachel Gibson or Susan Elizabeth Phillips with the laughter and light dialogue, Kristan Higgins delivered a great story with fantastic characters that made a great read.

(credit: kristanhiggins.com)

(credit: kristanhiggins.com)

Note: click on cover to go to site.

Review: Shelter Mountain

Shelter Mountain by Robyn Carr isn’t the second book in the Virgin River Series but I had to read it. It tells the story of Preacher, a gentle, giant of a man and I skipped a book in the series to read it. I fell in love with this character in the first book and I couldn’t wait to read his story.

Shelter Mountain introduces us to Paige who arrives at Virgin River with her adorable little son desperate for help. She’s on the run from her ex-husband and had bruises covering her body to prove her reasons for leaving. It was hard to read about her wounds and even more to read how wounded her spirit was. She flinched, startled at loud noises, couldn’t trust people and did all the things victims of trauma do. I thought Robyn Carr treated the subject really well. Paige was realistic. She didn’t go from traumatized to recovered overnight and she certainly didn’t bounce back into romance after being in an abusive relationship.

I loved that Preacher was her hero. He’s as gentle with her as he’s big in life and I knew she was in good hands. The one who didn’t seem to think so was Preacher. He was terrified of hurting her and spent a lot of the story coming to grips with his attraction to Paige. Since this gave her time to grow to trust and appreciate the town, I thought it was just right.

There were old characters here and new stories for them that didn’t distract from the main love story. Robyn Carr created a wonderful place with Virgin River and I loved the happy ending she gave Preacher. I really thought he and Paige were a match made in heaven.

Shelter Mountain is a great read. At 395 pages it’s thick enough to be interesting and for me to know I was going to spend some quality time with those characters. It’s also a good stand alone. Keeping the books in order is not a necessity as the backstories are gently woven into this one. I would recommend it to contemporary readers of romance and those who are looking for a good summer read.

(credit: robyncarr.com)

(credit: robyncarr.com)

Note: click on book to go to site.