Review: Until there was you

Kristan Higgins is a new-to-me author. Don’t ask me how it is that I have missed her all these years. I have no idea. I must have been living under a rock. I was at the used book store and someone recommended her to me and I picked up a book of hers because (this is terrible!) I liked the dog on the cover.

Still, once discovered, she won’t stay away from my radar for long. Not after I read this book by her, Until there was you. It was absolutely awesome.

The plot is nothing that hasn’t been seen before, but it was still delicious enough to pull me in. It’s the story of Posey Osterhagen, who owns her own salvaging company (salvaging things, though she’d like to salvage and reno a victorian house), has an adorable Great Dane and a quirky family. The hottest guy in the school broke her heart back in high school and Posey moved on…but he’s back in town.

So Posey is absolutely awesome. She’s kind, supportive of her hilarious friends, yet manages to put some boundaries when said friends sometimes take advantage. She also gives back as good as she gets in the conversation sparring department and that won her a ton of stars in my book.

Liam is our guy, the same one who was mean to Posey back in high school. But he’s not the typical cool, snob. Liam has his own quirks that aren’t as dark and scary as some of the alpha heroes I’ve read in other books. Liam’s wife died recently and trying to cop, along with raising his daughter, have given him not only a bit of stress but some OCD. Now OCD is nothing to laugh about…but with Liam, it’s really almost funny.

That’s the thing that brought Kristan Higgins’ book from good to super, the humour. Her characters are hilarious. Let me give you a sample.

Posey is described in the book as stick-like. She didn’t have too many curves. And she’s often looked over by men for other who are more…well, read and see.

“…the woman next to him, a middle-aged woman whose bosom could shelter a family of four and their Bernese mountain dog.”

The humour in the book doesn’t lag and doesn’t belittle the struggle between the hero and heroine either. I cried with this book and then rejoiced at the ending.

And yes, the Great Dane, Shilo was awesome and silly and all the things big dogs are. I loved reading about him.

You might have read Kristan Higgins and wonder what on earth took me this long but if you haven’t, learn from my mistake. She’s really, really good. Good enough that I’m heading back to the used book store to snag a couple more books by her and I’m adding her to my authors-to-watch list.



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Review: The Liar

I love Nora Roberts. She’s truly the master of romance. She’s on my automatic-buy list for good reason and she never disappoints. Case in point, The Liar.

It’s the story of Shelby who’s husband is just about the worst sort of person you could know. He lies to her (ahem, title!) and sucks her into a huge debt. Shelby stays oblivious to this because Richard (the slug of a man) belittles her into not asking financial questions by calling her names and basically emotionally abusing her.

Shelby finds out the truth when Richard dies in an accident and comes to face one surprise after another. He leaves her in crippling debt–and I mean millions of it–with a little girl to take care of and not a single support system in place. Turns out, he wasn’t rich, he wasn’t loyal to her and he wasn’t even called Richard. Shelby valiantly fights off the debt by selling most of their things, including engagement ring that wasn’t real, and the house they lived in. Then heads back to her home to continue dealing with the debt by getting a job but doing it while surrounded by family.

It’s when she returns home that the story really takes off. She’s in a deliciously tiny town full of great characters that are both wacky and hilarious. Her family is awesome, just the sort I’d like to have if I was in her shoes, and her daughter is cute as a button.

It’s also here that Nora shows her true brilliance. One of the most difficult parts of a book that includes a move is the saggy middle. Nora keeps the story rolling with Richard’s past resurfacing its ugly head and Shelby having to deal with one surprise after another.

Another truly difficult challenge was the hero. Griffin is a wonderful hero, patient, caring and funny. But a hero like that runs the risk of becoming too nice and entering the brother-affection area. Under any other author, I could see Griffin and Shelby quickly losing chemistry. He’s so nice, she’s so nice…it would be just plain boring. But here, they keep that spark and I credit Nora for that.

And finally, those cute village people and Shelby’s daughter are in the story but they don’t take over the story–something that is another dangerous pitfall for some books. They leave the centre stage clearly to Shelby by carefully constructed phrases that move the story along. Nora Roberts is a pro. She does it so well, it looks effortlessly. Just like it should.

The Liar is a contemporary romantic story that’s just simply delicious. Absolutely a great summer read, but also something to enjoy in the fall, or the winter months or reread for those blah February days. I know I’ll go back to it again to revisit those great powerful scenes and fabulous characters. I’d recommend it to anyone interested in romance and certainly to any Nora Roberts fan. What a great read.



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Review: The Last Boyfriend

Though this book is the second in the series, it can certainly be read as a stand alone. I had to read it in order, though to give the books the full effect and read them as they were intended but don’t let that stop you if you have this one in hand. It’s excellent.

The Last Boyfriend is the story of Owen and Avery, two of my favourites. Owen is the meticulously organized man who runs the business side of the construction build with his brothers. Avery is inspirational, spur of the moment and, like all of Nora’s heroines, hard working and determined. She runs her own restaurant at the same town.

Owen is realistic and respectful. He’s known and been friends with Avery for a long time. He’s the guy she can lean on when the restaurant is swamped to put on an apron and lend a helping hand.

The move from friend to boyfriend is always tricky. There has to be chemistry along with care and dependability and sometimes, with old friends, things become just boring. Not so with Owen and Avery. They are wonderfully written, realistic and still create a beautiful love story that kept me glued to the book.

I love that the book lingered and showed all the parts of their lives, from friends to the relationships with their mom to get togethers with brothers. It made me feel as though I was enjoying a slice of their lives, not just getting a short, abbreviated route to a romantic end. Nora Roberts knows when to linger and when to move on. Her timing is exquisite.

There’s always a dangerous part in a book and that’s the saggy middle. The same can be said of middle books but this one shines brightly among the three. If you’re a fan of contemporary romance, don’t miss this one. It’s a gem.



Review: Walk Through Fire

Walk Through Fire is the latest Chaos novel by Kristen Ashley. It was one I saw while buying groceries and I thought: ‘I’ll just take a quick read…’. Well, one chapter and I was done. Kristen Ashley is like that. I just can’t read one part. I’m hooked.

Please understand, I was shopping with my hubby at the end of a very long day. We were both tired, hungry and crabby. I didn’t have time to stop and read. I had things to do at home–namely his lovely mother was coming–and not a lot of time to do everything in.

I managed to read one tiny chapter while he put the groceries on the conveyor belt. That was all it took. I bought the book and took it home.

Millie Cross made a mistake a long time ago. A huge one and Logan ‘High’ paid for it. Now, she’s run-in with the old Chaos gang and she’s the most hated woman in the planet for them. They treat her like dirt–Logan included–and she takes it, knowing she hurt him. She hurts and tries to get by. It’s absolutely delicious angst.

Still, how on earth was Kristen going to reconcile these two?

Well, I’m not one to spoil things, so I’ll just settle for telling you that they do reconcile, it’s romance after all, but it’s a credible reconciliation and that was what made me a believer. Millie and Logan don’t just go from hurt to love overnight. Things are worked out and along the way there are misunderstandings and mistakes that are both adorable and believable.

We also find the reason why Millie did what she did. And I won’t reveal it here except to say it was both credible and understandable. Which made that angst all the sweeter because she was an undeserving victim of their hatred.

Like all of Kristen Ashley’s books, this one is a great, long read and that wasn’t a disappointment for yours truly. I love getting into her books because she’s a reliable author, who delivers a great story with solid characters and spicy romance. But a great aspect of her books is the length. There’s nothing better than knowing I’ve got a nice, thick book to read. Heavenly.

This is one I’d recommend for any reader of contemporary romance or those who are into edgy, urban romance. It’s one in the Chaos series but can easily be read alone and it’s certainly a great intro to Kristen Ashley. I would highly recommend it.



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Review: Only a kiss

I actually took a while to pick up Only a Kiss. I had just finished another heavy round of work at my DayJob and it drained any of my free time. By the time I got home, I was usually too exhausted to do more than reconnect with my hubby, pet the dogs and crash. So the lovely book sat, untouched and unloved on my desk and I started to wonder if it was worth the read. Was Mary Balogh as good as I remembered or did I just become biased to her writing?

She’s not good. She’s unbelievable. Mary Balogh is absolute gold.

Only a Kiss is an incredible read. It’s part of the Survivors’ Club series but definitely stands alone by itself. It tells the story of Imogen, a widow who witnessed the death of her husband and still carries the scars of that war. She’s hiding, with a couple of friends at Hardford Hall and that’s where our hero finds her.

He’s Percival Hayes, Earl of Hardford and they are at each other’s throats from the get go. His first words to her are, “And who the devil might you be?” since the Hall is his home and he hadn’t expected her to be there. Imogen, though gives back as good as he does and we’re off to a feisty romance.

It’s a credit to Mary Balogh that she can credibly move the characters from dislike to love within the story and do so organically, without my carefully sharpened cynical antennae twitching. But, more than that, the love story was so real that I knew these two had to be together. They were destined for each other, like mint and chocolate.

One other thing I must mention is the inimitable humour in the book. Very British and subtle, it still made me chuckle out loud and turn the pages eagerly. The two ladies that live with Imogen are completely adorable characters who are just a little…off. They collect an assortment of rescued animals that cause the Earl to raise an eyebrow more than once and make the reader laugh at their antics. It’s funny without being ridiculous or forced and, not only does it do wonders for the story, the humour makes the serious parts all that more striking.

This one is an absolute keeper, but most of Mary Balogh’s books are. If you’re a lover of historical romance, don’t miss this one. It’s one of those gems you’ll love like a child and place in a cherished place on your book shelf. I know I have. What a wonderful book.



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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)

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Review: Worth Any Price

I adored Lisa Kleypas’ contemporary books but I was doubtful about her historical ones. I’m very picky about historical romance. The dialogue has to be authentic, the characters true to the times and the plot must be captivating. I picked up Worth Any Price with a heavy dose of skepticism.

Nick Gentry is a man who’s seen the darkest part of society and lived to thrive in it. He’s a Bow Street runner, a sort of hit man who does the undoable for those who can afford it. His assignment is the capture of a Miss Charlotte Howard. Apparently, she has run away from her husband-to-be and is hiding from the man.

They meet under false pretences, but it’s soon apparent to Nick that Charlotte is not a wilful woman but a desperate one who is trying to avoid a fate worse than death at the hands of a very nasty man. In a short time, Nick goes from trying to capture her to offering her his help. The solution he proposes is marriage. To him.

I love stories about marriage of necessity. It gives the couple time to discover each other’s faults and gifts and, while they fall in love with each other, I end up falling in love with them both. Usually, they’re fantastic love stories and this one was no exception. The true journey of the characters starts when they marry and start to support and challenge each other.

Charlotte has to face her enemy and set him straight once and for all–something pretty intimidating for a woman of the time, since men held all the power back then. Nick has to accept his heredity and position in life–something he had been avoiding his entire life.

So was I impressed by Lisa Kleypas? Absolutely. Enough that I’m heading back to the used book store to find other historicals by her and enough that I’m encouraging you, my gentle reader, to give her a try. She has a way with a story that’s captivating and, if you’re a fan of historical romance, she does that beautiful period of time the justice it deserves.



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Review: Archangel’s Enigma

I know I say I love a lot of authors…but Nalini Singh is in a class by itself. She’s absolutely in my automatic-buy and, if I had any doubts of that status, her latest book Archangel’s Enigma would have certainly put her there. Reading one of her books is never enough and I often have to go back and reread the entire series to get some sort of handle on my addiction to her writing. She’s that good.

This book is part of her Guild Hunter Series but don’t let the fact that it’s not the first in the series deter you. Each one is contained and you can read them alone. I often go back and forth reading one and then randomly picking another to read. Each one is different with a different hero and heroine and each one has its own particular magic.

Archangel’s Enigma is Naasir’s story. He’s one of Raphael’s Seven, a dedicated group of warriors that stand by his side. Each man has his own history, characteristics and unique attributes. The only thing they have in common is that they’re simply fascinating. Naasir is no exception. He’s feral and loyal to the Archangel of New York, so when Raphael gives him a task, he’s determined to get it done.

His job is to find another archangel that’s hiding in Sleep. To help him, Naasir takes Andromeda along, an angel who’s also a scholar and our heroine. They set off together, challenging each other to a fight and starting to get to know each other, when Andromeda is kidnapped.

It’s a go, go story. Naasir and Andromeda don’t stay put for very long. They face terrifying, difficult challenges not the least of which is finding a way to stay with each other after their job is done. The story of how it all works out is nothing short of wonderful and beautiful.

We also get snippets from other characters but not enough to deter from the main story or to throw anyone off who is just starting the series. And certainly, it does a wonderful job of getting me excited for the next book in the series. I simply can’t wait.

I know paranormal isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but this writer is one to consider. She not only managed to stand out enough all the way from New Zealand that an agent took notice, she’s also on the New York Times Bestselling list again and again. If you’re interested in finding out more, here’s her website and the cover of the book.




Review: Heroes Are My Weakness

I first picked up Heroes Are My Weakness at the book store months ago. I was able to read only one chapter, hungrily and quickly, before I had to leave. Like all great books, the story haunted me until I finally bought it. Susan Elizabeth Phillips is absolutely amazing and certainly one of my automatic-buys, so I knew I was going to love this book. I just wasn’t prepared for how the story developed. This one is a little different for her.

Susan Elizabeth Phillips has incredible dialogue. I mean, the characters have lines that leave me staring aghast at the page unable to think how someone thought of that retort. It never grows dull, it never becomes repetitive or whiny. It’s fast, gripping, hilarious and stunning. She can also wind a story and make turns that leave me shaking my head wondering how she did that. And, finally, she has amazing characters. Not just fully fleshed out but with really interesting back stories that I just love to discover.

This book has all of that…but it’s different. Really different.

Heroes Are My Weakness is the story of Annie and Theo. She’s on a remote island to try and keep a cottage as a source of funds. He’s a reclusive author with a very dark past. They both share a common history that is slowly revealed in the book. They also fall in love.

I keep saying that this one is different but how? Well, usually, with Susan Elizabeth Phillips, you get great humour, great dialogue and a fantastic love story. This one had all of that…and a mystery. It was a bit like reading Sandra Brown. I would come to the end of one chapter to find out something that made me gasp and turn, in desperation to the next chapter. I wasn’t ready for that with S.E.P. There was a villain and there was danger and people almost died…mostly myself with anxiety. I don’t do well with thrillers or fear. I have two huge dogs for a reason, people.

I’m not complaining. I was delighted with the book, loved it and couldn’t put it down. My hubby made dinner, we had company and all I did was read. Terrible and really rude–I know!–but if you pick up this book, you’ll understand. I couldn’t rest until I knew what was going to happen. It was one of those.

I particularly loved how the back story is revealed so slowly, organically, weaved carefully into the story so that the relevant pieces appear just when they’re pertinent and interesting to the reader. I never once resented that the book went into the past. I wanted to know what had happened because it had to do with the present in the story.

And I truly liked the characters. To me, they seemed both complete and perfectly flawed. They weren’t mouses who suddenly become lions, they kept their personality. Still they managed to step outside their comfort zones and grow into better people. The love story was completely believable and plausible.

I could really ramble on because there are facets of this book that are truly superior. The writing is absolutely fantastic and the humour made me laugh out loud. But this review is already ridiculously long. So, let me finish with with a recommendation. I’d recommend this for both contemporary fans and thriller fans. If you like Sandra Brown, or Nora Roberts this one is for you. Enjoy and let me know what you think! (But be brief, will you? No one likes some one who rambles on). 😀



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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.



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