Being required to stay home with my troops has reinforced how much I need alone time for everyone’s safety. To say some days we’re a little edgy is an understatement. I’m trying to find balance between expectations and reality and still ensure we’re all getting the space and/or attention we need.
After work and chores and sometimes right in the middle, I’m making my way through my NetGalley titles. Hooray for books to keep us sane when the world is tipsy turvy. My latest read was Colleen Coble’s One Little Lie published March 3rd.
From the publisher:
“It started with one little lie. But Jane Hardy will do everything in her power to uncover the truth in this gripping new romantic suspense.”
Coble packed this novel full of intrigue, twists, and turns. More than once I questioned the tangle that must be her mind – and as she’s a talented mystery/suspense writer – I mean that as a compliment. There was so much to unravel in this novel and the pace just didn’t stop. It was gripping, emotional, and had me wondering until the very last page.
The romance element was a little lacklustre, but I think it has potential. As the story continues through a three-part series, I have hope that this aspect will develop throughout.
The characters and plot as a whole are well constructed as a suspense. with cults, law enforcement, murder, conspiracies, and a small coastal town, the romance takes a back seat to the overall quick moving insanity of the murder plot.
“I received a complimentary copy of this book courtesy of Thomas Nelson Fiction. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.”
While historical fiction and women’s fiction seem to be my regular go-to’s when it comes to genres I enjoy, every once in awhile I enjoy pulling out a heart-pounding, fast-paced thriller or suspense. I’m excited to say that Harlequin hooked me up and I’ve recently had the chance to read The Third to Die, the highly anticipated first book in Allison Brennan’s new series. This title hits shelves on February 4th. All the Buy Links and author information will be posted way down below if you’re interested in pre-ordering a copy for yourself – and if you’re a fan of this genre, you’ll want to pick up a copy.
From the Publisher:
New York Times bestselling author and gifted storyteller Allison Brennan’s new standalone thriller features a troubled female police detective and an ambitious FBI special agent who wind up at the center of a ticking-clock investigation into a diabolical serial killer.
Brennan’s novel will launch a book-a-year series featuring a fabulous cast of recurring characters. It’s the story of a troubled female police detective and an ambitious FBI special agent who wind up at the center of a ticking-clock investigation into a diabolical serial killer; and the bond they forge in this crucible sets the stage for the future books in the series.
Detective Kara Quinn is visiting her hometown of Liberty Lake, Washington, after being placed on administrative leave by the LAPD, when she comes upon the mutilated body of a young nurse during an early morning jog. The manner of death is clearly ritualistic; she calls it in. Meanwhile back in DC, special agent in charge Mattias Costa is meticulously staffing his newly-minted Mobile Response Team. One of his first recruits is the brilliant FBI forensic psychologist Catherine Jones. When word reaches Matt that the Washington state murder appears to be the work of the Triple Killer–it will be the first case for the MRT. Jones has done the only profile on this serial killer, but she is reluctant to join the unit, still shaken by the death of her sister a year ago under circumstances for which she holds herself responsible. But only she holds the key to understanding the killer’s obsessive pattern–three murder victims, three deep slashes a piece, each three days apart, each series beginning on a March 3rd–3/3, then a three-year hiatus before he strikes again.
This time they have a chance to stop him before he claims another victim strikes, but only if they can figure out who he is and where is is hiding.
About the Author:
Allison Brennan is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling and award-winning author of three dozen thrillers and numerous short stories. She was nominated for Best Paperback Original Thriller by International Thriller Writers, has had multiple nominations and two Daphne du Maurier Awards, and is a five-time RITA finalist for Best Romantic Suspense. Allison believes life is too short to be bored, so she had five kids. Allison and her family live in Arizona. Visit her at allisonbrennan.com
Ms. Brennan is an award winning author for a reason – simply put, she knows what she’s doing. This book was fast-paced and had my heart-pounding. Twists and turns will keep you on your toes in anticipation. She gets inside the mind of a psychopath so well, but also paints a picturesque view of the surrounding landscapes. Her heroes are brilliant, damaged, and likeable and the whole package will keep you engrossed until the very last page. The Third to Die is the very ideal of a page-turning, nail-biting, read-it-all-in-one-sitting-don’t-talk-to-me type of novel – suspenseful, intense, and entertaining!
For my more discriminating friends, I’ll leave you with this caution: reader discretion is advised for violence, mature situations, and strong language. This is not a tip-toe through the tulips, neat and tidy, no rough edges fiction. It’s dark and gritty as the plot is all about stopping the lowest dregs of humanity.
We are midway into December and it’s only 2 more weeks or so until Christmas. I think it’s safe to say that holiday reading and recommendations are in full swing – unless you’re like me and can curl up with a Christmas novel in the middle of July. Sun, rain, snow – I don’t care what the weather looks like outside or what the calendar says, there’s something delightful in the feel-good formula that most holiday-themed tales will deliver.
Harlequin is hosting a Holiday Blog Tour that began December 1st and I’m thrilled to be a part of it. They were kind enough to offer a number of titles to choose from and my selections were CHRISTMAS IN SILVER SPRINGS by Brenda Novak, A WEDDING IN DECEMBER by Sarah Morgan, COMING HOME FOR CHRISTMAS by RaeAnne Thayne. Read on for a quick synopsis of each title and my own thoughts post-binge.
Christmas In Silver Springs by Brenda Novak
Come home to Silver Springs for the holidays, where broken hearts learn to love again…together.
So much for forever. When Harper Devlin’s rock star husband ditches her on his way to the top, she takes her two daughters to her sister’s place in Silver Springs for the holidays, hoping family can heal her broken heart. But comfort comes in unexpected places when she crosses paths with local Tobias Richardson.
The moment Tobias spots Harper, he recognizes a sadness he knows all too well. After spending thirteen years in prison paying for his regretful past, Tobias is ready to make amends, and maybe helping Harper is the way to do it. But offering her a shoulder to cry on ignites a powerful attraction and a desire neither saw coming.
Fearing her reaction, Tobias doesn’t reveal his checkered past. He’s falling hard, and if Harper finds out, he’ll lose her for good, especially because her famous ex is now trying to win her back. Secrets have a way of coming out, but maybe this Christmas will bring Tobias the forgiveness—and the love—he deserves.
I liked the characters – even, ashamedly, the bad guy ex-husband who made so many mistakes. Separation and divorce are never easy, I would imagine, and everyone is going to handle it a little different. As in each of Novak’s novels, she did an excellent job with charisma, emotions, and character tension. Her stories also typically have a bit of steamy heat that you can read through or skip past if you desire. Overall, a 7 out of 10 mistletoes – it was quick and easy, but I didn’t quite find the Christmas “heart” I was hoping for, even though there was, of course, romance and growth all set at Christmas. It just didn’t leave me ready to decorate my tree. That being said, it was an overall enjoyable contemporary romance – Harlequin knows what works.
Publication Date: October 29, 2019 Publisher: MIRA BOOKS Available now from all major booksellers. Recommended for: sitting by a fire, tucked into a stocking, winter passenger commuting
A Wedding In December by Sarah Morgan
This funny, charming and heartwarming new Christmas novel is USA TODAY bestselling author Sarah Morgan at her festive best!
In the snowy perfection of Aspen, the White family gathers for youngest daughter Rosie’s whirlwind Christmas wedding. First to arrive are the bride’s parents, Maggie and Nick. Their daughter’s marriage is a milestone they are determined to celebrate wholeheartedly, but theyare hiding a huge secret of their own: they are on the brink of divorce. After living apart for the last six months, the last thing they need is to be trapped together in an irresistibly romantic winter wonderland. Rosie’s older sister, Katie, is also dreading the wedding. Worried that impulsive, sweet-hearted Rosie is making a mistake, Katie is determined to save her sister from herself! If only the irritatingly good-looking best man, Jordan, would stop interfering with her plans… Bride-to-be Rosie loves her fiancé but is having serious second thoughts. Except everyone has arrived—how can she tell them she’s not sure? As the big day gets closer, and emotions run even higher, this is one White family Christmas none of them will ever forget!
First, this novel had me laughing on multiple occasions. The lies we tell can get us into some seriously interesting situations and this family has some issues (don’t we all!) I also don’t mean that in a bad way – they all just wanted to protect each other so badly that things, frankly, often went badly. There was a lot to unwrap in this one as it wasn’t just a quick romance – it had some depth and layers to it. Gorgeous setting and great characters that I loved at times and wanted to throw into a snowbank at others. Some heat and lots of romance and so much poor communication. Overall, 8 out of 10 mistletoes – it had more of the heart I was looking for in a novel set over the holidays without being overly sweet like a gingerbread latte with too many pumps of syrup. Bonus points for the gorgeous cover design!
Publication Date: September 24, 2019 Publisher: HQN Books Available now from all major booksellers. Recommended for: a weekend snowed in, reading way past your bedtime, tucked into a gift bag with some cozy socks and fancy hot chocolate for the romance lover in your life
Coming Home for Christmas by RaeAnne Thayne
Hearts are lighter and wishes burn a little brighter at Christmas…
Elizabeth Hamilton has been lost. Trapped in a tangle of postpartum depression and grief after the death of her beloved parents, she couldn’t quite see the way back to her husband and their two beautiful kids…until a car accident stole away her memories and changed her life. And when she finally remembered the sound of little Cassie’s laugh, the baby powder smell of Bridger and the feel of her husband’s hand in hers, Elizabeth worried that they’d moved on without her. That she’d missed too much. That perhaps she wasn’t the right mother for her kids or wife for Luke, no matter how much she loved them.
But now, seven years later, Luke finds her in a nearby town and brings Elizabeth back home to the family she loves, just in time for Christmas. And being reunited with Luke and her children is better than anything Elizabeth could have imagined. As they all trim the tree and bake cookies,making new holiday memories, Elizabeth and Luke are drawn ever closer. Can the hurt of the past seven years be healed over the course of one Christmas season and bring the Hamiltons the gift of a new beginning?
Admittedly, this was my favourite of the three. It had ALL the heart, some mystery, romance, and the expected feel-goods you look for in a novel touted as a Christmas story. Is it mind-shattering, literary genius? No – but the talented Thayne serves up love, joy, hope, and cheer in a pretty little package that will make you sigh with glee as you get to the very last page. It touches on some heart-breaking real-life issues and I was thrilled with the way it all turned out in the end. New beginnings, indeed. 10 out of 10 mistletoes for this one. It just captured all the essence and magic of a cozy Christmas romance for me. This novel is part of the Haven Point Series but can definitely be read as a standalone – I have only read some of the previous titles and was still enthralled without feeling lost.
Publication Date: September 24, 2019 Publisher: HQN Books Available now from all major booksellers. Recommended for: reading in a bubble bath with no kids banging on the door, curling up on the sofa with a warm tea and cuddly blanket, wrapped under the tree for your romance-lover with her beverage of choice and box of her favourite chocolate (why can’t I find Guylian anywhere anymore?!?)
My thanks to my friends at Harlequin for the chance to dive into these charming holiday reads! My heart feels warm and fuzzy after these ones.
A tribute to family ties, Rowena Summer’s Taking Heart is being re-released this week by Agora Books. It was originally published in 2000. Set in the time between two world wars, it’s a bit of a coming of age story in that we see the Caldwell children on the brink of adulthood, dealing with very adult issues, set on the verge of WWII. It’s touted as “sweeping historical fiction that puts one family’s strength to the test through illness, war and heartbreak.”
From the publisher: The Caldwell family’s life is turned upside down when their father announces that the family business, Caldwell Supplies, has been bought out by Preston’s Emporium. With an ailing mother and a young brother to care for, Imogen and her sisters must find a way to save their childhood home and remain in Bristol.
But when a terrible tragedy tears the family apart, the Caldwell girls must forge their own paths in life. And with the second world war looming over England, their lives begin to change more drastically than they could have imagined. Through love and heartbreak, fear and loss, can the Caldwell girls make it out unscathed? Or will they be swept up in the chaos of the changing times?
My thoughts on this novel are positive. While it took a few chapters to appreciate the family and grow somewhat invested in their plight, by the final page I was eager to start the next title in the series. (Taking Heart is the first title in The Caldwell Girl Series.) I believe the author did a wonderful job of allowing her characters to grow, giving them depth. She included some despicability as well for balance. As it was historical fiction, it ticked that box for me as well and Ms. Summers gracefully projected the fears and at times, ignorance, that would have been felt by young girls in that day. Often while reading the book, I thought of my grandmother who would have been close in age to the eldest daughter – and would have gone through many of the same life experiences.
Rowena Summers is a pseudonym for British writer of romance novels, Jean Saunders. Ms. Saunders was a prolific writer – her list of collective works is impressive in a number of different genres! Rowena Summers was the pseudonym she chose for her historical romances.
Overall, I found Taking Heart to be an entertaining escape to another place and era – a good balance of family, romance, and drama. My thanks to Agora Books for sharing this title with me. One, it was lovely to pick up a real printed piece of literature again and two, it was a well-written piece of historical fiction, something this publisher does well! Watch for this title to hit shelves this Thursday!
Every once in a while, you dive into a book that really makes you think the author has a handle on their genre. My contact at Agora Books reached out to me and offered The House of Hardie by Anne Melville as a suggested read in response to some of my requests and reviews to their agency. She was spot on – I loved this book!
Two families from two classes. Four siblings with four dreams. Fate versus destiny... In this dramatic Victorian saga, can love and passion overcome power and ambition? Not a new question posed in fiction, but done very well in this case.
The House of Hardie was first published in 1987 and is the first in the Hardie Family series. Agora has re-published this title posthumously. Author Anne Melville, in fact a pseudonym for Margaret Edith Newman, born in 1926 in Middlesex.
Before writing, she worked a variety of jobs including teaching in Egypt, editing a children’s magazine in London, and advising the Citizen’s Advice Bureau in Twickenham. She published her first novel as Margaret Newman, a mystery novel entitled Murder to Music.
Newman continued publishing novels until her death in 1998, under a variety of pseudonyms and encompassing multiple genres. As Anne Melville, she focused on historical novels. Over the course of her career she published fifty-five novels.
As to the novel itself, it addresses the obstacles of romance between the merchant class and the Ton, the barriers set upon women with unrealistic expectations and limitations, it explores romance and adventure and the ties that bind us to family (and the bonds that are even greater.)
It was a well-written saga of a tale with an engaging plot and well-developed characters – especially the well-rounded, strong female leads. I mentioned in my Instagram post yesterday that it was “Historical fiction done right!”
My thanks to Agora Books for the complimentary copy via Netgalley. All opinions expressed are my own.
Published: May 2, 2019 (get it in store now!) Publisher: Agora Books
This week I took the opportunity to crack open my copy of Midnight at the Tuscany Hotel by James Markert. It’s published by Thomas Nelson and sounded fascinating when I requested it from NetGalley. However, I only gave it a 3-star rating on Goodreads. I waffled back and forth between 3 and 4 stars, but something about the book just didn’t synch with me.
Loaded with mythology, art, beauty, damaged souls, and so many memories, it was an incredibly descriptive work. Colourful, lyrical prose flowed beautifully – Markert has an aesthetic way with words. Differences in theology aside – there were a lot of reliance and parallels to ancient mythology which worked with the artistic references and theme of the novel – the pictures painted in my mind were vivid and from that aspect, I was more than satisfied.
The storyline, however, while magical left me feeling a little lost at the end. (and in the beginning, and in the middle….) Part of me wonders if this was intentional considering the subject of memory (and/or subsequently, memory loss) and the effect on the human soul. At times, it was a little dry and I wasn’t completely satisfied with the ending. Emotions were invoked, but as I set my tablet down when I finished the book I was figuratively scratching my head with a “huh.” It was a good book… but a strange book. It just didn’t hook me as an absolute favourite. One thing I loved, however, was the question of whether we should live our numbered days with fullness, or extend our days and live with less wholeness – is the return of memories lost worth it? My creative disposition appreciated the beauty of the arts so deeply woven throughout. The novel as a whole… enjoyed it? Yes; Liked it? Yes; Really liked it? Just not quite. 3.5 stars from me.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Publisher: Thomas Nelson; Publication Date: April 9, 2019