Genre: Family & Relationships

Review: Back to Us by Christi Barth

Posted December 15, 2015 by Holly in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: Back to Us by Christi BarthReviewer: Holly
Back to Us by Christ Barth
Series: Shore Secrets #3
Published by Carina Press
Publication Date: July 13, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary Romance, Family & Relationships, Fiction, Friendship, Love & Romance
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Ward Cantrell always went for the long shot. But that recklessness cost him his college scholarship and his chance to play pro ball, and—worst of all—it ended his relationship with the girl next door. Neither the town nor the girl has ever forgiven him. Now he's taking one last long shot by opening a boutique distillery on the family farm he inherited.
Piper Morrissey spent high school in Ward's shadow, but she's come into her own in the years since. Maintaining her spotless image, and that of her family's winery, is priority number one. Nobody knows that she still yearns for her golden-boy ex. Or at least they didn't—until Ward agrees to sell Piper the land she needs to start her precious port line. The caveat? She'll need to date him for one month.

Ward hopes a month is all it'll take to convince his former sweetheart that while he's changed, his love for her hasn't. But when the chance arises to thumb his nose at the town that turned its back on him, he can't afford not to reject Piper's offer. Will that make her reject him and his love—for good?

I really love friends-to-lovers and reunited lovers, so this was a win/win since it features both. Piper is a fiery redhead whose parents conditioned her early on to care a whole lot what other people think. Keeping up appearances is really important to her. So is doing a good job at the family winery and carrying on her grandfather’s legacy by creating the Port he always wanted. Her parents want nothing to do with the project, however, and as a result none of the landowners in the area will consider selling or leasing her land for it, since her parents are powerful in the area and no one wants to get on their bad side. Except the one man she wants to avoid at all costs.  Her heart still stutter-steps every time he’s near. She doesn’t need a month of dating to make it worse. On the other hand, there’s a lot of history between them, and if she still isn’t over him, maybe it’s time to explore what might still be between them. If she can get past his betrayal..and her parent’s reaction to him…and the way the town will react to her associating with him.

Ward knows he let the town down when he lost his scholarship and the chance to play professional ball due to an injury he brought on himself, but he wanted nothing more than to go home. When his father passed and left him the family farm – and a giant mountain of debt – he decided to make his dreams a reality and open his own distillery. The business is doing well – though he’d like to expand and can’t – but he still feels unsettled in his life, because Piper is missing from it. Sure, they’re kind of friends, but he wants it all with her – he always has. He was a pretty stand-up guy who did his best to do the right thing. He made some mistakes – like keeping things from Piper – but I understood why he made them.

I have to be honest, Piper drove me crazy for most of the book. For an adult woman of almost 3o, she really let other people dictate her life. Her concern over what everyone thought was silly and immature, and the way she jumped to conclusions about Ward and went off on him based on her assumptions was frustrating. Ward wasn’t perfect, but his regard for her came across clearly. He admired and respected, as well as loved, her. I didn’t get the sense she felt the same; not by her actions.  Oddly enough, I really liked her. She was funny and warm and had a great sense of family. I just didn’t necessarily love the way she acted toward Ward. I did think she redeemed herself in the end, though. She realized she was repeating the same mistakes over and over and corrected them.

There were a lot of loose ends that weren’t tied up. For example, Ward mentions Spencer quite a bit. He was his mentor and the man who acted as a father to him once he went to college. Yet Ward never visits him. Piper questions him about it and he brushes it aside, then it’s never revisited. I would have liked to know why he doesn’t visit and what their relationship is like now.

That aside, I really fell into the story. I loved the friendships the characters had with each other. There were strong family bonds there, even though they weren’t blood related. I also really liked the winery backdrop.

This is the first book in the series I’ve read, but I plan to go back and pick up the others very soon.

3.75 out of 5


Review: Unraveled by Jen Frederick

Posted February 4, 2014 by Holly in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: Unraveled by Jen FrederickReviewer: Holly
Unraveled by Jen Frederick
Series: Woodlands #3
Also in this series: Undeclared, Unspoken, Unraveled, Unrequited
Published by Jen Frederick
Publication Date: January 20th 2014
Genres: Fiction, Romance, General, Contemporary, Coming of Age, Family & Relationships, Love & Romance
Pages: 280
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From the USA Today Bestselling Author Jen Frederick comes another sexy romance in the Woodlands series.

Twenty-five-year-old Sgt. Gray Phillips is at a crossroads in his life: stay in the Marine Corps or get out and learn to be a civilian? He’s got forty-five days of leave to make up his mind but the people in his life aren’t making the decision any easier. His dad wants him to get out; his grandfather wants him to stay in. And his growing feelings for Sam Anderson are wreaking havoc with his heart…and his mind. He believes relationships get ruined when a Marine goes on deployment. So now he’s got an even harder decision to make: take a chance on Sam or leave love behind and give his all to the Marines.
Twenty-two year old Samantha Anderson lost her husband to an IED in Afghanistan just two months after their vows. Two years later, Sam is full of regrets—that she didn’t move with her husband to Alaska; that she allowed her friends to drift away; that she hasn’t taken many chances in life. Now, she’s met Gray and taking a risk on this Marine could be her one opportunity to feel alive and in love again. But how can she risk her heart on another military man who could share the same tragic fate as her husband? 

Gray Phillips is at a crossroads in his career with the Marines. It’s time to either re-up or get out and he isn’t sure which way to go.  His father is encouraging him to get out and get a degree, but his grandfather is pushing him to stay in (both are career Marines). His father finagles 45 days leave for him and he decides to spend it with two of his buddies that are already out, Noah and Bo.

Gray isn’t interested in any kind of relationship. Since his girlfriend of 4 years cheated on him while deployed he’s all about casual – but safe – sex. He doesn’t really plan to hookup while he’s on leave but he feels an instant connection to bartender Sam Anderson and ends up basically dry humping her in the hallway at the bar the first time they meet. He’s interested in finding a private place to take things further until he notices her wedding ring. Disgusted, Gray gives her a piece of mind and storms off.

Sam Anderson is a war widow. Her childhood best friend and husband of two months, Will, was killed in Afghanistan. For 2 years, as she’s been mourning him, she’s been nothing but Will’s Widow. She’s trapped in the role of his dead wife by her grief and the expectations of his family, their mutual friends and, in fact, the whole town.

Until Grayson Phillips backs her against a wall and brings her to orgasm in no time flat, she’s been completely numb to life. Now Sam is slowly waking up and realizing her life didn’t end when Will’s did. And she wants Gray to be the one who shows her what she’s been missing. Who better for a rebound than a temporary Marine?

As things heat up between the sheets, Sam feels her heart beginning to warm as well. Can her rebound turn into something long lasting? Will Gray let her close enough to find out?

I come from a family of military members. My husband is a former Marine, as are several members of my extended family and I have a lot of friends still in the Corps. We have National Guard, Army and Air Force connections as well. As a result, I really connected with the story.

Gray’s confusion over whether to stay in the Corps or get out is a familiar one. I felt Frederick did an excellent job of showcasing his internal debate without bogging the story down. His new promotion and his concerns about the responsibilities it comes with made him a more likable character. His was silly and kind of immature at times, but that wasn’t all there was to him. His need to protect those under him balanced his need to live life.

I also felt Sam’s struggle to move on from her grief was realistic. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut when everyone expects you to be in it. That Gray woke her up made perfect sense because he was someone new – someone who didn’t know her as Will’s Widow. She’s been in a holding pattern since her husband died – she quit school and kind of withdrew from life. It was good to see her coming back to life.

“Mom says I’m an old soul.” No, Bitsy, I thought, you’re so bright, shiny and new my heart aches at your beauty. I wished I still had that look. Instead, I felt dull and used and, after last night, rejected.

Some parts of the story were problematic. Specifically Sam’s behavior. Her thoughts and actions were contradictory at times. I didn’t doubt that she loved her husband, but I didn’t necessarily feel the connection she felt to him. We were told the connection existed rather than getting to experience it ourselves.

She was really wishy-washy in her thoughts and feelings, too. Gray humiliated her and upset her, but still she was stuck on the idea of being with him. I understand that, since he was the first person she felt anything for since her husband’s death, it might be hard for her to separate her emotions. But I would think she’d shy away from him, not seek his company. Especially since he humiliated her on more than one occasion.

I did love her loyalty and her willingness to put herself out there. It isn’t easy to give of yourself when the possibility of rejection is so huge, or when the risks of it being short term are so high. She, better than anyone, knows a relationship with a military man is a bad bet, but she didn’t let that stop her from opening her heart or embracing her feelings.

I loved the interactions between Gray and his Marines, both past and present. There were several times I laughed out loud at their antics. Like when Gray’s ex spreads it around that he’s gay.

Ruiz looked upset and near bursting with something to say.
“What is it, Ruiz?”
“Why not me instead of Hamilton? Don’t you think I’m attractive? Fun to be with?”
We both stared open mouthed at Ruiz. Hamilton recovered first. “Dude, what?”
Ruiz looked offended. “Just wondering why Hamilton?”
“Oh Jesus H., Ruiz really?” I ran my hand over my recently shorn head.
“Yeah, I mean he’s not better looking than me.”
“That’s not what your mom said last night, Ruiz,” Hamilton shot back, offended that Ruiz thought that he was better looking.

Anyone who has spent time with Marines (or members of any branch of the military for that matter) would recognize the behavior as authentic. As a matter of fact, I read portions of it to my husband and he said “so chick has spent some time with Marines then?”.

Though the subject matter was dark, there was humor in the novel, too, even outside of Gray and his friends. He has a somewhat bawdy sense of humor, and that made for some hilarious commentary.

“I’m sorry,” I told my dick. “But hang in there, someday we’re raw dogging her until we both can’t see straight.”
“Are you talking to your penis?” Sam called from the bed. She didn’t sound near breathless enough. I hurried back and flopped down beside her, my erection hitting her on the hip.
“Yup, I’m consoling it and telling it to stay inside the condom.”

The beginning moved slow, but as the story progressed I found myself drawn in. Despite some small annoyances, this was an emotionally compelling book. The ending really sealed the deal for me and made those small frustrations worth the read.

4 out of 5

This book is self-published. You can buy it here or here in e-format.


Review: Montana Dawn by Caroline Fyffe

Posted August 26, 2010 by Holly in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: Montana Dawn by Caroline FyffeReviewer: Holly
Montana Dawn by Caroline Fyffe
Series: McCutcheon Family #1, Home in the Heartland #1
Published by Caroline Fyffe
Publication Date: September 30th 2011
Genres: Fiction, Romance, Western, Historical, General, Westerns, Family & Relationships, Love & Romance
Pages: 295
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MONTANA DAWN - The McCutcheon Family Series, Book 1
2011 VCRW Laurel Wreath Winner, 2010 Maggie Finalist, 2010 Gayle Wilson Finalist , RWA Golden Heart Finalist (Western Historical Romance)
Montana Territory, 1883
When Luke McCutcheon finds Faith Brown about to give birth in her rickety wagon, his first instincts are to ride for help. Instead, he stays and delivers a beautiful baby girl. Unable to leave the pretty young widow and her little son and newborn unprotected in the Montana wilderness, he brings them along on his family's cattle drive, to the absolute delight of the other friendly cowboys.
Luke, third son of Montana's wealthy McCutcheon family, is different from his brothers. As the offspring of a Cheyenne warrior, he carries a chip on his shoulder for all to see. His flashing eyes and handsome face make Faith feel she's stepped into some long-ago tale where men cherish their women--and keep them safe. If only she could trust him! Faith is on the run, and although she's pampered and protected by Luke and his family, she just can't risk the consequences of sharing the details of her past--one that's hunting to take her back to the nightmare she's just escaped. Happy-ever-afters are for fairytales, she reminds herself sternly as her heart feels the warm pull of his. Still, she can't help but dream of a loving family, a home to call her own, a beautiful and bright...Montana Dawn
READ MORE ABOUT THIS GREAT AMERICAN WESTERN HISTORICAL ROMANCE FAMILY IN ORDER: Montana Dawn  Texas Twilight  Mail-Order Brides of the West: Evie  Mail-Order Brides of the West: Heather  Moon Over Montana Mail-Order Brides of the West: Kathryn

Montana Snowfall 
Watch for more McCutcheon Family Novels to come...

Western historical romance, Western historical romance books, western romance, western romance books, historical romance, Pioneer fiction, western fiction, historical western romance books, romance series, series, sweet western romance, frontier romance, novels, fiction, bestsellers, western novels, 

I’m not a huge fan of Westerns. I know Wendy and Sybil adore them, but the time period just isn’t one I care for. That isn’t to say I don’t love Cowboys, because hello…but the Old West has never been my cup-a. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the occasional story, however. Montana Dawn was a sweet novel and I fell right into it.

Luke McCutcheon is surprised when he finds a broken down wagon while he’s out on a cattle drive in the middle of a terrible storm. He’s even more surprised when he finds a young woman inside, about to give birth, with no one to help but a 9 year old. Though he has no experience with childbirth, he knows he has to help her. The experience forms a bond between them, one Luke wants to explore more. But Faith is hiding something from him, and he’s done with lies and deceit.

Faith is a widow and she’s running from her husband’s family. Since his death, they want her to marry her brother-in-law so they can gain ownership to her family farm, which her father willed to her when he died. If her husband was a cruel man, his brother and father are the devil incarnate. Terrified over what might happen to her children, she runs, but she knows they won’t give up until they find her and drag her back home. Which is why she can’t allow Luke close. He’s kind and considerate, and everything she ever hoped to find in a man, but it’s too risky to bring him into her life.

Luke has hangups about his heritage, because he’s a half-breed. His mother was abducted by Indians and he was the result of her being captured. He’s always felt like an outsider and stands apart from his family because of it. But that seems to be his only flaw. He’s kind and considerate, strong and protective. I really loved watching him come to care for Faith. I understood his reasons for feeling separated from the rest of his family. Especially considering how half-breeds were looked upon then. I also understood his reasons for being suspicious of Faith, and wanting her to be honest with him about her past.

In the beginning, Faith was a strong woman who was fighting for her life and those of her children. I really respected her need for independence, but as the novel progressed I felt she took it too far. With her husband’s family hot on her trail, she knows she can’t afford to stay in one place too long. Even though I understood why she felt that way, it was hard not to become frustrated by the way she constantly pushed Luke away. She would lean on him, then clam up and push him away. The back-and-forthing got old.

I also didn’t understand why Luke kept letting her get away with telling lies. He’d catch her in them, but then would back off as soon as she started getting angry at him for pushing. I think their issues could have been cleared up sooner if he’d pushed a little harder. The good news is that Luke figured out what was shadowing her on his own, and was able to help her move past it.

I really adored Luke’s family. They were a tight, close-knit group who obviously cared for one another. It was good to see such a strong family written in such a positive way.

Although I had some problems with both Luke and Faith, I still truly enjoyed this novel. It was a sweet romance, filled with strong characters and true love.

3.75 out of 5

The series:

Montana Dawn
Where the Wind Blows

Where the Wind BlowsMontana Dawn (Home in the Heartland)

This book is available from Leisure Books. You can buy it here or here in e-format.