Tag: 5.0 Reviews

Retro-Review: Dream A Little Dream by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Posted March 7, 2017 by Holly in Reviews | 13 Comments

Retro-Review: Dream A Little Dream by Susan Elizabeth PhillipsReviewer: Holly
Dream a Little Dream by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Published by Harper Collins
Publication Date: October 13th 2009
Genres: Fiction, Romance, Contemporary
Pages: 400
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five-stars

A Desperate Young Mother
Rachel Stone's bad luck has taken a turn for the worse. With an empty wallet, a car's that's spilling smoke, and a five-year-old son to support, she's come home to a town that hates her. But this determined young widow with a scandalous past has learned how to be a fighter. And she'll do anything to keep her child safe—even take on. . .
A man With No Heart
Gabe Bonner wants to be left alone, especially by the beautiful outcast who's invaded his property. She has a ton of attitude, a talent for trouble, and a child who brings back bad memories. Yet Rachel's feisty spirit might just be heaven-sent to save a tough, stubborn man.
Dare To Dream
Welcome to Salvation, North Carolina—where a man who's forgotten what tenderness means meets a woman with nothing to lose. here two endearing lovers will set off on a funny, touching journey of the heart. . .to a place where dreams just might come true.

*****As part of our 10 year anniversary celebration, we’ll be re-posting old reviews that make us cringe, laugh or sigh all over again.

I meant to have this written as part of our Susan Elizabeth Phillips Author Spotlight last month, but I didn’t get around to writing it. Dream a Little Dream is one of my favorite SEP novels. It’s hands down my favorite of the Chicago Stars/Bonner Brothers series.

Gabe Bonner lost his wife and son in a tragic car accident and for the past two years he’s been in a state of deep mourning. He’s been coasting through life, numb and emotionless, waiting for the day when it all will end. But Rachel Stone changes all that the day she shows up at his drive-in; dirty, hungry and desperate to save herself and her son Edward. He should be repulsed by her, but he isn’t. He’s drawn to her in a way he hates. She cracks the icy ball that’s surrounding his heart.

Rachel Stone has returned to the last place on Earth she ever wanted to see again, Salvation, North Carolina. 5 years ago she and her husband G. Dwayne Snopes were the hope and pride of Salvation, a televangelist couple to rival even the most sincere and promising of them. But all that ended the night G. Dwayne disappeared with the life savings of the people of Salvation, bringing shame and scandal to the once prosperous town. Now she’s back, determined to find the stash Dwayne left behind, desperate to save the future of her much beloved son.

At times this novel is hard to read, especially in the beginning when Rachel and Gabe meet. They’re both desperate and broken, though for different reasons and with different ways of dealing with their pain. One of the most emotional things I’ve ever read is when Rachel begs Gabe for a job. The first few chapters of this book are hard to get through, but they showcase perfectly just how far both characters have fallen.

Eventually Rachel and Gabe form a tight bond, though both are reluctant to acknowledge it. The town shuns Rachel, and her house and car are vandalized. Gabe takes on the role of protector, though even he can’t understand why. Despite their change in feelings for one another, they both know they have no future together. Especially since Gabe can’t stand Edward, Rachel’s son.

I loved the strength Rachel showed. It wasn’t easy for her to continue on each day, especially in the beginning, but she did what needed to be done. I would have to say she’s probably one of my favorite SEP heroines. She’s practical and tough, with a smart mouth and a strong will to survive. What’s not to love?

My heart ached for Gabe. I wanted to wrap him in cotton and protect him from the world. I loved that Rachel was the only one who saw him for what he was, and was willing to push him in the direction he needed to go.

Even though this is a darker novel, there are moments of unexpected tenderness and humor. I loved that even though the town hated Rachel, none of them took it out on her son. Everyone, from the townsfolk to the Bonner brothers, was kind to Edward. Well, except for Gabe.

The secondary romance between Ethan Bonner and Kristy Brown, his church secretary, was sweet. It provided relief from the darker tone of the rest of the novel.

Dream a Little Dream is heartwrenching and emotionally compelling. I couldn’t put it down, even when I could barely see the pages through my tears.

5 out of 5

five-stars

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Retro-Review: Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie

Posted March 1, 2017 by Casee in Reviews | 9 Comments

Retro-Review: Bet Me by Jennifer CrusieReviewer: Casee
Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks
Publication Date: August 31st 2004
Genres: Romance, Contemporary
Pages: 391
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five-stars

Minerva Dobbs knows that happily-ever-after is a fairy tale, especially with a man who asked her to dinner to win a bet. Even if he is gorgeous and successful Calvin Morrisey. Cal knows commitment is impossible, especially with a woman as cranky as Min Dobbs. Even if she does wear great shoes and keeps him on his toes. When they say good-bye at the end of their evening, they cut their losses and agree never to see each other again.
But Fate has other plans, and it's not long before Min and Cal meet again. Soon, they're dealing with a jealous ex-boyfriend, Krispy Kreme donuts, a determined psychologist, chaos theory, a freakishly intelligent cat, Chicken Marsala, and more risky propositions than either of them ever dreamed of. Including the biggest gamble of all—true love.

******As part of our 10 year anniversary celebration, we’ll be re-posting old reviews that make us cringe, laugh or sigh all over again.

This wasn’t my first Crusie book. Years ago I read Charlie Something-or-Other. I didn’t really care for it. In fact, I had no idea why everyone was so crazy about this author. Yes, the book I read was an early Crusie novel. That’s why I wasn’t in any hurry to give her another try. Look at Linda Howard, Julie Garwood, Judith McNaught…all authors whose earlier works are more loved than their more recent books. That’s my excuse for waiting so long to read Bet Me. I guess I have to thank Holly b/c I would have most likely not tried to read it again if she wouldn’t have coerced pressured bullied suggested it in such a wonderful way. (Holly: Am I good like that, or what? It’s ok, you don’t have to bow down to my greatness..we know. We know. LOL)

That being said, I’m so glad that she persevered b/c I loved this book.

Min Dobbs decides to teach Cal Morrisey a lesson when she overhears him making a bet that he can get her into bed. Deciding that she will string him along for three weeks until her sister’s wedding, Min accepts his invitation for dinner. It only takes one dinner for Min to admit that she doesn’t have it in her to string someone like Cal along. At the end of the night, they part ways, both satisfied that they will never see the other again.

Fate definitely had a way of laughing in their faces. Again and again Min and Cal ran into each other. Yet each time they parted, that was it. They were never going to see each other again.

There is really no easy way to review this book other than to say if you haven’t read it, you’re missing out. Crusie has some of the best dialogue that I’ve ever read. The relationship between Min and Cal was far from an easy one. Though they both had admitted to themselves that the other is “the one”, they both had hangups that wouldn’t let them admit it out loud. Add in Min’s jealous ex-boyfriend and Cal’s rational ex-girlfriend and you have a book that you can’t put down.

I loved everything about this book from how it began, to the continuing conflict, to both Min and Cal’s parents, to the ending. Everything about it just hooked me from page 1.

5 out of 5.

five-stars

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Guest Review: A Crown of Bitter Oranges by Laura Florand

Posted February 1, 2017 by Jen in Reviews | 9 Comments

Guest Review: A Crown of Bitter Oranges by Laura FlorandReviewer: Jen
A Crown of Bitter Orange (La Vie en Roses, #3) by Laura Florand
Series: La Vie en Roses #3
Also in this series: A wish Upon Jasmine
Published by Laura Florand
Publication Date: January 24th 2017
Genres: Contemporary Romance
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five-stars

From international bestselling author Laura Florand:
Childhood friends. Tristan Rosier might have asked Malorie Monsard to marry him when he was five years old, but things had only gone downhill from there. She’d spent the rest of their lives ignoring him, abandoning him, and destroying his perfumes. Now she was back, to wreak who knew what havoc on his life.
Lifelong enemies. Tristan might choose to dismiss the generations-long enmity between their two families, but Malorie didn’t have that privilege. Like all the other privileges wealthy, gorgeous Tristan took for granted that she couldn’t. But if she was going to restore her family company to glory, she might just need his help.
Or the perfect match? They’d known each other all their lives. Could these childhood friends and lifelong enemies ever uncross their stars and find happily ever after?

I gobbled up the newest book in Laura Florand’s La Vie en Roses series as soon as I got my hands on it, and once again I’m left in a puddle of mushy, smiling, love-soaked goodness.

I have loved funny, kind-hearted Tristan Rosier from the start of this series. (Quick recap: The Rosiers have been growing flowers and manufacturing perfume in Grasse, France for centuries. The books are about the cousins in the family.) He is the perfumer in the family, a genius artist who can capture most any feeling, memory, or dream in a scent. While it’s never named, it appears he has something like ADHD. He’s learned to cope now, but it made his school years excruciating. One way his teachers tried to rein him in was to sit him next to Malorie Monsard. Malorie was quiet and studious and sitting next to her gave Tristan a tiny dose of calm he badly needed, but she left home after graduating and rarely returned since then. Malorie’s family was once part of the area’s perfume royalty just like the Rosiers, but after they were disgraced in WWII, they were outcasts. Malorie’s grandmother managed to keep the company hanging on by a thread, but now that she’s dead Malorie comes back to Grasse to figure out what to do with her legacy. Can she resurrect her family’s perfume house with Tristan’s help, and does she even want to?

As with all the books in this series, Florand makes the descriptions of the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings so incredibly vivid that you just get lost in their loveliness. Part of Malorie’s inheritance is her grandmother’s beloved bitter orange orchard, and the scents and sights of that space are Malorie’s home base, so to speak. She goes there when she needs comfort, and she lets no one in. (So of course, when she finally invites Tristan there it totally cracks open your heart.) This book drives home the point that our concept of home can be tied up in our sense memories, and that is especially true for these two families who make their living with their senses.

Tristan could so easily be a big jerk – he’s rich, brilliant, gorgeous, women falling all over themselves to get close to him – but instead he’s wonderfully adorable and big-hearted. He definitely does have some entitlement as Malorie repeatedly points out, but to me it was mostly a positive kind of entitlement that we’d all like to have. He comes from a family that loves and supports him unconditionally, and that gives him strength and a certain confidence that everything will be ok. He isn’t unwilling to accept his privilege; he just needs it pointed out sometimes. He is constantly described as a happy guy. At first I thought that must be a false front, but as the book went on I decided it’s more that he truly believes that happiness exists everywhere, and that’s a direct result of the security that came from his family. He does need to learn during the course of the book that his situation is unique and that his name has helped him, but you can tell he does still genuinely appreciate his family and the life he has.

Malorie, on the other hand, got little love or support from her family. Her father was a shallow, selfish narcissist who gambled away family treasures, tried to buy everyone’s affection with charm and presents, cheated on her mother relentlessly, and then got himself killed while Malorie was still fairly young. Now, her sisters and mother have scattered and don’t have much of a relationship. As if that wasn’t bad enough, her great-grandfather was a Nazi sympathizer who betrayed the local resistance (of which the Rosiers were members), and that got the Monsard family cast out from Grasse society. It’s always a little difficult for those of us in America with our comparatively short history (and even shorter memories) to imagine, but I can see where something like that would cast a very, very long shadow on a family and a town.

So, Malorie has more than a few chips on her shoulders, to say the least. She has some pretty severe trust issues, and when Tristan shows up acting charming and wanting to help her, she simply can’t understand his motivations. Her memories of her dad keep getting in the way of her present despite the fact that she knows intellectually Tristan is not the same, and those feelings of shame and worthlessness that were drilled into her from birth prevent her from fully letting anyone in. For his part, we can see that Tristan is head over heels for Malorie, and all the charm and flirting has always been one of his ways of showing her how he feels. They start the book with a ton of antagonism and bickering, which of course is really just hiding their insecurities and true feelings. As they spend more time together, Tristan is definitely in love with her, but he moves slowly so as not to scare her off. I loved the build up of the sexual tension. It’s kind of a slow circling that goes on longer than I expected, and by the time they finally get together the scene is so emotional and gorgeous that it had me melting.

At first I was going to say these two had a communication problem, but the more I thought about it, I realized it was really more like a comprehension problem. Malorie craves family, craves security, and craves self-reliance, because she didn’t have much of the first two and has had to rely exclusively on the last one her whole life. She appreciates but doesn’t really understand the way Tristan bears his soul to her. She dismisses it not because she wants to hurt Tristan but simply because she doesn’t realize what he’s giving her. Similarly, Tristan makes a serious misstep when he doesn’t tell Malorie about something she really should have known. While I wasn’t thrilled with his omission, I truly believed he did it because to him, security and a sense of family legacy was always a given, and he didn’t anticipate how important something that gave those comforts to Malorie might be. It was like they were simply speaking different languages, and I enjoyed seeing them suddenly “get it” and learn to give the kind of love the other needed.

In case you couldn’t tell, I loved this book. I loved everything about it and I cannot believe I have to wait to read the next one. (Ooh boy, based on the ending of A Crown of Bitter Oranges, shit is going down in that next book!) This is a book full of lovely imagery, vivid characters, and so much sweetness. Seriously, if you haven’t already, go spend 15 minutes Googling “grasse france” to ogle some painfully beautiful pictures, and then go read this book.

Grade: 5 out of 5

five-stars

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Guest Review: First Step Forward by Liora Blake

Posted January 17, 2017 by Tracy in Reviews | 3 Comments

Guest Review: First Step Forward by Liora BlakeReviewer: Tracy
First Step Forward by Liora Blake
Series: Grand Valley #1
Also in this series: First Step Forward
Published by Pocket Books
Publication Date: November 29th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
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five-stars

Pro-football player Cooper Lowry is off the field and into some trouble—in the form of a very alluring, very free-spirited apple orchard owner named Whitney Reed—in the first installment in Liora Blake’s all new Grand Valley series.

After eight seasons playing pro-football, Cooper Lowry knows all the right answers.

Is he stubborn, short-tempered, and impatient? Yes. Are jersey chasers more trouble than they’re worth? Absolutely. Has he ever imagined a life beyond the game? Nope.

Cooper has built an enviable career—the result of staying focused, working hard, and keeping his head on straight—even as his body takes the brunt. So when a hard hit during a Sunday home game leaves him in a dazed heap on the field, it’s nothing more than another day at the office. The only thing that’s different about this Sunday is a chance encounter with a certain fascinating, beautiful free-spirited woman. And some sternly-worded instructions from his coach to take a little time off and give his body the TLC it craves—before he does lasting damage.

Whitney Reed is a few months away from losing the organic fruit orchard she bought three years ago in the tiny town of Hotchkiss, Colorado. At the time, she was just looking for a place to get lost. Instead, she found a home, somewhere she could finally put down roots. Now foreclosure is knocking on her door—along with a grumpy, gorgeous football player who might be just what she never knew she needed.

Cooper Lowry is a professional football player who is a “veteran” on the team.  He’s been in the NFL for 8 years and while his body is in top shape he’s definitely not as young as he used to be.  At one game he gets tackled and ends up with a concussion.  He is in the drugstore attempting to buy a large bag of Epsom salt but is having difficulty moving his body because his head hurts so badly.  He is assisted by a hippie looking woman who is in old man flannel pajamas and socks – who’s absolutely beautiful.  He pays for both his and her items, as a thank you, and goes on his way.  The next day he runs into her and is even more enthralled with her.

Whitney Reed is a woman on a mission.  She’s driven to Denver to attempt to get a loan that will save her orchard.  She’s in arears and needs to get the money to save her farm before she has nothing left.  She runs into the man who she helped the night before and finds him even more gorgeous in the daylight than he was in the drugstore.  They talk and she offers him a jar of the apple butter she made and goes on her way.  She doesn’t expect him to show up not long afterward at her home. He’s trying to take it easy with his concussion but all she wants to do is jump him.

The pair are hot for each other from the time they meet.  The longer they spend together the closer they get but Whitney is worried about her orchard and Cooper is worried about his career when he gets hurt yet again.  While Cooper is thinking of a future with Whitney he finds that she’s not being completely honest with him and it eventually causes them each to doubt what they have.

This book.  It was so good!  I almost everything about it.  Was it perfect? No, but there was so much love, laughter, romance, and reality to truly be a great book.

Cooper and Whitney had such a fabulous chemistry between them right from the beginning that it grabbed me and wouldn’t let go.  I loved reading about them and their experiences; they were so damned cute together!  Cooper was a fabulous blend of cocky, stubborn, loving man to Whitney’s hippie, organic, tree hugging relaxed self.  Of course she was a bit stressed because of the whole orchard foreclosure issue but other than that she was pretty relaxed.  Despite the differences between the two got along really well and had a great spending time together.

The humor, the love and the wonderful writing by Liora Blake made this a five star read for me.  I recommend that you don’t miss this one.

Rating: 5 out of 5

five-stars

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Guest Review: Archangel’s Heart by Nalini Singh

Posted November 7, 2016 by Tracy in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: Archangel’s Heart by Nalini SinghReviewer: Tracy
Archangel's Heart by Nalini Singh
Series: Guild Hunter #9
Also in this series: Angels' Blood, Archangel's Kiss, Archangel's Consort, Archangel's Storm, Archangel's Legion, Archangel's Legion, Archangel's Shadows, Archangel's Shadows, Angels' Blood, Archangel's Heart, Archangel's Heart (Guild Hunter, #9), Archangel's Kiss (Guild Hunter, #2)
Published by Berkley
Publication Date: November 1st 2016
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Romance
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
five-stars

New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh takes us into a dangerous and exhilarating world where a deadly, beautiful archangel and his once-mortal consort are caught in a fury of twisted darkness…

One of the most vicious archangels in the world has disappeared. No one knows if Lijuan is dead or has chosen to Sleep the long sleep of an immortal. But with her lands falling into chaos under a rising tide of vampiric bloodlust, a mysterious and ancient order of angels known as the Luminata calls the entire Cadre together to discuss the fate of her territory.

Accompanying her archangelic lover Raphael to the Luminata compound, guild hunter-turned-angel Elena senses that all is not as it seems. Secrets echo from within the stone walls of the compound, and the deeper Elena goes, the uglier the darkness. But neither Raphael nor Elena is ready for the brutal truths hidden within—truths that will change everything Elena thinks she knows about who she is…

Nothing will ever be the same again.

The Cadre of Ten have been called to a meeting at Lumia near Morocco.  The Luminata are angels that seek luminescence and are all about peace and comfort.  Since the archangel Lijuan is missing and the Cadre doesn’t know if she’s dead or just sleeping they must decide what to do wither territory.  Elena is excited about going to Lumia as it is near Morocco and that is where her maternal grandmother is from.  Since she never met her maternal grandparents – her mother was orphaned at a young age – she’s excited to find out what she can about them.

Once she is in Lumia though she’s not sure she likes it there.  The place that supposed to be all about peace doesn’t seem so peaceful and she feels eyes on her when she certainly shouldn’t.  The leader of the Luminata is especially creepy and Elena keeps her distance as much as she can.  Both Elena and Raphael are unimpressed by the Luminata but Elena does find some of the angels that she really likes.  Unfortunately there is an evil undercurrent that forces Raphael and Elena to investigate further and the things they find when they did deeper are horrifying and shocking.

I have to tell you that I just can’t get enough of Nalini Singh’s books.  The Guild Hunter series has blown my mind from book one and when I think Singh can’t possibly come up with another 5 star book she proves me wrong.

There were so many things about this book that I loved.  Raphael and Elena’s relationship is as strong as ever and we got to see a little bit of a softer side of Raphael.  Is he soft?  Ha!  Not even close – but he has a good heart and shows that to Elena and those he loves on a regular basis.  Their relationship is so very swoon-worthy I can’t tell you how much I love reading about these two.

The intricacies of the Luminata were wonderful and the information we got regarding Elena’s mother, Marguerite, were so good as well.  For so long Elena has tried to forget things about her family because it was so hard to think about what she’d lost but she let herself remember in this book and it was very sweet.

This, like all of the books in the Guild Hunter series was awesome!  I loved every bit of it and read the last page with a smile on my face.  We are nowhere near done with Raphael and Elena and I can’t wait to see what Singh comes up with next.

Rating: 5 out of 5

five-stars

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