Author: Holly

Sunday Spotlight: Dinner on Primrose Hill by Jodi Thomas

Posted October 17, 2021 by Holly in Features, Giveaways | 7 Comments

Sunday Spotlight is a feature we began in 2016. This year we’re spotlighting our favorite books, old and new. We’ll be raving about the books we love and being total fangirls. You’ve been warned. 🙂

Sunday Spotlight: Dinner on Primrose Hill by Jodi ThomasDinner on Primrose Hill by Jodi Thomas
Series: Honey Creek #3
Publisher: Kensington, Zebra
Publication Date: October 26, 2021
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 336
Add It: Goodreads
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The delightful and touching new novel from the bestselling author of dozens of treasured romances. Return to the picturesque Texas town of Honey Creek—a place where friendship and warm welcomes can be relied on, and love always finds a way…

Benjamin Monroe is pretty sure how his life will play out. He’ll continue teaching chemistry in his small college, and spend his free time biking through the valley. Eventually, he’ll retire to putter around in his garden and greenhouse.
His colleague, Virginia Clark, is not one for routines. She’s chatty, spontaneous, and bubbly, and before Benjamin realizes what happened, she’s talked him into collaborating on a research project—studying the mating habits of college students. Virginia knows her desire to work with Benjamin is motivated by more than the potential prize money . . . and hopes he might not be quite as indifferent as he seems to be.

Ketch Kincaid, one of Benjamin’s star students, returned to college after serving in the army. He needs something to get his mind off his recent breakup and collecting research data might do it. And there’s another distraction on the horizon—a woman who looks like she, too, knows about heartache.

Soon enough, their project, “The Chemistry of Mating,” is gaining notoriety. Friends, neighbors . . . the whole town has become involved. But no matter what the data determines, one conclusion seems inescapable: love follows its own rules . . .

Excerpt

Dr. Benjamin Monroe folded his notes and placed them in the worn leather briefcase he’d carried since graduate school. His lecture room at Clifton College was empty now. Peaceful. He always liked the stillness after class. He’d done his job, and he took pride in that.

As he often did, he turned to the long, narrow windows behind his podium and looked out over his hometown. From the third floor he could see east all the way to the river and north to where the land rose in rolling hills. There was a balance here that calmed his soul. A wide valley that nestled three small towns, but his town, Clifton Bend, was the best because the college rested in its center.

Benjamin hadn’t missed a class in twelve years. At forty-two he always came on time and well prepared. Routine ruled his life. He liked working with his dad on their farm every weekend and loved biking through the valley on sunny afternoons. The exercise kept him lean and tanned, just as his work kept him sharp.

What he didn’t like was spring break. It interrupted his routine. A worthless holiday, but he’d help his father on their little farm and manage to keep busy.

“Dr. Monroe?” A nervous, high-pitched voice bombarded his thoughts. “May I speak to you about something? It’s important.”

A creature with auburn hair, glasses too big for her face, and huge blue eyes leaned around the door. Professor Virginia Clark.

He plowed his long fingers through his straight, mud-colored hair. If teachers were allowed a nemesis, Miss Clark, the biology instructor, would be his. As far as he was concerned, all they had in common was age.

Benjamin was tempted to say, “No, you can’t speak to me,” but that would be unprofessional.

To her credit, Miss Virginia Clark was bubbly on a down day. Her voice was too high, her manner of dress was in no way appropriate, and her legs were too short. On a good day she was exuberant and misguidedly thought they were not only colleagues but friends.

He’d always hated bubbly people; they made him nervous. But she taught two doors down in the biology lab and officed next to him. Some days he swore he could hear her laughing or running around her tiny workplace like a squirrel in a box.

Right now, she was charging toward his podium like Grant taking Richmond. Too late to say no or run, so all he could do was watch her approach.

Another observation—professors should never bounce.

Miss Clark bounced. She was a bit on the chubby side; a head shorter than he was, and the white lab coat did not conceal her curves. Her corkscrew hair seemed to be dancing to a hard rock beat, and her breasts . . . well never mind them. Unprofessional, he thought as he watched her coming down the steps row by row, breasts moving to their own beat.

“I need your help, Dr. Monroe.” She stopped one foot too close to him.

He fought the urge to step back.

“Of course, Miss Clark, I’m at your service,” he offered. Maybe she needed a ride or she was locked out of her office, again. He could make time to be kind. After all, they were colleagues.

“I’d be happy to help any way I can.”

“Good. I was afraid you’d say no. It’s a great opportunity and we can split the work and the money.”

Benjamin raised an eyebrow. “What work?”

“My research paper entry for the Westwin Research Journal has been approved as one of five finalists. The winner’s findings will be published in the journal as well as winning the ten-thousand-dollar prize.” She smiled. “Just think, we’ll be famous. Last year’s subject was how aging relates to location. The winner was interviewed on the Today show.”

She was bouncing again. This time with excitement. “I might finally get to go to New York City. I’ve always dreamed of seeing plays and walking through Central Park. They say you can hear the heartbeat of the whole world in the streets of New York.”

Benjamin fell into her pipe dream for a second. “If I had money to blow, I’d go to Paris and see Marie Curie’s office and lab. I’ve read every book about her dedication, her work, her life. Imagine walking the streets she walked.”

He didn’t mention that he’d also find his mother, if she was still alive. She’d left him when he was four years old, saying she must paint in Paris for a few months, but she never came back.

He had only one question for her. Was the life she’d given him up for worth it?

Miss Clark frowned at him as if measuring his sanity. “Paris, really Benjamin, sometimes you surprise me.”

When he frowned at the use of his first name, she sighed, obviously reading his thoughts.

“Dr. Monroe,” she corrected. “We could split the research and the writing. I’ve already obtained the president’s approval for a small survey. All we have is a month to get this done, but we’ve got spring break to kick off our project with a bang.”

He nodded slowly, not willing to jump in, but willing to listen. “What is our topic of research?”

Blushing, she added, “Redefining sexual attractions in today’s world.”

Benjamin straightened slightly.

Miss Clark giggled. “We could call it, ‘The Chemistry of Mating.’”

He swallowed hard as she turned and bounced out of the room.

For a few moments, Benjamin forgot to breathe. Calamity had blown in on a tornado with red hair.

The only good news. Spring break wasn’t going to be boring.

Honey Creek

Giveaway Alert

We’re giving one lucky winner their choice of one of our Sunday Spotlight books. Use the widget below to enter for one of this month’s features.

Sunday Spotlight: October 2021

Are you as excited for this release as we are? Let us know how excited you are and what other books you’re looking forward to this year!

About Jodi Thomas

Author Photo

With millions of books in print, Jodi Thomas is both a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over 50 novels and countless short story collections. Her stories travel through the past and present days of Texas and draw readers from around the world.

In July 2006, Jodi was the 11th writer to be inducted into the Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame. With five RITA’s to her credit, along with National Readers’ Choice Awards and Booksellers’ Best Awards, Thomas has proven her skill as a master storyteller.

Honored in 2002 as a Distinguished Alumni by Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, Thomas also served as Writer in Residence at West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Texas.

When not working on a novel or inspiring students to pursue a writing career, Thomas enjoys traveling, renovating a historic home, and “checking on” two grown sons and four grandchildren.


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Review: Portrait of Death: Unforgotten by Isabel Wroth

Posted October 11, 2021 by Holly in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: Portrait of Death: Unforgotten by Isabel WrothReviewer: Holly
Portrait of Death: Unforgotten by Isabel Wroth
Series: Portrait of Death #1
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: July 19, 2019
Format: eBook
Source: Kindle Unlimited
Point-of-View: First
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Paranormal Romance, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 427
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Goodreads Challenge, Holly's 2021 Goodreads Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
three-stars
Series Rating: three-stars

Three years ago, I held her pink silk toe shoe in my hand, helplessly watching the cab drive away before I could give it back to her. The next morning when I stood in front of the portrait drying on my easel, I knew the beautiful ballerina would soon die. Her portrait is one of two hundred and twenty-seven. Each one of the subjects is the victim of murder, and I’ve painted them all. I’ve kept my morbid ability a secret for twenty years, terrified someday, someone would find out.

Someday has arrived, and the someone banging down my door today demanding answers is a gorgeous, irate homicide detective armed with a photo of one of my paintings right there on the front page of the most popular tabloid in the city. He peppers me with questions I can’t answer, and despite my worst fears being realized, all I can think about is painting this man, alive, and with far fewer clothes on.

Detective Callum Graham tells me the dead ballerina I painted is his sister, and she's been missing for three years. Missing, he says firmly, as though any other conclusion is unacceptable. My inappropriate thoughts of seeing him naked, vanish. How do I explain to this man, this brother desperate to find his baby sister alive, that she’s been dead for two years, eleven months, and three weeks?

Portrait of Death: Unforgotten is the first book in a contemporary romantic suspense series by Isabel Wroth. I generally avoid romantic suspense at all costs, but I really enjoy paranormal romance novels that feature psychic characters so I figured I’d give this a go. I’ve read most of Wroth’s backlist and I have to say this was not my favorite.

When Jo paints a portrait of her baby brother dead in a pond as a child, her parents have her committed to a mental institution, where she remains for two years despite her brother drowning while she was committed. For 20 years she’ll go into a trance after touching an object belonging to a random stranger, and end up painting their Portrait of Death. She’s come to realize over the years that they are all murder victims, but she can’t tell anyone, unless she wants to end up back in the institution. Until a scorned ex-lover leaks photos of her gallery.

Detective Callum Graham is shocked to see a death painting of his missing sister on the cover of a tabloid paper. He’s sure he’s finally found the killer. Jo knows she needs to protect her secrets at all costs, but it’s hard to resist the pain in the detective’s eyes.

I really disliked what an ass Callum was to Jo. I understand him thinking she was a murderer based on her paintings (that’s definitely some serial killer shit), but even after presented with proof that she couldn’t have committed the crimes, and proof that she was psychic, he refused to believe her. Even after they started getting intimate with each other, he would accuse her of being part of the murders, or just make stupid, asshole remarks to her for no reason. She pushed back and called him out on it, which is the only reason I kept reading, but it wasn’t enough. Especially since she would get distracted by how “hot” he was and then couldn’t stay mad.

On top of that, the police procedural stuff was very poorly done, and the whole mystery plot was easily figured out. There were also a lot of typos and errors. I spent most of the book irritated at one thing or another.

View Spoiler »

I kept reading because I liked the premise, but it wasn’t as well executed as the author’s other books. I don’t think I’ll read the next one.

Rating: 2.75 or 3.0 out of 5

Portrait of Death

three-stars


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Review: Sarazen’s Fury by Isabel Wroth

Posted October 6, 2021 by Holly in Reviews | 2 Comments

Review: Sarazen’s Fury by Isabel WrothReviewer: Holly
Sarazen's Fury by Isabel Wroth
Series: Sarazen Saga #5
Also in this series: Sarazen's Claim, Sarazen's Vengeance, Sarazen's Betrayal, Sarazen's Hunt
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: February 28, 2019
Format: eBook
Source: Kindle Unlimited
Point-of-View: Happy For Now, Continuing Story Arc
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Science Fiction
Pages: 219
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Holly's 2021 Goodreads Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

-YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

With Tarek away on a hunting trip, and T’mai gone off to round up more of the uncovered conspirators, Brennaugh is the only one qualified to provide assistance when an entire squadron of his best men go missing on S4. Four days. He should have only been gone for four days. He gave his word.

-PLEASE DON’T LET GO.

Tara awakens from a nightmare to discover her worst fears have come true. The rescue party has been ambushed, and Brennaugh has been captured by their enemy. Tara knows Brennaugh is still alive—she can feel him—but all she can sense through their bond is white hot primal fear and anger. Ignoring all protests about concerns for her safety, Tara joins the reinforcements on S4, determined to find her mate and bring him home.

Tara was one of the original humans rescued from the Starsong. She was reluctant to be mated to Brennaugh, a scarred and fierce warrior, but four years later she could not be happier with him. When he’s called off-planet to find some missing soldiers, Tara agrees to wait for him. But when he doesn’t return and his crew believes he’s gone feral, Tara knows she’s the only one who can save him.

I really liked Tara and how she handled everything that was thrown at her in this novel. She didn’t buckle under the stress and in fact came out shining on the other end. My heart hurt for her and what she had to deal with from Brennaugh’s mom and family, but I loved how protective she was of him and her pregnancy. I also loved how Brennaugh loved her, and how he realized his mistakes and apologized to her.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Sarazen Saga

four-stars


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Review: Sarazen’s Hunt by Isabel Wroth

Posted October 5, 2021 by Holly in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: Sarazen’s Hunt by Isabel WrothReviewer: Holly
Sarazen's Hunt by Isabel Wroth
Series: Sarazen Saga #4
Also in this series: Sarazen's Claim, Sarazen's Vengeance, Sarazen's Betrayal, Sarazen's Fury
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: May 8, 2018
Format: eBook
Source: Kindle Unlimited
Point-of-View: Happy For Now, Continuing Story Arc
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Science Fiction
Pages: 392
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Holly's 2021 Goodreads Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

-GOOD LUCK ON THE HUNT. Newly-appointed Commander Kalix has been tasked with a crucial mission for the Sarazen race: discover the fates of the remaining human starships, and bring home the survivors—if there are any left, that is… His crew come upon the wrecked remains of the Sestrenka, and the chattering captain’s logs set them on the trail of a human colony established over twenty years ago. Moika, the hope of the starbound human race. But as Kalix and his warriors grow closer in their search, the distress signals show there is something terribly wrong on Moika. Something deathly wrong.

-LEAVE NO SKIN EXPOSED. Alec, Firstborn Moika, is a hardened young woman and the defacto leader of the colony on Moika—because all that remain are she, her sister, and a ragtag band of Moika-born children. The hostile natives who dwell in the water, known only as “Scylla,” have decimated the colony’s population. When all hope seems lost, the Sarazen appear and offer the survivors sanctuary: an end to their suffering, an end to the running, and an end to the killings. A return to civilization. But for Alec, who spent most of her life herding and protecting the colony, it’s a bittersweet rescue. All she’s known is fighting but suddenly the gauzy promise of peace is dangled in front of her. Will the deep anger she feels at being an outsider ever subside?

When Tarek retired from active service to be with his mate, Kalix was promoted to fill his role as Commander. Kalix has been tasked with finding the remaining 4 Earthen ships. When he discovers the wrecked remains of the Sestrenka, he fears all is lost. Until he finds transmissions from the planet Moika and realizes there are at least some of the survivors.

Of the 2000 settlers who were left on Moika, only a handful of children remain. Alec, a firstborn Moika, has been their defacto leader since she was 16 and the last of the adults were murdered by hostile water-dwelling native creatures. They’ve had to fight for survival for so long, she feels lost and alone once they’re rescued. Dealing with grief over the loss of her sister, and the devastating realization that she and Kalix were mates, but he left her behind on purpose, Alec doesn’t know what to do with herself. She’s so used to caring for everyone and keeping everyone alive, she’s at odds now that they’re all safe and cared for.

I really loved how fierce and protective Alec was. My heart broke for her at the beginning of the novel, and her continued grief really got me as the story went on. I loved how she used her anger to fuel her, but managed to be caring and loving (in a gruff sort of way) to the children she helped raise on Moika. I also loved how she pushed Kalix and made him see things from her perspective. The overarching storyline from previous books was furthered here, and I enjoyed the twists and turns.

I don’t feel like I’m really doing these books justice with my reviews. The world is very complex and there are a lot of moving parts.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Sarazen Saga

four-stars


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Review: Sarazen’s Betrayal by Isabel Wroth

Posted October 1, 2021 by Holly in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: Sarazen’s Betrayal by Isabel WrothReviewer: Holly
Sarazen's Betrayal by Isabel Wroth
Series: Sarazen Saga #3
Also in this series: Sarazen's Claim, Sarazen's Vengeance, Sarazen's Hunt, Sarazen's Fury
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: February 28, 2017
Format: eBook
Source: Kindle Unlimited
Point-of-View: Alternating Third Person
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Science Fiction
Pages: 306
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Holly's 2021 Goodreads Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
two-half-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

Cassie had come to Saraz with the promise of a new life, a new home, and a mate who would cherish and adore her always. The first two promises have been fulfilled, but as the new pride leaders settle into their rule, the threat to the lives of the human hybrid mates escalates. As the pressure to solve the mystery increases, Cassie's mate does less adoring and less cherishing. Leaving her alone to fend for herself day after day. Leaving her alone to doubt the truth.

Falken's hunt for the identities of the traitors threatening his mate and the lives of all the human hybrids who now call Saraz home, has taken him far longer than anticipated. Sleepless nights spent digging through what feels like insurmountable amounts of data have become nights spent away from Cassie. Leaving her to doubt their bond. To doubt him.

While they grow closer to identifying the traitors, Cassie and Falken grow farther and farther apart. Betrayal rocks the pride and in its wake, the realization that the threat is far closer to home than they realized. As the shock of that betrayal settles, can Cassie and Falken repair what has been broken between them? Or will the traitors take advantage of their fractured bond and destroy the pride?

Warning: This review contains spoilers. Please read the Content Warnings!

Cassie was born on the Starsong, one of 5 ships launched from Earth with what remained of the human race. Because resources aboard the ship are finite, population control was enforced. Only those women who had the highest IQs were allowed to breed, while all the other women were sterilized. Cassie scored so high she was chosen as the one to birth the next generation aboard the ship. Only they didn’t want to wait for her to carry each child to term, so they sedated her and removed her eggs instead, using surrogates to carry the babies to term. In an effort to protect herself from more emotional trauma, she closed herself off from everyone else aboard the ship and spent most of her time alone. When they’re attacked by a vicious alien race, it’s only by chance that Cassie is saved, along with a handful of others.

When they’re rescued by a passing alien ship, and Cassie is told she’s been mated to one of the warriors, she’s less-than-thrilled, for obvious reasons. Only Falken slowly wins her over by treating her with respect and making it known that he cares for her happiness above all else.

Until they arrive on his home planet, when he disappears for work and she rarely sees him. She sees how the others treat their mates and can only conclude Falken is unhappy being with her.

Falken doesn’t realize how his absences are hurting Cassie until he underestimates her intelligence and she asks for a divorce, something those of his race have never heard of before. Realizing his mistake, he’s determined to prove to Cassie that she’s everything to him. Only she’s been hurt too many times, and there may be no forgiveness in her.

I actually liked Cassie the least going into this book, but I was firmly on her side once we realized what had happened to her in the past and how Falken made her feel. She was angry and sarcastic, but those were defense mechanisms and honestly warranted where Falken was concerned.

I was really enjoying their story. Cassie was learning to open up to him, and Falken was learning not to take advantage of her or take her for granted. Because of her past, Cassie’s independence was important to her, and having her choices taken away was a trigger.

Which is why the book completely lost me when Falken spanks Cassie for a dumb decision she made. Not as part of a sexual encounter, but as punishment. As if she were an errant child. The worst part? Aside from some mild embarrassment, Cassie doesn’t really seem to care. And again later, when she’s treated like a child by him and others, she just shrugs it off. It was so out of character and made me so angry, I nearly quit reading there. The only reason I kept going was to find out how a certain part of the overarching story played out.

Up until that point, this was my favorite book of the series. That scene and the one that followed completely ruined the story for me. I’m sad and disappointed it turned out this way. I wanted better for Cassie.

Rating: 2.75 out of 5

Sarazen Saga

two-half-stars


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