Publisher: Zebra

Sunday Spotlight: Dinner on Primrose Hill by Jodi Thomas

Posted October 17, 2021 by Holly in Features, Giveaways | 8 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
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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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Guest Review: An Earl, the Girl and a Toddler by Vanessa Riley

Posted May 19, 2021 by Tracy in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: An Earl, the Girl and a Toddler by Vanessa RileyReviewer: Tracy
An Earl, the Girl, and a Toddler by Vanessa Riley
Publisher: Zebra
Publication Date: April 27, 2021
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Point-of-View: 1st & 3rd
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 320
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three-stars

A witty and moving story from the acclaimed author of A Duke, the Lady, and a Baby, about the lengths to which a woman will go for the love of her child…and the love of a man who knows her worth. Breaking with traditional Regency rules and customs, Vanessa Riley pens an unforgettable story perfect for fans of Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton, Evie Dunmore, and Eloisa James looking for something fresh and stirring!

Masterminded by the ton's most clever countess, the secret society The Widow's Grace helps ill-treated widows regain their reputations, their families, and even find true love again--or perhaps for the very first time...

Surviving a shipwreck en route to London from Jamaica was just the start of personal maid Jemina St. Maur's nightmare. Suffering from amnesia, she was separated from anyone who might know her and imprisoned in Bedlam. She was freed only because barrister Daniel Thackery, Lord Ashbrook, was convinced to betray the one thing he holds dear: the law. Desperate to unearth her true identity, Jemina's only option is to work outside the law--which means staying steps ahead of the formidable Daniel, no matter how strongly she is drawn to him...

Married only by proxy, now widowed by shipwreck, Daniel is determined to protect his little stepdaughter, Charlotte, from his family's scandalous reputation. That's why he has dedicated himself not just to the law, but to remaining as proper and upstanding--and boring--as can be. But the closer he becomes to the mysterious, alluring Jemina, the more Daniel is tempted to break the very rules to which he's dedicated his life. As ruthless adversaries close in, will the truth require him and Jemina to sacrifice their one chance at happiness?

Jemima St. Maur was put into Bedlam after a shipwreck.  She has amnesia and couldn’t remember who she was, she still can’t remember and seeks the truth of her past.  She’s saved (in book one of this series) by Daniel Thackery, a barrister who helps his aunt get widows out of trouble.

Daniel was married by proxy to Phoebe, who was also on the ship that went down, but his wife didn’t survive.  He was presented with a baby who he believed was Phoebe’s child, even though she had never mentioned a child in her letters.  He decides to raise the child as his own.

Two years later Jemima and Daniel have a bit of a love/hate relationship.  They don’t necessarily get a long, but when they’re together there’s a very strong attraction.  Daniel finally decides that he has mourned for Phoebe long enough and wants to make Jemima his mistress.   Jemima’s not opposed to the idea, but she is wary of Daniel as she’s positive he’s keeping information from her about her past and the shipwreck.

This was my first read by Vanessa Riley.  I’ll admit, I wasn’t a fan of the writing style as it seemed a bit all over the place.  I also didn’t feel that the hero and heroine actually had a lot of chemistry.

I liked Jemima…to a point.  She was pretty headstrong, and I liked that about her.  That said, I felt the author took that too far and went into I’m-so-headstrong-I’m-going-to-make-stupid-decisions territory. There was also the constant on/off with Daniel as Jemima couldn’t decide if she was going to trust him or not.  Granted, she had every reason not to trust him as he’d kept a lot of stuff (about her) to himself. She wasn’t even aware she’d been in a shipwreck until he told her – two years later! Still, the on-again off-again love was annoying at times.

Daniel was a smart man – a barrister who worked for the crown.  Even so, he was looked down upon because he was mulatto.  Even when he inherited an Earldom, people still turned their noses up at him.  He was a good man for taking in the baby (Hope) and raising her, and he was a good father.  He helped his aunt with her business of saving widows and their families.  I admired his dedication to his aunt and her cause, as well as his dedication to Hope and fatherhood in general.  Unfortunately, I just didn’t like him all that much as a man.  He kept so much a secret, even when his marriage was failing, he still couldn’t come completely clean.  I found it so frustrating.

Overall I didn’t find the story very satisfying.  Not liking the couple as a couple put a damper on the whole experience.  While I really loved the blurb for this book, the story itself just didn’t do it for me in the end.

Rating: 3 out of 5

three-stars


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DNF Review: The Highlander’s Bride by Michele Sinclair

Posted January 16, 2020 by Holly in Reviews | 0 Comments

DNF Review: The Highlander’s Bride by Michele SinclairReviewer: Holly
The Highlander's Bride by Michele Sinclair
Narrator: Anne Flosnik
Series: The McTiernays #1
Publisher: Zebra
Publication Date: June 1, 2007
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible Escape
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 318
Length: 10 hours and 24 minutes
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dnf

BOUND BY DUTY

Highland laird Conor McTiernay had always dreamed of an enduring love. But the reality of women who desired him only for his title and lands made him swear off marriage forever. That is until he first set eyes on the Englishwoman his men found hiding in the forest. Beneath the dirt and grime it was clear Laurel Cordell was beautiful. But would she prove to be yet another beguiling seductress or had Conor finally found the one woman who could lay claim to his heart?

DRAWN BY DESIRE

Laurel trusted that the Scottish chieftain would keep her safe from the cruel laird from whom she had escaped. Looking deep into Conor's silver eyes she saw not only his calculating warrior ways but his quick arousal to passion. But before they can explore the growing desire between them, their newfound love is threatened by secrets from her past. . .

The Highlander’s Bride by Michele Sinclair is the first book in The McTiernay’s Brothers series. I don’t believe I’ve read Sinclair before, but the premise sounded good so I downloaded this from the Audible Escape package. I’m not sure if it was the story or the narrator, Anne Flosnik, but I DNF’d it pretty early in.

Conor and his brothers are on the way home from another brother’s wedding when they come upon a woman who has been sorely abused. They all want to keep her safe, but Conor especially is very attracted to and protective of her. Laurel is on the run from another Highland Laird, and she’s guarding some big secrets from her past. She agrees to travel with the McTiernay brothers because she thinks they can keep her safe, but she’s surprised at how much she trusts Conor from the start.

Almost from the second they meet they’re extremely attracted to each other. That’s fine, except they think of nothing BUT how attracted the other is. That, and how good the other smells. They’ve been traveling for the better part of a week through the Highlands, but he smells manly and attractive and she smells of lilacs? I’m not buying it. Laurel’s secrets were alluded to, as well as Conor’s mistrust of women in general, but I wasn’t interested enough in either to keep listening.

I might try to read it at some point in the future to see if it works better for me.

Rating: DNF

dnf


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Summer Reading Challenge Review: Marry Me by Jo Goodman

Posted October 14, 2019 by Holly in Reviews | 2 Comments

Summer Reading Challenge Review: Marry Me by Jo GoodmanReviewer: Holly
Marry Me by Jo Goodman
Series: Reidsville #2
Publisher: Zebra
Publication Date: December 1, 2010
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Westerns
Pages: 447
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Historical Challenge, Holly's 2019 GoodReads Challenge, Holly's 2019 Historical Challenge, Holly's Summer Reading Challenge, Summer Reading Challenge
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three-half-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

Her Heart Was Locked Away

Rhyne Abbot is fierce, brave, and used to a life of isolation on her father's spread on the outskirts of Reidsville, Colorado. But when, overcome with sickness, she collapses, she knows she must return to town if she is to have any hope of recovery. Only there is no place for her but the new doctor's home, and he wants more than just to heal Rhyne. He wants her hand in marriage.

Until One Man Found The Key

Doctor Cole Monroe's hands are already more than full with his orphaned little sister to look after, and yet somehow he can't resist the magnetic pull of Rhyne's bewitching eyes--or her tempting kiss. But convincing her to trust him won't be easy. For Rhyne's heart needs as much tender care as her ailing body. And the only cure is the thing she most fears: to let herself fall in love...

Mary Me by Jo Goodman is the second book in the Reidsville series. Casee chose this for our Summer Reading Challenge, but I forgot to review it in August. It’s been ages since I read a Jo Goodman. This was vaguely familiar, so it’s possible I’ve read it before. I can’t remember for sure, though, so I’m calling this a new read. I had a hard time getting into it at first, but it picked up by the 3rd chapter.

When Cole Monroe’s younger sister talks him into moving to Reidsville, CO to become their new town doctor, he isn’t sure what to expect. The colorful residents are interesting, and he’s enjoying himself as the only doctor to service a large area. When he meets Rhyne Abbot, he knows he has to help her.The only way to do that is to have her move in with him. Not an ideal situation, but one they make work. Only, he never expected to come to have such strong feelings for her. Her fierce independence and indomitable spirit really call to him.

Rhyne was raised as a boy, until her father could no longer ignore the fact she was a girl. Even then, she kept up the pretense with the town’s inhabitants. Now that she’s been outed as a woman and forced to move in with the new doctor, things sure are different for her. Finding her footing in this new world is difficult, but she’s managing. If only she could get rid of this pesky attraction she has for the doctor…

I really thought the romance was super sweet. I liked both Cole and Rhyne. I liked how patient he was with Rhyne and how she slowly came to trust him. Some of the medical stuff was on the boring side, but I was able to move past that. I struggled more with how quickly Rhyne seemed to overcome her trauma, but I do think it was rather in keeping with the times. Rhyne didn’t have time to become hysterical, so she didn’t.

While this isn’t my favorite book by Goodman, it was enjoyable and I’ll probably read it again in the future.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5

Reidsville

three-half-stars


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Guest Review: Highland Guard by Hannah Howell

Posted September 12, 2019 by Tracy in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: Highland Guard by Hannah HowellReviewer: Tracy
Highland Guard by Hannah Howell
Narrator: Angela Dawe
Series: Murray Family #20
Also in this series: Highland Groom, Highland Devil (Murray Family #22), Highland Wolf
Publisher: Zebra
Publication Date: February 24, 2015
Source: Library
Point-of-View: Third
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 352
Length: 08:02
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four-stars
Series Rating: three-stars

Lady Annys MacQueen has no other choice. The deception that enabled her to keep her lands safe is on the verge of being revealed by a cruel kinsman. To shield her young son from the sword and her people from devastation, she must turn to the one man she could never forget. . .

He lives for duty and honor. So the only way Sir Harcourt Murray could repay the laird who saved his life was to agree to father a child with Sir MacQueen's wife. . .Lady Annys. Now the passion he still feels for the lovely strong-willed widow is as all-consuming and perilous as securing her lands. But to convince her that his love is forever real means confronting her most wrenching fears—and putting everything they treasure most at stake.

Annys MacQueen’s husband has died. Now she has kinsman who are trying to take her estate and lands away from her, stating that her son is not really a MacQueen. Annys doesn’t want to lose her lands, but they’re actually correct in believing that the child was not the laird’s. The Laird had actually contacted Harcourt Murray to come and father a child with his wife, since he was incapable of fathering children.

While Annys and Harcourt were together getting her pregnant, Annys fell for Harcourt. She loved her husband, but she was in love with Harcourt.  Harcourt has never forgotten Annys and thinks of her often. He would’ve liked nothing more than to stay with her forever, but he was only there for duty and to repay Laird MacQueen for saving his life. When Annys calls for him to help her save her lands, Harcourt is unprepared for the love he feels for both Annys and the child he fathered. Benet is adorable, amazing, precocious and just all-around wonderful and he never wants to be without them.

I ended up listening to this in audiobook. I very much enjoyed Angela Dawe as narrator and enjoyed the story immensely. I thought that Howell did a very good job in bringing these two people together, and I enjoyed their romance.

I thought I would have more of an issue with this one then I actually did. I don’t like infidelity in books, but for some reason this just worked for me.

While Hannah Howell’s Murray books are all very similar, this one stood out a little bit and I very much enjoyed it.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Murray Family

four-stars


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