Category Archives: Fiction-Romance

Dandelions on the Road

A runner-up on a Bachelor-type reality television show gets a second chance to find love.

Dandelions on the Road (Dandelion #2)

Dandelions on the Road

I’ve become a Brooke Williams fan over the past two years. She writes the kind of quirky romantic comedy that keeps you turning the pages. DANDELIONS ON THE ROAD is a cheerful, clean romance. The premise might seem a little too common these days, but Brooke Williams adds freshness by taking her fictional reality dating show on the road. The different locations offer lots of opportunities for complications and conflict.

It was also fun to catch up with Kate Covington (from WRONG PLACE, RIGHT TIME) and Renee Lockheart, the heroines of the first book in the Dandelion series. I will say that Eva Merida doesn’t have quite the same sparkle and charm as these two.

Part of the problem might be that she and the hero (Brian Schaffer) don’t spend all that much time together. He’s the host and she’s the contestant, and for most of the book he’s way more into her than she’s into him. So when she falls for him, it isn’t as believable as it might have been.

Still, even with the coolness of the heroine, this book has many funny moments and provided an fun afternoon of reading entertainment.

ONE NIGHT OF SCANDAL by Elle Kennedy

An ex-fighter turned nightclub owner struggles against his attraction to his best friend’s ex.

One Night of Scandal (After Hours, #2)

One Night of Scandal

When I read the first book in the After Hours series ONE NIGHT OF SIN I fell for Elle Kennedy’s well-developed characters and wildly effective scene setting. ONE NIGHT OF SCANDAL delivers the same excitement. Reed Miller and Darcy Grant have a lot of chemistry. Reed is a grump and emotionally shackled by his bad-boy past. Darcy is pretty wholesome, even if she does enjoy the occasional walk on the wild side.

The relationship develops against the backstory of a possible drug problem at the club. This plot line starts in book one and carries on through all three of the After Hours books. At this point, the club is in definite danger of being raided, so Reed is preoccupied with finding the dealer before the whole business goes under.

Darcy and Reed’s relationship has a great balance of romance and drama. The misunderstanding at the end is a little too engineered. There are enough real issues between the characters that complicate matters, so it was a little disappointing that Kennedy got so melodramatic at the end.

On the whole an entertaining experience.

ROAD TO VICTORY by Piper Davenport

* I received a copy of this book in return for a fair review

The troubled daughter of a wealthy family fights for love and for her future when old secrets bring brand new heartache.

Road to Victory (Dogs of Fire Book 5)

Road to Victory

Kimberly Church has struggled for years to create a stable life after a nightmarish childhood. Every so often her demons rise and she spirals out of control and into hard drinking and promiscuity. Luckily, she has plenty of friends to catch her when she crashes. Now that her best friend is married to a leader of the powerful Dogs of Fire Motorcycle Club, sometimes poor Kimmi has more eyes looking out for her than is comfortable. One set belongs to Aidan “Knight” Quinn. He’s lost from the moment he sees her, but she does everything she can to keep him away.

Aidan is determined to get to the truth behind Kimmi’s outrageous behavior. A shared love of horses offers a bridge and, slowly, they cross it. It seems like Kimmi’s personal life–and her riding–are about to reach new levels of fabulous. Then her ugly past turns into a terrifying present as someone threatens Kimmi and her beloved horse.

I’ve read all of Piper Davenport’s Dogs of Fire books. This is a good one. Kimmi’s character arc is a big one. She transforms from all hard edges and erratic emotion, into a grown woman prepared to face the terrible facts of her “privileged” childhood. Along the way, she puts Aidan through hell. There were times I found it hard to believe he’d stick with her, but Davenport is an expert at creating honorable yet believable heroes.

I did have two issues with the book. First, the pacing lags near the end of the middle when Kimmi and Aidan’s horse interests take them on an international journey. I can’t say more without ruining the plot for you. This section goes on a bit too long and the tension, so wonderful until then, suffers. Things pick up again once the couple returns home. Second, the climax, which should be pretty scary, falls flat. Just when Kimmi should be in maximum danger, she’s left on the sidelines. Kimmi needed to be the star in that final “bring the creep in” scene and it should have been from HER point of view, since this guy has tormented her for decades.

On the whole, though, ROAD TO VICTORY is exciting and entertaining.

Jackson & Washington’s DIAL L FOR LYNDA

* I received a copy of this book in return for a fair review.

Best friends turn detectives when one is arrested for the murder of her boss.

Dial L for Lynda (Linda & Lynda Detective Agency Book 1)

Dial L for Lynda

Having read a lot of Tracey Jane Jackson’s work, I was excited to learn that she was collaborating with Amanda Washington and branching into a new genre. DIAL L FOR LYNDA is a funny, sexy, well-plotted mystery. It might seem surprising to find wealthy, stylish Addison Allen’s best friend since childhood is a financially-strapped girl from the wrong side of the tracks. Harley James has been a hard worker from an early age and earned herself a scholarship to a pricey private school, which is where she met Addison and her twin brother Asher. They’ve been close ever since, though not as close as Asher would like. Harley keeps him at arm’s length as she tries to build a career that makes her feel more on his social/financial level. It’s her job that becomes the problem when she’d fired by her lecherous boss and then he ends up dead outside her apartment.

Jackson and Washington give us amusing, well developed characters who manage to get into all sorts of oddball scrapes as they try to find the real killer. Asher, a serious, sensible lawyer is a great foil for his emotionally overwrought sister. Whereas Asher tries to help Harley by becoming her legal advocate, Addie actually tries to get herself arrested so she can keep Harley company in jail over the weekend until a Monday bond hearing. And that’s just a taste of the lengths this wacky blonde will go to in order to protect her bestie. Though it doesn’t hurt that the lead detective is a tasty morsel who inspires all sorts of fantasies.

The comedy, mystery and romance are kept in fine balance. Jackson and Washington do a great job leading us through the tangled motives of the real killer, who came as a surprise to me, but is completely believable. Two small issues. The first was with Addie and Asher’s parents. They are a little too cliche “rich and snooty.” I would’ve liked more nuanced characterizations. Also the Linda/Lynda link seems a little forced. Even the authors can’t really explain the logic behind it. Harley’s middle name is Linn, and Lynda is the name Addie and Asher give to their GPS systems. Addie also uses it for a special phone line to throw off unwanted suitors.

Name confusion aside, DIAL L FOR LYNDA had me laughing out loud and reading way past my bedtime. Can’t wait for the next one.

Review: A NUN WALKS INTO A BAR

An orphan raised in a convent falls for a sexy bar owner and is drawn into a web of romance and danger.

A Nun Walks Into A Bar

A Nun Walks Into A Bar

I’m a fan of Tracey Jane Jackson’s Cauld Ane paranormal romance series and was excited by the premise of this book. A NUN WALKS INTO A BAR is funny and yet touches on some difficult subjects. It isn’t the ideal time for either Sadie or Ryder to focus on a romantic relationship. After an incredibly sheltered childhood, Sadie is trying to navigate the world outside her aunt’s insulated religious community. Ryder, the offspring of a biker of the mean-and-nasty variety, is desperate to locate his missing kid sister, who has been swept up into a human trafficking ring thousands of miles from their Portland, Oregon home.

Despite their opposing backgrounds and somewhat conflicting values, Sadie and Ryder share an undeniable and largely believable attraction. They manage to challenge each other and to protect one another from the forces of chaos swirling around them. There’s plenty of character growth on both sides and yet a consistency at the core of each.

The supporting cast is just as strong–par for the course in Jackson’s work. Plenty of tantalizing backstory. Troubled pasts. Secrets. This all bodes well for future “Nun Fiction” novels.

Jackson always does a good job with her villains. This time around the bad guy is SO bad, it boggles the mind. At the same time, he’s not overdone. As horrible as he is, it’s a believable horrible, which makes it especially creepy. You hope people this dark don’t exist, even though you know they do. There’s a scene in Sadie’s apartment that absolutely chilled my blood.

All in all, I loved spending time with Sadie, Ryder and their “gang.” I’m hoping it won’t be too long before there’s a sequel.

WILD IRISH HEART by Tricia O’Malley

A young woman living in Boston receives an unexpected gift that draws her to Ireland and reveals a birthright she’s not sure she’s prepared to claim.

Wild Irish Heart (Mystic Cove, #1)

Wild Irish Heart

The setting of this book enchants as much as the characters do. I could easily visualize the Irish coastal village and Keelin’s grandmother’s cottage and land. Keelin’s relationship with Fiona is wonderful…warm and genuine. The backstory is handled well, and the author communicates the complicated family situation in a way that keeps readers from getting confused. The otherworldly elements entertain without going over the top into full-on paranormal. This is still more a romance than a paranormal novel.

Uneven pacing distracted me in places. The author also repeats key phrases and emotions–like “soul sings.” Flynn makes a great love interest for Keelin, but the climactic scene between them, on the cliffs, is abrupt and less believable than the rest of the book. It was the only point at which the plot felt forced.

On the whole, WILD IRISH HEART is absorbing and full of romance.

TAXI DELIVERY by Brooke Williams

I’ve featured Brooke Williams and her novels including, Mamarazzi, Accept This Dandelion, and Beyond the Bars, several times on this blog.

Now here’s a peek at her sweet romance about a law student whose part-time job changes his life when a passenger gives birth in his taxi.

Taxi Delivery

Taxi Delivery

This is a Christian-themed novel, so God is mentioned often and plays a large role in the characters’ decision making. Jed is an appealing hero. He’s not so gorgeous or wealthy as to be unreal. He’s just a good guy trying to do the right thing in difficult circumstances. Sadie is vulnerable and likable.

The end seemed a little too pat. I think resolving the romance AND Sadie’s employment issue tipped the balance away from realism, even with so much of the plot turning on odd coincidences that seem to be part of a “bigger plan” in the divine sense. I would have preferred my HEA with at least a couple of unresolved threads.

The plot strains a reader’s “suspension of disbelief” in places, but this unconventional romance is offers lots to enjoy.

Review: MAMARAZZI

A photographer forced to make her living as a member of the paparazzi unexpectedly finds herself on the other side of the camera lens and facing the sort of exposure that could ruin her career and her new relationship with a famous actor.

Mamarazzi

Mamarazzi

Danica Bennett has had a rough life. She gets her love of photography from her mom, who raised her alone and now suffers early-onset Alzheimer’s. Paying for her mother’s care is one of the main reasons Danica continues working in a profession that undermines her moral and artistic ideals. The one person who might have been able to give her a hand up in Hollywood, an actress cousin, doesn’t want to know her. At least not until Danica falls into a role on a hot new situation comedy and becomes a popular up-and-coming actress in her own right.

Of course, if Danica’s past publicly exposing fellow celebrities peccadilloes gets out–she’s toast. Not that she’s so in love with acting. But she may very well be in love with her handsome co-star Eliot Lane. There’s a lot of excitement and tension as Danica’s plan to silence the one person who knows her secret backfires and puts her into the power of someone even more vindictive and volatile.

MAMARAZZI is funny, fast-paced, and full of twists. I didn’t predict the resolution, but even though it was unexpected, it made perfect sense. My only issue with the book is that I found Eliot’s character a bit underutilized. He’s a great guy, but we needed more of him. He kind of fades into the background for the middle of the book, but he is pivotal to the ending.

Even so, if you enjoy well-plotted, clean contemporary romances, you’ll enjoy this book.

Review: FOREVER CHANGED

A woman’s cancer diagnosis leads her to transform her comfortable but unfulfilled life.

Forever Changed (The Forever Series Book 1)

Forever Changed

Ariana Logan appears to have it all. She’s beautiful, well off, and is the majority owner of the most successful real estate firm in town. She also lost her mother and her older sister to breast cancer. So when she’s diagnosed with the disease, it doesn’t come as a surprise to her. It is, however, the catalyst for a complete reevaluation of her marriage and work life.

Ingram is careful to make Ariana’s transformation from privileged doormat to self-directed independent woman gradual and believable. Ariana’s support system…her grandmother, her best friend…play key roles in encouraging her to change and then supporting her fledgling attempts. Also believable is the rapid-fire attraction between Ariana and tattoo artist Blaine Bennett.

Blaine’s love-at-first-sight reaction works because Ingram delays his and Ariana’s meeting and then uses geographical separation (and a carefully plotted misunderstanding) to put the brakes on the developing relationship. This flies in the face of conventional romance fiction, where the hero and heroine are never separated for very long. It succeeds here thanks to the rich backstories Ingram provides each character. They have genuine work lives and genuine romantic pasts. This makes for more complicated characters and a richer plot.

The setting (British Columbia) provides another enjoyable dimension to the story. Ariana has a strong sensitivity to place. She appreciates the beauties of her quaint town and that is part of what makes her profession (and her success at it) seem so believable. Also, the scenes at the seaside resort where she hides away to heal and, later, reconnects with Blaine are among the best in the book.

If I have one complaint, it’s how Ingram handles Blaine’s interactions with certain supporting characters. There’s a degree of conversation rehashing that becomes noticeable and weighs down an otherwise well-paced narrative. Also, Ariana’s husband and mother-in-law come off as a bit over the top in their behavior and attitudes. Ingram adds more complexity to Jeremy by the end of the book, but his character doesn’t ring as true as the others in the cast.

On the whole, FOREVER CHANGED is a well developed story told with emotion and sensitivity.

Review: BOUND BY LIGHT

*I received an ARC of this book in return for an honest review.

A young woman moves to London after her mother’s death and is swept into the arms of a movie star who is more than he seems.

Bound by Light (Cauld Ane, #7)

Bound by Light

I’ve read all of the Cauld Ane books. It’s a great series and BOUND BY LIGHT has one of the most endearing heroines. Sydney is likable and vulnerable. She has everything anyone could want on a material level, but she’d give it all away to have her mother back.

Movie star (and Cauld Ane) Thane Allen is strong and protective without being overbearing. Though Sydney might disagree! She balks at his attempts to keep her safe from a stalker who turns out be far more dangerous and unhinged than anyone expected.

I figured out WHO the villain was early on. So did Sydney, even if she didn’t understand that she knew. The WHY behind it all did come as a surprise. Let’s just say that at its core this book is about the mother-child bond–at its best and at its worst.

The binding scene between Thane and Sydney could have been more sensual. I’m not saying Jackson should have been more graphic in her depiction of their coming together. I do think it was noticeably underwritten. Sex aside, it would have been nice to know more about what Thane and Sydney were feeling and thinking at this pivotal moment.

Also, the pacing between the 50% and 80% points lags a little as we follow Thane and Sydney from home visit to home visit to home visit. It is nice to catch up with the previous Cauld Ane couples, but all the relatives and their wonderful estates do begin to blur together.

The climax makes up for the travel section. The villain is SCARY and it’s heartbreaking when Sydney learns that her childhood memories are not the whole truth. I can’t say more without spoiling the story.

BOUND BY LIGHT is romantic and suspenseful. Five stars!