Estelle: The Hero by Robyn Carr (Thunder Point Series)

The Hero by Robyn Carr: Part of the Thunder Point series, out on bookshelves on August 27, 2013The Hero by Robyn Carr ( web | tweet )
Part of the Thunder Point series.
Publication Date: August 27, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Pages: 384
Target audience: Adult
Keywords: cult, romance, friendship, football
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley! (Thanks!)
Last book I reviewed by Robyn Carr: The Newcomer

Summary: Devan has escaped from a commune with her young daughter and thanks to the kindness of a stranger, she lands in Thunder Point. At the same time, Spencer has moved his son Austin to the town so he could run the high school’s popular football program and start fresh after the death of his young wife.

A wedding, home makeover, and a gorgeous coastal setting? These are a few of my favorite things and all of them happen in The Hero.

Thank you, Robyn Carr!

The third book in the Thunder Point series does not disappoint, friends. (I say this all the time, but feel free to start this series out of order.) Even though some favorite characters from previous books are pushed to the sidelines, I loved meeting Devan, a young mother who has just escaped a life in a commune with her young daughter, and ends up in Thunder Point. She’s scared, she’s insecure, and (who can blame her) she’s not so quick to trust. But her first friend surprisingly comes from Rawley, a quiet but resourceful older friend that can be found in Carr’s other two books.

It was absolutely delightful to get to know the perpetually silent and loyal Rawley and watch him introduce Devan to Thunder Point, help her build a home there, and practically adopt her and her daughter as if they were his family.

Spencer is another new face in Thunder Point (see Book 2) with his son, Austin. After the death of his young wife, he’s ready to embrace a new life in this friendly town where he has accepted a job as the high school football coach. In this town, football is a religion, and Spencer immediately becomes a hot commodity. (He can’t have a beer without someone wanting to talk sports with him.) His sudden affection (and slight obsession?) for Devan surprises him and it was so nice to see the two grow a friendship into a sweet romance despite her secrets. (The tension!)

What’s good doesn’t stay great forever though. I knew Devan’s past would find a way to catch up with her, but I didn’t foresee how it would happen or all the extra challenges she would battle at the same time. I just knew I was rooting for her. Who is the real hero in this book? It’s a label that doesn’t fit just one character, let me tell ya.

Yet again, I enjoyed getting to hang out with these characters and I’m so sad I have to wait until March to take a trip back to Thunder Point. Maybe by then all of you can catch up with me and check them out yourself? I like that idea.

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Big thanks to my friends at Little Bird Publicity who want to give you a chance to win a copy of The Hero! Open to U.S. residents only and for those 13 years of age and older. Good luck!

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Estelle: Just One Kiss (Fool’s Gold) by Susan Mallery

Just One Kiss by Susan Mallery: Part of the Fool's Gold seriesJust One Kiss by Susan Mallery ( tweet | web )
Part of the Fool’s Gold series.
Publication Date: May 28, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Pages: 376
Target audience: Adult / romance / fiction
Keywords: childhood friends, single parents, family secrets
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley (Thanks!)

Summary: When she was a teenager Patience’s crush disappears without a trace. Fifteen years later, Justice returns to Fool’s Gold, to the only place has ever felt at home to find Patience and see if he can repair their friendship. Can Justice move on from his past? Can their old feelings bring on something meaningful now that they are adults?

Very few love stories can top the FRIENDS REUNITED SPARKS FLYING approach for me.

From the very minute Justice walks back into Patience’s life in Just One Kiss, the chemistry is alive and swirly; time after time, I couldn’t wait to get back to reading to see if these two characters could finally get it together.

It’s kind of a given in these novels that the characters come with a good amount of baggage. While Patience is wondering if she can trust Justice to stick around, Justice is having his own inner struggle. Is he a violent, heartless man like his father was? Is he capable of being in a loving relationship after the things that he has done? But, friends, how sweet and romantical is it that he cannot stay away from Fool’s Gold because of the Patience he grew up with? Swoon!

Even though Patience’s story is a little more prominent in this one and we get a little too much of Justice’s work partner when we could have had more kissing, I really liked the idea of Justice seeking solace in a place he was ripped from too suddenly as a kid. He’s so comfortable with Patience’s mom, and even Patience’s young daughter warms up to him and asks him if he can “protect” her from a boy at school. (Don’t worry; it’s an adorable little storyline.)

I swear, life just knows when I need a little bit of Fool’s Gold. There’s such a great sense of community there (even if everyone knows the other’s business) and it does truly sound like the perfect place to live. Even more so when Patience gets the capital to start her dream: a coffee shop called Brew-ha-ha. (How adorable is that?) There’s even talk of a Christmas stop opening up in the near future. (I love how I’m always trying to guess if this character will star in the next book.)

Again, I was totally charmed and I can pretty much call Just One Kiss my favorite Mallery book so far. A delicious couple that can’t keep their hands off each other, strong female bonds, a little suspense, and a celebration of small town living. With the warmer weather on its way, I can’t imagine a better pairing than a vacation and a Mallery romance.

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(Two notes: 1) Even though this is book 11, feel free to start anywhere in the series. It’s definitely easy enough to catch on. 2) The characters in this book are in their late 20s and early 30s. In case you were curious!)

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Estelle: Better than Chocolate by Sheila Roberts

Better than Chocolate by Sheila RobertsBetter than Chocolate by Sheila Roberts
Publication Date: September 25, 2012
Publisher: Harlequin
Pages: 400
Keywords: sisters, small business, small towns, romance
Target audience: Adult
Format read: ARC from Little Bird Publicity (Thanks!)

Summary: With little time to act, Samantha and her family are forced to come up with a solution when they find out their chocolate business is in trouble.

You know that feeling when you want a chocolate bar and you reach into your shoulder bag and all you find is granola? Sure, the granola still fills your appetite but it’s just not the same.

That pretty much captures how I felt reading Better than Chocolate.

I was expecting to be swept up in some big, epic romance but, instead this novel focused on Samantha and the struggling chocolate business that has been in her family for generations. After her step-father unexpectedly dies, she finds out the business owes a huge amount of money to the bank. When she receives no help from the new bank owner/that popular football player from high school, Blake, she and her sisters decide to hold a chocolate festival by Valentine’s Day in hopes of saving the company.

Even though this book is more about Samantha’s determination and loyalty to her family’s legacy, I liked watching her band forces with her sisters and her mom to organize this huge event. Everyone wants to root for the local company, the underdog, when it comes to a bigger company taking over the town. In Icicle Falls, we see the town support the event and tons of creative ideas make it to the table. It was exactly the kind of project I would want to be a part of.

In the meantime, Samantha is sure Blake is anxious for her chocolate company to fail and is intent on making him the big, bad enemy. But of course, he’s super attractive and she can’t stop thinking about him. He’s also conflicted because he loves Samantha’s passion (and her butt) but he knows he can’t help her the way he really wants to. While they are more on each other’s minds than physically spending time together, the sizzling moments only made me want more of the book dedicated to the two of them.

So while romance was more like the icing on top of a scrumptious chocolate cupcake, I did like reading about four women who all had different feelings on careers, independence, and love and took different routes to get to where they were. The fate of their family company caused them to face certain truths, and make crucial life changes and that was nice to see.

Better than Chocolate will make you crave the delicious morsels featured in the book, but also leave you wanting more. After 400 pages it wraps up a little too perfectly, totally softening any tension, and falls together in too much of a fairy tale fashion. Though the trend of setting books in cute small towns with tons of charm? I’m so on board with that. Book me a ticket!

Make It Yours: The Price is Right: Rather Be Reading's rating for affordable books you can't miss!

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Estelle: Spring Fever by Mary Kay Andrews

Mary Kat Andrews' Spring FeverSpring Fever by Mary Kay Andrews (Tweet!)
Publication Date: June 1, 2012
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Pages: 402
Target audience: Adult
Keywords: romance, small town, family businesses, divorce, family secrets
Format read: ARC from Netgalley! Thanks!

Summary: Annajane is totally okay with her ex-husband, Mason, remarrying. In fact, she’s engaged and about to move out of the small town she has always called home, which is why she’s all decked out in a vintage dress and sitting in a pew waiting for their ceremony to start. But after an incident halts the wedding, she can’t help but start reminiscing about their courtship and the pain of their divorce. Is it possible she’s not as over him as she thought?

Just imagine living in the same town and working for the same company as your ex-husband, a man you have been in love with since your teens. Never in your wildest dreams did you think your marriage would end after a few years and somehow, despite the hurt, you are co-existing. And then he goes and gets engaged to a beautiful woman who has usurped your job at the company. Oh wait, he also fathered a child during your separation who you have fallen in love with.

Dramalicious, right?

The hits just keep on coming too because there is a complex sub-plot that involves the future of the Quixie, the family cherry soda company. Mason and his brother, Davis, have run the company since their father’s passing but it seems like they have two different ideas of what it should become. This twisty storyline involves Annajane’s career, the entire Bayless family, and the economy of small town Passcoe.

There are secrets and strategies and secret rendezvous and much devious behavior.

In fact, Spring Fever is heavier than the turquoise cover and a bunch of flip flops. It definitely had small reminders of The Notebook or Sweet Home Alabama films, but there’s a lot more at stake than an old relationship and moving forward. The underlying ‘business’ plot intensified the entire story, and left me guessing until the very end. I’ll admit… this story is soap opera central in its entirety (could have done without the typical Celia scenario) but that didn’t stop me from connecting with Annajane who cannot for the life of her decide what to do about Mason. To me, it seemed they divorced much too soon but she couldn’t decide if they could really make it work again if given another chance. She didn’t exactly fit in the ‘rich wife socialite’ box that Mason’s own mother belonged to. And that misunderstanding and lack of communication led them down a wrong road in the first place.

But ooh, the romance… the longing. It was good. Really good. Andrews can certainly write a tender love scene but also the fun ones where everyone is a teenager again. With mix tapes! And hot cars.

Why do small town books always have the most intriguing characters? (I actually saw that Andrew’s book, Summer Rental, is set in Tybee Island, South Carolina and I have immediately added it to my to-read list.) I loved the gossip, little mimic Sophie, the ridiculously adorable men who own a neighborhood hotel, and the friendship and scheming between Annajane and her bestie, Pokey (who also is Mason’s sister). Spring Fever was fast paced and majorly addicting (yes, I hid this one under my desk) and it would make the perfect companion on a bus ride or a beach trip.

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Estelle: What I Didn’t Say by Keary Taylor

What I Didn’t Say by Keary Taylor
Publication Date: April 30, 2012
Publisher: CreateSpace
Pages: 326
Target audience: Mature young adult
Keywords: underage drinking, small town, romance, high school graduation
Format read: ARC from NetGalley.

Summary: Before Jake can even toss his graduation cap in the air, his present and future are irreversibly affected when he makes the decision to drink at a party and then drive with friends who had been drinking and doing drugs. Cue. Car accident. T-pipe to throat. No longer being able to speak.

I don’t want this to sound like a PSA for underage drinking. We’ve heard all of this before. And so has Jake. He’s just your average guy who makes one mistake and affects the lives of many. He’s not unaware of his actions and the havoc they caused. Of course, he’s devasted. The money he’s costing his parents (who have seven children), his future plans are now impossible, he can’t play school sports anymore, he can only communicate to friends and family with a notebook, and everyone is always staring at him. Not the life he is used to for sure.

What I liked most about this book was the community. It was a small town full of supportive people, who even decided to make personal pledges to stop drinking for the remainder of the year because of the car accident. Jake’s family is the crowd that everyone wants to hang out with; they are always inviting and loving and helping others out. But there were so many times where I wished the family was more like the Garrett’s in Huntley Fitzpatrick’s My Life Next Door where we could truly get a handle on everyone’s personalities even if we met them in only a few fleeting moments.

Then there is Samantha, the girl that Jake has loved for a long time. Though they seemed to miss their chance of getting together in the past year, he still can’t get her out of his mind. But Samantha has grown distant and he doesn’t know what to do about that. He desperately wants to tell her how he feels, especially after the accident, when the two are paired in a sign language “class”. Sure, this was a little coincidental but I didn’t care what force brought them together. I wanted to see what could grow between them. Samantha has some mystery about her, and Jake is struggling to come to terms with his inability to speak. And really struggling… he’s positive one moment and down the next and I appreciated Taylor presenting this see-saw of emotions because there is no way someone could go through something this tramatic and be on a straight path to happiness.

While I enjoyed Jake and Samantha’s sweet love story, I do wonder if the story would have stayed more grounded if Samantha’s life did not deal with such extreme issues. Did all of this weigh down the story? Sometimes. Was it an over-the-top way to teach Jake to appreciate his life? And could it have been done in a quieter, less hectic manner? I think so. Jake was never depicted as this ungrateful, big-man-on-campus/football-player type. He was a typical teenager who had something bad happen to him.  Post-accident, I believe his true challenge was not getting dragged down by his disability and instead embracing it the best he could.

In general, Taylor took her own personal story and created a very original premise in What I Didn’t Say. Still, a fine read could have been bought to a whole new level by introducing a blanket of over-looked details (Jake’s family embracing sign language, what Jake was actually going to study in college the following here, etc.). Even though the novel lacks in development and unique voice in some areas, What I Didn’t Say is a fast-paced read, well worth your time that truly encompasses the unsure time between senior year of high school and the rest of your life, amplified by a million.

Goodreads | Buy on Amazon (You really should; it’s a steal!)

Need more convincing?

> Melissa, I Swim for Oceans: “Most of all though, when you strip away the pretty words, we’re given two very basic characters who find the most pure and powerful connection of all.”
> Eva, The Book Stoner: “The novel offers something new because of Taylor’s fresh approach and the unique plots and twists.”