This Love Bug | Romance Short List

Did you know August was Romance Awareness Month? Me neither. (Just made it!) I found out when I was doing some research for work, but hey, it is and here we are. Three romance recommendations that eased me back into work after vacation, accompanied me on a beer crawl, and kept me company on a “me night” (along with this beer). I always will equate romance novels with relaxation and a whole lot of fun. Thanks to these for providing that! Hope you find something to add to your list today.

♥

Fighting for Keeps by Jennifer SnowFighting for Keeps by Jennifer Snow (Harlequin Heartwarming/ April 25, 2015): My first romance novel about a fighter, and I really liked it. Noah might fight for a living but he’s also focused on making sure young kids in his neighborhood have every opportunity to get a great education and support they might be missing. In the same town is Lindsay, a woman he’s been after forever. No amount of training has prepared him for her cold shoulder but when tragedy strikes and her life changes a ton, Noah is there for her. A sweet story about a woman who must finally realize she’s worth it and capable of everything, and a man who learns it’s okay to let his defenses down with the right person.

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Thrill Me by Susan MalleryThrill Me by Susan Mallery (Harlequin HQN/July 28, 2015) I’ve read my fair share of Susan Mallery books, and I can say, hands down, this one is at the top of my list. Second chance love? Give me more of this. Maya is unexpectedly reunited with the only man she’s ever been in love with for a work project. Her and Del never exactly broke up either; she ran away from him and never looked back. On the surface, both seem at ease working on a marketing campaign for Fool’s Gold but, in reality, Maya’s wondering if she should bring up the past and Del is starting to remember how great everything felt when she was around. Not only was this book about bringing two people together again, but Maya is struggling with that next step in her life. Does she want to work in Fool’s Gold forever or is there more for her out there? I was utterly delighted by these two, happy to be back in the generous and sweet town of Fool’s Gold, and gobbled this book in less than a day.

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One Wish by Robyn CarrA New Hope by Robyn Carr (Harlequin HQN/June 30, 2015): Every since I read ONE WISH, I was anxious to get to Ginger’s story. She’s a divorced young woman who lost her young child to SIDS and has now relocated to Thunder Point, working in an adorable flower shop. Robyn Carr overlaps Ginger’s story while continuing Grace’s from One Wish and I was glad for that. Grace’s story was far from over, and her friendship was so important to Ginger’s new lease on life. In this book, two people have to come to terms with their past and decide if they are ready to jump into a new adventure together. Matt makes a terrible first impression with Ginger but throughout A NEW HOPE, he certainly makes up for it. They grow to be close friends and take their next steps very slowly. I liked getting to know them a lot, enjoyed meeting a new character who will take centerstage in WILDEST DREAMS, and, once again, feeling charmed all over again by the Thunder Point citizens.

A nitpicky sidenote: I wish the ladies were featured on the covers of THUNDER POINT novels. I have no idea whose dog that is!

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♥

Nothing beats a romance novel during a stressful week, let me tell ya. Thanks for reading, and be sure to share any recommendations below!

Love Ain’t Nothing But Love | Romance Picks

This week has dragged a bit, hasn’t it? I’m blaming it on the very warm weather we’ve been having. Nothing like some sticky weather to get you in the mood for a romance novel, am I right? Okay. Maybe that transition sucks, but here I am. It’s been a summer of love for me. My reading routine is generally all about romance as a palette cleanser, a dependable mood booster but I find myself craving them more than ever lately. (It’s true. I came home from seeing Magan last week, after finishing Bad News Cowboy by Maisey Yates on the plane and all I wanted to do was pick up another one.) Here’s to falling in love with love – ♥

The Beekeeper's Ball by Susan WiggsThe Beekeeper’s Ball by Susan Wiggs (Harlequin MIRA; 6/24/14) — I don’t read a TON of historical romance but I would like to think a series like Bella Vista Chronicles is the perfect entry into this book category. Isobel is in the midst of building a cooking school on the property of her childhood home when journalist/writer Cormac turns up to write the biography of Isobel’s grandfather, Magnus. While Isobel and Cormac’s story serve as one part of The Beekeeper’s Ball, Magnus’s memories from WWII (retold for that biography) fulfill the second as his colorful and heartbreaking past link past and present. I love the idea of a family learning about their history. With an enchanting setting and an emphasis on second chances, this book is definitely sweeter than honey. (As of right now, I don’t see any announcements for another book in this series but I hope there will be one. The Apple Orchard was great too.)

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Never Too Late by Robyn CarrNever Too Late by Robyn Carr (Harlequin MIRA; 4/1/15) – Clare (a recent divorcee starting over), Maggie (currently in a rut within her marriage), and Sarah (the single sister in the shadows) are the main gals starring in this reboot of Never Too Late (originally published in 2006). When Clare ends up seriously hurt in a car accident, her “seize the moment” mentality intensifies and she finds herself dating, making amends with old friends, and diving into new work. Her bond is her sisters is key to moving forward, especially when life continues to be bumpy. Never Too Late suffers from feeling a bit old-fashioned and drags in some places but Clare’s story is well-supported with tales of her sisters trying to refresh their own lives as best they can.

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Kiss Me by Susan MalleryKiss Me by Susan Mallery (Harlequin HQN; 6/30/15) — Admittedly, it was strange to read a Fool’s Gold love that doesn’t spend much time there but it was also refreshing and a reminder that FG is more about the kind community and not about the town. City girl, Phoebe, as a help to her best friend, agrees to attend an accidentally planned cattle drive in the wilderness with absolutely no experience. She finds herself in the company of brooding, quiet Zane and suddenly this whole trip has gotten a bit interesting. Zane is not easy to get to know and Phoebe is unable to hold back her quirks — talking to wild animals, making up funny stories, and pretty much being all kids of adorable. It’s been so long since Zane has had fun that it takes him some time to warm up to Phoebe, especially since this time in nature is meant to be a lesson for his ex-stepbrother, not alter his own life. You can always expect sexy and sweet with a sprinkling of lively supporting characters from  Mallery. Kiss Me was no exception.

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Bad News Cowboy by Maisey YatesBad News Cowboy by Maisey Yates (Harlequin HQN; 7/28/15) — Every since I read Part Time Cowboy, I’ve found myself a little bit obsessed with Yates. You know it’s good when you’re practically drooling before you start a book. Kate has always been more into riding horses than falling for guys but it’s like one day she just turned around and Jack — best friend to both her brothers and someone who’s always treated her like a little sister — is looking pretty good. Pretty good enough to be very curious about. And Jack, for his part, never wanted to cross Kate’s brothers and certainly never thought he would be fantasizing about Kate. Hello, forbidden romance! Both Kate and Jack discover they not only have common histories (and insecurities) but insane, insane chemistry. I loved this too because Kate is a virgin but she’s not afraid to say what she wants, and watching as she became more confident with this side of herself was such a bonus. Best of all — nothing about Yates’ stories feels formulaic, and the gender roles that have certainly been exhausted in this genre don’t seem to exist — resulting in one refreshing romance novel. (Can we have more independent ladies in these books, please?) It was also, quite possibly, the sexiest.

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Thanks for stopping in! If you leave me a book recommendation below,
I promise you a fantastic day! 😉

One Wish by Robyn Carr • Why in 5 & Giveaway

One Wish by Robyn CarrOne Wish by Robyn Carr  ( web | tweet )
Part of Thunder Point series.
Publication Date: February 24, 2015
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Pages: 384
Target audience: Adult
Keywords: small towns, overcoming the path, family conflict, secrets
Format read: ARC provided by Publisher. (Thanks!)
Previously: The Homecoming by Robyn Carr

Summary: Grace owns Thunder Point’s flower shop, she has a great best friend, and she’s truly settling into this small community. When her friend (and top crush) Troy suggests she doesn’t have enough fun, he recruits himself as her “fun” coach. Grace gives in, despite her feelings and the secrets she has been keeping.

I’m a huge fan of the Thunder Point series because, unlike a lot of the other romances I read, Robyn Carr builds her stories beyond the couple, trickling in more personalities from the community and making it feel like you are truly a fly on the wall of the gorgeous (I really want to visit) Pacific Northwest town of Thunder Point. Here are five reasons to check out her latest, ONE WISH, and where I, again, remind you it’s okay to read these out of order:

1. A flower shop. As much as chemistry and love is important in a romance novel, I love great background stories and I thought it was so adorable that Grace owned her own flower shop. She took pride in her work and her business, and was so so great with her customers.

2. Non-drama relationship. It was refreshing that a majority of the “drama” in ONE WISH came from places other than Grace and Troy’s relationship. Sure, the whole thing started as nothing more of a friendship (from Troy’s perspective anyway) but it escalated in this sweet, natural, no hassle way. Sure there were some kinks but for the most part the “push and pull” was never a huge, melodramatic issue.

3. Ginger. Someone new is always moving to Thunder Point, and I’m praying that Ginger is a bigger character in one of the upcoming books. She’s dealing with depressing, and moves to TP to live with her grandmother and hopefully move out of her funk once and for all. I love how TP is such a healing place for so many  and Ginger’s story (her husband leaving her; her young son dying) is one that I want to hear more about. (Great news: we get more hangout time with Ginger in A New Hope!)

4. A true community. I touched on this a little bit in #3 but something about TP always makes me miss living in the suburbs. These neighbors are always around to catch the other, and help out in someway and it’s so so so heartwarming and wonderful. I love these strangers find new connections and find themselves bonding for life with people they never thought they would. (Plus, the views. I want to hear the ocean.)

5. A Valentine’s Day dance. Did your school have one of these? I am pretty sure we didn’t but Troy teaches at the high school and he’s chaperoning one. I couldn’t help but laugh at how his students are in love with him, and just how popular Grace was with the young kids. This was such a fun detail!


It’s time for one of you to read ONE WISH. The lovely people at Little Bird Publicity have provided me with one copy for a U.S. winner. Please enter to win below & good good luck!

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Estelle: The Homecoming by Robyn Carr

The Homecoming by Robyn CarrThe Homecoming by Robyn Carr ( web | tweet )
Part of Thunder Point series.
Publication Date: August 26, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Pages: 400
Target audience: Adult
Keywords: best friends, reunion, job changes, small communities, high school
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley! (Thanks!)

Summary: Seth returns to Thunder Point as the new Deputy Sheriff; he’s determined to keep the town he grew up in safe but his sights are also set on Iris, his old best friend. He’s not sure what happened to their friendship, but he wants to fix it, make it better, and then some.

I am a total sucker of best friends who fall in love with each other.

There’s a little catch in The Homecoming though. Iris is over and done with Seth. After years of secretly crushing on him when they were kids, one night changes all of it. Seth’s return to Thunder Point brings back painful memories for Iris, and Seth just doesn’t understand what happened between the two of them. He admits to being a stupid young kid but beyond that… he can’t figure out why Iris turned away from him.

Seth isn’t ready to give up on her though, and is determined to get to the bottom of all that high school drama. He wants a shot with her.

His “wooing” (as Seth puts it) is pretty adorable, especially when combined with the efforts of a colleague who also has feelings for Iris. (She’s one popular lady.) Carr has a lot of fun with this situation, forcing the three into some comical scenes and injecting some snappy dialogue. (Is Troy the subject of the next Thunder Point novel? I hope so.)

There was also the subplot that involved Iris’ work as a school counselor. I enjoyed seeing her in action, taking her own high school experience and making it better for others. When the faculty is worried one of the students is being abused at home, Iris is professional and diligent about getting to the bottom of it. I understood why Seth (and Troy) were so enamored with her. She was a good person who wanted to do right by people.

Again, Carr treated me to yet another sweet Thunder Point read. A handful of cameos from past characters, awesome backdrop (with adorable town traditions), and a great love story? You can’t go wrong. (Plus if you haven’t yet started this series, The Homecoming with a whole new crew is a great place to start!)

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Great news! The kind folks at Little Bird Publicity are providing one copy of The Homecoming to a reader in the United States. Good luck!

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Estelle: The Promise by Robyn Carr

The Promise by Robyn CarrThe Promise by Robin Carr ( web | tweet )
Part of the Thunder Point series.
Publication Date: June 24, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Pages: 363
Target audience: Adult
Keywords: small towns, medical practices, single parents with children, big families
Format read: ARC paperback from Little Bird Publicity. (Thanks!)
We last reviewed: The Chance by Robyn Carr

Summary: Peyton hopes to find a little reprieve in Thunder Point, after feeling dejected and unappreciated by the man she thought she loved for the past 3 years. She takes on a short-term job at a clinic with a widowed doctor, Scott, who goes above and beyond his call of duty in this small town. Peyton has sworn off guys for awhile, and Scott hasn’t seen anyone seriously since his wife died. Is there something between the two?

Remind me to visit the Pacific Northwest soon, okay?

Thunder Point books always get me revved up about small towns near the water, cute bars to catch the sunset, paddleboarding, nature, and some of Carrie’s fine foods. (Okay, I know this part is just fictional but I can assume there’s an adorable locally-owned food spot there in real life, right?)

Robyn Carr skillfully welcomes readers back to Thunder Point while comfortably ushering in the new ones in the tale of Scott Grant, widowed father of two and town doctor. If you’ve read a few of the books in the series before this one, you might know him a bit already. Since his entry into this beloved community, he’s popped up here and there — never digging deep enough into his story. So I was happy to finally get a chance to know the guy, and, my gosh, is he a total saint or what? He singlehandedly cares for the all the people in town, even if this means not making a ton of money. You see, Scott’s not concerned about that. He came to Thunder Point to give his children a safe, happy life and he doesn’t mind giving back.

You can’t blame him either. The town is a family within itself. You see it in how everyone cares for the other, and how easily they welcome brand new Peyton into the fold. (Okay, sure, they are a little gossipy but it’s charming! None of it is out of malice.) I think Peyton is a little taken aback by this altruistic little town and who could blame her? She spent the past three years being treated like a permanent maid to her boyfriend and his ungrateful children.

It takes some time and a very funny misunderstanding for Scott and Peyton to wake up to how perfect they might be together. As always Carr balances out the sweet romance with some fantastic side stories — truly rounding out how just lovely this town is. Lovely and constantly changing. Some of my favorite parts of this book were meeting Peyton’s huge family who run a super successful farm and treasure hard work and each other so much, and an absolutely adorable campfire scene. Best of all, Carr makes Thunder Point feel like a real place with every book in the series; I liked how this one touched on how dedicated the townspeople were, working two jobs to make ends meet.

So if you are looking to take a trip to the West Coast this summer where the people are always ready to lend a hand and share a smile, I suggest you jump on the Thunder Point train as soon as possible. As Peyton says at one point in the book: “This is a nice place to fit into.” She couldn’t be more right about that!

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

The Chance by Robyn CarrThe Chance by Robyn Carr ( web | tweet )
Part of the Thunder Point series.
Publication Date: February 25, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Pages: 368
Target audience: Adult
Keywords: father/daughters, romance, small towns
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley. (Thanks!)
Last book I reviewed by Carr: The Hero

Summary: After getting to know Thunder Point in a professional capacity, Laine decides to rehabilitate from her injury and make a temporary home there. When she meets Eric, another Thunder Point newbie, she finds yet another reason to make her new town a permanent fixture. But when her estranged father shows up on her front stoop and she’s antsy with her career, will she be heading back to the East Coast? And what about Eric? New character, Al, is introduced and begins romancing man-crazy real estate agent, Ray Anne, and one of Eric’s high school workers, Justin, has problems at home.

Thunder Point is a town of second chances. Even though Laine and Eric think they have nothing in common when they first get together, I do think this is what brings them together. Laine is coming off a huge assignment with the FBI and Eric just opened a car shop in Thunder Point to be closer to his teenage daughter. I loved how Laine took the lead because tough guy Eric was a little too shy, and how, together, they were the perfect balance of sexy and settled.

It’s true that Carr didn’t waste any time getting these two together. The Chance‘s storyline went beyond romance, and began to focus on the sudden appearance of Laine’s estranged father from Boston and the other guys in Eric’s car shop. (Of course, we did get to catch up with some past favorites from the Thunder Point series, too. Though, not as much as I thought.) This change in course was a little unexpected. I’ll be honest. I would have liked to see Laine bond with Eric’s daughter, and at some point, Eric to meet Laine’s family but instead the couple faced a lot of time apart as Laine saw to her dad and a subplot featuring a teenage boy in Eric’s shop took centerstage.

The second half of The Chance chugged along considerably slower than the first, partly because I didn’t think there would be such a heavy emphasis on Laine and her dad. I did like how Laine’s character made family so important, and appreciated her struggle with doing what was right for her parent and what was right for herself. It’s a tough position to be in (especially because her dad’s acceptance was so important to her), and I was curious to see what she was going to decide in the end. Would Thunder Point and Eric be her final destination? I really wasn’t too sure. (But I did have a hunch. Happily ever after, and all that good stuff.)

While Carr’s latest felt a a tad willy-nilly compared to the other installments, it was still comforting to be welcomed back into this town, visit with old friends  (especially the man-crazy real estate agent, Ray Anne), and get to know some new ones (high schooler Justin and his determination to take care of his family). I’ve already marked my calendar for The Promise, book 5 in the series, out in July. I can’t wait to know a certain doctor a little bit better…

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If you want to know more about the Thunder Point series and The Chance,  keep reading below for a Q&A with series creator, Robyn Carr, provided by Little Bird Publicity.

Robyn CarrQ: When you first created Thunder Point and started writing novels based there, did you have upcoming characters—like Laine and Eric from The Chance—in mind, or have they been developed since you created the town? How has the series evolved since the first three books came out last year?

A: The really fun part about a long running series like this as that the characters appear as they’re needed and they evolve. When I first introduced Eric in The Newcomer, I wasn’t sure he’d have more of a story coming. When I started to think he was memorable enough for his own story and romance, I wasn’t sure whom he’d meet that he’d fall for. When I introduced Laine in The Hero, I thought she might be just crossing the stage—but then I saw her meeting Eric and it all seemed to come together.

Other characters have been there since the beginning of the series and have been calling out to me for their own story, like Dr. Scott Grant. Bless his heart—he has been ready for a special woman for a long time now.

Q: Do you have a favorite place in Thunder Point? If it was a real town, where would you spend most of your time?

A: If I lived in Thunder Point, I think I’d be at the diner every day. That seems to be where most people run into each other. It’s a great place for a coffee break or breakfast—Stu, the owner and cook, doesn’t screw up breakfast too badly. And another great place to have a glass of wine or a nice dinner is the nicest restaurant in town, Cliffhanger’s in the marina. And finally Cooper’s beach bar is the best place to view a sunset—he has tables on the deck and when the sun sets over those big, black haystack rocks, it’s amazing.

Q: What is the underlying message you want women to take away from The Chance? Not to be too corny, but what does chance have to do with it? And do you really believe in second chances?

A: Eric and Laine are completely ill-suited for each other. Not only do they come from vastly different backgrounds, like completely different things, but he’s an ex-con and she’s an FBI agent! And yet when they’re together, the chemistry is overpowering. Even though all good sense says they should not pursue a romantic future, sometimes you have to go with your gut instinct and take a chance on the least likely match. Do I believe in second chances? Oh, yes. And third, fourth, fifth and so on. Things seem to work out just as they should. I love the quote from the movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, “Everything will be all right in the end. If it is not yet all right, it is not yet the end.”

Q: What would you tell someone who is coming to Thunder Point for the first time? What do you want them to know about the town before they jump into The Chance? Because after all, even though this is a series, the brilliant thing is that you don’t have to read them in order. You really can just jump in and fall in love with any book.

A:  Thunder Point is a small coastal town in Oregon. Many of the residents have been there all their lives, some have been there at least several years and some are finding new lives there. The things they all seem to have in common is they’re not afraid of hard work, they take pleasure in the most simple yet wonderful things life has to offer, they are committed to helping each other when help is needed and they value their friendships. Most of the town could use sprucing up but the landscape is breathtaking with the big rocks in the bay, long beach and protected bay. The storms that come in from the Pacific and gather in the bay provide as much entertainment as any action adventure movie. Thunder Point is almost crime free and has a safe, secure feeling to it.  It’s a perfect place to raise children, recover from a broken heart or start over.