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! 😉

Estelle: The Apple Orchard by Susan Wiggs

The Apple Orchard by Susan WiggsThe Apple Orchard by Susan Wiggs ( web | tweet )
Part of the Bella Vista series.
Publication Date: April 30, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Pages: 432
Target audience: adult
Keywords: family secrets, World War II, romance
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley (Thanks!)

Other books by Susan Wiggs featured on RBR: Return to Willow Lake

Summary: In San Francisco, Tess finds success and as much happiness as possible uncovering hidden treasures for people. But mystery finds her, when single dad and winemaker Dominic seeks her out to share some news: Magnus, the grandfather she never knew she had, has suffered a fall and is in a coma. Oh right, she also has a half-sister. Tess travels to wine country, and the family’s apple orchard (Bella Vista) — a beautiful and peaceful spread of land that she will inherit when the time comes. She soon finds herself smack dab in the middle of one of her biggest projects yet.

If Bella Vista were a true destination, I would be writing this review from a plane.

(Did I mention it is next door to a vineyard and there is absolutely no cell phone service?)

Tess is a major workaholic who thinks a martini olive is a sufficient dinner. She lives alone in San Francisco but has some great friends and an awesome job uncovering antiques for their owners. (I found this career so intriguing!) When the gorgeous Dominic shows up unexpectedly at her office , he comes with unbelievable news: the grandfather she never knew existed is in serious condition at a hospital because of a fall. She also has a half-sister and stands to inherit half of an apple orchard she has never seen before.

It’s no surprise she has a panic attack right then and there.

With orders from the doctor to exercise, relax, and refrain from caffeine or alcohol, Tess begrudgingly travels to Bella Vista to find out just what’s going on with this mysterious “family.” At Bella Vista, she finds utter paradise: a place rich with her own family history, at peace with nature, and brimming with secrets. (As you can imagine, all this “quiet” makes our city girl very nervous.) Tess can’t help but grow attached to the place, despite her own belief that she doesn’t belong there. She finds a quiet camaraderie with her sister, Isabel (an impressive chef who chose to stay close to home), and a growing connection to Dominic. (Banker by day, winemaker by night, divorcee and executor of Magnus’ will.)

Unfortunately, a pretty terrible secret threatens the livelihood of many who work at Bella Vista and also the family’s legacy. Without Magnus to give them any answers, Tess taps into her day job to find a happy ending for everyone.

This is where The Apple Orchard starts to depend on shifts between past and present to catch readers up on the histories of many of these characters, including Magnus’ childhood during World War II and the tragedy he experienced, as well as Tess’s mom and the real story of her pregnancy. (One that she has managed to keep buried for 29 years.) The historical fiction portions of the story were really great to read and Wiggs develops the family lineage really well (even if there are a few too many coincidences); her inclusion of these mysteries and journeys into the past make The Apple Orchard more than just your typical fluffy read.

So what about the romance? Tess is your typical “afraid of commitment and opening herself up to someone” female heroine while Dominic is divorced (crazy ex!) with two small kids. He’s known around town as a total caregiver (he loves to save dogs) and Tess, well, she needs a little caring in her life. I really liked their teasing and how supportive he was when Tess was thrown into a crazy situation. Plus all their sweet moments revolved around wine, which is just instantaneously sexy to me.

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed my time with The Apple Orchard. Despite a few issues (not enough POV changes and some predictability), there’s certainly a little bit of everything for any reader — mystery, love, historical elements, and family — and the addition of delicious sounding recipes doesn’t hurt either.

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Estelle: Return to Willow Lake by Susan Wiggs

Return to Willow Make by Susan Wiggs: Review at RatherBeReadingBlog.comReturn to Willow Lake by Susan Wiggs (Part of Lakeshore Chronicles series)
Publication Date: August 28, 2012
Publisher: Harlequin
Pages: 320
Target audience: Adult
Keywords: romance, single parents, fathers/daughters, mothers/daughters
Format read: ARC from NetGalley. (Thanks!)

Summary: On the cusp of an exciting opportunity at her job and growing closer to her successful boyfriend, Sonnet finds herself leaving New York City and returning to her small town of Avalon to care for her mom, who is facing a difficult pregnancy. After an unexpected encounter the last time she was home with her best friend, Zach, and the pressure of her father’s political campaign, Sonnet finds herself under a lot of pressure and struggling to come to terms with how she really wants her life to be.

After a childhood of wishing her parents would get together and form the perfect family, Sonnet has the next best thing — an awesome mother, Nina, who is married to a man who loves her unconditionally, and after many years, a stable relationship with her uber-successful father, General Lawrence Jeffries, who is heavy-duty campaigning to be senator.

In Return to Willow Lake, Sonnet is pulled in separate directions due to her relationships with both parents. She puts great pressure on herself to be the ideal daughter for her father when it comes to dating and her job, yet when she finds out her mom is pregnant and facing high risk complications, her initial reaction is to drop the job and move back home to care for her.

Now embracing a very different job and the simple joys of her hometown, Sonnet faces a new conflict – what if the person she has been building herself up to be is not really her at all?

Enter Zach, her attractive best male best friend and budding filmmaker. After an interesting shared moment or two or three a few months ago, their dynamic has changed. For so long Zach has been the person she has leaned on and called for good news, but all of a sudden – she’s not so sure what to make of their complicated friendship.

Sonnet’s not the only one figuring things out… from Zach’s chapters we see that he has focused on leaving Avalon and pursuing film in New York or California but can’t seem to escape the place he grew up. For years Zach has been paying for the mistakes of his dad and he’s set to finally do something for himself… but with Sonnet back in town, a request from Nina, and a great job that forces him to stay in Avalon… he’s not sure what to make of his future.

Unfortunately, Zach and Sonnet’s chemistry is mostly buried in the storyline focusing on Nina’s medical challenges (with a few unnecessary chapters from Nina’s POV as well) and the reader doesn’t get pent up, fiery passion from the pair. (A shame!) Though there are some entertaining moments between the two and a celebrity reality star (who I pictured as Macy Gray) who bestows some worthwhile wisdom and stars in some unexpected sweet moments throughout the book.

While the novel features some unbalanced plotlines and a few inconsistencies, it was Sonnet’s search for happiness that hit home the most — what’s right for someone else might not necessarily be the right thing for you. It took Sonnet a lot of pain and discovery to reach that understanding and make the right moves in her life. While I wish the romance had a bit more sizzle and the story jam-packed a lot of drama, Wiggs has succeeded in writing a fast-paced novel (that does not feel formulaic in the least) with many relatable emotional ups and downs at its core.

Oh, for those of you worried about jumping into the Lakeshore Chronicles with book 9, don’t! Return to Willow Lake is perfect as a standalone, or your introduction to the series in general.

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