2018 Book #53 – The Christmas Cowboy Hero by Donna Grant

51vr3JjFD5LTitle: The Christmas Cowboy Hero
Author: Donna Grant
Date finished: 6/23/18
Genre: Contemporary romance
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Publication Date: October 31, 2017
Pages in book: 316
Stand alone or series: #1 in the Heart of Texas series
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

’Tis the season for ex-Navy SEAL Clayton East to come home for the holidays—even if the mood at home is anything but festive. His father is ill. The East Ranch is in financial trouble. And now it’s on Clayton, the prodigal son, to make sure his family doesn’t lose everything.

Headstrong Abby Harper is like a mother to her younger brothers, who she’s helped raise since she was a teenager. Keeping them in line is no small task while she’s also working toward her college degree. And now that one of her brothers has been arrested for stealing cattle at the East Ranch, Abby is at her wits’ end. But there is a silver lining: Clayton East. He believes in second chances, and is willing to give one to her brother this Christmas. Letting beautiful Abby—and the inescapable longing in his heart—off the hook, however, is a whole ’nother story. Could it be that the woman of this local hero’s dreams has been back at home all along?

My rating:  2.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This is from my 2017 Backlog list, I read this for the 2018 Bookish Reading Challenge for the “a book you picked up based on the title” category, as I had picked this book originally around the holidays since I thought it would make a good Christmas read.

This book sounded like it would be a cute read for around the holidays, which is when I had originally planned to read it but unfortunately work got in the way last year. So I read it this year while I was on vacation! The premise behind this book was a romance trope cliche, millionaire cowboy rescues poor nice woman in a Texas town. And while it was completely unrealistic, it was still romantic. Clayton as a character was everything you’d want from a romance novel hero: dark, brooding, completely devoted, utterly sexy. Abby was nice enough, and honestly I loved that she was an accountant studying to be a CPA, but she was a little too shy for my tastes in a romance heroine. Their whole relationship moved pretty quickly too, I mean within a week of Brice getting arrested Abby’s whole family was staying to weekend with Clayton’s family, and within 6 weeks they were engaged. This was a sweet romance though with an ok Christmas theme and some serious sparks between the hero and heroine. I enjoyed it and would recommend it!

Link to author website

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2018 Book #52 – The Highlander’s Promise by Lynsay Sands

51EWBa8kD6LTitle: The Highlander’s Promise
Author: Lynsay Sands
Date finished: 6/22/18
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: June 26, 2018
Pages in book: 384
Stand alone or series: #6 in the Highland Brides series
Where I got the book from: Edelweiss
NOTE: I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Aulay Buchanan has retreated to his clan’s hunting lodge for a few days of relaxation. But the raven-haired beauty he pulls from the ocean puts an end to any chance of rest. Though he christens her Jetta, she knows nothing of her real identity, save that someone is trying to kill her. As she recovers, it will not be easy for Aulay to protect her and keep her honor intact when she mistakenly believes they are man and wife…

Jetta sees beyond Aulay’s scars to the brave, loyal warrior she’s proud to call her own. But as the attempts on her life grow more brazen, Jetta realizes that not all is as she believes. And if Aulay is not her husband, can she trust the desire flaring in his eyes, or his promise to defend her with his life?

My rating:  4.25 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

Over the years I’ve always enjoyed Lynsay Sand’s novels, be they about vampires or Highlanders, and this book was no exception! Parts of this book were laugh out loud funny, there was definitely a lot of humor in this novel. There were also some pretty steamy scenes between the hero and heroine, the gradual build up of their relationship and their chemistry just leaped off the page. This was a really sweet love story, and while there was a little bit too much flowery, mushy speeches for me, I still really enjoyed the journey of their romance. The plot line was also pretty good, there were some good plot twists and the main characters and also supporting characters were all interesting. I thought this was a really enjoyable read and I would recommend it!

Link to author website

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2018 Book #51 – Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall

51-uzv1SVHLTitle: Our Kind of Cruelty
Author: Araminta Hall
Date finished: 6/21/18
Genre: Fiction, thriller, psychological suspense
Publisher: MCD
Publication Date: May 8, 2018
Pages in book: 288
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

A spellbinding, darkly twisted novel about desire and obsession, and the complicated lines between truth and perception, Our Kind of Cruelty introduces Araminta Hall, a chilling new voice in psychological suspense.

This is a love story. Mike’s love story.

Mike Hayes fought his way out of a brutal childhood and into a quiet, if lonely, life before he met Verity Metcalf. V taught him about love, and in return, Mike has dedicated his life to making her happy. He’s found the perfect home, the perfect job; he’s sculpted himself into the physical ideal V has always wanted. He knows they’ll be blissfully happy together.

It doesn’t matter that she hasn’t been returning his e-mails or phone calls.
It doesn’t matter that she says she’s marrying Angus.

It’s all just part of the secret game they used to play. If Mike watches V closely, he’ll see the signs. If he keeps track of her every move, he’ll know just when to come to her rescue . . .

My rating:  1.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

This book has what I would say is a text book example of an unreliable narrator. Mike is our narrator throughout the whole book and there are multiple examples of scenes that are told from his point of view that I’m sure are not actually how it happened. Which ended up being frustrating for me only because there was a lack of closure in the end with not knowing which items were true and which were entirely false based on Mike’s perspective. It was hard as a reader to determine the truth from the lies, I know this is something that appeals to some readers but it has never been one of my favorite things. Beyond that the plot itself was just so very sad and to be honest disturbing. Mike was obviously mentally unstable and really needed help. He was delusional in many of his thoughts and beliefs and he seemed so emotionally detached from humanity outside of how he felt about V. This book was too dark for me, but it did have an interesting plot line and I can see how it would be very popular. I would recommend giving it a read, it didn’t work for me but I think it would appeal to a large majority of suspense readers.

Link to author website

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2018 Book #50 – Perfectly Undone by Jamie Raintree

510TX2YTB7L._SX334_BO1,204,203,200_Title: Perfectly Undone
Author: Jamie Raintree
Date finished: 6/21/18
Genre: Fiction, women’s fiction
Publisher: Graydon House
Publication Date: October 3, 2017
Pages in book: 278
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: Publisher
NOTE: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Yes is such a little word…

Dr. Dylan Michels has worked hard for a perfect life, so when her longtime boyfriend, Cooper, gets down on one knee, it should be the most perfect moment of all. Then why does she say no?

For too many years, Dylan’s been living for her sister, who never got the chance to grow up. But her attempt to be the perfect daughter, perfect partner and perfect doctor hasn’t been enough to silence the haunting guilt Dylan feels over her sister’s death—and the role no one knows she played in it.

Now Dylan must face her past if she and Cooper stand a chance at a future together. But when Cooper makes a startling confession of his own, can Dylan find the courage to define her own happiness before her life becomes perfectly undone?

Set among the breezy days of a sultry Portland summer, Perfectly Undone is a deeply moving novel of family secrets, forgiveness and finding yourself in the most surprising of places.

Sometimes you have to lose your way to find yourself

My rating:  2.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. To be honest I’m not 100% sure where I had won it from. It kind of just showed up in my mail last year, but I’m never one to turn away a free book!

The main character in this story, Dylan, was a pretty flawed character. This is something that I struggle with in various novels, while it is reality that a main character will have flaws its hard for me to connect with a character who has deep flaws that hurt those around them. Dylan was unending-ly selfish and self-centered, wrapped up in her own pain to the point that she self-destroys her relationship with her mother, boyfriend and various others. And while the ending was fairly hopeful, overall the story is just such  sad, depressing, painful journey for Dylan and those around her that it was hard to get through. I was in a funk the whole time I was reading it. While that means that the author did a great hob of being able to influence my emotions from the text, it just wasn’t an emotion that I necessarily wanted at the time. While this wasn’t my favorite book, I thought it was well written and I think it would be a book that many would enjoy, I would still recommend it.

Link to author website

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2018 Book #49 – One for the Rogue by Manda Collins

51g3q-n0tQLTitle: One for the Rogue
Author: Manda Collins
Date finished: 6/20/18
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Publication Date: June 26, 2018
Pages in book: 320
Stand alone or series: #4 in the Studies in Scandal series
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

LOVE IS THE GREATEST DISCOVERY OF ALL

Geologist Gemma Hastings has no interest in pursuing romance—and no patience for Lord Cameron Lisle, an esteemed fossil hunter who has a way of always honing in on her territory. . .annoyingly handsome though he may be. But when a shocking attack puts Gemma in very real danger, she may have to accept Lisle’s offers of protection. Even if that means entering into a dangerous flirtation. . .

Lisle was once amused by Gemma’s dedication to her work. But now that he understands how much he’s underestimated her—a woman whose beauty is matched only by her genius—Lisle is desperate to prove his respect…and prove himself worthy of her. But is he too late? A bitter rival, desperate to steal Gemma’s scientific findings, is still at-large. Can Lisle help uncover the culprit and keep her safe—forever, in his loving arms?

My rating:  4.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I’ve been following this series from the beginning and I’ve really enjoyed the series overall. The premise behind the four connected stories was great, and I love that each story involved such a strong minded woman. And in each story, the heroine ended up trying to solve a mystery and the female-driven sleuthing made it feel almost like a historical romance Nancy Drew. With this fourth book in the series, there was great tension developed between the two main characters, Gemma and Cam. I thought their relationship was very dynamic and the development from adversaries to husband and wife was well done. The plot line in this book was alright, I don’t think it was my favorite of the series but I still enjoyed it. I would love to see the series continue with whatever happens to Lady Serena and also possibly with romances of future students in the school. I have enjoyed this series and don’t want to see it end!

Link to author website

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2018 Book #48 – The Optimist’s Guide to Letting Go by Amy E. Reichert

51dDfp8SvQL._SX320_BO1,204,203,200_Title: The Optimist’s Guide to Letting Go
Author: Amy E. Reichert
Date finished: 6/19/18
Genre: Fiction, women’s fiction
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: May 15, 2018
Pages in book: 352
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Three generations. Seven days. One big secret. The author of The Coincidence of Coconut Cakeunfolds a mother-daughter story told by three women whose time to reckon with a life-altering secret is running out.

Gina Zoberski wants to make it through one day without her fastidious mother, Lorraine, cataloguing all her faults, and her sullen teenage daughter, May, snubbing her. Too bad there’s no chance of that. Her relentlessly sunny disposition annoys them both, no matter how hard she tries. Instead, Gina finds order and comfort in obsessive list-making and her work at Grilled G’s, the gourmet grilled cheese food truck built by her late husband.

But when Lorraine suffers a sudden stroke, Gina stumbles upon a family secret Lorraine’s kept hidden for forty years. In the face of her mother’s failing health and her daughter’s rebellion, this optimist might find that piecing together the truth is the push she needs to let go…

My rating:  3.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I had read Simplicity of Cider by this author last year and I just loved it. And while this book wasn’t quite as much of a home run as that book was, I did still really enjoy it. This author has a way of really reaching in and grasping around your heart and squeezing. And while this book did have somewhat of a happy ending, I would classify it more as bittersweet than anything. There was such sadness in this novel and such struggle in each of the characters’ lives. I especially didn’t like the conflict between Gina and her daughter, May. While it was probably pretty accurate for human emotions that result from the situation they were going through, it was still so unbearably sad to see how May was continually lashing out at her already grief-stricken mother. I especially liked the descriptions of the different grilled cheese and brownie variations that Gina and May would come up with, they all sounded so good! This book, while sad, was still really good and I would recommend it.

Link to author website

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2018 Book #47 – Sweet Tea and Sympathy by Molly Harper

51taEw8sx6LTitle: Sweet Tea and Sympathy
Author: Molly Harper
Date finished: 6/18/18
Genre: Contemporary romance, women’s fiction
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: November 21, 2017
Pages in book: 321
Stand alone or series: #1 in the Southern Eclectic series
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Beloved author Molly Harper launches a brand-new contemporary romance series, Southern Eclectic, with this story of a big-city party planner who finds true love in a small Georgia town.

Nestled on the shore of Lake Sackett, Georgia is the McCready Family Funeral Home and Bait Shop. (What, you have a problem with one-stop shopping?) Two McCready brothers started two separate businesses in the same building back in 1928, and now it’s become one big family affair. And true to form in small Southern towns, family business becomes everybody’s business.

Margot Cary has spent her life immersed in everything Lake Sackett is not. As an elite event planner, Margot’s rubbed elbows with the cream of Chicago society, and made elegance and glamour her business. She’s riding high until one event goes tragically, spectacularly wrong. Now she’s blackballed by the gala set and in dire need of a fresh start—and apparently the McCreadys are in need of an event planner with a tarnished reputation.

As Margot finds her footing in a town where everybody knows not only your name, but what you had for dinner last Saturday night and what you’ll wear to church on Sunday morning, she grudgingly has to admit that there are some things Lake Sackett does better than Chicago—including the dating prospects. Elementary school principal Kyle Archer is a fellow fish-out-of-water who volunteers to show Margot the picture-postcard side of Southern living. The two of them hit it off, but not everybody is happy to see an outsider snapping up one of the town’s most eligible gentleman. Will Margot reel in her handsome fish, or will she have to release her latest catch?

My rating:  4.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This is from my 2017 Backlog list, I read this for the 2018 Bookish Reading Challenge for the “the first book in a series” category, as its the first book in the Southern Eclectic book series.

This book sounded pretty interesting to me and the cover looked so cute. I’m glad that I read it, I really liked Margot’s character a lot. The supporting characters were all charming and hilarious as well but Margot specifically I identified with a lot. This book was funny and heart-warming, I laughed out loud and I teared up at a couple points too. It was a sweet love story and I really ended up enjoying it quite a bit. Kyle is a widower and I thought that the author handled the emotional complication of that, as well as the emotions of his two young daughters, very well. This was the perfect book for my vacation reading and I really enjoyed it. I would recommend it!

Link to author website

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2018 Book #46 – This Could Change Everything by Jill Mansell

517ZIFOEqmLTitle: This Could Change Everything
Author: Jill Mansell
Date finished: 6/18/18
Genre: Fiction, women’s fiction
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publication Date: June 5, 2018
Pages in book: 352
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

All it takes is one email to end her relationship, get her kicked out of her apartment, and just about ruin her life. Essie Phillips never meant for her private rant about her boss to be sent to everyone in her address book, but as soon as it goes viral, her life as she knows it is over. Solution: move to a new town, find a new job, make new friends. If only it were as simple as that…

My rating:  3.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

The plot for this book was kind of all over the place, there were a lot of characters and there was a lot going on in the story. This definitely helped hold my interest since there was something new going on all the time but there was also a good amount to keep track of. Luckily the characters were all pretty good. I especially liked the development of Scarlett’s story, she is such a  caring and generous person and it took awhile for all her layers to peel back in the story. This book had a lot of serendipitous moments for many of the characters, gave it kind of a magical feel to it. There were also a lot of sub stories about people that Zillah was helping and they were all so heart-wrenching and sad. Everything turned out the way that I wanted it to though and pretty much everyone had a happy ending which is always nice. I liked this book a good amount and I thought it was a good summer read, I would recommend it.

Link to author website

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