2020 Book #36 – A Woman Alone by Nina Laurin

Title: A Woman Alone
Author: Nina Laurin
Date finished: 6/7/20
Genre: Thriller, suspense
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: June 23, 2020
Pages in book: 336
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 house with the darkest of secrets.
A woman who is the only one who knows.

It’s another bright, sunny day in Venture, Illinois, the sort of place where dreams come true and families can get a fresh start. Cecelia Holmes deserves it after the home invasion that shattered her previous life. Now everything seems perfect – her high-security SmartHome, her doting husband, her sweet daughter.

Until she begins to feel spied on. Her husband doesn’t believe her. Her neighbors ignore her. So when she discovers a shocking secret about the prior occupant of their house, she feels that she has no one to turn to. And now Cecelia must face her fears alone…

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 have read other books by Nina Laurin in the past and enjoyed them, and I’ve seen a lot of media attention for this book coming out. In this world of ever increasing technology, the overarching presence and control of our technology can create and instill fear in many. And it was this fear that was developed and overtook Cecilia, to the point where she was afraid to stay in her own house. Which is entirely understandable considering her house fed her bleach at one point. The event that instigated her to move into this gated community is really the driving point behind this novel. The plot twist in this book was pretty good, though overall it was just so depressing. And gosh did I just hate Scott (Cecilia’s husband). I can’t blame Cecilia for what she did to be honest because Scott was just so shitty. And Jessica was a psycho. Overall I liked the book and the plot twist at the end upped the score for me a bit, I’d recommend giving it a try!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2019 Book #102 – Forever My Duke by Olivia Drake

51200dkZwOLTitle: Forever My Duke
Author: Olivia Drake
Date finished: 12/31/19
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Publication Date: December 31, 2019
Pages in book: 384
Stand alone or series: #2 in the Unlikely Duchesses 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:

Hadrian Ames, the Duke of Clayton, needs a bride. He even has the perfect one picked out. That is, until he meets the lovely, free-spirited Natalie Fanshawe. She’s the opposite of what a man of his high rank should desire in a wife—an outspoken American who has never even set foot in a London ballroom.

But Natalie doesn’t have time to be swept off her feet by a handsome duke who must be a spoiled scoundrel like every other British lord. And she couldn’t care less about Hadrian’s title. After all, it’s not as if he actually worked to attain his wealth and status. He surely can’t understand what it’s like to be a busy woman, planning to open a school while trying to reunite a six-year-old orphan with his English relatives. Nevertheless, Hadrian launches his campaign to win her heart. Can the utterly delightful American beauty ever find a way to love him…despite his being a duke?

My rating:  3.0 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 had also read the first book in this series, The Duke I Once Knew, and I wanted to read the next one in the series. I liked this book ok – it was a good romance read but it wasn’t my favorite. I got pretty frustrated with Natalie and how much stock she was putting in Hadrian saying he loved her. The words can be important but she was going to go all the way back to America just because he didn’t say the words, while it was pretty obvious from his actions that he did love her. Some of the conversations / interactions I thought were a little stilted / awkward. It was a sweet story though. I loved Leo’s character and his connection to Hadrian and his childhood. I really enjoyed the side characters in this novel too, they were especially entertaining. I’d still say that I’d recommend this one, though it wasn’t my favorite.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2018 Book #41 – The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams

518+gcmw1JLTitle: The Summer Wives
Author: Beatriz Williams
Date finished: 5/22/18
Genre: Fiction, historical fiction
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: July 10, 2018
Pages in book: 367
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: BookBrowseEdelweiss
NOTE: I received this book for free from BookBrowse & 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:

New York Times bestselling author Beatriz Williams brings us the blockbuster novel of the season—an electrifying postwar fable of love, class, power, and redemption set among the inhabitants of an island off the New England coast . . .

In the summer of 1951, Miranda Schuyler arrives on elite, secretive Winthrop Island as a schoolgirl from the margins of high society, still reeling from the loss of her father in the Second World War. When her beautiful mother marries Hugh Fisher, whose summer house on Winthrop overlooks the famous lighthouse, Miranda’s catapulted into a heady new world of pedigrees and cocktails, status and swimming pools. Isobel Fisher, Miranda’s new stepsister—all long legs and world-weary bravado, engaged to a wealthy Island scion—is eager to draw Miranda into the arcane customs of Winthrop society.

But beneath the island’s patrician surface, there are really two clans: the summer families with their steadfast ways and quiet obsessions, and the working class of Portuguese fishermen and domestic workers who earn their living on the water and in the laundries of the summer houses. Uneasy among Isobel’s privileged friends, Miranda finds herself drawn to Joseph Vargas, whose father keeps the lighthouse with his mysterious wife. In summer, Joseph helps his father in the lobster boats, but in the autumn he returns to Brown University, where he’s determined to make something of himself. Since childhood, Joseph’s enjoyed an intense, complex friendship with Isobel Fisher, and as the summer winds to its end, Miranda’s caught in a catastrophe that will shatter Winthrop’s hard-won tranquility and banish Miranda from the island for nearly two decades.

Now, in the landmark summer of 1969, Miranda returns at last, as a renowned Shakespearean actress hiding a terrible heartbreak. On its surface, the Island remains the same—determined to keep the outside world from its shores, fiercely loyal to those who belong. But the formerly powerful Fisher family is a shadow of itself, and Joseph Vargas has recently escaped the prison where he was incarcerated for the murder of Miranda’s stepfather eighteen years earlier. What’s more, Miranda herself is no longer a naïve teenager, and she begins a fierce, inexorable quest for justice for the man she once loved . . . even if it means uncovering every last one of the secrets that bind together the families of Winthrop Island.

My rating:  2.5 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’ve read some other novels by this author in the past few years and it can be hit or miss. I have found that I really like the plot lines, as there are always some great twists and turns, and this novel definitely had those. At the same time, there is a lot of information included in the novels and it can be easy to get lost in the weeds. I have found that many of the books share a common theme also, that life is hard and there are trials everyone must go through. Things don’t seem to go smoothly for anyone in the story and the main characters usually have to suffer through an unhappy marriage or relationship before they can find a semblance of happiness later on. Its kind of depressing. Also specifically with this novel, while I liked having the three timelines included in the story and I understood why it was presented the way that it was (for dramatic effect), at the same time I had trouble remembering where we were or who the narrator was or what time we were in. Part of my issue I think is that I had a lot going on at work this past week so I couldn’t sit and devote my concentration to the novel except for short spurts of time. I would definitely recommend this one to historical fiction fans, especially if you can carve out some time to just sit and read. If you’re able to find yourself lost in this novel I think the story would be much easier to read and a bit more enjoyable. I’d still recommend this one but it didn’t work out for me personally this week.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2018 Book #37 – A Duke Like No Other by Valerie Bowman

51zwYAwGydLTitle: A Duke Like No Other
Author: Valerie Bowman
Date finished: 5/3/18
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Publication Date: May 1, 2018
Pages in book: 368
Stand alone or series: #9 in the Playful Brides 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:

First comes love, then comes marriage. Unless it’s the otherway around. . .

General Mark Grimaldi has sacrificed everything for his military career, working his way through the ranks without the benefit of a nobleman’s title. Now, his years of dedication are about to pay off—with an offer for a prestigious promotion to Home Secretary. There’s only one condition: Mark must be married. Aside from the small matter of not actually wanting to be wed, Mark faces another troubling problem: he already has a wife.

Nicole Huntington Grimaldi has spent ten contented years in France without her husband—and without regret. When Mark asks her to return to London and play the part of his beloved wife, she sees her chance. But neither of them is prepared for news that will throw Mark’s future into chaos…nor the undeniable desire they’ve rekindled. Maybe happily-ever-after can happen the second time around in A Duke Like No Other, the next Regency romance from Valerie Bowman.

My rating:  3.25 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. Also make sure to check out my Blog Tour post on this book!

I’ve read a few of the previous books in this series and enjoyed them, as I enjoyed this one. My main issue with this book is an issue that I end up having with a good amount of romance novels, lack of communication. It frustrates me to no end when the hero and heroine in a novel waste (usually) years of their lives without their loved ones because of stubbornness and lack of proper communication. I realize it can be scary to make yourself vulnerable, but that whole “no risk, no reward” cliche definitely applies to love. It makes me want to jump into the book and scream at both of them to stop being so stubborn and melodramatic. Other than that piece of frustration I liked this book a good amount. Nicole was funny and very fierce, which is one of the reasons I was so surprised by her lack of courage with expressing her feelings to Mark. Mark was alright I guess, not necessarily my ideal hero but that’s ok. Overall good read though and a good addition to the story – I hope we get to read about Regina and Oakleaf in a future novel!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2016 Book #33 – Remember My Beauties by Lynne Hugo

516VRbAfTYL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Title: Remember My Beauties
Author: Lynne Hugo
Date finished: 4/12/16
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Switchgrass Books
Publication Date: April 18, 2016
Pages in book: 194
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:

Imagine a hawk’s view of the magnificent bluegrass pastures of Kentucky horse country. Circle around the remnants of a breeding farm, four beautiful horses grazing just beyond the paddock. Inside the ramshackle house, a family is falling apart.
Hack, the patriarch breeder and trainer, is aged and blind, and his wife, Louetta, is confined by rheumatoid arthritis. Their daughter, Jewel, struggles to care for them and the horses while dealing with her own home and job—not to mention her lackluster second husband, Eddie, and Carley, her drug-addicted daughter. Many days, Jewel is only sure she loves the horses. But she holds it all together. Until her brother, Cal, shows up again. Jewel already has reason to hate Cal, and when he meets up with Carley, he throws the family into crisis—and gives Jewel reason to pick up a gun.
Every family has heartbreaks, failures, a black sheep or two. And some families end in tatters. But some stumble on the secret of survival: if the leader breaks down, others step up and step in. In this lyrical novel, when the inept, the addict, and the ex-con join to weave the family story back together, either the barn will burn to the ground or something bigger than any of them will emerge, shining with hope. Remember My Beauties grows large and wide as it reveals what may save us.

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. Also, this book will count towards my “PopSugar 2016 Checklist” reading challenge, marking off the “a book that takes place during Summer” since this book mostly takes place during the summer, though the last quarter of the book is in October. This book is about Jewel and her family, including her daughter Carley, her husband Eddie, his children Chassie and Rocky, and her parents Louetta and Hack. I don’t even know where to start really because there was just so much going on in this less than 200 page book. There are a lot of drug problems in this family. Jewel’s sister and brother are both drug addicts and so is her daughter Carley. Jewel tries to help Carley as much as she can but she can’t ever seem to find a way to pull her out of the hole that she’s in. Also, Louetta and Hack are invalids and Jewel takes care of them as well. Her parents aren’t especially affectionate people so they don’t really say things like “I love you” or even “thank you” very much. Jewel takes care of her father’s horses too plus holds a full time job so she’s got a lot on her plate right now. It all seems to start going downhill when her mother asks her brother Cal to come stay at the family home with them. From there things unravel in a family drama that is both intense and very dark at times.
Overall I thought this was an interesting book. It is hard for me to say with books like this that I liked/loved the book because it deals with difficult subject matter and what the characters go through is really just heart-breaking. I have to say that I am one of those readers that my emotions get linked up with what I’m reading so this book was a difficult one for me to get through, it was very dark and I found my mood blackening the more I read. The ending was a little more towards healing and heart-warming but still the story line of this book really affected me. It was definitely an interesting book though and was a quick, fast-paced read. I didn’t want to put it down even though it was creating such a riot of emotions within me. The author did a great job of capturing the reader and I think the story overall was wonderfully written. The story switched between character points of view but the transitions were smooth for the most part and it was the best way for the reader to see all the inner-workings of the character’s actions. I especially loved the pieces that were from the horses point of view, it was really a creative move for the author to give the horses a voice.

The bottom line: This was a short read (only 194 pages) and it was definitely not dull at all. I recommend it with a precaution that it does get a little dark so if you get drawn into books emotionally this will be a tough one. Also have a box of tissues handy. Really a powerful story though and very moving.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2016 Book #30 – The Winemakers by Jan Moran

51+6MKE8BTL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_Title: The Winemakers: A Novel of Wine and Secrets
Author: Jan Moran
Date finished: 4/5/16
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication Date: April 5, 2016
Pages in book: 369
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:

1956: When Caterina Rosetta inherits a cottage in the countryside of Italy from a grandmother she’s never known, she discovers a long-buried family secret — a secret so devastating, it threatens the future of everything her mother has worked for. Many years before, her mother’s hard-won dreams of staking her family’s claim in the vineyards of California came to fruition; but as an old murder comes to light, and Caterina uncovers a tragic secret that may destroy the man she loves, she realizes her happiness will depend on revealing the truth of her mother’s buried past.From author Jan Moran comes The Winemakers, a sweeping, romantic novel that will hold you in its grasp until the last delicious sip.

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 book tells the story of the Rosetta family: Caterina, her mother Ava, and her new daughter Marisa. This book reminded me a lot of Kristen Harnisch’s The Vintner’s Daughter, which I LOVED. For anyone who likes this book you should also read hers, or vice versa.  The family owns a winery in Napa, California and has well respected wines that rival those in Europe. The book mostly takes place in 1956, though there are some flashbacks to 1928 and 1929 when Ava came to America. One of the things that particularly struck me about this book was the emphasis on lack of women’s rights during both of those time periods. Caterina has a baby out of wedlock and many times is told directly to her face that she’s a whore and should be ashamed of herself. Which I think is both sad that someone would speak to her that way and also just odd considering how far we’ve come away from that in today’s day and age. I would have to say it is definitely not uncommon to know several people who were either unwed when they had a child or are still unwed with a child. Society has been almost forced to accept this as a norm, so it was just interesting to see how unaccepted it was in a different time period.
Anyways, there were multiple things going on in this book. There was the budding but tragic romance between Caterina and Marisa’s father. There was the family drama that caused Ava to come to America all those years ago, which resurfaces when Caterina’s grandmother dies and leaves her a house in Italy in her will. There was the drama between Ava and Caterina over Marisa. And finally there was the struggle to save the winery (and their home) after disaster strikes. All in all there were multiple plot points all intertwined, which made for a very exciting read. I honestly couldn’t put this one down, I technically started it Sunday night late (around 10:30pm) and then couldn’t stop reading it on Monday and ended up finishing it at 12:30 am Monday morning.
Overall I really enjoyed this book a lot. The conversations were slightly stilted at times and somewhat awkward at others but it didn’t effect my enjoyment of the book. Also I thought the ending came up a bit quick and honestly I thought it was a little odd. I’m glad it had a (**spoiler**) happy ending but it just took me back a little bit that the challenge the couple had to overcome at the end was so.. different from other books I’ve read. Things I enjoyed about the book though included the description of the scenery in Italy, which was excellent, and the narratives about the wine-making process were informative and interesting. Great book and a great read, I think this one is going to be a popular one for 2016 summer.

The bottom line: Really really liked this book! I couldn’t put it down, the story line was riveting. Conversations seemed a tad stilted to me but other than that it was just a great book! I would definitely recommend!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page