2020 Book #80 – One by One by Ruth Ware

Title: One by One
Author: Ruth Ware
Date finished: 11/6/20
Genre: Thriller, suspense
Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press
Publication Date: September 8, 2020
Pages in book: 383
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:

Getting snowed in at a luxurious, rustic ski chalet high in the French Alps doesn’t sound like the worst problem in the world. Especially when there’s a breathtaking vista, a full-service chef and housekeeper, a cozy fire to keep you warm, and others to keep you company. Unless that company happens to be eight coworkers…each with something to gain, something to lose, and something to hide.

When the cofounder of Snoop, a trendy London-based tech startup, organizes a weeklong trip for the team in the French Alps, it starts out as a corporate retreat like any other: PowerPoint presentations and strategy sessions broken up by mandatory bonding on the slopes. But as soon as one shareholder upends the agenda by pushing a lucrative but contentious buyout offer, tensions simmer and loyalties are tested. The storm brewing inside the chalet is no match for the one outside, however, and a devastating avalanche leaves the group cut off from all access to the outside world. Even worse, one Snooper hadn’t made it back from the slopes when the avalanche hit.

As each hour passes without any sign of rescue, panic mounts, the chalet grows colder, and the group dwindles further…one by one.

My rating:  5.0 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 read other books by this author before – she’s a very popular thriller author – and have enjoyed them so I was excited to read her new release. And wow was this one a good one! I was on the edge of my seat the whole time I was reading this – I could barely put it down. The author did such an amazing job of disguising the killer right up until the moment of the reveal. And I loved the alternative viewpoints between Erin and Liz’s characters. The people in the book went through a terrible ordeal, my heart was pounding the whole time. And what Erin endured sounded unimaginable. I’m not sure I would have survived it. The build up of the tension and the overall plot line in this story were fantastic – I loved every minute of it! I would definitely recommend this one, go read it now!

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

2020 Book #61 – Thick as Thieves by Sandra Brown

Title: Thick as Thieves
Author: Sandra Brown
Date finished: 9/4/20
Genre: Romantic suspense
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: August 25, 2020
Pages in book: 384
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:

In this tantalizing thriller from a #1 New York Times bestselling author, a woman uncovers lifelong secrets as she searches for the truth behind her father’s involvement in a heist gone wrong.

Twenty years ago in the dead of night, four seemingly random individuals pulled the ultimate heist and almost walked away with half a million dollars. But by daybreak, their plan had been shot to hell. One of them was in the hospital. One was in jail. One was dead. And one got away with it.

Arden Maxwell, the daughter of the man who disappeared all those years ago — presumably with the money, after murdering his accomplice — has never reconciled with her father’s abandonment of her and her sister. After countless personal setbacks she decides to return to her family home near mysterious Caddo Lake, and finally get answers to the many questions that torment her. Little does she know, two of her father’s co-conspirators — a war hero and a corrupt district attorney — are watching her every move.

Ledge Burnet, a rebellious teen at the time of the heist, evaded his jail sentence by enlisting in the army. Now he’s back in town to care for his ailing father — and to keep his eye on the county’s corrupt district attorney, whom he suspects was the real murderer. Although the two are bound to silence because of the crime they committed together, each has spent years waiting and hoping that the other will make a fatal misstep. But the arrival of their elusive accomplice’s daughter, Arden, who may know more about the missing money than she’s telling, sets them both on red alert. She ignites Ledge’s determination to expose the D.A.’s treachery . . . and sparks a desire he wishes to deny.

My rating:  4.75 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.

I have read many Sandra Brown books in the past and have really enjoyed them (especially Deadline, which is my #1 recommendation to romantic suspense readers).  I’ve read many of her recent publications since Deadline and haven’t like any of them quite as much as my all time fave – but I have to say this one came close! The plot of this book was super – it was so well developed and consistently leads the reader in the wrong direction. I just loved the plot and thought it was so good. I can’t say I gasped out loud at the plot twist (like I did with Deadline) but I came damn close. I just felt so bad for Arden at the end, I can’t imagine how she would be unaffected by all of this. Ledge’s character was great too. He toed the line perfectly between edgy and honorable, romantic and surly. I loved his charge ahead attitude and how he was determined to face his problems head on while also protecting the people he loved. I especially loved how the author interspersed the flashbacks to fit in line with what the reader is learning about the story in the present time – it really was just so well done! I would definitely recommend this one, I thought it was great!

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

2020 Book #60 – Here to Stay by Adriana Herrera

Title: Here to Stay
Author: Adriana Herrera
Date finished: 8/28/20
Genre: Contemporary romance
Publisher: Carina Press
Publication Date: August 25, 2020
Pages in book: 393
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:

Starting over is more about who you’re with than where you live…

Julia del Mar Ortiz is not having the best year.

She moved to Dallas with her boyfriend, who ended up ditching her and running back to New York after only a few weeks. Left with a massive—by NYC standards, anyway—apartment and a car lease in the scorching Texas heat, Julia is struggling…except that’s not completely true. Running the charitable foundation of one of the most iconic high fashion department stores in the world is serious #lifegoals.

It’s more than enough to make her want to stick it out down South.

The only monkey wrench in Julia’s plans is the blue-eyed, smart-mouthed consultant the store hired to take them public. Fellow New Yorker Rocco Quinn’s first order of business? Putting Julia’s job on the chopping block.

When Julia is tasked with making sure Rocco sees how valuable the programs she runs are, she’s caught between a rock and a very hard set of abs. Because Rocco Quinn is almost impossible to hate—and even harder to resist.

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.

I haven’t read anything by this author before, but I’ve heard a lot about her books on a couple of the podcasts I listen to and I’ve been wanting lately to read one. I liked the description on this book a lot and was excited to read it. I liked it a good amount. The hero and heroine were so passionate and lively and it really made for an interesting read. I can see why her books are so popular because even beyond the normal romance plot line there were some important issues that this book dealt with: immigration and emotional abuse being the major ones. I loved hearing about the after-school programs Julia had organized and all the information about her background and her education. She was fiercely successful and it was so great to see such a strong female character in a romance novel. Julia and Rocco also had just the most adorable nicknames and it made me melt. Some of the plot was a tad off-putting for me because the main conflict was somewhat the result of communication issues – which isn’t my favorite. Other than that though it was a really enjoyable read and I’d recommend it!

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

2020 Book #57 – The Love Scam by MaryJanice Davidson

Title: The Love Scam
Author: MaryJanice Davidson
Date finished: 8/15/20
Genre: Contemporary romance
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication Date: August 4, 2020
Pages in book: 308
Stand alone or series: Danger, Sweetheart series Book #2
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:

Rake Tarbell is in trouble. When the fabulously wealthy and carefree bachelor wakes up horribly hungover in Venice, it’s not something that would normally be a problem…except he has no idea how he got there from California. Or who stole his wallet. Or who emptied his bank account of millions. Or who in the world is Lillith, the charming little girl claiming to be his long lost daughter. For the first time in his life, Rake is on his own and throwing Benjamins around aren’t going to solve his problem. Now if only the gorgeous, fun, and free-spirited woman who brought Lillith into his life was willing to help the situation…

Claire Delaney finds Rake’s problems hilarious and is not in the least bit sorry of adding to them by bringing Lillith into the mix. A pretty Midwestern girl with a streak for mischief, Claire isn’t the type to hang around with a guy like Rake. Even if he is drop-dead handsome and charming as all get-out. Even if he needs help and she has all the answers. But if this helps Lillith, she will go out of her way. And with a guy like Rake, she’s willing to bend her rules a bit for some fun.

But when adventure-filled days turn to romantic nights as they search for answers, and someone starts following them through the streets of Venice, Claire realizes she’s playing more than just a game. And maybe, just maybe, she isn’t willing to let go of Rake or Lillith just yet.

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.

I have read more than a handful of books by this author in the past – for a while I was very into the Undead series. And I was excited to read one of her newer releases! This author has a really characteristic dry and sarcastic humor that I’ve always really found hilarious. And this book was no exception – it was full of dry wit and extreme sarcasm. Which I normally love but I just felt kind of overwhelmed by it in this book. And I think due to not reading the first book in the series I just found the plot line a tad hard to follow. And the random side rambles (while humorous) got a bit distracting at certain points. I loved Lillith’s character – she was adorable and so very entertaining. There were definitely some interesting parts and I found it to be overall entertaining but it didn’t end up being my favorite. I’d still recommend giving it a read, especially if you like other novels by MaryJanice Davidson since it’s pretty in line with her normal humor!

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

Here to Stay BLOG TOUR!!

2-TourBanner_HereToStay

Here to Stay was released today!! (August 25th), and to celebrate I am participating in a Blog Tour for the book! I’m still finishing up my read but so far I am really loving this book! See below for more information about the book, a short author bio, and an excerpt:

SUMMARY

Starting over is more about who you’re with than where you live…

Julia del Mar Ortiz is not having the best year. 

She moved to Dallas with her boyfriend, who ended up ditching her and running back to New York after only a few weeks. Left with a massive—by NYC standards, anyway—apartment and a car lease in the scorching Texas heat, Julia is struggling…except that’s not completely true. Running the charitable foundation of one of the most iconic high fashion department stores in the world is serious #lifegoals. 

It’s more than enough to make her want to stick it out down South. 

The only monkey wrench in Julia’s plans is the blue-eyed, smart-mouthed consultant the store hired to take them public. Fellow New Yorker Rocco Quinn’s first order of business? Putting Julia’s job on the chopping block. 

When Julia is tasked with making sure Rocco sees how valuable the programs she runs are, she’s caught between a rock and a very hard set of abs. Because Rocco Quinn is almost impossible to hate—and even harder to resist.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

4-AuthorPhoto_AdrianaHerrera

Adriana was born and raised in the Caribbean, but for the last fifteen years has let her job (and her spouse) take her all over the world. She loves writing stories about people who look and sound like her people, getting unapologetic happy endings.

When she’s not dreaming up love stories, planning logistically complex vacations with her family or hunting for discount Broadway tickets, she’s a trauma therapist in New York City, working with survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

Her Dreamers series has received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist and has been featured in The TODAY Show on NBC, Entertainment Weekly, NPR, Library Journal and The Washington Post. Her debut, American Dreamer, was selected as one of Booklist’s ‘Best Romance Debuts of 2019’, and one of the ‘Top 10 Romances of 2019’ by Entertainment Weekly. Her third novel, American Love Story, was one of the winners in the first annual Ripped Bodice Award for Excellence in Romantic Fiction. Adriana is an outspoken advocate for diversity in romance and has written for Remezcla and Bustle about Own Voices in the genre. She’s one of the co-creators of the Queer Romance PoC Collective. Represented by Taylor Haggerty at Root Literary.

BUY IT HERE!

EXCERPT

Julia

I stepped into the elevator and shoved my phone into the pocket of my dress, took a moment to send a prayer to the employee discount that let me buy bomb clothes on a nonprofit worker budget, and did some mental math of what could be going on.

Was the program really in trouble? Could we actually get shut down?

Nope, I would not go there. I would not think about what it would be like to get on a plane back to New York dumped and unemployed. Not happening.

A distraction. That’s what I needed. Just as the door to the elevator was about to close, someone got in. The fact that I was eye level with the base of his throat was a good clue as to who it was, but when he opened his mouth and the now familiar knee-weakening baritone echoed off the walls of the elevator, I got my confirmation.

“Morning, Ms. Ortiz.” That voice could be used for interrogation tactics. Every muscle in my body loosened at the same time whenever I heard it.

I squeaked out a “Morning” and took my time lifting my head all the way up to look at the last person in the world I wanted overhearing my conversation with my mother.

Him.

Rocco Fucking Quinn, otherwise known as the “Team Leader” for the consulting firm looking to bag my job. The guy with the New York City-est name on the planet. I hadn’t exactly gotten personal with Mr. Quinn, but I picked up on that accent the first time we met.

“What’s good?” I really tried to sound polite, but my Queens jumped out in situations like this. I did not gulp, because I could not let this fucker see me sweat. I managed not to cut my eyes at him, but it was a close call.

I took him in, ramrod straight, every hair in its place, not a wrinkle in sight, and decided he could not be the proprietor of the laugh-choke from before. The man seemed to be completely lacking a sense of humor. I knew he must have teeth but I’d never seen them.

Yeah, definitely not him. That fact rallied my spirits a little bit as I stood close enough to pick up on how he smelled. Like the ocean and something woodsy. That was not helpful information.

Without saying another word, I ran my eyes over him. It struck me that he was not wearing something bespoke like pretty much everyone here. Don’t get me wrong, he still looked good enough to eat, but he was clearly on a budget. And at a place where everyone looked like they were heading to a New York Fashion Week photo shoot, it was sort of jarring. Still, the suit fit him well. And there was no question, this guy could wear the fuck out of a suit. I held back a whimper when I envisioned him in a Brioni or a Zegna. They’d have to put out a heat advisory for the building if that ever happened.

“I thought I could detect a familiar accent when I was coming down the hall.” His perfectly blue eyes twinkled at what I was certain was an expression of utter mortification on my face. He sounded pleasant enough, but he was also alluding to the fact that I was yapping on my phone. This wasn’t the first time he tried to be cute. Rocco Quinn seemed to like fucking with me. And it was only a matter of time before he stepped on my last nerve and I reamed him out.

Thankfully, just as I was scrambling to respond to his comment, the elevator got to my floor. I was planning to just leave him hanging and run off, but he was hot on my heels.

Dammit.

“Sounds like your mom misses you.”

Oh, for fuck’s sake. Why did he have to act all fake nice?

I nodded without looking at him. “She does. Listen, Mr. Quinn—”

“You can call me Rocco.”

Nope, that was not happening. I was not letting this sexy bastard talk me into getting all chummy with him. I was already on thin ice as it was. He could keep his pheromones and his slick-as-fuck expressions to his damn self. I came to a dead stop a few feet away from the conference room door where my boss—and whatever shitty news she was about to give me—was waiting.

When I turned around, Rocco was looking down at me with an expectant smile. God he was handsome, that jet-black hair so dark it almost had a tinge of blue and those eyes, piercing. And I guess he had teeth after all, and of course they were perfect. Asshole. I shook my head hard when my traitorous brain started wondering what Pantone color his eyes would be.

Get your head in the game, Julia del Mar.

I straightened my back, determined to fight off the debilitating effects of those gleaming teeth and perfectly pink lips. I had to remember this niceness was probably his way of getting us to let our guard down. He was here to find ways to cut jobs. I was not about to mouth off and get myself fired, but I needed to get some things clear.

“Look.” I was proud of myself for not rolling my neck or pointing at his face. “I know you’re trying to be nice, but you make me nervous.” I pulled on the hem of my blue polka-dot dress and smoothed my yellow cardigan, avoiding eye contact at all costs.

“Why do I make you nervous?”

Uh, maybe because you’re here to close down as much of the foundation as you can.

I refrained from actually saying that because I had not been raised by a Puerto Rican man and Dominican woman just so I could act like I had no home training with the guy who could get me fired. But it was a close call.

“I’m sorry for saying that. You don’t make me nervous.”

Lies.

Rocco Quinn didn’t just make me nervous. He made me want to run my hands all over that big-ass body and moon over his almost but not quite curly hair and blue eyes, in spite of the fact that I knew he was out here gunning for my entire program. And yet, I still wanted to kiss the hell out of him while I climbed him like a sequoia.

Copyright © 2020 by Adriana Herrera

2020 Book #50 – One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London

Title: One to Watch
Author: Kate Stayman-London
Date finished: 7/10/20
Genre: Contemporary romance, romantic comedy
Publisher: Dial Press Trade Paperback
Publication Date: July 7, 2020
Pages in book: 432
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:

e9c8fca5-2fe5-458d-9d92-d2b047db95e5.__CR0,0,1200,1200_PT0_SX300_V1___

Bea Schumacher is a devastatingly stylish plus-size fashion blogger who has amazing friends, a devoted family, legions of Insta followers – and a massively broken heart. Like the rest of America, Bea indulges in her weekly obsession: the hit reality show Main Squeeze. The fantasy dates! The kiss-off rejections! The surprising amount of guys named Chad! But Bea is sick and tired of the lack of body diversity on the show. Since when is being a size zero a prerequisite for getting engaged on television?

Just when Bea has sworn off dating altogether, she gets an intriguing call: Main Squeeze wants her to be its next star, surrounded by men vying for her affections. Bea agrees, on one condition – under no circumstances will she actually fall in love. She’s in this to supercharge her career, subvert harmful beauty standards, inspire women across America, and get a free hot air balloon ride. That’s it.

But when the cameras start rolling, Bea realizes things are more complicated than she anticipated. She’s in a whirlwind of sumptuous couture, Internet culture wars, sexy suitors, and an opportunity (or two, or five) to find messy, real-life love in the midst of a made-for-TV fairy tale. In this joyful, wickedly observant debut, Bea has to decide whether it might just be worth trusting these men – and herself – for a chance to live happily ever after.

My rating:  4.75 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.

I have seen so much about this book lately, and honestly I’m so glad I was able to read it. Every detail of Bea and her character was just so spot on. I loved Bea’s point that even if you love your body, you still want to be the one in control of it. I can’t even imagine the hell that Bea’s character went through with being on that awful show and having her body featured so predominantly. The overall story line was so touching, I was really moved by Bea’s story and her search for love, not only for a significant other but also for love for herself. I loved the setup of book, with the collections of news articles, transcripts of podcasts and texts through the book. And I loved how supportive Bea’s family was and how funny their interactions were with each other. Overall this book was funny, moving, and so very relatable for me and I loved it. I would definitely recommend it!

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

A Royal Kiss and Tell BLOG TOUR!!

A Royal Kiss and Tell was released last Tuesday (May 19th), and to celebrate I am participating in a Blog Tour for the book! You can also see my review of the book here. See below for more information about the book, a short author bio, and an excerpt: 

SUMMARY

Every prince has his secrets. And she’s determined to unravel his…

Every young man in London’s ton is vying for Lady Caroline Hawke’s hand—except one. Handsome roué Prince Leopold of Alucia can’t quite remember Caroline’s name, and the insult is not to be tolerated. So Caroline does what any clever, resourceful lady of means would do to make sure Leo never again forgets: sees that scandalous morsels about his reputation are printed in a ladies’ gossip gazette…all while secretly setting her cap for the rakish royal.

Someone has been painting Leo as a blackguard, but who? Socially, it is ruining him. More important, it jeopardizes his investigation into a contemptible scheme that reaches the highest levels of British government. Leo needs Lady Caroline’s help to regain access to society. But this charming prince is about to discover that enlisting the deceptively sweet and sexy Lady Caroline might just cost him his heart, his soul and both their reputations…

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Janna MacGregor_Photo credit Hilary Hope Photography

Julia London is a NYT, USA Today and Publishers Weekly bestselling author of historical and contemporary romance. She is a six-time finalist for the RITA Award of excellence in romantic fiction, and the recipient of RT Bookclub’s Best Historical Novel.

BUY IT HERE!

EXCERPT

Since the day of Eliza’s betrothal to Prince Sebastian, Caroline had also assumed, quite incorrectly, that she would be the principal bridesmaid. After all, she and Eliza and Hollis had been entwined in one another’s lives since they were very little girls.

“I am content with flower girls, honestly,” Eliza said. “I’d be content with a very simple affair. I was content with the civil ceremony. But Queen Daria prefers otherwise.”

“Naturally, she does. This is the wedding where you will be seen by all the people you will rule one day.”

Eliza snorted. “I will not rule, Caroline. I’ll be fortunate if I can find my husband in this massive place.” She’d gestured to the decorative walls around them. It was not an exaggeration—Constantine Palace appeared to be bigger than even Buckingham.

“Let me be the maid of honor,” Caroline had begged her. “I am much better equipped to see to your train than Hollis is.”

“I beg your pardon! I am her sister,” Hollis reminded Caroline.

“The train is thirty feet, Hollis. How will you ever manage? You’ve scarcely managed your own train since we’ve been in Alucia. And my gown should be seen. I spared no expense for it.”

Eliza and Hollis looked at Caroline.

“I mean, of course, after your gown is seen.”

The sisters continued to stare at her. Caroline shrugged a very tiny bit. “Obviously,” she added.

“I rather thought that’s what you meant,” Eliza said charitably. The three of them had gleefully adopted the Alucian style of dress since arriving a month ago in Helenamar. The English style of dress—full skirts, high necks and long sleeves—was hot and heavy. They’d admired the beautiful Alucian gowns that fit the curves of a woman’s body, with the long flowing sleeves, and, most of all, the elaborately embroidered trains…until they discovered that the unusually long trains were a bit of a bother to wear.

“I will manage,” Hollis had insisted. “No one has come to this wedding to see your gown, Caro.”

“Well, obviously, Hollis, they haven’t. But they will be delighted all the same, won’t they? And by the bye, there’s no law that says the attendant of honor must be one’s sister.”

“There is no law, but she is my sister and she will be the attendant of honor,” Eliza said. “And besides, if you were to stand with me, I’d fret the entire ceremony that you were too enthralled with Leo to even notice my train.” She’d arched a golden brow directly at Caroline.

As if Caroline had done something wrong.

She most certainly had not. “Leo? Is that what we’re calling him now?” she drawled. Leo was Prince Sebastian’s younger brother. His Royal Highness Prince Leopold.

Prince Leopold, as everyone knew, had spent the last several years in England, “attending” Cambridge, which meant, in reality, that he spent more time at soirees and gentlemen’s clubs and hunting lodges than studying. Caroline had encountered him last summer in Chichester at a country house party. They’d engaged in a charming little exchange that Caroline recalled perfectly, word for word. Prince Leopold, on the other hand, remembered it not at all. Worse, he didn’t seem to remember her.

The archbishop’s voice suddenly rose into a chant of some sort, drawing Caroline’s attention back to the ceremony. Oh dear, she was thinking about Prince Leopold again when she should be watching her best friend marry a prince. At that moment, Eliza slipped her hand into Prince Sebastian’s hand and held on tightly as the archbishop asked her to repeat after him in English. To love, to honor, to protect and defend.

So romantic.

Caroline glanced to her right. She was seated next to her brother, the baron Beckett Hawke. He was older than her by half a dozen years and had been her guardian since she was eight and he was fourteen. She leaned against him.

“Isn’t she lovely?” she whispered.

Ssh.”

“I think she is lovelier than even Queen Victoria on her wedding day,” Caroline whispered. “Her gown is beautiful. It was my idea to use the gold and silver thread on the train.”

Beck pretended not to have heard a word.

“Do you know, I think I could have made that train.” Her brother put his hand on Caroline’s knee and squeezed as he turned his pale green eyes to hers. He frowned darkly.

Caroline pushed his hand away and glanced around her. It was massive, this Saint Paul’s Cathedral. Painted ceilings soared overhead with visions of angels and other godly images. All the fixtures were gold plated, particularly the pulpit, which looked more like a monument than a stand for the Bible. There was so much stained glass that the morning light fractured across Eliza’s long train, turning it into a moving rainbow as sunlight shimmered through the panes.

Every seat in the massive cathedral was taken, filled with beautiful people of varying skin tones and colorful costumes and glittering jewels. They had come far and wide, Caroline understood, from countries she’d never even heard of.

In a cove above the altar, a choir of young men and boys sang the hymns that had accompanied Eliza down the center aisle to meet her prince. It had sounded as if the heavens had parted and the angels were singing for this bride.

The ceremony, almost an hour of it now, was filled with a lot of pomp and circumstance. Caroline wasn’t entirely certain what was happening, as the ceremony was conducted in Latin and Alucian and, for the parts Eliza had to say, in English. It seemed to her that Eliza and Sebastian were up and down quite a lot, one minute on their knees with their heads bowed, and standing the next, staring starry-eyed at each other. There was a somber moment when Eliza was directed down onto her knees alone. It looked as if she were knighted or anointed in some way, and when it was done, the archbishop put his hand to her head, the king and queen stood, and then Prince Sebastian lifted her up and pinned a gorgeous sapphire-and-gold brooch to her breast.

“She’s a real princess now,” Caroline whispered to Beck. Predictably, he ignored her.

Eliza looked like a princess, too, and Caroline wished Eliza’s father, Justice Tricklebank, could be here. Alas, his advanced age and blindness had made it impossible for him to attend. There had been a smaller, private ceremony in England—the first civil union—before Sebastian had returned to Alucia. That ceremony, which her father had attended, had been necessitated by the fact that Eliza and Sebastian could not seem to keep their hands from each other for as much as a few hours.

There was another civil union once Eliza had arrived in Alucia so there would be no question of impropriety, as the heat between Eliza and her prince had only grown. It was embarrassing, really.

But neither ceremony had been anything like this. This was a pageant, a feast for the eyes and hearts of romantics everywhere.

Caroline’s mind drifted, and she wondered if all these people would be at the ball tonight. She hoped so. She had a beautiful blue Alucian gown trimmed in gold that was astoundingly beautiful. She’d made the train herself. The ball would be her moment to shine…next to Eliza, of course.

Yesterday, Eliza had nervously counted out the heads of state that would attend the wedding and the ball and had turned a bit pale as the number mounted. Caroline’s pulse had leapt with delight.

“I can’t bear it!” Eliza had exclaimed, unnerved by the number of dignitaries, of the many kings and queens. “What if I say something wrong? You know how I am. Have you any idea how many gifts we’ve received? Am I to remember them all? I’ve never seen so many gold chalices and silver platters and fine porcelain in all my life! What if I trip? What if I spill something on my gown?”

“My advice, darling, is not to fill your plate to overflowing,” Hollis had said absently. She was bent over her paper, making notes for the periodical she published, the Honeycutt’s Gazette of Fashion and Domesticity for Ladies. The twice-monthly gazette covered such topics as the latest fashions, domesticity and health advice, and—the most interesting part—the most tantalizing on-dits swirling about London’s high society.

Hollis could hardly keep up with the ravenous demand for society news now. She was planning to publish a gazette that would be twice the length of her normal offering with all the news of the royal wedding the moment she returned to London. She’d been busily dispatching letters to her manservant, Donovan, for safekeeping throughout the month they’d been in Alucia.

She was so preoccupied that her advice, while offered freely, was not offered with much thought, and Eliza took exception. “I beg your pardon! I’ve hardly eaten a thing since I’ve arrived in Alucia. At every meal the queen looks at me as if she disapproves of everything I do! I’m afraid to do anything, much less eat,” Eliza complained. “They’ll all be looking at me. They’ll be waiting for me to do something wrong, or speculating if I’m already carrying the heir. You cannot imagine how much interest there is in my ability to bear an heir.”

“Well, of course!” Caroline said cheerfully. “You’ll have to be a broodmare, darling, but after you’ve given them what they want, you may live in conjugal bliss for the rest of your days surrounded by wealth and privilege and many, many servants.”

“They won’t all be looking at you, Eliza. At least half the room will be looking at your handsome husband,” Hollis had said with a wink.

Caroline was once again jolted back into the present when the archbishop lifted a heavy jeweled chalice above the heads of Eliza and Prince Sebastian. Surely that meant they were nearly done? Prince Sebastian took Eliza’s hand, and they turned away from the archbishop, facing the guests with ridiculously happy grins on their faces. They were married!

Hollis turned, too, and even from where Caroline sat, she could see Hollis’s dark blue eyes shining with tears of joy. The guests rose to their feet as the prince and his bride began their procession away from the altar. Rose petals rained down on the couple and their guests from above. The little flower girls fluttered around behind Eliza like butterflies, flanking her train as they followed the couple down the aisle. Prince Leopold offered his arm to Hollis, and she beamed up at him. Caroline felt left out. Hollis and Eliza were near and dear to her heart, the closest thing to sisters she’d ever had, and she longed to be with them now.

Eliza and Prince Sebastian floated past Caroline and Beck without any acknowledgment of them. That was to be expected—the two of them looked absolutely besotted. They were so enthralled with each other, in fact, that Caroline fretted they’d walk into any one of the marble columns that lined their path.

Oh, but she was envious, filled to the very brim with envy. In England, she rarely gave marriage any thought except on those occasions Beck complained she ought to settle on someone, anyone, and relieve him of his duty. But he didn’t really mind his duty, his protestations notwithstanding. Caroline rather suspected he liked having her underfoot. So she flitted from one party to the next, happy to enjoy the attentions of the many gentlemen who crossed her path, happy with her freedom to do as she pleased.

But looking at Eliza, Caroline realized that she did indeed want one day to be in love with a man who would be as devoted to her as Prince Sebastian was to his bride. She wanted to feel everything Eliza was feeling, to understand just how that sort of love changed a person.

Prince Leopold and Hollis passed by Caroline and Beck. Hollis’s face was streaked with happy tears. Prince Leopold happened to look to the guests as they passed, a polite smile on his face. His gaze locked on Caroline’s—well, not locked, really, as much as it skimmed over her—but nevertheless, she smiled broadly. She began to lift a hand but was suddenly jostled with an elbow to her ribs. She jerked a wide-eyed gaze to her brother.

“Stop gawking,” he whispered. “You’ll snap your neck, craning it like that.”

Caroline haughtily touched a curl at her neck.

Beck turned his attention to the procession. The king and queen were passing them now. Beck leaned toward her and whispered, “He’s a prince, Caro, and you are just an English girl. You’re indulging in fairy tales again. I can see it plainly on your face.”

Just an English girl? She very much would have liked to kick Beck like she used to do when she was just a wee English girl. “Better to dream in fairy tales than not dream at all.”

Beck rolled his eyes. He stood dispassionately as the archbishop and his altar boys followed the king and queen.

Just an English girl, indeed.

2020 Book #30 – Salvation Station by Kathryn Schleich

Title: Salvation Station
Author: Katrhyn Schleich
Date finished: 5/19/20
Genre: Fiction, mystery
Publisher: She Writes Press
Publication Date: April 14, 2020
Pages in book: 328
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: Library Thing
NOTE: I received this book for free from  Library Thing 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:

Despite her years of experience investigating homicides for the force, Captain Linda Turner is haunted by the murders of the Hansen family. The two small children, clothed in tattered Disney pajamas, were buried with their father, a pastor, in the flower garden behind a church parsonage in Lincoln, Nebraska. But Mrs. Hansen is nowhere to be found—and neither is the killer.

In St. Louis, the televangelist Ray Williams is about to lose his show—until one of his regular attendees approaches him with an idea that will help him save it. Despite his initial misgivings, Ray agrees to give it a try. He can’t deny his attraction to this woman, and besides, she’d assured him the plan is just—God gave her the instructions in a dream.

Multiple story lines entwine throughout this compelling mystery, delving into the topics of murder, religious faith, and the inherent dangers in blindly accepting faith as truth. While Reverend Williams is swept up in his newfound success and plans for his wedding, Captain Turner can only hope that she and her team will catch the Hansens’ cunning killer—before more bodies surface.

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 haven’t read anything by this author before but I was intrigued by the cover on this book and by the description. I am really glad I requested it because I really enjoyed it. The plot line of this book was really interesting and I enjoyed the suspense of the story. The characters I thought could’ve been developed a tad more but that didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the story. I really liked getting Susannah’s point of view at the end of the story and I just thought that the “creepiness factor” could’ve been a little higher if we had gotten her POV more throughout the book. I overall really liked that the book featured a woman serial killer since that is seen less in media and it was a really interesting story. I liked how the author tied in all the different pieces of the story also – I didn’t see at first how Ruth & Emma’s story fit into the grand plan but by the end it was all connected and made sense. Overall I really liked this book and I would recommend it!

Link to author website

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

2020 Book #23 – The Sunday Potluck Club by Melissa Storm

Title: The Sunday Potluck Club
Author: Melissa Storm
Date finished: 5/6/20
Genre: Contemporary romance
Publisher: Kensington
Publication Date: March 31, 2020
Pages in book: 247
Stand alone or series: #1 in Sunday Potluck Club series
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:

A recipe for living . . .
 
New friends can be found in unexpected places. For Bridget and Amy, that place was the cancer ward of an Anchorage hospital. Now, as each struggles to overcome loss, they lean on each other for support—sharing suppers, laughter and tears.

Bridget and Amy aren’t about to let hardship knock them down—Bridget plans to return to her veterinarian school studies, Amy to her position as a second-grade teacher—but neither feels quite ready. And so the Sunday Potluck Club is born, a way for Bridget, Amy, and other women who have lost a loved one to find solace and understanding. Savoring favorite dishes while sharing memories and the comfort of connection, the members of the Sunday Potluck Club nourish body and soul.

As weeks go by and the group grows in unforeseen ways, both Bridget and Amy are inspired to find greater purpose.  Amy reaches out to a student whose father bravely faces his own struggle. Bridget volunteers at the local animal shelter, rehabilitating dogs whose unconditional love will bring others a chance to heal. And with the help of two special men, Bridget and Amy are realizing that there’s always room at the table for love and rekindled joy . . .

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.

I had read the first couple chapters of this book in last year’s BuzzBooks Romance sampler and was really intrigued. The first couple chapters really captured my interest and even though it was 9 months until the book would be published I was still very interested in being able to read and review it. And while I really enjoyed the book, it didn’t turn out to be quite what I thought it would be from the glimpse I got in the first couple chapters. Amy’s character was a bit too much of a doormat for me. And beyond that the way she kept going back and forth about Trent it got to be a bit too much for me. Overall there were pieces of the plot and the story line I thought could’ve been developed more, and I definitely would’ve liked to see some of the characters fleshed out a little more, especially Trent. That being said, I still did enjoy the book. It was a sweet read and was quick and easy to read. The end of the book got me pretty emotional and I wished there had been more of that emotional work throughout the book. I’d recommend giving this one a try, I think there was a lot to like about this book!

Link to author’s website

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

2020 Book #16 – Not That Kind of Guy by Andie J. Christopher

Title: Not That Kind of Guy
Author: Andie J. Christopher
Date finished: 4/22/20
Genre: Contemporary romance
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: April 14, 2020
Pages in book: 334
Stand alone or series: #2 in the series (#1 was Not the Girl You Marry)
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:

An office attraction becomes something more when they’re off the clock in this delightful romantic comedy by the USA Today bestselling author of Not the Girl You Marry.

State attorney Bridget Nolan is successful in all aspects of her life—except romance. After breaking up with her longtime boyfriend, she’s been slow to reenter the dating scene. To be honest, she has more important things to do like putting bad guys behind bars. But with her brother’s wedding right around the corner, she suddenly needs a date and fast. Lucky for Bridget, the legal intern is almost done with his program.

Matt Kido is dumbstruck by Bridget—total love at first sight—but there’s one problem. She’s totally off-limits while she’s his boss. But the moment he no longer reports to her, Matt decides to take a chance. An impulsive decision takes them to Las Vegas where, as the saying goes, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.

Unless you put a ring on it.

My rating:  4.5 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 the previous book, Not the Girl You Marry, and while I liked it I didn’t love it – mostly because I don’t love the movie How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days which is what the book was loosely based on. But I really wanted to read this one and I’m so glad I did – it was so good! The chemistry between the two main characters was outstanding – jumping off the page emotional thrill ride. The character does an amazing job of drawing the reader into the emotions of the story, I felt my palms sweating with that feeling of intense can’t contain it infatuation and also my heart broke right along with both Bridget and Matt when they struggled to work things out. The plot line was interesting and the characters were all so entertaining. There were some parts of the story that didn’t quite click for me but it didn’t deter my enjoyment of the story at all. I still really enjoyed the book and I would definitely recommend it!

Link to author website

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