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Looking for Readers! I want YOU!!!

… >.> To review. I’ve never done a throwback post but – hee. Time for that always yes? Also I put a lot of work into the below.

What am I looking for as a starting point for a reviewer? I listed a number of “sources” for you to look into. Here: the reviews I’ve posted on this site are a great indication. I also actually have a general format – more guidelines than hard rules, but mostly I do NOT want plot summaries or book reports. That’s what the blurb – and you know, actually reading the book is for.

If you’re interested, contact me. We’ll talk and hope it’s a good fit. Got questions? I’d love to hear from you. If you’re not interested – do you have a friend who might be? Share the love!

Thanks – and let’s do this!!! 😀

ETA: Guest reviewers welcome! <3 [Seriously, I have enough ARCs and requests to drown me. And you. And you too in the back. Let’s make EVERYONE happy! More reading! More reviews! More love!] 😉

Review: Devil in Spring by Lisa Kleypas

Devil in SpringDevil in Spring by Lisa Kleypas
Historical romance released by Avon on February 21, 2017

An eccentric wallflower  . . .

Most debutantes dream of finding a husband. Lady Pandora Ravenel has different plans. The ambitious young beauty would much rather stay at home and plot out her new board game business than take part in the London Season. But one night at a glittering society ball, she’s ensnared in a scandal with a wickedly handsome stranger.

A cynical rake  . . .

After years of evading marital traps with ease, Gabriel, Lord St. Vincent, has finally been caught by a rebellious girl who couldn’t be less suitable. In fact, she wants nothing to do with him. But Gabriel finds the high-spirited Pandora irresistible. He’ll do whatever it takes to possess her, even if their marriage of convenience turns out to be the devil’s own bargain.

A perilous plot  . . .

After succumbing to Gabriel’s skilled and sensuous persuasion, Pandora agrees to become his bride. But soon she discovers that her entrepreneurial endeavors have accidentally involved her in a dangerous conspiracy—and only her husband can keep her safe. As Gabriel protects her from their unknown adversaries, they realize their devil’s bargain may just turn out to be a match made in heaven . . .

​Oh. My. God. You guys. So, Devil in Winter is one of my most favorite Lisa Kleypas novels – and probably one of my favorite romances across the board. So. When I learned there was a novel about Sebastian and Evie’s son … well. The anticipation was great. I have to say, Devil in Spring lived up to the hype. I haven’t read many historical romances the past few years, but after reading this one, I think I need to get back on that horse. Definitely I need to catch up on books one and two of the Ravenels series. (Cold-Hearted Rake, and Marrying Winterborne). Reading Devil in Spring made me happy. I read it in a few hours. I picked up the book and read until I got too hungry, grudgingly ate breakfast, and then went back to reading until the end. I already know I’ll be re-reading it. In fact, I read this book in print which should tell you something, because I’m pretty sure that literally I last read a print book in 2013. (It’s also why I’m not quoting anything –  because I didn’t mark pages.)​

Lady Pandora Ravenel is a delight. Truly she’s so self-deprecating, bright, fun, and lovely. Her splendid wry sense of humor … she’s someone you want to be friends with. (I wouldn’t mind being her either, really…) I loved her indomitable spirit. A tragic incident in her past has dictated her entire life, but despite that she does her best not to let it control her. In fact, she’s been cheeky even since that event. (No spoilers!) I loved how she “gravely” informs Gabriel that she’s “barely house broken.” I loved that Pandora warns Gabriel she walks in circles, which she actually does … and then most importantly, that he finds it charming! Pandora is so much herself, but she also takes into account the wants of others. She’s caring even while fiercely independent.

Gabriel, Lord St. Vincent​ is such a good guy. (But then what else would you expect from someone who grew up with Evie as a mother? And of course we all knew that Sebastian would be a wonderful father, once Evie settled him down.) Gabriel had been certain he wanted the perfect society wife. Not to love, but to take her place at his side as the future duke and duchess. Gabriel has always been very aware of the responsibilities – both current and future. He’s blessed and knows that he’s been blessed in life. I didn’t love the (to my mind minor) “proclivity” of his – it felt a bit as if it was trend jumping in romance world, but hey, maybe. It also did fit the narrative, so that made it ultimately ok with me. ​He’s always been image and socially conscious, and has seen how his father’s past affected both his father and him. Nevertheless, Gabriel gets to know Pandora quickly, and is just so taken with her. He’s smitten, and loves her desperately. He loves her more than she loves him, and is okay with it. [And real world nod – that’s what Joe Biden says about him/his relationship with his wife Jill! <3]

​I have to say that I wasn’t sure on the marriage, initially. The meet cute, as it were, and both characters reluctance. Pandora’s reluctance carries through, but Gabriel becomes “pro-marriage” very quickly. Specifically, pro-marriage to Pandora. He’s captivated by Pandora, but the instant attraction/want/need on his part was a smidge too much for me. ​However, I did really appreciate Pandora’s resistance to the institution of marriage. She has extremely valid concerns, and Gabriel understands them. There are a few times where he wants to argue with her, but realizes he can’t because she makes extreme sound and logical points. Gabriel’s acknowledgment of that won him major points. He also works to reassure Pandora that he wants her to remain her own person – as much as he can. I also liked the host of social issues Ms. Kleypas incorporated into the story so skillfully. The setting and time period were very important.

Now, another reason I accepted Gabriel being taken so quickly is because he has ample reason to adore Pandora. Of course duty and responsibility is a big part of want to marry her – but it’s not the reason. I loved that both families gave them an out. No matter the scandal, neither family wants their loved one to suffer for the rest of his or her life. That both Gabriel and Pandora were given a choice was so important. Not only does Pandora’s cousin (and family) want the best for her, you get the sense that Sebastian and Evie would’ve put a stop to things if they felt Pandora would have been miserable. Of course their initial concern is for their son, but they also care about their future daughter-in-law. Not just for her as a potential addition to the family, but as a person in general.

The “courtship” is condensed into a weeklong visit, but it’s described in detail, and Gabriel and Pandora get to spend a lot of time together.​ I really appreciated that Gabriel and Pandora got to know each other a bit before agreeing to the marriage. I loved that Gabriel, who has never really had to work for the attention or affection of the opposite sex found himself in such a foreign situation, desperately trying to convince Pandora that she wants to marry him. Or at least should. He’s charming, sweet, and a little devious. After all, no son of Sebastian’s would be entirely good. (Or of Evie’s either, because she’s got quite the naughty streak too.)

​Speaking of Sebastian and Evie, I loved their scenes – that they open the book, but don’t dominate it. They’re the parents everyone wants … or the couple everyone wants to be. Gabriel also knows that he was lucky to have them. It was so nice to read a book populated by good characters. Ones who appreciate what they have, and thankful for it. Pandora also appreciates the love and support that she has now from her family.​ And that both characters have families that are so understanding they allow the lovebirds to have time alone, to get to know each other, and fall in love. And when Evie tells Pandora about the fox cubs. I’m pretty sure if you look carefully, you can still see where my heart was ripped out and bleeding on the floor.

​It isn’t ​all just romance and emotion spilling everywhere – there’s a lot of humor too. Pandora’s “facts” – her willingness to tease both Gabriel and herself. (Her noting she can’t marry Gabriel because people will think she’s shallow.) All of Gabriel’s antics to capture Pandora’s attention. I loved that her mind never stopped and was everywhere all at once. I can relate perfectly. Gabriel also doesn’t get angry or arrogantly demand her focus – he appreciates the challenge that is his new wife. And more than meets it.

Ms. Kleypas does a masterful job at writing dynamic, nuanced characters that are strong, but not overbearing. They stand for themselves, but don’t bulldoze others. Nor do they have to. They’re human, and caring, emotional, loving, argumentative, difficult, and perfect as characters. ​​There were scenes that almost made me cry, but in the span of a few pages, I was snort laughing. Ms. Kleypas runs you through the gamut of emotions in Devil in Spring. I’m not a “huggy” person, but when I finished the book I considered hugging it. Because it was just so wonderful. Expectations met. Mischief managed. ​I can’t wait for the next story … but in the mean time, I’m definitely re-reading Devil in Spring and catching up on the Ravenels series.

Grade: A

You can read an excerpt here or buy a copy here (the mass market paperback is currently only $4.98!) or the kindle copy here.

Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Review: Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn

Silent in the GraveBabs’ Review of Silent in the Grave (Book One of the Lady Julia Grey series) by Deanna Raybourn
Historical fiction with romantic elements released by Harlequin on December 19,  2006

“Let the wicked be ashamed, and let them be silent in the grave.”

These ominous words are the last threat that the darling of London society, Sir Edward Grey, receives from his killer. Before he can show them to Nicholas Brisbane, the private inquiry agent he has retained for his protection, Sir Edward collapses and dies at his London home, in the presence of his wife, Julia, and a roomful of dinner guests.

Julia is outraged when Brisbane visits and suggests that Sir Edward has been murdered. It is a reaction she comes to regret when she discovers the damning paper for herself, and realizes the truth. Determined to bring her husband’s murderer to justice, Julia engages the enigmatic Brisbane to help her investigate Edward’s demise, following a trail of clues that lead her to even more unpleasant truths, and ever closer to a killer who waits expectantly for her arrival.

I’ve had Deanna Raybourn on my radar and to-read list for awhile. Most recently I was looking forward to her new Veronica Speedwell (adventurous heroine!) series after I heard her describing it on the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books podcast. After checking my library, I’m on the waiting list for A Curious Beginning but Silent in the Grave was available so I started the Lady Julia Grey series. (I love Overdrive—free ebooks to read in just a few clicks!)

The book starts with the death of Lady Julia Grey’s husband (it’s in the blurb so I’m not spoiling anything!) and the introduction of Nicholas Brisbane, the hero(?). The whole story is told from Julia’s perspective. The story was pretty slow going to me for the first third to half as Julia is in the one-year mourning period for her husband, trying to figure out her next steps after her mourning ends, and fighting her natural instincts to rebel against society’s rules and misbehave.  A discovery in her husband’s office leads her back to Brisbane and chasing a murderer.

Brisbane, an investigator, is a complicated dude and reluctant to include Julia in any search. He definitely seems like he’s trying to protect Julia from himself and from trouble. Some of his background is revealed in the story as well as difficulties he’s facing. He fights his attraction to Julia and is “trying to do the right thing”.

If you’re looking for hot romance with sexy times and a HEA (happily ever after) in book 1, this isn’t for you. But I definitely sense an intense, angsty (OMG, will they or won’t they?!), budding romance in progress—just not getting there anytime soon. They don’t discuss their feelings for each other but there are some longing gazes and one interlude that’s not explicitly described.

My favorite part of the story was the secondary characters. Julia’s family, her butler Aquinas, the pets, and Monk were delightful. I love stories with big families and in addition to being big, Julia’s family is super eccentric and interesting. Her father seems incredibly unconventional for the time period and it was great how disappointed he was with his well-behaved children. He wanted more craziness! Julia’s sister Portia is awesome. I like the simultaneous acceptance of her relationship from most of her family while acknowledging challenges they faced (unfortunately similar to what they could face today).

I enjoyed this book especially as events started working towards the conclusion. The mystery was satisfactorily resolved and nice and twisty. Deanna Raybourn successfully steered me towards several possible murderers before the dramatic reveal.  I read book 2 of the series and am reading book 3, Silent on the Moor. It reminds me a lot of C.S. Harris’ Sebastian St. Cyr series as far as the historical setting, mystery plot, and a potential romance.

Grade: B

You can read an excerpt here or buy a copy here.

Review: Love on my Mind by Tracey Livesay

Love on my Mind (Shades of Love series) by Tracey Livesay
Contemporary Romance released by Avon Impulse on July 12, 2016

Successful PR executive Chelsea Grant is one assignment away from making partner at her firm and nothing will stand in her way. Her big break? Turn a reclusive computer genius into a media darling in time for his new product launch. He may have been dubbed the “sexiest geek alive” but he has no patience for the press—and it shows. Piece of cake, right? Only problem is… his company doesn’t want him to know they hired her.

After a disastrous product launch two years ago, tech CEO Adam Bennett knows the success of his new device depends on the media’s support. When a twist of fate brings the beautiful PR specialist to his door, Adam hires Chelsea to help turn his image around. Their attraction is undeniable and the more time they spend together, the harder it becomes to keep things professional.

But when Adam discovers Chelsea’s deception, will she risk everything for her career or is love the real thing on her mind?

I really enjoy a secrets story. If done well, it can add serious tension to the relationship. So when I read this blurb, I was excited. Plus, the book features an interracial couple with a POC heroine and, let’s be honest, we don’t see enough of that from the big publishers in romance.

Chelsea Grant is determined to be successful. She’s had a rough childhood with a small stint in the foster care system. She’s fought for everything she has and is on the cusp of getting the brass ring – partnership at a prestigious PR firm. She’s smart and dedicated and, even though she feels uncomfortable with the idea of lying to Adam, she also accepts it’s the only way to make partner.

In many ways, Adam was the stereotypical nerd. A reclusive, quiet introvert with few friends and an extremely love of computers and gaming. He also has a mild form of Asperger’s. He’s regimented about his routine, blunt to the point of near rudeness and has difficulty in social situations. At the same time, he’s loyal, a hard worker and has strong ethics. Adam also struggles with the ability to tell whether or not someone is lying. He’s been betrayed and hurt by people closest to him and, as a result, values honesty to an extreme. 

So we all know where this is going, right?

There were a lot of things to love about this book. First, the fact that the couple was interracial had very little focus when it came to their relationship. There is an extremely sweet and realistic moment when Adam makes Chelsea an avatar (swoon) because the video game they are about to play has few choices with her skin tone. But other than that it is simply about two people falling in love with their own baggage and lessons to be learned. Additionally, the reasons for the secret between the couple were solid and believable. I didn’t love the fact that Chelsea kept Adam in the dark but I bought into her reasons for doing so and therefore sympathized with her. The romance between the two sparks right from the beginning and I really enjoyed being along for the ride as they became closer.  

However, I do have a minor issue with the book. Adam has developed a product which will revolutionize the way we think about technology – think of the iPod. Chelsea drops in his life, manages to help him answer a couple of interview questions for a magazine and – without even googling her – Adam hires her to help him with the rest of the launch. Sorry, this isn’t going to happen. Corporate espionage is a real thing and, even though Chelsea signs a contract, there is no way Adam wouldn’t have done some research on her. This was somewhat addressed in the book but towards the end. I really felt like it should have been dealt with earlier on, especially since Chelsea is particularly vague about what she does for a living. 

Despite my quibble, this book was enjoyable. The romance was well done, the writing smooth and the characters interesting. I will definitely try this author again.

Grade: B

You can read an except of this book here or buy it here.

Mary’s Favorites of 2016

Gosh, I cannot believe it’s the end of 2016 already! Where did the year go? (Please, dear Lord, tell me the rest of you feel this way and it’s not just me!)

Anyway, I don’t always get a chance to write reviews for books I’ve read and loved, so this is a great time to do an end-of-the-year recap and share with all of you some of my favorites from 2016! There are a few so – far warning – you should hide your wallet if you don’t want to be tempted!

Infiltration (Omega Sector Series Book 1) by Janie Crouch
Romantic Suspense released by Harlequin Intrigue on December 14, 2014

The wrong place at the wrong time; that’s the only way Sophia Reardon could explain her predicament. She wasn’t even an FBI field agent and now she was being taken hostage. By her ex-boyfriend Cameron Branson. The moment Sophia walked into his undercover operation, Cameron warned her that his employers would want to break her. So keeping her by his side, pretending not to have feelings for her, was the best way to maintain his role in the dangerous organization, and the only way to keep them both safe. Because if they got their hands on her, she could expose him and his secrets. And then they’d no longer have any reason to keep her around.

I loved, loved this book. Actually, I really like Janie Crouch in general. She writes fast-paced romantic suspense with great characters and interesting plots. This one was no exception. Cam is protective but sensitive. He knows Sophia doesn’t have any reason to trust him, and yet, he works hard to show her she can. Sophia is a smart heroine thrust into in a dangerous situation she is incredibly unprepared for. Her feelings and former relationship with Cam color her actions but they never came across as stupid or naïve. I would highly recommend this book for anyone who loves romantic suspense.

Triple Dare (The Art of Seduction Book 3) by Regina Kyle
Contemporary Romance released by Harlequin Blaze on November 17, 2015

Globe-trotting fashion photographer Ivy Nelson is home to help her family out of a jam. When she donates her services to a charity calendar, the last thing she expects is hunky firefighter—and object of all her hottest fantasies—Cade Hardesty to walk through the door. Cade is ready to get naked for a good cause, and the heat Ivy feels is anything but professional.

When a sexy dare turns into a scorching kiss, they can’t help but give in to their desires. But Cade wants Ivy in his bed for more than one night. Can the hometown firefighter convince the photographer that her wanderlust should lead her into his arms for good, or will one of them run before they both get burned?

This book was just plain fun. Low angst and lots of humor. I mean, it’s starts off with the heroine photographing the hero wearing nothing more than a sparkly g-string and a Santa hat while holding a kitten. Heaven help me, it doesn’t get any better than that! Both Ivy and Cade are likable characters and the story flows smoothly. Small town, friends-to-lovers and a nice supporting cast of characters round the romance out nicely. If you are looking to kill a few hours on a Sunday afternoon, this is exactly the book you should pick up.

Killing Trail (Timber Creek K-9 Mystery) by Margaret Mizushima
Mystery released by Crooked Lane Books on December 8, 2015

When a young girl is found dead in the mountains outside Timber Creek, life-long resident Officer Mattie Cobb and her partner, K-9 police dog Robo, are assigned to the case that has rocked the small Colorado town.

With the help of Cole Walker, local veterinarian and a single father, Mattie and Robo must track down the truth before it claims another victim. But the more Mattie investigates, the more she realizes how many secrets her hometown holds. And the key may be Cole’s daughter, who knows more than she’s saying.

The murder was just the beginning, and if Mattie isn’t careful, she and Robo could be next.

I’m a fan of mysteries and I adore dogs, so picking this up wasn’t a difficult choice. Mattie is a great character but untrusting. When she’s paired with Robo to form the first K-9 unit in her small town, it’s a real test for her – especially when they are thrown into their first case. Robo was his own character with a distinct personality. The mystery was well done and low on the angst side. An overall great read.

Act Like It by Lucy Parker
Contemporary Romance published by Carina on November 30, 2015

Richard Troy used to be the hottest actor in London, but the only thing firing up lately is his temper. We all love to love a bad boy, but Richard’s antics have made him Enemy Number One, breaking the hearts of fans across the city.

Have the tides turned? Has English rose Lainie Graham made him into a new man?

Sources say the mismatched pair has been spotted at multiple events, arm in arm and hip to hip. From fits of jealousy to longing looks and heated whispers, onlookers are stunned by this blooming romance.

Could the rumors be right? Could this unlikely romance be the real thing? Or are these gifted stage actors playing us all?

I picked this up because I have a love affair with the theater and was hoping this novel would feed my adoration. It did. Yay! Plus it used one of my absolute favorite tropes: enemies-to-lovers. Needless to say, my recommendations for 2016 would not be complete without mentioning this book. Richard starts out as a real jerk, and what I really love is that by the end of the book he’s still kinda jerky. Not in a mean way – but in a grumpy, manly way. Lucy is strong and no push over, which is the perfect foil for Richard. They were a great couple and it was lovely to be along for the ride as they got their HEA.

That’s it, folks. Some of my favorite reads from 2016. Have any of you read these? What are some of your recommendations? (My TBR list can never be too long!)

TBR Challenge Review: Egomaniac by Vi Keeland

EgomaniacEgomaniac by Vi Keeland
Contemporary romance released by Vi Keeland on January 14, 2017

The night I met Drew Jagger, he’d just broken into my new Park Avenue office.
I dialed 9-1-1 before proceeding to attack him with my fancy new Krav Maga skills.
He quickly restrained me, then chuckled, finding my attempted assault amusing.

Of course, my intruder had to be arrogant.
Only, turned out, he wasn’t an intruder at all.

Drew was the rightful occupant of my new office. He’d been on vacation while his posh space was renovated.
Which was how a scammer got away with leasing me office space that wasn’t really available for rent.
I was swindled out of ten grand.

The next day, after hours at the police station, Drew took pity on me and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. In exchange for answering his phones while his secretary was out, he’d let me stay until I found a new place.
I probably should have acted grateful and kept my mouth shut when I overheard the advice he was spewing to his clients. But I couldn’t help giving him a piece of my mind.
I never expected my body to react every time we argued. Especially when that was all we seemed to be able to do.

The two of us were complete opposites. Drew was a bitter, angry, gorgeous-as-all-hell, destroyer of relationships. And my job was to help people save their marriages.
The only thing the two of us had in common was the space we were sharing.
And an attraction that was getting harder to deny by the day.

I first read Vi Keeland last year, when I got a notification that her book The Baller (which I quite enjoyed) was out – and since then I’ve had an eye on her releases. While the premise of this book had me giving it slight side eye, I was willing to go there with Ms. Keeland. I’m glad I did. It’s a story of “opposites” attract, which isn’t normally my thing, but it really worked here. The divorce lawyer and the marriage counselor. An introduction where each thinks the other is an intruder. It’s really cute.

Emerie Rose (what a romance heroine name!) is a great heroine. She’s just so nice. She’s someone you want to be friends with. Emerie is as I said, a marriage counselor. She’s from Oklahoma, but moved to New York to follow the guy she’s been half in love with for three years. I know, I know, cliche, right? But it didn’t annoy me here. He was her TA too. (Gah!) And yet Ms. Keeland wrote it in a way that makes it work and didn’t get my back up.  Pretty impressive if you ask me. Thankfully, Emerie meets Drew instead. (The TA-now Professor wasn’t worth it.) She’s well-rounded, and dynamic – she’s uncertain, a little spastic and neurotic, but grown up and does the right thing even when it’s hard. If nothing else, I thought she was a bit too nice. I understand why Drew acted as he did, but I wish that Emerie had made him sweat it out just a tiny bit more. (Or more than a tiny bit. … But then I’m mean.)

Drew Jagger is a good man. He’s got a heart of gold, but it’s buried under some tarnish, and locked down tight. His ex-wife did him dirty. Really dirty – when he was really young, so I get the bitterness. He got burned so badly he isn’t interested in any relationship anymore. It doesn’t help that he’s a divorce lawyer, often seeing the absolute worst of imploding marriages. However, that’s when it comes to relationships. For other things, he’s quite nice. He’s gorgeous – of course (classic romance hero requirement) – but he’s kind. He’s had the same best friend since sixth grade. He’s loyal and constant – just a bit gun-shy. He also was extremely generous upon meeting Emerie when he didn’t have to be, and it was so fun seeing how they clicked. Drew is a bit crass, but that’s all surface. I liked that he’s got some rough edges and contradictions to his character.

Emerie starts out a bit of a mess and adorable. Professionally, she’s set. However, she starts out in New York [City] with a lot going on. Drew helps her out – who wouldn’t when it’s a damsel in distress flailing (especially since Drew notes she’s got a great ass and rack)? Not to say Emerie doesn’t pull her own – she runs her own practice and helps Drew, keeping his office running smoothly and rearranging his schedule skillfully – and Drew needs it more than your average bear. (In fact, Drew is the one who has a lot going on through the book. Way more than Emerie, who becomes the constant steady presence.) Emerie even mentions it at one point – that when one has more going on than the other, they can lean on the other person. They’ve established a relationship and are making it work.

I don’t want to give away the plot points – I hate “book report” reviews that just offer a summary of what happens – but I found everything realistic, and quite believable. It made sense, and was one life event after the other – just as things always are. Drew and Emerie are just meant to be together. I had a lot of fun seeing the two of them develop an emotional connection. There’s a lot of humor, fun, sexy times, and healthy respect between them. It was nice to read about two characters who have a strong sense of self falling in love. I can see myself re-reading this book, and I’ll definitely look for more by Ms. Keeland. In fact, I’m hoping the best friend gets his own happy ever after too.

Grade: B-

You can buy a copy here.

Review: One Snowy Night by Jill Shalvis

Mary’s Review of
One Snowy NightOne Snowy Night (Heartbreaker Bay series) by Jill Shalvis
Contemporary Romance released by Avon Impulse on November 8, 2016

It’s Christmas Eve and Rory Andrews is desperate to get home to the family she hasn’t seen in years. Problem is, her only ride to Lake Tahoe comes in the form of the annoyingly handsome Max Stranton, and his big, goofy, lovable dog Carl.

Hours stuck in a truck with the dead sexy Max sounds like a fate worse than death (not), but Rory’s out of options. She’s had a crush on Max since high school and she knows he’s attracted to her, too. But they have history… and Max is the only one who knows why it went south.

They’ve done a good job of ignoring their chemistry so far, but a long road trip in a massive blizzard might be just what they need to face their past… and one steamy, snowy night is all it takes to bring Max and Rory together at last.

I love a road trip romance. There’s something about two characters with loads of unresolved issues being trapped in a car together for miles and miles. With the holiday angle added in and a goofy, lovable dog…well, I just couldn’t resist picking this book up.

Rory was very interesting. She ran away from home at seventeen and hasn’t been back. She’s now 28, a little older and a little wiser. She’s tough – having survived and then thrived in San Francisco, putting herself through school and working. She wants to make amends with her family and decides to go home for Christmas. The problem: she’s told them that before and flaked every time. It’s easier for her to run away from her problems than face them and she’s working hard to change that.

Max was a lovable character. He’s protective of Rory but not in an overbearing way. He’s also smart with a good heart. Plus he has a dog and, let’s be honest, there is nothing better than a tough guy who melts like butter when it comes to his pet. Max agrees to give Rory a lift home – they are going in the same direction, after all. But what starts out as a good deed is later revealed to be far more than that. While Max likes and is attracted to Rory, he’s also very upset with her for some things she did in their shared past. He’s holding a grudge (for a good reason) and it makes his actions towards her only better because it would’ve been so easy for him to be nasty and dismissive. I really liked Max a lot.

During the ride home, the couple runs into some trouble. They end up stranded, of course, but how each of them reacts to that is what makes the book so good. Rory knows her family will believe she flaked again and she hates that. Max, knowing some of the history between Rory and her family, comforts her and does his best to make the best of a bad situation. On top of that, under pressure from Rory, Max reveals his reasons for keeping a distance. When Rory discovers what she unknowingly cost him, her reaction is very moving. It was easy to see Rory was working hard to change who she was. Max recognizes this and it made the romance between them so much sweeter.

My biggest complaint with this was the length. There was so much going on in this little novella, I think it really could have been longer. Also, if you haven’t read any of the novels in the Heartbreaker Bay series – like me – you might be a little lost in the beginning. It didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the novella but I wish the author had given a touch more background on the characters.

Grade: B-

You can read an excerpt of this book here or buy it here.

SNAHM: Yasmine Galenorn

Hi friends – I’m … still here. It’s been … a year, huh. Lots going on. Lots. Let’s just move right along. I have to say straight up, this post is a year late, and it’s on me. It is entirely, absolutely, 100% on me. My apologies. My apologies to you, my apologies to Ms. Galenorn. I messed up. I did want to share her post though – but also note – it was written almost a year ago, it should have gone up at that time. I will say, I definitely think it’s still relevant. (In fact, maybe it was meant to be – to be posted now considering…)

So without further ado … Yasmine Galenorn

I want to thank Limecello for asking me to write a blog post on diversity/being a writer of mixed background. The world of media’s been filled with a lot of controversy this year—well, every year, I guess, but this year I’ve noticed it more.

And I’ve been thinking about the concept of diversity in books, movies, etc., a lot because this relates to me directly—as both an author, and as someone who has a mixed heritage background. Maybe I don’t look it…my Irish side seems to comes out a lot stronger than my Cherokee in my looks…but yes, I am mixed blood and honestly, it has never played a big part in how I think about myself. Probably because of that very fact—nobody bothers me about it because hey, I look white, to be blunt. No, I get attacked in other ways.

It hit my mother though, right where it hurts most, with family. With her husband’s family (my stepfather). And I knew it hurt her because when she was alive, she talked to me about it. I’d like to say he stuck up for her, that he put a stop to his mother treating my mother like a second-class citizen, but I can’t, because he, himself, was a racist though he would never have accepted that fact. But honestly, when you marry someone who is part Native American and then refer to NAs as “warhoops” and Hispanics as “wetbacks”…I’m sorry, you’re racist. When you won’t let your wife drink any alcohol because she’s part Native American, you’re racist. And so on.

Anyway, I had a long, long post written with all sorts of examples and I deleted most of it and decided to rewrite…just a blunt post.

I’ve seen so much ugliness in the past few years on the net. I’ve been called a whore/slut because my female characters are unapologetically sexual and lead alternative lifestyles. I’ve been trash-talked as a writer because of my looks—because I’m fat and unapologetic about the way I choose to dress, about the fact that I have a wonderful marriage, and that I’m successful and not ashamed of myself. Apparently, size has something to do with how well the words come out of my brain, according to a subset of trolls. I’ve seen friends get death and rape threats due to speaking out about the nature of being a female who writes science fiction and fantasy.

Enough. Just. Enough.

I no longer care about making my valid arguments and refuting the idiots because: Diversity? Whether it be in gender, color, size, sexuality, it’s not going away, people. The “good old days with family values” only existed for a minor subset of society. Women were struggling for equality. People of color were struggling for equality. L/G/B/T people were struggling for equality. The only ones who weren’t struggling with some form of discrimination were white men.

So here’s the thing: yes, you have less power when you share that power around. You have less power over others. That doesn’t mean you don’t have the power to shape your life into awesome…

What does it mean? This:

  • It means you can’t beat your wife.
  • You can’t rape your date.
  • You can’t terrorize the neighbors because they’re black.
  • You can’t pass over someone for a job simply because he’s Cherokee.
  • You can’t spit on a woman entering the military because you think she can’t handle the training.
  • You can’t deny Jim and George the right to marry.
  • You can’t pass over Linda for a promotion just because she’s fat and you would rather promote the size 4 blond so you can ogle her boobs.
  • You can’t force the local pagans to attend your church or to stop practicing their religion.

IOW: You can’t deny others basic rights simply because you don’t like them, you don’t agree with their religion, or you think they won’t serve you or that they are less than you. And, to be blunt, if you have a problem with this, I suggest you reexamine your ethics because…sorry, you’re wrong.

Anyway…I’ve seen too much online over the years to make me truly ever trust anybody I don’t know personally. Because those anonymous trolls and flame baiters? They aren’t bots. They are real people. Maybe the neighbor next door. Maybe the person you pass on the street. And they’ll smile to your face, and turn around and harass and hound and attack in private when they think nobody’s watching. When they believe they can get away with it. They’re cowards, but they’re dangerous cowards because sometimes, they take their hatred into the streets with guns. Or they beat up their girlfriends. Or they bully a little black girl just because they can.

So ya know…Enough.

Take a deep breath and decide—what do you want people to remember you for when you’re gone? Do you want to make the world a better place? Start by speaking out when you hear someone making a racist joke. Don’t sit by while the guys in the locker room talk about date-rape. Just stop adding fuel to the fire or enabling it by remaining silent.

Maybe I’m preaching to the choir…but if the choir doesn’t keep singing, all of this crap will slide back into acceptability. And it will just go on. And on. We can change things…one person at a time. One family at a time. But it starts with us. With the person in the mirror.

Yasmine