I love small town romances - I particularly love second-chances - and this has both in one delicious, can’t-put-it-down holiday novella. Nix has such a gift of psychological insight: the jokes that aren’t jokes, why we say Yes when sometimes we mean No, and why we sometimes say No when we really want to say Yes. An absolute gem.
Rhythm in Blue continues the McLemore family Azalea Valley Series. The characters I loved in Hope Malory’s Wildfire & Roses are back in this beautiful, small town nestled in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, with the story focusing on Beasley’s sister Brenner.
When the man she thought she loved betrays her, Brenner decides happy endings are for other people, like her sister and Will, but definitely not for her. She’s not sure she can allow herself to get close to a man after an encounter in her past turned ugly.
When Garrett Davenport arrives in Azalea Valley to manage the dance studio where Brenner works, he sees she’s determined to maintain a professional relationship with him, but dancing together is as effortless and natural as breathing, and sparks fly as they practice for a fundraising event to raise money for the local hospital. Everyone can tell they belong together, but how can he convince Brenner?
With a family mystery to unravel and rich descriptions of delicious food, caring friends and family, and peaceful, natural beauty, Rhythm in Blue is a delight to escape into. Look for the third book in the series, Blue Skies of Summer, coming soon!
The body of a dead teenager, a missing person's cold case, and a small boy who remembers being murdered in a past life....
Mike Doyle’s first case in Investigations is looking less like a botched robbery and more like the targeted killing of a busboy at Sammy’s diner. When one of the waitresses, Jill, finds out her best friend’s son seems to be channeling memories of a past life, she enlists Mike’s help in reopening her fiancé’s missing person's case as a murder investigation. But is Ethan Penrose’s disappearance a lead or a lost cause? Mike has his own active murder investigation to pursue. The deeper he goes, the more connections keep cropping up as he and Jill unearth the town’s long-buried secrets and a deadly imminent threat in this New England police procedural with a paranormal twist.
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See pictures & behind-the-scenes in the Bonus Content!
OMG - I absolutely adored this book! Olivia grabbed my heart right away with her anxiety about her career and the challenges of being a woman in a male-dominated field, and then Adam, however gorgeous, comes off as a total jerk, and I thought - well, that’s it. I hope there’s another hero in this book because I’d NEVER forgive that! …Except that of course I did, and that’s because of the way Nix writes and the humanity of these characters, and suddenly you see things from a different perspective, and it melts your heart. I had so much in common with Olivia, and while Adam learns from Olivia, I felt like I was learning with her from Adam: maybe I don’t always have to carry a sewing kit around “in case.” Maybe I don’t have to carry one around in case someone *else* needs a sewing kit….
I love road trip rom coms (my favorite romance genre!!), and this had all the fun of one of those trips where everything that can go wrong does, and there’s just the right balance of seriously high stakes and comedy. A sheer delight from beginning to end!
The story continues from Book 1, FROM ICE WAGON TO CLUBHOUSE, picking up in 1936 with Jude Mooney and Maeve’s sons, the twins Daniel and Paul who have joined the fight for Irish independence in Belfast. Jude, in New Orleans, is now a rich man, remarried to the young, ruthless Nieve. He’s sold his soul to provide for his family, and now he wants nothing more than to give his new daughter, Aoife, a “respectable” start in society. But war with Germany is approaching, and none of the Mooney family will remain untouched. Daniel and Paul set aside their hatred of the British to join the RAF and fight Hitler’s Luftwaffe, going on to take part in dangerous espionage missions while Jude’s niece and nephew do their own part to help the war effort in the Pacific theater.
The book is a sweeping family saga that spans the globe and follows the extended Mooney family over the years. The deepest currents that push and pull Jude, Daniel, and Paul are the women they love, making this a particularly lush, sensual telling of a fascinating period of history from an Irish-American perspective.
An intriguing novella set in deep space about a derelict ship, The Martian Queen, known as ‘the Titanic of the stars’ when it was in service. The liner has been decommissioned, “mothballed,” but when a hacking crew finds a way in and starts up the ship’s computers, they discover something truly mysterious and alien.
One of the intriguing aspects of this story, for me, was the wife and husband protagonists background in Iceland, and there are elements of Nordic culture worked into the book throughout I found really fascinating.
If you read one Romance book, this is it. This is Cinderella for the 21st century. It’s laugh-out-loud funny, beginning from the first page with an email from a representative of a little known African prince requesting the heroine provide her license, passport, etc.
I just adored Ledi and Thabiso - Ledi just grabs you by the heart, and I loved watching Thabiso struggling in his disguise as a “commoner.” The plot, pacing, writing are just perfect. I had a big, sloppy grin on my face the entire time I was reading.
The final section of the book takes place in the mythical kingdom of Thesolo, and if you liked Black Panther and Wakanda, this has a very similar appeal. It’s a beautiful vision of how things could be, a reminder of what our society could be like if we lived up to our values.
I can’t wait to read more in Cole’s “Reluctant Royals” series!
I was excited when I heard a sequel to the first book in Tomamichel’s DRUID’S PORTAL series was coming—I find the historical period of Roman Briton fascinating and was looking forward to Janet and Trajan’s son, Ethan, going back in time to find adventure and romance. THE SECOND JOURNEY is so much more than this: there is a wildly imaginative, fleshed out alternate history (both past and present), multiple shifting time paths, and a trip all the way to a Neolithic Stone Age wedding. Tomamichel blends her sci-fi with a historian’s passion for research and detail, and it pays off. I was surprised and intrigued and completely satisfied. Looking forward to continuing books in this series!
From the action-packed opening to the final chapter, this sci-fi romance has it all: intrigue, great world-building, and a heroine & hero you’re rooting for as they race to figure out whom to trust and whether the bond being forged between them, symbolized by the magical, ancient threads of the kenut on Kira’s wrist, is strong enough to hold. This feels like the start of a great series: one in which there truly is a fate worse than death, the living death that is mindwipe.
1871, England - Victoria Carlton has been brought up by her well-to-do uncle and aunt to make a good marriage, but she’s all too aware of her insider/outsider status as a charity case: a fact her vain and spiteful cousin Stella likes to make sure Victoria doesn’t forget. The handsome Dr. Joseph Ashton, however, sets Victoria on a new path, when he introduces her to the poor of the nearby slum tenements. Her aunt believes in doing good works and serves on the board of charitable institutions, but Victoria feels sure by actually visiting the poor, and helping them personally, she can accomplish more. It’s a hard road, and one that ends up costing her everything as her fortunes turn from bad to worse until she herself is living among the very people she set out to help.
The novel is full of historical detail and presents a compelling reminder that not all of Victorian life was top hats and tea parties. It’s actually a stark reminder of how masses of people scraped their way through appalling conditions: overcrowded, chronically malnourished, without reliable access to clean water, living with filth and disease, the lack of basic hygiene and education for children, vulnerable to crime. Victoria shines though as a testament to the human spirit, as do the examples of those who stick together or help each other out while having so little themselves.
AnneMarie Brear writes contemporary & historical novels ranging from the mid-1800s through WWI and II. You can find a complete listing of her books on her website at:
This is a sprawling, dreamlike book, like one has opened a door into the life of a stately Edwardian manor and is not in a hurry to find the way out. I had a hard time in the beginning connecting and getting a sense of the narrative thread in the beginning, but once I did, I was completely hooked. There is a gravity to the book coming out of the tragedy of the Second Boer War that has altered their lives that appealed to me immensely, and the sensitivity is so finely tuned. One of my favorite (although painful) scenes, is Lord Richard entering the head gardener’s cottage to retrieve a book he has loaned and briefly sitting in a chair by the fire wondering if he will be offered tea. When tea is not forthcoming, he leaves. That’s the surface level. Underneath, he is realizing with dawning horror that in his desperation to see the woman he loves he has forced his presence on her because she can’t, because of her lower social status, tell him to leave or even indicate that she is uncomfortable being alone with him. It’s an absolutely gorgeous book in its restraint. By the end, I was turning pages, feeling my heart beat fast because I had fallen so in love with these characters, I had to find out what happened next.
Corrin Patten is a city girl, focused on passing the bar, hoping to make partner at the prestigious law firm she works for. She needs the money: she has family to take care of and her own dreams of someday being able to travel the world. All of that gets put on hold, though, when she boards a plane to Montana to help her best friend, Miranda, and she meets a certain very handsome country doctor and sparks fly between them. But a vindictive shadow from Corrin’s past is also following her and threatens her new found happiness in Emma Springs.
Brandle has developed a series of romances and part of the fun is how they interlock, following previous characters and introducing new characters. By the end of Book 2, I was excited about the next couple coming in Book 3. These are sweet, “clean” romances with tender kisses and thrilling touches that aim at marriage and births. There are beautiful mountains, casserole dishes with baked beans and beef and apple pies, good-hearted people, and support animals, like Big Red from Book 1 and a new comer, the darling Whinny who works his way into Corrin’s heart. If this sounds like the kind of place you’d like to live, check out the Love Thrives in Emma Springs series. You’ll want to start with Book 1, THE HITMAN’S MISTAKE, so you don’t miss anything!
Casey Banks has the glamorous life she always dreamed of, flying planes all over the world, until an unscheduled landing brings her charter flight to the small town of Kerridge, Vermont, and face-to-face with her ex-husband, Elliot. When her grounded passenger, the wealthy Ms. Landry, unexpectedly relocates her daughter’s wedding to Kerridge and puts Casey in charge as unofficial wedding planner, Casey finds herself thrown together with Elliot with three days to pull off a miracle and wondering if maybe, after all her years of running, her heart might be finally leading her home.
Lulu-print: Coming soon!
For bonus content with character pictures, background, and a scrumptious raspberry scone recipe:
The book opens with the “Final Ride,” a trolley funeral procession, for longtime Motorman Frank Carbone, and shortly after, the staff and volunteers of the Connecticut Trolley Museum are shaken by another loss, that of their beloved Right of Way Maintenance Superintendent, Bob Snyder, and his beloved part-wolf-dog, Trolley Three. But Chief Motorman John Erlanson slowly begins to realize he’s not as alone as he thought: area residents report ghostly sightings and John hears voices and receives messages from defunct accounts. The Museum staff have their hands full with a pending grant application from the State. It seems crazy at first, but John finds if he listens, and trusts his unseen benefactors, things just might work out, culminating in a truly otherworldly “Rides to the Dark Side,” the Museum’s annual Halloween event that draws a record number of visitors. John needs all his faith when a last, unexpected tragedy occurs before the big event.
The Author Bio mentions that Michael Brenner currently volunteers as a Motorman at the Minnesota Streetcar Museum, and the book is full of insider knowledge that will delight anyone who loves the long, fascinating history of trolleys in America.
Utterly delightful Victorian romance novella with tremendously likable characters and an unusual, truly fascinating deep dive into the world of that era’s illustrated weekly periodicals, like the fictional Allan’s Miscellany, based in part on Punch. A key part of what made this work for me is that Sarah, an aging spinster in her family, resigned to caretaking, doesn’t think of herself as beautiful, and Pel (Lawrence Pelham) is very, very nice. The complete opposite of the domineering types one finds too often in the genre. I absolutely loved them.
Schwab makes all the tiny, repressed, moments of physical contact allowed between Victorian men and women into shimmering, seismic events. I highly recommend and I’m looking forward to reading the other books in this series.
“I was in the hall mirror all yesterday, the next morning gone.
The grade had steepened, things were sliding off.
Everything looked normal if you held your head funny.
My speech impediment makes others appear bowlegged to me.
Run your tongue over my teeth, Try to talk like that…”
I know Michael Redhill primarily as a novelist, from his Inger Ash Wolfe literary crime mysteries to his most recent Bellevue Square which deals with mental health and identity disassociation, and I find his work just fascinating.
It is dark, and this poetry collection has a similar darkness to it: embodied existence weighs heavily, time and meaning are looming questions, but I can relate at times to this way of seeing the world. I don’t pretend to understand all the poems here, but I like them very much. They stretch my brain. My favorites in this collection are: “Askew” “Forms” “Charlatans” “Search Engines” “Plant Tomatoes Under a Full Moon” “Mycelium” “Scar Tissue” “Bitten” “Cunnilingus” and “Myodesopsia.”
“You’re a good soul, Penelope. You forgave me my sins, though God knows why. You’ve no affection for pretenses, you’ve brooked none of my nonsense, you’ve a filthy mouth and a sharp mind. I don’t have to pretend when I’m with you. Do you understand what that’s worth?”
Ordinarily, a time traveling romance begins in the present, with the heroine stumbling back into time as either the Inciting or the Act I turning point, and one of the things I absolutely love, love, love about Kat Caulberg’s Three Star Island, is that it starts after the time travel. A long time after, in fact: Penelope is stuck on an island, in the early 18th century, among strangers who dislike her, and part of the story is filling in how she got there and what’s happened in the intervening years. So when the notorious pirate Captain William Payne washes up on the beach, his ship having sunk, his crew having mutinied against him, they’re both in a similar position of being stranded.
Having lived on her own without hope for so long, Penny finds it hard to open her heart, but she’s has intelligence, a fiery spirit, and—matched against Will—she rediscovers laughter, passion, and purpose. She needs every ounce of her indomitable will to face the dangers ahead of them
Montana in the late 1880s, from the modern perspective, represents an intriguing mix of wilderness and formality, and this is what Pirri captures in her Montana Women series. On the one hand, the women are stronger and more independent because they live on the frontier, but there is also a courtliness to the manners between men and women that belongs to a bygone age.
This is a fun, short romance about Laura, a woman struggling to open her heart because of the guilt and grief she’s still holding onto from her past, and Matt, a railroad baron with a young son, who unexpectedly finds himself put in the position of Laura’s guardian when her father dies. Wealthy, headstrong, and used to getting her way, Laura isn’t going to make it easy for him, and Matt decides the best course of action is to marry her off as quickly as possible….
“…the ever present feeling of floundering, of failing, of being torn between two things that were so important to me, each of which demanded more time than I could I give.”
On the surface, Need to Know is a CIA spy thriller, but at it’s heart, it’s a story about trying to be “supermom,” a modern American working mother who’s family and way of life feels like it’s always on the edge, who’s career keeps her from her kids, but who can’t afford to give up her career, and the guilt she lives with. Everything in the plot, including whether or not Vivian can trust her husband as an equal partner, intensifies this basic, psychological reality, which is the brilliant part. I couldn’t put it down, and Vivian’s dilemmas and need to protect her family absolutely grabbed me and had me on the edge of my seat, twisted in knots. It’s beautifully written as well, dancing lightly between past and present, as Vivian relives the key moments of her marriage, seeing everything in her new double-vision: the anatomy of a marriage.
I will say the end of the book didn’t work for me, but reviewers have different opinions, and overall, the book is just genius.
Vivian’s decisions are so much harder because of her social and economic situation, which comes down to two working parents, four small children, and not enough social or financial cushion. This part of it reminded me of reading Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink by Katrina Alcorn. I also recently heard Sen. Elizabeth Warren chronicle her life story, with the constant struggle to find childcare and afford the basics, being a working mother, or in school, and also a parent. She credits her Aunt Bea who came to her rescue to care for the children so that Warren could work, but notes that most people aren’t so lucky, after which she went on to outline her proposal for Universal Childcare, which, I think, has the potential to change millions of people’s lives for the better. Imagine not having to constantly worry about that! Another character in Cleveland’s novel finds himself trapped because of access to healthcare, another source of constant worry for millions that could be addressed by public policy, and I suddenly thought, my god, what if someday we could look back on this period and see it as such a dark time in which the vast majority of people struggled, possibly needlessly, just to raise their families, because it doesn’t have to be like this. We don’t have to have so many people living on the edge, one job loss, one missed paycheck, one health emergency away from everything collapsing.
A time travel romance set in the present and the mid-1880s centered on an old New England house. What really stood out for me about this novel was that when Samantha (“Sam”) travels back in time, her brief visits jump around in time, so you have this fascinating situation where Robert (the ghostly owner) experiences Sam out of sequence - each time they meet, she’s at one stage of their relationship and he’s at another. I really, really liked this non-linear development of their relationship.