The Hero of Hope Springs by Maisey Yates

Publication Date: July 21, 2020
Publisher: Harlequin Books
Rating: ★★★★

For as long as brooding cowboy Ryder Daniels has known Sammy Marshall, she has been his sunshine. Her free spirit and bright smile saved him after the devastating loss of his parents and gave him the strength to care for his orphaned family. Only Ryder knows how vulnerable Sammy is, so he’s kept his attraction for his best friend under wraps for years. But what Sammy’s asking for now might be a step too far…

Something has been missing from Sammy’s life, and she thinks she knows what it is. Deciding she wants a baby is easy; realizing she wants her best friend to be the father is…complicated. Especially when a new heat between them sparks to life! When Sammy discovers she’s pregnant, Ryder makes it clear he wants it all. But having suffered the fallout of her parents’ disastrous relationship, Sammy is wary of letting Ryder too close. This cowboy will have to prove he’s proposing out of more than just honor…

Review:

Thank you to NetGalley, Maisey Yates, & Harlequin Books for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

I’ve read Maisey Yates before and I absolutely adored the story. I read the Copper Ridge series and I quickly became obsessed with all of the characters and I was so glad that it lasted over 10 books. I received an opportunity to read her newest book, The Hero of Hope Springs, and I knew I couldn’t pass it up. I never read any part of the Gold Valley series, but I didn’t have any trouble following along!

I really like Maisey Yates’ writing because as much as it does have sultry and sexy vibes, it doesn’t take the front of the story like it does in some romance novels. The angst, the friendships, the drama, the comedy, the full-on relationship between the characters make each and every one of her stories. The characters are always well developed and they make this stories as well-written as they are.

May I just say…this friends-to-lovers trope is perfection. I loved Sammy and Ryder! Their characters are great, and the fact that they were friends from the start, makes it all that more believable and real in my eyes. The brooding character of Ryder and the happy-go-lucky character of Sammy made these two a very unusual mash-up, but I think they really showed chemistry and connected well.

Overall, the story of love and acceptance is what takes first place in this book. The complexity of the characters and showing them make their own serious life choices makes this story really come to life. The Gold Valley series is definitely something I want to read now so I can get to know everyone! However, if you don’t choose to, it appears as though you can read these as a standalone. I’d really recommend this book to cowboy-loving romance readers!

The Heirloom Garden by Viola Shipman

Publication Date: April 28, 2020
Publisher: MIRA Books
Rating: ★★★★

Iris Maynard lost her husband in World War II, her daughter to illness and, finally, her reason to live. Walled off from the world for decades behind the towering fence surrounding her home, Iris has built a new family…of flowers. Iris propagates her own daylilies and roses while tending to a garden filled with the heirloom starts that keep the memories of her loved ones alive.

When Abby Peterson moves next door with her family—a husband traumatized by his service in the Iraq War and a young daughter searching for stability—Iris is reluctantly yet inevitably drawn into her boisterous neighbor’s life, where, united by loss and a love of flowers, she and Abby tentatively unearth their secrets, and help each other discover how much life they have yet to live.

Review:

Thank you to Viola Shipman, MIRA Books and NetGalley for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. I read this as a part of the 2020 Spring Reads Blog Tour.

There was a lot about this novel that I was unsure about when I read the synopsis. This isn’t my usual book, but I figured I’d give it a try. I’m not someone who usually likes war stories or time pieces. However, this wasn’t really anything like that. It was back-and-forth, but in a good way!

This was my first Viola Shipman novel. I never would’ve thought to read her before, but I’m really glad I did. This intrigues me for future novels by her as the writing was extraordinary. I really enjoyed her point-of-views between characters and that made me enjoy them even more. Iris lost her husband in WWII and her daughter to polio. This is where she built herself inside of her garden and didn’t want to talk to anyone. She did this for a long time before she meets Abby. Abby’s husband comes back from the Iraq war and is no longer than man he was before he left. Now living next door to each other, these two women have something in common even if Abby didn’t lose her husband physically. These two women bond and find a relationship unlike anything I’ve ever read before.

I loved this story. It was the epitome of a feel-good novel. It was very heartwarming and makes you feel hope that things are actually like that. Abby, Iris, and Abby’s daughter, Lily, truly stole my heart. It was special to see that the relationship and friendship between Abby and Iris that bloomed despite their age gap.

The gardening point-of-view in this story is impeccable. I have a “black thumb”, but I absolutely loved learning about all of the different types of flowers and plants that Iris and Abby talk about was spectacular.

The reasons why I didn’t give this novel a five-star rating were two different things. First, there were some parts of this book that was very righteous and almost “holier-than-thou”. I can see why it would be like that, but sometimes it seemed to be too much. Second, this book seemed longer than it should’ve been. I really enjoyed this story, don’t get me wrong, but I feel like it was drug out at some parts.

Overall, Viola Shipman has definitely caught my interest. I would be open to reading her other books as this one had very “feel-good” energy. This could absolutely be one of the top “general fiction” novels of 2020.



Her Homecoming Wish by Jo McNally

I received this novel as a part of the Harlequin Special Edition Blog Tour! Thank you to Jo McNally, Harlequin Special Edition, Harlequin Books & NetGalley for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

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Publication Date: January 21, 2020
Publisher: Harlequin Special Edition
Rating: ★★★★

She’s ready to shed her good-girl ways…

“You’re all about following the rules now?

“Pity.”

Mackenzie Wallace hopes there’s still some bad boy lurking beneath single father Danny Adams’s upright exterior. Being the proverbial good girl left her brokenhearted and alone in the past. Now she’s back in town and wants excitement with her high school crush—not love. Dan knows their connection runs deep, despite Mackenzie’s protests. But will their new personas work together—especially when Dan’s secret is exposed?

Review:

Good girl turned bad. Bad boy turned good. This trope was awesome. I loved the fact that they had a role reversal thing going on after Mackenzie, or Mack, returned home after having a really nasty divorce. Coming home to find out that the bad boy growing up was now a Sheriff of their small town? Priceless.

The slow burn was one of my favorite parts about this book. I think that Jo McNally did a phenomenal job creating that curiosity of what was going to happen and when. The romance was extremely realistic and I appreciated that. It could’ve gone the other route where I was rolling my eyes over the way Mack comes back to town, etc. I really didn’t find any flaws with that writing.

As someone who lives in an area where drugs are potent, this book hit too close to home. The small town vibes really showed me that maybe Jo McNally really understands what it’s currently like in today’s society when it comes to drugs and overdoses. On the other hand, the small town vibe did include the closeness and love within it as well. That was definitely something I could appreciate.

Overall, I think that the biggest takeaway that I got from this book was the fact that you can plan your life all you want, but it might not ever come out that way. Jo McNally really wrote an amazing book and if you are a homecoming romance lover, this is definitely a book you should read.

Witness Protection Widow by Debra Webb

I received this novel as a part of the Harlequin’s Carina Press Blog Tour Program. Thank you to Debra Webb, Harlequin Intrigue, Carina Press & NetGalley for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

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Publication Date: January 21, 2020
Publisher: Harlequin Intrigue
Rating: ★★★

Can the witness protection program keep her identity secret?

After Allison James finally escapes her marriage to a monster, she becomes the star witness in the case against her deceased husband’s powerful crime family. Now it’s up to US Marshal Jaxson Stevens, Ali’s ex-boyfriend, to keep the WITSEC widow safe. But as the danger escalates and sparks fly, will Jax be able to help Ali escape her ruthless in-laws?

Discover more spine-tingling suspense in the Winchester, Tennessee Thriller series:
In Self Defense
The Dark Woods
The Stranger Next Door
The Safest Lies
Witness Protection Widow

From Harlequin Intrigue: Seek thrills. Solve crimes. Justice served.

Review:

This was my first and only Debra Webb that I’ve read. I don’t think it will be my last! Witness Protection Widow was the fifth installment of the Winchester, Tennessee series, but I had no problems following along.

I really enjoyed Allison (Ali) James. Her character was so interesting and really had me intrigued of where this story would end up because of her. I’ve never read a book about someone in the witness protection program so this type of story was new to me. It did not disappoint!

I loved the romance aspect. I think that making Jax, Ali’s ex-fiancee, her marshal was something that a lot of people would swoon over. There’s a few tropes that you could fit in there, enemies-to-lovers, men in uniform…Debra Webb did a great job with that.

There was a lot of detail and interest in her testimony and that’s what helps you get to the end of this book. I felt like the ending came so quick where I couldn’t even enjoy the build-up that I experienced throughout the entire book. Making the ending a little more detailed or even a little bit longer would’ve made this story for me.

Overall, I think that this was definitely a storyline that I could get into. I will definitely give more of Debra Webb a chance if all of her books are as intriguing and detailed as this one was. After reading Witness Protection Widow, I am definitely interested in the other books in this series!

Little Bookshop On the Seine by Rebecca Raisin

I received this book as a part of the Harlequin Book Tour for Romance & Women’s Fiction! Thank you to Rebecca Raisin, Harlequin Books, & NetGalley for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

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Publication Date: January 7, 2020
Publisher: Harlequin Books
Rating: ★★★

When bookshop owner Sarah Smith is offered the opportunity for a job exchange with her Parisian friend Sophie, saying yes is a no-brainer—after all, what kind of romantic would turn down six months in Paris? Sarah is sure she’s in for the experience of a lifetime—days spent surrounded by literature in a gorgeous bookshop, and the chance to watch the snow fall on the Eiffel Tower. Plus, now she can meet up with her journalist boyfriend, Ridge, when his job takes him around the globe.

But her expectations cool faster than her café au lait soon after she lands in the City of Light—she’s a fish out of water in Paris. The customers are rude, her new coworkers suspicious and her relationship with Ridge has been reduced to a long-distance game of phone tag, leaving Sarah to wonder if he’ll ever put her first over his busy career. As Christmas approaches, Sarah is determined to get the shop—and her life—back in order…and make her dreams of a Parisian happily-ever-after come true.

Review:

This was as typical as it could’ve been. A tooth-rottingly sweet bookstore romance. I really like Christmas based romance stories especially during that time of year. However, this one fell a little flat for me.

What I didn’t know when I requested this book was that it was the second in a series. I looked it up to see if this could be read as a standalone and it said that it could. However, from personal experience, I’d read the first book in the series, The Bookshop on the Corner. Since I didn’t read the first one, I felt like there was a good amount missing about a backstory. I was curious on why Sophie chose Paris, etc. You might not need to read the first one and enjoy it, but in my opinion, I think that it would be better if you did.

I wasn’t a huge fan of Sarah’s character. Her development wasn’t shown and it appears that she is a doormat for most of the book. People walk all over her throughout this novel and at some point, it does get old. I felt like skipping and scanning to just get through that part multiple times. I felt like I was reading the same thing over and over again with some breaks of Sarah going out in Paris.

The flow of this book was very up and down. I felt like it was definitely repetitive, but I also feel like there were times where I was confused about the time periods. It seemed as though the time was flying and all of a sudden, Christmas was upon them and the story was pretty much over. I thought maybe it would’ve been better like that to make up for the repetitiveness of the story, but it just made me feel more confused about it.

There was plenty about this book that could be considered lovable, but it was a little tough to get through it. The enjoyable moments were as the heroine walks around Paris and gives me a complete visual of what I would see if I were in her shoes. On the other hand, I wish I read the first book before this one. There’s a good amount of backstory that happens off the pages that probably could be found in the first book of this series. This was enjoyable, but the writing could have definitely been tighter.

 

Day Zero by Kelly deVos

I received this book as a part of the Winter 2020 Harlequin Trade Publishing Blog Tour for Inkyard Press! Thank you to Kelly deVos, Harlequin Books, Inkyard Press & NetGalley for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

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Publication Date: November 12, 2019
Publisher: Inkyard Publishing

Rating: ★★★

If you’re going through hell…keep going.

Seventeen-year-old coder Jinx Marshall grew up spending weekends drilling with her paranoid dad for a doomsday she’s sure will never come. She’s an expert on self-heating meal rations, Krav Maga and extracting water from a barrel cactus. Now that her parents are divorced, she’s ready to relax. Her big plans include making it to level 99 in her favorite MMORPG and spending the weekend with her new hunky stepbrother, Toby.

But all that disaster training comes in handy when an explosion traps her in a burning building. Stuck leading her headstrong stepsister, MacKenna, and her precocious little brother, Charles, to safety, Jinx gets them out alive only to discover the explosion is part of a pattern of violence erupting all over the country. Even worse, Jinx’s dad stands accused of triggering the chaos.

In a desperate attempt to evade paramilitary forces and vigilantes, Jinx and her siblings find Toby and make a break for Mexico. With seemingly the whole world working against them, they’ve got to get along and search for the truth about the attacks—and about each other. But if they can survive, will there be anything left worth surviving for?

Review:

Susan aka “Jinx” had a father who was called Mr. Doomsday. Jinx’s dad wrote the book The Doomsday Guide to Ultimate Survival and they spent a lot of time, tirelessly working at the drills that her father wrote in this book. Just when Susan’s mother divorces her father and she’s ready to calm down with her little brother Charles, the worst happens. Doomsday approaches and the government thinks it was Jinx’s father who triggered all of these events. It’s apparent that it’s a choice of “remember your training” or “throw everything out the window” type scenario.

This book had such a fantastic start, it had me on the edge of my seat. I read through the first 30% within an hour I believe. It wasn’t something that I had read before. A doomsday prepper turned possible doomsday …starter?! It was so intriguing to see the steps play out in Jinx’s head after years and years of having them drilled into her mind with her little brother.

After I got to a certain spot, this novel began to drag for me. It was almost like I got through some of the best parts in that first 30% and then …poof, it stopped. I kept reading because I was very curious on how this book was going to end and what was going to happen. There were points that had you wondering if this was just in her local town or was it worldwide and other doomsday thoughts that a person might have.

One of my biggest issues that I had with this novel were the characters. They seemed almost unlikable as I got further and further into it. I loved Charlie and I wanted to take him home with me. He was hilarious and had his own little spin. If book two was in Charlie’s point-of-view, I would read it in a heartbeat.

Overall, this was a good young adult novel. I would read this again and I would recommend it. Keep an open mind when reading after hitting that little wall because it might be a better of a rating for you!

Meant to Be Yours by Susan Mallery

I received this book as a part of the Harlequin Book Tour for Romance & Women’s Fiction! Thank you to Susan Mallery, Harlequin Books, & NetGalley for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

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Publication Date: October 22, 2019
Publisher: Harlequin Books

Rating: ★★★

In Happily Inc, love means never having to say “I do”…

Wedding coordinator Renee Grothen isn’t meant for marriage. Those who can, do. Those who can’t, plan. But she never could have planned on gorgeous, talented thriller writer Jasper Dembenski proposing—a fling, that is. Fun without a future. And the attraction between them is too strong for Renee to resist. Now she can have her no-wedding cake…and eat it, too.

After years in the military, Jasper is convinced he’s too damaged for relationships. So a flirtation—and more—with fiery, determined Renee is way too good to pass up…until his flame becomes his muse.

Renee is an expert at averting every crisis. But is she finally ready to leap into the one thing that can never be controlled: love?

Review:

This is the 5th book in the Happily Inc. series and I will say that I didn’t have any trouble following along!

Renee is a wedding coordinator and has zero plans of getting married. She has a deep family history and has been left burned in the love department to the point where she doesn’t have marriage on her radar in the slightest. Enter Jasper. Jasper was a military man that was left with his own issues after returning home from the war.

I liked Renee right away. Her character was someone that can definitely be relatable in the love department. She had her own realistic issues and you could really see where she was coming from. I had a little bit of a hard time with Jasper’s character. I’m not someone who ever experienced war or had a friend/family member who did either. He seemed almost unlikable, but that’s how it is with people that have PTSD, etc. They are not always themselves.

I did enjoy the entertaining and romantic aspect of this book. I liked watching Jasper and Renee falling in love and they did not even realize their doing. It was a great story to read and I could absolutely imagine it in my head.

The only issue that I really had was the characters and the fact that it felt a little rushed to me. I was reading and reading and then I realized that it was the end and I was reading into the next story that was included in this book. I was a little confused and I thought that it could have been written a little more in depth with more details to really make it feel like they were perfect.