Review: Last Christmas in Paris, by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

About the book, Last Christmas in Paris

Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb• Paperback: 400 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (October 3, 2017)

New York Times bestselling author Hazel Gaynor has joined with Heather Webb to create this unforgettably romantic novel of the Great War.

August 1914. England is at war. As Evie Elliott watches her brother, Will, and his best friend, Thomas Harding, depart for the front, she believes—as everyone does—that it will be over by Christmas, when the trio plan to celebrate the holiday among the romantic cafes of Paris.

But as history tells us, it all happened so differently…

Evie and Thomas experience a very different war. Frustrated by life as a privileged young lady, Evie longs to play a greater part in the conflict—but how?—and as Thomas struggles with the unimaginable realities of war he also faces personal battles back home where War Office regulations on press reporting cause trouble at his father’s newspaper business. Through their letters, Evie and Thomas share their greatest hopes and fears—and grow ever fonder from afar. Can love flourish amid the horror of the First World War, or will fate intervene?

Christmas 1968. With failing health, Thomas returns to Paris—a cherished packet of letters in hand—determined to lay to rest the ghosts of his past. But one final letter is waiting for him…

Buy, read and discuss Last Christmas in Paris:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the authors, Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

Hazel GaynorHAZEL GAYNOR is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of A Memory of Violets and The Girl Who Came Home, for which she received the 2015 RNA Historical Novel of the Year award. Her third novel The Girl from the Savoy was an Irish Times and Globe & Mail Canada bestseller, and was shortlisted for the BGE Irish Book Awards Popular Fiction Book of the Year.

Hazel was selected by US Library Journal as one of ‘Ten Big Breakout Authors’ for 2015 and her work has been translated into several languages.

Originally from Yorkshire, England, Hazel now lives in Ireland.

Connect with Hazel:

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Heather WebbHEATHER WEBB writes historical fiction for Penguin, including her novels Becoming Josephine and Rodin’s Lover.

As a former military brat, Heather naturally grew up obsessed with travel, culture, and languages. She put her degrees to good use teaching high school French for nearly a decade before channeling these passions into fiction. When not writing, she flexes her foodie skills or looks for excuses to head to the other side of the world.

Heather is a member of the Historical Novel Society and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association.

Connect with Heather:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellAs genres go, epistolary fiction is woefully underrepresented, but that’s probably because it’s really difficult to do well. In this novel, Last Christmas in Paris, authors Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb blew away all my fears, and gave me – gave all of us – a delightful read in the process.

While I enjoyed the novel as a whole, and nearly fell in love with Tom myself, it was Evie’s story that really gripped me. So many writers have the women just staying home when they write novels set during wartime, but Gaynor and Webb made their female lead into a woman with drive and determination, as well as a career, and friends that were separate from the circle of people she and Tom knew collectively. It’s so important to represent women as whole, dimensional beings, and these authors did so exceptionally well.

I felt the descriptions of places and people within this novel were incredibly cinematic, and I can easily imagine this story on the big screen as a Merchant Ivory production. As well, I felt that, despite things like the final letter being read at Christmastime in Paris, this novel managed to stay grounded in reality. It’s essentially an historical romance, yes, but it’s one grounded in reality, and the characters are incredibly human and flawed.

If you’re a sucker for a well-written letter, if you hoard stationery ‘just to have,’ as I do, or if you’re simply in the mood for a sentimental (but never sappy) love story, Last Christmas in Paris is the novel for you.

Goes well with hot chocolate and those ‘Danish’ butter cookies they sell in tins around holiday times.


Tour Stops

TLC Book ToursTuesday, October 3rd: Into the Hall of Books

Wednesday, October 4th: Back Porchervations

Thursday, October 5th: Bibliotica

Friday, October 6th: I Wish I Lived in a Library

Monday, October 9th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Monday, October 9th: Reading Reality

Tuesday, October 10th: A Bookish Way of Life

Monday, October 16th: BookNAround

Tuesday, October 17th: Jathan & Heather

Wednesday, October 18th: Girl Who Reads

Wednesday, October 18th: A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, October 19th: Musings of a Bookish Kitty

Friday, October 20th: Books and Bindings

Monday, October 23rd: West Metro Mommy

Review: Sugar Pine Trail, by RaeAnne Thayne

Sugar Pine TrailAbout the book, Sugar Pine Trail

 

  • Print Length: 352 pages
  • Publisher: HQN Books (October 1, 2017)
  • Publication Date: September 26, 2017

 

Fans of the wildly popular Haven Point series won’t want to miss SUGAR PINE TRAIL (HQN Books; on-sale October 2017), the latest novel from New York Times and USA Today bestselling author RaeAnne Thayne. In this heartwarming holiday romance, unexpected attraction between two polar opposites might just make for the best match yet.

Haven Point librarian Julia Winston has spent most of her life taking care of other people. Now she’s 32 years old and feeling restless for the first time, banging around a big empty house with no one to share it with. In an effort to break free from her life of quiet complacency, Julia finds herself making a list of all the things she wants to do while she still has the chance—including getting a puppy, learning to ski, and kissing someone under the mistletoe. That someone, however, is most certainly not Jamie Caine, a military pilot who is temporarily renting a room in Julia’s home. Wary of Jamie’s blinding good looks and his reputation as the town’s resident heartbreaker, Julia puts up all her charm defenses, while the handsome pilot tries his best to steer clear of his mousy landlady (who, he has to admit, has some pretty stunning eyes).

But when Julia suddenly finds herself taking care of two young brothers in need, she and Jamie will come together to make an unforgettable holiday for the boys. Along the way, Jamie will learn that Julia has more spunk than she lets on, and Julia will realize that Jamie has more depth than she gave him credit for. Together, this unlikely pair will discover they have more in common than they ever imagined—all while fighting a powerful attraction that becomes more and more difficult to deny.

Set against a backdrop of mistletoe, lakeside lights, and Haven Point’s stunning snowy mountains, SUGAR PINE TRAIL makes for perfect winter reading this holiday season.

Buy, read, and discuss Sugar Pine Trail:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | Goodreads


About the author, RaeAnne Thayne

RaeAnne ThayneNew York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author RaeAnne Thayne loves words. Her love affair started as soon as she learned to read, when she used to devour anything she could get her hands on: cereal boxes, encyclopedias, the phone book, you name it! She loves the way words sound, the way they look on the page, and the amazing way they can be jumbled together in so many combinations to tell a story.

Her love of reading and writing those words led her to a fifteen-year career in journalism as a newspaper reporter and editor.

Through it all, she dreamed of writing the kind of stories she loved best. She sold her first book in 1995 and since then she’s published more than 40 titles. Her books have won many honors, including three RITA® Award nominations from the Romance Writers of America and a Career Achievement Award from RT Book Reviews.

RaeAnne finds inspiration in the rugged northern Utah mountains, where she lives with her hero of a husband and their children. She loves to hear from readers and can be reached through her website at www.raeannethayne.com.


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellIt may seem like late September is a bit early to be reading books set during the winter holidays, but trust me, when it’s 90 degrees outside at ten in the morning, and you live in a place where snow is infrequent, at best, reading holiday fiction is a way to keep cool.

Keeping cool was a bit difficult while reading RaeAnne Thayne’s newest Haven Point novel, Sugar Pine Trail, because the story of 32-year-old librarian Julia Winston and military pilot Jamie Caine, who is renting the flat she’s carved out of her family manse, is warm and cozy, and everything that’s perfect for a holiday read.

What I loved was the way author Thayne has created an entire world in Haven Point. I haven’t read the other novels in the series, but I still felt as though I was coming home to a familiar place in this snowy mountain town. In fact, many of the scenes reminded me of my own childhood sojourn in Georgetown, CO.

Julia and Jamie’s story is a classic tale of “opposites attract”  – she’s a bit scattered, he’s incredibly precise. The family cats don’t like her, but love him. (She’s clearly a dog person, like me.). As their relationship evolves, so, too, do their responsibilities, eventually leading to becoming caretakers to two young boys who desperately need some holiday cheer.

It sounds as sweet as a Hallmark movie, I know (and that’s not a bad thing; I happen to indulge in Hallmark Movie weekends from time to time), but Thayne keeps her story grounded in common sense and humor, which keeps it only sweet, and never saccharine.

Goes well with hot chocolate, stirred with a peppermint stick, and Milano cookies.

 

 

Review: Touch Justice: Countdown (part 1 of 8) by Carla Cassidy

TOUGH JUSTICE COUNTDOWN Tough Justice: Countdown

This action-packed thriller unfolds in eight gripping installments, each written by top authors including Carla Cassidy, Tyler Anne Snell, Emmy Curtis and Janie Crouch.

This review covers only Part I.


About the book, Tough Justice Countdown (Part 1 of 8) Tough Justice Countdown Part I

  • Print Length: 85 pages
  • Publisher: Harlequin Special Releases (February 1, 2017)

Tick. Tock. BOOM.

FBI Special Agent Lara Grant had thought that she’d put her past behind her—finally—with her last case. But now a serial bomber is targeting Manhattan’s elite power players, offering them a choice between saving hundreds of lives or seeing their darkest secrets exposed. Lara is working with the Crisis Management Unit to stop the bomber, but how will she react when she’s the one who has to choose between truth…or death?

Part 1 of 8: an explosive new installment in the thrilling FBI serial from New York Times bestselling author Carla Cassidy and Tyler Anne Snell, Emmy Curtis and Janie Crouch.

Buy, read, and discuss Tough Justice Countdown (Part 1 of 8)

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

 

For more information on the Tough Justice series, visit toughjusticeseries.com.


My Thoughts: Melissa A. Bartell

At 85 pages, Tough Justice Countdown (Part I) is a quick read, more a novella than a short story. It opens, almost literally with a *boom*  – a bomb threat that is actually (apparently) followed through on within the first couple of pages. It’s an amazing way to start off a series, and from that moment, I felt like we were racing through an adventure reminiscent of the best episodes of shows like 24 and Person of Interest.

FBI agents Nick and Lara – especially Lara, as this is really her story more than anyone else’s quickly became very real to me, as much so as if they were crime-solving partners in a movie or television series (Netflix needs to buy this series. Seriously.), and I liked the way they were effective partners while actively working, but also supported each other emotionally. This is a Harlequin series so I’m assuming there will be overt romance in later installments (I have them all, but am reviewing this one without having read the rest, because I didn’t want to color my perceptions with too much foreknowledge), so I’m going on record: I ship Lara/Nick.

Obviously there were many other characters. Victoria was a standout for me, as were Xander and James.

I liked the way the procedural parts of this story were full of brisk professionalism, and included some of that hurry-up-and-wait sense that is so prevalent when you’re waiting for information, or trying to connect dots.

Overall, I thought this was a gripping story with likeable characters, and I recommend it, and am looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

Goes well with pastrami and swiss on rye with good mustard and a bottle of vanilla seltzer or cherry coke.


Giveaway (ends 2/14 at 11:59 PM Central) Tough Justice Countdown Part I

One lucky reader in the US will win a digital copy of Part I of this series. Since it’s a digital copy, this giveaway is limited to Twitter. Find MY post with this review (I’m @melysse), retweet it, and also reply to it telling me you’ve done so.


TLC TOUR STOPS for TOUGH JUSTICE COUNTDOWN: TLC Book Tours - Tough Justice Countdown

Wednesday, February 1st: Books and Spoons

Friday, February 3rd: Kahakai Kitchen

Monday, February 6th: Staircase Wit

Tuesday, February 7th: Reading Reality

Wednesday, February 8th: Bibliotica

Thursday, February 9th: Back Porchervations

Friday, February 10th: Dog-Eared Daydreams

Monday, February 13th: Bewitched Bookworms

Wednesday, February 15th: A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, February 16th: From the TBR Pile

Friday, February 17th: Books and Bindings

Tuesday, February 21st: Becky on Books

Review: Lord of the Privateers, by Stephanie Laurens – with Giveaway

Lord of the PrivateersAbout the book, Lord of the Privateers

  • Series: Adventurers Quartet
  • Mass Market Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: MIRA (December 27, 2016)

The eldest of the Frobisher brothers and widely known as the lord of the privateers, Royd Frobisher expects to execute the final leg of the rescue mission his brothers have been pursuing. What he does not expect is to be pressured into taking his emotional nemesis, childhood sweetheart, ex-handfasted bride, and current business partner, Isobel Carmichael, with him. But is it Isobel doing the pressuring, or his own restless unfulfilled psyche?

Resolute, determined, and an all but unstoppable force of nature, Isobel has a mission of her own—find her cousin Katherine and bring her safely home. And if, along the way, she can rid herself of the lingering dreams of a life with Royd that still haunt her, well and good.

Neither expects the shock that awaits them as they set sail aboard Royd’s ship, much less the new horizons that open before them as they call into London, then, armed with the necessary orders and all arrangements in place, embark on a full-scale rescue-assault on the mining compound buried in the jungle.

Yet even with the support of his brothers and their ladies and, once rescued, all the ex-captives, Royd and Isobel discover that freeing the captives is only half the battle. In order to identify and convict the backers behind the illicit enterprise—and protect the government from catastrophic destabilization—they must return to the ballrooms of the haut ton, and with the help of a small army of supporters, hunt the villains on their home ground.

But having found each other again, having glimpsed the heaven that could be theirs again, how much are they willing to risk in the name of duty?

Buy, read, and discuss Lord of the Privateers

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


Stephanie LaurensAbout the author, Stephanie Laurens

New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Laurens originally began writing as an escape from the dry world of professional science. Her hobby quickly became a career; she has been writing historical romance novels for more than 20 years. Currently living outside Melbourne, Australia with her husband and two cats, she spends most of her days writing new stories in her signature ‘Errol Flynn meets Jane Austen” style.

Connect with Stephanie

Website | Facebook


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

I love a good swashbuckler, and I love a good romance, especially when the characters feel equally matched. In Lord of the Privateers, Stephanie Laurens gives us exactly that. The romance – actually a rekindling of a relationship both parties keep trying to forget – has just the right amount of sizzle, and the sparks aren’t limited just to chemistry. Isobel and Royd banter, argue, bicker, make up, and start all over, all while handling the care and maintenance of a shipyard, a sailing fleet, their specific ship the Corsair, family drama, and a greater mission.

And they do it well. Seriously if Amy Sherman Palladino or Aaron Sorkin wrote Age of Sail romantic comedies, the result would be Stephanie Laurens’ work, except that Laurens has her own voice, and her own point of view, and nothing she does feels anything but fresh, fun, and interesting.

What I loved was Isobel in general. Yes, I found one plot point – one key decision she made – a little contrived, but over all she’s smart, strong, funny, and supremely real.

What I didn’t love: no one used a cutlass to slide down a mainsail. Okay, these weren’t actually pirates, but privateers – there is a distinction – but still.

If you want a romance that will have you totally hooked from page one, that will make you sigh with longing even as you feel imagined salt air in your face, and also balances the love story with the adventure story,  Lord of the Privateers is the novel for you.

Goes well with fish and chips and a good ale.


Giveaway

Rafflecopter giveaway


TLC book tours: Catherine Ryan HydeStephanie Laurens’ TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, January 16th: The Sassy Bookster

Wednesday, January 18th: Bibliotica

Friday, January 20th: Reading Reality

Monday, January 23rd: Buried Under Romance

Tuesday, January 24th: Dwell in Possibility

Wednesday, January 25th: The Romance Dish

Friday, January 27th: A Chick Who Reads

Monday, January 30th: From the TBR Pile

Monday, January 30th: Let Them Read Books – Excerpt

Wednesday, February 1st: A. Holland Reads

Friday, February 3rd: Becky on Books

Monday, February 6th: Broken Teepee

Tuesday, February 7th: Laura’s Reviews

Wednesday, February 8th: Black ‘n Gold Girl’s Book Spot

Friday, February 10th: The Maiden’s Court

Love Literary Style, by Karin Gillespie – With Giveaway

About the book, Love Literary StyleLove Literary Style

They say opposites attract, and what could be more opposite than a stuffy literary writer falling in love with a self-published romance writer?

Meet novelist Aaron Mite. He lives in a flea-infested rented alcove, and his girlfriend Emma, a combative bookstore owner, has just dumped him. He meets Laurie Lee at a writers’ colony and mistakenly believes her to be a renowned writer of important fiction. When he discovers she’s a self-published romance author, he’s already fallen in love with her.

Aaron thinks genre fiction is an affront to the fiction-writing craft. He likes to quotes the essayist, Arthur Krystal who claims literary fiction “melts the frozen sea inside of us.” Ironically Aaron doesn’t seem to realize that, despite his lofty literary aspirations, he’s emotionally frozen, due, in part, to a childhood tragedy. The vivacious Laurie, lover of flamingo-patterned attire and all things hot pink, is the one person who might be capable of melting him.

Their relationship is initially made in literary heaven but when Aaron loses his contract with a prestigious press, and Laurie’s novel is optioned by a major film studio, the differences in their literary sensibilities and temperaments drive them apart.

In a clumsy attempt to win Laurie back, Aaron employs the tropes of romance novels. Too late. She’s already taken up with Ross, a prolific author of Nicholas Sparks-like love stories. Initially Laurie is more comfortable with the slick and superficial Ross, but circumstances force her to go deeper with her writing and confront a painful past. Maybe Aaron and Laurie have more in common than they imagined.

In the tradition of the Rosie Project, Love Literary Style is a sparkling romantic comedy which pokes fun at the divide between so-called low and high brow fiction.

Buy, read, and discuss Love Literary Style

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | Read an Excerpt


About the author, Karin Gillespie Karin Gillespie

Karin Gillespie is the author of the national bestselling Bottom Dollar Girls series, 2016 Georgia Author of the Year, Co-author for Jill Connor Browne’s novel Sweet Potato Queen’s First Big Ass Novel. Her latest novel Love Literary Style was inspired by a New York Times article called “Masters in Chick Lit” that went viral and was shared by literary luminaries like Elizabeth Gilbert and Anne Rice. She’s written for the Washington Post and Writer Magazine and is book columnist and humor columnist for the Augusta Chronicle and Augusta Magazine respectively. She received a Georgia Author of the Year Award in 2016.

Connect with Karin

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I’m old enough to have grown up with reruns of a silly 1970’s anthology show called “Love, American Style,” and for some reason, the theme song from that show keeps running through my head every time I see the title of Karin Gillespie’s funny, sweet, clever novel, Love Literary Style.

I always enjoy it when authors take a well-known trope and subvert it, and that’s what Gillespie has done in this book. She’s taken all the conventional trappings of a conventional romance – Girl and Boy are unhappy alone and have similar, but not duplicate, aspirations. Girl and Boy meet in a controlled environment, fall madly in love, and can’t make it work, then angst about it until they put themselves back on the ‘correct’ path – and turns them into something that skirts the edge between contemporary romance, general fiction, and literary fiction.

Her lead characters, Laurie and Aaron are both quirky, engaging people, who feel like slightly heightened versions of the types of people we all know: the bubbly, boisterous, young woman who doesn’t just wear pink, but lives it, and the charmingly dweeby academic who, deep down, wants to break out of his shell.

But far from being stereotypes, they are truly dimensional characters. Laurie wants to write romances and Aaron wants to publish his literary novel, but both of them are very much akin, in that they each want a committed partner who will support their artistic endeavors and their emotional needs, and I found both their journeys to be interesting and somewhat uplifting.

As an aspiring writer myself (aren’t we all?) I loved the behind-the-scenes glimpses at the publishing world, both mainstream/commercial and indie/self, as well as the “class wars” between mass market and literary fiction. (Personally I read a little of everything.)

Overall, Love Literary Style is a refreshing romp of a literary romance – light enough to be enjoyed by almost anyone, but deep enough to give those who want a meaty read their satisfaction, as well.

Goes well with pink cocktails followed by grilled pork chops.


Giveaway Love Literary Style

One person in the U.S. or Canada will win a copy of Love Literary Style. How? There are three ways to enter:

  1. Find my tweet about this book, and retweet it (make sure my tag is intact @melysse)
  2. Find my post about this book on Facebook, like it, share it, and comment that you have done so.
  3. Leave a relevant comment about this book, here on this post. (Comments from first-timers must be approved and may not go live for 24 hours).

Deadline: 11:59 PM Central Daylight Time on Tuesday, November 8th.


Karin Gillespie’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, November 1st: A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, November 2nd: Bibliotica

Wednesday, November 2nd: Lesa’s Book Critiques

Thursday, November 3rd: Mom in Love with Fiction

Friday, November 4th: View from the Birdhouse

Monday, November 7th: Peeking Between the Pages

Tuesday, November 8th: Reading Reality

Tuesday, November 8th: Buried Under Books

Wednesday, November 9th: Wall to Wall Books

Thursday, November 10th: Reading is my Superpower

Friday, November 11th: Not in Jersey

Sunday, November 13th: Writer Unboxed – author guest post

Monday, November 14th: From the TBR Pile

Tuesday, November 15th: Bewitched Bookworms

Wednesday, November 16th: Buried Under Romance

Thursday, November 17th: Thoughts on This ‘N That

Monday, November 21st: Joyfully Retired

Tuesday, November 22nd: All Roads Lead to the Kitchen

Monday, November 28th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Review: Secrets of Nanreath Hall, by Alix Rickloff

About the book, Secrets of Nanreath Hall Secrets of Nanreath Hall

• Paperback: 416 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (August 2, 2016)

This incredible debut historical novel—in the tradition of Beatriz Williams and Jennifer Robson—tells the fascinating story of a young mother who flees her home on the rocky cliffs of Cornwall and the daughter who finds her way back, seeking answers.

Cornwall, 1940. Back in England after the harrowing evacuation at Dunkirk, WWII Red Cross nurse Anna Trenowyth is shocked to learn her adoptive parents Graham and Prue Handley have been killed in an air raid. She desperately needs their advice as she’s been assigned to the military hospital that has set up camp inside her biological mother’s childhood home—Nanreath Hall. Anna was just six-years-old when her mother, Lady Katherine Trenowyth, died. All she has left are vague memories that tease her with clues she can’t unravel. Anna’s assignment to Nanreath Hall could be the chance for her to finally become acquainted with the family she’s never known—and to unbury the truth and secrets surrounding her past.

Cornwall, 1913. In the luxury of pre-WWI England, Lady Katherine Trenowyth is expected to do nothing more than make a smart marriage and have a respectable life. When Simon Halliday, a bohemian painter, enters her world, Katherine begins to question the future that was so carefully laid out for her. Her choices begin to lead her away from the stability of her home and family toward a wild existence of life, art, and love. But as everything begins to fall apart, Katherine finds herself destitute and alone.

As Anna is drawn into her newfound family’s lives and their tangled loyalties, she discovers herself at the center of old heartbreaks and unbearable tragedies, leaving her to decide if the secrets of the past are too dangerous to unearth… and if the family she’s discovered is one she can keep.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Alix Rickloff Alix Rickloff

Alix Rickloff is a critically acclaimed author of historical and paranormal romance. Her previous novels include the Bligh Family series (Kensington, 2009), the Heirs of Kilronan trilogy (Pocket, 2011), and, as Alexa Egan, the Imnada Brotherhood series (Pocket, 2014). She lives in Chestertown, Maryland, with her husband and three children.

Connect with Alix:

Website  FacebookPinterestTwitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

In Secrets of Nanreath Hall, author Alix Rickloff gives us an interesting well-written historical novel that takes place in two time periods without the use of time travel.

Instead, we meet Lady Katherine (Kitty) first as she’s announcing to her close friends that she’s been diagnosed with cancer, and doesn’t have much time left, and later in alternating chapters that flash back to show us her personal history. Her story is set against the backdrop of World War I, and we follow her constant straining against the society family she was born into and her love for an artist who paints her the way he sees her, but dies far too soon.

We also meet Anna, Kitty’s daughter, who is serving as a  Red Cross nurse. Her story is also set during wartime, World War II, and her chapters have a snap and sparkle to them that the Kitty sections do not, which fits the energy of the time.

Of the two women, it’s difficult to say which is stronger. Anna is certainly more self-sufficient, but Kitty is more unconventional, and yet, Rickloff makes them undeniably mother and daughter, even though Anna loses her mother when she is only six.

Both women have stories that involve coming of age, losing family, and finding their right place in the world. Kitty’s is more languid, especially as we know her ultimate end – dying essentially alone – from the beginning. Almost, it feels like lassitude slowly creeps into her story.  Conversely, Anna’s story increases in tempo as it goes on. Her early scenes paint her as very much a lost lamb, having just lost her guardians in an air raid.

There are other characters in this story of course. Kitty’s lover (and Anna’s father) the painter Simon Halliday is one. Anna’s cousin Hugh and friend Tilly are others. These characters are well drawn, each with their own flaws but they serve to highlight the women at the heart of the novel.

A final character is the family manse, Nanreath Hall, a house that has been conscripted for use as a convalescent home – the house where Anna is assigned. If the actual secrets held by the Hall were somewhat predictable, it wasn’t a detractor. The novel is so well written that even the predictable is a delight to read.

While this book will most appeal to Anglophiles and people who love historical novels, I think it would suit a broad variety of readers.

Goes well with warm pastry and hot tea, or maybe a splash of brandy.


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, August 2nd: BookNAround

Thursday, August 4th: Bibliotica

Friday, August 5th: Let Them Read Books

Monday, August 8th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Tuesday, August 9th: A Literary Vacation

Wednesday, August 10th: Broken Teepee

Monday, August 15th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Tuesday, August 16th: A Bookish Affair

Wednesday, August 17th: Savvy Verse & Wit

Thursday, August 18th: Lesa’s Book Critiques

Review: Under an Adirondack Sky, by Karen Rock

 About the book, Under an Adirondack Sky Under an Adirondack Sky

Can he juggle everything…including her?

After raising his siblings and running the family pub for more than a decade, Aiden Walsh has set his own dreams aside. Until the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen stumbles into his bar, and his arms. Too bad Rebecca Day is the school psychologist in charge of his brother’s future. Who’s he kidding? He doesn’t have room in his full life for romance anyway. But forced to join Rebecca and her group of troubled teens on an Adirondack retreat, he realizes keeping his family afloat isn’t enough for him…not by a long shot.

Read the first three chapters on Wattpad!

Purchase Links

HarlequinBarnes & Noble| Amazon| Kobo


Karen Rock Karen Rock

Award-winning author Karen Rock is both sweet and spicy–at least when it comes to her writing! The author of both YA and adult contemporary books writes red-hot novels for Harlequin Blaze and small-town romances for Harlequin Heartwarming. A strong believer in Happily-Ever-After, Karen loves creating unforgettable stories that leave her readers with a smile. When she’s not writing, Karen is an avid reader who’s typically immersed in three different books at a time, all in different genres. She also loves cooking her grandmother’s Italian recipes, baking, Christmas (no need to specify–she loves every bit of it), and having the Adirondack Park wilderness as her backyard, where she lives with her husband, daughter, dog and cat who keep her life interesting and complete.

Connect with Karen

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I don’t read a lot of romance novels. I read a decent amount of contemporary fiction, some of which has romance in it, but typically, I don’t read ‘traditional’ romance novels. However, when it’s high summer, the temperature is over a hundred, and the humidity is so intense it makes me wish I had gills, there’s nothing so relaxing as devouring a Harlequin novel, and the most recent such book to help me feel calm and cool was Karen Rock’s Under an Adirondack Sky.

The formula is fairly de rigueur: Rebecca Day is a school psychologist up for tenure. Aidan Walsh owns a bar and takes care of his younger brothers and sisters because his father is dead and his mother has early-onset Alzheimers. With Connor, Aidan’s teenaged brother and Rebecca’s patient, as the catalyst the pair become first adversaries, then allies, and finally fall in love.

That much, you can glean from the back cover.

But what the cover doesn’t tell you is that author Karen Rock has given us a story that is fresh, fun, and doesn’t feel at all formulaic when you’re reading it. Sure, there’s a little bit of contrivance in getting Rebecca, some of her colleagues, a few parents and the most challenging students out to an Adirondack farmhouse for a couple of weeks of tech-free living and personal encounters, but really, it’s no more contrived than when Agatha Christie throws a dinner party so Miss Marple can solve a crime.

Besides, the time at the farmhouse makes you want to step into the novel and hang out with everyone, fishing and grilling food on the porch and learning to knit, and being nurtured by the homeowners as well as the mental health professionals.

Rebecca is a lovely character, sunny and bright much of the time, but no Pollyanna, and her pleasant manner hides depth that we do get to peek at. Aidan is much more interesting than the typical “twinkling brown eyes” romantic hero, and is also surprisingly complex. Connor, around whom the story revolves, is well-drawn, as are the rest of his peers.

In fact the whole novel is a good look at the way young teens process emotional distress, and at the way communication is a key element of all relationships, not just the romantic ones.

Curl up with a glass of ice tea and a healthy amount of sunscreen, and spend and afternoon reading Under and Adirondack Sky; it will leave you smiling.

Goes well with fresh-caught fish, grilled on a back-yard BBQ, homegrown vegetables, and jacket potatoes.


Summer Lovin’ TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Monday, July 4th: Romantic Reads and Such – Under an Adirondack Sky

Tuesday, July 5th: A Chick Who ReadsThe Girl He Used to Love

Wednesday, July 6th: Romancing the Readers – Sophie’s Path

Thursday, July 7th: Wall to Wall Books – Under an Adirondack Sky

Friday, July 8th: Just Commonly – When I Found You

Friday, July 8th: Books A La Mode – Karen Rock guest post

Monday, July 11th: From the TBR Pile – Sophie’s Path

Tuesday, July 12th: Musings of a Bookish Kitty – Under an Adirondack Sky

Wednesday, July 13th: Books and Spoons – When I Found You

Friday, July 15th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers – The Girl He Used to Love

Monday, July 18th: Stranded in ChaosUnder an Adirondack Sky

Wednesday, July 20th: Books A La Mode – Amy Vastine Guest Post

Thursday, July 21st: Romancing the Book – When I Found You

Friday, July 22nd: Wall to Wall Books – Sophie’s Path

Monday, July 25th: From the TBR Pile – The Girl He Used to Love

Tuesday, July 26th: Bibliotica – Under an Adirondack Sky

Wednesday, July 27th: Books and Spoons – Sophie’s Path

Friday, July 29th: Books A La Mode – Kate James Guest Post

Saturday, July 30th: The Sassy BooksterWhen I Found You

Monday, August 1st: A Chick Who Reads – Sophie’s Path

Tuesday, August 2nd: Reading Is My Superpower – Under an Adirondack Sky

Wednesday, August 3rd: Reading Is My Superpower – When I Found You

Friday, August 5th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews – The Girl He Used to Love

Monday, August 8th: Why Girls are Weird – Under an Adirondack Sky

Tuesday, August 9th: Musings of a Bookish Kitty – When I Found You

Wednesday, August 10th: Reading Lark – Sophie’s Path

Thursday, August 11th: Romancing the Book – The Girl He Used to Love

Friday, August 12th: Books A La Mode – Catherine Lanigan Guest Post

Monday, August 15th: Romancing the Book – Sophie’s Path

Tuesday, August 16th: Read-Love-Blog – Amy Vastine Guest Post

Thursday, August 18th: Romancing the Book – Under an Adirondack Sky

Click to purchase any book in the series

Review: A Thousand Salt Kisses, by Josie Demuth

About the book A Thousand Salt Kisses A Thousand Salt Kisses

  • Publication Date: April 2016
    Wise Ink Press
  • Series: Salt Kisses, Book One
  • Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy/Romance/Mer-Stories

Beautiful Crystal White is the new girl on the remote Starfish Island. During a party on the mainland, she goes for a midnight swim with other party goers where she meets the handsome, intriguing Llyr amongst the waves.

As she heads back to shore she realizes that he is not behind her and that nobody at the party remembers him. Crystal can’t seem to shake Llyr from her mind and returns to the beach in the hope of meeting him again. When she finally does, she realizes there may be more truth to the ramblings of the island folk than she thought.

To add more drama to her life, Crystal’s mother and her father are at war over a local power station that is devastating local marine life.

Over a sizzling roller coaster summer, it becomes apparent that all these events are not entirely unrelated and Crystal finds herself both caught up in a deep mystical romance and at the centre of an exploding environmental scandal…

Buy, read, and discuss this book

AmazonGoodreads


About the author, Josie Demuth Josie Demuth

Josie is a 31 year-old writer from London. Her Salt Kisses books became popular on Wattpad, and are now also serialised on Radish Fiction. A Thousand Salt Kisses is her third book.

For more information please visit http://www.saltkissesbooks.com/ and https://josiedemuthwriting.wordpress.com/.

Connect with Josie

Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Wattpad

 


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I got this novel later than I expected, had an exhausting weekend at Dallas FanExpo (Comic-Con) and have been fighting a slow internet server all day, so apologies to the author and BookJunkie Promotions (the tour host) for this review being late.

I thoroughly enjoyed the read. I call myself the Bathtub Mermaid, so you can guess that I was excited about any story related to mer-folk, and I often tell people that I believe the YA market is home to some of the most provocative stories and strongest female characters in all of contemporary fiction. Crystal is smart, feisty, and very much her own person, and while she’s initially less-than-thrilled about her new life on Starfish Island, a new friend, a new romance, and a new-found love of the ocean all conspire to change her perspective – a literal sea-change, if you will.

I really appreciated the way author Josie Demuth made sure Crystal’s parents had their own story, rather than making them mere ‘props’ for Crystal’s tale. While some of the plot twists were a bit predictable for me, aged 46, I suspect my teen self, and contemporary teenagers who might read this, would find them less so.

I have only two major complaints about what is, essentially, an engaging, well written novel that gives us a version of mer-culture that is unique to this author:

  1. Some of the dialogue is a bit ‘off.’ I don’t know if it’s my American ear reading a London-based writer’s work, or if Demuth was having trouble channeling her inner teenager – it’s not every scene, and it in no way detracted from my enjoyment of the story.
  2. It’s very much a ‘first in the series’ novel, and I felt there wasn’t quite enough resolution. On the other hand, I absolutely want to know what happens NEXT, so in that, author did her job incredibly well.

If you are looking for a literary work of art, to be discussed in English classes for the next century, this is not the book for you. If, however, you want a fun, romantic, beach-read that you and your teenage daughter/sister/cousin/friend can share with no worries about adult content (there is implied sex, but nothing explicit) this would be an excellent choice.

A Thousand Salt Kisses will make you long for a day at the beach and a hot mer-guy to hang out with

Goes well with a hot dog and crinkle-cut fries, served from a beach concession stand. Frosty root beer optional.


Giveaway A Thousand Salt Kisses

To enter the giveaway for a signed copy of A THOUSAND SALT KISSES, please see the GLEAM entry form below. Three copies are up for grabs!

Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on July 8th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US residents only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

CLICK HERE TO ENTER GIVEAWAY!

A Thousand Salt Kisses


Blog Tour Schedule A Thousand Salt Kisses Blog Tour

Monday, June 6
Review at 100 Pages a Day

Thursday, June 9
Excerpt at Brooke Blogs

Friday, June 10
Review at Bibliotica

Monday, June 13
Interview at I Heart Reading

Tuesday, June 14
Spotlight at To Read, Or Not to Read

Wednesday, June 15
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Friday, June 17
Spotlight at AC Reads

Monday, June 20
Excerpt at Eclectic Ramblings of Author Heather Osborne

Tuesday, June 21
Spotlight at Fiction Conviction Book Blog

Friday, June 24
Spotlight at A Leisure Moment

Monday, June 27
Spotlight at It’s a Mad Mad World

Monday, July 4
Review at A Book Drunkard

Tuesday, July 5
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews

Friday, July 8
Blog Tour Wrap Up at Book Junkie Promotions

Review: Out Rider, by Lindsay McKenna

About the book,  Out Rider Out Rider

  • Mass Market Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: HQN Books (April 26, 2016)

With her return to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, New York Times bestselling author Lindsay McKenna shows how love can find a way out of the darkness… 

A fresh start—that’s all Devorah McGuire wants. As a former Marine and current Ranger with the US Forest Service, she’s grown accustomed to keeping others safe. But when the unthinkable happens, she can only hope that a transfer to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, will allow her to put the past behind her for good.

Dev’s mentor at Grand Tetons National Park is fellow canine handler and horseman Sloan Rankin. He shows Dev the spectacular trails, never knowing the terror that stalks her every move. Despite her lingering fear, Dev feels an attraction for Sloan as wild as their surroundings.

With Sloan, Dev can envision a new life—a real home. Unless a vengeful man fresh out of prison succeeds in finishing what he started…

Buy, read, and discuss this book.

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

 

 


About the author, Lindsay McKenna Lindsay McKenna

A U.S. Navy veteran, she was a meteorologist while serving her country. She pioneered the military romance in 1993 with Captive of Fate, Silhouette Special edition.  Her heart and focus is on honoring and showing our military men and women.  Creator of the Wyoming Series and Shadow Warriors series for HQN, she writes emotionally and romantically intense suspense stories.

Connect with Lindsay.

Website | Facebook | Twitter

 


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I’ve reviewed and/or spotlighted a few of Lindsay McKenna‘s books now, and I find that even though I’m not a heavy reader of romance novels, I always enjoy visiting with her characters, because the women are always strong and independent, and the men are usually sensitive and incredibly respectful of women, and both of those things need to be modeled more in our media.

While I’m NOT a fan of anything that smacks of Western, I have five dogs, and I grew up with a love of horses, and was fortunate enough to spend a couple of summers at riding camp in New Jersey, or visiting friends in Nebraska and Colorado who had horses. It was the horse-and-dog connection, as much as McKenna’s name,  that really drew me to this novel. I mean, the story was so engaging she made me want to visit Wyoming.

What I love about McKenna’s characters is that they’re usually seasoned adults. In the case of Out Rider, Dev and Sloane have each had their requisite tragic (for whatever reason) love affair/marriage. They’ve lived in the world, and experienced life’s fears and joys. That tempering, the fact that they’re not twenty-two-year-olds, is what I really love about this novel, in particular, and this author’s work in general. Yes, this couple is slightly idealized – it’s a romance novel, after all – but they’re still believable, dimensional characters.

I also appreciate the way McKenna, who is ex-Navy, works military backstories into her work. Many of her characters, both men and women, are either active-duty or ex-military, and not just as a line-item in a description. They rely on skills taught while they were in the service, and demonstrate a love of country that feels sincere without being preachy. It takes a really smart writer to pull that off.

As I mentioned before, part of what drew me to this novel was the animals. Dogs and horses are a classic combination, in life, and in fiction, and stories built around them always appeal. McKenna ties the love of these animals into the story making them almost-characters, but never, ever, allowing them to stray into cuteseyness.

If you want to read a formula romance, this is NOT the novel for you.

If, however, you want to read a really good love story about people who could be real (and maybe fall a little bit in love with Wyoming), I highly recommend Out Rider.

Goes well with chili rellenos, black beans and rice, and a cold beer.


Giveaway Out Rider

Want to read Out Rider for yourself. One lucky winner will get a DIGITAL COPY (e-book) of this novel. How do you enter? Find my post about this review on Twitter (@Melysse) and retweet it, or find my post on Facebook and like/share it. One of my dogs and I will pick the winner from all entries received by 11:59 PM  US CDT, on Sunday, May 29th.

Please note: aside from selecting the winner, I have NO CONTROL over this giveaway. I will supply the winner’s email address to the publicist, and they will be responsible for sending the book (in this case, an ebook).


Lindsay McKenna’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Monday, April 25th: Bewitched Bookworms

Wednesday, April 27th: The Sassy Bookster

Wednesday, April 27th: Written Love Reviews – guest post

Friday, April 29th: Bookaholics Not-So-Anonymous

Monday, May 2nd: Read Love Blog

Tuesday, May 3rd: From the TBR Pile

Wednesday, May 4th: Booked on a Feeling

Thursday, May 5th: Reading Reality

Friday, May 6th: Book Reviews & More by Kathy – guest post

Monday, May 9th: Books a la Mode – guest post

Wednesday, May 11th: Palmer’s Page Turners – guest post

Monday, May 16th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, May 18th: Stranded in Chaos

Thursday, May 19th: The Reading Cove Book Club

Friday, May 20th: What I’m Reading

Monday, May 23rd: A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, May 25th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

#Bibliotica reviews: The Summer of Me, by Angela Benson

About  the book, The Summer of Me The Summer of Me

• Paperback: 352 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (April 19, 2016)

The national bestselling author of Delilah’s Daughters and The Amen Sisters returns with a moving story about a single mother who, in one unforgettable summer, discovers the woman she can become.

As a single mother, Destiny makes sacrifices for her children—including saying good-bye for the summer so they can spend time with their father and stepmother. Though she’ll miss them with all her heart, the time alone gives her an opportunity to address her own needs, like finishing her college degree. But Destiny’s friends think her summer should include some romance.

Destiny doesn’t want to be set up . . . until she meets Daniel. The handsome, warm, and charming pastor soon sweeps her off her feet. But is romance what she really wants? Or needs?

As the days pass, Destiny will make new discoveries—about herself, the man she’s fallen for, and the people around her. And she’ll face challenging choices too. But most of all, she’ll grow in ways she never imagined, learning unexpected lessons about trust, forgiveness, and the price of motherhood . . . and becoming the woman she truly wants to be.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Angela Benson Angela Benson

Angela Benson is a graduate of Spelman College and the author of fourteen novels, including the Christy Award–nominated Awakening Mercy, the Essence bestsellerThe Amen Sisters, Up Pops the Devil, and Sins of the Father. She is an associate professor at the University of Alabama and lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Connect with Angela:

Website | Facebook

 


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

The whole time I was reading Angela Benson’s latest novel The Summer of Me, I kept thinking about two things: one, this author has really nailed what it is to be a single parent in the contemporary world, and two, lead-character Destiny’s experience is not all that different from my own mother, who, as she recently reminded me (and the world) through her blog, “worked at shitty jobs to pay for cello and tap lessons, big hair perms, and the latest Michael Jackson record.” (Well, it was the 80’s.)

Here’s what I loved about Destiny: unlike the hoards of Mommy-bloggers out in the world, who seem to let their role as “mother” subsume their entire personalities, Destiny is a dimensional person. She loves her kids and wants the best for them, yes. She makes choices based, at least in part, on what would be best for her kids. While I’m not a parent (I have dogs. Lots of dogs.), I have many friends who are, and most of them make their decisions in a similar fashion. But she also retains the ability to be a whole person – it’s rocky, at first, because when we meet her she’s just had a job offer – one that would have changed life as she perceived it – rescinded, so she’s not as hopeful as she should be – but once her confidence is somewhat restored, she begins to date, and make choices about what is best for her.

Here’s what I loved about The Summer of Me in general: Destiny is the center of the story but her mother and friends have their own arcs as well. They’re subtler, but they do exist. I also liked that the kids ‘read’ like real kids – not grammatically perfect fictional characters – I especially appreciated that Kenae, Destiny’s daughter, had her headphones in her ears more often than not. This is behavior I see everywhere (and, sadly, not only with kids) and it lent an air of realism to what is basically a contemporary romance novel. I also appreciated that the kid’s father and his wife were not portrayed as monsters, just as two people who share a common interest – the children – and our doing their best to work with each other. None of the relationships are perfect, but they are all fairly positive, and okay, it’s a romance novel, so it’s not like anyone was going to be truly evil, but still… Author Benson really showed off her ability to find the nuances in every-day situations and enhance them to make a compelling story.

I’m never sure if I should mention that most of the characters in this novel are people of color (which is the phrase that was in our descriptions when we were given the opportunity to choose books for this spring – Thank you TLC Book Tours for giving us such great choices), or if I should just assume that readers will understand, as I do, that a good story is a good story, that single mothers of all cultures and skin tones have similar experiences, and that you don’t have to be exactly like the protagonist of any novel to be able to relate to it. So, I’m mentioning it in this left-handed fashion, because it shouldn’t matter. (But there’s a whole rant about labeling books, and this isn’t the moment for it.)

I found The Summer of Me to be incredibly well written, just sexy enough to keep things interesting, and full of dimensional characters I truly cared about. I recommend it for anyone who wants an easy (but still satisfying) summer read, especially children of single parents.

Goes well with Chinese chicken salad and mango-peach iced tea. Followed by a phone call to your mother, whether she was a single parent, or not.


Angela’s Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, April 19th: Raven Haired Girl

Wednesday, April 20th: Comfy Reading

Thursday, April 21st: Becklist

Friday, April 22nd: Kritters Ramblings

Monday, April 25th: A Soccer Mom’s Book Blog

Tuesday, April 26th: I’m Shelf-ish

Wednesday, April 27th: Thoughts On This ‘n That

Thursday, April 28th: Bibliotica

Friday, April 29th: As I turn the pages

Monday, May 2nd: Reading is My Super Power

Tuesday, May 3rd: Sara’s Organized Chaos

Wednesday, May 4th: From the TBR Pile

Thursday, May 5th: 5 Minutes For Books