Review: Starry Skies Over the Chocolate Pot Cafe, by Jessica Redland

Jessica Redland Christmas Tour

About the book, Starry Skies Over the Chocolate Pot Cafe

Starry Skies Over the Chocolate Pot CafeCozy up with a mug of hot chocolate for some festive sparkle from bestseller Jessica Redland.

Everyone is getting into the festive spirit on Castle Street – snow is falling, fairy lights are glistening and Christmas shopping is underway.

But for Tara Porter, owner of thriving cafe, The Chocolate Pot, this is the most difficult time of the year. From the outside, Tara is a successful businesswoman and pillar of the community. Behind closed doors, she is lonely.

With a lifetime of secrets weighing on her shoulders, she has retreated from all friends, family and romance, and shut her real self away from the world. Afterall, if you don’t let them in, they can’t hurt you. She’s learnt that the hard way.

But as the weight of her past becomes heavier and an unexpected new neighbour moves onto the street – threatening the future of her cafe – Tara begins to realise that maybe it’s time to finally let people back in and confront her history. It could just change her life forever…

Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café was originally released as Christmas at The Chocolate Pot Café. Now re-released with a new title and new cover, this version has been freshly edited and features several new chapters.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the author, Jessica Redland

Jessica Redland Author PicJessica Redland is the author of nine novels, including The Secret to Happiness, which are all set around the fictional location of Whitsborough Bay. Inspired by her hometown of Scarborough she writes uplifting women’s fiction which has garnered many devoted fans.

Connect with Jessica:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

Starry Skies Over the Chocolate Pot Cafe is my second visit to the cozy coastal town Whitsborough Bay, and like other fictional small towns (Stars Hollow, CT and Everwood, CO, for example) it remains a place I wish were real, a place I could visit.

As much as I loved the previous novel in this series, Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes, which I reviewed on September 22nd, I think I connected with this book even more. Maybe it’s because I have a ‘thing’ for cafe novels, maybe it’s because the cafe in the story is a business very like one I’ve always fantasized about running, or maybe it’s just that, having a feel for author Jessica Redland’s writing style, I was able to appreciate more of the nuance as I was reading.

I felt like I really connected with the main character, Tara, and her rabbit, Hercules. (I raised rabbits for 4-H when I was a kid, but I’m a dog person now). Her need to reinvent herself (shown in memories she recounts to her friend Carly, and in private remembrances) is one I think many women can relate to, for we do it throughout our lives as we become wives, mothers, empty nesters, career women, retirees. It’s true that most of us don’t have the same impetus Tara did, but the resonance remains.

I also loved Tara’s gradual opening up first to Carly, then to her staff, and later, to her colleagues. When trust has been abused, it’s really difficult to open your heart and allow yourself to be vulnerable, and Redland showed this in a very real, plausible way, while still making this book a heartwarming holiday romance at its core.

Speaking of romance, this novel is filled with it. Early in the story, Tara’s assistant manager, Maria, asks if she can have her wedding at the cafe. Later, other characters ask about an engagement party, and of course, there’s the enemies-to-friends (and possibly beyond) relationship with Jed, the man who owned the building where the Chocolate Pot now lives, before Tara bought it.

Spanning more than just a single holiday season, this novel is a meaty, satisfying read. It’s a romance, yes, but it’s also about loving your friends and yourself, as much as it is about falling in love.

A visit to Whitsborough Bay is never a bad idea, but a visit to The Chocolate Pot Cafe will make you appreciate all the wonderful things that life has to offer.

Goes well with: salted hot chocolate and those dyed-green leaf-shaped Italian butter cookies with a thin layer of chocolate in the middle.


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Cover Reveal: Christmas in Cockleberry Bay, by Nicola May

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About the book, Christmas in Cockleberry Bay

(Available December 4, 2020)

Meet old and new characters in the Bay for Christmas fun and frolics.

With both the Corner Shop and Cockleberry Café in safe hands, Rosa turns her attention to Ned’s Gift, the charity set up in memory of the great-grandfather whose legacy turned her life around.

Over at the Ship Hotel, Lucas has his work cut out with his devious new girlfriend and the mystery poisoning of an anonymous hotel inspector. Will the hotel still get its 3-star Seaside Rosette?

Will Mary find true love at last? Can Titch cope with the demands of the shop and being heavily pregnant. And can Rosa, with a baby of her own, pull off the Cockleberry Bay Charity Christmas Concert in time?

Christmas in Cockleberry Bay is a festive delight for fans of Rosa and her cheeky mini dachshund Hot, delivering a feast of unpredictable events and surprises.

Pre-order this book:

Kindle (US) | Kindle (UK) | Paperback


About the author, Nicola May

Nicola MayNicola May is a rom-com superstar. She is the author of eleven romantic comedies, all of which have appeared in the Kindle bestseller charts. Two of them won awards at the Festival of Romance, and another was named ebook of the week in The SunThe Corner Shop in Cockleberry Bay became the best-selling Kindle book in the UK, across all genres, in January 2019, and was Amazon’s third-bestselling novel in that year.

She lives near Ascot racecourse with her black-and-white rescue cat, Stan.

Connect with Nicola:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


And here’s the cover…

Christmas in Cockleberry Bay

Review: Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes, by Jessica Redland

Jessica Redland Christmas Tour

About the book, Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes

  • Paperback : 210 pages
  • Publisher : Boldwood Books (August 13, 2020)

Christmas at Carly's CupcakesIt’s the most wonderful time of the year…

It’s December on Castle Street; the fairy lights are twinkling, snow has settled and the festive season is in full swing.

For Carly, the owner of Carly’s Cupcakes, it’s the busiest time of year getting everyone’s Christmas treats ready on time. However with her clumsy sister, Bethany, as a co-worker, it’s proving a difficult task. They say you shouldn’t mix work with family. Maybe they have a point…

As Christmas approaches, Carly is also eagerly awaiting the return of her best friend to Whitborough Bay. Liam has no idea he’s been the object of her affection since their schooldays. After years of pining after him, can Carly pluck up the courage to finally tell him how she really feels by 25th December?

Could a little festive magic make all of Carly’s wishes come true this Christmas…?

A heartwarming, short festive story of friendship and family from bestseller Jessica Redland. You can find out what happens to Carly next through exploring her best friend Tara’s story in Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café.

This is a new and updated version of Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes which has been previously published.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the author, Jessica Redland

Jessica Redland Author PicJessica Redland is the author of nine novels, including The Secret to Happiness, which are all set around the fictional location of Whitsborough Bay. Inspired by her hometown of Scarborough she writes uplifting women’s fiction which has garnered many devoted fans.

Connect with Jessica:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

It may seem odd to be reading Christmas novels when it’s literally the first day of Autumn (in the northern hemisphere), but Jessica Redland’s pair of novels Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes and Starry Skies Over the Chocolate Pot Cafe (which I’ll be reviewing on Friday the 25th) are just what is needed to beat the end-of-summer doldrums and make us anticipate cozy firelit nights with hot chocolate or Irish coffee and a good friend – or lover – for company.

Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes was my first visit to author Redland’s Whitborough Bay, a cozy English village that is absolutely contemporary, and made me want to relocate. If only it were real! This novel focuses on Carly and Bethany, sisters and friends. Carly owns a cake shop on Castle Street, and Bethany works for her, but is disastrous at any of the back room activities, though she’s great with customers.

Most of the novel is set against the days leading up to younger sister Bethany’s wedding to Joshua, but Carly is mentioned in the title, and despite Bethany being the bride it’s really about her: how does she cope with an employee who is also family? How does she face attending her little sister’s wedding when the man she longs for is deployed to Afghanistan (and thinks of her as a friend)? How does she help her sister embrace her strengths and overcome her weaknesses?

And did I mention that wedding takes place just before Christmas, adding a heightened emotional state, and a lot of demanding customers to serve into the mix?

Redland marries all of these elements as if she were mixing batter for the perfect cake, bakes them into a coherent, interesting, fun family saga with a romance filling, and frosts them with all the wishes, dreams, and hopes that are part of the holiday season.

Carly is a wonderful protagonist, kind, smart, patient, and truly caring. Bethany, in anyone else’s hands, would be a ditz, but instead Redland has given us someone who means well and always tries, but hasn’t quite found her niche. Together these sisters make a compelling pair of women to read about, and their stories are twined together with the sweetness and freshness of the red and white stripes of a candy cane.

Bethany’s fiance Joshua is equally dimensional, even though we don’t see each other, and the sisters’ parents are supportive and lovely, as all parents should be.

And then there’s Liam… the childhood friend we all needed, who returns from his deployment just in time to be Carly’s date to the wedding. The boy we meet in memories has become a caring man, and he fits into the world Redland has created as if he were part of the story from page one.

This novel is satisfying, sweet, and supremely real, with characters who may make cupcakes, but are absolutely not cookie-cutter copies of anyone.

Goes well with chocolate cupcakes with buttercream frosting and Irish coffee.


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Cover Reveal: One Kiss Before Christmas by Emma Jackson

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About the Book, One Kiss Before Christmas

One Kiss Before Christmas (Available November 2nd)

A gorgeously romantic festive read from the author of A Mistletoe Miracle, guaranteed to warm your heart this Christmas!


Could it be the start of her happy ever after?

Ashleigh could use a little Christmas magic. She’s still living in Brighton with her Nan — who could give the Grinch lessons in how to be miserable — her acting career has been reduced to playing one of Santa’s elves, and not even the prospect of a friend’s winter wedding can cheer her up…

That is until Olivier, the gorgeous French chef, reappears in her life. Or more accurately, next door.

When they were teenagers, Olivier would spend every other Christmas with his mother, who just happens to be Ash’s neighbour and owner of the best chocolate shop in England.

If anyone can bring a little sparkle back to Ash’s life, it’s Olivier. All she needs is one kiss before Christmas…

Feel-good and festive, this is the perfect romance to curl up with this winter!

Pre-order this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK)


About the Author, Emma Jackson

Emma JacksonAuthor of the Best Selling A MISTLETOE MIRACLE and contender for the Joan Hessayon Award 2020, Emma has been a devoted bookworm and secret-story-scribbler since she was 6 years old. When she’s running around after her two daughters and trying to complete her current work-in-progress, Emma loves to read, bake, catch up on binge-watching TV programmes with her partner and plan lots of craft projects that will inevitably end up unfinished. Her latest romantic comedy, SUMMER IN THE CITY, was released in June 2020.

Emma also writes historical and fantasy fiction as Emma S Jackson. THE DEVIL’S BRIDE was published by DarkStroke in February 2020.

Connect with Emma:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


And here’s the cover…

One Kiss Before Christmas_Cover

 

Review: Christmas at Lock Keeper’s Cottage, by Lucy Coleman

Christmas at Lock Keeper's Cottage

 

About the book, Christmas at Lock Keeper’s Cottage Christmas at Lock Keepes Cottage Cover

  • Paperback : 334 pages
  • Publisher : Boldwood Books (September 3, 2020)

Join us for Christmas in the Cotswolds in this perfect festive escape, from the bestselling Lucy Coleman.

Imogen Tolliman never knew her mother. And when an accident robs Immi of her father too, she goes to live with her grandfather, Tollie, in his picturesque lock-keeper’s cottage by the Aysbury marina.

Tollie is the star of the Santa Ahoy Special each Christmas – a festive boat ride along the canal that enthralls both children and adults alike. And as Immi grows up, she starts to appreciate the magical community she is lucky enough to live in.

When Immi meets Gray Adams, she instantly realises he’s someone special. And as their relationship gets serious, they start to plan for the Christmas to beat all Christmases.

But as the day approaches, and the romantic snow showers turn into blizzards, their dream of a Christmas to remember, looks set to be one they’ll never forget – for all the wrong reasons. Can they salvage the festivities, or will old secrets that are finally uncovered turn Immi’s life upside down forever?

Let Lucy Coleman transport you away to a dreamy Cotswolds Christmas full of snowflakes and secretslog fires, mistletoe, friends and much-loved traditions. Perfect for all fans of Trisha Ashley, Holly Martin and Sue Moorcroft.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the author, Lucy Coleman Lucy Coleman

Lucy Coleman is a #1 bestselling romance writer, whose recent novels include Snowflakes over Holly Cove. She also writes under the name Linn B. Halton. She won the 2013 UK Festival of Romance: Innovation in Romantic Fiction award and lives in the Welsh Valleys.

Connect with Lucy:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

Dear Santa,

Thank you so much for the early Christmas present you sent in the form of this lovely novel, Christmas at Lock Keeper’s Cottage, by Lucy Coleman. This story hit all my favorite holiday buttons: a plausible romance, a cozy setting near the water, a beloved older relative, a bit of family drama, and a weather disaster.

And it even opened with a letter to you!

Santa, I really loved the main character of Immi – Imogen. She was so realistically written with such a big heart but without being at all naive. Her  partner, Gray, was also a wonderfully dimensional creation. Tollie, Fisher, the innkeepers, and all the other townsfolk felt like the kind of people you really would run into in a cafe or a pub, serve on committees with, and interact with in any number of ordinary ways. So vibrant a picture did author Coleman draw, that I wanted to step into the book, and be a part of the festivities.

I’m a sucker for a good Christmas story, and this novel is a great story for the season, with a narrowboat tricked out for the holiday, and little kids getting to sail with Santa Claus, but this was hardly Hallmark fare. Rather, it was a compelling parallel drama – Immi looking for truths about her mother, and Gray facing truths about his father – that were made all the more compelling because of the time of year, and festive background.

If you want a holiday romance with adult characters who feel like real people, one with a bit more depth than the usual Christmas fluff, this novel, Christmas at Lock Keep Cottage – should be the first thing on everyone’s list, Santa.

It would go well with a locally brewed beer and and a hearty stew or chili.

Thanks again for putting this novel on my radar, Santa. Looking forward to seeing you this December.

Don’t forget my pony.


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Review: The Two Lives of Maddie Meadows, by Sharley Scott

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About the book, The Two Lives of Maddie Meadows

Maddie Meadows - CoverMaddie Meadows adores her family and loves her work. But she has good reason to keep them separate.

For single mum Maddie, home is a flat on a run-down estate. And family consists of an excitable toddler, a lonely Dad and a younger brother mired in a love triangle.

Meanwhile, professional Madeleine balances a tricky day job, made worse by a jealous colleague. No one at work knows about her other life, and she needs to keep it this way: one of the bosses has made his feelings very clear about single parents and the people on her estate.

Thank goodness for her fun-loving and loyal friends – although Maddie wishes they’d believe her when she insists she has no time for love. Or so she tells herself as she fights to quell her hidden feelings for her gorgeous colleague, Oliver, who comes from the posh part of town.

When her friends line up their ideal man for her – Sean, more beanstalk than Bean – Maddie wishes she’d told them the truth. It’s hard enough juggling two lives. But, with all the added complications, how long will be it be before Maddie’s carefully created world comes crashing down?

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the author, Sharley Scott

Sharley Scott is the author of the ‘Devon Seaside Guesthouse’ novels – Bedlam & Breakfast and B&Bers Behaving Madly.

Her latest book ‘The Two Lives of Maddie Meadows’ is being published in early July 2020. The second in the series ‘The Gift of a Rose’ will be available in the autumn.

Sharley is a guesthouse owner in South Devon. She is thankful to have been blessed with lots of amazing and kind-hearted guests, who are nothing like some of the characters featured in the Devon Seaside Guesthouse series.

The Two Lives of Maddie Meadows is a fictional account, but Sharley has never forgotten how interesting life can be with a toddler. Some of the mischief Josh gets up to will be familiar to all parents. Sharley has carried out the threats she made to her son decades ago and now embarrasses him by telling tales to his girlfriend, although he gets her back by recounting stories about his mum.

Connect with Sharley:

Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

MissMelissHATI try not to commit to reviewing books in August, because it’s my birthday month and it’s also the month when I’m usually doing a daily podcast project, but I had a few interactions with the author, Sharley Scott on Twitter when this novel launched, and she was so lovely, I couldn’t not review it.

The Two Lives of Maddie Meadows is a light read about serious topics. Part romance, part social commentary, it focuses on a young woman who lives in two worlds, the “posh” world of her corporate job, and the decidedly less-than-perfect one of being the single mother of a toddler, living in a rundown council estate.

Maddie (known as Madeleine at work) is the perfect heroine of the modern age. Her story is a love story, but it’s as much about falling in love with her true self as it as about the men in her life – handsome, co-worker Oliver and down-to-earth Sean.

Scott’s dialogue is excellent, and really differentiates the characters who populate Maddie’s two worlds. Her friends and family are much more casual in their speech, while those she works with speak the bland corporate-ese that masks one’s origins the world over. (Scott gets extra points from me for explaining the code-switching Maddie displays, and acknowledging that everyone does it to some degree.)

What I loved about this novel was that even when Maddie was uncertain about her place in either world, she was still very much herself. She might not be a cookie-cutter mother, but she showed real love for her son, and true devotion to her father and brother.

As an American reader, I found myself re-examining class differences in my own country, even as Maddie was facing them during her life. On this side of the pond, where even millionaires are still middle class, the divisions are harsher, if often less  obvious.

In this novel, Sharley Scott has given us a story about identity and family that also provides a look at life in one corner of the UK, and she has done so with humor and grace. From the first page, I was rooting for Maddie, and I was not disappointed.

Goes well with ice cream cones eaten in a park after feeding ducks.


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Review: The Secret of You and Me, by Melissa Lenhardt – with Giveaway

Secret of You and Me - BNR

About the book, The Secret of You and Me

  • Genre: Women’s Fiction / Romance
  • Publisher:  Graydon House (Harlequin)
  • Date of Publication: August 4, 2020
  • Number of Pages: 352
  • Scroll down for the giveaway!

Secret of You and Me - CoverTrue love never fades—and old secrets never die . . . 

Nora hasn’t looked back. Not since she fled Texas to start a new life. Away from her father’s volatile temper and the ever-watchful gaze of her claustrophobically conservative small town, Nora has freed herself. She can live—and love—however she wants. The only problem is that she also left behind the one woman she can’t forget. Now tragedy calls her back home to confront her past—and reconcile her future.

Sophie seems to have everything—a wonderful daughter, a successful husband, and a rewarding career. Yet underneath that perfection lies an explosive secret. She still yearns for Nora—her best friend and first love—despite all the years between them. Keeping her true self hidden hasn’t been easy, but it’s been necessary. So when Sophie finds out that Nora has returned, she hopes Nora’s stay is short. The life she has built depends on it.

But they both find that first love doesn’t fade easily. Memories come to light, passion ignites, and old feelings resurface. As the forces of family and intolerance that once tore them apart begin to reemerge, they realize some things may never change—unless they demand it.

Praise for this book:

  • “A compelling story of second chances and being true to yourself.”
    Harper Bliss, bestselling author of Seasons of Love
  • “Lenhardt convinces in her portrayal of the conflict between desire and control.” —Publishers Weekly

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Interabang Books

(Personalized/signed copies available through Interabang)
Amazon | IndieBound | Bookshop | Goodreads

A portion of royalties from this book are going to the It Gets Better Project.

(Click for more details.)


About the author, Melissa Lenhardt

Melissa LenhardtMelissa Lenhardt is a women’s fiction, mystery, and historical fiction author. Her debut mystery, Stillwater, was a finalist for the 2014 Whidbey Writers’ MFA Alumni Emerging Writers Contest, and Sawbones, her historical-fiction debut, was hailed as a “thoroughly original, smart and satisfying hybrid, perhaps a new sub-genre: the feminist Western” by Lone Star Literary Life. The New York Times called her sixth novel, Heresy, “An all-out women-driven, queer, transgender, multiracial takeover of the Old West”. The Secret of You and Me, her seventh novel and her first contemporary women’s fiction novel, was published on August 4, 2020.

When Melissa isn’t writing, she’s thinking, “I really should be writing,” and eating Nutella or peanut butter straight out of the jar. A lifelong Texan, she lives in the Dallas area with her husband, two sons, and two Golden Retrievers.

Connect with Melissa:

Facebook | Instagram  | Website | Goodreads | Amazon  | BookBub | Twitter


My Thoughts

MissMelissHATSet in the recent history of Texas, just a few years before gay marriage became a national right, Melissa Lenhardt’s novel  The Secret of You and Me is not so much a coming of age story, as the lead characters are adults, as a coming of identity story. It’s a wonderful novel, a candid lesbian romance, wrapped around a host of difficult subjects: death, loss, desire, (in)fidelity, parenthood, childhood, the lens of nostalgia, and coming out. More than that, though, it’s a compelling drama rooted in family, both chosen and blood, and how we define it and ourselves.

The structure of the novel is in (mostly) alternating chapters from Nora (the central character) and Sophie’s (Nora’s best friend/first love) points of view. Lenhardt’s choice to shift between these equally dimensional women gives us greater insight into both, as well as their perspectives on the various supporting characters, most importantly Nora’s aunt, Emmadean, and Sophie’s, husband, daughter, and AA sponsor Charlie, Logan, and Todd, respectively. By doing this we get to see each woman’s view of herself, as well as of the other, and I think the novel is richer for the split POV.

I also felt that Lenhardt has an excellent ear for dialogue and a flair for family dynamics. From the earliest chapter, where Nora, newly arrived “home” is eating enchilada casserole, to the last I felt like I was in that small town, hearing the gossip from the locals, and watching everything unfold. So cinematic is the author’s writing, that I told a friend, “I could easily see this novel as movie on Amazon Prime or a Hulu original.”

As the person many of my friends have chosen to come out to, to reveal that they were trans to, to share their marital issues with, this novel really resonated with me. While I do not support infidelity, even in fiction, I certainly understand it as a symptom – an expression – of deep unhappiness. Lenhardt handled all of these revelations with grace and poise, and at times I felt as though I were watching friends share their stories.

While some of the subjects within this novel are serious, the story itself is not uncomfortably heavy. It’s a romance, just not a conventional one, and definitely worth the read.

Goes well with enchilada casserole and cold Shiner Bock, right from the bottle.

(As noted above, a portion of royalties  from this book are going to the It Gets Better Project. Click for more details.)


Giveaway

TWO WINNERS each get a signed hardcover copy of the book and their choice of
either a FaceTime call or virtual book-club visit with the author.

 August 11-21, 2020

(U.S. Only)

Secret of You and Me - Giveaway

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Visit the Other Blogs on This Tour

Click to visit the  LONE STAR LITERARY LIFE TOUR PAGE for direct links to each post on this tour, updated daily, or visit each blog directly.

8/11/20 Author Interview All the Ups and Downs
8/11/20 Review Tangled in Text
8/12/20 Review Momma on the Rocks
8/12/20 BONUS Post Hall Ways Blog
8/13/20 Review Carpe Diem Chronicles
8/14/20 Top Six List Texas Book Lover
8/14/20 Review Bibliotica
8/15/20 Excerpt StoreyBook Reviews
8/16/20 Guest Post The Page Unbound
8/17/20 Review Missus Gonzo
8/17/20 Review Rainy Days with Amanda
8/18/20 Audio Spotlight Book Bustle
8/19/20 Review Chapter Break Book Blog
8/19/20 Review Reading by Moonlight
8/20/20 Review It’s Not All Gravy
8/20/20 Review That’s What She’s Reading

 

LoneStarLitLife

LSBBT BOOK REVIEW

 

 

Review: A Sunset in Sidney, by Sandy Barker

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About the book, A Sunset in Sydney

 

  • Publisher: One More Chapter (July 3, 2020)
  • Publication Date: July 3, 2020
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers

A Sunset in Sydney CoverHow far would you go in the name of love?

Sarah Parsons has a choice ahead of her. After the trip of a lifetime she’s somehow returned home with TWO handsome men wanting to whisk her away into the sunset.

Pulled in two directions across the globe, it’s making life trickier than it sounds. Her gorgeous American, Josh, wants to meet Sarah in Hawaii for a holiday to remember. Meanwhile silver fox, James, plans to wine and dine her in London.

It’s a lot to handle for this Aussie girl, who had totally sworn off men!

Join Sarah after her adventure in One Summer in Santorini, for the heart-warming and uplifting third novel in The Holiday Romance series.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Google Play | Kobo | Waterstones | Goodreads


About the author, Sandy Barker

A Sunset in Sydney - Author Photo Sandy BarkerSandy Barker is an Australian writer, traveller and hopeful romantic with a lengthy bucket list and a cheeky sense of humour. She’s also an avid reader, a film buff, a wine lover and a coffee snob.
Many of Sandy’s travel adventures have found homes in her writing, including her debut novel, a contemporary romance set in Greece, which was inspired by her true-life love story.

Connect with Sidney:

Blog | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

MissMelissHATWhen the world around you is in turmoil, and all your travel plans have been cancelled for the foreseeable future, a light, happy romance is practically medicinal.

Sandy Barker’s third entry into her Holiday Romance series, A Sunset in Sydney, fills that prescription perfectly. It’s light but not too fluffy, keeps you entertained, and has really engaging characters, as well.

Sarah, our protagonist, opens the novel with a complaint many of us wish we’d had when we were young and single: two love interests. James a “silver fox” she meets while sightseeing, and Josh, whom she meets on the same vacation, on a ten-day sailing trip, and whom she immediately has what she calls a “Ross and Rachel, will they / won’t they” relationship.

Both men are engaging, witty, attractive. James is in London, where Sarah’s sister Cat also is, so she uses her time there to meet up with him, and Josh, the “cute American” has made plans to meet her in Hawaii four months after their initial sailing trip.

What follows is typical romance novel fare, made distinctly original by Barker’s handling of both comedy and flirtation. Instead of a cookie-cutter story, we are treated to a tale about people who are all searching for what they truly want out of love and life, with trial and error, doubts and insecurities, misfires and marvelous encounters, all wrapped up in a package of well-written dialogue, and characters you truly enjoy spending time with.

This was my first introduction to Barker’s work, but I’m hooked and can’t wait to read the other novels in this series, as well as her other writing.

Overall, this is the perfect light read, for summer, for quarantine, or just for a murky, damp weekend when you want to escape into someone else’s life for a while.

Goes well with grilled tequila lime shrimp and a margarita on the rocks.


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Sun, Sea and Sangria, by Victoria Cooke

Sun, Sea, and Sangria

About the book, Sun, Sea and Sangria

 

  • Print Length: 289 pages
  • Publisher: HQ Digital (June 10, 2020)
  • Publication Date: June 10, 2020
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers

Sun, Sea and SangriaKat swore off dating many years ago, after her marriage ended in a catastrophic mess. Having moved to the Canary Islands for a fresh start, she has never had much time for romance, channelling all her energy into managing all-male dance troupe – the Heavenly Hunks.

 

With golden beaches, sparkling blue water and relaxing after work with a glass of sangria – or three – for Kat, it’s summer all year round. But despite life being postcard perfect, Kat can’t help but wonder if she is missing out on the most important thing of all… love.

The dancers are all well-known for their flirtatious antics and aren’t looking for anything serious… except Jay. Sitting by the pool, watching the sun reflecting in the water, Kat feels like she can tell him anything.

Handsome, caring and a good listener, he ignites a fire in Kat’s heart that scares her witless. But her relationship with Jay should stay strictly professional… right? There is absolutely no way that she can be his boss and his date.

As the temperature rises, will Kat be able to take the plunge, let go of her past and find romance in paradise?

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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About the author, Victoria Cooke

Suns Sea - Victoria Cooke New ImageVictoria Cooke grew up in the city of Manchester before crossing the Pennines in pursuit of a career in education. She now lives in Huddersfield with her husband and two young daughters and when she’s not at home writing by the fire with a cup of coffee in hand, she loves working out in the gym and travelling. Victoria was first published at the tender age of eight by her classroom teacher who saw potential in a six-page story about an invisible man. Since then she’s always had a passion for reading and writing, undertaking several writers’ courses before completing her first novel, ‘The Secret to Falling in Love,’ in 2016 which was selected for onscreen adaptation in April 2020.

Her third novel, Who Needs Men Anyway? became a digital bestseller in 2018.

Connect with Victoria:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads


My Thoughts

MissMelissHATMy first introduction to Victoria Cooke’s writing was when I read and reviewed her lovely novel A Summer to Remember last year, so I was eager to jump into another of her books, especially since her stories are such a great escape from the every-day. In this summer of lockdown, a novel that takes place in Tenerife and features a cast of hunky male dancers was just what I needed.

But, Cooke’s books are never the fluff they might seem. In this novel, Sun, Sea and Sangria, we get a protagonist in Kat who isn’t some idealistic twenty-year-old. Rather, she’s eight years out of a bad marriage, and pointedly not-dating while managing the Heavenly Hunks. It’s a breathtaking relief to encounter a character who has experience in both love and life, and has learned from it, and I really appreciated Kat’s journey – she had healing to do that she’d been compartmentalizing for the better part of a decade, and when love walked  – danced – into her life again, she had to prepare herself. I loved that. I loved that even though she wasn’t a fresh-faced college kid, she was still unsure and cautious. I think most of us are, and it made her character seem that much more real.

The leading male, Jay, was, likewise, not as young as the rest of the dancers. He, too, brought experience into the story, even if his initial overtures to Kat were strictly professional.

Dating someone you work with is always a risky proposition, but Cooke makes that a plot point, and does so with the same deftness she does everything else. I had no trouble envisioning any of the characters or settings, though I think this book should be sold with a bottle of sangria on the side.

Overall, this is a lovely, flirty, flight of fancy with just enough realism to keep it from becoming saccharine. The perfect summer read. Even in quarantine.

Goes well with pulled pork sandwiches and drinks with umbrellas and rum. Lots of rum.


Sun Sea and Sangria Banner

Review: The Outlaw’s Daughter, by Margaret Brownley – with Giveaway

The Outlaw's Daughter

About the book, The Outlaw’s Daughter

  • Western / Historical Fiction / Clean & Wholesome Romance
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
  • Date of Publication: May 26, 2020
  • Number of Pages: 384
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

The Outlaw's DaughterHe may be a Texas Ranger, but he only has eyes for the outlaw’s beautiful daughter . . . 

Texas Ranger Matt Taggert is on the trail of a wanted man. He has good reason to believe that Ellie-May’s late husband was involved in a stagecoach robbery, and he’s here to see justice done. But when he arrives in town, he discovers the thief has become a local hero . . . and his beautiful young widow isn’t too happy to see some lawman out to tarnish her family’s newly spotless reputation.

Ellie-May’s shaken by her encounter with the ranger. Having grown up an outlaw’s daughter, she’ll do anything to keep her children safe—and if that means hardening her heart against the handsome lawman’s smiles, then so be it. Because she knows Matt isn’t about to give up his search. He’s out to redeem himself and find proof that Ellie-May’s husband wasn’t the saint everyone claims . . . even if it means losing the love neither expected to discover along the way.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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About the author, Margaret Brownley

Margaret BrownleyNew York Times bestselling author Margaret Brownley has penned more than forty-six novels and novellas.

A two-time Romance Writers of American RITA® finalist, Margaret has also written for a TV soap and is a recipient of the Romantic Times Pioneer Award. Not bad for someone who flunked eighth-grade English. Just don’t ask her to diagram a sentence.

Connect with Margaret:

Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter


My Thoughts

MissMelissHATI don’t read a ton of romances, but when I do I always enjoy the vicarious thrill of that first meeting between characters you know are destined for a fantastic journey together, and in Margaret Brownley’s third installment in her Haywire Brides series, The Outlaw’s Daughter, we get that, and more.

In Matt Taggert, we get the rugged hero every woman secretly dreams about – he’s handsome, he’s stable, and he’s got a strong moral code that sometimes brings him into conflict with his own family. That’s the kind of dilemma that really intrigues me because it’s typically internal – the character has to work it through on their own, or with the help of one close friend.

In Ellie-May, we are given a strong woman who is smart, compassionate, and kind, but also lives in the real world. She’s a fiercely protective mother, and also a good friend, as her relationship with Anvil demonstrates really well. Sure, he’s an employee, but she never treats him as a lesser being.

The plot was a carefully crafted balance of family drama (the truth about Ellie-May’s dead husband and later, the truth about Matt’s brother) romance (Ellie-May and Matt are a perfectly executed example of the classic will-they/won’t-they dance), leavened by moments of warm humor and cozy homespun scenes.

While this is an historical novel, author Brownley makes the language feel fresh and accessible, and makes her characters jump off the page. They are vivid and dimensional and you can almost smell the saddle oil and the heady aromas of home cooking.

While I haven’t read a lot of westerns, this spring I’ve made myself be more open to the genre, and one of the things I’m finding is that these “period” novels are full of strong women characters who are the kinds of people I’d love to have as friends. In The Outlaw’s Daughter, Margaret Brownley has given us not just a great story, but a heroine worthy of being a friend. Read this book.

Goes well with beef stew and homemade bread.


Giveaway

Giveaway Outlaw's Daughter SMALL

TWO WINNERS each receive signed copies of the first two books in the Haywire Brides series, Cowboy Charm School and The Cowboy Meets His Match

May 26-June 5, 2020 (US ONLY)

 

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The Outlaw’s Daughter Blog Tour

Click to visit the LONE STAR LITERARY LIFE TOUR PAGE  for direct links to each post on this tour, or use the links below to visit each blog directly:

5/26/20 Promo All the Ups and Downs
5/26/20 Review Missus Gonzo
5/27/20 Review StoreyBook Reviews
5/27/20 Review Book Bustle
5/28/20 BONUS Post Hall Ways Blog
5/28/20 Review That’s What She’s Reading
5/29/20 Review Books and Broomsticks
5/29/20 Review The Adventures of a Travelers Wife
5/30/20 Review Book Fidelity
5/31/20 Review Bibliotica
6/1/20 Review The Page Unbound
6/1/20 Review Chapter Break Book Blog
6/2/20 Review Carpe Diem Chronicles
6/3/20 Review It’s Not All Gravy
6/4/20 Review Forgotten Winds
6/4/20 Review Momma on the Rocks

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