Summer Reading List

Nefertiti

It’s still a work in progress.  I will reread a few old favorites, like Nefertiti by Michelle Moran and Lottery by Patricia Wood.

Willingham-Michelle-A-Maiden-for-the-Marquess-final-270x405Plus, I want to read new books by favorite authors, like The Champion of Baresh by Susan Grant and A Maiden for the Marquess by Michelle Willingham.

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Plus, a few new ones like Royal Enchantment by Sharon Ashwood   https://www.harlequin.com/shop/books/9780373139910_royal-enchantment.htmllgcover_9780373139910

 

AFTERTIME by Sophie Littlefield

aftertime-pb-200Back when I was bored outta my mind with the endless parade of sameness in the New Release aisle (seriously, someone needs to dismantle the Alpha Male Cloning Facility pronto,) I remembered the LUNA imprint at Harlequin from a few years back.  Thanks to Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings movies and books, I suspect, the Fantasy genre had a boom in the early 2000s.  That’s kinda fizzled, sadly.  There was so much more variety than just the blood-sucking dead guys you find in straight-out Paranormal Romance.  But, anyeway…

So, I went searching back through LUNA’s booklist and found some previously unnoticed gems and Aftertime is one of them.  I’m not a trendy girl.  I like all great stories all the time.  This one’s from the zombie trend, which is still hanging in there with The Walking Dead.  I dislike the gore and pointless violence of this kind of story, but am utterly fascinated with how the characters handle their world turned upside down and also the world-building.  I get that thrill from any story with those two aspects, like Titanic.  I’ve read World War Z, the book the movie is based on.  The movie is great, but the book is better.  That’s almost always the case.  I’ve also thoroughly enjoyed Carrie Ryan’s series which starts with The Forest of Hands and Teeth.

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http://www.carrieryan.com/fht/

Anyway…

Aftertime takes place in the months following the zombie apocalypse.  Before that, Cass made a mess of her life.  She chose her addictions over her baby daughter and lost custody.  With all of humanity hitting rock bottom along with her, what really matters in life, what makes it worth living, becomes vivid, front and center for her.  She becomes driven by one of the most primitive and powerful instincts.

Motherhood.  Totally get that.

With her fractured memories of the past and the present in shambles, Cass struggles with making sense of it all.  She staggers relentlessly towards the goal of finding and getting her daughter back.  Guess only that kind of determination can meet or exceed a zombie.  Huh?  Yes, she does have flashes of serious doubt, times when it’d be so easy to just let herself get killed.

One of the problems with zombie novels is the believability.  If you have any scientific knowledge, you know how most of them just don’t make sense.  I mean, come on, human bodies decompose too quickly for the buggers to be still staggering around after several years.  Aftertime doesn’t have that problem.  The explanation for the zombies’ existence is entirely believable.

Cass is stumbling along and makes the desperate choice to take a young teen hostage to try to get into a survivors’ stronghold to see if her daughter’s there.  Thankfully, it’s recognized that she’s not a zombie herself (they’re mostly called ‘Beaters’ in this fictional universe) and that she had no intention of harming the girl.  She gets to eat, sleep, and even bathe.  She also meets Smoke, a very male survivor.

It comes to light that Cass somehow survived a Beater attack on her previous community, a group of survivors holed up in an old library.  Her now-toddler daughter was somehow rescued, but Cass was somehow separated out and lost on the roads during the chaos.

Of course, Cass wants to get back to the library to reunite with her daughter, but Smoke and the others let her know that it’s been taken over by the Rebuilders.  They pass themselves off as the saviors, but, really, the Rebuilders are just trying to seize an opportunity to take over.  Never waste a good crisis, you know.

Cass sets out for the library with Smoke and they encounter interesting people along the way, like Lyle, the dude held up along in a building.  He saves them from a Beater attack and offers hospitality afterwards.  And on they go.

Cass and Smoke do make it to the library, and into the custody of the Rebuilders who do not like Smoke one bit.  Cass likes Smoke though.  And their grow relationship is believably portrayed.  Their goose seems cooked, but they’ve got friends on the inside.  From them, Cass learns where her daughter is now.

Okay, so as if the Beaters and the Rebuilders aren’t enough, poor Cass now has to deal with a bunch of religious wackoes too.  They’re taking in females only, and one of them is her precious baby girl.  To get her back, Cass’ll have to pretend she’s just as nutty as the rest of them.  But, there’s no stopping a mommy, you know.

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Sophie Littlefield has an extensive backlist, including three more novels in this series.  I heartily suggest you pop over for a look-see.  You won’t be disappointed, promise.   http://sophielittlefield.com/books-adults.php

HOW TO RUN WITH A NAKED WEREWOLF by Molly Harper

*This isn’t exactly the most appropriate book review for Easter Sunday, but we were so busy hunting eggs on the ol’ family homestead yesterday that I didn’t get it written.*

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A couple of weeks ago, I traveled back in time to find new reading material.  Sorry, but the New Releases were getting seriously repetitive.  Especially where the poor heroes are concerned.  Not every girl wants Captain Studmuffin over and over and over again, rippling abs, billions in the bank account, and no sense of humor.  Once or twice is nice, but after that even riveting sex scenes get repetitive and, therefore, boring.

Okay, time to run with the wolves.

If it was just a werewolf book, again, boring.  But, Molly’s got the voice and the multidimensional characters.  It helps that the story’s also set in Alaska, which is freaking awesome because I lived there for a long time and I know.

Oh, holy hell, this guy was a werewolf.   (quote last line of Chapter One)

Tina’s been on the run for a while before she runs into the werewolf of her dreams.  She ran from an abusive marriage that was so complicated a restraining order and divorce just wasn’t enough.  She has help from a chick who’s part of a network to help hide people like her.  She spent four years working as a town doctor somewhere in the vast reaches of Alaska.  Since it was peopled with werewolves, they weren’t anxious to rat her out.  But, she eventually had to go because her lousy ex was still on her tail.

Tina’s working in a dinky little grocery store elsewhere in Alaska when she gets off early and winds up in a back alley shoot-up which results in her puddlehopping car burning up and what she recognizes as a shot-up werewolf.  She drags the supernatural mutt to safety and uses her medical expertise to clean him up.  Some time during the process, she falls asleep determined to escape to parts unknown because stuff like that is creepy.

However, Caleb, the werewolf, wraps her up in a lovey-hug while he’s still half-asleep and gives her a little nip of love in the process.  Fully awake, he assumes she doesn’t have a clue, but insists she rides with him so he can keep her safe.  Since she’s on the run anyway, bound for Anchorage, she goes along with him.

During the course of helping him collect people in his work as an unofficial bounty hunter, Tina grows quite attached to Caleb.  He’s in love with her and realizes she knows all about the wolfy thing.  They finally share secrets.  But, he falls more on the side of doing the job to get the money, whereas she’s more inclined to make value judgements and let people go.  What if she’s his next assignment?  What if he’s been paid to bring her in?  Would he have a problem with handing her over to her violent ex?  They both got serious trust issues.

Like I said the voice and the characters are great, pulling you into the story and making you believe.  The world-building of wolves in Alaska makes sense because, well, it’s a very big place.  Real people go there to hide all the time.  Jump out of a plane over that state and they’ll probably never find your body.

As you’d expect, Caleb is loyal and funny and Tina has a personality which engages you in the story.  The love scenes are believable and work with the love story.

Molly Harper has a huge book list and I’m only getting started on it.  I highly recommend you pop over and get started too.   http://mollyharper.com/books/

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She has two new books coming out this year, one in July and the other in November.

 

 

 

Review: SPECIAL DELIVERY BABY by Sherri Shackelford

Will Canfield is a founding father of Cowboy Creek.  He’s got no time to be a father to a foundling too.48a125_4d931f1e59414f7894eae6540be3cd7a

The Civil War is over, but it’s left a mark on him.  A bad leg and a cane are the outward signs.  He’s also Mr. Uptight Grumpypants.  Sure, he wants to settle down to peacetime bliss, but with a sweet, dulcet bride with good manners.  Not a rowdy redhead with the crazy idea of rodeo show.  Texas Tom turns out to be a girl, Thomisina, but no one knows where the baby came from.

Thomasina averted a disaster of cattle storming down main street and then she had the nerve to insist she had every right to hold her show in Cowboy Creek.

The baby was well-fed and came with carefully folded, hand-sewn clothing and every indication she was loved.

Will can’t get his female friend to help with the baby, since she and her husband have one of their own on the way.  And he can’t get Texas Thomasine out of his town or off his mind.

Dude, it’s time to loosen up.

But, Will and Thomasina hardly have time to court, even if they could.

A gang’s in town stirring up trouble, like spearing a bull just before Tom’s show.  It goes crazy, people get and almost get hurt.  Someone gets dumped, badly injured, during the ruckus.  Tom almost gets kidnapped.  Now her pa is dead, she’s free game to cowboys who don’t like to take orders from a female.  Even her buddy from the old droving days seems to turn on her.  Meanwhile, the baby still doesn’t have her mama.

Thomasina decides it’s high time she got into a new line of work.  She enlists help to learn how to dress like a girl and finds out she and her pa actually socked away a tidy sum of money.  Still, she feels she needs to work or she’ll go crazy.

And Will is almost finished building a big house, but his last bride-to-be is long gone.

Thomasina turns Will’s shirts pink trying to work at the laundry.  She tries working in the café dining room and just about boxes the ears of the unruly offspring of guests.

Seems like they both always turn up when there’s trouble.  And then there’s the preacher’s daughter who looks after the baby and seems to be getting too attached to it.

The characters in this story are well-rounded.  Thomasina grows and adapts in a believable way, but holds on to her feisty personality.  Will can’t shake his attachment to her, despite the fact that she doesn’t fit his idea of good wife material.

The baby and her care were believably portrayed, but I would have liked to see her more involved in story and encountered her on more pages.  I don’t fault the author for that, because she obviously knew what she was doing.  I suspect the publisher doubts readers want babies more involved.  Maybe that’s true for other readers, but not me.  What’s so scary about babies?  Big, bad babies, seriously?  If you’re going to have a baby in a story, then really have her in the story, I say.  Let the poo fly where it may.  Builds character.

Ms. Shackleford has a wonderful, growing book list.  Check her out.  http://www.sherrishackelford.com/book-inner

 

Review: THE COOK’S SECRET INGREDIENT by Meg Maxwell

*Sorry about the late posting.  The migraine’s almost gone now.  I sure hate that monster.*

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http://megmaxwell.com/

So, anyway, today I’m reviewing this Contemporary Romance by Meg Maxwell.  It has a single dad with a toddler son, which is just great.  I knew this author totally got the single parent thing, because I’ve read her books before.

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The greatest challenge for any single parent searching for a new partner is finding someone who also connects with his or her child.  How can you share parenting your most precious person with someone who doesn’t have a clue and couldn’t care less?  Dating as a single parent is lightyears away from dating as a non-parent.  It’s so hard.  Some single parents read these books searching for hope of finally find their real Happily Ever After.  My own mom did, in fact.

Ms. Maxwell does a great job with single parents.  I dearly hope she will be encouraged to do even more in the future.

Okay, so Olivia is this super-awesome cook who starts working out of a food truck.  She’s always had this gift for passing on good feelings to other people through her food.  One cannoli from her can turn a cranky old tramp into a sweetie-pie just like that.

Runs in the family.  Her mother used to tell people’s fortunes out of the back of her house.  Madame Miranda, they called her.  It was partly gift, partly human compassion.  But, everybody loved her and trusted her.

Except Carson.  But, he doesn’t trust anybody.  And with good reason.  He fell in love and fathered a son with a chick whose maternal instinct ended when the umbilical cord was cut.  Now he’s on his own with Danny and frankly flabberghasted that his own father is at all interested in being a grandfather after not being there hardly at all when he was growing up.

His dad, Edmund’s an awesome grandpa though.  Before she died, Madame Miranda told him that his second great love in life was a hairstylist named Sarah.

Carson’s not buying that.  His personal life, plus his private investigator career, has taught him some hard lessons in life.  He seeks out Olivia wanting to de-bunk what her mother said.  Trouble is her mother is dead now and Edmund’s dream woman bears a striking resemblance to her estranged aunt.

Carson figures Olivia has the same goal, to find Sarah, even though they have different motivations.  So they might as well work together.  But, no way is he going to do something stupid, like fall in love with her.  That’d be too hard on Danny.

But, hey, this is Harlequin, so you know he does anyway.

So, while all this is going on, Olivia is helping her friend figure out why she’s not actually in love with her fiancé and Carson’s trying to help a boy find his deadbeat dad.  Both side stories help them figure out their own romance.

Carson and Olivia search and find so many possible Sarahs.  Edmund just will not give up on the possibility of finding his second true love in life, no matter how cynical Carson is about it.

The world-building and secondary characters in this story are very well done and it was easy getting caught up in it.

I loved that Olivia wasn’t a kick-butt heroine born with a sword in one hand and a blaster in the other.  Despite no experience, her maternal instincts rang true and she bonded well with Danny.

The scar tissue on Carson’s heart was believable for a single dad in his situation, though I really didn’t find his personality appealing.  It was just a ‘not my cup of tea’ kind of thing.  You know me, I’m more of a George of the Jungle kind of girl.  Although, I found the hero of Ms. Maxwell’s other book, The Detective’s 8 lb, 10 oz Surprise, very appealing and he didn’t swing through the trees in a loincloth.

Anyway…

Like I said, I’ve read another one of Meg Maxwell’s books.  I can tell you she’s a reliable author if you’re looking for Contemporary Romance, especially novels with single parents in them.  She has about six of them now, looks like.

Happy reading!

http://www.harlequin.com/storeitem.html?iid=68995

 

Review: THE GOVERNESS’S SECRET BABY by Janice Preston

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*This is the first book review I’ve written in a very long time.  It is by no means a professional review.  I buy the books I review and I only review books I at least like, which is why my reviews are always positive.*

I wanted this book from the first time I saw the cover.  Isn’t it gorgeous?  Harlequin Historicals are almost always blessed with beautiful cover art.  So, I checked out the book first to see if the titular governess was, in fact, a governess.  And not a glorified babysitting gold-digger.  I hate that.  Yep, Grace is young, but she successfully completed a training program for governesses.  You don’t do that in any century, unless you’re dedicated.  Next, I needed to make sure the child was more than cute luggage.  She is.  And the Hero?  Was he involved with the baby?  Check.  So, I read the book.

Orphaned, Grace Bertram was brought up comfortably by her uncle and aunt, but not with love.  As a naïve teenager, she fell prey to a sweet-talking boy who convinced her that he loved her.  But, as is often the case, he took off when he found out she was pregnant.  With no law or ethos or social program to help, she was compelled to place her baby girl for adoption.  Back then, of course, that meant a closed adoption, she wouldn’t know who parented her child.

But, she had a plan.  Hardly a kick-butt heroine, Grace finds her own courage and purpose nonetheless.  You know, like most of us not born with a sword in our hands.  She was of sufficient social class and financial means to undergo training to become governess.  (Otherwise, she would’ve been lucky to end up a nursery maid under the charge of a nanny.)  This would ensure her survival without marriage, of course, but most importantly she would find her daughter.

Nathaniel was an heir with a lot to spare, but his father was killed in the same fire which scarred his face.  He shut himself away, fearing the scorn of others.  Especially female others.  But, then, his beloved sister and her husband died too, leaving him guardian of their adopted toddler.  After all this heartache, he decided to give this precious child the family and home he lacked.  But, he’d need some help.

Following a tip, Grace discovered that her baby had been adopted and then orphaned, like her, and sent to live with a grim uncle.  Despite the loneliness of life in a dark mansion tucked away in Northern England, she jumped at the chance.  Her plan had worked!  She’d found her daughter and could now raise her.

The fact that she was actually Clare’s birthmother would stay secret.  It’s presumably the only way to keep her with Clare.

Despite Nathaniel’s misgivings, Grace doesn’t recoil at his appearance.  She’s young, but affectionate towards Clare.  And she’s pretty.  He’d hardly be a heterosexual male if he didn’t notice that.  Of course, he wonders why she’d agree to such a gloomy post when her governess friend snagged a glamorous gig working for royalty in another, much warmer and dryer, country.

Soon, they’re playing Chess and he’s finding excuses to be around her, like teaching her to drive the carriage to town.  It’s kinda scary.  The local preacher pops up, all young and handsome, and doesn’t make it any easier.

Nathaniel really isn’t my type, as heroes go.  I’m more into the tall, boyishly handsome goofball type with the…finely…sculpted…

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…backside.  What were we talking about?  Oh!  Right.  Sorry.

This is a ‘Beauty & the Beast’ kind of story, so the hero’s the tortured ‘how can anyone love me’ kind of guy.

I loved that Nathaniel decided to hire a governess instead of a nanny, because he recognized that Clare would quickly outgrow a nanny and lose that loving person.  Instead, he decided to hire one person capable of fulfilling both roles.  Also, he spends time with Clare during a historical time period when men hardly bothered with their own legitimate, biological offspring.  He turns his pain into compassion instead of resentment.

Grace is very young and sweet and I love that it’s her maternal instinct which drives her forward.  I am so sick of kick-butt heroines who were seemingly born that way.  Who can relate to that?  Most of us need to grow up and gain confidence through experience.

The big secret that Grace is actually Clara’s mother eventually breaks, of course, but only to Nathaniel.  Of course, he ought to dismiss her by the standards of the day.  But, too late, he’s in love with her.  Can’t let her go.  More than that, can’t let his mommy find out either.  ‘Mama Bear’ already worries Grace is trying to snag him for his money, ’cause she saw how he looked at her.  Can’t let on that he’s in love with Grace ’cause she’d just hate him.  Then, an accident forces his hand and he’s got to come clean.

I loved the twist that the governess is secretly the baby’s mother, kind of like Mrs. Doubtfire, a parent willing to do anything to be with his or her child.

I’d put the Heat Level at Sensual.  The couple do make love.  It’s believable and not graphically detailed.  Nothing gross or stupid, no need to skip that part.  😉

Here is this book’s page on Ms. Preston’s website, with links to various outlets-   https://janicepreston.co.uk/my-books-2/the-governesss-secret-baby/

I like to buy direct from Harlequin.  It’s very difficult to find Historical Romance in my local stores, the site calculates Rewards points for me, and my money lets the publisher know she should publish more books by my favorite authors.  😉  http://www.harlequin.com/storeitem.html?iid=67688

The other books in the Governess Tales are listed with this book on the Harlequin site.  I haven’t read them.  Here are their book covers:

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