California Girls by Susan Mallery

Hello Friends! I can finally, finally say I’ve read a novel by Susan Mallery. She is an author that I have followed for a while now since my journey began of reading romance, but that I’m just now getting around to reading…

California Girls

Published February 26, 2019 by Mira Books

4/5 Stars

 

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Synopsis:

The California sunshine’s not quite so bright for three sisters who get dumped in the same week…

Finola, a popular LA morning show host, is famously upbeat until she’s blindsided on live TV by news that her husband is sleeping with a young pop sensation who has set their affair to music. While avoiding the tabloids and pretending she’s just fine, she’s crumbling inside, desperate for him to come to his senses and for life to go back to normal.

Zennie’s breakup is no big loss. Although the world insists she pair up, she’d rather be surfing. So agreeing to be the surrogate for her best friend is a no-brainer—after all, she has an available womb and no other attachments to worry about. Except…when everyone else, including her big sister, thinks she’s making a huge mistake, being pregnant is a lot lonelier—and more complicated—than she imagined.

Never the tallest, thinnest or prettiest sister, Ali is used to being overlooked, but when her fiancé sends his disapproving brother to call off the wedding, it’s a new low. And yet Daniel continues to turn up “for support,” making Ali wonder if maybe—for once—someone sees her in a way no one ever has.

But side by side by side, these sisters will start over and rebuild their lives with all the affection, charm and laugh-out-loud humor that is classic Susan Mallery.

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My Thoughts:

While reading this book, I secretly wished I was reading it with a group of girlfriends. I’m not always a fan of the label, “Women’s fiction,” but I am a fan of finding the right book to read with a group of girlfriends. This one would’ve made a perfect buddy read.

Creating a story that follows more than one perspective can be tricky, but when done well, can be awesome. Susan Mallery does a fantastic job of creating this plot line where right off the bat, we meet three sisters as they’re being dumped. From there we follow each one through the aftermath of being newly single, as they navigate their relationships with each other, as they navigate their relationships with their mother and moving on. I think Mallery does an amazing job of keeping each sister’s individual stories interesting enough to where I wasn’t preferring one story line over any of the others.

I didn’t expect to laugh out loud as much as I did while reading this book. Each sister felt very realistic with how flawed they were, and oh their Mom! I looked forward to the scenes with their mother because although she could be very unlikeable at times, you as the reader understand she wants to see her daughter’s married and giving her grandchildren. You understand this, while also being very unaware of how unlikely this is due to each sister’s situation.

In the midst of each sister being dumped, I like that Mallery was also able to squeeze in true to life sisterhood emotions, feelings.. Things aren’t always glitter and gold when it comes to sisters and I liked that the author didn’t attempt to make it seem like these sisters had no baggage or elephants in the room when it came to their relationship. They could be selfish. They could say the wrong things. They didn’t necessarily speak everyday.

Romance wise, I enjoyed the bits of romance in this book. When it came to the romances, I enjoyed seeing the sisters have to find themselves before that happened. I was a tad nervous when I started the book, knowing I’d be following three different women..I was nervous things would feel rushed. I’m happy to report that, that’s not at all how I felt. Each storyline felt wrapped up in a way that left me feeling satisfied in the end.

Overall I enjoyed this book. I’m happy it was my introduction into the world of Susan Mallery. I have friends who love just about everything she has written, so I’m excited to continue on and read more by her.

xo,

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Some Sort of Love by Melanie Harlow

You know the feeling when you’ve read the first two books in the trilogy, and you’re Positive that there’s no way that the this book is going to live up to the first two? Like, there’s no way all three books can be good? I was very nervous as I began reading Some Sort of Love by Melanie Harlow. The first two books in this trilogy were basically awesome and that made me weary about the third. Melanie Harlow yet again, has me gracefully taking several seats because not only did I love Some Sort of Love, but it’s my favorite out of all three reads.

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Synopsis:

From the outside looking in, I had it all—a career I loved, a supportive family, the Nixon metabolism but not the Nixon ears, and a salary that supported my lavish taste in designer shoes, fine wine, and lacy lingerie … but I had no one to share it with.
Until the day I ran into him—my one night stand from college with the crooked smile, let’s-get-out-of-here eyes, and dirty, dirty mouth.
Cute and cocky then, today Levi Brooks is six feet four inches of hot bearded fantasy. A sexy single dad with broad shoulders, strong hands, and a fantastically big … heart. (I mean, it’s massive. And generous. And it pumps so hard … um. Sorry. Lost my place.)
Being a good father means everything to him, but he’s keeping me at a distance because he thinks I deserve someone better — a man who can give me more time, more attention, more of himself. He doesn’t believe he could ever be enough.
But he’s wrong.
He’s everything

 

My Thoughts:

Some Sort of Love felt like riding the biggest ride at the state fair, in the front seat with a blind fold on! Jillian and Levi had a one night standish/in the closet/in college situation once upon a time and haven’t seen each other since. Until years later and they find themselves as guests at the same wedding.

The romance picks up very quickly. Things get hot and heavy pretty quickly. These two are perfect for each other, and I realized that very quickly. What stirred up my emotions in this book though was Levi. Levi is a single father taking care of his son Scottie who is autistic. As the mother of a special needs child, I felt his frustrations and hesitations in my core. I felt Harlow did a wonderful job writing Levi and Scottie. As the reader you really get to see Levi struggling to find the balance between being attentive with Scottie who he has always put first because he needs him, and falling in love with Jillian.

I enjoyed seeing things from Jillian’s perspective. I was very frustrated on her behalf because Levi at a certain point began treating her like a “side dish,” as her sisters put it. He was so nervous about introducing Jillian to Scottie that all she was getting from him was there Friday night rendezvous.

“I didn’t need everything but I needed more.” 

This romance really explored the concept of trusting someone. Levi had to let his guard down and trust Jillian. Thanks to Scottie’s Mom, he has his reasons to be hesitant the way he is and I enjoyed seeing the many different backlashes from mistrust after being hurt.

With this following three sisters and their romances, I was happy to finally get older sister Jillian’s romance. I admire the sisterhood between the three characters. It was refreshing to read. In a world where the more strain the relationship the better, it is so nice to read of a sisterly bond with no drama.  I also really liked Levi’s sister and how supportive she is.  Levi’s Mom too. She and Levi had been a bit strained due to his outlook on how she periodically stepped her boundaries when it comes to Scottie. My respect for her grew though.

I am sad to see this trilogy come to a close, but it makes me excited to continue on with what I can find by Melanie Harlow. I loved this book. I loved the families. I loved the romance. Its definitely worth the read if you’re looking for a romance you can easily get lost in and finish in a day or two.

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Review: Heart of the Hunter by Madeline Baker

Heart of the Hunter by Madeline Baker

Dorchester Publishing/1994

3/5 Stars

Source: I read this story as part of the anthology, Enchanted Crossings

Plot Summary:

Kelly McBride is torn between two men—one an ex-con who she’s not sure she trusts, the other the spirit of an Indian who’s been dead for over a hundred years.

Lee Roan Horse and Blue Crow are men with two things in common—they’re both in love with Kelly and they both want the gold hidden on her ranch. When treasure hunters come searching for the gold, Lee and Blue Crow are determined to keep Kelly safe, even if it means they have to defy death to do it.

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My Thoughts:

I have debated since finishing Heart of the Hunter if I should just wait and review this entire anthology as one, or share my thoughts on this one specific story. I finally decided to just go with my gut and here we are.

At the used book store I go to there are always boxes of these Native American romances. None which appear to be own voices but I understand this was sort of a craze once upon a time. Me, being curious, I have been intrigued but also pretty hesitant with reading one. I am very much in the mood for older romances at the moment, but I know the romance genre has a lot to answer for, when it comes to diversity and the way people have been portrayed.

When I came across this anthology however, and read the synopsis for Heart of the Hunter which is the only story out of this anthology with Native American characters, I didn’t get a bad vibe. Point blank, I didn’t want to read anything racist or disrespectful.

Kelly is a likeable character. She has inherited this ranch with mountains and a cave on it, which houses the remains of Blue Crow. Blue Crow was a Native American warrior who lost his life in a tussle with the friend of one of Kelly’s distant relatives. While signing paperwork and handling all the legalities to finally be able to 100%  call the ranch home, Lee Roan Horse comes to her asking if he can purchase the ranch from her. Lee Roan Horse feels the ranch should be his, being the land belonged to his people. Initially though, all he sought was the gold in the cave which after all these years has been guarded by the spirit of Blue Crow.

One thing Madeline Baker does in this book that I was able to appreciate was her appropriately writing Lee Roan Horse, a Native American male in contemporary times and his struggle with opening up to Kelly. It doesn’t take long for the two to develop an attraction, but Lee Roan Horse has already been burned by a white woman before, so he plays it safe with Kelly. He really keeps their relationship about business. When he was younger, a white girl had a big crush on him. He turned her down and turned her down. Eventually he gave in and they were caught. She was Melinda, and when her father caught her and Lee Roan Horse, she cried rape. I honestly wouldn’t have expected this story line which I can only imagine had to have been the truth for so many men of color, to show up in this book, but I appreciated that it was there. It was a completely understandable reason behind why Lee kept his distance.

I really liked the paranormal element to this book. Blue Crow has been guarding the gold that was buried in the cave with his body for over a hundred years. Besides guarding the gold, once he meets Kelly, he realizes he has also spent all of this time waiting for her.

“I have waited for you my whole life, and now that I have found you, I know you can never be mine.”

Reading the scenes between Kelly and Blue Crow had me really thinking about the trope of star crossed lovers and how sometimes it seems almost impossible for two people who are meant to be together to actually be together. The attraction between Blue Crow and Kelly is so intense, and it’s almost intensified because of the fact that it can’t be.

“tears coursing down her cheeks because she’d fallen in love with the one man she couldn’t have, a man who wasn’t a man at all, but a ghost.”

For a while there is sort of a love triangle between Kelly, Lee Roan Horse and Blue Crow.

“Kelly frowned in confusion. She loved Blue Crow, not Lee, yet she felt the same desire for both men.”

There was something frustrating about Kelly’s “confusion.” There were scenes where she would be burning with desire for Lee, but things would back fire, he’d push her away and she’d run into the ghostly but solid arms of Blue Crow. At the same time, she is a grown woman and I am all for celebrating her choosing to do what she pleases with her sexuality.

There are some snakes behind the scene who are also out for the gold on Kelly’s land. Towards the end of this story, things really take some unexpected twists which I enjoyed. It added a different element and felt like a break from the back and forth of this “love triangle.”

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The ending to this story is what I think really blew me away. It is a paranormal romance so I can totally see some people rolling their eyes at the ending but I am a complete sucker for it. This is the type of paranormal storyline I am seeking; one with characters defying boundaries of life and time to be with the person they are meant to spend their life with.

xoxo,

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Reading As A Busy Mom

Hello Friends! One question I get asked often is how I juggle reading with working full time and being a Mom of three.  My husband and I are both active duty military in a career field that doesn’t work your typical Monday through Friday 8-5.  There are a lot of 12-14 hour days and long work weekends.  Add on having three young kids who demand quite a bit of attention, wanting to blog, wanting to take photos and post to Instagram and Youtube, I can understand the question of, “How do you juggle it all?” So I wanted to share some of my tips, or things I do to squeeze reading into my already busy life.

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  1. I posted the above photo because it was around the time that I read The Wedding Date, that I became serious about the advice I’ve heard from so many online friends to, “Always have a book with you.” I have found this piece of advice very helpful. If I know I have a doctors appointment or will be somewhere with some down time..even if as a family we are driving somewhere, I always have a book with me for those moments I’m able to read a few pages.
  2. Continuing on with always having a book with me, I highly recommend downloading the Kindle App to your phone if you are a Kindle user. I have the app on my Ipad and IPhone. Having the app on your phone is so convenient.  For those days when I can’t bring a physical book with me, I still have all my ebooks on my phone thanks to the Kindle app which comes in handy for those few moments throughout the day I am able to squeeze in some reading.
  3. One word: Audiobooks. I know there are still a lot of people who don’t really vibe with audiobooks. I thought for the longest that I was one of those people. I think what helped me was before I read my first audiobook, I had already spent about a year listening to Podcasts. So I was already used to listening to people talk. I have friends who read 6,7,8 books a week sometimes thanks to audiobooks. I usually listen to mine on 2x speed and depending on what I have going on, can usually finish one in 2 to 3 days. Now, where do I listen to them? My commute to work is only about 10 minutes. Regardless though, I listen while driving to and from work. Depending on what I’m doing at the gym, I occasionally listen while there. I listen while prepping and cooking meals. I have a speaker I purchased from Walmart so  I’m able to listen while taking a shower or sitting in the bath. While putting awa laundry I’m listening, while cleaning the house, I’m listening. I pretty much listen whenever and wherever I can.
  4. I find ways to keep myself excited about reading. I find the more I keep myself excited about reading, the more I stay motivated to incorporate it as much as I can into my day to day. To keep myself excited, I’ll read blog posts by friends to see what they’re excited about. I may listen to one of the bookish Podcasts I listen to or watch one of my favorite Youtubers who talk about books. I think excitement and happiness can be contagious. Seeing someone else excited about something they read definitely inspires me to continue reading and find the next thing that excites me.
  5. Try reading more than one book at a time. I used to be a one book at a time kind of girl. I admire people who can focus on one book at a time, but I have grown into one who reads multiple books at once. Sometimes you’re just not in the mood for the one book you may have set aside to read. If you’re not in the mood for it, but still want to read, pick up something else. I have found in a strange way, this keeps me interested in everything I am reading and has upped the amount of books I have been able to read a year.
  6. Do buddy reads. If you’re already part of a real life book club, that’s great and pretty much the same thing but if not, find a friend and let them know you’re interested in reading something with them. All of the buddy reads I have done have been with online friends and we share our thoughts via the Voxer App. I love buddy reads. Even though you’re reading the same book, everyone interprets things differently. It is always cool to see how someone else viewed a situation. Buddy reads have really helped me read books that I probably would have not finished or maybe not even started had I went at it alone. Usually with buddy reads you set a page count or chapter count for the day and to keep up it kind of forces you to make time to read so you can share your thoughts with everyone. And they are just so much fun, especially if you’re reading a really fun book or one that causes a lot of discussion.

 

I hope these little pieces of advice help. They are just some of the main things I have done to help balance being a full time working mom of three with my love of reading. When it all comes down to it, incorporate reading any way you can into your everyday life. Whether listening to an audiobook while cooking dinner or having a book in your bag to read while waiting for your doctor’s appointment to start, make the time to read what you can when you find the moments to do so.

Until next time Friends, take care of yourselves. xoxo.signature

Review: The Inn At Rose Harbor by Debbie Macomber

The Inn At Rose Harbor by Debbie Macomber

August 14, 2012

Ballantine Books

4/5 Stars

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My first legit romance novel was by Debbie Macomber and I have been fascinated by this woman ever since! Initially when I decided to read romance I assumed romance novels were all going to be super uncomfortably heavy on the sexy times. I have no problems with sex scenes but they’re not something I insist on having in my books either.  So I have really grown to appreciate how fulfilled I am after reading Mrs. Macomber’s novels.  What she does a wonderful job at is creating stories in very cozy settings, throwing in descriptions of food that make you realize how hungry you are for a good home cooked meal, with very relatable characters.

 

Plot Summary:

The Rose Harbour Inn welcomes you to Cedar Cove…

From the minute she sees the Rose Harbour Inn, Jo Marie Barlow knows that this is the place that will help her find the peace she craves. And if the inn can comfort her, surely it can offer the same refuge to her first two guests.

Joshua Weaver has come home to care for his ailing stepfather. The two have never seen eye to eye, but a long-lost acquaintance proves to him that forgiveness is not out of reach and love can bloom in the unlikeliest places.

Abby Kinkaid left Cedar Cover twenty years ago after a devastating accident. But as she reconnects with family and old friends, she realizes that she needs to let the past go if she is to embrace her future.

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Firstly, about half way through reading The Inn At Rose Harbor, I started to get the feeling that I probably should have read Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove series prior to starting this one. But oh well, right? I can always go back and read that one later.

A big theme in this book is grief which I have come to really admire the way Debbie Macomber explores it. Now, I am completely in it for the romance just as much as the next person, but there is something special about seeing a character work through the darkness surrounding them and the romance being a big part of the light at the end of the tunnel.

In The Inn At Rose Harbor our three main characters are all grappling with their own stuff. Jo Marie is grieving the loss of her husband Paul whose helicopter crashed while deployed to Afghanistan. She has used the money he left to her to purchase the bed and breakfast she soon after calls Rose Harbor Inn.  Josh is back to take care of his stepfather Richard in his last days of life. This is difficult for Josh because Richard wasn’t very nice to Josh while he was growing up, and Josh didn’t try to make their relationship an easy one either. Abby is back for her brother’s upcoming wedding. Abby and her best friend were in a car accident when they were 19 after Abby’s car hit a an ice patch in the road. A mixture of her best friend’s parents blaming her and the small town rumor mill caused Abby to leave Cedar Cove with no intentions of coming back. Until her brother decides to not only get married, but to get married there.

I felt this was a good first book to a new series. While reading, I really got the sense that it was a book setting up more stories. Jo Marie buying the Inn and changing the name to Rose Harbor Inn symbolized a fresh start for her while also keeping the memory of her husband Paul alive. Jo Marie’s first guests are Josh and Abby who are both overcoming ghosts from their pasts. All three of these characters under the same roof and seeing the outcome kind of solidifies for Jo Marie that she wants her Inn to be a place where people can relax and start to heal if that’s what they need.

Of course I had to pay extra attention to the many forms of love in this story. I loved how Jo Marie had been picky with men until meeting Paul. When she met him, it felt for her as though she bypassed all the ones she did, in anticipation for Paul. She instantly knew he was the one. But love can be taken from you. My heart went out to her. They were still early into their marriage when Paul lost his life.  Enjoy each moment because you never know how much time you have with someone.

Abby loved her best friend Angela so much. It crushed her when they had their accident and Abby lived while Angela died instantly. What made it worse was the aftermath; Angela’s parents no longer wanting to speak to her, all the rumors and losing her best friend. Abby basically stopped living her life out of guilt. She stopped dating and hanging out with friends feeling guilty that Angela no longer got to experience these things.  We see Abby realize she has to make peace with the accident and make peace with Angela’s parents. Once she does this, you immediately get the sense of weight being lifted from her shoulders and she allows a love interest from the past to flirt with her a bit!

Josh is the character I felt had the biggest happy ending in this book. His stepfather was a real jerk to him. We learn though that Richard, his stepfather truly loved Theresa, who was Josh’s mother. And in a way both men competed for her attention and this caused a rift between them. There is a woman named Michelle who helps Josh out during his stepfather’s last days. Michelle had always been known to be a love interest of Josh’s stepbrother Dylan’s but she tells Josh that Dylan was actually very cruel to her. So her and Josh hit it off. We see Josh having to learn to pay attention to the wonderful opportunities and people looking him in the face.

The Inn At Rose Harbor is a wonderfully told story with very well written characters. The character development in this story was done so well. And Debbie Macomber has the ability to create an environment that makes me want to just pack a 72 hour bag, buy a plane ticket and head for the nearest thing to her fictionalized location that I can find! This story is also big a reminder that you never know what someone is going through and how at some point, to move on, we have to make peace with whatever has been taunting us.

I could go on and on about this book, I hope these thoughts of mine made sense! Share any recommendations you have for me of stories well written that deal with grief. As always, take care of yourselves, and until my next post-xoxo

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