This Heart of Mine (Whiskey Creek)
This Heart of Mine is a beautiful story of redemption. Phoenix Fuller goes to jail, not for killing her ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend, but for daring to be different in a small town. Her ex-boyfriend Riley Stinson is the handsome and popular boy next door, a product of the white picketfencers with means. No one ever really liked Phoenix but Riley, so when the town sees a way to get rid of her, they do. The only problem is—Phoenix didn’t do it. She knows it, he suspects it, but they are seventeen, scared and the kind of stupid only teenagers can be. Fast forward sixteen years. Neither is a teen anymore, and when Phoenix is released (finally!) from prison, the only thing she wants is a relationship with their now-teenage son, Jacob.
Phoenix is a character you can easily root for; she has heart, guts, and a gritty vulnerability that, instead of making her pitiable, makes her strong and charismatic. Riley is a leading man you want to smack upside the head. And Jacob, like so many children, is the glue. This is a beautiful and enjoyable read that adds dimension to the often flat genre of romance.
The Dordogne Deception
When a romance novel opens not with a crime of passion, but a conspired, premeditated murder, there should be no doubt that the book is not your typical boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love and live happily ever after fairytale. The Dordogne Deception is a sordid, dark romantic thriller.
Most of the book is told from two perspectives: Brett, who is investigating the death of his friend/mentor, and Cherise, who is living a fairytale life in a French chateau. These two have never met and have no idea that their lives will unexpectedly clash together, which may cost both of them their lives. The two different viewpoints occur concurrently, which gives readers the advantage of knowing much more than the characters making the convergence of the perspectives that much more exciting.
Sherry Joyce gives enough backstory for each character so that readers will understand their personalities and motivations. Cherise is trying to overcome the shock of her sudden divorce and trying to make a fresh start by buying a bed and breakfast in the French countryside. Francois is looking for an unsuspecting, vulnerable, wealthy woman to target next in his lifelong scheme of acquiring wealth. Brett is a retired Scotland Yard detective who is trying to get back in the world after the death of his wife. Diana is a young opportunist whose goal in life is to find a rich man to take care of her. Joyce does an amazing job of weaving the lives of these four people together in a wonderfully surprising mix of tragedy and getting another chance at love.
The pace of the book is a bit sluggish at times, but the primary reason for that is because the reader can feel the anxiety of the characters and you want to beg for relief from the tension. You will be eager for the story to peak when all of the secrets get revealed and the characters show their true colors.
The Dordogne Deception is a masterfully written plot that will appeal to readers who enjoy books of the romance and suspense/thriller genres alike. The combination of lies, conspiracy, betrayal, murder, heartache, and love with a touch of the whimsical, all set against the backdrops of the English and French countryside’s is a wonderful surprise and delight for readers.
A Palace in Peking
A Palace in Peking by Margaret Zee is a story of friendship and love set against the rich background of old China. Daria Krasnova is sent away from home after an interlude with a boy in the back of a car. Her mother’s upcoming remarriage makes Daria too much for her to handle, so she sends Daria to Peking, where she lives with a family distantly connected to her step-family and attends school. One of the young men of the house, David Clierce, befriends her, but their friendship deepens unexpectedly, and this young man becomes someone she will follow to the ends of the earth.
This underappreciated novel is written with a framework that gives it a very classical feel. That, combined with the depictions of characters, who feel almost Dickensian in their idiosyncrasies, though with a definite Chinese bent, also lends it a strong feeling of having descended from literary works. But Daria is no Miss Havisham, for all that Peking has a crumbling feel of old traditions preparing to split apart. All of this works strongly in the book’s favor, creating an intriguing read that will likely appeal to readers who appreciate literary novels.
The greatest strength of this novel is the author’s great passion for the place, the great detail she weaves seamlessly into the storyline, and yet her restraint at not letting her passion for place overshadow the characters. First and foremost, she tells an interesting, character-driven story, and, secondly, she works in Peking and China. With Zee’s obvious interest in Chinese history, Peking in particular, it would have been easy for a less capable author to wander off into the weeds and dump a bunch of information on the reader. Instead, Zee imparts information subtly, giving readers brief, relevant glimpses into Chinese society, carefully layering her story in such a way so that over-informing never becomes an issue. She keeps her story about people, with Peking working a rich backdrop, giving the characters a fully imagined and capably drawn stage to perform their drama.
A Palace in Peking is best described as a sleeper novel, one that is easy to overlook, but one that shouldn’t be, because it is rich and full of many things for readers to enjoy. With its themes of love, loss, belonging, and the experience of the foreigner set against the striking time and place of Peking in the 1930s, this book is surprisingly readable, well-told, and nicely put together, making it a book readers should not ignore.
My Girlfriend is a Con Artist
There is a suggested template of novel or novella writing that the writer should effectively summarize the entire plot to come on the first page and, if he is really on his game, do it in the first paragraph. If that idea is new to you and sounds shocking or somehow wrong, doing just that won Julian Barnes the Man Booker Prize in 2011 for The Sense of an Ending. Or, there was Erich Segal’s monster best-seller Love Story in 1970 that began with, ‘What can you say about a twenty-five-year-old girl who died?’ However, it takes a certain kind of gutsy authorship to lay it all out to the reader with the title. Flint Osborne’s girlfriend is a con artist. Read on!
And of course one does read on, because just as one always knew that Columbo was going to catch the murderer who had planned the near-perfect crime, the fun is in the getting there and not the arrival at the destination. Here in the pages of My Girlfriend is a Con Artist there is quite a lot of fun to be had, if this novella is taken in that light-hearted way.
Although Crane does not write in the style of Mickey Spillane or Raymond Chandler – all those short, clipped sentences – his private detective Flint is very much a descendant of Mike Hammer or Sam Spade. Flint’s clients are an eccentric lot, and eccentrically named too; it’s been awhile since we’ve run across names like Gullie Bowl or Ms. Jai Gantic, yet that is just a nod to the reader to please just play along and don’t be overly concerned about repeat concussion syndrome when our man Flint gets bonked unconscious. When he awakens, he awakes to a bonking of another sort, so all in a day’s work then.
The plot centers on Flint’s solving two cases. His wealthy father has asked him to look into the business affairs of a former Prada model and current dress designer named Melanie Sparks. Melanie has asked Daddy Osborne to put $500,000 into her garment company in return for a 10% share of the business. I don’t think she would fare very well on Shark Tank, as Flint soon finds out. Meanwhile, his former girlfriend Madison is the subject of a murder investigation, the victim being Flint’s successor as her boyfriend. Complications arise.
There are laughs to be had in My Girlfriend is a Con Artist, and the plots will keep the pages turning as well. Crane has produced a fine, light-hearted read.
Rising from the Ashes
Rising from the Ashes tells a story of trauma and triumph with characters that will touch your heart and stay with you long after the last page. At age 17, Christina McIntyre suffers an unimaginable traumatic event that she physically survives but scars her deeply. After years spent healing and being guarded with the help of her parents, she suffers yet another tragedy. Blessed with a kind, caring, and understanding boss, Tina (the name she adopts after her first trauma) finds safety, friendship, and solace at work. At home, she finds these same things in a secure apartment with a full-time housekeeper and bodyguard who have become her family. Focused on her career and advancing in her company, Tina is thrown for a loop when her boss introduces her to Cliff, a contractor. As Tina learns more about Cliff’s character and strong belief in faith and family, she begins to let her guard down. After keeping men and personal relationships at a distance for so long, does Cliff hold the key to unlocking Tina’s heart and help her learn to love laugh and trust again?
Powerful and moving are the best words to describe Rising from the Ashes. Through her detailed and deliberate writing, she brings to life the horrific, healing, and ultimately wonderful events that Tina experiences throughout the book. While some scenes are graphic in nature and may make some feel uncomfortable, they have a purpose and are not simply gratuitous. It is clear that these scenes are necessary for readers to truly experience Tina’s journey. These scenes also give the book a tangible quality that will touch readers in many different ways. From anger and heartbreak, to compassion, faith and rejoicing, it is clear that Wells’ intention was not only to tell a story about a girl, but to invite her readers into the story so that they can experience and take this journey first with just Tina and then with both Tina and Cliff. This book is definitely one that should not be missed.
Set in the backdrops of a small California countryside, Claire McEwen creates a light and second chance romance that can’t be tamed. In this beautiful and heart tugging tale of two former lovers reuniting, Ms. McEwen saddles up her readers as we are thrown in a whirlwind romance that weaves forgiveness, new beginnings, love, and the incorporation of horses, hence the title: Wild Horses.
Nora Hoffman and her younger brother, Wade had to live with the stigma of being a Hoffman. Her family is synonymous with TROUBLE. Her father and her other brothers had to flee to Mexico after swindling and robbing folks of their hard earned cash and then Nora’s mother ran off to marry someone else. So Nora, didn’t have the best life growing up as she made sacrifices for her and Wade so they wouldn’t be associated with their family troubles. Nora worked hard to provide everything for her and her brother. But little does Nora know that sometimes you can’t escape the past–especially if comes stampeding your way.
Todd Williams is a man on a mission: to rescue and conserve the wild horses and set them free. This wild stallion of a man is not someone who can be easily tamed–that is, until he reunites with his ex-girlfriend, Nora Hoffman. When Nora catches Todd setting horses free, she is conflicted about what to do since her job lies in the balance. As Nora continues to spend time with Todd, she begins to see his point of view on why these horses need to be set free in the wild, but at the same time tries to reason with him about his methods. Like the wild horses that needs to be set free, Claire McEwen sets forth a romance that will stampede right into your hearts as it grips you with its raw, emotional undertones of letting love in. I don’t read many Western Romances but I found Wild Horses to be quite entertaining as Claire McEwen saddled up her readers for one charming and wholesome love story.