Tag: Contemporary Romance (page 1 of 3)

Good at Games by Jill Mansell

Good at Games by Jill MansellGood at Games by Jill Mansell
Published by Headline Review on January 4th 2001
Genres: Chick Lit
Pages: 512
Source: Borrowed: ebook

Love is always just around the corner in a Jill Mansell novel - with a few surprises and a lot of humour on the way to happiness

Suzy fell for Harry the moment she showed him her husband's sperm sample. It didn't really belong to her husband, though, because she wasn't married. It wasn't a sperm sample either, it was a drinks carton containing the dregs of her milkshake. But when you're trying to get off a speeding charge you just have to improvise, don't you? And it wasn't actually love at first sight. Still, it was undeniably a healthy attack of lust...

I will have to come back and think of a pithy title for this review some other time. For now, I am just going to go with the title of the book. I honestly don’t have much to say about this book besides finding it boring as sin and also very rage inducing at times. I do love my romance reads, but from the beginning I found the whole premise of this book a bit hard to take. It made me think of a grown up Dawson’s Creek (and a truly terrible 90210) since most of the people in this book were married, divorced, or had sex with each other at certain times. You do want to say to them all don’t you know anyone else? I only talk to a handful of people I knew in high school. My circle of friends from undergrad and grad school is even smaller.


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“Good at Games” follows Suzy, Jaz, Fee, Rory, Lucille, Harry, and Leo. There’s Jaz’s girlfriend Celeste and Suzy and Rory’s sister Julia, but this book is overly long so don’t expect me to discuss them much.

The main character is supposedly Suzy, but honestly this book shifts perspective so much I just consider her one of many of the characters “Good at Games” follows.

Suzy works with her brother Rory in his real estate business. After Suzy uses the worst excuse ever to get out of a traffic ticket (her husband and her are running to have her impregnated with his sperm which was in a drink cup from a fast food place) Suzy daydreams about the hot cop (Harry). Suzy then runs into Harry at a party (doesn’t give him her information) and later on when she and her siblings (Rory and Julia) are getting ready to listen to their mother’s will being read. There they find out their mother had an affair and had another child, Suzy’s half sister Lucille. While that seems like a lot, it’s nothing when you factor in Suzy living next door with her ex husband’s first wife, Fee and she is still on friendly terms with her ex husband Jaz. Did you follow all of that?

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Through a ridiculous set-up Suzy eventually gets to go out on a date with Harry, but though she likes him, she wonders if that is all there is since she apparently thinks that a man who treats you okay is a terrible boyfriend to have. She wants some fire (drama). Enter Leo, Harry’s older brother who sets up Suzy and honestly shows that she is not someone that anyone should date. Of course Suzy then starts thinking about Leo cause hey when a guy treats you like dirt he is totally the one. Do not even get me started of the many times Leo accuses Suzy of cheating on Harry and practically spiting whore at her.

I honestly don’t even want to get into the other characters. The main premise of the book though is that Suzy finds herself engaged to Harry though she doesn’t want to be. And though Harry initially seemed to be the only one who was a decent character except for Fee, he quickly descends into douche-bag territory so you want Suzy to dump him.

The writing is typical Mansell, but honestly this does not have the humor of her other books. Reading about terrible people doing terrible things gets old after a while. A good part of this book could definitely have been cut.

The flow was off too. I think honestly since the book kept jumping around you honestly don’t know who is doing what to who or why you should care.

The ending though has a HEA for everyone except for two people who honestly I hoped would be eaten by sharks at this point.


Just Say Yes (Escape to New Zealand Book 10) Kindle Edition by Rosalind James

Just Say Yes (Escape to New Zealand Book 10) Kindle Edition by Rosalind JamesJust Say Yes by Rosalind James
on January 31st 2017
Genres: Romance
Pages: 361
Source: Borrowed: ebook

Some fires warm you up. And some burn you down.

Kevin McNicholl may be a brutal force on the rugby field, but off the field, the star New Zealand All Black is a famously nice guy. His new tenant, though, arouses more than his protective side. She sets him on fire. Pity he’s evicting her.

Every woman deserves her dreams. Chloe Donaldson can’t afford dreams, so she's given them up. Marriage, her ballet career, and now, her beautiful tower apartment with its view of the sea. Her new landlord is kicking her out, along with her three-year-old son, Zavy.

She should hate him. But when a man looks at you like that, it’s so easy to lose your focus.

I read this for Romance Book Bingo 2017: New Adult. Yes thank goodness due to the two protagonists being between the ages of 18-30 that this book counts towards that square. 

Eh. That’s all I really have to say about this newest edition to the Escape to New Zealand book. This book missed for me due to lack of chemistry and dialogue between the two leads (Chloe and Kevin). James does a good job with the initial set-up, but then the book just flounders right before it runs into a straight out of Melrose Place plot-line. There were some bits here and there that are classic James that I liked. But I think due to the just okay leads and the terrible ass parents and ex (Chloe’s ex) I just wanted this book to be over as soon as possible. Also there was a sub-plot involving Kevin’s twin sisters and just no. No a thousand times. It messed up the whole rhythm of the book and I felt like they both were being set up to be the focus of future books.

The book starts off with Chloe Davidson standing by to watch her best friend Josie (Just Not Mine, Escape to New Zealand #6) getting married. I think this initially is what caused some of my confusion. This is book #10 in the series, and I honestly haven’t thought too much about Josie and Hugh since then. So to get thrown back to that book and trying to remember who Chloe is and her connection to Josie didn’t quite work. And from there we have Chloe going into another flashback involving what should have been her wedding day. Now here James does sing. I get Chloe’s heartbreak and rightful anger at being dumped (while pregnant) at the altar. From that moment on, Chloe decides she will do whatever it takes to keep her son Zavy safe. That means that Chloe gives up on her dreams to go back to dancing ballet. Instead she opens a ballet school.

Kevin McNicholl plays for the New Zealand All Blacks. A big, strong, red-headed man, his primary focus is rugby, his teammate, and his family. His mind has been on Chloe though since he first saw her more than a year ago when she was having lunch with his teammate. Then again when he saw her at Josie and Hugh’s wedding. Now he decides he is going to do whatever it takes to get Chloe to “take him on.” Blech. Look, Kevin does grow on me. But the way he is introduced is kind of a mess. He’s Chloe’s new landlord, and shows up at her school and kicks her out. But also wants to go on a date.

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Who does that? Seriously. That was one of the main reasons why I initially not feeling this book. It doesn’t help though that James expects readers to remember that somehow these two saw each other 4 books ago either. Both characters recall seeing the other one and feeling something and it doesn’t feel organic at all.  I honestly didn’t get their pull or attraction throughout the entire book. At least the romance scenes were great and I did enjoy seeing how Chloe’s son Zavy was incorporated.

Secondary characters don’t really work in this one. Chloe’s parents pretty much sucked. Her mother being overbearing and deciding she would sneak Chloe’s son off to see his real father was pretty awful. I did like we get to see Chloe growing up and standing up to her parents about her needs though. But seriously, she’s 30, that should have been a conversation way before now. If she was younger I could see how this dynamic worked a bit better. It just didn’t feel real to me since I can’t see how anyone at the age of 30 would be getting bossed by their parents so much.

Chloe’s ex rich was superficially developed. We needed a bad guy, so here is one. Towards the end with the final great Rich is a really terrible person act I just couldn’t buy it.

Kevin’s family was pretty bland for the most part. Due to his twin sisters (Noelle and Holly) living with him though we see them up close and personal. I really wish that James had not included them. I don’t even understand what the hell was going on for the most part between the two of them. And Chloe at times seems cold since she doesn’t want to deal with their brat like behavior towards each other either.

The plot was really about these two people falling in love. The sub-plots dealing with Chloe and her terrible ex, and the twins shake-up among each other were just okay. Maybe if the twins sub-plot were left out things would have worked better. At least the flow improved when it was just Chloe, Kevin, and Zavy. The other stuff thrown in just made the whole book jumbled. James usually does a better job than this with this series so I was surprised. The writing was good. I am used to the Kiwi words/sayings that James uses in her books. Can I say though that I am not a fan of the chapter headings and the heart doodle that accompanied the headings either. I maybe mumbled some bad swear words after a while.

I miss the love of New Zealand that usually comes shining through in these books too. It didn’t feel like the action moved much beyond Kevin and Chloe’s places and Chloe’s school. I fell in love with this series a couple of years ago. Most of the latter books have been hit or miss with me. So this one I am going to count as a miss too.


Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David LevithanNick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn, David Levithan
on May 23rd 2006
Genres: YA
Pages: 183
Source: Borrowed: ebook

So you're a guy; you're at a band show and your ex, the girl who dumped you, walks in with the new guy. Looking for a safe exit, you ask the girl you happen to sitting with to be your girlfriend for five minutes . You're a girl; you're at a get-together and your least favorite female strolls in. The stranger sitting next to you asks you to be his five-minute date. So what do you? You lock lips . Nick and Norah's instant connection begins a roller-coaster "first date" that takes them through Manhattan and into themselves. A novel concept that works.

I read this for Romance Book Bingo 2017: Insta-love square. 

This is going to be a bit ranty so I apologize in advance. I loathed this book. From beginning to end. I can’t believe that a movie that I enjoyed spun off from this source material. I think at one time I wonder how many times Nick said the “f” word and decided I was too lazy to do a search via my Kindle because I just wanted this book to be over. At least it counted towards a romance book bingo. I realized after I finished I could count it towards the insta-love square. I initially was told that this was New Adult. It’s not, it is Young Adult, though due to the actions of this two nitwits you have to think it was for a bunch of middle schoolers.

The book shifts POV between Nick and Norah. I am trying to think of something positive to say. I got nothing. This whole book is just a cliche wrapped in something terrible. Like lima beans. I hate lima beans. So let’s go with this book is wrapped in lima beans. It has been left outside to rot in the sun for seven days as well. And then a dog comes along, sniffs it, carries it away, and buries it in the backyard.

Nick is performing with his band in New York City. He is still recovering from having his heart broken by his ex-girlfriend Tris. When he sees her in the audience with another dude, he pretty much starts spiraling. He goes up to Norah and asks her to be his girlfriend for five minutes in order to make Tris jealous (middle school actions). And then somehow they are kissing and feeling something has happened between them. I don’t think they even told each other their names at this point by the way. Norah finds herself attracted to Nick, but tells herself because of her breakup with her ex Tal (by the way why the hell are these exes names beginning with the letter “T”?) that she is frigid (GOD JUST GET THROUGH THIS SO YOU CAN STOP TALKING ABOUT THIS BOOK) that Nick can’t possibly want to be with a girl like her.

Deep breath.

I maybe started rocking back and forth with the whole frigid talk. Cause I don’t think that the character Norah got what it meant and I am pretty surprised the author didn’t seem to get she was using that word wrong. And don’t get me started on how Nick was the one to get Norah to thaw out. SHUT UP BOOK! Deep breath again.
And considering that Nick at one point was like one freaking second away from never leaving his room again and writing bad break-up poetry, I have some feelings toward the way he was all yes I guess I am no longer in love with Tris. I mean, I have given John Green’s “The Fault in Our Stars” rightful crap for how teens are portrayed, but man. I feel like going back and upping my rating on that book due to this mess.

The secondary characters are Cliche 1, 2, 3, and 4. I refuse to go back and tell you who is who besides Tris who I started calling Cliche 1. Cause apparently, she realizes that Nick loves her too much, and she doesn’t feel that way, so you know, break up. Though she still wants him I think. But she doesn’t. And gives her used to be friend Norah tips on how to kiss by actually kissing her outside. And Norah somehow is getting turned on (and wonders if she is really frigid again).  I at one point wondered did I somehow wonder onto the Literotica site and realized, nope, still reading this book and thought about hunting down the Book gods and sacrificing 10 dictionaries in order to have something like this never happen to me again this year. I can’t read any more terrible books. I may go into a reading slump and not climb out for three months like the year before last.

The plot is just two teens chasing each other around New York playing a game of do you really like me. That’s all I got.

The writing felt and read very amateurish to me too. And repetitive.

“Fuck this.
Fuck this wondering. Fuck this trying and trying. Fuck this belief that two people can become one ideal. Fuck this helplessness. Fuck this waiting for something to happen that probably won’t ever happen.”

“We are the ones who take this thing called music and line it up with this thing called time. We are the ticking, we are the pulsing, we are underneath every part of this moment. And by making the moment our own, we are rendering it timeless. There is no audience. There are no instruments. There are only bodies and thoughts and murmurs and looks. It’s the concert rush to end all concert rushes, because this is what matters. When the heart races, this is what it’s racing towards.”

“My heartbeat accelerates. I am in the here, in the now. I am also in the future. I am holding her and wanting and knowing and hoping all at once. We are the ones who take this thing called music and line it up with this thing called time. We are the ticking, we are the pulsing, we are the underneath every part of this moment. And by making this moment our own, we are rendering it timeless. There is no audience. There are no instruments. There are only bodies and thoughts and murmurs and looks. It’s the concert rush to end all concert rushes, because this is what matters. When the heart races, this is what it’s racing toward.”

The flow of the book was not great either. It just snaps back and forth between Nick and Norah. And since when we see Norah’s POV, Nick seems kind and control, and when we switch to Nick he is too busy thinking of the “f” word or some other damn thing, I was not getting this kind, wise, and sweet guy that she was. Also who the hell falls in love in like a few hours? Ugh. I have to stop, I just want this book done.

New York would not be a place I want to visit after finishing this book. It never comes alive. We have Nick and Norah rushing from points A to B throughout the book and I never got a sense at all where the heck they were. I just gave up and kept reading so I could finally be at the end.

Bah to the whole ending.



Suddenly One Summer by Julie James

Suddenly One Summer by Julie JamesSuddenly One Summer by Julie James
Published by Jove on June 2nd 2015
Genres: Chick Lit, Romance
Pages: 304
Source: Borrowed: ebook

Divorce lawyer Victoria Slade has seen enough unhappy endings to swear off marriage forever. That doesn't mean she's opposed to casual dating—just not with her cocky new neighbor, who is as gorgeous and tempting as he is off-limits. But once she agrees to take on his sister's case, she's as determined to win as ever—even if that means teaming up with Ford…

Investigative journalist Ford Dixon is bent on finding the man who got his sister pregnant and left her high and dry. He's willing to partner with Victoria, despite the fact that the beautiful brunette gets under his skin like no other woman. He might not be looking to settle down, but there's no denying the scorching attraction between them. Still, the more time he spends with Victoria, the more he realizes that the one woman as skeptical about love as he is might be the only woman he could really fall for…

I liked this book. I think there were a couple of things that could have been improved upon (like Ford not being a jerk because a woman doesn’t want to go out with him) but overall liked this a lot. Hot and steamy romance scenes, with two very compelling leads. We had some interesting secondary characters, and a very nice ending showing our couple going forward.

Our heroine in “Suddenly One Summer” is Victoria Slade. Victoria is a high profile divorce attorney (the US Attorney for this story) and has a successful practice. Coming home late one night, she is awoken by the sound of someone(s) breaking into her home. The whole incident brings back bad memories for Victoria and causes her to move out of her home and to temporarily rent a condo until her new condo is available for her to move into. Catching eyes with apparently a man that would would have Superman envying his jaw (that whole line made me laugh and think of a friend) Victoria is intrigued, but has a policy of not dating and has no intention of getting married.

Ford Dixon is an investigative journalist. Due to some recent events in his personal life, things feel a bit upside down. After going to a bar and laying eyes on a hot brunette with legs to die for, Ford wonders if she would be available to soothe some of his hurts.

Of course readers realize that Ford and Victoria have both noticed each other (I wonder if this would count as insta-lust?) but things don’t work out with them, but they quickly do meet again after both realize that Victoria is Ford’s new neighbor.

I had to laugh at Victoria and Ford’s bickering. If anything, I thought Victoria was 100 percent in the right, and Ford kind of sucked a bit here and there. Victoria through no fault of her own, thinks her neighbor is a philandering POS. However, when Ford corrects her, he makes it deeply personal (or at least he did in my eyes). And then gets outraged that she doesn’t want to go out with him. Honestly, this type of stuff is what made me stop reading “It Happened One Wedding.” Nothing sets me off more than a man asking a woman out or hitting on her and then proceeding to act like an ass when she lets you know she’s not interested.

Due to what I consider a little bit of a reach for plot, Victoria and Ford are thrown together. I just hand-waved it away though and just enjoyed it. Of course sparks fly, and both start to open up to each other.

There are some references to characters in other books in Julie James series. I only know that though, because I browsed her books and recalled the first names of some of the characters in her other works. I do want to credit her though for making all of the secondary characters work in this book. Though Ford’s male friends were too dude bro for me at times and kind of annoying.

There is no life or death element to this story. I am not complaining. Sometimes you want to read a romance novel period. The flow was pretty good too.

The setting of Chicago I thought worked well. I am going to say that Victoria talking about her new condo in The Trump Tower just made my lips curl in disgust every time it was brought up in the book. Sorry, due to current events I don’t even want to sit around thinking about trumpets. Back to the book, Chicago comes alive in this book. It’s pretty obvious the author knows about the city and the neighborhoods. I was curious about why certain things were named what they were like Wicker Park and the Gold Coast, but you can’t get everything.

The ending I thought was sweet. We don’t have a typical we are going to run off and get married ending (thank goodness) but instead you see Victoria and Ford moving forward with healing due to both of them having a lot of things to still process and forgive themselves and others for due to their respective childhoods.


What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen

What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah DessenWhat Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen
Published by Viking Children's on May 10th 2011
Genres: YA, Romance
Pages: 402
Source: Borrowed: ebook

Since her parents' bitter divorce, Mclean and her dad, a restaurant consultant, have been on the move—four towns in two years. Estranged from her mother and her mother's new family, Mclean has followed her dad in leaving the unhappy past behind. And each new place gives her a chance to try out a new persona: from cheerleader to drama diva. But now, for the first time, Mclean discovers a desire to stay in one place and just be herself—whoever that is. Perhaps her neighbor Dave, an academic superstar trying to be just a regular guy, can help her find out

I read this for Romance Book Bingo 2017: Guy/Girl Next Door square.

Though I really did enjoy 2 out of the 3 Dessen books I reviewed yesterday, this one fell very short. It has classic Dessen moments (or what I consider classic). However, the flow of this book was pretty bad. It took me a while to get through it, and I am not going to lie, I started skimming a bit last night because I was seriously bored the whole time. I think the main issue was that I was not engaged with Mclean’s love interest (Dave) at all. He was just odd and lacking in so many ways. I actually did like Mclean’s father a lot, but her mother was problematic for me through the whole book. I feel like there was a side plot or something that should have been included to explain her perspective more. But honestly, she acted childish throughout and I ended up disliking her until pretty much the end. The secondary characters unfortunately really don’t shine at all in this one, and in her other books “Saint Anything” and “The Truth About Forever” I found the the secondary characters to be very developed.

The main character is Mclean. She is starting her senior year and dealing with being the new girl in town again. We quickly find out that Mclean lives with her father, whose job as a consultant for a huge restaurant corporation means that he is constantly moving around in order to fix or recommend closure for some restaurants. Mclean and her father have come to Lakeview, and she hopes they will stay long enough for her to enjoy her senior year. The biggest pain in Mclean’s life though, is that she feels lost and doesn’t know who she is anymore after her parents divorce. And we readers find out that this was a highly contentious divorce due to the fact that Mclean’s mother cheated on her father (with a man that her and her father saw as a hero) and quickly got pregnant. I don’t really know what to say about Mclean though. She definitely gets food and her and her father have a close relationship. But I never felt like I got what made her tick really. She’s obviously still upset by her mother tearing their family apart. And we know that Mclean chose and fought to stay with her father though her mother is angry about that. They have a blow up fight about halfway through the book, though Mclean is forced to capitulate to her mother or risk dealing with another court case to decide custody.

Secondary characters just felt too one dimensional for me to get an opinion on. Mclean’s dad at times seemed super wonderful, and then he would turn and be uncompromising. I don’t know if that was Dessen’s way of trying to show a bit of maybe what caused Mclean’s mother to cheat or not. Since the character of Mclean didn’t seem to mind I just didn’t know how I was supposed to feel as a reader.

Mclean’s mother was terrible. I really hate to read about cheating in romance novels anyway, but the woman acting like a spoiled brat through the whole book with her 180 in the end didn’t feel believable at all. You get that Mclean feels distant from her mother because it feels like she has created a whole new life and she wants her daughter there as well. But, she also doesn’t want to own what she did. And there was some sub-text there that Mclean’s mother and stepfather had some weirdness going on. Since Dessen doesn’t revisit characters in her books that I know of right now, this just ended up making the reading feel more muddled. I honestly didn’t get that Mclean’s mother loved her, she just wanted her in her new life and wanted things to be like they were. Obviously that can’t happen, hey you cheat, people tend to have feelings about it.

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And since the situation with the cheating and subsequent divorce was so messy, you think that Mclean’s mom would have some shame about it, but not at all. Eh. I don’t know what to say, you don’t want to be totally hard and not forgive, but I also would have dug a grave and put my husband in it (alive) if I found out that he cheated on me and was all laters baby I have an amazing new life.

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Yeah, I hate this phrase so much now.

Note: I am not married, do not be concerned for this mythical husband. I repeat, I am not married.

Other characters like Opal and Dave just read like cliches to me the whole way through. I honestly didn’t even get why Mclean was even talking to Dave at all or bringing him with her when she goes to watch a basketball game with her mother (something that the family used to love to do together) since he was honestly just the boy that lived next door to her and her dad.

Usually Dessen’s books have a more meaty plot to me. This one just flailed a bit too much for me. I also think Dessen rushed things a bit in the beginning of the book and then slowed down way too much. The flow was all over the place and the time periods kept jumping back and forth too much.

By the time we get to the ending, I had a sense of whiplash and we had some hastily thrown together information regarding where everyone was now (and happily I might add) that once again didn’t feel realistic.  Everything just didn’t fit. And since I thought wet noodles are more romantic than Dave and Mclean were supposed to be, her whole well maybe one day I will just follow him around thing just gave me a hard pause.


Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen

Lock and Key by Sarah DessenLock and Key by Sarah Dessen
Published by Speak on May 14th 2008
Genres: Romance, YA
Pages: 444
Source: Borrowed: ebook

"Ruby, where is your mother?" Ruby knows that the game is up. For the past few months, she's been on her own in the yellow house, managing somehow, knowing that her mother will probably never return. That's how she comes to live with Cora, the sister she hasn't seen in ten years, and Cora's husband Jamie, whose down-to-earth demeanor makes it hard for Ruby to believe he founded the most popular networking Web site around. A luxurious house, fancy private school, a new wardrobe, the promise of college and a future—it's a dream come true. So why is Ruby such a reluctant Cinderella, wary and defensive? And why is Nate, the genial boy next door with some secrets of his own, unable to accept the help that Ruby is just learning to give?

What can I really say. I loved this book to pieces. It’s been a while since I can say that a book was picture perfect from beginning to end, but I really did find this book worked great. I had no issues with the writing, dialogue, plot, setting or pacing. I went and borrowed a ton of other Sarah Dessen books from the library as soon as I finished “Lock and Key.” I read this for the “Key to My Heart” square for Romance Book Bingo 2017.

The main character in “Lock and Key” is Ruby Conner. Ruby is a senior at Jackson High School living in North Carolina. Through bits and pieces we find out that Ruby was in foster care temporarily after it becomes known that she is living alone and her mother is nowhere to be found. Placed with her older sister Cora that she hasn’t seen in years, “Lock and Key” is really Ruby’s journey learning to figure out what it truly means to be family, and how sometimes the hardest thing to do is stay and just support someone.

I freaking loved Ruby. I mean loved her. I wanted to hug her, give her some chocolate cake, and tell her that she is awesome. I have never fallen so quickly into another teen character’s head since Harry Potter. Ruby’s vulnerability and her general belief that she could take care of herself with help from no one we see get reworked from the beginning of the book to the end. Ruby and Cora’s shaky relationship due to Ruby’s belief that her sister had abandoned her we also see slowly changes through the course of the book. I loved that Dessen didn’t just throw out hey Ruby you are wrong from other characters either. Ruby had to see and feel that her way or really her mother’s way of acting was just not what she needed anymore. Ruby’s reluctant friendship with Nate also got me too. I loved how she got to see that someone who she thought had a perfect life, really did not, and that her just saying this is too hard, was actually not what he or she needed.

All of the secondary characters got to shine in this too. I loved Nate. Man oh man, his backstory regarding his mother and his father was just heartbreaking. A kid who doesn’t want to be in the situation he is, but doing the best he can until he is 18 and can be free.

Ruby’s sister Cora was also such a great character. There is a scene when Cora’s husband Jamie is rightfully angry and yelling at Ruby, and Cora steps in front of her like she did when they were kids and their mom was on a tear. I wanted to hug them both. We get to see that Cora is just as unsettled having what she considers a “good” life and not being used to things like huge family dinners, Christmas cards, etc.

I loved Harriet and Reggie, and heck pretty much everyone. Well except for Ruby’s old friends at Jackson who she got to see for herself were not true blue friends at all.

The writing takes a look at a lot of things. Drug and alcohol abuse, child abuse, and even abandonment. Dessen does a good job of not prettying things up which I appreciated. I also applaud her since she writes Ruby really well. I have a hard time with some YA authors having teens talking like characters from Dawson’s Creek.

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That was always my big thing about that show, no one my age sounded that pretentious. Did we sound like asses though? Yes, all teens do at one time or the other.

The flow was great too. We pretty much get to see Ruby over a course of a school year til her graduation which I really appreciated. Spare me from books that have a character do a day/night change in a month or two. It’s not realistic. It would have been great to see Ruby in her therapy sessions, but I was happy with what we got.

The setting of Lakeview, North Carolina sounded pretty polarizing. When Ruby is transferred from Jackson to what she considers the rich kid school, I was so happy we didn’t see some Mean Girls shtick in this book. We got to see a lot of secondary characters there with tons of nuance as well.

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The ending was really great. I can picture Ruby and now her family and her family of choice. I am going to see if Dessen ever follows up on Ruby and others from this book. It looks like she revisits the town of Lakeview in a lot of books, so it be nice to see a shout out to Ruby and other characters we have met.



Sunrise Point by Robyn Carr

Sunrise Point by Robyn CarrSunrise Point by Robyn Carr
Published by Mira Books on April 24th 2012
Genres: Romance
Pages: 378
Source: Borrowed: ebook

Tom Cavanaugh may think he wants a traditional woman, but in Virgin River, the greatest tradition is falling in love unexpectedly....

Former Marine Tom Cavanaugh’s come home to Virgin River, ready to take over his family’s apple orchard and settle down. He knows just what the perfect woman will be like: sweet, decent, maybe a little naive. The marrying kind.

Nothing like Nora Crane. So why can’t he keep his eyes off the striking single mother?

Nora may not have a formal education, but she graduated with honors from the school of hard knocks. She’s been through tough times and she’ll do whatever it takes to support her family, including helping with harvest time at the Cavanaugh’s orchard. She’s always kept a single-minded focus on staying afloat...but suddenly her thoughts keep drifting back to rugged, opinionated Tom Cavanaugh.

Both Nora and Tom have their own ideas of what family means. But they’re about to prove each other completely wrong... (

You can’t see my face, but my face is just still right now. This was the next to the last book in the Virgin River series and it was such a letdown. I think that having it be about a character we heard about here and there from the previous books was the main issue. I had no interest in Nora from the previous books and I was wondering why she kept popping up. Also Nora being 23 and like I think 5 feet with two kids and her being attracted to Tom didn’t work. Probably because based on what I read, Tom  had to be at least in his late 30s or early 40s. There is no real tension in this book either, it’s just reading about two people kind of doing their own thing but slowly becoming attracted to each other. When we do get a love scene I maybe sort of yawned my way through it. We once again get an epilogue in this book that I was surprised to see. It didn’t really work for me, but oh well.

Nora is a single mother with two little kids doing her best to keep her head afloat. She goes looking for work at Tom’s family’s apple orchard. He initially turns her away thinking she is too young and small to be able to do much good, but his grandmother makes him hire her. Nora starts to think of Tom romantically, but tries not to when he starts dating another woman.

Tom. Eh. He is a former Marine (mostly all of the men in Virgin River are former Marines. Thinks about it, yes I think they are) who is determined to meet and marry a “classy woman”. He decides that type of woman he is looking for is a widow of a friend of his that died in Afghanistan. At least Tom realizes this woman is completely selfish and she and he would not make a good match, but I did get a kick out of his grandmother ready and waiting to throw this woman out of their shared home.

We have references to previous characters per usual. But there is not really a B plot in this book at all. The majority of the book is dealing with Nora and Tom and Nora has a whole host of things going on.

I think the romance was lacking as I already said because I didn’t really get a sense while reading that these two were hot and bothered for each other. Nora was mostly like a little sister to Tom through the whole book so maybe that is why I found it jarring.


Redwood Bend by Robyn Carr

Redwood Bend by Robyn CarrRedwood Bend by Robyn Carr
Published by Mira Books on February 28th 2012
Genres: Romance
Pages: 377
Source: Borrowed: ebook

Former actor Dylan Childress left the L.A. scene behind years ago for a quiet life running an aviation company in Montana. But with business slowing down, Dylan is starting to wonder whether he should take one of the offers Hollywood keeps sending his way. He figures a motorcycle trip to Virgin River with his buddies might help him decide what path to take. But his own troubles are left at the side of the road when he spots a woman stranded on the way into town.

Katie Malone and her twin boys' trip to Virgin River is stopped short by a tire as flat as her failed romance. To make matters worse, it's raining, the boys are hungry and Katie is having trouble putting on the spare. So when some bikers pull up beside them, offering to help, all Katie feels is relief. Then she sees sexy, leather-clad Dylan Childress, and in one brief moment the world turns on its axis.

Katie's a sensible single mother and Dylan's a die-hard commitment-phobe. Neither one is looking for long-term romance. But sometimes it takes only a moment to know you've found something that could change your life forever.

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This was one of my least favorite books in the series. A male and female lead that were lame together and a male lead that sucked. I think Carr was going for a reformed rake story-line taking place in contemporary times, but honestly it didn’t work. And I loathe contemporary romances where the male lead is all I am only here to get laid and am not interested in a relationship and the woman is maybe I can change him. Stop it!

I wish an author would have the woman saying okay I can do that, and having her go merrily on her way after the hook-up. Have that guy chase after her and have her honestly not be interested and not acting as if she is not interested in order to get him to be interested. Did you all follow that?

Dylan sucks. I think that if Katie had been single with no kids I wouldn’t have cared. But she did have kids and I think that it was in Jerry Maguire that Cuba Gooding Jr. said to Tom Cruise’s character, you do not mess with single mothers unless you plan on being there. And I kind of want to know what Katie is thinking since she doesn’t seem smart at all.

Katie has left behind what she thought was a promising relationship with a dentist (poor dentists, the romance world hates you all) and takes her two twin boys to be with her brother Conner for the summer. Katie is also a widow (Virgin River, you strike again) and you would think she would be cautious about introducing her kids to men unless she’s dating them. I try not to get judgey with fictional characters too much (total lie, I am super judgey, I love books but certain things drive me up the wall while reading) but I honestly wanted to tell Katie to find a vibrator and just leave Dylan alone.

Dylan’s plot was laughably bad. He is a former child actor who is trying to keep his flight business in Montana afloat. It’s not doing well so he goes back to acting. After like a 10 year or 20 year break. I can’t even remember because I just rolled my eyes. He’s terrible towards his mother and half brother and sister because he sees them as only being there to just suck him dry and use him to get their own careers back on the track. Besides a few paragraphs here and there that was all you get there dealing with them.

Dylan sticks around Virgin River a bit (even though his business is failing) to get laid. Seriously. He decides he is attracted to Katie though he is not interested in a relationship and based on his dialogue cannot really stand her kids.

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I know there were other people in this book, I just can’t recall them besides Conner and Leslie from the last book. Most of this book really dealt with Katie weeping over Dylan and trying not to show him she missed him and then a curveball is thrown in that  had me vibrating with the urge to dropkick my Kindle. I did not do that since I had a brand new Kindle Fire HD for Christmas from my brothers, and I don’t treat gifts from family like soccer balls. Back to the book, it was a terrible idea to introduce, and I think the only reason why was in order to have this couple be together because even Carr I felt like was not too enthused about them.


Hidden Summit by Robyn Carr

Hidden Summit by Robyn CarrHidden Summit by Robyn Carr
Published by Mira Books on December 27th 2011
Genres: Romance
Pages: 347
Source: Borrowed: ebook

Sick of running into her cheery ex-husband and his new wife, Leslie Petruso accepts a job at the Virgin River branch of Haggerty Construction and takes the high road right out of town. Now she's got Paul Haggerty's business running like a well-oiled machine. In fact, things are so busy Paul jumps at the chance to hire an extra set of hands.

Just like Leslie, Conner Danson has been burned by love. But if Leslie was disappointed by her relationship going bad, Conner was decimated. He's got no time for women... although he spends an awful lot of time pretending not to notice Leslie. And she's pretty busy "ignoring" the chemistry between them.

According to Conner and Leslie, they have only one thing in common—they're done with love. But everyone in Virgin River can see that things are heating up at Haggerty Construction. And as far as Paul Haggerty can tell, the best thing he can do is hang on to his hard hat and watch the sparks fly!

Ack. I don’t know what to say. This was kind of the beginning of the end of my love for this series. This book had a really ludicrous plot and the resolution to it was kind of laughable to me. I did love the female lead, but the male lead, no, not even a little bit at all.

Leslie Petruso moves to Virgin River to get away from her ex-husband and his new wife. She knows Paul Haggerty due to her working for his father, and she ends up going to work for Paul as his office administrator in Virgin River. The many reasons why I loved Leslie, because she goes after her ex twice in this book, and both times had me howling with laughter. I have had that whole let’s be friends after being dumped by a guy before. I wish I had went after him with a fire extinguisher. I also adored Leslie’s older parents who are still out there doing what they can to enjoy their lives. Leslie’s mom’s comments about her ex had me laughing too. Honestly anything just dealing with Leslie, her family, and ex worked. I did have a bit of a problem with Leslie in the end pitying her ex, he was and is an ass.

Conner Danson…boy oh boy nope. I don’t want to spoil for potential readers, but I have no idea why this was in a romance book. For a minute I thought I was reading about a Lifetime movie that I could have sworn had the same plot. And Conner and his comments about women to himself…ugh. I just didn’t like the guy at all. He has a tie to another Virgin River character (Brie) and I hated their scenes together. He acted like an ass and I wanted Brie to kick the crap out of the guy. I also hated that most of the story deals with Conner lying to Leslie, but she gets over it in like two sentences.

We are introduced to Conner’s sister Katie who will be the star of the next book and also we get a lot of looks at previous characters from the series.

I don’t have much to say unless I spoil the book, but Conner’s whole story-line was the main reason why I just gave this 2.5 stars.


Harvest Moon by Robyn Carr

Harvest Moon by Robyn CarrHarvest Moon by Robyn Carr
Published by Mira Books on February 22nd 2011
Genres: Romance
Pages: 361
Source: Borrowed: ebook

Rising sous-chef Kelly Matlock's sudden collapse at work is a wake-up call. Disillusioned and burned out, she's retreated to her sister Jillian's house in Virgin River to rest and reevaluate.
Puttering in Jill's garden and cooking with her heirloom vegetables is wonderful, but Virgin River is a far cry from San Francisco. Kelly's starting to feel a little too unmotivated…until she meets Lief Holbrook. The handsome widower looks more like a lumberjack than a sophisticated screenwriter—a combination Kelly finds irresistible. But less appealing is Lief's rebellious stepdaughter, Courtney. She's the reason they moved from L.A., but Courtney's finding plenty of trouble even in Virgin River.

Kelly's never fallen for a guy with such serious baggage, but some things are worth fighting for. Besides, a bratty teenager can't be any worse than a histrionic chef…right?

I 100 percent did not get the love story between the two leads (Kelly Matlock and Lief Holbrook). I seriously felt like since they were the last two single people in Virgin River it was the only reason why they did get together. At least Carr didn’t have them jump right into bed together though.  Due to Lief’s backstory both of them were hanging back on being together. But besides a love scene or two, everything else is just referred to after the fact.

I don’t know. I think I was supposed to like Kelly. But I had a hard time when you find out that Kelly is working at a restaurant to be near the man that she is in love with (married chef Luca Brazzi). In fact, I think the only reason why Carr made sure that Kelly and Luca were never together was just so readers didn’t have a hard time rooting for her. But her kissing the guy, but refusing to be with him until he is legally divorced didn’t interest me much anyway. After being confronted by Luca’s wife and passing out, Kelly decides she needs to make a change. Working in the world of restaurants and dealing with abusive managers and chefs is not what she has in mind. So Kelly packs up all of her stuff and heads to Virgin River to go and stay with her sister Jillian. Stopping at Jack’s bar along the way she ends up meeting Lief who does some insta-love/lust nonsense and starts to feel like Kelly is his immediately.

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Lief has moved to Virgin River to give him and his stepdaughter Courtney a chance to start again after Courtney’s mother’s death. I think I said in another review that Virgin River does attract the recently or almost recently widowed.

Besides Lief and Kelly’s POV we also get Courtney’s POV and man oh man I wish that had been cut. Courtney and her therapy sessions and all over horribleness to Kelly was just continuous. I really needed a break and could see why Kelly is 100 percent reluctant to start a relationship with Lief. I would have been out of there so fast.

We do have Kelly and Jillian interacting, but not enough for me. I really wish we had gotten more interaction between the two. They are sisters and definitely have been through a lot. But we just hear that Jillian is up early dealing with the garden, Colin is upstairs painting, etc. All Kelly does by the way is cook/bake through the entire book. Kelly and Preacher even have a cook off at one point that we don’t get a real sense of, it’s just put out there as a throwaway line.

I do think that due for once that so much is going on with the A plot stuff, there was very little B plot going on.

I really thought that this book just like the last one was just repetitive after a while. I was tired of reading about why Courtney had trust issues. I was tired of reading about Kelly and her crush on Luca and how dumb she felt. I was tired of reading about how Kelly’s food was making Colin fat.

The ending for once actually has an epilogue, I think this may be the first one that the series had. It picks up I think 6 or maybe 9 months later and I think that Carr did that to fast forward the series a bit. I think this was the first time I actually even saw a physical date in the books instead of me trying to figure out how much time has passed depending on some of the previous characters kids ages.

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