Review of ‘Pas de Deux’ by M. J. Duncan.

Well, I feel all I do is confess something or the other nowadays. I am a Duncan fan and have enjoyed all her novels. This author is one of the reasons I decided to renew my Kindle Unlimited membership as her books are available through this service. Of course, I figured that out after actually buying three of them. Wait, I don’t think I needed to confess that…

This is an age gap romance that sees Mallory Collingswood (age 39), a violin prodigy who has returned home to lead the London Symphony Orchestra, deal with a failed marriage proposal and give love another chance. That chance takes the form of Addison Leigh (age 24), a ballerina prodigy making waves with the Royal Ballet. Mallory is presented with a once in a lifetime opportunity to collaborate with the Royal Ballet in a project that will push her skills to the max while getting her to step out of her comfort zone in other areas. Mallory accepts and finds herself working tirelessly alongside a new and unexpected partner.

This story starts almost a year after ‘Symphony in Blue’, which was released in 2017. You do not need to read that book to get the story in this one. In fact, I wonder if it was more of a hindrance for me since Mallory was not cast in a good light in that book. I had to get over the previous feelings of Mallory being self-centered and just plain inconsiderate and warm up to her in this story. It helped that Mallory does allude to her shortcomings and shows growth through the book.

This was a straightforward tale with no angst in it. Characters were rational and took their time to know each other. The relationship developed over time and at no point felt unrealistic. Ms. Duncan does a great job describing things such as little courtesies towards each other that allows the romance to feel genuine. The author also did a fantastic job of creating the setting. The ballet scenes were great and one could feel the anxiety and magnitude of the events within the scenes. More palpable though, was the beauty of it all. And I am not even close to being a ballet fan.

On the downside, the book felt drawn out a bit. There was no conflict at all in this story except for executing the ambitious show to perfection. The age difference came up once and it was simply an acknowledgment of it. Parents loved the mains so no conflict there either. Heck, the mains’ hectic schedules did not really affect anything either. The presence of a few typos seemed uncharacteristic for this author as well. That said, Duncan kept me reading as she usually does.

Overall, a solid slow-burn romance that will especially appeal to music/dance fans. 3.5 stars.

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Review of ‘Moonlight Avenue’ by Gerri Hill.

Finley Knight is an ex-cop turned into a private investigator living a solitary life in Corpus Christi, Texas. She prefers working solo but when former security guard Rylee Moore offers her services as a receptionist / assistant, Finley cannot resist her charms. When an apparently routine cheating-wife case changes into a murder investigation, Police Detective Dee Woodward gets involved. Dee prefers to do things by the book while Finley was never a stickler for the rules, but as events escalate and get extremely dangerous, the three women will need to work together and leave their differences, and their feelings, aside to defeat an extremely violent gang.

This is a very entertaining, fast-paced, crime mystery book by Gerri Hill with a romance at the side but with a lot of prominence in the story. The mystery plot is quite complex with many layers to unveil and a good number of suspects. Despite this, Ms. Hill manages to pull off a credible and absorbing story that keeps the reader guessing until the end. The novel is written from the point of view of Finley, Rylee, and Dee who are multilayered characters with distinctive personalities and backgrounds. The age-gap romance is slow-burn and sweet, with very well-written chemistry in which opposites attract. The sex scenes have all the ingredients known to Ms. Hill: they are hot, sensual and romantic all at the same time.

The landscape of Corpus Christi (Texas Gulf Coast) with its beautiful beaches and bay area is a frequent feature in Ms. Hill’s romances. By setting this novel during winter time with its foggy and cloudy days, however, the author sets the perfect tone for the mystery. The depiction of the impoverished neighbourhoods where most of the action takes part also contributes towards an eerie backdrop and makes a great contrast with the most affluent areas which the Gulf Coast is known for.

Even though the case is completely resolved and the main romance has a satisfying conclusion, there is room for a sequel to this novel. I hope that Ms. Hill decides to write a book that features Dee more prominently and develops Finley’s relationship with her estranged mother. I wouldn’t hesitate to read book 2.

Overall, a very entertaining and page-turning mystery with a sweet, slow-burn romance at the side. 4.5 stars.

ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of ‘As the crow flies’ by Karen F. Williams.

4.5 Stars. This book was wonderfully written. I have never read Williams before. I realized I have an old paperback copy of her book ‘Nightshade’. After reading this book and realizing the quality writer she is, I’m really intrigued to finally read it. This a wlw romance with a light paranormal flare.

An interesting twist, this book actually includes two romances; a younger potential couple and an older potential couple. This book is a nice long length so there is plenty of time for all four characters and their potential romances to shine. While all four characters are completely different, they are all likeable and you end up rooting for both pairs. I also have to mention, one of the characters is a writer. This felt like one of the truer author characters I have ever read before. The characters are really crafted and very realistic.

I do want to mention this book is a little more cerebral. It’s the kind of book you might learn a few things. There is some talk about philosophy, art, life after death, and even car racing. The really nice thing is the book never felt preachy. The topics were also explained on a level that didn’t talk down to us as readers, but it doesn’t go over your head either. It was a really nice balance. This is the kind of book that won’t get a lot of attention, but it really should because the quality or writing is that good.

I mentioned this does have some light paranormal aspects. There is a ghost in this story. It is not the kind of ghost you might normally expect and it’s only one part of the book. There are some of us who believe in ghosts, some who don’t, this was a take on a ghost that one could actually believe might be true. Besides the paranormal aspects there is even a little excitement so the story kept me turning the pages.

This was an excellent quality story that was really well written. I see paranormal anything, and I grab it. However, I honestly didn’t expect this to be so good. I’m very happy that I read it.

An ARC was given to me by BSB, for a honest review.

Review of ‘The disappeared’ by Nicole Pyland.

Ada Cramer’s brother went missing when she was fourteen. On the tenth year anniversary of the disappearance a TV series features the cold case and Ada is reunited with the officer assigned to the case, Dylan Easton. Ada holds a grudge against the officer because when her brother disappeared Dylan had promised she’d find him. But after all those years, what Ada and Dylan didn’t expect is an attraction between them. As Dylan investigates a new lead on the case, they have to deal with new and unexpected feelings for each other.

This is an ok romance with a small amount of mystery on the side. For me, one of the issues of this book is the balance between mystery and romance. The title, cover and the blurb suggest that the mystery is going to take most of the plot or at least as much as the romance. Instead, the mains’ relationship takes the majority of the book, while the mystery is handled mostly in a rush and as an afterthought. It’s a pity because the mystery has good potential and the twist near the end is surprising and original.

The imbalance between romance and mystery also affects the tone of the novel. I was expecting a more somber and sad tone but, instead, the focus of the plot is on the almost constant bickering and banter between the mains. Additionally, the content and the amount of sex scenes in the book are bordering with erotica and don’t seem to help setting the tone of the story of a boy’s disappearance. Both characters are well-rounded but they are both hard to like, specially Ada. The secondary characters seem a bit stereotyped and the relationship between Ada and her parents feels a bit simplified.

Overall, an ok romance with a bit of mystery on the side and a surprising twist. 3.5 stars.

ARC provided to me in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of ‘Second Chances’ by A.E. Radley.

Alice Spencer is an elementary school teacher that just moved to the small coastal town of Fairlight, England for a change of pace. Her work in the city left her yearning for smaller class sizes and an opportunity to make a difference in her students’ lives. Hannah Hall was born and raised in Fairlight and, despite having had a difficult childhood, never left the small town. Now she is a struggling single mother to daughter Rosie, who is a gifted child and about to start school for the first time.

The story showcases Hannah’s relationship with Rosie. Their interactions are, in my opinion, the highlight of the book. The banter between mother and daughter is adorable and well written. The same can be said between Hannah and Alice to a lesser extent. I do wish there were more insightful moments between the leads to cement their bond instead of Rosie being ever present as a catalyst for the relationship. That said, perhaps this is the most accurate way to portray a single mother relationship where the child must be present and should be the priority for both adults. That topic was well handled and depicted. Unfortunately that left fewer opportunities to develop the romance and the lack of sex scenes might disappoint some readers.

Hannah’s character is flawed but her struggles and reactions are genuine and credible. The character is always attempting to overcome her previous experiences and the feelings they evoke in order to keep Rosie from suffering the same fate. Hence, this is also a book about Hannah and the Fairlight community’s relationship. Can Alice be the person that helps Hannah finally let go of her tumultuous past?

The chapters have individual titles pertinent to their content. This was a charming detail and I found myself looking forward to reading them. Instead of acting as a spoiler, it gave me a sense of anticipation of things to come. The book cover is also well designed and visually appealing. I loved the pencil turned tree, the colors and the use of different fonts.

Overall, a good read with a cool kid and a sweet new family. 4 stars

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Review of ‘A recipe for love’ by Lucy J. Madison.

Danika Russo is a newly retired 55 year old who is going through a life crisis after having taken care of her terminally ill partner and father. As she loves cooking, she decides to enroll in an Italian cooking class. There she meets gorgeous classmate Finn Gerard who is 15 years younger. Their attraction is undeniable but Finn hides a secret and doesn’t want to commit to Danika. Will they have their happily ever after?

The main character in this book is Italian cuisine. The author’s maternal family is Italian and she remembers how important is cooking for them, how they show love through food. All over this novel, there are lots of food descriptions and metaphors and an appendix with some of the author’s own recipes. I suggest not reading it when you are hungry!

‘A recipe for love’ is written in third person solely from Danika’s point of view which is ideal as it keeps Finn’s mysterious behaviour a secret. It’s good to see that Ms. Madison wrote in Danika an older, slightly overweight and flawed character. Danika suffers from low self esteem, insecurity and negative body image. At the beginning, she reflects a lot about her past and lost opportunities which can be tedious and depressing but, throughout the book, it’s good to see her transformation. However, the gravity of the plot never shifts completely until the very end. Natalie, Danika’s best friend, is a great secondary character who brings a bit of much needed levity to the story.

The reader doesn’t get to know Finn except for her being younger and beautiful. Even though there is insta-attraction and insta-love, the mains remain separated most of the book. Their chemistry feels a bit off, possibly because the narrative distance is quite remote in the romance parts where the author uses more tell than show, specially in the sex scenes which sometimes are mentioned as an afterthought. I dropped my rating for this reason along with a few minor typos.

Overall, this is an ok age-gap romance that deals with serious issues such as terminal illness and the meaning of life, all surrounded by the sensuality of food. 3.5 stars.

ARC provided to me in exchange for an honest review.

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