Review of ‘Just Jorie’ by Robin Alexander.

This was only my second Robin Alexander’s book. Although I did not like it as much as the first one, it was still an enjoyable story.

Lena Vaughn is in New York on a work trip when a snowstorm grounds all flights. Jorie Andolini is trying to fly out of New York after going there to meet an online love interest that did not turn out to be what she was hoping for. They meet at the airport and share a ride to a hotel, where they realize the best way to return to their home town of New Orleans is to share a car rental. There is some chemistry but when the trip ends, they part ways without plans for anything more. Jorie is back to her family owned business and Lena is left wondering why a woman has her full attention for the first time in her life.

The beginning of the book felt slow and I was not sold until Jorie fell off the treadmill. Literally. Then it started picking up and I was thrilled to see the book did not end with their arrival to New Orleans. There, the main characters find a way to come together and keep it rolling. The secondary characters also took some getting used to but then I found them hilarious. Of course, I’m talking about the meddlesome older family members of the Andolini clan.

This book does not have any mysterious turns. Things were civilized and the coming out part was as effortless as they come. This was a light fun story that kept me entertained. Pass it up if you like some drama in your romances.

I actually listened to the audiobook. It was narrated by Lisa Cordileone, who did a great job. It took me a few chapters but then she had me laughing out loud, successfully bringing Alexander’s witty dialog to life. Very happy my next listen is also narrated by her.

Overall a solid book for those who enjoy funny banter. 3.5 stars

         

Review of ‘1st Impressions. A Cassidy James Mystery’ by Kate Calloway.

Cass James moved to the small lake town of Cedar Hills, Oregon after her partner died. Not needing to work, she finds herself learning the private detective ropes after her best friend suggested it. Erica Trinidad stopped by her uncle’s lake house on her way to Canada. That night, her uncle was murdered and abandoned in the lake. Erica ends up hiring Cass to help solve the murder for which she has now become the prime suspect. Things get more complicated as Cass unravels the case and finds herself in the thick of it.

This is a fun story that grabs your attention with the very first sentence. The setting is this little town of a few hundred where crime is not common. However, it seems any of the residents are capable of murder overnight. It was fun to “come along” with Cass for the interviews and have a guess at who was involved in the crime. That said, there was no major plot twist, which may disappoint serious mystery/thriller readers alike. The story could have also benefited from more action scenes early on instead of saving most of it until later in the book.

I actually did not realize this book was published during my freshman college year, 1996, until I finished it. There was mention of poor cellphone reception in the town but I assumed it was just due to the location. Now I see how it was simply because cellphone networks were not well established then. It was interesting to see how Cass had to call from a pay phone and check her home answering machine! That’s a blast from the past.

This is the first of eight books in the series. The mystery is the book’s main focus and the romance is the side story, but it feels more like the foundation for more to come. I will be reading the rest of the series to see what happens with the leads and the rest of these likable characters.

Overall a nice read culminating in good action. 3.5 stars

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Review of ‘Listen’ by Kris Bryant.

‘Listen’ is part of the ‘Senses’ series by this author along with ‘Taste’ and ‘Touch’. It’s the story of Lily Croft, a former Classical music’s child prodigy who quit music altogether unable to handle the pressure of her career. She now suffers from anxiety and works as an actuary trying to keep to herself. One day she hears beautiful piano music coming from The Leading Note, a music education charity. Slowly she gets drawn to the place and its founder, Hope D’Marco, who is a very talented musician. Will Lily bring her walls down to accept Hope into her world or will her anxiety prove to be too much?

This novel is written in first person, as it is usual for Ms. Bryant, from the point of view of Lily. In my opinion, it is the right choice as the reader spends a lot of time in Lily’s headspace and can experience how anxiety affects her. The author, a sufferer of anxiety herself, has poured her heart out in this book. My understanding of this subject has increased exponentially from seeing it as an outsider to an insider perspective. It’s curious how Ms. Bryant stresses the role of music in calming her own anxiety and how music is the source of conflict for Lily. Anxiety comes in many forms.

After a childhood full of pressure to perform as the music prodigy she was, music for Lily is something to conquer, not a source of pleasure. By contrast, random surrounding noises calm her down. Hope understands this perfectly and prompts her to describe what she can hear in different life situations. That simple mechanism seems to bring about Lily’s musicality without any anxiety. Ms. Bryant describes this soundscape with some exquisite metaphors, it’s true what they say that music is everywhere. The whole book is beautifully written and makes the reader’s heart go out to people suffering from anxiety or any sort of mental health issue.

The characters are multilayered and well written in their strengths and weaknesses. Lily’s low self-esteem but, at the same time, her will to go out of her comfort zone, and Hope’s insecurities but positive personality, make them so human and loveable. Their chemistry together is incredibly off the charts and their intimate scenes are really well done. The secondary characters, including a very skittish and empathic cat, complete the cast perfectly. For me, as a former musician, the music scenes are realistic and bring out its beauty. All in all, it’s been a pleasure to read.

Overall, an excellent novel about anxiety, music, love and getting out of one’s comfort zone. 5 stars.

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

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Review of ‘Drawing the line’ by K. D. Williamson.

Dr. Dani Russell is a Pediatric resident dedicated to her job and nothing else. She comes across as distant and cold to everyone except her little patients and her best friend Rick. She is content with her life until Detective Rebecca Wells, Dani’s ex and the reason why she is so isolated, comes back to Atlanta permanently. She has done a lot of introspection and is decided to mend things with her. But Dani has changed a lot and refuses to even acknowledge Rebecca. Will they have a chance to heal old wounds, build a friendship or maybe more?

This is book 4 of K. D. Williamson’s ‘Cops and Docs’ series. ‘Drawing the line’ is a second chance romance with an interracial couple and a bisexual character. Written in third person from the point of view of both main characters, the reader gets in their headspace a lot. The problem is that, most of the time, these characters are hard to like. These women have serious baggage, for intelligent, independent women you wonder how they could sometimes be so immature.

To make matters worse, they are separated from each other a lot so it’s hard to feel their chemistry, except for some flashbacks when their relationship was fine. It is good to see, though, how they both start making an effort separately in their professional lives and with their common friend Rick who should win a prize for patience. The subplots of both mains dealing with juvenile disappearances or seriously ill children makes them more likeable but those stories do nothing to push the romantic plot forward.

Maybe Ms. Williamson wrote herself into a corner, she skilfully created conflicted and flawed characters and she excelled at making the sparks fly when they fight. Their minimal encounters, constant bickering and the hate sex (as described by Rebecca) don’t help building the relationship either. So a happy ever after in this context feels a bit forced. Not the best scenario for a romance.

Overall, an ok read if you enjoy second chance romances with a lot of drama at the side. 3.5 stars.

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

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Review of ‘Against all odds’ by Kris Bryant, M. Ullrich & Maggie Cummings.

When Police officer Peyton Clarke and real estate agent Tory Stevens meet by chance at a bridal shop trying bridemaids’ dresses, their attraction is instant but it’s interrupted by a mass murderer attacking the shop customers. As the only survivals of the shooting, Tory and Peyton see their initial bond grow stronger. But with the attacker on the loose, taking their relationship for granted could be a fatal mistake.

Lately in lesfic we’ve seen a series of two authors joining forces to pen books together, we’ve even seen three authors writing as many books as part of a series. But, as far as I know, this is the first collaboration of three authors writing a single novel. As I normally read (and love) books by these three authors, for me it was a no-brainer to give it a try. I’m glad I did.

‘Against all odds’ is equal parts thriller and romance, the balance between action and love, fast and slow pace makes this novel a very entertaining read. The authors managed to weave the plot consistently and make it flow without issues. It is written in first person from the point of view of Tory, Peyton and mass shooter Bradley, each one a chapter at a time. However, this doesn’t affect the flow as each scene is told by only one character and the book is always moving forward. My only criticism is that I found Bradley’s voice very distinctive (for obvious reasons, him being the villain and the only man), but, Tory and Peyton’s voices were not that easy to tell apart. They sounded pretty much the same to me and I found myself several times going to the start of the chapter to check the point of view.

Having said that, the romance part is very sweet, Tory and Peyton have great chemistry and the intimate scenes are well written. Bradley is also a very well rounded character and adds a great creepy factor to the thriller part of the story. Once the action scenes are set out, it’s a page turner impossible to put down.

Overall, a very well written book by an unusual collaboration, it’s entertaining, gripping and will appeal both romance and action fans. 4.5 stars.

ARC provided by Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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Review of ‘Lost for words’ by Andrea Bramhall.

Sasha Adams is a massage therapist living with her cancer survivor mother. She’s content with her life but she wishes to become a screenwriter. Her life changes radically when her mother and best friend enter one of her works in a writing competition and she wins it. Suddenly she gets a script-writing contract and a love interest in Jac Kensington, her new boss. Jac is a self-made businesswoman with abandonment issues and a predilection to never grow up. But when she meets Sasha, her world turns upside down and both women have to decide if they want to keep their old ways or take a chance at love and face together come what may.

It’s hard to describe this novel. The cover and its rom-com labelling might suggest a lightness that’s only half truth. As the blurb states, ‘a bittersweet rom-com’ is a better description, bittersweet being the operative word. Additionally, it’s a romance in a broader sense of the word. There’s not only romanic involvement but also maternal love (or lack thereof), friendship and unrequited love. You can truly say that love is in the air.

This novel is anything but ‘Lost for words’. It shows the author’s deep convictions and deals with issues such as abandoment, illness, aging and death. Ms. Bramhall pulls no punches, she’s not afraid to tackle such difficult issues. The story is sometimes hilarious, sometimes sad. It will make you laugh and whenever you least expect, it’ll punch you in the guts. It’s no coincidence that the winning script referred in the book is ‘Nightingale’, a self reference to possibly Bramhall’s most woeful novel. However, this is a more optimistic story, like it should be in a book about love. My only criticism is that at some points the book stretched too much and less words could have been more.

The characters are well written and realistic. It’s refreshing to see leads in their late forties, early fifties. Jac, also known as ‘Pan Pan’ for her similarities with Peter Pan, is an incredibly complex character who very slowly opens up to reveal her real issues behind her carefree attitude. Sasha’s unselfish personality and maturity is the perfect balance to Jac. Together they have great chemistry. The supporting cast is rich in layers, specially Sasha’s mum, Fleur. She’s a character that could have been written by Robin Alexander, with her quirky lifestyle and hilarious behaviour. She brings much of the lightness of the book.

Overall, a very good bittersweet book about love with endearing characters. Worth a read. 4.5 stars.

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

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