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 ‘Taking chances’ by Erin McKenzie.

Valerie Cruz spent most of her childhood in foster care and now she is a children’s librarian who likes to keep to herself avoiding any serious relationships. After becoming a foster parent herself, she meets case worker Paige Wellington. Their attraction is undeniable but a conflict with Valerie’s foster children and her conviction to stay away from relationships make it hard for Valerie and Paige to have a future together.

This is as much a romance as a story about foster care. As a foster parent herself, the author knows the inner works of the system and it shows in the story. It gives a very good insight on fostering from the different points of view of the social workers, the fostering parents and the children.

The characters, adults and children alike, are well rounded, credible, and their actions are justified by their past. The children seem authentic considering their ages and their traumatic experiences. Connie, Paige’s boss, is a funny but savvy character that brings a bit of lightness to the plot. The dialogues are natural sounding and the balance between telling and showing is good.

The plot seems divided into two parts, the first half deals mainly with the fostering system and the second one focuses more on the romance. Some readers might not like that the romance takes so long to develop and then rushes slightly to the end. Other than that, this novel was interesting and entertaining to read.

Overall, a good romance with a deep insight on the US child fostering system. 4 stars.

ARC provided to me in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of ‘The do-over’ by Georgia Beers.

Bella Hunt is a successful therapist who, as a teenager, struggled to deal with her sexuality and was bullied by her classmates. Fifteen years later Easton Evans, one of her high school bullies, ends up in her conflict resolution class. Soon Bella discovers that grown-up Easton is friendlier and kinder than her teenage self but still very beautiful. As their mutual attraction develops, their shared past is eventually going to catch up with them…

This is a second-chance romance by Ms. Beers in which she draws on her own high school experience, showing how difficult a time that could be but also how people can change in adulthood. The story is mainly set in the present but it introduces a few flashbacks of some high-school moments that marked Bella’s life. Past and present are woven seamlessly and the flashbacks make the reader understand the present better.

It’s no news that Ms. Beers is an accomplished writer but, still, it really amazed me how well she built the chemistry between the main characters. The dialogues are perfect, their body language is depicted perfectly and the sexual tension is exquisite. This is undoubtedly Georgia Beers at her best. However, it’s disappointing that both sex scenes felt a bit rushed and didn’t reflect the intimacy that the author created so well.

The secondary characters are also very well-rounded. Shondra, Easton’s best friend, plays a great role in showcasing Easton’s goodness, compared to her past self. If there are any doubts of her transformation, motherhood completely redeems her. Emma, Easton’s daugther, is another convincing character though it’s a pity there wasn’t so much interaction with Bella.

Heather and Amy, Bella’s best friends, act like a sounding board and show how far she has overcome her own demons. Her two dogs are lovable fur characters. Somehow the author managed to balance the apparent fierceness of a pitbull with the gentleness of their temperaments. Also, kudos to Ms. Beers to portray their distinct personalities so well.

My major criticism and the reason why my rating dropped is that the main conflict, that is, Bella keeping her real identity a secret from Easton, seems a bit forced into the plot. I understand why Bella was hesitant to reveal who she was but, for me, it dragged for too long and it didn’t flow naturally in the story. Maybe letting the conflict develop earlier in the book would have made it more believable and the ending wouldn’t have felt so rushed. Despite this, because of the lovable leads, their amazing chemistry and the fantastic secondary characters, this is a very recommended read.

Overall, a very good second-chances romance with an amazing chemistry that only a few lesfic authors can create. 4 stars.

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

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