Review of ‘The house’ by Eden Darry.

3.50 Stars. This is Darry’s full-length debut. I could still see some room for growth but I thought this was pretty well written for a debut. I guess you could put this in the category of either paranormal or light horror. However, this book wasn’t scary; it was creepy and a little dark. While you might be slightly uncomfortable while reading at times, it’s not really a tough read. It’s definitely not too scary to read.

This is the kind of book that is not easy to review because you don’t want to give anything away. The book started off with a bang, slowed down a little, but for the most part, kept up a good pace. It was very readable for me and I liked that it was not a long book so the story never really dragged. There is a paranormal element to this, but it’s almost more evil than what you think about a “normal” haunting with ghosts. And there is also a real-life evil person the characters have to deal with so it’s a lot on their plates.

The main characters in this book are in an established relationship already with two kids. There are some nicer, sweet moments but there is also a lot of relationship drama/arguing because of the circumstances. I do have to admit the arguing was getting a little old, but given the storyline, I get it so I can’t really complain.

The book had a few small twists and some excitement which was nice. I read it in one sitting so it absolutely entertained me. I was not in love with the storyline, but I’m still glad I gave this a try. If you are looking for something creepy this is a good choice. I wouldn’t hesitate to read Darry again.

An ARC was given to me for an honest review.

Review of ‘The Fall’ by Robin Alexander.

This was just fantastic. However, before I declare that, I have to admit a couple of things. I listened to this one since it was included in Audible’s Romance Package. Once upon a time, I started the audiobook but quit early on. I could not get through the first family dinner scene. I was so overwhelmed by, wait for it, the Italian family (too close to home folks) that I had to move on. Since then, I’ve read two other Alexander books and loved them. Also, I have listened to two books narrated by Lisa Cordileone and also loved them. So, here I was looking for my next audiobook when I bumped into ‘The Fall’ again. I will not lie. I struggled through that same dinner scene at the beginning. Then I realized I had listened to it before and I had a choice to make. Well, since now I’m older and wiser, I pushed through and I am so happy I did!

Noel Savino is a dentist only interested in casual relationships after failing at finding true love a few times. She meets town newcomer Sunny Chase, who has only done serious dating but is looking to change to casual in order to leave her dating rut. After agreeing to casual, Noel puts her foot down and wants to date Sunny for real. This after her niece, Harper, made her promise to stay away from Sunny. Meanwhile, Harper is a teenager struggling with finding her sexual identity after meeting Lydia, Sunny’s daughter. This book just becomes a family affair.

‘The Fall’ is really two stories in one. Yay! This is about Noel/Sunny and Harper/Lydia. They were both fantastic on their own but worked so well together. Noel and Sunny were great together and tackled adult issues. Harper and Lydia were sweet and were in charge of navigating the first love waters. Together they touched on family, parenting, dating guidelines and more. Ms. Alexander wrote so many hilarious scenes that I just volunteered to mown the lawn so I could continue to listen. I’m sure some neighbors are wondering why one needs to laugh out loud while doing such an ordinary chore. The thought behind a person being a dog or a cat in terms of dating…that was priceless. By the way, I am so a dog! Everyone needs to read this to understand, then we can discuss it!

The characters are likable and so entertaining. The ones that are less likable grow on you and end up making you laugh along. The dialog is spot-on but never fails to be outrageously funny. Now, what really pushed this one to 5 stars was the secondary and surprisingly endearing topics such as first love and even some thought-provoking ones such as homosexuality and church. All these were in the background but when the story hits the proverbial fan, it was wonderful to see the author skillfully take the story along these paths without outlandish behaviors. Everything in this book seemed over the top without actually being over the top. That was refreshing!

Overall, a sweet and hilarious story that will no doubt win Ms. Alexander new fans. 5 stars.

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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 ‘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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Review of ‘Hungry hearts’ by Saxon Bennett and Layce Gardner.

Claudia Montgomery, a best selling author of mystery novels, is suffering from writer’s block. Her agent sends her to ‘Hungry Hearts’ a Bed & Breakfast in a small seaside town to find inspiration for her next novel. Kate Ferguson was a successful archaeologist who had to quit her career to care for her twin nieces in her mother’s B&B. When Claudia and Kate meet, their attraction is undeniable but could they find love in each other?

This is a very slow-burn romance between main characters in their mid forties. The story is set in a small seaside town with the typical meddling of its inhabitants. Most of the time, the tone of the story is whimsical and humorous, similar to Robin Alexander’s style, so I’m not sure if it’ll appeal to all romance fans. For me, this read would have been better if the chemistry between the main characters was stronger.

The novel is generally well written though sometimes the balance between showing and telling is off. In my opinion, the most enjoyable parts of the story is when the authors give an insight into the writing process through Claudia’s creative struggles.

There are a good number of secondary characters, mostly town residents, but the ones that steal the show are Kate’s nieces. The 10 year-old twins are as much main characters as the leading couple. They are very precocious for their age and their use of language and social skills are similar to an adult’s. I personally didn’t find them completely believable but they were definitely likeable.

Overall, a good slow-burn romance with a cast of unconventional characters. 3.5 stars.

ARC provided to me in exchange for an honest review.

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