Review of ‘Hearts of Emerald Bay’ by D.G. Barnes.

Romance author Dana Lawson goes for a relaxing summer holiday to a small seaside town in Nova Scotia, where she meets local bar owner Mac Mackenzie. Their attraction is undeniable but what started as a summer fling soon develops into something more meaningful as both women face different challenges. Will they have their happily ever after?

‘Hearts of Emerald Bay’ is an entertaining romance by debut author D.G. Barnes. Written in third person from the point of view of both main characters, the story is sometimes light and funny and others take a more serious and angsty tone. I think the author managed this balance well.
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Review of ‘Compass Rose’ by Anna Burke.

I rarely read sci-fi and even less pirates’ stories but this year I decided to read a few books that throw me out of my comfort zone. I’m glad I’ve chosen this one. Anna Burke is a new promising author and ‘Compass Rose’ is her debut book. For this novel she received the Golden Crown Literary Society’s Sandra Moran scholarship, created to mentor young writers like Ms. Burke.

‘Compass Rose’ is set in a dystopian world in 2513 in which the sea levels on Earth have risen and land is either flooded or too polluted to live on. Humans live on sea stations mainly located in the North Atlantic Archipielago. Compass Rose is a navigator born with an extraordinary ability: she can always tell her exact location and get the best nautical routes to a destination. When her Admiral orders her to work alongside mercenary Captain Miranda Stillwater to defeat the pirates that threaten to rule the Atlantic, her world turns upside down. But even her exceptional navigational skills won’t prepare her for Miranda’s captivating persona and for her threatening crew.

This novel is written in first person from the point of view of Compass Rose except for a brief Captain’s log at the beginning of each section (East, South, West, North, Center).The world the author built is very imaginative in its unpleasant and threatening nature. The dangers come in the form of gigantic squids, murdering pirates or greedy politicians. The beauty of this book is that even in this imaginary world we can see humanity at its best and worst. Ms. Burke’s use of nautical metaphors is beautiful and poetic.

Compass Rose makes a well rounded main character with all her extraordinary abilities and her shortcomings. Ms. Burke isn’t afraid to depict her as an unwilling heroine stressing on her fears and her anxiety coping mechanisms (her mantra ‘North, south, east, west’ is an amusing example). The cast of secondary characters is presented with no rush so each one can be recognised for their own physical appearance and personalities. The author doesn’t sugarcoat their cruelty or ferocity which makes the story very credible.

The romance is too much on the side for my liking but I understand the logic around it. This is not a romance but a fast-paced adventure novel. Despite that they are not together much, the chemistry between Rose and Miranda is sizzling and believable.

Overall, a very good pirates’ adventure novel for fans of dystopian sci-fi. Great debut novel by a promising author. 4.5 stars.

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Review of ‘Rescue’ by Juliette Renard.

Virginia is a famous actress recovering from addiction and a partying lifestyle in an isolated cabin in the middle of a crude winter. When a puppy accidentally lands on her doorstep, a series of events trigger a meeting with reclusive but renowned author Sage Volland. Soon they develop a friendship promising much more if only their pasts wouldn’t get in their way.

This is a short novel (44,000 words) by debut author Juliette Renard. Both main characters Virginia and Sage are well rounded though their chemistry isn’t off the charts. For me, it feels a bit rushed. On the other hand, puppy dog Denzel steals the show as he’s a great facilitator of the mains’ relationship and feels very authentic.

My main issues with this novel are two. One is that the story pace doesn’t flow seamlessly, it drags at some points while at others feels rushed. My other problem is that some scenes feel a bit unrealistic. I give a small example to avoid spoilers, for instance, one character is beaten badly and a few hours later the face shows no marks. Some of the metaphors used felt a bit crude, but maybe that was the intention of the author, though I personally didn’t find the appeal when describing a romantic relationship. However, I think it’s an interesting story with a good mystery twist that will keep the reader turning pages.

Overall, a good debut romance with a bit of mystery on the side. 3.5 stars.

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

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