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Every Little Kiss by Susan Hatler

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Every Little Kiss*

The Call of the Ocean and Romance in Northern California

I read one other book by this author, and I enjoyed it, so I was looking forward to this book. The book called to me for another reason. I am not sure precisely where on the northern California coast the fictional town of Blue Moon Bay is, but I traveled that route often when I lived in California when visiting family.

This is a sweet little contemporary romance. The heroine is a bit excitable, though she claims not to be. She does have a complicated and sad past, being abandoned by her parents when she was a young girl. They put her and her brother under the care of one of their grandmothers. The hero is an absolute sweetheart, thought that always makes you question if there’s something deeper that might be going on! The book felt a bit repetitious the way that the heroine would go on and on about why she couldn’t have even a little fling with a hero, even though there was definitely attraction and chemistry and he did actually changed his trip so he can spend more time with her. How can you turn down a nice guy even if the relationship might be brief? I thought it was odd, too, that both the hero and heroine had ties to reality shows. Not everyone in California is on reality shows! The heroine had her own briefly, and the hero’s father had one. It just was quite bizarre.

As someone who lived on the Northern California coast for more than a decade and did much traveling up and down it, I did have a few quibbles with the way the author described the area of course, I don’t actually know where this fictional town is supposed to be other than probably someplace where it would be comfortable to drive to Napa for the meet-in-the-middle visits of the heroine and her grandmother. In the fictional town, she described many two- and three-story houses. Where I lived on the coast, such dwellings were rare. I don’t think I ever saw a 3-story one. Also, compared to the Oregon coast, the Northern California coast does not have a ton of seafood restaurants. I know that one would think that it would have, but on the northern California coast, they’re actually surprisingly rare. You can find good seafood in regular restaurants, but there aren’t many strictly seafood joints. The Oregon coast is entirely different; I live in Oregon now, and I know that every little burg on our coast has some sort of seafood shack, joint, or restaurant. She also described sandy beaches. Much of the northern California coast is bluffs and cliffs with no sand in sight. Of course, there is sand in places, but if you drive from San Francisco to Eureka, it is surprising how little is sand there is in places. One last Coastal rant. She described the sunlight as glinting off the ocean surface as golden discs. As a coastal resident for many years, I never once saw anything like that. When the sun is out and fully shining down on that glorious Pacific Ocean, what it actually looks like is a scattering of glittering diamonds, little brilliant white shards reflecting back at you from the blueness. It is actually quite spectacular to have full sun on a choppy ocean.

I just had to share all that because, for me, having these kinds of details wrong kind of detracted from my enjoyment of the story. Perhaps if you’re not a foggybottom, you wouldn’t notice or care. Again, this is essentially a sweet little romance that is a pleasure to read.

Restoring Lady Alice by Lydia Pembroke

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Restoring Lady Alice*

Another Very Dark Regency

Like the other book about Lady Jane in this series, I’m not quite sure what to make of this book. At times, it seems more like melodrama, or at least Regency with a heavy dose of Gothic. I wish the darkness in the series have been more obvious from the book blurbs. The covers make them seem like they’re just regular Regency or historical romance, but both of these stories are very dark. The villain doesn’t have a bit of light to him, at least not shown in either of these two books. Compared to the Lady Jane book, for some reason, I thought that the language in this one felt stilted. There were definitely some issues with grammar, punctuation, and usage. This kind of book, where so much seems to be focused on as such a vile person, is just not my cup of tea.

Hook, Line, and Vital Signs by Florella Grant

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Hook, Line, and Vital Signs*

Not Quite the Medical Romance I Was Hoping For

I was attracted to this book at my favorite book review site because I am an RN, and I will admit to having a weakness for romances that have a medical setting. The heroine is an ER nurse and the hero is a CAT scan specialist. Right off the bat, unfortunately, I noticed some things that didn’t seem right about the medical aspect, about how things work in the hospital these days. I run across that far too often in fiction books. With the interconnectedness of people on the internet, I would think that authors could actually reach out to nurses and other medical people so that those aspects of their books would ring true. Seriously, does any ED use paper charts these days?

I did not like the hero. He was far too much of a jerk towards the heroine at the start of the book, and the author was not able to successfully rehabilitate him for me. The two had had a previous relationship that went south, but he pretended like he didn’t really remember her when they meet up again at the hospital. Then he seemed more interested in pursuing her cousin. Ick. Not hero material in my book. All around, I found this to be a disappointing book.

Wedding at Walden Pond by Vivien Mayfair

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Wedding at Walden Pond*

Well-Done Exploration of Familiar Trope

I had read the other two books in this series, and I wasn’t really wild about them. But I always like to give an author two or three shots to impress me. In this case, I am so glad I did. I found this book to be an absolute delight. One of the things that I had enjoyed from the previous book was Zeph, the owner of the horror bookstore. He was an excellent foil for the heroine in that book. In this one, he gets his own story, and I was delighted to see that there was so much more to his character. He has gotten himself into a bit of a bother because his mother believes that he is engaged to the French woman who runs the patisserie across the road from his shop. So, yep, this is a spin on the favorite fake engagement romantic trope. Both the hero and the heroine are having parental problems. Mirabelle has never quite lived up to her father’s expectations, and she is bound and determined to do so even at the expense of her own dreams. She is a kind and generous person who is also being hassled by her landlord; she gives too much money away helping others and doesn’t pay her rent on time. She agrees to be Zeph’s fake fiancee. Of course, Zeph has been nurturing a silent attraction for the French woman. The stage, as you can see, has been set for humor, romance, and drama between warring factions and because of lies and secrets.

The book did have a few problems. There were some issues with grammar, punctuation, and usage. As someone who has actually studied the French language and has a great appreciation for the French culture, I was definitely annoyed at the author’s use of the nonword “zee” to portray Mirabelle’s way of saying “the.” That rankled every time I saw it; it is just so wrong.

By the way, the Walden Pond in the title is NOT the one you are thinking about. All in all, I found the book to be a delightful read.

My Christmas Darling by Vivien Mayfair

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My Christmas Darling*

Books, Books, Books

Having read another book in the Snowdrop Valley series, I was a little surprised by this one. Sometimes reading books out of order can be a little confusing. I’m always intrigued by books that have an element about books in them. This book certainly had that, with a publishing house at the forefront, a woman who worked as a manuscript evaluator by day and was a writer by night, and much ado about a potential bestseller. I do have some knowledge of the publishing industry, and I definitely think there’s a fantastical element here because no new writer would have been offered such big money for a first novel. The heroine certainly created a heap of trouble for herself with the snowballing effects of her lies and cover-ups. I didn’t quite like the faux love triangle aspect of it. Mark is such a jerk, always wanting to tear the heroine down. Why she let that loser continue to have anything to do with her I can’t quite understand. Along with the romance, both the hero and the heroine had issues with their parents, too. The book did have some problems with grammar, punctuation, and usage. Comma splices seemed to be everywhere. All in all, something about this book just didn’t sit right for me; it wasn’t the feel-good Christmas story I was hoping for.

Rescuing Lady Jane by Lydia Pembroke

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Rescuing Lady Jane*

Ghastly Look at Married Life in the 1800s

I didn’t like this book. It felt a bit Gothic to me even though it isn’t listed as such, and I’m not a fan of Gothic romance. The beginning of this book just seems so implausible. The baron at first acts as a man should while courting, but as soon as they are married—literally on the carriage ride to the bride’s new home—he makes a 180 into a completely different man. He is rather horrible to Jane from nearly the moment they wed. The author only gives us glimpses of the terror that she has to endure, like mentioning the bruises that he gave her on their wedding night. Ick. Jane herself seems to vacillate between despair and a forced happiness that she is determined to wring out of her awful situation. It was all just a bit much. To me, the baron didn’t have enough motivation to treat his young bride so terribly. I hated reading about their married life so much that I almost gave up on the book, but I was curious about the actual hero of the novel and how this story related to a prequel that I had read by the author. I still can’t say that changed my take on the book, unfortunately.

The Fixer Upper by Maggie Mae Gallagher

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The Fixer Upper*

Funny, Lovely Characters But Missing Tension

A fun and quirky contemporary romance that didn’t quite have enough true conflict or tension. This book is well written, so you may not be aware of its deficiencies until you give it a little thought. Abby inherits her aunt’s home and moves in while she finishes her dissertation and also tries to figure out her next move in life beyond academia. Her next-door neighbor, whom she quickly nicknames Sheriff Stud Muffin, meets her in a most amusing way. I’ve got to hand it to the author. Parts of this book are really quite humorous. Abby is a very quirky young woman with a love of 80s horror that seems to be integral to her character. It does cause some amusing moments as she lives in this beautiful old Victorian and seems to see and feel threats at every turn. Nothing too heavy or serious but in an amusing way. For instance, her aunt had a collection of porcelain dolls that Abby finds a little creepy.

There is a parallel historical love story that we see unfold throughout the book due to a discovered journal. Insights from this little book inform the characters’ thoughts and actions and may even give the reader something to think on. There’s also another small plot about break-ins going on in the area. So, between the contemporary romance, the historical romance, the criminal activity, and Abby’s attempt to understand herself and her future better, there is a lot going on in this story. I thought the book had a bit of a data dump at the beginning, which I’m not a fan of. This is actually a long book, so the author could have definitely woven in bits of backstory more adeptly throughout. There were at times some very long narrative passages, which can get tedious in a book (especially one of length). There was more profanity than I like in a book and certainly more than was needed for characterization.

But I think the greatest flaw in this book is that it felt like there were no true conflicts. This couple had instant chemistry—and it did sparkle and jump off the page. They become friendly, and then they become intimate. but it didn’t really feel like there was true tension or conflict as the plot moved along. For me, key ingredients in a romance include the All Is Lost moment towards the end followed by a Proof of Love (self-sacrifice without expectations). That didn’t happen in this book, so even though there is the HEA, it felt unsatisfying. If you don’t mind low-tension love stories, this book actually is humorous and delightful. I just wish it had a little bit more substance.

The Duke’s Bride in Disguise by Claudia Stone

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The Duke's Bride in Disguise**

Twins Separated at Birth Swap Lives (Poor Twin Story)

I absolutely adored the premise of these two books in this series, and each tale is rendered perfectly, aligning well with the characters of each sister; I like, too, that the stories are so distinct from each other. In this one, the poor sister of the newly discovered twins takes on the life of the wealthy sister to help dissuade her suitor. Ava is a delightful heroine, caught up in a world that she little understands. But her task is difficult. She has always had a bit of a crush on the duke (he was a patron of the shop she worked at); can she rebuff him for her sister’s sake . . . and at the peril of her own heart? The story is sweet and romantic. The only downside of this book, and the other as well, is that the book has not been properly copyedited—to the point where at times there are multiple errors in a paragraph. It was distracting from the lovely story. I would have given it five stars without those issues.

Alone for the Holidays by Vivien Mayfair

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Alone for the Holidays*

Not Alone for the Holidays

This is a super short, quick read. The heroine has gotten herself into a bit of a pickle when she invites a man she had met through a Goodreads group to spend Christmas with her. She had felt sorry for him because he had lost his wife the previous Christmas; this would be his first Christmas alone. She hasn’t been telling the truth about herself online, however. She’s a famous author but prefers to hang out on reader forums anonymously so she can just enjoy sharing books with like-minded book lovers. She’s even lied about her looks, believing that no man would be interested in a middle-aged, overweight woman. When the man shows up, she gets deeper and deeper into lies.

I thought that some of the language choices were a bit strange in places. I also felt that sometimes the writing seemed like it was trying to decide whether it was omniscient or third person. The story is so short that we can’t really get a window into the basis for their actual relationship, how they supposedly fell for each other while they were emailing back and forth. I just feel like this needed more.

The Viscount and the Vixen by Ava Devlin

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The Viscount and the Vixen*

Excellent Regency Story

This is a delightfully well-written Regency romance. The author has made characters who seem believable, and the hero and heroine, at least, are not prone to excesses or melodrama. (I’ll admit that I’m not quite sure why the heroine is called a vixen in the title.} The heroine’s cousin, however, is a good example of the simpering, pouty Regency miss who insists on getting her own way. The author has set up an interesting plot here. The hero wants to wed quickly because of a scandal brewing in his family; he thinks that having a wife will make it all more respectable. He finds an old agreement that his father had done up between him and another man’s daughter, and so he chooses that route. That young girl is quite spoiled and not too pleased that her father has decided to marry her off before she has had a proper season. The hero himself, Gideon, is a bit surprised to see the girl’s cousin is a young woman whom he was enamored with several seasons ago before she accepted another man’s proposal. There’s actually a lot of detail here, and what I related might seem a little convoluted or hard to understand, but it doesn’t make sense within the story.

The hero and heroine do find a way out of the dilemma that he’s gotten himself into with the cousin; they decided to elope to Scotland. Much needs to be done with all that is going on in the Somers family. How will the new viscountess be in this world that she is now thrust into? Can the family avoid scandal?

There are parts of this book that were actually quite funny in a surprising way. Regency isn’t particularly known for being humorous. There were especially some moments between the cousins that I found particularly funny. During the elopement, things got surprisingly steamy pretty fast compared to how things were for them before. In fact, the second half of the book is quite a steamy read. All in all, I thought this was a well-written book with good characters and just enough of a different kind of a plot.

Disclosure

The asterisks (*) by the book title denote the source of the book copy.

One star = I received it as a free advance/review copy or directly from the author.

Two stars = I borrowed it through my Kindle Unlimited subscription.

Three stars = I purchased the book outright (sometimes for free).

The Amazon book links on this site are affiliate links, which means I make a tiny percentage if you choose to buy a book linked from this site.

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