Category Archives: Harlequin

Always On My Mind

always on my mindAlways On My Mind: The Sullivans
by Bella Andre
Published by Harlequin MIRA
304 pages
Genre: romance; chick lit 
4 / 5

 

If you have read any of Bella Andre’s Sullivan Family series, you undoubtedly are as hooked on this herd as I am. With each book, I find it more and more difficult to pick a favorite. But from the start, I’ve been intrigued by Lori (aka “Naughty” to her twin sister Sophie’s “Nice”). Lori is the wild child, the one who, as her family observes, runs in and out of rooms so quickly that you hardly have time to register that she’s been there. Yet she nonetheless leaves an impact wherever she is.

Lori has been living in Chicago, where she works as a dancer and choreographer. Like most of the Sullivans, Lori has achieved some fame and adulation – professionally, at least. Personally (romantically), her life is far less admirable. She’s been in a relationship with a man who does not put her first, to say the least. One day she decides she has Had It and she bolts for her hometown in California.

But the thought of being near all of those Sullivans rankles her. She isn’t ready to face them. When she gets off the plane, she rents a car and asks the attendant where she should go. Pescadero is the answer, so off Lori drives.

A girl has to work, regardless of what she’s trying to escape, and Lori answers the first job posting she finds: for a cattle hand. What does she know about ranching? Um, very little. One of her family members owns a winery and her mother planted flowers, so she kind of sort of understands horticulture, but cows? Pigs? Chickens?

No.

What she certainly does understand is that Grayson, the ranch owner, is H-O-T. If he isn’t worth the mud and filth of the job, nothing else could be.

Conveniently, Lori has to stay with Grayson.

Very conveniently.

As drawn to each other as they are, each is reluctant to pursue the romance. Grayson has decamped to Pescadero for his own reasons, and he is slow to let Lori know those. It isn’t that these two are opposites; rather, it’s that they are too much alike.

Andre writes in a way that makes you enjoy her characters. The entire Sullivan clan gets together a couple of times, so you will get to check in on your favorites from past installments. Despite the size of the family, Andre lets you get to know each one of them, and she gives each one his or her own voice.

Lori and Grayson are flawed, and those flaws are not glossed over. Theirs is a romance that comes in fits and starts, and it’s nice to see the man as the more persistent pursuer for a change. It’s nice to get to know Grayson, period. Girls. Trust me on that one.

This is a fun, romantic book with its share of hot headboard rockin’. Not too graphic, but hot nonetheless.

Spend some time with the Sullivans. You will want to join their family too.

NetGalley_Logo

Leave a comment

Filed under chick lit, Harlequin, romance

Island Promises: Hawaiian Holiday / Hawaiian Reunion / Hawaiian Getaway

Island PromisesIsland Promises: Hawaiian Holiday / Hawaiian Reunion / Hawaiian Getaway
by Raeanne Thayne, Marie Ferrarella, Leanne Banks
Published by Harlequin Anthologies
320 pages
Genre: chick lit, romance
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
3 / 5 overall
Here we have three novellas, all centered around the same Hawaiian destination wedding, and of the three, one is pretty good, another okay, and the third weak.

We’ll begin with “Hawaiian Holiday,” which turns out to be the strongest of the bunch. Megan has agreed to fly from Chicago with her two seven-year-old twin daughters to her ex-husband’s wedding. Before you raise an eyebrow, Megan and Nick were not well suited for one another. Theirs was a shotgun wedding, and they extracted themselves without any collateral damage. Their twin girls are adorable, and the whole thing just seems precious.

Megan wonders, though, if she will ever find the love that Nick now shares with his new wife Cara. Before she can ask twice, in comes Shane, one of Nick’s fellow firefighters. Shane is every woman’s fantasy for a hot firefighter, and he does not disappoint. They circle each other, but Shane is reluctant to do more than play kissy kissy. He recalls his childhood with shudders and does not want to have children. Megan, of course, comes with two.

It’s a cute, predictable story, and you can’t help but smile as you read it. Megan is enjoyable and Shane is hot. So it’s good.

“Hawaiian Getaway” falls off a little. Nick’s sister Gabi shows up for the wedding feeling professionally stressed. She’s trying to prove herself to her father, and it causes her to focus nearly solely on work. Fortunately, Finn the surf instructor is around to take her mind off of her day job. But he’s a surf instructor, and she’s a professionally-driven cosmetics executive. What future do they have?

This one is also sweet – there is a cute kid involved – but just not as magnetic as the Holiday story. I don’t know if I had Hawaiian fatigue at this point (this is the last of the three), but I had a difficult time sustaining interest. Of the three, this is the only one that comes close to hot headboard rockin’, although even then, you get no details.

Finally, there is the second story. The titular reunion is between Amy and Devlin, a couple in the beginning stages of divorce. There is nothing – and I mean nothing – credible in this story, aside from Devlin being adorable. Amy is a wench, and the cause of their marital friction just does not work effectively. There are too many holes here, and that makes for a weak story.

I’ll say this much for these novellas: they are a Kauai Chamber of Commerce dream, because you will want to high tail it to Hawaii. I mean, if these three women can find some island lovin’, why couldn’t we?

Leave a comment

Filed under chick lit, cute romance, Harlequin, needs some hot headboard rockin'

The Unexpected Wedding Guest

The Unexpected Wedding Guest
by Aimee Carson
Published by Harlequin Kiss
224 pages
Genre: chick lit
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
3 / 5

Poor Reese. She got married at nineteen, and that lasted a year. Now, ten years later, she’s due to marry the staid, respectful, responsible Dylan. There she is, trying on her big pouffy wedding gown, and who should walk in, but that ex-husband of hers.

Mason is freshly returned from his third stint in Afghanistan with the Marines, but his difficulty sleeping and adjusting led a therapist to suggest he make peace with Reese. Mason also has other, um, performance issues (wink wink), and those concern him as well.

Sure. You know what’s going to happen, and you are correct. First Dylan postpones the wedding, and then Mason decides to stick around to “help” Reese. And by “help,” I think we all know he particularly intends to rock his naughty bits and hers against the headboard.

We are told – time and again – that under Mason’s tutelage, Reese unleashed her inner vixen. Mason recalls how dirty she would get, how insatiable. Never in detail, though, and that’s unfortunate. We get detail on Reese’s wedding dress and some frozen ice sculptures, but aside from a couple faints mention of their past, we don’t know a whole lot. We know what caused their marriage to end, and that undoubtedly is important, but aside from their sexual connection, what did these two have together?

Now, sexually, they are quite copacetic. Mason’s manly appendage may not have been responsive prior to him showing up for Reese’s wedding, but it sure is now. And it doesn’t take long for Reese to crave the sexual intensity she shared with him. But again I ask: what else is there between them?

The sex scenes are hot, and the book is a quick, fun read. If it ends a little too neatly and easily, I wonder if I expected too much from it. The point here is to show a romance, dabble in some sexy times, and end on a happy note. This book accomplishes those three directives.

Leave a comment

Filed under chick lit, Harlequin

How to Mend a Broken Heart

How to Mend a Broken Heart
by Amy Andrews
Published by Harlequin Medical Romances
262 KB; 134 pages
Available on Amazon.com Kindle
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
3.5 / 5 cupcakes

First, let’s talk about that cover.

This book is about a couple who divorced shortly after the death of their young son; ten years later, they reconnect, bent and bowed under the weight of grief that still shrouds them. Does that cover look like two people in their late thirties? In his case, Fletch, the man in the photo, is forty. The hell? Do the people who come up with these covers even read the books? And Tess, the woman, has short spiky hair. The cover couple looks like two college kids hiding in the library stacks, desperate for a naughty study interlude.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, on with the show.

How to Mend a Broken Heart is saddled with, in addition to that awful cover, an awful title. Yes, Tess and Fletch’s hearts are broken. It’s been ten years since their son Ryan’s death, but in those ten years, Tess left their home in Australia to move to a small town in the English countryside. Fletch stayed behind, and now must deal with his mother’s dementia. When he sees Tess during her annual graveside visit on the anniversary of Ryan’s death, he asks her to move in with him and his mother and help take care of the latter.

This is a “medical romance,” or so the cover tells us. And it is, to some degree. Fletch is a doctor, Tess a nurse, and some scenes do take place in a hospital. But it’s really a character study of two people still mired in grief, both of them clinging to it out of fear that if they get past their loss, they will lose their memories of their son. Mirroring this is Fletch’s mother, who actually is losing her memory. If Fletch and Tess ease up on their grief, will they experience their own form of dementia?

There is a romance to be found here, as Tess and Fletch independently remember their life together. He is determined to keep her, just as she is determined to leave him again, absconding to England to get away from memories of Ryan.

And this being a romance, we are treated to some loving, touching and squeezing. Just … not enough. And what we get can be a bit of a tease. Then again, given the heaviness of the story lines, would it make sense for these two to rock the headboard? Probably not.

There is nothing lighthearted about this book. It is serious, from start to finish, with almost no let up. Tess is not always likable; she’s frustrating and self-focused. Not that you can blame her, really. Fletch, on the other hand, wears his wounds like his three day stubble. We want to comfort him and help heal him.

You have to be in the right mood for this book, even if it is a fast read. If you want an excuse to shed a tear or two, this is one to pick up.

2 Comments

Filed under Harlequin, medical romance, the sads

We’ll Always Have Paris

Before you think the title implies that you will read the literary equivalent to Casablanca, let me disabuse you of that notion. While We’ll Always Have Paris is fun and frothy, it isn’t perfection or beauty. But golly, it is cute.

Jessica Hart spins the tale of Clara and Simon, two extreme opposites who wind up attracting. She is colorful, bright, animated and open to whatever life brings her. A perpetual optimist, she smiles her way through the negative, hoping that the shape her lips form will transform into true happiness. When all else fails, she breaks into song, relying heavily on July Andrews tunes, especially those from The Sound of Music. Simon, on the other hand, is straight-laced, focusing on facts and reality. He needs things proven for him; he is not one to rely on feelings and emotions because they are unreliable.

Yet he is drawn to Clara, despite all attempts on his part to not be. What he finds quirky and plain about her becomes beautiful and intoxicating. Clara finds herself in the same position. The cold, buttoned up, facts and figures man becomes virile and passionate. The two meet when Clara stalks him at an economic speech he delivers. Her production company wants him to co-present a documentary about romance, with Simon taking the “there is no such thing as romance” perspective. The woman hired to present opposite him leaves the production, so Clara, as production assistant, fills in. They travel to Paris, a tropical island, and the wilds of Scotland, testing the theory that romance can happen anywhere. Simon says that romance comes down to economic security; Clara says it’s all about giving in to the feeling.

‘I thought you could kiss me,‘ said Simon. ‘I’m prepared to be persuaded that there’s something romantic about this situation,’ he added, looking down at his sodden shoes, ‘although I’ve got to say that I’m not convinced so far!’

His gaze came back to Clara’s doubtful face and he raised his brows. ‘No? Fair enough. I suppose it’s not that romantic, but if nothing else I thought it would take my mind off my feet.’

‘Oh, I expect I could do that,’ said Clara with an assumption of nonchalance that covered a pounding pulse and a mouth that was suddenly dry. 

But even she has to question the realism of a relationship with Simon. What works in these romantic locations may not work in the cold light of a London day. And is it really love that they feel for each other, or was it just the heat of the moment?

We’ll Always Have Paris is a quick, breezy, cotton candy confection of a read. It’s sweet and charming, and if we don’t get to know the characters as well as we’d like, or if some of the plot lines are too tidily resolved, then so be it. If you want Pride & Prejudice, you read Jane Austen. If you want fun, you read We’ll Always Have Paris.

Published by Harlequin and available on Amazon.com.
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview.

Leave a comment

Filed under Harlequin, romance