Heartstrings by Kelli McCracken is a contemporary mystery romance with a hint of paranormal. Readers are introduced to Jo Hayes who has suffered major physical and emotional trauma after being involved in a car accident. Unfortunately, her injuries included a traumatic brain injury which caused amnesia leaving her without memory of the last six years of her life. Her right hand was also seriously injured which was almost more devastating for Jo as she is a pianist in a symphony.
We learn that Jo’s medical team recommended that no one tell her what happened as they want her brain to be ready to remember on its own and recover when ready. This left Jo essentially alone with her brother, Brighton, to care for her as he couldn’t trust anyone else not to accidentally tell. She finds herself angry with him most of the time both for his following of her doctors’ orders and refusing to tell her what happened as well as her past memory of him being a manipulative drug addict.
Although Jo can’t play her beloved piano she does have a very special guitar from her brother that at least allows her to make music. It is during her guitar sessions that a handsome, tattooed man, Adam, starts to appear. Jo can’t tell if he is real or a figment of her imagination but he seems to know an awful lot about her and she can’t deny her attraction to him.
Things become more complicated as additional characters are introduced into the story including a nurse who seems to be hiding pain of her own and another handsome man that is definitely real and eerily resembles the mysterious Adam.
Heartstrings was really very intriguing. I thought the character development was excellent and the story line was quite unique for a romance. There are some heavy emotions and loss involved in this story and you can’t help but feel for Jo and the others. In an attempt to avoid a total spoiler, I will just say there was a love tangle between some of the characters that I felt took away from what otherwise would have been an even greater story. If you are looking for a bit more emotionally involved romance, I would highly recommend Heartstrings and I very much look forward to reading more works by Kelli McCracken.
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Brothers in Blue: Max by Jeanne St. James tells the story of Amanda, an attractive young woman who is lacking direction in her life. She hails from Miami where she spent most of her time basking in the sun, partying, and being controlled by her money-hungry domineering mother. Amanda couldn’t imagine how quickly what she thought she valued most in her life would change when within the span of two years she loses her estranged father and now her step-mother. To top it off she learns she is the only living family of her developmentally disabled twenty-two-year-old brother, Greg and has been tasked with caring for him.
So, Amanda trades in her flip flops and bikinis for sweaters and boots and leaves for Manning Grove, Pennsylvania. Quiet, chilly, small town Manning Grove couldn’t be more different than the sunny, vibrant cultural city she just left. However, Amanda is determined to try and do her best for the brother she is about to meet but also hopes to find a way to bring him back to Miami.
What Amanda wasn’t expecting was a run in with the law on the second day of her new adventure. When she is given a parking ticket by the dark, handsome, and rugged Office Max Bryson as mad as she was she knew she would never forget him. Max is the epitome of a manly man. A former marine who served two tours of duty in Iraq and now a third generation Manning Grove police officer he takes serving and protecting very seriously. Max also has a soft spot for Amanda’s brother which is quite endearing.
Max is immediately attracted to Amanda’s looks and her spirit, however, is by no means looking for anything serious. Especially with a woman who at first glance seems very immature and self-involved. The story continues to chronicle the developing relationship of Amanda and Max, the growing relationship she has with Greg, and also introduces several more delightful characters including Max’s mother, father, brothers, and the town’s very colorful hair dresser, Teddy.
The story was a very fun read with a great mix of plot and steamy romance with well-developed characters. If you are looking to escape life for a few blissful hours with a quick, spicy read then I would definitely recommend Brothers in Blue: Max and I am looking forward to reading future stories from this series and others from Author Jeanne St. James.
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Black Diamond by Ja’Nese Dixon is a contemporary suspenseful romance that brings readers two central characters who are both internally struggling with their careers and their love lives. Camille Blackwell is smart, beautiful, strong and determined—she’s also an undercover FBI agent. She has lost lovers and friends to putting her career first. Camille has struggled to achieve the success she’s had in the white, male-dominated field and doesn’t want to compromise her hard work for romance.
Into her life strolls the handsome and confident Marc Fulton, a seasoned CIA agent who was really just looking for a vacation and a chance to think, but instead finds himself helping Camille as a favor to a friend. However, Camille doesn’t want or think she needs his help.
We discover that Camille has been working undercover for two whole years trying to get close to the private records of the International Jewelry Distribution Company or IJDC. The further Camille moves up the ranks of the company the closer she gets to the truth—a truth that could put her life in peril. With Marc’s help, Camille dives into the dangerous world of blood diamonds where greed, power and violence are enslaving entire villages throughout parts of the world. Camille understands what’s at stake and she won’t stop for anything until she can reveal the dark secrets of IJDC.
Black Diamond is intense, action packed while adding in that bit of necessary heat between Camille and Marc. What neither expected was the intense attraction they instantly felt for each other. We learn that they both have had heartbreaking experiences in their past loves and neither believes they are ready for a real commitment. Can an FBI and a CIA agent cross the bureaucratic line drawn in the sand, forgive their pasts, and find love?
Dixon also introduces multiple other characters that add interest and intrigue to the story. I learned a great deal about the horrors of the “blood diamond” market. The storyline was well developed, the characters were complex, and the pace of the story was fast and exciting. If I had any critique it would be that Camille seemed to cry a bit too much for an FBI agent but that might be my own assumptions of what an agent should be. Overall, this was a fantastic read. I had a hard time setting the book down and stayed up way later than I should have finishing it.
I highly recommend reading Black Diamond and I look forward to reading more by Ja’Nese Dixon.
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This week I reviewed two novels by author L. Chapman from the U.K.
The Summer Deal by L Chapman introduces two young women—best friends—who are on one final holiday prior to starting their clothing business together back in London. Emily is the eccentric one, a relaxed free-spirit with the mind for business. Tillie is the artist, the designer who finds inspiration for her fashion design in everything. Tillie is organized, straight laced and looking forward to this holiday—best friends relaxing on the beach and getting inspiration from the sights. Her plans are quickly dashed when Emily falls hard for Shane, a man that is here for a stag party. Their hot and heavy romance leaves Tillie alone more and more often. It’s a bit difficult to appreciate Emily’s decision to abandon her friend so quickly on vacation but, finally, Tillie runs into Jay, one of the men also attending the stag party. Despite Tillie’s determination to avoid men completely they can’t seem to keep their hands off of each other. Ultimately, they make a deal to leave their passion at the beach—no strings attached. As their days together come to an end, we discover they both carry deep, painful secrets from their pasts. The question of course becomes whether or not Tillie and Jay will keep their ‘deal’ at the end of vacation and go their separate ways.
The story doesn’t provide much in terms of a description of the setting or the people of Tenerife which I would have enjoyed as I had never heard of the island. L Chapman’s style of writing took me a couple of chapters to adjust to due to it being in British English as compared to my native American English but I did enjoy the differences.
Overall, The Summer Deal is a fun, quick read. Tillie is a likeable heroine and you find yourself wishing her happiness. Jay meets the right criteria of a summer fling—tall, handsome and full of sexual energy. I will certainly look to read more romances by L. Chapman.
Healing by L Chapman tells the story of a young woman, Keisha Evans, whose life has been full of obstacles and tragedy. As a young child she was told she wasn’t smart enough to become a teacher. With determination she worked until she was able to bring in the grades she needed. Tragically, she lost her beloved mum in a car accident that also seriously injured Keisha. She was unable to continue at the university. Fast forward to today and Keisha is now at least partially filling her dream of working with children as a school secretary. She still misses her mum horribly but she has a new puppy, her own home and spends time out on the town with her best friend, Ashley. Unfortunately, just when Keisha feels she’s ready to get back on track with her life she is assaulted on her walk home one evening by a faceless man with a knife. Before her attacker can completely have his way with her she is rescued by another unknown man. Already traumatized, the cold and accusing manner in which Keisha feels the police and medical staff treat her makes her retreat further inside of herself. The remainder of the story details the fear and anxiety of trying to heal from her ordeal. Throughout, Ashley remains Keisha’s main support, gently assisting her to get back to her life. On one such outing the ladies go out to lunch and their waiter, Cam, happens to be the man that saved Keisha from her attack. Cam ends up asking Keisha out and they start a friendship that appears to have potential for more. When Ashley is then seriously injured in another tragedy we are introduced to another character, Dean, with whom Ashley appears to have started a relationship. Ashley’s accident leaves both ladies to recover at Keisha’s home together where they are now joined on a regular basis by Cam and Dean. We aren’t entirely certain where Cam and Keisha’s relationship is headed. The story ends abruptly with Keisha receiving a post that shatters the happy world she had been working on returning to.
As the reader I hoped for Keisha to find healing and happiness. Ashley is a wonderful, cheery character. Cam appears as though he will be a hero that we will all love. Dean is somewhat of an odd, but potentially likeable person. This story was more of an extended back story to what I hope will be a sequel that ties up loose ends, develops the relationship between Keisha and Cam, and truly finds a way for Keisha to find healing.
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I recently read and reviewed novels in three different series by mystery and romance Author Candace Clark. I was really excited to get started on her stories as mystery and romance are two of my all-time favorite genres (put them together and I’m in heaven). Clark also has multiple Kindle Novellas which I absolutely love to have available for those times when I can sneak in a quick hour or so of reading–airplane rides, waiting for appointments and for those nights when I might actually have time for the luxury of taking a bubble bath.
Lone Star Burn: Burning Love by Candace Clark is a novella set in Texas—the world of the popular Lone Star Burn Series by Ruth Cardello. It appears to be a spinoff novel that will lead into a new series of Nashville based romances.
There were a lot of characters introduced throughout this story but the main storyline follows Whitney Harris and Silas Shaw. Whitney is a recent grad school graduate who has moved back to the apartment above the garage at her parents’ in Fort Mavis Texas. She’s not excited about her current situation. She hasn’t figured out what she wants to do with her life yet and worries she won’t find the most important things she wants—career and romance—if she stays in her home town. We also quickly learn that Whitney is hiding a broken heart—broken by none other than the hot, up and coming country music star, Silas Shaw.
Silas and Whitney were the perfect couple. Their families are friends, fathers were firefighters together, both are incredibly good looking and to top it off Silas and Whitney share a love for music. So when Silas ran off to Nashville abruptly leaving behind the woman that had been his best friend and lover since high school it crushed Whitney. So much so that she doesn’t know if she’ll ever be able to trust another man.
As you would expect with a novella this story moved very quickly but didn’t feel rushed. Clark did a great job with character development. Family and friends were also introduced throughout which helped to make the main characters more relatable and likeable. There was also enough of a back story that I didn’t feel lost. The chemistry between Whitney and Silas felt real and passionate. If there was anything I didn’t love about this book it would be more along the lines of my own personal dislikes such as interrupting each romantic scene with a detailed description of how they put on protection. Not that I don’t fully support and recommend using protection. I just don’t need that many words of an already quick read dedicated to it. Overall, I highly recommend Lone Star Burn: Burning Love and can’t wait to read about from Whitney, Silas and the crew.
Welcome To Lovely is the first in a series of mysteries by Author Candace Clark.
Samantha is a beautiful but humble, hard working, truth seeking reporter from Lovely who left the small town for big city living but decided to return to her roots. She’s out to prove she’s a great reporter, not because she’s seeking fame and fortune but because she has a passion for the truth.
Daniel Drake is the hero every woman wants to love. We quickly find out that Samantha and the ruggedly handsome, strong, and smart detective are more than acquaintances. In their work life they can be at odds—a reporter seeking the inside scoop vs the ‘no comment’ detective, however, they manage to work out their differences—in the bedroom. Despite the fact that they could easily try to use their relationship as a way to further their careers the couple manage to respect professional boundaries.
While there is the excitement of their hot new romance to spice up the book, the core of the story is really the murder mystery. A ‘devil’ has come to Lovely forcing the close knit community to double check the locks on their doors, arm themselves with handguns and high tech security systems, and demand justice for their lost daughter, poor Emily Teller.
The story is very fast paced without a dull moment. We meet several interesting characters throughout the tale including Samantha’s awkward cameraman Jimmy, the sweet ‘gold-digging’ Minnie, the arrogant prosecutor Christopher and the local beauty, Rebecca. The hunt for Emily’s murderer takes several twists and turns along the way and, as every good mystery should, comes dangerously close to home for our main characters. Welcome To Lovely keeps readers guessing until the very end.
The mystery was fantastic and I devoured it. If I had any comment on what I felt a little longing for by the end it would have been more of a development or perhaps an explanation of the relationship of Samantha and Daniel. They were both local to Lovely but it felt like they didn’t know each other prior to their love affair. In the end we don’t really know much about either one of their back stories but I do want to learn more. I’m hopeful that was Candace Clark’s way of hinting that there will be more to come of Samantha and Daniel. I will definitely be reading the second installment of the Lovely Mystery series and I highly recommend this novel to those that are looking for a great murder mystery with a hint of romance.
Daring to Begin Again is a stand-alone novella from the Daring to Love series by Candace Clark. The whirlwind love story begins at a lovely French cafe where the beautiful and fashion forward Renee Gavel, an up and coming interior designer, bares her soul to the sweet owner, Richard. Renee feels alone in this world, first losing her Grandpere to Alzheimer’s and now hurting from the very recent loss of her dear Grandmere.. She is trying to move on and heal but doesn’t know if her heart will ever be able to love again. She is hoping the excitement and challenge of her new position will help. As fate would have it our rich and handsome hero, Marshall Mann also frequents the coffee shop and is immediately drawn to Renee. Marshall is also in pain and alone having lost his beloved mother. Now his father is lost—to Alzheimer’s. A twist to the story is that Marshall is the owner of the firm that Renee is starting to work for. While not her direct supervisor he is essentially her boss. The story continues from there to chronicle their physical and emotional attraction for each other as well as their attempt at keeping their work relationship professional.
I did enjoy both of these characters and truly felt the pain they both were in from their losses. Renee is a smart, funny respectable woman and Marshall was likeable too despite the initial rich guy “I can get whatever I want” persona. I have to admit I was a bit distracted by the approach Marshall took with Renee in the first part of the novella as I kept picturing the sexual harassment suit that was going to come his way through human resources. From there, I was able to relax and enjoy the story. I would recommend this story for those looking for a quick read and will consider checking out other stories from Clark’s Daring to Love series.