Alice Close Your Eyes by Averil Dean
ISBN:  9780778315865 (paperback)
ISBN:  9781460323748 (ebook)
ASIN:  B00EB3FIZ4 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: December 31, 2013 
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Ten years ago, someone ruined Alice Croft’s life. Now she has a chance to right that wrong–and she thinks she’s found the perfect man to carry out her plan. After watching him for weeks, she breaks into Jack Calabrese’s house to collect the evidence that will confirm her hopes. When Jack comes home unexpectedly, Alice hides in the closet, fearing for her life. But upon finding her, Jack is strangely calm, solicitous . . . and intrigued.

That night is the start of a dark and intense attraction, and soon Alice finds herself drawn into a labyrinth of terrifying surrender to a man who is more dangerous than she could have ever imagined. As their relationship spirals toward a breaking point, Alice begins to see just how deep Jack’s secrets run–and how deadly they could be.

Alice Croft isn’t the typical twenty-something. She’s a published YA author with a history of cutting. Her maternal grandmother died when she was nine years old and her mother died when she was ten. She then became a ward of the state and went into foster care. Although Alice owns her home and is reasonably successful as an author, she isn’t happy with her life. She feels that the wrongs from her past must be addressed and she thinks she’s found just the man to do it . . . Jack Calabrese. Jack is an ex-convict, relocated from the East Coast after his incarceration and estranged from his family. Jack is currently working as a carpenter and lives on Vashon Island. When he finds Alice in his home, the two begin a strange relationship dance that can only lead to a dangerous end.

Alice Close Your Eyes is described as an intense psychological thriller and it is definitely that…intense. The author leads the reader in such a way that it isn’t possible to tell whether Alice is leading Jack or vice versa in their strange game of sadomasochism. This isn’t a story that I enjoyed reading (my inner prude had difficulty with the very explicit sexual scenes). The action within the story constantly flips between flashbacks of Alice’s past and her current torturous relationship with Jack. Alice Close Your Eyes was a quick read but again a difficult one for me. I didn’t like either of the main characters; both Alice and Jack have some serious issues, in my opinion, and their co-dependency appears to drive the other further out of control. If you don’t mind explicit sexual descriptions and want to read a taut and extremely intense psychological thriller, then you may want to add Alice Close Your Eyes to your TBR list.

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Everybody Has Everything by Katrina Onstad
ISBN:  9781455522927 (paperback)
ISBN:  9780771068799 (ebook)
ASIN:  B00AFHH9EI (Kindle edition)
Publication date: June 25, 2013 
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

After years of unsuccessful attempts at conceiving a child, Ana and James become parents overnight, when a terrible accident makes them guardians to 2-year-old Finn. Suddenly, two people who were struggling to come to terms with childlessness are thrust into the opposite situation-responsible for a small toddler whose mother’s survival is in question. 

Finn’s crash-landing in their tidy, urban lives throws into high relief some troubling truths about their deepest selves, both separately and as a couple. Several chaotic, poignant, and life-changing weeks as a most unusual family give rise to an often unasked question: Can everyone be a parent?

Ana and James have been married for a number of years and trying to become parents for most of those years. The last pregnancy ended with a miscarriage. Just when it seemed they were becoming used to the idea of never becoming parents, their lives take a dramatic turn. They become foster-parents to the two-year-old child of their dear friends, Marcus and Sarah’s son, Finn when a tragic accident results in the death of Marcus and nearly-fatal injuries to Sarah.

It appears that Ana had become not only at peace with the notion of never becoming a parent, but almost happy that she would never have to disrupt her life and career with motherhood. Ana isn’t overly maternal but she does seem to border on being obsessive-compulsive about her habits and lifestyle. She appreciates having a home that isn’t exactly child-friendly. She actually enjoys the regimentation of being a research lawyer. Now that she is faced with being a surrogate mother to a two-year-old, she isn’t quite sure why she ever considered being a mother in the first place. Is it possible the maternal instinct will eventually kick in? Will she ever be completely comfortable around Finn?

While Ana is dealing with the inner turmoil of not being maternal, James is quite happy in his role as surrogate father to Finn. Unbeknownst to Ana, James has already established a relationship with Finn and often took him on outings to give his mother a much-needed break. Now that James is unemployed from his career in television, he is able to commit most of his time to Finn and seeing to his needs. 

Everybody has Everything seems to be about just the opposite, not being able to have everything. In Ana’s mind having everything seems to mean having a marriage, career and family. If she doesn’t have all of these components in her life then she is somehow deficient in the eyes of society. She is very happy with her career and relatively satisfied with her marriage, but should she want more? James is dissatisfied with his lack of a career and is searching for something to redefine himself. His relationship with Ana isn’t as strong as it once was and he also seems to be struggling for a balance there as much as with his career options. I found Everybody Has Everything to be a relatively quick read, but I couldn’t really connect with the characters. It didn’t make sense to me that if Ana wasn’t really ready for motherhood, she’d spend so much time, money and effort on getting pregnant in the first place. James came across as mature in some instances and in others he reminded me more of an immature young man than someone approaching his early forties. He was a good father figure to Finn and seemed to relish the time spent with him. He was also a good friend to both Marcus and Sarah. I liked the premise of Everybody Has Everything, I just think it got a little lost along the way . . . or at least it seemed to for me.

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Book 87: KENTUCKY HOME Review

Kentucky Home (A Southern Comfort Novel) by Sarah Title
ISBN:  9781601831149 (ebook)
ASIN:  B00AKI4IX2 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: April 18, 2013
Publisher: Kensington

In this warm and witty new series, author Sarah Title introduces readers to the down home Kentucky hospitality of the Carson family and their Wild Rose Farm and Stables. It’s a place where love is always possible–and sweeter than ever the second time around…

Mallory Thompson and Keith Carson are far from impressed with each other when she arrives at his family’s horse farm, fleeing an abusive marriage. Mallory sees nothing but a gruff man who’s as patronizing as her soon-to-be ex-husband, and Keith has no time for a city girl who’s afraid of dogs. But the struggling Wild Rose is too small to allow anyone to keep their distance…

As one by one, Mallory wins the hearts of his family, from his cranky father to his headstrong younger sister and three-legged dog, Keith finds himself more than a little attracted to her stubborn charm. And the longer Mallory stays, the more she realizes Keith is nothing like the overbearing bully she married–and the more she fantasizes about being in his strong, loving arms. Maybe some folks get a second chance to make a first impression after all…

Mallory Thompson appears to have it all — a loving husband, wealth, and a beautiful home . . . but appearances can be deceiving. Mallory has been on the receiving end of emotional, psychological and verbal abuse from her husband, Dr. Michael Thompson for a number of years. He has told her what to wear, sabotaged any possibility of her having a job, and made her daily life a living hell. Even after their “separation” he continued to demean her by bringing women into their home and expecting her to continue to provide for him as part of her wifely duties. Mallory finally decides to leave Michael after he hits her, but she has nowhere to go and is afraid for her safety. Luckily, the only friend she has, Luke Carson, comes up with a plan and takes her to his family in Kentucky. 

Mallory is quickly made to feel at home in Kentucky. Luke’s family opens their arms and home to her and she quickly finds enjoyment in the simple pleasures of life. In a short period of time Mallory has learned to overcome her fear of dogs and befriends Peanut (a three-legged rescue dog). She also learns what it’s like to be a part of a family for the first time in a long time. 

Kentucky Home is a contemporary story that blends just the right amount of romance with self-discovery not to mention humor. Mallory learns to fight for her freedom and begins to build a new life for herself in Kentucky. I found all of the characters, even the bad guy, to be well-developed and realistic. The simple rural life that Ms. Title provides is an excellent backdrop for the action within the story. Running a business is difficult work in these current economic times and this isn’t downplayed whether it’s the veterinarian’s business or the stables. It was nice to see Mallory grow in strength of mind and purpose. Good food, good friends and a simple life provide Mallory with the foundation she needs to learn to appreciate who she is and what she wants out of life. Kentucky Home is a well-written contemporary romance that you don’t want to miss. I found this to be a fast-paced read that provided just as many smiles from the humor as it did sizzles from the romance. I look forward to reading more from Ms. Title and the Southern Comfort series.

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Book 84: AND THEN I FOUND YOU Review

And Then I Found You by Patti Callahan Henry
ISBN:  9780312610760 (hardcover)
ISBN:  9781250036780 (ebook)
ASIN:  B009K9152Y (Kindle edition)
Publication date: April 9, 2013
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Kate Vaughan is no stranger to tough choices.

She’s made them before. Now it’s time to do it again.

Kate has a secret, something tucked away in her past. And she’s getting on with her life. Her business is thriving. She has a strong relationship with her family, and a devoted boyfriend whom she wants to love with all her heart. If Kate had ever made a list, Rowan would fill the imagined boxes of a perfect mate. But she wants more than the perfect on paper relationship; she wants a real and imperfect love. That’s why, when Kate discovers the small velvet box hidden in Rowan’s drawer, she panics.

It always happens this way. Just when Kate thinks she can love, just when she believes she can conquer the fear, she’s filled with dread. And she wants more than anything to make this feeling go away. But how?

When the mistakes have been made and the running is over, it’s time to face the truth. Kate knows this. She understands that a woman can never undo what can never be undone. Yet, for the first time in her life she also knows that she won’t fully love until she confronts those from her past. It’s time to act.

Can she do it? Can she travel to the place where it all began, to the one who shares her secret? Can the lost ever become found?

And Then I Found You gives new life to the phrase “inspired by a true story.” By travelling back to a painful time in her own family’s history, the author explores the limits of courage, and the price of a selfless act.

Kate Vaughan has loved and lost and will probably be the first to tell you that it isn’t better to have loved and lost than never at all. Losing those she’s loved has been hard and that pain and loss have been with her every day for the past thirteen years. She’s tried to move on with her life and has a successful boutique and is in loving relationship, but she craves what she has lost. In an effort to say goodbye to her past, she makes a trip to Alabama to visit her ex. Jack has moved on with his life and although he’s glad to see her he doesn’t want to revisit the past. Just when it seems like things couldn’t get any worse, her current boyfriend shows up in Alabama . . . at Jack’s house. Kate is forced to reveal the secrets of her past and only hopes that Rowan can understand and that they can move forward. Easier said than done because the daughter she gave up for adoption has tracked her down. Kate now has her two lost loves back in her life but isn’t quite sure what to do with them.

Ms. Henry has provided a story that deals with love, loss and the consequences of our choices. Kate has to deal with the constant reminder from her parents of their lost first grandchild. She deals with the anguish of giving up her daughter for adoption each year on her birthday. Kate wants to build a future with Rowan but is that even possible when she can’t let go of the past? Now that she has contact with her biological daughter what does that mean for her and her family, not to mention her daughter’s adoptive family? The choices that Kate and others make have unforeseen consequences, some good, some bad and some downright heartbreaking. There aren’t any bad guys in this story as everyone is simply trying to do what is best for their families as well as themselves. And Then I Found You is an excellent reminder that we can’t live in the past and sometimes the only way to keep something in our lives is to let go . . . trite but fundamentally true. And Then I Found You isn’t a happy ever after story but it is a hopeful ever after, as the reader is left with the hope that everything will work out after all.

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley and SheReads. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Book 83: THE BEST OF US Review

The Best of Us by Sarah Pekkanen
ISBN:  9781451673517 (paperback)
ISBN:  9781451673524 (ebook)
ISBN:  9781442359970 (audiobook)
ASIN:  B008J4PJXW (Kindle edition)
Publication date: April 9, 2013
Publisher: Washington Square Press

Paradise isn’t quite what it seems as four college friends meet for an island vacation in this captivating new novel from the acclaimed author of These Girls.

Following a once-in-a-lifetime invitation, a group of old college friends leap at the chance to bring their husbands for a week’s vacation at a private villa in Jamaica to celebrate a former classmates’ thirty-fifth birthday.

All four women are desperate for a break and this seems like a perfect opportunity. Tina is drowning under the demands of mothering four young children. Allie needs to escape from the shattering news about an illness that runs in her family. Savannah is carrying the secret of her husband’s infidelity. And, finally, there’s Pauline, who spares no expense to throw her husband an unforgettable birthday celebration, hoping it will gloss over the cracks that have already formed in their new marriage.

The week begins idyllically, filled with languorous days and late nights of drinking and laughter. But as a hurricane approaches the island, turmoil builds, forcing each woman to re-evaluate everything she’s known about the others—and herself.

Tina, Allie, Savannah and Pauline are four women with very different lives. All four have their own set of issues to overcome and all four think that the others are great examples of what life could be. Tina, Allie, Savannah and Dwight all attended college together and have remained friends over the years. They’ve added their spouses into this mix and Dwight’s wife, Pauline, has invited all of his friends and their wives to Jamaica for one week to celebrate his birthday. When a near tragedy strikes, all four women will be forced to take inventory of their lives and make some hard choices in The Best of Us by Sarah Pekkanen.

Tina worked as a nurse in a busy and hectic emergency room. She was used to chaos and stress . . . or she thought she was before having four children within eight years’ time. Now she’s always tired. She simply doesn’t have the energy to cook “elaborate” meals such as homemade lasagna any more. She worries about money because she knows that her husband, Gio, may suffer as a contractor due to the economy. Now she’s feeling guilty because she’s leaving her children for one glorious week in Jamaica.

Allie has two glorious children and a loving husband. She works part-time as a social worker and keeps fit by jogging daily. She loves her adoptive family and is grateful her mother has volunteered to take not only her children, but Tina and Gio’s four, so that they can all go on this one-week vacation to Jamaica. Allie’s life is good but she’s recently received some news that has her terrified. Does she admit her fears to her husband? Does she follow through with special testing or just ignore the issue and enjoy life?

Savannah has always been the flirt. Now that her husband has left her for another woman, and not even for someone better in her opinion, Savannah is determined to prove that she is just as lovely and desirable as anyone else. Although the invitation included Gary, Savannah is determined to go on the trip alone and enjoy herself as much as possible in an effort to forget Gary and the fact that she’s truly alone.

Pauline is determined to make this week in Jamaica as enjoyable as possible. All she wants is for Dwight and his friends to have a good time and for this birthday to be memorable. She knows she’s gone a little overboard but wants to impress Dwight’s friends. She’s also a little jealous because she simply doesn’t have the history with Dwight that the other women have with him. She’s also forced to face whether she should reveal her family secrets relating to her dying sister and more with the hopes that this will resolve some of the issues with her marriage.

Ms. Pekkanen has provided a wonderful study of friendship, family and the effects of tragedy or near-tragedy on relationships. All of the characters are quite likable, even when they are doing something rather detestable. This one week in “Paradise” reveals that no one is ever what they may appear to be and that even “Paradise” has problems. All of the main characters have secrets that they are forced to deal with over the course of this vacation. The Best of Us is crammed with drama, revenge, secrets, affairs, romance, death, guilt, self-awareness, jealousy, envy, and forgiveness. Although Ms. Pekkanen deals with some weighty issues, she does so in a way that never detracted from this reader’s enjoyment. If you’re looking for a contemporary fiction read that shows the grass is not always greener, then you want to read The Best of Us.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Love Water Memory by Jennie Shortridge
ISBN: 9781451684834 (hardback)
ISBN: 9781451684858 (ebook)
ASIN: B008J2AFVU (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication date: April 2, 2013

A bittersweet masterpiece filled with longing and hope, Jennie Shortridge’s emotional novel explores the raw, tender complexities of relationships and personal identity. Who is Lucie Walker? Even Lucie herself can’t answer that question after she comes to, confused and up to her knees in the chilly San Francisco Bay. Back home in Seattle, she adjusts to life with amnesia, growing unsettled by the clues she finds to the selfish, carefully guarded person she used to be. Will she ever fall in love with her handsome, kindhearted fiancé, Grady? Can he devote himself to the vulnerable, easygoing Lucie 2.0, who is so unlike her controlling former self? When Lucie learns that Grady has been hiding some very painful secrets that could change the course of their relationship, she musters the courage to search for the shocking, long-repressed childhood memories that will finally set her free.

Lucie Walker was a typical type A personality prior to her disappearance. She wore fashionable clothes, carried the most fashion-forward accessories, wore all the right makeup and micromanaged her life and business as a tech recruiter. She also tried to micromanage her fiancé and their upcoming wedding. Lucie has always found solace in her tightly managed life. This all changes when Lucie disappears without a trace from Seattle, Washington and is found days later in San Francisco, California. She has no memory of who she is, why she’s in California, or of her life in Seattle. Grady Goodall loves Lucie, the good and the bad. He’s an engineer with Boeing and the youngest of seven children. All his life has been spent not making waves, literally and figuratively speaking. Grady’s one joy has always been found in swimming. The act of swimming allows him the opportunity to cast off the woes and worries of his life. He’s not quite sure what to make of Lucie’s disappearance and he definitely doesn’t know how to handle her return as she’s no longer the Lucie he really knew and loved.

Love Water Memory is, in some aspects, a coming-of-age story for both Lucie and Grady. Grady must learn to deal with his past, namely the death of his father and subsequent abandonment issues, as well as general complacency and desire to avoid confrontation of any kind. Lucie can’t remember her past, not her immediate past or her childhood, so she’s constantly searching for clues into who she is and where she came from. All Grady can tell her is that her parents are deceased and she hasn’t had any contact with her sole surviving family member, an aunt. Neither Grady nor Lucie really like the answers they discover, but they realize they need to learn from the past so that they can move forward. I rather enjoyed reading about Grady and Lucie as they discovered who they really are and what they want, not just from each other but from themselves and life. Lucie’s search for clues to her past also helps to reunite her with the only family she still has, her aunt Helen Ten Hands. Ms. Shortridge does a wonderful job in describing Lucie’s dissociative fugue state and developing the back story to explain it all. I found Love Water Memory to be a wonderful contemporary fiction read with just the right amount of romance. If you’re looking for a great read, then look no further . . . add Love Water Memory to your Spring TBR pile.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Book 78: HEART OF PALM Review

Heart of Palm by Laura Lee Smith
ISBN: 9780802121028 (hardback)
ISBN: 9780802193568 (ebook)
ASIN: B00B6U095E (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Grove Press
Publication date: April 2, 2013

Utina, Florida, is a small, down-at-heels southern town. Once enlivened by the trade in Palm Sunday palms and moonshine, Utina hasn’t seen economic growth in decades, and no family is more emblematic of the local reality than the Bravos. Deserted by the patriarch years ago, the Bravos are held together in equal measure by love, unspoken blame, and tenuously brokered truces.

The story opens on a sweltering July day, as Frank Bravo, dutiful middle son, is awakened by a distress call. Frank dreams of escaping to cool mountain rivers, but he’s only made it ten minutes from the family restaurant he manages every day and the decrepit, Spanish-moss-draped house he was raised in, and where his strong-willed mother and spitfire sister—both towering redheads, equally matched in stubbornness—are fighting another battle royale. Little do any of them know that Utina is about to meet the tide of development that has already engulfed the rest of Northeast Florida. When opportunity knocks, tempers ignite, secrets are unearthed, and each of the Bravos is forced to confront the tragedies of their shared past.

The Bravo family has a history of tragedy and heartache. The matriarch, Alma Bolton Bravo, was raised in a well-to-do family and never wanted for anything. Alma decided as a teenager that she wanted to be different, so she chose to marry a man that was as different from her family as she could find, Dean Bravo. The first tragedy in their lives occurred on their honeymoon, when Alma is in a boating accident that causes the amputation of her toes and splits her foot. Of course it doesn’t help that the cause of the accident was Dean’s refusal to have a third party as a spotter to go out with them so Alma could water-ski safely. Years pass, Alma and Dean have four children and are barely making ends meet and the second tragedy occurs with the death of their youngest child. As the years pass, it is evident that their eldest, Sofia has mental health issues (she was diagnosed as manic-depressive with OCD). Dean, a heavy drinker, winds up deserting the family shortly after the death of their youngest child. Alma makes do and eventually buys out her brother-in-law’s business, a local bar and grill. Carson Bravo, the eldest son, marries and moves away from home and starts his own business. Frank Bravo, the youngest son, still lives in Utina and runs the restaurant, a job he’s had since he was nineteen years old. Sofia lives at home with her mother and helps her brother out by cleaning the restaurant every morning. 

On the surface it appears that the Bravo family is just a family dealing with the usual family issues and dysfunctions, but the Bravos are dealing with more than tragedy, heartache and mental health issues. Frank is in love with his sister-in-law and wants to move away from Utina and live a quiet life. He knows this won’t happen as long as his mother and sister are around and need him. Carson has made a mess of both his marriage and his business and needs to find a quick fix for both before he winds up divorced, in prison or worse. Sofia struggles with her mental health issues, but she is surviving and has found love for the first time in her life at age forty-three. Alma, as the matriarch, worries about her children but knows that she can no longer control them. The family is offered the chance to make a large sum of money and leave Utina behind, something they think about or  say they want until the opportunity is presented to them. 

Ms. Smith has captured the essence of family in all its dysfunction in Heart of Palm. As I read, I was reminded of the line from Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina: “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” The Bravos are unhappy in their own special way. There aren’t any true bad guys in Heart of Palm, as each Bravo family member deals with their own secrets and guilt. Dean and Alma aren’t the best parents, but they did what they could for their family to the best of their abilities. Sofia, Carson and Frank aren’t loving siblings but they are there for one another when needed. Carson’s wife Elizabeth, and daughter Bell, add their own idiosyncrasies to the family. Sofia’s love interest, Biaggio, works with and for the Bravo family and he considers himself a family member even before he and Sofia decide to marry. Heart of Palm is filled with angst, drama, greed, guilt, pain, suffering, forgiveness, and love . . . all the things that make a family a family. If you’re looking for a well-written story about family and small-town living, then I strongly recommend Heart of Palm.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Book 31: THE WATER WITCH Review

The Water Witch (Fairwick Chronicles #2) by Juliet Dark
ISBN: 9780345524249 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780345542427 (ebook)
ASIN: B008WOO7JQ (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication date: February 12, 2013

After casting out a dark spirit, Callie McFay, a professor of gothic literature, has at last restored a semblance of calm to her rambling Victorian house. But in the nearby thicket of the Honeysuckle Forest, and in the currents of the rushing Undine River, more trouble is stirring…

The enchanted town of Fairwick’s dazzling mix of mythical creatures has come under siege from the Grove: a sinister group of witches determined to banish the fey back to their ancestral land. With factions turning on one another, all are cruelly forced to take sides. Callie’s grandmother, a prominent Grove member, demands her granddaughter’s compliance, but half-witch/half-fey Callie can hardly betray her friends and colleagues at the college. 

To stave off disaster, Callie enlists Duncan Laird, an alluring seductive academic who cultivates her vast magical potential, but to what end? Deeply conflicted, Callie struggles to save her beloved Fairwick, dangerously pushing her extraordinary powers to the limit—risking all, even the needs of her own passionate heart.

Callie (Cailleach) McFay is still feeling guilty about exiling her lover Liam, an incubus, to the Borderlands (a Faerie no-man’s land). She’s also trying to learn more about her magical gifts as a Doorkeeper. All she knows is that she’s able to open and close the doors into Faerie, but she doesn’t quite know how that works. Worse still are the rumors that the Grove and the Institute of Magical Professionals (IMP) are meeting to decide to close the door to Faerie forever. If this happens all of the fey in Fairview and surrounding areas will need to decide whether to stay in our world or return to Faerie for good? The only problem with closing the door to Faerie is that all magical beings will be without the source of “aelves gold,” the original substance of Faerie and the main component of all magic. This substance is used to heal magical beings, remove signs of aging as well as slow down the aging process. How will the witches survive? Have they found an alternative source of aelves gold? If so, where is it coming from? 

Callie and her friends only have days to try and answer all of these questions before the meeting between the Grove and IMP. Before the meeting, Callie must gain control over her abilities. She also must gain control over her feelings for Liam. After escorting the undine young (the undine are magical creatures that must mate with humans once every 100 years) back to Faerie, she barely escapes from the Borderlands. In payment for Liam helping her to escape the Borderlands, she releases him and takes him to Faerie. She also unknowingly releases an undine, Lorelei, who’s desperate to mate with a human. Upon Callie’s return to her home she’s informed that she’ll be tutored by Duncan Laird, a ninth degree wizard. Callie learns from Duncan and is even attracted to him but she senses that something isn’t quite right. Will she learn to trust her instincts before it’s too late? Will she be able to capture Lorelei and return her to Faerie before she does harm to any human?

I found The Water Witch to be a fast read. Unfortunately since I hadn’t read the first book in this series, Demon Lover, there were references that I didn’t quite understand. I didn’t connect with this story and I’m not quite sure why. Perhaps it was because Callie felt attracted to almost every man she came into contact with, Liam the incubus, Duncan the wizard, and then Bill the handyman. Or it could have been due to the difficulty in keeping track of all the magical creatures introduced in the story: the undine, witches and wizards, brownies, satyrs, Norse Gods, Norse demigods, incubi, succubi, deer fairies, sprites, goblins, zombie beavers (yes . . . zombie beavers), and the mythical elves. Whatever the reason, I didn’t enjoy The Water Witch as there was a lot going on, there were too many magical characters to try and remember, and perhaps my prudish nature just couldn’t appreciate Callie’s sexual attraction to so many men. Although I didn’t connect with The Water Witch, if you enjoy fantasy and the paranormal then this may be a book for you. 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Book 29: VEILED THREAT Review

Veiled Threat by Alice Loweecey
ISBN: 9780738726403 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780738735771 (ebook)
ASIN: B00AWQ2NVQ (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Midnight Ink
Publication date: February 8, 2013

Giulia risks everything to rescue her friends’s baby girl.

It’s Giulia Falcone’s second Christmas since leaving the convent. She’s grateful to be spending it with Frank Driscoll, even if the shift from boss to boyfriend and back again is giving her whiplash. The holiday cheer vanishes when Giulia’s good friends, Anya and Laurel, suffer an unimaginable tragedy: the kidnapping of their adopted baby girl. Two similar kidnappings, both involving same-sex couples, ended badly. The only lead is a secluded, vacation resort for lesbians. Going undercover, Giulia has mere hours to find baby Katie before she becomes a grim statistic.

Giulia Falcone is an ex-nun, ex-schoolteacher, ex-barista and novice private investigator at Driscoll Investigations. Estranged from her family after leaving the convent, she’s built a life for herself and is surrounded by friends. It is perhaps for this reason that she’s willing to do almost anything for her friends. A few days before Christmas, she’s contacted by her friend, Laurel Drury. Laurel is the owner of a soup kitchen in the local theater district and Giulia volunteers there several days a week. Laurel wants to hire Driscoll Investigations to aid in the search for her kidnapped baby. Laurel, and her partner Anya, had recently adopted an infant girl, Katie. They return home from an evening out to find the babysitter tied up and their daughter gone. They contact the police but are blown off. The next day they receive a ransom demand. Laurel, Anya and Giulia are concerned because similar kidnappings have not ended well. Giulia is able to talk Frank into not only taking the case but presenting their participation in the active police investigation to Captain James Reilly. Their request is initially met with resistance, but Giulia is able to successfully plead the case for her involvement. As the clock winds down on the kidnapper’s deadline, Giulia realizes that she may have to do something drastic. Her only fear is that she may not be able to find Katie, or worse save Katie before it’s too late.

I found Veiled Threat to be a quick read. At times the plot was predictable, but Ms. Loweecey’s writing style made the action so interesting that I didn’t mind the predictability factor. Giulia is obviously the main character so much of the story focuses on her interaction with his boss/boyfriend Frank Driscoll, her co-worker Sidney, and her friends, Laurel, Anya and Mingmei. The action picks up a bit when Giulia goes undercover at the resort. There’s drama found in Giulia’s thoughts of family and the holidays, mystery and suspense with the kidnapping and investigation, and even romance between Frank and Giulia. My only disappointment with the story was with Frank Driscoll. I thought he was put too far into the background with regards to the investigation especially since he is the head of the investigative company. If you enjoy clean, mystery-suspense reads, then you’ll want to grab a copy of Veiled Threat for a quick and enjoyable weekend read. 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Book 28: CALLING ME HOME Review

Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler
ISBN: 9781250014528 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781250014535 (ebook)
ASIN: B008RVAP2C (Kindle edition)
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press 
Publication date: February 12, 2013

Eighty-nine-year-old Isabelle McAllister has a favor to ask her hairdresser Dorrie Curtis. It’s a big one. Isabelle wants Dorrie, a black single mom in her thirties, to drop everything to drive her from her home in Arlington, Texas, to a funeral in Cincinnati. With no clear explanation why. Tomorrow.

Dorrie, fleeing problems of her own and curious whether she can unlock the secrets of Isabelle’s guarded past, scarcely hesitates before agreeing, not knowing it will be a journey that changes both their lives.

Over the years, Dorrie and Isabelle have developed more than just a business relationship. They are friends. But Dorrie, fretting over the new man in her life and her teenage son’s irresponsible choices, still wonders why Isabelle chose her.

Isabelle confesses that, as a willful teen in 1930s Kentucky, she fell deeply in love with Robert Prewitt, a would-be doctor and the black son of her family’s housekeeper–in a town where blacks weren’t allowed after dark. The tale of their forbidden relationship and its tragic consequences makes it clear Dorrie and Isabelle are headed for a gathering of the utmost importance and that the history of Isabelle’s first and greatest love just might help Dorrie find her own way.

Dorrie Curtis is a divorced, single-mom, small-business owner and a strong, Black woman. She’s dealt with a lot of disappointment in her life but is striving to be better and do better, so that she can provide for her family. She’s also struggling with her “relationship” with Teague, as she’s never dealt with a strong, reliable, responsible and loving man before. Over the past ten years she’s built a relationship that has gone way beyond hairdresser and customer with Ms. Isabelle. When Ms. Isabelle asks her to take time away from her business and family to drive her to Ohio for a funeral, Dorrie briefly hesitates but realizes this is no small request and agrees.

Isabelle McAllister is an elderly widow and the epitome of a strong White woman. She was raised in Kentucky in the 1920s and 1930s with a different mentality and approach toward minorities. Unfortunately she didn’t share those opinions. One of her childhood friends was Nell, the daughter of their family’s housekeeper/cook, Cora Prewitt. As a teenager, Nell became the family’s maid and the continuing friendship was frowned upon. And if a friendship with the maid was frowned upon, then a friendship with the maid’s brother Robert was downright dangerous. Yet Isabelle throws caution to the wind and discovers she has more in common with Robert than with any of the boys her parents consider eligible beaus. In a time when a Black man could be lynched just for looking at a White woman the wrong way, allowing a friendship to develop into a romance was potentially lethal, at least for Robert. Robert and Isabelle runaway from Kentucky to Cincinnati, Ohio where it is legal for a Black man and White woman to marry and they do just that . . . marry. Their happiness as a married couple is short-lived as Isabelle’s father and brothers track them down and force Isabelle to return to Kentucky. Her marriage is annulled as she’s underage and she is literally made a prisoner by her family. After her confinement, she once again runs away, eventually meets another man, remarries and has a family. But she’s never able to leave behind the memories of her first love, her first marriage, and the impact it had on her and the entire Prewitt family

Dorrie and Ms. Isabelle have stories that are told in alternating chapters. Not only do the chapters alternate between Dorrie and Ms. Isabelle, but they alternate between past and present. Ms. Isabelle reveals her past during the long drive between Texas and Ohio and oh what a past. Calling Me Home is more than a story about prejudice and race relations, it is a story about hope and love. Ms. Isabelle had a great love with Robert Prewitt even though it was at a time when society frowned upon a White woman marrying a Black man. Over the years Ms. Isabelle had been forced to give up so much, but she’s realizing that she also has much with her friendship with Dorrie. Dorrie is also realizing that although her life has been rough and she’s had to deal with more in-your-face racism and prejudice that she’s not dealt with anything as harshly as Ms. Isabelle’s life. These women unexpectedly become not only friends but family with Ms. Isabelle considering Dorrie the equivalent of a daughter or granddaughter and Dorrie considering Ms. Isabelle the mother or grandmother she’s always wanted but never had. Ms. Kibler has created characters that touch the heart, trite but true. One can only feel empathy toward Isabelle as a young woman struggling against society and her family and hoping that love will conquer all. It isn’t possible to read about Dorrie and her son’s dilemma and not see that it reflects Ms. Isabelle’s life story. Both Dorrie and Ms. Isabelle initially come across as somewhat cantankerous women, but that’s only a shield they both use to protect themselves. The drama and sorrow of this story seem to culminate with the funeral in Ohio. It is a huge surprise and one that seems to present some resolution to past hurts. I loved reading Calling Me Home so much that I’ve read it twice now in the past two months. You may ignore any other recommendation I give but don’t ignore this one: read this book!

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley and BookBrowse. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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