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Review – The Ghost Runner – Bill Jones

the ghost runnerThe Ghost Runner: The Tragedy of the Man They Couldn’t Stop
Author: Bill Jones

Description:
The mystery man threw off his disguise and started to run. Furious stewards gave chase. The crowd roared.

A legend was born. Soon the world would know him as ‘the ghost runner’. John Tarrant. The extraordinary man whom nobody could stop. As a hapless teenage boxer in the 1950s, he’d been paid £17 expenses. When he wanted to run, he was banned for life. His amateur status had been compromised. Forever. Now he was fighting back, gatecrashing races all over Britain. No number on his shirt. No friends in high places. Soon he would be a record-breaker, one of the greatest long-distance runners the world has ever seen.

Review:
So one day I was browsing the new arrivals shelf at the library (normally, I stick to the fiction side, but for some reason I was on the non-fiction side) when this book caught my eye. It wasn’t even that the cover had a bright anything to catch my eye, since its a black and white photo, but there was just something…and I’m glad I did because it exposed a facet of sports (both national and international) that I’d never thought about. I mean, I grew up in a era with over-payed (IMHO) sports stars going to the Olympics, rather than the true amateurs like years past.

When he was a young man, John Tarrant was paid £17 as a boxer, which according to sports regulations at the time, meant that he was no longer an amateur and thus couldn’t compete either at home or internationally as a runner. Over the next 20 odd years, he ran race after race, unregistered; often waiting until after the race started before shedding his disguise and jumping into the midst of all the participants.

Overall, I enjoyed the book, but the middle got a bit dry – while I understood his plight and how much it must have sucked for him (for lack of a better word), I felt like the author became too focused on the continual fighting that went on between John and the various leaders within the athletics communities. I also was a bit disappointed that for the most part John’s running times (in particular those races that he won, but didn’t win) weren’t ever actually mentioned – I mean, the claim was made that he was the greatest long distance runner of all time, but there was no quantifiable data provided to support that.

Overall, I gave The Ghost Runner 3.5 stars, but rounded down to 3 on Goodreads, mostly because of the lag in the middle.

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2014 in Book Review

 

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Review – Spokes – P.D. Singer

spokesSpokes
Author: P.D. Singer

Description:
Pro cyclist Luca Biondi lives for the race. For the star of Team Antano-Clark, victory lies within his grasp—if he can outdistance 200 other hopefuls, avoid suspicion from race officials, and keep his lieutenant more friend than foe. Luca also has secrets, and eyes for amateur cyclist and journalist Christopher Nye.

Christopher understands Luca’s need to keep their relationship under wraps, but chafes at hiding in the shadows of his lover’s career. He’s ready to cheer Luca’s victories, but he knows too well how triumph can turn to tears. While Christopher’s heart sees Luca the man, his inner journalist—and his editor—sees the cycling world’s biggest scoop.

From the jagged curves of the Colorado Rockies to the viciously steep Belgian hills, Luca can ride out any bumps—except rumors.

A few words in the wrong ear could crash everything. With miles between them, hints of scandal, and Luca’s fierce need to guard his reputation, a journalist might have to let go of the biggest story of his career or risk forcing his lover to abandon the race. Christopher and Luca face a path more treacherous than any road to the summit in the Italian Alps.

Review:
A lot of my friends who read m/m romance rave about PD Singer, but until now I had never actually tried anything by her. So when my friend Frances offered to let me borrow her copy of Spokes, I took her up on it. And then I’ll admit, it got added to Mt TBR and it loitered there for a while…lol (what can I say, too many books, too little time). But then one day, I picked it up thinking that I would just read a chapter…boy was I wrong.

I was immediately sucked into Christopher and Luca’s relationship, or rather lack thereof at the beginning. I loved the whole cycling team set-up, or rather the cycling team, and a wanna-be cyclist who needs help – I mean, I’m a sucker for a guy who will actually ask for and accept help (no comments from the peanut gallery!). And I could really tell that the author had done her research into the world of cyclists – yes, she had the major things down, but it was the small things like when Luca explained to Christopher how to improve his stroke on the pedals to give more power while riding.

The story itself was pretty action packed without being too angsty – although, there were a few moments where I wanted to slap both Christopher and Luca upside the head. It was like talk guys!! But thankfully, everything did work out and the ending was happy, albeit bittersweet. Overall, I gave Spokes 3.5 but rounded up to 4 stars on GR and I’m looking forward to checking out more books by PD Singer in the future.

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2014 in Book Review, Uncategorized

 

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Review – Plum Beach Island – Holly Robinson

beach plum islandPlum Beach Island
Author: Holly Robinson

Review Copy Provided by Author via STB on Goodreads

Description:
“Your brother should know the truth.”

These are the last cryptic words that Ava Barrett’s father says before he dies. But Ava doesn’t have a brother, as far as she knows, so how can she tell him the truth? She dismisses the conversation and dedicates herself to bringing her family together for her father’s funeral. This is no easy task, since her sister, Elaine, has been estranged from the family and still harbors resentment against their stepmother and half-sister, Gigi. Ava, on the other hand, is a single mother who sees Gigi as a troubled teen in need of love and connection.

Ava, too, could use more love in her life and finds it where she least expects it. But the biggest surprise of all is that Gigi holds the key to the mystery surrounding her father’s dying words, and joins Ava in uncovering a secret that rapidly unravels the very fabric of their entire family…

Review:
When I got my first look at the cover for Plum Beach Island, my immediate thought was that it would whimsical, flirty, a light kind of read. But having previously read Holly Robinson’s work, I knew that wasn’t going to be the case – she manages to find that story that tugs at the heart-strings. And Plum Beach Island was no different, although I will admit that it wasn’t as angsty as her previous book – not that I’m complaining!

I was sucked in to the story of Ava, Elaine and Gigi from the very beginning – there is something about Holly’s writing that makes the relationship between the women so real – I mean, I felt like I was watching three sisters interact, there were happy moments, sad moments, moments where I wanted to hit one (or all three of them) upside the head. There is definately plenty of angst between the three of them, from Ava/Elaine and the sisters who grew up together, to Gigi, the interloper, trying to figure out where she fits in the family. Added to that the last words from their dying father, about a brother no one knew existed. The mystery of finding their brother played out well through the book, it wasn’t like a wham bam solve the mystery ma’am, but rather a gradual release of clues and discovery leading to the ultimate discovery. There was definately a feel-good ending to the book.

This was one of those books where you think you are just going to read a chapter or two, and then next thing you know its 2am and your alarm clock is going to go off in 2 hours…(yeah, it most definately got snoozed that morning). Its hard for me to say which authors are similar to Holly Robinson, maybe Kristin Hannah with her female relationships, but I think that Holly’s books tend to be more final at the end, whereas sometimes Ms Hannah’s leaving me feeling not quite done.

Overall, I gave Plum Beach Island (ack, why do I keep trying to type Beach Plum Island!!), 4.5 stars, but rounding down to 4 on Amazon (and up to 5 on Amazon).

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2014 in Book Review

 

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Review – Asking for Trouble – Rosalind James

asking for troubleAsking for Trouble
Author: Rosalind James
Series: #3 in the Kincaids series

Review Copy Provided by Author

Description:
Sometimes you go looking for trouble. And sometimes, trouble finds you.

Alyssa Kincaid knows she needs to make some big changes. A move to San Francisco is the first step, and now it’s time to get serious, and to get the rest of her life on track. If only her messy life would cooperate. And if only it had Joe Hartman in it.

Joe knows one thing for sure: Making a move on his best friend’s little sister, the beloved youngest sibling in the closest thing to a family he’s got, would just be asking for trouble. Unfortunately, Alyssa always does seem to be asking for trouble. And it’s getting harder and harder for Joe to resist answering.

Review:
Ok, i’ll admit to being a huge Rosalind James fan – I stalk her on Twitter to find out what new stuff she has coming out, so when I saw Asking for Trouble mentioned, I jumped on it and asked her oh so nicely, if she would let me review a copy. Thankfully, she agreed (although, I would have bought it if she had said no). But as things go, sooo many books, too little time – so it started at me from my kindle for a good couple of weeks before I managed to get to it (but if you ask me, I was saving it for when I needed a pick me up!)

Anyways, back to the book – this was Alyssa and Joe’s story. Alyssa is the youngest sister of Gabe and Alec who feature in the first two books in the series and Joe is Alec’s best friend and business partner who we met in the second book – although, there is some history to the pairing. I will admit that the brothers best friend/little sister story line often gives me some squick moments because it always seems like there are huge age differences between the two, but thankfully, there is only 4 years between Joe and Alyssa – that made it seem much more believable/workable to me.

I loved Joe – there is something about the tough guy that I love, especially a tough guy with a shaved head – its totally sexy. I will admit that there were a few times that Alyssa drove me a bit nuts, but it was kind of nice seeing her come into her own – especially seeing her tell her brother off – that whole scene made me laugh out loud – i’m sure the people at the bus stop were looking at me like I was nuts. But don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t your mom’s sweet romance – it was hot and sexy and there were a couple of scenes with some lite bondage (since I know not everyone is a fan of that, so this is a warning).

At the end of the book, I that feeling feeling of book depression – you know, when you finish a good book and not sure what you are going to read next. Of course, as soon as I was done, I was bugging the author on what she was going to be releasing next – what can I say…lol! Overall, I gave Asking for Trouble 4 stars and it is probably one of my favorite books by her so far.

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2014 in Book Review

 

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Review – Running the Red Light – Kelsey Browning

running the red lightRunning the Red Light
Author: Kelsey Browning
Series: #2 in the Texas Nights series (but can be read as a stand-alone)

Description:
After wearing a “Least Likely to Succeed” label all her life, Roxanne Eberly is hell-bent on making her Red Light Lingerie store successful. Although the residents of small-town Shelbyville, Texas, are a little…lingerie-resistant, she’ll win them over eventually. So when a former employer sues her, putting a major wrinkle in her careful plans, she reluctantly accepts help from hot-stuff Houston attorney Jamie Wright.

Jamie’s on track to become his firm’s youngest partner, but discovers an unwritten prerequisite—marriage. Turns out, the only woman he wants is Roxanne, but peddling thongs and sex toys isn’t a suitable career for the spouse of an up-and-coming attorney.

Jamie’s tangled up in Roxanne’s lawsuit, her life and her lingerie. But if they’re ever going to make it work, Roxanne’s big-city boy will have to decide what he values more: the career he always thought he wanted or the woman he never thought he’d fall for.

Review:
Kelsey Browning’s Running the Red Light was released right as I was craving a romance that didn’t feature any of the current trends (think 50 shades of grey…) – all I wanted was a nice, mostly angst free contemporary romance and she totally served it up. I’d like to thank Jamie Farrell (who wrote Southern Fried Blues that I LOVED) for promo’ing this book on her facebook (and telling me that it could be read as a stand-alone). If you are currently in a bit of a slump and need a new author to try, I highly recommend Kelsey Browning.

I loved the fact that the heroine owned an adult store, but that the story itself wasn’t an erotic romance – which it could haven’t easily been. Rather, I found that Ms Browning walked a nice line between sweet and sensual, without every actually crossing it. Add to that a smexy lawyer, who has been friends with the heroine for several years, so it wasn’t a “wham bam thank-you ma’am” romance as well (i’m personally not a fan of insta-love – I like my characters to have a bit of history).

The whole labeling the heroine as “least likely to succeed” was an interesting approach because I think it says something about our society and how people perceive those labels. In particular, I liked how even though she had been labelled that way, that Roxanne didn’t let it stop her from reaching her goals in life and didn’t have an woe is me type attitude. I also appreciated how Jamie (the H), didn’t patronize her either when her issues became apparent – that is a personal pet peeve of mine.

I know that I will be going back and reading the first book in the series (Personal Assets – which is about Roxanne’s friend Allie – who appears in this book) and can’t wait to see how the rest of the series turns out. Overall, I gave Running the Red Light 3.5 stars, but rounded up to 4 stars. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a cute contemporary romance with sexy lawyers and adult fun and games.

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2014 in Book Review

 

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Review – When The Rogue Returns – Sabrina Jeffries

when the rogue returnsWhen the Rogue Returns
Author: Sabrina Jeffries
Series: #2 in the Duke’s Men series

Review Copy Provided by Publisher via Edelweiss

Description:
Victor Cale never imagined that his sweet, shy bride, Isabella, would use her talents for creating exquisite imitation jewels criminally. But there’s no denying that her handiwork was used in the theft of the Dutch royal diamonds– right after Isa disappeared into the night.

Ten years later, Victor is sent to Edinburgh to investigate a wealthy baron’s mysterious bride-to-be… who turns out to be Isa, masquerading as an alluring widow. No longer the meek girl he once knew, Isa boldly asserts that it was Victor who abandoned her, after he helped steal the royal diamonds!

Piecing together the truth of the past reawakens their volatile passions, which burns hotter than ever. But with a decade of secrets between them, Victor and Isa must trust each other to bring the real thieves to justice– without getting burned themselves.

Review:
I’ll readily admit that Sabrina Jeffries is a comfort read for me, I know exactly what I am getting when I pick up her books. A pretty decent historical romance, normally with a light mystery element (either within the specific book, or through-out the series). In this installment, I was treated not only to the mystery, but a second chance romance story (which I will readily admit that I am a sucker for). In this case, it had been ten years from when Victor and Isa had seen each other last. And thankfully, their separation wasn’t due to “the big misunderstanding” which i hate, but rather the manipulation of a different party.

It was interesting seeing how the author worked in the idea of a missing relative (which was the mystery from the first book) into the main characters for the second book in the series. Although, I felt like I never really got to know Victor as a character. I just felt really detached from him in this book – I felt like I learned more about him in the first book in the series, than this one – which was weird and shouldn’t have been the case. It was due to that, that ultimately, I only gave this book three stars. While it featured a romance trope I enjoy (second chance), mixed with one that i’m not really a fan of (secret baby/child), it just didn’t work for me.

I will say, however, that while I wasn’t quite a fan of this installment in the series, I do continue to like Jeffries writing style and I will continue to read her books in the future.

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2014 in Book Review

 

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Review – Perfect Timing – Laura Spinella

Perfect TimingPerfect Timing
Author: Laura Spinella

Review Copy Provided by Author via Sisterhood of the Traveling Book on Goodreads

Description:
What’s a Jersey Girl to do when she moves to Catswallow, Alabama? Isabel Lang finds the answer in an unlikely bond with the musically gifted Aidan Roycroft. The two share everything from a first kiss to startling family secrets. But when Aidan is accused of a violent crime, the two flee to Las Vegas where Isabel’s future comes tumbling down.

Seven years later, the past is buried, including any relationship with Aidan. Isabel is busy running a radio station and closing in on commitment with Nate Potter, a guy who defines ideal. Life seems cozy until new station management demands a sudden-death ratings grabber, putting everyone’s future on the line. What should be a simple solution leads to a stunning revelation as Isabel is forced to call on the past and the only rock star she knows.

Review:
If there is something that Laura Spinella does good, its bad boy heros and honestly, i’m a sucker for them. Her first book was a 5 star read for me, and i was eagerly waiting (ok, stalking her website for updates on new books…) – so I jumped on the opportunity to read Perfect Timing when she offered it up to one of my goodreads groups. The book arrived on a Friday and man was I glad that I didn’t have anything planned for the weekend, because I was sucked in. Admittedly, I actually finished it by Saturday afternoon with minimal interruptions but yeah. Although, I will say, it wasn’t quite as good as Beautiful Disaster, but only minutely different.

Plus along with the bad boy storyline, it also was one of second chances and I’m also a sucker for a second chance romance. Although, I did want to bitch slap Isabel because I thought she was rather selfish in her actions – yeah, I know she was only a teenager, but it still irked me. But its really hard to review this part without spoilers, suffice to say, I wasn’t a fan of her mother or other characters in her previous life. I did, however, like her friends in her new life – her father and his partner, and her co-workers at the radio station. I think the author nailed the diverse personalities that people experience in their lives.

I did feel that overall, I liked the ending in Perfect Timing better than Beautiful Disaster – it felt more complete and fulfilling. Overall, I gave Perfect Timing 4.5 stars and would recommend it to anyone who likes contemporary romances with bad-boy rock stars and second chances.

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2014 in Book Review

 

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Review – Take Me Home For Christmas – Brenda Novak

Take Me Home for ChristmasTake Me Home For Christmas
Author: Brenda Novak
Series: #5 in the Whiskey Creek series

Review Copy Provided by Author

Description:
Too bad all memories aren’t pleasant. Everyone in Whiskey Creek remembers Sophia DeBussi as the town’s Mean Girl. Especially Ted Dixon, whose love she once scorned.

But Sophia has paid the price for her youthful transgressions. The man she did marry was rich and powerful but abusive. So when he goes missing, she secretly hopes he’ll never come back—until she learns that he died running from an FBI probe of his investment firm. Not only has he left Sophia penniless, he’s left her to face all the townspeople he cheated….

Sophia is reduced to looking for any kind of work to pay the bills and support her daughter. With no other options, she becomes housekeeper for none other than Ted, now a successful suspense writer. He can’t bring himself to turn his back on her, not at Christmas, but he refuses to get emotionally involved. He learned his lesson the last time.

Or will the season of love and forgiveness give them both another chance at happiness?

Review:
So I don’t know if i’m the only blogger out there that does a happy dance when popular/well-known authors ask me to review their books, but I was totally doing that when the email from Ms Novak showed up a few weeks ago (yes, i’m a dork and I admit it!). But I will admit to being kind of concerned that this was book 5 in a series that I hadn’t read yet – although the author assumed me it could be read as a stand-alone (which I both agree and disagree with – but more of that later). Anyways, after I read the description and also the novella that kicked the series off (you can see that review on the blog also), I decided to take a chance on the book.

My initial thoughts with the opening of the book was that it reminded me of the Ashley Judd movie, Double Jeopardy – where the husband disappears and no one knows what happens – what is planned/foul play etc. But more so, the story focused on the after effects…how the “golden boy” of the town deceived everyone and how, as is human nature, people want to find someone to blame, even if the person is innocent. I really felt bad for Sophia for about 70% of the book. Although, it was nice seeing her change and become stronger through-out.

I will admit that i had issues with Ted though – I thought that he came across as an arrogant jerk for a good part of the book (and now that i’ve read previous ones in the series, that belief has solidified a bit more). I really wanted Sophia to bitch-slap him a few times (what can I say…lol). He did get better – but you could still see that there was quite a bit of baggage between them. I don’t know if, ultimately, I fully believed their HEA – it seemed more of a HFN (happy for now) – but i’ll be interested to check up on them in future books.

As to my comment about being read as a stand-alone or not – it is book 5 in the series and while Ms Novak does a good job of filling in the back-story (and I didn’t feel really lost during the reading), now that I’ve gone back and read the previous four books, this would have been a much more richer experience. Having gotten to know all of the characters – many of whom were only really cameo’s in this book, came to life in previous ones.

Overall, I gave Take Me Home for Christmas 3.5 stars, but I have gone back and read previous books in the series. Personally, I would recommend people read the other books (or at the very least book 1) before this one, just to get more of a feel of Whiskey Falls – you find out so much more about the town and the people.

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Review – The Pieces We Keep – Kristina McMorris

the pieces we keepThe Pieces We Keep
Author: Kristina McMorris

Review Copy Provided by the Author via Sisterhood of the Traveling Book on Goodreads

Description:
Two years have done little to ease veterinarian Audra Hughes’s grief over her husband’s untimely death. Eager for a fresh start, Audra plans to leave Portland for a new job in Philadelphia. Her seven-year-old son, Jack, seems apprehensive about flying—but it’s just the beginning of an anxiety that grows to consume him.

As Jack’s fears continue to surface in recurring and violent nightmares, Audra hardly recognizes the introverted boy he has become. Desperate, she traces snippets of information unearthed in Jack’s dreams, leading her to Sean Malloy, a struggling US Army veteran wounded in Afghanistan. Together they unravel a mystery dating back to World War II, and uncover old family secrets that still have the strength to wound—and perhaps, at last, to heal.

Review:
To say words have defied me once i finished reading Kristina McMorris’ latest book is an understatement. I was literally jumping with joy when it showed up in the mail but I forced myself to wait to read it on the metro the next week. And I devoured it – in fact, I realized about 20 seconds prior to the train leaving the station that I needed to get off if I wanted to make my connection…(and I totally tweeted that to Kristina). But I had to ponder my review – not because there were many negatives, but rather because I had so many strong emotions during the reading, that words can’t really describe how it made me feel. She made me laugh, she made me cry, she made me suffer from a severe book depression when I realized that it was over and I wouldn’t visit with the characters again.

While all of her previous books have been set in the past, Kristina took a different route with this story, using an alternating POV with one set in contemporary US and the other WW2 U.S. (which is the setting of her previous books). I will admit that sometimes I find this type of writing style hard to read because it doesn’t always flow well, and the voices of the POV’s sound the same. But that wasn’t the case. Both the voices of Audra (present) and Vivian (past) were unique. I think it also helped that the publisher used two different type-faces for the POV’s. So not only did they sound different, but they also looked different (to geek out a bit, it potentially got rid of the cognitive dissonance from the same format writing but different POV’s).

I could probably go on and continue gushing about the story and how it blew my mind, but I’ll save that for others. But before I close out this review, I wanted to tell a story that reading this reminded me off. When I was in high school, the Holocaust was a major subject of interest for me. In fact, if I had ever decided to pursue graduate education in history, the Holocaust probably would have been my main focus. Anyways, when I was doing my senior English project, I spent time interviewing survivors and talking about how their survival had impacted their lives. One of the survivors I had talked to, survived the Auschwitz Death Marches. In fact, the only reason he survived the initial arrival at Auschwitz was because he was wearing long pants and was put to work, the rest of his family died that day. Post war, he never really talked about his experiences until he started having nightmares several decades later. Then he talked about his experiences to his family and to others, he even started traveling and talking to school groups. When he did this, he found that his nightmares went away.

Reading The Pieces We Keep reminded me of his story and the idea of how dreams and nightmares can tell the story of our experiences, or if you believe in the idea of reincarnation, others. Gushing aside, a solid 5 stars for this book and now begins the torture of waiting for her next book (and its going to be a very long wait)…

 
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Posted by on October 8, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Review – When We Touch – Brenda Novak

when we touchWhen We Touch
Author: Brenda Novak
Series: #.5 in the Whisper Falls series

Description:
You’re invited to a wedding in Whiskey Creek, Heart of the Gold Country
Unfortunately, it’s the wrong wedding. Olivia Arnold is arranging the festivities—and it’s the hardest thing she’s ever done. Because she should be marrying Kyle Houseman. They were together for more than a year…. But her jealous sister, Noelle, stole him away—and now she’s pregnant.

All their friends in Whiskey Creek know as well as Olivia does that Kyle’s making a mistake. His stepbrother, Brandon, knows it, too. But Kyle’s determined to go through with it, for his child’s sake.

Olivia’s devastated, but surprisingly Brandon—the black sheep of the family—is there to provide comfort and consolation. The intensity between them, both physical and emotional, shows Olivia that maybe Kyle wasn’t the right man for her…
But is Brandon?

Review:
This was my first exposure to Ms Novak’s books and if she hadn’t actually approached me to review her newest book on my blog, I probably never would have picked it up. And then I never would have discovered the world of Whiskey Creek. My initial thoughts up after finishing this short story, was that it kind of reminded me of the Virgin River books by Robyn Carr, but more developed and less preachy (its hard to explain what I mean here, so just trust me).

When We Touch is what I would describe as a slice of life type book – it was short (I think only about 100 pages), so it didn’t have the fully fleshed out feeling of a traditional length romance, yet at the same time, it felt complete. There were a beginning, middle and end. I wasn’t left wanting over how the story worked out, but I was left wanting, wanting to know more about the town and its inhabitants.

The basically premise of the story, kind of reminded me in part of the movie, The Wedding Date, starring Debra Messing, minus the date for hire (although, he was soo hot in the movie). But the returning home to the wedding of a sister, who is marrying someone the person used to date (there is off the scene cheating in the story, involving the main character, but Olivia the mc didn’t cheat). Then there is the guy who comes out of nowhere to rescue her (in this case, the step-brother of the guy who cheated on Olivia). And to top it all off the guy who rescues her is not just hot and nice, but all a champion skier recovering from an injury, which makes for some nice added tension. So overall the story was nice and convoluted and awesome.

When We Touch definitely made me want to go back and visit Whiskey Creek in the future – and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the books in the series. Overall, I gave it 3.5 stars and would recommend to people who like cute contemporary romances.

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2013 in Book Review

 
 
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