Review: Mornings on Main by Jodi Thomas

Mornings on MainWhen Jillian James lands in the small town Texas community of Laurel Springs, she’s definitely not planning to stay–except to find a few clues about the father who abandoned her and destroyed her faith in family.  Connor Larady is a single dad, and the only one caring for his grandmother, Eugenia, who has Alzheimer’s. And now he has to close Eugenia’s quilt shop. When Connor meets down-on-her-luck Jillian, he’s out of options. Can he trust the newcomer to do right by his grandmother’s legacy?   Jillian is done with relationships. But as she grows closer to Connor and Eugenia, she must consider giving up her nomadic life for a future with those who need her.

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Source: Netgalley          My Rating: 5/5 stars

Jillian James has always lived by her father’s rules: don’t stay too long in one place, don’t get involved, never draw attention to yourself, and pack only the essentials when you leave.  Jillian has never known another type of life, never wanted another type of life, until recently. 

For the last ten years, since her father abandoned her, Jillian has been completely alone.  In the first few years, Jillian relished the freedom, the ability to pack up and move on a whim, to go where the winds would take her, to enjoy her brief stay in each new location.  In recent years, however, Jillian has felt more alone than ever before and has begun to retrace her father’s steps in an effort to learn more about the man who raised her only to callously abandon her. 

As with every other town, the moment Jillian arrives in Laurel Springs, Texas, she checks into inexpensive accommodations and begins her search for temporary employment.  Wandering along Main street seems to be her best bet for employment and isn’t long before Jillian finds what she’s been looking for, a help wanted sign.   Within minutes, Jillian has negotiated a solid salary for the completion of a project in the local quilting shop.  During her tenure, Jillian is to help Eugenia Larady, proprietress of the local quilt shop, catalogue and photograph all her quilts so they may be transferred to the county museum as a part of a permanent installation.

Little does Jillian know, her time with Eugenia will change her life in the most profound ways . . . .

Connor Larady has spent his life in the service of others.  As a member of one of Laurel Springs’ oldest families, Connor’s roots run deep.  He and his family own most of the land in the area, they own several businesses, and Connor serves as mayor.  When he isn’t working, Connor cares for his teenage daughter, Sunnie, and his beloved grandmother, Eugenia.  Of late, Eugenia has needed more looking after than in previous years as her memory isn’t what it used to be.  It is for precisely this reason Connor intends to see the cataloging of the quilts completed.  With Jillian on board, he’s confident the completion of the project will happen in short order. 

Little does Connor know, his time with Jillian will change his life in the most profound ways . . . .

Though neither can explain the attraction, Jillian and Connor are drawn to one another.  Though their time together each day is brief, that time is the most cherished of each’s respective day.  Through Eugenia and Connor, Jillian learns about the history of Laurel Springs, her people, their lives, and the stories the small town has been built upon.  For the first time in her life, Jillian begins to understand what it is to belong somewhere, to be important to the people around her, and to want to stay put, establish roots.  Unfortunately, the idea of staying is completely foreign to Jillian and she insists, from the very beginning she will be leaving town.

The Bottom LineMornings on Main quite took me surprise and once I got involved, I simply couldn’t put this book down.  This isn’t just a book about a small town, a community of friends and family, but a narrative about love, friendship, the spirit of community, of history.  Jillian is such a lost soul and though she doesn’t immediately recognize it, Laurel Springs is exactly what she’s been missing for the entirety of her life.  In Laurel Springs, Jillian finds answers about her past, a family who willingly and lovingly welcomes her into their fold, and a place where she can finally settle, stop wandering.  Though Connor plays a huge part in Jillian’s life, Eugenia is really the focal point of the story.  It is through Eugenia that several characters, including Jillian and Connor find closure, recall some of their most important life moments, both happy and sad, and understand the importance of their role in both the history and future of Laurel Springs.  There isn’t any great threat or big bad in this read, no hugely climactic moment.  What Mornings on Main is, is a wonderfully written tale of a family, a small town, and the past crashing into the present in the most wonderful of ways.

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Review: Tiffany Blues by M.J. Rose

Tiffany BluesNew York, 1924. Twenty‑four‑year‑old Jenny Bell is one of a dozen burgeoning artists invited to Louis Comfort Tiffany’s prestigious artists’ colony. Gifted and determined, Jenny vows to avoid distractions and romantic entanglements and take full advantage of the many wonders to be found at Laurelton Hall.  But Jenny’s past has followed her to Long Island. Images of her beloved mother, her hard-hearted stepfather, waterfalls, and murder, and the dank hallways of Canada’s notorious Andrew Mercer Reformatory for Women overwhelm Jenny’s thoughts, even as she is inextricably drawn to Oliver, Tiffany’s charismatic grandson.  As the summer shimmers on, and the competition between the artists grows fierce as they vie for a spot at Tiffany’s New York gallery, a series of suspicious and disturbing occurrences suggest someone knows enough about Jenny’s childhood trauma to expose her.  Supported by her closest friend Minx Deering, a seemingly carefree socialite yet dedicated sculptor, and Oliver, Jenny pushes her demons aside. Between stolen kisses and stolen jewels, the champagne flows and the jazz plays on until one moonless night when Jenny’s past and present are thrown together in a desperate moment, that will threaten her promising future, her love, her friendships, and her very life.

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Source: Netgalley          My Rating: 4/5 stars

Jenny Bell lives in constant fear of someone discovering her dark secret.  Though she has moved far from her home and those who know of her past, her troubles, Jenny is fearful, living half a life.  The only true joy she has are the moments when she paints, the times when she attempts to capture the nature of light on canvas. 

Jenny’s days are largely the same, hours spent in class honing her drawing and painting skills, afternoons and early evenings working at the tea house, and nights spent with her roommate and friends at the neighborhood speakeasy.  Jenny’s roommate, and best friend, Minx Deering is a New York socialite who always knows where to find the best parties, the best people, and has the money to spare on the festivities.  In fact, she has money to spare for Jenny too and does so gladly.  To this end, Jenny’s social circle has expanded greatly, her living conditions are posh, and she always has time to paint.

What Jenny doesn’t want is more attention.  She is happy to be left alone, left to her own devices, but Minx is a busy body and entirely proud of herself when she announces she (Minx) and Jenny have both been accepted into the Fellows Program at Laurelton Hall, home of Louis Comfort Tiffany.  What’s more, Jenny won’t even have to worry about the fees, because she qualified for a scholarship.  With both trepidation and excitement, Jenny and Minx embark on the most eventful and disastrous eight weeks of their respective lives. 

Laurelton Hall is a revelation for Jenny.  The landscape, the house, the stained glass is unlike anything Jenny has ever seen, and Mr. Tiffany is welcoming and kind.  In fact, Mr. Tiffany has taken a liking to Jenny and often walks with her discussing art and the endless quest to capture light.  Though the environment is wonderfully welcoming, there is also a darkness around Jenny.  As the days and weeks go by, events unfold around Jenny that suggest someone knows who she really is, and what her horrifying past entails.  What’s more, in the time they’ve been at Laurelton Hall, Minx has changed, in the worst ways possible, and Jenny can’t help but think it may be her best friend all the awful things that have been happening. 

In addition to all the drama surrounding her past, there is Jenny’s present.  Her present doesn’t just include a series of troubling events, but also an exciting new (or old depending on perspective) change in her art and a romantic entanglement with a man who not only completely understands her but accepts every part of her including her past.  Oliver is kind, generous, loving, and empathetic to Jenny’s situation.  He wants nothing more than to be with Jenny, and though there are some obstacles, he is determined to clear the path and make a way for them to be together.  Unfortunately, before they can achieve their happily ever after, tragedy once again strikes, and Jenny’s worst fear comes true, her past comes to light.

The Bottom Line: This isn’t my first trip into the world of Louis Comfort Tiffany, and just like the last time, I quite enjoyed the trip.  In this instance, there is mystery, suspense, and darkness mixed brilliantly into the sparkling world of Tiffany’s stained glass and jewelry.  As the plot unfolds, as the troubling events in the present unfold, Jenny’s past is explained and woven into the present.  The weaving works well, and once the big bad is revealed, it all makes perfect sense, like a load of puzzle pieces all fitting together perfectly.  Though I don’t generally care for great passages of description, the descriptions in this book are just enough to enliven and enrich the read, to really set the scene, while not being overwhelming and obnoxious.  In all, this bit of historical fiction is quite good and a wonderful addition to the genre!

Pre-order now for the August 7, 2018 release:

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Review: Love, Lies and Wedding Cake (Book #2: Love, Lies and Lemon Cake Series) by Sue Watson

LL and Wedding CakeSince Faye met her gorgeous Aussie boyfriend Dan, they’ve travelled all over the world to meet in amazing, crazy and romantic locations. They’ve eaten gateaux in a chateau, chocolate torte in a moonlit port, and even had stöllen kisses in a sparkling Christmas market. Neither of them wanted to settle down… until now.   When Dan asks Faye to marry him and to move to Australia it throws a real spanner in the works. Faye’s daughter Emma needs her here, so moving to the other side of the world – even for a hunk like Dan – simply isn’t an option. Is it?  Faye’s been down the marriage road before and it ended up with her having Ryan Gosling fantasies while her ex-husband obsessed about the plumbing. Is that what she has to look forward to? Is she ready to end her adventure? And even if she is, how can she be sure Dan is the right man for her?

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Source: Netgalley          My Rating: 4½/5 stars

Faye is living life to its fullest!  She has a hot, considerate, kind, culinary god of a boyfriend, she’s on her way to completing her college degree, and her daughter and granddaughter are a delightful part of her life.  What’s more, when the mood strikes, she and the aforementioned boyfriend hop a flight to some fantastic destination and soak up all of one another they can before returning to their “real” lives.  Yeah, Faye is living life to its fullest . . . .

Dan, otherwise known as the hot, considerate, culinary god boyfriend loves Faye beyond all doubt and reason, but he is not living most of his life to its fullest.  He loves Faye, he loves their weeks and weekends away, and he loves her family, but England isn’t home nor is it where he wants to spend the rest of his days.  Dan doesn’t want to leave Faye, but he does want to go home to Australia, see his ailing brother through his final days, and open the café he’s always dreamed of owning.  The only thing missing from his grand life plan is Faye who adamantly insists she can’t leave her daughter and granddaughter. 

Though Faye is certain her decision to stay with her daughter and granddaughter was the right choice, she is terribly saddened by Dan’s absence.  She goes about her days and nights, working diligently toward her degree, and caring for her granddaughter, but there is absolutely something missing in her life, and that is Dan.  Trouble is, unless something dramatically and drastically changes, Faye just can’t see how she and Dan can ever be together again.  Long distance is hard enough, but long distance across the world and across hemispheres, impossible.  Lucky for Faye, something dramatically and drastically changes.

In the more than year since leaving Faye behind in England, Dan has moved forward with his life, but never beyond Faye.  Sure, there’s been a fling or two, but nothing and no one can ever replace Faye in Dan’s heart.  Lucky for Dan, things in Faye’s life have dramatically and drastically changed which is how he has found himself at the airport waiting for her arrival.  Trouble is, things in Dan’s life have also dramatically and drastically changed and if he and Faye are going to make it as a couple, he’s got some serious explaining to do and she’s got some super-serious thinking to do!

The Bottom Line:  I had no idea this was the second book in a series, and while normally that revelation would make me hella crazy, it really didn’t here as I found this read, all on its own to be supremely satisfying.  In fact, I blazed through Dan and Faye’s story in a single sitting and regret nothing!  I just devoured this well-written, emotional, often funny read.  There is so much here for readers to enjoy including a solid couple/romance you can’t help but root for, a tiny little dynamo with a potty mouth, a crazy salon owner, and food descriptions that will make even the pickiest eater’s mouth water.  In all, I couldn’t care less what happened in the first book in this series and don’t feel like I was missing anything by starting (albeit inadvertently) with this book!

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Spotlight and Sweepstakes: The Gambler Wages Her Baron (Craven House Series) by Christina McKnight

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Gambler_1600x2400WAGERS GO AWRY: Payton Samuels has always known she wants more out of life than being the youngest daughter of the ton’s most disreputable family. While her siblings are content to bet their future happiness on marriage, Payton learned early on from her mother that love is fleeting and leads only to disappointment. She’s got a different plan: she’ll work as a governess for Baron Ashford’s children, but only long enough to win her fortune at one of his infamous masked gaming parties. When she loses big, Payton sees her chance at an independent life go up in flames—until Lord Ashford surprises her by paying her debts.

WHEN LOVE IS IN THE CARDS: Since the tragic death of his wife, Damon Kinder, Lord Ashford, has been a man made of ice. His determination to never be hurt by love again runs so deep that he can’t even connect with his children. When they quickly take to Payton, he thinks he’s found a solution: she’ll give them the affection and support he can’t. As he spends more time around Payton, his heart begins to defrost, and he can’t stop thinking about the captivating governess.

But every seasoned gambler knows that eventually, luck runs out. Can two souls so burned by past loves forge a new future together?

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More from the Craven House series:

The Thief Steals Her Earl – JUST 99CENTS!!: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iBooks

The Mistress Enchants Her Marquis: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iBooks

The Madam Catches Her Duke: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iBooks

About the author and where to find her:

christina-photoChristina McKnight is a book lover turned writer. From a young age, her mother encouraged her to tell her own stories. She’s been writing ever since.  Christina enjoys a quiet life in Northern California with her family, her wine, and lots of coffee. Oh, and he books…don’t forget her books! Most days she can be found writing, reading, or traveling the great state of California.

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SWEEPSTAKESBarclay

Mini-Review: The Lost for Words Bookshop by Stephanie Butland

Lost for Words Bookshop

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Loveday Cardew prefers books to people. If you look carefully, you might glimpse the first lines of the novels she loves most tattooed on her skin. But there are some things Loveday will never, ever show you. Into her hiding place – the bookstore where she works – come a poet, a lover, and three suspicious deliveries. Someone has found out about her mysterious past. Will Loveday survive her own heartbreaking secrets?

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Source: Netgalley          My Rating: 3/5 stars

The Bottom Line:  In truth, I’m not sure I got out of this book what the author intended.  I completely understand Cardew as a broken, sad, individual, but not one who should ever be seen or interpreted as a survivor.  In fact, I found myself, throughout this read wanting Cardew to grow up, take responsibility for herself, her life, and choices, and actively pursue some sort of help to deal with her vast issues.  Simply put, Cardew isn’t a nice person, and for too many years, she has used her past as an excuse to behave abhorrently.  I found it a bloody miracle there was anyone left in Cardew’s life who legitimately liked her.  There certainly is a turning point, a moment when Cardew decides to change her life, but it feels, quite simply, like too little, too late. 

You would think, based on the above, my star rating would be much lower.  Alas, there were aspects of this book I very much enjoyed and appreciated.  Namely, the actual bookshop, Archie, and Nathan.  The bookshop is a cozy environment often occupied by strange and wonderful people, it is a place of refuge and wonder that has been fostered by its proprietor, Archie.  Archie is, hands down the best character in this book with his booming voice, his positive attitude, his love of everything and everyone.  Archie reads is a completely genuine, kind and caring individual, and for that, I truly loved his part in this book.  Nathan, the close-up magician is another character who kept me turning pages.  From his crazy attire to his gentle nature, I found Nathan to be a balm to the anger and awful of Cardew. 

Despite how little I liked Cardew, I still liked this book.  I wanted to like Cardew, feel for her, but she was simply to caustic for me to like.  Fortunately, between the shop, Archie, and Nathan there was more than enough to balance out Cardew and lead me through to the very end!

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Review: The Accidental Vampire (Book #7: Argeneau Series) by Lynsay Sands

Accidental VampireFATE GAVE HER FANGS…  Ever since an accident turned her into a knockout vamp, Elvi Black’s been catching her z’s in a coffin, staying out of the sun, and giving up garlic. She knows there’s more to being undead than what she saw in Dracula, but she can’t very well ask her mortal friends about proper biting etiquette. But when her neighbors placed a personal ad for her in the local paper, she never imagined she’d meet Victor Argeneau, a vampire who could have his pick of any woman – dead or alive.  HE’LL SHOW HER HOW TO USE THEM…  Rich, powerful, and drop—dead gorgeous, Victor’s the perfect man for a novice neck—biter like Elvi. He’s willing to teach her everything he knows, but he’ll have to do it fast. Someone’s out to put a stake through her new vamp life, and only Victor can keep her safe – and satisfied – for all eternity.

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Source: Purchase          My Rating: 5/5 stars

Holy cats, y’all!!!  Talk about lucky number seven!!! 

Elvi Black has no idea how she became a vampire, but she knows she’ll never go back to Mexico since that’s where her change occurred.  During that fateful trip, Elvi and her best friend were involved in an accident.  When everyone came to, Elvi had a powerful thirst for blood and no idea how to survive as a vampire.  What else was she do but watch a few movies.

Five years later . . . . .

Thanks to her wonderful best friend and her equally wonderful neighbors, Elvi has learned to survive as a vampire.  Literally everyone in town knows of her condition, accepts her for who and what she is, and works to make her life a bit easier.  All the citizens donate blood, the undertaker has custom made a coffin for her, and her restaurant stays open extra late to accommodate her sun allergy.  The only thing the town hasn’t done for Elvi is find her an immortal mate, and they’re working on that project.

Victor Argeneau has seen damn near everything the world has to offer.  At 2,000+ years old, he has seen empires rise and fall, inventions change the face of the world, loved ones come and go.  Following the death of his life mate, Victor nearly lost himself, and if it weren’t for his brother, he certainly would have.  For the last several centuries, Victor has once again been a part of the world as an enforcer for the Council.  As a pat of his latest assignment, Victor has been dispatched to a small town to determine just how badly she has broken vampiric law.

Within a few short hours, Victor realizes, he isn’t the only vampire in town.  In fact, he’s one of several zombies come to town looking for a life mate in the form of Elvi.  Though the plan for most of the vampires is to see if they can read her and move on, things quickly change when the vampires meet, well, the town.  All the vampires have an interest in Elvi, but the town and all knowing about vampires is something of a welcome respite to the generally solitary group.  For Victor’s part, he must investigate, and the more he finds out about Elvi, the more confused he is.  Elvi has no clue about what it means to be a vampire, she has no idea there are laws that govern their people, and she has no idea she’s Victor’s life mate.  Now he just has to sort out how he’s going to present her case to the council!

The Bottom Line: This has got to be the funniest, most random book of the entire series and I am so glad I re-read (OK, listened to) it!  Up to this point, there has been such an emphasis on the need for secrecy, and while it makes sense, it is also nice to have such a radical break from the norm.  Elvi’s town is delightful, her neighbors (except a couple) are fantastic, and her confusion and responses to the truth are wonderful.  Additionally, there is more than one love match to be found in this read which makes for a sort of super-sized HEA!  Though I can’t remember exactly where I left off in my original reading, I think I must be getting close to all new reads.  I can only hope they are as good as The Accidental Vampire.

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Review: Bite Me If You Can (Book #6: Argeneau Series) by Lynsay Sands

Bite Me if You CanOne minute Leigh is walking home in the early hours of the morning, and the next a vampire is sinking his teeth into her neck. Turns out it was a rogue vampire marked for termination, but it does Leigh little good because the damage’s already been done. She’s become one of them.  Lucian Argeneau, hunter of rogue vampires, has been alive for over two thousand years, and there’s very little to excite him anymore. Food has become tasteless, sex is ordinary. The Leigh drops into his life. Suddenly he finds himself craving coffee…and imagining the sassy brunette atop the black satin sheets on his nice big bed. It’s Lucian’s job now to enlighten Leigh on the inner workings of being immortal…and tutoring her is igniting a fire in him that hasn’t burned in centuries.  But until they stop a renegade bloodsucker from destroying the human race, passion will have to wait!

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Source: Purchase          My Rating: 3½/5 stars

Lucian Argeneau is perhaps the saddest among his kind.  He is among the oldest and has survived many, many centuries, the death of his twin, and the death of his life mate and children.  In the years since, Lucian has served his family faithfully, protected them ceaselessly, and worked as enforcer for the Council.  It’s during one of his missions that Lucian gets shaken out of his ennui. 

Most of Lucian’s mission do not involve newly turned baby vampires screaming and squalling!!  His missions also do not involve all kinds of crazy coincidences that leave Lucian in charge of overseeing the turning of the baby vampire in a large house alone with a big, slobbery dog.  No, none of these things are a regular part of Lucian’s life and he isn’t at all excited about his situation.  The baby vampire may be curvy and luscious, but Lucian is an old, old man and long ago lost interest in such mundane things. 

Leigh had no idea her walk home would turn into such a disaster.  From being spooked, to being kidnapped and rescued, to waking up in a strange bed, Leigh couldn’t imagine her night getting any worse.  Except, it’s been longer than a single night, her clothes are covered in blood, and she isn’t even in the States any more.  Oh, and she’s now a vampire and the man charged with her care is surly, at best, and not at all interested in answering her laundry list of questions. 

Initially, Lucian is certain the universe hates him!  His sister-in-law has abandoned him for a “job” in Europe, Thomas is refusing to answer his cell phone, the huge dog is a huge pain in the a$$, and the baby vampire is awfully talkative.  When all he wants to do is feed and sleep, Lucian finds himself trying to sort out dog food, human food, enough blood for two vampires, and a whole host of answers to questions he hasn’t had to answer in many millennia.  With no intention of actually liking the baby vampire, Lucian tries his best to remain detached.  Unfortunately, remaining detached isn’t quite possible when you’re one of only three beings in an isolated house, and one of those beings is a big, slobbery beastie. 

The Bottom Line:  Once again, I have run across a book in the series I feel somewhat conflicted about.  I love the big, slobbery dog, Lucian is a seriously awesome old dude, and the big bads are quite entertaining.  Leigh makes me crazy, and not in the good way.  I think after so many centuries, I wanted something, someone more for Lucian though I can’t precisely say what that woman would actually look like.  I just felt something of a disconnect with Leigh as a character, wanted her to be more of a presence.  With that being said, my dislike of Leigh (and some of the other characters in other books) hasn’t taken away my overall enjoyment of the series.  There are still so many more positives in terms of characters and plot twists to outweigh the few negatives I have come across.

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