I got a late start on the October releases from BSB but managed to make my way through them before their official release date (October 15, 2019) on Amazon. They are available now directly through the publisher’s website. I was glued to my e-reader and pretty much a happy camper as there were some good books out this month.
From a cover perspective, I think 30 Dates in 30 Days wins this month. It’s clean and attractive – and matches the story line. I can easily picture V tapping away on the Ryder app, totally judging the drink choice of her next date.
See review here: Leading the Witness – Carsen Taite
See review here: 30 Dates in 30 Days – Elle Spencer
The Inn at Netherfield Green – Aurora Rey
I’m usually very happy to have the chance to read an Aurora Rey novel – she constantly delivers a well-written romance that has just the right blend of humour, engaging characters, chemistry and romance. I’m glad to say, the streak continues – The Inn at Netherfield Green is a fun romance.
Hit with a double-whammy of being unjustly fired from a high profile advertising agency and finding out that she’s inherited an Inn and Pub from a distant relative in England, Lauren is at a crossroads. Determined to own her own firm, she moves to England to inspect her inheritance and see if she can make a quick sale to fund her start-up. Arriving in Netherfield Green, Lauren’s intention to put the property up for sale and return to the States is made more difficult by the fact that the Rose and Crown pub and the attached inn are just making enough to keep the staff paid and minimal maintenance.
Despite the fact that Cam Crawley is willing to take risks in developing a new craft line of gins to complement her family’s longstanding gin, she doesn’t like change. It’s an interesting dichotomy in that she’s willing to experiment with the distillation and mixing to create a newer product, but she’s dead set against anything that might change the Rose and Crown or Netherfield Green. Rey loves her food and drink and she waxes eloquently on Cam’s gins and how she developed the flavours, I was craving a G&T or one of Cam’s craft cocktails – and I hate gin with a passion.
Obviously there’s an instant antagonism, on Cam’s part, when Lauren arrives. Slowly but surely, Lauren works her magic on Cam – taking her advice and engaging her assistance as she tries to update and modernize the pub and inn without compromising or alienating the local clientele. This could have easily been a fish out of water type of story, but Lauren is eager to embrace the culture and values of the community while bringing fresh life into the inn and pub, which in turn will benefit the village. Partnering with the local distillery and showcasing their new line of gin as part of the makeover makes perfect business sense – and forces Lauren and Cam to work together.
There’s a push and pull between the two – one wanting to make change, one hating change and what appears to be an insta-lust making it all a bit more complex. I will admit that early on I was starting to get a bit annoyed at how both Lauren and Cam seemed to be walking, talking hormones despite the frosty relationship. That didn’t last too long – once they actually got their hands on each other, the whole teenage hormone thing seemed to resolve itself and they proceeded to have some very steamy fun. No question on the chemistry thing. However, the question of how long the fun will continue is at the back of both their minds as the friends with benefits morphs into deeper feelings on both sides, with neither one willing or able to express them until the final conflict pushes them to make some decisions and choices.
There’s a more serious subplot that is hinted at at the beginning but emerges in more detail in the latter part of the book. I think Rey handles the subject quite well and Lauren’s reaction, not just to the assault but the subsequent machinations by her coworker, seemed realistic – the initial shock and inability to process it and the inner rationalizations and then just dropping everything to go to England. With the time, distance and distraction provided by revitalizing the Rose and Crown she gains the perspective and resolve not to allow him to get away with it. Lauren never comes across as a victim or weak – and once she is able to process what has happened, her anger and resolve assert themselves.
Overall, this was a really good read.
One Walk in Winter – Georgia Beers
Hey – it’s a Georgia Beers. Why are you even reading a review when you know you’re likely going to pick it up? One Walk in Winter has all the hallmarks of a good Beers’ romance – strong and likable characters, a charming setting, phenomenal chemistry and a really cute dog.
Olivia Santini has a job she loves at the Evergreen Resort and Spa and she’s poised to take on the role of manager. Her ambitions are thwarted with the arrival of Hayley Boyd, the new manager appointed by Corporate to oversee the aging resort. Unknown the Olivia, Hayley is the daughter of the owner of Markham Resorts who has been given an ultimatum by her father – shape up and step up to working in the family the business or be cut off.
Honestly, Olivia is a better person than me – if I found myself in the position of having to train and support an obviously inexperienced manager in the job I was so perfectly suited for, I would probably be a bit more snarky and resentful. Instead, Olivia swallows her disappointment and works with Hayley to get her up to speed with he resort and the role of manager – not to say that there isn’t a bit of resentment poking through at times – but her love of the resort and desire to see it flourish outweighs it.
Olivia and Hayley are likable and engaging and despite their situation, there’s an easy respect and connection in their interactions. The initial attraction, before they find out that Hayley is now Olivia’s new boss, still simmers in the background of their interactions and builds the romance. The chemistry definitely crackles between the two.
Hayley struggles realistically with the new role where she has no experience and the fact that her father expects her to fail. She doesn’t emerge as a business superstar, but with Olivia’s help she’s competent enough and willing to push herself to tackle the more difficult tasks. She is self-aware enough to know that she isn’t the right person to push the Evergreen from a fading resort to a successful one.
This is a lovely little romance that doesn’t cash in on a lot of angst and conflict that might have been an easy (but not satisfying) route. Even the big conflict at the end is handled maturely and, after a good cry, the leads actually talk and don’t jump to conclusions, storming away due to easily resolved miscommunication. Definitely an enjoyable read.
See review here:Hammer, Strings and Beautiful Things – Morgan Lee Miller
Top of Her Game – M Ullrich
I’m a fan of Ullrich’s books but this one just didn’t hit the mark for me. Full disclosure – I’m not a sports fan and all I know about soccer is limited to watching a few of the finals during the Olympics. I will admit it’s fascinating to watch when the stakes are so high – but it isn’t something I’ll consciously make time to tune in. So the setting and premise didn’t suck me in – and that allowed the left side of my brain to go to town, being picky and analytical not allowing the right side of my brain to sink into the story and enjoy.
Kenzie Shaw, a talented and skilled rookie, is drafted into the Hurricanes, New Jersey’s women’s professional soccer team. Not only does she get to play for her hometown, she gets to play with her favourite player and long time crush, Sutton Flores. Sutton, seasoned soccer player who is also a member of the National team and an Olympic medalist, is also a seasoned player when it comes to relationships. There’s a connection between the two that builds – with Kenzie’s crush developing into more as she gets to know Sutton as a person not a hero.
The game scenes were action-packed and amped up and gets your blood pumping – even as a non-sports fan, I could appreciate the thrill of the plays, the skill of the players and I was cheering the Hurricane’s as they pounded down the pitch against their opponents. There’s a nice realism in the games and in the development of Kenzie as she transitions from college superstar to a professional league as well as Sutton’s trying to find her place as the Captain.
I think the thing that kept me from enjoying the romance was the juxtaposition between the two characters. Although Kenzie has graduated from college, she just seemed so very young and the transition from her girlhood crush on Sutton to an actual relationship just didn’t work for me – I still got the impression that the infatuation and hero worship was still there. I will give her props on insistence that she wouldn’t entertain a relationship with Sutton until she was single and for moving the relationship forward at a pace she was comfortable with – so she wasn’t a pushover. As for Sutton, I couldn’t seem to come to terms with the idea that something was different with Kenzie, not that Sutton was intentionally leading her on, but her “rookie of the year” tradition made me not so sure that Sutton really was just in love with being in love (as her friend intimated) or the thrill of the chase. There was definitely chemistry between the two, I just wasn’t a hundred percent sold that this wasn’t going to end up being a fling.
I didn’t read the blurb, so the harassment that occurs in the latter half of the book caught me by surprise. Things could have been set up a bit earlier in the book for what happens – especially with the management’s involvement. I applaud Ullrich for addressing it and showing how easily something like this can happen and the impacts on those affected. The conflict and decisions (Sutton’s) that spun out from it just felt a bit too contrived and overshadowed the the actual incident and we don’t really get a solid resolution to it.
If you are a soccer fan, this will likely hit all the right notes for you. Ullrich is a great writer and, even as a non-sports person, I got sucked into the energy and suspense during the game play. This is a good read, my left brain just got in the way.
Vanished – Eden Darry
I’m torn on this one. On one hand, this has an interesting speculative twist – end of the world, last survivors – I’m all over it. On the other hand, it left me a bit unsatisfied with too many unanswered questions and avenues that were not explored. It really isn’t fair – Darry didn’t have 1000 pages to build up to and explore what brought the end of the world (as we know it) about and all that happened after. This is a very narrow view focused on two women and a few secondary characters, so broad storytelling that fills in the gaps and lays the groundwork isn’t really possible.
I really do like Darry’s writing – she creates a great ominous atmosphere in her narrative. The initial chapters with the storm perfectly sets the stage for what is to come. There’s also a suitably unnerving and creepy feel as Loveday begins to realize that there is no one else in the village and a nice bit of tension while she and Ellery are searching houses. I really liked the main characters – Loveday and Ellery – they were well developed and engaging and I was happy to read about them regardless of the rest of the novel. The secondary characters didn’t feel quite as developed – particularly with Rosemary being a bit of stereotypical zealot/wingnut.
The premise was interesting – kind of like the Rapture where everyone just disappears, leaving a few people behind – but it just didn’t deliver. There wasn’t enough meat or logic to shush the yammering in the back of my brain that kept breaking in to ask “Why” “But what about” “Where the hell did they come from”. I think if this had been expanded with a stronger underpinning of who, what, why this could have been a pretty good series – but there was too much in too short a time.
If you manage to quieten the nagging logical voice in the back of your mind and focus just on Ellery and Loveday, this is an enjoyable read.
Heart of a Killer – Yolanda Wallace
Heart of a Killer is a light romantic intrigue that has all the right elements – super hot assassin with an angsty backstory, smart and successful tech CEO (also pretty hot), murder, betrayal, double dealings, suspense. Unfortunately, it just didn’t seem to go deep enough to deliver the heart-stopping, action-packed read I was hoping for.
Two women meet randomly at a rooftop bar in Tokyo on New Years Eve, innocently flirting over drinks and only using the names TDH and Olaf (omigod, that made me laugh when the geeky CEO has to come up with a name for herself and picks a Disney character). They part with Olaf giving TDH a kiss on the cheek and an inviting her to call if she’s ever in New York. Not long after, TDH, aka Santana Masters, is perched on a rooftop in New York with her latest target in her rifle scope. She hesitates and someone else takes the shot, killing the young woman in the office across the street. When Santana looks through the scope again she sees Olaf entering the room and finding the body. And so begins the intrigue – who took the shot, why was Brooklyn’s (aka Olaf) best friend and employee the target and is someone targeting Santana and Brooklyn. Santana inserts herself into Brooklyn’s life, under the alias of Vilma Bautista the venture capitalist with money to burn, to find out the answers and ensure that Brooklyn isn’t next.
The romance works better than the intrigue – with a nice burn between the two that quickly heats up. You can see the conflict coming though with Santana being an assassin (who was just a hairsbreadth away from killing Brooke’s bff) and then the whole alias thing. The intrigue and action didn’t quite hit the mark for me – things weren’t really delved into and it just felt pretty superficial and I figured out who contracted the killing and why pretty much from the start. Secretly, I was hoping for a complete revenge bloodbath, especially as Santana is a kick ass assassin who has been pushed too far, but maybe I watch too many movies.
If you’re looking for a fairly light read with more focus on romance than intrigue this may be a good one to try.
Finding Sky – Cass Sellars
Books not reviewed this month:
No Experience Required – Kimberly Cooper Griffin – I don’t read a lot of YA and was starting to time out on reading/reviewing this month so I opted out on this one.
Thank you to BSB and Netgalley for advance copies of these books.