Review: Together Forever by Jody Hedlund

Together Forever

Paperback, 384 pages                                                   Rating 5*

Published:  May 1st 2018                                              Bethany House Publishers

ISBN13: 9780764218057                                              Series:    Orphan Train #2

As noble as Marianne Neumann knew becoming a placing Agent with the Children’s Aid Society, she had another goal in mind when she applied.  Marianne had to find her lost sister.    Along with Marianne was another Agent who accompanied her with all of the orphans – Andrew Brady who she discovered had once been a former schoolteacher.  Marianne couldn’t help but notice how wonderful Andrew was with the children and as the journey continued, she couldn’t help but admire his dedication and love for their charges.   They couldn’t help growing closer during the journey but, unfortunately, a tragedy changes all the plans they were developing for a happily ever after.  

***  First of all, I found this this novel fascinating.  I had never heard of the Orphan Trains but I must admit I think I would have signed up to be a volunteer to help find these children a better life than living in the cramped and unsanitary conditions most were pulled out of in search of a better life.   Yes, some probably weren’t better off but the fact that some folks were dedicated to help them makes my heart glad.  

It was also wonderful to have this focused on the people were such good Christians that they saw and felt the hand of God helping them to get the best placements in the best situations they could and that they went back to check on the children to make sure the children were happy.

I loved the characterizations of all involved from the two protagonists to the orphan children who were written with such care, love and emotion.  When the author is as good as this you can totally visualize the children and all the characters as real people as well as hear their voices.  

The journey was not an easy task keeping the children from boredom and keeping them amused, but the author showed how competent both Marianne and Andrew were at making the best of a tough situation.   Eventually it was a no brainer to see these two wonderful kind and beautiful people come to admire then love one anther.  

Bottom line:   A most endearing story I didn’t want to see end.  

Marilyn Rondeau

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REVIEW: The Perfect Duchess by Erica Taylor

Perfect Duchess

Paperback, 392 pages                    Publication: April 17, 2018 by Amberjack Publishing

ISBN13: 9781944995577.                    Series:    The Macalisters #2

Andrew Macalister, oft regarded as the Stone Duke of Bradstone, hates his annual birthday ball tradition! He dislikes being a duke; hates the sycophants who only see him for his title; and hates that he has given up a chance to live a normal unencumbered life.  He’s simply biding his time until he can possibly slip away without anyone noticing. However, when he spots Lady Clara Masson across the ballroom he couldn’t quite believe his eyes. Clara’s twin sister is the woman who infamously jilted Andrew at the altar five years ago, but little does Clara know, Andrew had been smitten with her since childhood, and he finds her presence a ray of sunshine in a dreary dukedom. 

However when he notices another ‘Lady’ scornfully harassing Clara over the innuendoes her brother has been passing around to try and destroy her reputation, Andrew has to step up and save her.  They danced and for the first time in a long time Andrew felt himself actually smiling.

Because Clara had disobeyed her brother Jonathan in going to the ball, he was furious and tried to throw her out of his house with the clothes on her back.  A fight ensued and physical blows were rained down on Clara when he knocked her down and she passed out from the severe bump to her head.  It was at that time Andrew arrived to call on Clara when he realized Clara’s life was being threatened by her evil brother. Andrew did the only thing he could think of to save her; propose marriage. Between Clara’s trust issues and Andrew not caring a fig for what the ton thought, as well as Jonathan’s continued atempts to murder Clara, Andrew needed to discover what was going on in a madman’s mind!

Bottom line:  A GREAT read – loved the excitement and suspense of what was behind all of the mystery surrounding the Masson twin sisters!

Marilyn Rondeau

REVIEW: The Luck of the Bride by Janna MacGregor

The Luck of the Bride

ISBN13: 9781250116161.                    Series:   The Cavensham Heiresses #3

Rating 5*

March Lawson, after the death of her mother, has had little to no luck especially after making a promise to keep her siblings together and care for them no matter what.  And March has done that, but lately it seems the estate funds she was supposed to be getting were not forthcoming.  As a result, she had – out of necessity – turned to forging the signature of the Marquess of McCalpin who was supposed to have taken over the guardianship of the Lawson family.   The thing of it was – there was money.  Three generous dowries had been set up for the girls including March; so in her mind – March was only ‘borrowing from her own money’.

Alas, one of the Marquess’ accountants noticed right away that the sums requested had been increasing and this latest one was a dead giveaway that something wasn’t right.  March was summoned to com and explain to Michael Cavensham, the Marquess himself why his signature was so perfectly drawn and why sums of money were being deposited in her account.

*** What a delightful story as well as realistic.  You have to love March for taking the bull by the horns and working out ways to keep the Lawson siblings from near starvation.  [Not counting the great hunter Max who helped fill the larder – but you’ll have to discover that one by reading the book yourself!].  No spoilers  here.  

I loved the fact that Michael had a secret that would have truly destroyed his self image should it become common knowledge.   But the one person he did trust was March and the more he came to know and admire her he began to see just how valuable a helpmate she would be as a wife.  

The romance built itself slowly and March’s cousin Rupert was a real toad who was foiled in the end as he tried his best to torpedo March’s chance at happiness.

Bottom line:  Loved this book and all the characters, except of course, creepy cousin Rupert!

Marilyn Rondeau

REVIEW: Come Home to Me by Liz Talley

ComeHome-Liz Talley

Paperback, 332 pages                                  Publication: April 17th 2018 by Montlake ISBN:  9781503900998

Summer Valentine has returned to Moonlight, South Carolina for the sake of her son David.  She had left Moonlight a different person than how she has returned.  No longer shy easy going naive young girl but a strong woman who has survived the nasty rumors of being an unwed mother. No longer the pushover who could be taken into anything, she was an intelligent and savvy woman who would do right by her son who wanted a relationship with his dad.

In spite of her anger over the past and Hunter’s continued defense of his actions towards Summer, she is willing to put that aside to see if Hunt really wants to establish a relationship with his son.  Hunt was at one time a big time baseball player but his illustrious career has faded, and yet his wealth and privilege still keeps him protected from the mistakes of his past.  

Another person from Summer’s past has also returned to Moonlight  –Rhett Bryan, the Golden Boy from Hollywood, who has come home to find some healing after a tragic accident that took the life of a child.  Finding Summer home and rekindling their friendship Summer is not sure she could handle having her heart broke again when she knows he will be returning to California.  

There is a lot of painful history between all three of these high school friends and while it is nice to see Rhett kind of re-connecting with Summer, there is a whole lot of hurt and unresolved feelings that all has to come out before there can be any type of happy ending.

Bottom line:  A great story with high emotional content and wonderful characterizations.

Marilyn Rondeau

Review: The Hellion by Christi Caldwell

Hellion_Caldwell

Published:   April 3, 2018 by:   Montlake Romance

ISBN:   B07539FLHF                                 Series:    Wicked Wallflowers #1

Adair Thorne was reliving his nightmare! Once again his life was going up in flames.  Luckily none of his family would be dying this day but his gaming-hell dream was simply being turned into ashes.  Problem was he was certain he knew the rival gaming hell owner and family, the Killorans, were behind it.   His hatred, fury and passion for the Killorans was palatable, but when he met Cleopatra Killoran, a tart mouthed vixen who has made it her priority to ridicule him at every opportunity. If she were anyone else but a Killoran, Adair would unleash at the passion that devours him each time he looks at her.

No one can make Cleopatra do anything she doesn’t want to, but if it means protecting her siblings she would do it at a cost to her own happiness.  A peace accord had been reached whereby the Black family would sponsor Cleopatra  for a season in order to land a noble husband. But her heart seems to have a mind of it’s own Cleo  cannot allow her head to be turned by the infuriating and darkly handsome Adair Thorne.

*** What a terrific read, and what great characterizations! Can’t help but fall in love with Cleopatra – tough gal with an even tenderer heart she tries to hide from the world.  But little by little Adair, who really didn’t want to give an inch started to see her through different eyes and acknowledged that her ideas for the design of his new gaming-hell were both smart and sensible.  And though she was a slight ‘bit of a thing’ and not his usual type of round and buxom – Cleo was looking mighty fine.

Only one thing that threatens the rules of this game: Cleopatra has a secret! One that could unravel the families’ tenuous truce and shatter the unpredictably sinful romance mounting between the hellion…and a scoundrel who could pass for the devil himself.  But Romance being romance you’ll love the ending just as much as I did!

Marilyn Rondeau

REVIEW: A Lady’s Honor by A.S. Fenichel

Lady'sHonor

Published:   April 3, 2018                     by:   Lyrical Press

ISBN:   B073PB8P6N                     Series:  Everton Domestic Society #1

Rating:     5*

REVIEW:  Phoebe Hallsmith doesn’t regret the years of caring for her ailing grandmother.  No, discovering that the man she was once betrothed to turned out to be a rat-bastard doesn’t really bother her as well; so all in all Phoebe is more or less resigned to ‘spinsterhood’.   She has disappointed her parents and her brother has disowned her since she is now working as an employee of the Everton Domestic Society of London.  Phoebe generally doesn’t accept positions where she is acquainted with the client, but upon a special request she agrees to try and sort out the chaos of her best friend’s grieving husband’s life – Markus Flammel.

After Markus’ wife Emma passed giving birth to a beautiful baby girl he’d been drowning his grief inn a bottle.  Not even his toddler daughter can bring him  any form of happiness.  Phoebe who had been best friends and missed Emma was not about to let Markus get away with drowning his sorrows and neglecting his daughter – not if she had anything to do with it!

***  Again, I have been enthralled and moved by a book! I will also confess that I was originally drawn to this book by the luscious cover art and was thrilled to find that the beauty of the cover translated into a beautiful story as well!  Lucky me!!

Phoebe had known how much her friend Emma loved her husband, although she herself didn’t have that much interaction with him. However, knowing Emma, she knew that only a good, honest, and honorable man could have had her friend so mush in love.   For the sake of Emma’s beautiful daughter Phoebe would fight tooth and nail to bring Markus back to the living.  Once Phoebe convinced Markus to stop drinking and look at his daughter, she began the long process of bringing his estate back to rights and letting him discover the joy of loving the precious gift of his daughter that Emma left behind.

With a few twists and turns from an old beau and a new conquest, Phoebe now had to examine  her heart and decide if falling in love with her best friends widowed husband was the right thing to do.  Also, was Markus ready to move on as well?

Bottom line:  A wonderful story – high five star rating!

Marilyn Rondeau

Joanna’s Highlander by Maeve Grayson

Joanna's Highlander

Published:   April 10, 2018 by:   Loveswept Random House

ISBN:    B073YSNSLQ                       Series: Highland Protectors

Rating:    5*

REVIEW:      Grant MacDara still dreams of home – in tenth-century Scotland. His heart aches for what will never be again until a sharp-tongued, redheaded beauty leads a tour of senior citizens through his family’s North Carolina theme park, Highland Life and Legends. Though he’ll never forget his first love, Joanna Martin intrigues him like no other.  Deciding that she’s worth the risk of loving again, he tries so hard to hold her close that she nearly slips through his fingers.

Forced out of her job as a pharmaceutical sales rep by a devious ex, Joanna is trying to make the best of her quiet new life as a tour guide. But it’s not as if Joanna is immune to Grant’s charms, she’s just running scared from her poor choices in the relationship game which have made her think of herself as a “loser magnet”.  Although Grant seems to be the last honorable man left on earth, this mouthwatering stud needs a crash course in twenty-first-century women and Joanna is just the gal to teach him.

*** Let me say it – I LOVED this story!  First of all, Joanna was escorting a bevy of senior citizen widows who I believe were reliving their youth vicariously through interference in Joanna’s love life.   Having led a group of seniors once myself I need to tell you they’ll keep you hopping and find great amusement in embarrassing the hell out of you which is exactly what they did in trying to accelerate Joanna and Grant’s romance.   Those scenes were a hoot by the way!

What I really enjoyed was the dialogs between the two and the wonderful way Grant romanced her in the little things he did to show Joanna how he planned to cherish her!   There was, of course a bit of a hiccup in between before they had their happily ever after, but all in all – a TERRIFIC read!

Marilyn Rondeau

Review – Becker’s Circle by Addison Bray

BeckerCircle

Publisher: Tirgearr Publishing (March 14, 2018)

ASIN: B07B3HT15Y                           Rating: 4*

Gillian’s  boyfriend believed she was too gutless and dependent upon him to leave. WRONG! Gillian graduated Harvard early and left his hot temper and everyone else behind for Dallas quite determined to make it on my own.   She found  a job in an accounting firm as she worked towards her CPA and then landed a second job bartending at the neighborhood pub.  Tips were good but it’s smack in the middle of drug central where almost every jerk in the neighborhood hits on her.

Soon after starting her bartending gig, the neighborhood’s very popular drug dealer fell to his death a few feet from the table Gillian was serving. The cops say suicide, but the hot guitar player in  the band and she suspect foul play.   They started their mini investigation and as they discover more and more they’re drawn closer to each other. Before long they discovered, they knew who the murderer is!

*** Well talk about some colorful characters!  BECKER’S CIRCLE had them all and then some!  From the ‘witchy’ boss from hell at Gillian’s ‘day’ job at the accounting firm, to the girls who frequented the bar scene identified by their drink of choice names.

One has to commend Gillian by taking control of her life and setting off for a new life away from a toxic boyfriend who wanted complete control over her.   Yes, she made a couple of mistakes before she hooked up with her guitar wheeling buddy but overall I think she did well; juggling full time and part time  jobs while studying for her CPA exam.  The clues she came across to discover who the murderer was  were actually pretty minute, but in the end she persevered, and came out the heroine of Becker Circle.

Frankly this was a pretty sweet and suspenseful story with lots of twists and turns.  At the end  I loved the career choice!

Marilyn Rondeau

Review: Wallflower Most Wanted by Manda Collins

Wallflower Most Wanted

Mass Market Paperback, 307 pages

January 30th 2018 by                  Published : St. Martin’s Paperbacks Edition

ISBN13: 978125010990                                 SeriesStudies in Scandal #3

As  a dedicated artist, Miss Sophia Hastings could care less about finding Mr. Right then finding the correct angle of light for her paintings.   However, when she overhears a conversation indicating that there was danger for local artists she had to get involved.  It appeared that someone was making forgeries of famous works of art and passing them off as the originals.  What she wasn’t anticipating though was having to accept the assistance of the new impossibly handsome vicar who insists on accompanying her in her quest for more information.

Reverend Lord Benedict Lisle feels that Sophia is no damsel in distress, but he is not about to let her wander off alone either.  He finds Sophia’s curious, free-spirited nature extremely  alluring and he is planning to save her from herself before she she gets further into a situation that is becoming more and more dangerous, and he was beginning to feel that he wasn’t about to lose the one woman who stirred more than just his heart!

*** I simply love a good mystery and romance and find it even better when the two protagonists seem so completely polar opposites.   However, one thing Benedict did realize right from the start is that no one should ever keep  Sophia’s art interpretation’s from being shown at the upcoming art exhibition.   Sophia’s art might be a bit disturbing but it was life  and not just the  lovely landscapes most genteel young woman were supposed to paint.

Their relationship grew throughout the story and it was a lovely development from regard, to valued friendship, and obviously a great passion for one another either wasn’t ready to admit to. I must say that this story was great, the culprit who was actually producing the fake masterpieces was quite a twist I never saw coming.  All in all, a wonderfully engaging story.

Marilyn Rondeau