Saturday, March 30, 2019

Hard Loving Cowboy (Crossroads Ranch #3) by A.J. Pine

Title: Hard Loving Cowboy: Includes a bonus novella (Crossroads Ranch)
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Crossroads Ranch (Book 4)
Format: Paperback; 480 pages
Publisher: Forever (March 26, 2019)
ISBN-10: 1538727110
ISBN-13: 978-1538727119
Author's Website:
Notes:  I received a copy of the book from the publisher for review purposes. This in no way affected my opinion.

Walker Everett has spent years drowning his pain and sorrow at the bottom of a bottle. When he finally hits rock bottom he decides to enter rehab, and turn his life around at his brother's request. It's not been easy for the cowboy, but he's been taking it day by day, one sober step at a time. When Violet enters his life, there's something about the warm and intriguing young woman he just can't seem to resist--even though he knows he should. Perhaps it's the way she looks at him, not as a person who's struggled with addiction, but as someone who she could possibly like. But if he tells her his deep dark secret would that change?

Violet Chastain is an impulsive, passionate, and beautiful young woman who enters Walker's life in a whirlwind. After finding out her boyfriend is married, she breaks up with him on the way to a job interview and, in order to pay him back for all the feelings of rage, jealousy, and betrayal that have been boiling up inside her during their ninety-four minute drive, she kisses the first man she sees--Walker.

Walker finds himself at a Crossroads. There's something about Violet that makes him to want more. Inspires him to want to be a better man. The question is can he be?
This is the third book in the Crossroads Ranch series. I rather like the theme the author picked for this series--Crossroads. After reading 'Hard Loving Cowboy' I'm curious as to what crossroads Walker's other brothers faced. Additionally, I like the sense of family you get as you read and I'm dying to know what role Walker played in the previous books. This story can definitely be read as a standalone and you won't feel lost, but you'll probably be left wondering about the previous stories.

Walker has a need to find and/or reinvent himself after so many years of drinking. While his main job is working on the family ranch, he makes beautiful furniture which he sells here and there. He also has a hand in the family winery which to me seems like a bad combination. Once Walker wanted more for himself, now he needs to figure out if those those goals and ambitions have changed or if they remain the same. He also has to prove to himself he can stay sober because if he can't do that, then nothing will change. His attraction to Violet only complicates matters.

Violet was a music major until her mother got sick, and she put her career plans on hold to help her family out. To her family is everything, and she likes the close knit group of Walker's. She was only going to apply for a part time position with the winery, but when she finds out about her boss' marital status she quits faster than you can say cheese, and she finds she needs something a little more permanent. Luckily, she finds full time work. and them some. in San Luis Obispo.

I believe things going on in your life can affect how much you like a book at any given moment. It could be something that happened to you in your past or present, it could be something that happened to someone else, or it could be something you experienced while reading a book or watching a movie that tugged at your heartstrings and touched you emotionally. For me it was watching the latest version of 'A Star is Born'. It was a very sad movie and I kept feeling like a giant rain cloud was hanging over this couple, and I kept worrying that Walker would give in to his addiction. Silly, I know, because this is a bona fide romance, but that movie kept lingering in the back of my head. You see, Walker has a drinking problem and I kept fearing he'd go back to his self destructive ways. When he meets Violet, he's only been sober for 2 months. Pair that with the fact that as the book progresses she seems to be the one thing that inspires him to remain sober, and that is not healthy. It's not until close to three hundred pages into the book that Walker states, "If I'm sober for you or my brothers or Jenna, then what does that mean when none of you are around? If I'm not doing it for me, then I'll drink the first chance I get when I know I won't be caught." That was when I let out a huge sigh of relief, and was able to finally let myself truly enjoy the story.

Personally, I wish the author had started this story further into Walker's rehabilitation, but maybe Ms Pine wanted to clearly make a point. Life has a tendency to happen on its own terms, at it's own pace, in its own time, and sometimes things happen when it's most inconvenient. Perhaps the author wanted to stress the fact Walker had to realize he was the only one who could fix things. That he had to want recovery or it might never stick. Let's face it recovering from an addiction such as alcohol is not easy. A person has to choose not to let alcohol control them and has to choose not to drink it by learning how to manage it. Anyone who can kick this addiction or any other has my utmost respect, and I'd love to ask the author why he or she decided to start this story in the early stages of Walker's recovery. It seems a strange choice.

Overall, I gave this one 3 1/2 out of 5 roses. I liked the story, loved the couple, and adored both their families. There were some twists, hurdles, a lot of sweet moments that made my heart go pitter-patter, and a happy ending. Yay!  I so wish I'd read this one before seeing 'A Star is Born'. I know I would have enjoyed it even more. On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, this one earned a STEAM rating--too hot for a fan, but you still have a handle on things. You should use extreme caution when reading a book with this rating in public. People may inquire as to why you looked flustered and flushed.

Order of the Crossroads Ranch series:

Novellas associated with the Crossroads Ranch series:
(To be read after Second Chance Cowboy)

Friday, March 22, 2019

Second Chance Summer (Cedar Ridge #1) by Jill Shalvis

Title: Second Chance Summer (Cedar Ridge Book 1)
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Cedar Ridge (Book 1)
Format: Paperback; 368 pages
Publisher: Forever (March 19, 2019)
ISBN-10: 1538748819
ISBN-13: 978-1538748817
Author's Website:
Notes:  I received a copy of the book from the publisher for review purposes. This in no way affected my review.

A decade ago Lily Danville left home and never looked back. Once the mountains of Colorado called to her soul and had been her playground. She'd loved everything about them. Now, when she looks upon those majestic peaks all she feels is guilt and regret. Everything changed when her sister died attempting to climb one of the areas deadliest peaks. A feat Lily, a more experienced climber, had accomplished earlier that same year. The tragedy was compounded when her father died of a heart attack at the funeral. Half her family was gone within a week's time. Now, she's finally going home in need of a job after being blackballed from the San Diego area's finest salons due to an "incident" of her boss' making. Her best friend, Jonathan, has offered her a temporary position at his salon in Cedar Ridge until something more permanent comes along.
The mountains, her best friend, and painful memories, however, weren't the only things Lily left behind ten years ago. There had also been Aidan Kincade...

Aidan Kincade is known as something of a bad boy in Cedar Ridge. He's said to be the type who will never settle down, but most don't truly know the man. Years ago Aidan gave his heart away, only Lily never knew it. He'll do everything in his power to make sure she knows it now, and convince her not to leave him a second time...
This is the first book in the Cedar Ridge series and I am looking forward to reading the rest. I actually already have the second book, 'My Kind of Wonderful', uploaded on my kindle and will attempt to start reading it as soon as I'm done with this review. I'm kicking myself for not having read this series when it came out. Luckily, I can now binge read all the books in the series as they all have already been released. There are three books to this series in total. One down, two to go.

I must confess, this story didn't immediately draw me in. The first chapter had me rolling my eyes and shaking my head. It was meant to serve as a humorous look into Aidan's day-to-day life. It was funny,  but I also found it to be a bit cheesy. Once Lily enters the picture in chapter 2, however, things immediately get more interesting and start to heat up. The moment I knew I was hooked was when Aidan texted Lily, "If you're looking for something bad for you, try me instead." One of the BEST LINES EVER. *grin*

Aidan is a firefighter who volunteers for the local search-and-rescue team, and helps out at his family's ski resort at Cedar Ridge. He's all about family and would do anything for a person he loves and/or cares about, but he doesn't give his heart away easily. Lily has no idea what affect she had on him all those years ago, but she's about to find out.

Lily is a complicated person. She's a strong individual (although she doesn't currently see herself that way) who loves deeply. Since the tragic death of her sister followed by her father's heart attack, however, she's locked down her heart, never allowing anyone too close. Truth be told, she had no idea of how strong Aidan's feelings for her were when she left as their relationship had just been in its initial stages of romance. If anyone had asked her about it, she'd probably have said they were just friends.

I loved watching these two attempt to deny their feelings. I enjoyed seeing them try to pussyfoot around one another while everyone else could see the sparks igniting whenever these two came into close proximity of one other. I liked how Aidan slowly eased his way back into Lily's life while gradually gaining her trust and breaking down her walls. Once Aidan decided on what he wanted, he all but wore his heart on his sleeve.

Overall, I gave this one 4 out of 5 roses. It was a sweet, charming, and sexy little romance.  I liked seeing how Lily came to terms about what happened years ago with the help of Aidan. I kind of hope Lily's story isn't entirely over. I would love to see a little karmic justice served in a future book over the "incident" which led to Lily going back home, I do so love it when karma comes back to bite someone in their well deserving proverbial backside. I'm crossing my fingers. On the Lisarenee Romance Scale, this one earned a STEAM rating--too hot for a fan, but you still have a handle on things. You should use extreme caution when reading a book with this rating in public. People may inquire as to why you looked flustered and flushed. I'm looking forward to seeing where Ms. Shalvis will take this one. I especially look forward to seeing how the Kincaid family will solve the predicament they find themselves in.

Order of the Cedar Ridge series: 

Monday, March 11, 2019

The Woman in the Dark by Vanessa Savage

Title: The Woman in the Dark
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Format: Hardcover; 352 pages
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (March 12, 2019)
ISBN-10: 1538714299
ISBN-13: 978-1538714294
Author's Website: N/A
Notes: I received an copy of the book from the publisher for review purposes . This in no way influenced my review.

For the past year Sarah has been grieving the loss of her mother, and at one point fell into a deep depression. Now some of the grief has lifted and she's doing better, but when a letter arrives in a woman's handwriting addressed to her husband she fears he may be having an affair. When she asks him about it, he says it was a note from a realtor letting him know his childhood home is for sale. While the answer pacifies her for the moment, Sarah can't forget how visibly upset he seemed after reading the missive. Nor can she understand his obsession with moving back into his old house...

'I'm staring down at the details Patrick gave me. I want to be able to share his happiness, his excitement. My childhood home, my dream house, he said, but I can't forget the other photo of the house, the one that was on the front of the newspapers fifteen years ago. Someone spray-painted the front door and that's the photo everyone used: a house, police tape still fluttering across the front, broken window boarded up, Welcome to the Murder House spray-painted in red on the front door.' 

From the moment they step into the house Sarah a bad feeling about the house. She feels like she's being watched, items not belonging to the family mysteriously start showing up, locked doors end up open without explanation, and then there are the cold spots...

Is it all in her mind or is something much more nefarious happening?

"You shouldn't stay here," he says. "It keeps happening. The same thing's going to happen. This house...Bad things happen to people who live in this house."
This is one of those books that keeps you second guessing as to what is going on. There are red herrings galore, a couple of twists and turns thrown in for good measure, and you begin to realize that you, like the main character, are completely in the dark. I came up with several possible explanations as to what was going on, but couldn't quite put it all together. I rather liked that.

On the surface, Patrick and Sarah seem to be a loving couple working together to get over a bump in the road, namely, Sarah's depression. As we start to get a more intimate view of the couple, however, we start to see the fractures in their foundation. Things aren't as perfect as they wish everyone to believe.

Sarah is a very malleable character. She is at her weakest and most vulnerable when her husband insists they move. While he paints a pretty picture of the house and the town he grew up in, reality reveals a much different picture. The house is run down and the town has more people moving out than in. Joe, their son, is in the middle of his senior year of high school and the move is strenuous on on both him and his younger sister, Mia. Sarah's depression has already taken a toll on the family and the move makes everything worse as tension runs high. 

Patrick, Sarah's husband, is something else. I didn't like him one bit. His reasons for moving are purely selfish and I sympathized with Caroline, Sarah's best friend. Sometimes the people you love have to figure things out for themselves. and you need to stay by their side ready to catch them when and if they fall. Caroline, however, was not above suspicion. That was part of the issue Sarah faced throughout the book. She didn't know who to trust, not even herself.

As the family moves into the Murder House, things get more disturbing with each turn of the page. Is the house haunted? Is someone messing with the family? Is Sarah slowly starting to lose her mind or could it be a combination of all of the above?  This one will have you scratching your head and questioning everything. What is real? What is fake? Secrets, lies, half truths, betrayals, and omissions are all slowly revealed as the skeletons in this small town come to light one by one.

I gave this one 4 out of 5 roses. The story was engaging, the mystery was suspenseful, and the ending had me on the edge of my seat as it culminated in a struggle between life and death. I liked how Sarah managed to pull herself together and trust herself in the midst of so much chaos. I also enjoyed all the layers the author included that we needed to uncover in order to get to the heart of what was going on. While I enjoyed the book, there was one small item I found a tad confusing. Were the italicized passages just the self ramblings and/or rants of a character (that I shall not name) in regard to Patrick or letters he actually received? I ended up deciding they were letters because that might explain some of Patrick's behavior, but I wish it had been a little more clear. I'm forgoing the romance rating on this one because it wasn't a romance in any sense of the word. It was just a good psychological thriller. A very nice debut by author Vanessa Savage. I look forward to reading more of her books in the coming years.


Monday, March 4, 2019

Early Review of Springtime at Hope Cottage (Sweetwater Springs #2) by Annie Rains

Title: Springtime at Hope Cottage: Includes a bonus short story
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Sweetwater Springs (Book 2)
Format: Paperback; 416 pages
Publisher: Forever (March 5, 2019)
ISBN-10: 1538713985
ISBN-13: 978-1538713983
Author's Website:
Notes:  I received a copy of the book from the publisher for review purposes which in no way influenced by review.

'Dawanda returned with a tray and a small pitcher of steaming, white milk. She set the cup of coffee in front of Josie and sat down at the table."You're not a believer. I can already see that in your eyes. She held up a manicured finger with sparkly pink polish. "But you will be."
 Dawanda lifted the pitcher ceremoniously over the dark brew inside the cup and poured it in a straight line at the center, Afterward, the shop owner set the milk down and leaned forward over the cappuccino, a serious expression pinching her face.

Jose wasn't sure why but her heart was suddenly racing. "What do yo see?"
"A homecoming and a self-awakening are in your future."'

Josie Kellum has come to Sweetwater Springs to visit her best friend, Kaitlyn. While Josie's always adored New York and loved her job, somehow they've both lost some of their charm. Her dream job as an executive editor for the lifestyle section of Loving Life magazine isn't so dreamy since her boss relinquished ownership to his son, Bart. Bart's vision for the magazine is taking the magazine in a much different direction from that of his father's. One she's not sure she wants to be a part of. Plus, without her best friend in the city, New York has lost some of its allure. She's thinking it might be time for a change...

Tucker 'Tuck' Locklear has mourned the death of his wife for two years. He tried getting back into the dating game, but found it lacking. Regardless, he's decided its time to make a fresh start and recently moved into Hope Cottage, hoping the name would be an Omen for better things to come.  He knows it's time to start living again, but he just hasn't found anyone who interests him and wonders if maybe he never will. When he first meets Josie he's not really all that impressed with her, but there's something about her...

"Just slow down and listen to the voice inside you. That's usually how you get any message that life is trying to send."
If I had to sum up  this novel in three words, they would be sweet, charming, and heartwarming. This is the second book of the Sweetwater Springs series, and the first book in the series I've read. It can definitely be read as a standalone book and you won't feel lost. I must confess, however, after reading this 'Springtime at Hope Cottage', I am very curious as to how Kaitlyn ended up in Sweetwater.  I may need to get my hands on the first book, 'Christmas on Mistletoe Lane,' and read it.

When Josie first arrives in Sweetwater she comes across as the city girl she is. Tuck believes he knows the type--work obsessed, self-absorbed, and materialistic. In a nutshell, not his type. First impressions, however, can be deceiving and as he slowly gets to know Josie, he realizes he's pegged her wrong. She's totally not what he expected.

Tuck is not what Josie expects either. There's more to the man then meets the eye. He's a physical therapist who goes above and beyond by, as he puts it, having therapy sessions in the 'wild'. He makes house calls and plans creative therapy sessions in an effort to make sure his patients can do what they need to and go back to doing what they love. He's part Cherokee, looks a bit like Jacob of Twilight fame, loves nature, and is an all around nice guy.

I loved watching Tuck and Josie fall for each other. Both have baggage from the past they need to sort out and deal with, but somehow they manage to compliment one another and help each other overcome it. The romance wasn't rushed, and had what felt like a natural progression. There were some hurdles thrown in that strengthened and tested the relationship which added a nice touch of drama. Plus, it was sweet how the whole town seemed to want this couple to get together. I adored that small town atmosphere where everyone knows one another so well that they tend to get a little too interested in everyone else's business.   

Overall, I gave this one 4 out of 5 roses. It's the type of romance that puts a smile on your face and wraps a hug around your heart. I liked the characters, the town, and the vibe of this story. On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale this one gets a FAN rating--the temperature in the room seems to have suddenly gone up a couple of degrees and a fan would be nice. A most enjoyable read.

Order of the Sweetwater Springs series by Annie Rains:
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