Set the Stage by Karis Walsh

I really adored this book. From the characters to the setting and the slow burn romance, I was in it for the long haul with this one. Karis Walsh to me is an expert in creating interesting characters that often have to face some type of adversity. While this book was no different, it felt like the author changed up her game a bit. There something new, something fresh about this book from Walsh.

When we first meet Emilie Danvers, Emilie is saving every cent she gets from her fast-food gig to save up enough capital to start over with her new career as an actor in an Oregon Shakespeare Festival company. Emilie has one a coveted lead role and is about to get her acting career back on track after a long hiatus. Nothing will deter her from her passion for acting. She’s learned this the hard way after giving up promising roles to travel with her ex-girlfriend. A relationship that left more scars than happy memories.

Arden Philips is a gardener at the nearby park from the theater festival. While Arden has had dalliances with the performers over the years, but she carefully guards her heart knowing that they are just passing through Ashland on the way to the next career move. Arden is unknowingly kind of stuck in a rut. Abandonment issues from childhood have caused her to settle for a career she likes but doesn’t truly love. When she meets Emilie, these two have an instant connection and draw each other out of their proverbial shells.

I have always enjoyed Walsh’s work. I think you are guaranteed a solid read each time you pick up one of her stories. This one felt different, it gave more, it felt like more. It’s not a page burner but a slow fulfilling story with beautiful characters that had a deep connection. You have an amazing backdrop that is laid out perfectly that just pushes the story to flourish even further. I absolutely enjoyed my time with this one. It is a great book to escape with!

4.25 stars out of 5

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Secret Hearts by Radclyffe

A classic Radclyffe is what Secret Hearts is. A sweet story, with well-developed characters and enough chemistry to keep you 100% committed to the end. You know what you’re getting with this author and she doesn’t let you down.

Catherine “Kip” Kensington hails from a very prominent, well to do New York family. Her last name and the work she does for the Department of Defense forces her to keep a low profile. Unfortunately her brother, Randy does not follow her lead. Addicted to drugs and “borrowing” cars, lands not only himself but Kip in lockup. A childhood tragedy shaped both Kip’s and Randy’s life, and the young man has taken refuge in nefarious activities as a way of masking his pain. Kip plays the mother role and tirelessly tries to help Randy out of jams even though the price she pays is a criminal record and a ton of heartache.

Jordan Rice is developing a community garden project in the heart of Manhattan. She works tirelessly to plant her crops and make contacts to supply her produce to the city’s restaurant industry. With a heart of gold, and an iron will to succeed, Jordan doesn’t make room for anything else but work in her life. She’s given up on meeting anyone and fills her time with making the world a better place.

Jordan and Kip meet in a super awkward way. Kip is assigned by the courts to do 400+ hours of community service for driving a stolen vehicle (thanks Randy!). This caring do-gooder takes her licks and heads over to the community garden, unbeknownst to Jordan that the garden was getting a helper. Tension increases as the office building has just been broken into, which causes Jordan to almost attack Kip, the perceived thief.

This age gap romance has a lot going for it. You have two level-headed, intelligent leading ladies who really work well together. Life throws them some curveballs sure, but these to have a synchronicity and a natural flow. They just work well together in all sense of the word. Even though Kip is used to holding a bit of herself back, Jordan has a way of looking past that and finding out who Kip really is. Through Jordan, Kip learns to let Randy stand for himself, even if it’s a painful process, to watch someone you love take the hard road. This is a feel good story that is most definitely worthy of your time.

 4 out of 5 stars

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