Secrets in a Small Town by Nicole Stiling

Nicole Stiling’s debut novel Secrets in a Small Town is a dynamic romance meets mystery that keeps you on your toes yet smiling page to page. No worries with this one, you won’t be scared to turn out the lights but you will be enchanted and thoroughly entertained.

Savannah Castillo is the town manager of a sleepy little community of fewer than 1,500 people. She picked this small town specifically because it was an ideal place to raise her daughter, Eliana. Savannah is 100% an ice queen. She lets no one, other than her little one, close to her. This control fanatic is disturbed by the sudden onslaught of mysterious gifts. They arrive at her office and home at all given times with no sender to be found. The gifts start increasing in frequency as well as becoming more and more threating. Savannah thinks she can handle this on her own until her assistant goes over her head and involves the one person Savannah wants to avoid more than anyone, the chief of police, Micki Blake.

Micki loves working in Winter Valley. She was worried when she left the hustle and bustle of the city she would be bored. Come to find out she likes the slow pace of small-town life. The only thorn in her side is that the town manager seems to loathe her for reasons she can’t quite grasp. Micki takes Savannah’s attitude in stride and throws it right back at her needling the uptight town manager whenever she gets the chance. You really can’t rule this lighthearted good-natured police chief. When Micki’s friend and Savannah’s executive assistant, Chloe, brings the gift situation to Micki’s attention, the chief is bound and determined to help her abrasive nemesis.

Nicole Stiling can write a damn good book that is for sure. My mind is still boggled a bit that this is a debut novel. It really has a good flow, the plot is dynamic and the dialogue reads very natural. From the very first page, I was drawn to the story and the main characters. As caustic as Savannah was at times I still liked her and Micki is just a main you are immediately drawn to. There were enough twists and turns in who the stalker might be that I was guessing to the end. I will definitely be reading what Nicole Stiling has to offer next.

4.25 out of 5 stars

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The Do-Over by Georgia Beers

Georgia Beers is one of my favorites. She has a beautiful writing style that captures both the imagination and the heart. You can count on Beers to give you a quality well-paced book each and every time. Pretty amazing, right?

Easton Evans is coming off a divorce. Not a messy one, but one of mutual respect, positive interactions and co-parenting their seven year-old daughter. Easton married her high-school sweetheart and after years of marriage finally admitted to herself, her husband and close friends that she was a lesbian. When we meet Easton she is working through her guilt of a failed marriage, parenting an unruly adolescent and grappling with a corporate merger that has left her the bad guy to her new sales staff. When the company bigwigs ask her and the other managers to attend conflict resolution, Easton has no choice but to attend.

Bella Hunt is the therapist that will be running the six-week course that Easton and her co-workers will attend. Bella knows Easton from high-school and is dreading working with her former classmate. Bella had a nightmare experience in school and struggled to endure and escape that time period. The memories of the bullying she faced are more than enough. While Bella is a well-rounded accomplished adult, you cannot help but notice that her youth left a few forever scars. When Bella realizes that Easton doesn’t remember her she decides to keep their past a secret. Why go back through those emotions is she can just endure a six-week class? One major problem, she cannot help be drawn to grown-up Easton Evans.

From the beginning, the story has flashbacks of the characters when they were in high school. You become invested in their past as much as their present. You ache for the young girls that were dealing with insecurities, one in the popular crowd, the other the object of their bullying. The chemistry The Do-Over is absolutely amazing and the high school flashbacks are perfectly written so as not to distract or confuse but to add to the plot. They brought depth to the story and gave you more insight into the present day leading ladies. This is another fabulous book from Georgia Beers.

4 out of 5 stars

Hooked on You by Jenn Matthews

Jenn Matthews’s book Hooked on You by takes you into the world of crochet with a heavy dose of romance. One of our main characters Ollie owns a craft store that offers crochet lessons. This group comes together not only to create scarves and throws but also as a support network for people that need a friendly face. The group finds that in Ollie, a 50+ year old ex-soldier that carries a ton of baggage from her time in the Middle East, her divorce and being a lesbian.

Anna, our other main character decides to find a hobby at the request of her college-aged daughter. Anna spends all of her time working as an English teacher and her kids think she needs something for herself. She decides on crochet and that takes her to Ollie. A woman she just cannot help but be smitten with.

This one was a tough one to nail down when it comes to a rating. First and foremost the book is well written. I thought that Jenn Matthews did a great job with character development and dialogue. The secondary characters add depth to the story and really make it shine. The romance felt authentic like this book could mimic a real-life love story. What holds me back a bit is that the pace was slow. I mean really, really slow and pretty heavy-handed in the crochet department. It almost felt a bit repetitive when it comes to crochet but the romance was written well enough to make up for talks of hooks and stitches.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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A Wish Upon a Star by Jeannie Levig

A Wish Upon a Star by Jeannie Levig is a fabulous read. This book has those little moments that pull at your heartstrings. A slow burn romance that uses tension in the most glorious way. Leving writes a balanced well-written book with characters that you just cannot get enough of. So damn good!

Leslie Raymond has had her heart shattered. The wounds are deep and extraordinarily painful she decides to move from her home in Florida back to her childhood residence in Burbank, California. This is a chance for a new beginning, a chance to heal and start fresh. What is she isn’t prepared for is her gorgeous neighbor and her amazing daughter.

Erica Cooper is a college professor and mother to Siena, a special needs child that that is on the autistic spectrum. Siena is immediately taken to Leslie and her dog. They strike up and unlikely friendship that is filled with understating, patience and kindness.

Erica and Leslie each have baggage and trust issues from previous relationships. They develop an easy friendship that builds as the story moves along. It feels real, I cannot say how impressive these characters are. They are three dimensional and are 100% relatable. Not to mention the chemistry between Erica and Leslie is out of this world.

What makes this book special is not just the two mains and their romance but how Siena and even Gus, the dog all play such an intricate role in the book. You cannot help but fall in love with them all. This is an amazing story.

5 out of 5 stars

Publisher: Bold Strokes Books                       https://www.boldstrokesbooks.com/books/a-wish-upon-a-star-by-jeannie-levig-2726-b

Breaking Down Her Walls by Erin Zak

Julia Finch is running away from life. The destination is 100% unknown. How can you run away totally from your past and self-hatred? She tries like hell too, that is until her beat-up old clunker of a car finally gives up on her journey in a teeny tiny Colorado town. With little money, she has to make a deal to work off her automobile repair debt by lending a hand at a large cattle ranch.

Julia spends her days shoveling manure and bonding with the ranch’s horses. Her immediate connection to these beautiful working animals endures her to the ranch’s owner, Elena Bennett.

Elena Bennett spends her time working her ranch and being perpetually pissed off. Her heart has been broken too many times and she cannot shake off her anger. Her wife was killed in an automobile accident breaking her heart the first time, the second women she trusted with it decided to up and leave her with little warning. Now she’s just angry and a bit broken. When she first meets Julia she is hard bitter and has very little patience for the new ranch hand.

I like the premise of the story. Two characters overcoming past tragedies to find their way to love, trust and respect. For the most part, I enjoyed this book. I will be honest I thought the ex-girlfriend showing back up after her disappearing act was a bit contrived and made to story slow way down and become a bit too contrived. I mean if your ex-lover dumps you with no word, disappears out of town and now you have a new lady you are just pining for you’re going to hang out with said ex when she shows back up. Hell no! Penn showing back up was a monumental waste of reading space. It would have been infinitely better spent on dialogue between the two mains.

Overall a good book that I am happy that I spent some time with.

3 out of 5 stars

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Shadowboxer by Jessica L. Webb

If you start by just looking at the front cover of this book, you’ll notice a few things. Now sometimes a cover doesn’t do the book justice, this is absolutely not the case for Shadowboxer. The cover is dark and gritty. The focus is on heavy boxing gloves that have been battered and bruised, much like the kids that face life in the foster care system, on the street, and in abusive homes.

Jordan McAddie was raised in a home by two parents who abused alcohol. Her father was an emotionally abusive drunk. He took is abuse out on the mother of his children and well as the kids, finally going so far that Jordan was removed from her parent’s custody. We meet Jordan as she is well into her career as a child advocate and social worker in Halifax. Jordan uses her past experience as a professional boxer as a way to connect with the local kids. After working grueling hours she spends all her free time opening up her boxing gym to local kids interested in the sport and needing a place they can feel wanted.

When new funding for her gym comes available from a large corporation, Jordan is faced with a face from her past. Ali Clarke is back in Halifax as a representative for Centera Corporation. Her job is to learn from the youth at Jordan’s gym and create some good PR for her company. Ali is the one Jordan let go of so long ago. Her first and only love is back in Halifax. To see Ali again is a blessing, but also brings back all those old feelings. These two have a new chance at love if they are willing to risk it.

As heavy as the subject is about kids that are in desperate need of better representation and social services this book gives you lightness and hope as well. Ali and Jordan have a fabulous chemistry and it’s a delightful slow burn romance. At times this book is heavy but the counterbalances are done well. The secondary characters add so much to the book but never out shadow the mains. That is hard to pull off and Webb did it flawlessly. More than anything this one keeps you hooked.

4.5 stars out of 5

  • Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
  • Purchase: https://www.boldstrokesbooks.com/books/shadowboxer-by-jessica-l-webb-2675-b

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Bring Holly Home by A.E. Radley

A.E. Radley knows how to deliver a great story. Her newest book, Bring Holly Home is one of her best yet! A great ice queen romance gets me every single time.

Victoria Hastings is one of the world’s most influential people in the world of high fashion. As the editor-in-chief of an international fashion magazine, Arrival, Victoria is busy, demanding and an absolute ice-queen. Her assistants are known for fleeing, and if they don’t get away first they are often times fired for inconsequential reasons. Under all of her tough exterior, there is a sweet woman who loves fiercely. You just have to break down the massive concrete barriers around her heart.

Holly Carter is one of the few assistants that handled working with Victoria with ease. Victoria threw every challenge her way and Holly met expectations with ease and excellence. So when Holly up and walked away during Paris Fashion Week, Victoria was surprised and unbelievably hurt. Twist! Holly didn’t leave to quit, somehow she was injured and developed amnesia. The young assistant has been living in Paris for a year now.

This ice queen age gap romance will keep you on your toes all the way to the end. Radley keeps the tension taut all the way through the last chapter. My only grievance with this book is that I wish there had been more one on one interaction between the two leading ladies. A little more dialogue would have launched this book into the next stratosphere. With that being said, this book is a really great read, and I sincerely hope that we get another book featuring Victoria and Holly.

3.75 out of 4 stars

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