It's always really fun to read a debut and see what the different lines are buying, and Nikki's story is an emotional, modern type story, very city liIt's always really fun to read a debut and see what the different lines are buying, and Nikki's story is an emotional, modern type story, very city lights and glamour but with a really nice earthiness to it thanks to the gardening aspect. The hero and heroine have past history, but in so many ways they are complete opposites! Ava might have lost her mother at a young age, but she had her father and brother to give her family security. Daniel, however, not only lost his mother but had a horrible childhood thanks to his father. Ava's family kind of became his family, until one awkward, devastating night changed everything. Ava's a mother earth, nurturing kind, while Daniel's only motivation is climbing the corporate ladder to prove he's a success.
Now Ava is at Daniel's mercy...she has to become presenter of a TV show rather than staying behind the scenes, and if she doesn't, she'll be in breach of contract. Dan's job's on the line too, but convincing Ava to do it is the least of his worries. Pressure from above means using tactics he doesn't like...and keeping it from Ava. It means pairing her with a screen-partner with a womanizing reputation (and let me say, he was one of my favourite characters in the book. Love it when things are so not what they seem). It means having feelings for her but not acting on them. For Ava, it means still loving Daniel even when things go wrong. Then it means being very, very angry with him when the truth behind it all comes out.
It all culminates in an awards show surprise that adds that touch of fantasy and glamour and a lot of Romance. I don't want to say more and be too spoilery if you haven't read it, but we all know that when a man has to choose between whatever his goal was and love, and he does it publicly, it's something (remember Notting Hill and the press conference? Grand gesture!).
Leanne Banks has taken a few risks with this book, namely in the heroine, Calista. She's kind of...mercenary in the beginning. I had a hard time warmiLeanne Banks has taken a few risks with this book, namely in the heroine, Calista. She's kind of...mercenary in the beginning. I had a hard time warming up to her at first, knowing she was marrying Leo for revenge. This is a well-used hook and for a reason - it is immediate conflict and it can really set off fireworks. The difference? Well, I'm used to reading about high-powered men being the ones exacting revenge, AND I'm used to them not making any bones about it - the heroine is well aware of what's going on. With Secrets of the Playboy's Bride, Calista has a plan to seduce Leo with the ultimate goal of marriage- he's going to pay for hurting her family. But Leo has NO idea that he's being lied to. That's where this is risky.
Of course, that also means that there's lots of room for character arc and to see both their feelings shift as they change and grow. Calista begins to forget about all the reasons why she'd wanted to marry him in the first place, and just as she's falling in love with him, he finds out the truth. From a conflict perspective, it really works. Then there's the fact that she's doing it for her sisters - and they adopt an adorable puppy. All things that help soften Calista and make us realize that boy oh boy, realizing she's in love with Leo is going to hit her RIGHT between the eyes!
As an aside - why is it that we excuse that hook with heroes but we find it so hard to accept in heroines? Hmmm. That bears some thinking about.
It was a fast-paced ride that kept me turning the pages - I loved the section in Japan and was a little disappointed we didn't get to go to India!
The one place that stopped me up, though, was the wedding night, when Leo realizes that she is not a virgin, though she definitely implied that was the case. She hadn't thought he would know whether she was a virgin or not. Um...I'm pretty sure he'd know. I found it hard to believe that one point. It was far more believable in the next scene where she admitted she'd made a mistake. She knows she let him believe that and admits it. She confesses about an earlier relationship. I just had a really hard time believing she honestly thought he wouldn't be able to tell.
Lots of passion between the pages (and the sheets!) and loved the reunion with his family at the end - especially the epilogue and how he and his brother agree to take the next adventure together. Awesome.
There are reasons why I love reading western romances. Jennie Marsland's McShannon's Chance demonstrates a lot of those reasons - she's got likeable,There are reasons why I love reading western romances. Jennie Marsland's McShannon's Chance demonstrates a lot of those reasons - she's got likeable, hardworking characters facing the challenge of making a life on the frontier, she's got wonderful, complex secondary characters, a gorgeous setting of Colorado, and a close-knit town.
Beth and Trey are well-matched, and it's clear that they heal each other and that together they are far stronger than alone. Beth, while not a country girl, finds herself rather suited to the wild, independent life there, probably because she's a very independent woman to begin with. Trey is carrying around lots of old wounds, and Beth helps him get past them. I liked how an old "neighbour" Nate was a part of the story and that for a long time we're not quite sure whether we should trust him or not, and I really liked how that was all resolved in the end. The secondary cast was so strong that several times I thought...hmmm, I wonder if she's going to write THAT story????
Marsland's choice of genre and writing style blend together for a great comfy read - a little like settling into your favourite rocking chair on a warm summer afternoon.
I've got Marsland's next book, McShannon's Heart, on my TBR.
I like the American Romance line. I'm a big fan of small town settings - and small town FEEL. I like the sense of community that you find in the line
I like the American Romance line. I'm a big fan of small town settings - and small town FEEL. I like the sense of community that you find in the line - I guess you could say Home and Hearth stories are ones I naturally gravitate to. What I liked about both these stories is that while you had that small town feel, there was also a sense of glamour built in. In Rebecca's story, A Mother's Secret, Andrea lives on a vineyard. I love winery stories. I think because it takes the farm girl in me and adds a little something high class. There is something inherently romantic about vineyards, and I like that. Likewise, in Dominique's A Daughter's Discovery, Samantha is a photographer who travels around the world. She might find her heart in small-town Alaska, but there's that element of worldliness and glamour that I really liked!
After a bit of a backstory in chapter one of A Mother's Secret, things get moving once we get Max and Andrea together in Chapter Two. The plot centres around Max's father Steve, who enters rehab for alcoholism. As the story progresses, Andrea falls for Max all over again and together they sort out the what's what of Max's parents' divorce and how Andrea played an unwitting part. I liked how they joined forces. And I liked how Max was willing to do whatever it took to be there for Andrea - even travel around the world to find her daughter.
The daughter's story is up next with A Daughter's Discovery. Samantha, on the search for her paternal grandparents, encounters Alaskan Ranger Jake. Jake's hot. We get that right away. And the way I like my heroes, too - a little rumpled and dusty. His father is also Sam's late father's best friend. Sam finds what she's looking for in Craig, Alaska - a family she never knew she had. But there are things missing. Like knowing she's falling in love with Jake even though things stand in their way. And like reconciling with her mother, who kept the existence of Sam's grandparents a secret. I also liked the use of Mother Nature throwing her weight around. Sam is still traumatized from a tsunami that struck while she was in the Maldives. And the glamour I mentioned? Well, Sam also treks to Africa and then to Antarctica. Exciting!
The ending is lovely, tying up the loose ends, tying both stories together, and with hopes for the future.
MORE THAN WORDS is a charitable endeavour by Harlequin Enterprises which honours women who have made outstanding contributions to their communities. EMORE THAN WORDS is a charitable endeavour by Harlequin Enterprises which honours women who have made outstanding contributions to their communities. Every year five charities and women are honoured and five best-selling authors are asked to write a story highlighting that cause (You can read more about the MORE THAN WORDS program HERE). This year's authors are Joan Johnston, Robyn Carr, Christina Skye, Rochelle Alers and Maureen Child.
I have to say I enjoyed this book SO much, and I don't always say that about novellas. Novellas are tough - and in these stories not only is there a satisfying romance but there is the added need to do it RIGHT and to focus on a particular issue. As a writer - I say major congrats to the authors for doing such a brilliant job! As a reader, I say thank you for five wonderful reads.
I started with Joan Johnston's ALMOST LOST - which had me in tears, and I ended with Maureen Child's THE PRINCESS SHOES. Very different causes and stories but lovely heartstrings moments. Joan's story dealt with the issue of teenagers being recruited into the sex trade - as the mom of a nearly-teen daughter, that hit particularly close to home. Maureen's story was about children without good shoes. Perhaps it seems like a smaller need, but I've also worked in a school and I have seen how poverty affects a child. The girl Kara in that story stole the show - loved her. What a sweetie.
SAFELY HOME by Christina Skye was a little more suspenseful and the hero Jesse was YUM (not to mention I am now craving Pecan Pie, thanks Christina!) - it was a great read and dealt with an organization for seniors that allows them to use their own unique skills to help each other. Rochelle Alers's NO LIMITS, with a great couple who had been married and divorced and on the way to providing needy kids with computers fell in love again.
Then it was on to Robyn Carr's SHELTERING HEARTS with one spunky heroine and a sexy firefighter who gave assistance to single mom's. I really felt this one personally as Dory stepped in when a woman was being abused in the parking lot. I ended up in a similar situation many years ago and was asked the same question - why would you step in to help? And the same answer. You just do. You think about it later. But you cannot stand by and watch someone being abused. So cheers to Robyn and the Zoe Institute for their great work.
All proceeds from the MORE THAN WORDS antho go back into the MORE THAN WORDS program. It's a worthwhile cause and a great reading experience. I'll admit - I discovered some new to me authors too.