ARC REVIEW: Blue-Ribbon Jalapeño Society Jubilee by Carolyn Brown

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I love small Texas towns.  I love the look of them.  I love the individual feel of them.  And while I didn’t grow up in a small Texas town, I have spent a lot of time in them.  And after reading Blue-Ribbon Jalapeño Jubilee Society, I’m still not certain that Carolyn Brown has spent any time in a small Texas town.  This is Ms. Brown’s first foray into chick lit, and it’s a fairly good first try.  The publisher had this to say about Ms. Brown’s book “Everything is calm in Cadillac, Texas until Aunt Agnes declares war on Violet Prescott, the president of the Blue-Ribbon Jalapeno Society, just in time for the annual jubilee. But after the festivities—and the hostilities—are over, it’s four friends who are left standing, proving once again that friendship is forever.”  Without giving away too much detail, the book covers the goings on of the Blue-Ribbon Jalapeño Society and all the women in it, plus a cheating Police Chief, a wanna be politician, and an underground railroad for abused women.  Sound like a lot?  That’s because it is.  Too much, in fact.  With so many people and so many things happening, I don’t really get to know any of these women.  And I so would have loved to know more about Cathy and Marty, Trixie and Agnes.  But Brown moves us around so much, so fast, I can only get a glimpse of who each woman truly is.  And when we finally settle at the end of the book, it finishes with a whimper, instead of a bang.  However, there is enough good things here to get me to read her second chick lit book (if she decides to do one).  Because Ms. Brown is clearly a strong writer.  And I hope she takes the good from this book and makes the next book much, much better.

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ARC REVIEW: An Affair to Dismember

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Mystery rom-coms aren’t really my thing.  They’re alright for some people.  But I usually don’t like a dead body taking time away from a love match.  But An Affair to Dismember is so delightfully funny in distracting me from not getting what I usually expect, I don’t mind one bit.  The publisher’s describe it this way “Three months has been Gladie Burger’s limit when it comes to staying in one place: She’s always been a temp agency kind of girl, ever ready to move on. That’s why Gladie is more than a little skeptical when her eccentric Grandma Zelda recruits her to the family business in the quaint small town of Cannes, California. Gladie is also highly unqualified: Her beloved grandmother’s business is matchmaking, and Gladie has a terrible track record with romance. Still, despite evidence to the contrary, Zelda is convinced that her granddaughter has “the gift.” But when the going gets tough, Gladie wonders if this gift has a return policy.”.  Grandma Zelda, Gladie, and the cast of characters in Cannes, California make for a very interesting and action packed novel. There’s the hot-as-hell Police Chief, the sexy new neighbor, the clumsy rookie cop who happens to dance as gracefully as Fred Astaire (his namesake), the cafe owner who’s obsessed with teas, and the crazy family no one in the town likes.  And the bodies are piling up.  And it’s up to Gladie and the Police Chief to figure it out.  Since this is a light mystery rom-com, you know they figure it out.  It’s also the first book in a new series called The Matchmaker Series.  So Gladie’s romantic life is only teased here.  Elise Sax’s writing moves at a nice clip, and she makes sure to keep you engaged every step of the way.  This is definitely chick lit worth reading.

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ARC REVIEW: Over The Edge by Suzanne Carroll

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Girl is engaged to guy.  Guy’s a dick.  Girl dumps guy.  Girl then meets Other Guy who isn’t a dick. But Girl can’t trust her feelings for Other Guy, because Girl is now a damaged idiot.  So goes the story of Over The Edge, the delightful debut novel from Suzanne Carroll.  Although, I don’t think the publishers would describe it in exactly that way.  They’d say something like “Newly single Zoe is on the cusp of a new life.  Travel, career, freedom from romantic entanglements- it’s all on the horizon, until she spies her handsome boss stumbling his way through a waltz.  What starts as dancing lessons becomes more, and Zoe questions where her choices are taking her.  But by the time she realizes what she wants, it just might be too late”.  But since you know this is wonderfully light, chick lit fluff it will probably not be too late. I found Zoe so incredibly relatable.  I kept saying to my iPad, “I know Zoe, I’ve been there.”  What girl hasn’t fallen in love with the completely wrong person.  Only to find the right person a little too late.  Suzanne Carroll does a good job pulling us in from the beginning and keeping us on the crazy ride that is Zoe’s not-so-midlife crisis.  She also does an EXCELLENT job giving us a surprisingly interesting billionaire.  Which is hard to do in this Post Fifty Shades world of chick lit.  It seems every love story I read has a moody, hot billionaire in it.  But despite my initial groan (that made heads turn at the coffee shop) at finding out Angus Creed’s was a young self-made billionaire, Carroll does just enough to make the reader root for him and Zoe’s relationship.  I would have liked a subplot and a less predictable bad guy (or girl, in this case).  But all-in-all, this was a worthy chick lit read on a lazy day in California.

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ARC REVIEW: The Marriage Mistake by Jennifer Probst

 

Jennifer Probst has released 3 books and 4 novellas in a single calendar year. That’s a lot of writing, people.  And unfortunately for Ms. Probst, it shows.  The Marriage Mistake is the 3rd book in her Marriage To A Billionaire series.  Who’s predecessor The Marriage Bargain, spent over 20 weeks on the New York Times Bestsellers List. So when I saw the third installment on NetGalley, I jumped at the chance to read it.  This one tells the story of the youngest Conte sister, Carina.  And her girlhood crush, Maximus Gray.  The book begins when Carina Conte comes to America to work alongside her brother Michael and his best friend Max.  And learns what it takes to become the future CFO of her family’s business, La Dolce Maggie.  Needless to say, Carina and Max fight their attraction to each other, but eventually succumb to their desires.  In a hotel room in Vegas, no less!  Egads! I liked these characters.  And I rooted for them to get together.  But there were too many things that kept me from enjoying their love story.  Firstly, I never felt I was reading a story about 2 Italians who’d come to America to make their mark.  It felt like they were 2 Americans from Italian descent.  And I don’t know about you, but I can’t name any billionaire, anywhere in the world who doesn’t own his own company.  Secondly, the marriage plot that runs throughout this series felt shoe-horned in at the last minute.  And the plot device used to get these 2 down the aisle made me think I was having a serious case of deja vu.   But what ultimately bothered me about this book is the time it takes for Carina and Max to end up together.  I understood the reasoning behind it, but it just felt like prolonging the obvious.  Rather than getting them together in a natural timeframe.  Here’s hoping Jennifer Probst takes a bit more time with Julietta’s story, in the next installment of her bestselling series.  Because I would really love to continue reading these books.

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REVIEW: A Night of No Return by Sarah Morgan

 

I am in love with Sarah Morgan.  It’s a young love.  But a deep one.  I first met her a few short months ago.  When I saw a super corny title called Doukaki’s Apprentice.  Obviously, I scoffed at the title.  But then I read the summary and decided to give it a try.  And I loved it.  Then I read The Greek’s Innocent Virgin.  Super loved it!  Then Twelve Nights of Christmas.  Super, super loved it with extra sauce on the side!  And it just went on and on and on from there.  So when her latest novel A Night of No Return showed up on NetGalley, I had to read it.  And of course, as always, Sarah Morgan does not disappoint.  This is the typical boss/secretary love story.  Secretary dedicates herself completely to a boss who’s closed off.  But somehow manages to stumble into his heart.  Emma Gray, secretary to the overly serious tycoon Lucas Jackson, decides to personally deliver an important file to his home in the midst of a snowstorm.  And as you can imagine they get stuck and so begins the love story.  Reading this book feels like sitting in your favorite chair, reading a book you’ve read dozens of times before.  And it still puts a smile on your face.  That is the magic of Sarah Morgan’s books.  You instantly know who the characters.  You figure out the story pretty quickly.  And if anyone else was writing the book, you’d be bored out of your mind.  But in the hands of Sarah Morgan, the predictability of the book brings you comfort instead of boredom.  I realize for some readers, Sarah Morgan’s books may be too melodramatic.  But I like a little melodrama on my reading lists.  And I only trust Ms. Morgan to give me the best melodrama.  And this is melodrama worth reading.

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REVIEW: Rescue My Heart by Jill Shalvis

 

I have a real love/didn’t really like it relationship with Jill Shalvis.  While I loved Books  2 and 3 of her Lucky Harbor series, I didn’t really like books 1 and 4.  I loved Book 1 of her Sky Air series, but I didn’t really like 2 and 3.  So, when I saw Rescue My Heart, Shalvis’s 3rd novel in the Animal Magnetism series on Netgalley, I knew there’d be a 50/50 shot of me loving it.  And in the reading world, those are really good odds.  In our 3rd visit to Belle Haven, Shalvis finally gives us the love story between the recluse Adam Connelly, and his onetime, tough-as-nails lover, Holly Reid.  Holly’s father has gone missing in the Bitterroot Mountain, and she enlists Adam to help find him.  And as you might have guessed, love ensues ( in a very circuitous way).  What Jill Shalvis manages to do so well in this book is explore how a broken down man and a closed-off woman can find love again.   Adam has never been the same since he’s come back from the War.  And Holly can’t seem to let go of the horrible pain and deceit she suffered from her first husband.  As a reader, you like and care about these 2 people.  And you really root for them to get together.  And as a person who’s seen what PTS can really do to ex-soldiers and their loved ones, I applaud Shalvis courage to make that apart of Holly and Adam’s love story.  But that doesn’t keep me from thinking the book feels rushed.  Maybe because part of their love story happens before the book starts.  Or maybe it’s because the book is fairly short, at a little over 300 pages.  I’m not sure.  But after finishing the book, I couldn’t help think “Is this it?”.  Of course, the best novels always leave us wanting more.  But this one made me feel as if I had no real handle on the characters or their love story.  You should decide for yourself.  Because this is still chick lit worth reading.

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REVIEW: Royal Pain by Megan Mulry

Men can make you do some stupid things. They can convince you to give them all of your savings, even though you can’t really afford it. And they can make you doubt your intelligence and self-confidence, when you know deep down you’ve got plenty of that in spades.  But when a man makes you fall head-over-heels in love with him, he can make you throw the life you love right out the window of your 4th floor apartment.  Go downstairs and kick it in the head a thousand times.  And then light it on fire and watch it go up in flames.  That’s not quite what happens to our heroine, Bronte Talbot, but it’s close.   Bronte thought she’d found The One.  But what is so often the case, she only finds The One Right Now.  Unfortunately, she doesn’t realize it until AFTER she’s moved to Chicago to be with him.  A year later, we find Bronte still in Chicago, alone and working to get her life in New York back.  And she’s well on her way, when she meets British doctoral student, Max Heyworth.  Bronte thinks that Max would make the perfect Transitional Guy.  Until he tells her he’s royalty and has to move back to Britain and be the Duke he was born to be.  Bronte once again finds herself faced with a choice of uprooting her life for a man or continuing her path back to New York.  Now ladies, I know what you’re thinking.  Choosing between being an ad woman or married to a Duke, the choice should be a no brainer.  You’d choose to be Royal any day of the week, and twice on Sunday.  But would you really?  Would you give up the life you like (a second time) to follow a man back to his life? And what if you did make that choice?  Could you really through off your American democratic skin so quickly?  And take up a life that plays by a decidedly different set of rules and regulations?   First time novelist, Megan Mulry, takes a realistic view into what it would take for an American woman to give up her American life and try to fit in to a British royal family for the man she loves.  What is so great about this book is that Mulry weaves an honest tale of romance in with a classic chick lit story element of female self-awareness.  Which makes you love the 2 characters and their relationship, but you also root for Bronte no matter what her decision is.  I loved reading this book.  And I was surprised and pleased at the quality of storytelling for a first time novelist.  This really is chick lit worth reading.

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