Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Review: Sweet Indulgence

Welcome to today's review of Sweet Indulgence by Debbie White.  It was a refreshing romance to start off the new year and I hope you check it out.
 Debbie is a USA Today Bestselling Author. She currently lives in northern California where the hills are dotted with vineyards and the jagged coastline is nearby. Many of her books describe the beautiful area she calls home. She avidly supports animal rescue by donating a percentage of all book sales to rescue groups nationwide! Now here are a few more interesting tidbits of information about her!

1. Her spouse served in the U.S. Air Force for over 20 years. She uses some of her experiences as a military wife in some of her stories.

2. She has two granddaughters and a grandson.

3. She received her degree in Sociology in 2011 and graduated Magna Cum Laude.

4. She hasn't always dreamed of writing, but she's always loved reading and decided she'd give it a try. Her fans love her so much, she's still putting out books three years later.
Real Men Eat Cupcakes

Annie McPherson has had it with all the blind dates her grandmother and auntie set her up with. She just wants to be left alone to run the Sweet Indulgence cupcake bakery – even if it means she’ll remain single forever.
Jack’s just been through a gut-wrenching break-up, and women are the last thing on his mind. Now he’s on a mission to pick up cupcakes for his niece’s birthday party—not a mission to fall in love. Pulled in by Annie’s good looks and witty charm, though, temptation proves too sweet.
But will Annie’s pesky grandmother and auntie welcome Jack as Annie’s choice or will they have him jumping through hoops to prove he’s the one?
Fans of Debbie Macomber, Sherryl Woods, and Susan Wiggs are sure to love Sweet Indulgence, the first sweet romance novel in the Charleston Harbor series.
This book is too sweet to pass up! Scroll up to one click and begin your indulgence today!


The stand-out element of this book is that not a single one of the characters is a caricature.  Annie and Jack meet in a normal business setting while he is helping a family member with something perfectly reasonable.  (Though I will never understand this current obsession with lovelorn women opening cupcakeries, it's much more palatable than the billionaire romance to me.)  The grandmother and auntie have ritual and order in their lives.  Class dynamics arise and much of the book is occupied with keeping the business that is at the heart of the book running to the best of its potential.

That said, the romance escalates a bit quickly.  Not 50 Shades of Grey quickly and not as slowly as the four-book Twilight build to the honeymoon, but they go from casually hanging out on a boat to French-kissing their brains out in a kind of condensed middle section of the book.  It would have been more effective for the pacing if it were spread out more.  And the ending just made me laugh because of the unexpected twist she throws in.  I won't ruin it for you.

In general, the book made me want to make a pitcher of sweet tea and read this somewhere surrounded by people who say y'all a lot.  And that is a compliment.

Buy here

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Review: Christmas Secrets

"A charming rogue-turned-vicar, Will wants to prove that he left his rakish days behind him, but an accidental kiss changes all his plans. His secret could bring them together...or divide them forever.

Holly has two Christmas wishes this year; finally earn her mother's approval by gaining the notice of a handsome earl, and learn the identity of the stranger who gave her a heart-shattering kiss...even if that stranger is the resident Christmas ghost."

I am very particular about certain things, if you can't tell by my reviews.  I largely avoid Christmas tales, because they so often miss the mark, and I sometimes avoid historical tales because I spend too much time picking out anachronisms when the tale fails to enthrall me.

Fortunately, neither of these things was an issue with Donna Hatch's Christmas Secrets.  It felt like a combination of Downton Abbey and Doctor Who, not for the time period, but because we were dropped into a world with mannerisms and expectations and knew that every character had a rich history that we would work through by the end in one form or another.

It's a story in which people find adventure in the ordinary and stolen kisses do not turn out as intended.  The story itself is an enjoyable comedy of errors at time, but a heart-warming approach to finding happiness in others.  That really is how most of my favorite Christmas tales go (Miracle on 34th Street and It's A Wonderul Life), so I found myself forgetting genre and fact-checking to go along for the ride.  (Though I did check out some of the things I was unfamiliar with because they fascinated me.)


Donna Hatch is the award-winning author of over a dozen books including the best-selling
"Rogue Hearts Series.” A hopeless romantic and adventurer at heart, she discovered her writing passion at the tender age of 8 and has been listening to those voices ever since. She is a sought-after workshop presenter, and juggles freelance editing, multiple volunteer positions, and most of all, her six children (seven, counting her husband). A native of Arizona who recently transplanted to the Pacific Northwest, she and her husband of over twenty years are living proof that there really is a happily ever after.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Review: Dating the It Guy

 Genre:  Contemporary, Young Adult
Publisher: Clean Reads
Publication date: March 21, 2017
Emme is a sophomore in high school who starts dating, Brendon Agretti, the popular senior who happens to be a senator’s son and well-known for his good looks. Emme feels out of her comfort zone in Brendon’s world and it doesn’t help that his picture perfect ex, Lauren, seems determined to get back into his life, along with every other girl who wants to be the future Mrs. Agretti. Emme is already conflicted due to the fact her last boyfriend cheated on her and her whole world is off kilter with her family issues. Life suddenly seems easier keeping Brendon away and relying on her crystals and horoscopes to guide her. Emme soon starts to realize she needs to focus less on the stars and more on her senses. Can Emme get over her insecurities and make her relationship work? Life sure is complicated when you’re dating the it guy.

Besides mining her teen years and humiliating moments for her novels, Krysten is also a book addict who has never met a bookstore she didn’t like. Krysten writes about friendship, self-esteem, fitting in, frenemies, crushes, fame, first loves, and values. She is the author of True Colors, Best Friends…Forever?, Next Door to a Star, Landry in Like, and Competing with the Star (The Star Series: Book 2). Her debut novel, True Colors, won the Readers Favorite award for best preteen book. Krysten’s work has been featured in USA Today, The Flint Journal, the Grand Haven Tribune, the Beavercreek Current, the Bellbrook Times and on Living Dayton.

I have to say that I enjoy it when an author manages to write high school without turning it into an episode of Gossip Girl.  (I have almost no problems if they want it to resemble Buffy: The Vampire-Slayer, but that's a subject for another post.)  I read a lot of YA books wherein high school bears no resemblance to how life worked at my alma mater and sometimes, that's hilariously refreshing and sometimes it just annoys me that the author can't seem to grasp how teenagers think.

This book does not have that problem.  Whether talking about a flaky group project partner, stains that won't come out of your Homecoming dress, or someone complaining about having bombed their French quiz, it felt like a very natural environment.  The main characters meet in a summer school class that Emme is taking because the local newspaper rescinded her internship when they forgot to mention that she needed to be 16 and have her own car.  On her birthday, she gets an awesome present that costs a ton (she's dating an It Guy after all), but he stops and makes them compare class schedules for the upcoming school year.  All of the characters dress like normal teenagers and go to their parents for help paying for a special occasion.

The twist comes with the interactions with the eponymous It Guy, who doesn't seem to understand that he needs to have a better balance between having a good college application and having a good relationship with the girl he's dating.  He skips an event that's very important to her to host a charity auction, which would annoy me, too.  He's grown up as the son of a prominent politician, so is used to being a people-pleaser who doesn't always know when to have quality time one-on-one.  It was a source of frustration to me that he kept missing this point, so I'm glad that there was character development talking about not only his response to the concern, but how Emme felt about the dynamic. 

This is definitely a clean read overall, but the characters make frequent references to who is probably sleeping around and gold-digging and there is public intoxication involving high school students at one point.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Review: Dark Days of Promise by Shaunna Gonzalez

I was provided an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

This book covers the coming together of two very interesting characters.  One is a SAH(single)M with the usual three rambunctious kids.  The other is a cold-blooded killer who yearns to be gentle now that he's back from the war.

When Vicki receives news of her ex-husband's death, she has to move forward with life and help her two boys and a girl cope with life without Dad.  She knows that her unofficial Grandma Janine is related to a military friend of her ex-husband, Kelly.  Kelly has returned from the war with an injury and a history in Special Ops.  He struggles with having killer instincts and feeling like he no longer is capable of a normal life.  You can probably see where this is going.  Kelly is the real man her ex-husband and current boyfriend failed to be for Vicki.  Vicki teaches him gentleness again.  It's not hard to work out where the book ends up.

The book was ambitious in focusing on Kelly's PTSD.  I admired that the author had the children be intelligent enough to perceive that there was  something different  about Kelly and they didn't just let it slide.  The were protective of their family and that worked well.  I also liked that she wove in the children's different ways of coping badly with the loss in the family. 

The main characters had strong personalities behind them and the link between them through her ex-husband.  The book sells itself short, literally, though.  It's 154 pages and makes a very fast transition from "My kids just lost their Dad.  How will I help them?" to "My kids need a dad ASAP."  Vicki has been raising them for three years while her husband was deployed at times and home at others, yet she keeps underscoring the fact that she needs someone who can teach her boys to be real men.  The PTSD that led me to read this in the first place is addressed, but Kelly admits that he refuses to get treatment because his is not that bad.  That gave me some pause.

I'm sure that she spent many days in those three years as a single mom wondering if she was doing a good job, but I feel as though the author wrote a character perfectly capable of teaching her children correct behaviors and attitudes on her own.  And the character should have respected herself for it.

Buy Here

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Book Blitz: A Killer Retreat

Sorry, just found this on my drafts section.  I meant it to go up last night.

Tracy Weber is the author of the award-winning Downward Dog Mysteries series featuring yoga teacher Kate Davidson and her feisty German shepherd, Bella. Her first book, Murder Strikes a Pose won the Maxwell Award for Fiction and was 2015 Agatha award nominee for Best First Novel. The third book in her series, Karma's a Killer, will released January, 2016 by Midnight Ink.

Tracy and her husband live in Seattle with their challenging yet amazing German shepherd Tasha. When she’s not writing, Tracy spends her time teaching yoga, walking Tasha, and sipping Blackthorn cider at her favorite ale house. 

Yogi Kate must clear her name of murder in this charming yoga mystery
When Kate Davidson gets an offer to teach yoga classes to wedding guests at the
Elysian Springs resort, she jumps at the opportunity, even though it means being forced to endure the wedding ceremony of the center's two caretakers.

Avoiding the M-word turns out to be the least of Kate's problems when a wedding guest is found floating face-down in the resort's hot tub, shortly after a loud, public
(and somewhat embarrassing) fight with Kate.

The police pick Kate as their number-one suspect, so she's forced to team up with boyfriend Michael, best friend Rene, and German shepherd sidekick Bella to find the real killer. But they'll have to solve the murder before the police arrest Kate, or her next gig may last a lifetime--behind bars."

Official Facebook Event page:
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Subscribe to my newsletter and be entered to win a Downward Dog Mysteries coffee mug!  http://tracyweberauthor.com/newsletter.html

Top Ten List
o   Top 10 vacation spots

§  Cannon Beach, OR—site of my 5th book!
§  Doe Bay, Orcas Island, WA –site of my 2nd book!
§  Whidbey Island, WA
§  Paia, Maui —Where I took yoga training
§  Cancun, Mexico
§  Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (Do you see the beach theme?)
§  Assisi, Italy
§  San Diego, CA – my honeymoon spot!
§  Africa (someday!)
§  Home on the couch with my pup and a Margarita

Monday, July 10, 2017


Series: My Heart Belongs
Genre: Adult, Christian, Fiction, Historical, Romance
Publisher: Barbour
Publication date: July 1

Journey now to Mackinac Island where... A Tangled Gilded Age Love Story Unfolds. Although the Winds of Mackinac Inn has been in her mother’s family for generations, Maude Welling’s father refuses to let her run it without the guidance of a husband. So she seeks to prove her worth and independence by working incognito as a maid at the Grand Hotel. 
Undercover journalist Ben Steffans, posing as a wealthy industrialist, pursues a story about impoverished men chasing heiresses at the famed hotel. While undercover, he becomes attracted to an intriguing maid. By an act of heroism Ben endears himself to the closed-mouthed islanders—including Maude—and he digs deep for his story. But when scandal threatens, will the growing love between Maude and Ben be scuttled when truths are revealed?


There are some books that I pick up because I like the cover or the title or something in the blurb.  It's hard to tell what will catch my eye when I go browsing on certain days.

This book I chose because friends speak so fondly of the setting.  I have a magnet from the island and while I never have been, I know it to be a special place.

Let me put the review into further context with a TV show.  Gran Hotel is set in Spain and I started watching it because I wanted to get a sense of not just the sites where it took place, but of the people who walked the streets of those towns and the footpaths through those valleys.

This book invites me into the setting in the same way that Gran Hotel does.  I wanted to look up many of the locations, but felt like it would take me out of the story to focus on the topography of the book.

Instead, I found myself finding a rich ensemble cast.  Maude and Ben, who have secrets to keep and very individual reasons for those deceptions, are almost tangential love interests.  Their actions towards each other are period-appropriate and feel natural.  Around them, some of the characters seem to be trying too hard--everyone has a kind word to say about Maude, who might as well be a Disney princess for her notoriety, but is more down-to-earth--but I was charmed by Jack, the aspiring Olympian cum trickster.  I found comedies of errors in mistaken impressions of Maude's extended family.

Overall, the plot had good pacing and enough turns and intrigues for me to enjoy it.

ECPA-bestselling author Carrie Fancett Pagels, Ph.D., is the award-winning author of a dozen Christian historical romances. Twenty-five years as a psychologist didn't "cure" her overactive imagination! A self-professed “history geek,” she resides with her family in the Historic Triangle of Virginia but grew up as a “Yooper.” Carrie loves to read, bake, bead, and travel – but not all at the same time! You can connect with her at www.CarrieFancettPagels.com.

Ten of my Fave authors are:Tamera Alexander, who gave me this beautiful endorsement:
Julie Lessman – amazing historical romance with strong family ties
Susie/Susanne Dietze – a rising star in CBA fiction!
Tracie Peterson – I love her audiobooks in particular!
Julie Klassen – especially her early books
Michelle Griep -- her Regencies are amazing!
Serena Miller – a lovely lady with equally lovely books – some set in Michigan
Debbie Lynne Costello – check out her medieval stories!
Rachel Hauck’s dual-time audiobooks are lovely
Suzanne Woods Fisher who gave me this wonderful endorsement:
1. We stayed at the Grand Hotel for me to conduct some of my research.
2. We also stayed at the Windermere, which is the inspiration for my heroine’s inn.
3. The owner of the Windermere is Margaret Doud, Mackinac Island’s mayor and I’d wager we could rightly call her Mackinac Island’s “First Lady.”
4. The Round Island Lighthouse was being built in 1895, as indicated in the story, but on my cover there are two lighthouses, which there weren’t then – but it’s still a gorgeous cover, isn’t it?
5. This is my “Problem Child” manuscript and I knew I wanted this story to matter so I called in the “big guns” to help me. Julee Schwarzburg, a top editor in Christian fiction, came in and consulted on the overall proposal and theme and some of the editing. Sue Brower, who had been at Zondervan for decades, helped edit the first three chapters for the Maggie Unpublished awards, which this story finaled in. Julie Gwinn, a wonderful editor who had switched to agenting but took my story as a freelance job, came in and did a great job of directing me in which way I should go – but she didn’t molly coddle me, and I needed for her to treat me like that – as if I could fix it, and I did, PTL!
6. Maude was originally a much more “neurotic” type of character in that she had some OCD stuff that her maternal grandmother had instilled in her. One of my consultants, not mentioned above, said she was too “crazy” and I should tone her down. So I did.
7. I went to Arch Rock a number of different ways and on different days, to get a feel for the special scene I have toward the end. On one of these, the transportation almost left without me!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Blog Tour: Mary Ann Johnson's BECOMING A PRESENT PARENT

A number of years ago, my mother received her Master's Degree.  Before that, she had to write her thesis on teaching children the interpretation of music.  I was the proof-reader and captive audience and was therefore subject to her advisor's recommendations.

One e-mail stands out in my mind.  The advisor wanted to infuse this academic achievement of writing with some more pathos, so she recommended something along the lines of "I cherish the moments when a beloved student turns to me and says humbly, 'Mrs. Olsen, when you encourage me to achieve my very best...'"  You get the idea.  Even now, Mom and I can be reduced to giggles by the words, "I cherish the moments."

It is a style that I think of as General Conference story-telling.  If you're not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the leaders of the church come together every six months to instruct and enlighten the members and the stories they tell in the course of their discourses are always memorable.  But the stories all tend to feature a "sweet, young mother of six" or "beloved husband of fifty-three years."  General Conference stories are like click-bait headlines about "Spunky four-year-old puts hardened Democrat Congressmen in their place!!!!  I'm crying."  But because they always tie this into my faith, I forgive them for the hyperbole.

So, why am I telling you this?  Well, for one simple reason.  Mary Ann's book is not General Conference story-telling.  It's true that she tells story about her experience raising her children in all of its highs and lows, but it is a remarkably relatable medium.  

I have no kids.  I have six nephews, two nieces, a step-nephew and a dozen or so kids who treat me like a family member, but I absolutely loved reading this.  It taught me things about my relationships with children, but also with my friends and even my roommates.  When she talked about a moment when her daughter was venting about a schoolday problem and she tried to trouble-shoot the situation, I remembered that I had similarly once asked my best friend to stop fixing my feelings and let me just feel them.  

She also uses a variety of academic and unofficial sources, such as the Highlights magazine survey about parental interactions and articles by learned professionals.  She names scenarios that give you a foundation for understanding her principles that provoke thoughts about your own daily habits.

In short, the appeal of this book is that it approaches parenting with both realism and compassion and isn't afraid to admit to the author's own insecurities.  It was a self-help book that made it clear how much these techniques had already been of help to Mary Ann herself.