Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Book Review: The Mysterious Marianna

The Mysterious Merrianna by Carolynn Carey

Publisher & Release: Self-published, October 20, 2016

Time and setting:  1811, England

Genre: Historical Romance/Regency

Book Length: 336 pages

Heat Level: 1 Sweetheart

Rating: 4 Gold Crowns

Book Description: 

A Regency Romance
On his way to France to extract an English agent, Justin Foster, Earl of Cardleigh, stops overnight at his favorite country inn, only to discover a mysterious female in the kitchen. This gorgeous woman claims to be the daughter of an English farmer, but she cooks like a French chef and sings French songs like a native of that land. When Justin learns that the agent who was supposed to travel with him has been mysteriously disabled, he insists the female accompany him to France and serve as his guide. 

Having recently arrived in England on a smuggler’s boat, Merriana de Mérchan has no desire to return to France, but the distrustful Earl of Cardleigh, who assumes she is a French agent, gives her no choice. Although aware that she presents a suspicious image, she dare not attempt to tell him the full truth for fear of an unknown enemy who seemingly wants her dead.

As Justin and Merriana struggle toward opposing goals, the attraction they feel keeps drawing them closer. The question becomes, can they trust each other long enough for love to triumph?

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Vikki’s Musings

I have been a fan of Carolynn Carey’s Regency romances for quite some time. The Mysterious Merrianna is an enchanting read. While the plot is slightly convoluted, I was still able to keep up with the myriad twists and turns. Not only is the heroine a delight, so are several other characters as well, especially Antonia. In fact, I have just downloaded her love story and can’t wait to read it!

Merrianna de Mérchan is working as a cook, having arrived from France destitute. While cleaning up after the meal she prepared for a visiting earl, she starts singing a little ditty in the language of her birth, when the earl appears in the kitchen and accuses her of being a French agent.

Justin Foster, Earl of Cardleigh needs to retrieve a fellow spy from enemy territory, but the man who is supposed to help him is injured. He uses his considerable powers of intimidation to convince Merrianna to act as his guide.

As they make a mad dash across the French countryside, his desire for Merrianna grows and has him questioning whether to believe her story or cling to his original belief that she is a spy.

This fascinating story moves on at a fast pace, keeping my interest from the beginning to the end. The book is well-written, which made it very easy to read. Ms. Carey adds in the details needed to give the reader a glimpse of the glitter of the Regency period, from the description of Merrianna’s attire to the majesty of a London ballroom.

I fell in love with Merrianna’s character right away. While she is strong-willed, she is not too bold. Her determination to take care of herself is commendable. I particularly enjoyed her friendship with Antonia and the camaraderie she has with Tom and Luke. She has a lot to overcome before she finds her happy ending.

Justin is not my favorite character, especially in the beginning, but Ms. Carey was able to redeem him by the end of the story. I’ll admit that at times, I feared that would not be the case. Several times, I wanted to shake some sense into him.

I thoroughly enjoyed the spy element of this story, which kept me turning the pages on my eReader at a furious pace to see what else would befall sweet Merrianna. I’m not normally a huge fan of spy romances, but this one is so well done, it may have changed my mind!

If you enjoy traditional Regency romance with endearing characters and an intriguing storyline with several emotionally-charged moments, then you will enjoy The Mysterious Merrianna. If you like heat with your romance, then this might not be the book for you. To be honest, I enjoyed this one so much, I did not even miss the steamy scenes in many historicals today. This reminds me of the delightful tales by Barbara Cartland, which I used to enjoy many years ago. Happy reading!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Book Review: A Piece of My Heart by Sharon Sala

A Piece of My Heart by Sharon Sala

Publisher & Release: Sourcebooks Casablanca, May 2, 2017

Time and setting:  Present Day, Blessings, GA

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Book Length: 320 pages

Heat Level: 1.5 Flame

Rating: 4.5 Gold Crowns

Book Description: 

She's never had a home

Growing up in a troubled foster home, Mercy Dane knew she could never rely on anyone but herself. She's used to giving her all to people who don't give her a second glance, so when she races to Blessings, Georgia, to save the life of an accident victim, she's flabbergasted when the grateful town opens its arms to her. She never dreamed she'd ever find family or friends—or a man who looks at her as if she hung the stars.
Until she finds peace in his arms

Police Chief Lon Pittman is getting restless living in sleepy little Blessings. But the day Mercy Dane roars into his life on the back of a motorcycle, practically daring him to pull her over, he's lost. There's something about Mercy's tough-yet-vulnerable spirit that calls to Lon, and he will do anything in his power to make her realize that home isn't just where the heart is—home is where their heart is.
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Vikki’s Musings

This is a wonderful addition to the Blessings, Georgia Book series. When I received an invitation from the publisher to read and review A Piece of My Heart, I eagerly accepted. I had read Saving Jake, another book in this series, some time ago, so I already was familiar with Ms. Sala. This book is a delight to read!

Mercy Dane has no memory of her family. Now an adult, she is no longer involved in the foster care system and glad of it. When she receives a call on Christmas Day to donate her rare blood to save an accident victim, she jumps on her motorcycle and races to Blessings. Never in a million years did she expect to find the victim is her long-lost sister, one she had no knowledge of. A further surprise is finding out the police chief is the same man who comforted her when her apartment was broken into years before.

Lon Pittman has never forgotten the young woman he helped several years before. When he finds her at the hospital, he’s prepared to rein a riot act on her for reckless driving, instead, he is stunned to see Mercy Dare again and to learn she has just saved a close friend’s life.

When Mercy returns to Blessings to be with her new-found sister, Lon is determined to earn her trust and love. Will he be able to convince her to give him a chance, or will her past keep her from giving him her love and trust?

I thoroughly enjoyed A Piece of My Heart from beginning to end. The romance is sweet, the characters are delightful, and the plot is realistic. I’m so glad I had a chance to read this amazing story. The ending is one of the best I have read in a while, and the suspenseful elements are “grab onto your seat and hold on.”

Mercy is an endearing character. She has not had an easy time of it, having grown up in the foster care system, shuffled from one foster home to another until she aged out. This did not keep her from caring for other people. I was so glad to see her find her much deserved happy ending, not only with Lon but with her sister, Hope, as well.

Lon Pittman is a great hero. I loved his gentleness with Mercy, which in no way diminished his masculinity. He’s an all-around good guy dedicated to keeping the folks in Blessing safe, be it a runaway girl or a child caught in a flood.

If you enjoy small-town USA novels with a great array of characters with wonderful American values, then you will love A Piece of My Heart as much as I did. This is a good series and does not need to be read in order. Happy reading!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Promo Blitz: Helping Helper by Tara C. Allred

Romance, Women’s Fiction
Date Published: 3/23/2017

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"He’s not a friend, he’s my husband. And he’s gone.” 
En route to Salt Lake City, intending to start over, their car breaks down near the struggling mining town of Helper, Utah—and then Tony leaves Kora behind.
Alone, broken and angry, especially that her family was right in their judgment against Tony, Kora decides to stay in Helper and aid in it’s art-centered transformation.
But in working to save her new home, Kora learns first love only happens once.
For a second chance at love, a much greater risk is required.


Chapter One

A cloud of smoke billowed over the hood of the old 1984 Buick causing Kora, after three hours of silence, to finally speak. “Tony! What’s going on?”

“Oh no!” With his long fingers, Tony gripped the steering wheel and leaned forward. The engine went quiet. Suddenly, the car was coasting. Tony steered it to a halt along the dirt shoulder. Smoke poured out above them.

“What is it, Tony?” Past the windshield, Kora stared at the stream of white caught between them and the green mile marker ahead. “Is the car on fire?”

“No,” he said. But there was fear in his tone.  Quickly, he masked it with a calmer assurance. “It’s just overheated.”

The fear transferred to Kora’s voice. “You said you got that fixed!”

With two hours before they reached Salt Lake, and six hours of tension behind them, Tony finally faced her. “I did,” he said calmly. “I replaced the radiator hoses and cap, and it’s fixed.”

She kept her eyes on him, glaring as she pulled her dark blonde hair into a hasty bun. “Then what is it?”

He shrugged, but Kora caught the alarm surfacing in his eyes before he turned to the door.

As soon as he lifted the hood, the full force of steam released itself, tumbling out toward the blue sky.

She opened the passenger door. The hot desert air greeted her. She slipped on her old heavy sandals and approached the hood to find Tony clutching his forehead, his lips moving, hot words streaming out. But when she got close, his speech ceased.

“So what are we going to do?” she asked.

Like a poorly-choreographed dance, he slipped past her, making his way nearly the entire circumference of the car before sliding back into the driver’s seat.

Kora stepped toward the engine, steam hitting her face. She shifted away. Warmth from the sun hit her back. Another step and she watched Tony turning the key in the ignition.

Nothing happened.

Another attempt.

Tony banged his fist against the steering wheel. “No!”

She approached the driver’s side to catch Tony’s cheek spasm. “I’ll walk to the nearest town,” he said. “I think the last sign we passed said it’s five miles ahead.”


He shifted from the driver’s seat, causing Kora to step back.

“I just got to see how far a garage is.” He marched over to the hood. “Get some help towing this in.”  He released the hood prop, then slammed it shut.

“Does the car need to cool off more?” she asked.

“Doesn’t matter,” he said gruffly.

“Should I come with?” she tried to sound sweet, but an edge from hours before lingered there.

“Just wait in the car.”

“Its a hundred degrees out here,” the tension was back. “What if I fry?”

A sad smile twisted across Tony’s face. “What do you want me to say? If this town doesn’t have what we need, we might be walking for miles.”

“Then let’s walk.” Kora grabbed her purse and looked back to see Tony studying her thick wooden sandals.

When he looked up at her, his face remained tight. “You sure?”


He shrugged then turned back to the driver’s door, retrieved the keys, locked the Buick doors, and began their march toward help.

Gravel crunched under Kora’s sandals. With each step, she listened to the shifting of rocks under her small frame. Where most couples gain weight after marriage, often both she and Tony had lost pounds during their six years.

With the back of her hand, she swiped away sweat drops running down her face, only to feel more accumulating at her hairline. The sun’s rays seemed to beat in anger, lashing vengeance on Kora for her unkind words to Tony.

At the start of their journey, she hadn’t meant to be so harsh. But the words had just come, one after the other. Spite building on each beating word. 

Now she watched him walk, his hot boots tromping down on the gravel in front of her. His crunch louder than hers.

“How much further?” she called out to him.

At first there was no response. Then he shrugged.

She shrugged back, sharing hers with no one except the wrath of the sun.

While her feet carried on their rhythmic crunch, Kora looked up in defiance at the sky. Then for a moment, she closed her eyes and let the flaming air greet her face. She sensed the sun challenging her, pushing her until she begged for relief, but she would carry on. Her father had blamed her for such intense commitment, such loyalty inside her. He had seen it as her weakness. She saw it as her strength.

And with that strength, she’d get through this, she’d find a breeze of hope, a sweetness in this life Tony had promised her. A fulfilment that was long overdue.

By the year 2000, which was only four months away, Kora would have the future she wanted, the earnest desires of her heart. 

She opened her eyes to see a pillow of cloud, a bright, white cloud, shifting toward the sun, the promise of temporary relief. Once the sun was covered, she saw the radiant blueness, set against the red desert hills that surrounded them. She also saw the road, the long highway that stretched out into the hills in front of them.

Then she spotted it, a structure, a building of sorts, followed by another. She extended her stride, just as Tony did. The town was coming.

   Soon the green highway sign welcomed them to Helper. And they followed the descending road until Kora spotted Speedy Lou’s, a fast food joint, which although run down, seemed able to offer some form of refreshment.

Tony arrived before her, pausing in front of the entrance, as if Kora’s slow steps had spoken to him. “Do you want to stop here?” he called out.

She hated to admit it, but tears were burning in her eyes. The promise of water, a spot to sit down, a break from a growing blister and the blazing sun, she bit her lip and nodded.  Then she tried to walk the final steps calmly, keeping her face stoic. As soon as she was inside, she collapsed into a nearby booth. With a bit of effort, she dug into a pocket of her jean cutoffs while scanning the menu. “Do you want something?”

He stood near her. “No.”

She dropped a nickel followed by a dollar bill onto the table. It wouldn’t go far, but it was something. “You sure?” she said, looking at her offering with a slight laugh. Then she glanced up, catching his look, a softness in his eyes that hadn’t been there in weeks. He added a dollar to the humble pile.

“Yeah. I’ll keep going, see what kind of help’s here.” Then he slipped out the door. But before Kora could manage the strength to stand, the door’s entrance bell rang, and there he was again standing above her.

“Here.” He set down a small stack of folded bills.

“Tony!” Kora found herself laughing at the ten-dollar bill that looked up at her. “I don’t need that much.”

His hand slid over hers, and the touch surprised her, as did the tenderness in his voice. “No. It’s for you. Just don’t go overboard on your hamburger fixings.” Then he kissed her forehead, a gesture he hadn’t made in days, before slipping back out the door.

Kora unfolded the bills to find along with the ten, two fives, and a twenty-dollar bill. She stood up and looked out the window, but he was gone.

About the Author

TARA C. ALLRED is an award-winning author, instructional designer, and educator. She has been recognized as a California Scholar of the Arts for Creative Writing and is a recipient of the Howey awards for Best Adult Book and Best Adult Author. She lives in Utah with her husband.
Her other published works include Sanders' Starfish, Unauthored Letters, and The Other Side of Quiet, a 2015 Kindle Book Award Finalist and Whitney Award Winner.
To learn more about the author, visit www.taracallred.net.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Three Weeks to Wed by Ella Quinn
(The Worthingtons, Book 1)

Publisher & Release: Zebra Shout, March 29, 2016

Time and setting:  1815, England

Genre: Historical Romance/Regency

Book Length: 416 pages

Heat Level: 2 Flame

Rating: 4.5 Gold Crowns

Book Description: 

In the first book of her dazzling new series, bestselling author Ella Quinn introduces the soon-to-be Earl and Countess of Worthington--lovers who have more in common than they yet know. The future promises to be far from boring…

Lady Grace Carpenter is ready to seize the day--or rather, the night--with the most compelling man she's ever known. Marriage would mean losing guardianship of her beloved siblings, and surely no sane gentleman will take on seven children not his own. But if she can have one anonymous tryst with Mattheus, Earl of Worthington, Grace will be content to live out the rest of her life as a spinster. 

Matt had almost given up hope of finding a wife who could engage his mind as well as his body. And now this sensual, intelligent woman is offering herself to him. What could be more perfect? Except that after one wanton night, the mysterious Grace refuses to have anything to do with him. Amid the distractions of the Season he must convince her, one delicious encounter at a time, that no obstacle--or family--is too much for a man who's discovered his heart's desire…

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Vikki’s Musings

I’m so glad I decided to take a chance on Ms. Quinn’s The Worthington’s Series. I thoroughly enjoyed Three Weeks to Wed. The romance pulled me into the story from the first page to the last.

Lady Grace Carpenter has guardianship of her seven siblings, the eldest, getting ready for her come-out. She has sworn off marriage, believing no man would be willing to take on so many children. When a chance meeting with the Earl of Worthington gives her an opportunity to have one night of passion with the man who stirs as no other ever has, she must take it.

Mattheus is enchanted by Lady Grace and immediately wants her as his own. The only problem: she leaves his bed before he finds out who she is. He’s determined to discover her identity. He soon learns who she is and that she has seven children in her care. Since he has four sisters in his as well, that would be eleven children if he can convince her to wed him.

Can these lovers move beyond such an unsurmountable obstacle and gain the desires of their hearts? While Matt is willing, can he convince Grace he is up to the challenge?

 Three Weeks to Wed is a delightful tale of love at first sight. The romance between Matt and Grace is enchanting, one that gives great escape from the everyday realities of life, and isn’t that what this genre is supposed to do? What I liked most about this book, is that while circumstances make it difficult for them to see how they can be together, their feelings are never in question. Thus, there is very little angst in their romance. That’s a winner for me!

Grace’s character is a true nurturer, willing to make great sacrifice for the ones she loves. Her internal struggle is whether she can trust Matt to follow through with the rigors of raising eleven children between them and have their love last. This is a very real concern, and I could feel her anguish in making her decision, but ultimately, her heart cannot be denied.

Matt’s a true hero I can love. He’s an honorable man who loves fiercely, whether it’s his sisters or his lady. His tenacity to find a way to make it work, amazed and thrilled me. He loves Grace the way every woman wants to be loved.

I listened to the audio version by Cat Gould. She gives an amazing performance, giving each character a distinctive voice, and that is no mean feat with all those siblings and relatives. She has a bit of a stiff, upper-crust tone, which gives this Regency tale the right touch.

If you love a great Regency romance with endearing characters from the hero and heroine to the youngest sister, Lady Mary, then you will love Three Weeks to Wed as much as I did. I can’t wait to read the other books in this fantastic series. Happy reading!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Historical Fiction 
Date Published:  January 2016

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Thirty years before the Spanish Inquisition, the seeds of hatred have sprouted in Castile. Suspicions fester. Rage churns beneath the surface. Viçente Pérez—a man who wields enviable power but harbors a shameful past—is the only one who can keep the tension from exploding out of control.

As the Christian son of secret Jews, Viçente is in a hopeless position—charged with keeping the peace, but always suspected by the city’s Old Christians, unwilling but duty-bound to help the increasingly persecuted Jews, and to aid his king whose rule is threatened.

When Viçente crosses the ruthless, power-hungry lawyer Marcos García de Mora, he makes a formidable enemy. García’s plan: to rally the common men, attack Jews, and purify Toledo by purging suspected heretics—the Christian descendants of Jews, converts like Viçente.

As war breaks out between the king and his cousins, and García and his madmen rise to power in Toledo, Viçente falls in love with the mysterious Francesca and finds himself faced with impossible choices: love or duty, respect or intolerance, reverence or disdain for his ancestry.

From the courts of kings in Naples and Castile to the chambers of Pope Nicholas and the torture cellars of Toledo, this gripping novel brings to life an era of little-known history in fifteenth-century Spain, a time when a rogue inquisition threatened to destroy the very soul of Toledo.

About the Author

Edward D. Webster has had an eclectic mixture of careers, ranging from teaching Navajo students to managing transit operations. And he’s the author of a diverse collection of books. Webster admits to a fascination with unique, quirky and bizarre human behavior, and he doesn’t exempt himself from the mix. His acclaimed memoir, A Year of Sundays (Taking the Plunge and our Cat to Explore Europe) shares the eccentric tale of his yearlong adventure in Europe with his spirited blind wife and headstrong, deaf sixteen-year-old cat. His historical novel, Soul of Toledo recounts a diabolical moment in history, when madmen took over the City of Toledo and tortured suspected Jews, 30 years before the Spanish Inquisition. And his 2014 novel, The Gentle Bomber’s Melody, explores what might happen if a nutty woman, bearing a stolen baby, landed on the doorstep of a fugitive bomber hiding from the FBI. The result: irresistible insanity. From the happily unusual of A Year of Sundays to the cruelly perverse in Soul of Toledo, Edward D. Webster shines a light on offbeat aspects of human nature. Webster lives in Southern California with his divine wife and two amazing cats.

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Book Review: The VIP Doubles Down by Nancy Herkness

The VIP Doubles Down by Nancy Herkness

Publisher & Release: Montlake Romance, April 18, 2017

Time and setting:  Present Day, NYC

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Book Length: 384 pages

Heat Level: 3 Flame

Rating: 4.5 Gold Crowns

Book Description: 

In the witty, sizzling finale to award-winning author Nancy Herkness’s Wager of Hearts series, a haunted writer conquers his demons with the help of a feisty muse and a passion that doesn’t play by the book.
Gavin Miller, the billionaire author of a bestselling thriller series, struggles with a grim secret: he hasn’t written a word in more than a year.
Writer’s block is killing his spirit and jeopardizing his contracts with his publisher and his Hollywood producers. Prodded by his agent, Gavin reluctantly agrees to see Allie Nichols, a sassy physical therapist tasked with treating the novelist’s severe neck and shoulder pain—and maybe his writer’s block, too.
The tempestuous Gavin and no-nonsense Allie soon find themselves entangled in a steamy affair that sparks Gavin’s creativity again. But their manipulative ex-lovers and Gavin’s lingering childhood scars threaten their happily ever after. Can Gavin and Allie find their way to love when the stakes are high and the obstacles are overwhelming?

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Vikki’s Musings

I have thoroughly enjoyed Wagers of the Heart series by Nancy Herkness. I met Nancy at RWA2015 but had never read any of her books. When I decided to read The CEO Buys In, I fell in love and found the wager between the three men intriguing. Needless to say, I was immediately pulled in. I could not wait for the second book in the series and fortunately, I received an ARC from the publisher for that I as I did for The VIP Doubles Down, thanks go to the publisher. Let me say up front, I would have gladly paid to read both these books!

Allie Nichols’ life has taken a downward turn. She’s out of work because her ex-husband would not leave her alone at the rehabilitation center. When she is offered a chance to help Gavin Miller, her favorite author, she is excited, but it turns out the sessions were his agent’s idea.

Gavin is having the worst case of writer’s block imaginable, and it has caused severe pain in his shoulders. When the physiotherapist his agent hired shows up, he wants nothing to do with her, but the feisty woman convinces him to allow her to use electrical stimulation on him. Although he sends her away after the treatment, within fifteen minutes, his pain is reduced and he calls her back for more sessions.

Imagine his surprise, to discover that not only does she relieve his pain, she stirs his muse. Perhaps he can benefit in more than one way from his time with Allie, and her energetic personality and beauty certainly calls to him on a personal level. When things heat up, he begins to wonder if he just might have found the woman of his dreams.

The VIP Doubles Down grabbed me from the first page and held my attention until the last. Ms. Herkness’ writing style flows smoothly and her pacing is excellent. I enjoyed getting a glimpse of the other characters from the other books in this series. I also loved Gavin’s housekeeper and driver.

Allie’s character has lots of fire to match her red hair. Her determination to hang in there when Gavin practically closes the door in her face had me rooting for her from the start. I loved her down-home West Virginia attitude. Her genuine desire to help others, even her deplorable ex-husband touched my heart. Although, her lack of guile and inability to see through his manipulations gives her plenty of grief later in the story.

Gavin’s character is tormented by more than writer’s block and physical pain. His late father’s refusal to see his success eats at him, and the abandonment he feels from his mother’s desertion when he was a child, keeps him locked in the past. While normally his cantankerous behavior would be a turn-off, the lost little boy he keeps hidden, called to me, so I fell in love with him anyway.

I loved The VIP Doubles Down, and I will miss these characters, but If I know Ms. Herkness, she will manage to give them cameo appearances in her future books. If you like emotionally-charged romances with complicated characters, then you will love this book. While this one is easily read without reading the other books in this series, I do recommend reading them as well. Happy reading!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Book Review: Seeking Perfection by Caroline MacCallum

Seeking Perfection by Caroline MacCallum

Publisher & Release: Tirgearr Publishing, February 8, 2017

Time and setting:  Present Day, London

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Book Length: 283 pages

Rating: 3.5 Gold Crowns

Book Description: 

Emily Beach has a passion for wedding dresses—not wearing them, but designing them. She’s hitched her wagon to the stars and has grand plans to become the brand brides rush to when seeking perfection on their big day.

Until that happens, she’s working at a swanky London boutique. Her days are a whirlwind of wealthy, eccentric customers, and crazy, sex-mad colleagues. When dashing yachting-mogul millionaire, Henry, sets his sights on her, she gets a taste of the finer things in life, as he sails straight into her heart.

But does Henry really understand her need for independence, and her fierce determination to make it on her own? And did he ever really know her if he thinks she wants him to pull strings to get her on the first rung of the ladder? With the meddling of her wacky, energetic friends, she soon finds the answers to all of these questions, but are they the answers she wants?

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Vikki’s Musings

I want to thank the author for the opportunity to read Seeking Perfection. I enjoy reading new authors, and this book has plenty of great potential. The story starts out great and pulled me is right away. The pacing is excellent and kept me wanting to read more.

Emily Beach’s character is likable for the most part and so is Henry, but for me there is quite a bit of unnecessary angst. If the couple did a better job of communicating, their differences could have been resolves easier, especially Emily’s impulsive decision at the London Eye. Let me mention, Ms. MacCallum’s vivid description of that venue makes me regret not going up on it when I vacationed in London last year!

I liked Henry’s character quite a lot. He is determination to win Emily is admirable, but his strong-arm tactics caused a great deal of the angst I mentioned in the paragraph above. I loved his pursuit of her from their first meeting.

If you’re looking for a romance that has a great plot, fast pacing and interesting secondary characters, then you will enjoy Seeking Perfection. Happy reading!