Friday, November 15, 2019

Book Review: Ride the High Lonesome by Roseanne Bittner

Ride the High Lonesome by Roseanne Bittner

Publisher & Release: Sourcebooks Casablanca, November 26, 2019

Time and setting:  Post Civil War, Wyoming Territory 

Genre: Historical Romance

Length: 320 Pages

Heat Level: 1 Flame

Rating:  4 Gold Crowns

Book Description: 

A man bent on revenge
A woman determined to survive
A land that knows no mercy
Meet the Men of the Outlaw Trail
When Kate Winters is left stranded and defenseless in outlaw country, she knows there's little chance she'll make it out alive...until she stumbles across a ruthless gang hanging a cowboy for his cattle. She waits until the outlaws are gone, desperate enough to claim the dead man's horse to make her escape—only to realize he's not dead after all.
Those outlaws should have made damn sure Luke Bowden was good and gone. Now he vows he'll have his revenge no matter the cost. But they're miles away from the nearest town, and the woman who saved his hide won't survive the ride back. He owes her his life—he owes her everything—and it doesn't take long before he's faced with a terrible choice: stand by Kate...or claim his revenge?
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Vikki’s Musings

Thanks goes to the publisher, via Net-Galley, for the opportunity to read and review Ride the High Lonesome by Roseanne Bittner, in advance of publication. My opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

Ride the High Lonesomestarts out brilliantly, pulling me in at the first page. After all, the heroine manages to save the hero, even though he’d been hanged and left for dead. I became excited over the possibilities with a beginning like that. The action continued with the hero leaving the heroine alone in a cave to travel to Landers and find the men who tried unsuccessfully to hang him and get his horses and cattle back. He quite ruthlessly goes after the villains, killing all but one who is killed by a known outlaw in the area. Evidently this is a character from one of her other books.

While Luke’s gone a man stumbles upon the cave and Kate kills the dastardly man and manages to hurt herself in the process. The hero returns and finds a half-naked heroine on the point of death. This all happens in the first 25% of the book. At that point, I couldn’t read fast enough. 

However, the romance between Luke and Kate is non-existent until around 50%. They leave the cave, having shared one kiss which felt contrived. Then as they head to a cabin Luke knows of, and along the way, they suddenly fall into each other’s arms and make love. That is the basis of their love story. I struggled with the abruptness of this encounter. 

The rest of the book has Kate exhibiting low self-esteem regarding her age and how the hero could never be attracted to her. It became a bit tedious to be honest. I don’t believe that at any time her age is mentioned but I could have missed that.

Luke is bent on revenge for a good part of the book. First, he goes after those men, then he goes after one of the men who planned to rape Kate, during another exciting action scene. Luke’s back story is that he returned from the Civil War to find his sweetheart married to his brother with an infant on her hip. Because of this, he has a difficult time trusting any woman. 

While I absolutely loved the action and suspense, the romance between Kate and Luke fell flat. I never felt any fire and passion between them. Then he leaves her for months in a lawless town filled with outlaws and where she knows no one. It just didn’t work for me.

You may be wondering why I’ve rated this book 4 Gold Crowns, if I didn’t enjoy the romance. The book is well written. Ms. Bittner is a master at painting the scenery and there’s no doubt she knows her historical period. As I’ve mentioned, the action and suspense are amazing. For those reasons, I am comfortable with my rating. Oh, and the ending turns out well.

If you enjoy historical westerns with vivid descriptive writing and plenty of suspense and action, then you will like Ride the High Lonesome. If you are looking for a romance that will have you sighing and waiting in eager anticipation for the hero and heroine to find their happy ending, then this might not be the book for you. Happy reading!

Author Bio:

For those of you who have not yet read my books, my stories are generally set in the American West of the 1800's and feature vividly-described, historically accurate settings that span the US from Missouri to California, from Canada to Mexico. Many of my books portray the poignant history of our Native Americans, and though the characters are my own, I use real historical locations and events in all my novels. I must be doing something right, because more and more men are writing to tell me how much they enjoy my westerns, too. Louis L'Amour has always been one of my favorite writers, and I am very flattered that my male readers compare my books favorably with his!

       I’ve been writing all my life – wrote my first poem in 3d grade and my first short story in 4th grade. I was editor of my high school newsletter and wrote many, many poems and articles for the local newspaper. I have been writing novels since 1979 – sold my first book in 1982 and haven’t stopped since then! The photo of me at my typewriter was taken ca 1985-86, after I had five books in print -- I just finished my 61th book, with lots more to come! I never, never stop thinking about that “next book,” and I can’t get enough of western history. And I love the western hero – tough, take no crap, can handle himself – but he loves his woman to no end and will offer his life to protect her – and the women in turn are strong and brave and a real match for the heroes. 
       I hope (and I have received thousands of comments verifying this over the years) that readers come away from reading my books with memories of characters who will stay with them forever, and with a new knowledge of American history – something they never learned in school. Most of all I hope they come away with an appreciation for the courage and strength our pioneers needed to settle untamed lands.

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Saturday, November 9, 2019

Book Review: Lake Season by Denise Hunter

Lake Season by Denise Hunter

Publisher & Release: Thomas Nelson, November 12, 2019

Time and setting:  Present Day, North Carolina

Genre: Women’s Christian Fiction, Contemporary Romance

Length: 352 Pages

Heat Level: 1 Sweetheart

Rating:  5 Gold Crowns

Book Description: 

The first story in a brand-new series, Lake Season invites readers to the Bluebell Inn in a small North Carolina town where a lost letter, a chance for new love, and old secrets beckon.
When their parents die in a tragic accident, Molly Bennett and her siblings pull together to fulfill their parents’ dream of turning their historic Bluebell, North Carolina, home back into an inn. Staying in town would be temporary—three years at most—then they plan to sell the inn, and Molly can get back to chasing her own dreams.
Adam Bradford (aka bestselling author Nathaniel Quinn) is a reclusive novelist with a bad case of writer’s block. Desperate for inspiration as his deadline approaches, he travels to the setting of his next book, a North Carolina lake town. There, he meets his muse, a young innkeeper who fancies herself in love with his alter ego.
Molly and Adam strike up an instant friendship. When Molly finds a long-lost letter in the walls of her inn, she and Adam embark on a mission to find the star-crossed lovers and bring them the closure they deserve. But Adam has secrets he isn’t ready to share. Past and present collide as truths surface, and Molly and Adam will have to decide if love is worth trusting.
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Vikki’s Musings

An inspiring love story with a subtle Christian message. I'm amazing I haven't read any of Denise Hunter's novels. I will correct this soon! Thanks goes the publisher, via Net-Galley, for the opportunity to read and review Lake Season in advance of publication. My opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

Lake Season may very well be the best book I’ve read in 2019. The writing is emotional and moved me on more than one occasion. The character growth is amazing and greatly enhanced my reading experience. Ms. Hunter paints a unique picture of the small town in the lake area of North Carolina, and the beauty of the historic home, the setting for the novel. 

There are twin stories in Lake Season. The one between Molly and Adam and one that happened in 1962. Molly finds a letter stuck in a wall. It starts her on a journey to find the person who wrote the letter and the man who was supposed to receive it and never did. This is such a heartwarming part of this story and possibly what had me feeling this is the best book I’ve read this year.

Molly Bennett is an endearing heroine. She’s recently lost her parents, and she and her siblings, are determined to fulfill their parent’s dream of turning their historic home into an inn. I thoroughly enjoyed the relationship between the siblings. Molly, of course is the main character, and she is delightful. Not only she’s grieving the loss of her parents, she is also suffering from a bad breakup with a man who almost broke her and damaged her self-esteem. I could feel her confusion when she is attracted to one of the inn’s guests.

Adam Bradford is the hero, and he’s not the typical alpha male. He is a beta character in the true sense of the word. He is a reclusive writer and writes under the pen Nathanial Grey. His novels have put him on the best-seller lists. As he gets to know Molly, and discovers she’s a huge fan, and has somewhat of a crush on him, he knows he should reveal his true identity, but his low self-esteem makes him reluctant to do so. His low opinion of himself comes from his father who only valued athletes, which Adam is not. I felt his pain whenever he thought of his father. No parent should ever deride a child because they aren’t passionate for their favored pursuit! It’s no wonder Adam has his issues.

The spiritual thread in this story is very subtle and easy to overlook, but it’s there none the less. Both characters are believers and try to rely on God when making choices, but as with all humans, they constantly question and can’t always hear Him. I enjoyed this real depiction of Christian life. So many times, the characters are too pure to feel real. Both Molly and Adam breathe life, making mistakes and learning from those mistakes. This is a very powerful message.

The romance between the pair starts as friendship and slowly blossoms into a moving love story that is emotionally-charged with great depth. I truly enjoyed their romance and really wanted them to find their happy ending.

If you enjoy a romance that will touch your heart and make you smile, and possibly shed a few tears, one with engaging characters and a unique plot with a touch of mystery, then you will love Lake Season as much as I did. Happy reading!

Author Bio:

Denise Hunter is the internationally published bestselling author of more than 30 books, including "The Convenient Groom" and "A December Bride" which have been made into Hallmark movies. She has appeared on the The 700 club and won awards such as The Holt Medallion Award, The Carol Award, The Reader's Choice Award, The Foreword Book of the Year Award, and is a RITA finalist.

Denise writes heartwarming, small-town love stories. Her readers enjoy the experience of falling in love vicariously through her characters and can expect a happily-ever-after sigh as they close the pages of her books.
In 1996, inspired by the death of her grandfather, Denise began her first book, writing while her children napped. Two years later it was published, and she's been writing ever since. Her husband says he inspires all her romantic stories, but Denise insists a good imagination helps too!

When Denise isn't orchestrating love lives on the written page, she enjoys traveling with her family, drinking coffee, and playing drums. Denise makes her home in Indiana where she and her husband are currently enjoying an empty nest.

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Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Book Review: Bred in the Bone by Kendra Elliott

Bred in the Bone by Kendra Elliott

Publisher & Release: Montlake Romance, October 29, 2019

Time and setting:  Present Day, Northwest USA

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Heat Level: No Heat

Length: 86 pages

Rating: 5 Gold Crowns

Book Description: 

In the fourth Widow’s Island novella by Wall Street Journal bestselling author Kendra Elliot, the truth of a twenty-year disappearance will finally come to light.
When the town drunk ends up dead in a hit-and-run, FBI special agent Cate Wilde expects that solving the case will be cut and dried. But evidence quickly surfaces that the victim was involved with another crime. A crime that has gone cold for twenty years. A crime of personal importance to Cate.
Cate’s best friend, Samantha, went missing at fourteen, leaving behind nothing except a jacket and an island full of unanswered questions. Samantha’s disappearance has haunted Cate for more than half her life, and she might finally be able to find some closure.
But not everything is as it seems. As Cate unravels what happened on that fateful day, she’ll discover that the community of Widow’s Island is full of secrets. Betrayed by someone she thought she knew, Cate will need to piece together the truth…before someone else gets hurt.

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Vikki’s Musings

I always know I’m in for a treat with a new release from Kendra Elliott. When I received an invitation from the publisher, via Net-Galley, I eagerly agreed to read and review Bred in the Bone. My opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

As with all of Kendra Elliot’s books, the characters are real and flawed, the plot is intriguing and there’s plenty of emotions running high. One of the things I enjoy most about her books is the suspenseful scenes. Her action scenes are graphic and send chills through me. She has a way of keeping me on the edge of my seat from the first page until the last.

At last, Cate has a good lead on her best friend’s disappearance twenty years ago. While Cate isn’t completely recovered from her ordeal a few months ago, she goes after these new clues determined to ignore her fear when approaching a door of a possible criminal.

I loved her tenacity, and that she will not give up until she learns what happened to Samantha. Her romance with the good doctor has progressed and is on solid footing. Will she return to her life as an FBI agent, or will she give it up for Henry?

If you enjoy romantic thrillers with amazing characters, and so much action your heart is pumping fast, then you will love Bred in the Bone. This one has a great ending that I enjoyed a great deal. Widow’s Island is a great series, and I look forward to reading the next one in this series. Happy reading!

Monday, November 4, 2019

Book Review: The Cinema of Lost Dreams by Alli Sinclair

The Cinema of Lost Dreams by Allie Sinclair

Publisher & Release: Lyrical Press, November 5, 2019

Time and setting:  1994 & 1952, Australia & Hollywood

Genre: Historical Fiction, Women’s Fiction

Length: 330 Pages

Rating:  4.5 Gold Crowns

Book Description: 

In Alli Sinclair’s moving story of love, loss, and ambition, two independent women, born decades apart, strive to fulfill their dreams.
In the movies, anything is possible. But as location manager Claire Montgomery knows, real life offers constant challenges, especially in an industry dominated by men. For her new project, Claire needs access to a beautiful Art Deco cinema located in Starlight Creek, a small town in northern Australia sugarcane country. Though the movie theater and its elderly owner, Hattie, are both charming, Hattie’s handsome great-nephew isn’t so easy to convince. Claire must win their trust and permission, though even if she succeeds, she’ll face more complications than she could have anticipated . . .
1950s Hollywood: Lena Lee has worked hard to get ahead in Hollywood without getting caught up in backstabbing and infighting like so many other actors. In an era when censorship is rife and accusations of communism are rampant, Lena sees her star on the rise. But with increased visibility comes a greater awareness of what’s expected from women in her position. Lena is not willing to stay silent and go along with the game. Will she risk her career—and a newfound love—to stand up for what she thinks is right?

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Vikki’s Musings

Thanks go to the author and Net-Galley for giving me the opportunity to read and review The Cinema of Lost Dreams prior to publication. My opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

The Cinema of Lost Dreams follows two women, Lena Lee in 1950’s Hollywood and Claire in Queensland, 1994. Ms. Sinclair does an amazing job writing in both worlds. She paints an authentic picture in each. From the glitz and glamor of Hollywood in the early 50’s, to the climate surrounding the hays code and the scare of communism, to women’s unfair wages compared to men and Lena’s fight to achieve equality, that all comes through brilliantly.

Ms. Sinclair brings Queensland to life, from her vivid description of the landscapes, the beauty of the old theater, to the quaint town and its quirky citizens. I thoroughly enjoyed Claire’s struggles and her tenacity when persuading the owner to allow the threater’s use for the mini-series she tooted.

There are two romances in this tale of love. Lena Lee’s with the handsome leading man, Reeves, and Claire’s with Luke, the mysterious owner’s great nephew. Ms. Sinclair is able to pull the reader in and get them vested in both love stories. 

 While I enjoyed the romances, I loved Ms. Sinclair’s descriptive writing, and her strong historical research of a difficult time in the movie industry. If you enjoy women’s fiction with strong romantic elements, and a fantastic climax, then you will love The Cinema of Lost Dreams as much as I did. Happy reading!


“Who’s that?” she whispered. 
Reeves Garrity. He’s worked in radio but, as you can see, it would be a waste to keep him behind the microphone.” George grabbed two champagne glasses off a passing tray. He handed one to Lena, who couldn’t take her eyes off this Hollywood newcomer. His height, broad shoulders, beautifully styled hair and strong jawline were the classic clich├ęs of a movie star, though he didn’t appear to have the arrogance—yet. Time would tell, however. Just look at what happened to Jeanne.
George said quietly, “You’d do well to stay away from him.”
“I’m not… I…” Her cheeks flushed with heat. 
“I know you, Miss Lee.” He gave her a gentle nudge. “Although he is rather easy on the eye.”
“Shh.” Lena looked around, hoping no one had heard George. “Those things are fine to say to me in private, but you can’t risk anyone else hearing you.”
George’s smile disappeared. “It’s ridiculous, and it’s wrong.”
“Of course it is.” She moved in close and said, “No matter how much you and I believe that people should love who they want, things won’t change.”
“Maybe one day.” 
Lena sipped the champagne. “Yes, maybe one day.”
“What will happen one day?”
Lena turned around to find Lawrence Doherty, her director, standing behind them. How much of that conversation had he heard?
“Hello, Mr. Doherty. We were… uh…”
He held up his hand. “No need for formalities. So, Cooper deems you important enough to be here?”
“I…” Words! Where were the words? “I…”
“Lena Lee is very important,” said George. “Have you ever heard her sing?”
“No.” Lawrence looked at Lena like she’d come from the moon. 
“She has the sweetness of a nightingale. Her voice will bring you to tears and make you feel like your broken heart will never mend.”
Lawrence’s smile seemed far from genuine. “She’s just like every other actress in Hollywood. Sorry, Lena, but you just don’t have that je ne sais quoilike Jeanne.” He took a moment to study her face. “And aren’t you a little more maturethan Jeanne?”
Mortified that her age had been brought up in such a public place, Lena struggled to find a reply—but she couldn’t let the comment go unacknowledged.
“Age is just a number,” she said, praying she hadn’t jumped across the line.
“Exactly,” said George. “Besides, maturewomen have a natural elegance and grace that these young actresses can never imitate. Everyone knows Lena Lee is a star in the making.”
“She is an excellent actress, I’ll give her that,” Lawrence said. 
“Then why doesn’t she get bigger roles?” asked George.
“Okay, that’s enough!” Lena grabbed her friend’s arm. “Let’s leave Mr. Doherty in peace. I’m sure he has people telling him someone is a talented singer and the next big thing all the time.”
“Prove it,” Lawrence said.
“Prove you have what it takes.” He pointed at the white grand piano in the next room. “Sing me a song.”
“Uh…” Oh no.She’d hoped to keep a low profile, at least for the first couple of hours of the party. “Sure.”
She straightened her spine and held her head high as she walked over to the piano, where a gentleman with gray hair had been playing classical tunes. Her heart raced as she approached the pianist. “Would you mind playing ‘Over the Rainbow,’ please? I’ve been asked to sing for our host.”
 He looked up and asked, “Which key?”
Lena eyed the main doors. If she took off her heels and pulled the dress up past her knees, she could run a lot faster…
“C,” she finally answered. 
“Ready?” asked the pianist. Lena nodded, terrified she’d landed herself in this situation. Well, George had, though she shouldn’t have been surprised. George never played by the rules. 
The pianist stretched his hands, then set to work, his fingers dancing across the keys in a flurry of creativity.
Her mouth was dry.
Her head was foggy.
Perspiration pooled at the base of her spine. 
She swallowed hard. 
The lump in her throat wouldn’t dislodge. 
She missed the opening notes. 
People stared.
The pianist circled back to the beginning.
She opened her mouth, and at last her voice cooperated. She closed her eyes, losing herself in the music, feeling the words about longing, of wishing for something that may never be.
Looking up, she spied Reeves Garrity, who stood apart from the growing crowd. His eyes were fixed solely on her. Heat raced across her skin and she looked away.
A wave of anxiety tried to drown her, but she stood firm. The eyes and ears of Hollywood’s elite were now on Lena, and one missed note could destroy her chances of being something more than a minor character. 
The song’s crescendo grew. She had to get that high note. It had never been a problem before, but the stakes were the highest they’d ever been. 
Lena glanced at Reeves Garrity. He offered a slow, warm smile, and the confidence she’d been grappling with now raced through her with full force. 
She hit the last note, her voice strong. Her heart connected to the music and her ears filled with applause and shouts of “Bravo!”

Author Bio:

Alli Sinclair is a multi award-winning author who spent her early adult years travelling the globe, intent on becoming an Indiana Jones in heels. She scaled mountains in Nepal, Argentina, and Peru, rafted the Ganges, and rode a camel in the Sahara. Argentina and Peru became her home for a few years and when she wasn't working as a mountain or tour guide, Alli could be found in the dance halls dancing the tango, salsa, merengue, and samba.

All of these adventures made for fun storytelling and this is when she discovered her love of writing. Alli's stories capture the romance and thrill of exploring new destinations and cultures that also take readers on a journey of discovery. 

Alli volunteers as an author role model with Books in Homes, promoting literacy and reading amongst young people.

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Friday, November 1, 2019

Book Review: The Bake Shop by Amy Clipston

The Bake Shop by Amy Clipston

Publisher & Release: St. Martin’s Press, October 29, 2019

Time and setting:  Regency period, London

Genre: Historical Romance

Length: 331 Pages

Heat Level: 1 Flame

Rating:  4.5 Gold Crowns

Book Description: 

Return to Lancaster County with the first installment of Amy Clipston's charming new Amish Marketplace series.
Christiana Kurtz loves to bake, but when her bake stand becomes too busy, her mother encourages her to move her business to the local market. Her new bake shop becomes so inundated with customers that the line blocks the leather and woodcraft shop next door, which is run by Jeffrey Stoltzfus. When Jeffrey complains that her stand is driving away business due to the lines, she complains to him that his personalization machine smells. Though their relationship starts off on bad footing, they eventually forge a friendship.
When Christiana’s father makes a surprise visit to the market, he is upset to find that Jeffrey uses the building’s electricity to personalize his items. He tells Christiana that Jeffrey is too modern for her, and she’s forbidden from dating him. Christiana is crushed, but she knows she must obey her father.
When Jeffrey’s shop catches fire one day, he puts the entire market in jeopardy—including Christiana’s bake shop. Christiana, however, can’t deny how she feels about Jeffrey despite his mistakes. Though the odds are against them, can two young people find a way to rebuild both their businesses and their relationship?

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Vikki’s Musings

Thanks goes to the publisher, via Net-Galley, for the opportunity to read and review The Bake Shop by Amy Clipston prior publication. My opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

I thoroughly enjoyed this emotionally charged romance, an excellent example of why I love Amish romance. Ms. Clipston gives the reader a genuine experience of what Amish life must be like. From the language to the description of the setting, it’s evident she has done her research.

Christiana Kurtz is a delightful heroine. While she has a progressive attitude and wants to establish her business, she respects her father and tries to adhere to his wishes, even though, he is unbinding toward her desires and wants. My heart ached when he demands she break all connections to Jeffrey Stoltsfus.

Jeffrey’s character is amazing. He is such a good man, and while cautious because of his broken engagement, he takes a chance on loving again with Christiana. That is very brave of him to risk heartache again, especially when he discovers how rigid Christiana’s father is. I could feel his pain and crushing disappointment when the man demands they sever all ties. However, he is not willing to accept that all hope is lost. He sets out to prove he is a good Amish man who lives his Amish faith and is worthy of Christiana.

The romance between Christiana and Jeffrey is sweet and is established through their growing friendship. Their emotions are genuine, and their love for each other is clear to me, even before they realize it in the story. My heart broke when Christiana’s father demands they no longer spent any time together. When her grandmother told her why her father was so unbinding was the key to his getting him to change his staunch unwillingness to bend, but only Christiana’s heartbreaking grief influences him to change his mind. I loved how this heartwarming tale ends!

If you enjoy Amish romance with plenty of raw emotion and a fantastic view of Amish life, then you will love The Bake Shop as much as I did. I can’t wait to read the next book in Ms. Clipston’s new series. Happy reading!

Author Bio:

Amy Clipston has been writing for as long as she can remember. Her fiction writing "career" began in elementary school when she and a close friend wrote and shared silly stories. She has a degree in communications from Virginia Wesleyan College and is a member of the Authors Guild, American Christian Fiction Writers, and Romance Writers of America. She is the author of the bestselling Kauffman Amish Bakery series with Zondervan, which is part of HarperCollins Christian Publishing. 

An advocate for organ and blood donation, Amy donated a kidney in 2011 at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Through her donation, her husband received a second kidney transplant. Amy and her husband matched another couple and swapped kidneys with them. Amy lives in North Carolina with her husband, two sons, mother, and four spoiled rotten cats. 

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