Monday, July 6, 2020

Book Review with featured author: Refuge by Willa J. Brand

Refuge: A Mountain Ranch Novel 
by Willa J. Brand


Publisher & Release: Self-Published, May 30, 2020

Time and setting: Present Day, Montana 

Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction

Length: 119 Pages

Heat Level: 1 Sweetheart

Rating: 4 Gold Crowns

Book Description: 

Taylor is a mother on the run from an abusive husband, searching for a safe place for she and her young son. Convinced that her possessive spouse is hunting them, she is paranoid, exhausted and virtually penniless. Finding herself stranded in rural Montana, she is taken in by a couple who help her not knowing her past, and she is able to find work on their ranch. She intends on staying only long enough to save the money needed to move on to a large city where she believes they will be safer. But as time passes friendships develop, as does a love interest, and Taylor struggles to hold on to her secrets. Inevitably, her past catches up with her and her worst fears will become reality.

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Vikki’s Musings

Thanks goes to the author for bringing Refuge: A Mountain Ranch Novel by Willa J. Brand to my attention. I borrowed a copy via Kindle Unlimited. My opinions are my own, and no one has influenced them.

Refuge: A Mountain Ranch Novel is the debut novel by Ms. Brand, and I thoroughly enjoyed the story of a woman’s struggle to escape her abusive husband. When her vehicle breaks down in rural Montana, she finds refuge on a ranch. The couple who takes her in, not only offers her a home but employment. 

While at times, Ms. Brand reverts to telling instead of showing, it didn’t interfere with my enjoyment since it was done to move the story along. However, that did inhibit her character development a bit. The pacing is good and kept me engaged from the beginning to the end.

Taylor’s character is under tremendous stress. She’s taken her young son and run away from her abusive husband, so she lives in fear he will find them. Ms. Brand does a fine job of emoting the feelings she is going through. My heart went out to her.

Owen is the hero and lives on the neighboring ranch. He’s an honorable man and offers Taylor friendship at a time in her life she desperately needs it. He exhibits a great deal of patience with her, even though he figures out early on that she has a huge secret.

While there is a strong romantic element in this novel, the central focus of Refuge: A Mountain Ranch Novel is Taylor’s journey to recovering from the abusive and finding a new life. However the relationship between Taylor and Owen is a slowly developing one as they get to know each other. Owen gives her the time she needs to learn to trust him. This story has a happy for now ending.

If you enjoy women’s fiction with engaging characters who will tug at your heart, then you will like Refuge: A Mountain Novel. There is excellent potential in Ms. Brand’s writing, and as she travels the new road into publishing, I’m confident that as she develops her craft, her next novel will be even better. Happy reading!

Author Bio:


Willa J. Brand is a pen name for my alter ego, and although she is much more creative than I am in my daily life, we share many of the same interests.  

I am a wife, mother of four children and three angels, and lover of the outdoors. I have been an avid reader from an early age and lover of all forms of literature since before I can remember. Busy as life is helping out on our family farm and caring for children, I craved some kind of creative outlet, and writing was a natural fit for me.

I love all animals and enjoy working with cattle and spending time with my horses and dogs. In more recent years I have found a love for chickens that I never knew I had, and my flock is constantly growing! 
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Friday, July 3, 2020

Book Review with featured author: Before Nightfall by Kat Martin

Before Nightfall by Kat Martin


Publisher & Release: HQN, July 1, 2020

Time and setting:  Present Day, 

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Length: 107 Pages

Heat Level: 1 Flame

Rating: 3.5 Gold Crowns

Book Description: 

Kat Martin is back with another thrilling Maximum Security novella filled with danger, suspense and one smoldering road trip to the mountains of Mexico!

When her best friend’s son is kidnapped, private detective Lissa Blayne drops everything to focus on the missing boy. Julie and Lissa have been close for years, so when Julie’s friend Colt Wheeler joins the investigation, Lissa bristles at the former ranger’s take-charge attitude. Lissa doesn’t need a man calling the shots, even if there is something about Colt’s protective side that has her tough exterior melting away. As Lissa and Colt take their search on the road, the tension between them slowly morphs into trust and understanding—and they’ll need both in order to outsmart the dangerous abductor they’re tracking. The only thing hotter than their attraction is the heat of the Mexican sun, but this road trip is no vacation…

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Vikki’s Musings

Thanks go to the publisher and Net-Galley for the complimentary copy of Before Nightfall by Kat Martin for the purpose of reading and reviewing prior to publication. My opinions are my own and no one has influenced them.

Before Nightfall is an extremely fast-paced novella that whizzes by. The writing is tight, and the characters are typical of romantic suspense. I haven’t read the previous two books in this series, so at times I did feel a bit lost. This novella is definitely supposed to bridge the gap between the second full book to the next in this series.

Lissa Blayne’s character is that of a hardened investigator who has plenty of cynicism towards the dredges of society and is not interested in a long-term relationship. The story moves so quickly, there wasn’t much time to become vested in her character. I did enjoy her loyalty to her best friend and determination to find the friend’s young son.

Colt Wheeler is a great hero who jumps in to help find his late buddy’s missing son. His attraction to Lissa is untimely since he’s on his way to Denver to start a new life. I enjoyed his straight-forward personality.

The romance between the main characters is based on the physical attraction that crackles between the hero and heroine, and it has little time to develop into something deeper. The story ends with a happy for now instead of a happily ever after. I found this appropriate since they didn’t have much time to see whether they can truly develop long lasting affection along with the physical. I like that both characters are willing to compromise to see where their attraction can go.

If you enjoy lightning fast action with characters driven to succeed, and willing to work together to achieve their goals, then you will like Before Nightfall. I do suggest reading the other two books in this series prior to reading this novella. Happy reading!

Author Bio:


New York Times bestselling author Kat Martin is a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara where she majored in Anthropology and also studied History. Currently residing in Missoula, Montana with her Western-author husband, L. J. Martin, Kat has written sixty-five Historical and Contemporary Romantic Suspense novels. More than sixteen million copies of her books are in print and she has been published in twenty foreign countries. Kat is currently at work on her next Romantic Suspense.

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Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Book Review with featured author: A Cowboy State of Mind by Jennie Marts


A Cowboy State of Mind by Jennie Marts


Publisher & Release: Sourcebooks Casablanca, June 30, 2020

Time and setting:  Present Day, Creedence Creek, Colorado

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Length: 416 Pages

Heat Level: 1 Flame

Rating: 4 Gold Crowns

Book Description: 

"Funny, complicated, and irresistible."—JODI THOMAS, New York Times bestselling author for Caught Up in a Cowboy
The town of Creedence, Colorado gets involved in horse rescue in bestseller Jennie Marts' brilliant new series
Scarred and battered loner Zane Taylor has a gift with animals, particularly horses, but he's at a total loss when it comes to knowing how to handle women. Even though he's sworn off love, he can't seem to stay away from Bryn Callahan. He's known for being a horse whisperer, but can't seem to find his voice at all where Bryn is concerned.
Bryn Callahan has a heart for strays, but she is through trying to save damaged men. She vows to only date nice guys, which is a category that does not include Zane Taylor. Too bad he's the only one who sets her pulse racing every time she's around him.
Starting a horse rescue ranch wasn't in Bryn's plan, but try telling that to the assembly of abandoned animals that have found their way to her doorstep. And when a chance encounter with a horse headed for slaughter brings Zane and Bryn together, they find themselves given a chance to save not just the horse, but maybe each other...

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Vikki’s Musings

Thanks go to the publisher and Net-Galley for the complimentary copy of A Cowboy State of Mind by Jennie Marts for the purpose of reading and reviewing prior to publication. My opinions are my own and no one has influenced them.

A Cowboy State of Mind is a well written western romance with an adorable heroine. The pacing kept me engaged from the beginning to the end. Ms. Marts gave me just enough description without going too far.

Bryn Callahan’s character is tender-hearted and is determined to save abandoned animals to the point that she does it when she will struggle meeting her own basic needs. When she meets Zane Taylor, the horse whisperer, the sparks fly. But, he doesn’t meet her new criteria because he’s known as a bad boy.

Zane Taylor is a tortured hero and believes he doesn’t deserve to have a well-respected woman like Bryn and pushes her away quite ruthlessly. At times, I became extremely frustrated with him because he was cruel to the kind-hearted Bryn. That didn’t sit well with me.

The romance between Bryn and Zane is a rocky road with a great many highs and lows, too many for me. I understand Zane’s poor self-esteem, but he carries his rejection way too far. If I had been Bryn, I would have kicked him to the curb and never looked back. Their romance just didn’t work for me. 

If you enjoy western romances with brooding heroes and sweet natured heroine, then A Cowboy State of Mind may work very well for you. Since I’ve read other novels by Ms. Marts and thoroughly enjoyed them, I will consider reading the next one in this series when it comes out. Happy reading!

Author Bio:


Jennie Marts is the USA TODAY Best-selling author of award-winning books filled with love, laughter, and always a happily ever after. Readers call her books “laugh out loud” funny and the “perfect mix of romance, humor, and steam.” Fic Central claimed one of her books was “the most fun I’ve had reading in years.”
She is living her own happily ever after in the mountains of Colorado with her husband, two dogs, and a parakeet that loves to tweet to the oldies. She’s addicted to Diet Coke, adores Cheetos, and believes you can’t have too many books, shoes, or friends.
Her books include the contemporary western romance Hearts of Montana series, the romantic comedy/ cozy mysteries of The Page Turners series, the hunky hockey-playing men in the Bannister family in the Bannister Brothers Books, and the small-town romantic comedies in the Lovestruck series of Cotton Creek Romances.
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Friday, June 26, 2020

Book Review with featured author, Lucy Gilmore: Puppy Kisses

Puppy Kisses by Lucy Gilmore


Publisher & Release: Sourcebooks, Casablanca, June 30, 2020

Time and setting:  Present Day, USA

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Length: 352 Pages

Heat Level: 1 Flame

Rating: 4 Gold Crowns

Book Description: 

These adorable service puppies
are matchmakers in the making...
Dawn Vasquez never takes life too seriously. But when she rescues a golden retriever named Gigi, Dawn begins to imagine what it'd be like to settle down and let someone rely on her for a change. Unfortunately, Adam Dearborn—a handsome, hopelessly buttoned-up cattle rancher in need of a guide dog—has also fallen in love with the little ball of fluff and stubbornly insists that no other animal will do.
Adam isn't sure what drives him to fight to keep Gigi for himself, but he suspects it has something to do with his growing—and unfortunate—attachment to Dawn. Her whirlwind spirit and sunny disposition might make her a delight to be around, but they also make her unsuited for the difficult life of a rancher. He should be able to put her out of his head. But what's a love-struck cowboy to do when what he wants and what he needs have never seemed so far apart? And can he allow himself to take a chance on everything Dawn has to offer: puppy kisses, puppy love...and her.
Service Puppies Series:
Puppy Love (Book 1)
Puppy Christmas (Book 2)
Puppy Kisses (Book 3)

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Vikki’s Musings

Thanks go to the publisher and Net-Galley for the complimentary copy of Puppy Kisses by Lucy Gilmore for the purpose of reading and reviewing prior to publication. My opinions are my own and no one has influenced me in any way.

Puppy Kisses is the third book in Ms. Gilmore’s Forever Home series. It’s a light-hearted romance with plenty of carefree moments and delightful banter between the hero and heroine. The pacing kept me engaged from the first page to the last.

Dawn Vasquez’s character is footloose and fancy free. She lives life on her own terms with no filter. She flits from one brief relationship to another until she meets the hero. He is the game changer for her, but she doesn’t want to admit it. 

Adam Dearborn is an endearing hero. His blindness makes him vulnerable without making him weak. His surprising attraction to the quirky Dawn blows him away, but her offer of a no strings attached affair is too tempting to pass up. I thoroughly enjoyed his confusion over where he wants his feelings for her to go.

The romance between Dawn and Adam blazes to life early in the story and burns hot. The sexual scenes are visceral, yet filled with emotions. Although more graphic, especially in the early part of the story than my personal preference, they are absorbing. I truly wanted this great couple to find their happy ending.

If you enjoy lighted-hearted contemporary romances with engaging characters and a unique plot, then you will love Puppy Kisses as much as I did. I’ve enjoyed this delightful series and highly recommend these enjoyable novels. Happy reading!

Author Bio:


Lucy Gilmore is a contemporary romance author with a love of puppies, rainbows, and happily ever afters. She began her reading (and writing) career as an English literature major and ended as a die-hard fan of romance in all forms. When she's not rolling around with her two Akitas, she can be found hiking, biking, or with her nose buried in a book. She also writes under the penname Tamara Morgan.



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Thursday, June 25, 2020

Book Review with featured author, Jo Ann Brown: An Amish Mother's Secret Past

An Amish Mother’s Secret Past by Jo Ann Brown


Publisher & Release: Love Inspired, July 1, 2020

Time and setting:  Present day, Vermont

Genre: Amish Fiction

Length: 224 Pages

Heat Level: 1 Sweetheart

Rating: 4 Gold Crowns

Book Description: 

Every woman deserves a fresh start…

Can an Amish widow’s past

cost her a future filled with love?
Widow Rachel Yoder has a secret: she’s a military veteran trying to give her children a new life among the Amish. Though she’s drawn to bachelor Isaac Kauffman, she knows she can’t tell him the truth—or give him her heart. With her forbidden past, Rachel can never be the perfect Plain wife he’s looking for…

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Vikki’s Musings

Thanks goes to the publisher and Net-Galley for the complimentary copy of An Amish Mother’s Secret Pastby Jo Ann Brown for the purpose of reading and reviewing prior to publication. My opinions are my own and no one influenced me in any way.
An Amish Mother’s Secret Past is a well written Amish romance with endearing characters and a sweet romance. The pacing kept me enmeshed from the beginning to the end. It has enough descriptive writing to give me the strong sense of the Amish community.

Rachel Yoder’s character is a widow with two adorable daughters. Her late husband was in the military, and she is also a veteran. When he dies, she returns to her Amish upbringing, slipping into the familiar of the new Amish community in Vermont although she’s never been baptized. I liked her a great deal and wanted her to open her heart to the hero.

Isaac Kauffman is the typical Amish hero and a delightful one. He yearns for a family but doesn’t believe he deserves one. He too has secrets, so he is more accepting of Rachel’s. Although his need for perfection gives the heroine a different impression.

I enjoyed the lovely romance between Rachel and Isaac. They don’t have the usual courting relationship that most Amish have. They are a bit older than many Amish couples. Rachel’s exposure to the Englischer lifestyle influences her decisions and choices. Her fear to tell Isaac about her past causes a lot of internal conflict, making this an enjoyable reading experience.

If you enjoy Amish romances with characters that will pull at your heartstrings and one that has a unique plot, then you will love An Amish Mother’s Secret Past as much as I did. I’m so glad I found this excellent novel. Happy reading!

Author Bio:


Jo Ann Brown has been creating characters and stories for as long as she can remember. Her first stories were populated with her friends and sisters. She wrote her first novel in high school, and it happily resides in the forgotten depths of her file cabinet. Fast forward through college, serving in the US Army as a quartermaster officer, getting married, and increasing her blessings with three children...and Jo Ann sold her first book in 1987. Since it was published in 1988, she has sold over 100 titles and has become a best-selling and award-winning author. Romantic Times called her “a truly talented author.” She writes romance, mystery, and YA under a variety of pen names. Now she is writing Amish romances for Love Inspired and Annie’s Fiction as Jo Ann Brown.
Her books have been translated into nearly a dozen languages and are sold on every continent except Antarctica. A sought-after speaker, she has been teaching creative writing for over 20 years, and she established several popular fiction courses at Brown University. She resides in Florida with her husband and about a zillion little lizards in her yard.

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Monday, June 22, 2020

Book Review and Featured Author, Judith Keim: A Summer of Surprises by Judith Keim

A Summer of Surprises by Judith Keim


Publisher & Release: Wild Quail Publishing, June 23, 2020

Time and setting:  Present Day, Northwest USA

Genre: Women’s Literary Fiction

Length: 245 Pages

Rating: 4 Gold Crowns

Book Description: 

Jill Conroy is tricked by her sister into becoming the housekeeper and cook for the summer at Seashell Cottage where Greg Campbell and his nephew, Brody, have been hired to do maintenance projects on the house. Annoyed at first, Jill soon realizes how wonderful it is to be away from her home in New York and the memories of her deceased, emotionally abusive husband. 

Soon the magic of the beach heals Jill enough for her to decide to move to Florida permanently to make a new life for herself. Her part-time work at a summer camp and the promise of a new job as a third-grade teacher in the fall make it seem as if her future is set. But a visit from her sister, followed by her mother, reveals secrets that surprise them all. Jill learns to accept the idea of love not only from Brody but from his daughter, Kacy, as the summer brings even more surprises. 

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Vikki’s Musings

Thanks go to the publisher and Net-Galley for a complimentary copy of A Summer of Surprises by Judith Keim for the purpose of reading and reviewing. My opinions are my own, and no one has influenced them in any way.

A Summer of Surprises is a well written novel with enchanting characters and a unique plot. The writing pulled me in right away and kept me engaged until the end. The story has plenty of emotionally charged scenes.

When Jill Convoy arrives at seashell cottage for her summer vacation, she learns she’s to be the housekeeper to Greg Campbell and his nephew, Brody while they remodel the cottage. She should have realized her sister had hidden the truth from her. She’s attracted to Brody and becomes attached to his daughter. I liked her character and could identify with her lack of confidence. Her ex-fiancĂ©e had really torn down her self-esteem.

Greg Campbell is a great hero. He is a loving father and helps his uncle. His patience with Jill amazed me. He will wait as long as she needs for her to be comfortable in her new life. 

The romance is sweet and develops slowly due to Jill’s need to make a new life in Florida. This is a story of a young woman overcoming the loss of her dreams, finding many things she thought were true are not. Her willingness to start anew with her sister touched me.

If you enjoy women’s fiction with plenty of depth and substance and endearing characters, then you will enjoy A Summer of Surprises as much as I did. I have fast become a fan of Ms. Keim’s novels. Happy reading!

Author Bio:

I’ve loved stories and reading from the time I played “Librarian” with my sister as a young girl. Living in a relatively small town in upstate New York, reading became a way to experience the world in a way I couldn’t otherwise do.
Many a hot, summer afternoon was spent reading, sprawled on the front-porch “glider”, escaping to a time and place far from there. My mother was an avid reader, some might suspect to keep her sanity while raising three active children – especially when my brother was doing experiments with his chemistry set! 
Books were always present – being read, ready to go back to the library or about to be discovered. Information from the books was shared in general conversation, giving all of us a wealth of knowledge. Perhaps that is why I was drawn to the idea of writing stories early on.
I particularly love and write novels about women who meet unexpected challenges with strength and find love along the way. A child or dog in the story is a plus. 
As J.S. Keim, I’ve written middle-grade fantasy stories for kids. I especially like to write about kids landing in unexpected places, meeting characters real and fantastic, and learning to see the world in a different way. 
A hybrid author who both has a publisher and self-publishes, Ms. Keim writes heart-warming stories. Her books are based, in part, on many of the places she’s lived or visited and on the interesting people she’s met, creating believable characters and realistic settings her many, loyal readers love. 
Presently, I lived in Boise, Idaho with my husband and our two dachshunds, Winston and Wally.

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