Friday, January 17, 2020

Book Review: The Protective One by Shelley Shepard Gray

The Protective One by Shelley Shepard Gray

Publisher & Release: Gallery Books, January 21, 2020

Time and setting:  Present Day, Pennsylvania

Genre: Amish Fiction

Length: 302 Pages

Heat Level: 1 Sweetheart

Rating:  5 Gold Crowns

Book Description: 

From a “skilled storyteller who reminds the reader that faith can help us survive the ups and downs in life” (RT Book Reviews), Shelley Shepard Gray weaves a moving and unforgettable exploration of love and friendship. 

The tragic and untimely death of an old friend has made Elizabeth Anne rethink not only her priorities but her courtship with David, her longtime neighbor and suitor. Though he’s Mennonite like herself and has her parents’ approval, she feels that a spark is missing. Desperate for a change, she breaks things off—wondering if, perhaps, she’s the one who’s missing a spark.

When her family becomes upset with her decision, E.A. turns to her friends for support. One of them is Will, a man with a good heart who has always been there for her. As the two bond over their shared struggle to navigate a future that everyone else seems to have figured out, they are surprised to realize that they have feelings for each other.

But E.A.’s world takes a sudden turn when she realizes that she’s not the only one struggling—Marta, one of her sewing students, is in desperate need of protection. With the aid of Will and several other friends, Elizabeth Anne begins a journey that is more difficult and rewarding than she could have ever that ultimately enables her to find everything she’s been searching for.

In this latest installment in the Walnut Creek series that “both delights and surprises” (Leslie Gould, bestselling author), Shelley Shepard Gray pens a powerful and poignant tale of friendship, courage, and love.

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Vikki’s Musings

Thanks goes to the publisher, via Net-Galley, for the chance to read and review The Protective One by Shelley Shepard Gray prior to publication. I’m glad I decided to accept the invitation. My opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

The Protective One is another well-written novel by Ms. Gray with intriguing characters and a unique plot. The story is paced well and kept me entertained from the beginning until the end. While the group of friends are a bit different than in other tales by Ms. Gray, they are a delightful group and shows long time closeness. I enjoyed that aspect of the book a great deal.

Elizabeth Anne, known be her close friends as EA is an endearing character. I quickly became vested in her. She’s loyal to her friends and has a bit of a quirky side. I loved how she kicked David to the curb. I love that she befriends Marta who clearly has something going on in her life that isn’t good.
Will is the typical, kind Amish man with plenty of faith and a strong commitment to his friends. He’s cared deeply for EA for many years, but never let her know. His touch of insecurity was endearing. I really wanted him to get the girl!

The romance grows between these two friends in a most delightful way. I thoroughly loved their first kiss. It’s tender and sweet and took EA completely by surprise. I loved how Will is willing to make major changes to have a chance at a lasting relationship with EA. Their time at the county fair, solidified their romance a lot as they try to help Marta.

I enjoyed the sub-plot involving Marta greatly. That showed the true grit of EA. She’d fearless when she’s protecting her friends. Marta is English and in such a horrible situation with her husband. It’s EA’s kindness that helps Marta find the strength she needs to break free of her husband.

If you enjoy sweet romances with delightful characters who will touch your heart, then you will love The Protective One as much as I did. I highly recommend this lovely Amish tale. Happy reading!

Author Bio:

Shelley Shepard Gray lives in southern Ohio and writes full time. A busy wife and mother of two, she spends her days writing and keeping track of her two teenagers. Her two dogs keep her company when she writes in her basement.

Shelley enjoys writing about the Amish and visits Amish communities in Adams and Holmes counties several times a year. When not spending time with her family or writing, she serves on several committees in her church.

She also bakes a lot, loves coconut cream pie, and will hardly ever pull weeds, mow the yard, or drive in the snow.

Shelley also spends a lot of time on line! 

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Monday, January 13, 2020

Book Review: Grayson by Linda Carroll-Bradd

Grayson by Linda Carroll-Bradd

Publisher & Release: Inked Figments, January 01, 2020

Time and setting:  Late 19th Century, Cheyenne, Wyoming

Genre: Historical Romance/Western

Length: 112 Pages

Heat Level: 1 Sweetheart

Rating:  4.5 Gold Crowns

Book Description: 

A year ago, lawyer Grayson Wainwright's brother was killed due to faulty metal bridge braces. When Grayson files a wrongful death case against a company accused of supplying shoddy materials to the Transcontinental Railroad, he relishes his chance to achieve justice. Grayson’s two witnesses intimately know the accused, Leary Riddock--one is his wife, Loraine, and the other is his secretary, Catalina del Mar. 

Catalina and her husband, Joaquin, moved west from Omaha, working at various jobs for the Union Pacific. But when their infant son died, Joaquin abandoned her in Cheyenne, and Catalina was forced to support herself. She became a bookkeeper in Riddock’s construction company and soon learned her boss was not a legitimate businessman. As soon as the facts are revealed about Leary’s embezzlement, she agrees to serve as a key witness. 

Then Loraine is killed right before she is scheduled to testify, and threats prove Catalina is next. Now with an orphaned infant on his hands, Grayson must move heaven and earth to protect his beautiful remaining witness…and his heart.

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Vikki’s Musings

Thanks goes to the publisher, via Net-Galley, for the chance to read and review Grayson by Linda Carroll-Bradd, book 8 in the Bachelors and Babies series. My opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

Grayson is a well-written, and well-researched novella with engaging characters and a unique plot. For a shorter book, the characters are very well developed. The pacing is excellent, and it kept my interest from the first page to the last.

Catalina is an endearing character. She’s intelligent and determined to make it on her own after her husband is killed. Her heartache over losing her little one tore at my heart. I could feel her pain when she finds herself in a situation, she is not comfortable with at all.

Grayson Wainwright is a great hero. He’s a man of integrity determined to right a wrong. He’s also willing to come to the aid of a woman in distress. When he ends up with an infant, he takes it in his stride. 

The romance between Linda and Grayson is sweet. It focuses on the building friendship and the companionship that grows between them as they search for ways to right the wrong that was done to both of them. I enjoy this type of love story a great deal. There’s a lot of emotionally charged moments between the pair, and I really wanted them to find their happy ending.

There’s a bit of a mystery involved in this story, and Catalina and Grayson have to work together to solve it. It’s through their search that they end up developing feelings for each other. That aspect of the story is excellent, and I enjoyed the plot twists a lot.

If you enjoy clean romances with great characters and an interesting plot, then you will love Grayson as much as I did. I plan to read more of the books in the Bachelors and Babies series. Happy reading!

Author Bio:

As a young girl, I spent lots of my free time lying on my bed reading about fascinating characters having exciting adventures in places far away and in other time periods. In later years, I discovered and devoured family saga stories and romance novels. At a certain point, I grew cocky enough to think I could write one of these stories. Then I learned what a balancing act writing a novel is, but I wasn't deterred. Twelve years later, my first fiction sale was achieved--a confession story.  

After reading Debra Holland's "Montana Sky" series and Caroline Fyffe's "Prairie Hearts" series, I wanted to try my hand at historicals. I was thrilled to be invited to contribute to Sweetwater Springs Christmas and continued writing in the Montana Sky world by developing my Entertainers of the West series.

Married with 4 adult children and 2 granddaughters, I now write heartwarming contemporary and historical stories with a touch of humor and a bit of sass from my home in the southern California mountains. Lots of my stories are set in Texas where I lived for a dozen years.

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Friday, January 10, 2020

Book Review: Her Homecoming Wish by Jo McNally

Her Homecoming Wish by Jo McNally

Publisher & Release: Harlequin Special Edition, February 1, 2020

Time and setting:  Present Day, Gallant Lake, New York

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Length: 224 Pages

Heat Level: 1 Flame

Rating:  4 Gold Crowns

Book Description: 

She’s ready to shed her good-girl ways…

“You’re all about following the rules now?


Mackenzie Wallace hopes there’s still some bad boy lurking beneath single father Danny Adams’s upright exterior. Being the proverbial good girl left her brokenhearted and alone in the past. Now she’s back in town and wants excitement with her high school crush—not love. Dan knows their connection runs deep, despite Mackenzie’s protests. But will their new personas work together—especially when Dan’s secret is exposed?

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Vikki’s Musings

Thanks goes to the publisher, via Net-Galley, for the opportunity to read and review Her Homecoming Wish by Jo McNally prior to publication. My opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.
This is the first book I’ve read by Jo McNally, and I enjoyed it. The characters are engaging, and the plot is interesting. The pacing is steady and works well for this story. Her Homecoming Wish is well written and had good character development.

MacKenzie Wallace is an endearing character with plenty of heart. She’s always been the good girl, but she’s ready to break out and have a fling with the guy she crushed on in high school. There’s a problem, being good is just part of who she is.

Dan Adams is a great hero. Now that he’s the sheriff of his hometown, he’s determined to make up for his reckless youthful indiscretions by putting his service above everything, except his daughter. 

The romance between Mackie and Dan is sweet and fulfilling. While they both have to get rid of baggage from their past, once they do, they find their happy ending in a most fulfilling way. I believe they are perfect for each other.

If you like contemporary romances with plenty of heart and endearing characters, then you will enjoy Her Homecoming Wish as much as I did. I will certainly be looking for other stories set in Gallant Lake. Happy reading!

Author Bio:

I write the same kind of romances I like to read – stories about characters facing real-life challenges with real-life consequences. The stories are emotional, but still have humor, and love always finds a way to pull the characters through together.
I live in coastal North Carolina with 100 pounds of dog and 200 pounds of husband – my slice of the bed is very small. When I’m not writing or reading romance novels (or clinging to the edge of the bed…), I can often be found on the back porch sipping wine with friends while listening to an eclectic playlist. If the weather is absolutely perfect, I might join my husband on the golf course, where I always feel far more competitive than my actual skill-level would suggest.
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Monday, January 6, 2020

Book Review and author feature: Beauty and the Phantom by Harper Helton

Beauty and the Phantom by Harper Helton

Publisher & Release: Self-Published, January 7, 2020

Time and setting:  19th Century, France

Genre: Historical Romance

Length: 202 Pages

Heat Level: 1 Flame

Rating:  5 Gold Crowns

Book Description: 

Olivia Joliot is a liar and a thief.

Recently widowed, she is trapped by the wicked dealings of her late husband's relatives, forced to work for them to pay off an endless debt. Her next target, the wealthy violin builder Erik de Villiers, is scarred by a past that left him permanently disfigured and heartbroken. 

When she meets him, however, she sees the man behind the mask.

As walls begin to fall and hearts begin to heal, a terrible secret threatens to tear their fragile love apart.

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Vikki’s Musings

Thanks goes to the author for the opportunity to read and review Beauty and the Phantom by Harper Helton prior to publication. My opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way. I received the eBook as a gift.

Beauty and the Phantom pulled into the story from the first page and held me in its thrall until the end. This is an outstanding novel, and I’m thrilled I accepted the author’s request. The writing is descriptive yet allowed me to use my imagination. The pacing is steady adjusting to what’s going on in the story to move the story in the right direction. There’s good depth to both main characters and the matchmaking stable master. 

Olivia Joliot’s character is definitely a damsel in distress yet not a weak, helpless female, just a trapped one. She’s the widow of a con artist who used her for his nefarious plots. Now his family is doing the same thing. I could feel Olivia’s desperation and pain. 

She’s not only practically a prisoner, she’s abused, physically and mentally. It’s amazing she’s still able to want to escape their machinations. So many times, abuse victims become so beaten down, they believe it’s their fault, and if they can just be better, smarter, more compliant, their abusers will stop. I thoroughly enjoyed Julia’s struggle to overcome her deplorable situation.

Erik de Villiars is my favorite kind of hero. The widower is tortured by what happened to his wife and son. His pain is visceral from the first meeting. He’s terribly scared from the fire that took his loved ones and has become a recluse who lives only to create his string instruments. He’s turned his back on everyone, including his family.

When he meets Olivia, there’s an instant attraction. I loved the romance that builds between them. I thoroughly enjoyed the stable master’s match making. This added a great deal to the story, and Olivia and Erik would never have gotten together without him.

The sexual tension between the couple is there from the beginning and there’s a natural progression to the physical side of their love story. The sexual scenes are very good, focusing more on the emotions than what goes where, which is the case in so many romances. Even though the hero appears to be only concerned by the sexual attraction, it’s apparent from the first, it’s much deeper than that.

If you enjoy tortured heroes with a huge character arche, and a heroine who is desperate to break away from her tormentors, then you will love Beauty and the Phantom as much as I did. I will definitely be looking for the rest of the books in this series. Happy reading!


She felt her eyes begin to water and gave a small sound of gratitude as he handed her a handkerchief. “Everyone I’ve ever loved has died,” she agreed softly. “It’s almost as if you are...”
“Cursed,” Erik finished.
He turned to face her, and she felt a kinship with him. Yes, this man knew loss. Terrible, enduring loss. He would be shattered when her deception was revealed. It already felt as if she’d played with his heart. Even if she stopped now it would be too late to prevent him from being hurt. But she did like him. He was a kind man, and it had been an age since she’d been treated so well.
Olivia smiled at him and for once, didn’t have to force it.
“I think that sounds terribly depressing, don’t you? Life does go on. No matter how often we wish that it wouldn’t.”
“You have an assuredly positive philosophy on life.”
It was now or never. She’d done this before. Many times. But why were her nerves so rattled? Why did it feel like this wasn’t pretending? Why did she wish that he might make the first move?
She set a hand on his shoulder and leaned forward, pressing her lips against his cheek with the utmost tenderness, and when she leaned back, his wide eyes were on hers. He certainly didn’t look like he’d minded that. His eyes were full of wonder and tenderness, and he moved, just a little, toward her.
“I’ve found that it is the only way to live, Erik.”
Author Bio:

Harper Helton is a recovering fanfiction writer, obsessed with faeries, monsters, and happily-ever-afters. She likes steamy romance in all genres, spends way too much time watching Netflix, and has a One-Click addiction.

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Friday, January 3, 2020

Book Review: Featuring Katherine Grant and her debut novel The Ideal Countess

The Ideal Countess by Katherine Grant

Publisher & Release: Self-Published, 10 January, 2020

Time and setting:  Regency England

Genre: Historical Romance

Length: 232 Pages

Heat Level: 1 Flame

Rating:  5 Gold Crowns

Book Description: 

In this Regency Romance, an eager debutante is caught between the notorious Duke of Cornwall and her childhood friend, the Earl of Windemere.

London, 1810

Alice never dreamed her Season would go this well. She has beautiful dresses, new friends, and she has caught the eye of the most dashing bachelor in London, the Duke of Cornwall.

But her friend, Hugh Osborne, the Earl of Windemere, is concerned the duke’s attentions towards Alice aren’t completely honorable. While she dreams of marrying the impossible duke, Hugh scrambles to find a way to protect her - and win her heart - before Alice’s reputation is dashed to pieces. 

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Vikki’s Musings

Thanks goes to the author for inviting me to read and review The Ideal Countess, a Regency historical romance. My opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way. This is Ms. Grant’s debut novel, and I’m so glad I accepted her kind offer.

The Ideal Countess is a delight Regency with many of the aspects I love most in this particular sub-genre of romance. The characters have excellent depth, and I felt I really could understand them. Ms. Grant’s writing flows well and the pacing is great.

Alice is a charming heroine, and I became vested in her character right away. While at times, I did want to shake her for being unable to see the Duke of Cornwall as the  cad he was, I could understand how it was hard to believe the warnings from someone who had a reason to warn her off.

Hugh Osborne is a beta hero, and one I quite adored from the beginning. He’s brilliant and has that odd quirkiness that what today we would call a computer geek. The man loves his mathematics and figuring out new ways to help the common man with his inventions.

What starts as a way to appease his mother, quickly turns into his heart’s desire, which completely baffles him at first. He’s known Alice since they were in leading strings, so he never imagined the attraction he feels toward her could be so strong.

I loved the romance between the hero and heroine. They’re actually quite perfect for each other. Although it takes Alice much longer to recognize her attraction for Hugh, it’s because the villain of this piece preys on her naïveté, complimenting her, encouraging her to believe he’s serious. However, let’s just say her eyes become open to him. I don’t want to give anything away, so I shall say no more.

If you enjoy a good Regency romance with characters that will pull on your heart strings and a plot that is different than so many historical romances, then you will enjoy The Ideal Countess as much as I did. I’m amazed by the talent in this debut novel and will be looking for more books by Katherine Grant. Happy reading!


Miss Alice Winpole’s first ball was almost everything she had dreamed it would be. 
There was the footman at the door, bellowing ancient family names so she could peer over at the viscounts and barons and even one duke as they entered. There was the string quartet in the corner that never played a note out of tune, unlike the overeager fiddlers her mother hired for their country parties; the instrumentalists featured an olive-toned violinist who Alice was sure had been imported straight from Milan. There were ladies swathed in precious silks and gentlemen in their richest suits. Couples young and old slipped through double doors for fresh air on the Romanesque patio. Alice’s mother had even whispered that there were orange-flavored ices in the refreshment room.
For a first ball, it was surpassing all of Alice’s expectations, which were quite considerable since she’d been hearing about the splendor of the Season for the entirety of her seventeen years. The ball was perfect, in every way except one.
Alice had not yet been asked to dance.
Her parents, the Baron and Baroness of Eastley, had coached her on this. For the exact same amount of time that Alice had been hearing about balls, she had also been happily ensconced in their country seat of Bleneccle Manor. While her father undertook the five-day journey to London a few times a year, it was far too long—and far too likely that a coach wheel would break and the ladies would be stranded in a one-room inn—for him to invite the family along. Her mother had warned Alice that since they were so remote in their corner of the north, it would take a few weeks to properly introduce Alice so that gentlemen could ask her to dance. Alice had been fully prepared to stand against the wall during her first ball for one or two dances.
But things were not going according to plan. Alice and her mother were supposed to have arrived a full week before this first ball of the season, thrown by the Marchioness of Leighstor, so that her mother could take Alice around on morning calls to meet the matrons of society. But first a wretched rainstorm had delayed the start of their journey by two days, and then on the highway through Nottinghamshire a carriage wheel did break. The carriage-maker in town was laid up with what Lady Eastley called an unmentionable disease, so they had to wait another two days for the fix. By the time Alice set eyes on London – loud, messy London – there had been barely enough time to present her to the queen much less anybody else.
And so, Lady Eastley and Lord Eastley had deposited Alice against the very wall where she still stood before melting into the crowd to find her some dance partners. Playing the part of Marriage Mama, Lady Eastley chatted with fellow matrons, angling for introductions to their sons or nephews or brothers in hopes she could then introduce said gentlemen to Alice. Lord Eastley, meanwhile, had decamped to the cluster of males in the card room, promising to send every eligible male her way.
Alice had more faith in her father. While Lady Eastley was pretty and polite, she didn’t have many connections, and she far preferred chatting over tea to rubbing elbows with London’s ton. In the ballroom, she was being relegated to the quietest of conversation circles. In contrast, Lord Eastley knew more people in London, and he was the type of friendly boisterous that made people want to like him. Many times at home, Alice had observed a tenant or laborer come to Papa with a complaint, only for the man to leave laughing with a compromise as a solution. 
Yet despite her parents’ efforts, the caller had already announced the first minuet, a quadrille, and a polka, and Alice remained with no introductions. She glanced at her dance card as fellow debutantes walked arm-in-arm with gentlemen to start the polka. At the start of the evening, she’d written her name at the top in her brightest lettering, excited to see the card fill up. Now there were only eight more dances until supper, and every line was still blank. Indeed, the card itself was beginning to shrivel from all her fidgeting. Soon there wouldn’t be a way for gentlemen to claim a dance, even if they wanted to.

Author Bio:

I've been a storyteller for as long as I can remember. Before I knew how to read and write, I acted out stories (original and retellings of my favorite Disney movies) with Barbies. Around the third grade, I started writing my own stories in notebooks, and I finished my first novel in seventh grade on my dad's old laptop.

Since then, I've been a writer. I got a degree in creative writing from Northwestern University, moved to New York City, and "daylight" as a marketer.

It came first from my love as a reader. I read on my subway commute every day, but it's only when I'm on a romance kick that I literally cannot stop reading. I once spent an entire Memorial Day weekend reading 2 books a day!

When I decided to try my hand at writing a romance, the words literally flowed. I have so much fun writing these stories that I never, ever want to stop.

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