Friday, April 28, 2017

Book Review: The Bad Luck Bride by Janna MacGregor

The Bad Luck Bride by Janna MacGregor

Publisher & Release: St. Martin’s Paperbacks, May 2, 2017

Time and setting:  1811, England

Genre: Historical Romance/Regency

Book Length: 349 pages

Heat Level: 2 Flames

Rating: 3.5 Gold Crowns

Book Description: 

All were shocked at the announcement of the “cursed” Lady Claire Cavensham to Lord Alexander Hallworth, the Marquess of Pembrooke, especially since she is already engaged to another unfortunate Lord. Perhaps she will make it to the altar this time with one of these fine gentlemen! —Midnight Cryer
No one is left breathless at the imperious pronouncement of her engagement to Lord Pembrooke more than Claire. She hardly knows the dangerously outrageous man! But after three engagements gone awry and a fourth going up in glorious flames, she isn’t in a position to refuse...
Alexander requires the hand of his enemy’s fiancée in marriage in order to complete his plans for revenge. It’s his good fortune that the “cursed” woman is desperate. However, what begins as a sham turns into something scandalously deeper...
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Vikki’s Musings

From what I understand, this is the debut novel for Ms. MacGregor. The cover caught my eye when I received an invitation from the publisher to read and review The Bad Luck Bride, so I decided to give it a read. At one point, this would have been a three Gold Crown review, but the ending pulled it up to 3.5. I always round up on Amazon and Goodreads the majority of the time, as long as the tale is a strong 3.5. That’s why I ended up rating this four stars on those sites.

It took quite some time to get into this book. I’m not fond of revenge, and this story starts out with the hero determined to avenge his sister’s death. She left a note implementing one of his friends, and he will destroy the man at any cost. That cost is Lady Claire’s reputation.

When Alex realizes what he has done, he proposes marriage, and since Claire has no choice, she accepts under duress. She is under the misconception that Alex has come to her aid because he’s an honorable gentleman. What she doesn’t know: he’s the one who placed the bet that convinced her to accept his suit.

This is the part that did not sit well with me, and although, Ms. MacGregor does redeem his character by the end of the book, it did not completely take the bad taste from my mouth, so I never truly warmed up to Alex’s character. I also didn't feel much chemistry between them until close to the end of the book.

Overall, this is an okay novel. If you like a romance with twists and turns and a good deal of angst, then you may find The Bad Luck Bride to your liking. At this point, I’m reserving judgment on whether I will read the next book by this author. Happy reading!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Book Review: Sweet Southern Trouble by Michele Summers

Sweet Southern Trouble by Michele Summers

Publisher & Release: Sourcebooks Casablanca, May 2, 2017

Time and setting:  Present Day, Raleigh, NC

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Book Length: 352 pages

Heat Level: 2 Flame

Rating: 4.5 Gold Crowns

Book Description: 

An ambitious Southern belle 
Marabelle Fairchild knows she's a gal who can get things done. Feeling unappreciated at the exclusive private school where she's a kindergarten aide and varsity tennis coach, Marabelle determines to score with the next big fundraiser. What she doesn't expect? A smokin' hot football coach to throw her off her game...
A reclusive NFL bachelor...
NFL coach Nick Frasier is Raleigh's most eligible bachelor, but he wants to focus on his career...not his playboy status. He doesn't need a smart-mouthed, pint-sized kindergarten teacher pestering him. So he cuts Marabelle a deal—in exchange for Nick sponsoring a bachelor auction starring him and his gorgeous celebrity pals, Marabelle will pose as his fiancée to ward off unwanted advances. 
What could possibly go wrong?
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Vikki’s Musings

This is the first novel I have read by Michele Summers, and I must say I was pleasantly surprised. When I received an invitation from the publisher via Net-Galley to read and review, I hesitated, because I was not sure I would like the heroine. I’m so glad the sexy hero enticed me to accept.

Marabelle Fairchild wants to be accepted by her peers and agrees to manage the upcoming fundraiser for her school. She knows she can gain their approval because she gets things done. What she does not expect is a startling attraction the coach of the NFL football team.

Nick Frasier needs to clean up his playboy image quickly. When he meets the pint-sized Marabelle, she is the perfect answer to his dilemma. Who better than a kindergarten teacher to have as a pretend fiancée?

Can he convince her to go along with his plan to redeem his reputation, and while they are playacting, will she heat up the sheets with him as well?

I thoroughly enjoyed Sweet Southern Trouble from the first page to the last. All the characters are great from the hero and heroine to the teammates on Nick’s team, even the villain of the story adds a lot of humor to this entertaining read.

Much to my surprise, I fell in love with Marabelle immediately. She’s just so darn cute! Her insecurities due to her narcissistic mother called to me in a big way. No wonder she has issues with a mother like that. It did not help that her father goes along with whatever his ex-wife wants!

Nick is a great hero. He’s a fun-loving character who truly wants to change his image, and not just so he keeps his job. He really cares for his team, and he cannot resist his little dynamo. The banter between him and the other characters had me laughing out loud on more than one occasion.

If you are looking for a light-hearted romance with surprising depth of character, then you will enjoy Sweet Southern Trouble as much as I did. While this is the first book I have read by this author, it will not be the last. Happy reading!

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

Contact Links

Purchase Links

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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!