Turbulent love

‘I Found You’ – Jane Lark

4-star-rating

Image courtesy of goodreads.com

I Found You – Jane Lark

On a cold winter night, Rachel and Jason’s lives collide on Manhattan Bridge. She’s running from life, he’s running toward it. But compassion urges him to help her. 

His offer of a place to stay leads to friendship and trouble. There’s his fiancée back home in Oregon and a family who just don’t trust this girl from the wrong side of the tracks. 

But when the connection between them is so electric, so right… everyone else must be wrong. And as the snow begins to settle on the Hudson, there’s nothing but the possibility of what could be – of this, right here, right now.

A romance novel that makes you howl at characters for being so misinformed, ‘I Found You’ from Jane Lark is an enjoyable dual narrative that gives you lots of insight into the two main characters, Rachel and Jason.

This dual narrative is different to what I have read before and really forces you to focus on the character and their feelings. The switch in narrative happens in “real time”; by that I mean the point of view switches immediately after a character has spoken or acted so we can an instantly see how this action is viewed and interpreted. At first I found it a little confusing to keep up with and to start with I did re-read sections to check who was narrating. However, as the story developed I found myself yearning to learn the internal monologue of Jason or Rachel and felt relief when I was given this update. I think this switch in narrative works really well, particularly with the emotional baggage both characters have in their past, and this made ‘I Found You’ different for me compared to other romance novels.

The poor judgements that Rachel and Jason experience when they visit his family at Christmas made my blood boil! I think it was because of this dual narrative that I felt I really knew these characters and so when Jason’s family and his old friends back home really give him and Rachel a hard time over their relationship and how quickly things were moving, I felt really frustrated. The narrow-mindedness came across as a realistic struggle this couple were facing, but I did feel that the sudden change in attitude from Jason’s family was just a bit too soon. Yes, I understood that it was linked to what Jason had told his mum and dad that convinced them about his relationship with Rachel, but I did feel there could have been more of a gradual “defrosting” from his parents.

I found that Rachel’s troubled background gave the story more depth, particularly with the health issues that Lark begins to explore. I found it interesting how Jason reacts to this and found it sweet that they were still going to take on the world together. Their lives change so dramatically from first meeting one another that by the end of the story, I really did feel that they could take on anything.

This is a good, enjoyable read with a satisfying ending. If the change in attitude from Jason’s parents had been a bit more gradual but without the story losing its pace, then I think I could have easily given this story five stars. It reaffirms true romance in the world and I thought Jason and Rachel were such a sweet couple. My only criticism is that I wish Lark had revealed the name at the end! Without wanting to give too much away about the plot, so much was hinted at in the Epilogue, that I was expecting this to be revealed. *Sigh* I guess I will have to read the next novel in the series to find out more. A small detail but I was so curious to learn what this was!

A great read for all of you who enjoy romance novels.

This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Click the links below to get yourself a copy of the novel, on offer at only $1.99 until Monday 31st March 2014:

Amazon / B&N

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Baking love!

‘My Cup of Tea’ – Kat Leiu

5-star-rating

My Cup of Tea - Kat Lieu

My Cup of Tea – Kat Lieu

It’s another suck-tastic summer for book nerd and baker, Sara Lee-Affen. She’s broke, she’s single, and she’ll probably die a virgin. At her beautiful cousin’s wedding, Sara meets a sexy and delicious stud muffin, Ian Forrests. He’s totally her cup of tea, that is until he laughs at her misery when a bee burrows into her ear. Yes, a dang bee. She’s dying (well not really) as he’s dying from laughter.

What a jerk. A smoking hot, Adonis of a jerk with strikingly green eyes, dark hair, and drool-worthy pecs and eight-pack abs. As luck and fate would have it, Sara keeps bumping into Ian all summer long and ends up working for him as a pastry chef at his failing bakery. Despite her better judgement, Sara falls for the sexy, bad-ass rich boy. She discovers the truth about Ian: he’s a tortured soul who’s still pining for his deceased girlfriend, Sarah. One look at Sarah’s picture and poor Sara knows that she could never compete. She could never be Ian’s cup of tea. 

Or could she? 

Goodreads

About the author:

Kat Lieu

Kat Lieu

Kat read her first book (a picture book) while potty training at the age of one and half. Reading became an addiction and a must during subsequent potty sessions. Writing as a passion soon followed when Kat was in the fifth grade. She drew a picture storybook, hand-stitched the pages together, and presented it to a class of second graders. The children loved hearing Kat’s story and that cemented Kat’s love for writing.

Kat wrote ‘My Cup of Tea, Summer of Love’ during maternity leave. While caring for her newborn, Kat sacrificed nap time and much needed rest in order to write. When her baby slept, she quickly typed away, ignoring carpal tunnel. Now Kat works full-time by day. By night, she’s a dedicated mommy and a writer. She hopes to be able to spend more time with her son, Philly Cheese Steak, and write for a living in the near future.

Dreams do come true, when you believe in them and work hard. Many of Kat’s dreams have come true and she wishes the same for all her fans and readers.

Kat is also a Doctor of Physical Therapy and a Certified Lymphedema Therapist. She also runs a tween/teen empire, Nummyz Productions. Nummyz Productions creates original Flash games for girls and provides them with a safe community, love advice, free stories, and support. Nummyz Productions publishes books and e-books. Kat’s company has also created websites for celebrities of The Young and the Restless (Kate Linder) and Flash games for multi-million dollar company LittleMissMatched.

Author links:

Facebook / Twitter / Web / Goodreads / Amazon

‘Maid for Me’ book trailer

Review:

So… this review might be slightly biased because this novella by Kat Lieu has two of my favourite things: an innocent ‘girl meets boy’ love story and baking/running a bakery. This is my own personal dream and I loved how this featured in the story.

‘My Cup of Tea’ is an easy-going romance with the added sweetness of desserts. The love story between Sara and Ian is a little predictable but I think this just added to my enjoyment of the story.  However,  Lieu does do something different to her contemporaries by switching the first person narrative between Sara and Ian each chapter. It was sweet to see how their feelings towards one another develop and even more so the fact that they had such similar opinions without realising it.

What did surprise me was how young Sara is. At 18, I guess I was expecting to read a romance about a girl who is slightly older,  but then I guess Lieu here is trying to appeal to a younger audience. Another surprise for me was how much I enjoyed this novella. I have not had much luck with novellas in the past and whilst this was a quick read, it felt “just right”. What I mean by that is the characters or plot didn’t need more development,  so it didn’t come across as rushed.  I didn’t feel bored reading it and actually felt quite sad when I got to the end! That being said, I am reluctant to consider this as a ‘comedy’ because I didn’t find any of the plot funny but more of a piece of young romance fiction.

The tension that exists between Sara and Ian were unusual. With Ian’s dead ex-girlfriend also called Sarah (note the added “h”) and whom the bakery was started by, his difficulty in moving on made me feel quite sorry for Sara, particularly with the closing scene. It is as if there are three people in the relationship and readers are left wondering how Ian can move on. Whilst Sara does try her best to remain detached from Ian, circumstances throw them together and despite his hang-ups, left me wanting to see them have a happy ending. However, as this is the first part of the story, we are left not knowing what happens with their relationship.

As an avid baker,  I really enjoyed the glimpses Lieu provided to the desserts made at the bakery. Whether intentional or not,  I felt really inspired to whip up Sara’s cakes in the kitchen and I think it is a shame Lieu did not provide the recipes at the end of the story. Still,  even I know you can’t have it all!

I really enjoyed this novella and am keen to read the follow-up story.  It is a sweet love story and I was left hoping Sara would not be taken for a ride. I really hope I get the opportunity to review ‘My Cup of Tea,  too’.

This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Giveaway:

The writer, Kat Lieu, is giving away four eBook copies of ‘Maid for Me’ and one print copy at each stop of her blog tour. This give-away is open to USA residents only. Make sure to follow the tour and enter at every stop by leaving a comment with a valid email address. Winners will be randomly selected by the author after the tour is over!

Excerpt from the novel:

A minute ago, when I noticed someone approaching me, I couldn’t help but ogle at perfectly-formed man pecs and a tapered waist sporting well-defined washboard abs. Droplets of water glisten on his tan skin. Said tan skin belongs to a guy, a hot guy walking toward me. Water from the pool drips off his dark hair. His lean and muscular legs are made for running. His blue swim trunks, wet and plastered to his skin, leaves little to my imagination. I gulped. I felt his eyes on me, all hot and smoldering. Having a feeling that a handsome face goes along with his hot bod, my eyes traveled upward to confirm my theory.

Sharp features. Chiseled jawline. Straight nose with two nostrils that are perfectly shaped and sized. Cellophane forest-green eyes filled with intelligence. Hot…

But too bad it’s him, that jerk from Millie’s wedding.

Click the link to get yourself a copy of the novel.

my cup of tea banner (1)To follow the tour of ‘My Cup of Tea’ by Kat Lieu, please click here.

Drama and turmoil for a mother and her two daughters

‘Better Days Will Come’ – Pam Weaver

5-star-rating

Image courtesy of goodreads.com

Better Days Will Come – Pam Weaver

Worthing, 1947:

Widowed Grace Roberts comes home from her factory job one day to find that her eldest daughter Bonnie has run away to London. Utterly distraught she has no choice but to carry on with her life, struggling to make ends meet for her and youngest daughter Rita. Her boss, Norris Finley is a powerful and calculating man. He promises to assist Grace, but his help will come at a hefty price…

Pregnant Bonnie arrives in London eager to be reunited with George so they can begin their new life together. But while she waits anxiously on the platform at Victoria station, he never turns up. Unable to return home as she can’t bear the thought of bringing shame to her family, she is left to fend for herself and her unborn baby.

Disturbed by the apparent relationship between her mother and Norris, Rita flees home and meets Emilio who she marries. Yet Emilio is guarding a deep secret and when Rita uncovers the truth, she is left heartbroken.

Caught in the very worst of times and separated from one another, can the strong bond of family love eventually bring Grace, Bonnie and Rita back together again?

From the start of this novel, it is clear that the close relationship Grace believed she had with her daughters has fractured, and the cracks continue to spread as more wrongs are carried out and the three characters drift further apart. The desperation to see the “silver lining” drives Grace and Bonnie to new lows, whilst her youngest daughter, Rita, appears very innocent in the ways of life.

The villain of this novel, Norris Finley, causes trouble for all three women and I was desperate to see him punished for his actions. The web of lies he has woven around the town where he lives is impressive as are the means he will go to to keep his secrets undiscovered. But when we are introduced to his wife and we learn more about her as a character, I knew that she would become the catalyst to his downfall at long last.

I enjoyed the way that Weaver linked her characters through relationships, previous events and plot development. My heart was in my mouth at times because of the tension as the novel reached its climax, and this really made it a page-turner for me. However, what was disappointing for me was how naive she has made Rita. Her relationship with Emilio is obviously wrong and the signs that are around Rita go blissfully unnoticed. Yes, Weaver wants to create an innocent young woman who is quite naive, but I found it more that Rita was dense and a little stupid, which was just a bit irritating for me.

This is the first book that I have read by Pam Weaver and I really enjoyed it. A heart-warming finish, all the characters get their “just desserts” and there were plenty of surprises along the way. A drama that explores post-war desperations, it was lovely to read a book with such a happy ending.

Rooting for all the characters to find happiness

‘Divine Moves’ – Ellyn Oaksmith

4-star-rating

Divine Moves - Ellyn Oaksmith

Divine Moves – Ellyn Oaksmith

Seventeen years of loving is a hard habit to break…  

Meryl thought things couldn’t get any worse. She’s caught her husband in bed with the neighbor. She just found out she’s broke. Then her outrageous mother, Faye, shows up. 

Faye wants to be a grandmother and has money to loan so it’s hard to say no. But what Meryl doesn’t know is that Faye, a former stripper and born again Christian, plans on opening an exotic dance and women’s fitness studio in Meryl’s affluent suburban community.  

When Meryl’s book club gets roped into promoting the studio by dancing at a charity tea, they discover that their laced up ‘burb’ isn’t as proper as they think. As her husband fights to win her back, Meryl grows increasingly attracted to a handsome sheriff, recovering from his own loss. As a crisis looms, Meryl must face her demons from the past. But first she has to get through Christmas. 

Funny, sad and sweet, ‘Divine Moves’ reveals the forces that derail our lives and the sometimes divine intervention that keeps us on track. 

 About the author:
Ellyn Oaksmith

Ellyn Oaksmith

“I’ve been hooked on writing since 4th grade when my story of an alley cat was read in class as an example of a good scene setting. I just about fell off the chair in utter joy. I was a total goner when a film I’d written while at the American Film Institute was screened and people laughed. At the right places!

At Smith College I gave my professor a heart attack when I compared ‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles’, the book, to the movie.

I write every day from 10-2 although while editing, it’s much longer. I live in Seattle Washington with my family and my shelter dog who is my workout partner. I love to interact with readers on Facebook and Tumblr.”

 Author links:

Review:

This is the first book that I have read by Ellyn Oaksmith and I really enjoyed it. I was a bit dubious when I read the blurb and don’t think this gives the novel the justice it deserves. Exploring how a family can be rocked by a single event, ‘Divine Moves’ leaves you wanting every character to find happiness at the end of the story, even though you know it is not going to be possible.

At the start of each chapter, Oaksmith has included a quote from someone about love or marriage. I really enjoyed reading these and found these quite entertaining. Such pessimistic comments about love did make me laugh and provided a break from the story. Indeed, it became quite easy to make links with the characters and their experiences of love in relation to the quotes that the author used.

I really wanted all of the characters in this novel to find happiness at the end of the story, but knew this would ultimately come at the cost of another character’s peace. Sam, the local sheriff, deserves to be happy at last after the death of his wife, but I knew this would ultimately sacrifice Meryl’s fragile marriage and break up the family unit. Yes, it is clear that Meryl finds it difficult to forgive her husband but with the problems being faced by her children, Henry and Nathalie, it had to be Sam that made this sacrifice. I didn’t think it would be possible that Meryl’s mother, Faye, would be such a likeable character after how Meryl behaves towards her, but I enjoyed the force and drama she brought to Meryl’s life. Although Faye has her own demons, she is a breath of fresh air to the troubled household and becomes the rock that her daughter and grandchildren need her to be.

The charity event does not make a proper appearance until the closing of the novel and I did find this surprising. I had assumed that this would be a central part to the story, but instead it focuses on love and family relationships. That being said, it came at a time when Faye and Meryl had a stronger mother-daughter relationship and it was warming to see them being successful together. Indeed, I think it is this release that both characters needed to find each other and whilst there are many references to God and Faye’s Jesus, I did not find this ruining my enjoyment of the story.

This is a great story to read and one that explores cracks in a family unit that were just waiting to appear. It was comforting to see how the characters adapted and the ending gave hope that everything was going to be ok for most of them. I think it would have been good if Oaksmith had included a closing chapter just to summarise how the characters had moved on, but I guess that is just part of the novel’s charm: you are left to imagine that everyone, including Sam, does find their happy ever after.

Click here to get yourself a copy of this novel

Divine-Moves-Ellyn-Oaksmith

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Female freedom fighters

‘Kingdom of Shadows’ – Barbara Erskine

5-star-rating

Image courtesy of goodreads.com

Kingdom of Shadows – Barbara Erskine

In a childless and unhappy marriage, Clare Royland is rich and beautiful – but lonely. And fueling her feelings of isolation is a strange, growing fascination with an ancestress from the distant past. Troubled by haunting inexplicable dreams that terrify – but also powerfully compel – her, Clare is forced to look back through the centuries for answers.

In 1306, Scotland is at war. Isobel, Countess of Buchan, faces fear and the prospect of untimely death as the fighting surrounds her. But passionate and headstrong, her trials escalate when she is persecuted for her part in crowning Robert the Bruce, her lover.

Duncairn, Isobel’s home and Clare’s beloved heritage, becomes a battleground for passions that span the centuries. As husband Paul’s recklessness threatens their security, Clare must fight to save Duncairn, and to save herself from the powers of Isobel…

This is a typical Barbara Erskine novel which follows two female protagonists – one in modern England and the second a character from the past. ‘Kingdom of Shadows’ is a historic, romantic thriller that shifts from rich Clare Royland, to her Scottish roots and her 14th century ancestor, Isobel, the fiery and independent Countess of Buchanan. The journey of the two characters is thrilling and claustrophobic as each woman seeks freedom from their husbands, and, in Clare’s case, the nightmares.

The disintegration of Clare’s marriage and the distrust her friends and family show towards her makes the reader feel desperate towards her plight. The change that her husband undergoes and the irrational thinking is shocking and at every turn that Clare tries to escape, he has blocked her way. The reader knows the truth of what is happening and at times I felt like screaming at the characters and how they have all been beguiled by Paul Royland’s web of lies.

The parallels that emerge between Clare and Isobel as two women fighting for independence are fully solidified at the end of the novel. Whilst the central setting of Duncairn Castle brings the two women together and sets off the chain of events for Clare over inheritance and ownership, I found myself only truly exploring the connections between Clare and Isobel once I had finished the novel. I think this is an interesting way of taking the reader through the story and it is great that the story still plays on your mind once you have finished it

Whilst Erksine typically centralises her story on two women, I still found myself wondering what was happening to other important male characters. This was a little frustrating but readers have to place their trust in Erskine in the faith that they will find out the movements of Paul, Robert the Bruce and Isobel’s husband. This did not ruin my enjoyment of the story and, having read so many of Barbara Erskine’s novels, I knew that her central protagonists would reveal the subplots in their own time.

I really enjoyed reading this novel. Yes, there are quite a few characters in 1306 Scotland and there is a lot of Scottish history running throughout, but this did not ruin my enjoyment. Do not feel you have to know your history in advance of reading this book and don’t be surprised if you find yourself looking up the stories once you have finished! I would recommend this if you do enjoy historical novels; it is such a thrilling read that even though it is nearly 800 pages long, the pace never slows for a moment.