Monday, January 21, 2019

Abigail by Jess Heileman {Review}

Abigail by Jess Heileman
ebook, 250 pages
Publication: January 22nd 2019 
Source: I received a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are my own and were voluntarily given.
For Abigail Blakeslee, becoming a debutante and entering Society is happening far too quickly. But now, foregoing her first Season has brought an unwanted invitation to join her aunt and cousins for a summer at Timpton House, the large estate of the Stanton family.

Reluctantly accepting, Abigail is thrust into the vexing world of social propriety and match making. More vexing still is her cousin’s suitor, the young Timpton heir—Edwin Stanton. Moody and distant at times, remarkably endearing at others, Edwin seems a puzzle she can never solve, but can never quite put away. But then, Abigail has her own secret to hide--her own mystery to conceal. Perhaps such puzzles are better left unsolved, or perhaps love can find a solution.
My Review: 5 Stars

I love a delicious story full of conflicting personalities, hidden secrets, and a budding romance, and this one is just that. Abigail has had a hard life and this new situation that she's almost unwillingly thrust into is a challenge. It's refreshing for the times to see her hold true to herself and not to lose herself in the expectations of society.

Abigail is such a darling protagonist and has no qualms about helping those around her, especially the Bragg family is who struggling and down on their luck. I adored her and her selfless, sweet, and strong personality. Edwin is an enigma, but he quickly grew on me and I found myself eagerly anticipating their interactions, especially as he often found Abigail in compromising predicaments.

I loved the little triangles of relationships that emerged and really enjoyed the twists that popped up, completely taking me by surprise. I'm quite surprised that Heileman is a debut author, as I found this to be a very entertaining and engaging story. My emotions and attention were held hostage for several hours and I'm looking forward to more stories by this author!

Content: mild descriptions of violence; mild romance; very mild religion

Forever Yours: Laurie Winter

Winner Takes All by Laurie Winter

Storm Thompson wants to be anywhere but Liberty Ridge.
Especially since his hometown also contains his childhood nemesis,
Colleen Gardner. With a young daughter and mentally ill mother to care
for, he struggles to simply make ends meet. Every day, his goal of
owning an organic farm slips further out of reach.

Psychiatrist Colleen Gardner has her sights set on
starting a retreat to help veterans suffering from PTSD. She's done
well but her small town fundraisers just aren't enough.

"The Great American Scavenger Hunt" TV show offers a
million-dollar prize, and Colleen and Storm are selected as
competitors. Both resolve to do whatever is needed to win, even using
the other to get ahead. Storm and Colleen compete to fund their
dreams, but their already tattered relationship becomes more strained.
Only one will win the money. But will love prove the ultimate prize?

Great American Scavenger Hunt
Day 1
Storm stood
on the stairs of the US Capitol Building, and the weight of his travel
pack dug into his shoulders. Before sunrise, all the contestants were
bussed seven miles over from their hotel in Arlington. A few other
contestants started conversations, and his minimal replies made clear
he wasn’t here to make friends. Colleen ignored him, which was good.
Her mere presence provided enough distraction.
He had a
good view of her down at the other end of the line. How could she
stand upright underneath the weight of her pack? The thing looked as
heavy as her. He’d bought his at the secondhand shop in Liberty Ridge.
Colleen probably shopped at a high-end outdoor store that carried the
latest gizmos and gadgets. Her pack and its contents might cost the
equivalent of a small country’s GDP.
When he’d
seen her yesterday at lunch, he almost didn’t recognize her. Her short
hair looked amazingly sexy. This morning, she wore a tousled look,
like she’d just rolled out of bed, which she likely had being that the
clock just struck seven-thirty am.
The host of
the show, Burt Blackstone, walked before the assembled group. He stood
medium height, with a trim build, and a head of closely cropped,
salt-and-pepper hair. Today, Burt wore khaki shorts and an orange
button-up top. “I want to wish every one of you good luck. We’ll start
filming shortly. I’ll go over the rules once more, mostly for the
audience’s sake. Then, I’ll give the signal, and you’ll be off.”
A low
murmur drifted over the group.
shifted the weight of his travel pack and mentally walked through his
plan. He held a red envelope, which was identical to the ones given to
the other contestants. Let’s rock and roll.

"The journey they take physically and emotionally is one
that sucked me and wouldn't let go until the book was done. Thank you
for writing such a wonderful book!" Goodreads review

Author Laurie Winter

Laurie Winter is a true warrior of the heart. Inspired by
her dreams, she creates authentic characters who overcome the odds and
find true love. Fans of Brenda Novak and Debbie Macomber will likely
enjoy Laurie Winter's books as well.
She keeps her life balanced with regular yoga practice and
running. When not pounding the pavement or the keyboard, she's
enjoying time with her family, who are scattered between Wisconsin and
Michigan. Laurie has three kids and one fantastic husband, all who
inspire her to chase her dreams.

Giveaway Details

$25 Amazon Gift Code or $25 in PayPal Cash

Ends 2/11/19

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use
an Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified
prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or
older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be
chosen by Rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will
have 48 hours to respond or a new winner may be chosen. This giveaway
is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, BookBub,
Instagram, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise
specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds
of winning. This giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A
& Clean Wholesome Romance and is
sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, January 18, 2019

The Benched Billionaire by Jennifer Griffith {Review}

The Benched Billionaire by Jennifer Griffith
Kindle Edition, 201 pages
Published January 15th 2019 
Source: I received a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are my own and were voluntarily given.

He’s been benched and needs redemption. She’s the single mom of their child. He’s back in town to make amends.
Charlotte Nilsen never thought she’d see McCoy again after he hit the big time in the NFL. After all, she’s the one who insisted on an annulment after his scandal with the cheerleader.

She’s rebuilt her life now. Her one regret is she never told McCoy their brief marriage resulted in a son.

McCoy Armstrong has been benched. A shoulder injury will do that to an NFL quarterback. Enough time has passed that he dares to hope that his ex-wife Charlotte will forgive the follies of his youth. When he arrives home in Getaway Bay, he finds Charlotte living next door and his house destroyed by a storm.

No amount of money, even a billionaire’s entire bank account, can buy a spouse’s trust. He must find another way.

Is this injured quarterback strong enough to rebuild everything he has broken and reclaim everything he has lost?

Escape to Getaway Bay and join the Clean Billionaire Beach Club for some seriously sweet romance.

Each book can be read as a standalone, with a happily-ever-after ending, and clean, sweet-without-losing-the-heat romance!

My Review: 5 Stars

Hawaii...romance...a second chance. Yes! I love Jennifer Griffith's writing style. Her characters are funny, unique, and really come to life through her words. And this setting? I can totally visualize the tropical beaches, lava fields, swaying palm trees, and warm, salty air. I think I need a trip to Getaway Bay, ASAP. If only it was a real place...

Charlotte and McCoy have a tumultuous past, thanks in part to a trampy ex-cheerleader. They each have secrets and hurt, but they've also both clung to their hopes, dreams, and love, which gives them a good starting point to build their second chance on. 

I love the solid characters and the way they interact with each other, but most especially the undeniable undercurrent of attraction that sizzles between them. This is definitely a swoony romance and I'm excited to get myself immersed in Getaway Bay again soon.

PS I LOVE the alliteration in the titles of this series--how fun is that?!

Content: mild, swoony romance

Read all the books in the Clean Billionaire Beach Club Romance series by USA Today bestselling author Elana Johnson, USA Today bestselling author Bonnie R. Paulson, and Jennifer Griffith:

1. The Brainy Billionaire
2. The Brawny Billionaire
3. The Bashful Billionaire
4. The Brazen Billionaire
5. The Billionaire's Bodyguard
6. The Billionaire's Boyfriend
7. The Broke Billionaire
8. The Brilliant Billionaire
9. The Bad Boy Billionaire
10. The Blue-Eyed Billionaire
11. The Brave Billionaire
12. The Belated Billionaire
13. The Billionaire's Blue Christmas
14. The Benched Billionaire

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Return to Maplewood Mountain by Elizabeth Bromke {Review}

Return to Maplewood by Elizabeth Bromke

Kindle Edition, 1, 200 pages
Published January 15th 2019 by Elizabeth Bromke 
Source: I received a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are my own and were voluntarily given.
Some say you can't go home again...

Anna Delaney has spent her entire adult life spinning through nightclubs, kissing strangers, and fortifying her edgy, high-tech career. Benders and business meetings have been the Band-Aids on a deep wound for the confident, gorgeous redhead. But when Anna’s sister falls madly in love with Anna’s boss, the delicate bandages begin to unravel, and there is only one place left to turn.

Dutch McCree was born and raised in a tiny Arizona mining town, and his low-heel upbringing made him into the gruff, hardworking, and successful contractor he quickly became. After the passing of Dutch’s wife, his hard heart left space for only one girl: his young daughter. When a new project takes Dutch from Phoenix to Maplewood, Arizona, he meets potential client Kurt Cutler and Kurt’s recently promoted Co-President. Dutch is wooed by the chance to expand his business, but he finds he has a soft spot for the little mountain town. And maybe for something else, too.

Anna and Dutch each must come to terms with their own difficult pasts before they can find true happiness. Return to Maplewood is a story of redemption and a reminder that you can always go home.
My Review: 4 Stars 

I've wondered about Anna Delaney since reading Christmas in Maplewood Mountain (you can see my review HERE). She's close with her sister, Mary, but obviously has something unrevealed issues that cause her to be distant at times. And wow, I was surprised at all this story disclosed!

Anna is a driven career woman who parties hard on the weekends, but sometimes a person needs to mask deep pain. Her first encounter with Dutch brings an instant allure, and he has secrets of his own. I love how these two characters collide in a tangle of attraction, with a tug-of-war of conflicting emotions. The battle to resolve past pains is strong, yet there is a gentleness that wafts throughout the story.

This delightfully charming mountain town is quickly capturing my heart, as are the people who dwell in it.

Content: mild+ romance (innuendo, kissing); mild language

Forever Yours: Author Jo Noelle

Love Match by Jo Noelle

Can two people learn to trust again to make their marriage of convenience into a love match?

With university behind him, Lord Gerard Morrow the Earl of Norham, is preparing for a grand tour to the future with a fellow time traveler. His first night home, he receives a summons from his father the Duke of Kyloe to come to Scotland or their family will be ruined.

Lady Layla Colvin was roused from her sleep to marry the duke’s son as part of settling a gambling debt. Everything she looked forward to vanished with the words "I will." She will never have a come-out, or a suitor, or a wedding dress—and apparently not a husband either.

Two years later when Gerard walks back into her life, she runs the other way. How can she trust a man who abandoned her immediately after the vows were said?

Gerard Morrow

No good news ever comes after midnight nor in a torrential rainstorm. Yet there Gerard Morrow, Earl Norham, stood in his long shirt and his mother in her wrapper, looking anything but a duchess, as their butler, Davies, accepted two letters from a rider. He waved the rider on to the kitchen door to get a hot cup of tea and await the family’s reply.

Davies’ candle guttered from the breeze of closing the door, and the small group moved farther into the Great House. The butler lit two more candles and turned with the letters in hand, extending one to the Duchess Kyloe and the other to Gerard. “For you, Your Grace. And My Lord.”

The notes were damp from the rain and Gerard’s mother held it with shaking hands before handing it to her son. “You read it.” She shoved the letter to Gerard and waited, muttering, “That man. Love him. I do, but he better not have gotten himself into trouble. Or worse. What’s worse though? Dead—that’s what. Oh, Gerard tell me he’s not dead.” His mother’s French accent deepened when she was anxious, and at this moment it was thick as clafoutis.

There was no signature, but the stamp of the Duke of Kyloe in the wax from his father’s signet ring told him who it was from. Gerard read the note aloud to her, “Do not worry, my dearest Shamay. I’ll be home in a few days. It will all be settled then.” Gerard handed her the letter though she’d never learned to read—English or her native French. He knew things must be was bad. His father had only penned three sentences to try to reassure her.

His mother stood beside him, her hands clutched to her chest. “What of the other letter?” she asked.

Earl Norham separated the seal and unfolded the letter. His eyes scanned it quickly, without reading it aloud to his mother. Gerard, Do not read this to your mother. It is for your eyes—your ears only. Come to Scotland, now. Your future, your very life and mine depend upon your speed. Directions to Colvin Keep just over the border past Coldstream were included at the bottom of the letter.

The Duchess’s hands grasped Gerard’s forearm, and her eyes pleaded to know what it said.

“Father wants me to come where he is.” Gerard hoped that his voice sounded nonchalant.

But something must have tipped off his mother. “Your Father needs you. Hurry. Change.” She pushed him toward the staircase.

He had been home less than six hours and three of those had been in sleep, having traveled home today from university. His mind whirled, half irritation and half disbelief before he turned up the stairs. His father should have been here to welcome him instead of stirring up some kind of trouble for himself across the border.

“Davies, send word to the stables to ready a good horse.”

Within minutes, Gerard was dressed, draped in an oil coat, and on his horse, riding through November rain toward Scotland. Wind blew against his cheek and rain pelted his back. At least he wasn’t facing into the storm.

What in the devil’s name is Father up to now?Gerard had been worried for a year now, too much gambling and drinking in public rooms. Mother tried to keep Father at home to lessen the whispers that inevitably started. Northumberland didsn’t have real society, but his reputation was tarnishing nevertheless. Gossip traveled even to him at Cambridge though London was several day’s travel.

His horse trotted along the dark road, and his mind whirled about his future. Gerard just hoped that he could have a grand tour before everything fell completely apart—a year. He’d even be satisfied with six months before he had to come back to take over the responsibilities his father should be shouldering. From what he’d seen of the house in the short while he’d been there, it needed care. Upkeep and repairs lagged behind need. It seemed as if there were fewer servants than before, and the road was sorely unkempt.

How much had his father lost? He sucked in a cold breath. Apparently, enough to cripple the estate. Four months then, if he couldn’t have a year. He could visit France and Spain. He’d save Italy for a trip in the future.

It took several hours to get to Colvin Keep. Gerard’s eyes burned for want of sleep, and his legs were strained and weak from several days in the saddle prior to this fast flight over the border when he left his horse with the groom. The sun was turning the cloud-covered eastern sky a milky gray.

Before Gerard could mount the stairs, the Duke of Kyloe burst through the front door.

Relief tempered the worries Gerard had ridden with the last twenty miles. He looked over his father from head to toe. His health seemed good, no injuries, no illness. He didn’t even appear to be in his cups. He must have been sitting near a window, watching for his son’s arrival and quickly ushered him to the house.

“Well done. The note arrived in good time, as did you,” his father said, pulling him out of his coat as the butler began to remove it.

There was a cry upstairs before it was muffled behind a slammed door. It surprised Gerard more than startling him. The sound was more one of excitement than fear or pain. He supposed it could be insanity, but he hoped not.

“Come now, I’ve a brandy for you and someone important to introduce you to.” His father lead him away.

The house was quite awake as he walked through to a back parlor. Several maids rushed past with arms full, and there were candles burning all along the way. His father’s host must take country hours to the extreme for there to be so much commotion before sun up. When they entered the room a large man was sitting in a chair near the fire, otherwise, they were alone.

His father cleared his voice loudly and said, “Charles, please allow me to introduce my son and heir, Lord Norham, Gerard Morrow. Gerard, this is the Marquess of Roxburgh.” The men exchanged greetings, then Gerard’s father commented to their host, “I haven’t spoken to him about our agreement yet, so if we could have a minute before meeting you in the chapel.” His voice trailed off with obvious expectation.

“Good then, I’ll leave you to it.” Charles nodded, downed his drink, and left, leaving Gerard alone with his father. He stopped at the doorway, pulling a watch from his pocket. “This business must be concluded within the hour, or honoring our original arrangement will be expected.” Then he closed the door behind him.

“The chapel?” Gerard looked toward his father. “And what agreement? Your letter made it sound like life and death. What have you done?” A scowl pulled on his lips.

“You’ll want this,” he said, handing Gerard a glass of brandy.

Gerard set the glass aside without taking a taste. “Out with it.”

“I attended a card party of sorts at the seat of Lord Hume of Berwick. I was doing well, so I didn’t see trouble in allowing the stakes to rise.”

“How much?” Gerard interrupted. He didn’t need to hear the details just the total of their losses.

“Well, there’s an easy solution to it all.”

“How much did you wager? Or should I say lose?” Gerard folded his arms.

His father gazed out the window as his hand resting on the back of a chair trembled. Without looking at his son, he replied, “All of it. And more.” Several long moments passed before he turned toward his son and said, “We are ruined.”

Gerard picked up the glass of brandy, downing it in one gulp. “Tell me I heard you wrong.” He slumped into the nearest seat.

“You will still own the family seat at Norham Castle, pile of rocks that it be, and the land when it is passed to you, but you will likely still be paying off my debt into your own old age. I have lost more than I have or can even reasonably get if I were I to sell everything of value and double rents on the land for decades to come. Upon my death, I will leave you the title, the responsibilities, and abject poverty to go with it.”

Gerard was silent for a long moment trying to calm down. He had to breathe slowly through his nose to maintain his composure. “Father, do I even want to know why we are meeting the marquess in the chapel?”

Duke Kyloe sat heavily on a couch, dropping his head into his hands. “It’s the only way out. You’ve not heard him wrong. The marquess has made a generous offer—if you marry his daughter tonight, in moments really, the debt is dissolved.”

Gerard shot to his feet as a cold flame passed through him. He backed away from his father. “I will not. I do no consent. I’m but twenty-three. Why would you tell a man I would marry his daughter in the middle of the night?”

His father had truly wagered beyond all reason and sold Gerard’s life for the flip of a few cards. He wanted to run. To leave and never look back. Father had clearly lost his mind. He paced around, back and forth, trying to sort it out in his mind. “I leave in two days for my tour, it’s planned and arranged. James Cottrell is coming—he’s meeting me tomorrow at home.”

“There’s plenty of time for all that, you’ll see.” The old duke shook his head. “It’s not up to you. I’m afraid, the bargain has been struck and accep—.”

Gerard cut him off, “Father, no. You realize that we are already spread too thin as it is, since last time. What will you tell Mother?”

He stepped closer to Gerard. “I’ll tell her nothing of this. You’ll marry this night and free me of all my debt to Charles, and by extension you too, or we will never recover.”

If he gambled away what Gerard suspected he had, then it was true that Gerard would be heir of nothing but debt. Everything was lost. He raked his hands through his hair and continued his path, pacing the floor.

Gerard owned nothing outside of the estate and only then upon inheritance. If it were only him, Gerard might allow his father to crumble beneath debt in his old age. But it would affect his mother greatly. I can’t put Maman though that.His shoulders slumped. Annoyance and sorrow twined together in his gut. He was defeated before this conversation began. “There really is no choice then. I’ll agree.”

“Of course you will. There is a dowry, but it will not be transferred until you two are living agreeably together.”

“Good. Then you can’t gamble away anything further while I’m gone. And I'm still going on my grand tour.” Not as grand as he’d hoped. Already he was calculating how long he could really be gone before his father was back up to no good at some Lord’s card table.

“You'll be a married man now, so behave yourself.”

“Are you serious? I’m the only person in this conversation right now with integrity. I don’t think you need lecture me. A there are no worries there. I'm going with James.”

“He hardly removes my worry,” his father replied. “You've known each other since you were on leading strings. And his reputation is worse than mine.”

“Ha!” Gerard doubted that. “Nonetheless, he's coming, and he'll keep me straight.”

“See that he does. We've never had a Duke of Kyloe that wasn't madly in love with his wife.”

“Please, you've already ensured that I’ll fail on that account. I’m marrying someone I’ve don’t know—never even seen.”

“Marriage is easy. Apply yourself to her happiness, and you’ll both have it.”

Marriage was easy? He wondered how easy all of this was for his mother. He wouldn’t have to worry about making this sham of a marriage work at the moment—that can come later—much, much later. Gerard wasn’t even going to be home. “I’m leaving after the ceremony and going on my tour the next day.” Gerard knew he had to travel from London on the full moon.

“There was no other agreement beyond the marriage contract and settlement. You’re free to do so, and she will live at home with her parents for a time.”

His father turned to leave the room, but Gerard caught his arm. “What’s her name?”

“I hadn’t asked. We’ll hear it at the ceremony. At any rate, it will be Lady Morrow moments from now.” He drank the last of his cup and walked Gerard to the chapel to await his bride.

Author Jo Noelle

Jo Noelle is a Colorado native but lived in several mountain states--Idaho, Utah, and California. She has two adult children and three small kids.

She teaches teachers and students about reading and writing, grows freakishly large tomatoes, enjoys cooking (especially desserts,) builds furniture, sews beautiful dresses, and likes to go hiking in the nearby mountains.

Oh, and by the way, she's two people--a mother/daughter writing team. We write dessert romances--satisfyingly sweet, and you'll want more.

Giveaway Details

$25 Amazon Gift Code or $25 in PayPal Cash

Ends 2/7/19

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by Rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner may be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, BookBub, Instagram, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. This giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader & Clean Wholesome Romance and is sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

a Rafflecopter giveaway