Tuesday, July 23, 2013

DEEP FRIED TROUBLE by Tyora Moody



About the Book
Widowed and officially retired, EUGEENA PATTERSON throws herself into organizing the neighborhood association. This presents a great opportunity to re-connect with old friends and get to know new neighbors like recently widowed Amos Jones, that is until Eugeena stumbles upon her estranged neighbor’s dead body. Eugeena’s daughter is fingered as a prime suspect, but where is she?

Determined to find her missing daughter, Eugeena and Amos sort through a list of neighbors with shady or unknown backgrounds. The more she searches, the more Eugeena becomes unsure about this neighborhood association idea. Someone closer than Eugeena thinks, wants to keep it that way.

Book Trailer:
View the book trailer below. 



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Eugeena Patterson, a recently retired school teacher, charges into the world of investigation when she stumbles upon the body of an old friend who has been murdered and her missing daughter is named as a person of interest.

Enlisting the aid of Amos Jones, a neighbor who is a retired police officer, she is determined to solve this case.

From the nice-but-nosey neighbor Louise to Porgy the Corgi, the characters are so true-to-life that I feel like I know them personally.

The plot is very well-written. Eugeena’s segue from teacher to amateur detective is seamless and totally believable. I like that the characters’ faith is evident through the book, but it doesn’t overwhelm the story. There are no preachy-feel-good-everybody-needs-to-go-to-church sentiments or any bible-thumping here. Eugeena relies heavily on her faith in God and that’s just how she is, it's not all in your face.

Like in her Victory Gospel Series, the author touches on an important issue. In this book, that issue is post-partum depression. After a conversation with Leesa, her daughter with whom she has a somewhat strained relationship, she realizes her daughter may be suffering from it. I hope in subsequent books, the issue is explored more and that Leesa gets help for it.

While the murder is ultimately solved, enough things are left open to make me anxious to know what happens next.

  • What’s going on between Cedric and Carmen?
  • What’s the real story about Leesa and Chris?
  • Will Eugeena stop fighting the attraction and let herself get “friendlier” with Amos?
Eugeena and Amos strike me as similar to Alvirah and Willie Meehan, characters in a series by Mary Higgins Clark. I greatly enjoy the Meehan stories, but I identify more with the characters in Deep Fried Trouble. They’re more like me. Not outside the realm of possibilities for people like me. My world is more similar to Eugeena’s family than to Alvirah, a former cleaning lady who struck it rich when she won $40 million dollars in a lottery. I know that despite the odds, that’s possible and does happen, but still…

I give the story four stars out of five and will be breathlessly waiting for the next installment.
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About the Author

Serving up a creative mix, flavored with FAITH. 

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.  — 1 Colossians 3:17 NIV

Tyora Moody is an author and entrepreneur.  Her debut novel, When Rain Falls, was released March 2012 (Urban Christian). This is the first book in the Victory Gospel series. The second book in the Victory Gospel Series, When Memories Fade, was released in April 2013 (Urban Christian).

Deep Fried Trouble, the first book in the Eugeena Patterson Mystery series will be released June 2013.

Tyora has coined her books as Soul-Searching Suspense.  She is a member of Sisters in Crime and American Christian Fiction Writers. She served as a judge for the Christy Awards for three years.

She owns and operates TywebbinCreations.com, a design and marketing company.  For over twelve years, she has worked with authors, small business owners and non-profit organizations to develop their online presence. For free tips, how-to guides and e-courses, visit DIYwithTy.com.

When Tyora isn’t working for a client or doing something literary, she enjoys spending time with family, catching a movie on the big screen, traveling and when the mood hits her, baking cookies. Visit the author online at TyoraMoody.com.

Visit the author online at:

View the blog tour schedule at:


Deep Fried Trouble Contest
Book Giveaway! Are you ready to get into Deep Fried Trouble?

This contest is so easy! Do you want to win an autographed copy of Deep Fried Trouble? Stop by one or more of the blogs this week and leave your answer to the following questions.

You know I’m a retired social studies school teacher.  I kind of miss my students. I said kind of… Anyhow, I was curious to know, who was your favorite teacher and what subject did they teach?


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Monday, April 29, 2013

REAL MEN DON'T QUIT by Coleen Kwan

Serial bachelor. Celebrity author. Her perfect forever?

When famous author Luke Maguire decides to write his next novel in the small town of Burronga, Australia, he's sure he can ignore the fiery redhead next door. Not only has he just been burned from a high-profile breakup, but he's never been one to set down roots. No, he'll finish his novel and leave Burronga. And soon.

Tyler Jones just wants to run her business with her best friend, Ally, and take care of her three-year-old daughter, Chloe. She's never needed help from anyone, especially not a man, and the brooding, rugged writer next door can't tempt her. Not in the least.

Only Tyler and Luke can't stay away from each other. So they set rules. No staying overnight, no future plans, no sappy good-byes when Luke inevitably quits town. But the chemistry between them is too strong to contain in a rulebook. Are Luke and Tyler ready to risk their lives of independence for something more?

Title: Real Men Don’t Quit (Real Men #2)
Author: Coleen Kwan
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Length: 241 pages
Release Date: April 2013
Imprint: Bliss
ISBN: 1622660870

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Tyler is the single mother of three-year-old Chloe. Working hard to provide for her daughter, she's afraid that the girl's paternal grandmother, Gretchen, will one day succeed in taking Chloe away from her.

Luke is the author of a wildly successful novel that he secretly hates. With a looming deadline and struggling to write its sequel, he temporarily moves into his agent's house (next door to Tyler), hoping to make headway in writing the new story.

The two meet when Chloe makes her way toward the pool on Luke's temporary homestead. Luckily, Luke spots her and intercepts her before she gets close to it. He takes her back around to the front of the house and just as he asks her which way is home and she points, out runs Tyler.

The story started out a bit confusing for me. The first couple sentences said Luke stumbled into the kitchen looking for coffee after waking up in a strange house. Then, after reading a bit more, I thought he was in his own house. Then, I read further and finally figured out he was in someone named Elliot's house. So, I thought, Who the hell is Elliot? After reading on a bit longer, I got it all sorted out in my head. (It was morning and maybe I needed coffee more than Luke did.)

I had another couple bouts of disbelief as I read how Tyler stood in her living room, in her underwear, defending her ability to care for her child to a strange man wearing a t-shirt and boxers and how, in her search to find Chloe after she found the girl missing from her room, she managed to not notice a chair by the kitchen door with Chloe's shoes under it.

But then the book snuck up and grabbed me. I don't know when or how, but the story took hold and I couldn't put it down. Since I previously confessed to being a sap, this may come as no surprise -- A couple parts moved me to tears.

This was a quick read and when I got to the end, I found myself asking. That's it?" But not in a bad way. Ms. Kwan made me want more. I wanted to keep reading about Luke, Tyler, and Chloe's life now that they were a family unit. I wanted to know more about Nate and ally and their life after he surprised her with their wedding, solidifying in her mind that he truly was committed to her and their future. (I'm going to have to snag a copy of Real Men Don't Break Hearts to read the story of how their romance developed.)

For a quick beach or poolside read, this is an excellent choice.

That being said, there are some things that I would have liked to see explored/expanded. I expected Gretchen to fight dirty in trying to take Chloe from Tyler, not to just back off after a talking to by Luke. I would have also liked there to have been more to the issue of the celebrity who commissioned the custom necklace from Tyler , then refused to pay her. I thought maybe there was an issue with Paige and Seth's marriage that related to Ally (Seth is the guy who left Ally, Tyler's BFF at the altar on their wedding day) and maybe Crystal was being crappy to Tyler because of her friendship with Ally. Turns out, Crystal was just mad because she wasn't going to be the host of a Dancing With the Stars-type show and was upset about that. Then Paige's demeanor made me suspect something was going on with her, but nothing was ever revealed (maybe in the next book?). I also wanted to see more done with Luke's dad. The man abandoned his family and showed up twenty years later, broke and claiming to be recovering from recently having half his liver removed. His ending up with some rich woman was expected, but I wanted to learn about his character through his own actions/words, not mostly through what other characters said/thought about him.

While I wanted more out of the story, I give it four stars for what it is (a quick summer read), not what I wish it was.

Click the cover below to be taken to the Amazon page for Real Men Don't Quit.





Author Information

Coleen Kwan has been a bookworm all her life. At school English was her favorite subject, but for some reason she decided on a career in IT. After many years of programming, she wondered what else there was in life — and discovered writing. She loves writing contemporary romance and steampunk romance.
Coleen lives in Sydney, Australia with her partner and two children. When she isn’t writing she enjoys avoiding housework, eating chocolate, and watching The Office.

Author Website: http://www.coleenkwan.com



**Disclosure: I received an ARC of this novel for review purposes. I received no compensation, financial or otherwise.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

TAKE A CHANCE ON ME by Susan May Warren




TAKE A CHANCE ON ME by Susan May Warren

I seemed to reach the part of my TBR pile where the make-me-cry books were hiding.
The emotions of the characters are so vividly portrayed that I was reduced to a cry baby several times, a couple times not even realizing it until I realized I was blowing my nose. Mrs. Warren did an outstanding job with this book.

This is the first book in a six-book series.

Darek Christiansen is a single father, former-fire fighter turned lodge-owner-to-be. Ivy Madison is the new assistant county attorney who moves into the small town of Deep Haven. Having been shuffled around to fourteen foster homes as a child, she’s looking to establish roots and make a home for herself. The two meet when Darek acts a stand-in for his brother in an auction. No one bids on him and Ivy feels sorry for him, so she makes the winning (only) bid for him.

In Ivy, Darek sees a chance at a family for his son and a chance to be the kind of husband he should have been to his first wife, Felicity. In Darek, Ivy sees the chance for a family and a sense of belonging. Their relationship develops and Ivy finds out that something she did in the past could come between them when he finds out. Because of proposal she made during her last year of law school, Jensen, Darek’s former best friend who killed Felicity in an auto accident, was placed on probation and allowed to perform community service in lieu of going to prison.

During the course of the story, we see a rekindling of a friendship between Jensen and Claire. Since they were young, Claire loved Jensen, but believed he loved Felicity. Jensen loved Claire, but fell prey to Felicity’s charms and a competitive spirit where Darek was concerned. The two help each other work through their own internal struggles about themselves and this allows them to come closer together while Jensen struggles to complete the number of community service hours dictated in his probation agreement or else get sent to prison for four years.

We also see a fight for custody for Tiger, Darek and Felicity’s young son. Felicity’s mother has never forgiven Darek for getting her daughter pregnant and still grieving for the loss of her daughter and has waged a battle to prove Darek an unfit parent.

These interwoven stories are set against a message of love and faith in God. There were a couple of conversations about God and his love that I thought were a bit preachy, but in the context they were set in, they was realistic. Several times, those conversations touched me personally, giving me comfort.

I give this book 4.5 stars and I will definitely be on the lookout for the other books in the series. At the back of the book is an excerpt from the second book in the series, Walk on By.

(**Disclosure: I received an ARC from the publisher for purposes of a review. I received no compensation, monetary or otherwise.)

Video trailer for Take a Chance on Me:

video


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EXCERPT

My dearest Darek,

Even as I write this letter, I know I’ll tuck it away; the words on it are more of a prayer, meant for the Lord more than you. Or maybe, in the scribbling upon this journal page, the words might somehow find your heart, a cry that extends across the bond of mother and child.

The firstborn child is always the one who solves the mystery of parenthood. Before I had you, I watched other mothers and wondered at the bond between a child and a parent, the strength of it, the power to mold a woman, making her put all hopes and wishes into this tiny bundle of life that she had the responsibility to raise.

It’s an awe-filled, wonderful, terrifying act to have a child, for you suddenly wear your heart on the outside of your body. You risk a little more each day as he wanders from your arms into the world. You, Darek, were no protector of my heart. You were born with a willfulness, a courage, and a bent toward adventure that would bring me to the edge of my faith and keep me on my knees. The day I first saw you swinging from that too-enticing oak tree into the lake should have told me that I would be tested.

Your brothers shortened your name to Dare, and you took it to heart. I was never so terrified as the day you came home from Montana, fresh from your first year as a hotshot, feeling your own strength. I knew your future would take you far from Evergreen Lake. I feared it would take you far, also, from your legacy of faith.

Watching your son leave your arms has no comparison to watching him leave God’s. You never seemed to question the beliefs your father and I taught you. Perhaps that is what unsettled me the most, because without questioning, I wondered how there could be true understanding. I held my breath against the day when it would happen—life would shatter you and leave your faith bereft.

And then it did.

It brought you home, in presence if not soul. If it hadn’t been for your son, I might have done the unthinkable—stand in our gravel driveway and bar you from returning, from hiding.

Because, my courageous, bold oldest son, that is what you are doing. Hiding. Bitter and dark, you have let guilt and regret destroy your foundation, imprison you, and steal your joy. You may believe you are building a future for your son, but without faith, you have nothing to build it on. Evergreen Resort is not just a place. It’s a legacy. A foundation. A belief.

It’s the best of what I have to give you. That, and my unending prayers that somehow God will destroy those walls you’ve constructed around your heart.

Darek, you have become a mystery to me again. I don’t know how to help free you. Or to restore all you’ve lost. But I believe that if you give God a chance, He will heal your heart. He will give you a future. He will truly lead you home.

Lovingly,
Your mother


Chapter 1
Ivy Madison would do just about anything to stay in the secluded, beautiful, innocent town of Deep Haven.
Even if she had to buy a man.
A bachelor, to be exact, although maybe not the one currently standing on the stage of the Deep Haven Emergency Services annual charity auction. He looked like a redneck from the woolly woods of northern Minnesota, with curly dark-blond hair, a skim of whiskers on his face, and a black T-shirt that read, Hug a logger—you’ll never go back to trees. Sure, he filled out his shirt and looked the part in a pair of ripped jeans and boots, but he wore just a little too much “Come and get me, girls,” in his smile.
The auctioneer on stage knew how to work his audience. He regularly called out names from the crowd to entice them to bid. And apparently the town of Deep Haven loved their firefighters, EMTs, and cops because the tiny VFW was packed, the waitresses running out orders of bacon cheeseburgers and hot wings to the bidding crowd.
After the show was over, a local band would take the stage. The auction was part of the summer solstice festival—the first of many summer celebrations Deep Haven hosted. Frankly it felt like the village dreamed up events to lure tourists, but Ivy counted it as her welcoming party.
Oh, how she loved this town. And she’d only lived here for roughly a day. Imagine how she’d love it by the end of the summer, after she’d spent three months learning the names of locals, investing herself into this lakeside hamlet.
Her days of hitching her measly worldly possessions—four hand-me-down suitcases; a loose cardboard box of pictures; a garbage bag containing The Elements of Legal Style, How to Argue and Win Every Time, and To Kill a Mockingbird; and most of all, her green vintage beach bike—onto the back of her red Nissan Pathfinder were over.
Time to put down roots. Make friends.
Okay, buying a friend didn’t exactly qualify, but the fact that her money would go to help the local emergency services seemed like a good cause. And if Ivy had learned anything growing up in foster care, it was that a person had to work the system to get what she wanted.
She should be unpacking; she started work in the morning. But how long would it take, really, to settle into the tiny, furnished efficiency apartment over the garage behind the Footstep of Heaven Bookstore? And with her new job as assistant county attorney, she expected to have plenty of free time. So when the twilight hues of evening had lured her into the romance of a walk along the shoreline of the Deep Haven harbor, she couldn’t stop herself.
She couldn’t remember the last time she’d taken a lazy walk, stopping at storefronts, reading the real estate ads pasted to the window of a local office.
Cute, two-bedroom log cabin on Poplar Lake. She could imagine the evergreen smell nudging her awake every morning, the twitter of cardinals and sparrows as she took her cup of coffee on the front porch.
Except she loved the bustle of the Deep Haven hamlet. Nestled on the north shore of Minnesota, two hours from the nearest hint of civilization, the fishing village–turned–tourist hideaway had enough charm to sweet-talk Ivy out of her Minneapolis duplex and make her dream big.
Dream of home, really. A place. Friends. Maybe even a dog. And here, in a town where everyone belonged, she would too.
She had wandered past the fudge and gift shop, past the walk-up window of World’s Best
Donuts, where the smell of cake donuts nearly made her follow her sweet tooth inside. At the corner, the music drew her near to the VFW. Ford F-150s, Jeeps, and a handful of SUVs jammed the postage-size dirt parking lot.
She’d stopped at the entrance, reading the poster for today’s activities, then peered in through the windows. Beyond a wood-paneled bar and a host of long rectangular tables, a man stood on the stage, holding up a fishing pole.
And that’s when Deep Haven reached out and hooked her.
“Are you going in?”
She’d turned toward the voice and seen a tall, solidly built middle-aged man with dark hair, wearing a jean jacket. A blonde woman knit her hand into his.
“I . . .”
“C’mon in,” the woman said. “We promise not to bite. Well, except for Eli here. I make no promises with him.” She had smiled, winked, and Ivy could feel her heart gulp it whole. Oh, why had she never learned to tamp down her expectations? Life had taught her better.
Eli shook his head, gave the woman a fake growl. Turned to Ivy. “Listen, it’s for a good cause. Our fire department could use a new engine, and the EMS squad needs more training for their staff, what few there are. You don’t have to buy anything, but you might help drive up the bids.” He winked. “Don’t tell anyone I told you that, though.”
She laughed. “I’m Ivy Madison,” she said, too much enthusiasm in her voice. “Assistant county attorney.”
“Of course you are. I should have guessed. Eli and Noelle Hueston.” Noelle stuck out her hand. “Eli’s the former sheriff. Hence the fact that we’ve come with our checkbook. C’mon, I’ll tell you who to bid on.”
Who to bid on?
Ivy had followed them inside, taking a look around the crowded room. Pictures of soldiers hung in metal frames, along with listings of member names illuminated by neon bar signs. The smells of deep-fried buffalo wings, beer, and war camaraderie were embedded in the dark-paneled walls.
A line formed around the pool table near the back of the room—what looked like former glory-day athletes lined up with their beers or colas parked on the round tables. Two men threw darts into an electronic board.
Then her gaze hiccuped on a man sitting alone near the jukebox, sending a jolt of familiarity through her.
Jensen Atwood.
For a moment, she considered talking to him—not that he’d know her, but maybe she’d introduce herself, tell him, I’m the one who put together your amazing plea agreement. Yes, that had been a hot little bit of legalese. The kind that had eventually landed her right here, in her dream job, dream town.
But Noelle glanced back and nodded for Ivy to follow, so she trailed behind them to an open table.
“Every year, on the last night of the solstice festival, we have a charity auction. It’s gotten to be quite an event,” Noelle said, gesturing to a waitress. She came over and Eli ordered a basket of wings, a couple chocolate malts. Ivy asked for a Coke.
“What do they auction?”
“Oh, fishing gear. Boats. Snowblowers. Sometimes vacation time-shares in Cancún. Whatever people want to put up for charity. But this year, they have something special on the
agenda.” Noelle leaned close, her eyes twinkling. Ivy already liked her. And the way Eli had her hand wrapped in his. What might it be like to be in love like that? That kind of love . . . well, Ivy had only so many wishes, and she’d flung them all at living here, in Deep Haven.
“What?” Ivy asked.
“They’re auctioning off the local bachelors.”
And as if on cue, that’s when the lumberjack bachelor had taken the stage.
Ivy sipped her Coke, watching the frenzy.
“So are you going to bid?” Noelle asked.
Ivy raised a shoulder.
The lumberjack went for two hundred dollars, too rich for Ivy’s blood, to a woman wearing a moose antler headband. He flexed for her as he walked off stage, and the crowd erupted.
A clean-cut, handsome young man took the stage next, to the whoops of the younger crowd down front. “That’s my son,” Noelle said, clearly enjoying the spectacle. He seemed about nineteen or twenty, tall and wearing a University of Minnesota, Duluth, T-shirt. He was built like an athlete and had a swagger to match.
“He plays basketball for the UMD Bulldogs,” Noelle said. She placed the first bid and got a glare from the young man on stage.
A war started between factions in the front row. “Should I bid?” Ivy asked. Not that she would know what to do with a bachelor ten years younger than her. Maybe she could get him to mow her lawn.
“No. Save your money for Owen Christiansen.”
Probably another lumberjack from the woods, with a flannel shirt and the manners of a grizzly. Ivy affected a sort of smile.
“Maybe you’ve heard of him? He plays hockey for the Minnesota Wild.”
“No, sorry.”
“He’s something of a local celebrity. Played for our hometown team and then got picked up by the Wild right after high school.”
“I’m not much of a hockey fan.”
“Honey, you can’t live in Deep Haven and not be a hockey fan.” Noelle grinned, turning away as the wings arrived.
Ivy ignored the way the words found tender space and stabbed her in the chest. But see, she wanted to live in Deep Haven . . .
Noelle offered her a wing, but Ivy turned it down. “Owen’s parents, John and Ingrid Christiansen, run a resort about five miles out of town. It’s one of the legacy resorts—his great-grandfather settled here in the early nineteen hundreds and set up a logging camp. It eventually turned into one of the hot recreation spots on the north shore, although in today’s economy, they’re probably struggling along with the rest of the Deep Haven resorts. I’m sure Owen’s appearance on the program is a bid for some free publicity. Owen is the youngest son of the clan, one of six children. I’m sure you’ll meet them—all but two still live in Deep Haven.”
A redhead won the bachelor on stage and ran up to claim her purchase. Ivy escaped to the ladies’ room.
What if she did bid on Owen? Truly, the last thing she needed in her life was a real bachelor. Someone she might fall for, someone who could so easily break her heart.
Maybe she could ask said bachelor to show her around Deep Haven. Teach her about hockey. Certainly it might give her a little social clout to be seen with the town celebrity.
She could faintly hear the announcer stirring up the fervor for the next contestant, then a
trickle of applause for the main attraction as he took the stage. She walked out, standing by the bar to survey this hometown hero.
They grew them big up here in the north woods. Indeed, he looked like a hockey champion, with those wide shoulders, muscular arms stretching the sleeves of his deep-green shirt that read Evergreen Resort—memories that live forever. He stood at ease like one might do in the military, wearing jeans that hugged his legs all the way down to the work boots on his feet. The man looked like an impenetrable fortress, not a hint of marketing in his face. So much for winning the audience.
In fact, to use the only hockey term she knew, he looked like he’d just been checked hard into the boards and come up with some sort of permanent scowl, none too happy to be standing in the middle of the stage of the local VFW as the main attraction.
“C’mon, everyone, who will start the bidding for our Deep Haven bachelor tonight?”
Ivy looked around the room. It had hushed to a pin-drop silence, something not quite right simmering in the air. She glanced over to where Jensen Atwood had been sitting and found his seat vacant.
On stage, the man swallowed. Shifted. Pursed his lips. Oh, poor Owen. Her heart knocked her hard in the chest. She knew exactly what it felt like not to be wanted.
“One hundred dollars? Who has it tonight for our local hero?”
She scanned the room, saw patrons looking away as if embarrassed. Even Eli and Noelle had taken a sudden interest in their dinner.
Owen sighed and shook his head.
And right then, the pain of the moment squeezed the words from Ivy’s chest. “Five hundred dollars!”
Every eye turned toward her, and for a moment, she had the crazy but horribly predictable urge to flee. But the words were out, so she took a step forward, toward the stage. “I bid five hundred dollars,” she said again, fighting the wobble in her voice.
Ivy shot a look at Noelle, expecting approval. But Noelle wore an expression of what she could only pinpoint as panic. Wasn’t she the one who’d suggested Ivy buy the man?
And then from the stage, she heard, “Well, that’s good enough for me! Sold, to the pretty lady in the white jacket. Miss, come up to the stage and claim your prize.”
Still, no one said a word—not a cheer, not a gasp, nothing. Ivy swallowed and met the eyes of the man on stage. “I’ll meet him by the bar,” she said, her voice small.
Owen looked as relieved as she was that they didn’t have to create some public spectacle. He moved off the stage and the auctioneer mercifully introduced the band. The men in back resumed their pool playing.
Ivy couldn’t help it. She edged over to Noelle. “What’s the matter? I know he looks a little rough around the edges, but—”
“That’s not Owen,” Noelle said, wiping her fingers with a napkin. She shot a glance past Ivy, possibly at the stranger she’d just purchased.
“What?”
“Owen couldn’t make it. That’s Darek Christiansen. His big brother.”
Ivy turned now, found her man weaving his way through the crowd. He didn’t stop to glad-hand anyone or even slap friends on the back.
In fact, it seemed she’d purchased the pariah of Deep Haven.
Noelle confirmed it. “Brace yourself, honey. You’ve just purchased the most ineligible eligible bachelor in town.”
***
Everything inside Darek told him to keep going, right on out of the VFW until he hit his Jeep, and then punch the gas toward the hills.
And hide.
He would murder Owen next time he saw him, which wouldn’t be anytime soon, given the kid’s celebrity demands. Sorry, Bro. I can’t make it up today—I have a photo shoot. Owen couldn’t have thought ahead to that, maybe rearranged his oh-so-packed schedule? But Owen didn’t think beyond practice, improving his shot, and updating his Facebook status. Last time Darek checked, his twenty-year-old kid brother had 32,876 fans.
Darek had maybe thirty-eight friends on his own page. Not that he was counting, but it seemed like some sort of commentary on his life.
The minute Darek had hung up with Owen, he should have made himself scarce—loaded Tiger into the Jeep, attached the boat, and headed for some pristine lake. Except losing his head and forgetting his responsibilities was how he got here in the first place.
Instead he’d experienced a streak of clearly misplaced hope that the stigma, the gossip, might have finally died and he might once again be an eligible bachelor. Someone who just wanted to start over, for himself and his son.
The near silence in the room when they’d called his name, when he’d stepped up to take Owen’s place, confirmed that no, nothing had been forgotten.
Darek stalked past the bar, where, of course, his high school buddies gave him tight smiles.
He hadn’t seen any of the former Deep Haven Huskies getting up to sell their . . . well, it wasn’t exactly his body, and she certainly didn’t expect a real date, right? So he wasn’t sure what he was selling up there.
Darek glanced at his father, John, sitting at the end, nursing a Sprite. A linebacker-size man—bigger than any of his boys; he’d played fullback for the Minnesota Gophers back in the day. That he’d ended up with hockey players could only be blamed on the skating rink he’d cleared on the lake every January.
“Great job, Son,” his father said, catching his arm.
“This was a bad idea,” Darek groused, slowing his exit.
“Five hundred dollars doesn’t sound like such a bad idea. You were the most expensive bachelor here. That will make the news.”
“Yippee,” Darek said. But his father was right—he’d created a bit of buzz, and hopefully it would someday turn into goodwill for their lakeside vacation spot, Evergreen Lodge Outfitter and Cabin Rentals, which most people shortened to Evergreen Resort.
“Do you know the woman who bid on you?”
Darek scanned the room to locate her. He couldn’t see her well from the stage with the lights in his face, but he thought he’d glimpsed a redhead wearing a white jean jacket, her hair in a messy ponytail. She wasn’t tall, maybe five foot four, and a little on the curvy side.
Now he found her, sitting next to Noelle Hueston and staring at him like she’d purchased . . . well, the devil.
Darek turned away, his lips a grim line. “No, I don’t know her.”
His father wisely said nothing, took a sip of his Sprite. Then, “She looks pretty.”
“Next time you want to sell your flesh and blood, pick a different son.”
He caught his father’s smirk as he turned to leave, and it only darkened his mood.
No one from Deep Haven, not a soul, had bid on him. What was so different about him from, say, the two previous bachelors?
Okay, maybe that wasn’t a fair question. Neither of them walked around with the stigma of being the youngest widower in town, pity and probably the tsk of tongues following in their wake.
He glanced over to the chair where Jensen Atwood had sat, smug, rich, wearing a fancy leather jacket, his hair cut short and slicked back, contempt in his eyes. Yes, he’d seen the man sitting near the back, next to the jukebox, like no one would notice. He had a lot of nerve showing up here, and Darek had just about launched off the stage toward him. That might be a show the locals would bid on—a go-round between Jensen and Darek. Finally.
Instead he’d dark-eyed the guy into fleeing. It fed the heat inside him, gave Darek the strength to stand there like an idiot while the town shifted uncomfortably in their seats.
Until, of course, Moneybags piped up.
Five hundred dollars.
Wow, did she waste her money on him.
And what kind of woman paid five hundred dollars for a man she didn’t know? Hopefully she didn’t want a real date. He wasn’t a real-date kind of guy.
In fact, he was a never-date kind of guy.
Darek shook his head and headed out the door.
He paused on the sidewalk for a moment, drawing in the clean air, shaking off the reek of old cigarettes, whiskey, and town gossip that coated him like grime. The moon had risen, hovering above the town, milky light washing over the trading post, the Blue Moose Café, pooling in the harbor, icing the waves of the lake.
He could feel his heartbeat thundering in his chest and hated how easily his guilt took hold of him, turned him surly. At the least, he should swallow his pride—what was left of it—and meet the woman who had forked out good money for him. For charity.
Instead he moved away from the door and dug out his cell phone, about to call home.
“Hey, where are you going?”
He turned, pressing End. His “owner” had followed him out of the VFW. A fireball with green eyes and freckles, wearing the jean jacket he remembered over a T-shirt and a green scarf. She stood about to his shoulder but had no problem slamming her hands to her hips and toeing up to him.
“I thought we had a date.”
“Is that what you want? A date?” He didn’t mean for it to emerge so sharp, even angry, and didn’t blame her for the way she opened her mouth as if she’d been slapped.
“No, I, uh—”
“Then why did you buy me? And why on earth would you pay five hundred dollars? Sheesh, lady, you must be desperate or something.”
Wow. He must have lost control of everything decent inside him. But he didn’t like the feeling of being humiliated.
Or owned.
In fact, the entire thing made him feel trapped and small, and he’d had enough of that, thank you.
Her mouth closed. Pinched. “I’m not desperate. If you want to know the truth, I felt sorry for you.”
He probably deserved that, despite the way it sideswiped him. He didn’t let on, however, preferring to stare at her, something icy he’d learned from his years on the rink. “Okay, then, let’s just get this over with. What do you want?”
“I—”
“You should know that I’m not like the other guys in there. If you’re looking for some kind of fling, I’m not your man. I can probably hook you up with one of my buddies—”
“Wow. Stay away from me.” She whirled around, heading down the sidewalk, and he knew he was a first-class jerk.
“Wait!”
She held up a hand. “Forget it! You’re right; this was a bad idea.”
He ran after her—boy, she had a fast walk for such a short woman. “Listen, I’m sorry. Really. It’s just that you don’t want a date with me. If you ask, I’ll bet you can get your money back.”
“I don’t want it back.”
She didn’t stop and he was walking fast to keep up.
“Then what do you want? Why did you buy me?”
She stopped, breathing hard. Pressed her fingers to her eyes. Oh no, she wasn’t crying, was she?
He swallowed, his throat on fire, hearing his words and wishing he wasn’t the kind of guy who ran full speed into hurting others.
You are so selfish. Felicity, in his head. Always in his head.
“I’m sorry,” he said softly, shoving his hands into his pockets. The wind took his words, flung them toward the lake. “It’s just that I’m the last person you want to be seen in town with.”
She sighed, turning her face away from him. “Well, I don’t have anyone else.” Her voice emerged small and wheedled in past the anger, the annoyance.
It settled inside, in a place he reserved for Tiger, and he tempered his tone. “Are you here for the weekend?
“No. I live here.” She said it with a layer of determination, as if convincing herself.
Really? “I know nearly everyone in this town—”
“I moved here yesterday. I’m the new assistant county attorney.”
Uh-oh. He’d heard that the current assistant CA had resigned to stay home with her newborn child. He’d miss the way she tolerated his monthly phone calls. But someone had to keep tabs on Jensen, right? He looked at this angry sprite and grimaced, imagining her reaction next time Jensen threatened a restraining order.
Darek might be the one doing years of community service.
“Sorry,” he said again.
Her shoulder jerked in a halfhearted shrug.
“Maybe . . . maybe I could help you carry furniture or chop wood or mow your grass or something.”
She had folded her hands across her chest. “Wow, I must be a real catch for you to offer to mow my lawn instead of being seen in public with me.”
“No, I—”
“Like I said, you’re off the hook.”
“I don’t want to be off the hook. You bought me fair and square.”
She pursed her lips.
“I have an idea. C’mon.”
She frowned at him, and frankly he was done begging, not sure how he’d gotten to this point in the first place. So he turned and headed for the Jeep, parked just down the street.
He didn’t look behind him but heard her steps. When he reached the car, he held her door open like a gentleman, although he knew he might be a little late to resurrect any sort of real
gallantry.
She looked up at him before getting in, her eyes big and shiny in the moonlight. They caught his and for the first time, he noticed how pretty they were, with golden flecks at the edges.
“I’m safe, even if I’m a jerk.”
“I have friends who will hunt you down and kill you if I go missing.”
“I have no doubt.” He took a long breath and stuck out his hand. “Darek Christiansen, Deep Haven tour guide, at your service, milady.”
She regarded his hand for a moment, and he sensed something shifting inside her. “Ivy Madison.” Then she slid one of her petite hands into his and smiled.
The full force of it reached out and poured into him, hot and bold and shaking him through. He dropped her grip, swallowed. Stepped back.
She climbed into the Jeep and reached for the seat belt, her eyes on his as he closed the door.
Oh, boy.
Maybe he should have run when he had the chance.
***
Jensen sat outside the VFW in the Pine Acres work truck—the one he took to town when he wanted to hide—and watched Darek get the girl. Again.
And why not? Darek Christiansen always won.
Tonight, he’d stared Jensen down until he’d had no choice but to slink out. The last thing Jensen wanted was a fight. Especially with only six weeks left on his sentence. He didn’t need a judge deciding he wasn’t repentant enough and upgrading his community service to a stint behind bars.
Jensen should simply concede that Darek would always win. His streak began in fourth grade, when they’d both started playing hockey, and continued long after Jensen moved away, returning every summer as they vied for Felicity’s attention.
Sure, Jensen had a few glimmering moments. Like the summer Darek escaped to Montana to fight the fire in Glacier National Park with the Jude County Hotshots, after Jensen had given up his own firefighting dreams. Jensen and Felicity had nearly become something that stuck then—probably would have if Darek hadn’t returned home tan and triumphant.
And of course, there was the simple fact that in the end Darek had married Felicity. Jensen hadn’t quite seen that one coming. But then again, he doubted Darek had either.
He watched as Darek and the redhead headed out of town in his Jeep Wrangler. For a moment, he debated going back inside to listen to the Blue Monkeys. After all, that’s why he’d braved the auction—Jensen normally slunk in late for the band’s events, sitting in the shadows so no one saw him. But today he’d misjudged the time, the auction ran over, and well, creeping back in now felt too much like tucking his tail between his legs.
He had at least a smidgen of pride left.
Jensen put the truck into gear and pulled out.
One hundred hours and he’d be free; he could leave Deep Haven and never look back. Maybe keep driving all the way to California or Mexico, where he could change his name and leave his past in the dust.
On top of the hill over the town, Jensen resisted the urge to glance out the passenger window at the scattering of lights that made up Deep Haven. Eyes, watching him, blinking, accusing.
He kept his gaze on the road, slowing as he took the truck around a curve carved through the granite, where the shoulder disappeared. His hands slickened and he caught himself holding his
breath.
He couldn’t wait to leave. But to do that, he’d have to find a few more places where he could go, hat in hand, begging for hours. Deep Haven seemed determined to keep him from fulfilling his community service, especially lately. Volunteer jobs had fizzled to ten hours a week and some places, like the after-school tutoring program, had turned him away.
Apparently the fact that he had graduated from college and managed two years of law school didn’t matter to the English teachers struggling to teach their sixth graders to read.
No, if the citizens of Deep Haven had their way, he would have been their first public stoning.
He turned south where the road split around Evergreen Lake and took the paved road to the end, pulling in to the gated community of Pine Acres. The electronic gate and pass card could probably be considered overkill, but his father had promoted safety for the vacation homes when he jumped into the world of property development and created the luxury vacation community, and he kept his word. At least to the residents of the community.
As Jensen drove through the gates, he noticed that deer had snacked on the currant bushes by the entrance. He’d have to reshape them, maybe spray. A bulb was out on the automatic entry lights, and he spotted a tree down along one of the wooded drives. He’d come by tomorrow on the four-wheeler and clean it up.
He had to mow, anyway, and finish painting the Millers’ garage—a project his father thought might fill time and create some goodwill. After all, the Millers were one of his father’s largest clients in the Cities with their string of cinemas.
Jensen crawled into the driveway of his father’s massive vacation home and parked the truck outside. As he got out, the stars created a canopy of brilliance, innocent and bright. They felt so close he wanted to reach up and touch one. The wind hushed in the white pine and birch, the poplar and willow that surrounded the property.
Motion sensor lights flickered on as Jensen moved toward the service door, blinding him for a moment. Then he let himself into the darkness of the garage and didn’t bother to turn on the lights, toeing off his shoes and moving from memory up the stairs to the great room. At the top, moonlight streamed through the grand windows that overlooked the lake, waxing the wood floor with light. The ceiling rose two stories, trapping the silences of the grand house, and the place smelled of the walleye he’d cooked for lunch in butter and dill. He dropped his keys onto the granite countertop and opened the double-door stainless fridge, peering inside for something. Anything.
Grabbing a root beer in a tall bottle, he twisted off the cap and padded out to the deck.
The lake rippled in the darkness, fingers of light feathering over the surface. He could barely make out Gibs’s light next door, trickling through the woods and across the sandy beach. He should check on the old man. A canoe lay moored on the sand, evidence of a recent visit by his granddaughter, Claire. How she loved to canoe the length of the lake.
Jensen didn’t mean to stalk, but he loved watching her. And what else did he have to do, really?
Across the lake, almost directly from Pine Acres, the lights of the Evergreen Resort main lodge blazed.
Once upon a time, he and Darek had been the kings of Evergreen Lake.
He set his root beer on the railing and dug out his harmonica.
The sound echoed across the lake, long and twangy, Johnny Cash’s “Cry! Cry! Cry!” Maybe it was a little indulgent, but tonight, he couldn’t help it. “You’ll call for me but I’m gonna tell you, bye, bye, bye . . .”
He listened to the last of the sound lingering as he finished. It was so easy, sometimes, to just close his eyes, lose himself in memories. The heat of the sun on his skin, the taste of trouble in his laughter. Standing on the bow of the canoe, his feet balanced on the edges. Claire and Felicity on the seat in the middle, and at the stern, facing him, similarly balanced, stood Darek.
Jensen had seen that sparking of challenge in Darek’s eyes as he said, “You can’t knock me off.”
“Watch me.” Jensen gave the canoe a playful jerk.
Felicity squealed. The summer had turned her hair a rich, luscious blonde, and with her skimpy bikini, he could barely keep his eyes in his head. She faced him, grinning, and he wondered if she could hear his heart pounding in his chest.
Claire grabbed for her side of the seat, and he caught her gaze on him. She always made him feel a little naughty, even when he wasn’t thinking anything he shouldn’t. Then again, he supposed that’s what a missionary kid was supposed to do. Make you behave.
But on days like this, with the sun streaming down his back and both girls smiling up at him, he didn’t care about behaving.
Just winning.
Jensen jerked the canoe hard, and Darek’s arms windmilled. He nearly went over but found his balance and stamped his foot, making the canoe lurch the other direction.
Jensen caught himself and jerked it back, this time fast, hard and—
Darek leaned into it, and suddenly Jensen found himself in the air. The chill of lake water swept away his breath, and he kicked hard to right himself.
He found Darek’s hand reaching for him when he came up. Jensen took it. And yanked.
Darek flipped over his head and into the lake. Darek came up sputtering, then launched himself at Jensen. They wrestled until they both hung on the side of the canoe, breathing hard.
“Let’s take your dad’s boat out, get some dinner down at the Landing,” Felicity said as Darek reached for her. She swatted him. Glanced at Jensen. “Please?”
“Sure.”
Claire reached out and helped Jensen into the canoe. Darek climbed in after him and they paddled back to shore.
Thankfully, his father wouldn’t be back until the weekend to grouse about the boat. Claire and Felicity met him in sundresses and they picked up Darek across the lake, then motored down to the outside grill and restaurant, Jensen’s knee propped on the diver’s chair as he guided the boat.
“Faster, Jens!” Felicity said, so he pushed up the throttle. Darek frowned, his eyes darkening, but Felicity was laughing and Jensen could feel it in his chest.
Her laughter always felt sweetly dangerous, like if he hung on too long, it might burn him. He could still hear her sometimes, in the darkness across the lake. Taste the memory of that curious summer when he had her all to himself, feel the texture of her kisses. What a fool he’d been, gobbling up the idea that if he did it right, she might belong to him. Believing that he even really wanted that.
Because she’d never belonged to him. Not then, not later.
He opened his eyes, staring into the night, at the lights across the lake, pressing into the darkness.
He should have remembered that Darek Christiansen always won.

~~

Click on the image below to be taken to the Amazon.com pages for Take a Chance on Me.




~~
AUTHOR BIO


Susan May Warren is the RITA Award-winning author of more than thirty novels whose compelling plots and unforgettable characters have won acclaim with readers and reviewers alike. She served with her husband and four children as a missionary in Russia for eight years before she and her family returned home to the States. She now writes full-time as her husband runs a lodge on Lake Superior in northern Minnesota, where many of her books are set. She and her family enjoy hiking, canoeing, and being involved in their local church.

Susan holds a BA in mass communications from the
University of Minnesota. Several of her critically
acclaimed novels have been chosen as Top Picks by Romantic Times and won the RWA's
Inspirational Reader's Choice contest and the American Christian Fiction Writers Book of
the Year award. Four of her books have been Christy Award finalists. In addition to her
writing, Susan loves to teach and speak at women's events about God's amazing grace in
our lives.

Visit Susan's website at www.susanmaywarren.com


~~
Q&A


1. This is the first installment in a brand new six-book series. Can you give us a bit of background on this series?

I love stories about families – watching the members interact and grow together through challenges and victories – and I conceived this series as I watched my own children begin to grow up and deal with romance and career and futures. I love Deep Haven, and it’s the perfect setting for a resort, so I crafted a family, much like the families I know, who run a resort. They want to pass on their legacy to their children…but their children don’t know if they want it. It’s sort of a parallel theme to the legacy of faith we instill in our children. As they grow older, they need to decide whether it is their faith too. It’s a saga about family and faith and what happens when those collide with real life.

2. This Christiansen Family series is set in Deep Haven, Minnesota. Tell us about this setting.

Deep Haven, Minnesota is based in a small vacation town in northern Minnesota where I spent my childhood. It’s located on Lake Superior, surrounded by pine and birch and the sense of small town and home. Populated by everyone from artists to lumberjacks, it’s Mitford, or perhaps Northern Exposure gone Minnesotan. Quaint, quirky and beautiful, it’s the perfect place to escape for a vacation.

3. What was your inspiration for this particular book and the main character Darek Christiansen?

As I started to put together this series, I began to think about our culture and our children today. I started to take a look at the big questions we are faced with as parents – and as young people; the issues that affect us as a culture, as well as personally. I wanted these books to go beyond family drama, beyond a great romance to raise bigger questions and stir truths that we might pass along to others. This story is about our propensity in our culture to blame others for what goes wrong in our lives – and how this alienates us from each other, and ultimately, God. Darek is the oldest brother in the family; the leader and a real hero. He’s a wildland firefighter and a widower who’s had to give up his job to come home and run the resort and care for his young son. Darek doesn’t realize he has a problem – he lives with anger on his shoulder, hating the man who killed his wife (his best friend). His real problem is that he can’t forgive himself. In this first story, readers meet the family, hang out at the resort and discover that God can redeem even a heart of stone, if we take a chance on Him.

4. What lessons or truths will your readers find in the pages of this novel?

This book is for the person who feels they just can’t get past the anger they have for someone
else to live in joy again. It’s for parents who see their children making bad choices and don’t
know where to turn. It’s for people who believe that no one will ever really love them because of
who they are, or the things they’ve done. It’s for people who need the courage to take a second
chance on love and faith and family. I’m hoping readers walk away with a sense of how much
God loves them, and that yes, He can heal the angry and broken-hearted.

5. How do you expect this new series to resonate with your audience? How do you want your books to
make them feel?

Great question! I love a story that brings me on an emotional journey from anger to laughter to
hope. But most of all, I want readers to be wrapped up in joy, that feeling we get when watch
our football team win, or when we’re hands up in a convertible on a hot summer day, or digging
our feet into a sandy beach, or hugging our loved one when they return home. Ah. The sense
that, just for a moment, all is right in the world and everything tastes and feels delicious. I write
romances, and in the end it’s worth the journey to the happily ever after.

6. As a writer, what did you particularly enjoy about crafting this story?

I loved Darek’s transformation. His relationship with his son is so precious, but when he truly lets
go of his anger, he becomes the hero I always knew he could be. I love writing about broken
heroes who find healing.

7. What advice do you have for budding novelists?

Read! Then write the book you’d like to read. But, along the way, learn the craft. In fact, a
good writer never stops learning.

8. What is the best advice or encouragement that you have received?

Just keep writing. If you want to be a career novelist, you just have to keep writing.

9. In your writing career, what are you most proud of?

After over forty novels, I’m always striving to keep the stories fresh and unique; so I guess I’m
proud that every book is bathed in prayer, has a message singular to that story, and has unique
characters and journeys. Every story is a new adventure for me, and the reader.


Monday, April 22, 2013

THE PRACTICE PROPOSAL by Tracy March




Liza and Cole knew each other as kids at her father’s baseball camp for underprivileged children. Her father and mother are now part owners of the Orioles, a team he’d hoped to play for after he graduated. Now, he’s a hunky famous baseball player for the Nationals and she wins a date with him at a charity auction. His renewed association with her comes at an opportune time, according to his sports agent, Frank. Cole’s up for a new contract and team management isn’t pleased with his recent publicized flings. Wholesome and pretty, Liza is just the type of woman that Frank would have chosen to show Cole as settling down with to ease the worries of the team.

After the death of her fiancé, Liza isn’t interested in getting into a relationship. The only reason she won the date is that her mother bid on her behalf. She enjoys their date, but the end of it is unsettling it with the appearance of reporters, saying they heard he’s considering settling down with Liza and his demonstrating how he’d propose. Spooked, the next day, she focuses on a dilemma at work. Part of the team who manages the foundation that sponsors the camps, she’s responsible for meeting a quota in the amount of donations she obtains and she’s running out of time, nowhere near the amount she needs. Frank approaches her and offers to make a half million dollar donation if she dates Cole for two months and doesn’t fall for him. Per the terms of the agreement (for which he presents a written contract), she has to be herself and there are to be “no shenanigans.” She initially declines, but then thinks about it as being an opportunity to spend time with Cole and there being no risk of her falling for him because of her devotion to her deceased fiancé. Then she thinks about the boys who would benefit from her organization’s program, who would get a chance to pursue their dream of playing baseball. Then she signs the agreement.

The readers are treated to a ringside seat (page-side seat?) of the relationship. We see an incredibly imaginative and fun date (their Baseball Pie War), a kiss that throws Liza’s world careening, and an incredibly sweet tweet (A girl without freckles is like a night without stars. Wish you were here…). Then, of course, there’s the speed bump of a tweet to Cole by an ex-fling that almost throws a monkey wrench into things. They make it past that pseudo-obstacle and sleep together. I mean really sleep together. Liza admits she’s not ready and Cole respects that (making me fall a little in love with him myself). Their relationship progresses and, with Cole’s help, Liza overcomes internal barriers to their romance. Both of their teams, the Orioles and the Nationals, make it to the World Series. During the seventh inning stretch, there’s a super-surprising proposal and Liza’s on top of the world. Then it comes crashing down when she overhears Frank and Cole talking after the game and finds out why he started dating her. She returns the ring and goes home, crushed. A heart-to-heart with her best friend, Paige, and an intervention by the people who love her bring the two of them back together again.

As I revealed in a prior review, I’m a sucker for a happy ending. I had tears in my eyes at the end of this one.

The character development was on point. We find out about Cole’s background and how he got where his is now. Events in the story lead to a revelation concerning him that was an utter surprise to him. (I was floored by it too. I didn’t see that coming at all.) A memorable injection of something I found comedic in the book was in this scene and it made me snort a little. Sorry, it’s a spoiler, so don’t read the next few lines if you don’t want the secret revealed.

Cole had been relieved he hadn’t been conceived in a casino hotel room, only to find out it happened in a car in a rickety abandoned barn. “What kind of car was it?” he asked.
Frank smiled a little. “A red eight-banger Ford Mustang.”
At least there was that.

Through her conversations with Paige and Cole, we see Liza’s opening herself to love again, accepting the loss of her fiancé, Wes. The other characters were also developed and intriguing. I’d love to see a story about Paige. (Hint, hint, Ms. March. J)

I give this read five stars and recommend it to anyone who likes a solid story line with a happily ever after.

Disclosure: I received an ARC of this book from the author for review. No compensation was received, financial or otherwise.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

CHASING MRS. RIGHT by Katee Robert



Most people don’t know I secretly LOVE romance novels. (Okay, I guess I just let that cat out of the bat. But y’all won’t tell anyone, right?)

This book reminded me of what captivates me with this genre. I love love and I love happy endings. Having had a rough time personally over the past few years, I love reading about a happily ever after. I know it’s fiction, but it gives me hope.

I love that the focus of the book is on the evolution of the characters’ and their relationship. I know that’s what romance novels are supposed to do, but it’s so well done here. The author is masterful at allowing us to see this change in them instead of having other characters remark about it or narrating it in the text. Some writers use sex and pillow talk as the avenue for the characters to get to know each other and some utilize the hero-saves-damsel-in-distress-and-the-two-fall-in-love-while-he’s-saving-both-their-lives plot.

In this book, however, we have two vulnerable characters who essentially save each other from themselves. Roxanne is emotionally scarred by relationship advice she’d gotten from her mother, witnessing what her mom went through in several failed marriages, and having a couple men up and leave her out of the blue. For several years, she’s satisfied herself with one-night stands and casual dating. Ian is fresh out of the military, just home from a tour of duty in Afghanistan. Suffering from episodes of PTSD when he’s in loud places, close spaces, and/or around a lot of people, he is affected by an inexplicable calming affect that Roxanne has on him when he (literally) runs into her when they first meet. He realizes the treasure he has in her and works to get past her barriers build a relationship with her.

While Ian helps Roxanne battle her inner demons regarding relationships, she helps him get through dealing with his parents, with whom he has a rocky relationship with, and also with accepting that his sister, Elle, is going to marry a man who wouldn’t be his first choice for her. Her fiancé, Gabe, happens to be the brother of Ian’s best friend, Nathan. (Given the excerpt from the first novel in this series, Wrong Bed, Right Guy, there seems to be a heck of a story behind that.)

While the story surrounds Ian and Roxanne’s relationship, it’s not a touchy-feely, sappy story that non-lovers of this genre think all romance novels are. Both characters are strong, but flawed, two halves of the same whole.

I give this book five stars and I’m off to locate and read Wrong Bed, Right Guy and impatiently wait for the August release of the third book, Two Wrongs, One Right.

Click on the covers below to be taken to the Amazon.com pages for all three books.

            


*** Disclosure: I received an  ARC of this book for the purpose of a review. I received no compensation, monetary or otherwise.