Review: The Little French Guesthouse by Helen Pollard


Emmy and Nathan take a trip to the French countryside to work on their relationship. But then Nathan gets, um, distracted. And then it all goes in the toilet and Emmy needs to find a better way to spend her holiday. Like maybe hanging out with the cute gardener, Ryan.  Or making friends with the older and wiser French maid. Or going into town and finding herself. 

I loved the food, the friends, the comraderie, the French phrases, the cute accountant Alain, and the eye candy in the garden. This is exemplar chick lit — light and sassy and easy, but with a substantial storyline, fleshed out characters, and sharp dialogue. 

My most favorite thing about this book is the Amazon listing that says it’s the first in a series. Yes! 

*happy dance… awaiting number two*

-calliope

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Best of My Love by Susan Mallery


Shelby and Aidan have self-improvement goals, and they’ve decided to form a mutually beneficial friendship with each other to put themselves on a successful path. They don’t anticipate the whole of Fool’s Gold egging on a ROMANTIC relationship between the two. And they certainly don’t foresee Mayor Marsha putting in her two cents. 

I love all the Fool’s Gold heroes – who wouldn’t? They’re perfectly perfect for their ladies, and they’re swoon-worthy to boot. Mallery did something special with Aidan, though. Shelby got to know him as a friend, totally platonically, before ever diving into something more. Whether something romantic worked out for Aidan and Shelby or not, you’ll have to find out by reading the book. Shelby’s a great catch, so there’s definitely some sort of love story — just wait! 

-calliope

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Review: Island in the Sea: A Majorca Love Story by Anita Hughes


Juliet is a record label executive who gets sent to Majorca to light a fire under Lionel’s songwriting behind. While she’s there she enjoys the seaside, the luxurious food, the shopping, and the sun. Best of all, Juliet meets Gabriella, who turns out to be a good friend, a beautifully talented singer, and the salt of the earth that helps Juliet stay grounded. 

I scoop up Anita Hughes’ novels because of the lush food, extravagant shopping and stunning locales. The Island in the Sea love stories are icing on a cake that’s a feast for the senses. 
-calliope

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Review: Cooking Up Trouble by Judi Lynn

  
This book has a terrific premise – city slicker moves in next door to country girl – and the couple has excellent chemistry. I was totally caught up in the fun banter between Ian and Tessa, and I loved loved loved the cooking scenes! Overall, it’s good chick lit with a happily ever after. I enjoyed it. 

However, some technical issues frequently stopped me in my tracks. Commas appeared between words that a computer might recognize as two adjectives, but really they’re not:  

“He put two, double beds on the second floor.”

and

“She gave him the right-size, ice cream scoop.”

It drove this proofreading, copy-editing grammarian NUTS, as it happened on almost every page. 😳

I also had to suspend my disbelief quite a bit to get past the forced circumstances in which Tessa and Ian bump into each other or find themselves alone in each other’s company. Another contrivance I struggled to get past was the open relationship Ian’s fiancé wanted. Based on Ian’s character, I would’ve thought that to be a deal-breaker. Lastly, I thought it was unbelievable for a new male neighbor to just pop over to the female neighbor’s house every single day for dinner. They just met! I am a woman and there’s no way I’d welcome a strange guy into my house for dinner. Maybe it’s different for a Mill Pond rancher than for this born and bred Yankee. 

Because I enjoyed the cooking, chemistry, and setting so much, I’m inclined to pick up book two in the Mill Pond series. I just hope an editor takes a heavier hand. 🙂  

-calliope 

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Review: What We Find by Robyn Carr

 

Maggie’s a burned out neurosurgeon taking time off at her dad’s campground and shop. Cal is a grieving attorney trying to start a new life for himself. They meet in the worst of circumstances, but find they bring out the best in each other. 

I have always enjoyed Carr’s ability to authentically and unobtrusively write siblings and parents into her novels. Though I read almost everything with a romance slant, I appreciate the relationship between Maggie and her dad. What a father-daughter love story there! Maggie’s mom offers an opportunity to laugh at those who take their children too seriously. Cal’s parents give us a glimpse of mental illness and its effects on family. I drank up every show of affection, each cookie baked, and all the times the children didn’t pass judgement. 

This story is too substantial for me to call it “fluff,” but Carr writes with a straightforward, even keel that makes reading even the dramatic parts effortless on my part. I didn’t really like Cal’s character – dirty camper doesn’t do it for me – but he redeemed himself with his love for the Sullivans. I did like Sullivan’s Crossing and the occasional traipse to Denver. It’s a fun sounding area of the country I’ve never visited. 

I love that this is a true “reader’s” book: each chapter is preceded by a quote just perfect for the scenes ahead. I ate it right up. That, and of course the ending: a happily ever after. 

-calliope

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Review: A North So True by Serena Clarke

  

A North So True combines the best of so many worlds: fast-paced corporate marketing in the city, getting back to nature in the Swedish countryside, family connections and family secrets, icy climate, warm fires, fika, and lots of love. 

Every bit of it is done well. Zoe and Jakob (a quiet, well-mannered, but very alpha male) have the requisite chemistry for my liking, and I appreciate their relationship ebbing and flowing naturally. I love the party Zoe attended – so fun to see a character loosen up! I really got to know her as she shrugs off some inhibitions and socializes. Zoe’s host family is adorable and warm and stable. They provide a thread of constancy in Zoe’s crazy life – and in the novel. 

But my absolute favorite part of A North So True is the juxtaposition of cold and hot. Serena Clarke crafts it so well. No gratuitous snowflakes on eyelashes and fireplace sparks on a bear rug; Every description has a purpose and moves the plot forward. From ice skating and snowmobiling to gut-warming shots and hot baths, my senses soaked up every description.  

I’m not a re-reader in general, but I kinda want to re-read this book just to enjoy the magical Swedish feast again. ❤️❄️⛸🇸🇪

-calliope 

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Review: The Cracked Spine by Paige Shelton 

  
Book-lover Delaney from Kansas answers a Help Wanted ad placed by a Scottish bookshop owner. When she arrives in Edinburgh, she realizes she’s getting more than she bargained for: Treasures, ghosts, and new friends keeping closely held secrets. 

When Delaney finds herself in the middle of a murder mystery, she does some amateur investigating… and there her adventures get real. 

I loved the bookshop setting, the streets of Edinburgh, and especially Delaney’s Pub across the street with the good-looking, kilt-wearing, half-smiling, full-on charming pub owner. 

I could’ve done without the dialogue being written in Scottish dialect and the contrivances trying to convince me that Delaney really loved books. Both were off-putting, and I almost didn’t read past chapter one. I think the story would have flowed a little better – especially in the beginning – had the author not tried quite so hard to prove her points. 

Once I accepted the Scottish dialogue and allowed myself to skip over anything repetitive, I started to love Delaney and her new friends. She left her home for a new experience — and she really dove into it head first. Gotta love that courage. 

Take a trip with Delaney in Edinburgh. You’ll get into her head and help her solve a mystery. And keep an eye out for the handsome Scot across the street. 

-calliope

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